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Upgraded to Blissful Luxury

The story of a hotel room

Room 12042, Aria Hotel
17.00 Thursday 12th May

Wind back to last September when we were booking our hotels. We'd got a bit fed up with the Golden Nugget, Downtown. Not with the hotel itself but the location and all the sleaze and sordidness that happens in Fremont Street etc. And, with bands playing till 2am, it is far from peaceful. After much deliberation we decided to treat ourselves to a nice room at the Aria, which is right in the middle of "The Strip". It was built within the City Centre complex on a wave of over-optimism just before the crash. Many huge projects remain unfinished here, all at the north end of The Strip which is now almost a no-go area. Not because of particular dangers but because there ain't nothing there but shells of buildings and dreams.

But most of the City Centre project was completed and this hotel and others was acquired by the huge (and currently technically bankrupt) MGM Resorts. The Aria was built with huge amounts of misplaced confidence to ultra-luxury standards. No expense was spared in fitting out the rooms, hotel and casino.

The problem they now have is that there is a huge surplus of rooms at the luxury end of the market so they have to let the rooms at way below their original planned tariffs. Suits us!

So John went and booked our room online, but nothing happened. No Emails, nuffink. Just an error message. So he tried a couple more times, also trying a different credit card. Nuffink. So he called the hotel and a very nice Filipino lady took our reservation, then said "Oooh, just a minute Mr Ashplant, you seem to have some other reservations". Eight of them in total, and each time a deposit of one-night's charge had been made against the card. She patiently cancelled each one and refunded the charge. Fine, at least our reservation had been made.

Then I called back for some reason, and she said "Looks like they've upgraded you Mr Ashplant".

So that's how we got this ridiculous suite at a very reasonable rate. And with it came the facility to check-in in their "Tower Suites Lounge" and, if we'd flown in, we would have had a limo ride to and from the airport. Ri-di-cu-luss!

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There's a lobby, a "powder room" (2nd loo with basin), dining area with 4-seater table, a bar, sitting room, a little lobby, bedroom on one of the corners of the hotel with window on two sides and bathroom.

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There's a walk-in shower and a spa-bath in front of the bathroom ceiling-to-floor window. After he's done with this Blog, John's going for a soak, looking down to the pool, and luxuriating in the bath salts provided.

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Not only is it a beautiful suite, with a view towards the Strip (and other hotels, and the pool complex!), all the lights, curtains, TVs (3 of them) and aircon units (2) are controlled from a computer tablet. (One in each room, though each tablet controls all of the rooms). Battle of the drapes, John vs Arthur!

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Finally, the WC:- a heated seat and a control panel to clean and dry your you-know-what after you've finished on the loo. There is choice of rear and front wash; little jets of water spray up from below, and those can "oscillate" if you so wish! Then a warm air drier comes on to finish the process. Unfortunately, you have to remember to flush the loo yourself after all that!

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The seat is warmed. Even heated. Ouch. Lovely!

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The reason for the foot? It's fooling the sensor that there is a bum on the seat so that the jet pops out! There was quite a lot of water down the wall and on the floor after this demo. If we had demonstrated with a real bum, you would not have seen how it worked. Either that or you would have been committed to an institution after the shock of it all!

I want one!!

This has definitely spoiled us for our next trip to Las Vegas. Without winning a lot more on Video Poker (and we were $250 up this morning) we probably won't be able to afford such accommodation again, unless there's a wangle to be found! If there is, I would hope to find it!

More about our fabulous Las Vegas stay very soon. Tomorrow we move on and will be staying at the Lodge in Zion National Park, Utah.

Postscript. When John was around 11, the talk went round school that there was a demo of "The Ultimate Bed" at Colmers Department Store and there was a lady in a nightie demonstrating it. John was not particularly interested in the lady in the nightie (though most of the other boys seemed to be for some inexplicable reason). So we all trooped along to Colmers to watch the demonstration. There was a large double bed. Two TVs at the bottom of the bed, automatic curtains, two radios built into the headboards etc etc. "One day" John thought. "One day". Well that day arrived on Monday. Wow! Everything but "The lady in the nightie". Phew!

