Monday, July 8, 2019

Alaskan Cruise: Juneau

The next stop on our Alaskan cruise was Juneau where we planned a whale watching excursion. This was my first time officially whale watching, and I was super excited to see what it was all about!

The beginning of this excursion was definitely one where I looked at Jason and said "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore"...

Our tickets told us to meet in the Aurora Theater at a specific time, right? I assumed we would meet there and walk with our group to our bus. No.

Instead, we were given a sticker with our group number on it and told to go to the "tent at the top of the pier".  Well, we arrived at the top of the pier to a giant group of people who were all wearing different numbers and stickers. There were also a few guides holding signs with numbers on them but none of their numbers lined up to ours. I thought our group might have left already although we were there in plenty of time. I asked one of the guides about it and she said "oh no, you're in this group" and she pointed to the girl next to her who was holding a sign with a completely different number than what was on our sticker. It was so incredibly confusing but we did eventually make it where we needed to be.

On the bus, ready to go!

Our whale watching boat was an incredibly comfortable one. It was roomy, clean, the seats were comfortable, and it wasn't over crowded.

Each seat also included a map guide and a pair of binoculars.

Our naturalist told us that there were five different types of wildlife we could possibly see: bald eagles, harbor seals, sea lions, orca whales, and humpback whales.

I'm super excited to say that our group actually had the chance to see them all! I didn't get a good shot of the bald eagles, but we did see them first.

We started off with a group of harbor seals. They blend in with the rock very well in the picture, but they are mostly to the middle.

 After we said goodbye to the seals, our guide became incredibly excited because a pod of orca whales was spotted! She told us that this only happens on about 10% of these excursions!

They were "hunting" and it was so cool to see! The pod would come together to help "push" the fish towards the coastline so they were easier to catch.

 Up next on our excursion were the sea lions!

A group of sea lions were hanging out on this buoy and wouldn't let their friends on. It was quite comical to watch and felt a lot Mean Girls..."you can't sit with us"!

Last but not least, we went on search of humpback whales and although our sighting was brief, we did get to see a mom and baby humpback whale swimming together!

Our excursion ended around noon and we decided to go back on the boat, eat lunch, let Brayden nap, then return to Juneau to do a little shopping. This was by far our longest port stop (until 9 p.m. that night), so we made the most of it! 

I LOVED reading the story of the Patsy Ann statue at the port. She was a free spirit and loved watching ships sail in. They ended up burying her at the port and put a statue up in her memory. It was such a sweet (and tear invoking) read!

After nap time, we headed back out to do a little shopping. Our waiter told us that this was the best port for souvenir shopping and he was right! (By that I mean tshirts on the cheaper side, coffee mugs, etc)

I laugh about these Diamonds International buildings (and other jewelry stops) at each port. I never even noticed them in the Caribbean until a couple of years ago.

It was raining fairly hard at the beginning of our shopping tour. We didn't care, though - we just covered up and continued on. I was glad it stopped shortly thereafter, though! 

 Let me also say this - I was incredibly grateful for my North Face jacket. It was definitely my saving grace on this cruise because it was very chilly at every stop. If it was raining, that made it even more so. In this picture, I'm wearing my normal clothing (shirt, jeans, etc) plus a North Face jacket with my rain coat on top. During the really chilly days, I also added gloves and an ear cover!

The flower arrangements were beautiful all over Alaska!

Jason's parents took the same whale watching excursion we took, only later (around 1p.m.). Listening to their stories, it sounds as if they didn't get a chance to see as much wildlife. I hear these whale watching tours are so hit or miss sometimes.

We also missed our "official" dining time that night because we were shopping and Jason's parents missed it because of their excursion, so we met back up on the ship for dinner in the buffet that evening. After dinner, our entire group came together in one of the staterooms to play a the game 10,000 with dice!

We also dropped the two youngest kids off at the kids club for an hour so we could play uninterrupted! :) 

Goodbye, Juneau! 

