MITM 2015 – Day 3

That was a chilly night, but after all these trips to the farm, I’m used to it. This morning’s plan was to get moving, head in to town for breakfast and a fuel stop before heading up to Peoria to see Reese. The was in the low 40s with a strong wind, which made things a little unpleasant. But with a couple layers and the Road Glide’s fairing, it was comfortable enough. I made it up to Peoria a little before lunch, and got to spend some time with Reese doing some gaming and talking, before we headed out to run some errands and hit up Five Guys for some burgers.

Reese has been having trouble getting certain of his Xbox One games’ multi-player functionality working and I’ve been suspecting that it’s the wireless router for some time. So we hit up Best Buy and picked up a much newer one. After lunch, we set it up and got everything configured so that their wireless devices wouldn’t notice the difference. Then we cranked up Titanfall and tried to connect in to a game. It worked perfectly, so we’re going to call that problem solved.

Sadly, I had to head back down to the farm, so we said our goodbyes and I got back on the road. It was still chilly, but not too bad, and I made it back just in time for dinner. We grilled up burgers and brats, and we got to enjoy some homemade rhubarb pie and heirloom tomatoes thanks to Milo and Janet. After that we retired to the fire to enjoy the evening before we all headed home.

Catching Blue Man Group At The Winspear

We took Reese to see Blue Man Group over at the Winspear Opera House today. It’s one of the last things we’re doing before he heads home, but it was definitely something we didn’t want to miss. We’ve seen them before, in Las Vegas, but this show was different. We all had a really good seats, and even Reese enjoyed the show. After the show, one of the Blue Men was out front letting people take pictures with him. So, of course, I made Reese got over so that I could take one of him.

Reese hanging out with a member of Blue Man Group

Reese hanging out with a member of Blue Man Group

Real Pirates Exhibition At Moody Gardens

We’re down in Galveston for the Independence Day holiday, spending time with the family and making sure Reese is getting some Nana time. We’re not going too crazy, but we did go over to Moody Gardens to check out the Real Pirates Exhibition at the Discovery Museum.

They’ve got a bunch of artifacts from the Whydah, a slave ship turned pirate ship from the early 1700s. There’s an exhibition around the artifacts that discusses the slave trade, piracy, and life aboard a real pirate ship, using those artifacts to illustrate. It’s amazing to see how well the items have survived almost 300 years in the ocean. Even some of the textiles were in decent condition.

Alaska Cruise – Day 10

Today was the last day of the cruise, and we pulled in to Seattle pretty early in the morning. Disembarkation was a little more chaotic than our last cruise thanks to the missing central staircase on the Grand Princess. But we managed to slide in to one of the earlier groups and got off the ship pretty quickly. From there we took a cab over to the hotel, got our luggage dropped off, and snagged some breakfast.

We walked back to Pike Place Market and did a little more last minute shopping before heading over to Fado’s, the pub we had wanted to go to on the Friday before we set sail. The food was great, and while we were definitely too tired to make it there last time, it was good that we didn’t miss out on it. While we were there we got to watch a little of the World Cup and Heather got to see her first dive. It was quite amusing.

We grabbed a cab and went back to Seattle Center to go to the EMP Museum. They have a sci-fi/fantasy/horror exhibit that we were dying to check out, and it was worth the visit. There were lots of interactive exhibits and props from movies like The Wizard of Oz, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, as well as props from Star Wars, Stargate, and Game of Thrones. Once we got done with that section we went up to the music exhibits and took in a great Jimi Hendrix exhibit as well as one on Nirvana.

We took the monorail back to the hotel, dropped our loot, and headed down to Pike Brewing Company for dinner. We weren’t too hungry so we just ordered appetizers and shared around. Plus a tasting flight of some of their limited and seasonal releases to cap the evening off. We walked back to the hotel in the rain, said our goodbyes to Sandy and David, and settled in for the night. Tomorrow we fly home.

