Alaska – The Last Frontier (RV Series #20)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

Confession: I married a planner. As in a guy that actually likes to sit down as a couple and PLAN. Everything. It’s the most attractive quality in regards to planning for retirement, planning for a house remodel, or planning for company to visit. It’s incredibly annoying when it comes to planning vacations. He not only wants to schedule them on the calendar but also plan each day’s activities months in advance.

We planned our Alaskan cruise nearly seven months ago. We knew we’d be RVing up the West coast of North America so we let the cruise departure date drive our journey. We began in Arizona mid-January and we’d need to be at the Seattle harbor by the end of May to set sail for Alaska. John’s customer visits determined how long we visited each city and state in-between. That was the plan.

Except that four months into our five month journey, we were burned out and not looking forward to spending seven more days with our kids anywhere, let alone all stuck in one room aboard a vessel bound for a state no one prints on their driver’s license. We even called to cancel this particular sailing and re-book for a different one. No dice. We would’ve lost all of our money.

Minds lost, we parked the RV and climbed the plank gangway to our luxurious suite. It truly was luxurious. In addition to the triple-paned sliding glass door that opened up to a sunlit balcony, the large suite included a king-sized bed, six-piece bathroom (counting the bidet), a sectional sofa that converted to twin beds for sleeping, large dressing vanity, and two lounge areas with TVs separated by a heavy drapery at night for privacy.

Privacy – not something we’d experienced in a very long time. Not just the marital kind but the space kind. My kids take up a lot of space, emotionally. Too many times I’d tried pulling a heavy drape to compartmentalize behavior struggles and give my mind rest. I’ve not yet discovered fabric woven tightly enough to shield my heart from the hurt. I knew this drapery visually separating our bed from theirs on the cruise would be no different. I focused on our itinerary.

We planned three excursions on our port days and rest and relaxation during our four cruising days. Interestingly enough, our last port stop would be Victoria Island, British Columbia. We’d purposely avoided visiting there during our Vancouver week. We had no idea of what to expect in Alaska. We packed clothing that could be layered as well as hiking boots, and rain jackets.

In Juneau, we hiked Mendenhall Glacier State Park and laid eyes on our first glacier, in Skagway, we canoed to another glacier and walked on the magnificent structure, from our balcony, we snapped hundreds of photos while cruising through glacier waters of a fjord, and in Victoria, we toured the breathtaking, manicured Butchart Gardens (warning: lots of pictures – scroll down for the rest of the post).

Mendenhall Glacier Park hike

Mendenhall Glacier Park hike

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Skagway boat ride to glacier island

Skagway boat ride to glacier island

Picnic before canoe

Picnic before canoe

canoeing to the glacier ahead

canoeing to the glacier ahead

wading through icy waters

wading through icy waters

just hanging out on a glacier

just hanging out on a glacier

views from the glacier

views from the glacier

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what a setting

sealion spotting on our boat ride back to the ship

seal ion spotting on our boat ride back to the ship

cruising through the fjord

cruising through the fjord

glacier

glacier

floating blue ice

floating blue ice

breath taking

breath taking

God's artistry

God’s artistry

Porting in Victoria

Porting in Victoria

A must see

A must see

Pictures don't do it justice

Pictures don’t do it justice

Even the trashcans are potted and beautiful

Even the trashcans are potted and beautiful

scenic spot

scenic spot

The Empress Hotel in Victoria

The Empress Hotel in Victoria

colorful fisherman's wharf

colorful fisherman’s wharf

Aboard the ship, we took dance lessons, enjoyed yummy meals including the sushi restaurant, and met people from all over the world. Two meetings stand out in my mind.

The first was two brothers, their wives, and their grown children from India. We met the two brothers and one adult son on our first night in the concierge lounge. We plopped ourselves on a sofa next to their chairs to enjoy some wine and appetizers before dinner. Within moments, we’d introduced ourselves and they welcomed us into conversation. In spite of my southern drawl and their quick-tonged, heavily-accented English, we exchanged work histories, parenting stories, travel advice and even fashion advice, laughing so much we drew attention from those seated around us wanting to join in on the fun.

One of the brothers owned a plastics mold-injection manufacturing plant in India and had suggested the cruise to celebrate his daughter’s college graduation from university in Boston. It was their first cruise and I found their company so humble, genuine, and satisfying. We continued to run into them and their families during the rest of the cruise, hugging, laughing, and appreciating each other’s shoes each time.

The second meeting that stands out to me was on our last night of the cruise. I tear up thinking about it. We’d enjoyed a lovely day in Victoria soaking up the gardens and the quaint town. Not wanting the day to end, we found seating in a lounge upstairs on the boat overlooking the city as we departed. Voices filled the room as we all anticipated our final night at sea before porting back in Seattle. Although the kids joined us in the lounge, they were several seating groups away pointing and gazing out the windows.

Two middle-aged women sat to our right and we all, somehow, ended up in conversation. It wasn’t long before they’d joined us nearer the windows and John was refilling drinks. Turns out they were best friends that had met at a convention for ministry workers many years ago and had made a pact to take an annual cruise together. We shared our RV travel story and some struggles we’d experienced with our kids along the way.

Before long, tears were streaming down all of our faces as the two women before us shared deep hurts and struggles they, too, were experiencing with their own adult children. All the while praising our Savior that cares enough to pull us through. Amazing how God knits together in relationship those that most need to listen and encourage each other in times of need. I needed to purge, they needed to purge, and God got the glory.

The next morning, all packed and making our way back to the gangway to exit the boat, we crossed paths with those two precious ladies once again. I couldn’t let go of my suitcase handle fast enough to receive goodbye hugs before the elevator separated us once again. Their stories shaped their lives and mine. I’m so thankful they trusted us enough to share.

And I’m so thankful that we planned this cruise and that we were unable to change the plan. Sometimes, following the plan opens doors and opportunities otherwise unplanned by us…but wholly and holy planned by The Father. For now, our plan includes getting back to Colorado and moving into our newly remodeled ranch house. That’s the plan anyway.

Next stop: Somewhere between Seattle and Colorado

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