The Final Frontier (An Alaska Trip Report - UPDATED 11/22)

pkondz

Brace yourself for immediate disintegration
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
You're barely even trying.
Am too.
Yes! Just like the "free" dining at Disney!
::yes::
We came around a bend in the road, and saw the moose standing in the middle of the road up ahead. We had enough time to say, "Hey, look! A moose!" and I immediately hit the brakes to slow down. Then she spotted us and jogged off into the woods before we reached her
I like my version better.
Totally fair. I will eat one every once in a while, say "meh", and then go back for more sausage and pepperoni.
Not a pepperoni fan. Well... 95% of pepperoni anyways. But sausage? You bet.
 

GoofyIsAsGoofyDoes

If it’s still here tomorrow… I may ignore it again
Joined
Jan 20, 2007
Longtime readers know that any chance we get (i.e. the price is right), we will stay in an Embassy Suites hotel
They're high on my list as well.

The little trip we took over the past holiday weekend re-reminded me that it is generally better to pay that little bit extra for a reliable hotel. The one I chose this last time was fine... I suppose... but a better option would have been more satisfying. That said, I most certainly took advantage of the cash savings on that account to splurge on a couple of belated anniversary dinners (including a dessert-before-dinner stop at a place that serves up ice-cream stuffed donuts) all of which pretty much made up for it.


I particularly liked the whale-themed fountain in the lobby.
Pretty much anything that involves water in motion is an upgrade.
That is a particularly nice bit of theming too.
Actually, the whole lobby looks to be rather well appointed


With that much fat and cholesterol, it’s really nothing a grown man needs
Sure it is!
Don't believe the propaganda, it ain't the fat that's the problem.
It's the bread that gets ya'.


But then we checked the weather.
A factor that has had a major effect on many of our fork in the road decisions.


we had scrapped our relaxing plans for the day so we could drive a total of 270 miles just to see a mountain.
I'd have done it.
Heck, we did a one day 420 mile round trip to see the R&R Hall of Fame.
Cool as that was, I'd think seeing Denali would likely be more memorable.


(One enterprising shop also offered shirts advertising membership in The 70% Club, for those who didn’t get to see a blessed thing.)
Gott'a love that kind of enterprising spirit.


Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmmmm...
That's impressive.


The overlook seemed like as good a place as any to eat our PB&J sandwiches for lunch. We sat and enjoyed the warm, beautiful weather and the perfect scenic backdrop. I think scenery like this does make PB&J taste up to 5% better.
Possibly as much as 6% on up to nearly 6.1438%


We had a nice hour or so at the viewpoint. And then we turned around and drove all the way back to Anchorage.
Well, we turned around and went all the wat back to Dayton, so similar level of reduced expectation.
But I think Alaska probably beats out Ohio on the adventure scale.
(depending on what it is you're there to see of course )


We ended up choosing this option and having a bit of a pizza smorgasbord.
I don't see that as a bad choice at all.
Options are generally a good thing.


Dave went with his favorite, the Hawaiian.
Now, I know of at least one FB group that would read that and basically fly of into conniptions. :rolleyes:
(and then devolve into an argument about fork usage)

Myself...
I'd have a slice along with the rest of what's on the table.
My Missus loves the stuff so it has it's place in the rotation.


Between the scenery and the amount of brewpubs per capita, it’s fair to wonder if Alaska is actually heaven.
Or if the whole state is basically operating while perpetually snockered.

Not that that's bad thing either...
the condition worked out fairly well for some folks that were writing up some major governing documents back in our history.


Spoiler alert: you’ll be seeing a lot of brewpubs in this TR.
Dang...
Ya' done spoilt the drama.

Brew houses have become one of the safest bets for a meal on the road in the past few years.
 

Captain_Oblivious

DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
:welcome: Rob! Glad you hopped on board.

They're high on my list as well.

The little trip we took over the past holiday weekend re-reminded me that it is generally better to pay that little bit extra for a reliable hotel. The one I chose this last time was fine... I suppose... but a better option would have been more satisfying. That said, I most certainly took advantage of the cash savings on that account to splurge on a couple of belated anniversary dinners (including a dessert-before-dinner stop at a place that serves up ice-cream stuffed donuts) all of which pretty much made up for it.
It's always a trade-off. There have been plenty of instances where the Embassy Suites was way out of my price range. But if I can swing it, it's not a hard call at all.

Pretty much anything that involves water in motion is an upgrade.
That is a particularly nice bit of theming too.
Actually, the whole lobby looks to be rather well appointed
Yeah, it was very nice. I agree on the water-in-motion stance, too.

Sure it is!
Don't believe the propaganda, it ain't the fat that's the problem.
It's the bread that gets ya'.
Depends. For weight and diabetes, sure. The carbs are a killer. But the fat and cholesterol attack the arteries.

And I love all of it!

A factor that has had a major effect on many of our fork in the road decisions.
It does tend to have quite the impact on our plans.

I'd have done it.
Heck, we did a one day 420 mile round trip to see the R&R Hall of Fame.
Cool as that was, I'd think seeing Denali would likely be more memorable.
I think I would have greatly regretted it if I'd had the chance to see the mountain and not taken it.

Gott'a love that kind of enterprising spirit.
If there's a buck to be made...

Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmmmm...
That's impressive.
::yes::

Possibly as much as 6% on up to nearly 6.1438%
I could be convinced, sure. Maybe my math was off.

