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

pkondz

Brace yourself for immediate disintegration
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
I guess I really shouldn't be surprised by that. Did Delaware make the list?
9 out of 10 recommended it.

Wait... that was dentists... not Delaware.
And it was about toothpaste.
I know, right? Just jaw-dropping scenery.
::yes::
We did! Then he at the camera. Not fun getting it back, let me tell ya.
I have a feeling I could make a joke about the bear being a male and the camera being made in the Czech Republic, but... too much work.
I don't think it's anyone's first guess when asked what the largest national park is.
Would've guessed Yellowstone.
I thought about doing a flightseeing tour or a glacier hike, but we had already splurged on adding Glacier Bay to the agenda.
And at (minimum!) $250/person... :scared:
It's also the traditional lunchtime meal, snack, weekday meal, and punishment.
That last one threw me!
They wouldn't leave Santa, would they? WOULD THEY???
610417
 

Captain_Oblivious

DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
9 out of 10 recommended it.

Wait... that was dentists... not Delaware.
And it was about toothpaste.
Well, we do have both dentists and toothpaste in Delaware. So it probably still applies.

I have a feeling I could make a joke about the bear being a male and the camera being made in the Czech Republic, but... too much work.
I think you told me that joke before...or maybe Jeff did.

Would've guessed Yellowstone.
It probably shouldn't be too surprising, but most of the largest parks are in Alaska:

Here are the ten largest national parks in the US:

  1. Wrangell–St. Elias
  2. Gates of the Arctic
  3. Denali
  4. Katmai
  5. Death Valley
  6. Glacier Bay
  7. Lake Clark
  8. Yellowstone
  9. Kobuk Valley
  10. Everglades

And at (minimum!) $250/person... :scared:
Yeah...would have been really cool, but I just couldn't do it. I'm saving some of these ideas for when Julie and I can travel on our own.

That last one threw me!
The funny thing is, I almost never have PB&J at home.

:laughing: I miss that comic.
 

pkondz

Brace yourself for immediate disintegration
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Well, we do have both dentists and toothpaste in Delaware. So it probably still applies.
I bet there's a plaque somewhere!
I think you told me that joke before...or maybe Jeff did.
Probably me. ;)
It probably shouldn't be too surprising, but most of the largest parks are in Alaska:
In retrospect... no, not surprising.
Yeah...would have been really cool, but I just couldn't do it. I'm saving some of these ideas for when Julie and I can travel on our own.
Slightly more economical.
The funny thing is, I almost never have PB&J at home.
I'm actually not surprised by that.
:laughing: I miss that comic.
Me too. :(
 

Steppesister

DIS Veteran
Joined
Dec 27, 2013
Always. But 40% of the time, it works every time.
Give or take 10%.

Always. I am a model of grace under pressure.
A lot like me driving through Reno.

Well, it's not like we're going to skip the coffee here.
Skipping coffee is against the law.

We always have to accept the things we can't control.
And it's always more than we hope it'll be.

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.
Well, that's sorta rude.

WHOA! That's really gorgeous.
Christmas card!

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.
Sigh... I just watched a college game... pretty well done with any of this BS anymore.

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.
I like her style.

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

(your boy needs to learn the art of negotiation and to start with steak)

Strangely, I didn’t see Santa inside (probably vacationing in Florida)
611691


And when I say “warm welcome”, I of course mean “creepy psychotic nightmare fuel”.
And to think psilocybin isn't even legal there yet. They've got a headstart! And Santa is leading the way.

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.
NO. WAY.

Wanna bet that never changes?

It was ok. Mine is better.
You've been working on that for a while! Congrats, you've outshined Diners, Drive-ins, and Divers.

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.
Pooper bummer.
 

docsoliday1

DIS Dad #834 Cubs, Dolphins fan forever
Joined
Mar 12, 2008
FINALLY mad it here. The party can start. Wait! The party is over? Not surpising.

The Final Frontier
Not to be technical, but to be technical, space is the final frontier...just ask William Shatner.
Alaska is the last frontier.

Kinda begs the question...last or final...don't they mean the same thing? Can't both be right.

This bunch of goofballs was finally going to visit Alaska.
Yay, the bunch of goofballs which isn't my bunch of goofballs gets to travel again.


BTW: The firat lottery was quite important and I'd wager helped form Sarah into who she is today.
The second, while a meh for me, I know for you it was fantastic.
 

docsoliday1

DIS Dad #834 Cubs, Dolphins fan forever
Joined
Mar 12, 2008
It included flights to 3 separate destinations, a one-way cruise from Vancouver to Seward exploring the Inside Passage, an
Ugh...3 flights.

For 2021, I was able to salvage most of that. The cruise was a no-go, which left me with a large credit with Royal Caribbean that I’m still working on figuring out how to use so I don’t lose that deposit
Hopefully they're working with you. Not good for them either.

But the rest of the plan stayed fairly intact, and I was able to use a lot of the credits and money I’d spent on 2020 reservations to take care of this trip. So that was certainly a blessing.
That's really good to hear.

We had to be prepared for almost any kind of weather situation—the forecasts called for temperatures between 40F – 70F (4 – 21C) and just about any combination you could think of with rain, sun, clouds, and wind, not to mention a couple of boat trips that could feel even colder.
That's kinda rough. So basically pack layers and pray you've brought enough each day.

we checked our bags and donned our masks and did the TSA Tango,
I'm not a big dancer, but I really hate that one.

Oops. Check that. More like 90 minutes, as the flight was already delayed. We’re off to a good start.
Yay.

No yay!

One was a general store attached to the gas station, and the other was run by a family by the name of Cosh who would make a Costco run every so often and then re-sell their purchases to the residents. So it was called the “Coshco”.
Industrious, but also funny.

