Just Another Day in Paradise

I  Made it to Paradise

Stock Photo- Landing at LAX

As the plane began it’s decent into Maui’s Kahului airport the pilot announced Welcome to Paradise! I made it, again. If the plane ride ( 11-12 hours) is hell then yes, Maui is Paradise. I don’t mind the plane ride. I sleep, eat, drink water and subsist on the little bags of pretzels the airlines provide. My body is not fond of the trip but I’ll cope. Even with all of the napping I was tired and achy when we landed. Of course it was raining when I picked up my rental car. It’s always raining when I make that first drive in the dark to my resort. At least I’m more familiar with the drive now that I’ve been here a few times.

All Checked-in in record time

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I arrived at my resort (Kaanapali Shores) right at 8 pm Hawaiian time.  I didn’t get lost once. My sister can tell you how much trouble we had locating it the first time because it is dark in Hawaii. And if you don’t know where you’re going it’s easy to miss. Thankfully I have a good memory and cruised right in. I was supposed to have a 1 bedroom ocean view but I think they may have been out of those. They gave me a free upgrade to a two bedroom ocean view. I can sleep in a different bed every night.  (Ha Ha)

Dinner Options

I was in my condo by 8:30 pm. Time to think about a real meal. I had upgraded the first half of the flight (Boston to LAX) to first class and that came with a breakfast. (I could get used to those comfy first class seats!) Airline food isn’t 4 star but that breakfast wasn’t bad. Still that was along time ago and in addition to being tired I was hungry. My options were to walk to the little restaurant on the premises and ruin some poor server’s night because the restaurant closes at 9. I’d probably be walking in at 8:45. No I’d let the staff wrap up and go home. Next choice was driving somewhere, probably Lahaina,  to another restaurant. That didn’t appeal to me. I could drive across the street to the TIMES. It’s a 24 hour grocery store. Buy something and bring it back to cook.   I wasn’t really excited about that either. As I was considering just skipping dinner I saw a pizza delivery truck pull up.

Pizza in Hawaii

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Pizza delivery in Hawaii is just like it is at home. I called Pizza Hut. But just like the last time we ordered pizza in Hawaii (on Oahu) it would be easy to get sticker shock. The pizza, a large mushroom and pepperoni was only $12.99. That’s comparable to a pizza in Boston but then I added a 2 liter bottle of diet coke. With delivery charges and taxes it was now at $22.00! Of course I had to tip the driver so it ended up being a $26.00 pizza meal. Not complaining just sharing. I’ll get 3-4 meals out of that pizza anyway.

Anchorage and Home

The last stop in Anchorage

The last stop for us in Alaska is Anchorage. We’ll be catching up with our luggage at the Captain Cook Hotel. We have one night there and then on the plane for home. It’s been a pretty busy 11 days. I think the most tiring part for me was switching accommodations every night or two. I was feeling good while we were cruising. Now I admit I’m feeling weary. I’m ready to go home. 

Bus to Anchorage

We were finally getting the spring weather. As we were waiting for our bus from The Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge to Anchorage it was warm and t-shirt comfortable in the sun. Midway through the bus ride we stopped at a little truck stop. That’s where I met “Pierre”, my Alaskan Moose-man. He joined us for the remainder of out trip. As the bus pulled into Anchorage the bus driver shifted into tour guide mode, He even took us around the block twice offering tips and advice about the remainder of out stay. 


Meet Pierre

room at the hotelWelcome to Captain Cook Hotel

Our room was on the 15th floor so we had a view of downtown Anchorage. Our luggage was already in our room. We’ll be flying out in the afternoon so we planned a quick visit to the Anchorage Zoo. There are lots of things to see in Anchorage https://aroundustyroads.com/2013/07/06/anchorage/  but we didn’t want to get distracted and miss out flight.

