all good things must pass

We are home now. As I write this we’ve been home two weeks. It’s been hard getting back in the swing, but I’m trying. My garden is 1/2 planted. It’s late but we will have some veggies. I found the soil at our new house is clay. My Mantis tiller (normally a ripper) just bounces on top. I plan on digging in a lot of organic matter to improve the soil’s workability.

Thoughts on the Alaskan trip now that the dust has settled? It was everything I dreamed of. The trip IS a “once in a lifetime” for most people. But I guess I’m lucky, I’ve been on a few once in a lifetime journeys.  Though I haven’t got around to figuring up the bill I know we spent more than I originally considered. Gas ran as high as $5.52 a gallon in Canada, except up there they sell in litres to confuse Americans, to $3.86 in the US.  We were  getting 8 mpg at first but after the new engine loosened up it moved to 11 mpg toward the end.

The RV had 14 miles on it when we started and 4574 when we turned it in for a total of 4560 driven. Before the trip I had google mapped our route at around 4200. I’m not sure where the extra miles came from.

Would I do it again? Probably not. There are people who take this trip multiple times. The trip sells out every year. One couple has driven an RV to Alaska for the Great Alaskan Holiday company every year for FIFTEEN YEARS STRAIGHT. This year in appreciation the president of the company presented them with a piece of the Alaskan Highway mounted on a plaque.   A rock? How about a tank of gas? Or 10 trips one free? A rock? Really?

I’d love to explore the Yukon better. An RV isn’t camping. You’re isolated, in a box.  A canoe trip is in order, spend time out on the land, not passing through at 50-60 miles per hour.

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In the plane, homeward bound.

Anchorage daytrip

Our flight home wasn’t until 8:30pm so we had the day in Anchorage. What to do?

While checking out a car for the day I saw one of the ladies behind the counter looked Filipino. Hehehehehehe, I asked her if there were any Filipino restaurants in Anchorage and she gave me directions to Kubo.Kubo is located in what apprears to be an international strip mall, along with Korean and other asian shops. They were just opening when we knocked on the door and hurriedly unlocked to let us in.

The restaurant is dark, with mood lighting. It had the look of a nightclub back in the Philippines. We saw two big screen TV’s for news, sports and karaoke and even a small stage at one end of the room.

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The waiter seated us and handed the menus. As we were looking them over we noticed a parade of Filipinos coming in to order from a hot table in the back. In the Philippines we call this “Turo Turo” (“Point, Point”) in the US it’s called cafeteria. We told the waiter we would rather order that way and went to the steam table.

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A savory selection of Philippine delights.

I had Humba and Sitao(Stewed pork belly and sauteed long beans), my wife had Fried Bangus and BBQ on a stick (Fried Milkfish and BBQ Pork.) Everything came with rice, of course.

The food was generously served, well seasoned and tasty, just like back home. And it was fun chatting with the other Filipinos who came in for lunch. I had no idea Anchorage had such a Pinoy population.

We later learned Kubo also has entertainment, besides the karaoke, with musical and comedy acts so the “nightclub” decor made sense.

We asked one customer what there was in Anchorage to see and do for the day and she answered “nothing except go to the mall”. So after lunch we drove down to 5th and C to check it out. on entering we saw a sign,

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Check out the small print in the corner, A SIMON MALL. Our trip started at Mall of America which was originally developed by Simon, and Simon is from our hometown. Coincidence?

Anyway we didn’t like the mall so to kill a few hours WE WENT TO THE MOVIES! Hangover III. Not good, should have been Start Trek.

Not all journeys run smooth…

We spent an hour or so organizing and packing our bags for our return flight home. It was a little hectic, trying to get everything, including a few souvenirs in our luggage, but in the end, we jammed it all back in. 

On our last night while backing up I blew it. I backed into a tree and dented the bumper. CRAPPOLA. When signing up for this trip I had debated whether to take the CDW (around $500.00) or not. I ended up taking it and was happy I did. Besides the dented bumper there were a couple other dings and dents to the RV I assumed they would charge to me. Oh well, as they say in the Philippines, “Bahala na.”

