Saturday, September 27, 2008

The New Embraer 190

Nice Job!

You know you fly too much when you can identify the seating pattern for nearly all commercial aircraft.

As the airlines seek to maximize profits many seem to be relying more and more on smaller jets. I am not opposed to that trend as long as they are comfortable, safe, and dependable.

The smaller jets seem to have their own definite personalities. The Fokker is good in storms. The CRJ's may be practical, but typically do not have a first class section and are downrght uncomfortable for anyone over 5' tall. In fact I can't even look out a CRJ's windows without ducking weirdly.

So as the new Embraer 190's come on the scene I have to say Bravo! Made in Brazil, these are nifty planes. In the past few weeks I have now flown on 3 of them and have found each to be great. They have (at least on US Airways) a big first class section. They have NO middle seats! They have big luggage bins. They are quiet and smooth. I note on their website they even feature a whole narrative on ergonomics! Think of that an aircraft manufacturer that expresses actual concern about the comfort and ergonomic needs of human beings!

With so many negatives associated with commercial airline travel lately, I'm pleased to report that this new aircraft is a welcome addition to the skies!

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Emerald City


The first time I set my eyes on Seattle I was smitten. It was not merely an infatuation, no I was in deep passionate love with it. My family had made the trip from California in a bright red plymouth station wagon that had huge tailfins and featured the last row of seating facing backwards.  That is where I sat, so I saw everything from Oakland to Seattle backwards. By the time the "Trees of Mystery" appeared, it was actually disappearing.  I could cry out to stop, but it was always too late. Yeah, that wagon was perfect for my dad.  He finished each day of travel evaluating the "time" we were making. If he had his way we would have packed sandwiches and peed in a coffee can on each trip.

We were actually headed for the 1962 Century 21 Worlds Fair. Now, being the first worlds fair in the US since the end of World War II, expectations were high, and it turned out to be a spectacular success. It featured John Graham's "take that sputnik!" Space Needle, the sleek alweg monorail, and a slew of inventive architecture.  Every day we were there was sunny and the views of Mount Rainier were amazing. To a six year old kid that already knew he wanted to be an architect, it was pretty intoxicating. When we left the fair and headed for home, I knew I was destined to return.

It took about 18 years, but I was true to my word. I now had my architectural degree and was ready to become the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Pacific Northwest. On my way there I experienced Mt. Saint Helen's eruption and I guess I should have taken that as a warning. I arrived only to quickly learn that there were already some amazing architects there. In fact, no one really was waiting for me. They were well into the development of "the Northwest Style" and I stood in awe of the homes that Ralph Anderson was designing. I loved Fred Bassetti's fusion of scale with northwest materials. I tried to figure out which way Yamasaki's Rainer Bank building was going to fall (it hasn't!) And I gasped at concrete as a finish when Olson and Walker redefined northwest urban living in their masterpiece Pike and Virginia condominiums just above the original Starbucks at the Pike Place Market.

Seattle was an exciting place to be. It was time when the Mt. Hood floating bridge just disappeared one morning. It was when whack jobs committed suicide by driving all the way through ferry boats into the Puget Sound. Gary Larsen was living there and drawing his "Far Side" cartoons. It was also a time when you could watch the pure class of Lenny Wilken's guiding Downtown Freddie Brown and Jack Sikma as they won game after game at the Kingdome.

It was a time when the best advice came from Ivar Haglund to just "Keep Clam". Ivar hosted a kids show, owned a slew of restaurants, bought the fireworks for us each year, and flew his big fish kite above the Smith Tower (in defiance of Seattle's flag law where only the American flag was allowed to fly). Ivar just flew whatever he wanted and paid his fines to charity.

I got my first job in architecture at a big firm and hated it. In retrospect the only thing job number one did for me was provide the venue to meet my future spouse, and make me realize that after five years in college, I really knew almost nothing about my chosen profession. The other consolation prize was that I also met lots of great (and some not so great - but interesting) people. When job number two came along (at a firm on Lake Union that did condos), I was pretty humble and finally ready to really learn. Although small, it had both architects and engineers and everyone was willing to teach "the kid" the tricks of the trade. I loved it.

Since I had almost no money I discovered Seattle as a pauper. I enjoyed its parks and its views. I rode my bicycle pretty much everywhere. Sometimes I'd ride for days at a time. I hiked the cascades, and I rode the ferry boats. If my wallet was full I'd go skiing. If not, there was always volleyball games with friends at Green Lake and a free concert or play in Volunteer Park.

