Alaska Road Trip 2013: Our Day in Denali (Part 2)

Day 2 – Our Ride on the Vomit Comet

Part 1 covers our travels from Seattle to Anchorage to Denali. 

We wanted to kick off our first day with something spectacular, something regretted not doing last time we visited Alaska: a flight seeing tour!  This was to be the highlight of the trip, and at $800 for the two of us we had pretty high hopes.  We boarded a small Denali Air aircraft designed to seat a pilot and 7 passengers.

Here’s a pic from what we now regard as “the Before time”.


The excitement lasted approximately 5 minutes into the flight, at which point Jim became extremely motion sick and began to throw up.   The aircraft came with some grocery bags, ostensibly for the purpose, but he quickly filled one and I handed him mine, which he continued to puke into.  Super pale and shuddering, poor Jim moaned and vomited through the entire flight.  I’m pretty sure he missed all the scenery.  I spent this time sobbing and trying to comfort him as best I could from my seat across the aisle.  Jim was puke-soaked from his eyes to his chin.  His hands and his coat were covered in yellow vomit.

I wanted to die, and I think he was halfway there himself.


Then… about 30 minutes into the 65 minute flight, I started to feel queasy, too.  What the fuck?  I’m a roller coaster champion, I don’t puke.  Was it the ups and downs of the aircraft?  The utter terror at realizing I was basically in a tin can floating over some mountains?  The stench of vomit that pervaded the cabin?   I grabbed a couple grocery bags from the seat behind me and the last coherent thing I did was toss my camera and phone from my lap,  out of the way of the torrent of puke that erupted from my own mouth moments later.

The plane dipped, we puked.  The plane climbed, we puked.  Together.  This, folks, is the ultimate expression of companionship.

We landed after an hour and our hell was over.  I carried three bags of yellow puke out of that plane, and Jim continued to heave for another hour.  His body wanted to keep puking, but nothing was left.

Denali Air doesn’t do refunds, they don’t even refund the dollar you put into their vending machine in a vain attempt to buy a Sprite to wash the flavor of puke out of your throat.  This was our $800 stomach pumping.  We didn’t even see the mountain.

Denali Air SUCKS!

Our day in Denali was ruined. We spent the next hour waiting at the flight strip for Jim to be well enough to ride the shuttle 12 miles back to Glitter Gulch, and then a couple hours after that recovering in the Denali Air’s parking lot.  We sat in the car.  Jim moaned and shuddered, I surfed the web on my phone.  I browsed a gift shop.  I scrubbed more vomit out of my jacket sleeves.

Driving the Park Road

Around 6pm Jim was finally feeling well enough to eat and ride in a car, so we ate a bit and then drove the 15 miles of paved road in Denali National Park.  The pictures are nothing like being there in person.  This 15 mile stretch was probably the highlight of our Alaska road trip.


Once we drove the park road, we returned to our cabin 12 miles south of the park entrance and spent a few more hours recovering.

ATV Tour: Midnight Sun Adventure

Normally, that’s where the day would have ended but we had signed up for a 10:50pm “Midnight Sun Adventure” tour with Denali ATV Adventures.   Had we known we’d spend the day puking we wouldn’t have signed up for a midnight ATV trip on the same day, but this turned out to be the brightest part of the whole day.

While there wasn’t much direct sun, the sky was very lit at midnight and the novelty was worth it if nothing else.  Highly recommend the ATV tours – they are super easy and fun to drive, we didn’t get wet like the pics suggest, and there were opportunities for us to switch drivers several times.


Part 3 (coming soon) is about our travels to Fairbanks and North Pole!

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