Well, we turned around and went all the wat back to Dayton, so similar level of reduced expectation.
But I think Alaska probably beats out Ohio on the adventure scale.
(depending on what it is you're there to see of course )
Having been to both places now....

Yes, Alaska > Ohio. Apologies to anyone in Ohio.

I don't see that as a bad choice at all.
Options are generally a good thing.
Nothing wrong with a pizza smorgasbord.

Now, I know of at least one FB group that would read that and basically fly of into conniptions. :rolleyes:
(and then devolve into an argument about fork usage)

Myself...
I'd have a slice along with the rest of what's on the table.
My Missus loves the stuff so it has it's place in the rotation.
Yeah...imagine if we had used forks! The horror!

There's a reason I don't interact much with the FB group.

Or if the whole state is basically operating while perpetually snockered.

Not that that's bad thing either...
the condition worked out fairly well for some folks that were writing up some major governing documents back in our history.
I'm sure they're at least much happier.

Dang...
Ya' done spoilt the drama.

Brew houses have become one of the safest bets for a meal on the road in the past few years.
Totally agree. I'll seek them out whenever I can. It helps that I'm the one picking up the check.
 

Captain_Oblivious

DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Chapter 4: The Boring One

On any road trip, there are usually a few unavoidable long drives. It’s the nature of the beast, especially in a large state such as Alaska. My planning strategy is typically to try and put the longer drives closer to the beginning of the vacation, when we are fresher and have more energy and aren’t sick of being cooped up together in a van as much as we are by the end.

In that vein, the idea was to get our two longest drives out of the way over the next 2 days of the trip. On Friday, we had our omelettes once again for breakfast and then drove away from Anchorage, heading east on the Glenn Highway (state route 1).

There are only maybe ten major “highways” in Alaska, and most of them are simple two-lane roads traversing hundreds of miles between the larger ports and cities. The only multi-lane highways surround Anchorage and Fairbanks, with the exception of the occasional passing lanes built into long uphill slopes along the way. As a result, you don’t cover as much ground as quickly as you would using the U.S. interstate highway system. Instead, you’re at the mercy of the road conditions (frost heaves make the word “flat” disappear from your vocabulary) and traffic, which means you’re often stuck behind an RV or large trucks going 35 mph uphill. For the most part, drivers seemed to understand when they were holding up traffic and would pull to the side or get over when the passing lanes appeared, but every once in a while, we’d find some putz who was blissfully ignorant of the mounting line of cars behind him. As always, Julie and the kids were amazed and grateful for the kind, graceful patience I displayed when encountering these folks along the way.

Thankfully, the drive east wasn’t nearly as boring as I’d feared it would be. The reason for that was the constant presence of the Chugach Mountains out the right side of the van, which meant we nearly always had some beautiful scenery. We spotted another moose next to the road when rounding a bend, just casually grazing nearby. At milepost 101, we stopped to stretch our legs at the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site.

You’ll never believe this, but there’s an overlook at this site where you can get a view of the Matanuska Glacier.



Yeah….it’s pretty.



There’s a short hike you can take up the slope to the left of the overlook that leads to…well, a few more overlooks. The view doesn’t change all that much, but it got us out of the car and moving, so I felt like it was a worthy diversion.



And then, after a short break to make PB&J sandwiches, we were right back in the car.

We made it to the end of the Glenn Highway, where it intersects with the Richardson Highway (Route 4) in a town called Glenallen. “Town” might be overstating it a bit. There’s one gas station on the corner at the intersection, which proudly proclaims itself to be “The Hub of Alaska”. Let it be known that the Hub of Alaska has one bathroom and a very crappy gift shop. But I’m pretty sure we were thankful the bathroom was there.

We turned south on the Richardson Highway. I’d hoped to catch a glimpse of the Wrangell Mountains off further to the east, but it was overcast and nothing was viewable that afternoon. We had plenty of time to get to the town of Valdez, where we would be staying for the night. I debated taking a side trip to fill the day and ultimately we decided to go for it. We turned left onto Route 10, where I was pretty sure the Liberty Falls State Recreation Site was only about 15 miles down the road or so. An easy side trip.

Except we reached milepost 15 and…there was nothing there. Nothing at 16, either. Or 17. Or 18.

Milepost 23.5, however, was a winner! So I was 8.5 miles off. Sue me. The important thing is, we had another reason to get out of the van and stretch our legs.





Once again, we made use of the available toilet facilities. You do this whenever you have the opportunity on long road trips. And yes, that’s the voice of experience talking.

As they like to do so often, the big kids took the opportunity to torture their younger brother by trying to throw him off the bridge. As you can see, I was greatly distressed by this, as I stood to the side and pondered why it is that you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but never just whelmed.



Whatever. Older siblings are supposed to tease the younger ones. This is the way.





We backtracked all the way to the Richardson Highway and then continued south towards Valdez, along a road that get ever-increasingly windy as we climbed into the Chugach Mountain range. It was probably a gorgeous, jaw-dropping drive. I mean, it was supposed to be, according to all of the guidebooks and maps I’d studied prior to coming. But…



Win some, lose some.

I am happy to report that Alaska is not exempt from the Official National Waterfall Lack of Creativity In Naming Conventions, as we found both a Bridal Veil Falls:



And a Horsetail Falls:



I bet they spent days coming up with those names.

We made it over the mountain pass and descended the other side, into the rainy, overcast town of Valdez. Valdez is supposed to be one of the prettiest towns in all of Alaska (which is saying something), but we were foiled by the weather in this case. This is the only photo we took of the scenery, and it was the best the view ever got.



