Alaska - A new definition of freezing!
For the last six years I have been an Army Soldier. I learned to take orders and do things I didn't necessarily want to do....like deploy to Iraq or spend my Friday afternoons mowing Army grounds for "area beautification". In short, I was used to taking orders - it's what I signed up for. But that all changed in October of 2015 when my enlistment was finished and I decided to pursue life back in the civilian world. I was free to do whatever I wanted!!!! There was, however, a small detail... I am married to a wonderful man who is still in the Army and he doesn't have the luxury of living freely, he's dedicated to serving. While I absolutely admire and respect the lifestyle, it didn't dawn on me how that would affect me until we were hit with a new, cold (and I do mean cold!) reality. We were getting orders to Alaska!
Upon hearing this news there were so many feelings. Excitement, nervousness, a new sense of adventure...it was a whirlwind. All in all, we were beyond excited to move to Ft. Richardson (near Anchorage) and to enjoy new adventures. It was almost too good to be true! And then the other shoe dropped...or shall I say, the other snow boot.
From Anchorage to Fairbanks
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to the Interior we go!
Only days after hearing that we would be moving to Alaska, we got some surprising news. Yes, we would still be north-bound, but now we were set to go even further north. The Army has a post in Fairbanks, Alaska called Ft. Wainwright. It seems that now this would be our home for the next three years. This may seem like a small change, like moving from Miami to Jacksonville, but in Alaska, this changes quite a bit.
In Fairbanks, temperatures can dip into the -50s, as opposed to Anchorage where the average temps stay in the low digits to just below freezing. Since we were set to move in December, we would also experience the lack of sunlight more drastically than if we were living in Anchorage. My main concern, however, was employment. Fairbanks is a small town compared to Anchorage and that makes any job hunt even more difficult. But we had to weigh the good with the bad and we still felt pretty lucky to get this unique and exciting opportunity. Now that we knew where and when we would be moving we were confronted with the most difficult question. How would we get there?
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Have pets, will travel
In the planning process, one thing became abundantly clear. Moving to Alaska was no easy task. First, the trip itself is like going to Europe. Second, we are planning to move our entire life there. Third, and possibly the most difficult thing, we had three pets that were joining us on our adventure.
Nicko, our Husky puppy (how appropriate, right??) and Rocco and Lucy, our cats, would be making the long trek to Alaska with us. While this should seem easy enough, it turned out to be an epic game of Tetris. Why? Well, we had to find an airport that had aircraft large enough to accommodate a dog crate. Then, when there was no space under the aircraft for all three, we had to find flights that still had room in the cabin for a carry-on pet. After much searching, lots of phone-time with the lovely people at Delta (no sarcasm! they were fab!) we finally had or route to Alaska! We would depart in Daytona Beach, Florida, fly to D.C., catch another flight to Seattle, and finally take our last flight into Anchorage. Once in Anchorage, we would pick up our truck, have it "winterized" and make the six to eight hour journey to Fairbanks.
After months of planning and trips up and down the east coast to say farewell to family, we were literally all packed up and ready to go. I was a bundle of nerves on the way to the airport and kept worrying that we'd forgotten something or that the pets would somehow not make it onto the flights... As we approached the departure kiosks there was no more time to worry, this was happening!
Surprisingly, the check-in went smoothly. The Delta attendants were kind to us and sweet to the animals. It wasn't lost on me that we looked like a traveling zoo. Two crates that seemed to meow endlessly and a much, much larger crate with an animal that looked like a wolf definitely made for quite the spectacle. We finally got our tickets, checked Nicko and Rocco in and took Lucy with us to the security check-point. Now, as a former flight attendant I definitely understand the importance of security but why on earth do they need you to take your cat out of the crate to bring it through security? Why? There's a reason why the expression, "like hearding cats" is supposed to conjure images of cats running amuck with no possible way of getting them to do what you want. Luckily, Lucy is pretty good and didn't give us many problems. But the airplane was a totally different story....
Fact: Even people who love cats, hate them on airplanes
A soon as we boarded the airplane for the first leg of our journey, I knew Lucy wasn't going to be the docile, sweet cat she usually is. She began by meowing like a sad, lonely and abused cat and kept looking at me as if to say, "what did I do to deserve this?". I figured that it would be a tough journey but what I didn't expect was the reaction to her presence onboard the aircraft.
As the plane revved its engines and began to move, her meows got more and more pronounced. She was louder, more desperate and making quite the scene. People began to turn and look and seemed utterly confused as to what that sound could be.... Until they saw the crate. The man in front of us kept turning to throw daggers as we tried to soothe Lucy and calm her down. He kept looking at me like I was the one meowing! Which did cross my mind... If I have learned anything in life it's that people don't mess with crazies so...when in doubt. Act like a crazy! That's just good life advice right there.
I thought for sure after take-off that she would calm down but she began to claw and roll and do whatever she could to free herself from the soft crate. Note to self for future cat travel - DO NOT travel with a soft crate. It's like having luggage that writhes, and rolls and has a mind of its own!
After the first, short flight, I didn't have much confidence on how the remainder of the trip would go... I'll spare you the rest of the intricate details and just sum it up. Here's how it went:
Meowing, dirty looks from passengers, an overwhelming urge to drink copious amounts of wine, more meowing, more dirty looks, many hours of flying, a few glasses of wine and TA-DA! We were in Alaska!!!!
After such a long, tiring trip we were just happy to be off of the plane, have our pets and be on our way to the hotel. It was late in the evening so we would have to wait until the next day to see what Alaska looked like, but we were ready.
Stay tuned! I'm excited to share more stories about the scary road-trip to Fairbanks, our first moose and so much more!!!!