Now, for adults only, not of a nervous disposition, John having a bubbly/massage bath which flooded the bathroom (think the tub was overfull)

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More about our "adventures" in Las Vegas asap.

PPS We have just had our final gamble and are still $250 up over the 3 1/2 days. Off to bed now, with a big smile on our faces! Night night.

PPPS Just took this from bed.... zzzzzzzzz.

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Posted by Johnash 00:24 Archived in USA Comments (9)

Las Vegas - The Highlights

Room 302, Hampton Inn, Richfield, Utah
6.00pm Saturday 14th May

Trying to catch up with this Blog. From tomorrow we have 2 nights in Salt Lake City, plus a morning before our flight to Anchorage, Alaska. So we hope to get up to date by then!

Meanwhile back in Glitter City, which is like Marmite. Hate it? Or love it? We love it. Every minute. But it is very understandable that it could also be a hell hole for many people. But, gentle reader, you already know that and also know what is worth knowing about the place. But here are our own highlights.

Once we had got over the suite the "kind people" at Aria had given us, we had already booked a table at what is probably our favourite restaurant anywhere, as a special treat to celebrate our 44th anniversary (which is why we got that upgrade at the hotel we finally found out!). That it is the Top of the World at the Stratosphere. A sort of Post Office Tower where the restaurant rotates approx every hour. Also people fling themselves off on a wire and pay for that privilege.

The room was quite dark so pictures of the food were too dim. We had chosen the sampling menu where we had four courses of more manageable, nay quite small, servings. Suited us.

First, John had Lobster Bisque, Bob had mixed greens (tomato, cucumber, red onion, radish, fennel, roasted beets, balsamic vinaigrette.
Second Course, John: Seared Scallop, cauliflower salad, lemon butter emulsion, Bob: Kurobuta Pork Belly, root vegetables, farro, quinoa, chimichurri, Chinese five spice.
Third Course, we both had Filet Mignon & Shrimp Scampi, mashed potatoes, mushroom reduction.

Stars were probably the lobster bisque, the pork and the filet (say feelay!). Oh and the delicious and pretty chocolate dessert. The dark one was sooooo chocolatey. But the real star is always the view as the lights come on and the tripping helicopters, hundreds of them, buzz the tower.

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Denny's at the top end of the Strip is now a ritual for our first breakfast in Las Vegas. Very busy. Very friendly (we recognised several of the staff from previous visits. Good places seem to keep their staff like the guy who poured the water at the Top of the Tower. When we asked him if he was there two years ago he said, "yea, I've been here for 20 years"! He said he thought he remembered us. Maybe!)

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We enjoy a gamble. Nowadays on Video Poker machines as they can pay a decent return and you don't lose your money as quickly as on Blackjack. Stakes are too high for us on that game now. We paid our usual respects to Boot Barn Western store, then carried on past the last main casino at the south end of the Strip, Mandalay Bay, and on a couple of miles to "South Point" hotel and casino. This was a find. A nice place and very traditional in style. For some reason we found ourselves playing 5c Video Poker (that's a 5 cent stake, though it's normal to play 5 times the stake in order to have a chance at the jackpot, so that's 25c a go) though we usually play on 25c machines. So when John got a Royal Straight Flush, instead of a $1,000 he won slightly less. Of course, he probably would not have won it had we been playing 25c stakes.

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That evening we had yet another treat, a concert at The Colosseum, Caesars Palace with Reba Mcentire and Brooks & Dunn. A magnificent theater that seats 4,100 and every seat was taken. We could not believe the production, The lighting was exciting and the music brilliant. We both got quite carried away with the enthusiastic Western fans. And the VERY exciting finale with sailors coming on stage to take the salute followed by huge streamers coming down from the roof with Brooks & Dunn's big hit "Only in America". WOW what an evening.