Here’s a link to some images of what the town is supposed to look like.

We quickly rationalized that if we had to choose between seeing Valdez in all its glory or the sights we’d already seen at Glacier Bay and Denali, we’d gladly choose the latter.

We stayed in the Best Western in town, and it was…adequate. Certainly a major step down from the Embassy Suites. On the plus side, we were able to walk to the main drag in town from there.

Our choice for dinner was a little shack that was really no more than a glorified food truck called The Potato. It has its roots in the town of McCarthy, Alaska, deep in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, where it started as a restaurant called the Roadside Potatohead (a much better name, if you ask me).

(Even if you didn’t ask me, it’s still a better name.)



I believe The Potato started life as a food truck and the second location of the Roadside Potatohead until they were able to secure this lot and put up a more permanent structure. They specialize in sandwiches and their own hand-cut curly french fries which I assume gave the place its name.

It was Julie’s turn to get a breakfast sandwich for dinner, as she got sausage, egg, tomato and cheese on an english muffin. For the record, this was better than the breakfast sandwich from the Juneau airport.



Sarah and Scott split an order of “Spudniks”, which they describe this way: “think of biscuits and gravy, with fries instead of biscuits”.



With the cheese on top, I felt like it was a distant cousin of poutine. Very healthy, I’m sure.

I broke my cardinal rule of travel food, which is to never order a Philly cheese steak outside of the greater Philadelphia area, because it’s usually nothing but a heaping plate of disappointment.



But in my defense, this was not called a Philly cheese steak. It was called a Chugach cheese steak. And it was really good!

Here are the world-famous Potatohead french fries.



They were very tasty as well. I don’t think we left anything in the basket. Everyone gave the place an enthusiastic thumbs-up, meaning we were giving out a Drooling Homer award for the second night in a row.



Although we were eating outside on the picnic benches, it was comforting to know we were still protected. Run away!



After all, you never know when strange sea creatures will show up.



Coming Up Next: another national park, another long drive, and then the most magical (non-Disney affiliated) place on Earth.
 

pkondz

Brace yourself for immediate disintegration
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
My planning strategy is typically to try and put the longer drives closer to the beginning of the vacation,
I usually drive solo, but try to do this as well.
I'm currently looking at a "quick" two day road trip where the first day will be 14 hours and the 2nd 8 hours.
On Friday, we had our omelettes once again for breakfast
Accompanied by further grumblings?
(frost heaves make the word “flat” disappear from your vocabulary)
Oh, Lord. I so get this. Spent 3.5 years driving on bad frost heaved road about once a month.
and traffic, which means you’re often stuck behind an RV or large trucks going 35 mph uphill.
Ugh.
every once in a while, we’d find some putz who was blissfully ignorant of the mounting line of cars behind him.
:sad2:
Never ceases to amaze me how some people can be that clueless.
As always, Julie and the kids were amazed and grateful for the kind, graceful patience I displayed when encountering these folks along the way.
But of course. We would expect nothing less.
You’ll never believe this, but there’s an overlook at this site where you can get a view of the Matanuska Glacier.
No way! Who'd have thought it?
You already said it, but... wow, that's pretty. ::yes::
The previous photo is clearer, but I do like this one with the bridge in the foreground for added interest.
And then, after a short break to make PB&J sandwiches
There it is! :dogdance:
There’s one gas station on the corner at the intersection, which proudly proclaims itself to be “The Hub of Alaska”.
If that's the "Hub"... I'd hate to see the hole.
I was pretty sure the Liberty Falls State Recreation Site was only about 15 miles down the road or so. An easy side trip.

Except we reached milepost 15 and…there was nothing there. Nothing at 16, either. Or 17. Or 18.
Ruh, roh...
Worth the detour. Then again, I love stuff like this.
As they like to do so often, the big kids took the opportunity to torture their younger brother by trying to throw him off the bridge.
Makes for more room in the van. Wise move.
As you can see, I was greatly distressed by this, as I stood to the side and pondered why it is that you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but never just whelmed.
Whell okay then.
Nice shot. Too bad someone had to take the photo. Times like that you need a tripod (or something to hold the camera) and a timer.
It was probably a gorgeous, jaw-dropping drive. I mean, it was supposed to be, according to all of the guidebooks and maps I’d studied prior to coming. But…
Dang. And yet... Considering your previous good fortune with the weather...
we found both a Bridal Veil Falls:

And a Horsetail Falls:
Of course you did. There's one every few feet where there are mountains/hills present.
We quickly rationalized that if we had to choose between seeing Valdez in all its glory or the sights we’d already seen at Glacier Bay and Denali, we’d gladly choose the latter.
::yes:: That's what I was thinking when you talked about the poor visibility earlier.
Our choice for dinner was a little shack that was really no more than a glorified food truck called The Potato. It has its roots in the town of McCarthy
Roots... I see what you did there.
it started as a restaurant called the Roadside Potatohead (a much better name, if you ask me).
::yes::
Sarah and Scott split an order of “Spudniks”, which they describe this way: “think of biscuits and gravy, with fries instead of biscuits”.

