Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Alaskan Trip, Fri-Sun.

Jack and I have talked about going to Alaska for years; DD remembers us talking about it when she was a little girl.  When he had his health scare in the fall of 2009, it emphasized the point that we don't know what can happen, and the best thing to do is just set a date, work toward it, and GO!  So we did.

It still didn't seem real.  Suitcases upset Tandi, so I didn't even start packing until after dropping her off at the boarder's on Fri. She'd been on doggy Prozac for a week already, and then we started the anti-diarrheal medicine in hopes of preventing the condition she fell into after our trip to Alabama in June.   Doesn't she look happy? We like Doggy Prozac.

Since we were due to fly out of Charlotte via USAirways about 9:30 Sat. morning, I made another last-minute decision to drive into Charlotte Fri. night and spend the night at a motel.  We finally left the house at 8 pm, went to Cracker Barrel for supper and got into Charlotte about 11:30pm.  We were so excited, we only slept about 3 hours, no matter how hard we tried.

In anticipation of the non-stop flight, we'd bought an iPad and loaded it up with games and some great apps, and packed our fully-charged Kindles. We were laden down with 2 suitcases, 2 garment bags, 2 carryons, my purse, my C-PAP, and Jack in the wheelchair we recently bought.  We had great curbside service at the airport, and they got us a "pusher" for Jack.  I wish I'd caught her name, because she was wonderful, getting us through the lines, helping Jack get "re-dressed" after security, etc. Since he can't raise his left arm, and can't walk around without his splint and shoes, he's always a wand or pat-down. It's time-consuming.

We'd reserved bulkhead seats for the extra legroom, but that wall in between us and First Class is a little intimidating. I could feel my claustrophobia rearing its ugly head, but was able to stand up now and then to look behind us and stretch my legs a bit.  The pilot mapped out a route around the mid-nation weather woes, so we had a smooth flight and even got into town 15 min. ahead of schedule.  Washington was having one of their rare sunny days, and the views were terrific. We could see Mt. St. Helen in the distance and Mt. Ranier and other mountains whose names I've forgotten.

We'd been a wheelchair brigade of 3 getting on the plane, and of course, were the last ones off.  As we were waiting to get everyone in their chairs, I saw a guy with a cane standing there. Turns out he was our Pusher. I was wondering how he could possibly push Jack around this huge airport, seeing as he had mobility problems himself, but he handed Jack the cane (complete with horn) and off we went. I got a Smart Carte (ridiculous price) and we loaded up and headed out for the shuttle pick-up. When we left him, he refused my tip, and handed me a folded-up copy of a newspaper article written in Dec. 2009. Seems our pusher, Tom Martin, was a salesman who was badly injured in a car accident several years ago. He's disability retired, but he takes a bus 1 1/2 hours into town to volunteer to push wheelchairs at the airport for 4 hours a day.   He can't afford a physical therapy program, so this is his therapy. As long as he can hold on to the wheelchair, he can walk as well as with his cane, and let me tell you, his pace almost had me breathless. If you ever fly into Sea-Tac, I hope you see him and tip your hat to him.

Sat. night we were booked at the Red Lion, and DD, who was in Charlotte for a conference, was due to fly in that evening and stay there, too. Jack and I were dog-tired, so rather than try to explore Seattle, we chose to nap.  We barely made it to the restaurant next door to eat, before going back to bed.

Sun. was nowhere near as smooth as Saturday.  We met DD in the lobby about a quarter to noon, where there was supposed to be a car service waiting for us. The desk clerk had assured me their flat fee would be less expensive than a taxi, whose meter would continue to run no matter what the traffic would be, and insisted a town car would be enough for the three of us, our baggage, and a wheelchair.  I should have stood my ground about an SUV. The driver was 20 min. late, and then took 15 min. trying to arrange everything in the car.  I ended up with a bag at my feet and a suitcase in my lap, and still had to stop at a grocery store to get a jug of distilled water for my C-PAP. It was NOT a comfortable ride.