And our feet officially touched Alaskan soil.

That was it! Family history was made on this remote spot in Gustavus, Alaska.

So...getting off the plane and getting on the bus didn't count?

I don't get it, that would have been a much better photo. :rotfl2:

Great pic and congratulations Oblivious family!!!

We’re done! Thanks for reading. You guys are the best. In conclusion, I—
Hey wait a minute! The TR byl...

Sigh. I’ve been informed that the DISBoard Trip Report bylaws state that I must report upon the entire trip, not just a tiny portion of it. So apparently I have to keep going. Believe me, I’m as disappointed as you are. I thought I was going to knock this thing out in one chapter.
Yeah that.

Julie came back with bad news. They couldn’t seat us in the restaurant until 7:50 p.m. (We’d arrived at the lodge at roughly 5:00 p.m. or so.)
Oh, :poop:

Yes, I said rooms. In an Oblivious Family first, I had actually reserved two hotel rooms for our family, which meant everyone would have an actual bed to sleep on. I know, I’m getting soft in my old age.
Wow. Okay, which body snatcher got Mark?

Like most national park lodges, they’re rustic and spartan, but they’re fine. All we need are clean beds and a bathroom.
Technically just a bed. There are 1000s of acres of restroom. Much more rustic (or is that redneck) than your description.

We mostly ordered cheeseburgers, which were nothing special but also not bad. There was no kids menu, so Drew was going to share a burger, but in the time it took to cook the food…

Poor guy. I can imagine. The adrenaline finally wore off.

Looks a lot like my Trip Report readers, doesn’t he?
Zzzzzzz..mmmmpph...huh? Did you say something? Okay, I'm awake.
 
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  • docsoliday1

    DIS Dad #834 Cubs, Dolphins fan forever
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2008
    Disney Cruise went to Nassau, and from what I read, the only real excursion was to go to the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. Otherwise...not much to see or do. I would have loved to be able to edit that, but...
    Hmmm. Been to Nassau and there were a LOT of options. Puzzling.

    There are so many itineraries where I went through the list of ports and had some variation of: "Cool, no, meh, meh, no, good one, meh..."
    Truth.
    Biggest thing for me was either there were 2 or 3 cool things I wanted to do....in the same time slot
    OR
    There was nothing in the time slot I was even remotely interested in.
    Very few between those extremes, but happened a couple times.

    It's true you can still get COVID after being vaccinated. I saw someone respond to that by saying "It's true you can still get injured playing linebacker while wearing a helmet. But man, try playing without one."
    I can see both sides of the argument. The only truly empirical way to know is if the SAME person was infected with and without being vaccinated and compare the outcomes. Problem is, that's impossible. I do like your analogy though.

    Must be! I suspect this is part of the reason I don't care for cruising. Too much sitting around.
    See above.

    We learned early on that if you want to see something in Alaska, you most likely have to pay someone else to take you there. I read a statistic that said roughly 20% of all communities in Alaska are accessible by road, meaning…
    Yeah, private planes with both wheels and floats or skis are quite necessary.

    (hang on, let me take my shoes off so I can count…)

    (carry the one…)

    (this little piggy went to market…)

    …80% of communities can only be reached by boat or plane. And since we are not boat captains or pilots, we need someone else to help us explore.
    Glad that remedial math class we sent you to helped.

    Still being somewhat used to East Coast time, it was relatively easy for us to Rope Drop the breakfast buffet. We were only beaten by one couple to the line.
    Rope drop a buffet. Need to remember that. :rotfl2:

    It was a pretty decent breakfast spread, too. Usually it’s the home fries that make or break these meals. If they’re hot and crispy, it’s a good breakfast. If they’re undercooked and mushy,
    I'm not a big fan of home fries and whwn I'm doing keto, can't anyway. My measurement is the bacon.

    The lodge was really helpful with this. They had a storage area near the front desk where they would collect our bags and hold them. When we returned from the boat, they’d already be loaded onto the bus for the return to the airport.
    That's both cool and understandable...I imagine they've learned over time it was a necessity.

    and some crappy coffee
    Redundant
    As opposed to good coffee which is an oxymoron.
    :duck:

    All in all, I would estimate that the two rooms at the lodge, plus the boat tour, plus the cost of flying in and out of Gustavus was probably well over $3,000. Easily the most expensive part of the trip. This was our big splurge.
    Wow. Good chunk o change. Hope it was worth it.

    And it ended up being totally worth it.
    You're just saying that to make me look like a fool.

    Err...I guess you didn't do that.

    Carry on.

    Then you'd just have to elbow people out of the way in order to get a good photo. I tended to try and shove the kids away, since I'm bigger.
    Your kids or others?

    I think that probably has something to do with the automatic software settings in the phone camera. It seems to be set to make the colors pop out more.
    So, what you're saying is the phone automatically photoshops them.

    Not sure I think that's good or bad. I think I'd lean towards I'd rather have real vs. modified.

    We began to notice small vertical trails of vapor rising out of the water in random spots.
    Ooh ooh ooh, I know what those are...they're wh...

    Humpback whales, to be exact. And once we’d started finding them, they seemed to pop up all over the bay. Every time someone would spot the “spouts”, we’d rush to that side of the boat to watch as the whales came up for air. I’d estimate we saw roughly two dozen whales over the course of the day. We even saw a couple of them “breach” (that is, leap out of the water), though we weren’t fast enough to capture it on camera. But it was enough for us to be able to say we saw these majestic creatures out in the wild.
    Dang. I thought for sure they were white water geysers. ;)

    Meanwhile, we could sit back and enjoy the ride and the gorgeous mountains surrounding us.

    Very nice!

    The more we sailed into the bay, the more the mountains were revealed to us. It was breathtaking.

    And.again.
    Wow!

