Saturday, October 29, 2011

E ticket

My cousin's husband calls the small planes that fly the 60 miles between Anchorage and Kenai the "vomit comets".  Most of the flight is over the flat land on the Kenai Peninsula, but the 20 miles southwest of Anchorage are over water:  Cook Inlet as it curves to become "Turnagain Arm". 

It takes 30 minutes in the air on a 10-seater to get from point A to point B.  The drive, however, is 150 miles and takes 3 hours IF you obey the speed limit.  The highway winds through mountainous terrain and there are miles and miles of nothing but spectacular scenery.   I'm making a round trip once per week for school.   The drive was wonderful as summer wound down - I got to watch fall in all its glory along the route.  Now the leaves are gone and winter has arrived in the form of snow through the passes.

I won't drive that road in the dark.  I am afraid of hitting a moose, careening on black ice, and getting caught in a whiteout.  There are stretches with no cell phone coverage up there.  I'm too old for that s$x*(.  The sun is setting earlier and earlier these days, with our shortest day (December 21st) fast approaching.  On that day we will have no more than six hours of twilighty daylight.

I took my first flight home about 10 days ago.  I was nervous - I'm always nervous about plane travel, but this was my first trip on a plane that small.  At the airport in Anchorage I started a conversation with a young woman in the ladies' room near my boarding gate.  She said, "MAN that was a bumpy flight".  I asked her where she had flown in from and she replied that she had come from Kenai.

I took a tranquilizer.

The flight was not too bad.  It was bumpy in stretches, but I was sufficiently medicated and just glad to be home when we landed.

The day of my return flight I noted with smug satisfaction that the winds were calm.  No tranquilizer for me - I was "experienced" by then and had class later that day.  The first 15 minutes of the flight were smooth as glass.  Then, we flew out over the inlet.

I won't say all hell broke loose, because that would be an exaggeration.  I will say that it got very bumpy.  The up-down-sideways stuff.   I figured I could handle anything for the 10 remaining minutes of the flight, but noted that we weren't heading straight for Anchorage.  We bumped and twisted and bounced north of the usual route and flew over some mud flats, making two huge circles.  I could see Anchorage off to my left, and from a number of different angles as the plane tipped and jerked I longingly eyed the runway.  The seat belts on these planes are very strong and very restrictive.  One strap crosses from back to front at an angle over your shoulder, and another crosses you at the waist.  I wear mine fairly tight, and I needed it.

After what seemed like days, we made our approach to Anchorage and landed.  I smiled at the pilot and made a reference to the winds as I left the plane;  she looked at me and said, "Oh, was it bumpy?"

That afternoon NOAA posted a high wind warning for the Anchorage area.  85 mile per hour winds.

"Oh, was it bumpy?"  Yeah, it was bumpy.  Like, way bumpy. 

Just part of living the dream in Alaska.


  1. I'm afraid of heights, but when I have been in a plane (it was a big plane) I could look out the windows agog at the splendor. Now in a small, bumpy, jerky plane I think the fact I actually WAS up in the air would become all too real. I think I might want to pop a tranquilizer every time each way! The fact that it didn't bother the pilot, though--that's a really good sign. :)

  2. All part of the adventure! I've never gotten used to it and avoid it when I can. Still it is the only way to get home quickly. Dang!