Saturday, July 24, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 10C: Anchorage

Anchorage: Alaska's biggest - and, some might say, only - city.

No trip to Alaska would be complete without a stop in Anchorage, right? I forget who suggested this to me, but someone suggested we skip Anchorage altogether and spend more time in Fairbanks. I forget why, but after visiting both cities, I decided Anchorage is better. And not just because of winter, either. (Side note: Winter in Anchorage is only about as harsh as winter in, say, central Wisconsin.) Anchorage is more scenic, there is more to do recreationally, there are more jobs, winter doesn't suck (as much), and you have a major airport right there. Pretty much the only thing Fairbanks has on Anchorage is a six-sheet curling club. (The Anchorage club is only a two-sheet club.) Nothing against Fairbanks, of course...Fairbanks is a nice town too. I'll get to Fairbanks next week.

So, anyway...what did we do in Anchorage? Well, first, we rented bikes and rode the 11-mile Coastal Trail. Pictures:

Anchorage has over 100 miles of paved bicycle trails. Wow! Seems like overkill to me, given that the bicycling season is only four months long (maybe six) here. This must be the influence of Anchorage's "hippie" culture. (Also part of that influence: multiple disc golf courses! Yeah! We didn't bring our golf discs with us - we figured we'd have better things to do on this trip than play disc golf - but perhaps it would have been fun to play a 10:00 PM round of disc golf.)

Most of the trail is wooded, and that meant crazy mosquitoes. It was fine was long as we kept moving. Our stop at Earthquake Park, however, ended up being very short.

By the way, I did count our Anchorage bike trip towards my fictional Bicycling Trip to Alaska. How fitting that my fictional bicycle trip to Alaska included some actual bicycling in Alaska! Who cares if my fictional trip is still way back in Minnesota?

Speaking of bicycling trips to Alaska...we did see multiple bicyclists riding the Alaska Highway in British Columbia and Yukon. Surely, those guys aren't riding the entire Alaska Highway...right?

Anyway, the bottom line is this: bicycling is a great way to get around Anchorage. It was an excellent ride, and the city is very bike-friendly, so...yeah. Woo bicycling!

After our bike ride was over, we took a stroll through downtown to meet our (well, my) afore-mentioned friends Rachael and Craig for dinner. Along the way, a large puffin tried to eat me:

What did I have for dinner that night? A reindeer burger.

(No, that's not where we went for dinner. That's just a hot dog / reindeer stand on the side of the road. We went to the Snow Goose.)

What does reindeer taste like? Not much different than regular deer. Or beef. If you want real specialty Alaskan cuisine, go with salmon or halibut instead.

Anchorage seemed like a huge city when we were there, until we were told that it's roughly the same size as Tallahassee. Really? I guess that makes sense, now that I think about it. It's just didn't seem like it at first, given that the last sizeable city we saw was way back south and east in Edmonton.

Here's something I was curious about: what sports are big in Alaska? I'm guessing that hockey is #1 here (Anchorage has an ECHL team, the Alaska Aces), but July isn't hockey season, so it wasn't getting too many headlines in the local paper this time of year. Instead, what did they talk about in the local sports section (much to the dismay of at least one local resident, as well as at least two visitors who drove up from North Carolina)?

Also notice the Alaska Baseball League standings in the sidebar there. The ABL is basically the biggest thing going here in the summer, sports-wise. Seattle Mariners games are on TV here, but I get the idea that most Alaskans don't really care too much about Seattle sports.

Finally...let's talk grocery stores! I've talked ad nauseum about how Safeway is "freaking everywhere" out west. Anchorage is no exception. So, imagine my excitement when I found a grocery store called "Carrs"! Woohoo, something different!

Well...turns out Carrs is just a Safeway in disguise. Carrs was purchased by Safeway in 1999, and now accepts Safeway discount cards and carries Safeway-branded products. NOOOOOOOO!!!!

Anchorage and Fairbanks also have Fred Meyer stores, which we didn't get a chance to visit, unfortunately. We did get gas at one, though, and since Fred Meyer accepts Kroger cards, I was able to get the 10-cent Kroger card discount. Yeah! Suck it, Safeway! And for those of you who think Kroger is just as bad as Safeway, given that Fred Meyer is now owned by's not the same. Fred Meyer, along with Kroger's many other acquisitions, still maintains its own identity. You don't see "Kroger" plastered all over the place when you walk into a Smith's, City Market, QFC, or Fred Meyer. So, it's totally different than Safeway, who insists on plastering its name all over everything inside Carrs supermarkets, rather than let Carrs keep its own identity.

So...Anchorage is nice. Are you getting tired of me saying how nice everything up here is? If so, don't worry, because I plan on finishing these recaps up by the end of next week.

1 comment:

Spartangoogle said...

We liked Anchorage also.
When in Colorado we saw many (insane) bicyclers riding up and over the mountain passes that I didn't even feel comfortable driving through. Many people in Colorado seemed physically fit - good for them. Better than what you might see in, say, Orlando.