Cruising Alaska, Part 3: Skagway & Ice Strait Point

6/29 – Sunday: In Skagway, it was supposed to be sunny, but it got foggy and rainy. Our trip to dog-sled on a glacier was cancelled, so we did two things. First, we took a helicopter ride to a different glacier–the Mead Glacier–and hiked around. This was my first helicopter ride. It was cool. The glacier was freezing cold. The guide told us about moulins, or glacier mills, which are really deep vertical shafts, where you could see the blue glacier ice. We could also drink glacier water if we wanted to, but I didn’t want to put my hand in the cold water.

Glacier water running in to a moulin at Mead Glacier

Glacier water running into a moulin at Mead Glacier

Our helicopter ride from Mead Glacier

Later, we went to a dogsled camp and dog-sledded, learned about Alaskan huskies and held pups. When we dog-sledded, there was a ten-month old husky named Rowdy, who kept jumping up and down and looking behind when he ran. It was funny.

Rowdy is the second dog on the left.

Rowdy is the second dog on the left.

Here Rowdy looks a bit tired.

Here Rowdy looks a bit tired.

My favorite part of the trip was cuddling with the Alaskan husky pups

My favorite part of the trip was cuddling with the Alaskan husky pups

We also 3-month-old pups learning how to run as a team. They mostly wanted to chew on things.

We also saw 3-month-old pups learning to run as a team. They mostly wanted to chew on things.

This is the driftwood building

This is the driftwood building

We also went on another hunt for the Alaskan charms, and saw a few odd sights. There was a unicorn on a car, a building made of driftwood, and a sign read “NOPE.”

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I’ve never seen a unicorn hood ornament before.

Evidently this means “Closed”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devil’s Club

6/30 – Tuesday: In Icy Strait Point, there were a lot of bald eagles and ravens. There were even a few whale sightings. Unfortunately, all I got to see was a little bit of the whale’s tail and some spouts. We went into a few of the stores there, and we saw some weird types of salves. One of them was called “Old Man’s Beard Salve.” There was also a Devil’s Club salve, so we wondered what Devil’s Club looked like. We went on a nature trail and found some. The leaves are HUGE, and their stems are really spiky. Natives wound hang them outside their house to ward off evil spirits because the plant was so spiky.

Devil’s Club stem is really spiky.

Later we had some frybread, which tastes like a less sugary doughnut. We also saw an eagle’s nest. Once we got back on the boat, they had some more trivia. This time it was about The Beatles. We got most of the questions. We should have gotten all of them, but we were tired. We had done a lot so far!

 

Cruising Alaska, Part 2: Glaciers & Juneau

My Alaskan Forget-Me-Nots painting

My Alaskan Forget-Me-Nots painting

6/27 – Saturday: We basically just cruised for the whole day, and cruised and cruised and cruised and cruised and cruised and cruised and you get the idea. After breakfast, we went into one of the lounges and stumbled into a watercolour class. I ended up painting a picture of Alaskan Forget-Me-Nots, the state flower. Later, we went on a galley tour, which was basically a tour of one of the ship’s kitchens. They had a really cool carving in a watermelon.Then, it was time for lunch.

fruit carving

This melon must have taken hours to carve.

We also got to see the Hubbard Glacier. It was a blue colour, which seemed strange, but it was from the way light reflected off the really compacted ice. It was also cool to see the ice fall off the glacier, which is called “calving.” When you hear the ice fall, it’s too late to see it because light travels faster than sound. This means you have to stare at the glacier for a while if you hope to see calving.

The blue Hubbard Glacier

The blue Hubbard Glacier

In the X Club, we did a Joke Quest with a Go-Pro camera. It was really hard to make people laugh. Later in the day, we went on another scavenger hunt around the ship in order to find people from different states. It was surprisingly hard. Lots of people were from Florida and Georgia.

