We had encountered very beautiful weather during our trip across America, but had been warned that the weather in Alaska could be cold and most likely would be wet, so we packed for cold, rainy weather. Little did we know that the next two weeks would be the warmest and driest in perhaps Alaskan history or at least since the last time it was so hot and dry. So much for us having the proper clothing. Who would have believed that we had been on the road in a Corvette for almost a month with only a few duffel bags and now we were off to the cruise with more pieces of luggage than would fit in our larger car.
It was off to the airport so we could board a Continental Airlines flight to Fairbanks. After a trek across the country once again, this time by air in first class, we arrived in Fairbanks to be greeted by representatives from Princess Cruise Lines. After picking up our packet and having our luggage loaded on a bus, we were whisked off to the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge and a well deserved good night's sleep. Upon arrival, we asked if our friends from Connecticut, Gary & Debbie Lathrop had arrived yet, only to find out that they were still at the airport. We left a message and went off to bed. The hotel was very nice and the bed was very comfortable. Early the next morning we hooked up with our friends, went to breakfast, caught up on some of the past few months, and headed off to town for a few hours before our planned tour was to begin.
Went into and out of a lot of shops and then found the Ice Museum, very fascinating and interesting. Gives much background on the harvesting and procedures of ice making. If your timing is right, you can even watch some sculptures being made. Today we even saw some being packaged for shipping. After watching a short film about ice sculptures, you are then able to enter rooms, which are kept at temperatures of 22 degrees Fahrenheit, where they have ice sculptures you can get up close and personal with. One room is really designed for children, of all ages, with an ice slide of about 25 feet long, yes we all gave it a go. In another room was a table and chairs with four martini glasses all made of ice. This is a must stop if you are ever in Fairbanks.
Dick was our host, and was more than willing to answer all of our questions.
During the afternoon, we took a tour to University of Alaska Museum, and farm. At the farm they had muskoxen, caribou, and reindeer. This was quite educational, for us any way, as we had never heard of muskoxen.
We even learned that the wool from these creatures is more warming and softer that cashmere. Of course that makes it more expensive and a simple pull over hat is over two hundred dollars. The college museum was very nice. It contained many Alaskan historical clothing and artifacts. They have an audio tour available for those interested. However, we did not have a very long time, so we did it on our own,
In the evening we went to a Photo-Symphony of the Northern Lights. This was done in the town of Ester at a restored old gold mine camp. The photographer has taken many different panoramic views of landscape and the Northern Lights and has set these to classical music. It was very interesting to most, but some found it really relaxing, almost to the point of sleep. Pictures of landscapes, and ice sculptures were also included.
City of Gold tour, first stop was El Dorado Gold Mine,
..where we boarded a small train to take us to the panning area, where we learned about the gold mine history of Fairbanks. After watching Yukon and her husband Bert show us how panning is done, we got to try our hand.
Everyone came out with at least some gold flakes.
Of course they had an area where you can weigh your find. Jackie and I combined ours to get her a locket as a nice souvenir. Of course there was a large gift shop, but one different thing about this shop was that they had coffee and delicious cookies, free to all. Once again we just couldn't pass up a dietary indulgence.
After leaving the gold mine we went to visit a section of the Alaska Pipeline. This area was an excellent example of how the pipe goes from underground to above ground and back underground. Also we got to see the H stanchions that help control the pipes stability in the extreme temperatures of the area. -60 to +90 degrees. I have to say that much of this was explained at the University of Fairbanks the day before, but seeing it in person gave it a new meaning.
We then had a quick tour of downtown Fairbanks, most of which we had seen yesterday.
Came back to have quick lunch at the hotel, and then boarded the bus for a Riverboat ride on the Discovery III down and back up the Chena River. This is a must do. We had wonderful weather and the ride on this paddle wheeler was smooth and quiet.
There were many sights to see along the way. One especially interesting one was a stop off shore to watch Susan Butcher with her ididerod dogs. She took a team out and hooked them up to an ATV and we watched in awe as they pulled her at about 20 M.P.H. She even had some small pups there. They were adorable.
After the workout all went for a swim to cool off.
Next interesting site was an Alaskan Fish Camp, where an Alaska woman named Dixie showed us how to quickly filet a Salmon. She then explained how they dry and smoke it, so that it is very light in weight. This is very important in the winter as sledding is their mode of transportation and a musher has to carry the food for his dogs. Yes, they eat dried Salmon.
We then were able to disembark at an Alaskan village, where we were told about sled dogs, which are not bred for beauty but for their ability to pull. Also what animals are important to their lives and how they use the entire animal for their living. Different types of shelters used by the people were also on display.
