How did we end up here? We've lived in Northern Illinois for 24 years. Way too long for this vegetarian! Thankfully, we're only a Metra ride away from Chicago.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Alaska Adventure

When you take Amtrak coach it's sure to be an adventure in itself! It was my first time traveling the Empire Builder. For this roundtrip Chicago to Seattle journey I traveled coach/lower level. 2205 miles and 46 hours EACH WAY!


The best views of this route started 24 hours into the journey around Browning, MT. Beautiful mountains with some peaks still covered in snow. This was one of the snow sheds the train traveled through.

This was the weekend before July 4 holiday and the train was completely full. Not a spot to be had in the observation car on this journey but I sat next to strangers to take in some mountain views.


Wow there is so much to see in Seattle. It was my first time in this city and with just a half day to spare I barely scratched the surface to all there is to see and do in Seattle. I really wanted to "check these out" but I just didn't have the time.


We stayed at Hyatt House Seattle for the night before our cruise. It is right across from the Seattle Center Park where the Space Needle, Chihuly Glass museum, Monorail, and the Museum of Pop Culture all reside.

Our stop after we checked into our room and dropped our bags was Pike Place Market. Wow! So many people! I enjoyed lots of homemade Kombucha and Ginger Ale.

I even talked my Mom and Dad into visiting the Gum Wall right below the market.

Since we weren't able to see much of the city the afternoon we arrived, I talked my parents into a Duck Tour the next morning before we headed to board our cruise.


We drove past the Amazon go store

and passed by the Amazon spheres. I am coming back to Seattle someday to take an inside tour of these.

We passed by Google Seattle campus and went over to the Fremont neighborhood to view the Fremont Troll.

We cruised out on Lake Union with great views of Gas Works Park, downtown Seattle,


And some really neat house boats.


Then it was off to board the Zaandam. I loved this ship's size. It was super easy to find my way around. No venue felt overcrowded. The promenade deck was free of obstructions for walking around the entire ship. And smoking was confined to a specific side of the aft pool that was easy to avoid.

We had a nice sized window cabin for three people on the main deck.

Having a window meant daily orders for room service. Three bean chili, chocolate cake, and coffee was pretty much a daily occurrence.


My Dad called me the monkey in the window. I do eat my share of bananas!

The window seat was a perfect place to spot whales too!



My favorite thing to do, especially on sea days was walk the promenade deck. Most days I had it all to myself!


Our first port was Ketchikan.


This is a view from our cabin's window.

 It was July 4 so all public transportation was on holiday. We walked around town, then up Creek Street. I forgot to take a picture of the yarn shop I stopped at on Creek Street, The Hive on the Creek Bead and Yarn Shoppe. It was super cute and had friendly staff.


We made our way to the Salmon Ladder but the Salmon had not started running yet.

The next day our ship headed through Tracy Arm Fjord to the Sawyer Glacier.

Another spectacular sunny, blue sky day!

Our next stop was Juneau. My Mom rented a car but before we headed out of town she bought me a ticket to the Mt. Roberts Tramway.

Beautiful views and lots of Eagles flying among the treetops.
After this we made our way to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor's Center.

 My Dad and I headed on the two mile roundtrip trail to Nugget Falls.

So beautiful at the base of Nugget Falls.


Then we headed on another short trail called Steep Creek Trail to see if we could see any bears but no luck. It was a pretty view on this trail.

Then we headed back to downtown and stopped at Alaskan Brewing Company.

13 beers on tap!

Next port was Icy Straight Point in Hoonah. My Mom bought me a ticket to go on the zip rider. It's the longest in the world at 5,495 feet long.

It was AWESOME!


Next port was Anchorage. My parents rented a car but I walked around downtown before we headed out of town. I came across a statue marking the start of the Iditarod.

I also stumbled upon a cute yarn shop, Wooly Mammoth.

We headed out of town to Wasilla for lunch at The Last Frontier Brewing Company


One thing that surprised me about Alaska was the number of coffee shops. These "tiny house" coffee shops were everywhere! Here's an example of how small they were. But they still offered drive up windows on both sides of the building. And they always had customers!


Next stop, Homer.

Yep, my parents rented a car so we were off to explore the area on this rainy day.

Along the way we stopped for coffee!

And beer, at Homer Brewing Company. This was the best porter I have ever had.

And wine, at Beer Creek Winery!

I saw three moose on one of our stops here in Homer.

Before heading back to the ship I took a quick selfie inside the Salty Dawg Saloon. This place was featured on the Deadliest Catch.

Up next, Kodiak. Look at all the crab pots at the port.

My parents rented another car. It was a short port day so we headed out of town in the morning and came upon a cute coffee shop,Java Flats. My favorite of this trip.


Green mountains for miles. This island reminded me of Kauai Hawaii with all the lush green landscapes.

Back into town I of course had to stop at the yarn shop, the Rookery. Jammed with yarn! So much it was a tad overwhelming.

And a stop at the Kodiak Island Brewing Company for a pint before heading off to the next port.

The next day was a sea day. I decided to participate in the polar plunge along with 60 of my fellow passengers. Fun! It was sunny but 43 degrees air temperature because we were cruising past Hubbard Glacier this day.

This was my birthday day. A great way to celebrate!

A beautiful day to view this magnificent glacier close up.

The next port was Sitka. Another beautiful, blue sky day. We walked around downtown before catching a taxi to another brewery, Baranof Island Brewing Company.


Our last sea day we took advantage of the down time by playing games,

One last formal night.

And watched the sun sink into the sea.

Our final port before returning to Seattle was Victoria, British Columbia. This city is known as the garden city. Beautiful flowers everywhere.

We hopped aboard a water taxi from the downtown area to Fisherman's Wharf.

Another perfect weather day with blue skies and temps close to 90.

And then we were back in Seattle, catching the Amtrak to head back to Chicago.
What a birthday adventure! Thanks to my parents for taking me to Alaska. So many beautiful memories.