Day 8 – Sitka

Sitka was a “bucket list” item for me. There’s a few reasons why, but it boils down to watching The Proposal a few years back. Of course, I found out that the Sitka scenes were actually filmed in New England…but still had to explore.

We had a late start getting off the ship, but were surprised when the gangway wasn’t full of people. As we disembarked we saw the Serenade of the Seas (another Radience class) parked next to us, and we walked toward shore…

Well, there is a bus that takes you to Sitka, and it had a 45-minute wait! The two ships together meant the port was twice as busy. Luckily it also meant we had to to explore, and Owen found an absolute treat: Huckleberry licorice! They have officially ruined Twizzlers for me because this was SOOO GOOD!

We boarded the bus to downtown Sitka and we’re discussing what we wanted to do. Cassidy suggested that we should try to see bears 🐻 today, but all the excursions were sold out or couldn’t get us back in time. We tried seeing if we would have another opportunity but things were looking grim.

We had been warned that if we do see a 🐻 on a trail, that we need to make ourselves look “big” and to make noise to drive them off. But if you see baby cubs then you need to disappear because Mama Bear will protect her cubs. And Marie is no different—she saw her “cubs” wouldn’t get to see the bears and swooped into action, calling every taxi 🚕 in Sitka and found one that would take us to the bear rescue AND wait there while we explored before taking us back to downtown. A few minutes later our taxi arrives and we are off to Fortress of the Bear.

Fortress of the Bear is a bear rescue in Sitka where they repurposed an abandoned water treatment facility (concrete tanks make good bear encampments) to rescue orphaned bears, nurse them to health, and give them a humane and easy-going life. They do not receive government funding and are a donation-based non-profit, so they also use the natural location to provide viewing areas for tourists and charge a nominal fee (which is a more than fair price for admission). They are also accepting donations (hint hint) where you can also buy the bears fruit, freeze pops, tires, etc.

On our taxi 🚕 ride back into Sitka, I kept seeing these lovely pink flowers which we (err, Megan) identified as Fireweed. It grows sporadically and we’re seen it around Alaska this far but it was a little tough to get pictures in the moving car.

We had a little time left in Sitka and we wanted to eat at another local restaurant. Ur taxi driver Mary recommended Bayview Restaurant because it had good food, good beer, and (shockingly 😱) a view of the bay. It was another restaurant with an interior hallway to other shops—which we figured is more for the wintertime.

Our group split off after our meal—Megan and I stayed to finish our beer while the others checked out the historic Bishop’s House. We all then boarded shuttles back to port, picked up more Huckleberry licorice (because why not!) and boarded the ship. 🛳

Day 7 – Icy Strait Point

Today’s the day I’ve been waiting for…

When I saw the itinerary for the trip, I started searching for excursions, and the ZipRider caught my eye! It’s a single zipline over a mile long and taller than the Empire State Building.

In other words…I WILL ABSOLUTELY DO IT!

Ask anyone in our party: one of the first things we did is visit the excursion desk and purchase this excursion. It was one of the few that could not be purchased beforehand, and I wanted to make sure we could take the plunge. Since we had timed tickets, we had a quick breakfast and headed ashore…but didn’t get very far before seeing more astonishing views!

As you cross the bridge, you enter the first camp with a few walking paths a smokehouse/brewery, the zipline landing area, and a gondola to the second station. We boarded the gondola and caught some of the zipline riders coming in!

Once we got to the second station, we checked in for our ride, put our stuff in a locker, and headed up using the second gondola. Bear in mind that the first gondola was never more than 15-20 feet off of the ground—but the second gondola at one point was nearly going STRAIGHT UP! We snapped some spectacular views while not trying to shake the cab very much…

One we made it to the summit, regrouped and waited for our turn. We had a small safety course on wildlife and a short hike to the launch area. They split us off into groups (they can launch 6 at a time), and the first group saddled up to ride down…it was finally “go time”

It. Was. A. Rush!

