Alaska is calling you


I fell in love.


Maybe it is because she is so vast, pristine and serene. Maybe it is because she, for what I can see, has been spared destruction from human hands.

Yes, Wi-Fi does exist there.

Yes, due to tall mountains and zero cell towers in the ocean (duh), Internet service along her southwest coast is, shall we say, challenging.

For tourists.

No, it does not appear to be challenging for her residents. They have found a different way to pass the time or entertain themselves. They draw the drapes, open a window and watch nature do its thing.

No need for streaming. Nor apps. Nor X, formerly known as Twitter. Just two eyes and an open mind will suffice when you visit this beautiful region.

Never ever has my jaw hung for 72 hours straight. Until I visited “North to the Future.”

“The Last Frontier.”

You know, the most beautiful state in the Union.


I saw a mama black bear and her cubs. From a distance of about 15 feet. Not at the zoo. It was somewhere in a Ketchikan rainforest on Day 3 of my seven-day Alaskan cruise.

Most folks know being in the vicinity of a female bear and her cubs is a huge red flag and potentially deadly situation.

Terrified at first, I threw all trust at my high school-aged guide (honestly, did I have a choice?) and watched in awe as mama taught her cubs how to survive.

At one point, cub number 1 climbed a very tall tree. Cub number 2 ventured out on a limb that was hanging over a rushing river. He was scared. He wanted to jump in the river and join his watching-and-waiting mama. Instead, he hesitated, made a couple of mock attempts at leaving the branch and then cried. Mama just glared at him. The cub finally got the message and leaped into the river.

Moral of the story?

Let your kids experience life’s ups and downs. Give them survival skills. Do not do things for them even if they cry for your help. Let them learn from their mistakes as you watch and lead by example from a distance.

Observing bears in their natural habitat—despite our little expedition group having no weapons to protect ourselves—was an incredible experience. I was just smiling the entire time—OK, I admit, almost the entire time. The first five minutes after we spotted mama and her cubs, as previously noted, were scary. But I was hooked on Alaska thereafter.

Watching bears in an Alaskan rainforest was a bucket list item.

Achievement unlocked.

Was this real?

Yes, yes it was. It got more real.

A bald eagle swooped down to snatch some fish from the ocean. Right in front of me while I lounged in a chaise on my balcony reading the latest James Patterson novel. The next day a bald eagle was perched on a stoplight along Juneau’s Veterans Memorial Highway. Just hanging out, looking magnificently patriotic ‘n all.

Yeah, the tour guides left this out of their “must see or do” lists.

My advice? Just keep looking up, down or out. Perhaps you will witness a life-affirming moment. Like North America’s only indigenous eagle—our national bird—perched high above the tree line or swooping silently low, readying itself for raptor things.

Looking like a total badass.

Bald eagles can invoke a sense of pride when you see them in the wild. They represent America, after all. Regal, resilient and purposeful.

Their six-to-eight foot wingspans are incredulous. That bald eagles can see marine prey from atop a 40-50 foot coastal pine tree, dive bomb into the ocean from 500 feet away and then grab a quick meal… well, it is really amazing to witness.

Watching a bald eagle scoop-and-score was a bucket list item.

Achievement unlocked.

I heard a lone wolf howling near midnight as we cruised by the coastline. I also went to a Salmon Bake where I had a delicious barbeque dinner that included freshly caught and grilled salmon. While we were dining, salmon were spawning right behind our table.

That was not on my bucket list. But it should have been.

Alaskan irony: eating salmon while watching salmon spawn and then die.

After breakfast one morning, I went out to my balcony and just stared out at the water. It is one of my favorite things to do on a cruise. Out of nowhere, a pod of whales appeared. Now, most of us would normally grab our phones and take a picture, right?

I did not.

I was so moved by the whales’ graceful moves in the calm ocean, I became memorized. I took in the moment. I did not try to commercialize it on social media. Not until the pod was a good distance away did I come out of my hypnosis and yell to my friend, “Shannon… whales!”

She came rushing out—as well as some cruisers in the next balcony over—and we heard them. The whales were singing. Their lyrics echoed over those still waters.

How do you capture that with a camera?

Let me repeat myself.


You do not.

You just remember God’s handiwork for the rest of your life.

Seeing whales was a bucket list item.

Achievement unlocked.

I saw Mendenhall Glacier. And despite all the hype and glorious pictures of this wonder, you still aren’t prepared for your first glimpse. I mean, my goodness, it is incredibly massive. And blue. And did I mention massive?

A seven-mile trek to see that glacier (and Nugget Falls!) up close was painful on a blown knee—surgery is on August 30th so be prepared for drug-induced Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter, posts. But to experience that with a dear friend, my brother and his wife, well…. that was unforgettable.

Seeing Mendenhall Glacier was a bucket list item.

Achievement unlocked.

And all the memories?


Alaska taught me to unplug, put “the machine” away and just take in everything she had to offer. In respectful awe and silence. At times, all I could hear was my own breathing, even though Ovation of the Seas was cruising at 25 knots per hour.

I literally stopped… and smelled the roses.

