Hannah Goes Fishing

A Fishing (and more) Blog

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Would You Eat a Stranger’s Leftovers?

Last week I wrote about why we let strangers sleep in our home via the CouchSurfing and Airbnb programs.  To recap, we like to host and surf with these programs because:

1.) We like to participate in the traveler community even when we can’t actively travel ourselves, and
2.) We believe in contributing to a better traveler world based on trust and camaraderie by giving people a cheap or free place to sleep and playing host during their stay.

This month, we have two trips in the works – all part of our master plan to see as much of Europe as possible during our three years here in Norway.  First, we have some friends visiting from the States who want to do a weekend jaunt somewhere. Sweden? Poland (tickets are $21USD!!)? I’ll let you know next week!  Our second trip will be to The Netherlands, where I will be attending a conference and Rob will fly down to meet me so we can check out his old haunts in The Hague and Amsterdam.

While we make an outrageously good living here in Norway given our age and occupations, the high cost of living combined with our savings goals mean that we still need to travel on a budget.  Being the money grubber that I am, I want that budget to be as small as possible.  Thus, we’ve been exploring options for how to have the most ‘local’ experience possible without blowing through our cash.  To us, traveling like locals is paramount to the sort of traveling experience we desire.

So, this week I’m giving you a run down of some of the ‘communities’ popping up all over the world that let travelers eat, sleep, and be entertained like a local.

We love to check out the local food in a new place, but sometimes it’s hard to get far enough away from the typical tourist fare to enjoy something local, authentic, and easy on your budget.  It can also be lonely to eat by yourself if you’re traveling alone, or know what’s worth your time if you’re facing a huge menu all in a foreign language. 

Enter options like Bookalokal, VizEat, EatWith, and (perhaps my favorite) LeftoverSwap. These sites hook travelers up with locals who like to cook and host gatherings where travelers can book a seat and take part of a set menu meal. Similar to Airbnb but for food, Bookalokal, VizEat, and EatWith all allow you to search by meal preferences, times, locations, and prices to find an appealing menu and host where you can share a meal. While most meals offered aren’t what I would call super budget friendly, they do offer a great way to taste local, home cooked meals for much cheaper than you’d find at a restaurant.

LeftoverSwap, in a similar vein, is a downloadable app that lets people post their leftovers and travelers can claim them and pick them up.  The site is based around the idea of reducing food waste and allowing travelers to eat for cheap or free.  While we have yet to try any of these sites, I’m looking forward to picking up our first set of leftovers while on the road.

Screenshot from the Left Over Swap page. Would you eat a stranger's leftovers?

Screenshot from the Left Over Swap page. Would you eat a stranger’s leftovers?

At this point, hotels are seriously old news. There are so many options for accommodations now that are cheaper, friendly, and a neat way to sleep like an actual local. You know I’m already a big fan of CouchSurfing and Airbnb, but did you know that there are many other sites that help connect travelers with people who want to rent a room, let you crash on their couch, or housesit their home?

Check out these sites:

Sort of like a lower-tech version of Airbnb, Wimdu is very popular in Europe for finding local accommodation. We have yet to use it, but we’ve heard good things from people who have used it while traveling in European cities.

Warm Showers is the CouchSurfing for traveling cyclists (and yes, I giggled at the name too). We learned about Warm Showers while we were hosting a cyclist through CouchSurfing who is currently on his 4th year (!) of traveling the world on a bicycle. Warm Showers, it should be noted, is not intended to be for people riding to raise money, big groups of travelers, or really anything other than long-term touring bicyclists. That being said, we’ve heard nothing but good things about the community of hosts and cyclist travelers.

Another version of Airbnb, Roomorama is available all over the world. We haven’t used this site yet, but we plan to list our own space on it to improve the number of bookings we get for our spare room.

A subscription-based service, Mindmyhouse brings together housesitters (who pay $20USD per year to use the site) and home owners (free).  We haven’t used this site yet, but we plan to for some of our longer-term travel plans in the future.

