Saturday, September 24, 2016

Back in Tucson After a Long Trip

Wednesday 8/31 Tucson to Chicago

Taxi to airport and flight to Chicago. Joan picked us up at airport in spite of having a bad cold! Stopped to eat and at her house late. 

Thursday 9/1 Tinley Park

At Joan’s, prepping for road trip. Got Jeep loaded up and ready to go in the morning.

Friday 9/2 Burlington, IA

Left Joan's about 9:30. Nancy is being a good sport and agreed to traveling with the door top halves off and rear window out!  Nice drive on two lane roads, light traffic, but it took a bit longer than I had planned. Arrived in Burlington around five. Very nice room in Squirrel's Nest B&B on bluff on North side of town, with great view from 3rd floor room out over the Mississippi. (The pic showing the peaked roofline above the deck railing was our room!)

Here is a pic of Nancy on the balcony outside our room:

Walked downtown, 8/10s of a mile to The Drake for dinner, good pizza. During dinner we searched for a place to stay Saturday. Places I had scoped out as tentative were all booked! Not only Labor Day weekend, but we neglected to account for the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island which has places booked all around Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. Nancy decided to look at AirBnB and found a place in Omaha, a bit out of our way, but doable. 

During night a down-bound river tow lit up our room with it's searchlight reflecting off the water!

Saturday 9/3 Omaha, NE

Lovely breakfast and on the road just after nine. Dropped down to IA Rt 2 and headed West on the two lane highway. Stopped in Centerville for lunch at The Garage on the town square. Excellent burger and soup. 

When we made the reservation in Omaha I estimated we would arrive about 5 PM, we pulled into our hosts driveway at 4:56! 

Dinner at Enzo's Italian, recommended by our host, quite good. Back at the AirBnB (Private Room Bath Near Airport - Downtown) we sat in our private sitting room and used his excellent WiFi to plan for the rest of the week. We had thought about staying at The Springs Resort and Spa in Pagosa Springs, but the only rooms available were all between $300 and $700 a night! So we turned to AirBnB again and made reservations for the rest of the week. 

Planning on two days in Pagosa Springs with a one day pass to the springs and spa, a lot cheaper! Then three days in Lake City for our Jeep tours, and then up to Denver for a few days with the peeps. 

Sunday 9/4 McCook, NE

Breakfast at Harold's Koffe House, again recommended by our host, excellent! Then on the road a little after 9. Good thing we closed up the Jeep last evening as it rained during the night. Cool and overcast this morning so we stayed closed up and jumped on I-80 towards Lincoln. Decided to continue on to Hastings where we could catch US 34, but about half way there the traffic had gotten crazy, probably folks going to the state fair, so we got off at York. Stopped at WalMart to get bathing suits for the hot springs, then dropped south and headed West on 34. No traffic and dead straight for miles and miles. Stopped at a Wendy's in Hastings for lunch and then on to McCook. Arrived a bit after 3 at the Cobblestone Inn. Just a regular medium priced hotel, but new and very nice. In the high 60's and overcast most of the day, but it was sunny and 89 by the time we got to McCook. 

Dinner at A Taste of Texas bar-b-que. good ribs, but the sauce was nothing to write home about, pretty bland.  

We are feeling a bit disoriented these days, and with good reason. In the last 22 days we have slept in a different place on 20 of those nights! On the 14 day cruise the ship was moving all but one of those nights. We have traveled over 8,500 miles in that time on planes, ships, boats, trains, and cars! And we are still on the road!

Monday 9/5 Coolidge, KS

Took our time getting going, easy trip today and we gain a hour going into the Mountain Time Zone. Flat and straight roads across Western Nebraska and 154 miles South in Kansas to Coolidge. Stopped at a Wendy's in Goodland, KS for lunch and ran into a WalMart. I got to thinking that if we are to do some 4WD only roads in Colorado we should have something more than just cell phones to communicate with. Thought I might grab a hand held CB, but the only one they had was a Cobra Compact. I bought that one as it is exactly what I had planned on installing in the Jeep in the future. Also got a magnetic antenna in case we need to use the CB on this trip. When I actually install it in the Jeep I will mount an antenna on the spare tire bracket.

Trail City B&B in Coolidge, KS is a cute place with four rooms, a delightful hostess and very comfortable. We are the only guests tonight so we have the place to ourselves, hostess lives across the street. 

The building is a former saloon/whorehouse that was moved from Trail City 2 miles to the West of Coolidge. Trail City was a wide open cow town in "no man's land”, a three mile wide inadvertent gap that was left when the border between Kansas and Colorado was drawn. In the late 19th century Kansas passed a law preventing Texas cattle from entering the state due to disease issues. Herds coming North from Texas then used the “no man’s land” for cattle drives. Trail City was located where the cattle trail crossed the Nebraska river, as well as the railroad, and it was the first place on the trail where the cowboys drew their pay. It was also known as "the hell hole of Kansas”.

Coolidge is the "family town" where the owners of the bars in Trail City lived. According to a local history, some cow hands signed onto the drives just to experience Trail City!

No place for dinner in Coolidge, Monday evening and the only restaurant in town is only open Wednesday through Sunday! Plus is is Labor Day! We doubled back to Syracuse, 14 miles, where the only places open were Mexican and bar-b-que. Got a couple of burgers to go at Porky’s Parlor. Would not recommend this place. Stopped and bought a cold beer and took it all back to Trail City B&B. After eating I cleaned most of the bugs off the front of the Jeep. We killed A LOT of grasshoppers and other bugs the last couple of days!

Tuesday 9/6 Pagosa Springs, CO

Wonderful breakfast at Trail City B&B! Homemade French toast on homemade bread with fruit and bacon - delicious! Had to clean off the Jeep again in the AM, rain during the night had a lot of dirt in it. 