With the cheese on top, I felt like it was a distant cousin of poutine. Very healthy, I’m sure.
Americanized poutine. I'd definitely try it.
But in my defense, this was not called a Philly cheese steak. It was called a Chugach cheese steak. And it was really good!
604004
Here are the world-famous Potatohead french fries.
Those look really good. (And considering they were completely consumed... apparently were good.)
:lmao:
I presume you tactfully didn't tell Julie what was written on the front. :rolleyes1
 
  • Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    I usually drive solo, but try to do this as well.
    I'm currently looking at a "quick" two day road trip where the first day will be 14 hours and the 2nd 8 hours.
    14! That's a very long day. Definitely best to get that kind of drive over with early. I usually enjoy driving, but by the end of a couple weeks I can get worn down.

    Accompanied by further grumblings?
    Different chef that morning. That seems a bit ominous.

    Oh, Lord. I so get this. Spent 3.5 years driving on bad frost heaved road about once a month.
    I think we might have even gotten airborne a couple of times.

    :sad2:
    Never ceases to amaze me how some people can be that clueless.
    It's one of my pet peeves. Like the people who camp out in the left lane, matching the speed of the people in the right lane. I don't care if you want to drive slowly, but do it in the proper lane.

    But of course. We would expect nothing less.
    It's how I roll. :rolleyes1

    No way! Who'd have thought it?
    Hope you were sitting down when I hit you with that one.

    You already said it, but... wow, that's pretty. ::yes::
    ::yes::

    The previous photo is clearer, but I do like this one with the bridge in the foreground for added interest.
    That's why I posted both, just to give some different perspective. The first was from the phone, the second from the "real" camera.

    If that's the "Hub"... I'd hate to see the hole.
    That would indeed be a dark, dark place.

    Worth the detour. Then again, I love stuff like this.
    I thought so. Good place to get out of the car, and it was a nice little side trip.

    Makes for more room in the van. Wise move.
    It's survival of the fittest out there!

    Whell okay then.
    :rolleyes:

    Nice shot. Too bad someone had to take the photo. Times like that you need a tripod (or something to hold the camera) and a timer.
    Yeah, it would have been nice. We've packed the tripod on other vacations, but we were really trying to cut down for this one. So it didn't make the trip.

    Dang. And yet... Considering your previous good fortune with the weather...
    Can't win 'em all.

    Of course you did. There's one every few feet where there are mountains/hills present.

    I can't believe after all these years we haven't been able to come up with more than two names for waterfalls.

    ::yes:: That's what I was thinking when you talked about the poor visibility earlier.
    I don't have any regrets. Glacier Bay was so spectacular, and Denali was such a rare opportunity.

    Roots... I see what you did there.
    :rolleyes1

    I wish I was that clever.

    Americanized poutine. I'd definitely try it.
    My kids definitely seemed to be happy with their choice.

    Thank goodness, because it was tasty.

    Those look really good. (And considering they were completely consumed... apparently were good.)
    ::yes::

    I presume you tactfully didn't tell Julie what was written on the front. :rolleyes1
    She went in with eyes wide open. It's helpful when a 7-year-old is begging her to take the photo with him.
     

    pkondz

    Brace yourself for immediate disintegration
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2007
    14! That's a very long day. Definitely best to get that kind of drive over with early. I usually enjoy driving, but by the end of a couple weeks I can get worn down.
    Yeah, I get that. It does get a wee bit old after a while.
    Different chef that morning. That seems a bit ominous.
    :laughing: Uh, oh!
    I think we might have even gotten airborne a couple of times.
    Been there, flew over that.
    It's one of my pet peeves. Like the people who camp out in the left lane, matching the speed of the people in the right lane. I don't care if you want to drive slowly, but do it in the proper lane.
    YES!!!
    Hope you were sitting down when I hit you with that one.
    Fell outta my chair.
    It's survival of the fittest out there!
    ::yes::
    Yeah, it would have been nice. We've packed the tripod on other vacations, but we were really trying to cut down for this one. So it didn't make the trip.
    Get it. A tripod is a space sucker for sure. Especially in a suitcase.
    I can't believe after all these years we haven't been able to come up with more than two names for waterfalls.
    Sure we have! There's... uh... hang on... um...
     

    franandaj

    I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
    Joined
    Nov 15, 2009
    On any road trip, there are usually a few unavoidable long drives. It’s the nature of the beast, especially in a large state such as Alaska.
    Yeah, sometimes there's just no good place to stop, sounds like you were in that position.

    In that vein, the idea was to get our two longest drives out of the way over the next 2 days of the trip. On Friday, we had our omelettes once again for breakfast and then drove away from Anchorage, heading east on the Glenn Highway (state route 1).
    I looked up this drive on a map and it sure was long!

    you’re often stuck behind an RV or large trucks going 35 mph uphill.
    :sad2: Been there done that.

    every once in a while, we’d find some putz who was blissfully ignorant of the mounting line of cars behind him.
    :furious: These people who are completely oblivious make me very angry.

    “Town” might be overstating it a bit. There’s one gas station on the corner at the intersection, which proudly proclaims itself to be “The Hub of Alaska”. Let it be known that the Hub of Alaska has one bathroom and a very crappy gift shop. But I’m pretty sure we were thankful the bathroom was there.
    Well at least you had access to a bathroom.....

    I was pretty sure the Liberty Falls State Recreation Site was only about 15 miles down the road or so. An easy side trip.

    Except we reached milepost 15 and…there was nothing there. Nothing at 16, either. Or 17. Or 18.

    Milepost 23.5, however, was a winner! So I was 8.5 miles off. Sue me. The important thing is, we had another reason to get out of the van and stretch our legs.
    I would have been sweating by mile 20.

