Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer

2014 Family Vacation: Days 1 and 2

This year’s family vacation is a trip to Alaska.  Once again, Candy has painstakingly planned this event.  Day one was a travel day from Baltimore through Detroit through Seattle to Anchorage.  In Detroit Metro airport we had a long layover, which enabled us to get a stack of Coney Island hotdogs at National Coney Island.  I was quite disappointed in not being able to find a Vernors ginger ale.

Candy and Tom at National Coney Island

Candy and Tom at National Coney Island

We also learned — almost by accident — that there is a USO-like organization operating in the Detroit airport, so we had a chance to sit on comfortable couches and have a drink in a quiet place while we waited for our flight.

Our first view of Alaska

Our first view of Alaska

After nearly 10.5 hours in the air and two layovers, we finally caught a glimpse of Alaska.  You can see a glacier under the wing along the southeastern coast of Alaska.  This was about 0100 East Coast time.

We are renting an RV for this trip.  We arrived after the rental agency, Great Alaska Highways, was closed.  The rental agency is used to having people arrive late, so they had the keys for our RV on the rear wheel and allowed us to sleep in it overnight.  The picture above was taken at about 2200 at night; Anchorage had 17.5 hours of daylight yesterday.  We arrived got to bed after midnight after we unpacked our suit cases into the various drawers, closets, and cubby holes.  The next morning we got our training on the RV and were on our way.

Waking up -- slowly

Waking up -- slowly

Our first stop was downtown anchorage for a trolley tour and brief history lesson.  We learned quite a bit about the great earthquake (the second largest in world history) and some other interesting facts.

The visitor's center in Anchorage

The visitor's center in Anchorage

Hotdogs and bratwurst from a street vendor in downtown Anchorage

Hotdogs and bratwurst from a street vendor in downtown Anchorage

I found this sign near the visitor’s center interesting.

Sam makes a friend

Sam makes a friend

After a couple of hours wandering around some gift shops, we headed out of town.  Our first stop was our proposed camp sight for the first night — just a couple miles outside Anchorage near Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.  We reserved our camp sight and then went to visit the Alaska Heritage Center.

A semi-subterranean native Alaskan dwelling

A semi-subterranean native Alaskan dwelling

The Alaska Heritage Center includes villages representing the 11 major cultural groups in Alaska.  Most had high school aged docents from those regions and cultures who described the traditional dwellings, tools, and other artifacts.  Except in the southeastern part of Alaska, which is classified as rainforest, most of the state is permafrost.  The native Alaskans built semi subterranean dwellings that protected them from the harsh temperatures.  The picture above shows the entrance to a reproduction of one such dwelling.

A young man shows off his skills at a native Alaskan athletic event

A young man shows off his skills at a native Alaskan athletic event

In addition there were a number of talks by the high school aged kids and some demonstrations of native dancing and sports.  The picture above shows one native athletic event in which the participant, starting from a standing position, jumps straight up and tries to kick a ball hanging in the air.  The demonstrator placed third in the recent native Alaskan athletic games.

We also took the time to do something really touristy at the Alaskan Heritage Center:  we got pulled in a training sled around a short course by a team of dogs that completed this year’s Iditarod competition.  Afterward we had a chance to see some of the dogs, who were amazingly friendly.  I expected them to be more wild.

A whale skeleton

A whale skeleton

After about four hours at the Alaska Heritage Center we went to Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson to stock up our camper with food for the next week or so.  Then we retired to our camp sight for a light dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup.  We were quite tired from the previous day’s traveling and late night, so we hit the sack early.

The temperature was between 55 and 65 all day.  The weather and scenery were terrific.

 


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