Every day.

Upon reflection, I realized that there are places on this rock that desperately need our attention. Not because they need to be fixed.

No, no.

But because they will fix you.

I have been down lately. The first anniversary of my husband’s passing happened during this cruise. Between that and all the newscasts showing homelessness, poverty, litter, election madness and lawlessness, well… it had become overwhelming.


But Alaska fixed me, dammit. I found so much joy. I got my feistiness and mojo back. Prepare yourselves.

I am not a nature girl—more a Caribbean beach girl I’d say— but now I love the outdoors.

From a respectable distance, of course.

Alaska taught me to get reacquainted with nature and marinate in it. To appreciate everything this wonderland has to offer and leave it as pristine as when she first courted me.

You know what else?

Alaska is God’s country.

Even if you are not a person of faith, this state will change you.

The same way seeing your first born child changes you. Or when a loved one dies.

Alaska shows off her beauty in so many different ways. And I’ve only just begun to open her precious gifts.

She has changed me. In all the right ways.

I urge all of you to unplug and visit our largest state. Number 49 out of 50 in statehood, Number 1 in looks. Book an Alaskan cruise—it is not cheap, but if you sock away $200 a month for a year or so, you can do it.

Just do it.

I am going back next year. I’ll add a week in Denali National Park because what’s life without whimsy? And orcas? And grizzly bears?

Alaska spoke to me.

At first a whisper, now it is deafening.

I need her. I need more tweaking.

Americans need her.

She is what everything good about our country, is.

Now go get yourself fixed.

Trust me.

Note: I took many pictures. I did not post any. I want you to visualize what Alaska is all about and experience her for yourself.

Top 10 Offbeat or Weird Places to Watch a College Football Game

Ok, we readily admit that (for the most part) being in a stadium, beer and hot dog in hands, marching band playing and cheerleaders, well… cheerleading is the best place to watch college football.

But what if… life gets in the way?

Your BFF decides to get married in September. Sigh. Your clueless cousin decides that November is a great time to host a family reunion. Wrong! Your colleague wants to do a road trip in August. Get that resume updated!

I’ve been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt and hat (thank you, Kenny Chesney) and have concluded that college football does not sit in the corner for anybody.

The die-hard fan will not be denied.

So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and there is a place for you to watch your football. No matter who or what tries to stop you. Just make sure you have access to satellite TV or an app that delivers the goods.

And some understanding friends and family.

courtesy of the AP

A dive bar in the Tropics

I’m a fan of funky, tropical dive bars. And no, “dive bar” is not necessarily a place where the carpets get squeegeed after last call. It is “a coveted badge of honor bestowed by aficionados looking for authenticity in such establishments,” according to Google search. To recap, dive bars are cool and location, location, location makes them more swaggy.

Drinking a Hemingway’s Mojito watching the Florida Gators play the Miami Hurricanes at the end of the world, aka Sloppy Joes in Key West? Yes, thank you. Sipping a Mai Tai at Arnold’s Beach Bar in Waikiki watching any football game? Hell, yes. Pass the free popcorn popped in bacon grease, please.

If your team is winning, you get to celebrate with all the beautiful people. If your team is losing, drowning your sorrows in a Pacific archipelago isn’t all that bad.

courtesy of Bakersfield Bail Bonds

Traffic School

Hey, if you can get away with it, go for it. Just remember you paid a premium for that eight-hour traffic school so your insurance premiums don’t go up. Do not mess this up.

You will not fly under the radar if you wear your team’s jersey, eye black and some Bose headphones to class. But an 11-99 Foundation tee, khaki Dockers and a secret ear piece should get you teacher’s pet points while the rest of the class feels like felons. You get bonus points galore for going to Saturday school, watching the game, nixing insurance/DMV penalties and proving yes, you really can have it all.

courtesy of Cruise America

In an RV at a national park

Picture this: You’ve got an RV all tricked out with a widescreen TV attached to the outside of the vehicle. Your captain’s chair and remote control are beckoning as a camp fire crackles. A frosty, cold beer(s) sits in a cooler as your pulled pork slowly cooks in a tin pot. Leaves rustle in the distance. An owl hoots nearby.

Nobody can hear you scream. It’s perfect for those fans who root, root, root for the home team (sing along, everybody!), no matter how badly it sucks.

Highly recommended: Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

courtesy of Golf Ads

Golf course

This one is a bit tricky. First, you actually have to do something physical while watching your game. It’s called golf. But golf carts can be your saving grace.

Slap your cell phone on the seat or rent a cart that has a TV screen already installed. Now go play the most frustrating sport in the world. Lining up your birdie putt may take a wee bit longer than normal if your team is facing 4th-and-1 at the 1-yard line, down four points with a minute left in regulation.

Did you make a great shot? Throw your club in a sand trap or into the water hazard. The time it takes to fish it out allows you time to dry off and watch instant replays of that glorious touchdown or pick 6.