    As they like to do so often, the big kids took the opportunity to torture their younger brother by trying to throw him off the bridge.
    Of course they did.

    As you can see, I was greatly distressed by this, as I stood to the side and pondered why it is that you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but never just whelmed.
    That's deep dude....

    We backtracked all the way to the Richardson Highway and then continued south towards Valdez,
    So did that add about an hour to your trip?

    Our choice for dinner was a little shack that was really no more than a glorified food truck called The Potato.
    I remember seeing these pics on FB!

    Sarah and Scott split an order of “Spudniks”, which they describe this way: “think of biscuits and gravy, with fries instead of biscuits”.
    That sounds like it could be tasty!

    I broke my cardinal rule of travel food, which is to never order a Philly cheese steak outside of the greater Philadelphia area, because it’s usually nothing but a heaping plate of disappointment.



    But in my defense, this was not called a Philly cheese steak. It was called a Chugach cheese steak. And it was really good!
    I like your choice better.

    Here are the world-famous Potatohead french fries.
    Those look very tasty!

    Coming Up Next: another national park, another long drive, and then the most magical (non-Disney affiliated) place on Earth.
    Lemme guess looking at the map, you're driving to Fairbanks?
     

    GoofyIsAsGoofyDoes

    If it’s still here tomorrow… I may ignore it again
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2007
    Let it be known that the Hub of Alaska has one bathroom and a very crappy gift shop.
    And so it is now written.

    Basically it does live up to its clame as a hub...
    It's somewhere to stick the shaft.


    But I’m pretty sure we were thankful the bathroom was there.
    Goes without sayin'...

    Trees don't always provide quite enough cover.
    And, the river and creek water was likely just a might too chilly to consider wading.


    My planning strategy is typically to try and put the longer drives closer to the beginning of the vacation, when we are fresher and have more energy and aren’t sick of being cooped up together in a van as much as we are by the end.
    This rule really needs to be elevated to the level of a commandment.
    Breaking it is almost universally a sinful act.

    Certainly a foolish one.



    why it is that you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but never just whelmed.
    42


    Yeah, yeah yeah...

    But if they don't actually go through with it every once and a while, just how is the young'en ever going to learn not to trust them?





    Win some, lose some.
    Reminds me of our first time arriving at Castaway Cay...
    The sky looked just like that expanse of misty nothingness and we got no closer to docking the ship that day then you did to the mountains that you can't see in the distance there.

    Actually, I've made very few long drives (vacation of otherwise) that didn't include at least one day's worth of precisely that scenery.


    I am happy to report that Alaska is not exempt from the Official National Waterfall Lack of Creativity In Naming Conventions, as we found both a Bridal Veil Falls:

    And a Horsetail Falls:

    I bet they spent days coming up with those names.
    Yeah, they don't live up to either the moniker or back-story level of something like say, "Caesar's Head"...
    but it's more creative then just naming them for some local land baron or politician.


    Roadside Potatohead (a much better name, if you ask me).
    Yes, yes it is.
    Shame that they simplified it.



    “think of biscuits and gravy, with fries instead of biscuits”.

    With the cheese on top, I felt like it was a distant cousin of poutine.
    Exactly what it looks like.
    And exactly the lineage I'd apply to it as well.


    Very healthy, I’m sure.
    All vacation dining is healthy.
    Not one nibble of road food contains any calories, cholesterol or sodium.

    Never did...
    Never will...



    I read that somewhere, ya' know.


    this was not called a Philly cheese steak. It was called a Chugach cheese steak.
    Points for not pretending to be the "real thing"
    Extra points for actually being reasonably tasty.

    That counts as a win.


    Although we were eating outside on the picnic benches, it was comforting to know we were still protected. Run away!
    I told you...
    I told you!!!


    Good thing no one soiled their armor.


    .
     
  • Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Yeah, I get that. It does get a wee bit old after a while.
    The more you're stuck in one position, the more your body rebels.

    Been there, flew over that.
    It does make for an exciting drive!

    I take it you have some feelings about this.

    Get it. A tripod is a space sucker for sure. Especially in a suitcase.
    ::yes::

    Sure we have! There's... uh... hang on... um...
    Schweitzer Falls?
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Yeah, sometimes there's just no good place to stop, sounds like you were in that position.
    You really need to make sure you have a full tank of gas whenever you leave on a trip in Alaska.

    I looked up this drive on a map and it sure was long!
    Don't worry, the next one will be longer!

    :sad2: Been there done that.
    :furious: These people who are completely oblivious make me very angry.
    So irritating. And infuriating.

    Well at least you had access to a bathroom.....
    Thank goodness for small blessings!

    I would have been sweating by mile 20.
    I was getting a bit nervous. The commentary from the peanut gallery wasn't helping, either.

    Of course they did.
    It's what older siblings do.

    That's deep dude....
    Just call me Confucius.

    So did that add about an hour to your trip?
    Including the stop, yeah, that's about right.

    I remember seeing these pics on FB!
    ::yes::

    That sounds like it could be tasty!
    They seemed to like it.

    I like your choice better.
    Me too!

    Those look very tasty!
    I kind of wished the basket was bigger.

    Lemme guess looking at the map, you're driving to Fairbanks?
    Hey, good guess!
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    And so it is now written.

    Basically it does live up to its clame as a hub...
    It's somewhere to stick the shaft.
    :scared:

    Goes without sayin'...

