Sometimes when writing memories of our travels, there is so much to talk about that I forget that it’s not all sweetness and light out here on the road. Sometimes it’s just about laundry. And rain. And a lot of dirt.
When we left Talkeetna yesterday I felt great, in spite of the rain. With several hours spent doing laundry, I also had time to finish writing about the last few days on the road and get everything completely caught up in blogland, reading all the blogs I follow, with even a chance to comment here and there as well. It felt great, and lasted just about as long as a clean house with a houseful of kids. Yeah, I remember those days well. I also remember doing laundry in laundromats with three babies in diapers, my 2 1/2 year old still in night diapers when my third baby was born. When Maryruth read the blog about Talkeetna and laundry, she called and laughed with me about those days of diapers in laundromats. That is the kind of stuff that comes up now and then with 47 year old friendships!
Mo and I didn’t have too far to go, but with each passing mile I felt us slipping into a very different Alaska from the one we have seen so far. The highway was wide and smooth, with lots of traffic. Much of it was really beautiful, with the Chugach mountains rising on the east and the alluvial plains that are the foundation of Anchorage to our south.
It rained almost the entire day, with just a few breaks here and there that let us see as least part of the rugged mountains surrounding the road to Anchorage. On the way, we found a delightful little museum a few miles west at the old townsite of Knik, on Knik Arm and right on the Iditarod Trail. It housed artifacts about the history of the Knik area, but also was called Musher’s Museum with paintings and stories of the famous race. The best part of the museum was the curator, but a woman not like any curator you ever knew. She ambled into the building at 1 on a Sunday afternoon, after seeing us waiting outside in the rain for the place to open. The Milepost says it opens at 12 but that isn’t correct at all.
As we walked around looking at old photos and artifacts, she started talking, and talking, and talking some more. She had a detailed story about every single thing we looked at, and it sounded just like your neighbor was talking across the fence while you hung the wash. It was a perfect stopover.
By the time we finished, we were hungry, and Mo wanted Mexican so I punched Mexican Restaurant on my AroundMe iPhone app and up came a place in Wasilla. yup, that Wasilla. We wandered around Wasilla a bit, trying to get the lay of the land, but it seemed like a fairly strange place and didn’t show itself until we left the main street in town and headed south again through the line of big box stores and traffic that makes up the better part of Wasilla. The Mexican restaurant called La Fiesta was in a small strip mall, not fancy, but certainly adequate for the mood and the dark rainy day.
By the time we reached Anchorage, it was about 3 in the afternoon, and we have found that is a good time to stop if you don’t have reservations and want a place to sleep. Our plan was to stay at Elmendorf AFB Family Camp, but it was a bit confusing because Elmendorf has combined with Fort Richardson Army Base, and there is also a campground there called Spruce. I had read about Spruce, but in the rain I didn’t have a clue where it was, and when we made our way through the Elmendorf gates, the FamilyCamp was right there so that was right where we landed.
It was time to spend two nights, and finish up the rest of the laundry at a buck a load at the campground laundry. It was still raining, but at least we had power and could use our little electric heater to stay cozy. Still, the antenna only brought up a very strange channel and we decided TV wasn’t on the list of todo’s anyway. We planned two days in Anchorage to see a bit of what the city has to offer, but also planned to get the MoHo serviced the next day. I didn’t have internet, but the phone worked great with 3G and five bars to get me around the internet to search out locations and options for our time in the city.
After realizing that the rain wasn’t going to let up, we decided to take a drive downtown and check out the lay of the land. With it being Sunday night we thought it would be quiet enough that we could do that fairly easily. Anchorage isn’t nearly as big as it sounds. The listed population of more than 265,000 people must include an awful lot of the rural area and the city limits actually encompass an area bigger than some states. We drove around downtown, noticing all the souvenir shops before we found Earthquake Park.
Once again, Mo was to be a bit disappointed with what was left of this park. Now there are a few signs, a memorial, but the park is thick with vegetation and great trails, but not a lot of information about the actual quake, and nowhere can you view any of the rifts or slides that were part of that great disaster. We ambled through the rain back home and went to bed early to read and hope for a bit less rain tomorrow, although the weather forecast wasn’t very encouraging.
Waking again to very dark skies and pouring rain, I looked around the MoHo and was glad for a day to try to get out some of the grime. RVing can get awfully dirty, especially with a dog and a cat and mud and rain. We couldn’t see any of the beautiful mountains that supposedly surrounded Anchorage, but I sure was dragging in a lot of local dirt. I washed all the rugs, the bedding, and shook and washed and polished and scrubbed, and wiped until I had some semblance of a decent place to live, before I finally managed to get to the last of the dirt out of the house. Once I finally finished that project, I was in a better space to deal with the awful dreary skies, but RVing on this rainy dirty morning felt anything but glamorous, believe me! I wondered out loud how the Alaskan homesteaders managed to live in those tiny cabins with kids and wood heat and probably dogs as well. It must have been a really dirty life.
The FamCamp was also an adequate place to stay, with sites well spaced under trees, with electric and water. It was very relaxed compared to the last camp we enjoyed in Tucson, with very little enforcement of rules and regs. Laundry was cheap, and the onsite rv dump was basically a pipe in the ground without any water. We got to shop for groceries at the commissary, and it was very convenient to downtown Anchorage and just outside the gate was a megamall. If we had managed time to shop, we could have gone to target, Lowe’s, PetSmart, and a bunch of others, or we could have even gone to see one of 16 movie screens at the theatre. Instead, I was too tired from cleaning dirt to do anything but crash into bed when we got home from town. It was quiet and dark at night, and probably the only thing I didn’t like was the muddy, dirty sites. Have I mentioned dirty?
Around mid day, we drove again downtown to walk around in the rain and look at “stuff”. Stuff it was, awful stuff actually, and the main part of Anchorage around the Chamber Visitor Center felt a lot like a cruise terminal in a third world country. Store after store, proclaiming authentic Alaskan “art” filled with Ulu knives and cheap tee shirts welcomed us to this bustling city of the north.
One bright spot of the afternoon was a visit to the National Public Lands Visitor Center, with great displays, maps, videos, and movie presentations of all the national parks in the different regions of Alaska. Thank you, Erin, for bringing this to my attention, I might have missed it. The second bright spot was from another recommendation from a friend, Jeanne, who sent us to Humpy’s Ale House for brew and halibut. The halibut was the freshest I have ever eaten, and the ambience was upbeat Alaskan locals mixed with folks from the nearby federal building and tourists.
Our unglamorous forecast for the next day was for more rain. The plan was to get the MoHo serviced on our way out of town tomorrow and then head south to the Kenai Peninsula.
Road condition: irrelevant, we aren’t in wild Alaska any more