Next day I headed straight for Anchorage, via the above highways. Once again, these were spectacular drives, and not the sort of road you just use to get from point A to B. Truly these magnificent highways are destinations in themselves.
The Tok Cut-Off runs north of the Wrangel Mountains. One is tempted to stop... continuously... to fill that SD card, once more. It was such a beautiful day. Here are a couple.
The best glacial valley I have seen.
There are more in my album - US 2012.
Glennallen is known as 'The Hub of Alaska'. On my last trip, this is where I paid the highest price for fuel, in the US. However, on this ocassion, I passed straight through. It was at this point also, that my camera got a well deserved rest.
The Glenn Hwy for a large part runs along the Matanuska River. That particular stretch of the highway is two lanes, up and down and winding along beside the river. It is incredibly scenic, and I would highly recommend that if you are up this way, that you not bypass it. Unfortunately all the turnouts and rest areas are along the east bound section. The west bound section has a couple of spots to allow faster vehicles to pass. As the only highway east out of Anchorage, it is used by all truck traffic and numberous motor homes.
Since I was heading west, there was not an opportunity to take any pictures. It seemed too dangerous to cross over the double lines to the turnouts on the other side. It really is quite a busy road, especially for such a narrow winding road. (A week later I had the opportunity to drive it east bound.)
It was well before dinner time that I arrived in Anchorage and made my way to the hostel where I have stayed on my previous two trips.
The Spenard Hostel is on 42nd avenue. I remembered it as a clean and friendly place. And even though having changed hands, the culture is still the same. It is everything a hostel should be. I stayed for the recommended maximum of six nights.
Besides the two kitchens and three fridges there is ample room to store one's food. The bedrooms are clean and comfortable, though not excessively big. The beds are comfortable. I always choose a top bunk, so that I have enough light to read in bed. On this occasion I had the four bed room to myself for most of the time.
Their knowledgeable staff can help with information on travelling and local attractions and services. There are pay computers for use and free wifi. Unfortunately I had great difficulty getting a good connection, although all other guests did not have a problem. When I logged on to the hostel's wifi, instead of it coming up 'connected', it came up 'validating identity'. Much time was spent trying to find out what this meant and how to overcome it. Not even the local computer shop was able to help. Neither was the hostel's ips. (If any of you know what that meant, I am all ears.)
Much of my time was spent at the library, where I had a good wifi connection. But this did not allow me to catch up as much as I had hoped. Meanwhile I attended to necessary chores. After 7K miles, the Ford needed a service. It did not yet need my new air filter. The local Ford dealer was impressed with the vehicle.
In fact, talking about being impressed.... so far I have had many campers envious of my set up, especially those who are tent camping. And three folk have asked if/when I was willing to sell it.
All my time in Anchorage, I did not take any photos, but just spent my time roaming around town, stocking up on supplies and attending to personal needs. That is besides loafing at the hostel.
What I particularly like at this hostel is that there is no television... but there is a roster for chores. When checking in guests are asked to sign up for a 7 minute chore. I chose folding the laundry. Everyday there are sheets and towels to be folded, and it never took me all of the 7 minutes. But gave a great opportunity to interact with the management and other guests.
For those on a budget, there is the opportunity to sign up for three hours work a day (cleaning, vacuuming, scrubbing, etc.) and receive a night's free accommodation. Besides the three or four dozen dorm beds ($25/night), there is also the opportunity to tent camp on the lawn next to the hostel, and use the hostel facilities ($20/night). Even this early in the season, there were those who preferred to camp in tents.
Yeah! I would recommend the Spenard for a real hostel experience.
While in Anchorage I had the opportunity to attend five Toastmaster's meetings. At three of those there was an opportunity to speak. I had a great time sharing my story and my travels with fellow Toastmasters.
My seventh night in Anchorage was spent with a most gracious host from Couchsurfing. Austin is a school psychologist and a most interesting young man. We had many long conversations covering ever so many topics. Originally from Chicago, this is his first summer in Alaska. Before I left, rather late on Tuesday 22nd, I took him out to lunch.
The Middle Cafe serves some really nice sandwiches. I had the Tuna and salad. But the real killer was the store next door. Ended up spending another $30 on second (or 3rd, 4th, or 5th) hand true crime books. (Just as well I am going home in July, to drop off all this excess luggage. :))
My only 'low-lite' in Anchorage is a parking ticket. Wanting to get a little more information on conditions up north, I sought out the Alaska Visitor's Centre - rather than the Anchorage Visitor's Centre. I had the address and as I approached the building saw the large sign high up on the side announcing my destination. There was also a huge sign right across the front of the building. There was no mistaking I was at the right place. I duly parked and placed two hour's worth of money in the parking meter. I figured I wanted time to ask as many questions as I had... and more.
On entering the building, I was not able to find the said offices, and there were no direction boards of any kind. When people came out of the lift, I asked where to find it. It was then that I was told that they closed down a while ago... and yes, they were aware that there were still signs all over the building... and no, they were not aware that there was nothing to say that they had closed. In fact, on the internet they still showed as being open. I was advised to go to the Anchorage Visitor Centre, a couple of blocks further up the street.
Too far for me to walk, and unable to get my money back out of the parking meter, I parked at the Anchorage Visitor Centre without paying for my parking, fully aware of the risk I was taking. It was a good while later that I saw the officer place a ticket on my vehicle. Whoever it is that is in charge of parking in Anchorage, is going to receive a nice letter very soon.
Next, heading further north... in a roundabouts way.