I nursed my eight-beer taster at the Silver Gulch Airport Bar in Anchorage, Alaska. It was an off-menu item, but after a harrowing descent on Delta Flight 1089 that crashed trays in the galley and caused a Minnesotan woman to upchuck her chicken wrap in the aisle, the bartender offered it as fortification for my connecting flight to Fairbanks.
As hoppy warmth spread in my stomach, I began to wonder if the nervous flyer in me had exaggerated the turbulence. Then a newly landed group passed by in a collective tremor, one trio earnestly checking their pulses. No doubt about it, the Alaskan skies were testy tonight. The Anchorage-to-Fairbanks was just as bumpy, but with newfound drinking buddies and a soupy buzz, the silent weeping of hours past was now manic laughter. Still, I couldn’t ignore the looming reality: Tomorrow morning, I would ride a prop plane across the Arctic Circle. Sober.