~Typical Denali View
Just wrapping up two weeks of squiring dad around Interior. To say that dad is spry would be an understatement of Denali-sized proportions. Although 86, he gets around; not quite up to hiking the tundra, nor scaling down the cliffs at Chitna as we did 11 years ago, but still - there was not much sofa-lounging here.
Yup. He pretty much kept to the same schedule he maintains at home. Within short order, he institutionalized himself at College Coffeehouse, worked out daily at Mary Siah and prided himself on learning all of the short cuts around town (including how to evade the overzealous campus cops).
And while we didn't do all of the tour-bus touristy things around here (to wit: Gold Dredge # 8 and the Riverboat Discovery), we did complete much of the liberalish, Valley-crowd punch list of Must-dos while in town, at least those that can be accomplished without a gun, hiking boots or dip net.
Thusly, the not-quite bucket list:
- The Big Kahuna, of course. The sky was blue-bird blue, the mountain was mostly out, and there were so many grizzlies and Dall sheep grazing along the road (not together, obviously) that soon such sightings became ho-hum. The only drawback was losing the bus lottery and landing on a bus with that bane of the Park trip: the chatty, mis-informed bus driver who has a pathological urge to wow the captive bus audience with ever-escalating Alaskana tales. I actually envied my father's near total deafness on this one, but still the 8-hour round trip to Eielson Visitor Center and back was a trip of a lifetime for my dad as well as close to near perfect as one will ever get in the Park.
- The Lodge at Black Rapids: Alaskan-elegant (if you have to ask, you wouldn't get it), homey, and altogether a great destination. We drove down one rainy afternoon (and what afternoon hasn't been around here lately?), spent the afternoon drinking wine and kibitzing with the caretakers, and had some of the best meatloaf and mac & cheese around (a shout out to Casey). Slept like logs under thick down comforters and enjoyed a sunny morning driving on down the Rich to Fielding Lake.
- Lunch at Lil Richards AKA the Farthest North True Diner. My dad is a diner-freak (he has asked that his memorial service be at Bob's Diner, his hangout at home), so stopping off there on our way home from Black Rapids was a given. Decent (i.e. greasy and salty) diner food, and a good photo op for him (to show the waitresses back at Bob's).
- Chena Hot Springs (naturally). This time I didnt fall off the bar stool, although my dad did nearly succumb to the heat of the rock pool. A veteran of the turkish baths in Budapest, he didnt take the heat quite seriously enough. When he started babbling about the "current" in the rock pool and how he couldn't move against it, I along with a couple of Norwegians hustled him up and out into a lounge chair. No apparent lasting damage that a cold Alaskan Amber didnt later fix.
- The Musk Ox Farm, where we saw the twins.
- Northland Wood - how can a two-storey pile of split wood not be a tourist attraction for anyone burning wood??? - where my dad helped fill my PU truck, managed not to get hit on the head by the occasional logs that bounce down the pile from the log splitter. When I told him I needed four cords stored in the wood shed before August, he commented "no wonder women look sporty here". (Sporty being the adjective he routinely applied to all of us out in the Valley).
- The Farmers Market, where we bought yet more pottery for my house and some cool painted rocks in the shape of chickadees (there is virtually nothing someone cant sell you when you are on vacation).
- Morris Thompson Cultural Center: my dad liked this one so much he went back twice. The one thing that TCC actually has managed not to fuck up.
- The UAF Campus and museum. As an architect, he had sort of a sick fascination with the Museum - trying to figure out just exactly what it reminded him of. None of my suggestions of whale, iceberg, monstrosity, ark, and giant-white-thing resonated, so we just left it alone.
Fred Meyers was another favorite of my father's - I think he found some excuse to go there daily. The chaos induced by the store gremlins responsible for the continually shifting aisles did not seem to faze him in the least; he was able to find items (such as Czech wafer cookies that we eat in Hungary) that I never knew even existed in Fred's.
And there was of course, much wining and dining at places likes Lavelle's, Lulu's, Sourdough Sam's, and at the homes of many friends - more invites than we could fulfill in too-short a time. We even managed to stay home a few nights - and to spend a few afternoons doing yard work.
It's been awhile since I played tourist in the Banks - and I have to say it was a blast. Will have to try and do that more often. Its always fun to see the place through a different set of eyes.