It took me a minute to recover after coming down. I remember not feeling like I was falling, but more like I’m on a roller coaster. The ride down took about 90 seconds. Our group got split into two, so we went down to the viewing area to see the other two come in for their landing, and then went to get the official photos! (Will be posted later)

We explored Icy Strait Point for awhile longer, including getting a tour at the cannery. We had also thought about making our way to Hoonah, AK (1.5 miles away) but decided to make today a “rest day” because we still had a lot of vacation left. But there was one other thing we had to do today…

Mini golf! ⛳️ (or Putt Putt Golf depending on where you’re from) Our ship as an onboard 9-hole course, and it turned out to be a great way to unwind. We got a little competitive, but had more fun commentating the others’ shots. Owen walked away with the win in 1st place 🥇 with 22 strokes.

I had also been wondering about the dessert for tonight. Last night was a good effort but just wasn’t for me. So for tonight they had asked me which desserts I liked if I could eat them and they were going to go from there. So when dessert came out I was pleasantly surprised to find crème brûlée that WAS dairy free! The consistency itself was a little off but I honestly thought it tasted better than dairy-included crème brûlée.

Day 6 – Juneau

We had so much fun yesterday doing nothing that we had to spend the morning also doing nothing. The weather was cooperating today, so we made our base around the pool and walked around the top deck to get some photos of breathtaking scenery. (Hint: the pictures don’t do them justice—you’ll have too see for yourself.)

Once we were allowed off we headed for the town. We could either take a 1 mile walk or take a shuttle for $6. We opted for the hike, but got a quarter of the way there and saw the Juneau – 1.3 mi sign and we’re like WAIT!!!”

We were committed at that point, and tredged on to a few shops before signing up for an excursion to Mendenhall Glacier! It was a short bus 🚌 ride to the park. Once we arrived we were left to explore and take a 3/4 mile hike 🥾 to Nugget Falls. We found a detour and got an additional view of the glacier, including a small patch of blue ice! 🟦🧊

Nugget Falls

We had been discussing food options as well, and talked to a few locals. While the “touristy” spots included a king crab spot and a saloon, locals warned us that the food is okay but it’s a lousy experience. Instead, we found a place called The Harbor at the Wharf that was part of a small shopping mall with an interior walkway, and it did not disappoint. I’m pretty sure we stick out as tourists in a locals place but it was still welcoming and we were able to get a snack/second lunch and a few rounds of local beer.

We needed to head back to the ship 🛳 so we walked to the shuttle station exploring the jewelry 💎 stores on the way—I counted 15 different stores on the very short path. We found a few items and then boarded the shuttle, boarded the ship, and sat down to relax for a bit.

At dinner, I have been placing my order the day before so the kitchen has time to prepare in an allergy-friendly kitchen. However, there aren’t any dessert options on the menu. I know that the staff is accommodating, so I told them I’ll have the chef’s choice of dessert. Last night it was cookies 🍪 and tonight was a strawberry shortcake adaptation. It was good but they had used coconut 🥥 (which I’m not allergic to but don’t care for) which turned me off to it. I still appreciate that they went out of the way to make me a special dessert, and that I don’t have to worry about eating dairy.

Day 5 – Cruising/Day at Sea

Floor calendar

Today was our day to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. We woke up when we want, ate breakfast, second breakfast, cheese (not me), lunch, snack, first dinner, second dinner, and snacks when we want, drank when we want (at least 15 minutes apart), and DID what we want!

So what did we do? We did start out with breakfast and had to get Marie her bougie coffee, but then decided to sit out on the deck and do nothing.

Well, that only works when the wind isn’t blowing and the temperature is nice. However, the solarium roof was closed so it felt amazing and we opted to lie around, read books, drink, (write blog posts,) and relax! I vividly remember going on cruises before and wanting to do ALL the activities—today I just wanted to sit down.

We all regrouped for lunch then headed down for Marvel trivia! Our group got 12/15–didn’t win but had fun. There were some questions that brought out the “true fans” as the answer wasn’t correct, but there was a clear winner in the end.

