The original plan was simple and elegant: hop on a cruise ship in San Diego bound for Alaska the day after the wedding. After twelve nights, land in Seattle. Travel up to northern Vancouver Island (Telegraph Cove) with Mike’s parents to visit my Dad and Lynne and see the house they are building. The end.
Here’s how it actually panned out.
Act I: The West Coast
We booked the aforementioned cruise last fall. A few weeks later, we were informed the cruise was “no longer going to Alaska.” Where’s it going, then? The moon? Regardless, we had to rebook, and there were no other cruises bound for Alaska that left from San Diego. So we changed our reservation to a seven night cruise out of Seattle that left several days later.
This meant only one thing: ROAD TRIP!
Mike and I have had our share of epic west coast road trips together. Both have involved a trusty minivan with negligible air conditioning and quite a lot of stuff being transported between southern California and Washington. We decided to class it up a notch – renting a car for the week of the wedding was a given, so we opted for a hybrid and extended the reservation to accommodate our road trip. It had air conditioning! But it was still filled to the brim with stuff. Weddings certainly do seem to correlate with stuff.
We also chose to avoid I-5 and cheap hotels, instead meandering up the actual coast and booking four Bed & Breakfasts. (OK, so technically one wasn’t a B&B, but it was at least as awesome as the others and Mike brought me a toasted bagel with cream cheese from the lobby so I say it counts.) My criteria for selecting and booking B&Bs was as follows:
- Must have a website.
- Website must not be totally crappy.
- Must be located so as to reasonably evenly distribute driving time among five days.
- Must have amenities I deem attractive (i.e., king bed, ocean view, awesome bathroom, free ice cream).
- Must be able to reserve a room online.
In all, I easily satisfied the above and we had a lovely road trip! Day 1 was spent driving to Santa Barbara and staying at the Old Yacht Club Inn at the recommendation of some friends. Their Castellammare Room had an awesome hot tub, but lacked a normal shower. We used yelp to find a delicious Chinese restaurant for dinner and enjoyed a nice walk in a park by the water before it got too chilly outside. More communities should feel like Santa Barbara, without the price tag.
We met up with Dad, Lynne, and Aunt Rebecca in Cambria on Day 2 for lunch at the Indigo Moon Cafe. This set our drive back a bit, but was a lovely break. We unfortunately hit the Bay Area around rush hour, stopped at In-N-Out just north of the Golden Gate Bridge for dinner, and arrived quite late to the Breaker’s Inn on Highway 1 in Gualala. We stayed in the Washington Room (of course). The weather was a bit uncooperative that night, so we lit a fire in our fireplace and soaked up the radiant floor heat.
On Day 3, we continued north. We stopped for lunch in Fort Bragg at a tasty Mexican place (thanks, yelp!) and again in Arcata for ice cream. I was taking a turn at the wheel as we approached Oregon and Mike spied a faded billboard advertising “Chat Room Restaurant.” He commented on how that didn’t make any sense, and I glanced over to see that it actually read “Chart Room.” This immediately triggered an impulse reaction. Because, as multiple family vacations from years ago can confirm, this place has the best fish and chips on the planet. Before Mike understood what was going on, we were pulling up and heading inside! We split a plate of fish and chips and I was content to know that some things in life never change.
That night, we stayed at the Compass Rose Bed and Breakfast in Port Orford, OR. We again arrived somewhat later than ideal, but Day 4 promised a shorter drive so we had some time to explore the area in the morning. This B&B was situated on a wetland area very close to the rocky coast. The owners designed and built the house themselves on several acres of land along with many trails and all manner of wildlife. (Yes, including some bugs I persistently swatted at.)
Our more leisurely drive on Day 4 took us up to Oceanside, just outside Tillamook (where they make the best cheddar cheese!). En route, we stopped in Florence at a delicious Thai restaurant for lunch. We arrived at the Thyme and Tide B&B with plenty of daylight to spare, and were shown to the awesome Morning Star room. All bathrooms should be so spacious, all beds so comfortable, and all rooms with such a view. In the evening, we went for a romantic walk on the beach at sunset and picked up a bottle of wine at a local grocery store. We heated up Thai leftovers, sat on our balcony, drank wine, and helped ourselves to the B&B’s complimentary Tillamook ice cream. It was nothing short of glorious.
