Sunday, August 29, 2010

Icy Point Strait and Juneau, Alaska

I assume every cruise line throws in one zinger for every cruise. In Central America, it was Santa Marta, Columbia, in Alaska it’s Icy Strait Point, Alaska. It is a great place to stay on the ship and read a good book! Check out a few on my reading list. Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons has to be one of the most beautiful books ever written. I thought his Cold Mountain was good but in Thirteen Moons he takes the writer's art to a new level. Take my word for it, if you are not an extreme kayaker or zip line fanatic read the book on the ship.
We’ll move on to the State Capital, Juneau, Alaska. Now here’s a state capital you can love; you can’t get there by car. Zero, zip, nada, no road in or out. Only by plane or by boat, and no, Sarah Palin does not live here. She had the Governor’s Mansion for a while, that would be the big white house with the green roof. Juneau has a population of about forty thousand folks and seems like a very inviting small city. The people are friendly and a lot of them come from the lower forty-eight. It is true that after you establish residency here the state does pay you to live here. The people I talked to said the payment was about two thousand dollars per year per person. It would vary depending on profits from the stock market and the Trans Alaskan Pipeline.
Juneau was the spot we decided it was time for whale watching. We headed for Aule bay and Jennifer and Scotty, our whale watching naturalist and boat captain. Scotty knew his job, within thirty minutes we were in the middle of a group of humpback whales and four or five orcas. The humpback’s would surface with their hallmark blowing of air and dive deep showing their fan tales. Jennifer said she had never seen so many at one time, and she has been the whale lady for 7 years. She and Scotty kept talking about just how much food had to be below us.. One whale named Flame swam toward our small boat and surfaced a few times. She then turned just as she was about to ram us and turned to our aft. She surfaced again and blew so hard we could see her dual blow holes, they were huge. Flame then flipped her great tail and was out of there.
Orcas, 5 or 6 at a time, would surface out of the water so that we could see their distinctive black and white markings. We also saw Bald Eagles and whatever type of seal they have here playing in the water close to our boat. Whale watching made us all hungry so we stopped at a local service station and purchased a bucket of fried chicken on the way back into town. Everybody had their fill and I got sick.
On the way back to Juneau we stopped at the Mendenhall Glacier State Park. I got out my trusty ruler and yes, confirmed that global warming is melting this thing. But it’s still one big ice cube. My Sweetheart and I were just astonished at the blue of the ice. A few days, before a few icebergs had calved and were floating in the river below. As we were waiting for our city bus, we stopped by the local salmon stream to see if we could see any of the red Sockeye salmon, as they had already done their spawning thing. There were a few, but wait, just on the other side of the stream, not 25 feet from us, was a momma black bear and her two cubs!!
Hopefully I can return in a few years and get another measurement.
Stay tuned for my next report on global warming. It was a beautiful day to see the glacier and some blue sky was peeking through. I learned that the locals called this “cloud failure”. In a couple of days we’ll visit another famous glacier but before that we make a stop in Skagway.

We wake up the next morning in beautiful downtown Skagway, population about nine hundred hardy souls. On course, there are five cruise ships in port so the population has swelled to about fifteen thousand. It must be like the old days when miners who were looking to make their fortune in the gold fields crowded the streets. Skagway was the traditional jumping off spot to travel to Dawson and the Yukon territory. There were plenty of suppliers and merchants to provide the miners with the twelve hundred pounds of supplies needed to spend a year in the gold fields. If they could move these supplies to over White Pass it was easier rafting down the Yukon River for the six hundred mile trip.
Coming into the Skagway port you notice the names of ships painted on the exposed granite on the mountains surrounding the ships. I first thought this was some kind of graffiti but learned that it is tradition that the first time a ship docked in Skagway they were allowed to write their ships name and it’s captain on these rocks. Speaking of rocks, there is a great little rock shop in the alley at fifth street, called the Back Alley Rock Shop. It’s easy to find, since the town is only four blocks wide and twenty-three blocks long. I got a nice little meteorite there from the 1947 fall in southeast Siberia, Russia.
I you notice my writing is improving I have to confess that my sweetheart is helping out. Besides correcting my numerous errors, her incites and observations add much needed realism to by writing.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ketchikan, Alaska

