Anchorage biking

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule.  Friedrich Nietzsche

Sometimes and more often is the case the best of all is your own little world.  Yesterday a group of us decided on a bike ride about the awesome trails of Anchorage.   Which ride to make of many dozens of choices, all of which we have done uncountable times.  Something different.  How about a brew pub ride?

Anchorage is noted for its plethora of brew pubs popping up about town.  I have never tried counting the numbers of different brew pubs, but we visited 5 yesterday and skipped over several more.

Began as usual from home riding the tour of Anchorage trail to meet friends at start of Campbell Creek trail and proceed that until bailing off the trail to ride the 2 blocks to Cynosure brewing.  I had told Jeanne in the beginning I was not sure I could drink all those beers coming up.  But she, being smarter than me, said one does not get one 16 ounce beer (325ML), but a sampler of the variety they offer.  Usually a sampler is 5-6 tasters of the maybe a dozen offered.  My memory does not go for 5 or 6 different tastes, as I can’t seem to remember each and require a larger quantity to instill my taste buds with the memory.

Ok one beer down and I realize I need food for the absortive qualities it offers.  Brewpubs like to make beer not food hence often do not serve food, but have rallied to have food trucks outside.  Cynosure did not have a food truck but double shovel was 3 blocks away.

Double shovel is a cider place and I went straight for the Filipino food truck, and had Joe order the drinks.  Great choices of food and the six of us had 2 sampler trays of various ciders.

On to the next site about a mile or so away, Turnagain brewery, which used to be King Street brewery before they moved down the street.  A barbecue food truck and I ordered a round of fried pickles to go with the beer.  This time again I had a full beer and others a sampler.  Sitting around with great conversation.

Back on the bike and we arrived at the new King Street Brewery with its brand new building.  Nice and big but very limited outdoor seating, the inside a nice decor of steel framework.  Unfortunately steel tends to bounce sound and not absorb, hence to place is loud, but another beer down.  Did not visit the food truck as slowing down quite a bit on the consumption.

Anchorage Brewing is around the corner with fire island bakery across the parking lot.  Unfortunately my drinking and eating abilities are not what they were in previous times, and we just looked.

But now time to return finding the bike path again and continuing westward to experience the new pavement laid down like smooth butter.  No potholes, cracks, frostheaves, and such.

A return to where we met and Jeanne and I returned home.  This was supposed to be an afternoon activity.  6 and 1/2 hours after depart we arrived home, after a delightful day.  27 miles of friends, beer, conversation, and I got to ride my bicycle. Life is good.

And holy mackerel, trying to find some sort of picture for this rambling, as I did not take any pictures, I found you can get tour companies to take you on this tour.  Wow $200 for a day tour.  Whew.  The world is crazy.IMG_3966

Denali Highway 2018

People like to tell other people what to do because we all mistakenly believe we’re someone else’s expert.  But what is true is regret. You don’t want to spend the rest of your years wishing you had a second chance at life.    Steve Alaniz & Francesco Marciuliano. (Sally Forth comics)


Denali Highway  three days biking the Denali Highway, one of my favorite roads in Alaska. I first drove it in 1974 after a successful trip climbing MountDrum, my first big mountain climb.  Since then I have driven it maybe a dozen times usually in the fall when the colors are in fulll glory.  Mountains rise up to 13000 feet above  the road paralleling the Alaska Range.  For those who have been to Alaska this is the road which goes into Denali National Park, although that is not the section we rode.  We road from near the entrance of Denali National Park east 134 miles (215 km)Denali-Highway-Map_1

Hence Jeanne and I, hopefully nicely, invited ourselves along with the Irving family bike ride across the Denali Highway.  The real problem is the shuttle.  That is why a invite with Irving was nice. Ken and JanLee  are our friends and head of the Irving family.  Their daughter Bonnie has two kids 9 months and 3 years hence would be driving the van with the boys.  Her husband Matt would ride along with Bonnie’s sister, Brita and her husband David.    They had a friend, Gary  who came along with his camper truck.  Thus the two vehicles to carry stuff.  They live in Fairbanks which is a 4 hour drive to either end of the start of Highway.  Our problem is we are in Anchorage and it is a 4 hour drive from Cantwell at  the western end of highway the highway at the old roadhouse of Paxson. It is a 6 hour drive to Paxson from Anchorage on the eastern end.  Whatever, we have wanted to do this ride on bicycles for years.  Here was a chance for a supported ride with friends.

Hence we drove each in our individual car for 250 miles (400 km) to Paxson, left her car in a gravel pit beside the road, and we drove the 4 hours  134 miles (215 km) to Cantwell, where we met the Irvings and camped  a few miles in beside Joe Lake.  Camping is awesome along the road with pullouts and creeks and lakes and views all along.

Thus we rode for three days and it was great riding, gravel a fair amount of up and down as the road parallels the mountains and lots of stream and river crossings, (all bridged).

Cars are interesting as some would stop or at least slow down so as we did not eat their dust, but several did not bother to slow and just flew by, us coughing in the dust.  People are weird.  But for the most part not much traffic, 3-4 hour maybe.

The heart I am not used to and it was clear and sunny hence the wondrous views.  But the second day we were stopping behind any little tree for shade, and drinking massive amounts of water.  The last day, on the last 20 miles (32 km) I just had to put my head down, and grind it out.  For me, it was ridiculously hot in the upper 80’s and lo 90’s (29 to 35 C)

Denali Highway 
Drinking lots of fluids was a requirement 
Camp number 2 of 3
Mount Deborah and Susitna River (rises 10,000 feet above river (3000 meters))
Wildlife along the numerous lakes. 

It was a kick seeing the hundreds of kettle lakes from old glaciers and riding the eskers from old glacier moraines.

Riding the Esker
Bald Eagle and view
Mt. Hayes, Moffett, and Shand

Basically it was a treat to be back on the bike.  Sometimes I forget how awesome it can be just cruising along, good friends, camping, enjoying life.

We got to our car at Paxson, departed our friends to return drive the highway for the third time.  Had a most wonderful camp near McClaren Summit with a sunset making the kettle lakes brilliant orange.  Unfortunately, I could not get my lazy body out of sleeping bag at midnight for a decent photo.  IMG_3941.jpg

Of course the ride was eventful with a flat tire requiring a 20 mile return drive to repair as cannot trust the modern emergency donut tires, put in cars.  Only extended the drive home by 3.5 hours. Amazing trip.

