Monday, April 4, 2011

Final List Tally

At the end of our time in Alaska, we completed 97 of the 121 items on our list and partially finished 2 additional items. Many of the items we did not complete included activities we didn't really get in to like cross country skiing or traveling to remote places by plane or boat. Three items that I can't believe we didn't complete and that I would most want to complete on another visit (besides the traveling to remote places) are catching a salmon in Ship Creek, attending the Midnight Baseball game, and ice fishing in Mirror Lake.

For a final time I am including the entire list below (bold and italicized indicated completed items):

1. Catch a salmon in Ship Creek
2. Visit the Visitor Information Center Log Cabin
3. Visit the Alaska Public Lands Information Center
4. Go to the Anchorage Museum of History and Art
5. See the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-op
6. Buy some Musk Ox wool
7. Visit the Ulu Factory
8. Buy an Ulu
9. Visit Earthquake Park
10. Visit Resolution Park
11. Hike through Kincaid Park
12. Cross country ski through Kincaid Park (Rebekah has done this!)
13. Go to the Alaska Native Heritage Center
14. Go to H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark
15. Go to the Alaska Zoo
16. Bike the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
17. Cross country ski the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (Rebekah has done this!)
18. Visit Potter Marsh during the summer
19. Watch the bore tide come in
20. Hike the Turnagain Arm Trail
21. View Dall Sheep from Windy Corner (Mile 107)
22. Visit the Eagle River Nature Center in August
23. See the beginning of the Iditarod
24. Enjoy the festivities of Fur Rendezvous
25. Ski the Hilltop Ski Area
26. Ski the Alyeska Resort and Ski Area
27. Visit Girdwood and the Crow Creek Mine
28. Hike through Crow Pass Trail
29. Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
30. Visit Portage Glacier, Explorer Glacier, and Byron Glacier
31. View Mirror Lake during the summer
32. Ice fish in Mirror Lake
33. Hike to Thunderbird Falls
34. Visit Eklutna Glacier
35. Hike up Flattop Mountain
36. Hike throughout Chugach State Park
37. Visit Kachemak Bay State Park
38. See the Grewingk Glacier
39. Visit Shuyak Islands State Park
40. Visit Kenai Fjords National Park
41. Visit Denali State Park
42. Ride a snowmobile through the wilderness
43. Visit Denali National Park
44. Visit Wood-Tikchik State Park
45. Travel to Hope
46. Travel to Homer
47. Visit the Norman Lowell Studio and Gallery
48. Travel to Kenai
49. Travel to Seward
50. Kayak in Resurrection Bay
51. Visit the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center
52. Hike the Skilak Lookout Trail
53. Travel to Whittier
54. See Columbia Glacier
55. Take a boat across Prince William Sound
56. Kayak in Prince William Sound
57. Kayak in Cook Inlet
58. Visit Valdez
59. Visit Cordova
60. Visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
61. Fish the Russian River
62. Visit Lake Clark National Park
63. Attend the Alaska State Fair in Palmer in August
64. Visit Hatcher Pass Lodge and Independence Mine State Historical Park
65. Drive Hatcher Pass Road
66. Visit Talkeetna
67. Hike in the Talkeetna Mountains
68. Visit Fairbanks
69. Attend the Midnight Baseball Game (June 21)
70. Visit the city of North Pole
71. See gold dredge #8 and view the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline
72. Visit the Aurora Ice Museum
73. Have a drink at an Ice Bar
74. Sit in the Chena Hot Springs
75. View the northern lights
76. Visit Juneau
77. See the Mendenhall Glacier
78. Explore the Alaskan Rain Forest
79. Visit Glacier Bay National Park
80. Visit Katmai National Park
81. Visit Kobuk Valley National Park
82. Visit Gates of the Arctic National Park
83. Visit the Seward Peninsula
84. Drive the Dalton Highway
85. Ride on a dog sled through the snow
86. See a moose, brown bear, black bear, dall sheep, beluga whale, killer whale, humpback whale, minke whale, harbor seal, sea lion, polar bear, bald eagle, arctic tern, caribou, marmots, red fox, wolf, lynx, wolverine, musk ox, sea otter, mountain goats, dall’s porpoise, king crabs, opilio crabs, puffin, porcupine, snowshoe hare, and many more animals
87. Visit Matanuska Glacier
88. Visit the Musk Ox Farm near Palmer
89. Visit Indian Valley Mine
90. Fish for King Salmon on the Little Susitna River
91. Visit the Alaska SeaLife Center
92. Hike to Exit Glacier
93. Meet Sarah Palin
94. Hike to the Harding Ice Field
95. Polar Bear Plunge in Goose Lake
96. Go sledding on Flattop
97. See the Fall foliage of the tundra
98. Cross country ski in Hatcher Pass
99. View the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks
100. Visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North
101. Hike Mt. Baldy
102. Visit Ketchikan
103. Visit the Alaska Brewing Company and Macaulay Salmon Hatchery
104. Visit Skagway
105. Cruise through College Fjord
106. Visit Soldotna
107. Visit the Bear Creek Winery
108. Experience the 40 Below Room
109. Go Halibut Fishing
110. Visit Captain Cook State Recreation Area
111. Dip net for Salmon on the Kenai River
112. Attend Arctic Thunder
113. Visit Worthington Glacier State Recreation Area
114. Visit Liberty Falls State Recreation Area
115. Visit Kennecott & McCarthy
116. Drive on the Denali Highway
117. Visit Coldfoot
118. Visit Deadhorse
119. Enter the Arctic Circle
120. Cross the Yukon River
121. View the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Final Leg Of The Journey

When we arrived in Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday we headed for the home of our friends, Vas and Julia. We got there around lunch time and Vas took us out to eat while we waited for Julia to get off work for the day.

