The Kenai Peninsula
  (July 6, 2006 to July 25, 2006)

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July 6 - July 7 Portage Valley (52 miles)

Road conditions: The road from Anchorage to Seward is known as the Seward Highway (AK 1 and AK 9). It was a mostly good road from Anchorage to the Portage Valley.

Campground: We stayed at the Portage Valley Cabins and RV Park. It was a big gravel area with 30 amp electric. There were several campgrounds in the area, including some U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. We had thought we would get into Williwaw but didn't want to commit until we knew for sure when we would be in the area. By the time we decided when we would be there the reservation website at http://www.reserveusa indicated it was full. Little did we know that the campground saved some sites on a first come, first served basis. We stayed one night at the campground and spent the second night in a large dirt pullout near the intersection of the Seward Highway and Portage Glacier Road.

One of the coupons we had in the Tour Saver book was for a ride on the Alyeska Ski Resort Tram in Girdwood. That was only about 15 miles up the road so we drove up to check it out. Unfortunately, the mountain was in the clouds and we thought that would be a waste, so we decided to wait until we passed through the area again on our way to Valdez. We did walk around the very nice hotel with it's beautiful fireplace and lounge area.

Our main purpose in stopping in the area was to go to Whittier to take a ride on Prince William Sound to view some glaciers.
You can also take a one hour glacier tour out to see the Portage Glacier, but we decided the tour out of Whittier was the one we wanted to do. This was also part of the Tour Save coupon book. In the past, the only way to get to Whittier was through a tunnel via train. A road was built that shared the tunnel with the train. Vehicles can go through the tunnel to Whittier on the half hour, and return from Whittier on the hour. The cost for a car to go through was $12, and the cost for a vehicle pulling a trailer was $35. The tunnel is a little over two miles long and is touted as the longest tunnel in North America.

We arrived in Whittier and drove over to see where we would board the boat. Some folks came past us and recognized the Escapees sticker on the car and we chatted for a while. That's how we met Nick and Mary Wagner from Acushnet, Massachusetts. We sat together on the cruise and had a very nice day looking at the glaciers and chatting. The cruise was four hours and served a halibut lunch that was good. We were able to get fairly close to one of the glaciers and we were able to see it "calve" (ice breaking off in big chunks). The captain of the boat said he would turn off the engines so we could hear the ice cracking and the roar of the calving ice but, for some reason, they weren't able to turn off the fans and it was too loud to be able to hear anything except motors.

One of the nicest visitor centers we've ever seen was the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center located just prior to the tunnel to Whittier. A wonderful film was shown about the glaciers in the area, "Voices from the Ice". There were many exhibits in the center where one could learn about glaciers and about the Chugach National Forest, America's second largest national forest. We learned that glaciers are formed when snow falls faster than it can melt. As snowflakes settle, they compress and form ice. Gravity gives glaciers the power to move and carve the landscape as they carry and push rocks along the terrain. There are two types of glaciers, tidewater and alpine. Tidewater glaciers calve into salt water. Alpine glaciers are those that form in mountain valleys.

Both of us were amazed at just how blue the glaciers appeared and wondered why they looked so blue. The visitor center explained why the ice is blue. The following was taken from the brochure in the visitor center: "Glacier ice is formed under the weight of countless snowfalls, which squeeze out most of the air, leaving dense, compact ice. Sunlight, or white light, is made up of all the colors of the spectrum. In regular ice, like the ice in your freezer, the air bubbles scatter the light, creating the white appearance. When sunlight strikes glacier ice, the lower energy colors are absorbed by the ice and only the blue color, which has the most energy, is reflected back to the eye."

July 8  - July 16 Homer (171 miles)

Road conditions: There were two highways we drove on to get to Homer. The first road was a continuation of the Seward Highway (AK 1) until it met up with the Sterling Highway (also AK 1). The Seward Highway becomes AK 9 and will be described when we drive to Seward. Conditions of both the Seward Highway and Sterling Highway were mostly good to very good as the highways varied between two lanes and four lanes.