Road Trip – Sag wagon for Günter

There’s a lot to learn for wasting time

Neil Young

My friend Günter from Germany is riding from Anchorage to San Francisco starting by heading north to Fairbanks, then over the Top of the World Highway to Dawson, Canada and on down south.  Originally he wanted to ride across North America west to east but several told him that was rather boring and better going north to south.  I met Günter when he joined the Andes Trail with bike dreams in 2014 for the last month into Ushuaia.  He now has another trip and I seem to live vicariously, so am helping him out.  He arrived Anchorage and departed a few days later after recovering from the jet lag.  He rode to Fairbanks, then was headed east. Here is my version, he tells his story in his blog, but it is in German.

Great fun. Talked with Günter last Saturday the 18 May, and he was a bit concerned about conditions on top of the world highway, as yet very early. I said I would check and call him back. Called the Dawson (Yukon Territory, Canada) visitor information whom I had talked to about a week ago. The incredibly pleasant ladies there said they would check and call me back. 15 minutes later I get the call and report in:  border crossing will open Monday, the gravel road is wet but good, and no established campground between Chicken and Dawson (about 200 kilometers). I called Günter and reported the results and offered if need be, I could drive up and offer help as need. Ok!  

Monday we talked again and he said it would be nice for me to come up, if for nothing  else than just to see each other again. I said I would meet him tomorrow in Tok, Tuesday afternoon. It would be I thought 6-7 hours drive to Tok, Alaska where we would meet and I would leave about 8 or 9 in the morning. I quickly threw some things in the car and had a delightful evening with Jeanne.  Oh boy a road trip.  It would be nice to go to the interior where supposedly weather is warm and sunny, unlike the coast.

Tuesday, I left about 9:10 after filling Volvo with petroleum and stopping at a bakery for treats for Günter. I arrived in Tok at about a quarter before 3 having basically set the speed control at the speed limit of either 55or 65 mph.  A wonderful drive although rain at Eureka summit crossing into the Copper River Valley, Mentasta Pass, crossing into the Tanana Valley which drains into the Yukon River, and the rain started again when I arrived in Tok. I am tired of clouds and rain. I am ready for some sunshine. It was been a wet chilly past month in Anchorage. Along the way were 4 big caribou, one grizzly bear, two big moose, plus maybe fifty swans.  

Günter was waiting in Fast Eddy’s  restaurant (the only place to eat in town) and we had some beer and a snack.  I needed some blood movement so went for a walk in the rain returning to our motel room soaked despite the rain jacket.  Dinner and to bed 

Tok, Alaska

Wednesday, Morning found Günter departing about 8:30 and I about 10.   I caught him about noon in s heavy snow storm 50 kilometers up the road.  Temp about freezing but miserable biking conditions, he then joined me in the car to Chicken. Amazing as they asked if we had reservations and had no rooms to rent. 15 seconds later we have two of the more expensive motel rooms I have stayed at, but actually really nice, $89 each, no potable water, restrooms across the path to main building, heat is minimal and unfinished.  But we knew ahead of time that Chicken, Alaska was a remote site,  thus I brought 5 gallons of water and we could get all the bottle water we want (but store only open 8-4) 

As I remember it the day ended up rather inebriated. A wondrous evening, Günter and I went for a walk discovering all three cafes in Chicken were not yet serving food as too early in the season, so no food delivery until next week. But we have lots of cheese, bread, beer, and whiskey, thus no problem. The sun came out and we moved chairs to west side of building into the sunshine. Stacy from Austin Texas walks by our porch brings her bourbon which turned out to be rum, but all good, and we proceed from there. A fellow who grew up in Tok got a job here in Chicken for the summer joined us while he cooked his dinner in the back of his pickup truck.  We had a  great evening, just bullshitting, talking, laughing, drinking.   The only real discussion I remember was about Romania and watching the sun move across the horizon.  Life is good. 

Evening sunshine

And the best part of day. I got to help unload the truck of summer supplies. A semi truck. Life is really good.

Everything Chicken
Chicken Alaska population 38 summer 8 winter

Day 2  of being with Günter started mostly sunny with birds singing their morning symphony and I said I would catch up fairly quickly as he left about 7:30. Catching him soon, was not to be, as it turns out breakfast came with the room, which I discovered when going over to gift shop for morning coffee.  A waffle and sausage patty.  Not bad!  Conversations with more travelers with Florida license plates then onward, but a mile up the road is a hike which reportedly is bike able but I decided to walk and the decision was quickly verified when numerous down trees and boggy conditions would have made walking a necessity anyway.  A good walk overlooking an old abandoned gold dredge.  Lots of history in this 40 mile region.

Old Gold dredge on mosquito fork of 40 mile river

Finally caught Günter after 3 hours as he was starting up the second big climb of day.  I drove to the top,  changed into biking gear and had a delightful downhill ride for  4 1/2 kilometer (3 miles) then climbing the 220 meter elevation gain back (700 feet)to car. Nice to ride again.  A stop for lunch at the top in the car when it started raining, then began to thunder and lightning.  After  a few minutes I said I had no interest in camping up here on ridge of “top of the world highway” in this weather, and he agreed.  We had hoped to get just beyond the U. S. Canadian border and camp, but glad we decided to head into Dawson.   Whew, snowing, cold temperature at freezing, driving  somewhat slow due to visibility, slush, and generally just not good especially for camping.  

We descended into Dawson taking the ferry over the Yukon river which gave us time to read texts which began arriving  just before the ferry as we got close to town and cell reception.  Somehow we survived 38 hours without WiFi internet access.  The clocks changed on phones with time zone, but  zero bars or reception. Amazing world when one can survive 38 hours without communication with the outside world. 

Dawson, Yukon Territory

Found a hotel and moved in, having to change rooms once due to leaking ceiling from all the rain continuing to come down.  A dinner celebration, then on to “ Diamond Tooth Gertie”, a saloon, with can can show of the 1890,s. We noted that we were probably the oldest ones in there, but a very pleasant time.  

