Chat with Deb—Anchorage, then Home

For the biggest city in Alaska, Anchorage has a lovely small-town feel

Previously, on Deb & Jack’s Alaska adventure:

We woke up in our hotel in Anchorage.

DEB: Our last day in Alaska, honey! And I know where we’re going for breakfast!

Both Deb’s best friend and my ex-wife had recommended a cute cafe called Snow City. Apple Maps told us it was only about 4 blocks or so, and it was a lovely morning, so we strolled to breakfast.

Snow City Cafe. Note the pretty lady in the blue jacket sitting in front, under the green snowflake. (all photos by author unless stated otherwise)

DEB: (looking at menu) They have green eggs and ham!

ME: What?¹

DEB: “Multigrain bread, chevre spread, spinach, shaved ham, poached eggs, pesto.” You already decided, didn’t you?

ME: Um, yes. Basically a garbage omelet², only scrambled eggs.

Do you like green eggs and ham? I really like them, Jack-I-am!

Breakfast was excellent! If you are ever in Anchorage, stop in to Snow City Cafe.

DEB: Wander around? Oh, honey, look down the street?

ME: It’s not Mount Denali, is it?

The view down one of the streets of Anchorage. That is NOT Mount Denali, the mountains are too close and it’s the wrong direction. Still, the kind of view that makes a visitor go “WOW!” when we’re just walking across the street. Note the (not so busy) traffic on a weekday.

We wandered about the streets, enjoying the feel of the state’s biggest city on a weekday, which really was like a large town. Lovely views of the Cook Inlet. Very walkable streets and pedestrian paths (not quite as fancy as Vancouver, but also much less crowded). We head back to our hotel to switch to lighter coverings as the day warms up.

DEB: So did we decide if that was Mount Denali?

ME: Okay, first, it’s about 133 miles away, although we’re on the eighth floor. Second, it would be in that direction (getting the compass app up on my phone) so it would show up… Holy Crap!

The Anchorage International Airport (gray building is a hanger, I think, with a plane’s tail just to the left). There is a suspiciously familiar mountain beyond it.

DEB: Wow!

ME: It found us! Two days ago we were in the actual park and we couldn’t see it, and now we’re in Anchorage and we can still see it?

DEB: That would be really neat, don’t you think? (sees my face) Well, anyway, I think it would be really neat! I bet that’s Denali.

We head down the block to see if we can pick up one of the trolley ride tours. We do, and Donna (our guide/driver) is wonderful.

DONNA: If you look across the water, you see Mt. Susitna, the “Sleeping Lady.” Legend has it that she was engaged to a warrier who went off to battle, and she slept to await his return. Instead he was killed. She still sleeps, in the form of a mountain, until the day that all wars cease.

Mt. Susitna, the Sleeping Lady. Okay, sure, head on the left, sleeping under a blanket (of snow, in this case).

DONNA: You probably heard about the 1964 earthquake in Alaska. Anchorage had only nine people who died in the quake, because it happened on Good Friday and all the stores were closed. The high school we are passing now was supposed to have its basketball state championship finals that day, but when the mothers heard about that they descended on the principal’s office and demanded he postpone it until the next week so their kids could be at mass like they were supposed to be. So when the gym collapsed during the earthquake, instead of several thousand people there, the place was empty.

The main street that had the pretty mountains at the end has one side with business buildings about fifty years old or less, and the opposite side much older buildings. The earthquake destroyed one side of the street and left the other lightly damaged.

DONNA: Oh! If you look across the inlet right now, you can see Mount Denali! That doesn’t happen very often!

Mount Denali would be the middle mountain. I think.

DEB: (to me) Toldja!

We passed through the local airport, which, unlike most airports, is more water than runway and tarmac. Because if you need to get around Alaska, you need to have a float plane.

The local (not international) Anchorage airport. Families have float planes they have kept flying for generations, and kids earn their pilots licenses.

We go shopping. Not because we need anything, mind you, just looking.

DEB: Oh, honey! Isn’t she beautiful?! Can we go in and look?