Campground: We planned for a week in Homer and we usually opt for a full hookup campground for that length of time. We chose to stay at the OceanView RV Park, which is the first park you see as you come into Homer. The campground is located right off the water and we had a nice view every time we entered the campground and drove down the hill to our site.

Homer is located on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula and sits on the shores of Kachemak Bay, which is part of the Cook Inlet. Jutting out from Homer is the Homer Spit, a 4.5 mile strip of sand and gravel with one road. The village of Homer was located on the tip of the Spit from 1896 to 1902 when it was abandoned. The current community developed slowly near the base of the Spit in the 1910s. It wasn't always connected to other communities, but when it was connected by a road to the rest of the world businesses flourished and tourists found the town. Today, Homer is a main site for fishing trips, bear viewing trips, and bay cruises to places like Halibut Cove and Seldovia.

Homer is on the northern edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire with four volcanoes rising above the far side of the Cook Inlet: Mount Douglas Volcano, Mount Augustine Volcano, Mount Illiamna Volcano, and Mount Redoubt Volcano. Recently, Mount Augustine was active and spewing smoke, but it was quiet when we were in town. We were able to see the Mount Redoubt and Mount Augustine volcanoes during our stay.

There are several glaciers in the Homer area and all of them are alpine glaciers that form in the mountain valleys. We were able to see a couple of them from the ridge that overlooks Homer, and also from the campground.

After we got set up we drove down to the spit and drove to the end to see what was out there. Then we parked the car and started walking around to find a place to eat. Before we went out I went online to check email and had a note in my inbox from our RV friend, Liane Holder, who told us about "to die for" chunks of halibut on a skewer. We decided to eat at the Boardwalk Fish & Chips restaurant and that turned out to be one of the places Liane had in mind when she told us about the halibut chunks. She was absolutely correct.
The fish is lightly battered and then deep fried and put on a skewer. We ordered one halibut and one salmon skewer and they were delicious.

We stayed fairly busy during our stay in Homer, but also made sure we had some "do nothing" days. There were two roads highlighted in one of the Homer brochures: Skyline Drive and East End Road. We drove both of them. Skyline Drive offered magnificent views of Kachemak Bay, the Homer Spit, and the snow capped mountains and glaciers on the other side of the bay. While we were up there taking in the views a bald eagle flew directly above us. He was no more than about 100 feet above us and it was the closest we have ever been to a bald eagle in flight. He looked majestic with his wings stretched out as he was gliding with the air currents.

One of the coupons in the Tour Saver book was for a day trip to the Russian village of Seldovia. The captain and owner of the boat, M/V Discovery, was Tim and he gave us a nice sightseeing tour out to Seldovia. The first stop was Gull Island where anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 birds hang out. One bald eagle was on the rock eating a meal, probably one of the birds. Tim said that if the eagle took flight we would see thousands of birds immediately also get up in the air to avoid becoming the eagle's next meal. Sure enough, the eagle took off and thousands of birds filled the air. It was quite a sight.

In 1898, Seldovia, which means "herring" in Russian, was the main town in the area with a busy seaport. The Alaska Steamship Company made regular stops in Seldovia delivering mail, people, and freight. Two things happened to change that. One was the construction of the Sterling Highway that connected Homer with the rest of the world. Prior to that, Homer was a quiet little farming community. The other thing that happened was the 1964 earthquake that devastated Seldovia. Today, it is a quiet little village that caters to tourists. We had almost three hours to spend in Seldovia. After a nice lunch at the Tide Pool Cafe we headed out with a map of the town to visit some of the gift shops and to find the Otterbahn Trail to take a hike. We found the gift shops, but the map was a bit misleading as to the trail head for the Otterbahn Trail and we found it too late to hike it as we had to head back to the docks for the boat ride back to Homer. However, we did have a nice sunny day and enjoyed the trip.

The morning of our trip to Seldovia I was up at the office doing email and some other stuff on the computer. One of the websites I had been monitoring was the forum, especially the Alaska threads and, specifically, the thread about driving on the Top of the World Highway. Someone named Greg Paine had posted to the forum and I answered the post. The next thing I know I get an email from Greg saying they'll be in Homer. I responded that we were already in Homer and at the OceanView RV Park. Then Diane and I went on the trip to Seldovia. That evening while I was washing the windshield on the motorhome, a guy comes up to me and asks me if I'm Rich. That's how I met Greg Paine. We got to visit with them one evening and then again over dinner another evening. They were RVers from Lake Havasu, Arizona and we enjoyed their company.

