Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alaska - Anchorage

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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.

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