Day 5 brought us to Seattle in the afternoon, where Mike’s mother kindly met us to return our rental car. We took full advantage of the Bigelow Laundry Express and were treated to a tasty meal at La Costa. That night, Mike’s parents surprised us with a hotel reservation and shuttle to the cruise terminal the next morning!
Act II: Alaska
Day 1 (Embarking). We stood in line forever. First to show our reservation confirmation and passport, then to check our bags, then to go through a security checkpoint, then to fill out a medical questionnaire (“have you had flu-like symptoms recently?” hmm, I wonder what the right answer is…), and finally to form a queue reminiscent of Disneyland to complete the check-in process and receive our “SeaPass” card. Once onboard the ship, we found our awesome balcony stateroom and got ready for a relaxing, awesome week!
Day 2 (At Sea). Our first full day gave us plenty of opportunities to explore the ship. It was cloudy, chilly, and windy, so naturally Mike’s first order of business was the outdoor rock climbing wall. (I took pictures.) It was also the first formal night, so we arranged to have some snazzy outfits cleaned and pressed. We also ordered ourselves a “Grand Romance Package,” which included bathrobes, a bottle of champagne, and chocolate covered strawberries in our stateroom. We ate lunch in the dining room – best salad bar ever, found a game of Scrabble, enjoyed some epic signature cocktails, and accidentally took an afternoon nap in the Deck 11 lounge (with panoramic views). We ate dinner at 8:30 with our table of three other young couples. I ordered the vegetarian curry dish for the second night in a row, much to their amusement. It’s a hard life, being on a cruise.
Day 3 (Juneau). One word: ziplines! We arrived in Juneau midday and headed off to a zipline adventure. First we rode a boat, then we hiked up a hill, and got outfitted with harnesses and cables. Next, we rode an SUV-on-steroids-offroad-thing up another hill, hiked some more, and found ourselves at the first zipline. Thirteen epic zips and two less-than-fun canopy bridges later, we rappelled back down to the ground. This was my first zipline experience, and it was awesome! That afternoon, we explored a bit of the city and found a delicious hole-in-the-wall called simply Пельмени (Pel’meni). AKA, delicious Russian dumplings. Their menu? Meat or potato pel’meni. Topped with melted butter, curry powder, fresh cilantro, and sour cream. We then meandered back to the ship, dodging an insane amount of jewelry stores, and proceeded to eat some more food.
Day 4 (Skagway). We actually had to get up before noon. Tragic, I know. But it was for a good cause: a helicopter glacier tour! For a glorious 20 minutes, it was as if we were in an IMAX movie. I realize that it’s odd to compare reality to a movie, but movies are my only prior experience with helicopters and sweeping panoramas. I had the front corner seat… what a view. Glaciers are astounding, and there is a lot of wilderness in Alaska. After our real-life IMAX immersion, we wandered the streets of misty Skagway until 11am. This culminated in lunch at a Thai restaurant. (Yes, in Skagway, population < 1000. Thanks, yelp.) In the afternoon, we piled into a 15-passenger van towing a trailer of bikes. It was great – they drove us uphill, and we road downhill! The freezing, wet wind hit our faces as we sped along the winding Klondike highway, but the views were lovely. Back in town, we got some ice cream (because clearly they weren’t feeding us enough). We then found a short hiking trail that led us past the world’s smallest international airport, across a bridge, and to a point. We headed back to the ship in time for a “honeymooners’ reception” followed by dinner, where Mike and company spotted a whale and binged on seafood.
Day 5 (At Sea / Tracy Arm Fjord). We were awoken by the ship intercom at the unholy hour of 7am. The emergency? You could see a glacier out the window, and some ice in the water. Great; I was sleeping. I stumbled out of bed to open our balcony curtains, glimpse the glacier, and then fell back unconscious. At a more reasonable hour (er, noon?) we actually got up and had a lovely day around the ship. We played more scrabble, visited the gym, lost a trivia contest, snuck our bottle of champagne into the evening show (and drank it), and ate even more obscene amounts of food. After dinner, we participated in a “battle of the sexes” game followed by a little something called “the quest.” Let’s just say my shoes got borrowed more than once, and the culmination was a male member of our team (not Mike) strutting around in a bra, wearing lipstick, and carrying a purse. Our team won… one crappy “bingo” t-shirt apiece.