Friday, with great sadness I departed to return home.  Depressing, and I was wondering what the heck am doing.  Reached the ridge where conditions yesterday were bad, now starting to dry out, but I was  still feeling down, so changed clothes and went for a nice bike ride 10k down the road and returning to car feeling much improved.  Back on the road again, spirits lifted, and opted to take the “take at your own risk” road to the abandoned town of Clinton and the bridge over the forty mile river which we have floated several times.  This road had even less traffic and when you came across someone you stopped and talked.  One fellow (of the two cars I came across. turns out is the owner of the entire town of Clinton,  then returned to top of world highway. This road being somewhat busy with a car every 30 minutes you only wave when you pass someone.  

Clinton Bridge over 40 mile river

And easy going through border.  Farthest north U. S. border and not sure why they put it on the highest most remote section of the road.   Someone smarter than me, figures these things out.  

U.S. Canada border crossing

Now camping at our lunch spot where yesterday it was storming so bad.  Dinner and into tent before the rain started again, although did note a right rear tire on car a bit low so checked pressure and yes leaking.  Pumped it with the bicycle pump taking almost 15 minutes but exercise is good.  

Evening at camp

In the morning tire looked ok but pressure down so pump again and drive to chicken where no tire repair, but a compressor.  I was told to be brave and get to Tok.  Stopped to pump the tire with bicycle pump 2 times in the hour and half drive (78 miles). I do have one of the doughnut lightweight spare tires, but have had very bad luck with them, and best if one can avoid it.  

Along the way looking for two women riding to Ushuaia, whom Günter had met along the way, but I did not see them. Did stop and talk with a couple of Germans heading to Las Vegas, and a couple from Utah heading to Utah. Nice to see people out and about exploring.

Made it back to Tok repaired tire for $25 pulling the rock which had punctured the tire.  A nice walk between rains and now back to Anchorage.  I think it is time to quit living vicariously.

Monuments and Memorials

The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much, but whether we provide enough to those who have little

Franklin Roosevelt

Has been a great first day in Washington D.C., but we arrived last pm. Found a restaurant about 6 blocks away but proved great with a waiter who filled us with lots of local info. The walk home and unlocking the apartment I dropped the keys., when trying to unlock inner door. Did not hear them hit, but knew they fell. We could not find them in the dark but hooray for cell phone flashlights, which also refused to show the keys. Then we noticed the cover off the 3″ storm drain. At first did not see them but it was water about 2 feet down. Then I saw the green nylon cord they were on.

Suffice it to say it was a bit of a worry. Took us an hour an half to finally retrieve them. Difficulty finding a stick but then it just pushed whatever down further and I knew there was a drain somewhere down there. The owner was in Philadelphia and could not help. Jeanne went in search of a coat hanger and after 25 minutes returned having paid $20 to 4 month pregnant homeless lady to help find one. Still no luck, and now Jeanne called a locksmith but as he was explaining the difficulties the coat hanger managed to return the keys. An hour a a half.

The entry way with covered (now) drain

On to today though and started a Washington D. C. Walking tour of the monuments and memorials. I thought of my friend Zak who said everyone should visit there nations capital at least once. The history of the United States is amazing and it shows. I was impressed by the history of l,enfante who designed the mall at the direction of George Washington. He wanted a large space which over time one could show the monuments to our history. Wow. Impressive. The Washington monument is impressive from every angle and lighting. When built it was the tallest building in the world 550 feet. It is closed now for repairs of the elevators, but outside was blocked off, perhaps making a memorial of where I threw up in 1965.

Then the World War II memorial and on to Vietnam memorial. I never went to Vietnam but it had a huge affect on me, and the memorial brought me to tears. I tried to remember the names of the people I knew who were lost there, but my memory failed me.

There were two things which struck me today, the number of people who were willing to give their lives for their beliefs, throughout history, and the eloquence of some of our leaders.

vietnam memorialKorean war memorialKorean war memorial

We moved on and diverged for the self guided tour and walking to Arlington cemetery viewing the women’s war memorial and Kennedy gravesite.

Lincoln memorial not only with his statue but the Gettysburg address and his second inaugural address engraved on the side walls. Very powerful

As a newspaper reported recorded several years after Lincoln’s death:

“Washington taught the world to know us

Lincoln taught us to know ourselves”

Then to World War I and Martin Luther king jr.

School class with MLK

Then franklin Roosevelt and it was not the tiny little memorial but had been moved to cover 6 acres. There was the small memorial but much more covering his 4terms in office and how he raised the standards and pulled us through another world war.

Jefferson was the final visit of the day and it capped the wonders of the day taking us back to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.

now we were hungry, breakfast having worn off hours ago. We agreed to head home and try and find a restaurant along the way. Several restaurants, all closed. Finally found a Korean restaurant near home. Someone told us this is a business town and restaurants here do not cater to tourists. Not sure where they eat.

And we looked for my bike path I rode in on over 50years ago but could not find anything resembling my memory. If it was there it is a highway now.

Spring time travels

The more you travel, the more you discover that the world is beautiful everywhere.

Eric Ripert

Off yet again being a tourist, just looking around, poking about and seeing new and old things. This time to visit the United States capital – Washington D.C. As a friend said, everyone should visit their capital at least once just to see the physical place in which our nation’s primary workings are determined. Maybe not the primary working, that would be out with the results, people working and the land in which government rules. But government being a necessary entity with which our species survives, has to have a place for people to meet and determine how they will get along. In the United States that is Washington D. C.

Hence back in October my wife Jeanne, got us tickets to go to Washington. The average spring cherry blossoms peak apparently 2 March and that seemed perfect. (Originally I wrote April but corrected She has never been to Washington and I have been there only once, in 1965, riding my bike for a month about the area starting in Philadelphia and ending in Washington. It was an amazing trip, 10 kids ages 15-17 and our 21 year old leader. I became hooked on bicycling.

My memories of Washington D.C. consist of riding my bike along a delightful gravel paths alongside the Potomac river. I believe it was the B & O towpath. It was designed apparently as a horse path to tow the barges along the river in the 17 and 1800’s. This section was a great ride as we went from hostel to hostel. As I was riding through the lush forest one of the others in my group yelled out to stop as we were to exit here. I mentioned we were heading to the city, and this was still forest. They said we should climb the stairs and exit here, which we did. Wow, at the top of the climb out of the river valley, we exited the forest and there stood the Washington monument, instantly recognized. My ideas of the east coast being totally developed were being erased, as I realized the forest behind us, easily hid the city. We arrived at our hotel and prepared for 3 days of walking and sightseeing, within the city.

