Monday, July 10, 2017

Planes, Trains and Automobiles.....and Boats!

Well......I'm back!

Apologies for the emergency post last week, but as PLQ said, "To the cruise ship industry unlimited means that is how much of your time you will spend trying to do anything through their internet."

So, on our Alaskan vacation, I saw lots of T-Shirts up there with a outline of Texas superimposed in the outline of Alaska, the only caption on them, that Sarge will allow to be published here, was "Isn't Texas Cute?"

"Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!"

At least we've got cell coverage over virtually all the state, not just Dallas, Austin, and El Paso.

But...I digress.

Since our trip home started at 0245 Saturday and didn't end until 2000 that Evening and I'm acting like a dipping bird  toy as I type, this will be a graphic intensive posting  (e.g. lots of photos), but will include a definitive answer to one of life's eternal questions.

You know the question.......

The answer, of course, is "Yes".

That which is Seen, cannot be Unseen!


In case you're wondering about this post's title, rest assured it has nothing in common with this.

Rather, it involves, of course, the various modes of transportation employed on this trip.

Upon arrival at Austin Bergstrom (home of one of my epic flying stories), Little Juvat takes charge of the check-in portion of the airport arrival festivities.  He has all those things that allow you to bypass the proctological examination provided for free, courtesy of the US Gummint, so we tend to let him go first and we tag along on his coat tails.  I go and park the car.

As I meet back up with Mrs Juvat, his bride and him, he hands me my boarding pass.  I notice I'm in row 6.  Well...It's only ABI to Houston, but still it's nice to be towards the front of the airplane.  

Embraer 170/175
As we board, I don't really look at the row numbers as I head back towards my usual position in the back of the bus.  However, I bump into Little Juvat as he starts to get into his row.  We're still in the ritzy section of the jet, but he flies all the time and gets upgrades so I figure that's what he did and start to head on back. Then I look at his row number and notice that he's in Row 6 also.

Well.....alrighty then!!!!

I sit down in my seat (window of course, need you ask?), Mrs Juvat joins me and a very nice flight attendant asks me if I'd like a beverage.  Life is good.

Off topic, I've noticed that when I fly, I always order Bloody Mary Mix.  Usually, I can't stand tomato juice, but something about flying and Bloody Mary mix calls to me.  Anyone else similarly afflicted?

Anyhoo, the flight attendant queries me to find out if I only want the mix.  

Yes, I passed on the booze.  It's going to be a long vacay and I'll need to pace my self.

But, as I settle in, I check my boarding pass for the Houston to Anchorage leg and notice that I'm also in row 6 on the ABI to Anchorage flight.  Knowing that the Embraer doesn't have that range, I'm figuring Little Juvat splurged for the whole day.
Boeing 757

What a guy!

How was your lunch, juvat?  Well, the Merlot was a little jammy, but.....

Arrival in Anchorage was uneventful, and we rendezvoused with our winemaker friends at the Glacier Brewpub where I enjoyed a nice stout and fish and chips.  For some reason, Mrs Juvat and the Winemaker declined that dish.

Retired for the evening before sunset arising the next morning well after sunrise, (Hey, it was 4 days after the summer solstice! In Alaska! It wasn't hard.), we headed for the Train Station where we boarded the train for Talkeetna.

Our Rail Guide was a very nice young lady who is a Elementary Special Ed teacher in the Lower 48 (which I guess is Alaska-ese for the "Rest of the Country") during the school year, you know, when Alaska isn't buried in snow.  Her Elementary and Special Ed skills came in very handy over the day's journey.

Suffice it to say, I'm not a big believer in Stereotypes, but sometimes they're spot on. One of the other passengers was named Stanley. Stanley is from New York City. He's older than me (older than Sarge even). Knows that he knows everything. Let me just leave it at that.

Chemtrails?  Really?

Our Rail Guide was full of entertaining, interesting and new but useless information.  I now know how to distinguish if an Alaskan stream or river is rain fed or glacier fed.  (Rain fed are clear, glacier fed are cloudy due to all the pulverized rock silt.) The follow on to that, which actually was good to know if in a survival mode, is Salmon will only take bait in a clear stream.  
OK.  Good to know.

So, she's in the middle of one of her presentations on some aspect of Alaskan Trivia when she lets out a scream.  As my fighter pilot instincts take over and I dive for the floor, I hear 'It's a moose" as she's pointing out the window.  Little Juvat has been taking pictures with his sooper, dooper industrial camera and happens to be looking in that direction and gets this shot.

There's quite a bit of scrambling to the right side of the railcar as everybody else tries to see/photograph Bullwinkle.  I sit there and sip on my Stout.  Seen one moose, seen 'em all.

