Saturday, June 11, 2011

Anchorage Day 4

Our plan for the day was to load up our bikes on the car rack, put Larry and Marilyn’s folding bikes in the back of the car, and the 4 of us drive to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and ride the length of it. But Don woke up with a backache and just wasn’t feeling up to it. It turns out that all 4 of us were suffering from various aches and pains, so we didn’t mind changing our plans. But we let Don take the blame!

Don’s computer then became our first priority. He hadn’t been able to keep the computer running with the lid closed so he could use his external monitor. We found where he should have been able to change the setting, but the boxes were grayed out, and Help wasn’t helpful. So we took the computer to Best Buy to get them to fix it. They decided to give Don a new computer because they weren’t able to change the setting, either. We left it for the Geek Squad to set up the new computer correctly and returned later to discover they hadn’t been able to change it on the new computer either! Then another tech (a woman this time – <grin>) searched for a solution on the Samsung forum and discovered a Samsung Fast Start feature was preventing the change. She disabled Fast Start, made the change, and we were on our way. The first computer was probably fine, but it was already on its way somewhere else as a defective unit!

Meanwhile, between trips to Best Buy we went to the Anchorage Saturday Market. We ran into Larry and Marilyn several times as we all checked out the wares in this very large collection of vendors.


The fresh fruit was beautiful, and so were the high prices $$$! We chose some nice avocados, but decided the berries and cherries were just too pricey (or ‘spendy’ as they say in the Northwest).


There were lots of specialty meat products made from Reindeer, Elk, Buffalo, Salmon, Caribou and Musk Ox.


We were surprised to see cactus plants in pots. Not surprising in Arizona, but in Alaska?


Some Alaskans like to tease Texans.


The sweatshirt says “Divide Alaska in half, and make Texas the third largest state.”


The honey vendor didn’t bother to remove her bee suit.


We listened to several of Robert Service’s poems recited by this performer.


We ate lunch while we listened. I had a fresh grilled Salmon Quesadilla with chipotle sauce and jalapenos.


Don had Korean Bulgogi with rice and Kim Chi.


After the poet finished, a group of cloggers danced on the stage.


There were a few other performers in the aisles.


Ulu knives and hand-made wooden bowls are very popular here. These are a high-end version, made from birch and caribou antlers, and ranging from $59 to $129 for a bowl and ulu set.


We found a nice bed for Shadow. He seemed to like it and climbed right in.


But when he stretched out for a serious snooze, we realized the bed is too small! We’ll have to return it when we get back to Anchorage on another Saturday.


We got together with most of our Last Frontier Gang for dinner. Jean and Claudette caught up with us after getting their air bag and slide fixed. Pat and Jim have gone ahead and will meet up with us later.


I guess Dennis is still spooked by that moose that ran through his site last night and needed a little TLC from his buddy Larry.


On our way home, I realized I must have some relatives in Alaska! (Maiden name: Cline.)


Friday, June 10, 2011

Anchorage Day 3

We had both disappointments and triumphs today. Disappointment: my Kindle is still somewhere in transit. Triumph: Don bought a new Samsung computer and is about 1/3 of the way toward getting it set up as he wants it.

First the Kindle. It was originally supposed to be shipped via 1-day UPS delivery. However, since Alaska’s distance is such a long way from the lower 48, Amazon doesn’t support this quick delivery method. The email said “1-day” but verbally they said it would be around June 7 after being shipped on June 2. Today I realized Amazon changed not only the delivery time but also the delivery method. Instead of UPS, they used USPS. The address I gave them was for UPS, the Black Spruce Campground on Ft. Richardson. For USPS, I should have specified a different General Delivery address on the Army post. I checked with the campground host, who sent me to the Gen. Del. P.O. desk, who sent me to the main P.O. counter. All said they haven’t seen the package but will watch for it. Amazon’s customer service said the package could arrive late, and I should wait until June 14 before requesting a replacement delivery. So I have to accept that there’s nothing more I can do and continue to read the paperback a friend gave me to salve my withdrawal symptoms.

Now for the triumph. Don had to accept that his Dell laptop was never going to be revived.


He’s been using the tiny Acer connected to his big monitor, but not able to run all his favorite things, since the Dell took a fall and died a while ago.


Today he decided to spend some $$ and buy a new computer. He likes the Dell brand, but getting one delivered is a problem with our frequent travel and uncertain delivery dates in Alaska. We went to the local Best Buy store and found out they don’t stock the Dell model he wanted, and even they would need to have it shipped. So he decided to consider another brand. A Mac was a possibility, but it would involve a learning curve because he’s never used one before, and it might present challenges for me to help him because it’s been many years since I used a Mac, and I still use a PC. Plus, he uses a desktop Dell in the ‘shed’ on our lot in Benson, AZ, and shares programs between it and his laptop. So the final decision, partially based on an “I want it NOW” urgency, was a Samsung RC512.

