Juneau, capital of Alaska, home of Sarah Palin, and sight of our second shore excursion. Helicopters and glaciers, what could go wrong? After all the shuttling and shuffling was done we found ourselves in a little shack on the edge of an airport. To make sure the chopper could get off the ground they confiscated all of our bags and backpacks and then made each of us stand on a scale individually so they could record our weight. You couldn’t even go to the bathroom to reduce your weight because the bathrooms were broken. They did have a port-a-potty next to the building which is never an exciting option for me. I decided to follow the leadership of Captain James T. Kirk and wait for the glacier to address my biological needs. I wanted to go where no man has gone before.
The helicopter held six of us, so not everyone was going to get a window. More specifically, if your body was big, your view was small. I won the bountiful body award and was assigned a special seat in the middle of the back row between two other big guys who clearly had not worked the buffet line as skillfully as me. Wedged in like a cork in a bottle, I was happy to provide sufficient ballast so the leaner among us could enjoy the breathtaking views of Alaska from the air. Judi, of course, was in the front seat right next to the pilot, who incidentally, didn’t look old enough to drive a car. Between the duty-free shack (you’ll get that later), and the high-school pilot program they did not instill a lot of confidence.
We lifted off in light rain and were assured a beautiful day on the glacier. The pilot pointed out highlights on the way, passengers would ooh and ahh, and I would wriggle around trying to peer over the first and second runners-up in the fat-boy contest only to be told by the second runner-up that I missed it as he gestured to behind us. I soon became aware that we were flying in rather tight circles but couldn’t quite tell what was going on. Judi told me later that the pilot looked nervous as a storm closed in on us. I’m not sure how she could tell, he wasn’t old enough to furrow his brow. He soon made the announcement that we would not be landing on the glacier and would head straight back to the shack to get out of the weather. We returned without event – at least none that I could see from the chubby seat.
The good news is that they refunded the cost of the excursion, Judi got a free helicopter ride, and I got enough money back to handle the tips at the next hotel.