    And to our left was the Margerie Glacier.

    Sweet.

    I think those kayakers could have been in real trouble if it had calved a big chunk.
    Or they could have been experienced kayak surfers?

    Many people have no idea of the size of things, due to Mercator map projections.
    Alaska is huge. People talk about Texas being big, but it fits comfortably inside Alaska.
    Here's a size corrected view of Alaska with Texas overtop in blue (with Connecticut in red too.)
    597067
    I actually knew Alaska was bigger, but significantly colder. Brrrr.
     

    docsoliday1

    DIS Dad #834 Cubs, Dolphins fan forever
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2008
    Trying to catch up(STILL), so...
    Great photos on Denali and family
    DW and DSs were in AK when I was in Korea and they saw it, but I never had the opportunity.
    The pizza (some) looked good. I don't hate it, but I typically eat the pineapple separate and eat ham pizza. Not a spicy fan, so Sarah's buffalo chicjen would be a no go. The chicken parm sub pizza is intriguing.
    Peanut butter pie looked yummy.
    Homer award? High praise from you.
     

    docsoliday1

    DIS Dad #834 Cubs, Dolphins fan forever
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2008
    Huh. That's a rare one. For me, the more meat on a pizza, the better.
    Amen brother! Preach!
    And no veggies(for me)

    Yeah...imagine if we had used forks! The horror!

    There's a reason I don't interact much with the FB group.
    I've heard about this. :sad2: Glad I don't FB at sll.

    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
    If you think driving across TX is long, try AK.

    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.
    And the passing lanes are too few and far between.

    frost heaves make the word “flat” disappear from your vocabulary
    There is no such thing in AK.

    which means you’re often stuck behind an RV or large trucks going 35 mph uphill
    Ugh, yes. Only worse thing is looking in your mirror going downhill and seeing said RV or truck heading towards you at 80mph.

    we’d find some putz who was blissfully ignorant of the mounting line of cars behind him.
    Hey!!! I wasn't there.

    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.
    Captain understatement reporting for duty again.

    Milepost 23.5, however, was a winner! So I was 8.5 miles off. Sue me
    Expect papers from my lawyer soon.

    The important thing is, we had another reason to get out of the van and stretch our legs.



    Stretching legs is good and really nice pictures. Except whoever that guy is with Julie.
    :duck:

    I bet they spent days coming up with those names.
    You mean you're not familiar with the 10 years debate? The horror.

    Everyone gave the place an enthusiastic thumbs-up, meaning we were giving out a Drooling Homer award for the second night in a row.
    Wow. 2 in a row....nice!

    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.
    Probably the single most thing I hate about FL. People camp out in the left lane until they realize they're 100 feet from their exit and then cross multiple lanes cutting off everyone who was actually driving like someone with a brain.

    , I made sure to fill up the gas tank at a station on the edge of town.
    "a station"? Meaning there was more than one? Major metropolis there.

    The Alaska national parks are routinely some of the least-visited parks in the American system.
    Makes sense....one would either have to fly or drive the Alcan (I have...twice) and that's a long drive.

    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
    Perfectly logical. The virus can't survive in the dark, right?

    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.
    Familiar. DWs mom and stepfather were in Fairbanks and we drove to Anchorage for me to fly out to Korea (by way of Seattle).

    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.
    DW, DSs and inlaws lives in North Pole.

    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.
    Yep...that was a big deal around Christmas and was a large part of the economy there.


    Sarah and Scotty split a rack of ribs:



    I went for my customary brisket.

    Wow, those ribs look huge. Mmmmm, brisket.

    Since you were there in summer, surprised you didn't see some of the Alaska sized produce. With almost constant sunlight, some monster veggies and fruits are grown.




    And finally caught up. Whew.
     
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    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    I bet there's a plaque somewhere!
    And my mom would insist we all stop to read it.

    Give or take 10%.
    Half of traveling is 90% mental.

    A lot like me driving through Reno.
    I haven't had the pleasure there.

    Skipping coffee is against the law.
    This is absolutely true! We're such addicts.

    And it's always more than we hope it'll be.
    Oh, I don't control a blessed thing. Except my attitude.

    WHOA! That's really gorgeous.
    ::yes::

    Christmas card!
    Maybe! It'll be a contender.

    Sigh... I just watched a college game... pretty well done with any of this BS anymore.
    I'm done with hypocrisy and double standards on the part of those making the rules, and done with selfishness and an utter lack of an ability to make the tiniest sacrifice for others on the part of the general population. Other than that, I'm cool.


    Fitting!

    (your boy needs to learn the art of negotiation and to start with steak)
    My other kids made that transition very quickly, and suddenly birthday meals got very expensive. So I'm not rushing it.

    That's exactly what it looks like! :rotfl2:

    And to think psilocybin isn't even legal there yet. They've got a headstart! And Santa is leading the way.
    I have no idea what that is, but it sounds bad.

    NO. WAY.

    Wanna bet that never changes?
    I don't know anything anymore.

    You've been working on that for a while! Congrats, you've outshined Diners, Drive-ins, and Divers.
    Thanks! It's been fun to mess around with it.

    Pooper bummer.
    That's my middle name.

    FINALLY mad it here. The party can start. Wait! The party is over? Not surpising.
    :welcome: Doc! Thanks for jumping in. Still plenty left to cover.

    Not to be technical, but to be technical, space is the final frontier...just ask William Shatner.
    Alaska is the last frontier.

    Kinda begs the question...last or final...don't they mean the same thing? Can't both be right.
    Well...yeah, that was the joke. You know I love my movie references.

    Yay, the bunch of goofballs which isn't my bunch of goofballs gets to travel again.