 

The marmots were kind of cute

The marmots were kind of cute

6/28 – Sunday: We docked in Juneau and took a tram up Mount Roberts. Then we walked around the trails, and walked and walked and walked. We saw some eagles in trees, and we even saw a couple of hoary marmots. It was cool to them. One was just a few feet from the trail.

This is their version of "No Smoking"

This is their version of “No Smoking”

We were exhausted by the time we got back to the nature centre. There was a bald eagle called Lady Baltimore by the centre. She had been in a bad accident when she was younger and was blind in one eye, so she could not be re-released into the wild. Back in the nature centre, we saw people carving a totem pole. It was cool to watch. We also started our hunt for charms for a charm bracelet of Alaska.

On the boat, we watched an acrobatic dance show performed by Yulia and Alan Reva. Yulia was an Olympic Gold Medalist in gymnastics. Their performance was death-defying with all of the lifts. There must be a lot of trust between those two.

The tram was really steep.

The tram ride was really steep.

Cruising Alaska, Part 1: Pre-cruise Events

We take vacation at least once a year. Normally, we do a road trip and drive through tons of states. This year we flew, rode in a bus a lot, took a train and then went on a cruise ship to see Alaska!

plane-to-seattle6/23 – Tuesday: We headed to the airport around 1:00 pm CDT. The plane came in late, which was normal, so it wasn’t a big deal. However, our flight was no longer going to be a nonstop to Fairbanks, Alaska. We had to stop in Seattle to refuel because of two things: 1.) the wildfires in Alaska meant they had to reroute the flight which meant they needed more fuel 2.) the plane was too heavy to carry the extra fuel unless 29 people didn’t take the flight, which wasn’t an option. Once we boarded the plane, they found out that the wrong food had been loaded onto the plane. We got delayed another hour AND the plane was too heavy, so we needed a different truck to help push the plane from the gate. We didn’t take off until a little after 4:30 pm CDT. We landed in Seattle to refuel around 8:00 pm PDT (10:00 pm CDT).  After the refueling was done, we were supposed to take off to Fairbanks, Alaska. Turned out that our pilot and crew had timed out–meaning they had already flown as many hours as they could in that day and couldn’t fly any more according to regulations. No other crews were available, so we got stranded in Seattle. We had to stay in a crummy motel, and we didn’t get there until near 11 pm PST (1 am CDT). Originally, we were supposed to be in Fairbanks at this time.

The Seattle-Tacoma airport had a cool stained glass window.

The Seattle-Tacoma airport had a cool stained glass window.

6/24 – Wednesday: We woke up bright and early (4 am) in order to catch our rescheduled flight to Fairbanks, and after a few more hours of flying, we finally arrived in Fairbanks around noon Alaska time (which is three hours earlier than CDT).

Alaska from the plane window

Alaska from the plane window

The wildfires were sort of near Fairbanks, so it was really smoky there. The sun was a dark orange colour, and extremely bright.

Fairbanks was really smoky from the wildfires

Fairbanks was really smoky from the wildfires

We loaded our tour bus, called Pavlof, and headed to our hotel. It was definitely a step up from the Seattle motel. We had missed the morning Gold Dredge Tour, but we did get to tour the downtown area. We had lunch at a hot dog stand because my mom loves those little food-cart things. My dad had a reindeer sausage while I just had a normal hot dog. We also went to a cultural centre and saw an Antler Arch.

fairbanks-antler-arch

Antler Arch. Moose shed antlers every year and grow new ones the next.

The hotel we stayed at was cool because it had ICE CREAM, signs with cool facts, and free rock throwing into the river (they had an actual sign for it, and there was a 50 rock limit per guest).

Pike's Lodge offers free rock throwing.