A slightly more expensive version of Mindmyhouse, HouseCarers is a similar site that matches house sitters to homeowners. House sitters pay a subscription fee of $55USD per year.

With a more mid-range subscription fee for house sitters ($25USD per year), this site is pretty much the same as the other house sitting options, though perhaps their site is a little less functional.

Of course, that’s far from all of the options for local food, drink, and entertainment.  But, I hate to re-invent the wheel when Matt from Nomadic Matt has already so thoroughly listed most of these sites. You can check out the options here, where he talks about monastery stays, farmstays, homestays, WWOOFing, and even resources for seniors!

I’ll be adding most of these sites to my Volunteer tab, where I’m trying to provide a detailed go-to place for travelers to expand their horizons for food, accommodation, and adventure. But, I know there’s more out there! So, if you know of a site I missed, tell me about it in the comments.


Why I Let Strangers Sleep in My Home

Last week a woman I had never met before asked to stay the night in my home, and I said yes.

For many Americans, this is a sentence straight out of the “how to avoid ax murderers” handbook. For Rob and I, this is a request we receive almost weekly, and we usually throw out the welcome mat and put fresh sheets on the guest bed.

We are members of the CouchSurfing and Airbnb community and have signed up to host people out of our spare bedroom (and sometimes living room floor). Through these two communities, we receive an average of one request a week for someone to stay with us. With CouchSurfing, people stay for free and usually only for a night or two. With Airbnb, people rent our room for us, usually also for a night or two.  Both systems have their pros and cons, and while I’ve been hosting and surfing with CouchSurfing for years, Rob is new to both systems and so we’ve been navigating the adventure of having total strangers stay with us while balancing two schedules and two comfort levels.  So, why do we do it?

In short: because when life doesn’t give us much time to travel and see the world (as we are now with work and school), both communities give us a chance to invite the world to come to us. We regularly meet new people, hear about their adventures, and are inspired to visit new places and do things we may not have considered before. For instance, back when I was living in Fairbanks I hosted Alex Chacón, who is a world-class motorcyclist and friend. He stayed with us while biking all the way to the north slope after having started in South America. His adventures inspire me still, and I feel lucky that the week he stayed with us created a connection that will keep us in touch long after he wheeled out of our driveway.

But hosting people also fulfills another need for us. We are people who, by our nature and by choice, have faith in others and like to believe in a community of trust and goodness in others when we travel. We are, of course, not always rewarded for this faith, but more often than not we are. CouchSurfing depends tremendously on trust within the CS community (as does Airbnb to a large extent) since you are welcoming and being welcomed into the homes of complete strangers. By participating we get a chance to test our faith in the goodness of others and remain a part of the travel magic that makes traveling special. Plus, we build a network of people across the world who vouch for us on our CouchSurfing profile, and may house us one day should we ever visit their community. Hosting feels like building great karma, and surfing feels like slowly spending that karma out across the world.

That is the sort of world we want to live in – where people trust and are trusted by others, for the better – and hosting and surfing allows us to participate in creating that world, one guest and host at a time.

Of course, CouchSufing has its drawbacks. Some people aren’t great guests. Maybe they don’t communicate well, maybe they are loud, maybe they are messy, or maybe they aren’t very self-sufficient and expect you to play tour guide as well as host. Some people are hosting for the wrong reasons and don’t understand that trust and safety are what make CouchSurfing special. I’ve heard horror stories from surfers and terrible things have happened to both hosts and guests, but these events are rare.  There is also a review system that allows guests and hosts to talk about their experience, and these reviews are public to anyone who views a guest or host profile.  Because of the transparency encouraged through the review system, most potential problems that can be circumvented through experience and learning to use the CouchSurfing system well, but not every guest (or host) is perfect. That is why we also like using Airbnb.