The next morning we first hit the local White Castle hamburger place for breakfast, downing as I remember 5 burgers. (Which in those days were much smaller being about 2-4 bites, and costing usually a nickel). Then on to the Washington monument where we all ran up the stairs, to enjoy the view about the city. Back down and my stomach was not happy and proceeded to vomit a large quantity all over the sidewalk at the base of the monument. Somewhere along the line I had gotten a bug and spent the next days resting in the hotel, while the others explored without me. I did venture out to do a bit of walking, seeing the Roosevelt memorial, which always impressed me. It was not a big thing , just a small life size statue of him, his dog, in the wheelchair. Then on to the natural history museum and wondrous dioramas. And somewhere in there I got a tour of the capital building. That is my memory of the city.

The surrounding area did impress me, with its historical sites.Harpers ferry, Gettysburg, Shenandoah National Park and a day hike along the Appalachian trail climbing Mt. Hawksbill – the highest point in the area, all of about 4700 feet (1400 meters). Back to Washington where I boarded the train for the 2-3 day trip back to Utah. (Trains in the U.S. aren’t much faster today)

Fast forward to 2018 and I am returning. Alas even with the best laid plans things change. Neither Jeanne or I like to have everything perfectly laid out with every stop and moment choreographed to fill ones time with all one wants to see and do. But to me that is just sightseeing and one does not get the feel. I tend to forego the reviews, and much prefer to “wing it”. Yes it is nice to have recommendations, but to feel a place one has to slow down and let it come into you. Talk to the people, experience what they do. Yes one cannot see all there is and you will miss stuff, but one can see what the place is about. I believe it was Anthony Bourdain, the food critic, who told the story of going into a foreign restaurant, not having a clue about the language, and just pointing to the meal someone else had ordered, which looked good.

And so it is with this trip. When we told people where we were going, those who had been there all said we had to go see (insert museum, memorial, home or whatever). In the 7 days we are there we have a list of things which would occupy years. I suspect those that live there have not seen it all. I have told people my goal is to sit on the steps of Lincoln memorial and just soak it in, watching the world go by, and I would like to see the air & space museum. But whatever comes along will be great. I suspect a few more people than 1965 when one just walked up and enjoyed. We shall see.

It was mentioned am I going to try and give a piece of my mind to those who like to set the rules of government. I do write numerous letters to our illustrious representatives and always seem to receive a letter back thanking me for my letter and proceeding to ramble on about something only vaguely resembling what I write about, never answering the questions I ask. Why should I waste my time visiting someone who is going to dismiss me categorically. I will continue to vote trying to get them out of office and replaced with someone whobelieves it is for more than just a well paying job of which they have to accomplish nothing. And I will continue to write letters stating my ideas, fully expecting them to write back with their drivel. Several said a tour of the White House, where the president lives is awesome. I do not want to even be associated with the current residents there. There is a tiny remote chance they might be present. There philosophies are not my vision of the world.

One thing we wanted to do was participate in the “gun march on Washington”. Certainly was not scheduled when we made arrangements for the trip but stuff happens. As noted above our illustrious representatives refuse to listen to the masses and prefer the big organizations, which represent the big organizations. Thus after yet another shooting in the United States and the representatives giving their thoughts and prayers and moving on, finally the youth are speaking. We want to show our support, plus I have never been in a protest with 500,000 people. It must be something.

Alas, travel is a risky proposition. We departed Tuesday planning on staying a short night in Seattle. I am finding I do not do as well as I used to, and flying all day and night arriving exhausted has better options. One can fly cross country in a day but why. Thus I convinced Jeanne to spend a night in Seattle and then fly during the day arriving at a reasonable hour, still tired, but not totally out of it, requiring several days to recover. Sometimes that is unavoidable but I find it much nicer if one can to take a bit more time.

Thus arrived Seattle, checked into motel across the street from airport, and hopped on train for trip to visit our nephew and his girlfriend. It was a delightful visit, not having seen them in about a year. And along the way stopped at some fabric stores which are unavailable in anchorage, for supplies for ski jumping suit repair, which Jeanne performs for the anchorage ski jumping club. A great use of time, and got to see Seattle from the train , rapidly going from airport to downtown Seattle in minutes without a hassle.

Back to motel and up early for 8am plane departure, keeping an eye on weather back east. The 4th big snowstorm in a couple weeks was expected to hit on Wednesday, our flight day.

Off for the day

Off for the day in Seattle U of W quad cherry trees. Cherry Blossoms at U of W quad.

I nearly had my hand on door to walk out of motel and Jeanne says flight is cancelled. Ok stay in motel, call airline and find options are a flight that afternoon to San Francisco and an all night flight arriving in Washington DC at 5:30 am. That is what we were trying to avoid. Or a flight on Saturday. At first we decided to cancel whole thing, get a refund on air tickets, but we would give up our B & B without refund of $750. We needed coffee and called another friend taking the train to her place where we drove to a delightful breakfast place and caffeinated ourselves. Thus we decided to wait for Saturday and spend 3 of our 7 days in Seattle. We have numerous friends and relatives and there are multitudes of things to do.

Seattle is a delightful city although it has grown way too big way too fast. Like many things the time to do things is before they need to be done, because when they are necessary it is often much harder to do. We borrowed a friends car and experienced the traffic nightmares of Seattle. That was only one day, and from then on we took the train to our motel back at the airport, walked, took the bus, and Uber. (Uber drivers are awesome to converse with as they live and feel the city)

The homeless problem is ongoing in Seattle with tents and camps scattered about sometimes just out on sidewalk. Apparently Seattle is trying but because it is so expensive to live there, the homeless population is increasing faster than solutions can be created.

But we visited friends on a one to one basis, caught up, reminisced, planned new ideas, and conversed.

And we visited the zoo which for a zoo is very good, seeing animals I would never get to see, and when I have seen them in their natural wild environment, lamenting how awful it is for an animal to be in a zoo.

Laughing kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra Komodo dragon

young Komodo dragon searching out food (maybe 4 feet long)gorillaWe visited the aquarium which has always been one of the best. The information presented is prodigious and would take a long time to process and absorb it all. Continue reading

New Orleans 

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. John F. Kennedy 

In the 1970’s Jeanne worked in Yosemite park as a nurse.  It was a life altering event in that it opened up her views of the world.  Her coworkers were amazing and bonded with each other.  They have kept in close contact and attempt to get together every year for a reunion of some sort.  Last year they came to Alaska and visited Jeanne and I. This year we came to visit Judy who resides in New Orleans.  She has shown us an amazing taste of New Orleans.  

