Anchorage and Then Onto Homer

We spent three nights in Anchorage. Sunday July 21, was a travel day but we were in early enough to enjoy a short float plane ride over the tundra. It got a bit warm in the plane but I loved the take off and landing in the water! Unfortunately we only took movie of this experience so no photos. Monday we went to dinner and a “show” and it was an experience never to be repeated. Richard said the food was all right but I only had salad, well just lettuce by the time it got to me, and roasted potatoes. Our fearless leader once again failed to make arrangements for me. After I had eaten she came by the table and said there were things I could order off the menu…uh, my meal is suppose to be included. There was ice cream…

The “show” and I use that word lightly was a joke. Some guy, who calls himself Sourdough Dusty, tells stories about his great grandad who came to Alaska during the gold rush and was the first US Marshall in the territory. He also sings off key and then pushes his books and CDs on the audience. Could not wait to get our of there. It seems the tour company has never been there before and one can only hope they never return. It was a very poor imitation of a Branson show.

Tuesday, July23, we headed down to Homer. What a great place!! On Wednesday we took a boat ride to Halibut Cove which is about 5 nautical miles across the Cook Inlet off the Homer Spit. We passed Gull Island, more a large rock, that was absolutely covered with nesting sea birds. Kittiwakes, common murres and even tufted puffins are there and what a noise they all make!

Gull Island off Homer Spit

Gull Island off Homer Spit

Gull Island

We had lunch at Halibut Cove’s only restaurant , The Saltry, and it was wonderful. The Cordon Bleu trained chef prepares delicious meals. I had the sweet potato-ginger soup, grilled salmon and greens that were grown outback of the restaurant. There was also a sighting of chocolate cheesecake…

The Saltry

Thursday the 25th was a free day so we traveled the area for points of interest we did not stop at on the way down. It can be quite difficult parking a huge rig at tourist spots. We went to Ninilchik which is an old Russian Orthodox community and has a small church.

Russian Orthodox Church, Ninilchik, AK

Russian Orthodox Church, Ninilchik, AK

There is always contruction in the summer up here and Homer was no exception. Rather than sit in line waiting for the pilot car we turned off onto a side road hoping to find another Russian church. As we stopped to take a picture we met Nina Fefelov. Who, it turns out, owns Nina’s Cafe! It was lunch time and she insisted we eat at her place.

Nina Fefelov

Nina Fefelov

Nina's Cafe

Nina’s Cafe

The full Russain Experience!

The full Russain Experience!

Thursday was also a staff prepared bbq but it’s obvious Yankees have no clue what a bbq really is because this one was simply grilled burgers and hotdogs. I had meatless baked beans, corn and salad. Fortunately I had a snack before we went though Richard really wanted to go to a local restaurant since they don’t really get vegetarian.

Friday we traveled to Seward. Our first rainy day in a good long while though it didn’t last all day. We went to the Alaska Wildlife Center this morning and had a behind the scene experience with two puffins. Fortunately, neither took flight during this experience. The Center has some incredible aquatic displays. After meeting the puffins we were able to see them dive in this two story tank.

Tomorrow is a boat tour of Resurrection Bay with lunch on board. I was also just informed there will be nothing but salad for me. At least I know ahead of time and bring something along. Monday we are doing a dog sled ride. Guessing it’s on wheels since there is no snow…

The Bus Ride Through Denali

Yesterday’s schedule was a bus ride through Denali. It had been on the calendar from Day 1 and something we were looking forward to until the details were given to us. We were expected to load the bus at 6am…6am? Okay, I don’t do mornings well but I can do them, on occasion. I figured this was as good an occasion as any. Then item number two on the list was, We expect to return between 7-8pm. OMG, 13 to 14 hours on a bus? A school type bus no less though the seats were slightly upgraded and there was plenty of leg room.

We pack our backpack with plenty of snacks and water bottles, set the alarm for 4:45 (I tried to set the alarm but couldn’t manage to change the setting…took that as a sign. Richard, however, managed to figure it out.), and went to bed about 10pm. Now the thing about setting an alarm is that I don’t sleep well. Always afraid I’ll sleep through it and wake every hour to make sure I hadn’t so it is not a very restful sleep. Giving up at 4:30 I got up and shut off the alarm. I also don’t drink caffeine so I can’t look forward to a buzz. It is what it is upon rising and there is a reason my tea cup says, “I don’t do mornings.”

