Cheryl's Visit

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Earlier this year Cheryl (my younger sister) said she was going to visit us if we went to Alaska. Lots of people say they are going to visit us but fewer than half actually do visit. Cheryl hates being cold and the last place in the United States that I would expect her to visit us is in Alaska. However, Cheryl arrived from Charlotte, NC on June 9th. Even though it is summer, we made sure that her bed had an electric mattress pad on it so she would be warm. I also pulled out my winter clothes and jackets so she would have extra clothing if she got cold. She did not arrive until 10:00 PM (which was 2:00 AM in Cheryl's time zone). When we got to the RV I showed her how to operate the electric mattress pad and to turn on the fireplace if she got cold under the down comforter and fleece blankets on her bed.

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Friday morning we got up early - Cheryl had the fireplace on and the electric mattress pad turned up. We caught the 6:45 AM train to Seward, AK. The train followed Turnagain Arm for several miles. We saw many Bald Eagles and Dall Sheep climbing on the cliffs along Turnagain Arm. Later we passed Portage Glacier and several other glaciers. The Chugach mountains along the four hours route were spectacular. Cheryl stayed warm by sitting in the sunshine and drinking hot drinks in her four or five layers of clothing

Cheryl had made us reservations at a historic haunted hotel in Seward. The Van Gilder Hotel is located in the actual town of Seward rather than near the docks like the tourist hotels. Instead of taking the shuttle we walked the mile to the hotel. That afternoon we explored Seward, walking over five miles before dinner time. Using Yelp and TripAdvisor I had found the highest rated restaurant in Seward. We passed by it while walking around Seward and Cheryl was skeptical because the outside of the the place looked like a dive. Once dinner time rolled around, Cheryl wanted to check out other places, but we finally settled on the #1 rated restaurant - Thorn's Showcase Lounge. Calling Thorn's Showcase Lounge a dive is an understatement if you go by looks along. However when it comes to food quality and service, Thorn's is a five-star restaurant. Cheryl could not believe the place, the gaudy red leather seating was patched with black duck tape, the walls were covered with showcases filled with empty liquor bottles. The place was dark and filled with what appeared to be local folks. I ordered halibut and Cheryl ordered the seafood chowder and garlic bread. The halibut was excellent - it was very lightly breaded and the chowder was even better. Service was fast and our glasses were always full. Yes, Thorn's Showcase Lounge is a hole-in-the-wall and offers very little when it comes to atmosphere, but the food and service are as good as anywhere I have eaten.

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We went on a five hour wildlife cruise where we saw nine humpback whales, two otters, porpoises at a distance, sea lions, puffins, bald eagles and other wildlife. One whale got so close to the boat that the captain had to turn off the engine. The water got a little rough as we moved from Resurrection Bay into the Pacific Ocean and Cheryl got a little sea sick, but was fine as soon as we got off the boat. We went straight from the boat to the train and back to Anchorage for the night.

Sunday morning we went to the Anchorage Market and then headed to Talkeetna, AK. We hoped to see the Dr Seuss house on our way. The Dr Seuss house is/was being constructed by a lawyer in Anchorage. It is located on private property and according to some people it can be seen from the road. We had done some research and had a general idea of the area in which it was located. We stopped and asked three different people and got three different stories. We attempted to follow all three sets of info and the third set did result in us seeing the top of it from the road. Giving up for the moment, we headed on to Talkeetna. We had reservations for zip lining that afternoon and had no time left to continue searching for a way to get closer to the Dr. Seuss house.

Talkeetna is a funky little town with a paved main street and dirt side roads. The population is around 800 hundred people. Talkeetna is known as the international base for climbers who plan to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Denali National Park. We stayed at the historic Talkeetna Roadhouse - a place I highly recommend (even though rooms do not have TVs and you have to share bathrooms) just for the experience. The cafe serves breakfast and "not breakfast" at long tables where you have a seat, "any seat will do," and have breakfast or "not breakfast" with people from all over the world. The food is plentiful and excellent. I even bought a cooler to bring some home.

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Cheryl loves zip lining and booked us for a zip lining tour as soon as she decided to come to Alaska. The lady who checked us in warned us about the mosquitoes but I pretty much ignored her because I had yet to see any mosquitoes in Alaska. I had bug spray in the car, but didn't bother to take it out because despite all the stories, I just didn't believe there were a lot of mosquitoes in Alaska. I now know where the mosquitoes hang out in Alaska. Cheryl got bit a few times on her ankle, I did not get any bites. The zip line tour included nine zip lines, three suspension bridges and a short rappel. It was fun - except for the mosquitoes.

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Our plan was to go hiking the next day. We decided before we went hiking we would try again to find the Dr. Seuss house. We did not find the house, but we found the property and a sign identifying that it was the property. After deciding we were not going to be able to see it from the fence,we drove toward Denali looking for the trailhead for Little Coal Creek Trail. The plan was to hike about 4-5 miles to a view point where we could see Denali if there were no clouds. On the way we went through several rain showers and in and out of clouds. We finally arrived at the trailhead. Cheryl's plan was to hike with her ID and insurance card in case of a bear attack. I told her if her ID and insurance card were needed there would be plenty of time for them to be found - medical facilities were hours away. There were no other cars at the trailhead - I though this was wonderful, Cheryl was not happy with the prospects of us being the only people on the trail. I had bear spray and Cheryl had watched bear aware videos on YouTube before leaving home. We got out of the car and the mosquitoes swarmed around us. We walked a few hundred feet up the trail and Cheryl decided she didn't want to hike with no one else on the trail. I was not thrilled with the mosquitoes so we headed back to the car.

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We spent a second night in Talkeetna before heading south to Willow, AK, the official start of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. Unknown to Cheryl we had reservations at Dream a Dream Premier Iditarod Kennel. At the kennel we learned about the Iditarod and got to see all the equipment the musher use during the race. We got to meet the dogs, take the puppies for a walk, and go on a training run with an Iditarod finisher and dogs. The puppies are taken for a walk twice a day - on the walks, the kennel workers watch to see who the leaders are and those puppies are eventually trained to be lead dogs for the Iditarod. All of the adult dogs go on a daily training run even though there is no snow. Dogs are harnessed to a farm utility vehicle (often called a mule) for a run of several miles around the kennel.

Following the kennel visit we went to the Musk Ox Farm before returning to Anchorage to check Cheryl in for her flight and print out her boarding pass. On the way to the airport we stopped by the Lake Hood Seaplane Base to watch seaplanes take off and land.

These were a few of the highlights of our trip. It was a great adventure and the only time Cheryl got cold was zip lining. (I gave her my jacket as soon as we got to a place where I could take it off.) Perhaps she will visit again.

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