Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The way back to Anchorage

Woke up late (planning a sleepless night tonight), breakfast, and then we started arranging the RV for the return. We collected all the things we didn't need anymore (BBQ, coals, matches, oil, salt & pepper, etc.) and left them at the camp office for people to pick up. We removed all the trash (amazing amount of flyers accumulated in the RV during this trip), sorted our stuff, packed what we could (most of the luggage were at the RV office), and cleaned the RV.

We probably spent more time then needed on cleaning (the instructions said to return it clean, and we did a real cleaning, although when we returned it we saw that they had professional cleaning staff). This process took most of the morning, and so we decided to skip the planned stop at Girdwood (where we could take a ski lift up the mountain to see the views).

We drove back toward Anchorage. Most of the road is just on the water along Turnaround Bay (or arm), which as you might remember a narrow bay with steep mountains on both sides. The road went through wet lands, and next to ghost forests (forests of trees that got submerged in sea water during the 64 earthquake and consequently died and got preserved, "pickled" as one of the guides put it).

Next to the Girdwood intersection we stopped at a large gas station where we filled gas, water, and proprane (first time we needed to, just to return it full) and dumped the waste. So now we were set to return the RV in pristine condition.

We continued along the Bay, where suddenly I noticed from the side of my eye movement in the water. There was a large group (pod?) of dolphins swimming parallel to us. There was no place to stop, so I continued for a while and then stopped, crossed the road to the water side and watched. This was a really large group and they paraded just in front of me. I shot about 150 pictures. However, later it turned on that the camera was left on manual focus mode and in my excitement I forgot that, and so most of these pictures are really blurry :-( But we have definite proof that we saw them....

Dolphins waving goodbye

At some point the road turned right and went inland, and we were in Anchorage. It took a bit of navigation to find the rental place (I forgot I had a paper with a detailed map to find them), but we made it at last. We signed for the RV, got our luggage and packed all of our stuff (which took more time than planned). According to the person in the counter, we did a bit more than 1300 miles.... (we prepaid for 1500, so we utilized it quite well).

We got the cub to take us to the airport. We tried to check in on the do-it-yourself kiosk and it told us it can't find our reservation. We thought it was due to us being very early (our flight was at 2am). We went to talk with the customer service agent, and she told us she can't find us either. After 20 minutes, including a phone call to Expedia, we managed to get things fixed and get our tickets, but it was very unpleasant initially. Since we couldn't check our luggage so early, we had to store them in luggage storage.

Storing our luggage, left us to consider our options. We didn't feel like going to downtown which we thoroughly explored. One of the people at the storage place suggested we go to a complex of restaurants, bars, and "amusement" places called WildBerry. They had a free shuttle, so we thought what the heck. We ordered the shuttle, and then got to a place that seemed very popular with the locals. We had a semi-reasonable dinner at restaurant that was a replica of an old gold mine.

Kids at dinner

After dinner went to visit a gift and candy store that had a 30 foot cascade of hot chocolate falls, strolled through a mini amusement park, and then settled at a sports bar where we played pool (snicker actually) and saw olympic diving competition on a huge screen. We were all terrible with the pool balls, and so three games took a long time.

Part of the chocolate falls

The bears did get us in the end....

Even scarier ones...

At 9:30 we took the shuttle back to the airport, read a bit, and then checked in the luggage, passed security, and then read again until boarding the plane at 2am.


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