Airbnb allows hosts to act as mini-hotels and charge guests to stay with them, most of the time for cheaper than you’d find through hotel. It’s also a nice alternative to traditional lodging since many times guests can access a kitchen, host large groups in one space, or get to know a local during their stay. When we first started using Airbnb to rent our little room, we felt weird charging money for the same room people stay in for free when the CouchSurf with us. But, after our first guest, we realized that sometimes it’s just easier for guests to have the safety and afforded distance that comes with a financial transaction.  When people rent our room through Airbnb, we feel less obligated to host them and they feel less obligated to have to interact with us if all they want is a space to sleep.  With CouchSurfing, there is much more of a human exchange, perhaps in place of a financial one, and there are more details to figure out: do we feed them? Should they tell us where they are all the time? Airbnb and the financial transaction, even if it’s small, helps remove some of that ambiguity and if a guest is less-than-great, we feel less put upon since there is a financial reward for our time and energy.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with CouchSurfing or Airbnb, let me give you a little run down.

How do CouchSurfing and Airbnb work?
Both CouchSurfing and Airbnb are free to use. Users make a profile and either offer to host or can look at people who are hosting in whatever community they are traveling to.

Screen shot of my CouchSurfing profile. This is what people see when they are considering requesting to stay with us.

Screen shot of my CouchSurfing profile. This is what people see when they are considering requesting to stay with us.

You can look at a host’s profile, read their reviews, and then request to stay with them. With Airbnb, there is a price associated with your stay that guests can view before they make their request. Typically, hosts in both programs will describe the accommodation, and what you can expect as a guest. After the request is made, the host will either approve or deny the request, and then it is up to both guest and host to arrange for entry to the house, a meet up, or whatever arrangements both parties feel comfortable with.

When I’m looking for host or accepting a guest, I read their reviews carefully and look for how long they’ve been using CouchSurfing or Airbnb. With CouchSurfing especially, I want to know if they have been surfing for a while and understand how the community works, or if they’re just looking for free housing. Reviews can tell a lot about a person.

Reviews can tell both hosts and guests a lot about the person they're going to interact with and the sleeping space.

Reviews can tell both hosts and guests a lot about the person they’re going to interact with and the sleeping space.

A good review will talk a bit about the person’s personality and demeanor. It will also mention how they behaved as a guest, and if the host enjoyed having them there. Conversely, if I’m looking for a host, previous guests might comment on the size of the space, what amenities were available, and how the host behaved.  Over time, users of both programs learn to read between the lines in reviews.

A cute space? It might be really small.
A host had an eclectic home? They might have some weird stuff hanging on the walls.
A surfer has lots of stories to tell? They might never, ever shut up about their travels (I had this one).

Both guests and hosts can leave negative reviews, but this is considered a very serious action and CouchSurfing admin typically gets involved to mediate the disagreement. As I mentioned above, reviews are a way to talk about your experience and let future hosts/guests know what to expect. It’s part of the safety system CouchSurfing and Airbnb have put in place to keep people safe.

As a woman, I especially pay attention to female reviews and try to stay with female hosts if I’m traveling alone. As with anything involving strangers, every precaution in the world can’t help you if your host or guest has poor intentions. So, safety is important and a host/guest should feel comfortable asking someone to leave or refusing to host/stay with someone if they’re not comfortable with the situation.  Both reviews and the verification system in both communities help me make decisions about who to stay with and who to host. So far, I’ve yet to have an uncomfortable or unsafe situation, though I’ve definitely had my share of experiences that make great stories later.

While neither CouchSurfing nor Airbnb are for everyone, more and more people are using and enjoying these communities every year. For travelers, it’s a great way to travel on the cheap and meet locals. For hosts, it’s a cool way to meet new people and maybe make a little extra money on the side. I highly recommend both. Next week, we’re hosting an English gentleman who has been biking around the world for the last four years! You can check him out at his website. We’re very excited to meet him!

So, check it out, and maybe next time you’re on the road you’ll consider letting a stranger show you a whole new side to travel.


Five Things I Love About Norway

We have officially touched down in Norway and have been here just over a week.  It’s been a whirlwind of new languages, jet lag, and really expensive coffee.  But, so far Norway is slowly stealing our hjerter (hearts).