Y'all - I was SO shocked when I went to pick Brayden up at the kids clubs! His face was painted like what a I thought was a tiger, but he informed me it was a "titty tat"! He's never had his face painted before (because I just assumed he wouldn't let anyone do it), so this was a huge surprise (an exciting one at that) to me!

He was so freaking cute and proud of his face! He kept walking in front of the mirror to look at himself and saying "I'm a titty tat"!

My mother in law graciously agreed to put Brayden down for the evening for us so we could watch the Love and Marriage show.

After the show, we grabbed a late night snack (because we could) and sat for a while, just talking about the trip. (A hot dog joint was open until super late every night, so that's where this came from!)

We also went up to Starquest to see the incredible views of Alaska!

This area turns into adult only after 10 p.m. and was quite the happening place that evening!

We had a blast on our Juneau day and loved seeing all the sights! Up next: Skagway and a Musher's Camp!

Friday, July 5, 2019

4 on the 4th and Festivities!

Over the years, a "staple" race for me has been our hometown 4th of July race. I've missed a year or two here and there due to injury or being out of town but for the most part, I've run this race every year. Despite my new hamstring injury this year, I still decided to do this race with a plan of "taking it slow". Besides, I had a Triple Crown medal at stake here and after having run the Athletes Corner 3 miler back in March and the Contraband Days 5 miler in May, I knew I HAD to do it, even if that meant walking the entire thing.

Somehow, a race recap from the Contraband Days 5 miler (from May) never made its way here, but during that race, I ran/walked the entire thing with a few friends due to our Relay for Life event the night before. Going into the 4 miler, I knew if I could just get to mile 3 by run/walking with my friends again, I would make it...and make it I did!

It was a hot one (as always) for the race, but the sun was hiding behind a cloud most of the time which made it bearable.

My dad was so generous to come out and watch Brayden while we ran. He used to come out to cheer me on by himself but now, he has a buddy to visit with!

Jason was working nights, so he sadly missed the entire day. Whomp whomp. 

This course took us down the lake, out and back. They also had PLENTY of water stops and gatorade, too!

The miles seemed to fly by for me as we chatted and before I knew it, we were almost finished. About .2 miles from the finish line, we passed Brayden and my dad. Brayden started crying because he wanted me, so we ran the remainder of the race together. He LOVES going for a run with mom! Sweet boy!

(Side note, I wouldn't have minded running this race with him but I'm super glad I didn't. After taking his stroller, I could really feel my hamstring pulling for just those last 0.2 miles.)

Triple Crown!

They've offered this option for the past several years and I've only done the full set twice so far. I'm glad they change the medal from year to year, too!

Kona Ice was out there for a frozen treat after the race. I wasn't going to get one, but when I saw "Lavender Lemonade" on the list, I knew I had to try it! The flavor of this one was amazing and reminded me of a Violet Lemonade from the Flower and Garden Festival at EPCOT. I love having little tastes of Disney at home!

After breakfast and showers, we headed over to my friend Kim's house for a lunch time BBQ! All of the food was delicious!

That evening, my community hosted its first ever "Red, White, & Boom" event, complete with fireworks. We had SO much fun! My parents came with us to enjoy the evening and we had a great time!

There were food trucks from vendors in our community which was fun as well as jump houses for the kids.

Side note, when I saw these matching shirts at Kohls in the spring, I knew I had to have them!

Brayden LOVED "driving" the firetruck and playing on the slide. He also really enjoyed the fireworks!

At last count, I heard over 4400 people were in attendance which is huge for my small-ish community. We usually go to the larger event located in the nearby town for the 4th, but wanted to support our community on its first year and I'm so glad we did! We were also home by 9:30 since we didn't have near as much traffic to fight. Score!

My friend Kim was there too and we had fun hanging out with them! In all, it was a great day!! Happy birthday, America!

What did you do for the 4th?

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