    Trees don't always provide quite enough cover.
    And, the river and creek water was likely just a might too chilly to consider wading.
    We can be quite creative when we need to be, though.

    This rule really needs to be elevated to the level of a commandment.
    Breaking it is almost universally a sinful act.

    Certainly a foolish one.
    It's a lesson I've learned the hard way.

    Ah, yes. That explains it.

    Yeah, yeah yeah...

    But if they don't actually go through with it every once and a while, just how is the young'en ever going to learn not to trust them?
    It's really a sacred duty.

    Reminds me of our first time arriving at Castaway Cay...
    The sky looked just like that expanse of misty nothingness and we got no closer to docking the ship that day then you did to the mountains that you can't see in the distance there.

    Actually, I've made very few long drives (vacation of otherwise) that didn't include at least one day's worth of precisely that scenery.
    This also recalls my first glimpse of Mount Rainier. Just heavenly!

    Yeah, they don't live up to either the moniker or back-story level of something like say, "Caesar's Head"...
    but it's more creative then just naming them for some local land baron or politician.
    You could always name one for Dr. Albert Falls.

    Yes, yes it is.
    Shame that they simplified it.
    Sigh...

    Exactly what it looks like.
    And exactly the lineage I'd apply to it as well.
    The kids seemed to enjoy it.

    All vacation dining is healthy.
    Not one nibble of road food contains any calories, cholesterol or sodium.

    Never did...
    Never will...



    I read that somewhere, ya' know.
    I know the calories don't count. That's been our motto.

    Points for not pretending to be the "real thing"
    Extra points for actually being reasonably tasty.

    That counts as a win.
    I'd definitely order it again. Good stuff.

    I told you...
    I told you!!!


    Good thing no one soiled their armor.
    Tried to warn ye, about the sharp pointy teeth!
     

    Steppesister

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 27, 2013
    My planning strategy is typically to try and put the longer drives closer to the beginning of the vacation, when we are fresher and have more energy and aren’t sick of being cooped up together in a van as much as we are by the end.
    A good strategy but requires some pro-planning and cooperative sightseeing destinations.
    As always, Julie and the kids were amazed and grateful for the kind, graceful patience I displayed when encountering these folks along the way.
    Well, yes. Of course! I'm sure it was apparent.
    here’s a short hike you can take up the slope to the left of the overlook that leads to…well, a few more overlooks. The view doesn’t change all that much, but it got us out of the car and moving, so I felt like it was a worthy diversion.
    Every 100 miles or so was our sweet spot. And about what coffee would allow- IYKWIM.
    Let it be known that the Hub of Alaska has one bathroom and a very crappy gift shop.
    You insinuate they are one and the same.
    Love this photo of you two! Perfect!

    Once again, we made use of the available toilet facilities. You do this whenever you have the opportunity on long road trips. And yes, that’s the voice of experience talking.
    YES!! And them sometimes you "get creative".
    Win some, lose some.
    OH how I know this. Travel is always a "mixed bag" I told Zach on more than one occasion last week(s).
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    A good strategy but requires some pro-planning and cooperative sightseeing destinations.
    Always. But 40% of the time, it works every time.

    Well, yes. Of course! I'm sure it was apparent.
    Always. I am a model of grace under pressure.

    Every 100 miles or so was our sweet spot. And about what coffee would allow- IYKWIM.
    Well, it's not like we're going to skip the coffee here.

    You insinuate they are one and the same.
    You're not far off.

    Love this photo of you two! Perfect!
    Hey, thanks!

    YES!! And them sometimes you "get creative".
    Being a guy, that happens quite often.

    OH how I know this. Travel is always a "mixed bag" I told Zach on more than one occasion last week(s).
    We always have to accept the things we can't control.
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Chapter 5: The Second Most Magical Place On Earth

    We discovered that Valdez wasn’t the most friendly of towns. It’s largely populated by fishermen, and I guess I’d be grumpy too if I was covered in fish guts and their smell all day long. Julie went out for an early morning jog and said she got the stinkeye from several residents along the way. She tried to say hi or wave to passers-by, but only one made any acknowledgement.

    Our reputation must have preceded us.

    We got the hint and packed up the van, heading out just after breakfast at the hotel. Knowing we had a long drive ahead of us, I made sure to fill up the gas tank at a station on the edge of town. The mountain pass was still fairly cloudy as we climbed, but on the other side it appeared that we had more visibility, so we had hope that the scenery would be better.

    After driving for about an hour or so, we reached a pull-off where we could get a view of the Wrangell Mountains, part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. On the prior day, they’d been completely covered in clouds.

    Today…the Good Lord was smiling on us once again.





    The mountain on the left is Mount Drum, which stands 12,010 feet (3661 m) high. Just to the right of that is Mount Zanetti, which is 13,009 ft (3965 m). And the sloping, rounded mountain on the far right is Mount Wrangell, which is the tallest of the three at 14,163 ft (4317 m). And if you’re scratching your head and wondering how that mountain on the right could possibly be the tallest of the three, just do yourself a favor and Google the term “forced perspective”. Mount Drum is much closer to the overlook than the other two peaks.



    Once again, we were grateful that we got to see the mountain peaks completely clear. We were really hitting the tourist lottery here.



    Just a bit further up the road was the visitor center for the national park, located near the town of Copper Center. There weren’t too many visitors at this time of the morning. Maybe one other family. The Alaska national parks are routinely some of the least-visited parks in the American system.



