Things to read...

If time is short, I'd suggest reading at LEAST The Prologue and Legend of The Pinto Bean Posts!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Alaska, Part 1....

Well my summer has sadly drawn to an end and my last hurrah has come! It's my trip to Alaska, land of big bears, big fish, and snow. In July... Each year for the last three years, the Wounded Warrior Project has offered a trip to the lovely little city of Kodiak, Alaska. I got the opportunity to go last year, and managed the opportunity to go again this year, thereby missing the first day of school again. Hey at least I'm consistent!

The trip to Alaska is a week long, and consists mostly of fishing and eating, two things I both enjoy doing. I spent the week before attempting to landscape my tiny little house up a bit to maybe improve the resale when that day comes, or at least make it look a little better while I'm here. This consisted mostly of my digging a few holes. About a hundred to be more accurate. Needless to say I managed to break my prosthetic in the process, proving that some things haven't really changed over the course of my summer.... I'm still hard headed and insist on doing what I want to. Anyhow, a hundred liriope, a couple azaleas, and a lot of mulch later, Rocky effectively had a new salad bar and it was time to get ready for Alaska. As for Rocky, he spent most of his time attempting to eat the newfound greenery while avoiding the shovel handle swung his way to interrupt his dining experience.

Packing for Alaska was handled much the way I handle my packing. Wait until the last possible moment to wash and fold a bunch of clothing, then toss it all in a big suitcase and hope I got it all. Toss in a few prosthetic thingamajigs and a shave kit and call it a day. This time consuming process tends to take about five minutes leaving me with ample time to wander the house aimlessly trying to figure out what I'm leaving behind. At the very least this method makes unpacking an experience akin to Christmas as I discover just what it is that I'm gonna have for the week. Oddly enough I forgot nothing, though there was a brief heartpounding moment where my future looked decidedly "commando" if ya know what I mean (think underwear). Anyhow, an early wake up and short jaunt to the airport and my last great adventure was underway!

My flight was set to depart from Tri-cities regional in East TN and end up in Kodiak, AK via a long day of the exciting and fun filled aviation experience that we have come to know and love here in the US. Of course, this trip must begin with the ubiquitous "full body cavity superterrorist search" that all military disabled get to enjoy. This entails me standing around while my ID is given a thorough inspection followed by the "physical search." This search is usually conducted by a guy who looks like he's having more fun that me... It starts with the customary "will you take off your shoes?" request that I never comply with. Tying shoes is a big enough chore with a hook that I don't feel like doing it unnecessarily in the interest of "safety." I've learned I still get the free "you might be a terrorist if" check anyhow, so why bother.

After we argue about the shoes, I then get the wanding. Of course this thing beeps anywhere there is metal associated with my prosthetic, and this earns me the "full patdown prize!" A few minutes of groping usually still fails to turn my frown upside down, though a few times the groper seems to have really enjoyed it. This makes me more nervous. Once my molestation has been doled out appropriately the final fun starts... In order to ensure that we as a nation are ensuring that our wounded combat veterans aren't a threat to national security, we get the final wanding where my prosthetic get swiped and swabbed in ad nauseum to ensure there are no bombs hidden in my hook. My favorite part is where my fellow travelers get to gawk at the guy with the hook getting the spa treatment behind the big glass partition. I'm not sure but I think the TSA might charge for this free show. Anyhow, once my story of "innocent amputee traveler" has been confirmed by the Thousands Standing Around (TSA) I'm finally freed from my Gitmoesque holding cell to rejoin the general population of weary travelers. At this point I'd like to extend a special thank you to Homeland "Security" for their unwavering and infallible execution of ensuring that the nation remains safe from those sworn to defend it. Good job guys!

Once through security, I get to actually get on the plane and make my way north! This process is usually a little more worrisome for me given my aviation track record and knowledge of the "incidents" that tend to happen... I usually try to keep all this to myself so as not to scare other passengers. People tend to get a weird look in their eye when they find out that you lost a body part in an aviation related crash. For people who are particularly obnoxious however, the gleeful delivery of this statement "At least I crashed after flying an hour! Most crashes happen within the first 60 seconds after takeoff... Hope we beat that again this flight, too!" ends all said obnoxiousness... If only there were some way to end that "middle seat elbow fight" as easily.

Well sixteen hours later I arrived to the welcome of the shining sun of Kodiak. Did I mention it was about ten at night? I met with the WWP representative and went and got checked into the hotel in anticipation of a fun filled week. This was gonna be fun, and my biggest hope was to see a bear. That was about the only thing I didn't get to do last year. Before I get too much farther, let me take a moment to explain this whole trip...

Three years ago a small group of wounded were invited to come fishing for a week in Kodiak, and enough fun was had by all for this to become an annual event. Last year I made it up for the trip and had so much fun I jumped at the opportunity to go again. The trip revolves around days of fishing for salmon, halibut, and a variety of other fish. The nights are then dedicated to amazing dinners sponsored by local groups who are helping out with the entire trip. After that most guys have a few tasty beverages at a local establishment and then retreat to hotel to get a few hours of shuteye and ready themselves to do it all again the next day. On the outside, it appears to be just another "guys (women too if they want!) week fishing" but the reality is there is a lot more to it. The trip offers a chance for wounded service members an opportunity to just "get away." There are no agendas, no health care professionals, no "higher-ups". Just a week of hanging out and having fun. This year even saw a few changes that IMO made it even better. To the guy on the trip the therapy of being around a bunch of guys having fun, the chance to talk about whatever, is worth a lot more than hours spent on a therapists couch. In addition to the mental decompression that occurs, the physical fun and challenge of learning how to fish for BIG fish, as well as learning the associated skills of open sea fishing is worth more to most guys than any dollar amount can reflect. Anyhow, this wouldn't be possible without the overwhelming support of the people of Kodiak who open up their schedules and time to help raise money and support to make this all happen. I'm sure the logistics alone are mind boggling! For this, I salute you!

Anyhow, I'm gonna break up this trip into a couple stories over the next few weeks. For now I'll leave it at my arrival there, and pick it up with the fun of fishing so stay tuned!! Pics should be up tomorrow too, I hope!