Pike’s Lodge offers free rock throwing.

denali-train-16/25 – Thursday: We had a REALLY long train ride to Denali, Alaska (SIX HOURS). The scenery on the way there (and in the rest of Alaska) was nice, but looked the same after a while. We had breakfast on the train–mountain blueberry pancakes and birch syrup. I didn’t like the birch syrup because it tasted fruity, but the pancakes were really good.

denali-train-breakfastdenali-traindenali-train-2

Once we got to Denali, we went on a nature-history tour. It was cool, but then it rained. We didn’t see Mt. McKinley (Denali) because of the fog, but we did see a moose grazing alongside of the road. It was right next to the bus.

Mt. McKinley was hiding in the clouds while we were there.

Mt. McKinley was hiding in the clouds while we were there.

denali-moose

This moose was probably just a few years old.

 

 

 

There were a lot of sections of burnt trees from the wildfires.

There were a lot of sections of burnt trees from the wildfires.

6/26 – Friday: We had another six hours of sitting in our tour bus, but this time we were headed to Anchorage, Alaska. We had lunch and shopped a bit there. We had ice cream, but it tasted fruity to me (I wonder if they put birch syrup in it…). I didn’t like it. I guess sweet foods taste like fruit in Alaska. Then we had another three hours in the bus on our way to Seward, Alaska. We finally got on the cruise ship around 4:30 pm, and it was HUMUNGONORMOUS. Our stateroom, though, was really tiny. We met our steward, Lydia, and she was really nice.cruise-shipFor dinner we went to the buffet. There was a LOT to eat, ranging from pasta to sushi and pizza to tres leches cake. I was also introduced to other teens (ages 12-17) aboard the ship in the Teen’s Room (aka the X Club). This is where teens could hang out to play games or paint or planned activities like quests. It was a lot of fun. We left port at 8 pm.

 

My Sixth Grade Trip to Galena

Galena-BusThe sixth graders at my school went on a trip to Galena, Illinois, and some cities nearby. We loaded into a “LAMERS” bus at 6 o’clock in the morning, which is when I normally get up. After a few hours of driving (and watching Big Hero 6), we arrived in Galena and went to the blacksmith’s shoppe. There they had a live presentation of how blacksmiths worked. They forged iron rods and pokers. It was really cool to watch. When I tried to video tape it, some people were purposefully getting in the way.

Back on the bus, we drove to Ulysses S. Grant’s house. It was really pretty and looked a little old. There was a green fuzzy chair,Galena-GrantChair which was Grant’s favourite (spelled in the British style on purpose) chair. He brought it from his house to the White House, and then back to his house again! He had a really old copper tub in a bathroom right off the kitchen. Everything else in the kitchen and bathroom had to be replaced because of a storm. The tub was the only original piece! We had lunch at a park not too far from the house. They provided us with Pepsi to drink. My friends and I had been talking about the park and about the tire swing. One of my friends liked tire swings so much that she yelled out, “Raise your Pepsis! Raise your Pepsis! Toast to tire swings!” All of us followed her example and said, “To tire swings!” (and I’m pretty sure everyone else there thought we were insane).

Galena-Museum1After lunch, we reloaded the bus and headed to a mining museum in Platteville, Wisconsin, and then some caves in Dubuque, Iowa. The museum was kind of cool; we got to tour underground. We almost hit our heads when we had to climb through a small tunnel. The caves were really wet, and I think I stepped in Galena-Cave1every puddle by accident. My friend almost hit her head on the stalactites, and she said that she’d kill to be small.

Galena-View1We also went on a trolley/elevator ride up a really steep hill near Dubuque. It looked really rickety and creaked a bit on the way up and down. The view from the top was really pretty. That ended most of the trip, except for dinner.

For dinner, we ate pizza and ice cream at Happy Joe’s restaurant.The pizza was really good; I’d definitely eat there again. On the way home, they played The Maze Runner on the bus. I didn’t watch that one. Instead, I talked to my friends (and almost fell asleep).

I’ve gone through Galena a LOT of times to visit family, but this was probably the best time because I actually did stuff there. My sixth grade trip to Galena was fun!

