A Travellerspoint blog

North To Alaska! Day 6

Day 6: Ketchikan Alaska

sunny 70 °F

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We were up at 7am and headed for the buffet. Waffles, eggs, toast, tea. Back to the cabin, got our gear ready and off the ship at 8:30. The hours for Ketchikan are 7-1pm. We take couple of photos of the ship and dock area and then take the free shuttle to town. Of course it is not very far, but why walk when you can ride? First up is the famous, infamous? Creek Street. This is the historic brothel area along Ketchikan Creek. Much of the town is built over water as it was too difficult to blast away the rocky hills surrounding the creek. In the 1920's there were over 20 brothels on Creek Street. We walked the boardwalk, photos, some shopping and chatted with a 'madam' at Dolly's. She is dressed in period costume and tries to get you into her business. Since Nevada still has brothels, it was not worth our time. Not far is 'Married Man's Trail'. Basically a back way into Creek Street so married men would not be seen frequenting the brothels. During Prohibition, men would row boats at high tide and deliver whiskey up through a trap door. A Salmon Ladder is at the top of Creek Street. May is too early for salmon to be heading upstream, so we pass. Creek Street is worth a stroll, good photos and shopping.
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We stop at Whale Park, more totem poles to add to my totem collection. We look at the map and things to do. The Tongass Historical Museum is close by and we walk over. $2 to enter and we see what they have. Pretty small museum and not a whole lot there. But, it is right in town and worth 10-15 minutes of your time IMO. I pop a few photos and we move on.
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We decide to ride the free shuttle to the Totem Heritage Center (THC). THC houses old totem poles retrieved in the 1970s from Tlingit villages on Tongass Island and Haida villages on Prince of Wales Island. The villagers moved to Ketchikan in the '20s to be near schools, churches and employment. THC preserves 18th & 19th century totem poles that would have otherwise been destroyed by time and weather. THC charges $5 to enter and I pay up. Mike decides to pass and will wait outside. It is not very large, but the THC has plenty of totem poles and a small museum, so it is worthwhile IMO I get my photos and leave.
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Mike is not around and I decide to head back downtown to shop for some souvenirs. Plenty of shops in downtown Ketchikan and plenty of cruise passengers wandering around. All these Alaska towns depend on the summer cruise passengers to stay afloat. It must be pretty quiet once the cruise season is over. It is now almost noon and I head back to the ship for lunch. I opt for a veggie burger, fruit. They serve hot dogs, burgers by the pool everyday. Afterwards, I head up to the Observation Deck and get photos of Ketchikan.
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I am getting good cell phone reception and call everyone I can in Vegas. It is just perfect weather and I decide to read by the pool. Of course about 15 minutes into reading I start to fall asleep. When I rouse myself I head for the cabin for my workout gear. Up to the gym, legs, stomach and 30 minutes on the bike. Shower, drop off my gear, and over to Digital Workshop for class, advanced photo editing. On the way to the cabin, I stop to watch 'Mission Impossible'. I got there for the last half, but have seen it before. Great action movie and worth a second look. Back to the cabin, Mike is there and we chat about our day. We have a 7:45pm dinner time, so time for a rest. We head over to the dining room and only the couple from Mass. are there. No Tom and his wife. Well, I can live with that. I have the usual. Onion soup, salad, veggie choice. Tonight is Indian curry and it is too hot for me. I finish it, but go through many glasses of water to put out the heat. Peach crisp for dessert, then head over to the showroom for the 10pm show. Country/western revue by the ship's company, another good show. Very professional troupe working for the Westerdam. Back into the casino, find Reid & Eunice and we chat about our day. They really made playing poker fun, even if you do lose a bit. We all decide to quit at 1am and that is what we do. We walk to over staterooms and call it a day. Day 6 is over.

Posted by vegasmike6 09:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)

North To Alaska! Day 7

Day 7: At sea, Victoria B.C.

