Unhinged Alaska: The trip

I hold a trip to Anchorage in the same esteem as a “pick up poop patrol” in a heavily populated elephant compound.

So, when my wife announced that we had to head to the burg for a mid-week, pre-op referral and out-patient surgery that would encompass a three-day time frame, I sprang into action.

A quick Google search reflected that shootouts in the mini-metropolis were down to the level of Tijuana on a slow night and a summation of the latest road rage reports indicated the highest level of occurrences were on the weekends.

Those two bits of information saved us from having to borrow Turk’s old surplus armored car that gets around 2.1 mile per gallon and sports a top speed that couldn’t out run a sloth with congenital hips problems.

Relieved that it wouldn’t take us a day and a half to get there plus a ton of gas, we launched toward the concrete-slab-by-the-sea with a suitcase, our rescue mini-mutt, credit cards, and a side arm that could take out a stretch Hummer full of drive-by shooters at a rap concert.

We hadn’t made an Anchorage run in over five years and it turned out to be a stunning ride in perfect weather.

Once we started the drift down into the area of Cooper Landing the fall colors became intense erupting into molten gold trees fired by the sun while lifeless fireweed stalks undulated in the wind like dying red lava cooling on the mountain sides.

Clouds swirled and gently nudged into each other around lofty peaks then collapsed into rivers of mist that cascaded down gullies to settle as pillows of fog in the valleys below.

Swans cruised in small elegant flotillas of grace across Tern Lake while trying to teach their young cygnets the basics of appearing dignified.

It was like a jumbo sized version of Homer with a heaping side of grandeur until about ten miles out of A City when things started smelling like I had stuck my head up an exhaust pipe and it got worse.

By the time we hit the cut off to the medical clinic I was ready to head to the nearest emergency room for a pure oxygen infusion and blood detoxification. My wife, on the other hand, ignored my drama especially when she caught me signaling the dog to play dead and pointed the way to the doctor’s office.

Once there, I figured I’d go inside and get some real fresh air. Nope. The building’s first two floors were being renovated and the place smelled like a glue factory had exploded so I went back to the truck, sealed the windows and fired up the air conditioner.  Just as I was feeling smug the cur had a gastronomical event that caused me temporary loss of sight and an inadvertent gurgle/gasp reflex resulting in an unseemly exit from the vehicle while carpet bombing the area with oaths so appalling nearby trees dropped their foliage. It was going to be a long three days.

The day of the surgery we had to be at the facility for pre-op procedures at 06:30 which was an excellent time because most the city’s motor maniacs were still skulking in their development housing waiting for some mysterious signal that would launch them into immediate gridlock at 07:05.

During the meeting with the doctor and the prep squad we were informed that I should expect to cool my heels in the waiting room for around three hours which was inclusive of her recovery room time.

No big deal. I had a great book and since the hospital had a parking garage right next door, I’d sit in the truck and read while monitoring the dog that, in turn, would sit there giving me a death stare until her mistress returned, confirming that I hadn’t abandoned her at some homeless shelter.

The wait was somewhat uneventful other than the elderly gentleman who worked for about 45 minutes trying to get into a vehicle next to me when his key fob wouldn’t release the locks.

After he called AAA, he detected a baby seat in the back and realized he hadn’t participated in that particular activity for over thirty years.

His car was on the opposite side of mine.

I don’t know what that kindly looking senior was bellowing when he exited the garage but it looked like he had blown an upper denture and his nose hairs were smoking.

Things went well and on the way to the hotel I was amazed how calmly my bride handled my risk avoidance defensive driving techniques as I negotiated construction zones and invasion-size clusters of drivers storming through intersections like they were late for a tasting party at the newest meth lab. My admiration was somewhat tempered though when I realized the pills the doctor had prescribed had her observing my maneuvering skills while orbiting the planet Semistoned.

The next day the ride to Homer was a wet one but when you’re headed the right way it doesn’t seem to matter. Plus the mountain vistas displayed their new fall line up of rain-bathed blue ice fields and a series of light scarf styles of termination dust wrapped gently around the mountain crests.  

Maybe we should make the trip more often.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com.

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