Monday, August 20, 2012
Today was the last chance I had for a flight with Jim Somerville and based on the noisy downpour I heard outside my hotel window, knew that it just wasn't happening. A call to Jim confirmed this. However, he suggested a couple of alternative activities instead. The door had closed yet it had opened a window.
Jim had relatives in town paying him a visit so after dropping them off at the Anchorage depot for a train ride south he stopped by the hotel and picked me up. He asked if I would mind chasing their train down Turnagain Arm and I was only to happy to oblige. Since it was raining, Jim positioned his car so I could shoot train photos through my window thus keeping my camera as well as myself dry.
Jim wanted his relatives to enjoy all Alaska had to offer, so we stopped by the Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood to inquire about hours and price. In 1985 I panned for gold here and found it to be good clean fun.
With our stomachs growling we stopped at The Bake Shop. Although it is well known for its huge sourdough pancake stacks, sandwiches and bottomless bowls of homemade soup, we were there to sample their famous gigantic homemade sweet rolls. Yum! Jim then drove through Girdwood showing me a few of the expensive and unique homes in that area. We continued on through the town and eventually popped out into scenic Crow Creek Pass. Here As we drove higher into the mountains we reached the trail head for Crow Pass Trail which follows the former supply route for the Iditarod Dog Race. The area is a popular destination for its stunning scenery, historic sites and wildlife watching.
|Extraordinary log home in Girdwood||Lots of flowers outside The Bake Shop||Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into. ~ Henry Beecher|
|Alaskan size sweet roll!||A braided waterfall||Near the trail head of Crow Pass Trail|
After we had soaked up enough scenery Jim asked me if I had every been to the Alaska Native Medical Center. "Well, no not recently," I joked. Jim then explained to me that it was a excellent (and free) place to view Native crafts and artwork. So off we went. The facility, built in 1997, provides free care to Alaska Natives some of whom travel great distances from the bush. This 150-bed facility has over 250 physicians and is the only level II trauma center in Alaska.
Jim took me to various parts of the hospital to view the numerous displays of intricate artwork. I also found it intriguing to listen to Natives in the waiting rooms speaking to each other in their various tongues. At one point, a young Native man spied us studying artwork on display, engaged us in polite conversation and then tried to interest us into purchasing items he made. We politely declined.
Again feeling our stomachs groaning, we headed for lunch. Jim loves going to the Lucky Wishbone which has been an Anchorage favorite for over 50 years. This place always seems to be bustling with the hum of locals, travelers and adventurers. Although it is famous for its fried chicken we both opted for burgers and fries. I've heard their milkshakes are to die for, but didn't have room for one on this trip.
It had been a fun morning/afternoon and I thanked Jim profusely for serving as tour guide. As soon as he dropped me off at my car I headed straight for McDonalds to "borrow" their wi-fi signal and put my Picture of the Week online for all my loyal readers. It was a slow, painful process made worse since the borrowed laptop didn't have HTML editing software on it.
After uploading the photos, I called Pat Durand to remind him I was sleeping in his camper for the next couple of nights. Okay, call me cheap. Not only did he remember, but he also invited me to join the #557 work crew for dinner at his home. However, he said I would first need to go to the grocery store and pick up the main entree - a roaster chicken.
After buying the chicken (probably the only time I have been to a grocery in the past 25 years) I headed out to Wasilla. At the "engine house" I found Art Chase in #557's firebox taking measurements of the thickness of the metal plates. Jeff DeBroeck (ARR heavy mechanic) and Tim Coahran (ARR engineer) were working on the tender while Pat Durand and Robert Franzen (Steam Services of America) were discussing restoration details. I took the opportunity to climb the ladder and got inside the crew compartment of #557 to look around. The last time I had stood in this spot was in 2001 when I had visited Monte Holm in Moses Lake, Washington. At that time, he was the current owner of #557 and he was kind enough to let my son and I climb up in the cab and play with the controls. I would never have dreamed that a little over ten years later that #557 would return to Alaska and I would be standing in it!
|Climbing aboard to check out the fire box||Art Chase taking readings|
|The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry supplied the tender for #557||Tim Coahran, Jeff DeBroeck, Pat Durand, Art Chase and Robert Franzen at the Trout House|
The group decided to go to the Trout House for dinner instead of Pat's home. During the meal Robert Franzen tried to engage me in train conversations and was surprised to learn that I only had interest in the Alaska Railroad. He looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.
Our final stop of the day was Pat's house and he quickly got me set up for the night in his camper. In my southern opinion, Alaskan nights are cold this time of year. Fortunately, his camper had a heating unit that kept me nice and toasty warm.....until its electricity went out. I used every blanket in sight!
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