Now when I return as the "out of town expert" I move comfortably on the other end of the economic scale. While I have enjoyed both ends, the hotels are better if you bring lots of money. I like The Sorrento, The Inn at the Market, and The Alexis, but all the chains are there too. That said, aside from the magnificent Fairmont Olympic, I think the boutique hotels are better. Nowadays, The Watertown, the refurbished University Inn, and the Hotel 1000 have joined the top ten lists. The local Silver Cloud chain has a very nice moderately priced hotel at Lake Union as well. Of course for funk, there is the Hotel Max or the Edgewater (the temporary over water hotel built for the fair...) where along with Steve Goodman you can still "fish from your window".

So after seeing it from both sides, here is what I suggest for a visitor. First off, assume it will rain. If it does, it won't be a big deal, since "you expected it". If it doesn't, you will smugly tell everyone back home "gee it never rained while I was there!"

Plan to stay downtown or perhaps in the lovely and very walkable Queen Anne neighborhood. If you rent a car, leave it at the hotel as much as possible and walk.  Walk to "The Market" (locals refer to the Pike Place Market as just "the Market") and enjoy the fish mongers as they yell and toss fresh Alaskan Salmon over their shoulders. Enjoy the fresh flowers, drink coffee, and buy some crafts or fresh honey. The market is a sensory overload. It is noisy. It is smelly. It is a dazzling array of colors all set above a spectacular view of the Puget Sound. Come Saturday and watch the parade of rich "East Side Ladies" arriving in their euro wheels to go to Sur La Table and "pick up a little something".

Nowadays the Kingdome that once anchored the south edge of downtown is only history. It was one of those stadiums built before commercial sponsors bought naming rights. It kind of looked like a big wart on a parking lot (some things don't change) and was promised to be one of those "wonders of the world" that would keep spectators warm and dry while for both baseball and football games. It did keep everyone warm and dry but had falling structural bits coming down and didn't really serve baseball or football all that well. It also had horrible acoustics (almost destroying an amazing Eagles/Linda Ronstadt concert). So after only 23 years it fell to the wrecking ball. It was replaced by the sorta retro, sorta roofed, sorta wierd, Safeco Field and the Seahawks new clam winged Qwest Field. So football is now played in its own home and baseball is played in its own home and spectators for both are once again cold and wet. Yes, the sports world is right again.

Adjacent to the stadiums is the genesis of Seattle: Pioneer Square. It has always been there and it has always had it own unique persona. It was the original "Skid Road" where logs from local forests were skidded over wooden planks to the mills and boats waiting at waters edge. When the wood stopped skidding the name took on its modern meaning. To this day the bums are still there every day. It is always a little strange to me to see yuppies and the homeless sharing Pioneer Square. It is where ancient taverns sit side by side with pricey boutiques and linen clad restaurants. Actually, what you see in Pioneer Square today is mainly the second story of most buildings as the City raised the street to avoid tidal flooding. So at one time it was possible to fall a full story off the street to the storefronts below. Amazingly, many of those original storefronts are still down there and visible on the "Underground Tour".

The International District is just east and north and of Pioneer Square and is a wonderful place to go for a Japanese or Chinese lunch.

With its location near farms and the sea, food is a big part of life in Seattle. It is a land of abundance. People demand to know the origin of their clams and mussels. So restaurants in Seattle are superb. It is impossible to be "on top" of the restaurant scene. There are the Classic's like Ray's Boat House at Shilshole (the sablefish in sake kasu keeps me coming back over and over), McCormick's Fish House, and The Dahlia Lounge. And, if you make a reservations 2-3 weeks in advance and bring a very nice nice suit, you can enjoy a visit to the legendary, if not almost impossible to drive to, Canlis.

More touristy (yet great) are all of the restaurants that are legacy to Ivar Haglund.  Of all of Ivar's restaurants I like the Salmon House on Lake Union best of all. There you will enjoy the best alder smoked salmon in the world, watch the lakeside patrons feed the gulls and watch and endless parade of yachts and sailboats heading from Lake Union to Portage Bay. You can sip your Manhattan style clam chowder and be served by one of Ivar's legendary waitresses. I'm conviced many of them have served me over and over for decades, yet they clearly still enjoy watching visitors from around the world find out how salmon should really taste. In most American cities kids "hate" seafood and limit thier intake to (gag) fishsticks. In Seattle, kids grow up loving seafood and are a bit cautious about too much intake of red meat.