    The main visitor center was closed due to COVID (they had an information window open), but the theater was open so we could watch a 15-minute park video. Because when there’s a pandemic, you don’t want people circulating and looking at exhibits, but it’s fine to sit everyone in rows close together in a dark room.

    Again, we were thankful that there was hardly anyone there.

    We got a nice pre-screening talk from a ranger who just loved her park and couldn’t wait to share it with us. She was older and her tone seemed to indicate that she was excited to have visitors to talk to. That was the tone of her speech as well, as she spoke about how the park saw relatively few visitors each year, and yet it is actually the largest national park in the country. At over 20,000 square miles (53,320 sq.km.), it’s six times the size of Yellowstone National Park, and 25% larger than the entire country of Switzerland. The park contains the second-highest mountain in North America—Mount St. Elias, which sits right on the border with Canada at 18,008 ft (5489 m).

    Here’s a map showing the size of the park. We were at the “park headquarters” on the far east side of the park border. As you can see, we barely got to see 1% of this park.

    The ranger finished her talk by showing us a sticker (conveniently available in the gift shop)—one of those black-and-white ovals with an abbreviation for some location that people stick to their car windows. It read “WRST” for Wrangell-St. Elias. But in this case, she said, “WRST” is the best.

    She even thanked us for laughing politely.

    We let Drew work on his Junior Ranger activities while we wandered the paths and checked out a few exhibits along the way. They had another overlook with a nice view of Mount Drum nearby.



    And in relatively short order, Drew finished his ranger booklet and was sworn in via a grand ceremony by the flagpole.



    The ranger who performed this swearing-in ceremony was one of the native Alaskans of this region, whose family had actually fought for the preservation of the lands.



    We celebrated Andrew’s achievement with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the parking lot.

    And then we left for Fairbanks.

    The drive was approximately five hours, taking the Richardson Highway (state route 4) up to the junction with State Route 2 (also the Richardson Highway) and then following that into the city. We didn’t get off to a great start, due to about 20 miles of road construction we encountered shortly after leaving.

    There wasn’t really any road for that stretch, just a lot of dust and gravel. I imagine road construction season is very short in Alaska.

    Thankfully, most of the drive was gorgeous, especially as we crossed the Alaska Range. We routinely got views like this:



    And this:



    We even got our first glimpse of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which was really impressive to see in person.



    More on that later.

    As we were nearing both Fairbanks and the end of everyone’s patience with bouncing a minivan on frost-heaved roads, we entered the North Pole.

    Yep, I said the North Pole. Must’ve taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

    North Pole, Alaska is a tiny town about twenty miles southwest of Fairbanks. There are just over 2,000 people living here, and the community receives hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa Claus each year. Even though it’s technically 1,700 miles south of the geographic north pole, this is the place.

    This is where Santa Claus lives.

    If you get off the highway and backtrack a bit on a frontage road, you too can visit this magical home, where Santa himself invites you to walk right on in.



    Strangely, I didn’t see Santa inside (probably vacationing in Florida) but there were quite a few teens manning cash registers and ready to sell me ornaments, stockings, fudge, and/or crappy t-shirts.

    Outside, we could wander over and visit the enchanted park where Santa’s majestic reindeer live. Ignore the chicken wire.



    When I say “majestic”, I of course mean “forlorn”.

    The piece de resistance, of course, was the 30-ft. tall statue of Santa himself, which was a warm welcome to all of his guests. Ignore the chicken wire.



    And when I say “warm welcome”, I of course mean “creepy psychotic nightmare fuel”.

    This was basically an excuse to get out of the car and stretch our legs. Now I can’t sleep at night.

    Fishtailing out of the parking lot, we got back on the highway in no time and finished our journey to Fairbanks. We stayed at a Hyatt Place just north of downtown and had a nice suite there where everyone could stretch out and avoid sleeping on the floor.

    It was here that I began to encounter difficulties with my restaurant plans. I’d originally planned to go for a local diner called The Cookie Jar, where we could enjoy one of our favorites: breakfast for dinner. It was not lost on me that they also served cinnamon rolls as big as your head. Sign me up!

    But when we got to Fairbanks, a quick check of their website told me that they were suffering from employee shortages due to COVID, and were therefore going to be closing a couple of days a week. Sadly, that included the day we were there.

    So, we had to improvise. After a quick check of Trip Advisor, we ended up at Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q in downtown Fairbanks.



    Yep, we’re visiting all the classy joints around here.

    It had once been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, so I figured it couldn’t be all bad. And we had a nice hearty meal here. Sarah and Scotty split a rack of ribs:



    I went for my customary brisket.



    It was ok. Mine is better.

    We also continued our peanut butter pie tour, because why not?



    Again, not bad. But the pizza place in Anchorage was better.

    Overall, we’d rate this meal as “decent”. It fit the bill, but I kinda wished the diner had been open.

    There was a part of me that had wanted to figure out a way to cross the Arctic Circle while we were in Alaska. But in order to do that, we would have had to drive the Dalton Highway for a couple hundred miles north (forbidden for rental cars) or hire a tour group, which became pricy rather quickly. As it turned out, this is as far north as we would get.

    Coming Up Next: Fossils and Fossil fuel.
     

    pkondz

    Brace yourself for immediate disintegration
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2007
    The Second Most Magical Place On Earth
    I read that and thought... "Is there a list of most magical places on Earth?"