Hit the road at 9 AM - just seems to be the time we always get going. Just down the road a few miles into Colorado we saw the sign for the National Monument at Camp Amache, the Japanese interment camp at Grenada, CO. Interesting signage and photos in an open air setting at location of camp that housed over 7,000 American citizens during WW II, a serious stain on our country's history of civil liberties!

Stopped at 7th Street Deli in Walsenburg, CO for an excellent lunch, thanks again Yelp! We used Yelp a lot on this trip to find eateries and it worked well. Then on to Pagosa Springs. The AirBnB "Cozy Downtown Getaway" is most definitely "cozy!" Small room with bath and barely room for luggage. Off street parking though and it is a short walk from the main drag, albeit up a pretty steep hill with no sidewalks! Oh well, it's quiet with a comfy bed and a good location. No A/C, but it is in the mountains and already quite cool at night. 

Checked out Tequila's Mexican for dinner, but did not like the menu. Ended up at The Lost Cajun. Pretty good catfish, huge portion, and Nancy really liked the crawfish etouffee.

After dinner we walked over to The Springs Resort to check things, then back to our room. 

Wednesday 9/7 Pogosa Springs

Two nights in the same place, a rare treat, even if it is in a tiny room! The room is actually well appointed and fairly comfortable. Lack of chairs is the only complaint.

Headed into town for breakfast and there was a small doe standing in the street and a fawn in the bushes. Last evening we saw a fawn no bigger than a dog crossing the main drag. Breakfast at Pagosa Bakery and then off to The Springs Resort for a day in the hot springs. 

Quite a nice place, not crowded at all, 25 different sized and shaped pools with temps ranging from 98 to 114 (!) we stuck to the ones right around 100 degrees. 

Very relaxing morning, good conversation with some of the people in the pools. Took a break and went to Rif-Raf Brewery for lunch. Walked down the street to the San Juan Forest ranger station and picked up a good map of the Alpine Loop off road trails. 

Spent most of the afternoon back at the hot springs, then stopped in Tequila's Grille for a drink. No friendlier today than they were yesterday! Only went there because they have a balcony overlooking the springs across the river. They were reluctant about seating us on the balcony for just a drink, hostess seems to be in pre-Labor Day mode still! Place was almost empty, no more than a half dozen tables filled.

Back at our room we spent some time planning our route for the next three days. Original thought was to take our time getting to Lake City tomorrow, check the place out and do part of the Alpine Loop on Friday. Then we decided we wanted to see Silverton and Ouray as well. 

Ouray is only 20 miles from Lake City as the crow flies, 136 miles by road!!! After some back and forth we decided to get going early in the morning and go to Silverton. From there we will take the Alpine Loop route over Engineers Pass into Lake City. Friday we can do the other part of the Loop and then go to Ouray by road on Saturday. The connection to Ourary from the Alpine Loop is rated "difficult," more than we want to tackle at this point in our off road career! The other routes are all rated "moderate" or "easy."

Discovered today that there is a whole other section of the Springs to the West, the "upper" town! Lots of eateries there. A lady at the hot springs told Nancy that Wolfe Brewing Co. had good pizza, so we went out there. She was right, excellent pizza and good beer!

Thursday 9/8 Silverton to Lake City via Engineers Pass

Walked down the hill to The Rose for breakfast and hit the road at 8:50. Drive to Durango was pretty but nothing to write home about. The drive from there to Silverton however, was fantastic! Steady climb most of the way and spectacular views. 

Arrived in Silverton about 11:30, drove through Main Street to check it out. Tiny little town, lots of ATVs (or as they are called here OHV, off highway vehicle) and Jeep Wranglers. When we pulled into the only gas station there were four other Wranglers at the pumps! Gassed up, stopped at small grocery for sandwiches, and headed out onto the Alpine Loop. 14 miles of dirt road before the actual trail and I had made the mistake of taking out the back window along with the door windows! Jeep full of dust! Oops! Stopped and put the window back in. Fortunately the vinyl window bag caught most of the dust in the back. 

Stopped at Animas Forks to eat our lunch, you could see four or five Jeeps at a time spread out across the mountain side to the East slowly climbing up the switchbacks.

Beautiful trip over Engineers Pass, mostly Wranglers with a good number of ATVs and a few bikes. Amazing mountain views all the way up to the top of the pass, 12,800 feet! 

60 degrees with a cold wind up there. A lot of narrow roads with switchbacks and steep drop offs, at one point climbing up a rock on a switchback there was nothing but sky in front of the hood!  Speaking of sky, it was an absolutely gorgeous day! Talk about lucky! Mid 60's and bright sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. 

Looking back on the road we just traveled. Just look at that sky!

Went through an area where the were several thousand sheep grazing, had to wait while some crossed the road. Also saw a couple of sheep dogs with the sheep. Ruins of mines and mining towns all along the way. Coming down the East side of he pass was not as steep,and rocky as the West side, glad we went in this direction. Most of the East side was through pine forest and along a river. Part of it it through a pretty spectacular canyon with towering cliffs on both sides. 

Finally made it through to Lake City, 4 hours and 8 minutes from Silverton, 35.3 miles! Four wheel drive low most of the way across and the Jeep got 11 MPG. Averaged 8.6 MPH. 

Had a bit of difficulty finding the AirBnB (Charming Studio in Heart of Town), Google Maps placed the address in the wrong place, it is actually on North Gunnison Ave, even though the address is South.

Checked out a couple of places to eat, first choice turned out to be closed so we ended up at Packer Saloon and Cannibal Grille. Not named for the football team, but after the leader of a small group who got caught in the valley North of here by a winter storm. He was convicted of cannibalism, notorious story in Colorado! Broncos playing football so we had to sit outside, but it was a nice evening and pretty good food. 

Rustic would be a good description of our accommodations, but they have done a lot to fix the little place up and make it comfortable considering what they started with. Several comfortable chairs and Dish Network on TV.

