Saturday, December 02, 2006

Made it back. Mostly.

Date: Nov. 30
Total mileage: 28.0
November mileage: 279.9
Temperature upon departure: 18

(Today's photo is a picture of Spaulding Meadow as captured by Geoff on Thanksgiving Day. Of all the things I actually remembered to bring back from Utah, my camera was not one of them.)

I was sitting in an immobile plane at the Ketchikan airport, staring at the blizzard-obscured city across the channel and wondering just when my move to Southeastern Alaska went wrong.

Maybe it was the lady from Kenai who sat in the seat in front of me, jabbering joyfully about her epic flight from Anchorage to Seattle to Ketchikan, all in a so-far foiled effort to make it to Juneau. "I just know we're going to end up back in Anchorage," she laughed. "I hope you know people there because this airline (Alaska Air) knows better than to give people hotel comps."

Maybe it was my sinus infection and the unbearable pressure that only seemed to increase in intensity as we sat at sea level - a sensation of deep sea diving combined with menthol-laced strawberry cough drops and an iPod blasting Built to Spill. I just wanted my ears to pop. And I wanted to drown out the displaced cheerfulness of the Kenai traveler.

Maybe it was the laps that I speed-walked around a Seattle airport terminal in an effort to get some exercise during the long day of traveling. The fifth time I passed my departure gate, a woman asked me if I was lost. "I'm just walking," I said. "Flight delayed?" she asked. I just shrugged. "Can you believe this weather?" she asked. I shrugged again and looked toward the window. It looked like it was snowing.

Maybe it was the way that, in between blinding pressure headaches, I couldn't help but look back wistfully to the final few days of my Utah vacation - time spent commuting around the frozen city on a tiny mountain bike and communing with old friends who have no concept of weather slavery. They were all warm in their beds. I was on the wrong side of the nonexistent "Bridge to Nowhere."

Maybe it was the gnawing anxiety as the captain-of-few-words announced that he would "try for a Juneau landing," and took off after more than an hour of waiting. I have heard that descending into the wall of mountains that line Juneau can be terrifying, but could only imagine what that must be like as we bumped and bounced through the featureless static of driving snow.

Maybe it was the way in which every passenger erupted into a chorus of cheers before the plane even touched down, and continued clapping as it careened across a runway covered in two inches of snow, so unified in their appreciation that I couldn't help but laugh in spite of my wide-eyed terror.

Maybe it was just my need to grump because coming home from vacation is all about grumping - especially when it's December, and the sunset's now at 3 p.m., and the forecast calls for 10 days of warm sleet. I should have felt grateful to have slipped through the window of the storm. But somehow I just couldn't seem to find the method to this madness ... the happy medium in this land of extremes.

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