Saturday, May 21, 2011

Alaska - Day 4 - By Rail to Whittier 5/21/2011

Our Touring Train from Denali to Whittier

All Aboard

Riding the train parallel to the George Parks Highway, on our way to Whittier and our ship, the Diamond Princess, our driver-guide informed us that the town of Talkeetna was the model for the TV series, Northern Exposure. However, bad weather forced the filming to be relocated to the State of Washington. He also pointed out the tiny village of Sharman, population 2, with its City Hall. Their daughter had lived with them; but, she finally moved out of town, down the forest a few hundred yards.

Alaskan Village

We rode through the town of Willow, once a contender for the site of the relocation of the State Capitol. Alaskans thought Juneau perhaps too remote and inaccessible to be the seat of government. But, due to political wrangling among the prospective sites—which included Anchorage and Fairbanks, or locations nearby—and the excessive costs of moving the government—the idea was finally abandoned. This upset several land speculators who had banked on another outcome entirely. In theory, there are no billboards here; local ordinances decree that no signs shall be taller than the roof of the building; but, we saw a number of violations from our Dome Car vantage point.

Caribou, From the Train

Looking Ahead

In Wasilla, Sarah Palin’s home town, you are required to own a gun; if you haven’t bought one, local officials issue one until you do. Watersports are very popular, even in winter. During the dark months, locals play golf on the frozen lake with glow-in-the-dark golf balls.

Hurricane Gorge. Seen from the bridge that took several lives in its construction.

On the outskirts of Anchorage, there are 6 neighbors alongside the highway who are all pilots; they all agreed to remove their backyard fences for open access and to use this space as the runway for their small planes. I cannot imagine this happening in Davis; here, you need a permit just to install a bolt-on ceiling fan.

Cook inlet, near Anchorage, has the second highest bore tide in the U.S. This is a steep, foaming wall of water formed by a flood tide pouring through a restricted inlet. Alaskans ride kayaks or surfboards along the waves, which are typically 1-2 feet high; but, they can reach 10 feet.

Comic relief was provided by the passenger in a small, red Toyota pickup running parallel to us on one of the 3 state highways. He mooned us for several hundred yards before we finally lost sight of him. Or, perhaps I am being sexist; it may have been a female, I suppose--hard to say.

The River that Followed Us

Breakfast: $30, coffee, oatmeal, reindeer sausage and eggs. Lunch: $31, tea, burger, eggs Benedict. Dinner: $40, Hawaiian pork, Moroccan vegetables.

Really, I didn't like Alaska. It rained, almost every day, at least 300 days out of the year. ~ John C. Hawkes