Sunday, June 30, 2013

Anchorage with a little "Alaskan Nice" and Breakfast at Gwennie's

ANCHORAGE - Touchdown at the Ted Stevens Anchorage InternationalAirport in Anchorage was at 3 a.m. Saturday following a five-hour flight from Denver.  The adventure included an unscheduled one-hour delay because of severe cloud-to-cloud lightning, an impromptu refueling and a sanity-testing, 59-minute wait on the tarmac while 30 other planes (also delayed) queued up ahead of us.

Ina in Baggage Claim at the Anchorage airport was there to help with some conversation therapy at 4:30 a.m. offering an easy bicycle route out of the airport.

She also was 'Alaskan nice' and invited me to breakfast after she got off work at 7 a.m.

We met at Gwennie's Old Alaska Restaurant which was the perfect non-franchise venue of history mixed with genuine “way-up-nort” hospitality and huge portions of everything.

Their slogan should have included something like 'enough food to feed a mining camp' or 'a to-go box with every meal.'

Located on Spenard Road about two-miles north of the airport, I pedaled over and met Eina, her husband, Lou, and three-year-old son.

Ina, 26, was Samoan. She was born in Hawaii, moved to Houston, TX in grade school, visited Alaska after high school and stayed after she met her husband, who was also Samoan.

The layout at our table included little room for condiments much less bad manners because the buttermilk pancakes were as big as a baby's head and the waffles were the size of a checkerboard. There were heaps of scrambled eggs and (Did I mention what happens to Santa's engine during the off season?) reindeer sausage.

 A breakfast of scrambled eggs, side dish of salsa, hashbrowns, 
small fresh orange wedge, and two dark pieces of inch thick sourdough toast.
Actually, I passed on the reindeer sausage when the waitress refused to budge on the special side-order price of $13.  (I didn't want the whole deer - just a link.)  She stood her ground, so I figured I'd come across a more accommodating morsel somewhere later down the road. No reindeer sausage for you!

Gwennie's was a two-story restaurant filled with Alaskan heritage. A giant stuffed-bison head overlooked our table - I must say it was a little too close for comfort.

There were gold mining pans and newspaper clippings on the wall that included details of the former owner who ran a gambling place /whorehouse at the site.

From 1972 - 1981 the Pagoda was a quiet tea room on the first floor with serious revenue generated on the second.

A framed article at the entrance said the working girls 'didn't look like typical prostitutes. They wore Sorrel boots and a big jacket over jeans and sweatshirts. They really don't get too dressed up for the job.'
Gwennie's Old Alaska Restaurant

Feeling a Little "Alaska" Out Here.....

 Got my map out.  Getting my bearings at 3 a.m. 
Stepped outside - it's a little cool.  
Alaska outside....

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Welcome to Alaska!

Landed safely at 3 a.m. Alaskan time. Found a map. 
Getting my bearings and assembling my transportation for the next three weeks.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Last minute frenzy - Plane departs Friday 6:10 p.m.

Tying up loose ends.
                         Helpful directions from experienced Alaskan traveler Shirley Schoenike

I am TOTALLY amazed how many people are already following the tour. My phone has been ringing off the hook with well wishes and prayers.

Mostly prayers and mostly prayers about bears. Which sounds very Dr. Seuss, I know.

I spent a majority of the afternoon with my neighbors Jack and Shirley Schoenike. I didn't know they lived down the road - they heard about the tour and sought me out. They've been to Alaska about a half-dozen time and invited me over to map.

Shirley suggested I set aside five hours - we got it done in three.

I envy their tours, just a little bit. They're not bikers but lean towards a luxury motor home.

Jack drives and Shirley has ninja-like mapping skills. Her Milepost was missing the back cover, had notes between the columns and scribbled on large bodies of water, and red-and-orange circles highlighted some memorable attractions. See below.

The couple set me up with eight pages of typed instructions outlining the areas I would likely visit. The notes were specific, color coded with red-pen asterisks and yellow highlighted sentences, and more handwritten notes in the margin.

Homer - Salty Dawg Saloon (interesting)  or Centennial Park - $25 showers and flush toilets  or  Whittier Tunnel - ***NO BIKES*** (Tunnel Manager M-F 907-472-2584)

Shirley was connected - - she could seriously sell these Cliff Notes on Amazon!

While it's been a hot mad-dash scramble this past week things are pretty much on course. My friends have been checking in expressing concern about my packing skills, my timeline and my sanity.

In a T-minus-24-hours-til-liftoff conversation with my mother she appears confident to hold down the fort. She had no questions other than to tell me my lawn looks shaggy, I should really cut it before I go and do I ever plan to finish painting my front porch?