This week, here are five things I’m loving about my new home country

1. Public Transportation
All week, we’ve been getting around via bus, tram, subway, and train. It has been nothing short of efficient, timely, and simple. While not as cheap as we’d like it to be, it’s pretty great to be able to travel nearly anywhere in the greater Oslo area with ease. One ticket is usable on any form of transportation within the area it covers, and the stations and trains are clean and orderly. It’s almost weird how quiet and tidy everything is. Like a post-apocalyptic city full of extremely polite and efficient people.

2. The People
If you consult the All Knowing Internet, Norwegians are sometimes described as cold or unfriendly. We’ve found neither to be the case. Instead, Norwegians are a very straightforward, pragmatic, and efficient. They are privacy-oriented people, and don’t need a lot of extra explanation, emotion, or…anything, apparently, to get on with their day. For me – champion of face-value emotions – this is the perfect culture. I can totally trust that when someone says something to me, they meant exactly that. It’s like interpersonal skill Heaven for me!

Plus, Norwegians are really nice. Since we’ve arrived, we’ve been hosted by Couch Surfing hosts, met at the airport, toured all over Oslo, and driven three hours (for free!) to our new apartment by our landlord, as a few examples. I’ve also accosted not a few people in the grocery store to get help translating product names (is this milk? what kind of milk?), and not a single person has been anything less than tremendously helpful.

3. The Government Efficiency
I know. No one, in the history of man, has ever written positive things about a government’s efficiency.  Okay, well maybe there is some precedent to this, but surely not many.  In our experience, Norway’s government has set new and lofty standards for what can be accomplished when everyone is prepared and on time. Case in point: I had an appointment at 1:00pm on Thursday of this week to submit my immigration paperwork and (hopefully) be approved for a work permit. I arrived at the appointed place and time at 12:15pm, because I am inordinately fond of being early to government functions. At 12:20pm, they started calling the names of everyone who had a 12:15pm appointment. When they finished, they moved on to the 12:30pm slot. After that, the 12:45pm slot, continuing to repeat the names of people who hadn’t been present earlier.  I had my 1 o’clock appointment at 12:26pm, and was finished by 12:31pm. They took my paperwork, printed me a missing form when I realized I had presented the wrong one, and even gave me an email address to which I could send said missing form so I wouldn’t have to make a second trip to their office.

They even had a coffee shop in the lobby area. If that isn’t efficiency, I don’t know what is.

4. The Weather
This isn’t something people normally brag about in Norway, but so far we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the moderate temperatures both during rain or sun. We are both lovers of rain and grey, which we’ve had plenty of here. But, we also like the occasionally sunny day, as apparently so do all Norwegians. Any time there’s sun, Norwegians treat it as a reason for national celebration.

5. The Lifestyle
In short, Norwegians really have got it together when it comes to how to run a society. Sure, I’m sure there are problems, but as a newcomer to this country it all seems pretty great. Women get all kinds of paid maternity leave, and new dads get some too! The work day ends at 3:00pm in the summer. Nearly everyone recycles, and it’s difficult to go anywhere without finding places to return your recyclable materials. There is essentially no litter anywhere, and green space has been incorporated nearly everywhere. People love to be outside. You are offered coffee at nearly every social function. FIVE WEEKS of vacation every year for most people!

The list goes on and on. In short, people treat their lives as if they are meant to be lived and enjoyed. We are learning that, even with high taxes and what some may consider to be “restrictive” laws (like Norwegian gun control), it’s very easy to enjoy life in a place where life is all about enjoyment.

‘Til next time, farvel (goodbye)!

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The City of Liquid Sunshine

Today is our last day in Ketchikan, and what a lovely visit it has been.  Our first introduction to this very southern part of Alaska was difficult to see as it was dark and positively pouring rain.  We were bound for our Couchsurfing host’s home, and after squinting at the directions with our headlamps, we began the trudge up a hill that was much larger than either of us cared to climb at that hour with all our gear.  Thankfully, our host (Seth) has a wonderful little condo style home and Thomas and I were afforded our very own bedroom and bathroom (a real treat when depending on free lodging).  Seth is a flight paramedic and firefighter and perhaps the most energetic man I have ever met in my life.  He’s originally from New York and came to Alaska about 20 years ago to fly bush planes.  It has been fun to learn about his occupation and see the difference between emergency medical services here and back in Fairbanks.

