To Alaska: The US Northwest15 Jun 2011
We headed out on our trip on the first of May. Well, to be real, we spent most of the first swapping things between our storage unit and our RV… The trip begins before the first mile ticks off the odometer.. We spent several weeks planning, and the first of May, first day of our trip, we spent packing at the storage unit, provisioning up at Costco, and rounding out or ‘wine cellar’. Once we headed north we had a chance to visit with several friends as we drove north… Paul and Christine – Cherie’s first trip to Alaska with with Paul after college on their 50-states tour; Bill and Karen who we we got to know in Puerto Vallarta; and a brief return to San Jose to see Kevin and Brooke’s new baby Luna – who luckily for us arrived early so we had a chance to see her before heading to Alaska. We had worried about our encounters with bears in Alaska Alaska has both Black and Brown (Grizzly) bears. But Paul set us straight, the most dangerous animal we were likely to encounter was the Honey Badger.. The honey badger will be stung by bees or bitten by a cobra and it doesn’t even care. It eats all kinds of things and the other animals just eat the scraps.
Our trip north took us past mount Shasta, which I always thought of as the most picturesque mountain in California, as it stands alone in the middle of a great plain, and we got a great view of it as we drove through on I5. As we headed through Oregon we had breakfast with Jimmy David. While I was stationed in the army in Hawaii we were roommates, and I fondly remember our guitar jams and our trips to bar-hop in Waikiki. It was great to catch up with him, hear about his family and life in Salem.
Just an hour up the road from Salem was Portland, home of Cherie’s favorite doughnut shop, ‘Voodoo Doughnuts’. They feature doughnuts that look like voodoo dolls, or are made of all sorts of crazy ingredients, like smashed snickers bars, or have names like ‘the dirty old man’.
The next day we arrived in Everett, Washington for a tour of the Boeing factory. At this location they build 747’s, the largest aircraft Boeing builds, and 787’s, their newest aircraft which is the first commercial airliner to be built mostly of composite materials (fiberglass, carbon fiber, etc..). The tour takes you into the largest building on earth as measured by interior volume. It is a giant space, needed to be able to house assembly lines for 747’s and 787’s. The entirety of Disney Land can fit inside this structure. The building has its own weather patterns, and it took their engineers a while to figure out how to keep rainclouds from forming and producing showers inside the space. The 747 is assembled in this building, much in the same manner as a traditional assembly line for cars, just super- sized. However the 787 assembly line is a whole other animal. For the 787 Boeing is trying out ‘just in time’ supply chain management and outsources most of the assembly to sub-contractors. A converted 747 ferries 787 components from subcontractors across the world, and then the whole plane snaps together from about seven pieces. Two fuselage sections, two wings, an empennage, and two engines.
When we did our trip planning we wrote down the long list of places we wanted to see, and then made a route between them.. The route had us driving over half the days of our vacation! So I took a different tack, I decided we’d just put down the ten places we wanted to see the most, and then plan our trip around those so we’d spend more time seeing and less time traveling.. I looked over Cherie’s list and asked Where’s Polar Bear and Orca? I’ve never heard of those places . They were of course not places but animals on Cherie’s ‘Top-10’ list.. Cherie did the research and the best place to see orcas was Friday Harbor in the San Juan islands. She called ahead and talked to a tour company Yeah, we see orcas 90% of the time! so we set off for our orca tour.. As we left the dock Cherie smelled a rat when the tour guide mentioned the humpback whale that we’d likely see that day.. Well perhaps we’ll see the humpback and then the orcas, we hoped. After the humpback we motored a bit and saw a river otter swimming alongside a cliff. The guide was enthusiastic Wow we never see a river otter out here! This is amazing! On the trip back in I pointed out some mountain sheep on the side of one of the islands Look Cherie, you like mountain sheep! , she dryly replied I wanna see mountain sheep on the mountain sheep tour, not on my orca tour. As we were approaching the harbor the guide finally confessed that the resident orca pod had not yet returned for the summer, and that they only sporadically see roaming orcas until the pods return.. We’d have to wait till we were in Alaska to see the orcas.