sunny 75 °F

Day 7 Friday. at sea, Victoria
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Both of us notice the boat was really rocking last night. Mike did not throw-up, but he was moaning and groaning. Not exactly conducive to a good night's sleep. Up at 7am, I clean up and head for the Vista Dining Room. Last night in the casino I agreed to meet Reid & Eunice for BF at 8am. My first time in the dining room for BF. I guess I was just lazy and always used the buffet. It is really nice and decide on omelet, toast, tea. We are in no hurry and are the last ones to leave the dining room. I go to my last Digital Workshop with Tony. He is a good teacher and I am now better with Windows 7 and using my camera. Next up is to go into the casino and cash out. They will not open again and I say good bye to Phillipe. I add up the damage and figure I lost about $60 over the 5 days of playing poker. Pretty cheap entertainment compared to playing the slots or table games. Back to the cabin, then up to the gym for my last workout. Lifting weights today, stomach, shower. I stop at the pool and have another veggie burger. I have time to have a nap and head for the room for some reading and rest. The Vista Dining Room set seating is closed because we will arrive in Victoria at 6pm. Depart at midnight. I get some photos as we get close to Victoria, land on each side. Great scenery and perfect weather. Mike and I use the open seating dining room for dinner tonight. I have soup, salad, pasta, dessert. To the cabin to clean-up, get my camera. It is just a perfect night in Victoria: warm, no wind, no clouds. We are off the ship about 7:30pm.
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You have several options on getting to the Inner Harbor from where we dock. It is walkable, but with our dodgy knees, that is not an option. We try to share a taxi, but cannot find another couple leaving while we are on the dock. There is an $8 bus and we end up taking that. Immigration is very informal. We show our cruise card and they tell us to be back by midnight. Welcome to Canada. 10 minutes via bus and we are at the Inner Harbor of Victoria. It is starting to get dark, so Mike and I head for the totem poles we saw on the way in. Photos as we walk along the Inner Harbor, boats, buskers, carriages.

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Next up is all the totem poles in Thunderbird Park. It is starting to get dark, so we don't waste any more time. We really should have got off the ship shortly after 6pm, but we voted to eat and let most of the passengers get off before we did. The Royal B.C. Museum is right before the totem poles, but it is closed.

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We head into the Fairmont Empress Hotel, one of the landmark hotels in Victoria. Opened in 1908, 'The Empress' is the iconic symbol of the Inner Harbor. 477 rooms, indoor pool, spa, 4 restaurants, Conference Center. Famous for its 'high tea' at 4pm, it is a 'must see' while in Victoria. A wedding is going on and we are seriously under-dressed. We walk the public areas, use their bathroom, photos of what is interesting and then head out to take some night shots.

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A guy has a tripod and that is what you need for a quality shot at night. I try the best I can w/o a tripod while we head for the bus. We are both out of leg and stop several times to rest. Not much fun when your knee hurts each step to take. The shuttle bus runs continuously and we only wait 5-10 minutes. We get back to the boat around 11pm and head up for the late night buffet. Not really hungry, but have some ice cream and chat about our time in Victoria. Just a beautiful city and I plan on returning. We head back to the room to pack our big bags. They want your luggage outside your door before 1am for pick-up. We get that done, read a bit and lights out at midnight. Day 7 of our Alaska cruise is over.

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Posted by vegasmike6 09:15 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

North To Alaska! Day 8

Back to Seattle, sightseeing.

sunny 77 °F

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The Westerdam gets into Seattle at 7am and all passengers are supposed to be off by 10am. We get up at 7, to the buffet for our final BF. Eggs, pancakes, fruit, tea for me. Mike had several rounds of BF items and made sure he got his moneys worth for our final Westerdam meal. To the cabin to clean up, final packing. We get in line for the 9:30 departure, off the ship and try to find our bags. They are in the 9:30 area and we now have a decision to make. Plan A is to store our bags and see what we can of Seattle. Mike's sister lives north of Seattle and will put me up for Sat. night. Mike will stay another week visiting his sister & mother. We tried to get some info online about bag storage, but did not find out anything. Now we know why. 9/11 changed everything concerning baggage. No hotel will let you store a bag w/o staying with them. HAL will keep our bags until 3:30 for $6/bag. That will not do us much good as we would have to take a taxi back by 3:30pm to retrieve them. We planned on sightseeing until 5pm and then head for Arlington. The only real solution is to rent a car. National & Alamo have combined forces at Pier 91. Same quote and same shuttle van to the Hilton. A compact car is roughly $40/day and since I don't leave until Sunday night, I get one for 2 days. Mike decides he could take the bus up to his sister's house, so will only pay $20 towards the rental. OK, I want to see some of Seattle and pay the rest. Off we go on the shuttle van to downtown Hilton. I sign the papers and we get a small Nissan Versa. We store the bags in the car and head out. Parking is a problem and most of what we want to see is walking distance or a short bus ride away. Buses are free in the core of Seattle, nice feature for everyone. Mike knows the area and we walk to the Pike Place Market. Fresh fish, meat, veggies, flowers, Pike Place has been the place to shop for Seattle shoppers since 1907. This is the market where the 'flying fish' became popular. Pick out a fish and the fishmonger throws it to another guy. Great tradition, but don't get to see it. No fish are 'flying' while we stand around waiting. It is Memorial day weekend, perfect weather and is just packed with shoppers. We have to elbow our way through the crowds to get outside. We are not going shop, so why battle the crowd? We head for the small park along the market and can see the Norwegian Jewel. It runs the same cruise and same timetable as the Westerdam. NCL uses the downtown pier, much handier than Pier 91 that HAL uses. We would not have needed a car if we had cruised with Norwegian. Oh well, too late for that.

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We walk past the Aquarium and head for the Underground Tour. Both of us need a bench at this point and find one at Pioneer Square. It is a beautiful day in Seattle. Sunny, not hot, perfect. It is Memorial Day weekend and we take advantage of the good weather. Along with thousands of others! The Underground Tour is $13 (senior rate)and I get my ticket. Mike passes, he has been on the tour before and won't pay again. Not the first time and won't be the last time that he left me to go on my own. It will be about 45 minutes before my tour starts and Mike heads for the library. Tour time comes and we are packed into a large room. It starts out on how Seattle looked 100 years ago. A much different city and street level has changed over the years. The big fire in 1889 allowed Seattle to re-design downtown. Now brick & stone, not wood for building downtown. They also went from a volunteer Fire Dept to a paid one. Our tour guide, Alli explains that Seattle is very hilly, same as San Francisco and street level has changed over the years. What is now street level is about 10 to 30 ft higher than in the 1800s. This assisted in the gravity toilets used then. Sewage would spurt out of the toilets at high tide. A real mess I am sure and one they had to fix. After the streets were elevated, the original ground level fell into dis-use. In 1965, Bill Speidal decided he could make money by giving underground tours of downtown Seattle. He was right, each tour was packed. He used Doc Maynard's Saloon on Pioneer Square as his headquarters. After the talk on why Seattle now has an underground, we break up into smaller groups of about 50. Alli is a wealth of info on old Seattle and makes the tour fun. There is not that much to see, so a good guide can make the tour worth your time/money. Basically Bill Speidal has rented out 3 sections of underground from the owners. We go from section to section, coming up to street level each time. We are walking around in what was the ground floor of the old buildings. Interesting, but not much to photograph or see. After 90 minutes it is over and I find Mike at the same bench we used before the tour. I don't blame him for passing on the Underground Tour. Glad I went, won't do it again.
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My knee hurts and so does Mike's. We limp back to the Hilton and decide what next. We find out that the annual Folklife Festival is going on over at Seattle Center. This is where the Space Needle is located and a huge park. We take the bus as close as possible and start looking around. It is really packed and hard to walk. Mike speaks Thai and we try to find where the Thai's have their booth. Mostly it is about food from each country, but many events are going on all day long. We do see that the Philippines is putting on a song/dance exhibition so we head that way. I am glad to sit down, but after a half hour, we had enough of the singing/dancing. We check with the information booth, but we cannot find anything Thai being displayed. We decide that we have had enough of the crowds and head for the Monorail. The Monorail has been servicing downtown Seattle since the 1962 World's Fair. The monorail route is 1 mile (1.6km) from the Seattle Center to Westlake Center. Fare is the same as the bus, $2.25 and will get us to a few blocks from the Hilton. It is now 5:30 and we have had it. Time to fire up the car and head for Mike's sisters house. I give Mike my cell and he calls to let her know we are heading their way. Now comes the bad news. Even though Mike got the OK for me to stay one night from his sister, she did not share that info with her husband Skip. Mike talks to Skip and I can figure out that I am not welcome. It seems they have dogs that bark constantly and bite strangers. Not well trained dogs seems like a good bet. I am pissed at this point and figure I will give them the car back and fly home that night. Once back at the Hilton, that option disappears. The rental office closed at 5pm. I call Southwest and get more bad news. The last flight to Vegas has left. My flight tomorrow is at 8:45pm, but they don't fly that flight on Sat. The only option now is to drive north and find a motel. Mike knows where there are some cheap motels in Everett. We find one for $45 and we find a Denny's for dinner. After eating, I take Mike to his sisters house in Arlington. I then head back to the motel in Everett, shower, read, bed. Day 8 is over

Posted by vegasmike6 09:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

North To Alaska! Day 9

Seattle, Las Vegas

semi-overcast 70 °F

Day 9 Sunday May 26th.

I had an OK night's sleep. The bed was just average, but I was tired and took some Advil PM. Knee was hurting all night, but was better in the am. I cleaned up and waited for Mike. Plan A was for him to go to church with his sister, then drive Skip's truck to the motel. We would then go over for the Boeing Factory Tour. Mike shows up around noon and I follow him to the train station. Free park during the day. I follow his directions and we then see signs for the tour. The parking lot is almost full, that means plenty of people will be taking the tour on this Memorial Day Sunday. Inside and we see the bad news. The tour is $20 and Mike won't pay. He worked for Boeing back in the 70s and the tour used to be free. Not anymore. I pay and get a tour time about an hour from now. Our plan was to tour Boeing, then head over to the Museum of Flight. Mike asks me to take him back to his truck and that is what I do. A short goodby as I am not exactly thrilled with Mike's behavior. We had planned on going over to the Museum of Flight, but not now. I am not going to take the tour and then drive back to Everett and meet him.
Back and I take the 3pm Boeing tour. A short film on Boeing then we are shuttled by bus over to the plant. The Boeing Assembly Building is the largest (by volume) in the world. It is 427,000,000 cubic feet, (13,385,378 cubic meters). The Everett line is manufacturing the: 747, 767, 777, and the 787 Dreamliner. Not many are working on Sunday, but there is some activity. There is a fair bit of walking involved but I limp along and keep up. It is interesting to see the planes in various stages of construction and I would recommend the tour. Once. I will not go again. After 90 minutes we are shuttled back to the Future of flight and the tour is over. I get some photos of the displays at The Future of Flight, go up to the outdoor terrace and took a few of the planes waiting for delivery.
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I have had enough of Boeing and decide to head for the airport. I have plenty of time and spot a Denny's on the way to Seattle. I stop for lunch/dinner, then head for Sea-Tac. You have to return the car with a full gas tank and I spot a gas station just a few miles from the airport. $15 fills it and I follow the instructions with the rental car return center. There is a shuttle to the terminal and I get there with a few hours to kill. I read my book, finish it and leave it for another passenger. It was a hardback copy: 'The Lost Symbol' by Dan Brown. It lasted the entire cruise but I don't need to carry it to Vegas. I found out at check-in that my 8:45pm Southwest flight only has 35 on it. Everyone that wanted to be in Vegas this weekend went days ago. Uneventful flight, got my bags, headed for the Bell Trans shuttle. They have a desk just outside exit 9. While pulling out my money, I put my NV DL on the counter. The lady tells me locals only pay $5 instead of $6.75. OK, a bit of good news. I got on the van at 11pm, but we don't go anywhere until almost 11:30. Lucky for me, the first stop is the MGM Grand. I get off and the valet & taxi area is just packed with excited guests. I arrived just as a big fight was over. Excited fans were hooting and hollering as they exited the MGM Grand. It turns out UFC 146 was held that night and my timing could not have been worse. I fought my way to the parking garage, found my car and stored my bags. There was a line of cars trying to exit the garage and there was no way I could back up into that mess. I walked back into the lobby area and decided to wait 30 minutes and let the garage empty out. There were dozens of girls in miniskirts & high heels strolling across the lobby and they provided something to look at while I waited. Fight night in Vegas and the ladies love to get dressed up. Some of the men made an effort, but almost all the ladies wore their sexiest outfits. After the lobby crowd thinned down, I went back to the garage, got in my car and headed for the exit. No waiting now and I headed for home. 8 days of free parking, no damage to the car and I did feel lucky it went so well. I would have preferred to have used the park & ride lot, but that option was not available. MGM Grand parking garage was the next best option IMO. With 6,000 parking spots, it is easy to blend in. I got home around 1am, took a shower and hit my bed. My Alaska Cruise adventure was over.

Posted by vegasmike6 16:13 Archived in USA Comments (1)

A Short Trip Over to Calif.

Day 1: Tonopah, Mono Lake, Bodie, Bridgeport

sunny 85 °F

My friend Chris came back from Thailand for the month of August. I have told him before that August is the worst month for Vegas and for traveling around the West. My advice fell on deaf ears as he came back July 30. Anyway, he suggested a short trip somewhere during August. We kicked around several options and finally decided on Mono Lake, Yosemite NP. I have never been over to Mono Lake and have not been through Yosemite NP in over 20 years. We picked a Monday late in August and started planning. We decided to stay in Bridgeport Calif the first night. I checked on the Internet and found out that all the motels were at $100/night or more. I called a few motels and made the decision to pre-book something. We got the last room that had 2 queen beds at the Redwood Motel. $105 with tax. There were cheaper rooms down in Bishop, but we would have to drive about 40 miles out of our way. Did not make sense, so Redwood Motel became the winner.

Our departure day arrived, sunny & hot. No surprise there. Vegas in August is going to be hot, perhaps some clouds/rain, but certainly over 100. Chris came over to my house and we used my car. We used his Mercedes for our Carlsbad Caverns trip so it was my turn to drive. Chris arrived at 7am and off we went. The best route for us was to take US 95 North. We stopped at the Amargosa Valley junction with hwy 373 to take a few photos. The Cherry Patch Brothel is here along with a gas station and a few signs. I wanted to go inside the brothel for prices/photos but Chris pointed out the flaws in this idea, so I passed. The Brothel Art Museum is just down the road, but we passed. We popped a few photos and headed North.
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We pulled into Tonopah and loaded up with petrol. This is the last decent sized town until we hit Bridgeport. Chris did not have BF so we stopped for a burger on the way out of Tonopah. He likes family run places and a local at the gas station recommended Cisco's Tacos. Chris was happy because Cisco's had big, messy burgers and milkshakes. I had my granola bars, so I passed. Chris declared it a winner, so we were both happy.

We took 95/6 over the border into Calif. When we hit Benton we took CA 120. We stopped at take some photos of the burned out forest just a few miles from Mono Lake (ML). A forest fire went through this area, July 2010.
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There is a dirt road off CA 120 to the South shore of ML. There is a Ranger Station here and we got our Senior Pass: $10. Now both of us can enter any National Park in the US for FREE! for the rest of our lives. Quite a deal for $10. We got our hats, cameras and headed for the South Tufa area of ML. It was just about perfect. Not too many other visitors, sunny but not really hot. We spent about 40 minutes walking the South Tufa area and decided to head for the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor's Center. We talked to the Ranger about the ghost town of Bodie. We did stop at the North side of ML at Black Point. Pretty much a waste of time. There is nothing to see compared to the South Tufa area.
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We took US 395 North to the road to Bodie, 270. The road is paved most of the way to Bodie. We were warned several times that Bodie closes the entrance at 6pm. It was now about 4:30pm, so we were in good shape. 13 miles off 395, the last 3 miles are gravel. It is not too bad, but certainly got all the cars covered in dust. We found out it was $7/person, NOT per car load. Calif. is broke so I guess I can see the logic. In 1962 the Calif State Parks System took over the administration of Bodie This is the first/last time I will ever visit Bodie. Not worth a return visit IMO. We got our hats, cameras and walked down the hill into Bodie. It is certainly in pretty good shape for a 'ghost town'. We were told Bodie is allowed to stay in a 'state of arrested decay'. In 1880, Bodie had almost 7K residents. Over the years, the price to extracted the gold ore became too expensive and the mills started shutting down. In 1942, the War Production Board ordered all nonessential gold mines to close. Bodie never mined gold again.
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Chris and I walked most of Bodie, stopping often for photos. A few buildings are open and we poked our heads in several of them. It is interesting, but once was enough. After about an hour of walking around, my knee was hurting and we were ready to leave. Back on the gravel, over to 395 and heading to Bridgeport. We saw on the Internet that there is a Travertine Hot Springs South of Bridgeport. Chris wanted to see it, so we followed the map we picked up at the ML Visitor's Center to the hot springs. It is a terrible dirt road most of the way. My Avalon was protesting, as was I. We made it, but never again. The hot springs are a major disappointment. There were 5 people relaxing in one of the hot springs, but I would not get in it. The dirty looking water was no inviting IMO. After a few photos, we eased our way back on the dirt to 395.
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Into Bridgeport, we found the Redwood Motel w/o much trouble. Bridgeport is pretty much a one street town. We checked in, got our key and took a look at the room. Not much, small, old. We decided to get something to eat before dark, so we just dumped our bags and went looking for a place to eat. Chris saw the Burger Barn, so he voted for that. They did not have a veggie burger, so I walked next door to the Jolly Kone. Kind of an old fashioned drive-in. They had a large menu and that included a veggie burger. I had that plus a milkshake, under $10. After we had eaten, we took at a look at the historic Mono County Jail. It was almost dark so the photos did not turn out very well. Back to the Redwood Motel, I took a shower while Chris started editing his photos on his laptop. I watched some TV while Chris showered and we both decided to call it a day. Day one of our Calif. adventure was over.
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Posted by vegasmike6 11:15 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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