    There are. Several.
    We discovered that Valdez wasn’t the most friendly of towns. It’s largely populated by fishermen, and I guess I’d be grumpy too if I was covered in fish guts and their smell all day long.
    Wouldn't you be grumpy if you were constantly followed around by a herd of cats??
    She tried to say hi or wave to passers-by, but only one made any acknowledgement.
    Huh. Surprising.
    Our reputation must have preceded us.
    :lmao:
    Holy. Crap.
    :worship:
    The mountain on the left is Mount Drum, which stands 12,010 feet (3661 m) high. Just to the right of that is Mount Zanetti, which is 13,009 ft (3965 m).
    Oh, sure. You can see that, easily.
    just do yourself a favor and Google the term “forced perspective”.
    I don't need to. Going to Disney has given me all the information I need to know on forced perspectives.
    Hey! Guessing you got a passing bear to take this photo.
    The Alaska national parks are routinely some of the least-visited parks in the American system.
    Not overly surprised by that.
    Because when there’s a pandemic, you don’t want people circulating and looking at exhibits, but it’s fine to sit everyone in rows close together in a dark room.
    :rolleyes1
    she spoke about how the park saw relatively few visitors each year, and yet it is actually the largest national park in the country.
    Really!
    Guess I shouldn't be surprised, though.
    it’s six times the size of Yellowstone National Park, and 25% larger than the entire country of Switzerland.
    Yes, but can they yodel? Or make itty bitty knives with every tool known to mankind?
    As you can see, we barely got to see 1% of this park.
    Sheesh. Next time get out and walk around a bit. Sad.
    But in this case, she said, “WRST” is the best.

    She even thanked us for laughing politely.
    Oy.
    Nice of you to laugh. Painful, I'm sure. But nice of you.
    Drew finished his ranger booklet and was sworn in via a grand ceremony by the flagpole.
    Nice touch. :)
    Great shot. :)
    We celebrated Andrew’s achievement with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the parking lot.
    The traditional Oblivious Family celebratory meal. ::yes::
    I imagine road construction season is very short in Alaska.
    I bet. I'd feel right at home.
    We routinely got views like this:

    Man oh man...
    We even got our first glimpse of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which was really impressive to see in person.
    Cool! (and standing by for more.)
    North Pole, Alaska is a tiny town about twenty miles southwest of Fairbanks.
    Ohhhhh...
    Strangely, I didn’t see Santa inside (probably vacationing in Florida)
    ::yes::
    but there were quite a few teens manning cash registers and ready to sell me ornaments, stockings, fudge, and/or crappy t-shirts.
    I'll have the fudge, thankyouverymuch.
    where Santa’s majestic reindeer live. Ignore the chicken wire.
    Ignore it?!?? Without it they'd fly away!
    When I say “majestic”, I of course mean “forlorn”.
    Ah.
    And when I say “warm welcome”, I of course mean “creepy psychotic nightmare fuel”.
    :laughing:
    But when we got to Fairbanks, a quick check of their website told me that they were suffering from employee shortages due to COVID, and were therefore going to be closing a couple of days a week. Sadly, that included the day we were there.
    Well... poop.
    (And maybe that particular thing was helped by it being closed... who knows?)
    Holy smokes! That sucker's huge!
    We also continued our peanut butter pie tour, because why not?
    :thumbsup2
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    I read that and thought... "Is there a list of most magical places on Earth?"

    There are. Several.
    I guess I really shouldn't be surprised by that. Did Delaware make the list?

    Wouldn't you be grumpy if you were constantly followed around by a herd of cats??
    Extremely. Not a cat person.

    Holy. Crap.
    :worship:
    I know, right? Just jaw-dropping scenery.

    Oh, sure. You can see that, easily.
    Maybe the picture is tilted.

    I don't need to. Going to Disney has given me all the information I need to know on forced perspectives.
    They are the experts at it, for sure.

    Hey! Guessing you got a passing bear to take this photo.
    We did! Then he at the camera. Not fun getting it back, let me tell ya.

    Not overly surprised by that.
    It's just so hard to get there.

    Really!
    Guess I shouldn't be surprised, though.
    I don't think it's anyone's first guess when asked what the largest national park is.

    Yes, but can they yodel? Or make itty bitty knives with every tool known to mankind?
    Well, uh....we're working on it.

    Sheesh. Next time get out and walk around a bit. Sad.
    I thought about doing a flightseeing tour or a glacier hike, but we had already splurged on adding Glacier Bay to the agenda.

    Oy.
    Nice of you to laugh. Painful, I'm sure. But nice of you.
    She was just so enthusiastic in her delivery. We tried to humor her.

    Nice touch. :)
    Pretty fun when the ranger suggested it.

    Great shot. :)
    Thanks!

    The traditional Oblivious Family celebratory meal. ::yes::
    It's also the traditional lunchtime meal, snack, weekday meal, and punishment.

    I bet. I'd feel right at home.

    "Guys, we have a month and a half! Do all the things!"

    Man oh man...
    ::yes::

    Cool! (and standing by for more.)
    Next update....

    I'll have the fudge, thankyouverymuch.
    If you have to choose something, that's probably the way to go.

    Ignore it?!?? Without it they'd fly away!
    They wouldn't leave Santa, would they? WOULD THEY???

    Well... poop.
    (And maybe that particular thing was helped by it being closed... who knows?)
    It was out of our control, sadly. But hopefully the business is doing ok.

    Holy smokes! That sucker's huge!
    Yeah, I don't think anyone went home hungry!
     

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