The most amazing part to me was the making of the clothing. A fine example of a coat is displayed.
These were all handmade by the same Dixie, who had filleted the salmon earlier and proceeded to speed past us in her small boat, so she could meet us here. They were really beautiful.
This evening we went to an Alaskan Salmon Bake,
This probably would have been a great time, except the weather didn't cooperate completely and the skies opened up on us. We did manage to have a good dinner and a quick look at the classic cars that came out to great us. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of them. One of the local Corvette members gave all the participants from the NCM a small goody bag.
Up early this morning to catch a bus for a small ride to catch a train to Denali. Breakfast on the train was great. The dome car was fantastic.
We had a lot of fun sitting across from Mike and Debbie Nostro.
Mike is President of Corvette Club of Orlando and gave both of us a really neat pin from their club. I know I wore mine with pride the whole trip and will do so at home. This club had the most members present on the cruise with 25 and had pins for almost everyone else and some great jackets for each of them with logos on the back. What a way to go Orlando! As you can see the observation car was set up with two seats facing each other with a table in the middle. This was very handy for binoculars and drinks. We had a dining car in the lower section and even the obligatory gift shop right on our car.
Got to Denali Princess Lodge around noon. Everything went so smooth, they really have moving people around to a science. Deb, Gary, and we went to check out all the local shops after having a quick lunch. These shops didn't have much more to offer, than the others along the way, but what the heck. We then went to the bar and had a few libations to prepare for the dinner theater production of "The Song of Denali" that evening.
As you can see Buzz found a great outfit for the cold winters in Florida!
The show was a hoot and for that matter a holler also.
After dinner it was off to our respective rooms for a bit of shut-eye.
It was onto another bus for a trip to Denali Park early in the morning. As we were preparing to leave the lodge who should we see but Bill Crabb from Tampa, who was on another trip. I guess from the picture he was really on another trip at this moment.
It was very informative trip as we were thrust back in time when we visited a Ranger's shack and met a woman from 1940 who told us a whole bunch of amusing stories of her life in the wilds of Alaska. She even showed us the "Alaskan Wave."
Then we loaded in the bus and were met by a native Alaskan, who explained his life over the past years.
I guess it would have been much more enjoyable, but it was rather wet and cold. Even the hot chocolate did not help very much. From there it was off to the railroad station and on to the Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge.
We by that time have gotten this train trip down to a science and both of us were delighted to see that an new friend, Susie Fouse whom we had met in Sebring,
..was helping out in the car in front of our group. She was only too glad to share her pictures of her road races with us and inform the bartender, Jason to take special care of us. This ride was really FUN,
..and I guess the bartender felt the same way as he said that he worked harder in four hours with us than he did in eight.
Thank God for the "Mosquito Bites!"
I have to say the lodge was a first class operation. The views were absolutely fantastic. I mean to be able to look off the porch and see the highest mountain in North America, was something we will never forget and pictures cannot duplicate.
The odd thing was that even at 10:00 at night the temperature was still 70 degrees and the sun was still in the sky.
Once again we were up early and off for another day of adventure. The mountain was even more beautiful than the night before. It was as clear as a bell and the sun was shining brightly. The locals said that they had not seen the mountain in over two weeks and we had a most spectacular view.
Then it was "on the road again" for the next leg of our adventure. Arriving at the Chevrolet dealer's parking lot, there were about 49 Corvettes ready to take us to the ship and a cook out. The Anchorage Corvette Club had auctioned off a ride in the passenger seat as a fundraiser for The Ronald McDonald House and Jackie & I had bid on a chance to drive and ride in a C4. The place was full of excitement as everyone met his or her drivers and owners.
I will say that although that was very exciting for us, the sight of our daughter, Sarah arriving from the East Coast was a real thrill. It has been a few months since we have seen her and as you can see I missed her.
There was much catching up to do and then after the obligatory driver's meeting
we all got in our cars and headed off to Whittier. What a sight to see 49 Corvettes all in a row driving along the breath taking roads in a winding ribbon of fiberglass.
The tunnel into the town is a small, long, dark one and is only able to handle cars, trains, or busses in one direction at once, so we had to make arrangements to be there at a certain time. What a hoot!
As we got to the other side, the small town really made a great backdrop for the Coral Princess our new home for the next week.
We found our way onto the ship and then after throwing a little water on our faces proceeded to the cook out in the center of town. What as feast they had prepared for us and I cannot say enough about the hospitality that was extended to us by these folks.
