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Bits & Pieces -- 7-28-11

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I was told by a lady the other day, when you visit Alaska a little bit of you stays there. I have to agree that is true. Bruce and I spent last week with Riley's Bus line touring Alaska from Anchorage to Fairbanks to Valdez and back to Anchorage. In that week, we saw how the Iditarod works, visited Wasilla and no, we didn't see Russia from there. It didn't leave me with any desire to take part in sled dog racing. And there were gift shops.

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We toured Denali National Park where we saw some wildlife, Dall sheep, caribou and a grizzly bear, all in a distance, of course. On the bus were screens for all to see the wildlife up close. It was raining, which took away some of the excitment of being there, but it was "awesome". And there were gift shops.

We drove on to Talkeetna and had lunch in an indoor/outdoor cafe, which probably wouldn't meet health standards here in Minnesota. The food was very good, and there were giftshops.

We saw the Alaska Oil pipeline, which is rather a remarkable sight, how it was built both above ground and below ground and how it was built to preserve the wildlife and the area in general.

We went to a goldmine/tourist trap and panned for gold. It was interesting and we had entertainment from someone who has played at the Grand Old Opry with Johnny Cash and other big names, but never made it there himself, although he tours and entertains around the country. And of course, another gift shop.

We stayed in Fairbanks for two nights, we ate at a place called the Salmon Bake, saw an entertaining play on the history of Fairbanks and could take advantage of the many gift shops.

We then drove back to Valdez. On the way back we saw Wedding Veil Falls, Horseshoe Falls and the Worthington Glacier.

But the highlight was the stop in Nenana, Alaska, where we were entertained by Jeanne Hawkins, who gave us a tour of her town, one whole city block and we got to visit her "Gift Shop". She sent us off with playing her accordian of the Minnesota Polka. Jeanne is orginally from Wisconsin and was quite a character. She did offer us 30 percent off purchases in her gift shop.

We finally reached Valdez and from there took a boat to Whittier. This was the greatest part of the trip. We were taken to the Columbia Glacier and were surrounded by glacial ice. It was one of the things you had to be there to experience. It was fantastic. We were entertained by humpback whales, sea lions and see otters. On the boat we were able to purchase postcards and other small trinkets.

Then we were picked up at Whittier by our bus, which had to drive 350 miles from Valdez to Whittier across country being no other route there and we went back to Anchorage and spent the last two nights there. On the drive from Whittier, we drove through a tunnel shared by the railroad, so we could only drive on it at certain times during the day,

In Anchorage, we stayed next to the Ulu knife factor. It is a poplar knife used by the natives and is quite unique. Another thing you have to see to appreciate.

Oh, I forgot, we went to the North Pole. Not a little town but rather a gift shop of Christmas items and Santa is often there. We didn't get to see him, but I did send my grandkids a card from the North Pole just for the postmark.

It was exciting and yes, Bruce and I did leave a little of ourselves back there, and some money at the gift shops!

Have a good day!

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