Friday 9/9 Lake City

39 degrees this morning! Of course we are over 8,000 feet in the mountains, but still! Of course all we packed were warm weather clothes and two light sweaters! Joan saved us again though when she insisted that we take a couple of zip up hoodies from her house. 

Walked a block over to the main drag and had breakfast at San Juan Coffee Company. Really good, fresh baked blueberry muffins!

We both wanted to see Ouray, but although it is less than 20 miles from Lake City there are only two routes: a four hour trip back across Engineer Pass and then a "difficult" rated 4 WD section into Ouray; or 136 miles by road around through Montrose! A bit over 2-1/2 hours, which is the way we went. 

Spectacular scenery going North out of Lake City through the canyon of the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Also very pretty between Montrose and Ouray. Downtown Ouray is very pretty with mountains all around. Had lunch at Roast and Toast, looking for something different than the same old beer and burgers. OK lunch but nothing great. Back to Lake City by a little after five. 

Back in Lake City we went to The Climb for an excellent dinner. When the owner brought our whiskey neat with a side glass of ice we knew we were in the right place! An outstanding meal as well. A bit amazing to find this caliber place in a tiny town like Lake City.

Saturday 9/10 Lake City

Drove to Lake City Bakery, a little bakery just on the North edge of town. Just like yesterday at San Juan Coffee, we were served immediately when we walked and there were at least a half dozen people on line, actually outside the tiny shop, behind us! Timing is everything!

Mid-morning we drove about 15 miles North of town to a Forest Service road we had spotted yesterday. Looking at the DeLorme Gazetteer we could see that he road actually went all the way through to US 50 West of the Blue Lake Reservoir. We saw a sign for the "Lake City cutoff" yesterday, but nothing showed on the state highway map. Turned out to be a fairly rough one lane dirt road. Sign at the start said 27 miles to US 50! Also 11 miles to Blue Creek campground.

We drove 6 miles up the road to the turnoff to the campground, that took 49 minutes. Road climbed steeply for the entire 6 miles. Spectacular views of the mountains and valley all the way up and near the top we were driving through a dense aspen forest. Very pretty all the way along.  

On the way back into town we decided to try Bruno's Restaurant & Grille for lunch. Good choice! Excellent burger and filet of sole. French chef and his wife run the place, very friendly and she is a pastry chef. Even though it was a big lunch we glanced at the desert menu and could not resist the dark chocolate mousse cake! Which turned out to be huge! Good thing we split it! If you are counting this makes two 5 star restaurants in Lake City! Who knew?

Back in town we walked over to a craft fair being held in the city park. Some really nice stuff and we bought three glazed pottery solar powered luminaries for the new house. Visited the very nice Hinsdale County Museum. Lots of interesting displays and exhibits including a restored Denver & Rio Grand RR caboose, last remaining piece of rolling stock from the narrow gauge RR. Nancy up in the brakeman's cupola:

Hopped back in the Jeep and took a short drive South of town and did a loop around Lake San Cristobal, the second largest natural lake in the state. Once again really spectacular scenery! This little mountain town is in a beautiful setting, with mountains all around. Not as dramatic as. Ouray, but just as pretty. 

Coming back into town we stopped at at Elkhorn Liquors and picked up a bottle of wine, little store with a nice selection. Then we stopped at High Country Market and bought sandwiches and a salad for dinner back in our room. 

Sunday 9/11 Denver. 

On the road just before nine. Uneventful trip into Denver, beautiful scenery all the way up over Monarch Pass. Traffic picked up as we approached Denver. Stopped at an IHOP on the outskirts for lunch and got to Emily's house about 2 PM. Picked up the keys to Connie's, Connie and Laurie not home from their trip to Oregon. Nancy did laundry while I washed the Jeep, dusty and dirty from our off road adventures. Ordered a pizza so it would be here when C & L got home 

Monday 9/12 Denver

Quiet morning, Nancy and Laurie went to pick up the twins from nursery school at Noon, I picked up some lunch and we spent the afternoon at the Britt's. Cooled of to the 70's today, was 90 when we got here yesterday. We had just perfect weather all of the time that we were in the San Juan mountains last week. Perfectly clear skies and temps in the 60's and 70's all the time we were there. 

Kids are really growing, Miles has become a little boy and you can carry on a brief conversation with Hillary and Oliver. The boys spent quite a bit of time crawling all over the Jeep. 

Back to C & L's for dinner and relaxed. 

Tuesday 9/13 Denver

Nice to just relax in a comfortable place with family, does seem a little odd not to be going back to our trailer in Cherry Creek every night. It will be good to get home next week though, getting a bit tired of living out of a suitcase!

Saturday 9/17 Ojo Caliente, NM

 After a nice, quiet week with the family we hit the road again. Left Connie and Laurie’s a little after Nine, fair amount of traffic getting out of Denver and into the mountains. At the foot of Kenosha Pass there was a sign saying "Stopped traffic at top of pass". No idea what that was about, but at the top there must have been 150 or more cars parked at the trailhead! Sure enough, we came to a complete stop while the folks in front of us looked for places to park!

Traffic slowly dissipated as we got further south, by the time we turned onto Colorado 17 through the San Luis valley we were all alone. Stopped in Alamosa for lunch and arrived in Ojo Caliente, NM about 3:30. Our room at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa is in the"old hotel", small, no shower or TV (you shower in the bath house in the hot springs area). Not much for $189, but if you factor in two days access to the hot springs and spa it is not too pricy. Spent a couple of hours soaking in various hot spring pools, soda, Lithia, iron, arsenic (!), etc.  Nancy took a mud bath while I just soaked.

Not as fancy as The Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs, but it feels more authentic. A lot older as well. Once again a beautiful sunny day, in the mid-70's by the time we got here. 

