August 1, 2009
This morning’s wake up call was in the form of a quick knock on the door at 5:15 AM. We were asked to respond & have our baggage outside the cabin door by 5:00 AM. I was so cold that I shivered & huddled as I stumbled into my clothes.
I was in the breakfast hall by 5:45 AM & had scrambled eggs & a piece of wheat toast. I barely had three bites when the announcement came to load the bus for the return trip out.
Mark was our driver & he was very good. Wiley had chatted with him & learned he was a math teacher & drama coach when he wasn’t doing Denali Backcountry tours. Because it was very early in the morning, we saw lots of caribou – herds of caribou. Since most of us had other connections to make, we didn’t stop for photo ops.
We made it back to Denali Rail Depot in 5 hours compared to the 7 ½ hours it took on the way in. We exchanged contact information with invitations to visit, etc. Pam & Wiley in WA & Tucson, Sue & Joe in CT. They were not taking the train – they had private cars – so we said goodbye at the depot. Bill kept to himself & didn’t exchange contact info, & quietly slipped away at the depot. I enjoyed a strong embrace with Sue & Joe – Great, Great folks that I would like very much to see again.
Marian & Al were taking the train to Anchorage, as was Glad-Anne. We sort of worked off of each other trying to figure out what the system was. We checked in & were pleased to know that we were in the same rail car with seats very near each other. We boarded the Holland America Gold Star & were found it to be a top-of-the-line, first class dome car. Marian & Al were two seats in front of me, & Glad-Anne was one seat behind. This was a first class ride.
Shortly after we were underway, I had a shot of Dewars (neat) which put me into a light yet enjoyable nap. The four of us dined together in the dining car – Marian & Al having prime rib, Glad & I ordering salmon.
I was feeling grumpy – even before dinner – probably due to sleep deprivation, which was exacerbated by the too-cold A/C, the geriatric tour guide who was barely audible at best & especially two, 2-4 year old toe-headed girls who couldn’t stop their high-pitched, incessant vocals for one minute.
Glad-Anne was one of those personalities that seemed to create for herself a very negative existence – everything was a “situation” – a hurdle, an issue. I practiced patience & offered suggestions of how she could cast a brighter picture. She didn’t know how she’d do on the train, she gets motion sickness, etc. She needed to use the bathroom but can’t walk when the train is moving; she would surely spill her glass of wine; and so on. She attempted conversation but backed off when my responses didn’t include inquiries that continued to engage.
We pulled into the depot in Anchorage. Apparently, the depot is under construction – I’m not sure what the situation was, as we weren’t at the actual depot, but just before it. All the cruise line motorcoaches were lined up; the rail porters unloaded the luggage & it looked like a swarm as passengers scurried to claim their bags.
The bags were being unloaded in two locations about 40 feet apart – hneither location showed signs of my luggage. This was one time I was glad to have silver luggage instead of the ever-so-common black. Marian & Al were just as aggressive as I in trying to locate our bags. As the train hatches were closed, we questioned several porters only to be told our luggage was going to our hotel. “No! It’s not!” Marian retorted. “We are not with the cruise! We are independent!” Oh, in that case, we were told – your bags are at the big white building about 50 yards up. Marian & I nearly galloped to the “big white building” wanting to claim our bags before trains & buses pulled away. Al, a 6’4” probably 250 lb man in his 60’s lumbered behind. The “big white building” was the actual rail depot, & sure enough – there was our luggage.
My hotel was in sight, even from the train, & it was an easy walk across the street & down a block. I checked in to the Comfort Inn & discarded the boots and socks and long sleeved shirt I’d worn all day. I washed & brushed and checked a local map for nearby points of interest. It was already 9:30 at night, although the sun was just as bright as ever.
At the front desk I signed up for the shuttle to the airport where I would (once again!) hop a train that will take me to the pier in Seward. I then asked the desk clerk if there was somewhere I could walk to & get a cocktail. She pulled out an Anchorage activities map & circled the Comfort Inn and drew a line down a street circling a local brewery. “They have their own microbrewery” she said. I was told to be sure to sample Alaskan beer, as its said to be outstanding. I’m not a big beer drinker, & after my 7 hour train ride of constant irritants, I wanted a martini.
I walked out of the Inn, past the Ulu Factory & window shopped, making a note of the store’s hours to be sure to visit tomorrow. I strolled along the river & watched local fishermen. I assumed their catch was salmon. I headed in the direction of the microbrewery the desk clerk recommended, but spotted the familiar logo of the Hilton Hotel.
I entered the lobby, strolled into the lounge and took a seat at the bar. A couple sitting next to me was talking about their day up in Barrow. I was interested in what the ‘far north” was like, and they were a lively couple – her name was Kellanne, his was Dick, and we chatted about Barrow, Alaska in general and martinis.
I walked back to the Comfort Inn in the Alaska midnight twilight.