As I write this, I am sitting in my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Ketchikan Alaska, a very spur of the moment trip to say the least.  I am listening to the quiet, the low mumble of the news in the background and the mesmerizing ticking of two clocks in the living room.  The sound it is quiet, and calming.

I was busy writing last week when I received a text from my sister.

“Are you busy?  Can I call you?”

“Of course you can call me” I texted back.  I don’t ever not take the time out for my friends or family.  I will always fit them in somehow, I will even lose sleep in order to see them.  I have learned so very long ago that life is much too precious for excuses like being too tired or too busy to say hi.

SeaTac  Image | Sandy Harris

SeaTac Image | Sandy Harris

Moments later my phone began to ring.  “I want you to come to Ketchikan (Alaska) for our wedding anniversary.”  I explained I didn’t have that kind of money and as much as I would like to make the trip, there was just no way.

“It’s on me”  was her reply.  Well, now… how could I refuse?  Even though I was just there (here) for two weeks in July I just couldn’t say no.

The two of us plotted on how we would surprise my family.  (I am very good at just showing up in town.)  Logistics settled, we waited for this exciting day.  I barely had enough time to pack and make arrangements for my pet care.  My ticket was to leave Eugene at 6 a.m., arriving in Ketchikan 10 hours later.

I actually saw the crack of dawn the day I left, functioning on only 3.5 hours of sleep.  My ride showed up at 4:30 a.m., dropped me at the airport giving me just enough time to get my ticket and head for security, stripping along the way; belt, shoes were coming off.  I rounded the corner after clearing the first security check point.

I make it to the conveyor belt that will carry my belongings through the x-ray machine.  My shoes off, liquids out, travel bag, computer and back pack place in bins and on the conveyor belt, I realized I had taken up the entire area with all of my possessions, five bins full, four calling birds, three french hens, wait… No.   I must have looked like a seasoned traveler I was so efficient with my belongings!  I felt like I was doing something illegal by packing so efficiently and getting away with it for free!

I was directed into the body scanning device and shooed out just as quickly, dressing and packing with the same efficiency I showed on the “other side”.  I had to wait a mere 15 minutes till boarding.  After flying my entire life, I have finally learned how distinguish the A seat from the D seat!  I know, some of you might be rolling your eyes, but there are some things my mind refuses to learn.  If you are looking at the tail of the plane, A is to your far right at the window.

girly drink


Before I knew what was happening we were in the air and the flight attendant was asking me what I would like to drink.  My first instinct was a Bloody Mary, however I chose a coffee.  What I received was a half cup of Starbucks (I’m not kidding, there was literally about 4 ounces of java in my cup)  I felt a little slighted thinking this is what I stayed awake for?  I take my coffee with creamer and sugar (stevia) if I can find it.  She gave me a packet of sugar and one of those tiny liquid creamers.  The coffee was so strong I could nearly chew it and I could feel the chest hairs seeking daylight.  I finally caught her attention and asked for more creamer.  Now I know why they give you half a cup.  The other half is to cut with creamer.

Landing at SeaTac an hour later I checked in with the appropriate people to let them know I made it.  I couldn’t find the internet to save my life until a few hours and a lot of frustration later, and life was good once again.

I went in search of a place that serves adult beverages, it was a few hours before my flight and I was ready for that Bloody Mary.  I found a place called the Sports Page near my gate.  I decided to break my own tradition and ordered a “girly drink” instead and man was I happy!  I tried to figure out how I was going to make that drink last for three hours then threw caution to the wind, found my server and ordered up another!  I found prime real estate on the corner of the Sports Page, it had multiple plugs right under me table so I could type and text and surf the web till my hearts content.

I made 7 new friends while I sat there that day.  You just never know when an outlet may strike up new conversations, they’re like belly buttons, everyone needs em, or something like that.  The last three people sitting by me were headed to Ketchikan for a weeks stay, this being their first time there.  I always get intrigued by people when I know it’s their first time to Ketchikan.  It’s a different world up here.

“There is a storm heading to Ketchikan, just thought you should know”  My sister texted me.  Joking with her I said  “I know and it’s landing at 3:08!  How bad is it?  Should I have another drink?”

“You should have two more!” she said.

I packed up my computer, slung my backpack over my shoulder and bid my new friends a safe flight and headed for my gate.  I had about 20 minutes before boarding and should have been packed with people yet there was just an elderly couple there.  “Are you going to Ketchikan?” she asked.  “I am”.  “Well, they changed our gate and we are now at gate N7; you are welcome to join us if you would like”.  Thanking them, I grabbed my belongings and began to walk along side them.  Thank goodness they were there for me.  I guess that makes 9 new friends!