In the shop window, there is a small statue of an indigenous mother and child, in a native style we have seen before in other places.

Soapstone (bodies), bone (faces), fur, and some sort of fancy stone base.

We go in and look around. The shopkeeper, Grant, is attentive without being pushy. Deb sees some very pretty blue earrings, which turn out to have a very nice price for the quality, so we say we’ll take them.

GRANT: Anything else?

ME: Yes, please! Can we see the statue of the mother and child in the window?

Deb has a sharp intake of breath when she holds it. But she sees the price.

DEB: It’s way too expensive, Jackster. And it’s too heavy to carry, and I’d be worried she’d get broken.

ME: Grant, do you ship to the lower 48? To Pennsylvania, in this case?

GRANT: Sure. (calls to guy at the back of the shop) Hey, Bill! How much to ship the madonna and child to Pennsylvania?

It’s only $32 (wow! not bad, because she is heavy) but it doesn’t matter — Deb was hooked when she heard “madonna and child.” We finalize the transaction, then stroll off to supper at a place that Grant recommended.

Our flight leaves at 9:05PM local time, but our shuttle doesn’t depart to the airport until 7PM. Back home, this would be cutting it close.

ME: Hey Siri! How long will it take us to get to Stevens International Airport.

SIRI: Traffic is light. It will take fourteen minutes to get to Stevens International Airport.

DEB: Oh! We should be okay, then.

The airport is nice, we have plenty of time to get to our gate, and we are already starting to drift into that “vacation is over” mode.

DEB: Thank you for a wonderful time, Jackster!

ME: Thank you for a wonderful time, Debster! It would not have been worth it without you!

I picked up some earplugs for Deb at the concourse shop. And some cold medicine, because a cough that had been following me all day had advanced to nasal dripping as well. I had loaded up on cough drops³ before we checked our bags, but I had not gotten out cold meds. Deb was starting to show a cough as well.

DEB: Well, at least we didn’t get colds until the trip was almost over!

The flight was okay, although I don’t seem to be able to get enough cold air coming out of my air vent, and the N95 mask doesn’t help. I could not get cool enough to sleep well. I blamed United Airlines.

As I looked out my window as we departed Alaska — this was about 9:30PM, so of course there was still plenty of light—I spotted a cruise ship far below. We hoped the folks on it were having as good a time as we did!

We changed planes in Chicago, flew home to Pennsylvania, and arrived at our house late morning. Deb started laundry, because that’s what Deb does.

DEB: Wonderful trip, Jackster!

ME: Wonderful trip, Debster! (smooch)

I proceed to cough up a storm. I pop yet another cough drop.

¹When I am reading a menu, I read until I find something I like, then stop. Drove my late mother-in-law crazy. “Oh dear, has he decided already?” Mom would say, as I laid down my menu while she was still on page 1 of a 12-page diner menu. Mom liked to make sure she had not missed anything.

²A “garbage omelet” has every major add-on thrown in. I picked up the term at an omelet station at a buffet; the person ahead of me ordered it, and I watched the omelet chef go down every item at the station and add it in. Since then I’ve made the same order at countless omelet stations, and only had one cook ask for clarification.

³I travel with a small pharmacy of OTC medications. Legacy of growing up with an RN for a mother— I have no problem treating myself and anyone around me for ailments.

⁴Okay, for those of you who have been following along from the preface: yes, we both came down with COVID-19. I blame the bus ride to Denali National Park with 80% of the people coughing and wheezing without masks (and I should have had us wearing N95s instead of cloth masks, but hey, everyone had checked clean at the start of the cruise, right?); Deb blames the nice couple from London we sat across at dinner, since she had to lean across the table to hear anything or make herself understood (noisy restaurant), and of course during dinner nobody was wearing a mask. Since the dinner happened the day after the bus ride, and since Deb popped positive a day after I did, we could both be right. I was probably running a fever on the flight home, hence my inability to get cooled down.

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Jack Herlocker

Jack Herlocker

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Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.