California or Bust – Days 10 & 11

Saturday we checked out Tucumcari, New Mexico. It’s home to the Blue Swallow Motel and some other Route 66. We stopped inside this one store called  “Tee Pee Curios” or “Tepee Curios” depending on which sign you look at. My dad got this little skeleton incense burner thing. It was a creepy sort of cute.

Blue Swallow Moteltepee-curios

Cadillac Ranch

cadillac-ranch-kendylWe drove onto Texas to see the Cadillac Ranch and sign our names on the cars there. A lot of people bring spray paint and do graffiti art. We only brought permanent markers.The ranch is basically an area of land with cars sticking out of the ground. It’s odd, but it’s still pretty cool.The cars have layers upon layers of paint on them. It had a lot of litter, though. There were tons of spray paint cans everywhere from lazy people. It’s sad they didn’t throw the cans away properly.

cadillac-ranch-1

 

After the cars, we went to Shamrock, Texas. Everything there had to with leprechauns, clovers, and luck. Then we found an old gas station. It was a famous Route 66 landmark– old Conoco station, and it used to have a cafe inside. They had lots of trinkets and things to celebrate Route 66 history. The cafe wasn’t up and running, but the people who were there said that they were hoping to get into business again.

conoco-shamrock-texas

popsLater, we went to Pops. That’s the soda place we went to last vacation. This time, though, we got sarsaparilla, orange cream soda, key lime cream soda, blueberry soda, chocolate soda, and vanilla cream soda. They were all really yummy. That night we stayed in Missouri.

ted-drewesThe next day we of course went to Ted Drewes in St Louis. We go there whenever we are in St. Louis. We got a “McGraw Concrete,” which is basically a Heath bar and Oreo concrete. It wasn’t really a concrete because it started to melt right away. But it was still good. We finally managed to get home, after 5,283 miles of Americana. I’ve now been a tourist in 43 1/2 states (I only saw a corner of Montana when in Yellowstone)–only 7 left to go! Can’t wait until next year…well maybe I can, that was a lot of driving.

California or Bust – Day 9

Standin' on a corner in Winslow, ArizonaFriday, we stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. It was on Route 66 and was mentioned in a song (I didn’t understand why it was so important, but there was a sign).

petrified treeThen we went to the Petrified Forest in Arizona. Basically, it was a bunch of broken and fallen trees from the Dinosaur Age. They fell somehow into a river and were carried underground. They had no oxygen, so the trees didn’t decay as fast. Silica had found its way into the inside of the tree, so the trees slowly turned to stone. Then as the plates moved and bumped into each other, the trees surfaced from their underground home. Since the trees were from the dino age, paleontologists found some remains. There was even an alligator-dinosaur skeleton in their café! Some of the trees were white and blue, others were purple and red, some looked like fire, and the black ones had crystals formed inside of them!

petrified treeacient rock drawings

Ancient rock drawingThere were also the ruins of an ancient village that had some rock drawings. It was really cool. I just wish I knew what the drawings meant. The one looked like a stork.

The Petrified Forest is next to the Painted Desert so we saw that, too. It looked like people had painted it the colors of a sunset. The mounds that were there all had a red stripe across them at the same height, so it looked like someone had built a really wonky road.

The painted desert

California or Bust – Day 8

mrdzThursday, we drove to Boulder City, Nevada. My dad got a new old record (a 78 which we hoped it would be fine in the car with the heat), and we found a geocache at a spot overlooking Lake Mead. Then we drove down a bit and got onto Route 66. We had lunch at Mr. D’z, which had their own brand of root beer and enormous hot dogs. We later stopped at the Snow Cap Drive-in for a malt. The guy who originally owned it had an odd sense of humor, so it had toilet bowls all over the place (two of them had mannequin heads in them), and a sign that said: “Sorry, were OPEN.” They also had cars painted to look like characters from “Cars”.