I also have a new drink: the Dirty Martini. 🍸 there’s a few ways to make it, but I don’t care as I basically feel like I’m drinking olives! 🫒. It’s also less sugar but doesn’t mess you up as fast as scotch. I’m definitely not pulling off the James Bond look but I still feel fancy.

After trivia, we had a tight schedule—because we had a siesta planned. I don’t know that it was actually the plan…but it became the plan when I fell asleep. I was woken up for dinner, and I’m all about that!

One of the perks of a cruise is the restaurant staff will go out of their way to accommodate allergies and intolerances—they are committed to you having the best onboard experience possible. Because of that, I get a preview of tomorrow’s meal selection and talk with the maître d’ (Megan told me how to spell that—ask her for the meaning of the word) about tomorrow’s order. I get to help customize tomorrow’s meal, but when I arrived today they told me that they had to make another adjustment. When you have a dairy allergy that can really interrupt a vacation, you take special care to make the right food choices. However, I also LOVE that the restaurant staff is also looking out for me and makes adjustments to ensure I’m at peak performance. It takes some of the burden off of me—which is part of being on vacation!

After dinner we picked a group activity for the family—50’s and 60’s dancing in the Colony Club. I 100% was the type of person to watch others dance! 🤣 but it was a good “calm down” activity for the night before we all retire.

But of course, there’s on thing that we all come to a cruise for: the towel animals! Today’s post is brought to you by the towel BUNNY!

Day 4 – Boarding the ship

Unfortunately, I’m still on Tallahassee time, so I slept in until 6:30 AM PDT. We ventured to the lobby for breakfast then started making preparations to get on the ship.

While we tried using rideshare, there weren’t any drivers available. The family next to us had pre-scheduled/reserved a ride but none of the drivers were taking the fare. Instead, we went old school and called a taxi 🚕 company to send a van, which showed up within minutes and we were on our way…

Today is also Canada Day 🇨🇦, and as we passed through downtown Vancouver we could see all the decorations and celebrations as we arrived to the port, and got our first glimpse of the ship!

Front view of the ship

Before getting to the ship, we had used the app to check in (as much as we could)—and one of the lingering items was our COVID test results! We got tested two days ago, but we haven’t received our results. Low and behold, they started rolling in one-by-one and fortunately, all of us tested NEGATIVE!

Boarding the ship was different than other times for two main reasons: COVID and cruising internationally. Canada, BC, and Vancouver do not require masks but we did have to 😷 wear a mask for the whole time in the terminal (not an issue—there’s a ton of people there and I’d rather not get sick before the cruise starts!). Once we got in, we waited in line to get our luggage tags (we couldn’t print them ahead of time for some reason) then moved to the next line to finish check-in. We had to show the normal passport and documents, but also had to show our proof of negative test—so it took a little longer.

Next up was customs. Since the ship departs from Canada 🇨🇦 and arrives in U.S.A. 🇺🇸, we had to pass through customs to reenter the United States (while still technically on Canadian soil 😀). We waited in another line and as we got to the front we saw the self-service kiosks—at which point someone made the joke about “make the American people use the self-checkout register”! 😂 Of course, after using the self-checkout one in our party had to go wait through the “actually talk to a customs agent” line (our 4th line at this point!). Fortunately, it didn’t take long and it was a simple check. Onward to the ship!

We traverse the gangway and stop for the safety demonstration, then finally walk inside under a 🎈 balloon arch and WE’VE ARRIVED!!! 🛳

The one thing we didn’t do in the terminal is get our room keys. Those are waiting for us at the room—so we venture off to see our room. Now—since it’s Megan’s birthday—I had ordered the birthday decorations with a chocolate cake 🎂 and chocolate covered strawberries 🍓 but THEY WERE OUT OF THE DECORATIONS 😭. I was hoping to surprise Megan but nothing was there except a letter stating that there’s a supply shortage but the cake & strawberries will show up later. (SPOILER ALERT—it did)

Next up was to meet the time-honored Salvo family tradition of…taking a selfie with the drink. It used to have to have a drink umbrella but those are hard to find on the ship nowadays.

