Today was our last ditch effort. It was time to bid an early adios to the RV. I decided to take a hot shower in the restroom. I marvel in its supreme cleanliness. Don’t laugh. A clean bathroom at an RV park or any public area goes a long way in my book. It can mean the difference of thanks but no thanks. I have been known to walk out of a bathroom because there was just no way I would use it. It was so clean; I even mentioned it to Matt during last night’s check-in. He told me that the host couple, the RV with it’s own washer and drier, were responsible. While I was in the bathroom, the lady hostess comes in. She was a very sweet older woman. They must have been working because she scolded her husband about entering the women's bathroom. Through a small crack in the door, she told him someone was in here with her and to wait. I mentioned how clean the bathroom was and she was appreciative of the high praise. She tells me that they are from Arizona. We say our goodbyes as she heads out, back to work. This bathroom was so clean that when I got out of the shower and accidently tracked water with my shower shoes, I quickly yanked a handful of paper towels and made sure to clean it up.
The agenda was to return the RV and pick up the rental car I reserved last night. Before the RV could be returned we had to refuel it and replace the propane we used. Luckily, Thomas already dumped the gray and black water tank the day prior so that was one less thing to do (for non rv’ers-the clean and not so clean water). Thomas dropped me off at the airport for the rental and I met him outside of the terminal. I followed him for the refueling at the gas station and than to the Cruise America parking lot. All systems were a go. We went over mileage, which I expected, but it was deducted from the security deposit. Check, check, double check. Everything was out and things were put back in their place. I looked back a few times as we walked away. I was sad to leave our home on wheels for the last week. I truly was.
We hung around a bit because I wanted to speak with Brett (formerly known as “Steve”), who checked us out. I wanted to exchange business cards with him and let it be known that I enjoyed the experience and wanted to see how I could possibly collaborate in the future with Cruise America for the remainder of the documentary travel. Brett told us that about their “Hot Deals” and how Cruise America often needs people to rent and move their inventory. We talked about travel in general, his own experience, and observations as of other travelers as manager. I will be in touch with him soon. I think the footage of the RV will be something that Cruise America would like.
Everything is now thrown into the midsize Mazda SUV. This thing was super candy apple sweet. I was extra excitable because I have been driving stick shift since I was 16 years old and in low grounded coupes. Having an automatic car with the height advantage and all the bells and whistles was a nice change. I expressed earlier that I wanted coffee and we stopped at Starbucks. Thomas and I both got our beverage of choice and sat in the car for a while and talked about the trajectory of the project.
Our southern destination was a town called Seward via the Seward Highway. One of the first stops not too far outside of Anchorage was Bitter’s Marsh. Right across the area that we spotted for investigation was a closed weighing station. It was large parking area and I parked under the shade. Cameras were gathered and we checked the street before we crossed. Getting to the actual spot was a bit of a task. At the shoulder we jumped the guardrail. After the guardrail we traversed a small patch of grass down a sandy hill to the train track shrouded by white rocks. Than at the edge of the tracks was a hill of large rocks sandwiched with smaller rocks dropping at a steep angle. I briefly shook my head as I thought about the lengths we will go to for the purpose of seeing something.
Along the way, I lost sight of Thomas because he made his way down as I was walking along the track looking for a more suitable climb down. Not that I was afraid of climbing down a huge pile of jagged rocks, but I am always looking for a better way. It took some time but I found a place and I needed to get down soon in order for Thomas to film me. I am aware that I am too old to fall, so I slowly grab hold of the rocks where I can for support to beat gravity from playing a cruel joke on me. Even with all the caution I exerted I still ended up with a boo-boo on my knee. But I had to play it off. The last thing I needed was Thomas making fun of me. Luckily I was out of his view the entire time and escaped any mockery.
As I walk towards Thomas as directed, we shoot a few runs. It is crazy down here. This is really the first time that we were actually on the mud flats that we have seen from afar. There seems to be no definitive line between what’s water and what is mud. Unless the sun shines on it with a particular ray of light, it’s a blur of a mirage, making it either mud flat or water or both depending on how you look. The only exception was that the wind was particularly vicious and it made it much easier to see where the water pooled. The swift ripples of the water made glimmering spectacles. Both of us conducted a mud flat sturdiness study to indulge the wishful possibility of walking out as far as we could. We both wanted to know precisely how far could a person safely walk and would the consistency of the mud resemble quick sand. Alas, we would never know. There was probably a reason why we had yet to see anyone out on any of the mud flats. Maybe if we had a pair of disposable mud flat shoes and an “Indian Jones” whip.