On another evening while we were walking back from the campground office, we stopped to chat with Noel and Carol Roe who we had first met in North Pole when they were parked next to us at the Santaland RV park. Another couple was there and I found out that the lady was Bev who also was posting to the Alaska forums. Small world indeed.

In the summer of 1787 Captain James Cook, after which the Cook Inlet was named, sailed into the inlet looking for a northwest passage. After losing a large anchor to the tidal currents, they named the area Anchor Point. Today, it is a small town popular with fishermen who come to fish in the Anchor River. It's also home to the western most highway in North America. So naturally, we had to go check it out and add it to our list given that we've been to the most southern point in the U.S. and to the western most point in the lower 48 in Washington.

The other reason we had to drive up to the Anchor Point area was to visit Nikolaevsk, a Russian Village, which is located about 10 miles east of Anchor Point. Nikolaevsk was the first of several communities of Russian Old Believers and was founded by five families in 1968. Old Believers had longed searched for a place where they could be free to worship in the way of the Old Rite Russian Orthodox. Their search took them to China, South America, Oregon and Alaska. Other people chose other countries. I couldn't determine the current population, but population for 2002 was listed as about 500 people.

Our purpose in visiting Nikolaevsk was to find the Samovar Cafe and have lunch. It turned out to be quite a day and quite an experience. We didn't see anything in Nikolaevsk except some houses, the beautiful Russian Church of St. Nikolas, an elementary school, and the Samovar Cafe. The cafe is a nice little building with a small gift shop and a horseshoe shaped counter with four stools around it. Behind the counter was the kitchen. The owner of the cafe is Nina Fefelov. I would describe her as "pleasantly pushy" or maybe "pushy with a smile" with a delightful Russian accent. This pushiness was due to the cafe being small and Nina having to keep things moving in order to satisfy the diners who come in to eat at the cafe. We did not know to call ahead to make a reservation, but we were lucky that there was only one other couple there when we arrived, and they were from Salt Lake City.

Nina greeted everyone with a "Hello. Where are you from?".  Then it was down to business. No time to look at the menu for five or ten minutes. She wanted your order almost immediately after you look at the pictures of the dishes she offered. Nina came out with two bowls and announced "Small bowl. Big bowl. Which size you want for borscht?"  We each opted for a small bowl of her borscht, a soup with cabbage, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, and celery. It was served with piroshkis, which were pockets of lightly baked bread with a filling of either potato or a mixture of cabbage, mushrooms, and vegetables. She did the same with the main dish, which was a choice of polish sausage or a combo plate of sausage and pelmeni. Pelmeni are Siberian dumplings filled with beef and boiled in chicken broth until they float. Then she offered (or pushed) her dessert, cream puffs with chocolate syrup and topped with whipped cream and cherry. Along with dessert she suggested her Russian Tea, a mild mixture of raspberry, boysenberry, mint, and fireweed blossom. Diane is the tea drinker, so she ordered the tea.

Nina had a sign on the counter that said "Please do not talk to Nina when she is cooking or you may not get fed". You learn quickly that Nina will initiate the conversation when she has breaks in her meal preparation. If you try to talk to her while she is busy cooking she will remind you not to talk to her, always with a smile and always pleasantly. But she does listen to conversations taking place at the counter, we were sure of that. During one of her breaks, she encouraged the guys to don a Russian style shirt and then she asked for our camera to take our photo. For every course of the meal, she carried the food out on a tray and asked us to take Nina's photo.

The net is that we drove up to find a cafe for maybe a $20 lunch and ended up spending $56 ($40 for lunch and $15 for a gift for my mom) for a very pleasant and enjoyable and fun experience. We met Nina, who we found out from her website was an electrical engineer from Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East. She has lived in Nikolaevsk for more than 10 years and teaches the Russian language at the Nikolaevsk School. She's a very interesting person. Our visit to Nikolaevsk was definitely a highlight of our visit to the Homer area.

