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By Rebecca Masters

33 ½ years of teaching students with special needs - some memories are etched in, while others are a blur. It was a good gig but I was totally ready for it to be over- especially after the last year and 4 months of COVID teaching! “What will you do in retirement?” people ask. Travel! is my response and so I started...

Packing for a trip during which you will be in a location that can get to 100 degrees and another location where it might get up to 70 can be a little challenging. First Sacramento then heading to Juneau. That was the plan and it almost didn’t happen.

●      Flight from Albany cancelled.

●      Pandemonium at Newark's United check-in area caused a missed flight.

●      Suspected detached retina detoured plans at Lake Tahoe with my daughter and almost caused the cancellation of my Juneau leg of the trip.

But It wasn't all canceled flights and emergency rooms. I watched Liz's friend in a dance program celebrating LGBTQ month and I met a bunch of Liz's friends at an open mic night and heard Liz sing twice, one of which was Judas' tirade” Heaven On Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar. There was, of course, a California winery visit, where we met a very friendly cat.  I also spent part of the day running errands with her. There's something about going to the grocery store when you're visiting somebody that makes food shopping so much more interesting than when you just have to do it at your own local grocery store.

We also played mini-golf- instead of taking the Lake Tahoe gondola ride, which was... you guessed it… cancelled.


The next day we were set to go on a lovely morning hike. That's when THE BLOB with very long stringy legs appeared in my right eye. Knowing that I was at risk for detached retina, I knew I had to take action right away and Liz found the local hospital, where I was treated like royalty. There they determined that it was most likely not a detached retina but they wanted me to go on to a local ophthalmologist. She confirmed that it was not a detached retina but there was an area of concern and knowing that I was heading up to Juneau the next day, she wanted me to see a retinal ophthalmologist.


Here's a fun fact that's important to know if you're planning to go visit Juneau Alaska. If you might need a specialist then you will most likely need to fly out, take a boat or get Medevac’d out to who knows where. I had to contact my sister Lori in Alaska to tell her that we should change my flight so that I could see a specialist in Sacramento to determine if it would be OK for me to go there. Liz and I went ahead and did our hike, much later in the day than planned, and headed back to Sacramento to see “The Wizard of Eyes”. After doing unspeakable things to my eyes, the doctor stood up and said, “Have a good trip.”


Off I went to Juneau. I got there in time for the fireworks. We started to gather at the waterfront at about 10:30 July 3rd, then the official fireworks started at midnight the 4th making Alaska the first place in the United States to have their fireworks on the 4th. It wasn’t “dead dark” but that dark midnight blue twilight.  While we waited for the official fireworks to start, all up and down the channel we could see fireworks displays of varying magnitudes. I also went erranding and grocery shopping with Lori, once again enjoying the novelty of some other food store. In fact, Fred Allen was more like a mini mall- it literally had everything including furniture and a jewelry store within the store.


People who live in Juneau know what days the delivery ships come in and get alerts when the local fishing boats come in with salmon and “dungees”. While it’s not quite like those shows about roughing it in Alaska, there is a certain level of being prepared on everyone's minds, which I’m sure is double in the winter.


Fun food places in Juneau include the hole in the wall dumpling place where you literally get a choice of 2 different dumplings/pierogis and sauce, cash only, and sit next to the boxes of their supplies. The outdoor “food court” -gravel, wooden benches, some covering, which has a  s’more place where they make their own marshmallows and “Deckhand Dave’s” with delicious fish tacos.


Lori took me on The ROAD trip. Juneau’s main road is about 62 miles long. The road at the southern end just ends at a barrier with “END” on a sign. The northern end has a similar sign, but it ends at a barrier of dirt that looks like a mini-bike, 3 wheeler or other “off road” type vehicle could get over it. In between were miles of beautiful scenes of boats bobbing in the channel and mountains topped with snow. We also drove to Douglas Island and drove from one end to the other.

Naturally, we had to go to the Mendenhall glacier, which has shrunk noticeably from when I was

there in 2009. People who have hiked or wandered along a body of water with me know that I have a

compulsion to have to touch the water. So, of course I plunged my hand into the lake there and was

immediately frozen. I don’t know why I was surprised considering it is literally melted ice!


Departing Juneau, while we taxied parallel to the seaplane “runway”, I decided that I would definitely visit Lori again- only in the summer, and that I will visit Liz in Sacramento in any season but summer! Now with the luxury of being retired, I can make that a reality!

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