New Orleans definitely is a town with atmosphere. Most cities are just cities, which can be interesting, but New Orleans seems alive, vibrant with multiple activities some time specific, some ongoing and localized.  From evening one when Judys sister and husband had made us jumbalaya, which goes over New Orleans style potato salad, to restaurants ,to the crawfish boil. The food is incredible.  

One Uber driver was worried if we had been getting a food taste of New Orleans.  He said hurricane Katrina made him realize how good the food was.  During the hurricane local food was not available and when it returned folks began to realize what they had.  

Day one we started at the World War II museum. We spent 3 1/2 hours and were overwhelmed with well presented information .  And we only saw a portion skipping the movie, and numerous exhibits.  It was intense.  I came away with the feeling of the millions of stories created and often untold.  As one historian said he found the closer to combat the participants were the less they talked.  It was only in the last years of my dad and his cousins did I discover the things they had been through.  It was the same for Jeanne’s dad.  Once again the museum reiterated the human nature of thinking I am far better than you.  

Day two we went on a swamp tour.  Oh my.  Very different than Alaska wilderness.  Alligators, wild boar, birds, trees living in water, snakes.  The tour guide was great and the more questions we asked the more interesting he became.  A good old boy who grew up locally.  He claimed he had only been a guide for a week and learned his information from u-tube videos, information which seemed to require years of accumulation including how to drive a boat through those trees, roots, and currents.   He had gotten up early to hunt for the elusive hot dogs which alligators like and marsh mellows which pigs like.  I have never seen those trees, marshmallow or hot dog trees.

Local resident alligator
Eastern diamondback water snake
Wild boar
Slidell turtles
Cypress and knees
Great blue heron – nobody messes with them as they will poke out an eye
Feeding time – wild hot dogs caught that morning

Day three was the purpose of visiting this time of year; the French quarter jazz festival – billed as the largest free show of Louisiana music.  Judy dropped us off as since she lived here she did not feel the urge to visit, and parking is a pain.  She offered to stay back with Jeanne who was increasingly sick with cough and sinus congestion.  We had gone to a doc in the box that morning and she received  a shot.  

We had schedules of bands, venues, times and activities of which by the end of day we ended up just wandering about for 7 hours trying and failing to fit it all in.  At one point I texted my sister saying I was sitting in front of police station with beer in one hand, a mint julep in the other just watching people and it was only 11 am.  (One can wander the streets with booze here, very nice as not corraled off as most places.  You just cannot have glass bottles)

Street music
Street mime
Extemporaneous poems typed out for you
Street musician -great music
New Orleans lunch
Lunch menu
Music venues everywhere and activities were to be found everywhere, but I was feeling tired as also was succumbing to the tiredness dogging Jeanne.  I decided to call Uber for an early ride home.  Judy would pick up the rest after rush hour at 6:30.  I had never used Uber but it was amazing.  The driver was a wealth of information and wanted to make sure I was enjoying New Orleans as it was his city.  And it was about half as expensive as a taxi and easier to get, knowing before hand where he was and who he was.   No wonder it has taken off.  

Day four Judy dropped us off at the trolley stop, where we boarded the longest continually operated city trolley in the world.  Apparently started around 1800. Great to travel the neighborhoods and university districts.  Tulane and Loyola universities are both here along with numerous others.  It 

Arrived again at French quarter and much more crowded being a Saturday.  More venues and fewer plain street musicians.  Very good but crowded.  We ate at a different restaurant again I had delicious oysters just different.  Still lots of garlic and excellent.  After Jeanne and I wandered a bit to show her the jazz fest then back to trolley and an Uber ride back to Judys.  

Day five. Drove across Lake Pontchartrain which I understand is the longest bridge in the world, being 24 miles long. (38.5 kilometer)

Lake pontchartrain bridge

We rented bikes to ride the rails to trail ride to Anita and the brewery there.  Delightful ride although I do not understand where comfort bike term comes from.  Sit straight up not allowing any power into the legs.  The big wide soft tractor seat with big springs was very uncomfortable.  After 20 miles I wanted my arrow saddle bent over bike.  Everyone was sore.  

Then on to judy’s family and a crawfish boil.  Oh my oh my.  They know how to put on a feed.  I envisioned a few crawfish on a plate, but we went through 2 20 gallon tubs.  Oh my.  They showed us the whole process – cleaning, takes 4-5 rinses getting out the detritus from the mud (which can include snakes and such) putting the vegetables (corn, garlic, potatoes, hot dogs, etc. and spices in pot. Boil and pour out on table, covering the table covered with newspaper.  Plates are about 50 cm  (20 inches) across and you fill them up.  To eat you break the crawfish in half then suck the head to get the spices, then pinch the tail for the meat.  

Being new to the process we timidly filled our plates and sat at counter .  Laura took my plate to demonstrate the proper way and filled my plate.  Apparently no one else in our group cared to follow suite.  We were actually astounded when a second boil (pot) was put on.  When he came ready Judy’s family had helped us finish our serving and went into the second.  They did not waste time on sitting and plates, just stood around table and feasted. They could go through 4-6 crawfish to my one.  And the conversation flowed.  Delightful!

Crawfish feed. Remainders on right with still to go on left
Second boil serving
Beginning of second boil
First boil neophytes
Crawfish boil table setting
Pouring the boil
Cleaned crawfish ready for pot
Ready for biking
Worlds most uncomfortable bike
Biking Louisiana

Day six and off to hike about Jean Lafitte national historical park.  The visitor center was closed due to funding cuts, but trails great.  Hike about 3 miles along mostly boardwalks.  Viewing numerous snakes, garter snakes, bull snakes?, copperheads, frogs, birds, and 3 alligators.  What a different world.

Alligator hiding estimated a 6-8 footer they barely move if at all difficult to see
Egret (they move very slow, unless striking)
Copperhead or water moccasin
Today “just a walk in the park “near home.  Delightful just walking watching birds, trees, the creek.  A three mile running track, a dog park, carousel merry go round.  At last some people who were not overly happy, but they were runners with headphones on.  

