Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Most recently, I had the most amazing week in a very long while.

For the first time in nearly a decade, I boarded a plane that took me outside of Japan. What you may ask could pry this old transplanted opihi (Hawaiian limpet) off his Japanese rock?

Hawaiian opihi, looking like a miniature Mt. Fuji,  clinging to a rock.
The trigger was the wedding of my second daughter and the chance to see her, meet her groom and his extended family, and see my own extended family - most especially my two precious granddaughters.

The trip began ominously. I was given the wrong gate number at Narita. Bad weather slowed the traffic and my flight information got buried behind the many delayed flights, such that (even though I asked for help and verification) my only warning of a problem came with a final boarding announcement to a gate two football fields away from where I had been directed - cue Pink Floyd's "On the Run".

I just made it to the gate by the 6 pm deadline. The door was closed after me, I settled into my seat, and waited. Twenty minutes later one of the guys up in the pointy end of the plane came over the PA to let us know that due to a THUNDER STORM sitting right on top of Narita Airport, our clearance was delayed. Perhaps we could get under way in ten minutes or so. Uh huh. Similar announcements followed every so often as outside lightning flashed, thunder rumbled and rivers of water cascaded over the aircraft; and inside, cabin attendants smiled, poured orange juice, apple juice, and passed out rice crackers. A few passengers got edgy wanting to know why we couldn't just take off.  I was thinking, "trust me, you are really a whole lot better off right here on the ground than flying through this storm.  You REALLY don't want to be up there."

At 8 pm we pushed back from the gate and got in line behind many other delayed flights. After 45 minutes of taxiing in cue we took to the air. It was 8:45 PM. Poor cabin crew. How do they do it? I lost track of time, but something like eight hours thirty minutes later, we landed at Seattle-Tacoma. The flight was smooth. The aircraft experience itself was awesome, for I was aboard one of ANA's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner (many parts of which were made in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries).

Ain't she purdy?
Spacious cabin with ceilings lighted to match the time of day; extra large windows made possible by composite fuselage construction with touch control electronic shades; and a cabin altitude of about 5,000 feet instead of the usual 8,000 feet with more filtered air circulation. You get much more oxygen and cleaner air which means you feel less fatigued upon arrival.  All the while, she burns 20% less fuel than other aircraft of her size.

Coincidentally(?), my daughter whose marriage was the primary reason for the trip, is an engineer who works for Boeing.  Yes, the plane has had its teething problems, but the final product is outstanding and ANA's low density seating arrangement offers plenty of shoulder and leg room even in economy class.  (Also, the washlet toilet feature in the lav is not lost on those of us living in Japan who have become spoiled by such things.)

The unexpectedly long trip meant that I made it to my hotel with just enough time to get ready for a gathering at my daughter's house.  The yard is backed by a woodland and a curious deer came into the yard, soon escorted back to the woods by my daughter's dog Hoku.

Hoku (Hawaiian for star), was actually in the wedding and stayed in one of the resort's pet friendly cabins!

Two days later I rode with my other daughter, son-in-law and my two granddaughters through snow topped Stevens Pass along the Skykomish, Tye, and Wenatchee Rivers to the town of Leavenworth and up the valley along Icicle Creek to Sleeping Lady Resort where the wedding was to be held.  

The Sleeping Lady rests on the mountain ridge facing the sky.

An organic garden provides food for the resort's restaurant along with selected locally sourced food.  I wanted to roll up my sleeves and plant something.
The wedding and reception took place out of doors, overlooking Icicle Creek.
I went for an early hike the following morning and found two osprey soaring around their eyrie in the canyon.  A little shopping in town with my granddaughters and it was back to Seattle to pack for the return trip.

In a bid to save the town, Leavenworth reinvented itself as a Bavarian style village in the 1960s.  Apparently successful, it is now a major "TT" - (tourist trap) with wall to wall shops, restaurants, beer garten, outdoor band stand, nutcracker museum, and plenty of parking for America's oversized motor vehicles.  ;)
It took a lot to pry me off my Japanese rock, but I was richly rewarded with the family reunion, wedding, meeting new friends and family not to mention the natural beauty of Washington State.

Naturally, the the following weekend it was time for some sailing!

Until next, sweet sailing and happy travels.


Baydog said...

Welcome home, Panda!

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Baydog. It's good to be back.

Martin J Frid said...

The term "reverse engineering" comes to mind, you observing everything from a very distant point of view, methinks.

Good thing you made it back before Typhoon 8.

my2fish said...

Looks like it was a great place to visit! Beautiful pics.

Pandabonium said...

Martin - indeed, I felt very much like a "stranger in a strange land". Yet, I found many new friends and like minded folks there.
Not worried about the typhoon. As usual it will mostly be depleted by the time it reaches us.

my2fish - Thanks. It was my second time in that area under very different circumstances than before. I'd love to go back again.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Awesome article. Well illustrated and narrated! So much to comment on. May I just disclose that we have installed a 'washlet' (A.K.A. bidet) in our garage? Unless that is TMI?

Pandabonium said...

Thanks, Doc. A washlet in the garage... what will they think of next?

By the way, Leavenworth decided on the Bavarian village idea after the town committee visited a town not so far from you - Solvang. I remember going to Solvang as a kid in the 1950s. Of course Solvang was actually settled by Danes, while I doubt there are many Bavarians to be found in Leavenworth.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

"The bathroom" in the garage.