The Snow Cap Drive-in in Seligman, Arizonasnow-cap2

 

 

snow-cap3The Grand CanyonAfterwards, we went to the Grand Canyon. On the way, though, we had a 30-second long bad rainstorm. The rest after that was really light rain. The Grand Canyon was really cool, with all the views.

grand-canyon-viewWe saw people out on ledges, about six inches from the tip. I did NOT want to get that close! After taking some pictures, we headed to the Desert View Tower. At one of the stops along the way, we found a squirrel. It was balanced on a tree limb, eating blossoms. Then another squirrel came up. It was about six inches away from me, the closest I’d been with a wild (wilder-ish) animal (except for the prairie dogs, which are tamer than they should be). We also got see two elks that were eating tree leaves. I also liked the mountain lion crossing signs that were posted.

squirrelelk

grand-canyon-desert-viewinside-desert-view

Yeah, it was cool, but after a few stops it all started to look the same. As my dad says, it is really just a big hole in the ground…but it’s a pretty hole.

California or Bust – the rest of Day 7

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Wednesday afternoon, we made the drive to Las Vegas. When we got there, we got to our hotel first so we wouldn’t have to worry about it later. Then we walked, and we walked, and we walked some more, to the Coca-Cola Store. They had a sample tray of 8 different floats and another set of sample trays of 16 sodas from around the world. We each probably had the equivalent of two and a half cans of pop in samples. We tried the float tray, first. The Fanta Grape one tasted like sparkling grape juice. We kept getting the Cherry Coke float and the plain Coke float confused. And, of course, we liked the Barq’s float. After trying them all, we went onto the “All Around The World” tray. We rated them on a scale of one to ten. One being Beverly (wait ‘til later) and ten being Coca-Cola. We tried them all, liked some better than others, and rated them all. The second to last one was Beverly. I’ve had it before in Georgia, and it is very, very yucky. I can’t even describe the taste. The last one was surprisingly similar to Coca Cola. I rated it a ten. We also tried mixing some of them but didn’t have good results.

The Coca-Cola Store in Las Vegas

M&M store

Afterward, we went to the M&M place and watched their 3-D mini movie I Lost my M in Vegas. Basically, Red was gambling and traded his M for chips. He had to find his M in the place where  they keep all lost stuff. It was funny, but weird.

Then we went to New York New York, and rode the roller coaster on top of the building there. It was really rickety; I could feel my brain rattle around in my head. It had spots where you would have thought it had stopped but really hadn’t.

The roller coaster on top of New York, New York

Next we went to the Hershey Chocolate World. In order to get to it, we had to go through the gambling area. It was weird, just looking at the machine screens the whole idea of gambling looked ridiculous. We managed to get there, and they had the best chocolate. At least it looked that way (it all looked so tempting!).

We walked more, this time to the Bellagio to see the water show. They had the water going to the song “Proud to be an American.” It was really cool. Some times the streams would reach as high as the building, and it was pretty tall. Then we walked to the other end of the strip and saw some cool street performers along the way. My favorite was one who seemed to be sitting on air, balanced by a walking stick.

The Bellagio water showstreet-performer-vegas

The Mirage Fire and Water Show was really cool, too. I had heard something about it on the TV show Off Limits. They have the fire shoot up just a tiny bit before the water, and the fire is further back than the water. I guess that’s so the water feature wouldn’t extinguish the fire feature. That would be bad.

Fire and Water show at The MirageOur last stop was the Venetian to see the gondolas. We decided not to ride them, but they did look pretty cool. I’m sure it’d be cooler if we rode one in Italy. After that, we walked back to our hotel, which wasn’t directly on the strip. I’d say we definitely got our 10,000 steps in.gondolas at The Venetian

 

California or Bust – Day 6 (& Day 7 morning)

The Hollywood Sign

Ray Bradbury star on Walk of FameOn Tuesday, we drove down to L.A. (Los Angles) and saw the Hollywood Sign. We had to go to three different spots so I could take good picture! I told my parents we had to listen to “Blue Jay Way” by the Beatles because it mentions L.A. in it. Then we drove back down a turning and winding road and found parking for the Walk of Stars and the famous signatures in cement (hand and foot prints) at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. There were several stars I knew of (Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Bradbury, Jack Benny, and several more), but half of them I didn’t know of. Then for the signatures in cement, they had the original cast of Star Trek, Star Wars, and the three main Harry Potter people. There were several others, but I don’t want to deprive you of seeing it all for yourself.