After leaving Vancouver it took about thirty-six hours to reach Ketchikan, Alaska. We traveled the Inside Passage as it snakes along the British Columbia coastline. In spots the passage appeared no more than one hundred yards wide and the search for wildlife along the islands kept us busy. Unfortunately no wildlife made an appearance but the scenery was breath taking. Cruising among these islands is a lot more interesting than the Caribbean. But then cruising azure blue seas versus islands shrouded in mist and rain are really two different worlds. This world seems more philosophical and life changing, not to be taken light heartedly.
We did reach Ketchikan, a city of about eight thousand souls that gets twenty feet of rain each year. When we arrived, along with three other cruise ships, the town’s population swelled to twenty thousand and we enjoyed, what the locals said, was one of the four sunny days they have each year. There is a river that flows through the heart of Ketchikan and built along one side on raised pilings is Creek Street. Up here creek is pronounced like something you get in your neck. Anyway Creek Street is the historic location of the bordellos in town with Dolly Arthur being the head Madame. After an illustrious career, Dolly died in 1975 owning half the real estate in town. I guess sin does pay!
As we were walking along the many shops I accidently let go of my Sweetheart’s hand. Yep, she had the gold card and was shopping at the jewelry stores!
The river is also a salmon stream and while we are visiting, the salmon are also. Swimming upstream to spawn, there are thousands and thousands, going back to the spot where they hatched approximately eight years ago. After this long journey almost beating themselves to death on the rocks and struggling the entire way, they die - after their thousands of eggs are deposited and fertilized. The locals say that for the next three months the town takes on quite an aroma. Fortunately the tourist season is nearly over. The town also has lots of totem poles and a totem pole museum, which I only recommend for those who are real deep thinkers. Now it’s off to Icy Strait Point, Alaska as we leave Chief Johnson’s totem pole behind.
On a sadder note – in our hurry to leave Texas and the 100 degree heat, we accidently left our good friend “Flat Stormy” behind. We have had friends call and tell us they could hear him screaming at the top of his lungs, “Wait, wait! I’ll be good, I promise Wait!” But we had already turned the corner and my Sweetheart had the radio on NPR too loud to hear him. Hopefully he won’t take this as an affront. Hopefully MM Kyle & Denny Crain can comfort and take care of him, as we have found he needs a lot of TLC.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vancouver, BC

Our Alaska adventure is about our entire family. We are traveling with my sweetheart’s mother, two sisters, brother-in-law and two daughters. We all decided it was time to see the Alyeska , that’s an Aleut word meaning the great land. Alaska is the largest state in the United States and became the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959. Alaska is the only non-contiguous U.S. state on continental North America; about 500 miles of British Columbia separate Alaska from Washington State. The capital city, Juneau is situated on the mainland of the North American continent, but is not connected by road to the rest of the North American highway system. Of course, Alaska can't be a real state unless it has a state beer and cell service -- it would help if they had some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least it needs a beer. Ok, no more Frank Zappa routines.
The Inside Passage is a coastal route for oceangoing vessels along a series of passages between the islands along Pacific coast of Alaska and British Columbia. Our cruise through this passage starts in Vancouver , Canada. Ships using the route can avoid some of the bad weather in the open ocean and may visit some of the many isolated communities along the route. The Inside Passage is heavily traveled by cruise ships, freighters, tugboat and fishing craft.
Before leaving we will spend a few days in Vancouver. Vancouver is a largest city located in Western Canada. It is named for Captain George Vancouver, who explored the area in the 1790s. Vancouver is a coastal city that is always ranked highly in worldwide listing of livable cities. When we arrived in Vancouver it was warm, I must have brought the Texas weather with me, but by the next day it was a little cooler. Sandy had a great time shopping at the Grandville Island Public Market and them we toured Stanley Park in the Afternoon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sedona, Arizona