    BTW: The firat lottery was quite important and I'd wager helped form Sarah into who she is today.
    The second, while a meh for me, I know for you it was fantastic.
    And probably the only lotteries I'll ever win.
     
  • Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Ugh...3 flights.
    Yeah, it was a long day. But the destination was worth the effort!

    Hopefully they're working with you. Not good for them either.
    I got literally the cheapest cruise I could. It remains to be seen whether we'll actually go or not.

    That's kinda rough. So basically pack layers and pray you've brought enough each day.
    Yep, layers are key. You can get multiple types of weather in one day.

    I'm not a big dancer, but I really hate that one.
    I don't know anybody that enjoys the TSA line.

    So...getting off the plane and getting on the bus didn't count?

    I don't get it, that would have been a much better photo. :rotfl2:

    Great pic and congratulations Oblivious family!!!
    Well, the asphalt is not soil. We had to hit the ground.

    Wow. Okay, which body snatcher got Mark?
    It won't happen again, I promise.

    Technically just a bed. There are 1000s of acres of restroom. Much more rustic (or is that redneck) than your description.
    True, but the womenfolk tend to complain about those rustic restrooms.

    Poor guy. I can imagine. The adrenaline finally wore off.
    That was a long time to be awake!

    Zzzzzzz..mmmmpph...huh? Did you say something? Okay, I'm awake.
    You didn't miss anything.

    Hmmm. Been to Nassau and there were a LOT of options. Puzzling.
    It all depends on your interests, I guess. I looked at the excursions and reviews and felt like I wanted to stay on the ship.

    Truth.
    Biggest thing for me was either there were 2 or 3 cool things I wanted to do....in the same time slot
    OR
    There was nothing in the time slot I was even remotely interested in.
    Very few between those extremes, but happened a couple times.
    So many items are ridiculously expensive, too.

    I can see both sides of the argument. The only truly empirical way to know is if the SAME person was infected with and without being vaccinated and compare the outcomes. Problem is, that's impossible. I do like your analogy though.
    I'm kind of resolved not to argue about it online. The next person to change their mind due to an online argument will be the first.

    Yeah, private planes with both wheels and floats or skis are quite necessary.
    Or boats!

    Glad that remedial math class we sent you to helped.
    I can't even remember what I had for breakfast.

    Rope drop a buffet. Need to remember that. :rotfl2:
    It worked!

    I'm not a big fan of home fries and whwn I'm doing keto, can't anyway. My measurement is the bacon.
    Bacon is a good criterion.

    I'm not a fan of cold, mushy home fries. Hot, crispy ones though...can't get enough.

    That's both cool and understandable...I imagine they've learned over time it was a necessity.
    It definitely made things convenient!

    Redundant
    As opposed to good coffee which is an oxymoron.
    :duck:
    More for me, then!

    Wow. Good chunk o change. Hope it was worth it.
    It was a huge expense, but I'm so glad we did it. That might have been our favorite day of the whole trip.

    Your kids or others?
    Yes.

    So, what you're saying is the phone automatically photoshops them.

    Not sure I think that's good or bad. I think I'd lean towards I'd rather have real vs. modified.
    All I know is, my eyes were drawn more to the photos from my phone.

    Dang. I thought for sure they were white water geysers. ;)
    Close!

    I think those kayakers could have been in real trouble if it had calved a big chunk.
    Or they could have been experienced kayak surfers?
    I think they're further away than it looks in the photo. We were about a 1/4 mile away on the boat.

    I actually knew Alaska was bigger, but significantly colder. Brrrr.
    Texas has better BBQ, though.
     

    Steppesister

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 27, 2013
    And my mom would insist we all stop to read it.
    And now that you vacation at National Parks and other nature-y/museum-y stuff, I'd say her job was well done.


    Half of traveling is 90% mental.
    Things are getting awfully mathy around here.
    This is absolutely true! We're such addicts.
    Sigh... one I can live with.

    They do say coffee can lengthen the lifespan. It certainly enhances mine.
    Oh, I don't control a blessed thing. Except my attitude.
    A good reminder. We all need it sometimes. :)
    I'm done with hypocrisy and double standards on the part of those making the rules, and done with selfishness and an utter lack of an ability to make the tiniest sacrifice for others on the part of the general population. Other than that, I'm cool.
    Yes.
    My other kids made that transition very quickly, and suddenly birthday meals got very expensive. So I'm not rushing it.
    Once they all leave, you can subtly ask for payback. And then order the filet. With wine.
     

    docsoliday1

    DIS Dad #834 Cubs, Dolphins fan forever
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2008
    I don't know anybody that enjoys the TSA line.
    I bet there's that one guy whose opinion is changed online.

    Well, the asphalt is not soil. We had to hit the ground.
    Didn't you cross a bridge, but not touch soil that one time?
    I do understand the differention though. I don't think I'd want to count the tarmac either.

    It won't happen again, I promise
    Good. Better not. I'm watchin you now.

    True, but the womenfolk tend to complain about those rustic restrooms
    I watched an episode of homestead rescue and the couple had no toilet, outhouse, hole, nothing. They literally peed and pooped wherever. Marty was not pleased and said I'm not even gonna ask about toilet paper. <sigh>


    You didn't miss anything.
    Knew it.

    It all depends on your interests, I guess. I looked at the excursions and reviews and felt like I wanted to stay on the ship.
    We swam with dolphins which was a blast. Not sure I'd do it again for the cost, but once was good.

    So many items are ridiculously expensive, too
    I was talking more about activities on the ship, though...either 2 or more at same time or nothing. Sorry, but neither counting the rivets on the ship nor cardboard folding practice sounded appealing. But a comedy show, scavenger hunt, trivia contest, karaoke all at the SAME time.

    kind of resolved not to argue about it online. The next person to change their mind due to an online argument will be the first
    The guy that likes the TSA line maybe.

