Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Prequel - Getting Ready for Alaska

By Chuck

We have decided upon a modest travel agenda for this year - Alaska in May and the American Southwest in September.

We had traveled abroad for a year from September, 2009 through August, 2010. I was ready to kick back and slide into retirement mode; Claire almost immediately missed the adventure of full-time travel. Our compromise was to refurbish the town house--hardwood floors and painting some rooms--take a 10-day land-sea cruise to Alaska in May and take a driving tour of the Southwest--beginning and ending in Davis, CA and visiting: the Hoover Dam and its new bridge, the Grand Canyon--neither of us has seen either of these!--multiple National Parks, San Simeon (Hearst Castle) and friends in AZ. The single gastronomic commitment is to have an ambrosia burger at Nepenthe on the return trip up the West Coast.

Since the Alaska cruise is first, Claire made reservations on the Princess Line after researching the alternatives. We decided upon a mid-May cruise as this is a shoulder season and the rates are good and the crowds are less onerous.

I began a reading list and have so far completed two items: James Michener's novel, 'Alaska' (1988), and John McPhee's 1978 nonfiction book, 'Coming Into The Country'. The first was a relatively pleasant way to gain an overview and a history of Alaska. It is lengthy novel and takes a while to get into the "meat" of things--typical Michener approach. But, this is also part of his charm--establishing a sense of place. The novel's overall style feels slightly dated; but, I am happy I kept with it and gained an appreciation for this vast land and its people and history.

McPhee's 'Country' is an enjoyable read, too; and it has a more current feel. But, _this_ book reveals the subjects via vignettes and provides a better sense of what real inhabitants are like, today.