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Next morning, for a break from the city, we drove out to Boulder City, which was originally built to house those working on the construction of Hoover Dam. To this day, gambling is banned here, originally to keep the workers focused on dam-building rather than getting hooked on the sinful gambling!

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Bob's Huevos Rancheros. John had fruit, of course!

On the drive back, we spotted this "shortcut":-

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And, we called in to our old haunt, the Golden Nugget where one of the many elegant marriages had clearly just happened:-

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One thing you still get Downtown is lots of neon, which gradually is disappearing from the Strip.

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And we were lucky again at the Cortez casino, one of the oldest in town.. and our bankroll continued to grow without any more contributions from us (we left Las Vegas with a profit of around $150!).

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One of our rituals used to be midnight steak and eggs back in the cosy "Carson Street Cafe" in the Golden Nugget. A couple of years ago the Nugget was bought by a restaurant chain based in Houston, Texas. They closed the cafe, converted half of it into a bar, and the other half they named after their chain "The Claim Jumper". Nowhere near as nice but the food was OK,

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Bob had ham 'n eggs, John a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Why do they do that? Change a successful cafe into two establishments that are nowhere near as good or as successful. Heyho!

Next morning we took a stroll through the rather down-market shopping arcade that links the Aria with the Cosmopolitan to the Strip, back into the Monte Carlo which links back to the Aria. Phew it was hot! A Henry Moore marks the entrance to "The Crystals Shops". Thankfully not shoppes! (We have seen several grilles today!).

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We would have chosen this chandelier for our good friend, Paul. but couldn't get it in our case!

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We guessed that one of the handbags in this shop would equate to maybe six weeks' pay for the cleaner?

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The Aria hotel is on the right of this picture:-

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The next day it was time to visit our favourite store, J C Penney for some clothes. With all the special offers, clothes are about the only thing still cheap in the USA. On the way we stopped at a 'Blueberry Hill', apparently famous for their pancakes, as Bob found out, to his cost.

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and for afters, should you have room.....

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At Penney's we both got 3 tops/shirts each for $90. We estimated similar would have cost us about 160€ at Corte Ingles.

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We spotted oleander everywhere and they seem to do much better than at home in Spain

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Our final meal in Vegas was at the Aria buffet. A staggering selection of seafood, Mediterranean, Asia etc etc, plus good old roast beef, turkey etc. We had very small portions of a selection, as well as tiny "sweets".

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We then had a final drive up the Strip and popped into the SLS Casino, which is the late Sahara casino, remodelled into a modern hotel and casino. The place was not busy apart from a very large party of women who were making a lot of noise. We lost a few dollars then as the women were leaving, John noticed that they may not all be women. What do you think?

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None of them. We had a chat with a couple of them but seemed to get conflicting stories but we think they were local Las Vegas guys who like dressing up a bit and get a bus to take them round the "hotspots".

We drove back to the Aria and waddled off too bed with yet another big smile on our faces.

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We are, this night, in a tiny town in the middle Utah. It's a rather different world to the madness we left behind in Las Vegas.

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Posted by Johnash 20:58 Archived in USA Comments (14)

Utah

The land of speedsters

Room 326, Hotel Monaco, Salt Lake City, Utah
15.36 Monday 16th May

"Over 6 days, God created the Earth, on the 7th, he dumped what was left over, and they called it Utah!"

It is a rather odd state with a lot of outlandish scenery and, of course, this became the promised land, or more a land of refuge, for the Mormons, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. These days they make up just over 60% of the population of the state and tend to dominate the centre of Salt Lake City.

One question for which I have not found an answer is...... it clearly states on one of the plinths that it is sinful to break the law. So why does everyone break the speed limit here?!? It is the worst state for this, indeed, in most states on this trip, most people stick to the limit, especially in towns, and on freeways a few may do 1 or 2 mph more. But here, it is almost the religion to SPEED! End of rant.

We had a great drive out of Las Vegas, on I-15 soon leaving most of the traffic behind. But, there were serious road works in the corner of Arizona we crossed and we got held up for a few minutes. Then into Utah where the speed limit is a dangerous 80mph. Add the Utahns need to speed and, in some windy bits, it became mad!