5 hours after departure, we arrive in Talkeetna, where we checked in to the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
Approximate route, Google Maps doesn't have a Train option
Talkeetna is a small Alaskan Hippy town that I'm pretty sure is sustained entirely by Tourist Dollars (the richest kind).  It has a small brew pub with an excellent stout, and good fish and chips (still avoided by the usual suspects), numerous T-Shirt shops and other must have "lead weights".  It also had a Cannibis shop.  

Hadn't seen an openly displayed store like that, but passed it by anyhow.  

Dinner at the Lodge was fabulous and we retired before sunset again.
Glad I didn't meet Yogi in the wild!

The following day, we're up after sunrise and boarding the train for Denali.  This five hour trip provides the only view we're going to get of Denali (AKA Mt McKinley pre-Obama).  as well as a view of Hurricane Gulch.  
Construction took 7 and 1/2 months beginning in 1921.  It's 900+ feet long and almost 300' above the river.  The train stopped in the middle of it for pictures, and the views from the gondolas were like you were suspended in mid air, you couldn't see the trestle.

Very spectacular!

Shortly thereafter, we got our view of Denali.  Unfortunately there was a low ceiling (given that the mountain is 20,310', almost any ceiling will obscure), we didn't get a real good view.

Just to the right of the pine tree, between the ridge line and the cloud base.
But according to the Rail Guide, only about 30% of visitors get to see it at all.  Stanley piped up with a question about scheduling the train on better weather days.  (No, I'm not kidding.  I was beginning to think about untimely demise options.)

Arrived  at Denali (which houses the Denali National Park Visitors Center) shortly thereafter, checked into the McKinley Chalet (non-PC name there) and quickly departed for what I thought would be a pretty hokey tour, but which turned out to be the most fun tour we took on the entire vacation.

I mean how bad can it be when as you exit the tour bus you are handed a puppy?

The one on the left is 7 days old, the one on the right is 7 weeks old.
Husky Homestead, owned by 4 time Iditarod winner Jeff King, presents a 2 hour tour of his training facility, giving demonstrations of handling as well as a good description of what it takes to race for a thousand miles in sub-zero temperatures. Mr. King says that handling the puppies gets them acclimatized to humans and facilitates their training later.

The tour was well worth the time.

And you get to hold a puppy!

We retire before sunset and arise the next morning after sunrise, then board the train for Anchorage.

Eight hours on a train in Alaska, especially one with dome cars, quickly leads to "too much beautiful", but we endure.

We retire before sunset and arise the next morning after sunrise (you starting to see a pattern here?) and meet up with Sherry our driver from Alaska Adventure Unlimited who will be driving us down to Seward to board the cruise ship while stopping at a few interesting spots along the way.

The Alaskan Wildlife Refuge Center was especially interesting, with Moose, Bison, Caribou, Reindeer and Bears all visible.  
Are you driving a Yugo again, juvat?

Once in Seward, we embark on Celebrity's Millenium and set sail South to visit Humboldt Glacier, Juneau, Icy Strait Point and Ketchican before arriving and debarking at Vancouver.  

Having been to Juneau before, Mrs Juvat and I elected to remain on board and enjoy the peace and quiet.  The rest of the group got off but was soon back being similarly unimpressed with the town.  Tourists and Politicians seem to be the thing there.

The Humboldt Glacier was our next sight, but unlike our last trip, there was little wildlife in view and, truly, the only time I like ice is in my Whisky and then just a bit.

Next stop was Skagway.  Quite a bit of improvement in that port since our last visit in '09.  Why, the streets are paved now and you don't have to follow the railroad tracks from the dock to the city.  We're talking MAJOR improvements.

Stopped in at the Red Onion Saloon for lunch and enjoyed a very nice stout. 

 Our friend's daughter had a friend that worked there as a waitress.  Her uniform was based on outfits worn during the Gold Rush by the (cough) "ladies" that populated the bar back then.  We were treated to a tour of the upstairs offices the ladies used as well as a bit of witty repartee between our tour guide and Little Juvat.  Suffice it to say he was quite nonplussed by it and a bit red faced.  The DIL was laughing.

Icy Strait Point was a new stop for us, and quite enjoyable.  It is a port facility privately owned  by the Tlingit People.  I liked it for it's simplicity.  

Stanley would have gotten lost, but he wasn't on the cruise portion.  (Thankfully!)

The guys enjoyed lunch by the fire, while the girls walked to the village of Hoonah.  Lunch was a fried halibut sandwich washed down by a very nice.....wait for it.......stout!

Watched a little impromptu airshow from our balcony on the ship in Ketchikan

Ketchikan was our last port to visit.  Got off and walked the Red Light district, now populated by Gift Stores, Dress Shops, Restaurants and bars. It also had a Cannibis Shop.
I guess there must be some Pandemic that only Cannibis can cure

Mrs Juvat and I got separated from the rest of the gang who had gone in to the National Park Service Museum.  We returned to the ship and had lunch (which I washed down with....You got it!).  The report from the Museum was that it was very well done and informative.