On our first day, Seth drove us down the southern end of the island to the Tsimshian village of Saxman, and down to where the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” was to be built.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, the BtN was an insanely expensive bridge project that would connect Gravina island to Revillagigedo Island, the island on which Ketchikan is located.  The bridge would connect Ketchikan to its airport, which currently is only accessible by boat.  In the case of Seth’s work, he explained that in order to take a critical patient to a plane to fly them to either Seattle or Anchorage (about equidistant from Ketchikan), the paramedic plane must first catch the ferry for the short ride across the channel.  Kind of ridiculous, but is it ridiculous enough to warrant a multimillion dollar bridge?  Some folks do live on Gravina island and would benefit by being about to access town more easily, and some would argue that by opening up Gravina (which is largely undeveloped) one would allow for cheaper future economic development.  Probably true, but again, the initial capital costs of the bridge are outrageous.

Totem Bight Park clan house and totem
The Creek Street entrance

Ketchikan boasts the largest collection of standing totem poles in the world, and they really are a treat to see in person.  Not only are they enormous (I knew they would be tall, but somehow I was still awed by their size) but their craftsmanship and simply beauty is really quite breathtaking.  We visited Totem Bight Park and were able to walk inside a recreated clan house where the original native inhabitants of the area would have lived and shared meals as a group.  It’s a little intimidating to imagine being one of only several hundred people surviving (a indeed thriving) on Alaska’s foreboding coasts.  With the technologies they had and weather they had to deal with, it’s amazing the totems and other fine arts and crafts they were able to build.

Downtown Ketchikan is a really lovely place to walk around, and with the nearly 1 million visitors they receive in the summer from cruise ships (check out the Google maps image of Ketchikan and you’ll see four HUGE ships docked) they’ve done a really nice job as a community in making their businesses accessible and streets easy and fun to walk and navigate.  I wish more Alaskan cities would make efforts to organize their down town areas in pedestrian friendly ways (Fairbanks, I’m looking at you).  We walked all over the place all three days we were here, and particularly enjoyed the Creek Street area, which was originally the red light district back at the beginning of the 20th century.  Ketchikan was a huge lumber town when Europeans and Americans began to settle the area, and with lots of single men around, certain businesses were bound to pop up.  The Creek Street businesses have been restored to look like the period they came from, though most are now just gift shops or mini-museums.  The street itself is actually a boardwalk that meanders next to a salmon creek, but the whole feel of the place really does harken back to more rough and tumble times.  We found Ray Troll’s shop, though were disappointed to learn that it is closed on the days we’re in town.  For those of you unfamiliar with Ray Troll, he is one of Alaska’s more famous artists and is particular well known for his fish and fishing themed art and clothing graphics.  I absolutely adore him and was glad to see that many businesses in Ketchikan have employed his art to decorate their storefronts or merchandise.

Another unique feature about SE Alaska is the sheer volume and size of the forests.  The trees here are huge, beautiful, and sometimes very old.  They make up the Tongass National Forest, and many areas around Ketchikan allow for logging (either on private or otherwise owned land).  Now, clear cutting may not be a particularly appealing way to clear trees, but it does have its uses in forestry management (for example, creating edge habitat).  However, uses or not, clear cutting can create really unstable soils that in steep and rainy environments (like Ketchikan) can lead to severe soil erosion, land slides, and rock slides.  I’ve noticed a number of clear cuts around town that are located on 60+ degree hills and teeter over vulnerable coastal roads, surely a long-term recipe for disaster.  They say that Ketchikan is 30 miles long, 10 miles wide, and two inches deep, referring to the incredible shallow soils here in southeast Alaska.  The trees root themselves to one another, and when a big one falls you can see just how shallow the entire system goes.  Every tree cut weakens the entire system.  With that in mind, you should know that I have no problem with responsible, sustainable resource development; after all, I’m from a fishing family and love to eat fresh fish.  However, I firmly believe that all resource development should been thought of with long-term vision and attention toward what future generations will need.   Another blogger I admire, Kate Harris, wrote on her blog, “I admire Thoreau’s system of accounting, which defines the cost of something as the “amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it.” And as a dear friend pointed out, this doesn’t simply mean the amount of your life, but life in general, and the planet on which all life depends.”  I admire her gumption, and agree with her 100%.

