When my friend Susan and her family moved back to America I thought I would never see her again, or that if I did, it would be that she would visit new Zealand again. As a stay-at-home, zero income mother for decades, I could only dream of a Lotto-funded trip to America. In December Susan's husband, Steve, emailed Mac with the suggestion that we visit. When Mac showed me the email, I felt sick and wished he hadn't shown me the invitation: it seemed a cruel joke. Then Mac said, "why not?" And out the window went our plans to buy an emergency generator (no emergencies permitted from now on), a 'new' car (this one will have to hold itself together a bit longer), and several other things that we had planned on buying with the last of Mac's inheritance.
I remembered Susan writing to me when they moved to Alaska, and telling me about Steve's trip up the western coast north of Seattle on a ferry and suggested it to Mac. He wasn't that keen until talking to his brother's neighbour (an Alaskan who only does summer - he has a home in Anchorage and another in Raglan) and borrowing a video from him. So the plans began. I didn't really believe it though, couldn't take it seriously until we booked our tickets in January. Then up onto the wall went the map of Alaska.
A while back Susan, who works in the children's section of the library in Fairbanks, sent me this bag. Currently it is in use collecting bits and pieces for our trip to Alaska: itineraries, little presents for our friends, compression stockings, tourist information, all that kind of traveller's paraphernalia.
When we return home, I expect that bag to be full of used tickets, pamphlets and brochures and maps and mementos and small presents for my family.
Our plans are still vague in parts, but the skeleton is ready.
On Thursday 9 June we arrive in Seattle at 7.51pm, an hour and a half before we leave Auckland. (Which sounds rather like Monty Python's 'we really had it tough' old men sketch!) We stay the night there and the next day our friends' daughter, Robin, will pick us up and show us a little of Seattle before taking us to Bellingham catch our ferry, the MV Columbia.
We have three nights on the ferry, travelling up the west coast of Canada to the capital of Alaska, Juneau, with brief stops at Ketchican, Wrangell and Petersburg. Hopefully, this interlude will give us time to recover from jet-lag before we meet up with our friends, Susan and Steve in Anchorage, Alaska's biggest city. From there it is off to their home in inland Fairbanks, where the sun does not go down in mid-summer, and there is no ozone hole in the sky, and where I can celebrate summer solstice instead of suffering the Dark of the shortest day in New Zealand.
It's not all dark here though - we remembered to feed fed our citrus this year for once and one poor little tree is so covered in 'sunlight' it is now lying down on the job - if only we could pick the lemons and take them with us - I'm pretty certain lemons don't grow in Alaska!