Allen and Sarah Sparks, who we visited in North Pole, were in Homer visiting family while we were in town. We met for breakfast and then spent several hours touring the Pratt Museum together. There were interesting exhibits about the Exxon Valdez catastrophe when millions of crude oil was leaked into Prince William Sound after the ship went aground on a reef. Viewing the displays and watching the movie reminded us of how horrible it was at the time. Many animals and birds were killed as a result of that oil spill, plus people who made their living from the sea were harmed because fishing grounds were ruined for years. Apparently, Exxon has still not reimbursed the people in the area for their losses. Another highlight of the museum was a live broadcast of brown bears catching salmon in McNeil River Falls. The camera was controlled from a computer in the museum. It was cool to watch as the person operating the computer zoomed in and out, and panned left to right, to view specific bears and their behavior. That web cam is available on the National Geographic website.

The Winckels and the Hirths arrived in Homer and found sites on the Spit. They told us about a bear viewing trip they had planned out of Soldotna during the upcoming week. Our plan was to head to Soldotna for a couple of days to visit with Dave and Sally Stribling, and we were hoping to park in the Fred Meyer for a couple of days. I thought it may be easier to find a spot after the weekend so we decided to move over to the Spit for a couple of days. That gave us a chance to visit with the Winckels and Hirths and catch up on our travels. It also gave Diane and I a chance to visit the Saturday Farmer's Market and the street fair being held at the high school.

This is a prime example as to why we aren't fans of RV caravans. You don't get to decide to stay longer, or shorter, in a location. When the caravan is ready to move, you move. We prefer the flexibility to make travel decisions on the fly.

Restaurant Notes: We ate at Fat Olives one evening based on a couple of recommendations. Be aware that they do not split checks regardless of the size of the party. They will accept separate credit cards, but will not put different amounts on the cards. Our server did process different amounts, but a bit grudgingly.

There is a bakery/cafe on the main road leading to the spit that six of us went to for dinner one evening. The prices were high with entrees in the $20s and the menu seemed rather limited. We all agreed the prices weren't what we wanted to pay, so we left and went looking for another place to eat. Fat Olives was not a choice for the reason mentioned earlier. We found Mangia! Mangia! and had a great Italian meal at good prices. We like dinners in the $20 to $30 range and Mangia! Mangia! fit perfectly. Plus, they were friendly and they split the checks without any hassles.

July 17 - July 20 Soldotna (74 miles)

Road conditions: We backtracked along the Sterling Highway from Homer to Soldotna and it was a good road all the way.

Campground: Fred Meyer parking lot. The salmon run was going on when we came through Soldotna, so spaces were hard to come by. Our first choice was the Fred Meyer lot, but we had heard it could be hard to get in there. We got lucky. They actually have "one day" and "three day" spots in their parking lot and we got there in time to grab the last "three day" spot. Another area for free camping was the large gravel area out near the airport, but it was totally packed when we drove by in the car. We met someone who referred to that lot as "Quartszite, Alaska". The Soldotna Sports Arena had a large paved parking lot with several RVs parked there and we couldn't figure out why there weren't more RVs there. It seemed like a good place to park for a couple of days.

Soldotna is located on the Sterling Highway about 140 miles southwest of Anchorage. Homestead filing was opened in 1947, and World War II veterans were the first homesteaders in Soldotna. There was nothing there at the time and transportation to the area was difficult. People had to fly or take a barge to Kenai and then hiked the eleven miles to Soldotna. The name of the city came from the creek that emptied into the Kenai River. Some people say the name came from the Russian word that means "soldier", others say it came from an Athabascan Indian word meaning "the stream fork".

Soldotna is surely a salmon fisherman's paradise with the Kenai River being the main attraction. It competes with the Russian River to the north for spots where people can cast their lines. There are so many people fishing side by side, at times, that is is often referred to as "combat fishing". And people do get hooked by lines cast by people next to them. Ouch.