This from the woman who would wipe the drops out of the sink before she went on vacation.

My good friend Lisa took the day off work Friday just to take me to the airport. We're leaving between noon and 1 p.m.

My flight leaves at 6:10 p.m.  I know, eye roll, who would have EVER pegged me for a nervous traveler.

The correct answer is nobody.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Less than a week until Alaskan tour begins

WARNING - Serious Packing Zone

I ran my typical pre-tour scenario this week and pretended to leave on Friday – although I really fly out next Friday. Surprisingly – I wasn’t ready.

I mangled one of my bike boxes and had to get another. The TSA lock I got for my gun case didn’t fit, my ATM numbers don’t work, I can’t find my plastic map case and at his rate I’m starting to wonder how I’ve managed to get through the past few years of life.

It’s 4:16 p.m. Saturday afternoon and I seriously need to buckle down and started packing. I have to really focus, categorize my gear. Making some space on the floor in the living room I moved my bike-tour photo album and was slightly distracted for a little more than an hour reliving past adventures. 

I roll my eyes at some of the ridiculous things I’ve done and sigh at what a nut job I am – although my friends think I’m cool.  

 One of the few less-than-cool adventures when I hitched a ride and sat in the back
   of a pickup. "This is why nobody wants to come with you," said a friend.
5:19 p.m. – Back on task. I’ve paired down my tools to just the essentials. Plastic tire irons, (which is an oxymoron); allen wrenches, inner tube repair kit, pliers, and a zip-lock bag of nigeldy stuff like screws, spoke nipples, and chain links.

5:42 p.m. Tried to space out where to safely place my cash money, spare credit card, ATM card, and emergency numbers. You can only stash so much on yourself, the bike, and the gear. I try to be very Dick Tracey – I roll up $20 and pull off the plug at the end of my handlebar and slide some money in a plastic bag up the tube. Then, to best transport some spare parts, I tape extra spokes to the frame by the back wheel.

7:05 p.m. Had to run to Menard’s for another TSA lock. I downloaded instructions off the Internet on how to safely travel with a gun. Having a copy of the rules in hand when checking in at the airport was the number one key to success. The other, is to have a Plan B. So, even though I’m concerned about the weight of everything I’ll have two locks. Another key was to take a photo of the gun and box and download that to a thumb drive along with the registration number and having my name and cell number written all over the case.

7:13 p.m.  Some Martha-Stewart insight on packing. I tightly roll my clothes instead of folding them. It’s more efficient that way. I have two panniers – read: luggage carriers for a bike. The panniers hook on to a back rack. I don’t carry much, six tour jerseys – which is a lot but I only plan on wearing three and I’ll give away the others to people who help me on tour. I have three black padded bike shorts, three socks, three sport bras, spandex pants and a heavier long-sleeved shirt, a sleeveless jacket and biking shoes. I’m also planning what to wear to the airport – so I’ll set that aside. An interesting note – I hook safety pins to every zipper on my gear. It’s an old Indian trick.

This is my daily uniform - jersey, shorts, socks, sport bra and shoes
The bicycle fashion handbook says NO to underwear with Spandex shorts.

7:58 p.m.  Not really sure about the safety-pin thing really being an Indian trick. But it makes for a good story and because I’m rather well traveled, people buy it. I make sure some of my electronics are working and this time I’m traveling with the power cords. Last time I packed them with my clothes when I went to New Zealand. When my gear went missing for 26 days – I struggled coming up with a way to power up and still file stories on deadline.  

8:21 p.m. Had to run out again for something. Berated myself for having to make another trip – just not efficient. But, then I told myself to relax – I was going on vacation soon. I listened to my laid-back self and bought a Powerball ticket. An extra $125 million would be a nice thing to fall back on this tour. Returned to home base and packed my utility kit – which is a mini-me version of toiletries like a 3 oz. bottle of shampoo, a dinky box of dental floss, razor, some random Band-Aides, Neosporin, a tiny tube of Crest and I’ve cut the handle off my toothbrush and trimmed it to just 2 inches of business. Seriously it’s all about the weight. 

9:30 p.m. I’ve cut one bike box in half, lined up my tent, sleeping bag, and new Cabala’s air mattress (which is about the size of a travel coffee mug). A fresh roll of Duct Tape will be on standby until Friday. I’ll take black marker and tag the box tomorrow.

10:41 p.m.  Weary – but now making a draft card of emergency contact numbers and addresses. I was going to send thank-you notes to people who donated to the tour but instead I'll mail postcards from Alaska. Seriously, when was the last time you got a postcard??  I hope the card and entertaining updates will make supporters feel glad they got involved.