As some of you know the purpose of the adventure was to pick a puppy in Dewey Arizona. After leaving the Petrified Forest it was a easy drive on to Flagstaff. I was shocked when I realized the Interstate signs were now pointing me to Los Angles. It was time to leave Route 66 and head south to Sedona. I was not prepared from the stunning beauty of that thirty mile drive down Oak Creek Canyon. The road is a switchback dropping into an array of red sandstone formations and giant cedars. The mountains appeared to glow in brilliant orange and red as the sun set in the west. We went past the famous Slide Rock where bathers were having a blast playing in the waters of Oak Creek. We decided to spent a day enjoying Sedona’s artistic community before heading on to Dewey. Sedona is known for Indian pottery, Navajo rugs, Indian jewelry and many fine art galleries. The galleries stay open late so you can stroll among them after enjoying one of the many fine restaurants. One interesting fact is that Sedona is named after the wife of the town’s first post Postmaster, Sedona Miller. The following morning we were to pick up the puppy in Dewey and after that I planned to head straight back to Texas with Kyle riding in my lap. Here we are going to leave the Route 66 trip, we’ve seen many new and interesting places. Monday, August 17, we leave for Vancouver, B.C. and on to an Alaska cruise. If my camera and the internet keeps working I will have updates on that next week.
About Kyle
Kyle’s registered name is “The Mighty Men of Kyle” and he is a Shetland Sheepdog. Kyle’s birthday is April 22, 2010. He was born is Arizona but he got to Texas as soon as he could. He is already walking
Walking with me in the mornings and Denny Crain, Our miniature wirehaired weenie dog enjoys his new playmate. He made his first trip to the vet yesterday an weight six pounds two ounces.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Petrified Forest National Park

The trip from Albuquerque is only 322 miles. We headed out early planning to visited the Petrified Forest National Park during the day. We decided on a late breakfast or early lunch so we pulled over in Holbrook Arizona. Don’t look for lunch at the Uranium Café, it’s closed. The Wigwam Motel is still open and even through it is an interesting historic landmark I was not tempted to spend the night. But I did take pictures. Only local food consisted of McDonald’s. So much for local color.
Petrified Forest National Park is along Route 66 between Holbrook and Navajo, Arizona. Petrified wood at the Petrified Forest National Park is also solid quartz. The wood weights 168 pounds per cubic foot and is so hard it can only be cut with a diamond tipped saw. Only about 10% of the prehistoric petrified forest is included within the National Park. Even though it is against the law to remove the rocks from the park, he rangers estimate they loose about one ton each month to theft.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We followed Interstate 40 the short distance to Albuquerque the next morning. It was only a two hour drive. Just before Albuquerque we again dropped off onto old Route 66 which gradually gave way to Tramway Blvd as it winds through the outskirts of Old Town. Or was I lost again? But my sweetheart yells Stop! so I know a Starbucks must be near. We stop for a mocha latte and enjoy the cool weather and the view of the mountains. This trip to Albuquerque I want to take the tram to the top of Sandia Peak. Years ago, while in the race horse business, I would dream of this ride. But like most people who live around race horses, I didn’t have the money for the ride to the top. This time I would make it.
The Sandia Peak Tramway is the world's longest passenger Double Reversible Passenger Aerial Tramway. It also has the world's third longest single span. It stretches from the Northeast edge of Albuquerque to the crestline of the Sandia Mountains. The total length of the Tramway is 2.7 miles and reaches an elevation of 10,378 feet. The Sandia Mountains are a mountain range located immediately to the east of the city. Sandía means watermelon in Spanish and is popularly believed to be a reference to the reddish color of the mountains at sunset. It was lunch time, so we enjoyed the High Finance Café at the top of Sandia Peak. Good food, great view. But so much for the high altitude, my sweetheart says “shopping"
Old Town, Albuquerque follows the traditional Spanish pattern of a central plaza and church surrounded by homes and businesses. We strolled through the plaza shopped in the market square. I got a small pottery bowl by someone whose grandmother was call Maria, Maria had some her pottery there but it was out of my price range. We stayed at one of the historic down town hotels; Hotel Blue. It reminded me of some guys standing on a balcony pointing at where James Earl Ray was.

Like New Orleans, Old Town Albuquerque has romantic hidden patios, winding brick paths, gardens and wrought iron benches that beckon you to stop, have a glass of wine and watch the world go by. The light rain that afternoon just made the New Mexico sunset that much prettier.