It had been drizzling since the night before along with a few downpours so the morning was cold, grey and wet. The morning temp at 6am was 51ΒΊ. There are 42 of us in the group but only 35 got on the bus. What did they know? πŸ˜‰

The bus driver, David, was a young man who came to Alaska on a Princess cruise 8 years ago. He is originally from Utah. While on the cruise he did the land tour and fell in love not only with Alaska but more specifically Denali Nat’l Park. It took him about a year to make his way back here. He work in a resort washing dishes for 4 years and took courses about the area and has been driving the bus now for 4 years. David was very well informed and quite entertaining at times with his jokes and stories. Our bus was one of the few, and take my word the narrow road is chock full of buses, that goes the entire distance (91 miles, one way).

We did stop about every two hours to stretch and potty. At the halfway point we had hot chocolate, cider, tea, or coffee. Plus there were sodas and bottled water and even snacks and cookies. David claimed he had made the cookies but I grew a little suspicious when brownies were loaded for the return trip…no way he had time to make those during our lunch break. πŸ˜‰ Lunch was at one of the Lodges at the end of the road and was an all-you-can-eat sandwich buffet. Luckily they also had salads and hummus. Unfortunately the soup was beef and barley.

The Park is absolutely amazing! We finally saw Grizzly Bears!! There were five of them visible from the bus within 5 minutes travel time. Also saw quite a few caribou and even a bull moose! It was overcast or raining the entire day so there was no visual of Mt McKinley but we had viewed it on the way from Chicken to Tok.

Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity and while not one I am ever likely to repeat it is a definite must do if you ever find your self in Alaska!

Taking the Day Off!

I am not a fan of bus tours in general and all day one in particular. Sunday’s tour started out with a ride down the road a bit to the Discovery III paddle wheel tour. It was wonderful! The sun was shining but the temperature was about 75ΒΊ so very pleasant. The tour lasts about 3 hours on the boat but at one point you disembark to an Athtabasca Village recreation. We were divided into three groups and visited different parts of the village with explanations given by local descendants who were mostly high school students. Very well done.

We also had made a stop along the river to watch a dog sled team run a practice session for the Iditarod. It was very cool to watch these dogs getting excited as they were hooked to the line in front of a 4-wheeler. They pulled the ATV and the driver going round curves and up one part of the hill behind the house/kennel. They estimated the speed to be about 20mph. The dogs were unhooked as soon as they returned and everyone of them ran to the river where the temperature was 48ΒΊ! The dogs belong to Susan Buecher’s husband and daughters. Susan won the Iditarod 4 times, three of which were consecutive. She passed away in 2006 from leukemia but before she died she wrote a children’s book about her lear dog, Granite. He was the runt of the litter, had some respiratory issues and the vet recommended putting him down. Susan wouldn’t have it and took him home. He was the lead dog in each of her wins and lived to be 17.5 years old!

We came back to the RV park for lunch at the Grill Restaurant. It was a nice buffet but unfortunately someone had turned the heat on that morning and since there was no a/c it was quite miserable in there. It was also the beginning of the downslide into miserable for the remaining afternoon portion of the tour.

We went to the Museum of Alaska and I’ll be honest I am not a huge fan of museums unless there is a lot of hands on things. Well, the stop was scheduled for 2.5 hours! Seriously? 2.5 hours in a museum that had basically two rooms and a couple of movies? After 45 minutes of touring and watching a movie, where most everyone shut their eyes, we sat outside and waited for the bus to return.

I declined to participate in Monday’s bus tour because Sunday’s bus had no functioning a/c and the same bus was on the schedule. I thoroughly enjoyed my day off! I did 8 loads of laundry since the laundry room was basically empty. Plus today, Tuesday, is a free day so I know everyone else would be trying to use the machines. I made Richard some oatmeal raisin cookies (seems I brought along too many oats), and read for a couple of hours…heaven!

Last night was a ride-share to the Pioneer Park Salmon Bake. it had cooled down, there was a slight breeze keeping the mosquitoes at bay and the food wasn’t bad either. We then went to The Palace Theatre and Saloon…which no longer has a bar…to watch a Vaudevillian show about the founding of Fairbanks. It was cute.

Today is an official Free Day so Richard and I went to The North Pole which is just down the road a piece. A tourist trap but cute just the same. Santa is in the House everyday though not in his red suit. It was fun to watch the little ones having a conversation with the ol’ elf.