People here have been super friendly.  In the Avita bar a lady came up to us saying she had been easedropping on us and realized we were not fro here.  (Probably because we were only ones to not have an accent in the room). She wanted to wish us a delightful visit.  

It has been a wondrous visit and I now understand why people love coming here.  We should return.  

Springtime in Alaska

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time

T.S. Elliot

Since returning from Steamboat Springs in Colorado, the streak of sunshine here in Alaska has continued.  Awesome feeling to see and feel the sun returning.  In a few days we will again have more daylight than darkness.  The winter has been one of the better ones in many years due to the return of snow and cold.  As I have said winter consists of three things, snow, cold, and darkness.  If only 1 of three it can be”what’s the point”.  This finishing season we have had an abundance of all three.

Hence after the great trip to Steamboat Springs we returned and I got a email wondering about the Knik Glacier.  It is a glacier about 45 miles away (72 kilometer) and one can ride bicycle or snow machine to the face of it, if the conditions are right.  The past years it has been too warm and the river and lake were a bit dicey to cross.  I have wanted to do it for years but only tried once having to turn around after 10 kilometer because of thin ice and open water.

I would just as soon not break through ice into a large flowing river.  (Discharge normally is about 5000 to 6000 ft3/s in the summer (140 to 170 m3/s), with floods of 60,000cfs or more not uncommon.[2]  )  Currently it is flowing at 560 CFS, still enough to cause problem if you break through.  Still gets me when I see flowing water when the temperature is 10 degrees F (-12C)

But the traveling is awesome, especially when traveling with companions who know how to deal with the cold and are great bicyclers, and are as excited as I am to be there.  I will let the pictures speak.

Enroute from road to river
Riding the lake, must be deep judging by iceberg sizes


Where the glacier meets the wall


Dennis, Mark, J. R. bikes and glacier front


glacier face


Knik Glacier


Dennis’s photo of Mark, J. R. departing back to vehicle

As for the cold one just learns to work with it.  Gloves and mittens are a necessity and sometimes a challenge if there are small things to work with (like a camera).  One learns and it is awesome.

While there we discussed how if this area were down south it would be mobbed with people as it is spectacular.  When I got home and looked at some of the pictures on the phone which gives location it said they were taken at the Lake George National Natural landmark.  Wow who knew, I had never heard of it but having flown over it, I knew it was spectacular.

Then the next day wanted to ski some valleys which are often good in the spring.  Natasha (ski jumping coach) and I went out to see what we could find.  Alas, it has not snowed in weeks and the wind has been blowing over the gully we wanted to ski and it was a bit bare.  Could have skied but the breakable crust and scattered rocks did not entice us further.  We opted to return a different way making it a delightful tour.  It is difficult to go wrong when the sun is shining, and the tracks are good. (or it is just plain crusty snow and you can go anywhere)

Natasha at top of “ballfields” with Mt. Williwaw behind



top of first pass
Overlooking Anchorage with Mt Susitna (sleeping lady) and Mt Spurr in distance. distance. (Mt Spurr last erupted in 1992, wreaking havoc in Anchorage)


On day three Jeanne and I drove down Turnagain Arm just to see it as we never get tired of this drive.  Turnagain arm was named by Captain Cook on his third voyage supposedly while looking for the northwest passage and he had to turn his vessel again..  (it was actually his first mate Bligh (of later fame elsewhere) who explored up the valley and had to turn again).  Or a second version is the waters reverse course with the tide every 6 hours forcing one to turn again as the current reverses.  When in full flow the waters, and ice flow at 9 knots)  Either way Australia and New Zealand do not have a lock on Captain Cook history.

Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet
Turnagain arm

Video of moving ice in Turnagain arm.  It is not bike able or boatable.

I have been trying all winter to get a video of the incoming bore tide with the ice as it is incredibly dramatic.  Timing is difficult and it must be at full or new moon for maximum tide and I have not succeeded but will hopefully try again later this week.  If I succeed I will try and post.

Sometimes the best travel is in one’s own backyard.  Often that is the best of all.




I would like for them to learn naturally, effortlessly, almost without knowing it, that the love of beautiful, things, critical thinking and intellectual honesty. Are the three essential virtues. This way they will learn things for themselves, this way they will be real men. As there used to be. They won’t be fooled by intellectual snobs and political scoundrels. They will know how to live and outside of a century which is only getting deeper into infamy, lies, and stupidity

Jacques Monod August 5 1939
Again writing from plane, this time departing for home.

Eight great kids,  mostly new to ski jumping anywhere from 2 1/2 months to three years of jumping.  Jeanne, coach Natasha, and myself as guidance and directors.  4 kids had one parent along and two brothers had both parents.  But parents were generally not allowed with us as we travel as a team.  Parents stayed with friends or motels saying hello and watching during the day at the hill.  We wanted a team spirit and comeraderie.

The western region Alaska crew 2017


Interesting to watch interactions of parents and kids; which are as varied as there are personalities.  But this age group (10-13 years) is starting to step out into the world on their own, and parents are letting go or not.  It is the age of exploration and excitement at discovering the world.  Hopefully this is  not limited to this age group and exploration and excitement continues through life, but I have seen it this week, being immersed in this age group.  Activity is near constant and not focused but it can be directed with channeling.

Learning experiences and encouragement, wow.  For example we had set a quiet time of 9 pm and lights out by 10 o’clock.  Mostly followed, but Thursday was a rest day of only xc skiing, jumping practice, a 4 hour trip to hot springs (with climbing wall, water slides (requiring of me, more than 15 slides to find a winner)). Thus Thursday night folks were not quite ready to wind down.  But the jumping competition  is on Friday.  Natasha reminded me this is part of the learning curve, they cannot always be told something, they must learn it themselves.    OK, I went into  one of two boys rooms and two are standing on the bed saying “we are getting ready for bed”. I reminded them it is now 10:15 and it is a competition night.  Yeah, yeah, yeah. As I was going up the stairs to next boys room the two previous run past me. (I guess they assumed I cannot see). 10 minutes later I go into girls room to find all eight watching a movie on the computer. Competition night!  Whatever, we were all up at 7.

Alaska Crew with parents


Top of 45 meter jump competition


And teaching them of altitude (Steamboat is at 1950 meters, 6400 feet ), I told them to notice the stairs here versus the stairs at home.  One kiddo as we climbed the stairs said he was not noticing the altitude, but he admitted the stairs were harder.

