Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Just For The Halibut

Anchorage 10mi
I took an unscheduled trip to Anchorage, Alaska to act as a medical escort on a commercial flight for a patient being returned home from Anchorage to Madison, Wisconsin. We arrived around midnight Alaska time, and we didn’t have to pick up our patient until around 7:00 pm, so we had most of the day on Wednesday to explore Anchorage.
Our hotel sits on Lake Spenard, which functions as an airstrip for most of the floatplanes in Anchorage. We watch the planes coming and going as we eat breakfast in the hotel and we talk about taking a floatplane tour of the area. After breakfast we schedule a flight for 11:00 am, leaving just enough time for a quick soak in the hotel jacuzzi. Nine miles of running followed by twelve hours of flying has my legs feeling like two balloons full of walnuts.
Soon we’re climbing into a tiny single engine Cessna for a short flight out of town and into the Chugach Mountains to the east. Somebody said that Anchorage is "only twenty minutes from Alaska", and now I see what they were talking about. As soon as we get over the mountains, civilization fades away and we watch Dall sheep grazing on the slopes between sparse patches of snow.
We’re ducking under the low ceiling of clouds (it’s been raining all morning), and the pilot threads the little plane through a narrow pass where the mountainsides seem to be just beyond our wingtips. Jayson asks our pilot Pete (a sort of twenty-something Tom Waits Of The Sky) if we are using VFR (Visual Flight Rules), which he confirms and then promptly flies into a total whiteout. Exciting!
In the afternoon we make our way into downtown where we rent bicycles from another strange Alaskan named Pete. He insists that Jayson and I will not be comfortable in our jeans and leather shoes. He comes up with two pairs of his own shorts and shoes and presses them into our hands. He will not take no for an answer. We head out in our borrowed duds on two of Pete’s functional but slightly neglected fleet of rental bikes. Mine features a rear fender that Pete has hastily constructed out of duct tape to combat the rain-soaked streets, and Jayson’s bike is changing gear spontaneously, startling him and other passers-by. “Just don’t stand on the pedals,” I tell him and we head off at a good clip along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
It doesn’t take long for Jayson to figure out that I’m out for more than a relaxing bike ride, after all, today is my cross training day. Understandably, he would rather actually see some of the sights, and I let him go ahead and set the pace for the rest of the ride. We stop to read the signs about what to do when encountering a moose, and we stop in Earthquake Park to read about the devastation caused by the Good Friday earthquake of 1964. Just imagine a thirty-foot tidal wave covered in burning oil. You couldn’t make that up.

this is an audio post - click to play


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