Connected to his external monitor and keyboard, Don now has the look and feel of a desktop, his preference. We still haven’t resolved how to keep the external monitor running with the lid closed on the laptop (we know how, we just keep getting an ‘authorization locked’ message).


This evening, we enjoyed happy hour at the Forbes’ site.


Dinner followed, with delicious baked chickens and cole slaw, pasta salad, and fresh green beans with bacon. Can’t say we’re not well fed! In fact, I was so busy eating, I didn’t get a photo until the plates had been cleared away!


Dennis and Carol sometimes show a little fondness for each other. After almost 40 years, I think there must be something special between them!


However, we had to give them a hard time about driving to the Forbes’ site, after both the Forbes and Don & I walked down to their site (about 3 sites away) the last two nights.


We’re all enjoying our stay in Anchorage, and you can tell we like buying tourist clothing!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Anchorage Day Two

We had a chance to be tourists today. We started by finding the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail where we plan to ride our bicycles on Saturday, along with Marilyn and Larry. Then we drove to the visitor center that Don remembered as having a thatched roof.


It wasn’t hard to find, nor was this familiar car with orange kayaks on the roof!


We caught up with Dennis and Carol a few blocks away just long enough to chat about where to shop and what to see, as they were ready to leave the downtown area. We then did a little shopping and saw a moose but not a live one.


I bought an Alaska sweatshirt and a monopod (one-legged tripod) for my camera. Don looked for new sheepskin slippers but hasn’t found just what he wants yet.

It was almost lunch time so we decided to check out the mall’s food court. What a pleasant surprise to discover L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, Don’s favorite! We’ve visited the original L&L Drive-In in Kaneohe, Hawaii – Don’s former home – as well as locations in Phoenix, AZ and San Diego, CA.


He’s a happy camper!


This mall is on 5 levels, including one below street level. Access is by elevator or escalator, so it doesn’t take much time to see all the shops at a glance.



Walking around town, we could see everything from skyscrapers to street vendors, musical performers and sidewalk cafes.


And, yet again, we found a familiar vehicle and parked in front of it (Jim and Pat’s camper).


A few minutes later we got a phone call from Pat and Jim and came outside to find them with Mary and Gary parked behind them!


It’s a small world!


We went to the BX on the joint Elmendorf AFB and Ft. Richardson Army base, and I found some compact 12x binoculars. These will help me see wildlife, glaciers and distant mountain vistas.

Larry and Marilyn moved into the Black Spruce Campground on Ft. Richardson with us sponsoring them this morning. Dennis and Carol grilled special sausage/hamburgers tonight, with us bringing salad and Larry and Marilyn bringing chips and condiments.


Dennis and Carol provided an orange tablecloth, orange paper plates, orange napkins, orange plastic utensils, orange bowls…you’d think they like orange!


Dennis and Carol have been looking for a good home for Brandy, his mother Patsy Hill’s dog that she couldn’t keep when she went into the nursing home. They also have her cat Patches and their own cat Rainbow. Marilyn loves Brandy and wouldn’t mind adopting her, but Larry has another viewpoint. We’ll see what develops.


Using my new monopod, I’m able to get clearer photos using the zoom on my camera because I can now hold the camera steady. Dennis looks good in his new hat, and his ears won’t get sunburned now.


Larry came over to our coach after dinner to try to get Don’s Dell computer running again. He tried several things, and finally pronounced it DOA. Don spent some time on the phone with Dell configuring a new computer, and is considering some other options. He’ll probably end up buying a new computer, but we’re not sure which brand yet. The problem with a Dell is that it would have to be shipped, and we’re a moving target right now. If he buys a computer of another brand while in Anchorage, he has several major retailers from which to choose that have other locations if he needs support. Any advice from readers?

Larry also helped me figure out how to transfer the pictures from my phone that I took a few days ago. Here’s one of our group enjoying the sunshine in Palmer.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Our drive from Palmer to Anchorage was a short one, about 40 miles for the first leg, partly in city traffic – an unusual experience lately – and 16 miles backtracking for the second leg of the trip. The first 4 hours turned out to be a little frustrating, ending with a nice, relaxing time later.

We needed to get the air filter changed on the Phaeton, so Don called the Freightliner dealer in Anchorage this morning to see if we could come in today. They said yes, bring it in around 10 am. We arrived a few minutes before 10, and they said they didn’t have the filter in stock but the ‘runner’ was getting it from another location across town. About 11:30 we decided to go find something for lunch. We got back around 12:20 and they said the part was on its way. Around 2:00 we saw them bring the motorhome into a work bay, and we learned that the part had finally arrived. The job of replacing the filter was finished in only 1/2 hour, after it took 4 hours to get the part! The paperwork only took about 10 minutes, thankfully, so we were out before 3:00 pm.