As for the competition we are a new program just getting going again.  I had not necessarily expected great results and kept reminding the kids it was how they did, not how others did.  On the first day one kid noticed kids from Calgary and park city.  Our kids response (some of them) was “they are going to cream us”. I again reminded them it was not how well Calgary or park city or Illinois or steamboat springs clubs do, it is how well one does oneself.

Alaska medal winners jumping and nordic combined      (the 4 without actual neck jewelry are not included)

That night in the competition we won, we lost, we got scared, we cheered, we beat our own records, we fell, we crashed, we got up, And the tears flowed.  Some from beating personal goals, some from not achieving them.  Tears from all myself included.  Parents, helpers, watchers, and the kids, all requiring varying degrees and varieties of answers.  (OK I admit I get choked up when I see whoever, whatever doing their absolute best) Breaks ones heart when a 10 year old is bawling their eyes out because they did not do their absolute best and felt they could do better.
Basically the adventure of kids.  A real adventure.  But will shortly tag the parents and say “tag you are it, your turn”

And I mentioned in last blog how they were excited about seeing cows, well they also saw for many, their first candy store.  (Sorry parents, had to give them the experience of new experiences, kids choice). But it goes both ways.  One morning tuned the radio to a modern station and all the kids were singing along to Beyoncé whom I had to ask who the artist was.  Even us oldersters can still learn.

And great to see how other programs work.  And one comment by the director of the steamboat club was he does not care about making olympians (and their have been numerous from the area) but he cares about making good citizens.


It was a great week of which I thoroughly enjoyed it and am thoroughly exhausted.  For those without kids it is far harder than it looks and  can be extremely rewarding.  I am quite happy with loaner kids.  My hat is off to parents.  Hopefully I had a bit of good influence and they learned a few things (like candy is not necessarily the best thing)

Top of 30 meter jump (photo by Jessie Ann Menkens)
75 meter jumper competion (jumper landed at 52.5 meters

A different trip

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.              Paulo Coelho

Gentle readers, again I am taking off on another adventure.  This time the bike is not accompanying me; but am being accompanied by 10 other folks and a few groupies.  There are 8 ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen year olds plus Jeanne, the coach, and myself.  The groupies consist of 4 parents.  We are heading to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the western region ski jumping competition.  This is a different kind of adventure.

Our kids will be jumping the 20,30 and 45 meter hills although there is competition on the 70, 100, and 125 meter hills which will be great fun to watch.  I have seen big hills, but have never seen a competition on them.

At first I was excited to go back to steamboat as I used to race there many years ago.  Alas I checked lift prices and it was obvious they do not want people like me there.  $155.00 US for a one day pass.  I will be busy enough monitoring our group.  

Several years ago a friend approached Jeanne and I to say she was very jealous of our adventures and trips.  It was true we have done some amazing trips and adventures and seen a tiny portion of our world.  But I thought about it, not being one who can quickly come up with a comeback, only to acknowledge her desires to travel and explore.  The next day though, I mentioned to her our wondrous trips which were grand, but she had an adventure Jeanne and I are not doing.  Raising a family through the years of growth and exploration.  Perhaps even more grand.  She thought about it and said wow that is true.  (Then a year later she ran off with her best friends husband). We all have our own adventures and stories.  

Oh my gosh. Two of the kids got bumped up to first class. The excitement is barely contained. No wonder I am enamored with this volunteer activity. 

Buenos Aires

Let go of the past, let go of the future.


Has been an interesting week.  The one thing we really wanted to do was go to Iguazu falls, a world heritage sight and one of the wonders of the natural world.  We had been having trouble piecemealing a trip together and decided to get to a travel agent in buenos aires.

On arrival caught a taxi to the airbnb we had rented, nearly leaving my computer on cart at airport.  Uh oh,  traveling always is risky. Had to wait a bit as they needed to clean  the apartment after the last tenants.  Went to local parilla restaurant (barbecue) and did the usual ordering with a nice sounding name which I had no idea what it was.  I ended up with blood sausage which was good, but Jeanne could not eat.  Never ask what is in your food, just do you like it.  Called on arrival so they could let us into the apartment and told them we were out front.  Alas an hour later they came down wondering why we had not rung the bell.  We did not know apartment number hence could not ring.  More language misinterpretation.

Then began walking to the supposed tourist area of Florida street which had lots of street vendors but proved difficult to find a travel agent.   Finally one was hidden away and only caught our attention when a vendor outside wanted to know if we wanted to travel somewhere.  The office was right there we just could not see it.

No air tickets to Iguazu falls as christmas time and everyone traveling.  Could get a pickup at airport to falls and hotel but no tour available and no flights.    Burned again by traveling at christmas time.

But made arrangements to go to a Tango show and for a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay, across the river.  Thus we have six days in Buenos Aires which was supposed to be three in Buenos Aires and three at falls,  so OK go with the flow.

Saturday headed off to the number one tourist attraction in Buenos Aires, and the Cementerio de la Recoleta, the cemetery. Evita Duarte remains there. The places for caskets was quite impressive, many larger than actual homes.

Cementerio de la Recoleta
Street dancers in crocs


Then shopping at the vendors and a street tango performance.  I went to tip them as their performance was incredible.  They thanked me and inquired if I would like a picture.  Hence the tango dancer in crocs.  My sister noted the crocs foot ware and probably the only person to see there is a guy in the picture.  I still can’t see him when I look at picture.

That evening we had arranged for a tango show of which there are numerous in Buenos Aires.  Dinner including wine beer, and delicious carne.  (What else is there in Argentina?) along with a small salad and a wondrous desert.  Then the show for an hour and half the dancers, musicians, and singers exhibited their skills.  Quite the athletes.  Amazing skill, I suspect acquired over years of training.

Sunday we heard there is a great street market where they close the road and vendors exhibit their wares.  As per usual though a few problems:  it was raining, the vendors were mostly of antiques, and not the artisan jewelery Jeanne was looking for.  But walking along did see Greg and Liz from Australia who were on the expedition to Antarctica with us.  A town of 4 million and we come across someone we know.  I am still amazed at how that works.

Purchased another umbrella as had not brought ours along for the day and walked back to apartment.  A nice walk through the city.


