Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alaska - Anchorage

Our group of six arrived in Anchorage on two different flights. Lee and Laura came in from San Diego via Seattle while Stan and Pam were on our direct flight from Chicago O'Hare. Our flight left late (of course) but made up time and had us into Anchorage within ten minutes of schedule. Most of our 6 hour flight was spent watching movies, but as we neared Anchorage our attention turned to the windows:

We found out later these were glaciers

Because daylight lasts long in the summer our 8pm arrival felt more like 4pm. Lee and Laura had already secured our rental car and had time to explore town.

We checked into our hotel - The Anchorage Grand. It was a small hotel in what was likely an apartment complex at one time. We had a kitchen with stove, full refrigerator, large sitting area, and a lot of closet space. We were three blocks from the center of downtown and right next to the Eisenhower Alaska Statehood Monument and the train station was down the hill. It was a great location.

 


We headed into town for dinner. Town was still busy at 9:30PM. We found out that locals embrace this season and spend as much time as they can outside - which means later dinners. Glacier Brewhouse, our dinner location, had only one 4-person booth left and we insisted that six of us could fit. We spent the time trying beers and eating pizza.

Anchorage itself does not have any big famous sites or monuments like The Arch or Statue of Liberty. It was a small livable city - like Des Moines, Iowa. The suburban amenities were plentiful. Anchorage is fortunate to have many park spaces, the sea, and many mountains almost always in view. We were not sure how to spend our free time on Friday - and with four people in our group running a race the next day - we wanted to keep off our feet a bit. Our morning started with a 4-or-so mile walk on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Our route took us along the shoreline with views of whitecap mountains from across the water and to the Westchester Lagoon.

Time for lunch! We headed out of the downtown area towards the shopping / chain restaurant area of town. Dave found the Bear Tooth Theatre Pub online. The venue had a large dining area and a multi-use theater for art house movies and concerts. They are owned or associated with Broken Tooth Brewery (which is how Dave found them). We enjoyed their many beer offering and the sandwiches made with calzone dough were fantastic. It was a very unique lunch for the food and venue.
 
Ever go to Wal-Mart with six adults planning a week-long road trip? Not sure we'd recommend it. Snacks of all types were landing in the cart: Goldfish (the crackers), Good & Plenty, bagels, Rolos, several varieties of potato chips (they had Tim's from Washington so we had to load up), cracker sandwiches, a case of water..... Almost $90 later we ran out of there.
 
We made a stop at Lake Hood to watch some seaplanes take off. This area near the main airport has a collection of hangars and docks for seaplanes, and is home to the Alaskan Aviation Museum.

Back in the city we walked a few blocks from our hotel to the river where we should have been able to see salmon. A fishing derby was taking place and many folks were out there casting - but we did not see any fish on hooks. This was not the best place for viewing so we moved on to the Ulu Knife Factory Store and used their free trolley to climb the hill to city center. That's where we found the Alaska Public Lands Visitor Center and museum (which counted as a National Park office). Here we watched a film about the Katmai National Park and all their bears.

We found Humpy's bar in town to be a great place to sit and chat before making our way to dinner at Fat Ptarmigan. One thing we were all appreciating about Anchorage was its beer culture. Humpy's had a large selection of craft beers - many from Alaska. Fat Ptarmigan also had some great selections and we really enjoyed the ones we samples from Kassik's Brewing. The food at Fat Ptarmigan was excellent.

***

After our team completed the race, we hit the Anchorage Market. This area near our hotel was a tent city filled with food vendors and craft items. This is where we sampled deep-fried halibut for the first time. Excellent. There weren't any beer vendors in the market so we made our way to 49th State Brewing. Dave talked us into a large sofa area on the deck with a fire table. We camped out here for several hours while enjoying food, adult beverages and the amazing views.

 

We had "one more" in us so we headed up a few blocks to Williwaw. This location was a coffee spot, concert venue, rooftop bar, pool lounge, and speakeasy. The rooftop was full, leaving us to be the only patrons enjoying the ground level bar. It was ok though because we had some time to talk to our waitress, who was born in Alaska, and gained some insights on daily life. About 3/4 of the people working bars, hotels, restaurants were from somewhere else. Some work here seasonally while others made it their full-time home.
 
***
Our last experience in Anchorage was breakfast Sunday morning at Jackie's Place outside of downtown. Our 17 year old waitress pegged us as tourists by our long-sleeve t-shirts. We were wearing too many clothes. Oddly, the telephone book sized Mile Post guidebook was not the tip-off. She was stunned that tourists actually found their diner. When we said we found great reviews online she outright laughed. Fortunately the food and service were excellent and it was well worth our time to sit in a local place and watch folks come in and eat - in their shorts. After breakfast our drive to Talkeetna (or as we started calling it "Talk-an-ita") started.

 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Charity of the Month: Give Kids the World

Charity of the Month is a way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

June: In June we supported Alaska Conservation Fund with a $125 contribution. This organization is involved in many conservation projects around the 49th State.  We had an incredible time exploring Alaska during June and had some memorable experiences with glaciers and wildlife.