Group selfie with the first round (of many)

Next up was a meal since it was around 1:30 PM PDT. To get there, we took the elevators WHICH HAVE THE DAY PLATES! We’ve seen this before on longer cruises so you have a way of knowing what day it is, and since we know our cruise is Friday to Friday we can get a sense for how far along on the cruise we are.

Closest thing to a calendar this week

For the rest of the day, we explored the ship, had some drinks, played some trivia, and met for dinner. The food is just as good as I remember, and the staff are very diligent about my food allergies and making appropriate swaps.

After dinner, some of the shops had opened so we went exploring. I found a cigar and started thinking about the booze selection. I also need to find a cruise ship model for the collection (pic to follow once I get it)—but that’ll be another day because it’s already late…at least on the East coast. Plus, there’s a time change tomorrow! 99% of Alaska is in the same time zone which is 4 hours behind Eastern, so tomorrow we have to adjust (again).

Day 3 – MoPOP/Bus to Vancouver

Still getting adjusted to “West Coast time”—I was up at 6:30 AM PDT/9:30 AM EDT which would be sleeping in except I didn’t go to sleep until 1:00 AM PDT/4:00 AM EDT!!! 🥱 Thank you jet lag!

Despite the apparent lack of sleep, we got a decent start to our day. We decided to venture out via car 🚗 to Fremont for some Dough Joy Donuts. This was my sophomore trip to this donut shop after the stellar experience last time. I have a dairy allergy which prevents me from eating most normal donuts, but their entire donut offering is 100% DAIRY FREE (vegan, but that includes dairy free)! The best part: you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT TELL that they are vegan. If you come to Seattle, then you can compare these donuts with regular donuts and see which would win in a contest!

Morning donuts. (Clockwise from top-left):
Everything Bagel w/ Cream Cheese (yes, a donut)
Strawberry Milkshake
Apple Cinny Fritter
Cold Brew Caramello
French Toast
Chocolate-stuffed churro

Since we were in Fremont, we decided to park and check out the town a little. We got another round of drinks (non-alcoholic since it was only 10:30 AM) and went to find “the Troll”.

Not an actual troll (like the kind typically found on the internet), but a giant troll with an affinity for beetles from Volkswagon. This troll lives under a bridge where he’s able to rest and feed on unsuspecting cars that drive by! He looks grumpy, but only because he had a booger stuck—I was nice enough to help him out!

We also managed to stumble into a PCC for some Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies and to a “vintage mall”. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as we went down the stairs. I had it in my head that it was just an old underground mall with a bunch of shops, but it was closer to a antique store but filled with 80’s and 90’s stuff. Which, sadly for my age, it probably antique at this point.

We then headed to the Museum of Pop Culture (a/k/a MoPOP). This was my third time at MoPOP this year, but even then I was noticing differences between the visits—and it was fun to see the rest of our group experience it for the first time.

Some of the exhibits include a Fantasy/Medieval exhibit, Horror Movies, space-themed, Indie Video Games, Hip Hop culture, and the new Ruth E. Carter exhibit. Ruth has done costume design for some of the biggest movies, including Selma, Malcolm X, Roots, Coming 2 America, and Black Panther! The details in those costumes was amazing and it was easily the highlight of the museum.

My second favorite exhibit wasn’t an exhibit at all, but a mockup of the building itself. I randomly found it tucked away on a floor (in plain view but off the path). It shows how the building was visualized before being built, and I found this architecture breathtaking given that there are no right angles!

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at the Armory (food court near MoPOP and the Space Needle) and headed back to the apartment to pack up and leave! But before we got there…

Mount Rainier was out today! Pictures don’t do it justice, but it’s worth seeing in person—even from afar. Because of Seattle’s cloudy ☁️ nature, you can’t be guaranteed to see Mount Rainier. But of course, being a pretty sizable tech hub (two major cloud providers as headquartered in NW Washington)—someone built a Twitter account to tell us Is The Mountain Out?

