It was a nervous feeling I had the morning we were supposed to leave for our Alaska vacation. I've never been comfortable leaving my kids for any extended period of time and this day was no different. There was a definite pit in my stomach.
The kids were asleep when my dad arrived to watch them for the next two days. We stayed just about as long as we could before heading out the door. By the time we hit the road, Julie and I realized we waited too long. We were headed for the Holiday Inn on the west side of Lansing to catch the bus to Detroit Metro. We got there exactly on time and everybody was already loaded up on the bus.
"Hi!" It seemed like it was in unison from the 15 or so people on the bus. Everybody was very friendly as I said hi and introduced Julie to them. We quickly got to know each other and I quickly realized I was not the only joker on this trip.
In case you don't know, this was a Holiday Vacations tour that I advertised on TV, so everybody signed up knowing full well I'd be close by for most of the trip. As it turns out, though at least two couples were from outside the viewing area and didn't watch our station.
On the way, I quickly got to know Lori Brasic, whose son, Logan was part of our CMN telethon and I interviewed him. Logan lost his leg to cancer, but is now doing very well and having a soccer benefit, which I learned all about and hope to do a story on. The bus hadn't even got to Jackson to pick up the rest of the folks going on vacation and I had already shed a tear with Lori about our loved ones having cancer.
But then I met Mike from Webberville and started laughing because he's a wiseacre. Somehow I could relate.
We stopped in Jackson to pick up four more-- Dennis and Aletha Pollack and Dick and Nancy Barnhart. They seemed like nice folks, until this:
Nancy: Hi everybody. (Looking at me) Hi Darrin!
Me: Uh... hi.
Nancy: Oh, sorry-- I meant Jason!
Me: Don't worry about it. Darrin is gonna love this when he hears about it.
Before we got to the airport, Peggy (our Holiday Vacations tour guide) asked me to say a few words to everybody. I know I'm the host, but stand up and talk to perfect strangers? Obviously, this woman doesn't know me very well.
After talking about how excited Julie and I were, taking some questions and doing a Tim Staudt impression ("As you well know, Alaska has bears. In my estimation, you shouldn't strap a rib-eye steak to your back and walk through woods, okaaaay."), I could tell this group would be pretty fun.
Age wise, Julie and I were the youngest, with most of the couples being in their 50's and 60's, but as you'll read in this story and others from the trip, they were hilarious and great company and provided some wonderful stories.
The plane hadn't even left yet, Julie tells me
The flight to Seattle was uneventful until the end. As we were descending we caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier poking through the clouds.
We didn't get to see much of the city because we went straight to the hotel for a reception with the other Holiday Vacations tour out of South Carolina. We did get to have dinner with a bunch from our party where I learned some important facts for the trip ahead.
1. Nancy Barnhart, in addition to thinking I'm Darrin Rockcole, loves to taste my crab cakes and likes her some dessert.
2. Helen Welburn will gladly give your food a taste test much to the chagrin of her husband, Bro.
3. Mike McEwen is Mr. Sarcasm, Bro tells the funny stories, and Denny has the one-liners that bring the house down.
We hit the road for Vancouver in the morning and this is really where we gelled as a group. It wouldn't be long before Peggy would start talking about how amazing it was that we all knew each other so well so soon. We all became fast friends and shared stories about our families and trips we'd taken.
By the time we got to Vancouver, we had turned into the crazy fifth grade class and Peggy was the substitute teacher. She even said she was fearing losing control of the group, I don't know, something about me demanding the driver stop at a liquor store so we could taste authentic Canadian liquor.*
Next stop Vancouver!
(Front Row; Bob & Evelyn, Shirley & Bud, 2nd Row; Julie (derrr!), Linda & Don, 3rd Row; Helen & Bro, 4th Row; (leaning) Lisa)
Vancouver was pretty from what we saw and Peggy and the driver did their best to make sure we saw the cool parts of town. However, in their efforts to get us to Chinatown, they took us through the worst drug neighborhood in Canada. At least, that's what a couple from Vancouver told us on the boat. In hindsight, the woman who almost walked into our bus as it turned the corner and then cursed out the tire, should have been an indicator something was strange.
By the time we got our pictures of Vancouver, we had arrived at the port and saw the "Norwegian Sun" our cruise liner we'd spend the next four days on. And that's where the real fun would happen.
*That didn't really happen.