27 July 2010

Alaska Adventure - Day 7 - July 8, 2010

Previously: [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6]

All my trip photos (so far)

All too soon in was time to leave Beaver Creek. From there it was not too many kilometers before the neutral zone (which actually exists) and then the Alaskan border.

Let me take an aside here. Traveling with anyone can put a strain on a relationship. This is especially true when traveling with your kids, even more so when there are time zone changes, late nights, early mornings, and too much AIS (Bottom In Seat) time. Add to this (perhaps unrealistically) high expectations about your children's ability to cooperate, behave, and not annoy other people, and you may get to the point where you want to leave your kids in the previous country.

That is what happened here when Ella did not want me to take her picture crossing the border, which was right after we yelled at her for playing in the giant Welcome to Alaska pile of dirt.


Some more yelling and pleading and threats that she would never ever get a hamster finally got her to cooperate.

Take Off

We had miles to go before we slept, but we did still make a few stops. One was for lunch at some place I don't recall - but I do recall there was reindeer sausage, two kinds of fish and an ear shaped piece of cornbread all served in an iron skillet. Not too shabby. We later stopped at Rika's Roadhouse which had some picturesque grounds, but more importantly - ice cream.

We stopped at North Pole, AK where the presence of Santa in his giant giftshop forced me to fabricate some story about how he spends his summers in Alaska so that good girls and boys can visit him.

When we finally found Fairbanks we were free to find some food and some fun. I don't have too much to say about Fairbanks. Even though we stayed there two nights, we really did not see much of Fairbanks. Either that, or there just wasn't too much of Fairbanks to see. But I digress.

We settled on dinner at Some Greek Place after not finding anywhere more compelling that was open. Little known fact - Greek children like very spicy ham on their pizza. I learned this when the pizza my kids were splitting had some very spicy ham on it. My kids are not Greek. Luckily they had previously consumed 2/3 of my steamed clam appetizer so they would survive.

We explored more of Fairbanks, including a walk along the river on the river walk. We also got to a enticing fudge store just after they closed, but the Fudgiers were cool enough to sell us some tasty fudge anyway.


Next: [Day 8] [Days 9, 10, 11]

25 July 2010

Alaska Adventure - Day 6 - July 7, 2010

Previously: [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5]

All my trip photos (so far)

We were determined to have a better day Wednesay, and as we rode out of Whitehorse, Wednesday seemed to be cooperating. The weather was sunny and bright, and remember the bald eagle I didn't see from Day 5? On the morning of Day 6 the bird had not flown and was waiting for me by the side of the road. I spy with my little eye something from my bucket list. Isn't it good?

Our first post-eagle stop was Uncommon Journeys which provides dog sledding adventures in Canada's Yukon, among other things. Since we were there during the one month with no snow, we did not have a dogsled adventure, but we did get to hear all about it and meet the team. Also, there were cookies. It was a very good stop, and somewhere I would not mind coming back to someday.

Alaskan Husky

We continued along the Alaskan Highway until we reached Kluane where we were able to enjoy the sunhine while we lunched on sandwiches. Soon said sandwiches were gone, so Shelley and I sojourned to a more scenic view on other side of the street. I was glad we did, not just for the photo opportunities but also because we discovered a bakery that had delicious ice cream.

Kluane Sign

Kluane Girl
After more bump-diddy-bumping along the ALCAN highway, we stopped at Skipping Stone Lake. Note, this is not the actual name of the lake, nor is it a name I made up. It was actually made up by Coach Commander Parker Anderson, which made me appreciate Parker that much more. Even though this was yet another gorgeous lake with a breathtaking mountain background, the effect was just as intense as the first.

Cousins Range

Our final stop for the night was Beaver Creek (population 100) which is Canada's westernmost community. As we approached, we were told that there was no toliet paper in Beaver Creek. In a seemingly unrelated tour bus activity, we were asked to compose a song about Beaver Creek. One of the lines (that we did not use) included the phrase "You'll be asked to spare a square or supply a ply". Other lines were worse than that, and by worse I mean way better. The whole toilet paper thing turned out to be a fabrication however. I can only assume it was meant as some tour group bonding exercise.

Shortly after arriving we were treated to some dinner theater, Yukon style. (By the use of the word "treated" you should not assume that any part of this was complimentary nor should you assume that it was much of a treat). Leave it to Beaver Creek to show us that kind of good time. While the rest of us "enjoyed" the "show", Shelley ducked out and took pictures of blue, sunny skies at 11:00 PM.

Next: [Day 7] [Day 8] [Days 9, 10, 11]

22 July 2010

Alaska Adventure - Day 5 - July 6, 2010

Previously: [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4]

All my trip photos (so far)

The disappointing weather in Juneau followed us to Skagway while we slept. After our last breakfast at sea, we met the rest of our tour group - The Mighty 7A - in the Vista Lounge. Our tour guide Rosyln ($4 per person per day expected gratuity) guided us to a bus for an unnecessary 2 minute bus ride to downtown Skagway.

