My sister in law has been engaged for over a year, and early on she asked me to be her matron of honor, and of course I said yes. Later on, Nathan and I learned that we were going to be moving to Napaskiak AK just a month before the ceremony. There was absolutely no question that we would have to travel back to the East Coast that second weekend in September. I can say now that I am extremely happy that we did, and that the more than 44 hours of traveling through airports, navigating the rental car experience, and high-speed driving on the highway after a month of no driving at all (eek!), was nothing when it came to spending just under 2 days with old and new family members.
We started out on Wednesday evening with a chartered flight at 6pm out of Napaskiak. I had strategically packed our suitcases so that we could go shopping in the lower 48 and bring back some things we wished we had sent up the first time around. (TIP: Pack a Vacuum Spacebag for your dirty clothes, so that you have extra space in your suitcase for things on your return trip!) It was really interesting to find that it was cheaper for us to Charter a private 3 seat plane for the two of us, as opposed to taking a regularly scheduled flight. Waiting at the airport in the village for our flight we took some pictures to pass the time.
Our pilot soon arrived, only about 10 minutes late. He explained that he had been sent to the wrong village at first, and then apologized that he was late. I have really relaxed about punctuality since being here, so it didn’t bother me in the least- and our next flight from Bethel didn’t leave until 9:35pm, so we had plenty of time built in for situations just like this. Like everything else here in the Bush, weather can wreak havoc on the best laid plans, so it is better to plan ahead and think of the worst case scenario. It is better to be pleasantly surprised, than really stressed out.
The airports in Bethel are set further out from the town, with each airline in a separate building.
Because of this, we were isolated and needed something for dinner. In the Yute Airlines building there is a restaurant on the second floor, so Nathan went over and ordered a pizza and some sodas for us (the most expensive small pizza ever- about $22!). So over in the Alaska Airlines building we snacked on pizza and watched America’s Got Talent on the TV’s. In Bethel, you don’t go through security until just before you are about to board the plane. We watched as delivery people came with food from town, and realized that this may be a good idea next time we come through and have a craving for something other than pizza.
Our flight to Anchorage went without incident, and we boarded our plane to Seattle only a couple hours after landing and were on our way back to the lower 48! Our new GCI cell phones would incur lots of charges if we used voice calling or data outside of Alaska without upgrading our plan, so we made sure to let everyone know to contact us via text or through family that would be at the wedding.
After an hour delay in Seattle we did some shopping, and let the wedding party know that we wouldn’t be able to pick up Nathan’s tux before the shop closed, and that someone would need to pick it up for us.
The Philadelphia airport is so much larger than I really realized. I have flown out of there a couple times now, but when we went to go find the rental cars, we had to take a shuttle bus to a different location entirely. Thankfully I had sat next to a woman on the flight who needed a rental as well, so we made the journey together! After about a half an hour, I jumped into a bright shiny red VW Jetta and we were on our way to the wedding in Scranton!
We had missed the rehearsal and picnic after, but we made it with time to spare for getting ready and the ceremony. As a former Stage Manager, I helped put together the time schedule for the big day while on my layovers, and kept an eye on the clock making sure that everything happened (mostly) on time. It is amazing to me that I can be so relaxed about timelines while in the village, but I slip so easily back into my clock-watching ways on the East Coast!
Needless to say, the wedding was BEAUTIFUL, and we had an amazing time! I will let the pictures speak for themselves:
Then the next day, we did some last minute shopping, packed our bags and left for the Philadelphia Airport to head back to the tundra. A note to anyone with a rental car going back to PHL- there are NO gas stations, so be prepared to prepay for your gas, or just suck it up and pay the ridiculous $5+ a gallon charge.
With my hair still curly from the ceremony, and my jewelry still on, we ventured through the airports grabbing what sleep we could on our return trip. I tried to keep my bouquet intact, but after the first flight, it was pretty devastated. So I tied it’s ribbon on my luggage and called it a day. Flowers don’t really hold up as well as people on a 4,000 mile journey!
I found it a little cruel as we stepped off the 3rd of 4 planes we took to Bethel to see this painted on the body of the plane:
We most certainly were NOT in Disneyland! In fact Bethel greeted us that Sunday afternoon with a cold wind and intermittent rain.
Our last charter back to the village was flown by a young 20 year old guy from Seattle. It was his birthday and I was super impressed that he was a bush pilot- I hadn’t even stepped foot on a plane yet at that age!
5 days, over 8,000 miles, and lots of laughs later, we were finally back home. It was great to see family (and welcome some new members) but it was just as good to be back in the village, our home.