We got set up in a spot in the Fred Meyer parking lot and then contacted Dave and Sally Stribling who go to Alaska almost every year. They used to live in the Anchorage area and became fulltime RVers after they retired. They still have family in Alaska and that draws them back every year, plus they love to fish for the salmon. We found out that this has been a very poor season for catching salmon as they weren't running good this year. Sally told us they actually use sonar to count the salmon running up the river and they were down more than 70% from past seasons. That hasn't made fishermen very happy. Sally and Dave had time for lunch and suggested Sal's Klondike Diner. We met them there and had a very nice visit.

The Winckels and the Hirths arrived the following day and were able to claim two spots we had saved for them to park their motorhomes for three days. While waiting for them to arrive I went to the Soldotna Wash and Dry on the Kenai Spur Highway to do email on their fantastic WiFi connection. The laundromat was always a busy place, but they had some tables where people can sit and do email. It was a great benefit for being parked at the Fred Meyer. As a note to others who may be in the area in the future, we did try the library but I could not get the WiFi signal to work. It was working for some folks, but not for others.

One of the things Diane wanted to do while in Alaska was to see the brown bears. There were several bear viewing companies that operated out of Homer. They were mostly all day trips over to Katmai National Park and were fairly expensive for a day trip (most were around $550). We gave up on the all day trip and opted for a three hour bear viewing trip ($245) out of Soldotna along with Fran, Karl, Roberta, and John. The company we used was
High Adventure Air Charter. We took off in a float plane on Longmere Lake and flew for 30 minutes across the Cook Inlet to Big River Lake. We transferred to a flat bottom boat for a short ride to Wolverine Creek for about two hours of bear viewing. Unfortunately, we only got to see one black bear, one young brown bear, and one orphaned brown bear up on the hill who we were told would probably not make it through the winter. However, just as we were getting ready to go back to the plane a sow brown bear and two cubs came down. Our pilot and guide, Gary Kegel had a schedule to maintain as he had several flights yet to do that day, but he was nice enough to take the boat back to the creek so we could get a few photos of the family of bears.

We were the only people out there to view the bears. Most of the other seven or eight boats were there to fish for sockeye salmon, as well as watch for bears. The black bear was funny because he wasn't very smart or good at catching salmon. Gary told us that the brown bears are much better at it than the black bears. However, even the young brown bear we saw wasn't very successful at catching salmon. The bears, especially the black bear, were up close and personal to the boats. They were looking for a handout from the people who were fishing, but no handouts were coming as it is dangerous to give food to bears. Bears are naturally cautious of people. Feeding them makes them less cautious and that can result in danger to people. The older sow brown bear that came down to fish caught a salmon within minutes of arriving to the water.

The weather was great, so we had a very pleasant flight in the small float plane. I even got to ride in the co-pilot seat on the way back. Pretty cool. The weather and flight and some bear viewing made up for some disappointment in not seeing more bears for a longer time. But it's one of those "you get what you pay for" things. The $550 day trips out of Homer pretty much guarantee that you would see lots of bears, big bears, for a longer time because they have scouts in Katmai that know where the bears are. One of the most famous places is Brooks River Falls. You have probably seen the famous photo of bears catching salmon as they try to jump up the falls to get to their spawning area.

On the way back to the Fred Meyer store Diane and I stopped at the Town of Living Trees where we saw some magnificent chain saw sculptures done by talented Scott Hanson and others. Some of the sculptures were fantastic, and all done with chain saws.

Our last day in Soldotna was one of those great camaraderie days. The day started with Fran, Karl, Roberta, John, Diane, and I meeting Sally and Dave in the Fred Meyer for coffee and snacks. They just happened to have a Starbuck's in the store, so that made Diane and I happy as we got our tea and cappuccino. We started this little gathering about 10 a.m. There were three couples who have sites at the Escapees park The Ranch in Lakewood, New Mexico who were touring Alaska together and were parked at the Elks Lodge in Kenai.
After a while, Sally happened to notice one of those couples, Barb and Lou Novy, coming into the store, so she went and told them where we were so they could join us. Diane and I had actually met them before when we were at The Ranch with John and Libby Veach back in February 2001. Our little gathering went on until around 1:15 p.m. Plans were made to meet again for happy hour at the Elks Lodge in Kenai at 5 p.m. with the other couples.