Alaska Cruise – Day 9

Even though today wasn’t really a sea day, it felt like it because we didn’t get in to Victoria, BC until 7:00 PM. We had Reese’s cake for breakfast and it was deliciously light and fluffy. The weather had improved, so we were able to eat out on the balcony without freezing. After breakfast, Reese headed back up to the kids club to hang out for the day and we continued to back our bags.

Around lunch time we went down to one of the dining rooms to track down one of our waiters. She’s from Ukraine, is Orthodox, and wanted to see pictures of our wedding. We did manage to catch up with her and, I think, made her day with the pictures.

From there we went up to the passenger services desk to make sure our accounts were correct. We had some minor billing errors on the last cruise, and didn’t catch them until it was almost too late. This time we took care of it early. While the girls were sorting something out, I did a little shopping and found a good deal on a Citizen Eco-Drive watch. Nothing too flashy, but it looks good and will never need batteries.

Later in the afternoon we had high tea, which was interesting. There were some nice finger sandwiches as well as some good brewed tea, as well as some fun conversation with the people we shared the table with. After that we went and sorted through our pictures, placing our orders for prints and a thumb drive with the digital versions.

We pulled in to Victoria, BC on time and Reese and I got our paperwork together and headed off the ship for his first visit to another country. Once we cleared Canadian immigration, which amounted to walking through a building with no paperwork checks, we popped over to the local information kiosk to get some information on local restaurants and pubs. While waiting in line we ran in to the stereotypical ugly American, who was upset that his mobile phone wasn’t working. I asked him who his carrier was, but he didn’t know. So I asked him who he paid his bill to, he said he didn’t have one and that he just bought minutes when he needed them. To that I replied that he was out of luck because none of the prepaid carriers would have negotiated any meaningful kind of international roaming. His response was to tell me that he didn’t like my answer. At that point we were all sick of him so my response was that whether he liked it or not didn’t make it any less right. He stormed off in a huff, probably to make someone else miserable.

We got our information, including a suggestion for a local restaurant, and shared a cab in to town with another couple. We got dropped off close to 10 Acres, the restaurant recommendation from the docks, and got our names on the list for a seat. The menu wasn’t something Reese would enjoy so we walked down the street to a burger place and got him fed. It was perfect timing because we walked in 10 Acres just as our table became available. I ordered a local IPA and had their charcuterie for dinner. The food was amazing, delicious meats, cheeses, pickles, and this chicken liver spread that was absolutely fantastic. This place deserves a visit if you’re in the area.

After dinner we walked around town, did some souvenir shopping, and some picture taking. Since it was such a short stop, we didn’t do too much, but we got to walk around town a bit before taking a cab back to the docks. We got back before Heather and Sandy did, but they were doing high tea at the Empress Hotel, so that was to be expected. I actually got to see them walking back down the dock from our balcony. We finished the last of our packing and got to sleep at a reasonable hour. We’re getting off the ship pretty early tomorrow, so having everything squared away tonight was a must.

Alaska Cruise – Day 8

Today was a sea day, and after how busy the last three days have been, that was really welcome. We had a balcony breakfast with even more of that delicious salmon before dropping Reese off at the kids center for his Junior Chef at Sea activity. They were getting together with the ship’s pastry chef to make some sort of dessert for us. While he was out, we started packing up some of our clothes and loot because, sadly, the cruise is coming to it’s end. We did a little running around, sorted through some of the pictures that the ship’s photographers took of us, and just relaxed for the rest of the time before dinner.

Tonight was the second, and final, formal night of the cruise, which we used to get some more good portraits of all of us in various groupings. After we got done with the picture taking, we let Reese go back up to the kids club for dinner instead of hanging out with the adults at the formal dining. They served Baked Alaska for dessert tonight, including a parade where the waiters marched around the dining room in a conga line carrying them with the lights out. It’s the first time any of us had had it, and it was pretty tasty. We also got Reese’s dessert delivered to the table. He made, iced, and decorated a two layer cake that is going to be our breakfast pastry tomorrow morning.