But...if you do want a steak, you are in luck. Open your wallet and head for El Gaucho or the Metropolitan Grill. 

For casual fare, get a pizza by the slice at Pagliacci's or get the whole pie at the Northlake Tavern. This is where the Red Robin chain started so you can expect fine burgers (at Dicks or Kidd Valley).

Finally there is coffee and desert.  There are intersections in Seattle (I am not making this up) where there is a Starbucks on two or three corners. Yet locals seem to love Tully's. Me, I love the velvet foam lattes at any Uptown Espresso. Of course the classic place for coffee and desert is the B&O espresso on Capital Hill.  This place plays a cameo in like every movie ever shot in Seattle. It is yuppies, goth's, emo's, and old hippies all slam danced into rooms of red velvet kitsch.

Chocolate is also big in Seattle (mood altering foods become essential for locals in order to endure the rain and  titanium skies most of the year). The local favorite used to be Marshal Field's Frango's from the old Frederick and Nelson store downtown (now Nordstrom's flagship store). Now there is also the joys of Theo's and Oh! Of course the one that started it all is still there too - Dilletante.

Besides eating there are wonderful museum's (I like the old Seattle Art Museum - now home to the Seattle Art Museum's Asian Art collection) in Volunteer Park. There is the Experience Music Project (EMP). And don't forget the Woodland Park Zoo, or a visit to see the rhododendrons in the "U" arboretum (February to May).

In addition to fine art Seattle also has some great and some not so great public art. The great stuff (in my opinion) is all in the Fremont District. The best is probably the larger than life volkswagon bug eating troll that lives under the north abutment of the Highway 99 (Aurora North) bridge. The next best is the frozen-in-time commuters waiting in a bus shelter for the "Interurban" which will never show up. The commuters have been very affectionately adopted by the neighborhood and are typically festooned for nearly every holiday. One piece of lore is that the face of the self-proclaimed "Mayor of Fremont" who was vocally opposed to the piece has been immortalized on the face of what should be the dog whose head is seen poking between the legs of the riders. The worst public art is anything that involves rocks.  For a decade the City bought a lot of rocks disguised as art.       

The Seattle music scene runs the gamut from the blues to grunge to the Wilson sisters (Heart). It even lets the Valkyries take flight each year for its Wagner festival (if you think grunge was "out there.....").

For peace and quiet rent a bike and pedal the Burke Gilman Trail. Or watch the boats go up and down at the Hiram Chittendam locks. Or do what I did as a broke, fresh out of school architect, go people watch at Alki Beach, peruse the racks at REI, or walk on a ferry boat bound for anywhere at sunset and just enjoy the ride.

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Savannah Images

The Beautiful Forsyth Park Fountain

One of Savannah's Squares

A Fish Shaped Cast Iron Rain Leader

Savannah's Rowhouses

Private Courtyard Garden

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Georgia's First City

When you ask people to identify their favorite North American cities they always identify a few big cities. Places like San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, New York, Montreal, and New York.

When I list my personal favorites most of the above certainly end up on the list. But, I tend to also gravitate to the wonderful smallish to mid-sized cities in North America; places like Santa Fe New Mexico, Revelstoke BC, Sandpoint Idaho, Colorado Springs, Banff Alberta, Napa California, Reno Nevada, Missoula Montana, Park City Utah, and a personal favorite, Savannah Georgia.

Savannah's Largest Square Forsyth Park

Part of the reason I am so fond of Savannah is because, besides being beautiful, it is so completely steeped in history and lore. There is a story about every square, every statue, and every structure. Even its cemetaries are good for an afternoon of sightseeing. In the downtown cemetary the Union troops were actually billeted during the Civil War (permanently vandalizing many of its graves). Across town the magnificent Bonaventure Cemetary is the final resting place of Johnny Mercer. In fact, the Mercer grave is complete with a bench that lists his seemingly endless string of academy award winning music from the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe right up to Moon River. Don't go to Bonaventure looking for the famous Bird Girl sculpture, it had to be moved to Telfair.