The town was booming in 1898 because of the Klondike Gold Rush where gold was separated from the wilderness. The town was also booming in 2010 where gold was separated from tourists. There was a National Historic Park in town so the kids were able to earn their first Junior Ranger badges in Alaska (2nd overall).

After grabbing lunch at the Red Onion Saloon (where the waitresses were both hotter and cheaper than the food) we all aboarded the White Pass-Yukon Railroad and took off for a trip up and over the Great White (North) Pass. It's the beauty way to go. If the weather had cooperated the views would have been something as we climbed almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles to Fraser, Canada. Even with the clouds and fog, however, it will still a worthwhile trip.

Watching the World Go By

Better Than One

In Fraser we met our coach and it's intrepid Commander, Parker Anderson ($4 per person per day expected gratuity) and we lit off a grinnin' to the Yukon, more specifically to the booming metropolis of Whitehorse. Though traveling by bus is not glamorous, it did provide us with opportunities to see and experience many things that we could not have done from the ship. The scenery along the way continued to be so stunning that I constantly could not believe it was real.

River Runs Through It

One stop we made was at Emerald Lake, the intense green color of which is hard to describe or capture. Another stop was at Carcross, Yukon (population 431, not counting tourists) which was less stunning but had really good ice cream.

In addition to the scenery, we also spotted some wildlife. Shortly after boarding the coach we saw a brown bear. On the way into Whitehorse everyone but me saw a bald eagle except. Since seeing a bald eagle in the wild is on my bucket list, I was quite disappointed.

What can I say about Whitehorse that has not already been said? It is a two Westmark town, and sadly ours was the one that was further away from downtown. Perhaps that is why of the 13 Roths that set out for dinner, only 4 made it to the Italian Restaurant in town. Since both kids were far past tired, the extra long wait for our food was especially enjoyable, and gave me ample time to feel sorry for myself for missing the bald eagle.

Next: [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8]

20 July 2010

Alaska Adventure - Day 4 - July 5, 2010

Previously: [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3]

All my trip photos (so far)

Alex's arm shook me awake at 4:00 am in the morning to tell me we had arrived in Tracy Arm. This is an fjord with stunning mountains, long waterfalls, and car sized chunks of floating blue ice. Or it would have been if that was where we actually were. Instead we were still a few nautical hours away from Tracy Arm. Even so, basked in the magic warm light of sunrise, wherever we were was still quite worthwhile.

There With Snow

A short time later while we were still not in Tracy Arm we traveled through what must have been a pod of whales. While a cool thing to see, it was not a life changing experience for me, and probably not for the whales, either. We went back to sleep. I don't know what the whales did.

When we woke a couple hours later, we could tell by looking out the window that now, finally, we were not quite there yet. After breakfast on the Lido Deck however, guess where we were. Yup, Tracy Arm.

The morning was cool and rainy but that did not stop us from going around the various decks taking pictures of all the scenery we were cruising past. The ship even did a 180 in a tight spot, which was a nifty trick. The place was unlike anywhere I'd ever been.

Look Out

Long Time Falling

the brothers Roth

We soon arrived in Juneau which is the only capital city in the U.S. that you can't drive to, not counting Honolulu. We were very excited to be in Juneau because from there we were going on the Taku Lodge excursion. This began with a floatplane trip past the ship, up the Taku River, and over, above and around some glaciers. Despite the rain and fog we saw amazing views of mountains, rivers, and blue ice and glaciers.


Slow Flow

When we arrived at the Taku Lodge I was able to check-off one of the animals from my Animals I Hope to See list - a bear. A relatively small black bear was situated in a tree, ready to pounce on a tourist. Of course I shot it. It wasn't long before several more black bears came around, so of course I shot them too. I think they were attracted to the site because they sensed in me a kindred spirit. Either that or they smelled the fresh caught salmon that was cooking over an alder fire.

Kids On Ice

The salmon dinner with the various fixins was so tasty. If you ever find yourself at Taku Lodge, I highly recommend it. The lodge itself was also quite interesting. It's a log cabin, the walls of which are lined with various dead animals from the area. While we ate we got the requisite local history talk, but for once it was quite interesting. Also the ice cubes were from a nearby glacier.

After dinner we went on a short hike, saw some more bears, then float planed back to Juneau. The flight back had even worse weather and therefore worse views than the flight out. This was a disappointment, but even so the excursion was the highlight of our trip thus far.

Here Bear

Next: [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8]

18 July 2010

Alaska Adventure - Day 3 - July 4, 2010

[Day 1] [Day 2]


Since we always spend Canada Day in the USA, it seemed only fair that we should spend an Independence Day in Canada, or at least traveling along the coast of it. This was what the sailors call a "Day At Sea" which is the nautical term for Cruise-a-palooza.

