Seat Mates

As I’ve made the effort to be still and immerse myself in the beauty of Alaska, I’ve neglected my efforts to record and/or write about it. Part of that change was not unexpected, as I had a sense after reaching the Arctic Ocean that I may go into a more quiet and reflective mode.

I didn't see her, but Bob did. Mt. McKinley, courtesy of Mr. G.

I didn't see her, but Bob did. Mt. McKinley, courtesy of Mr. G.

I have spent most of my time just being still and watching things around the coast, but did travel up to Denali National Park for a week. Since you can’t drive your own vehicle in, if you want to see the park, you have to select one of three tours, each going farther down the road before making a u-turn and coming back.

All are, regrettably, via school bus, so with six hour, eight hour, and twelve hour round trip options, I decided to start with the shortest one.

It’s early in the morning and I’m at the front of the line to board the bus. Channeling some 7th grade version of myself, I make a beeline for the last row, kick my backpack under my seat, and stare out the window, nervous about the random potential of a six hour travel buddy.

The line of tourists filing in is lightening up. Then I see her, hipster California lady, eyeing filled row after filled row. She finally notices the last empty seat next to me and quickly plops down.

Me, pathologically accommodating, “Did you get separated from your travel partner? I can switch seats.”

Out of breath and talking fast, “Oh, no. There are five of us and I am the fifth wheel.” Extending her hand, “Hi, I’m Sharon. I’m from L.A.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Jennifer.” Pausing, “So, what do you do in L.A.?”

“I’m a writer.”

Interesting. I like writers. “What do you write?”

“For a trade publication.”

Curiosity killed the cat.

“What trade publication?”

“AVN.”

Blankly, “What’s that?”

She pauses a moment, as if considering something while looking me over. Then blurts out,  “Porn. I review new adult novelty toys and movies.”

Oh my word. Don’t blush, Jennifer. Please don’t blush.

“Oh, okay,” trying to sound nonchalant.

Adopting a more defensive, almost aggressive tone, she’s off and running. Loudly, “Yeah, my friends are always grilling me. ‘Hey, what’s new and good! Send me something!”

9 minutes in. 5 hours and 51 minutes to go.

Seemingly mistaking my silent shock as conservative censure, I’m now getting a lecture on misconceptions about women who work in the sex industry. “These women have it together! They are smart and educated! One of the most popular entertainers is a trained nurse!”

I nod, remembering my insecure defensiveness when I worked as a stripper.

As a former newspaper journalist, she actually ended up being a very interesting conversational partner (who also valued silence). But when she migrated back to the adult entertainment topic late in the day, I finally divulged my history, noting that I was not one of the women who’d “had it together.”

The Denali tour was lovely, but it was a typically cloudy day, so, like most visitors, no views of Mt. McKinley. My campsite outside the park was a paradise overlooking river rapids, so I spent six days watching birds, trains, and a constant stream of river rafters who would (strangely, without exception) wave to me as I sat on the cliffside.

But now I am headed out of Alaska. I thought I might travel down the Pacific Coast or to Northern Michigan, but I’ve decided to head back to Texas. I have hardly seen my husband in three months (and have a new family member to meet!), so am ready to make a fast trek back to the Gulf.  My current plan is to spend a couple weeks there before heading out to the Southwest.

On another note, with the paucity of posts, I haven’t been able to write about meeting solo woman fulltimer Rae of Travels with Miranda! I felt such an instant connection with her, and even went out for an evening! A rarity for me. With all her RV mods, she’s even inspired me to make some changes to mine.  I think when I get back to David’s house I am going to rip out my dinette and paint my interior. We’ll see.

Hope you all are doing well!

Take care,

Jennifer

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