Upon returning to the ship we waited patiently for the Princess Train to arrive and who were to climb out, but our friends from home, Bill & Linda McKenzie AKA "The Fly over Gang."
Sarah had spent the morning with them before she met up with us and they took the train to the boat. I guess after being greeted by us at the terminal, they would have been better off on the caravan. Hugs were shared and we soon met in our rooms for a chance to catch up on old times and local gossip. After a few minutes it was off to the dining room for the first of what would be a long line of delicious meals on board.
Day 6 This was to be the first of two days at sea during our trip and the National Corvette Museum had an afternoon planned of qualifying and picking cars for the road rally to take place tomorrow. Of course there were no full size Corvettes, but we did have some remote control ones. After the first round was complete, the race precipitants were instructed to gather together their respective teams and prepare a story for the next race.
After this, a "blind Auto Cross" was performed. This is where a team of two competes while blindfolded and the other "talks" him through the course. Bill & Linda went first and got a little lost.
Then the other teams had to go with the navigator on stage,
.. so Bill & Linda were eligible for another round. They reluctantly agreed to go again and really "smoked" the field to come in first. Congratulations!
It was formal night, so we decided to just get a little dressed and go to Sabatini's Italian Restaurant for dinner. The wine and food flowed all night.
The end to another perfect day.
We awoke to another beautiful day and eagerly anticipated the trip into Glacier Bay. Needing fortification we headed down for breakfast. Bill & Linda decided to share meals, but as you can see Bill got carried away with his and didn't leave much for his lovely wife.
What the heck this was after all a ship and more food is readily available. From there it was off to the decks to see the glacier. What a sight! It was calving almost the whole time we were there and we even got to see a whole side fall off in one swoop.
We are not sure what this is on top, but it sure looked weird.
Have to say this was the only day it really felt like we were in the north, as it was a bit on the chilly side. However not one of us left the deck for the three and a half hours we were there in the bay. The beauty of it all made the cold seem unnoticeable.
We slept in for a few hours while Sarah went horseback riding
..then just took a leisurely stroll into the town of Skagway for a little peek.
While Sarah rode her own steed, Jackie & I opted for a carriage ride through town. It was to say the least a ride we will not soon forget - short and rather expensive.
Oh well, after all we are on vacation. We even did get to see a couple of Corvettes along the way. One C5 owner was ferrying his car from stop to stop along the way, just for us.
I couldn't resist a side trip to the Red Garter Bar & Bordello Museum. After all there were many houses of ill repute all over the wild and wooly north. I don't remember her name, but she told all the men to go down the stairs with a smile on their faces, so I did.
Afternoon found Jackie, Sarah, Debbie, Gary and me getting into yet one more bus for a ride to a smaller freshwater glacier and a ride in a canoe. This was really worth the time. I mean where else could you get dressed in fowl weather gear, life vests, paddle a canoe and touch the freezing water all at one sitting. It was amazing to see how cold and windy it gets as we approached the glacier.
Back on board ship the views were no less spectacular. Even Bill "The Old Man of the Sea" watched in awe as we glided by.
We awoke to find our ship docked in Juneau. Up once again after a night of fun aboard ship found Bill, Linda, Sarah, Jackie & me on yet another bus this time headed for the Mendenhall Glacier and more photo opportunities.
Then it was onto a Four Seasons boat for a trip to Orca Point Lodge for lunch.
We saw some humpback whales along the way
..and even a few sea lions hanging around this buoy.
Arriving at the lodge gave us the opportunity to eat yet once more and explore the shoreline.
After a fine dinner, some of us (that is, all except Gary & Debbie) retired to the card room for a lovely game of dominoes. After spilling almost all of the liquids we had near us and playing with the new set we received for Vicky, the scores were very high, except for Sarah who clobbered all of us. Oh well, it not the score, but the game that counts.
Up on arising it was fun to watch the Coral Princess moor in Ketchican for our last shore excursion of the boat trip. No dock or gangplank, just a tender for a ride into shore. This time it was off on a smaller boat
.. to see more wildlife
(did I tell you we saw eagles?) and an old cannery.
Sarah even got to be a cannery worker for a little while,
Once again the sights, sounds and history were just titillating.
The ride back from the cannery found us at a part of town where there were many story poles in a semicircle.
After a brief shopping spree, we met up with the rest of "the crew" to watch a lumberjack show. It was amazing to see the men do the things in person. They have a little competition between the Canadian and American camps and to watch the men is wonderful.