After that we went back to the cabins and turned in. We’ve got another almost sea day tomorrow before we arrive in Victoria, BC later in the evening.

Alaska Cruise – Day 7

We cruised in to Skagway this morning, our last Alaskan port, and headed off to meet our excursion group. Reese and I booked a helicopter glacier tour, which would be both of our first times in helicopters and on a glacier. We got shuttled over to Temsco‘s airfield, went through the safety briefing, and put on our life vests and glacier boots before heading outside to wait for the helicopters. They got us loaded up pretty quickly and then we were off. We flew down the coast before heading in to the mountains, getting treated to some amazing views of snowy peaks, glacial lakes, and finally, our destination: the Meade glacier.

We landed, got out of the helicopter, and went over to the staging area to meet our guides. The first thing we noticed was how cold it was on the ice, the second thing was that we forgot to pack gloves. Our guides gave us a short orientation before taking us out to hike around for a while. We got to see a number of moulins, listening to the meltwater roar through them, and seeing that amazing glacier blue in person. We also got to see some of the small rocks that we could see from the helicopter as we came in. They’re not so small in person, but there’s just no way to get the scale of a mile wide river of ice without actually being on it. We also got to taste some of the meltwater, which was delicious! Sadly, we had to head back to the base camp to catch a helicopter back to the airfield.

The pilot took us back via a slightly different course, giving us a chance to see some mountain goats, a couple more smaller glaciers, and more mountains. We arrived back at the airfield and headed inside to get out of our gear and do a little souvenir shopping before going in to town to meet up with the girls.

We got shuttled in to Skagway and got dropped off right next to one of the National Parks Service buildings, which was helpful since we needed to get stamps for it. After that, we walked over to where the girls were, did a little shopping, and then went over to the Skagway Brewing Company for some lunch and brews. I ordered a tasting flight to get a feel for their brews, and while all of the beers were pretty good, the Spruce Tip Blonde really stood out. It was so good that I ordered a pint to enjoy with my burger.

After lunch we walked around and did a little more shopping before heading back to the ship. Just before getting to the gangway, we realized that we’d misplaced the bag with our helicopter souvenirs. After a quick dash back along our route we realized that it was gone, so we quickly made our way back to the airfield and picked some more up before heading back to the ship. We got back with plenty of time to spare thanks to the most excellent staff at Temsco who shuttled us back instead of us having to walk. That capped off our last day in Alaska, and the most northern part of the cruise. Tomorrow is a sea day, and then we’re going to be in Victoria, BC.

Alaska Cruise – Day 6

We started the day with a balcony breakfast as we sailed in to Tracy Arm fjord. We were a little concerned about this part of the trip because the cruise immediately before us wasn’t able to get very far in due to ice and weather. Thankfully that wasn’t an issue for us, and we enjoyed some amazing views while we ate some delicious salmon and crab. There were quite a few glacier blue icebergs floating in the water, but we were able to avoid all of them and get all the way in so that we could see the Sawyer glacier. We spent a little time there before turning back and heading out. On the way out we were treated to some glass smooth seas and got to see a solitary humpback whale from our balconies.

From Tracy Arm, we sailed to up to Juneau to spend the rest of the day on land. Our first stop was the AJ Mine Gastineau Mill tour. We got to go in to what was once a working gold mine, learned about hard rock mining, and got to do a little panning for gold. Reese spent a good bit of time panning and ended up with some decent flakes and a few garnets.

We headed back in to town after that tour and split off. I went down to the Alaskan Brewery‘s store to sign up for the tour and tasting while the rest of the group walked around and shopped. I missed the shuttle by about five minutes, so after signing up for the next one, I wandered around and did a little shopping. Once we were ready to leave, we got in the van and drove out to the brewery. We went past the governor’s mansion and down to the industrial area where the brewery actually is. You’ll have to use ground transportation to get there because it’s about 6 miles outside town.

