Chillin’ out in Alaska

Published 11:08 am Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Downtown Juneau on a clear day -- Frank Davis | Tidewater News

Downtown Juneau on a clear day — Frank Davis | Tidewater News

Many people in life have what is called a bucket list. It took me many years to realize that I was included in that group. To me, the bucket list first surfaced after watching the 2007 movie featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The movie portrayed two sickly men that ended up in the same hospital room and they both discovered that they each had a desire to complete a list of things they wanted to see and do before they checked out of life.

I have always had a desire to travel ever since many childhood days of living in the mountains of western Virginia. My mother and father (Opelene and Robert G. Davis Jr.) and my grandparents (Ada and Adolph Johnson, now both deceased) would many times carry me on train trips that stretched as far from my hometown, Clifton Forge to Boston, Massachusetts.

While serving in the United States Air Force my travel experiences continued not only in the states but many foreign countries as well.

Another motivating thing that has also inspired me to travel is conversations that I have shared with two local residents of Franklin who have also done extensive travel. They are Dr. Burdette Gatten and artist Thomas Murphy. Both men have shared stories of their travel to locations all across the states. I have also been inspired by travel articles I have read in The Tidewater News by James D. Howell.

But, it only became evident in my later years to pursue as my bucket list — a desire to try to visit all of the 50 states of America. Therefore, each year, my wife Almeta joins with me as we travel and try to cross off a state or two on my list. For our vacation each year, I research plans for a vacation that will allow us to visit a different location. My goal has been recently to visit the states that are at the greatest distance. For 2015 we were able to travel to Honolulu, Hawaii. So, for 2016 the plan was to eliminate Alaska from the bucket list.

Using the Internet I looked at various areas of Alaska but was strangely led to the Capitol city of Juneau. Why, because there was a similar resemblance to the mountains of my hometown of Clifton Forge. As my planning continued and realizing I had to go out west again, I looked at how I could go west and also knock of two other remote states that I had missed in past years. They were New Mexico and Oregon.

During planning with my travel agency I shared my travel desires with the agent and asked if it could be done for this trip. After working on a few plans the agent presented to me a way to do it. After a few tweaks, we came up with a travel agenda that I agreed to purchase. The travel itinerary was as followed.

On the first day my wife and I would board a plane, a prop plane, at the Newport News/Williamsburg Airport and fly to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Change planes and continue to Dallas, Texas. From Dallas, it was on to Albuquerque, New Mexico in another plane. In Albuquerque we were able to visit with local cousins of my wife, ShaTerra Kindred Morris and Adkins O’Niel and their families.

Continuing travel on day two, we traveled to San Francisco, California, changed planes and on to Portland, Oregon. In Portland we changed again this time going to Seattle, Washington. After changing again in Seattle, we finally reached Juneau, Alaska. Upon reaching the capitol city we had to depart the plane on the ground and walked in the rain and cold weather to the main terminal of the airport. To recap, we had traveled on seven different airplanes and three different airlines.

The majority of the time that we were in Alaska it was raining and cold but we were able to capitalize on periods of time that we could site see. The main attraction of our visit was to see a glacier. The city itself is surrounded by intercostal waterways, a dense rainforest, steep mountainsides, and awe-inspiring glaciers – most famously, the Mendengall Glacier. This glacier located just a few miles from our hotel is one of the world’s most easily accessible glaciers. The “Glacier” as the locals call it, draws more that 400,00 visitors a year. It is about a half a mile wide at its face and rises 100 feet from the water.

Another site that we visited was the Shrine of St. Therese which is located as they say, “out the road” approximately mile 22. The Shrine encompasses 46 acres with several gardens, a labyrinth, and the Chapel on Shrine Island. It is a pearl of God’s Creation and is often described as beautiful, peaceful, meditative, amazing, and breathtaking. St. Therese became a cloistered nun at the age of 15 and died at the age of 24. In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, she wrote that what really mattered in life was not our great deeds but our great love.

The period of time that we visited Juneau was considered out of season. Many of the restaurants focused on only serving which was fresh catch. The Alaskan crab legs that we desired were no where to be found in any restaurant in Juneau. We were able to feast on halibut and rockfish.

The people of Alaska that we came in contact with were very friendly and respectful of their visitors that came from Virginia and as they say, the lower 48.

Downtown Juneau was very small for a capitol city and very hilly in parts. A keen shopper can find native handicrafts, local arts. Many of the collector’s items were made from animal skins, fur or bone and bark or baleen. Therefore shopping in the “Last Frontier” is an adventure in itself in taking home authentic Alaska souvenirs to remember their trip of a lifetime and a great way to share a part of the Alaskan adventure with family and friends.

Our trip to Alaska was great and very enjoyable but we only touched a small part of that large state. The visit now allows me to claim that I have now visited 42 of the states of the United States of America. The adventure will continue as we travel to see the great sites of America and try to complete my mission of my bucket list.