Friday, July 9, 2004

Travel Notes from Tony





Well, looks like this week's Fab Five are travel journals. You want a travel journal? You can't handle a travel journal!! Sorry, Mrs. Linklater thought she was Jack Nicholson for a minute. 


In honor of the spotlighted journals, Mrs. Linklater has turned over this entry to the subject of travel.


My longtime, well-travelled friend, Tony, a Dallas transplant, is on the road again -- this time to Alaska for the wedding of a godchild and to fulfill his quest to see a moose. 


When he’s traveling, he stays in touch with his kids, ex-wife, his current girlfriend, and the rest of us with fascinating emails about the people and places he sees.  I think you'll find it's not the usual stuff.  Here are the emails he sent this week. Pretty much unexpurgated.


The emails are reproduced by permission, which I extracted from him this morning after calling his cell phone in the Denali National Park, where he was trying to figure out how to pack a wet tent for his flight back to Dallas. Any comments in quotes and parentheses are things he told me over the phone.



The flight up here was marred by the fact that there was equipment delay coming into DFW with the result that the flight from Dallas to Denver was delayed by an hour.


I missed my connection to Anchorage. Frontier put the five or so people trying to make that connection on an Alaska Air flight three hours later, with the consequence that I had to sit in a middle seat, didn't have a clue whether my bag made it, and got in at 1:00 am (which was 4:00 am Dallas time).

The Anchorage airport was packed at 1:00 because there are so many connecting flights taking off and arriving at that time, many to Japan. We had to wait for a gate to open up!

I got to my hotel at 2:00 Alaskan time, which was 5:00 am for my body, so I just tumbled into bed and went to sleep.

[Note from Mrs. Linklater -- Delays and missed flights are Tony's normal travel routine.  What can go wrong will go wrong.]


The difficulty is that it really never gets very dark here, so even at 2:00 am, the street lights are on, but it isn't really dark. By five in the morning it is bright enough to read a newspaper.


The other difficulty is that it is always overcast and gray, so there isn't much difference between the light at 5:00 am and the light at noon. One just knows it is later because one has had more coffee.

I left at about 11:00, and drove on Alaska 1 (there are no US highways and no Interstate Highways in the state, and I think the actual number of highways is under ten).


My destination was Homer, about 210 miles away down the Kanai Pennisula. Lots of RV's. The men my age all wear overalls and have beards like ZZ Top.


The radio is a curious blend of hyper-Libertarian politics and that of the Religious Right. Curiously both groups are united in that they don't want much government telling them what they can or cannotdo. They are very anti-Conservation, anti-federal government, anti-most-government-of-any-kind.


A future difficulty between these two groups will come when the Religious Right starts to impose "Christian Values,"  and outlaw booze (the right to drink is almost a religion here).

Homer is a sleepy little town which is supposed to have a large number of artists, but is best known for the Home Spit, a four mile long ribbon of land running out into the Cook Inlet.


At the end there are a large number of touristy type things, but also a lot of fishing boat opportunities. What you catch is halibut, which are large, three, four feet long usually, at about 30 pounds, but which can get up to two and three hundred pounds.


["Halibut are the ugliest fish I've ever seen, except for monkfish."]


The limit is two. People come up to catch them, and then bring them to fish houses which fillet them, cut them up into pieces, and blast freeze them. Everyone has a cooler into which the catch goes, and yes, these coolers go on the planes going home.

There are enough Russians in the area so that the local Safeway has their exit signs in Russian and in English. The Russians are part of an "Old Believers" group, a splinter group of the Russian Orthodox Church. The women, at least, dress like Amish or Mennonites, little caps on their heads. They have their own schools and generally keep to themselves.

We stayed in a converted railroad caboose with moose antlers, called the "Moose Caboose." The same place had a converted fish boat one could stay in, too. Picturesque to say the least.


I slept in an apartment which formed the foundation for the caboose. The bride's parents slept there, too. Upstairs in the caboose proper were the bride-to-be, her sister, and their cousin.  The three of them, together, form a triumverate of terror on guys in local bars.

I am getting kicked off the computer in the cybercafe so more later....


* * * * * * * * * *


[Note from Mrs. Linklater: Travels with Tony continues with more travails.]


The worst part of being in Homer is that my wallet simply disappeared with my credit cards, my driver's license, and about $500. I looked up, I looked down. I took the car apart. I haven't a clue as to where it came out or where it went. So I began the difficult process of what to do about:


American Express (who have been wonderful) express-mailed me another card,
sending it to the groom's address. My ex and my son-in-law sent money via Western Union, and I had a passport which I use for identification on planes so I was not set, but okay.

This is the busy season up here. The roads are packed, full of RV's many rented locally (which is a huge business here--the streets are full of places advertising "RV Parts") but quite a few have been driven the long, long way up here. My map says that by the shortest route it is over 3,800 miles to Dallas from Anchorage.

A couple more comments about Alaska: The first is scale. The hugeness of the scenery here is a little overwhelming. In Homer we looked out over Cook Inlet to the mountains on the other side.


Because the sun never fully came out until a little bit yesterday afternoon, and clouds usually cover the tops and sometimes the middle of mountains I could not get a handle on how great the distances were.


Sometimes I would be looking out at this great row of mountains, two and half to three thousand feet above us, but across the water, and end up thinking this looks very much like the mountains in Aspen.