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We last visited the National Parks of Utah (of which there are five! ) in June 1996, and then, we had a lot of it almost to ourselves. In Zion on a Sunday morning, maybe 30 other cars? Now they are all totally overrun, to the extent that cars are not allowed into Zion Park, and visitors have to pile onto frequent park buses. The little town near the entrance was rammed with parked cars as the official "park n ride" car park was full and would have been filled many times over. We're so thankful we visited most of the "must see sites" throughout the US on earlier trips when it was all a lot more peaceful.

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But we had a reservation at the Zion Park Lodge so we had already been sent a red pass to hang in the windscreen which allowed us to drive up through the canyon to the Lodge and the only other vehicles on that road were a few of the aforementioned buses. But when we got to the lodge, hoards of people were everywhere but not, thankfully, in their cars. And by the time we walked across from where our room was to dinner, they had all gone home. So we almost got back to the 1996 tranquility again!

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Next day we left fairly early and drove towards our next port of call, Bryce Canyon, which, on our previous trip, was certainly John's favourite. But first, at Arthur's insistence we had to stop for breakfast at the Thunderbird Cafe.

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It being a Sunday, we expected Bryce to be packed and we were disappointed, it was! We queued for 15 minutes just to get through the pay point (we used the park pass we'd bought for $90 back in quiet ole Wyoming and sailed through). At the first view point they were queuing just to get into the car park. We despaired. But we continued through the park southwards (the entrance being in the North) and then found the odd viewing point where there were only a few cars and, one, where we walked a short trail, we actually had to ourselves. We continued to stop and take in the breathtaking vistas until we got to the end of the park road, where the car park was full but we parked on the verge and walked to the edge. Brilliant.

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We had actually considered skipping Bryce Canyon, because of the expected crowds, but were so glad we didn't.

In Zion, you (or rather we) drive into the canyon and have the walls towering above you. For Bryce, you are looking down into it and its amazing rock formations.

A longish drive, shared by us both, got us to our stop for the night, the small "city" of Richfield, where we were checked in by a young lad who was unhappy to be in Richfield which "sucks", as he said when John asked what happened on a Saturday. John said he should get a job in Salt Lake City where he could enjoy himself with others who all "play for the same side"! We think he may think seriously about that. He certainly would be very unhappy spending the rest of his life in Richfield, population 7,500 and the biggest town for 100 miles. So there we are!

Rain and storms were forecast for our drive to Salt Lake City, and, indeed we got a heavy downpour once we got on to very busy US-6. As usual Utahns drove above the speed limit in dangerous conditions but we kept our heads and plenty space between us and other cars. And safely made it, then in the dry, onto our old friend I-15.

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They have a new toll system in the area of Greater Salt Lake and the "pool" lane, which is, in many cities, limited to cars with 2 or more occupants, could be used as a toll lane. Bob had looked online while we drove up through empty Utah, and it seemed there would be a toll but could not find out how it could be paid. When we got there, it was clear we could use it for free so we sailed up the Express lane while the others bobbed and weaved in the other 3 lanes, (all doing over the 80 mph speed limit, of course).

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The weather gods blessed us and we have had no more rain, despite the bad forecast, either on the rest of that journey or the rest of our time in Salt Lake. (Hope I'm not tempting fate for this evening!).

Great hotel and valet parking with youthful and very enthusiastic valets. And, when we checked in , it emerged our rate included the valet parking which was a bonus.

We got into our lovely room with very posh and stylish furniture. This Kimpton chain seems to be a find. We also have booked Kimpton hotels in Washington DC and Philadelphia.

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Here in Salt Lake, the Continental Bank Building was a landmark on Main Street. James E. Cosgriff constructed the building in 1924 to house his Continental Bank. Over the years it fell into disrepair, uppers floors were largely vacant and neglected. The building's owners claimed that renovating it would be prohibitively expensive and that its narrow footprint was not suitable for modem offices. Despite efforts by the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency to identify potential developers, eventual demolition of this landmark seemed a real threat.