Had a drink at the bar just down the hall from our room, beer and wine only, then an outstanding dinner in the Artesian Restaurant. Sat outside by the fire ring for a while, checked out the gift shop and then to bed

Sunday 9/18 Santa Fe

Up fairly early and breakfast in restaurant, then over to the hot springs and soaked in various pools for a couple of hours. No crowds at all! Late in the morning Nancy had a facial, I loaded the car and sat and relaxed on the veranda of the hotel. Once again just a spectacular day! Low 50's this AM, but warming up quickly, 75 degrees by Noon and a brilliant blue sky with nary a cloud!

Went up to Taos, across the Rio Grand gorge bridge, a pretty spectacular canyon. Stopped at the Taos Diner on the way in to town for lunch. Good choice! Old fashioned diner with friendly, fast service and good food. Did not have one, but the burgers looked especially good. 

We were not impressed with Taos, maybe we missed the best part, but we just drove straight through. A lot of stop and go traffic. Took the "High Road to Taos" scenic route South to Santa Fe. Truly a "high road" with spectacular views most of the way along.

Got to The AirBnB (Eastside Downtown Suite) right at 4PM. Very nice and right in town, walking distance to the main square. Called Lilia, our friend from Desert Trails. Lilia came and met us, we stopped at La Posada, right around the corner from our room. Then walked through the main square to the Blue Corn Cafe for a very good meal. 

Or AirBnB is very nice and right in town. 

Monday 9/19 Silver City, NM

Breakfast in our room since our hostess supplied the fixings, hit the road a little after 9:30. South on state highways across both I-25 and I-40 to US 60 West. Good road, pretty day with high clouds and very light traffic. Had to jump on I-25 for 90 miles as here was no other alternative. Headed West on NM 152 to Silver City. Beautiful drive with spectacular scenery and a very twisty road up over the mountains through Gila National Forest. Beautiful canyons and vistas where you can see forever!

Had dinner at Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House in Pinos Altos, 15 miles North of Silver City, right on the Continental Divide at 7,000 feet! Another great find courtesy of Yelp!  From the outside it looks almost abandoned, inside it is lovely with the best service I have see in years, a diverse menu and excellent food. We over indulged, big time! What the hey, our latest dinner on the road for this trip.

Staying at the EconoLodge in Silver City. 

Tuesday 9/20 Tucson (yeah!)

On the road at 9 AM, drove through downtown Silver City just to look. Then headed West toward AZ. Into Gila National Forest again and then Apache National Forest. Absolutely incredible scenery once again, almost into Safford where we ran north in a valley to Globe and then turned south towards Tucson. Into town about 2:30, of course traffic got thick as soon as we hit Oro Valley. Cut over to La Encantada, Nancy found there was a Queen Creek Olive Oil store there. We had planned to swing North to Apache Junction to stop at Queen Creek, stopping here saved us about three hours on the road!

Stopped at Beyond Bread mid-afternoon and had lunch, taking home half for dinner. Stopped and checked out the house, dry wall going in, everything looks great! Pleased to see the interior walls are all insulated. Everything in good shape when we got back to Desert Trails

Our final total for the trips since August 14th ... just over 11,000 miles on planes, a ship, a train, and including the last 3,200 miles in the Jeep!

Wednesday 9/21 Tucson

Took it easy in the AM, then ran in to BK Tacos for lunch and a stop at the grocery store. Back home I washed the Jeep once the shadows lengthened, then we cooked brats on the grille for dinner. Dusk comes early here this time of year, Arizona stays on Standard time, so we are on the same time as California and it starts to get dark around 6:30. Cover I ordered for Jeep showed up today, bought an inexpensive one as I just want to protect the it from dust and sun until we have a garage later in the winter.

Thursday 9/22 Tucson

In the morning I took some stuff to the storage locker, swung by the truck to get a few things. Measured the bike rack on the Jeep to determine the length of extension needed to clear the spare tire. Took the back seat out of the Jeep (a bit of a struggle) and put it in storage. 

We headed into town late the morning and had lunch at Cafe Roma. Also stocked up on some frozen lasagna and various kinds of ravioli. After lunch we drove up to Tucson Trailer on Miracle Mile to order the extension, then stopped at Albertson’s to get pizza for Sunday.

Stopped by the house and picked up mail. The LED lights I ordered for the Jeep arrived.

Friday 9/23 Tucson

After Breakfast I went over to the storage lot to get tools out of the truck. Discovered the solar charger was not working. Batteries still up and investigation showed that a critter (mouse?) had chewed off the connection from the solar controller to the batteries! No sign of any other damage or any infestation thankfully. Fixed that and headed home.

Spent the rest of the morning installing LED spot lights from Inspired Engineering in place of the OEM fog lights on the Jeep. No need for fog lights in Tucson and it seems like a very simple way to install brighter lights without cluttering up the outside of the Jeep. We’ll see how they look tonight!

Lights look really good here in the park, really bright! Might need to aim them a bit higher (not an easy proposition), but I will wait and see how they work out in the current configuration.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fun Times in Alaska

Tuesday 8/30 Back in Tucson

iPad worked great for writing the blog. Notes on the cruise follow below. Home for a day and then we fly to Joan’s on Wednesday afternoon to pick up the Wrangler and bring it to Tucson. Planning a leisurely drive on two lane roads as much as possible.

Stopped by the house this morning, electrical wiring in, all the windows are in, and the outside is ready for the first layer of “mud.” Progress! Headed for 99 today, RV park is still almost empty.

Saturday 8/13 cont. 

After sunset we took out the aluminum faced insulation and covered all the windows. We had bought the insulation  and cut it to size in Denver a couple of years ago to hold the heat IN during a brutal cold snap. Now it came in handy to keep the heat OUT while we are gone. Glad we saved the stuff. 