I think it is possible that we took a thousand pictures. We climbed on the larger rocks for portraits and stood tall on them. I think there was also a moment that we lost the cameras in the rock beach and had to retrace our steps. I managed to face-time but it was cut short because of the wind. I thought it was cool, but I guess on the other end it seemed more like a grayed out wind tunnel and annoying. The routing back up to the car established a few things: Thomas is right (sometimes –just kidding TA) and I am such a chump. Climbing the hill of rocks was a slight challenge. The real issue came in when it came time to get back up the sandy/grassy hill to the guardrail and street. Thomas insisted the easiest way back up the unstable steep angle was to get a running start and I insisted that he not watch me when I do this. Needless to say that after a brief “framily” squabble, I ran up the hill and he followed. I have a strange feeling he watched.
I am not sure how we get to our destinations when all we do is stop. Turnagain Arm Trail and McHugh Creek, both part of Chugach State Park were quick stops, not even 5 miles away. There was a waterfall cascading near the signs that gathered in a pool. Beluga Point, not even another 5 miles away and we would stop again. I drove past the parking lot at first before we decided to turn back around. During this turnabout, out in the foreground of the water’s edge were sails from the kiteboarders and windsurfers. By this time the wind was getting more furious as the sky started to become ominous. At the next pull thru we stopped abruptly. On the other side of the guardrail was a windsurfer standing over his board. I parked and we jump out. Thomas immediately headed towards him. I catch up and Thomas had already struck up a conversation. The surfer’s face was as weathered as his board and completely smeared with sun block and his hair was a proportionate mix of salt and pepper. It was hard to determine his age, but it was obvious that he had been doing this for some time.
During our conversation, he gave us an impromptu lesson about windsurfing and we told him about the documentary. He ended his surfing time because the current conditions were not ideal. Personally, I thought another concern was the lightening striking in the distance. Surprisingly, he mentioned that he traveled to Hawaii to hone his skills. The conversation turned back to Alaska and all the things there are to do. His in-laws visit often and they always find something new to do. Click here for conversation with Wind Surfer audio (play).
The storm was looming and we hogged enough of his time. As we were walking back to the car, a truck pulls over and parks. The driver walks to the surfer. Perhaps they knew each other. I turn around and head back to Beluga Point. The parking lot was pretty full and people were here and there. Marked by a large configuration of rock that is a naturally formed stage, one can inspect the water for Beluga Whales during salmon season. It was now windy enough outside that people were holding on to each other and scurrying down from the lookout. The temperature is dropping and it begins to look scarier as the mountains begin to disappear. Selfishly, I let Thomas know that he could now take over the driving.
It wouldn’t be for miles on the hilly road until the rain started to fall. Once it did, it didn’t stop. The time had quietly slipped by. The rain may have put only a small halt to our frequent stops; a double waterfall launching itself right out of the side of the hill made us pull over and the cold weather limited my time outside of the car. The side of the road that we were parked perched over water that was the same color of the cup you would clean your brushes while painting with a mix of green, blue and milky white. I waited in the car while Thomas explored down the side.
The town of Seward gradually came together in small pieces, first the Safeway, than groupings of houses and other buildings and the top of a cruise ship. It was around 9 pm by the time we arrived. We drove down to the water’s edge to an unpaved road. People in parkas and puffy coats were in the streets. In the center was a main street where the restaurants and stores joined each other in a strip. Seward reminds you of a mix of the town from Walking Dead and Northern Exposure but all on the water cradled by hills. There is heavy smog rolling down the hills that sits over your head, playing hide and seek with the mountaintops. The rain was cold and lasted into the remainder of night.
I hadn’t made any hotel arrangements prior to our arrival. I assumed it wouldn’t be difficult on a Monday night. There was a range of options, from local ma & pa’s to large chains. Holiday Inn Express was the first stop. The lobby was full and you could see the cruise ship through the atrium style window overlooking the water. The port may explain the crowd. I asked about the availability and the rate. To me, it was expensive and I wanted to see what the options were. We stopped around the corner at the Best Western. My mind was already made up that we would stay. I didn’t want to drive to every hotel. It was late. The desk attendant was awesome and made it all work while managing a phone call. I go out and let Thomas know and we unpack the car.
Dinner was going to be at Apollo Restaurant. They closed at 10 pm and it was too late to dine in, but we were able to order the food as carry out. The wait staff was very kind and offered us a seat and plenty of water. Customers were finishing up their meals. The interior of Apollo was almost as you would expect for an establishment boasting a Mediterranean menu in a port town in Alaska. Greek statues and large mounted fish provide some ambience. According to their website, they opened in 1976. The same year I was born. Our food is ready and we cross back over to the hotel. The calzones were great and as big as your head. A full stomach and warm pajamas were the order of the night. For once night appeared as night and it felt like time to go to bed.