Preservationists breathed a sigh of relief in the summer of 1997 when word spread that the Kimpton Group was interested in purchasing the building. The group is well-known for renovating historic buildings to house stylish, hotels and restaurants. In June 1998, the company bought the bank building and seven small buildings to the south along Main Street. Now it's our Hotel Monaco.

So with the sun coming out, we drove up to Temple Square (we took the car out as, though within walking distance, we wanted to find somewhere for dinner). City Centre Sunday Night Restaurants Closed Syndrome! We pottered around the Mormon buildings and statues etc and were frequently smiled at and/or accosted by people who assumed that we too were in their church. We had a conversation with a guy who, in his younger years, had gone to Spain as a missionary, and spoke perfect Spanish. He still listens to TVE radio so knew all about the political situation in our country of residence (do you?!).

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We knew there was a Denny's on the way to the airport so that is where we "dined" and got chatted up waitress "Anita" who has worked there for many years. "Where'rrr you fraamm?"

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Monday

Today, again, we've avoided any rain. We can glimpse fresh snow on the peaks that border the city on two sides. We had a good value and healthy breakfast in a nice, plush, red velvet, restaurant just up the road, served by a regal waiter. There are lots of regal guys in Salt Lake we're finding out. so our advice to that young guy in Richfield was very appropriate we feel.

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When we were last here, the church had bought up many city blocks and were to redevelop them as a new shopping and office and restaurant complex (the church has a great deal of money as can be expected). And this is now complete and very successful it is too. We wandered round Nordstrom, a very stylish and expensive store. Then over to Temple Square where we went into the family research centre to look up some Ashplants in North America. (This is a huge facility located in several buildings. When you get converted, you have to list all of the relatives you can dig up (well not literally dig up) and, as we understand it, they are then upgraded to heaven or whatever it's called. Can't be bad.

Anyway the research was successful as almost certainly there is a Canadian branch of the Ashplant family:- a William John Ashplant, born in North Devon and a shoemaker, moved to Ontario and his son, Hubert, carried on as shoemaker. So the William John is almost certainly a direct relation, probably a great great (times x ?) uncle.

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We continued our potter into the Joseph Smith building which originally was the Utah Hotel, now beautifully restored and full of gleaming and smiling Mormons. A lady of probably more than 80 years was playing the piano in the lobby so we sat and had some beautiful moments of peace there.

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Apparently, this is not the Archangel Moroni who showed Joseph Smith the gold plates from which he said he translated the Book of Mormon. The plates later mysteriously disappeared. So we don't know who this could be. Do you?

We went to the top where there is a roof garden restaurant and asked if we could have coffee. They are not allowed any stimulants so we got a rather stern "no" to that question. We scuttled over to Macy's which didn't have a cafe. So ended up in the hotel where the morning coffee had already been put away. So still no coffee. We took the car out (nice young valets again) to drive to the Catholic Cathedral, via the Capitol building (Salt Lake being the capital of this state). We sat inside the Cathedral for a while, then had a practice drive to the airport.

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One of our athletic valets, who run to open car doors and deliver cars for us

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Came back and cleared out the car. Bob has now packed and John has checked us in for our flights tomorrow. These are not until 1pm so we have bags of time in the morning and it really is an easy drive to Salt Lake City airport. The boarding passes state "priority check in" and TSA Precheck again. Hooray! The least time possible getting through security. We fly first to Phoenix, Arizona, so watch back 2 hours for that, then forward three hours for our arrival in Anchorage at around 10pm. So we would hope to be in our hotel by around 11pm (Alaska Time Zone, Daylight Saving).

We're going back tonight for dinner to the Lamb Grill where we had our healthy breakfast. See you in Alaska! Oh, we forgot to say, we like Salt Lake City, our 2nd favourite on this trip so far.

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Posted by Johnash 20:40 Archived in USA Comments (11)

Anchorage - Frontier Town


View Alaska or bust. Just Driving in 2016 on Johnash's travel map.