July's Charity


Give Kids The World (GKTW)

We've been supporting GKTW for years and during our Disney World trips we have witnessed the organization in action greeting families at airports.  We chose GKTW this month based on a recent Facebook post from a friend.   Her son has been working with a young boy that has a chromosomal condition that brings on daily seizures.   He is not able to walk, but participates in wheelchair skateboarding, horseback riding, etc.   No one with this condition has lived to age 5 and tomorrow (July 11) is his 5th birthday.   Give Kids the World will be welcoming this boy and his family to their resort in November.

Most avid Disney theme park fans know about the great things going on at Give Kids The World (GKTW). The 70+ acre resort (The Village) gives families of children with life-threatening illnesses a chance to have a magical week long vacation free of financial burdens and worry about the resort's ability to accommodate for their unique needs. Many of the guests are referred to GKTW by organizations like Make-A-Wish and come from all over the world. A week at GKTW typically includes ice cream for breakfast, visits to local theme parks, visits by famous characters, rides, and much more. "No" is a word seldom heard at The Village.

Give Kids The World is proud to be ranked among the nation’s top charities with over 90% of all donations going directly to catering to their guests.  Check out the many ways to help on their website.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Touring Alaska - Overview

Places visited by car

We just wrapped up two+ incredible weeks in Alaska. We are leaving for home today from Vancouver, British Columbia. Its hard to remember everything we have seen and experienced without opening the Photos App and going through the daily downloads of pictures taken along the way. We've experienced Alaska by car, train, boat, ship, little airplane, and kayak.

This trip took a lot of planning and coordination since three couples would be traveling together and we needed to balance individual interests. Holly, Laura, and Pam really did most of the work to put this all together. They did a fantastic job! Dave for the most part had no clue where we were going or the order of destinations.

We will post more details on the trip over the next few weeks (more likely months). Here is a rough outline of our itinerary with a few pictures included. As posts are added we'll edit this post to provide links to location and event posts for those truly interested in referring back for research. Since this trip included our first cruise ship experience we will also have specific posts and comments on that topic.

  • Anchorage
  • Anchorage Marathon
  • Telkeetna / Mount McKinley
  • Denali National Park
  • Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Cruising (with 3 at-sea days)
  • Glacier Bay National Park
  • Skagway
  • Juneau
  • Ketchikan
  • Vancouver (Canada Day 150)
Cruise ship destinations

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 Shires of Vermont Race Report and Video

Here is Holly's Shires of Vermont Race Report with Dave's comments and video.

Back to Vermont again thanks to the jerk race director from Vermont Cities. See my report from that one here. I really did not want to go back and do that one again and was very pleased that the Shires of Vermont marathon was back on again after a year hiatus. I had heard good things about it and was excited to run it. Then I saw the course profile. Holy hills! I was doing this one three weeks after Reno and knew I would either be beat up or more ready to run. If you read that report you know I fell during that race and I was still feeling the effects from the fall and was a bit worried.

Once again Dave will handle the pre race fun, but we did stop in a cute little town at a church for packet pick up the night before the race. One of the volunteers started chatting with me and she was so nice. I was not the only one looking for VT marathon redemption and she assured me that this was going to make up for it. We hit a pizza place for my traditional spaghetti and meatballs and went back to the hotel. We didn’t have to get up too early as the race didn’t start until 8 and we were only 10 minutes from the start. This is a point to point course that starts in Bennington and ends in Manchester. The race started at Bennington College and it was nice to have a place to wait with real bathrooms. A trumpet player played the national anthem and we were off and running. All 60 of us. Yes, 60.

It was a small race and I was soon bringing up the rear. I was with one other woman for a while, but I was in last place. No big deal for me. But I’m sure for some it would be difficult. As soon as I passed a water station or a mile marker sign on the road they would start packing up or pull the sign. I got to know that same volunteer whom I chatted with the night before pretty well as she was in charge of pulling the signs.

The course was GORGEOUS. Hilly, but GORGEOUS. I was doing ok, but the first miles were mentally tough for me. The hills were ok, but I knew the tough ones were still to come. We were on a hard packed dirt road for quite a few miles, but I didn’t mind it, since we were running through some pretty woods. We got to about the halfway point and got to run through a covered bridge! Dave ran through with me, carrying the GoPro of course. Now the huge hill was next. It’s a category 5 hill, which if you follow bike racing you know what that means. I walked up it and it was a nice break mid race for my mind and body. After the top is was downhill for several miles and that was great.

Miles 16-20 are my toughest miles mentally and to have a nice downhill for those miles was perfect timing. I was feeling good and the hard part was over. We got in to the town of Manchester and I was slowing down and was starting to get hungry. One more uphill here that was pretty tough, but soon I was approaching the finish line. I didn’t finish in last, but pretty close! I received a super cool handmade medal and they had plenty of post race food: chocolate milk, baked potatoes and watermelon.

