Friday, January 28, 2011

How I got Hooked on Fishing: Part 1

This is the tale of how I, a land-lubber from Ohio, got into commercial fishing in Alaska. Well, I saw an add in the newspaper advertising making big money by working in a cannery.  But, I don't want to get ahead of myself.

After being bored out of my mind my first year at the University of Toledo, Ohio I transfered to The Ohio State University (OSU), which was much, much more fun!  My grades soon reflected that is was, possibly, too much fun. It all came down to the wire, as these things tend to do.  If I  aced my calculus final, all would be right in the world and I would slide by the academic curve that I needed to stay in school.  If I didn't ace it, I would be academically dismissed for three terms.

I had always been a good student, was on the Honor Roll in high school, had been getting A's and B's at Toledo.  Not sure what really happened at OSU, but it happened in only a matter of a few months.  Well, that's not really true.  I know what happened.  Sailing club is what happened.  I can't tell you how much fun that is!  Drinking beer and racing little 12' sailing boats was way better than studying.   Maybe I don't need to tell you how much fun that is.  Needless to say, my studies fell to the wayside, until the 11th hour, at the end of the semester. Anyway, back preparing for my calculus final.  I was studying and studying and studied until my brain fell out of  my head.  I scooped it up and shoved it back in there and studied some more.  When I had neared total exhaustion, and could no longer see straight,  I slammed my calculus book shut and dramatically dropped it on the chair next to my bunk bed in my dorm, claiming that absolutely no more knowledge could fit into my head.  Continuing on with this theatrical gesture, I dropped my graphing calculator on top of my book.  It was the morning of my much dreaded calculus final.  If I didn't know it by now, I'll never know it.

For those of you not familiar with calculus, it is a branch of mathematics that focuses on limits, functions, derivatives, integrals and infinite series. According to Wikipedia, (its been so long since I took the class, I had to look up the definition of it!) calculus is the study of change as geometry is the study of shape.  Yeah, big brain stuff, which explains why I was flunking the class.  Now that I think about it, it may have even been a pre-calc class that I was in.  Either way, a graphing calculator is an integral part of the process as it is a way of saving all the formulas need to calculate derivatives and whatnot.  Getting back to my story, I had my calculator all stuffed with every formula I could possibly need, with the help of my friends, who were passing the class.  Math has never been my strong point.  Anyway, during my moment of theatrics when I slammed my calculator on top of my books it erased its  e n t i r e   c o n t e n t s!  Gone.   Wow-ouch.  Woe is me.  Flunked out is me. Needless to say I didn't ace my final.  On the contrary, I was placed on academic probation.   However, every cloud has its silver lining.  With all my new spare time I found that add in the school paper to come to Seward Alaska, work in a cannery and make $15,000 in a summer.  And with my tuition money burning a hole in my pocket I bought myself a plane ticket to Alaska.  I figured, what the heck, I have some time to kill.  And making money never hurt anybody.  Neither did a little adventure.

As luck would have it, I had this long lost cousin who lived in Anchorage.  I called him up out of the blue and asked if I could stay with him for the summer. He said he and his wife, Kim had an infant son, Alex, that life was a little crazy, but I was more than welcome to stay on their fold out couch in the living room.  Sweet!  I pulled out my trusty Atlas and promptly looked up Alaska.  I found Anchorage and quickly located Seward, about a half inch away and thought, this is perfect!  I can live in Anchorage and drive to work in Seward everyday.  When I told Matt, my long lost cousin this plan, he laughed in my face.  For those of you not intimately familiar with Alaska geography, Anchorage is about 128 miles (206 km) and about a 2-3 hour drive to Seward.  But, in my own defense, if you look up Alaska in an Atlas, Alaska,  the biggest state in the union, the state that is 1/3 the size of the whole continental US of A and it  only gets roughly 1/4 of a page in the Atlas. I never understood that.  Anyway,  in that scale, Anchorage is about 1/2 an inch (sorry, I don't know what that is in metric) away from Seward.

Well, I didn't end up working in a cannery that summer.  Instead, I worked at a restaurant called The Sourdough Mining Company,  Cousin gave my his little Geo Tracker car for the summer and I would explore as far as I could get in my two days off a week. I hit Seward, Homer, Hope, Denali, Fairbanks and everywhere in between. I had a blast!  At the end of the summer, I ended up selling my plane ticket home (you could do that back in 1992) and traveled south with Sevilla, a gal I worked.  We were going to hitch hike the 775 miles to  Haines, but at the last minute her folks decided it was best to just drive us.  From there, we took the Alaska Marine Highway, otherwise known at the Ferry to Bellingham, Wa.  The 2300 mile trip took 5 days and we pitched our tent on the floor of the ferry and slept there.  We Grey Hounded it to San Fransisco, where we caught up with the Green Tortoise Bus Southern Dream Route  14 days of travel though the sunny southern states.  There were 41 of us crammed into that bus and only 7 of us were Americans.

The Green Tortoise can best be described as a hippy bus service.  The back half of the bus is relieved of its seats and mattresses take their place.  The front half has seats and tables that all convert into beds.  Passengers are packed in there like sardines and the bus travels pretty much 24/7, except to eat and hike.  We carry and prepare our own (vegetarian) food and sleep on the road.  Unless it was a nice night, then we would stop at a National Park and drag the mattresses out onto the dirt and sleep under that stars.   This was an eye opener for a 20 year old gal from Ohio!  But what fun.  I saw Joshua National Park, Big Bend National Park, hot springs, New Orleans, gators in Florida, wild pigs in Texas.  It was  quite an adventure!

After finally making my way back to Ohio, and spending every dime I had made over the summer to do it, I was broke.  But, not having school to attend to, I worked three jobs all winter to try to make my way back to Alaska, which I did that next spring.   Tune in next week to hear the rest of the story.

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