Room 326 (again!), Hampton Inn, Anchorage, Alaska
16.50, Tuesday 18th May

(That reminds me, I forgot to put our driving maps into the last few Blogs. I have them prepared so will put them in when I have a moment)

Our hop from Salt Lake (where we got great views of the Great Salt Lake) to Phoenix was a bit bumpy as we approached Phoenix, which sprawls as far as the eye can see into the Arizona desert, but we landed safely at this busy hub airport. A wait in the new AA lounge was enhanced by nice food (two hot soups to chose from, nice snacks/tapas, cookies, and soft drinks & coffee), plus a new attendant with his Bart Simpson haircut.

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A quick, healthy, again, breakfast at the hotel

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Time then to board our flight for Anchorage, a 5 hour 45 minute flight over Las Vegas and then, spookily, following the route we drove last time up Hwy 395, through the Northern Nevada desert, Northern California, Oregon and Washington, over Mt Rainier, having left 395 behind. The cloud closed in for the trip up the British Columbian coast, but then opened to reveal the stunning scenery around Anchorage which appeared to be on mud flats rather than open sea. Maybe the tide was out, or it was a trick of the light? This we still have to investigate.

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We were served a pretty good dinner on the way. Stuffed "eggplant" with roasted veg etc and sundae to finish

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Our bags were off almost first and Hertz had an even bigger car waiting for us, this time a Ford Expedition. Goodness know what the consumption will be but we have nowhere near the driving to do we did over the last 2 and a bit weeks which totalled 2,853 miles (Omaha-Las Vegas- Salt Lake).

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It was still light when we got to the hotel where we had already checked in and chosen our room online.

We both felt, as we drove from the airport that this place was different. We knew it was a city of 400,000 souls and had the American trappings of Denny's, Walmart and traffic lights. So we'd sort-of expected another standard US city. Bu thankfully not the case and today has confirmed somehow its temporariness (is that a word? It is now). It certainly has the feeling of the Frontier about it. It also has a lot of traffic, this city being the commercial hub of this vast state, most of it being big pickups and 4x4s

However, as you know, it's not the capital, that honour going to Juneau (you know) a long way away from here.

The different feel is also accentuated by the 10% population of native Alaskan people........

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This has been a voyage of adventure but more, one of learning. In one day we have learned much about the various peoples who were here before the Russians and then the Americans colonised this place. We didn't have an inkling that were so many peoples and languages here. And as demonstrated by the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which we visited this morning, much is happening to restore and protect the cultures and languages before they die. It was inspiring and awe-inspiring. All sorts of activities and demonstrations including dancing and music as well as discussions with Q&As. Outside, you walk round a small lake where there are typical Alasakan Native dwellings.

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Also, the opportunity to meet some sled dogs and their puppies. The dogs have mainly Husky genes in them but also many other varieties. Apparently the more diverse the breeding the better the dogs. These girls (mainly, the boys don't generally like to work so hard....comments?...) did not seem that anxious to get behind the sled!

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Note about these dogs... they are loved by the Native Alaskan who runs the outfit. They are kept apart to avoid any arguments. They love working which they do each and every day. Amongst the happiest dogs we know! (Roxy and Daisy excepted)

As we walked back to the centre, a lady from New York we were chatting to said, "Gaaad look at thaaat!). A young but mature female moose splashed into the lake for a drink and a snack of reed. As we walked towards it to get better photos, a young Alaskan Native helper warned us to give it plenty of room. They can do 0-60 in 9 seconds (I made that bit up) and can trample you painfully with their clomping hooves.

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Next was a drive to find Lake Hood, populated by several zillion giant gnatz and nearly as many small aircraft parked all over the place and mostly fitted with floats for taking off and landing on the lake which is, in effect, a watery runway, right next to Ted Stevens International Airport. It was weird, we could drive anywhere here, amongst these planes which may or may not head for the lake and take off at any moment. At one point we had to pull off the road as the plane taxied towards us.

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"Pull over there's a plane coming down the road!"