The volunteers were AMAZING. The best I have ever seen. They were very energetic and enthusiastic. There were also some guys on bikes riding around and checking on us and they always had an encouraging word. Also one woman volunteer was driving around and she asked if I needed anything and I asked if she knew if the Nuun energy drink they had at the aid stations had caffeine, since I can’t have caffeine. She didn’t know, but said she would find out. She drove back about ten minutes later and let me know that they didn’t. I couldn’t have asked for better support. I highly recommend this race. I’m so glad I decided to do this race as my Vermont do-over. Small races really are my favorite and the people running this race know how to do it.

Dave's Comments

We had another nice long flight delay for this trip and landed in Albany pretty late. By the time we arrived in Bennington the only thing barely still open was Wal-Mart. We had a fine dinner of wine and Lunchables. The next morning we were trying to determine what the area had to offer. Turns out not a lot. Manchester had some shopping and dining, but that was about it. We checked out the Battle of Bennington Monument commemorating the defending of an important weapons cache during the Revolutionary War.

After checking out the area from a high place we drove 90 minutes to a brewery. The drive was very scenic and the location of Long Trail was right on a pretty riverbank. We stayed for one beer and then drove some more towards Harpoon's Windsor location. Another great spot along a stream with a few other local shops and distillery in the complex. We enjoyed lunch with our friends Charlie and Karen. Dinner was at Ramuntos Pizza, which was one of the few places in town we found spaghetti and meatballs on the menu. They had a great beer selection and some decent NY style pizza.

Long Trail

Race Chasing on Sunday was pretty darn easy. Not many people in the race and the roads were very lightly traveled. The only food I could find on the course was at mile 1.5. After that it was self-sufficency. Surprising fact since this race went through a few shires. With no real stops and a very open course I spent a lot of time looking at trees. After the race we had some really good burgers at Madison Brewing in town and went back to Ramuntos for a different beer selection. Bennington closed down early on Sundays so we spent the rest of our evening at Chili's near the hotel.

Our plan on Monday was to browse Troy, NY. We heard it had an up-and-coming downtown. If this is true it's not apparent driving around. We altered our plans and checked out Druther's Brewing in downtown Albany before heading back to Troy for lunch at Brown's Brewing. Both were housed in old warehouses and made some nice improvements in the spaces.

Check out the race video below to see some great scenery and watch us go over a covered bridge.

 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lake Tahoe and Virginia City

While out in Nevada for the Reno Downtown River Run Marathon we had the opportunity to visit two nearby tourist sites: Lake Tahoe and a Virginia City.

Lucky for us our friends Lee and Laura were with us to do all the navigating and driving. We occupied the back seats and took in the views. We reached the lake via Route 50 and took the southern route towards Stateline. We originally thought about doing the gondola ride up the mountain but decided the $45/pp price was a bit too steep (ha!). We parked in town near the marina to get a good long view of the lake.

That's a sailboat mast. Someone had a bad day.

Our next stop was the Taylor Creek Trail and Visitor Center. The center was closed (too early in the season) and some of the trails were inaccessible due to flooding. The trail still gave us access to beautiful meadows, forests, mountains, and lake shore.

After our pleasant walk around Taylor Creek we headed up the mountain to Emerald Point. About 1/2 of the tourists in northern Nevada were here to take in the view.

We were all getting hungry and needed lunch. How lucky were we to find a brewery just nine miles away? Tahoe Mountain Brewery was perfectly situated in Tahoe City. The large town park and lake was just across the street. We enjoyed a great lunch and some excellent beer. We walked around the park for a few minutes before heading back to Reno.

 

Dinner that night was at Campo in downtown Reno. Food was average but the beer list was good, wine selection seemed ok, and the room was nice. We were offered wine while waiting for our table - nice touch. We were entertained by prom-goers (about 30 of them) having their pre-dance dinner and paying the waiter individually.

The day after the marathon we headed to Virginia City. Dave had never heard of it, but the town was made famous by its silver mining in the 1800's. Its fame was boosted by the TV show Bonanza. Town was pretty dead on an off-season Monday with many businesses still closed for the winter. We walked the length of the main street to the school and an active mine. We also visited the shooting gallery, town museum, visitor center, and a few shops. We learned that at one time this was the richest city in the U.S. and Mark Twain started his writing career at the local newspaper. Lunch was pizza and local beer at the Red Dog Saloon. It was worth the time to visit the town even though it was a bit of a tourist-trap.

Our final visit on this trip was to Great Basin Brewery since it was near the airport and we had enough time for one more. The more interesting part of the visit was leaving. We put another item back into the trunk of Lee's SUV and exited the strip mall onto a busy 6 lane road. About ten seconds in the trunk flies open and half our luggage tumbles onto the street. Lee pulled over while three of us ran into traffic to save the bags. Dave was really scared his camera, lens, and iPad were toast. Thankfully all electronics were fine and only the bags suffered minor scratches and tears.

 

First picture Dave took after the luggage incident.

We are now on our way to have another adventure with Lee, Laura, Stan, and Pam. Dave and Lee are in charge of the car so we will be sure the hatches are battened-down.