    I wasn't intending it to sound like an argument...hopefully you didn't take it like that. Just saying there are a lot of opinions and unfortunately impossible to prove or disprove any of them.

    But planes get you there faster and (ro me) more fun. Unless you get one of those jet boats maybe.

    I can't even remember what I had for breakfast
    Easy. Home fries, bacon and.eggs. you said the home fries were great. Oh, you meant today? Dunno.

    Bacon is a good criterion
    Bacon.is the best criterion.

    It was a huge expense, but I'm so glad we did it. That might have been our favorite day of the whole trip.
    That's high praise. Good to know and happy for all of you.

    :lmao:

    I think they're further away than it looks in the photo. We were about a 1/4 mile away on the boat.
    I've just seen boats skidaddle quickly when a big chunk comes off because of the resulting mini sunami.
     
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    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Trying to catch up(STILL), so...
    Great photos on Denali and family
    DW and DSs were in AK when I was in Korea and they saw it, but I never had the opportunity.
    The pizza (some) looked good. I don't hate it, but I typically eat the pineapple separate and eat ham pizza. Not a spicy fan, so Sarah's buffalo chicjen would be a no go. The chicken parm sub pizza is intriguing.
    Peanut butter pie looked yummy.
    Homer award? High praise from you.
    That was a good place to eat. I could see why it was so popular. And I was very happy with my choice of pizza.

    Amen brother! Preach!
    And no veggies(for me)
    Me neither.

    I've heard about this. :sad2: Glad I don't FB at sll.
    Sometimes social media is wonderful. Sometimes it's not. Like just about anything else.

    If you think driving across TX is long, try AK.
    ::yes::

    And the passing lanes are too few and far between.
    ::yes::

    Ugh, yes. Only worse thing is looking in your mirror going downhill and seeing said RV or truck heading towards you at 80mph.
    That's ok, I can outrun him.

    Hey!!! I wasn't there.
    Well, I guess I lost that bet.

    Captain understatement reporting for duty again.
    You just can't get this quality info anywhere else.

    Stretching legs is good and really nice pictures. Except whoever that guy is with Julie.
    :duck:
    Some things just can't be helped. Poor woman is stuck with me now.

    You mean you're not familiar with the 10 years debate? The horror.
    I'm kinda glad I missed it.

    Wow. 2 in a row....nice!
    We were on a bit of a roll there.

    Probably the single most thing I hate about FL. People camp out in the left lane until they realize they're 100 feet from their exit and then cross multiple lanes cutting off everyone who was actually driving like someone with a brain.
    I think it's everywhere now. There's just a lot of selfish, unaware drivers out there.

    "a station"? Meaning there was more than one? Major metropolis there.
    Yep, one in town and one on the edge of town.

    Makes sense....one would either have to fly or drive the Alcan (I have...twice) and that's a long drive.
    I can imagine. Not for the faint of heart.

    Perfectly logical. The virus can't survive in the dark, right?
    I think it struggles with left-handed people, too.

    Familiar. DWs mom and stepfather were in Fairbanks and we drove to Anchorage for me to fly out to Korea (by way of Seattle).
    That drive wasn't terrible, at least. And there's lots of scenery.

    DW, DSs and inlaws lives in North Pole.
    Was it magical? Were they scared of the Santa statue?

    Yep...that was a big deal around Christmas and was a large part of the economy there.
    Whatever works!

    Wow, those ribs look huge. Mmmmm, brisket.

    Since you were there in summer, surprised you didn't see some of the Alaska sized produce. With almost constant sunlight, some monster veggies and fruits are grown.
    I did see a display on that, I think, in one of the museums. It was interesting to read about.

    And finally caught up. Whew.
    And I'm almost caught up with comments!

    My bad. I know you love movie references and quotes, but didn't realize the title was.
    I'll insert references anywhere I can.
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    And now that you vacation at National Parks and other nature-y/museum-y stuff, I'd say her job was well done.
    Well, we don't visit the same kinds of museums. And I don't stop at every single exhibit. But yes, in the big picture, she and dad raised us right.

    Things are getting awfully mathy around here.
    I'm an engineer, I can't help it.

    Sigh... one I can live with.

    They do say coffee can lengthen the lifespan. It certainly enhances mine.
    Something's gotta kill ya. Might as well die happy.

    A good reminder. We all need it sometimes. :)
    I don't even do very well with my attitude, to be honest.

    Once they all leave, you can subtly ask for payback. And then order the filet. With wine.
    I'll do my best!

    I bet there's that one guy whose opinion is changed online.
    Wait, there was one? I thought that would be a bigger story.

    Didn't you cross a bridge, but not touch soil that one time?
    I do understand the differention though. I don't think I'd want to count the tarmac either.
    We crossed a pedestrian bridge into Iowa, but we made sure to step off the path once we were across.

    I watched an episode of homestead rescue and the couple had no toilet, outhouse, hole, nothing. They literally peed and pooped wherever. Marty was not pleased and said I'm not even gonna ask about toilet paper. <sigh>
    Any leaves from trees lying around? Or discarded Dallas Cowboys t-shirts? They would both work.

    We swam with dolphins which was a blast. Not sure I'd do it again for the cost, but once was good.
    I'm sure that is very cool. I don't think I could pay for 6 of us, though.

    I was talking more about activities on the ship, though...either 2 or more at same time or nothing. Sorry, but neither counting the rivets on the ship nor cardboard folding practice sounded appealing. But a comedy show, scavenger hunt, trivia contest, karaoke all at the SAME time.
    They must do that on purpose.

    The guy that likes the TSA line maybe.