Well, we’re about to board our 36 ferry ride to Juneau so I’ll leave you with those thoughts.  Coming soon: some thoughts on the new year and my next steps in getting green and clean.

You know you’re in a fishing town when you have to compete with boats for roadside parking.

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Juneau: My Soggy Return

It’s been three years since I last was in Juneau (long time readers may remember that I did an internship for the Alaska Legislature in the spring of 2009) and it doesn’t seem that too much has changed.  Unfortunately for us the weather has been less that appealing, though I can’t say we’re surprised; after all, this is SE Alaska in January.  Despite the weather, though, we’ve managed to get around to lots of attractions, enjoy a full day of skiing at Eagle Crest, and do some of the things I never got around to doing when I lived here.

We started our Juneau leg by floating in the evening of the 2nd, and finding our hotel.  The next morning after a good, solid sleep-in, we went to Silverbow: my very favorite (and only) SE bagel and sandwich shop.  We also got some of Alaska’s best hot chocolate at Heritage Coffee (another old favorite), and then went about our day as camera happy tourists.

Our visit to the capitol

Our first stop was the Alaska Capitol Building where I worked three years ago.  It’s truly a fabulous building (especially by Alaska standards) and is very interesting to walk around in.  Thomas had never visited the capital before, so it was fun to show him around the different offices, find our respective legislators, and look at all the historical photographs and art they have hanging on the walls.

Our next stop was the Alaska Brewing Company, where we had an excellent tour from some very knowledgeable and pleasant employees.  They talked to us all about the brewing process, how AK Brewing came to be (co-founded by a woman!), and how they go about brewing their beer and selecting new beers to market.  All in all, it sounded like a pretty fantastic place to work if you like to drink beer.  The tour also came with six samples of whatever they had on tap and, not wanting to disappoint anyone, we happily availed ourselves of all six.  My favorite up until recently had been the Alaska White (the tap pull is a giant polar bear), but I’ve since been turned on to the Alaska Winter (tap pull: a giant spruce tree) which is made with spruce tips hand-picked in Gustavus, Alaska.  In the spirit of trying new things in this new year I also tried the barley wine, but it was a bit hoppy and, well….wine-y for my taste.  Thomas enjoyed the Smoked Porter (which smelled just like smoked salmon to me), the Perseverance Ale (reportedly tasting like black cherry), and the Oatmeal Stout, and thoroughly delighted in each.  One of us had to drive, so he was kind enough to end his tasting streak there while I sampled several others, some perhaps twice.  All in all, our experience at the Brewing Co. was absolutely wonderful and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Juneau.

The next day, we went to another local favorite of mine for breakfast: the Southeast Waffle Company.  They made real fruit smoothies and fantastic, filling waffles with just about any topping/filling you could imagine. I had one stuffed with blueberries and covered in butter (yum!) and Thomas had one filled with bits of bacon and sausage.  Thoroughly stuffed, we went to the University of Alaska Southeast to poke around for a while, and then went shopping for a lunch of our ski trip the next day.  On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the local fish hatchery (they hatch silver (coho) and pink (humpy) Pacific salmon) to see if we could tour their operations.  They weren’t really open for visitors, but they let us in anyway and we got to poke around their aquarium exhibits for a while.  They were neat tanks with a great variety of Alaskan fish species, but it wasn’t until we found a molting King crab in an out-of-the-way tank that we really were glad to have come.