We pulled out for Anchorage early Tuesday morning. The Memorial day traffic had already driven back on Monday so we had the highway around Turnagain Arm mostly to ourselves. It was a pleasant early morning drive into Anchorage. 

We had until 10AM to turn in the RV so we had breakfast at McD and then filled the gas and propane at a Holiday station just down the street from Great Alaskan Holiday on Old Seward Highway. By 8AM we entered the lot, parked and unloaded our luggage. 

When we picked up the RV in Forest City they gave us a yellow sheet that we were supposed to list everything that needed repair. On it I had 4 items. A black paint rub from a protective post in a campground. A scratched step and bent generator exhaust pipe. A missing red cover on a rear running light, and worse of all the dented rear bumper. 

After walking around the RV with a GAH representative, and her reading me the riot act about “why didn’t we use a spotter?” and “how did this happen?” She said they would have to get estimates for the damage and that it would take some time. 

In the meantime several more RV’s from the Spring Adventure came in and it began to look like a traffic jam. It took about an hour for the service manager to look at our RV and get the estimates checked out. 

They wound up charging me $1000.00 for four separate incidents, $250 per incident per the CDW waiver. I guess it would have been less expensive to me, if the RV had slid off a cliff, ONE INCIDENT.

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The black rub. They also charged to replace vertical “L” trim.

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Missing red cover. They charged to replace the whole light AND the adjacent vertical “L” channel. 

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Bent exhaust pipe and scratched trim.

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Dented bumper. OUCH!

I’m still glad we did the trip, no complaints. We traveled through some breathtakingly beautiful country. And that’s what I prefer to remember.

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Portage Glacier

Portage Glacier is probably the most visited in Alaska. It’s a short bus trip through the tunnel from Whittier, where many cruise ships dock on their way up and down the coast. It also is only about 56 miles from Anchorage. In season, there is a small cruise boat that takes passengers around the lake and up to the snout on the glacier. As with all the other bodies of water we saw on this trip Portage Lake was frozen, with only a few open leads.

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We toured the Visitor Center, but didn’t get to experience their film on the Glacier. They had “technical difficulties” on our day. 

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Fe met Smokey.

We parked up the road and I cooked hamburgers for lunch. This picture is for a lady on Tripadvisor Cjnky I don’t know if GAH read your comments, and I can’t speak for the other “2013 Adventurers” but they supplied a metal spatula in our kitchen gear!

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the view from our dinette.

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After lunch Fe took a nap and I went walking.

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After my walk we found a pull out down the road next to the river to boondock for the night. Snow covered peaks, a swift flowing river and free camping, priceless.

Last days in the RV

We had one full day and night before turning in the RV. I wanted to have a memorable day, not just pass the time, waiting. We drove north out of Seward and turned left to have a look at Exit Glacier. The morning was cold and overcast, with drizzle. 

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The visitor center was closed. 

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It was a 5 mile hike to get closer to the tip of the glacier. Since I’ve hiked and climbed on ice before I took a pass on this one. 

As we left the valley the sun began to play on the mountains.

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Once inland the sky cleared and the beautiful snow covered mountains began to shine.

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We turned right into the Portage River valley and at the top saw Portage Glacier and it’s lake. 

There is a tunnel going under the mountain to Whittier, where many cruise ships dock.I decided to pay the $12 dollar toll and go through.

The tunnel is 13,300 feet long and is used by autos and rail. It’s the longest mixed used tunnel in North America.

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Claustrophobes beware.

Fe was worried a train would come in from the other side but traffic is directed by computer.

In Whittier we found a ship was docked with passengers waiting to catch a bus or wandering the town. 

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After having breakfast at the local cafe we returned through the tunnel to the Portage Glacier visitor center.

Back to Seward

Up until Holgate Glacier we had seen 4 humpback whales, just the hump, one showed it’s tail, no breaches, a couple of mountain goats, way high on a cliff, several puffins, one sea otter and many sea gulls. I haven’t included any pictures because in most instances the critters were so far away the pics are uninspiring. I may have better shots on Fe’s Canon but as I wrote in another post, it takes special software to open them on a computer, and I don’t have that on mine, sorry.