We made it back to the apartment and finished our pre-trip preparations before catching an Uber 🚕 to the Bus Station. Because of traffic and our relaxed schedule, we actually only made it with about 10 minutes to spare! But on the bus we went to Canada!

Crossing the border was somewhat uneventful. We had to get off the bus, get our luggage, go through one door and talk to a CBP agent (and get a stamp 🛂), then go out another door, put our luggage back on the bus, and get back on! Normally it takes about 30 minutes but we had an extra delay for one of the passengers.

We were late getting into Vancouver (but we made the bus 🚌 so it didn’t matter). We pulled in around 9:45 PM PDT and took a taxi 🚕 to the hotel.

While onboard the bus we were discussing dinner plans. Marie was meeting us in Vancouver coming in via airplane ✈️ and so once she landed her and the bus riders started working on a dinner plan. Since most of us are still on “East coast time” we opted to have sushi 🍱 meet us at the hotel while we took a taxi 🚕. For some reason, Uber/Lyft kept diverting the drivers away from the station, just as an actual taxi pulled up—so that was our option and eventually led to everyone arriving at 10:40 PM.

Since Megan’s birthday 🎂 is tomorrow—and the liquor store closes in 20 minutes—we ran across the street for celebration libations. Then the food arrived, and we sat in the room eating sushi and drinking whiskey!

Day 2 – Underground Seattle/Pike’s Place Market

Today was a day to explore downtown Seattle with the group. Public transportation is big in Seattle, so after a brief walk/run and a stop at the local coffee shop (because, ☕️) we took a bus 🚌 to downtown and stopped at Pioneer Square and got a cappuccino (with almond milk) before heading on a tour of Underground Seattle.

Latte art for the morning

Underground Seattle

Many don’t know that there’s an entire underground system in Seattle. Without going through the full history, they actually built Seattle at one level then decided to level the city to be flatter. (Check the photo captions)

Pike’s Place Market

We then walked up to Pike’s Place Market. We walked around a few shops, saw the “flying fish”, and even had a quick bite a Lowell’s with an awesome view of the market below. After eating (four of us split two meals, and were still full) we went further into the market and came across selling “BBQ Pork Sticks”…and got one!

Megan has also been talking about Piroshky Piroshky nonstop, so we stopped in there but they didn’t have any I could eat so I’ll get one next time. However, it smelled DELICIOUS! 🤤

“flying fish”

Evening: Uwajimaya Asian Market

After a quick (but much needed) siesta, we ventured out to the food court Uwajimaya Asian Market so we could all pick out which food we wanted. We then walked around and found a boba tea place where I had my first boba tea! I’m amazed we ate at all considering how many times we stopped for food today, but nonetheless we ventured on. It was funny how after walking out of the market that we saw a place that had “rice hot dogs” and we had to seriously consider trying one. I’m convinced I could come here 20 times and never eat the same food twice!

We also set our plans for tomorrow. (Hint: 🍩🏛) Megan also got me hooked on Only Murders in the Building, and the second season just came out, so we’re ending the night with that and a dirty martini! 🍸

Day 1 – Flight to Seattle/Baseball Game

I started the day at 5:30 AM EDT, got dressed, was already packed, and caught an Uber 🚕 to the airport. I had worn my boots (because I was already pretty heavy on my checked bag) and of course they set off the sensors. Despite being TSA PreCheck, still took a whopping 6 minutes to get through security! 😀

Starting the trip…

My itinerary today took me to Seattle via Dallas. The first leg was uneventful (I did get a good shot of downtown Dallas), but we sat on the ground for an hour and a half at Dallas because of a scheduling issue…which is much better than a maintenance issue!

downtown Dallas from the air

We had done some prudent planning—my flight (originally) arrived with Cassidy & Owen’s flight so that we could make a single airport run, which oddly still worked in our favor! After making it to Seattle, we arrived at our first destination—Megan’s apartment! 🏠