Spanish Moss and Typical Historic District Housing

Savannah is where Forrest Gump sat on a bench (it also had to be moved) and offered up wisdom and chocolates. It was birthplace to the founder of the American Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordan Low. It is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (the Bird Girl). It is "kickin chicken" and The Lady Chablis performing at Club One. It is were tutti frutti ice cream was invented at Leopold's and where the sweet buttery smell of hot pralines being poured lazily drifts through the City Market nearly every night of the week. It is home base to everyone's favorite celebrity mom/cook Paula Deen (buy her cook books, skip her tacky greasy spoon restaurant). It is the elegance of Garibaldi's dining room.  It is a Hopple Popple breakfast at Clary's, wonderful sandwiches at the Soho South, and terrific take-out at Zunzi's. It is where I will happily line up, chat with other tourists, and wait an hour or more to eat at our national treasure of southern cooking, The Wilkes House (Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House).

On a more personal note it is where my daughter attended the wonderful Savannah College of Art and Design (lovingly referred to by all as just SCAD).

Savannah is in Georgia's low country. It is essentially part of that broad swath of America's Mid-Atlantic resting halfway between swamp and dry land. It waits in the sweltering, sticky heat, for hurricanes, and is best completely avoided in summer. In the winter it is lovely, and even on hot days relief may be found a short drive away at either Tybee or Hilton Head Islands.

Savannah is home to lovely bed and breakfasts and a few historic hotels such as the Mansion on Forsyth. Sadly, it is also home to some of the most disappointing examples of chain hotels in America. The Savannah Marriott is almost near things and was built during their "icky bricky" phase (which I personally consider the dark ages of American hotel design, just after Gugi, and just before the return of chic). Anyone merely driving by the Hyatt will readily agree it is blight and would join in tearing it down. Ah, but the Desoto Hilton, that one is the most truly hideous of them all. It is out of scale (lets just call it what it is - butt ugly!), and it features surly service and poor maintenance. Why Hilton has not pulled its name off this one is a complete mystery to me. The more modern, feels-like-it-should-be-a-casino, Westin is actually on the other side of the river from Savannah next to the gargantuan conference center. Therefore, it has a great view but requires a water taxi or a drive over the beautiful Talmadge Memorial bridge to do anything.  

Mid-size hotels in the historic district run from very well run (the Marriott Courtyard and new Hampton Inn and Suites) to perfectly located, but marginally managed, hotels like the Doubletree and Hilton Garden Inn (both chains would normally rest on my list of favorite mid-priced hotels!)

With its numerous, elegant, spanish moss clad tree lined squares, cars in the historic district have to slow down to a crawl. This results in the historic district of Savannah being a perfect place to stroll or ride a cruiser bike. This allows for window shopping along River Street, the City Market, the French Market, Shop SCAD, or even the stylish Marc Jacobs Boutique. 

From an urban planning and architectural perspective Savannah is an embarassment of riches. Distinctive rowhouses surround beautiful private courtyards. Amazing cathedrals grace many of its squares and many of Savannah's buildings feature little touches of whimsy. Everything from cast iron fish rain leaders to the ornamental bass relief of the architect on the old Post Office. Most of the structures that house SCAD are glowing examples of how successful adaptive reuse of historic buildings can be. Check out the SCAD operated Gryphon Tea Room or its Ex Libris bookstore.

Sadly, as good as Savannah's old buildings are, the new / modern ones are pretty tragic. Examples include the awful Civic Center / Mercer Theater, the latrine tile clad Army Corps building, and, of course Safdie's completely freezer burned addition to the otherwise incredible Telfair Academy of Art. That is always the problem when a place reaches the point of being so special; history intimidates the future.

So grab those golf clubs, reserve a spot on a Haunted Savannah walking tour, toss in binoculars (wonderful bird watching at Wormsloe Plantation), and come hungry!

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Alaska Images

Summer in Anchorage 
4th Avenue

Approaching Southcentral Alaska
By Air (Typical Glacier Fields) 

Ketchikan Docks 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Denali - The Great Land


When I graduated from college I immediately moved to Seattle (just in time to get trapped in the explosion of Mount Saint Helens - my old T-bird still has ash in the fender wells to prove it). 

I had visited Seattle as a kid for the Worlds Fair and I was smitten. It was green and had lofty views of Mount Rainier. It had the monorail and the Space Needle. I was convinced it was the City of the future.

After living in Seattle a year or two, I also came to find out I hate grey skies and relentless, Gregorian chant quality, rain.

But it was during my brief domicile in Seattle when a series of unrelated events collided in such a way that I wound up moving to Alaska. Believe me, when I moved to Seattle, Alaska was the furthest thing from my mind. But somehow it all seemed like a good idea at the time. Alaska needed architects, the median age was 26, I was in a dead-end job in Seattle, and the pay in the Great Land was exceptional.

