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November 9, 2017 / tgexp

Bud Clark’s Alaskan Adventure

Thanks to the funds donated to The Gleason Initiative Foundation, Team Gleason was able to assist  pALS Bud Clark and Family with an Alaskan Adventure, making memories that will last a lifetime!Clark3
We’re back in town, returning to work and reality, but with experiences we will cherish forever, thanks to you and all the folks of Team Gleason who worked so hard for us.
Firstly, we must thank Michel and Steve Gleason for their dedication to helping create memories and easy burdens for people such as ourselves.
My name is Bud Clark.  I am the incredibly fortunate husband of Joan, and the father of two awesome children, Ella (10 years) and Zachary (12 years).  I was first diagnosed in January 2017.  I had known something was off for more than a year – just thought I wasn’t doing enough leg exercises.  Affecting my legs and feet only, and slowly progression, I still felt strong, healthy, and to this day my swimming is mostly unaffected. Upon hearing that startling news, the most recurring thought in my mind was that we haven’t done enough with my children.  I was imagining over and over not being there to see them graduate HS and college, get married, have their own kids.  Worst still, imagining my wife and children struggling to care for me when it is I who should be caring for them, then struggling to move on afterwards.
Working so hard as we have in providing a good life for our family, my wife only now preparing to re-enter the workforce, we just assumed there’d be money and time to do exciting vacations in the future.  Alaska had always been in the back of my mind as a pristine, almost mystic land to see someday.  Now having seen it, I can see why folks travel there, fall in love with its beauty and grandeur, and decide to call it home.
Now, our adventure…
We landed in Seattle around 10am.  Checked out the Pike Marketplace down on the wharf, then Ubered out to the Space Needle.  VIP treatment to the front of the line, then up to the top to enjoy that tremendous view. Hit the Chihuly garden and glass museum, and the monorail to finish out Day 1.
Day 2, we were treated to an unexpected pleasure.  The Woodland Zoo was incredible the way it was built right into the lush local wilderness.  But the highlight of the day had to be the personal tour of the penguin habitat by our guide Celine, who allowed us to carefully pet a 1-month old penguin “chick,” who was already bigger than one of our dogs!  Celine didn’t stop there, showing us the rest of the zoo, with all kinds of insider facts.
Day 3 was embarkation day.  For three of us, myself included, this was our first cruise. [We] had a very smooth experience, with a quick boarding, and welcomed with a very roomy cabin, even with the 4 of us in there.  The kids had 2 dinners and 3 desserts each.  I only had 1 dinner, and 3 desserts.
Day 4, the first full day at sea.  Very lucky – got the Skagway Musher camp excursion reservations this morning that had been closed for last month.  Spent much of this day checking out the ship and the pools.  Dined at the Teppanyaki restaurant onboard – very nice.
Day 5 – Juneau – Our first ever view of a real glacier.  The Mendenhall glacier was spectacular even from a distance.  The weather was drizzly and gray, but the glacier itself was sporting brilliant blue streaks to compensate for the lack of azure sky.  After the glacier, we took the cable tram up Mt. Roberts and dined on Alaskan King crab at the summit restaurant.  Especially enjoyed the local color tour our bus driver gave on the way back and forth from the glacier.
Day 6 – Skagway – Took the early train up the White Pass Railway to the Canadian board. Very cool seeing structures and relics from the 1890 gold rush, and being from Southern CA, could not help but notice the abundance of water and greenery there was everywhere.
In the afternoon, we hit which might have been the highlight of the trip for our kids – the Musher camp.  Got a forest “sled” ride from 16 huskies in training, then got to see some of the “teenagers” using their exercise equipment, including a giant hamster wheel. Finally, we got to hold some very young huskie puppies.
Day 7 – Glacier Bay – The glaciers were very impressive.  Shear walls of ice, blending in well with the nearby rock, except for the blue and white coloring.  Joan arose first and witnesses a calving event!  I was on deck for over 2 hours in the cold wind watching and photographing, as there was something different around every turn.  We are lucky with the weather yet again; it’s cold and overcast, but little or no fog and not raining as it had been all week before the cruise.
Day 8 – Ketchikan – We took the Totem Bight tour first thing in the morning, followed by the Lumberjack show.  While learning and observing the totem art, we were being observed by a bald eagle from on high. Like Joan said, they have as many of these up here as we have crows. The lumberjack show was very entertaining, funny and athletically impressive.
We really lucked out on the weather again. It’s been raining in Ketchikan all week, but just cloudy today and even some sun. Our guides have told us this “not rain” is very unusual.
Had a salmon burger for lunch. There’s so many up here now, I feel like I had to try one – my first.
Zach did Wii sports again with some other preteens on the 2-story screen. Joan and I had dinner at the Brazilian themed restaurant. They keep bringing different meats to your table throughout the evening. You tell them to stop with a red table card, and to resume with a green card.  Best dining experience of the cruise!
After the others crashed for the evening, I went up to watch the sunset and was treated to a dolphin-nado!  Hundreds of them, no exaggeration, swimming in the ship’s wake, lasting about 5 minutes. Incredible.
Day 9 – Sailing to Victoria – Last night was dolphins; this morning was whales!  Joan and I saw them during breakfast.  At least a dozen spouts very far out. They were going off so frequently it seemed like fireworks! Joan visited the ship’s spa this afternoon for a massage and a facial. Zach tried the rock climbing wall, the highest accessible point on the ship. He made it to the top faster than any of the other climbers. Took a cab into Victoria. No tour planned.  Great weather again, sunny and a few clouds.
Day 10 – Seattle again – Off the boat, back in Seattle. VIP treatment again.  First, straight to the front of the disembarkation line. Then another private tour, now at the Museum of Pop (culture) with Matt Marshall. I spent over an hour in the 2 story Star Trek exhibit area. Zach was happy in the Nintendo Indi games exhibit. Ella liked the game and the Horror movie section. Joan like Star Trek too, but went through the Jim Henson exhibit twice!
Now enjoying a Seattle hotel room a tad larger than we’ve had all week.  Beautiful weather again, and we ALMOST got to see the Northern lights, as a solar storm had pushed the aurora as far south as North Dakota the previous night.  I stayed up until 1am, then again from 3:30 to 4:30, on the lookout.  Didn’t catch a glimpse, but was exciting.
Day 11 – Home again – Everyone was glad to see the dogs and to tumble into their comfy beds.  But I think what I enjoyed the most was being able to see friends and family and share our incredible adventure with them.  And to thank them again, for we couldn’t have gotten to that point without their tremendous help.

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