Day 6 (At Sea). No rude awakenings on Day 6! The weather was gorgeous. It was never really bad during our whole trip, but this day was simply stunning blue sky and sunny. It was still chilly outside, though, so we made our way to the indoor swimming pool area in the afternoon. We got in the jacuzzi for a bit and then treated ourselves to cocktails and a healthy snack of pizza and french fries. But the highlight of this day was most certainly after dinner – our second formal night. We decided to attend the “love and marriage game show” in the main auditorium, and got there a few minutes late. Just in time for them to ask if there were any newlywed couples in the audience who were interested in playing. Ding! We were called up front and instructed to tell each other: “ooey baby, ooey baby, we want to play, ooey baby!” So of course Mike hammed it up, and when it came time for the audience to cheer for their favorite of about six newlywed couples, the room exploded for us! Next we knew, we were sitting on the stage with three older couples that had been married from 20 to nearly 50 years. They asked each of the men a set of questions while their wives were out of earshot, and when we returned we had to match our husbands’ answers. Then they switched roles, so the husbands left, for another set of questions. It was a riot! I imagine Mike will tell the story in much more detail over at his blog soon, so I’ll leave it at that for now. Except to say this: a DVD of the game show exists and is in our possession…
Day 7 (Victoria). We kind of tried to go to breakfast in the main restaurant, but didn’t make it before they closed at 9am. You see, I booked a wine and cheese tour in Victoria since it was the only tour that didn’t start at 9:30am. (It started at 11am.) So we ate a somewhat sub-par breakfast at the buffet-style cafe (can you say “catered to old people?”). Mike made it better by sneaking me a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, though, which apparently you are supposed to pay for… only crappy OJ is “free.” Once in Victoria, we visited two area wineries (Muse and Church & State) and a distillery and sampled many wines, cheeses, and spirits. We didn’t have enough time to explore Victoria proper, sadly, and will have to return another time to do it justice. That evening, we packed our luggage and relaxed in our stateroom, taking a break for one last dinner with our new table of friends.
The next morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed in time for breakfast and an 8:40 am departure.
Act III: Telegraph Cove
To cap off our honeymoon, Mike and I traveled back to Vancouver Island and up to Telegraph Cove, where my dad and his wife Lynne are building a house. They were already there, so Mike’s parents and my Aunt Pam met us at the cruise terminal. We piled into two cars and booked it to Canada! The border crossing was quick, and I was in a car with Pam and Tootie (Mike’s mom). They asked us “when did you last visit Canada?” Tootie said some number of years. Pam said two years. I said, “yesterday.” The border guard was quite amused.
It is not a quick trip up to Telegraph Cove. First you drive to a ferry terminal outside Vancouver, which is at least 2 1/2 hours from Seattle. Then you ride the ferry for two hours. Then you drive north on the island for four hours, stopping halfway to buy anything you may need for the next while at a grocery store. (We also stopped and had Thai food for dinner. I got a kick out of starting the “eat Thai food in many random, remote places of the world” game.) Pam and I had visited Dad and Lynne at Telegraph Cove before, but it was Mike, Bud, and Tootie’s first trip.
We spent four full days there (Bud and Tootie left a day early, but we met up with them again briefly in Seattle afterward). Everyone learned that when my dad says “an easy hike,” he really means “basically we’ll be trailblazing and rappelling down steep inclines and dodging bear scat and it will take no less than four hours but it will involve a great view.” We celebrated Lynne’s birthday with a visit to the local restaurant and had fun cooking for one another. Dad took many people out on his little boat, and I was “lucky” enough to be on the excursion that involved crabbing (successful) and fishing (less successful). Unfortunately, I hate crab to the point where smelling them makes me nearly hurl, so that was less than pleasant. But we did eat fresh halibut with coconut curry sauce one night, which is one of my top 10 favorite meals ever. We also fried fish and onion rings, and drank lots of wine. Everyone got along famously, and it was super fun to have some time together as a family with the details of the wedding behind us.
We drove back to Seattle with Aunt Pam on June 1, and flew down to San Diego the following evening. Mike wrapped up his “in-person” job duties at work, and on June 8, we hopped on the first of three long-haul airplanes.
And now? Well, as I finish writing this blog post of epic proportions, Mike and I are actually in Bangalore, India. More on that soon!