During the initial wait, about 10:30 Dennis called to say that he and Carol got a site at the RV Park on Ft. Richardson where their Datastorm satellite dish was able to connect to the satellite, despite the heavy forest surrounding the park. Dennis even found another site where he thought we could do the same, and he suggested one of us come in the car to claim it before someone else got it. So I drove the 16 miles and paid for 4 nights. It was worth the 32 miles round trip because when we parked the motorhome there later, our dish found the satellite right away! Now we have full hookups for the first time in awhile – FHU usually means electricity, water and sewer “E/W/S”, but we also want “I” = Internet! I’m catching up the laundry, and we’re both online with our computers at the same time. Life is good!

The final, very enjoyable event of the day was having dinner with Dennis and Carol at their coach tonight. Dennis grilled steaks and Carol prepared salad, corn and green beans. Afterward, we sat outside in the warm sunshine while Dennis fed bread crumbs to the birds and Beggin’ Bits to Brandy and Shadow, our 4-legged companions.

Dennis and Carol served as our Best Man and Matron of Honor 3 years ago when Don and I got married. So this was an early celebration of our anniversary coming up on Monday. Thanks, Friends. You’re very special to us!

P.S. Sorry, the camera took a day off. It will be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


We drove about 25 miles up to the Independence Mine State Historical Park today. Several buildings remain from this mine where gold was discovered in 1906 by Robert Lee Hatcher. Don saw this on his Alaska trip in 2003, and is still astonished by the fact that one man picked this particular mountain and discovered gold.


At its peak, the mine employed 204 men and operated year-round. Married men were allowed to build houses in what became known as “Boomtown.”


Several of these small houses are now crumbling.


Unmarried men lived in bunkhouses.


General Manager Walter Stoll had “the Big House” built for his family in 1939. It was distinctive for its size, the red color of the roof, and the conveniences included. It had hot water, a refrigerator, an electric range and a washing machine. “Big Walt” was a popular manager and the workers didn’t mind that he and his family lived in much greater comfort than they did. The house now serves as the Visitor Center.


However, the building was closed today. In fact, the park was closed, and it turned out that we came in when one of the staff members mistakenly left the gate open. When we drove back down the hill, we found ourselves locked in!


I checked the lock to be sure it wasn’t just latched, then we started to turn around and go back up to find some staff to let us out. A couple of employees came down the road about that time, and explained to us that we shouldn’t have been able to get in.


We want to go kayaking while we’re here, weather permitting, but I don’t think it will be in the Little Susitna River!


Unlike this brave guy on a poster, we’re not white-water kayakers!


After a tasty lunch at the ‘best Mexican Restaurant in Palmer’ (also the only one), we visited the Visitor Information Center and watched a movie about the establishment of Palmer under the New Deal resettlement project from 1935 sponsored by the Roosevelt Administration. Families from Wisconsin and Minnesota, primarily, were recruited to move to Palmer and build farms.

We then toured the Colony House Museum, one of the original homes from that project. Click on the link for more information on this chapter of our nation’s history.


The house was in pretty rough condition before its restoration.


Here are some photos from the interior of the house, furnished as it might have been in 1935.


The family that brought this piano with them to Palmer packed their clothing inside it to keep its inner workings intact during the long trip. It was recently tuned and still plays beautifully. What a unique suitcase!


Notice the shipping crate being used as a chest in the children’s room.


Two bedrooms were downstairs, and another upstairs.


Water and electricity were added at some point, but were not included in the original building.


While driving around today, Don slid back the inside cover of the sunroof in our Honda CR-V. We were horrified to discover that it has shattered!


We’re not sure when or how it happened, but it wasn’t like that on Sunday in Valdez. We remember that we heard a strange rattle and thought it might be one of the kayaks or the roof rack. Don slid back the cover then to check on it, and the glass was clear. So the break must have happened yesterday, probably while we were towing it behind the motorhome. How it happened is still a mystery.

We’ve taken steps to get the sunroof replaced through our insurance, although it might cost less than the $500 deductible. In the meantime, Don put a protective cover over it, with a little help from our friend Dennis.


Don’s standing on a stool – Dennis isn’t really *that* short!


A little duct tape can’t hurt.



It’s just another example of the many ways that RVers must be prepared to deal with surprises and challenges in our pursuit of adventures. We’ll continue on to explore Palmer-Wasilla and Anchorage for the next several days, then return to Anchorage for the sunroof replacement when the part comes in, since it’s not likely to reach us before we leave the area.