Harry Potter imprints at Chinese Theatre

santa-monica-pier

A Graveyard Shake at the soda fountainAfter L.A., we drove to Santa Monica Pier and tried an “egg cream”, which I thought was gross (fizzy, watered down, chocolate milk). Then we tried a “Graveyard Shake,” half coffee ice cream, half espresso ice cream. That was good. We ate hot dogs at one of the restaurants down there, and I also spotted a “Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.” The only reason that caught my eye (I’m not one for shrimp) is because I watched Forest Gump earlier this year. We finished our day with a sunset over the ocean. Or, at least, somewhat over the ocean. It was behind a mountain, so we couldn’t see it well. We still got a good picture, though!

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Wednesday, we went to the beach. I finally got over my small fear of touching seaweed (I know, it’s ridiculous). I played in the water a bit, had my sand castle destroyed by the waves, and almost got pulled out to sea. That afternoon we made it to Las Vegas–but that’s a whole other post!

Kendyl and the Pacific Ocean

 

California or Bust – Day 5

muir-woods-loking-up
Muir WoodsMonday was really fun, and we did A LOT. We went to Muir Woods, first. They’re famous for the tallest and widest redwood trees. I got to stand inside a really large one. It had a reinforced ground because so many people had stood there. As we left, I got to touch a cloud because it was a low-hanging cloud on a mountain (it certainly was wet).

touching a cloud

golden-gateNext, we drove over to San Francisco and took a picture on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was really foggy. Ghirardelli was our next stop. We had an “Intense Dark Espresso Escape” sundae. We took, oh who knows how many, pictures of the Ghirardelli sign. We also walked A LOT. We went up to see Lombard Street to see the “crookedest” street. It was hard to walk up those steep hills and even harder to walk down.Lombard Street

Then we walked down to Pier 39 in the hopes of seeing some sea lions, but to no avail. We overheard someone say they were all in southern California because it was breeding season. We did get to see several street musicians. My favorite was the guy who was a “one man band.” He did the drums, guitar, harmonica, cymbals, and vocals. It was amazing how he had the instruments wired to his body. He could play them by tapping his foot or moving his arm.a one-man band

 

streat-food

For a late lunch, we went to StrEAT Food where they have a bunch of food trucks in a parking lot. I had a really good quesadilla. We also got some sourdough bread while in San Francisco that we saw being made at Boudin Bakery. I’m not a real big fan of sourdough, but my parents seemed to like it.

boudin-bakerybread

Winchester Mystery HouseNext, we went to the Winchester Mystery House, which was one of my “musts” for this vacation. Mrs. Winchester had married her childhood sweetheart, and they had a daughter. Sadly, their daughter, Annie, died after the first six weeks of her life. Several years later, Mr. Winchester died of Tuberculosis .

They say no one truly knows why there are doors that lead to a ten-foot drop, or windows that look into nothing. They think that it is one of two (or both) reasons. Number one: Ms. Winchester went to a psychic, and they told her to buy an unfinished house and to never stop building onto it as long as she lived. Number two: she was a rich little old lady and could build it anyway she wanted to.  Technically, it was both: she was rich, and she went to a psychic who told her all that. The house was really cool. Some of the rooms were unfinished, and there was a whole collection of stained glass windows. They didn’t go in because she died before they could go in. I can’t tell you anymore. Otherwise I’d be taking the tour guide’s job!