Sunday 8/14 headed to Seattle

Up early, 7:15 flight to Las Vegas then on to Seattle after a two hour layover. Got in the car at 5:52, sat down at the gate at 6:32!!! Sure is nice to live in a small town! Only took 20 minutes to get to the airport! Hit every traffic light on Valencia green. No line at ticket counter to check bags, three people in front of us at security, TSA PreCheck meant no need to take off shoes or jackets. Really smooth. 

Snagged exit row seats on the first leg to Las Vegas, no such luck on the longer leg to Seattle! One hour vs. two and a half! Paid $15 for the obviously bogus "early boarding!" And had A-48!! Last time I'll waste money on that scam!

Uneventful flight, Sea-Tac airport was busier than Las Vegas, which was pretty busy!  Cab to Westin Seattle, for two of us about the same price as the APHC bus. Met Joan at hotel and after a brief rest Nancy went to check out a restaurant that sounded good, then we walked down to Pike Place Market. Really busy on a Sunday afternoon. On the way we stopped at Bergman Luggage & Travel. Nancy bought me a new wallet as an early Christmas present. The one she bought me in Barcelona a few years ago had worn out. If you want a nice new suitcase this is the place to stop!

Stopped and had a pint at Kells Tavern, then walked back up a little past the Westin Hotel where we are staying to Blue Acre Seafood for an excellent dinner. 

Back at hotel for the evening at 7  PM, all three of us tired from traveling. 

Monday 8/15 Seattle

The three of us walked a few blocks down Fifth St. to Max's Cafe in the Hotel Five for breakfast. Nancy found this place on Yelp and it was an excellent choice. After breakfast we walked up the street to find the station for the Metro Light Rail to the airport. Bought an advance ticket for trip back on the 29th. $6 for both of us to the airport!

Relaxed at hotel. We will take a taxi to the ship around noon. Cheaper than the APHC bus for the three of us and less hassle and waiting around. When we left for breakfast a lot of our fellow cruisers were waiting in the lobby for time to board the bus to the ship!

Taxi to ship, as expected it saved $20 vs. taking bus and no waiting around. A bit of a line for security and check in, but they moved right along. Sailing in the MS Maasdam this time

Lunch in Lido (Nancy had wanted to get a box lunch form Blue Acre - crab meat salad - but when she called they told her the lunch had to be ordered the day before!) Our regular spot, the Ocean Bar, was not open so we found another and had a drink. Spent some time in the Ocean Bar later!

Finally got together with our good friends John and Sandy, from NC. We are sharing a dinner table with them again this trip. Makes for good dinner conversation. 

Several shows late in the evening, but it was after 10 when we left the dining room. Walked around and listened to snatches of the shows then went to bed. 

Tuesday 8/16 at sea

Breakfast in the dining room with a very interesting group. Susan from Norfolk, Scott and Sara from San Diego and another guy. Good conversation. Nancy and Joan had spa appointments, I went and relaxed by the windows in the Ocean Bar. Bright sunny morning in the 60's, but about 9:45 it started to get foggy again. It was a bit foggy last evening. Ship is rolling a bit in a gentle swell, out in the North Pacific now. 

Susan, the lady we met at breakfast, came into the Ocean Bar and said while we were at breakfast the people up in the bow with the naturalists saw whales blowing!

At 10 Maria Jette, Thomas Cooley, and Dan  Chouinard did a show. I bailed about half way through. Went back to our room for a while. Nancy came back after her spa visit, then the three of us had lunch in the Lido.

Nancy and Joan went to straighten out the timing on one of our tours, I went to the Crows Nest to claim seats for Fred Newman's talk at 1:00. Joan had a pedicure scheduled, Nancy and I went to Fred's talk on taking pictures in 3 D. Interesting and funny, but as he said, more nerdy than just story telling. 

I like the Crows Nest! More comfortable chairs, semi-recliners, than Ocean Bar, great view out the front of the ship, and less activity. Nancy and I sat there for an hour or so before she and Joan went to afternoon Royal Dutch Tea. 

Stayed in the Crows Nest until the dance instruction drove me out. Stopped in the library for a few minutes, then met Nancy in our room. We went to the Ocean Bar for another drink, like I needed one!

A slight bit of over imbibing has not helped me in navigating the hallways will the ship is rocking in the open sea! Thought as long as everyone was staggering around getting slightly tipsy might help!

Another good dinner, although portions seemed a bit small. Called it a night after dinner, even though we gained an hour overnight

Wednesday 8/17 Ketchikan, AK

Still light at 10 last night and sun well up at 6 this morning! Today's tour not scheduled until 9:30. Breakfast in our room. Watched ship make it's way into Ketchikan. Docked right in center of town. Watched trawlers go in in and out and a LOT of pontoon plane traffic, pretty constant in and out. 

Short walk down the pier to the Aleutian Ballad, a former crabber that has been converted into a tour boat with stadium style seating so everyone can watch the action. A nice, comfortable setup. Be sure to watch the video on the web site.

We were very fortunate in the weather, a beautiful sunny day in the mid 60's! Pretty lucky for a place that gets 152" a year! Several locals said it was the best day of the year! They said it had rained every day for two weeks! Pretty trip out into the inside passage. First they stopped and pulled three round stone crab traps. They also had some prawns, starfish and each trap had an octopus! They passed the crabs and starfish around so everyone could touch or hold them.

Then they pulled in a "long line" which is used to fish, 20 hooks on a line a foot or so apart. Had two fish on a short line. “Long Liners” or “Trollers” fish this way. “Power Trollers” pull their lines with hydraulic motors and are allowed to fish four lines. “Hand Trollers” pull their lines by hand and are only allowed to run two lines.

After that they stopped close to shore where we could see bald eagles in the trees. When they threw small fish in the water the eagles swooped down and grabbed them, less than 20 feet from the boat! Really cool and unexpected. 

Since the king crabs they fish for are actually found out in the Bering Sea the crab trap they pulled for a demo only had plastic crabs!