Somewhere during these last few days, Little Juvat came down with an Upper Respiratory Infection and was feeling a bit peckish.  Our disembarkation point was Vancouver and the plan had been to walk around there until 5 PM, take the train to Seattle which would arrive at 10:30, check in to the hotel, arise at 2:45 AM to make the airport for a 5:30 AM departure.

I was "concerned" about the timing of all that (even on a good day).  Little Juvat, feeling a need to sleep, suggested a better option, which we took.  We took the shuttle from the Cruise Terminal to Avis and rented a car.  Drove to Seattle and checked in to the hotel at noon.  We went out and had lunch. (I had a Burger with Fried Jalapenos which went quite well with my Stout, thanks for asking.)  Came home took a nap, had a whisky and dinner then went to bed WELL before sunset, arose at 2:45, and were sitting at the gate with about an hour to spare.

Did I mention that Little Juvat had procured first class seats for us on the way home also?
Sunrise on the mountains of western Washington and Oregon

The lack of Cell Coverage was a legitimate excuse for my not answering emails, but the final panicked push to get school started will be in full swing when I arrive back at work this morning.  


It was a fine vacation!


  1. I could have answered that for you, no need for expensive Alaskan jaunts.

    But was it really pepper spray and jingle bells, as goes the joke?

    1. (This joke for those who aren't familiar...)

    2. There was a sign at the National Park that had bear sighting procedures. I thought I took a picture of it, but haven't gone through all our pictures yet (Little Juvat filled up 2 64GB SD cards to win that contest), so this might not be correct
      If you sight a bear, turn around and slowly walk away.
      If it chases you, stand still.
      If a black bear attacks, fight back.
      If a brown or grizzly attacks, play dead.
      If they start eating you, fight back.

      My first impression on reading that was "Thanks loads!"

    3. I did have to read that twice before I got it. Nice!

  2. Great post! Looks as if you had a fine expedition.

    The Pope in a bear suit!

    Do Moose take bait in glacier-fed streams?

    Best of luck with the final panicked push.

    1. Thanks
      Since Moose are herbivores, I think he was just out for a swim. Or maybe it's the Alaskan version of the "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

  3. Excellent Post, and I do wonder if they will revert back to Mount McKinley now the new occupant is in the white house.

    1. Thanks. I don't think they will, (as I was informed by the SpEd Rail Guide) Alaskans have always referred to it as Denali or "The Mountain". So, while there wasn't a lot of push to change it from McKinley, there's even less to change it back.

  4. I was gonna use that exact title for a post about the past two weeks . . . With a strike through in boats.

    1. Looking forward to reading that post (as with all or yours), so feel free. ;-)

  5. Sounds like a great vacation Juvat. You're a stout fellow!


    1. Why....Thank you! I've been advised by experts! ;-)

  6. The Alaskan Cruise is definitely a bucket list item for me. The wife? No so much. Too cold she thinks. No colder than SanDog in the Winter I'm sure. I'm in Park City Utah right now, vacationing with said wife. Hope to hit a local distillery later tonight.

  7. It really wasn't very cold. The coldest day was the day we cruised by Humboldt glacier. Low clouds and drizzle to light rain, but still 40+, and you never leave the boat, so solidly doable. Anchorage was also overcast with drizzle to light rains, but about 50-55. Weather up north in Denali was clear and a billion and 60s (AKA gorgeous). Cruising down the panhandle from the glacier to Vancouver got progressively warmer with it being about 68 in Vancouver when we got off the boat at 8AM and 75 in Seattle when we got there about noon.

    All in all, not bad at all. The most gear I wore was a wool sweater and carried a rain jacket, most days both ended up in the back pack.

    Hope I sold your wife on a visit.

    1. I will let her know it received 5 stars on the Juvat scale!

    2. I think you'll both love it.

  8. Thanks for another great post.

    Between you and OAFS, I'm going to get a swelled head.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Haven't smoked weed in years, but I may have to look into this new "cannibis" product...
      Tennessee Budd

    2. From direct observation, it seems to be available in Alaska an Washington. I have no knowledge as to its legality, merely its advertisement. More power to ya'.

  9. Nice. I spent a night in Talkeetna once. Tried to have a drink in every bar in that tiny town. Failed in the attempt and barely staggered back to my unspeakable hotel room under my own power. Good times...

    1. I think every building in Talkeetna was or had a bar. I suppose that's necessary for sanity on any given winter's evening and could go a long way to explaining the Police Reports that Rev Paul used to post on his blog.

  10. Nice pics, and there wasn't any snow... Seems like everytime 'I' got sent up there it was below zero... sigh


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.