The tour was pretty quick because the tasting room, which was the original brewery, is smack in the middle of the brewery. We could see everything from the three sides of the room while we sampled some of their great beers. We got to drink the Amber, White, Icy Bay IPA, and Smoked Porter. All of them were great, but I really loved the smoked porter. They smoke the malt in-house with alder, using a salmon smoker they bought a few years ago. After we finished the tasting, we went out to the store and got to try a few more beers they had on tap. I tried the Gold Creek Ale and Taku River Red Ale, both of which were good, but I liked the red more. It’s a pretty hoppy red ale and I really hope it goes in to national distribution. I picked up a bottle of their barley wine and a bottle of their raspberry wheat to bring home (hopefully they’ll survive the luggage gorillas) and then headed back in to town.

When I got back, I pinged Heather and headed for the Mt. Roberts Tramway. I missed the rest of the group, actually watching their car pull away and go up the mountain, so I caught the next one and met them at the top. We wandered around, doing a little shopping, before watching a film about the Tlingit people. The tramway and everything at the top is run by a native-owned corporation, so we made sure to spend some money there. After that, we went back down and headed back to the ship to grab a really late dinner.

Alaska Cruise – Day 5

Today was our first port day, sailing in to Ketchikan, AK early in the morning. We sailed past quite a bit of coastline and got to see some bald eagles from our balconies. After grabbing a quick breakfast at the buffet, Reese and I got off the ship and found our group for the zipline excursion.

We took a 20 or so minute bus ride out to Alaska Canopy Adventures, getting some info on the local area from the driver along the way. Once there, we went through the safety briefing and got our harnesses on. I kicked myself for not bringing the GoPro with me as they had helmets with mounts for them, but what’s done is done. We had a short test line to go down to make sure we understood all of the instructions and techniques before we got in to the main course. Reese went first, and did really well, so I had to follow. The rest of the course was amazing. We had two really long lines, both over 600 feet long, a number of shorter ones, as well as some suspension bridges to walk over. The views were amazing, being 75 or more feet above the ground gives you a much different perspective. After we finished the course, we nosed around the gift shop, picked up some swag, and then headed back in to town. On the way back in we lucked out and saw a decent sized pod of orcas. After we were all back on the ship we found out that all of us were in about the same area at that time and all got to see the same pod.

We met up with Heather and went over to Sweet Mermaids for lunch. It’s a small, locally owned cafe that has some seriously good food at reasonable prices. I had a meatball sub, Reese had a quesadilla, and Heather had a sandwich. All of it was delicious, appropriately sized, and reasonably priced. We shared a table with a local and got to talk to him for a while, getting more of the local flavor in the process.

After lunch we walked around town, doing a little shopping and a little sightseeing, making sure to track down locally owned businesses. I picked up some gold nugget earrings for Heather, Reese got some toys and hats, and I snagged some locally roasted coffee. We just about used up all of our time in port, so we made our way back to the ship, getting back with plenty of time to spare.

Alaska Cruise – Day 4

Today was our first sea day, which we used to relax and get ready for the port days. While going through the excursion reservations we realized that Reese and I had nothing for Ketchikan. He and I looked through what was available and chose a ziplining canopy tour, which was thankfully still open.

Since it was a sea day, Princess’s pub lunch was available, which I took advantage of while everyone else hit the buffet. It was crowded, but as a single I got seated pretty quickly and enjoyed the fish and chips with an Alaskan Amber.

After that, we went up to the One5 for the Cruise Critic meet and greet that I had arranged. Attendance was low, but the traffic on the roll call thread was light so I wasn’t surprised. We had a good time talking to everyone and got some good tips for the various ports.

Tonight’s dinner was the first formal night, which we used to get some good photos of us with Reese, as well as enjoying the great food in the main dining room.