After lunch we met up with Julia and headed downtown to explore. Our first stop was the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, a nice park with many interesting and weird sculptures throughout. Next we headed down to the state capitol building.

We were able to go inside and see the state legislators in session, the state library, and explore parts of the rest of the building. It was a very interesting and historic building.

Outside the capitol building there is a statue of Lewis and Clark looking West and right down one of the main roads into the heart of the city.

We decided to walk down that main road and do some exploring into the local shops and restaurants in the area and walked all the way down to the Des Moines River. At this point we were starting to get hungry so we headed to a great Mexican restaurant in town to meet up with another of their friends, Tatyana. Dinner was great - they had a guacamole station where they would come and make it right at the table.

After dinner we headed back to Vas and Julia's place to hang out over a bottle of wine. We stayed up late talking and had a great time visiting with them during the short time we were there. Thanks to Vas and Julia for being great hosts and tour guides!

Thursday we woke up and continued on our way. For the first time in the US on this journey we left the main highways and took the back, country roads for a more direct path southeast. As we were driving along there was a sign we passed for the American Gothic House in the small town of Eldon, IA. I ignored it and kept driving, but Rebekah thought it sounded interesting (without really knowing what it was) and insisted we turn around. When we got there we saw a parking lot, a visitors center, and an old, rickety white house.

However, once we walked in to the visitors center we recognized what this place was. The old, rickety house is the home from the painting American Gothic by Grant Wood. The visitors center had history and stories of the painting along with costumes you could put on. Then you could go stand in front of the house where the center staff will gladly take your picture. I thought this was a little strange, but of course Rebekah was excited...

I think we nailed it.

After taking off the costumes we continued on our way through the country of Iowa and Missouri and made it to St. Louis around dinner time. After stopping briefly to take a picture by the Gateway Arch (which took more time than we originally thought - it is not easy to park with a U-Haul in downtown St. Louis) we crossed the border into Illinois and found an Olive Garden for dinner.

After dinner we continued on our way, becoming more anxious to arrive the closer we got. Taking 64 to 57 to 24 we crossed into Kentucky and stopped at a Days Inn off the highway in Kuttawa, KY. We woke up early Friday morning and continued down 24 through Nashville and then hopping on 75 in Chattanooga. Since it was close to evening rush hour as we approached Atlanta, we took GA 20 to stay north of the city and arrived at Rebekah's parents house just before dinner.

In total the trip took 11 days and we traveled 5,555 miles traveling through 12 US states and 2 Canadian provinces. We saw much of the country, but unfortunately didn't get to see and do as much as we wanted due to the weather and our time constraints. However, it was definitely a trip we will not soon forget!


Friday, April 1, 2011

Seattle, Washington to Des Moines, Iowa

While on our trip across Canada and the U.S., we made a stop in Seattle for 2 nights to visit Chris and Christie Elm, who Steven knew from middle school. When we arrived on Friday night, they were having a game night at their house with some friends, so we got to meet some of their Seattle friends. We visited, but went to bed fairly early as we had lots that we wanted to see and do the next morning. The first thing that we did was go on the Boeing tour, the Future of Flight. This was interesting and we also got to see the factory where the big jets are built including the new 787 Dreamliner. Chris works for Boeing, so we were also able to see where he works. After the tour, we went back to get Christie and we decided to head around town for some sightseeing. First on our list was Queen Anne's Hill, which is a neighborhood in Seattle with great views of the city and the Space Needle. That was where we took the above picture. Then we were hungry so we headed over to a yummy gourmet pizza restaurant called Serious Pie. They have many different kinds of pizzas there and they are all more unique than just pepperoni or cheese. we ordered a sweet fennel sausage, roasted pepper and provolone pizza and a yukon gold potato, rosemary and pecorino pizza. They were very good. After the pizza lunch, we headed out to see some famous sights by the public market in Seattle. We saw this most famous chains, first coffee shop....

The Pike Place Fish Market where the workers toss the fish to each other in the air when someone places an order....

and the famous sign outside. What a great shot of two old friends reuniting in a new city!

We also went to a yummy cheese shop in the market called Beecher's Handmade Cheese and ordered some creamy macaroni and cheese. I would recommend this to anyone visiting the city.

After the public market, we found a Nordstrom Rack and did a little shopping. We didn't have too much time though because we had dinner reservations at a restaurant called the Grouchy Chef. Don't worry, that picture above is not the is a troll statue under a bridge that we saw on the way back to the house! We also made a quick stop at a chocolatier
called Theo Chocolate. The cocoa beans are all fair-trade certified and this establishment is one of the few places in the world that makes their chocolate from the beans itself. We didn't buy anything but we sampled the many different kinds of chocolates that they had there. My favorite of course was the dark chocolate.