The day was pretty, a bit of a cold wind, but no big deal. One of the more enjoyable tours we have been on and the highlight of our cruise. Stopped in shop on the pier and I found a nice mesh hat for 20 bucks! Been wanting to try one out before investing in a Tiley hat. Lunch at the burger stand on the Lido deck, then Ocean Bar. Bar not open yet. Spent afternoon there, Nancy joined me later. Maria Jette and two tenors at 4:30. 

Excellent show tonight. Regular APHC, highlight was the three tenors and the DiGiallonardo Sisters. Diner in Rotterdam dining room with John and Sandy. 

Thursday 8/18 Tracy Arm Fjord

Very foggy this morning, low clouds, 52 degrees. Breakfast in dining room with three people from FL. George, George and ?? Good conversation again. 

During breakfast Captain announced that there were whales on the port side. Saw one blow and a couple of tails. He also said there was too much ice in Tracy Arm Fjord, as he had warned last night, so we are going into Endicott Arm instead. When we leave there we will be only 14 nautical miles from Juneau, so we will anchor out of the channel and wait to go into Juneau in the morning. 

Fred Newman talk mid-morning, Putting Your Best Voice Forward. Interesting and funny as usual. Joan had a spa appointment, Nancy and I went up to the Lio deck to look at the sale items, ended up buying a pretty good pair of 50 power binoculars for half price. $125

By the time we got to Endicott Arm the fog had cleared. Mountains on both sides, not as sheer as Norway, but spectacular nonetheless. Ice floating in the water, lots of white water and waterfalls on the mountains. Came up close to the Dawes glacier and slowly circled for about two hours!  Great views of main glacier and another way up the mountain at the head of a white water stream. Several small tour boats closer to glacier. 

Lunch in the Lido, then I went up to the Crows Nest  to watch our exit from the fjord. Very pretty. On the way out of the fjord we met the Carnival Legend coming in. 

Nancy and Joan joined me there and we stayed until the dance lessons began. Joan went back to her room and Nancy and I repaired to the Ocean Bar in time for happy hour - 2nd drink for a dollar. 

Evening show was Broadway Singalong. Pretty good. 

Friday 8/19 Juneau

Overcast and cool this morning. Breakfast in the Lido, then hung out for a couple of hours catching up on e-mail and news. 

Whale watching tour left at 10:30, excellent tour. Stopped for a look at Mendenhall glacier from a distance on the way to the boat. Pseudo "scientific" tour. Pulled one crab pot to check for invasive species (Nancy volunteered to help pull the pot) and identifying specific whales for researchers at the university. Saw three bald eagles during the trip. Excellent luck with finding whales, guide said it was one of his best trips. Saw 14 humpback whales, including several examples of "bubble netting" where a pod of whales swim in an ever tightening circle blowing bubbles. This drives fish to the center and the surface. Then the whales all come straight up out of the water with their mouths open! Pretty spectacular. Later I saw a reference to this as the “Holy Grail” of whale watching.

At one point we swung close to a channel buoy with four sea lions lounging on it - and on each other! Guide said these were juveniles as the adults will tip the buoy if they try to climb on. Also saw some harbor seals in the water and more sea lions on a rocky point. 

Saw five bald eagles today, one quite close in a pine tree beside lot where bus picked us up after tour. 

Sun broke through mid-day, warmed into the 60's. 20 people on our tour. Very good guide, no corny humor. He expressed surprise (as have several others) on the length of our cruise and all the places we are seeing. 

As In Ketchikan, ship docked right in the center of town. After tour Joan went back to boat, Nanc and I walked to drugstore (pricy!) and then stopped in the Alaskan Hotel for a beer, pointed out by guide as a "local" bar. 103 years old, old fashioned bar. 

Back to ship and relaxed before salmon bake this evening. Short bus ride to salmon bake location. Nothing fancy, but the salmon was fantastic! Fixin's were pretty good as well 

Back at ship just before 7, ship had dropped about 10 feet in the time we were gone, a little over an hour! 20 foot tides here. 

No main show tonight, one at Nine that we thought about but none of us made it. 

Saturday 8/20 Icy Straight Point

Overcast and rainy in the AM. We waited until after 11 to get off for our tour, turns out there were some shops we could have perused, no time after tour. Nancy and Joan went to dinning room for breakfast, I went to Lido. They saw three whales out behind the ship! I was in the Ocean Bar and saw a harbor seal playing around the kayak group. The kayakers were stopped and looking at the whales toward the back of the ship. The seal popped up about 40 feet to the side of them, then again about 20 feet away - no one saw him until he came up right in the middle of the group! Pretty funny to watch!

Our tour was a salmon cooking demo. Really nice facility. Lady doing the demo was excellent. We thought it would be just snacks, turned out to be a salmon dip, salmon soup, salmon sliders, and then she demonstrated how to filet a big halibut and then we cooked our own pieces of salmon and halibut over a wood fire!  Really good with Montreal Steak Seasoning!

By the time the ship sailed at 2 PM the sun had broken through with only scattered clouds! In the 60's. 

Back at ship Nancy and I went up to Lido for desert, then up to Crows Nest to read, entertainment in the other bars and of course dance lessons in the Crows Nest.

About 4 we could see large, snow covered mountains to the Northwest above the Baker glacier. Turned out to be the Mount Fairweather, one of the world’s highest coastal mountains - 15.325 feet, 20 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean! Usually hidden in the clouds, we had great views on a bright sunny day with very few clouds. 

Sunday 8/21 Bay of Alaska

Cloudy and drizzly, but who cares! "At sea" today, crossing the Bay of Alaska from East to West. At Noon we were 400 miles West of Juneau, still 300 miles to go to Anchorage. Most cruise ships stick to the coast and put in on the East side of the Kenai Peninsula, then provide overland transportation to Anchorage. We will go West of the peninsula and right into Anchorage, one of the advantages of a charter that goes where Garrison wants to go!