About halfway out of the old shell

Seeing a molting crab is pretty rare, and to see a molting King crab is even more special.  We caught him (or perhaps her) as she was halfway out of her old shell, and watched until she made a full molt and stopped to rest.  Crabs are crustaceans and have a hard exo-skeleton to protect them from predators.  King crabs are actually a superfamily, and describe many individual species of crabs.  The one we saw was a Paralithodes camtschaticus, or a Red King crab.   These crabs can grow to have a leg span of almost six feet (!), and are native to the Bering Sea.  You may have seen these amazing critters on shows like Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, which features crab fishermen and follows their fishing trips to catch these highly coveted (and tasty) species.

Almost there!

After the hatchery, we visited the Alaska State Museum and were treated to several beautiful displays of paintings featuring Alaskan flora.  We also caught a birch tree exhibit which featured some really stunning birch tree paintings and sculptures, as well as some traditionally woven baskets and other food preparation tools all made entirely from birch.  The amount of craftsmanship that goes into creating some of these objects is really quite amazing, and it was really neat to see such forgotten trades up close and personal.   The museum also boasted a neat permanent exhibit on Alaska Native culture and their tools and traditions.  Again, I was blown away by the craftsmanship.  For example, Alaska natives used to sew seal-gut parkas that they would fit over their kayak openings so as to stay dry while paddling in rough seas.  Not only are these parkas made of extremely delicate gut (like intestine) that’s been dried and prepared for sewing, but they also designed a way to overlap and sew the seams of the parka so that no individual stitch actually penetrated the entire garment.  The idea was that this method would keep the parka from ever leaking water.  How cool is that!  Reluctantly, we turned away from the native exhibits to check out the Russian and Klondike era exhibits, both of which hosted a wide range of artifacts and memorabilia from those time periods.  It was so cool to see such monumental pieces of our state’s history in the flesh, and all for the entirely reasonable admittance fee of only $3.  Again, highly recommended.

Touching the ‘world’ at the Alaska State Museum

After all this educational touring, we decided to get out and have some fun in the snow.  Yesterday, we visited Eagle Crest Ski Area where we booted up and spent most of the day swooshing down the slopes.  The bottom of the mountain was fairly icy in the morning, but the top was magnificent (albeit a bit windy) and we skied until our thighs burned.  Upon returning to the hotel, I found that I had missed a call from an unknown number, and had a text message from my radio station manager telling me to call her quickly, as she had some exciting news.  I read the text to Tom, and puzzled as to what exciting news she could possible have for me.  Tom immediately said, “you won the trip!”.  He was referring to KUAC’s trip giveaway for two people to attend a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I had entered to win by pledging to the station during an episode of Prairie Home, but was sure that someone had already won as I had a faint recollection of seeing an announcement of that sort on the station’s facebook page.  I insisted that I couldn’t possibly have one, and so Tom suggested we look it up on their website to see if there were any announcements.  We found an hour-old photo of a student intern drawing a NEW winner, as the first winner had not been able to go.  The caption to the photo read: a new winner has been drawn, but we’re still awaiting confirmation before announcing their name.  Could this new winner be you?

I looked at Tom and said, “could it be me?”  I immediately dialed up my manager and was greeted by enthusiastic congratulations. I won!  So, in a few weeks Thomas and I will be flying to St. Paul to see the show live from on-stage seats, eat dinner with the cast and crew, and be put up in a hotel all on KUAC’s bill! I am so dang excited!  I’ve grown up listening to public radio, and have volunteered with public radio stations for years simply because I adore the programming and feel of community sponsored and loved radio.  To get to go and see live and in-person the cast of one of my absolute favorite radio shows is a huge thrill, and even better that Thomas loves public radio just as much and can accompany me on this mini-vacation.  I feel so fortunate, and can’t wait to blog all about it.

With all this excitement, we’re enjoying our last few hours in Juneau before heading south on the M/V Kennicott (one of the fleets’ largest ferries) to Ketchikan where we’ll be staying with another CouchSurfing host.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that this one is a little more traditional and less noisy than the last.  This is the last adventure leg of our trip before we begin the long voyage home, and I’m excited to see a new place.  So, with that I’ll say adieu and wish everyone a wonderful weekend.  More soon!