Friday, October 18, 2013

Up, Up and Away! (The first of about a million blog posts about my trip to the Yukon Territory)

Oh Coastal Ridge Californian Chardonnay, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

That would be, one way from Toronto to Vancouver, and then from Vancouver to Whitehorse, and then again right back to Vancouver!  And then back to Whitehorse.  And then back to Vancouver.  And then back to Toronto.  That’s six ways!  Which doesn’t come close to how many glasses of chardonnay it took for me to stay calm during my Yukonian adventure… Phase 1.

Confused?  Sit down, pour a glass of Chardonnay in my honour, get comfy and continue reading.  I likely won't get to the Chardonnay in this post, but stick with me... we'll get there!

Let me start from the beginning.  I’ve had a really life changing and difficult year.  Our families have had a really trying year.  I know we’ll all be ok, but my best friend, Marlaine, pointed out to me one day that someone (namely ME) who has had such a rough year AND who has recently turned 40 might benefit from a little getaway.  Originally this was while she was still living in Winnipeg (a 24 hour drive from me), and we eagerly planned a weekend getaway to spend some time together.

One day, Marlaine sent me a message that said something along the lines of, “We might be crazy, but we’re moving to Whitehorse for a year!”  I didn’t think she was crazy at all, until she said they were doing it in the next 6 weeks or so!  But in true Marlaine style, she had a move planned for her entire family of 5, plus dog, with a pitstop in Vancouver enroute for her sister’s wedding in no time at all!  Somewhere in the midst of this lightning fast relocation, Marlaine called and said, “Hey… wouldn’t it be cool if our get together could be in the Yukon Territory and we can see the mountains and rent a cabin and go on a Northern Lights expedition?”

Um, yes… that would be extraordinarily cool.  Like, “bucket list” cool.

It took about a nanosecond of convincing on her part.  She had me at “Yukon”.

So, at her urging, I booked the flight quickly to take advantage of the milder temperatures in October, and the cheaper air fares with WestJet before they stopped their seasonal flights to Whitehorse for winter.  I’ve never organized a trip so fast!  I would fly from Toronto to Vancouver, change flights and fly from Vancouver to Whitehorse.  7 hours in the air total.

Only one problem.  I am terrified to fly. 

But, as my mom says, if you want to live life, and go to the places you want to go – and that happens to involve a plane ride – you just get on the plane and do it.  So, I mustered up my courage and told myself that I would be just fine, and that thousands of flights take place every day without incident.

My family was really supportive, and sent me texts the day before my flight that had thinly veiled attempts at reassurance.  My sister, for example, texted, “Have fun!  We will get together and hang out WHEN you get back.”  I love her.  J

So, to get ready for my 7am flight from Pearson International, I stayed with my friend, Shutterbug (long story, but I can’t say her real name without it feeling “wrong” – she’s just Shutterbug, and that’s all there is to it!) who volunteered to drive me to the airport. 

This was the perfect kick-start to a trip that truly had my name written all over it.  God only knows why she volunteered to drive me to the airport (except that I know she loves me, and would do anything for me) because of everyone I know, she is the absolute WORST morning person ever.  And I don’t mean she has trouble waking up…. I mean she is, shall we say, not a happy camper in the morning.  When I asked if I could stay at her place, which is quite close to the airport, I assured her that I could sneak out undetected in the morning, but she would have absolutely none of it.  She insisted on driving me, even when I told her I had to leave at 5am. 

Even when we were in our jammies getting into bed late that night, I again asked if she was sure, given that we had just set our alarm clocks for 4:30am, which was, as I pointed out, EVEN EARLIER than 5am.  Still, she insisted it would be fine.

Fast forward to 4:30am.  My alarm goes off and I quietly tip toe to her door to see if she is awake.  I ever so softly whispered, “Are you awake?”

And so it began…  the funniest morning of my life.  J

“Am I f___ing awake?  Do you think I even had a chance to sleep?” *exaggerated groaning and swearing*

I was half dying of laughter and half kind of scared.  But not really… she is all bark and no bite.  She is one of my best friends and she has the biggest heart on the planet.

I let her know I was going to brush my teeth, and from the darkness of her room I heard, “Ummm, yeah.  Definitely… because I am just going to lie here.  I can’t believe it’s this f___ing early. “

Ok, teeth brushed, clothes on.  I started to straighten my hair, which although bewildering to Shutterbug, brought her much relief and she flopped on my bed and declared that she was going to lie there with her eyes closed until I was done.  Oh, and by the way, we were going to f___ing Timmies.

I love her so much.

So, after her expletive riddled speech to me in the car about how I wasn’t going to die on a plane and that I should be much, much, much more concerned that I was letting her drive me to the airport in the MORNING of all times of the day, we arrived at the Tim Horton’s drive thru.  The drive thru window cashier, incidentally, has no idea how narrowly she avoided being on the receiving end of a Shutterbug enema.  My girl has no patience for drive thru miscommunication at 5am, and I loved every minute of it.

After we had our caffeine, she asked me what terminal she had to drop me off at, to which I said, “I don’t know, I thought we just looked for the sign thingies!”

“Emerald, I swear I am going to murder you.”

If I feel weird calling her Shutterbug, it should tell you something about her to know that I actually think she doesn’t know my real name.  LOL  These are our camp names for a certain organization that will remain unnamed so that we can keep our volunteer roles. 

Turns out the way we were going, there were no “sign thingies”.  Oops.

Fortunately, it only took her ripping my printed out flight confirmation out of my hands and then tossing it back at me exasperated, and then a quick Google search on my phone to find out that we were headed for Terminal 3.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what an enema feels like, and I want to keep it that way!

We arrived at the Departures level, and by then our Timmies had kicked in, and my lovable Shutterbug had been resurrected by sweet, sweet caffeinated tea.  She unloaded me, did a triple check of the car to be sure I had everything, and wished me well and gave me the best hug and reassurance that I’d have a great flight and a great time.  Just like the big hearted friend she is, she asked for all of my flight info so that she could keep track of me, and I was on my way… with 3 minutes to spare, as Shutterbug proudly pointed out.

I checked my baggage, checked in, went through security (which, by the way, is a process that fills me with anxiety since I have a free-floating fear of authority mixed with an ever-present worry that my fear of authority makes me look guilty of something) and settled at my gate.  When I got on the plane, my fear of flying started to kick in.  I guess this was it.  I was on the plane, we were moving toward our runway, and my assumption was that they probably weren’t going to turn the plane back to the gate if I asked them to. 

My flying ritual began.  Check seat belt.  Knock my knees together at about 3kps (that’s 3 knocks per second for you lay people out there), read the safety manual obsessively, look to see if someone responsible-looking is seated near the emergency exit at the wing, check seat belt, look for loose screws on the engine and around my seat, visualize jumping onto a emergency slide, tell the flight attendants that my knees are knocking because I am a nervous flyer, make sure I am not pressing any buttons around me that might endanger our flight in some way, check my seat belt again, and then start praying and thanking God for everything I love in my life – including airplanes, because I really do think it’s cool that metal tubes of people can hurtle through the air on any given day, and it’s just a normal way to travel.

And then that roar of the engines comes to life, the force of acceleration seals me to the seat back behind me, and before I know it, that excruciating lightness replaces the friction of the wheels and the earth, and the city below me is just a busy miniature grid of moving lights.

And I am in the air.  So much more to tell, but that will have to wait for another post.



  1. you crack me up, Kirsten! Can't wait to read about the next part of your adventure!

  2. You are starting an amazing adventure and doing something for YOU - I am happy for you (and a little jealous). After this - a trip to Winnipeg will be easy peazy. :)