    I wasn't intending it to sound like an argument...hopefully you didn't take it like that. Just saying there are a lot of opinions and unfortunately impossible to prove or disprove any of them.
    I feel like many things can definitely be proven. There's a lot of clear data on many topics that demonstrably prove a conclusion. However, the problem is on the human end. There's a large group of people who will not believe anything reported by the mainstream media (unless it's Fox News). There's another large group who will not believe anything from Fox News. And there's a third group, much larger than I feared, that gets its news solely from social media posts linked by their high school buddy that go to a Russian bot website called imadethisup.com. But they will insist that they have the REAL truth. So no one can agree on basic facts. It's scary.

    But planes get you there faster and (ro me) more fun. Unless you get one of those jet boats maybe.
    There's something to be said for a good boat ride, but yes, I know what you mean.

    Easy. Home fries, bacon and.eggs. you said the home fries were great. Oh, you meant today? Dunno.
    I don't remember.

    Bacon.is the best criterion.
    Agreed.

    That's high praise. Good to know and happy for all of you.
    It was pretty special!

    I've just seen boats skidaddle quickly when a big chunk comes off because of the resulting mini sunami.
    I imagine I would too, even if I was far away!
     

    franandaj

    I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
    Joined
    Nov 15, 2009
    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.
    So you drove all the way to Valdez just to overnight and hightail it back the way you came? I'm guessing there were no other places to stay on the way to Fairbanks? Or was there something you wanted to see in Valdez, but was obscured by the fog?

    just do yourself a favor and Google the term “forced perspective”.
    Any Disney fan worth their slat knows forced perspective.

    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.
    That is a rather large 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.
    That was nice of you to laugh.

    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.
    I can't imagine dri in on dirt roads that are considered actual highways. Definitely sounds remote!

    Thankfully, most of the drive was gorgeous, especially as we crossed the Alaska Range. We routinely got views like this:
    Nice. Between you and pkondz you're killing me!

    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.
    Creepy Santa....

    And when I say “warm welcome”, I of course mean “creepy psychotic nightmare fuel”.
    Yeah, that's it!

    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.
    No one sleeping on the floor is a good thing!

    Yep, we’re visiting all the classy joints around here.
    But those are not eligible for Homer awards.

    It was ok. Mine is better.
    I believe it!

    Overall, we’d rate this meal as “decent”. It fit the bill, but I kinda wished the diner had been open.
    Sorry you didn't get a chance to eat there.
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Hey, Alison's back! Hi Alison!:wave2:

    So you drove all the way to Valdez just to overnight and hightail it back the way you came? I'm guessing there were no other places to stay on the way to Fairbanks? Or was there something you wanted to see in Valdez, but was obscured by the fog?
    More the latter. We were trying to explore the state and had read that the drive through the mountains into Valdez is one of the most beautiful drives in the state. But unfortunately, our luck didn't hold up with the weather. So it ended up being kind of a wasted trip. We were in position to visit the national park the next day, though.

    And no, there's absolutely nothing between Valdez and Fairbanks as far as civilization goes.

    Any Disney fan worth their slat knows forced perspective.
    ::yes::

    That is a rather large park!
    It's the biggest one!

    That was nice of you to laugh.
    It was either that or awkward silence, which would have made us all feel bad.

    I can't imagine dri in on dirt roads that are considered actual highways. Definitely sounds remote!
    Well, it's paved most of the time. So there's that.

    Nice. Between you and pkondz you're killing me!
    Sounds like it's time to get on the road!

    Creepy Santa....
    I tried not to put too much thought into what was going on there.

    Yeah, that's it!
    Barry wanted to know why he had nipples, and now I can't un-see it.

    No one sleeping on the floor is a good thing!
    Less complaining all around!

    But those are not eligible for Homer awards.
    Very true. And I wouldn't know how to judge them anyway.

    I believe it!
    Wow, that was easy. Wish there was a way for me to bring some to California for you.

    Sorry you didn't get a chance to eat there.
    Not much we could do. But things will get better on the dining front!
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257, Galactic Salad Dodger
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Chapter 6: Unlimited Doesn’t Mean Unlimited

    Somewhere along the way, my cell phone chirped at me with an urgent text message. When I had a moment to check it, the message said that I had reached the end of my free data and would now be limited for the rest of the billing period.

    Huh. That’s weird. I thought I had an unlimited data plan.

    This is not helpful when you’re relying on your phone running Google Maps while you drive long distances in an unfamiliar place. Suddenly I was without any technological help.

    We thought about using Julie’s phone or one of the kids’, but later on in the trip they were getting the same message. As it turned out, those big ads trumpeting NATIONWIDE 5G SERVICE AND UNLIMITED DATA COAST TO COAST aren’t entirely accurate. It’s true for the most part in the lower 48 states, save for those remote areas with no cell service. But Alaska seems to be the wild west in terms of the cell network. Our carrier didn’t own its own coverage there—they lease it from whoever owns the cell towers. And so that means that our coverage wasn’t unlimited, it was whatever our carrier negotiated for that region. Which I guess wasn’t very much.

    So, for the rest of the trip I was suddenly going to be living several years in the past, when I had an iPod Touch and prayed any place I visited had free wi-fi. And I used (the horror!) paper maps.

    Good thing Alaska only has 10 major roads or so.

    In the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel in Fairbanks, and then drove just a few miles north on the Steese Highway (State Route 2) until we reached a small turnoff at milepoint 8.4. This is the Alaska Pipeline Viewing Point, where visitors can park and take a brief walk to see the oil pipeline, running parallel to the highway here.