Visited a Fred Meyers for groceries it was nice to find familiar brands and to have so many choices but darn if I didn’t go back for the cilantro that was out of stock on display…oh well.

Crossing the Road in Chicken

The trip from Dawson City, YT to Chicken, AK is what nightmares are made of! Road in Chicken? Not by many standards but the road getting there was truly awful. Large rocks, huge piles of dirt where the grading machine didn’t quite do its job. Once you cross into Alaska the nightmare begins. You can’t go above 25 for much of the way and where the construction is going on (not that we saw anyone working) it is just a huge pile of dirt that heavy machinery had driven over the piles.

Chicken though was just perfect! Three businesses, two RV parks and one saloon. There is no electricity in Chicken so everything is run on generators. Celebrating my birthday there, priceless. Had drinks with miners and it’s just amazing that people are willing to live in a tent hoping to find gold.

We only spent one night Chicken and moved on to Tok. After having driven for miles and miles through dirt and dust we formed a car wash with the rigs. Everyone brought a bucket and brushes where the park had 2 pressure washers. The water was free because we all got fuel there at the park. It takes about 4 hours to wash 21 rigs and they weren’t even washed very clean but at least our black car wasn’t gray any more!

We arrived in Fairbanks this afternoon and will be here for 5 nights. Lots of things on the agenda for the next two days.

Dawson City and Onto Chicken, Alaska

Dawson City, YT is a fun town. Loads of history but most of the old buildings have been preserved by Parks Canada. We had a guided tour yesterday and our guide was dressed as if it was the 1890s. We were taken into some of the restored/preserved buildings such as the bank and post office.

We have walked the entire town today and viewed Roberts Service’s cabin and Jacl London’s. it would seem that Service had a great deal more money than London. He retired at the age of 35 from banking and lived off his savings and money earned from his writing. London’s cabin was void of any luxury.

This afternoon will are going to visit the Fire Dept Museum…it was closed this morning on our walk about.

Tomorrow we head to Chicken which is just over a hundred miles but it will take the good part of five hours to drive there. First thing Richard will take the rig for fuel since we were given incorrect information about the location of the diesel. I will wait in town with the car because we take a ferry across the Yukon River…so not looking forward to that!

Things are increasing in price as we go. In Whitehorse a quarter pound of Velveeta was $6.99 and here in Dawson City it is $9.69. Fuel, in town, is $1.59/litre but outside of the city limits it is $1.39/litre. Which is why Richard is going back two miles.

Weather is great, 66* right now though the sun is peaking through the clouds so it will probably warm up a bit.

We drove to the midnight dome though not at midnight. It overlooks the city. You also get an amazing view of the Tailings left by the dredges that were used until the mid 60s for placer mining. We toured Dredge #4 yesterday which was very interesting.

We turn the clocks back once again tomorrow when we arrive in Chicken so we will be 3 hours behind. Please keep that in mind if you need to call us. πŸ˜‰ we also go down to 15amp service so I certainly hope that it is not warm up there!

Whitehorse and on to Dawson City

We arrived in Whitehorse on Friday with the sun shining and temps in the 70s. The parks have slowly become less and less attractive. This one has us in like sardines. There is barely enough room between us and our neighbors for us to get to the door. Wifi, as usual, is lousy and this place will charge after 250MB so this post will be short and picture less once again.

We toured the Klondike Riverboat yesterday and it makes the American Queen look like the Queen Mary II. Though it really wasn’t made for passengers there were times that some were allowed passage. The cost would have been $35 downstream and $55 upstream. The average wages at the time was about $25/month, so quite pricey.

We attended the Frantic Follies last night. Quite entertaining! The louder you hoot and holler the higher the chorus girls kick up their legs. Most of this vaudevillian theatre was based on the writings of Robert W Service who was here during the goldrush.

Today we will visit the Amber Brewing Co for beer tasting! So Jeffrey but don’t know if we can bring some home as we cross into Alaska on Thursday and I’m not ditchin’ the vodka or rum for beer. Will try to pick some up on the journey home.

We leave tomorrow for Dawson City…365 miles…some vodka will be had at the end of that day! Thursday we drive to Chicken, Alaska on unsaved road and a trip that should take a little over two hours will likely take us six! We take a ferry out of Dawson City over the Youkon River and sometimes the wait for the ferry is three hours!!!

It was quite chilly this morning but I’m not complaining! Can’t remember the last ime I wore a sweater and jeans in July. πŸ˜‰