So for dinner, we had made reservations at a restaurant called the Grouchy Chef. It was a one-of-a-kind place, run entirely by one man only. Not only does he wait tables and take orders he also cooks the food, does the dishes and takes reservations and payments. He only takes cash there, but the food is delicious. We got a gourmet 4 course meal including a carrot soup, chicken main dish, a salad with fresh melon and strawberries, but we had yummy desserts too. The chef reminded Steven of the Soup Nazi from Saturday Night Live. He has many rules for his restaurant and lots of signs everywhere typed up about how to act while you are eating there. Here is a link to an article written about the restaurant.

We had a wonderful time visiting Chris and Christie. We are so lucky to have such great friends to show us around their new city! On Sunday morning, we headed out of Seattle on I-90 east headed through Washington. We stopped at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. We saw lots of petrified trees.

We also saw some native American carvings done in rock there too.

And then we high-tailed it back to the car when we saw this sign. Ha! Although, it was still winter and chilly there, so we didn't see any actual rattlesnakes, thank goodness.

We stopped for the night in Spokane, Washington and I spent the rest of the night doing some laundry! The next day, we kept on I-90 east as we went through Idaho and into Montana. We stopped in Coeur d'alene, Idaho and got some postcards and also saw a nice lake. I can imagine that it is bustling with lots of boats in the summer time as well as swimmers. We passed through Missoula, Montana and saw their football stadium and the campus of the University of Montana. We also passed through Bozeman, Montana, which is a small town that makes its living in the mining business. We drove around to try and see the deep, deep pit mine, however the observation deck was already closed for the day, so there wasn't much that we could see. :(

Also in Montana, we stopped at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch. This National Historic Site, details the ranch lifestyle that once was (and still is) the way of life in the American West. We learned the details of the ranch, and the park rangers at this site were very knowledgeable in showing us around. This large ranch was started by a Canadian fur trader named Johnny Grant and was expanded by a cattle rancher Conrad Kohrs. Grant moved to this area of Montana in the 1850's. At its peak, Kohrs owned 50,000 cattle and 10 million grazing acres. This was no small ranching operation! It is still a working cattle ranch today, although of a much smaller size- only 1600 acres.

The ranch house was very fancy inside, considering the time and the place. We also saw the barn!

Align Center
(There I am in a tee-pee!!!)

Another stop in Montana was the Little Bighorn Battlefield and National Monument. We learned about the Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as Custer's Last Stand), the major fighters and we watched a movie about what happened here. Crazy Horse and his men badly beat Lieutenant Colonel Custer and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army.

We saw the cemetery where all of the fallen soldiers and Native Americans were buried.

And we also saw George Armstrong Custer's gravestone.

After a busy day in Montana, we found a hotel in Billings, Montana and we rested up for the next day! The next day we went through Wyoming. There was much flat land and horses and cows there. In other words, lots of ranch land.

Then we entered South Dakota. We had high hopes for the most famous landmark of this state: Mt. Rushmore.

Here it is in all of it's glory. Looks really big right? Well, Steven and I were unimpressed with how small it actually was. Not all that great in our opinions. We were glad to see such a famous landmark, but probably would not want to make it a vacation destination or anything. Mt. Rushmore was carved into the granite mountainside by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln starting 1927. The idea to carve into a mountain was suggested as a way to increase tourism to this region of the country. The original plan was to picture the presidents from head to waist, however since the project was federally funded, funding ran out around 1941.

Here we are in front of Mt. Rushmore.

After leaving Mt. Rushmore, we kept seeing signs advertising for "Wall Drug". The signs were funny, like "Free Coffee for seniors" "Free Ice Water" "Free Family Attraction" and "Where the Heck is Wall Drug?". I was excited because one of the signs advertised "Western Boots" and I really wanted to stop at this place and get some boots too. Anyway, by the time we arrived there, it was past 5pm, so it was already closed. BOO!

Something that was very nice in South Dakota was Badlands National Park. We arrived towards the end of the day, so we did not have too much time to explore before dark. Badlands are a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rock and clay-rich soils have been extremely eroded by wind and rain leaving behind canyons, ravines and gullies. The colors often vary dramatically from black/blue to bright red. Also, lots of fossil hunting is done in this area, as much of the top soil has already been eroded away.

Although we did not find any fossils during our visit, we saw all of the different land formations in the park. It is so interesting how the land looks in this area!

We also saw some bighorn sheep!

and lots of interesting land formations.

After our visit to Badlands National Park, we continued on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where we stayed the night. The next day, we took US 29 until we reached I-80 and took that road all the way to Des Moines, Iowa. We were just glad to be off of I-90, which we drove about 1500 miles on across the western United States.

While on US 29, we passed the Lewis and Clark trail. Where there once was a tree-lined trail is now an interstate system, getting us across the country quickly. We were excited to stop in Des Moines and visit some more friends for the night!