    The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is an enormous engineering achievement. It carries oil from the fields in Prudhoe Bay, at the very northern edge of Alaska, down across the state to the port town of Valdez, where we had stayed the previous night. According to the facts and figures I can find online, it’s roughly 800 miles long and carries an average of 1.8 million barrels of oil a day (which is much lower than its actual capacity as the demand for oil has decreased over the decades). It was built between 1975 and 1977 by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, which was itself a conglomerate of several oil companies with a vested interest in tapping the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. This was built in response to the oil crisis of 1973 when supplies from other countries were cut off or drastically reduced. Basically, the response was: “Fine, we’ll get our own oil.”

    The first oil started flowing on June 20, 1977.

    For such a valuable asset, it’s a bit surprising that you can just walk right up underneath it and touch it.



    You can see that the pipeline is built on “stilts”, keeping it several feet off the ground. It alternates between this construction and other areas where it does actually run underground. This was designed to make sure it did not disturb areas of permafrost, where the ground is permanently frozen year-round. Disturbing this ground (or warming it) would cause major structural problems as well as damage the fragile ecosystem (which is already being endangered by climate change). There were even displays showing how this structural system allowed the ground to vent any heat generated by the pipeline.

    If you look closely at the photo, you can see an additional aspect of the design: the pipe itself is sitting on a little support structure that slides on a rail. This was added along with a zig-zag design in order to make the pipeline as earthquake-proof as possible. It allows some flexibility in case, you know, the ground starts moving.

    Nearby was a display of two “pigs”, both the original design and the one currently in use. These are cylinders that are sent down the pipe with the purpose of cleaning the sludge that builds up along the walls. This is one pipe where you really, really don’t want a clog.

    They’re called pigs because the sound they make scraping the walls while traveling the length of the pipeline resembles the squeal of a pig.



    Ok, fine, I made that up. I have no idea.

    This was as far north as we got. The Steese Highway eventually turns into the Dalton Highway if you continue north, where it becomes a 414-mile long dirt/gravel road to Prudhoe Bay. This is the road made famous by Ice Road Truckers. From the viewpoint, we were less than 200 miles from the Arctic Circle. All it would have taken is violating the rental car agreement and subjecting ourselves to a remote road with no services and no rescue and constant showers of gravel from trucks going 70 mph as they passed us.

    I’d looked into it, of course. I had found various tour groups that would take us not only up to the Arctic Circle, but into some of the most remote, inaccessible national parks such as Gates of the Arctic National Park—one of several with no roads whatsoever. But the tours were either wildly expensive (by air) or time-consuming (by road). The drives have to go slow due to the nature of the road, so it ends up taking 16-17 hours or so to go to the Arctic Circle and back. We didn’t think there was any way Drew was going to last that long cooped up in a van with so many other people (not to mention COVID issues).

    So, chalk up another experience for a return trip someday.

    We went back into Fairbanks and stopped at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, built downtown along the banks of the Chena River. It’s a free information center with some small exhibits on Alaska and information on the various attractions in the area. It didn’t take long to walk through, but we all thought the exhibits were really well done. Terrific for a free information center—it felt like they put real time and effort into making them informative and attractive.

    Of course, I didn’t take any photos.

    We moved on and drove to the northwest corner of the city, home to the campus of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, where you can’t possibly end up going to school by accident. David is in the middle of the college application process at the moment, so we offered to try and give him the tour, but he seemed content with seeing it from the car. Kids these days. Where’s the ambition?

    The campus is also home to the Museum of the North, which had come recommended by my parents as a worthy stop. So we did, and we walked through the doors late in the morning and forked over the admission. It’s definitely a very striking building.

    Inside are various exhibits about the history of Alaska, mostly the ancient history—dinosaur fossils, primitive creatures, and early natives.

    One thing you need to know about my parents: they are hardcore history nerds. There is not a single book, article, plaque, exhibit featuring the tiniest, most obscure historical fact that wouldn’t interest them. That commercial about the people turning into their parents where the guy gets excited over a historical marker at a rest stop and shouts, “Oh, look, a plaque!” and then immediately starts reading it out loud? That’s my mom.

    One thing you need to know about me: I prefer my history to be more of the “big picture” variety. Unless it’s a really great story, just give me the broad overview. Who won the battle? Why was it important? I don’t really care who the brigadier general in charge of the 8th cavalry was at the time.

    The exhibits at the museum appeared to not have been updated since the early 1970’s. Old, faded displays gave great detail in tiny print about the ancient animals that roamed the land, their skeletons and diets and lifespans, the early natives that settled it, the tools they used and how they cooked their meals and made tents and canoes, etc.

    I can totally see why this appealed to my parents. They’d eat this stuff up. I found it dry. If you want to say I’m uncultured and have no appreciation for historical detail, that’s totally fair. For me, it felt like a hundred other similar historical displays I’d seen before. I felt the exhibits in the free Morris Thompson Center were better.

    I did appreciate the attention to detail in this one, though.



    The museum did have an impressive humpback whale skeleton on display in the lobby.



    And there was a view to the south. On a clear day, you’re supposed to be able to see the mountains of the Alaska Range from here (including Denali).



    Upstairs, they had a gallery of work from local artists. I liked this painting of Denali quite a bit.



    And what art gallery wouldn’t be complete without its own lavishly decorated outhouse?



    That was about all the museum had to offer. I’d call it a once-and-done for us.

    We ate our PB&J for lunch in the parking lot and then hit the road to head south. After about 2 hours’ drive on the Parks Highway (State Route 3), we reached one of the big items on our to-do list: Denali National Park.



    Here’s what the entrance sign looks like when it’s not cut off.



    We weren’t going to be touring the park until the next day, but we had time to at least stop by the visitor center and get oriented.

    So that’s what we did. We got our park maps and passport stamps, found the bus depot so we knew where the tour would depart from, and browsed the gift shop. We even got to see the Alaska Railroad arrive with tourists from Anchorage. Dave, Andrew and I went down to check it out, mostly because we can’t resist the siren call of watching trains.