They're about the same height in terms of rise from the valley,only where there are valleys in Colorado, there is water here. The vegetation is about the same except that I haven't seen aspens. But the wildflowers are all familiar. And just when I am getting a feel for the view, something happens, like a fishing boat, a fairly large fishing boat will go by, and be just a dot in the water, trailing a black string as its wake.


Then I suddenly have to face that the whole scale of this state is bigger, larger, more impressive.

Another fact that I don't seem to be able to get around is the constant light. I was in my hotel last night after a day when there was actually sunshine, light with shadows, and the sky was still blue at twelve-thirty in the morning. Street lights come on about then.


They had the fireworks celebration then because holding them when it was dark enough to see them [like we do down in Texas] would have been another couple of hours!


As it is light when I go to bed, and light when I get up, I never get quite enough
sleep and never feel rested. Some people say that they have a great deal of energy in these long days. Not me, I am tired. In part I think that is because it is generally overcast, day after day, which means low pressure, something that I have become more subject to as I age.

* * * * * * * * * *


Today, Monday, the fifth, it is overcast and gray, something I am beginning to think is the usual state here.


[“The sun never sets, it just moves around the edge of the horizon during the night. . ..Summer starts around Memorial Day and it's over in September"]

The bride and groom have a small group of funny, lively friends, both old and young who adore them.


They were married by the Chief Justice of the Alaskan Supreme Court, a nice man, for whom the groom had clerked when hegot out of law school.


I talked with the Chief Justice quite a bit. The judiciary here is amazingly liberal because here the liberals are in bed with Christian Right and the Libertarians, fighting things like the Patriot Act. The state legislature even passed a declaration saying that they don't approve of it!


There are "Get Ashcroft" bumper stickers on cars!

They are lumped together because the Libertarians and the Christian Right believe that government should be small and not intrusive. The liberals believe that the government should not be poking itsnose into people'saffairs, so, at least here, they are all the same page.


One guest at the wedding used to work for a conservation group, but changed over to the ACLU. He said that the amount of heat he got from people from being a "greenie" almost disappeared after he joined the ACLU.


After my experiences with representing the ACLU (I was after all called "an agent
of Satan" on conservative talk radio in Dallas for that one case), all I could do was laugh!

The food we have had is incredible. Of course, there is lots and lots of king salmon, the quality of which is hard to imagine it is so good, and halibut which is amazing, but people here all eat beef, lots and lots of beef. 


[“They served quail, roast beef, salmon, and halibut at the wedding.”]

All the wedding meals, including the rehearsal and the wedding reception, were arranged by friends who worked at the various venues, and therefore were labors of the heart rather than just a commercial transaction.

What one person said to me was that once you got here and did a few things, people rally around and take care of you, if they like you. He said this is not a city of old money, old families at all.


It is all new.

The city was founded in the early 1900's and wasn't anything until after statehood and the building of the pipeline. Just after statehood an earthquake destroyed Anchorage ["The Good Friday Quake"] so everything here is new.

Everything looks as if it had been built by amateurs in their spare time,including all the major office and hotels downtown.

And there are mosquitos.


The Chief Justice said that the single largest bio-mass in Alaska is not plants or trees, but dead mosquitos. You live slathered in DEET which has a funny smell, but is necessary. "Think of it as your new cologne...which is being worn by everyone else." said the mother of the bride.


This DEET-ing of the body and clothes was particularly important because the wedding was outside at the Anchorage Botannical Gardens. Also the flowers here seem larger than in the continental states. Dandilions are enormous, for example.

I leave Anchorage in about an hour to head north to an inn on one of the roads (although there are ten numbered highways in Alaska, no one refers to them by number, but by their name).


Starting tomorrow I am going to make a long, large loop sleeping out in a state park campground one night, and end up at the entrance to the Denali National Park where I have a reservation for two nights of camping.


On Thursday I will take a bus to the end of the road, starting at an ungodly five-fifteen in the morning, the only bus seat I could get, and make my way back to the entrance that night, stopping at various campsites on the way and making little loops
and excursions.


I hope to take some good photographs, but a lot of depends on the weather. On Friday I will drive the four and half hours back to Anchorage, return the tent and sleeping bag I have borrowed from the bride and groom, take a shower at their house, and get on the airplane at eleven-thirty that night. I arrive back in Dallas at ten in the morning on Saturday.

For those lawyers who are interested, Alaska, having been a federal territory for so long, uses the federal rules of civil procedure. There is no court of civil appeals. One appeals from the trial court directly to the Supreme Court, which consists of five justices.


One lives in Juneau, and the others here. They sit in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks.  There is a court of appeals for criminal cases, which the Chief Justice said keeps the case load for the Supreme Court down. One can appeal from the criminal court of appeals to the Supreme Court, but not as a matter of right.

The Chief Justice is an interesting man. He was born of Russian parents in northern China. ["He still speaks Russian to his mother. But it's the Russian of a four year old child."]


There were all these Russian communities in China, filled with people who had escaped the revolution. After WW II, his family came to the United States. He went to Stanford (as did his older sister), Stanford Law, and came up here to clerk for a justice of the court here.


His mother is still alive living in San Francisco. He is smart, very educated, definitely a decent man, and nice with a nice sense of humor about life for one who cannot disclose many of his feelings (the judge's curse).


Time to see the bears.


Note from Mrs. Linklater -- Tony never did see a moose, unless he hits one on his way back from Denali to Anchorage this morning.






1 comment:

lamove04 said...

very interesting.  more so than the sampling of Editors Picks prose I read this morning.  Thanks for posting it. Albert