Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The USA (01/08/09)
TITLE: Soaring Patriotism
By Sharlyn Guthrie
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While traveling eight months earlier, my husband and I had volunteered to be bumped from an overbooked flight. Actually, my husband nearly knocked over a blue-haired woman and a man with a white cane on his way to the counter. Our compensation was two round-trip tickets to any destination in the continental United States or Alaska. Those final two words captured our attention and our imagination. The only catch was that our tickets had to be used on a low-traffic day. Imagine our surprise when we learned that July fourth qualified.
So here we were, claiming our prize, as we had come to think of it, and embarking on a fabulous adventure. We would leave Minneapolis, Minnesota around 9:30 p.m. and arrive in Anchorage, Alaska by midnight. A rental car had been secured in Anchorage, as well as lodging for the remainder of the night –it would be 3:00 a.m. according to our time.
Here I need to make a confession. I could not deny that this trip was an opportunity of a lifetime. Still, I regretted missing out on customary Fourth of July celebrations –especially fireworks. Donning our patriotic T-shirts that morning, we thought we would uniquely display our patriotism. However, we would have been regarded as odd had we not worn red, white, and blue. The mood was festive. Still, the compatriots surrounding us were strangers rather than friends, making it a not-so-typical holiday.
Although our journey was just beginning, our day had begun early. So, as our plane left the runway, I settled in preparing to spend the next five hours resting up for the week ahead. I had arm-wrestled my hubby for the window seat, and won. Actually, he cried, “Uncle,” and let me have it. I peered through the miniature opening intrigued, as we rose above the lights of the city.
We hadn’t gone far when vivid bursts of color began to erupt below. “Look! Over there…” I elbowed my husband and pointed out the window. Exclamations rippled throughout the cabin as others caught sight of the beautiful fireworks.
I fastened my eyes to the sight, taking it in like a desert traveler passing an oasis. But soon I realized that a number of displays were taking place simultaneously across the city. From our unique vantage point we were privy to several displays at once. Spectacular exhibits continued popping up across the metropolitan area. Beautiful!
As we left the city behind, I guessed the show was over, but from the darkness small hamlets emerged, and from each came bursts of light and color. As the plane gained altitude the bursts grew smaller, but still they continued. I simply could not divert my eyes from the spectacle.
The miniscule light show continued all through the beverage service and beyond, like sparks firing from a long, continuous cord. I was certain each flash would be the last, but on they went.
“A-ha!” my husband exclaimed, suddenly enlightened, “I just realized the time is changing as we travel west. That must be why the fireworks are continuing.” And so it went for two hours or more.
Eventually, our lofty path carried us across less inhabited landscapes, glaciers, and parts of Canada. I dozed off and on, but was awakened by a growing brightness. We were approaching the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Breath-taking glacier and ocean views loomed, gaining in size as we made our descent, and the scene was bathed in enough light that I was able to snap several pictures just before landing.
Along the route to our seedy Anchorage hotel (aptly described in the travel book as a “rare bargain”), July fourth officially ended. Much to our surprise and delight, the fireworks were just beginning. The inebriated desk clerk shrugged off our amazement. “Midnight’s as dark as it gets. You want fireworks –that’s when you get them.”
Despite the lousy accommodations, I’m certain I fell asleep with a smile on my face. After all, I had observed live fireworks displays all the way from Minnesota to Montana; I was about to embark on a tour of the most intriguing state in the union; and although I’d exited the airplane more than an hour earlier, my patriotism was flying higher than ever.
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