I can truthfully say, all things considered, it was the best decision in my life. I made friends for a lifetime, started a family, was able to travel, and was given remarkable responsibility in my profession.

Here's how my adventure started. I packed my little Mazda with what little household stuff I had, my inherited stray cat, and some cash. I then drove to British Columbia (I will save my posting about the western provinces of Canada for a later blog). From Vancouver I caught the BC ferry to Vancouver Island and drove to its Northernmost tip. There I boarded a Canadian ferry bound for Prince Rupert. In Prince Rupert I caught the Alaska Marine Highway (the state of Alaska's ferry service) and started my travels into Alaska itself. Like everyone I was stunned by the scale of the state. Everything is extreme.  An abundance of wildlife, endless mountains, glaciers, and forests. The showers in the ferry also host the planet's most indestructible strain of athlete's foot (bring nuclear powered Lysol). 

Although seemingly huge when aboard, the ferry boats are actually compact when compared to the incredible cruise ships that now ply the inside passage. So they routinely travel through the narrow little places the big ships bypass.  They are also a people watchers dream carrying people from every walk of life.  

At night you can even stretch your sleeping bag out on the astroturf top deck and sleep under the northern stars (although during Alaskan summers the sun barely sets!) The ferry I took was the venerable Malaspina and it called on Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, St. Petersburg, Skagway, and Haines. Haines is where I disembarked to connect up with the Alcan Highway. 

From the Alcan you can essentially go north or south. North to Fairbanks or south to Anchorage and the Kenai peninsula.

Many folks just take an "Alaskan Cruise" up the inside passage, look at Glacier Bay and return to Vancouver or Seattle. Sadly, they leave thinking they have seen Alaska. While a very worthwhile trip, the impression that a trip to Southeast Alaska constitutes a full Alaskan experience is dead wrong. 

First things first. If you can swing a trip to Sitka, I highly recommend it. It has a wonderful Russian Orthodox Church (actually a precise replica of the original that burned a few years back). Its trees are full of bald eagles, and, if the weather is clear, you are afforded an amazing view of Mount Edgecomb. Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka is where James Michener lived while researching and eventually writing his epic novel "Alaska".

Ketchikan is a fishing village gone tourist. If you stop there don't miss Ray Troll's Ketchikan gallery - he is Alaska's icon of offbeat salmon based art. 

Wrangell and St. Petersburg are not touristy at all, they are the real deal; serious hardworking Alaskan communities. 

Juneau, remains defiantly the state's capital, despite numerous attempts to move it to the interior of the state. Listed right up there with Istanbul (earthquake), and Mexico City (volcano), as one of the most "at risk" cities in the world (avalanche), it just keeps on plugging away in the rain and fog. Personally, I love Juneau. Its downtown clings to the side of the mountain. It has quaint bed and breakfasts and generally some of the ugliest buildings found anywhere in the world (I rest my case with the US Federal Building). 

I love it in the off season.  When I was planning Juneau's new police station I visited with my (then) 12 year old daughter. On the weekend we went to the glaciers, and then the docks to watch the fishing boats deliver king crab and halibut. My daughter sidled up to a yellow slicker clad fisherwoman and mentioned that she loved king crab. She was rewarded with an invitation to come back that night and eat our fill at the woman's very own restaurant! We fondly remember that restaurant (I think it is now the Twisted Fish restaurant). Another great place to eat was the Silverbow (for breakfast or dinner). For coffee head straight to the Heritage Coffee house. Alas I bemoan the loss of Juneau's marvelous Fiddlehead Bakery. 

Don't leave Juneau without a visit to see William Speer's gallery of custom designed cloisonne pins, they make superb souvenirs.

OK, once on the road from Haines it became apparent to me and Tess, my cat, that things were gonna be very different. The pines had disappeared and were replaced by the great interior spruce forest. Now a few things you have to know about spruce. Their roots stop at the permafrost, so they lean drunkenly. They also stink. After two attempts trying to use spruce trees for Christmas trees, we gave up, and agreed to pay whatever it cost to get a sweet scented noble fir from Seattle.

I was also not prepared for the mosquitos. I know, I know, everyone warned me, but still it was a shock.  They are huge and vicious. They eat poodles. 

