my friend and co-worker in nyc, sue, used to go to the carribbean and the bahamas what seemed like all the time. she was forever hitting club med in turquoise. anyway, once when she was there she took a boating trip and this guy with a heavy island/french accent keep calling people "shockas" and it was a while before she asked him what he was saying and figured out that he was calling people "jackasses". i always thought it was so funny and still call people "shockas" today even though it's not really my joke and sue probably doesn't say it anymore. so, on to the shocka in alaska.
if there's a bus with strangers to be boarded, you can bet i will always sit near the jackass. and the bus through denali national park was no exception. it was back in the early 80s that the park banned cars in the park and started relying on old school busses to transport people along a series of routes around the park. the shortest bus ride is 5 hours. we took the 6 hour one. the longest one is 13 hours. on a school bus. but you supposedly get great views of denali (also called mt. mckinley but i stopped calling it that when i found out that mckinley never even visited alaska). you can drive your car to mile 18 or something along the main park road but then you have to turn back and our bus didn't start seeing wildlife until after mile 18. it's a cool set-up. they stop when wildlife is spotted and they also stop at rest stops along the way. you pack a lunch for yourself and head out to see caribou, red fox, bald eagles, arctic ground squirrels, snowshoe hares, ptarmigans (alaska state bird), dall sheep (grazing on the tippy top of the rocky edges of the mountains) and if you're lucky, grizzly bears (we were not lucky). denali national park is the size of new hampshire (!) and they have about 300 grizzlies that live there so it wasn't surprising that we didn't see any. plus, it was salmon season and the water we traveled near was glacial and silty and didn't support any fish so you know those bears hightailed it to a river somewhere else where salmon would effortlessly jump into their mouths all willy-nilly. in addition to not seeing any bears, the landscape was obscured by a lot of wildfire smoke blowing in from the north and it was a cloudy day. so we didn't get to see as many mountains as we'd like (we didn't get to see denali that day either, but luckily it made a reluctant appearance the day before).
so, the shocka. this 50-something guy and this 50-something woman get on the bus and the woman sits in front of us and he sits in the seat across from her. and they start talking and didn't shut it for a very long time. the problem was that he's been on this tour 3 times already and he was just bringing his cousin because she wanted to see the park. the cousin was nice but would say stuff like "whoa! two rides for the price of one, am i right ladies?!" when we'd go over a bump. funny but annoying. the guy, on the otherhand, wanted to make sure that everyone knew he'd been on this trip before. and that he'd rather be hunting the animals than looking at them. at one point he was passing around his digital camera so people could see the animals he's killed. ew. and when we'd stop to look at something, like a band of dall sheep just resting, he'd be looking through his binoculars and saying stuff like "wow. that would be the easiest shot ever!" and i'm thinking "yes, jackass, it would be the easiest shot. i could shoot those animals too but the reason why it's an easy shot is because they're used to NOT being hunted. that's why they're sitting there." ugh. the pièce de résistance came when everyone started breaking out their lunches and while craig and i ate pb&j, backwoods shocka (who lived in alaska but had only been there 10 years or something) broke out a bag of boiled shrimp and started eating them and throwing the tails out the window. now, i know it's not that big of a deal because the tails will decompose or something will eat them but i'm thinking: do you really want a wild animal sitting in the middle of the road eating shrimp tails when a bus comes around the corner of a hairpin turn? anyway, added in to everything else just made the act all the more annoying. there was also a moment when i though i spotted horses in valley far below the road and it turned out they were caribou (well, what do i know, i'm a city girl!) and jackass announced to the whole bus "SHE THOUGHT THEY WERE HORSES! HAR HAR HAR!". what a tool.
it's a shame that our lovely time in denali was marred by a crazy man. but we did spend the rest of our vacay saying stuff like "wow. see that bird over there. i'd really like to shoot it."