Poet? Didn't know it!
20.05.2016 - 21.05.2016
Room 327, Best Western, Valdez, Alaska
Saturday, 21st May
I promised to put in the maps and forgot. So the current trip we're on is here, our route from Anchorage to here in Valdez, via Copper River Lodge.
And to show how little of Alaska we're covering, here is the route showing the whole of this state (that's Russia over on the left).
Why does Valdez sound familiar? Probably because of the Exxon Valdez disaster when, in 1989, tons of oil was spilled into the Prince William Sound, here, ironically by the tanker named after this place which is the terminus for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. And also, in 1967, there was a devastating earthquake and tsunami after which the town was rebuilt at a different location, see this for more info.
Those of you worrying about Mr M, left behind in Salt Lake can stop worrying. He turned up here in Princess Lodge looking pretty healthy and slightly larger down to all those sweets and desserts!
Indeed, back at Copper River Lodge, we had dinner there. As we were in the wilderness it was either in their restaurant or go hungry. We thought at first that they were having staffing problems in the restaurant as the food was very slow in its appearance and, poor Bob's rock fish was cold and uncooked! The place had only be open for the season one or two days before (the cute waiter at breakfast was unsure, poor lad). But we have found since, with our experience here in Valdez, that slow, but very friendly, service is indeed the Alaskan norm. But that does not excuse raw fish, unless, of course, the chef was Yup'ik?
Forgot to take pictures of the main course but here's the menu.
We splashed out and John had the salmon and Bob the, finally, delicious rock fish. Once he'd complained to the manageress a new plate of fish was brought out, red hot and cooked, in stunning speed. Perhaps someone else went without? But also, we were given complimentary desserts. Now, we have been resisting our just desserts but as they were free..... what the heck! Huckleberry ice cream for Bob and Chocolate Mousse (Moose?) Tart for John, of course!
As promised, here's that dog team and sled and large people to be towed.
As we knew there would be nowhere to stop before we got to Valdez (and so it proved to be) we also had breakfast in the hotel. Our young waiter who had probably never waited before (he was a college student from Detroit, Mi, from whom we learned that city was back on the up) and was already thinking about giving up and going home! Aaah! Poor lad.
Cruise ship passengers who, presumably, make up the bulk of clients for the lodge are, we think, bussed up from Whittier. Quite a long way!
We then set out in rain and low cloud, as forecast. This was to be one of the most stunning drives in Alaska. But not for us. Intermittent rain, a bit of sleet, low cloud and fog meant much of the amazing landscape was hidden from our view. But sudden glimpses as clouds parted or lifted were enough to make us feel suitably humble.
A turn off to Washington Glacier was still blocked by snow and was yet to be plowed (American for ploughed).
We passed glaciers, which are receding at a frightening pace (don't believe in Global Warming? Come to Alaska and see the glaciers disappear at a rate never imagined!), stunning waterfalls, and snow fields as well as towering peaks (we assumed).
Video taken on our Canon still camera. Still can't do waterfalls justice unless you are a great photographer!
Apart from fishing and oil, the main occupation in Valdez seems to be roadworks (confirmed by the locals). When there is not snow on the road, they are digging it up.
When we arrived the rain had stopped and we had a really enjoyable wander round the harbour (English for harbor). And chatted to a fisherman who was originally from Moscow. We learned today that there is a programme in Alaska which encourages immigration from Russia, and family heads get financial help to set up in this state. In the one and only store in town, (and overflowing with delightful goodies Safeway), we spotted a couple of Russian fishermen stocking up on vodka. (Not really, you can't buy it in Safeways here. But they were really Russian).
This town is literally a dead end. There is no way out by road except the way we came in, on the Richardson Highway, which, by the way, was the first highway built in Alaska. It runs 363 miles to Fairbanks. Some cul-de-sac. There is fishing, two excellent museums, a Safeway, some bars, two gift shops, some more bars, a couple of restaurants, some motels, and fishing, museums....... oh, and roadworks. A wet Saturday in Valdez is probably enough. A lifetime here in unimaginable!
I thought I was seeing things. So did the dog in the pickup when he shot through the window. Rabbits, domestic rabbits, everywhere. Black, brown, white. Rabbits! We asked why and have yet to hear a believable story!
And, presumably quite a threat to the rabbits, Bald Eagles. Here a couple of juvenile but almost full size eagles are helping themselves to some fresh halibut. We drove the headwaters of the Mississippi looking for Bald Eagles and here they are nearly as common as....... rabbits! Yes, Bald Eagles!
Now, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System currently pumps 1 million barrels of oil per day, and the facility here in Valdez can store store 9.18 million barrels. Guess what, the gasoline price here is the highest in the USA at an eye watering $3.08 (we drove out of town and got that price). In town it is $3.14 for the cheapest gas. In Nebraska, the one and only time we bought the "green" fuel we paid around $1.72 for it!
We cheered ourselves up with a corn dog from Safeways. First one ever. And maybe the last?!
Yes, the road to the oil terminal is a no go area, presumably because most speedos don't show 29 mph. No, security since 9/11 is very strict and cruise ship are no longer allowed up here.
Bear are very common here, apparently. They cross the road and go fishing but we are a little early as the salmon have yet to start running (or swimming?).
No prizes for guessing what Bob had for dinner last night. But you could have a guess!
Tomorrow we get the 5 hour ferry trip to Whittier. Otherwise it would be wits end in Valdez. Haha!
Stop Press: Patch of blue sky just spotted!
Stop stop Press: It's gone again!!