At the Pier, traffic was terrible. Apparently there was a Hemp Festival going on. Seriously. I wish I'd gotten some pics of Seattle, but was too busy and flustered to even think about it. I put labels on the C-PAP and the gallon of water and loaded them with our luggage to be transported to the ship, but kept the carryons with our meds and jewelry and my purse with me. Going through Security was even worse than at the airport. It was like cattle lines, rushing us through when I could barely push the wheelchair and hold onto the forms.  Some officer wanted to confiscate Jack's rocker knife that was in my purse and told me we'd get it back at the end of the trip.

 I put my foot down about that; this is how a one-handed person cuts his meat, and he didn't need me cutting his food as if he was a child. He relented, telling me not to "brandish it about."  Right.

Then it was up to a desk where we signed forms assuring them we had no contagious illnesses, no diarrhea, etc., and attached a credit card to the room for expenses. Turns out we had little need for the cash we'd brought, other than for tips. Anything extra goes on the credit card.

(Our ship in a later port, not Seattle)

Despite an email acknowledging we would need embarkation assistance, there was no one to help me push the wheelchair up the long, fairly steep gangplank to the ship. It was brutal. We were told there was a buffet set up, but the directions were only a vague wave in another direction. It seems English was the second language for most of the crew, so in the incredible noise on board, it was difficult at best, to understand what was being told us. Honestly, in that hour or two, if I could have turned around and left, I would have. I was almost in tears.

We finally made it to the buffet, got our food, and had 15 min. to eat before the lifeboat drill. Once that was over, we were allowed to go to our unbelievably tiny stateroom. I should have reserved a handicap access room, but we usually don't need it. We collapsed the wheelchair and stored it on the balcony. Two people could not walk shoulder to shoulder anywhere in the room, and the only plug was across the room from the bed, under the TV. The 6-ft. extension cord I'd brought for my C-PAP was nowhere near long enough to reach the plug.
(This is the ship's picture of the type room we had, only reversed, but this makes it look bigger than it actually was!)

Fortunately, we had a great steward, Herbert, who was bringing our luggage, piece by piece, to the room. He told me I could get an extension cord from the service desk, and also told me to ask them about my gallon of water which was missing. Actually, it took TWO of their extension cords, plus my own, to reach the plug. And the water was still missing.  The motorized scooter we'd arranged for was there, thank goodness, but we kept stumbling over it getting to the bathroom or the door.

When there came a knock at the door, I answered it, saying, "Oh, Herbert, did they find the water?" but it wasn't our steward; it was my brother and his wife! They had been coordinating with my daughter and had booked the cruise two days before the Tornado. When Garrett was in the hospital, they had cancelled, but after he died, they called and re-booked with the assistance of some lovely people at the cruise line. What a wonderful surprise! Suddenly all was right with my world again. It was no longer all up to me. My brother is always so supportive and helpful, and I knew I could lean on him. And Janell has a wit that can always make me laugh.
Janell and Frank
We arranged to meet at one of the restaurants for supper, and had a great time catching up while watching the land slowly recede. When we got back to the stateroom, Herbert had converted the sofa into DD's bed, brought us fresh ice, and turned the beds down.

My C-PAP had been located (missing the label I'd applied at the pier), and though the water never was, the service desk sent up another jug of distilled water. The ship was rocking over 4-12-ft. swells, so Jack donned a scopolamine patch just in case, and I downed a Meclizine because and we hit the hay.

(Tomorrow: first day at sea)


Libby said...

An adventure!

julieQ said...

Wow! An adventure of a lifetime...and one I would love to go on someday!!!

Pokey said...

Oh, how wonderful to have your brother and his wife join you! I'm glad for your trip, too. Even with all the challenges, what a joy to be together there.

Cathi said...

What a wonderful surprise for you to have your brother and sister-in-law join you on the trip! Can't wait to hear more about your adventure!

AnnieO said...

That was quite a struggle just to get there! Glad you finally made it and met some lovely folks on the way. Fun, fun surprise of your brother and his wife. I would have cried with happiness too :)