As we started back towards Seward it hit me, I was seasick. The crew had made a point earlier if anyone got sick to stay out of the head. They called it the “room of doom.” I went out on the aft deck and stared at the horizon. It seemed to help, at least it kept me from upchuck, but as far as I was concerned, we couldn’t get back soon enough.

The captain found a bear, feeding high on a cliff.  Between waves of nausea I managed to get a few shots.

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The black spot feeding on that cliff.

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A last look back at Aialik Bay.

Long story short, I made it back to the dock without heaving, but had to spend a couple hours in the RV just getting my head straight. Next time bring Dramamine.

Water, wildlife and all you can eat?

Sunday morning at 11am Fe and I boarded the “Glacier Express” from Major Marine Tours. We had signed up for a 5 hr wildlife and glacier tour.

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All seats were reserved, and the ship was packed. A tour group from Globus were also on board. At least Fe and I had two forward facing seats, on the main level and only a few steps from the open bow deck.

As we started to cruise out into Resurrection Bay Seward looked nice, even with all the RV’s lining the waterfront.

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The small boat harbor.

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These are not black and white pictures. The weather made them so.

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Can you see the mountain goats?

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Bear Glacier with it’s terminal moraine

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Holgate Glacier

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We cruised right up to Holgate and the crew used a fishing net to scoop a small piece of ice from the sea. They later served “Glacier Ice” cocktails at $4.25 a pop. I passed.

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While at the glacier an all you can eat buffet was served.  Fe and I didn’t sign up for it but we brought our own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hard boiled eggs.  I drank a Red Bull but didn’t eat.

By now the weather had deteriorated until it was windy, raining and cold. Once when I came out on deck to take a few pictures I said, “Wow, got to be tough!” and the on board interpretive ranger answered, “Welcome to Alaska, sun one minute and snow the next.”

Seward

The glorious mountain sunshine ended as we dropped down to Seward. Foggy, with the mountaintops cut off by low laying clouds Seward was “socked in”.

We drove to the Bay, where Seward provides inexpensive RV camping. ($17 dry $35 water and electricity.) It looked like there was no room at the Inn for late comers.

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I wasn’t even sure I wanted to join the party.

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Compounding the problem there was no way to physically reserve a spot, no posts to hang a tag, no host to register with. Campers self register and were expected to either leave their RV on the parking site, leave some chairs or something to let everyone know “this site is occupied.” There was also something about “claim jumping” other peoples site is rude.

I decided there had to be something better than RV city so we drove down the bay, but everything looked full.

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We decided to drive around town, have lunch and maybe a boondocking opportunity would turn up.  We came across a “Save On Parking”  private lot just south of the ” City Public Parking, South Lot” that let us park overnight for $15.00, which was 2 bucks cheaper than the waterfront. BINGO! 

Kenai

South of Fairbanks we ran into a lot of traffic. It was Saturday, Memorial Day weekend. Ans the Kenai Peninsula is called “Alaska’s Playground” so I expected the highway to be full. All we could do was “ooooohhh”, and “ahhhhhh” and take quick pics through the windshield. 

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Kenai is the diamond on Alaska’s ring finger.

Seward

The next morning was Memorial Day weekend. I wanted to see part of the Kenai Peninsula before turning in the RV and flying back home. So we were on the Parks Highway at 5am headed south. We had 367 miles to drive and if possible, I wanted to be in Seward for lunch.

Not far down the road Denali shone pink in the alpenglow.

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An even better panorama waited at the south view area.

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We passed by the road to Talkeetna, the town that services most Denali climbers. By mid morning we were in Wasilla where the half term Alaska governor and failed 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin and her family lives. I drove by the driveway that leads to the Palin compound and noticed it was guarded by security cameras.

We stopped for coffee and internet at the local McD’s. I didn’t catch a whiff of Sarah, Todd, Track. Bristol, Willow. Piper, Trig, toot or poot while in Wasilla and later learned Mrs Palin was actually in our home town to attend the big race and probably see if she could stir up some of the race car crowd. Trolling for super pac donations no doubt.

We gassed up in Anchorage,  $3.969 a gallon and continued south to the Turnagain Arm of Cooks Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula.