Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moving On

On Labor Day we left Denali for Anchorage.  We stopped at the Telkeetna visitors center so that Kathy, who had purchased both National Wildlife Refuge and National Park passport books could get her fourth Denali stamp.  We were disappointed to learn theVC with the stamp was an additional 14 miles from our route.  We'd have to drive there and back so we decided to skip it.

Although the views were cloudy, we caught several glimpses of the south face of McKinley as we drove.  Joy fell in love with the bridge over Hurricane Gulch and we pulled over hoping to spot bears fishing in the river.  A couple already parked at the sight noticed our Texas license plates and walked to meet Joy near the bridge to inquire about our travels.  They had flown in from Austin, rented an RV and were falling in love with the lifestyle.  They were just discussing how they would want to tow a Jeep and have their bicycles along too when we pulled up - towing our Jeep with the bikes on the back.  It's amazing how many people we've talked to about becoming full-timers.  So many talk about wanting to do it but then immediately come with all the reasons they think they can't.  We wonder how many will take the plunge.

As we neared Anchorage, traffic increased but the roads improved.  We Stayed at the Shipcreek RV Park near the railroad tracks on the industrial side of town.  When we write "near" we mean the tracks were about 6 feet behind the RV.  Although the park was well maintained and clean, the surrounding neighborhood was a little sketchy so we made sure to lock everything.

Anchorage has a large homeless population and we heard drugs are a problem in the area.  We also heard about a hobo camp near Wasilla, an Anchorage suburb, having nearly 1000 homeless teens living in it.  Even with the trains at our back door, we were able to relax knowing we were now on our own schedule.  No work until October 26th when we report for duty at Bosque Del Apache NWR in Socorro, NM.

Tuesday, we drove down the coastline along the Cook Inlet.  The coastline is beautiful with train tracks following the waters edge. At Beluga point, we saw large areas which we thought were schools of fish.  Later, we discovered they were actually pods of beluga whales.  We drove a little farther to see the Kenai peninsula better.  Being on the road and already thinking of the miles ahead to the lower 48, we decided we didn't need to drive another 100 miles to go to the preserve so we turned around and headed to the battery shop where we were going to buy new house batteries for the RV. Kathy wanted to scope out the location to figure out to get in and out of the parking lot.


We stopped at another pullout and, while Joy took more photos of the inlet,  a beluga whale surfaced right in front of us along the shore.  We watched it swim along the coast away from us until we couldn't see it anymore.

Kathy had been talking for years of getting another tattoo but wanted to find the artist who did her first two and let him do the third.  She's been searching for him without success.  She decided it was time to trust a new artist, researched the studios in Anchorage and decided upon Primal Tattoo in Anchorage.  She had already decided upon the tattoo - a Tlinglit raven modeled after one observed in the Denali visitors center.  We stopped in to the shop, discussed the work, paid a deposit and made an appointment for the next afternoon.

Wednesday morning, on our way out of town, we had the batteries installed and then headed to the tattoo shop.

Kathy's tattoo was completed by noon after taking about 3 hours.  We drove to Palmer to have lunch with Joy's childhood friend and neighbor, Erin, at The Noisy Goose Cafe.  It was fun seeing Erin and having a real Alaskan give us tourist tips that were actually helpful.  Erin is a photographer and took this great family photo for us.

We continued driving back toward Tok, completing the circle of Alaska roads joining Tok, Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks.  We again saw Denali - other side - this time at sunset.  That means we are way more special than the regular 30%-ers that get to see the mountain on a clear day. We saw more glaciers as we drove into the sunset and decided to sleep in a pull out and dry camp. We used our new batteries - and our heater - without any problems.  Thanks again to Ruth and Jim for taking such good care of us!

The next afternoon we arrived at the Tetlin NWR headquarters for the last time and to say our final goodbyes.  Kay Lynn, the volunteer coordinator, had gone home early for her weekend and we had missed our friend Les, too. We did our last free laundry and camping and said goodbye to employees and volunteers who were working until the end of September.  We talked about it being our last night in Alaska and shed a few tears.

The next morning, we stopped at the VC, our home for the previous two months, on our way to the Yukon.  We found Alesha there alone with no electricity and reduced generator usage.  We talked her into cranking up the generator making us some fresh coffee because we have priorities!  We drank coffee, hung out in that beautiful buildding for awhile, said goodbye and hit the road.  We departed Alaska two months after arriving, changed for the better and with a lifetime of experiences.

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