    When we got back to the parking lot, we were starting to get hungry for dinner. So was this squirrel, apparently, since he was making a meal of all the bug guts on the front of our rental.



    You might have heard horror stories about the mosquitoes and other bugs in Alaska, but I can say we generally didn’t find them too bad. Now, that was probably because we almost always had a breeze of some kind throughout the day, but I can only remember one instance when the bugs really became irritating.

    We drove 10 miles back north to the town of Healy and checked into our hotel, the Aurora Denali Lodge. Lodging near Denali NP was interesting. There are no big chain hotels anywhere near it, which is not what you’d expect given that it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Alaska. There are several hotels just outside the park entrance, but they are either independent or owned by the major cruise lines. I’d looked into many of them but some of the cruise hotels were closed for the summer due to COVID shutting down the cruises. The other places wanted well over $300/night for a room.



    After doing some research, I’d found this mom-and-pop hotel through Trip Advisor. It didn’t look like much but it was $100 cheaper and had really good reviews online. They even offered a free breakfast…ish.

    After having spent two nights there, it was perfectly adequate. We got clean beds and a bathroom, which is all we ever need and I suspect is the same thing you get at the more expensive places. Breakfast was some fruit, yogurt, and a hard-boiled egg placed in our fridge the night before. We supplemented that with our own Pop Tarts from our snack stash, and it worked out ok. I’d say the only downside was the 10-mile drive away from the park, but for the price it was worth the trade-off.

    Just a mile away was the 49th State Brewing Company restaurant, where we had a reservation for dinner. Word to the wise: make sure you make a reservation here if you want to go. It’s the only place around for miles, and it’s good—so it’s extremely popular. We saw buses dropping off tour groups here.



    The place was jam-packed. I even had to invent a parking space outside, and we were eating fairly early (somewhere around 5:30 p.m.). I checked in and they told me they’d send me a text when our table was ready. We hung out in a beer garden outside. They had a little homage to Into The Wild set up outside the restaurant.



    You can see on the left that they also had games available, including cornhole. For a while, Drew and I contented ourselves with tossing beanbags back and forth. But then a slightly inebriated couple from California came over with their friend, wanting a 4th to play a game. I teamed up with the friend against the couple. Hey, I had nothing better to do.

    I don’t want to brag, but we absolutely destroyed them. I don’t know if it was the fact that they’d already visited the bar earlier or if my one and only gift in this world is tossing a bean bag with a repetitive motion, but it was over within five minutes. We shook hands. They didn’t ask for a re-match. I did get a high-five from Drew.

    After a while, we began to wonder what was taking so long. I went back to the desk to ask about our table, and they said they’d sent the text 15 minutes ago. By now, they’d given the table away.

    I pulled out my phone and saw no text message. But then I saw the problem—No Service.

    That might be a flaw in the whole text message system. Or maybe my cell carrier had struck again.

    In any case, the restaurant staff understood and made sure to give us the next available table after that. it wasn’t anybody’s fault, so I appreciated them working with us.



    I went for the Mt. Magnificent burger, which featured bacon, cheese, smashed potatoes, crispy onions and BBQ sauce. It proved to be an excellent choice. Extra points for the mini Alaska flag.



    Scott and Sarah got a skllet of mac and cheese (with steak and bacon) to share. Also a good call.



    Dave got the King Crabby grilled cheese, which was a grilled cheese sandwich featuring crab meat. He loved it.



    And Julie got the Savage River flatbread, which featured pulled pork, pineapple, cheese, and crispy onions. She found it disappointing, so she wasn’t as high on the restaurant as the rest of us. So for that reason I can’t quite give it a Homer award, but I would absolutely go back for that burger.



    The other reason I can’t quite give a Homer award has to do with the dessert. Maybe it was the beer I had, but I was feeling generous, so we ordered two. First was the chocolate mousse pie.



    That was very tasty. Good stuff. The other was the chocolate-peanut butter pie, in keeping with our peanut butter pie tour of Alaska.



    I’m sorry…but that is not a pie. That is quite clearly a cake.

    I even asked the server if there had been a mistake, but no, that was the chocolate peanut butter “pie”.

    The kids thought it was great. Maybe their favorite dessert of the trip. But I couldn’t get over the fact that I had been promised a pie. In my world, pie is superior to cake in every way.

    If you were drafting players for a sports team, you talk about their “ceilings” and “floors”. It’s the expected range of outcomes. A player might have incredible athletic talent but need some refinement on his game. So you’d say he has a “high ceiling”, meaning that if he reached the peak of his potential he could be an elite player. But he has a “low floor” because he could also bomb out. Whereas someone who has good fundamentals but less overall talent would be a “high floor” but “low ceiling” player, where you can get good, solid production and a fairly guaranteed return, but probably not a superstar.

    In the world of dessert, cake is the classic “high floor, low ceiling” dessert. You pretty much know what you’re going to get. Spongy cake, a little dry, tasting vaguely of either chocolate or vanilla or lemon, with heaps of goopy icing. Very little variance. It’s fine. A solid 10-year career, maybe a playoff win or two, mostly mediocre results.

    Pie is “high ceiling, low floor”. The worst pies are flaming disasters. Sweet potato, coconut, banana cream. These are abominations. Draft day busts. Someone who never even makes it out of training camp.

    But the best of the best—apple, peach, key lime, chocolate cream, and yes, peanut butter—are perennial all stars. Perennial all stars that raise the level of every player around them. The MVP’s. Every meal is instantly better.

    So when I think I’m getting Patrick Mahomes and I end up with Kirk Cousins, yeah…I’m going to be a little disappointed.

    Still…the burger was very good.

    We’ll shake it off tomorrow.

    Coming Up Next: An 8-hour tour. An 8-hour tour.
     

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