We quickly settled in, took a siesta, and then went down to catch the ferry ⛴ to get to T-Mobile Park for the Orioles vs. Mariners game! ⚾️

The ferry ⛴ from West Seattle to Seattle
downtown Seattle from aboard the ferry ⛴

Because of all the travel and theoretically short layover, I didn’t have a chance to eat lunch or dinner…well, I did but then passed on it. When we got through the gate, I was on a mission—🦀🍟 CRAB FRIES 🦀🍟

It’s just fries, seasoned with Old Bay, topped with crab meat!!!

🦀🍟

The game wasn’t very exciting for 8 1/2 innings until we rallied (rally caps 🧢 and all) for the Mariners to win 2-0!

4 out of 5 vacationers recommend a pre-vacation baseball game!

After the game, we stopped by the market to pick up a few things, and headed back to the apartment—and finally went to sleep around 12:30 AM PDT—a 21 hour day! 🥱

Alaska Trip 2022 – Day 0 (Prologue)

The past few years have been full of challenges, ranging from health issues, to family health issues, to spousal health issues, to spouse issues…it’s been a rollercoaster 🎢 and in that time I haven’t been able to relax and to focus on myself. I decided to start 2022 by taking better care of myself…and actually stuck to it! I’ve been eating better, exercising, changing my diet, and I’ve reached a point where I am taking a 15-day trip centered around an Alaskan cruise! 🛳

Why an Alaska trip? Because when the opportunity arises—you take it! My friend Megan booked a family cruise, but was married to a
cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is!

(Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?)
#iykyk

Fortunately for me, I get to take his place…which works because Megan and I both need a friend and I’ve known her family for YEARS! Our plan is to make this the most relaxing vacation any of us have taken in a long time!

So why write about it? Well, I took a trip to Italy with my mom and dad back in 2005, and my mom made me keep a journal. I’m glad she did, because we were able to share it with my grandparents so they could experience the trip through our writing. While I’ve thought about journaling my adventures before, I haven’t felt like doing so until this one. So I am.

(Plus, my mom told me to. Thanks mom!)

I found my transcript of the Italy journal I wrote—which only solidifies my place as a nerd 🤓 because I literally wrote in metadata notes like “insert map of flight” or “attach picture of statue”. Thanks to the power of technology, I can now do that in real time!

My goal is to document my journey as it’s happening. This way, my enduring fans (again, probably just my mother) can read about my trip and see the beautiful sights and experiences.

Speaking of the trip…

Itinerary

This started as a 7-day Alaskan cruise. When I came onboard (to the planning)—the second-funnest detail was that I didn’t know it was an Alaskan cruise! Megan’s family all live in Florida so I had assumed that we’d leave out of Florida. NOPE!

Why second-funnest? Because the funnest detail is that it’s a one-way cruise! Which meant after a brief moment of panic that we needed to expand the trip. Then flight prices rose again, and before you know it—we’re at 15 days!

I couldn’t sleep last night, which means I’m REALLY excited to begin! Got up at 5:30 AM (EDT), caught a ride to the airport, and waiting on my plane to depart!

Sonobuoy – a Simple, multi-protocol echo proxy

A few customers that use AWS App Mesh want a way to ensure that the Virtual Gateway is properly routing, not just up and available. The envoy for the Virtual Gateway provides a health check, but requires in-depth knowledge and observability to determine whether the proxy is successfully routing traffic. Instead, create a simple route to /health or /ping and send it to a known, working service.

There’s a plethora of different options to use for the backend. Some setup a nginx/envoy proxy to respond to packets where others will use a clone of a microservice. Instead, I wrote my own.

Introducing sonobuoy. Written in Go, sonobuoy can be deployed as an agent or a sidecar container and supports TCP, HTTP, and gRPC protocols to provide the cleanest successful response to a request.

Here’s an example, with the TCP listener on port 2869, the HTTP listener on port 2870, and the gRPC listener on port 2871: