My plane touched down in Juneau, surrounded by endless water to the west and soaring snow-capped peaks to the north, south and east. I have to say, it felt like I should have embarked on a climbing expedition rather than a cruise. And, something about the mountains called to me, saying, “wouldn’t everything look so much cooler from up here? Forget about that dark, flat water. This is what Alaska is all about!”
A captain friend would later say that Alaska is like “God flooded the Rockies,” and I’ve yet to come up with a better description. It was the first week in September and the weather was high forties and overcast. Cold and overcast seems to be the norm in Alaska except for the height of the summer season, which lasts from the second Thursday in July until about 2 o’clock the next day.
My friend likes to tell a story of a 103 year-old man she traveled with aboard a riverboat on the Danube. She was helping the passengers pick out bicycles to ride along the river’s winding banks when the man, Mr. Graham, got up on two squeaky wheels and peddled along the water, leaving his fellow passengers in the European dust. With each turn of the wheels, Mr. Graham shattered everyone’s preconceived notions of what it meant to be elderly.
When he returned, the group asked Mr. Graham when he felt a person was “old.” At first, he didn’t have an answer. He scratched his head and stared at his dusty shoes, thinking. His fellow travelers probably expected a number like 80 or 90, or even 100 (100 is the new 90, by the way) but Mr. Graham thought otherwise. Eventually, he raised his head to the group.
“I guess when you can’t ride a bike anymore,” he said, with a boyish grin running from hearing aid to hearing aid.