Exciting day as we were going to Colonia, Uruguay.  Cross another country off the list, whoopee!  A less than exciting ferry ride across the river which here measures 65 kilometers across.  As near as I can tell this is second widest river in the world, second only to the amazon at 215 kilometers across.  The ferry ride was less than exciting being more a cattle call than a boat ride.  No place to even go outside and upstairs was for vip’s only.

Colonia a delightful place to just wander.  Long clean beach along the river (I tested the water and fresh as expected) the city itself is a world heritage site and is nearly 500 years old.  Interesting history with Spanish and Portuguese invaders.  Spanish wanted to conquer, exploit and declare it theirs.  Portugal just wanted commerce, hence often the Portuguese were just along the coast but eventually had choice of leave or be killed, and Spanish language resulted.  Another case of I am better than you and will kill either you or myself to prove it.

A wondrous lunch of beer and squid looking out over the beach and water and sun.  Umbrella handy today for sun.

Return on even more unimpressive ferry.  They make a boat very unexciting.  On return to Buenos Aires, tried to figure out cabs but taxi stand seemed only for VIP passengers so we started walking again, this time along the canal, and it proved delightful. People just strolling along in the evening.  Stopped for some beers and to sit and people watch, finally about 8 pm decided it was time for dinner.  Again only ones on arrival but when we left at 10:15 place was half full.

The colors across the canal as the sun descended were amazing reflecting off the glass on buildings on other side.  Pinks, reds, blues, magentas- not the clouds but buildings as sunset progressed.

Tuesday 20 December

After a busy few days it was time for a rest and lounged about apartment until noon when stomach growling began and off to the neighborhood perilla 50 meters away for lunch.  No sausage this time but veal and wine.

Off to the evita museum although cab driver did not know where it was and even with address insisted on taking us to the nearby art museum.  We just walked the kilometer to evita museum, with a stop for a Starbucks frappuchino to combat the heat.

The museum itself is built in a building evita used as a shelter for homeless, abused or similar circumstances of women.  Her story is a bit different than that of the musical:  they did not cover the use of charity to increase their own fortunes.  Here they covered labor reforms, voting rights for women, and the buildup of social programs many of which are still being fought about in the United States.  And this was in the forties.  Way ahead of her time and obviously a go getter.  But stil the rich and powerful fought her, although in this case the people supported her.  Although never holding a political office she has pictures on posters and buildings about town.

Back to the canal where I attempted to photograph the previous evenings sunset without success.  The colors did not develop as the previous evening but still magnificent.  Technical camera issues ensued, but Jeanne patiently sat at a nearby restaurant.  The waiter from Italy spoke 5 languages and loved travelling.  He loves Buenos Aires for its liveliness and comfortable atmosphere.  He said he works til about 1 am when restaurants tend to close and the bars and clubs begin to open.

Wednesday 21 December and the sun is high over the Tropic of Capricorn, meaning it is winter solstice.  Here there is about 13.5 hours of sunshine, in anchorage about 5.5.  It begins to reverse with here losing light every day and up north they gain light daily for another six months when the annual rotation about the sun again changes again.

We celebrated by going on yet another tourist activity.  This entailed a 2 hour bus ride out to the estancia (ranch).  In the states we would call this a dude ranch.  On arrival they met us with wine and empanadas which were delightful at 11 am.

Then for the horse rides.  One should definitely ride a horse at least once a century, and I have now met my quota.  Took me 5 times to get up onto the horse, as I seemed to have difficulty using the mane as a handle.  The saddles here are not western saddles and do not have the handle in front. (Yes I know that is not the purpose). After a kilometer I was sore. I can ride a bicycle thousands of miles without being sore but a horse ride does me in.

Then a carriage ride and as with the horse ride the best part was the birds: burrowing owl, cara cara, herons and a bunch I could not identify.

Lunch was a 5-6 course meal of numerous meats, a small salad, and desert.  Along with beer and wine, plus coffee after.  Then the musical show and dancing.  Songs by a “gaucho” then tango dance demo again very artistic and athletic.  Some gaucho dances with bolos and delightful along with some of us in crowd getting up and dancing.

After the show off to the fields where the gaucho horse show began.  Not your usual cowboy harassing cows in a variety of ways, but a high speed run with a tiny stick about the size of a finger which you had to spear a ring hanging down.  Most runs they succeeded after which they rode up to the crowd and gave a lady the ring, along with a kiss.  Jeanne’s’ ring fit nicely over her middle finger.

On return to the city our guide said demonstrations were taking place and would be difficult to get us back where they picked us up.  Our pickup point was not necessarily near our apartment, but planned on another cab ride.  The guide advised against a cab ride due to demonstrations as we would just sit in traffic.  Ok we would walk which was acceptable as only about two kilometers, although finding walking on cement is harder than on regular trails.  Along the way we saw no signs of demonstrations as we know them but power out occasionally but not an issue. ( think, traffic lights).  Traffic although it appears quite crazy, is rather civilized once you figure it out.  Not one incident of road rage or rushing, was rather pleasant and great fun to drive about and see the city.

And I think I love Argentina.  Having ridden the Andes trail and spent several months in the country, it has such wonderful varied sites. Mountains, deserts, glaciers, beaches, oceans, and a people who are friendly and proud of their country, as they should be.  As per usual the people are just here making a living where they are born.  The government is often as separate entity.

In 1967 I was an exchange student in Germany.  I had been taught that the United States was the greatest country in the world, but I found perhaps there were other places that are great too.  I had been taught of the atrocities committed by Germany, but discovered it came from both sides.  Perhaps we think our home is the best because we understand it.  Again I am better than you thoughts prevail. But maybe that is not so, maybe just different and that can be exciting.  Embrace the diversity.  Just because we are different does not make us better or worse.


Gaucho horsemanship
The object is to put the stick through the ring while at high speed
Cowgirl extraordinaire
Gaucho furniture
Buenos Aires sunset (actually looking east)
Defensa street Sunday market pouring rain


And I wrote this enroute from Buenos Aires to Santiago Chile. On arrival I attempted to save and everything except pictures was erased.  Internet at airport is very slow, frustrating, and intermittent.  I have what is called a sky roam which connects me to internet via cellular network but it seems similar to airport wifi.  Ugh.  I think I will try and post and edit more when arrive in Dallas in 12 hours.  Well go figure as I posted this at Santiago airport wifi pictures would not show and writing was sporadic, but I look here in Dallas on arrival and shows up, so there you go.