Apparently there are over 200 communities without any road access, so air is the only way in and out. Also, it seems that air is the preferred form of transport to those who can or can't afford it! If you have a house, hut or cabin up country, especially if it's by a lake, much easier to fly there. In-cred-ible.

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Lastly, we visited the Anchorage Museum. Apparently today is International Museum Day and they had lots of volunteers on hand to advise us that entry today was free.

Here we learned yet more stunning facts about the lives of the Native Alaskans, and also the dangers threatened now by global warming. This area is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the globe and, last year, at a rate of 2° per year.

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Michelle Shocked - Anchorage
(The iconic music that partly inspired this trip. Sorry but for silly reasons you'll have to click through to Vimeo to watch this, then come back here!)

We're driving the "Glenn Highway" tomorrow. Let's see what tomorrow will bring!

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Posted by Johnash 22:49 Archived in USA Comments (10)

Alaska - You Didn't Let Us Down!

Glenn & Richardson Highways


View Alaska or bust. Just Driving in 2016 on Johnash's travel map.

Room 129, Princess Wilderness Lodge, Copper River, AK
17.43 Thursday 10th May

With apologies for the number of pictures here today. It has been so difficult weeding them out.

We drove out of Anchorage after a motel breakfast, leaving just after 8 and joining the swirl of Anchorage traffic. (Bob just read a comment in Lonely Planet about Anchorage: "work in progress"!) My, what a busy place. And for 30 or so miles the traffic was still pouring into the city. As we got out into the "wilderness" we left most of the traffic behind and the road became remarkably quiet. The season is only just starting (handy hint, come early) so really very few travellers. We saw a few campers of various sizes, shapes and condition (a couple we saw were all-but falling apart).

Our first stop was the village of Eklutna, a small town inhabited Upik natives who were converted to Russian Orthodoxy by Russian missionaries. They have preserved/restored their church and other building for the benefit of visitors and for themselves.

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We turned off the main highway onto the old Glenn Highway where we were held up briefly by various roadworks. Always fun to be leading a convoy, behind the pilot car, through the works. We returned to the main highway at the town of Palmer.

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We really had expected the Glenn Highway to be much busier. It forms Highway 1, presumably the main route in from "The Lower 48", across Canada and into Alaska's biggest city. So we were really pleased that we had huge stretches of highway to ourselves.

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The cloud had built up round the higher mountains and, for a while we could not see the tops. Gradually the clouds got higher and this part of Alaska, in all her glory, was revealed to us. Stunning. Yes, we felt stunned. We could not believe what we were seeing. Vista after vista was revealed to us. Lakes, rivers and shambolic huts and cabins. As well as a few smart ones. Then a young moose crossed the road in front of us.

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We stopped constantly for photo opportunities. One particularly memorable stop was a viewpoint to admire the Matanufka Glacier.

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We trundled on, craning our necks, staring up at the cliffs on our left in the hope we would see some of the Dall sheep that call those vertiginous slopes their home. But this time we saw nothing but rocks and trees.

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Our dream catcher working overtime!

After the humble little town of Glenallen, we turned right off the Glenn Highway onto the Richardson Highway that, tomorrow, will take us down to the infamous town of Valdez.

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We easily found (despite TomTom telling us to turn up a non existent track) our stop for the night. The extremely cosy Princess Wilderness Lodge at Copper River. Built by the cruise ship company to provide its passengers some light relief in the wilderness. Presumably they are bussed up from their boats, tied up in Valdez.

These views from the lodge grounds, including the Trans Alaska Pipeline, which terminates in Valdez. Here we are looking towards the volcanic Wrangel Mountains.

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Looking forward to dinner in the comfy looking (but not cheap!) restaurant.

Why did the moose cross the road? Small prize for the best answer!

PS Just saw a dog sled (with wheels) pull off from in front of the lodge. 4 smallish dogs pulling 4 large and 1 normal person! And they were so happy about it! Pictures soon!

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Posted by Johnash 23:54 Archived in USA Comments (9)

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