Leisurely breakfast, I went to Lido while Nancy and Joan were doing laundry, they went to the dining room later. I went to the Ocean Bar to stake out seats for the Fred Newman talk at noon. at 9:30 there was no one there, went to the room for a couple of minutes and when I returned the room was packed! Another show at 10, whoops.

Show at 11 was over at 11:30, so we managed to score good seats for Fred's talk anyway. Then into the showroom for Klondike Kapers with Sue Scott and Tim Russell, which meant only option for lunch was burgers at the Lido pool.

Nanc and Joan went to afternoon tea, I camped out in the Lido bar 'till the main evening show. I have started a series of books on life during the civil war by Ginny Dye, "The Bregdan Chronicles". Nothing sophisticated, with characters straight out of central casting, but good character development and a good story. Seems to be well researched and puts a human face on the period. Read the first one before we left AZ, started the second on the plane Sunday, finished it Friday. 45% into the third one already! Reading them on the Kindle. 

Show tonight was a regular APHC show, excellent. After dinner I staked out two chairs in the Ocean Bar for the DiG Sisters. Left the dinning room at 9:30 for the 10 PM show and was barely there in time to get two good seats. Joan said she would listen outside for a while. Very good show. 

Monday 8/22 Anchorage

Low clouds and drizzle, high 50's. Breakfast In room, left ship about 8:30, shuttle bus into town. We are docked in a commercial port, no walking to town. About a ten minute shuttle bus ride to center of Anchorage. Then Enterprise picked us up for rental car. Drove out the Seward highway along Turnagain Arm. Scenic pull outs for whale watching, but the tide was coming in from the North along with a stiff wind from the South. Pretty rough water so if there were whales out there we could not see any. Very scenic drive though. 

On the way back we stopped at the Alaska Zoo so we could say we saw brown bears and black bears while we were in Alaska! Also saw a polar bear, reindeer and moose. Stopped at Alaska Wild Berries for a bit of shopping in souvenir shop. Jams and candy! On the way we passed the Peanut Farm Sports Bar. Lot full of cars for lunch on Monday and just around the corner from the berry store, so we decided it would be good bet for lunch. Good burgers and 30 beers on draft. Later we saw it listed in a guide book as one of Alaska's top sports bars.  

On the way into town on the bus we had passed Big Ray's Outfitters.  I wanted to stop just to see what unusual things they had. It was mostly cold weather clothing (big surprise there!) and fishing clothing. Lots of nice waterproof insulated gloves, but not much that would be of use in Tucson. 

Stopped at the big Wells Fargo Bank building to take a look at the Alaska Heritage Museum. Very nice small museum and it was free! Dropped off car and caught shuttle back to ship. Made it to the Ocean Bar in time for happy hour. 

During dinner we watched as two tug boats moved a freighter up to the pier behind us. They brought it in sideways and ever so slowly. 

After dinner we all went up to the ocean bar and John and Sandy (The Morehead Ramblers) provided an hour's worth of private entertainment. 

Tuesday 8/23 Anchorage day 2

Walked out on deck and found that a container ship had come in directly behind us, from the exotic port of Anchorage! After breakfast I stood out on deck and watched them unloading containers. Four large cranes on a large gantry. They slide in horizontally, pick up a container, and lower it onto a truck. By the time the crane gets another container there is another truck waiting!

Spent the morning in the Ocean Bar catching up on e-mail, able to use Verizon data while we are in port. Lunch in the Lido, then we managed to stake out seats in the Ocean Bar for the DiGs and then Sue, Tim, and Fred later in the afternoon. I barely got there in time to snag three together 40 minutes before the show. 

Low clouds and rain so far, but about midday the sun started to break through. Apparently the float plane trips were mostly cancelled due to the weather and we heard people who had been on the overnight trip to Denali say it was cold and rainy and they never saw the mountain!  Just before the DiG sisters show we saw several beluga whales right beside the ship! Not really much to see though, just a white bump in the water hard to judge size, probably 6' by 3'. Considering what we saw today they could have been all over the place when we were looking yesterday and we would not have seen them in the rough water!

After the DiG sisters we kept our seats for the next show, Fred, Sue and Tim "Stories from the Road" excellent as usual. 

Talent show tonight. Our friend John qualified during the auditions, but they put him in the second show. We go to the first show and late dinner, so we had a quick dinner after the first show and slipped into the second. John had some pretty stiff competition, and he was a little nervous, so he did not place, but did a credible job. The talent this year was quite good and the regular performers competed with original songs (to regular tunes) and were good as well. Sara Watkins had a song about not seeing any whales. Chorus: “I’m a whale watch, I’m a whale watcher …”

Joan didn't stay for the whole second show. After the second show Nanc and I went to a movie about Alaska from the air, very good. 

Wednesday 8/24 Kodiak.  

Breakfast in room. Ship at commercial pier in Kodiak, second largest fishing port in North America. School bus shuttle for short ride into town. Lots of fishing boats in harbor, very few pleasure craft. Spent some time in nice visitors center then walked around small town. Stopped in small coffee shop for drinks and a snack, then browsed through a hardware store to see if they had anything unique. Lots of great waterproof boots and an amazing selection of work gloves! Nancy and Joan picked up a couple of nice paring knives, which were promptly confiscated upon our return to the ship (we always have to go through a security scanner when we reboard!) They will be returned the day before we get to Seattle! So apparently it is OK to have these "potential weapons" for the last 12 hours or so of the cruise, but not before ... Go figure!

Ship sailed at 2:30, headed back across the Gulf of Alaska, 400 miles, 6 foot swells and light fog. 

Nancy and I went to The Mix, another bar, for  show "Gershwin's Piano" by Rob Fisher while Joan went to Tim and Sue's "Lake Wobegone Trivia."