I mean when they climb the poles it's great, but when they come down WOW!
This was our other formal night, so we all got dressed in our best and headed off to dinner. Again the food was superb and plentiful and the wine flowed and flowed. Bill and Linda were celebrating their anniversary, so I thought it only right since I was dressed and had driven a boat and we were at sea, that I should re-marry them. So after dinner it was off to the chapel for the very solemn ceremony. The whole thing was witnessed by the witnesses, best manned by the best man and bridesmaided by the bridesmaids and of course preached by the preacher.
After many tears and lots of imagined rice it was off to our cabins for the reception, the giving of gifts,
..and of course the honeymoon.
This day found us listening and observing a cooking demonstration and having a tour of the kitchen facilities aboard ship,
Even Bill got involved and bought a cookbook to bring home.
Jackie & I feel that it was just to add weight to their suitcases, but who knows maybe we will be invited over for dinner cooked by Chief-Boy-R-Billy.
Before dinner the NCM group met in the Explorer lounge for a last day cocktail party. Wendell welcomed all and asked yours truly to say a few words.
After that Gus Puryear announced that he would buy the center brick if 20 "Corvette Sailors" would buy bricks around it. There was a flurry to sign up and I'm sure any who did not sign there could call the museum.
It being the last night together we had to say goodbye to our lovely wait-staff. Alexandra and Rafal were great kids and took extra care of us the whole voyage. They also did a splendid job of coaching Sarah on some Polish phrases she can use when she meets her boyfriend Bart's grandmother this summer. Thanks again for all you did for us all.
Chris, the Head Waiter, was also right there with whatever we wanted and went above and beyond the call on many occasions. How about those deserts and appetizers that were not on the menu. MMM MMM Good! !
This was the day we hoped would never come. We had to have our luggage out the night before and we knew that the voyage was soon to be over. Bill & Linda were heading home for Tampa and sadder was the fact that it would soon be time to say goodbye to our daughter. It seems to get harder and harder to say goodbye as we really miss her each and every day. We as parents could not be more proud of a child as we are of Sarah. She brings joy into our hearts each and every day.
The phone calls are just not enough many times, but we will be seeing her in a couple of weeks when we head up north. Enough about the sadness, it has been great being with our Corvette friends, Gary, Debbie, Bill, Linda and of course Sarah. After a few brief moments of trying to hold back the tears, we went down to the lower deck and waited our turn to disembark the ship for the last time. What a BALL! !
As we boarded yet another bus, we said farewell to the ship and headed for Victoria, BC. Our first stop after taking the ferry across was The Butchart Gardens. All I can say is what a beautiful place. The flowers were in full bloom and the roses smelled like they should. The whole place was almost a fairyland, too good to be real.
We could have stayed all day, but on to the Empress Hotel for the night. This was a really old first class hotel and had a great view of the harbor.
After dinner, we went on a carriage ride throughout the town. This was a real treat, as it lasted for over an hour.
After that it was off to see the sights and sounds of Victoria at night. We did manage to go to an undersea adventure in the harbor, this was OK, but not high on our list.
After that it was a chance to walk around the harbor and view the many street people and their original shows. What a sight to behold before retiring for the evening.
Upon arising we headed for the Crystal Palace, an indoor garden that also housed some endangered animals. This was a very beautiful exhibit, however we were told it might have to close for lack of funding.
We returned to our bus and headed for Vancouver for the next two nights. Back across the ferry and onto the Sutton Place. This was a first class hotel and what a way to end our adventure. Lindy and Sam convinced us to join them for dinner at Hy's Steakhouse and all of us would highly recommend it to all that come to Vancouver.
As you may know many of the stores in Vancouver and Victoria have killer whales in various outfits. Here are a few of the ones we liked.
This day found us up and out for a brief shopping excursion as we had seen a tall girl's shop the night before and Jackie can always use things. After about an hour it was off on another tour. This time it was with Vance's Tours and we had none other than Vance himself as our guide.
What a guy, he came over from Ireland about 15 years ago and started this business and just loves to bring people around town. I mean that he had everyone's name memorized and used them in all of his narration. This is another side trip we would recommend.
Then it was off for a quick bite, as we had to leave in the wee hours of the next day. However, we did find a good price on a new piece of luggage, which came in handy for the return home. It was then off to bed with the thoughts of the previous two weeks ringing in our heads.
I would like to thank The National Corvette Museum, Travel Partners, all the Corvette people on board and on shore, of course all of our close friends, and our daughter for making this one of the best vacations we have had. Until we meet again. Remember to "Save the wave."