We spent the day availing ourselves of the shipboard activities. For the kids this meant spending time in Club Hal (doggie day care, but for kids), swimming, eating, and fighting with each other. For us it meant patting ourselves on the backs for leaving the kids in Club Hal, sitting around, eating, and taking a few pictures of the inner passage (including Shelley's lighthouse picture above)

Shelley With a G

Luckily they were offering a Fourth of July special - a bottomless mug of Alaskan Amber draft beer from noon to 2:30. I could not pass up an opportunity for what could be a worthwhile bargain on cruise ship. These are few and far between. Getting my moneys worth was hard work, which is probably why I then nook a 2+ hour nap - the longest nap I've had this century.

It was "Formal Night" for dinner which is nautical for "You Are Supposed to Wear a Tie" I have not worn a tie in nearly three years and was not about to break my streak for filet and prawns. I don't think they were really enforcing it, but still felt quite clever for picking up Ella and using her as human shield to hide my unensconced neck.

We ended the evening by attending the song and dance show in the Vista Lounge. Even the complimenty champagne did not make the show anything more than laughable. This was no more true than when the did their rendition of Clang Clang Went the Trolley. Perhaps it was a parody show of cruise ship song and dance shows. Nah.

Next: [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8]

17 July 2010

Alaska Adventure - Day 2 - July 3, 2010

[Day 1]

I could not face another day like yesterday, and luckily, so far today, I've not had to. This morning, based on a tip from yesterday's shuttle driver, we walked across the bridge to Granville Island. A brisk 30 minute scenic walk was just what we needed.

Bridge Over

Bridge From

Delicious pastries and hot beverages were also just what we needed. We spent the right amount of time browsing and sampling the wonders of the Public Market and wishing we had something like it back in our zip code. A quick ferry ride took us back to the hotel where me made the final preparations before heading to the ship.

Bridge Under

The first and only cruise I was on was 13 years ago. Though it was not unpleasant, I've had no strong desire to cruise again during the past bakers dozen years. Not to say I was not excited about this cruise, but I tend to prefer less structured ways of traveling. My opinion of cruising has improved during the time we've spent on the Zuiderdam.

Not sure if it because the ship and location are different or because I am, but we are having a great time on the ship. Other than losing at taxi bingo getting to the port, getting on the ship was a smooth and easy process. We went right to the Lido deck to begin the process of gaining 7-14 pounds.

Before long we were able to check into our cabin. Luckily someone cancelled thier reservation for a suite so we were able to snag it at a discount. Definitely money well spent, not only for the extra space but also for the veranda. After we explored the suite we then explored the ship until we discovered the pool, then the kids spent most of the afternoon exploring that. We did our lifeboat drill then set sail and bid au reviour to Vancouver.


Next: [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8]

15 July 2010

Alaska Adventure - Day 1 - July 2, 2010

Waiting in Baltimore

The beginning of a journey holds a special kind of magic. The waiting is over and all the possibilities are still ahead. We set out this morning for the biggest vacation we are taking together as a family. Our eventual destination is the 49th state - Alaska. This leg of the trip takes us from BWI airport to the Emerald City - Seattle.

I am very excited about this trip because we will be visiting a part of the world I've not yet explored. I am hoping to see and shoot (with my camera) lots of wildlife including bear, moose, elk, and the bonus animal - wolf. It will also be cool to make this trip with 12 other Roths - my wife, my son, my daughter, my dad, my brother, my other brother, my sisters-in-law Jennifer, 3 nieces, and 1 nephew. Talk about wildlife. But seriously, the seeds for this trip were planted by my mom years ago, so I'm sure she'll be with us, too.

The first surprise occurred as we boarded the plane. Who should be on the plane but The Traveling Roths from Mebane, NC? OK, this was not actually a surprise for Shelley or me, but it was for the kids. Not that you could tell from their reactions. I guess in their world it is a common thing to run into your cousins, aunt, and uncle anywhere you go.

We are currently 36,000 feet over the Midwest. From this altitude it sure does look flat. Any moment now my complimentary juice will arrive, so I will sign off for now...

Much Later That Same Day

As travel days go, today has not been terrible.  Even so, the last thing you want to do after a 5 hour flight is endure a 5 hour bus ride.  Especailly when it should only take 3 hours and especially when your traveling companions have had more than enough traveling.

We arrived at the hotel at 8:30 PM PDT low on steam but even lower on fuel.  We met up with 4 more Roths and found a pizza place nearby. I don't know it's actual name, so let's call it At Least It Was Close. Then it was back to the "Quality" Hotel to fight with kids until they gave up and went to sleep.

Next: [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8]