Sat in the library for a while, only quiet place we could find, then went to the Ocean Bar for Sara and Sean Watkins and a whiskey!

Dinner as usual with John and Sandy, then I went to the Ocean Bar to get seats for the DiG sisters. More than a half hour before the performance I got almost the last two seats together! This is getting silly, they need to move more performances into the showroom. 

Turned out I grabbed seats right in front of a speaker! Too loud for me, I bailed halfway through the first song! Nancy stuck it out a while longer. 

Thursday 8/25 Gulf of Alaska and Hubbard Glacier

Gentle rocking and rolling during the night, good sleeping! 60 degrees, rain and fog in the morning, but who cares, at sea all day today. Breakfast in the Lido, then Joan headed down to do laundry, Nancy went to do her daily Spanish lesson, and I snagged comfy recliner in the library.  

Excellent lunch in the Pinnacle Grille. Trying to download a book on Nancy's kindle, but internet seems to be down. Watched part of APHC movie in our cabin and about 3 o'clock we pulled up in front of the Hubbard Glacier. Really spectacular view of a huge glacier with a lot of ice floating in the water. Ship spent about an hour slowly turning in front of the glacier, about a half mile away! Low clouds, but still a great view!

We had drinks in the Ocean Bar while we waited for show time. Excellent musical show tonight, "Duets" although the a lot were trios or more. Good show.  

Word from a "reliable source" whose initials are GK, that there WILL be another cruise next year! Yeah! Amsterdam, Scotland, Norway in June. Good timing for us, so I guess we know what we will be doing in early summer. 

Friday 8/26 Sitka. 

Breakfast in room, then bus into town, about a ten minute drive. Another cruise ship out in the harbor apparently tendering. 

Walked through town, stopped in nice bookshop/coffee shop. Browsed and had coffee. Bought a couple books and a daily calendar for 2017. Back to the ship for lunch in the Lido. 

Relaxed and read for a couple of hours and then John and Sandy gave another private concert for us and two other couples. Rest of afternoon in Ocean Bar. Sara and Sean Watkins did a set in the Ocean Bar during the afternoon. 

Show tonight was "A Broadway Sing-along" pretty good, and good music. Dinner and bed, lose an hour tonight going back onto Pacific time. 

Saturday 8/27 At sea, headed for Victoria, BC

Slept in a bit, then Lido for breakfast. Grabbed three seats in the Ocean Bar for Fred's talk about sound. Funny, interesting and all over the place as usual. I'm tired and a bit punk this morning, relaxed while Nancy and Joan went to DiG sister's show.  After a late lunch Nancy and I spent the afternoon in the comfy chairs in the library reading. 

Evening show was APHC and they officially announced the cruise for next June, the 10th through the 24th. Sailing out of Rotterdam, then Edinburgh and Inverness in Scotland; then five stops in Norway, Trondheim, Alesund, Flam, Bergen (overnight), Oslo (overnight) and back to Rotterdam. 

"Gala" dinner tonight, surf and turf. Good conversation, nothing of great interest this evening so off to bed. 

Sunday 8/28 Victoria, BC last day

Do not arrive until 1 PM, so lazy morning, watched a late movie last night. Girls went to dining room for breakfast, I hit the Lido, then spent the morning in a comfortable chair in library, reading the book “Hand Troller” that I bought in Sitka. Nancy and Joan went to a couple of shows. Lunch in the Lido, then off on our tours. Joan went to the museum in downtown Victoria, Nancy and I went to the Victoria Butterfly Gardens and Butchart Gardens. Light rain and cool. Pretty gardens and an excellent tour of Victoria and environs on the way out and back to the ship.

Back at the ship we had a last drink in the Ocean Bar, then dinner and packing. Nice dinner with John and Sandy, then finished packing and bed. Final Captan’s Log for the trip showed just over 4,000 miles (3,606 Nautical Miles) for the entire trip.

Monday 8/29 Seattle

Off the ship with the first group, nice not to be dragging our bags with us! They offered a new “experimental” baggage plan for people flying out today. We gave them our flight info a few days ago and they checked us in for our flights and supplied baggage tags. We received our boarding passes and luggage tags Sunday evening. Put our bags outside the door Sunday night and picked them up in Tucson Monday evening! Worked great!

Cab to Pike Place Market. Found a nice place for breakfast, good oatmeal for Nancy (getting harder to find!) and a huge stack of pancakes for me, more than I could eat. 

Walked around the market for a while, lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood. Most of the lower level shops not open yet, but interesting browsing the windows. A lot of really strange stuff, I often wonder what future archeologists will think about our civilization when they look at the incredible amount of useless gee-gaws we produce.

Strolled up the hill toward Blue Acre to pick up our box lunches. Stopped at Nordstrom to browse, no place for a guy to sit anywhere in the store! Nancy found a nice throw pillow, just the size and weight she has been looking for - and they will ship it for free! Light rail to the airport where we met Joan and had lunch, her flight a couple of hours before ours. TSA PreCheck really paid off, bypassed a HUGE line for security. We will have our box lunches on the plane on the way to San Diego. 

Tuesday 8/30 Tucson

Got home about 11 last night, 85 degrees when we arrived. Slept late this AM then went to MacDonald’s for breakfast. Stopped at storage locker and picked up our laptops (left them there for safety instead off in the trailer,) then stopped at the bank to put passports in safe deposit box. Finally went by the house, windows are all in! Electrical wiring done as well. outside has insulation and chicken wire in place, ready for first coat of “mud.”

Back home we unpacked and Nancy did laundry. Went to Beyond Bread for lunch (and dinner,) then Nancy went to have a pedicure while I packed for the next trip1 Watched Formula One from last weekend. Managed to avoid seeing results until now. Off to Joan’s tomorrow to pick up the Jeep and head back for our next adventure!