Golf is literally the perfect sport to watch… other sports. The 19th hole awaits.

courtesy of

Las Vegas casino

Hear me out. I once watched LSU v Alabama (2011’s Game of the Century) at the Orleans Hotel and was given free food and alcohol, including sub-zero tequila shots. There was actually a Patron machine there. Anyway, the casino’s sports book had that game on its big screen. The entire area in front of that screen (see above) was divided down the middle into two sections via theater rope.

Gotta keep the proverbial Hatfields and McCoys separated, right? Free hot dogs and pizza were flying. If you were sitting at slot machines, watching the game while pretending to gamble, your drinks were free. It was loud, bawdy and Southern. Best experience ever.

courtesy of Sacramento Bee

Ski lodge

So here is how this works: dress like a ski bum recovering from a horrible ski accident that tore up your meniscus. Wear the awesome clothes (and a cane), but have a portable TV/smart phone nearby to watch your team play.

Park yourself behind the main lodge’s window. Order some chili con carne in a sourdough bowl, a frosty beer or Irish coffee and chill with your injured leg propped up. Your new found friends will join you shortly. During the TV commercials you have a splendid view of your fellow skiers skiing/crashing/cursing/being rescued by ski patrol in a sled.

photo by Jordan Wright via

Family reunion

The motive behind planning family reunions is pure. The reality of family reunions is a mixed bag of flowers and manure. Sure, it is nice to meet your wife’s second cousin but these meetings can be so awkward. Throwing complete strangers together and expecting them all to have something to talk about beside sex, politics and religion is impossible.

These reunions are usually planned over a weekend when football is being played. The nerve of these people! So run around and shake hands with everyone—the wife will be happy with your boyish charm. But bring a large TV and set up your man cave next to Aunt Ethel’s homemade potato salad and Cousin Betty’s cheese curds. You will find out quickly which relatives are the coolest—they will be the ones trying to sit next to you.

courtesy of CBS Sports

A wedding

Just how good of friends are these people inviting you to a fall wedding, anyway? Clearly, they do not know you very well. I do. My friends have all been briefed and understand that any invite to a wedding held on any Saturday from late-August to early-January will promptly get a “nay” from me on the cutesy, RSVP card and sent off in the self-addressed, stamped envelope—but I’ll send a nice gift, OK?

I have attended one fall wedding. Since it was my first (and last), I remember it well. I spent the entire reception/dinner time in the bar, cheering on my team. I was perfectly content skipping the rubber-like chicken dinner and instead, noshing on martini olives and pineapple wedges. This experience led to the birth of my personal personal hashtag #StopFallWeddings and a date with the bartender later that week. Just sayin’.

You could get lucky and go to a football themed wedding but unless you live in SEC Country (see above), that isn’t happening.

If you have to go, bring your portable TV. In less time than you can blink, your entire table will be crowded with football fans. Free drinks—unless it’s a cash bar in which case why are you seriously even there?—and food aren’t so bad when you can watch football with all of your new BFFs.

courtesy of Cameron Ingalls/DAOU Vineyards


If you know your team is going to lose, why not go to a place where you can stare at beautiful scenery and drink like a fish? Listen, if my team loses while I am in Paso Robles, sitting in an Adirondack chair overlooking the valley while drinking DAOU’s Soul of Lion Bordeaux blend, things aren’t necessarily DEFCON 1.

Watching a tight game at Napa Valley’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, sipping a big red [tip of the hat to 2015’s Fay] while navigating through an epic charcuterie board seems pretty on point, doesn’t it?

courtesy of

On a cruise ship in the Caribbean

College football’s week one used to start the Thursday before Labor Day. Now it starts the week prior and is nicknamed week zero. With only 11 games scheduled Saturday, August 27, the pickins’ are slim. There can/will be some bad football games, although for the football-starved fan, no game is technically bad—it just never reaches its potential.

In any case, laying in a lounger on the Lido Deck, watching a football game on a big screen while a Jamaican steel drum band plays near you can ease the pain of bad officiating. Maybe that targeting call was not such a bad call? Maybe the sun glaring on your glistening, tan/burned skin distorted your vision?

“A drink will make your eyesight better,” the Caribbean Queen Fairy whispers in your ear.

With smooth, white sand beaches in the distance and the palm trees swaying in the tropical breezes, the bad play-calling becomes less cringey. Hmmm, you think. Maybe this really is a good time to try out that Statue of Liberty play while inside your own 15.

“Imbibe in a Goombay Smash,” you hear CQF say.

Crystal clear turquoise water slaps the hull of your ship. Colorfully dressed servers twirl tall pineapples/short coconuts filled with cold concoctions. Their little umbrellas and plastic monkeys hanging on for dear life will make you forget… well… damn, what was I supposed to be doing here? Pickleball?

I forgot.

Come to think of it, watch the game if you can. But DVR it at home just in case you get lost in Paradise on August 27.

PS- I’ll be in the Southern Caribbean when the first football game of the 2022 season kicks off on my birthday. I’ll be on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas watching football with some of the best human beings on this planet: my husband—the coolest person I know beside my twin—and our dear friends Mike (go K State!) and Cindy (go K State too!)

I’ll post pictures.

If I remember.