We drove to Chicago on Sunday to catch a flight to Anchorage, Alaska via a stop-over in Seattle, Washington. The two flights combined for close to 8-hours of flight time; naturally we got off to a great start with a 2-hour delay waiting for the plane to arrive in Chicago. Luckily, our planned layover in Seattle was long enough that we were able to catch the connecting flight as scheduled. We arrived in Anchorage at 11:30 PM; with the 3-hour change in time zones we were feeling the affects of being awake at 2:30 AM CST - - - way past my bedtime.
There was one unusual aspect on the flight from Seattle to Anchorage. We boarded a new Boeing 737 for the flight to Anchorage. Apparently video equipment is retro-fitted into the plane after it has been placed into service, and this plane had not yet been through that part of the process. I have experienced faulty video equipment on many occasions; this was the first time in 740,000 flight miles with United Airlines that I have had no video entertainment. Experience has taught me well to always carry a book; which proved to be a life saver on this leg of the trip.
Monday was planned as a day of rest. We started the day off right with a 40-mile drive to Wasilla - hometown of Sarah Palin. Her home on the shoreline of Lake Lucille looks much better on TV than in reality. The Palin house sits 4-doors away from a Best Western hotel with houses in between that resemble fishing cottages. The Palins did construct a tall wooden fence to protect their privacy, necessitated in part after the house next door was rented to a tell-all author writing an unauthorized book about them.
Palin's home (on the far side of their fence) and their neighbor's house
New,unmarked private entrance to the Palin house
In spite of what the Tea Party might think, the primary attraction in Wasilla has nothing to do with Sarah. The famous Iditarod Trail Race headquarters is located in the town. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome. Mushers and a team of 12–16 dogs cover the distance in 9–15 days. Teams frequently race through blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach −100 °F.
Iditarod Trail Race Headquarters
Statue of Joe Redington, Sr: Father of the Iditarod
The Iditarod began in 1973 as an event to test the best sled dog mushers and teams but evolved into today's highly competitive race. A ceremonial start occurs in the city of Anchorage and is followed by the official restart in Willow. The restart was originally in Wasilla, but because of too little snow, the restart was permanently moved to Willow in 2008.
The most famous event in the history of Alaskan mushing is the1925 serum run to Nome, also known as the "Great Race of Mercy." A diphtheria epidemic threatened Nome, especially the Alaska Native children who had no immunity to the "white man's disease". The nearest quantity of antitoxin was found to be in Anchorage. A 20-pound cylinder of serum was sent by train 298 miles from Seward to Nenana, where it was passed to the first of twenty mushers and more than 100 dogs. They relayed the package 674 miles from Nenana to Nome.
Statue of Balto: a Siberian Husky sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run
During our visit to the Iditarod headquarters, I recalled that Todd Palin was a previous winner of a race in Alaska. When I inquired if he had won the Iditarod,I was told that he competed on “snow machines”. Todd is a four-time champion of the Tesoro Iron Dog, the world's longest snowmobile race. The Iron Dog race traces the path of theIditarod race with an extra journey of several hundred miles toFairbanks added. It was obvious from the response I received that the Iditarod folks do not look favorably on the “iron” dogs.
After leaving Wasilla, we drove to Hatcher Pass. We were treated to a scenic mountain drive through an historic mining district that produced over 500,000 ounces of gold since it began operations in 1906. We pulled into a parking lot at the Independence Mine State Park where a bumper sticker caught our attention.
The road signs carry different messages in Alaska
Scenery along the road to Hatcher Pass
Independence Mine State Park
I suspect they did not vote for Sarah
Yelp or no Yelp, the golden rule wherever you travel is to eat at restaurants that have full parking lots. We drove by the Noisy Goose Cafe in Palmer twice before we stopped for dinner. It featured good food served up with attitude. The walls were covered with framed messages that exemplified their attitude:
- The customer is always right. The waitress will decide if you are still a customer.
- Men are like guns, you keep one around long enough you are going to want to shoot it.
- If you are using a cell phone when the waitress comes to take your order, we will know you are a very important person who does not wish to be disturbed, and will move onto our less-important customers who do want our attention.
The fresh home made pies were worth the stop - just ask the bears!
The Noisy Goose Cafe
Wooden moose wearing Carhartt (with real antlers)
Wooden bear in the window: "Buy pie - feed bears"