Day 14: Friday
Up and showered by 10:00, we talked with Sarah’s mother and waited around for Melinda, who was going to drop off a few things she wanted us to bring back to Sarah. With lumpy packages from Melinda, and bars of lemon bars from Karen Hart, all neatly stowed in our luggage, we headed out for dim sum at Charlie’s Bakery. The bakery/restaurant/cafeteria is indeed an odd combination, with French-style bread and rolls, but also dim sum items and Chinese lunch specials. It’s a nice idea, and many dishes were clearly adapted to what was available and fresh in Anchorage, but the food was very mixed. There were some very plain shu mai (all pork and chicken, and very heavy); there were some extremely greasy crouton-covered deep-fried shrimp and crab balls, like an Alaskan adaptation of the taro-covered shrimp balls; and there were some decent basic fried dumplings and steamed crystal dumplings. The woman behind the counter was very friendly though, and apologized that we didn’t seem to like the greasy balls (she came over and asked why we weren’t eating them--we weren’t going to bother complaining).
After breakfast, we went over to Ship Creek near the railroad depot in downtown Anchorage to watch people fish and to laze around in the sun. We walked from bridge to bridge, up and down both sides of the fishing stretch, participating in and observing some backseat fishing from the bridge, and generally being jealous of the crowd with waders, rods, and fishing licenses. I laid down on the bottom of some steps leading down to the stream, where I could watch the safe fish--some of them spawning red--who had nearly made it up the dam to their home, and who were all, at this point, twenty feet beyond the fishing zone, making them safe and happy fish indeed. It was sunny and beautiful, and I almost dozed off--Robert said he should find me a recording of the sounds of “an urban salmon stream,” as Ship Creek is called, to play for me at night when I fall asleep. I think it would be lovely, but perhaps that’s just my salmon obsession talking.
At left, Ship Creek.
We wandered over to the Ulu (traditional curved knife) factory store just to browse and buy a few small gifts for people; their windows into the factory area weren’t as exciting as the bowl factory in Fairbanks, so our stop was a quick one.
Next we drove over to a meter a block away from the Oscar Anderson Home and Museum, in Elderberry Park near the water. We put enough money in the meter for an hour, not knowing there was free parking in front of the museum itself, and we expected the tour of this historic home, one of Anchorage’s oldest, to take about forty-five minutes. Actually, as the knowledgeable woman at the house kept telling us, the tour was really only supposed to take half an hour; it didn’t quite happen that way, though. Let me say right up front that I really do recommend a stop at this museum: the house is very well kept, the admission is very reasonable ($3 each), and you actually get to hear the docent use the Victrola and player piano for you (rare in historic homes). We stumbled in as the first visitors on a day when the house’s alarm system had been malfunctioning and going off all morning, so our private tour of the home was interrupted for stops for the alarm itself, a policeman responding to the alarm, and then a technician arriving, trying to fix the alarm, going back to his car for another part, needing access to the basement. etc. We also provided some interruptions of our own, as we took this opportunity to ask a number of questions about Anchorage and the surrounding area that had been nagging us for most of our trip; including “How did Alaska fare during the Depression?” and “What does the Bore tide really look like, anyway?” these questions were clearly tangential to the tour, at best, but the guide gamely answered them as thoroughly as she could. So, after a full hour, when we realized that we had to run back to our meter, we had only gone through half of the house; we ran over to the meter, brought the car back, and then--exhausted--went back in to say we were very sorry, but we couldn’t stay to finish the tour; the woman apologized profusely, though 1) none of the interruptions or tangents were at all her fault, and 2) we really enjoyed the tour and learned a lot about Oscar, his family, and the early history of Anchorage. She refused to take our money for admission, but I would definitely go back if I had the chance.
To fortify us after the marathon half-tour, we went for a late lunch at Arctic Roadrunner/Local Burgerman on Arctic in midtown; we had another one of those berry plus milk plus vanilla ice cream milkshakes (this time blackberry, and very good too) and a Kodiak burger (two kinds of cheese, salami, baloney, and an onion ring on top of the patty). We ordered our burger rare, which they allow as long as you sign the receipt (presumably releasing them from liability; we didn’t care, as it’s so rare to enjoy a rare, juicy burger outside of the house). The burger shack was very good, and we were glad we stopped there even with the drama of ordering: the man ahead of us was clearly crazy; there was an overzealous floor-washing shoving aside people in line; Robert and I had all sorts of odd questions (as usual); and the cashier was on her first day--all in all a winning combination for chaos, but a fun and tasty stop.
Our final stop was another quick souvenir stop at Alaska Wildberry Products: we got Robert a tee shirt, and we took a hairnetted tour of their chocolate factory (much abbreviated, since the tour guide seemed overwhelmed by the busload of senior citizen tourists who swarmed him for the tour), admired their twenty-foot tall chocolate fountain, and had a few sample chocolates and jams.
Then it was straight to the airport, for our 8:00 plane to Atlanta, where (early on Saturday morning) we changed for a plane to Boston. On the way to Atlanta, again luxuriating in lots of legroom, we ate a salmon ball (from Salmon Express, neatly packaged and complete with crackers); it was a delicious, nutty, and yes, salmony ending to our fantastic Alaskan vacation. You can bet I’m going back--more salmon, anyone?