Diane and I drove up to Kenai one day to look at the visitor center. They had a small museum and some movies. There was an entrance fee of $3. It was an okay visitor center, but we have been in much nicer ones that did not charge a fee to enter. We didn't have enough time that day to see other places in Kenai, so we drove up again to see the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church. It was built in 1894 and is one of the oldest standing Russian Orthodox churches in Alaska.

We also went to a bluff in town to watch the dip netters fishing for salmon at the mouth of the Kenai River. Dip netting is where people catch salmon by holding large nets in the current of the river. Only Alaska residents can dip net, and only for a certain period of time during each fishing season. Each head of household is allowed to catch 25 sockeye salmon, and each dependent can catch 10 sockeye salmon. There were hundreds of people down in the water with their nets. When the fishing is good, many salmon are caught in a short period of time. Unfortunately, the salmon weren't running that good this year which resulted in the fishing season ending early.

Our second round of camaraderie for the day started about 5 p.m. at the Elks Lodge in Kenai and went on until about 7:15 p.m. This time it was the six of us who were parked at the Fred Meyer, plus Barb and Lou Novy from the morning session, and Gene and Phil Sharp, and Marge and Mike Klick, all from The Ranch. It was a wonderful way to spend a day and we enjoyed it a lot.

July 21 - July 25 Seward (89 miles)

Road conditions: The road from Soldotna to Seward had us backtrack along the Sterling Highway (AK 1) to where it connected with the Seward Highway (AK 9). Both roads were good.

Campground: We stayed in two campgrounds in Seward. The first two days were spent at the Stoney Creek RV Park. It was a nice park in an open area with gravel pullthru sites. It also had cable TV and WiFi that was reachable from our site, but not from all sites in the park. In some cases, it was necessary to go up to the laundry room area to use the WiFi. The rest of our time in Seward was spent at the one of the city RV parks.

In 1792, a Russian explorer, Alexander Baranof, came upon a bay he named Resurrection Bay. Russian settlements were established and the area became a ship building center. Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867. The man who engineered that purchase was William Henry Seward who was President Lincoln's Secretary of State. In 1903, the city was laid out by railroad men and eventually named for William Henry Seward.

Seward was sort of a bust for us due to horrible weather while we were there and a mishap with our car. People who own RVs are usually bound to do what we refer to as a "stupid RV trick" during their RVing days. Those of us who are fulltime RVers have many more opportunities to do a stupid RV trick. Well, I managed to pull off one of those tricks during our drive from Soldotna to Seward. Our hooking up process involves Diane hooking up the hitch while I install the Brake Buddy and get the windshield cover ready to put on. The Honda requires a warm up period before towing and it is almost always idling while we perform our tasks. Because the car is idling in neutral, and Diane is between the car and the motorhome, I always pull up on the emergency brake. I then have a two step process to make sure the car is in neutral and then turn the ignition key to the accessory position and release the emergency brake when Diane is finished hooking up the car. This time the car had already been on the road and was warmed up so it wasn't necessary to have it idling while hooking up. It was then that I had a lapse of concentration and focus and forgot to release the emergency brake. That meant that I towed the car for 89 miles with the brake on. The result of that stupid RV trick was a $309 bill to repair the damage to the rear brakes. SIGH!!!!!

It didn't help that it rained every day we were in Seward, which limited what we could do. I am definitely a fair weather person, and Diane isn't really happy to be out in the rain either. I have never liked to golf in the rain, so why would I want to be out doing anything else in the rain? At least I'm consistent.

Along with Fran and Karl, we did get to visit the Alaska Sealife Center and the Exit Glacier. The Sealife Center is a marine science facility with the purpose of combining a research mission with wildlife rehabilitation and public education. We enjoyed the exhibits about the marine ecosystem of Alaska and watching the animals. There were many types of marine life on display, including seals, birds, and fish. It was interesting, albeit we all agreed it was a bit overpriced at $15 for the entrance fee.