Ketchikan Airport Image | Sandy Harris

Ketchikan Airport Image | Sandy Harris

As we walked down the concourse I remembered my new friends I left at the Sports Page and panicked!   I had to go save their day too as we were on the same flight!  I met them on the stripped ramp (you know those things are a hazard and every time I have to walk up or down them I have to grab the railings.  I have vertigo when it comes to stripes and get extremely dizzy around them)  Wouldn’t you know that is exactly where I saw them as they were heading to the gate.  I put my affliction aside and headed towards them.  They confirmed on the prompter that the gate had changed and we forged on, finally arriving at our new destination.  I was kind of paranoid about being able to lift my “carry-on” above my head into the overhead bin, but it fit and I rocked it!  Buckled in, my bags safely stowed above and below, I snuggle down and relaxed.

It seemed as if it was taking forever to “secure the cabin”.   I don’t have a watch and I didn’t want to be the one to cause the plane to go down so I didn’t turn my phone back on to check the time.  The captain came over the intercom and apologized for the delay, we were waiting on a part to arrive so they could replace it.

The movie Final Destination came to my mind and I wanted off the plane!  I grabbed my phone and couldn’t believe it.  We had already been on the plane for 45 minutes!  I sent my sister a text to let her know that our plan has been foiled and we must recalculate things.

After an hour and a half on the plane, the captain said we are in fact changing planes.  I guess they didn’t use Fed Ex.  I had just taken my shoes off, so back on they go.  There is a rush to get off the plane, there were only about 40 of us as we head in droves back to the train that would take us back to C gates. Our original gate was D1, right around the corner!  I am a zombie at this point, no sleep and two girly drinks and so I latched on to another couple, that would make 11 new friends and followed them to the train.  By now I know 1/4 of the people on the plane!

We arrive at the new gate and the three people that I met in the Sports Page came up to me and the man said while he is wagging his finger at me  “We have seen nothing but trouble since we met you!”  We all got a good laugh over that.  A fellow Oregonian stuck up for me and high fived me, the camaraderie was there! I felt some love.

All on board once again, a different plane same people, same seats.  Eerie and comfortable at the same time.  The flight attendant’s voice came over the intercom and apologized for yet another delay. “You got here so fast we were not prepared for you so we are getting the cabin ready as fast as we can”.  I sent out the new arrival time to my sister and shut off my phone.  I just wanted to sleep.

Tongass Narrows Ketchikan, Alaska  Image | Sandy Harris

Tongass Narrows Ketchikan, Alaska Image | Sandy Harris

The cart came around and I ordered a coke.  She was surprised I didn’t want a complimentary beer.  I decided to stick with a coke.  She got side tracked and forgot to hand me my complimentary mystery snack!  How do you bring this to her attention?  I let it go and pulled out my first snack from my first flight.

We are about 1/2 hour from Ketchikan and the pilot announced there will be heavy turbulence coming up and the flight attendants will NOW begin to prepare the cabin for landing.

I want to just get this out there now.  The pilots of Alaska Airlines (the only airlines to fly into Ketchikan) are the best pilots around.  They have to be because of the inclement weather.  I tried to figure out in my head, if we go down would it be better to be sitting in the window seat, the middle or isle, AKA A, B or C.

The plane had already begun to shake; the flight attendants holding their own as they walk up and down the isles, smiles on their faces as they collect the trash from the passengers.  I give my belt a firm tug and looked over to the couple that is sitting across the isle from me.  The man has pulled the seat cushion up and was inspecting it.  We locked eyes and I shook my head at him and said  “No… We are not going to have a need for personal floatation devises”.  He smiled at me and replaced it.

It started to get pretty bumpy and so I closed my eyes (knowing this would be much better than seeing the plane shake rattle and roll) and thought of a football field.  For half an hour the plane dipped, plummeted, plunged, bobbed and weaved while I tried to calculate the dimensions of a football field.  Why did I choose this subject to focus on?  I have no idea.  I wanted to try to keep my mind off of dying so that is where I went!

The passengers (my new friends from the Sports Page) where having a blast, whooping and hollering in the back as if they were on a roller coaster ride.  It was by far the worst flight I have ever had.  I began to make peace with my life, praying it would be over soon, I couldn’t take much more.  I finally opened my eyes and we were inches from the tarmac, touching down at 5:05.  Had I been completely alone, I would have burst into tears.

We came to the end of the runway when the flight attendant came over the intercom, announcing Ketchikan and suggested an applause for our captains for their ability to keep us safe.  The plane erupted with applause.

Here is a little video I took of the Ketchikan rain.  Add another 50 mph to this video and you can get a feel for the turbulence I had to endure for 20 minutes.

Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island in Southeast Alaska.  A home to approximately eight thousand residents, also known as the first city and referred to by residents as The Rock.  In the summer time cruise ships line the water front, often inundating the city with thousands upon thousands of extra people.  The storm was so bad this past Thursday when I flew in that two cruise ships bypassed Ketchikan if that gives you an idea of how bad this storm really was.  The winds were blowing 40 to 50 mph with gust up to 70 mph.

Later that evening, after all of the surprises were out of the way and we were relaxing, my sister said she would have canceled her flight had that been her.  That’s when I jumped her!

See you out there!