SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column - Commentary

Bouncy, Bouncy, Bouncy!!!


February 27, 2020
Thursday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
I don't drink much alcohol.

Some people think that is the problem with me. For example, every check-up my doctor asks how much alcohol I drink and when I tell her, she always says "you could drink more."

jpg  Dave Kiffer

And I still remember one of my oldest friends being grumpy with me (this was back in our late 20s) because I had no desire to bar hop.

"That's your problem," he said. "Everybody drinks. You need to drink."

Well, no, For the most part I don't. Unlike many of the rest of the male members of my family, I just never had the taste for it.

Wine and hard alcohol just put me sleep. Beer tastes....well......not good. I have always been fascinated by the ads for non-beers that note that they have "all of that great beer taste." Really? Must be just me. Drinking non alcoholic beer has to be the equivalent of eating a fat free cheesecake. Why bother?

But note that, above, I said "for the most part."

Last week, I gulped down a Crown Royal at 30,000 feet between Anchorage and Juneau. Flying in Alaska in the winter will do that.

This time of the year, everybody brags about their trips to the warmer climes. I have to stop reading Facebook for days on end because I get sick of "beach" pictures or people lounging in the sun at Spring Training in Phoenix. Yeah, I get it. It's warmer there. It's not warmer here. It's especially not warmer in Anchorage.

But there I went. Yes, it was a work related trip. I will jump at just about any excuse to get off the Rock this time of the year. Every day that I am somewhere else I am not scraping the snow off my driveway. I will even go so far (say about 600 miles) to somewhere the weather is even worse.

So that was how I ended up arriving in Anchorage in the middle of the blizzard that dumped a foot of snow on the Alaskan capital (just kidding!) in six hours.

You knew things were dicey on the ground after the jet had to scream back up into the air just short of the runway because someone in a big snow plow was still on the runway. This after the usual bouncy-bouncy-bouncy descent over the Chugach Mountains. Welcome to Los Skankrage.

Arrival was followed by the joy of inching along the road at about 15 miles an hour in white out conditions to downtown. Should have upgraded to the 60-paw-drive dog sled. At least the weather was so bad that even all the cowboys in the giant trucks were also creeping along slowly. Except for one that was in a big hurry to pass the rest of us. Later we saw him nose first in a berm off Minnesota Drive. Karma.

Fortunately, my work was indoors, so I was able to pretty much ignore the snow for the rest of the week.

But at the end of the trip it was time to come home. Too bad the state ferry does not go from Anchorage to Ketchikan. Come to think of it, right now, it doesn't go from anywhere to anywhere (sorry Metlakatla).

Speaking of which, during my work conference, I was sitting across from some nice people from Wasilla. At one point, they asked about our "ferry issues." There had been a big story that day in the Anchorage newspaper and they were interested in knowing about how things really were in the "Bush."

I explained about our transportation woes and they nodded appreciatively. One had actually been to Ketchikan on a cruise back in the 2000s.

"It's a very pretty town," she said.  I assumed she had been here on the one sunny day between 2000 and 2009.

Her coworker - a lifelong Wasilla resident - had obviously never been to Ketchikan.

"But can't you just drive?" she asked.

I explained about the islands and the water and the complete absence of connecting roads.

"But you did choose to live there," she noted. "Why should other people in Alaska have to pay just so you could get around?"

I patiently explained to her that roads like the Glenn and Parks highways were built primarily with federal highway dollars that came from other states. But she was having none of that fake news.

"Well, seriously, you choose to live in the Aleutians," she concluded. "You could always move somewhere there are roads."

But I digress.

Leaving Anchorage on a jet during another snowstorm meant going bouncy-bouncy-bouncy over the Chugach Mountains again until we gained enough altitude to be above the bouncy-bouncy-bouncy. The Captain announced that the weather in Juneau was heavy snow and winds. So I purchased an expensive drink off the cart. It just seemed like the right thing to do. The other guy in my row ordered two drinks. I cursed myself for being cheap.

Actually, the landing in Juneau was not so bad. A little bumpy. A little wing shimmy. And then a huge kerblunk as we obviously smacked the runway with a vicious uppercut. Items definitely shifted in the overhead bins on that one.

Then when we left Juneau, we experienced something I have never experienced on a big jet. A "yaw" so serious that items were flying out of people's hands. A yaw is when the nose of the plane swings back and forth. Usually because side winds are making it a challenge to control the rudder. You feel it a lot on float planes. Rarely do you notice it on a 140,000 pound jet. I thought I was going to get whiplash. And the alcohol buzz was had definitely worn off. Note to self. Always make it a double.

After that it was a moderately bouncy-bouncy-bouncy ride down to Petersburg. Again we landed as if the plane was trying to knock out every sentient person in LIttle Norway. Definitely a teeth rattler, that one.

Then we left Petersburg and flew on to Wrangell. Not.

Actually we left Petersburg and flew out toward LeConte Glacier then flew in a big circle and Petersburg. With another bone jarring thud.

The official excuse was that the plane had encountered an unexpected rain squall and had to return. Okay. I'm betting that the pilot had left his lefsa at the terminal. I mean, seriously, the avionics on a 737-700 cost more money than I will ever make in my lifetime. I'm pretty sure the jet is capable of flying through a snow squall or a rain squall or even a random tornado. But there we were back in Petersburg.

And the stewardesses got to go through their preflight safety patter for the second time in less than 10 minutes. That seemed like a little overkill, but you know, rules. Like the one that says you can't bring your own alcohol on the plane and drink it. Party poopers.

Anyhow, we bounced on down to Wrangell (apparently above the rain squall/tornado) and, once again, slammed into the runway like, well, I don't know exactly what it was like. I just know that several of my fillings came loose.

I rarely fault local pilots because these folks are truly the best in the world, but I was beginning to think that this particular crew was trying to pound all the airports into submission. It was a wonder we still had an undercarriage left.

Fortunately, the ride from Wrangell to Ketchikan was pretty routine. Not much bouncy-bouncy-bouncy and a landing smooth as butter. I'm guessing they let one of the flight attendants bring it in.

Anyway, I had been planning to stop off on the liquor store on the way home, but the pleasant leg from Wrangell to home was calming enough, so I didn't need it. In this case one was enough.

Just like one trip north this time of year, is more than enough.





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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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