Friday, December 27, 2013

Space A? Yes, Please.

Boarding our ride in the hangar
Last week we were able to take advantage of one of the fantastic benefits available to us called Space A flights.  I wasn't familiar with it until we moved to Kodiak - I guess because so far we haven't been stationed somewhere that was so remote that Space A would become oh-so-enticing.

It stands for Space Available, and it basically allows us to reserve a spot on a scheduled Coast Guard C-130 flight.  Wherever the flight is going, we can hop a ride in the back to whatever destination they're already scheduled to go to, at no charge to us.  In our case, it's usually Anchorage.  I've heard that they occasionally have Space A flights available going from Kodiak to Honolulu, so we'll be sure to keep an eye out for that sweet opportunity!

The seating inside the plane - Try not to be
distracted by the zombie eyes on the left!
So, last week we took a quick trip to Anchorage on our very first Space A flight to get off the island for a little while. - Our first time leaving Kodiak since we got here six months ago.  Six months isn't that long, but you really feel the remoteness of Kodiak because...well, it's pretty remote.

It feels like much longer because of that "we're so far away" feeling that's just inevitable.  If you're like me, you're now singing in your head, ♪ ♫  "We're so...faaaaar away....doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore...?" ♫ ♪  That would be Carole King for those of you who are saying, huh?  And shame on you if you're over 30 and didn't recognize it!  Just kidding.

Anyway, this was my first time flying in a C-130, and it was most definitely a memorable experience.  The only thing about it that was similar to a regular commercial flight was the seats.  I could tell they were hand me down airline seats from quite some time ago because some of the arm rests still had cigarette ashtrays built in.

It's kind of hard to believe there once was a time that smoking on a flight was actually allowed.  What a horrendous experience that would be!  Hurtling along in a steel box full of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and thousands of other lethal chemicals wafting through the air?  Glad that's not how we fly anymore!  (It might just be a perfect example of social evolution)

The flight itself was much noisier than a commercial flight, (they handed out ear plugs - which I totally used) and the vibrations were pretty noticeable.  The seat vibrated so much, it reminded me of one of those old school movies or sitcoms where the character would put a quarter into the shady motel's vibrating bed for a "massage." 

Hubby posing for me after landing at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage
The very first thing I noticed after landing was how much colder it was in Anchorage compared to Kodiak.  When we got there, it was about negative 10 degrees outside.  That's step outside and your nose hairs start to freeze weather.  The coldest temperatures I've ever experienced, for sure.  Remember, we're not talking wind chill, we're talking straight up air temperature.  Negative 10.  Downright frigid.  Makes Kodiak seem balmy with its 35-ish degrees on most winter days.

The hubby and I had different ideas about what we wanted to do once we got there, so we went with a divide and conquer strategy.  He was hell bent on continuing his on-going love affair with Costco, and I was desperate for some new jeans and long sleeved shirts/sweaters.  So, I went to a mall and he wandered around Costco, and we met back for lunch a few hours later.

Winner of the hipster prize
We started playing "spot the Anchorage hipster" pretty early on, and found the hands down winner of that game at the lunch spot we went to called Brown Bag Sandwich Co.  (really delicious - whole-heartedly recommend checking it out on the off chance you find yourself looking for a lunch spot in Anchorage)

Tell me this guy doesn't get the hipster winner's trophy with his matching "Dude" sweater/hat combo.  And you can't even see the pièce de résistance, the giant phoenix-like bird with fully outstretched wings on the sleeves and back.  All that, plus the pom pom on his hat & the wooly beard just about made my afternoon.

I had a little moment while we were playing spot the Anchorage hipster and scarfing down our panini sandwiches and belly warming hot soup:  I realized we were utterly surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of high-tech, performance winter outerwear.  From Patagonia, to North Face, to Marmot, to Columbia - it was a smorgasbord of cold weather technology.  Ourselves included.  All hail outdoor activity clothing!

Outside McGinley's...BRRR!
Later that night after we checked into our hotel, we made our way to an Irish pub right by our hotel called McGinley's to get our first draft Guinness beers in six months.  Makes me cringe writing that.  I haven't seen Guinness on draft anywhere in Kodiak so far, but that doesn't mean it's not out there.  Somewhere.  If any Kodiak locals are reading this & know of a place, TELL ME, please.

After the mandatory Guinness, we went to dinner at Glacier Brewhouse.  They had phenomenal beers, (it's a great brewery) and I had the best salmon I've ever had.  It was prepared so simply, but it was out of this world.  The restaurant had a great vibe, too.

My absolutely delicious salmon
It was so cozy with the fireplace, and it had a very rustic, farmhouse feel to it.  I love when restaurants and businesses are all decorated
for Christmas, it always feels so festive wherever you go at this time of year.

Now this is the point in our trip when Mother Nature stepped in to let us know she was in charge.

Inside Glacier Brewhouse

We had planned to stay overnight on a Tuesday and leave the next day, but the combination of what they call "below minimums" in Kodiak, and then a blizzard in Anchorage changed that.  Below minimums basically means it's too damn foggy to land.  We ended up catching our scheduled flight on Wednesday afternoon, flying to Kodiak, circling around in a holding pattern for about 15 minutes, and then turning around and flying right back to Anchorage.  I wasn't sure why we even bothered to fly all the way there if they already knew the conditions were bad, but I'm just a passenger. - I'll leave those decisions the the professionals!

Plates at Moose's Tooth
Once we came back and rescheduled our flight for later, the snow started in Anchorage and our flight was cancelled.  We did get to check out a well known pizza joint we wanted to go to during our down time waiting for the next flight, though.  It was called Moose's Tooth, and it took the edge off the whole flight delay/cancellation debacle.  Pretty good pizza and beer, and I was digging their moose plates.  :)

When all was said and done, we finally got home on Thursday afternoon, just a day later than what we had originally planned.  What a fun trip it was!

So very nice to get off of Kodiak for a few days.  Even if it was freeze your ass off weather in Anchorage!  Now, about those Space A flights to Hawaii....hmmmm.

Ta-ta for now.

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