The rain stopped long enough for us to decide to drive out to see the Exit Glacier where it was possible to hike right up to the glacier. The Exit Glacier is an alpine glacier and is one of more than 30 glaciers that flow from the Harding Icefield. The ice field is the largest in the U.S. and covers about 300 square miles. It was pretty impressive to get that close to a glacier. We could see how much it had receded over the years, as have other glaciers. Some folks believe that is just a cyclical thing, but Diane and I happen to agree that we are in a global warming period that is being caused by us humans.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a big thing in Alaska with teams from around the world participating. The Iditarod is known as the "last great race on earth". In 1925, there were many children who were very ill with diphtheria in Nome, which is about 675 miles from Anchorage. Serum was needed for the children and dog sled teams were used to race the serum there for the stricken children. The Iditarod race replicates that event. The race currently runs more than 1,000 miles. There are several places in Alaska where you can get a ride on a dog sled. We chose to wait until we got to Seward to take the kennel tour and dog sled ride at the Seavey kennel referred to as the "IdidaRide Sled Dog Tours" owned by Mitch Seavey. Mitch has finished 12 Iditarods and won the race in 2004. It was unfortunate that it was raining on the only day we had left to visit the kennel, but we did it anyway.

The kennel had more than 100 sled dogs. First, we had a short presentation by one of the mushers about the kennel and the Iditarod. The dogs are mixed breed dogs that are bred for racing. Over time the breeders brought breeds built for speed, such as the greyhound, into the breeding programs. When it was our turn to ride we watched as two people started hooking up 14 dogs to the summer sled built on wheels. As we saw in Fairbanks, the dogs started to go wild when they realized they may get a chance to run. That's what they live for and they seem to love it. The summer sled is very heavy, and when you add eight to nine people to the sled it could weigh up around a ton. This exercise in summer builds muscle on the dogs and gets them ready to pull a sled for a long distance over snow and ice. That sled, plus supplies and a musher, weighs in about 300 pounds, so it feels very light to the 16 dogs pulling during the race. 

We heard one more presentation about how the dogs are protected from bitter cold during the race. The speaker had a champion sled dog, Colonel, with her to show how they are protected from the cold. Colonel has finished seven complete races. Our final stop was to look at the puppies. Everyone was loving the chance to hold them because they were so little and so cute.

Due to the rain we opted to skip taking the glacier tour we had planned. Several folks we know who have already been to Valdez have told us about the Stan Stephens glacier tour. We still plan to take that tour when we get to Valdez.

Restaurant Note: We found the prices rather high in many of the restaurants we considered eating at while in Seward. Based on recommendations, six of us first checked out Ray's on the Waterfront for dinner. That would have easily have been a $50+ dinner so we decided we would come back there for lunch one day. Not only were the dinner prices very high, but there was a wait to get in. We did go back for lunch and had a very nice meal that came to around $30. We eat out a lot, so we try to keep it to $30 or less, which is in keeping with almost all of our fellow RVers we hang out with. Being retired sure does change one's spending habits.

The other restaurant of note was The Apollo in the downtown area. We ended up there for dinner after leaving Ray's. The Apollo was also a pricey restaurant, but we decided to stay and eat there. Diane and I often split meals, sometimes because the portions are just too large and we don't care to take home the leftovers, or because the price is too high. So eating at a pricey restaurant doesn't always deter us from eating there as we can still keep the price reasonable and get enough food to eat. The meal at Apollo was excellent. However, be aware that they have a sign up front saying they do not split checks for parties of six or more. We are not alone in finding that to be very annoying and not very customer friendly. Our server was great and she did split the checks for us anyway.

This wraps up our tour of the Kenai Peninsula. It was more of what we expected when we thought about Alaska. Other than a few rainy days, we enjoyed our visit to the towns we stopped in as we made our way around the peninsula. Now it's back up to Anchorage to visit a couple of places we missed the first time through, to enjoy some Celtic music, to catch up on some movies, and to just sit around for a while before we continue on to Valdez.

To be continued.....

Until next time, safe travels.....

Copyright © 2006, Roaming America with Rich & Diane Emond - All Rights Reserved

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