At my first stop (to buy gas on the way to Anchorage), I got out to pump and noticed the drape move slightly in the window of the log structure where the gas station attendant was checking me out. Within seconds I realized I was literally covered by voracious mosquitos. Jumping and slapping, I hopped back into my car. At this point the gas guy slowly emerged trying not to laugh himself to death. I found myself cracking the car window just enough to slip the credit card out and the DEET drenched attendant finished off the job. 

The 800 miles from Haines to Anchorage were amazing.  I have never seen potholes like that before. When I left Seattle I had to jump on the hatchback to close it.  By the time I got to Anchorage (after so many lumps and bumps) everything in the car had settled to a point where I could plainly see out the rear view mirror and the cat had taken up a spread eagle perch on top of the whole mess.

I soon got settled, started to work and over the next few years grew to love the state more and more. Traveling from Point Barrow to Dillingham (and seemingly all points in between), it was always breathtaking. 

During the 21 hour days in summer I could ride my bicycle till 2 am. In winter there was snow volleyball. And moose were constant visitors in my backyard devouring any landscaping we could offer up. 

Anchorage is Alaska's largest City and is loved and reviled by the rest of the state. It is referred to "Los Anchorage", or "that big city close to Alaska".  

All I knew was it had a great trail system, and was the place where I could work by day and then go watch the incredible Cook Inlet boar tides (the second highest tides in the world). 

First stop would be to grab a burger and onion rings at the Arctic Roadrunner and then park to marvel at the white whales frolicking in the tides at Beluga Point south of town. In winter we could ski at Mount Alyeska (where else can you ski from the top of the mountain all the way to sea level!)

Anchorage, I also came to realize, has great restaurants (our favorite was Sacks - where we had our wedding reception). There was also wonderful dining at the Corsair and The Cook (locals refer to Wally Hickel's Hotel Captain Cook as simply "The Cook"). Around the corner was Simon and Seaforts with a kick-ass view.

I enjoyed many nearly forgotten dinners at La Mex on Spenard Road (where ingesting two of their huge margaritas while waiting for a table leaves one in a coma). 

There were incomparable steaks (believe it) at the dark old Club Paris. There was modern fare at Orso, and lots of Japanese food (the local favorite was Kumagoro). Darwin's Theory was where you could meet friends and grab a drink and curse local politics.

But for nightlife, there was only one Mr. Whitekeys fly-by-night club, which was going out of business in the same turtle-free environment, for nearly thirty years....The club finally did close for good on September 6, 2006.  Thank you Mr. Whitekeys for all those wonderful nights, great music, and all that spam. Night time will never be the same in Alaska.

For breakfast we loved Jackies Place. It was run by former Hawaiian's and featured serious "Local Boy" breakfasts complete with macadamia nut pancakes, spicy portuguese sausage, and rice.

Anchorage has a great fine arts and history museum, library, and a first rate downtown performing arts center.  

When your time in Anchorage is over hop on board the Alaska Railroad for a trip North through Denali (Mount McKinley) and then on to Fairbanks or South to the Kenai Peninsula (Seward, Kenai Fjords, halibut fishing, and eventually the end of the road Homer).  When we lived there you had to go through the rail tunnel to get to Whittier (the secret city and fuel reserve in WWII). Now you can drive. Progress. Sheesh. Whittier is the place to commence a flat water sea kayak adventure in Prince William Sound.

One last bit of advice about Anchorage. Do the unthinkable, go in winter. If possible go for the annual fur rendezvous. It is a party unlike any you will ever experience, a true once in a lifetime event. The bush trappers come to town with their furs. The bush villagers bring their gorgeous parkas and mukluks for judging. There is the miners and trappers ball, dog sledding, a midway, and seemingly one event after another. Mid-winter there is also a good chance to see the aurora borealis where the sky meets Dr. Timothy Leary. PETA folks, should not come anywhere near here during "Rondy!"

As for the balance of the state, plan to spend a couple of days exploring Denali Park.  If the mountain is out, you are truly blessed. The wildlife and its offspring is everywhere to be spotted. Since the only way into the park during high season is on big buses, the wildlife realize they need not hide.

In Fairbanks, plan a trip to the Chena Hot Springs. Also, don't miss the striking new museum at the University of Alaska.

Perhaps finish off the visit with a float plane trip to a fishing lodge or to the Brooks Range above the arctic circle.  

Alaska is yours to explore and I assure you, once you visit, its magic will remain a part of your soul forever.

Roadboy's Travels © 2008