Anchorage Zoo


squirrwlWe caught a shuttle at the Anchorage  Visitor Center to the zoo. The heat was definitely affecting some of the animals even if we were enjoying the spring warmth. We watched a polar bear that was stretched out in his enclosure. We were scolded by a squirrel. Some of the other exhibits were black bears and grizzlies The black bears were roaming their enclosure but the grizzlies were hunkered down in the shade. We also saw bald eagles, owls, red fox, wolves, caribou, Dall Sheep and deer. Although there were tigers the emphasis was on native wildlife. Too soon  it was time for the bus to the airport.

Rating the land part of the adventure.

It’s tempting to give the land portion a 5 star rating because we saw so much. But I dropped it back to 3 stars. The big “ding” that hurt the rating was the train ride. The other reason for the lower rating was the National Park Tour. The 1/2 day tour was ok but the full day would have been better. And finally, changing lodging so often was tiring. I know they wanted us to see a lot but I think it might have been more fun to have a chance to stay a little longer in one place.

Yes, 3 stars for the tour part of the cruise tour.





Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge

Time to change to The Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge

We had one more day but it was at The Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. Say bye-bye to The Denali Princess Lodge. Our luggage was picked up at 7 am but our bus didn’t leave until 11 am so we had time for a nice leisurely breakfast. The sun had finally come out and with the sun the mosquitos. You have to understand that Alaskans consider the mosquito the unofficial state bird. They are huge!

On the road againigloo

At 11 am our bus pulled out. Along the way we passed an abandoned “igloo” https://aroundustyroads.com/2013/07/02/one-more-lodge/

Moose scrambles up the bankShortly after that the bus to bus radio crackled to life. There was a grizzly chasing a moose along side the road. The lead bus gave us the mile marker but by the time we got there they were gone. No sign of either moose or bear. A bit farther along the way we spotted another moose. This one was also trotting along the side of the road. Just as my window came even it turned and scrambled up the bank toward the woods. 

The new lodge

antler door handlesThis lodge was pretty unique right down to the antler door handles. A shuttle bus took you around the property. The main activity here seemed to be Denali watching. It’s rare when the clouds clear to give a view of the peak. They even have an alert system so when Denali is visible you can check it out. We were lucky. A good portion of the mountain was visible the whole time we were there.


New Life Begins

Our Alaska visit was coming to an end but Alaska was coming to life as we prepared to leave. The baby animals we wanted to see were finally being born. A Mama moose has a pair of twins right near the lodge. Ms. Moose kept her babies well hidden until they could get strong enough to move. Clearly we had made our trip a week or two too early in the season. We will be leaving for Anchorage in the morning where we will catch our plane back to real life.

mama moose


Dog Sledding in the Great Land

This trip has gone to the dogs!

The afternoon excursion was a chance to go dog sledding. To our surprise there wasn’t any snow when we got to the kennels. There was snow everywhere else. I wondered how we were going to go dog sledding without snow. When we arrived the first thing I saw were the puppies, those wonderful wiggling bundles of fur. They weren’t tiny either. Before I knew it I had 25 lbs of happy, squirming puppy in my arms. I found myself laughing as I tried to keep my face away from the enthusiastic doggy kisses.


Our Sled Awaits

As we played with the dogs a huge  monster of a vehicle was pulled into view. It had a sturdy metal frame, rubber tires and 3 bench seats that had  been rescued from some old junk cars. It even had a roof and a front windshield of scratched Plexiglas. I was convinced it would be too heavy for these poor dogs to pull. But the mushers were busy hitching a pack of excited dogs to the front.

It must roll easier than it looks

Some really happy dogs

We loaded into this wheeled thing adding all of our human weigh but when the musher yelled mush, these dogs put their shoulders into the harness and we were off. This was really fun and the dogs were having fun too. The course was pretty short but if the dogs had their way we’d have gone around again. Stopping was harder than getting us started. https://aroundustyroads.com/2013/06/30/puppies-and-mush/

All About the Iditarod

After our puppy fix and the dog sled experience, we entered a shelter where a veteran musher told us about the art of dog sledding. He told us stories of running the Iditarod and relying on his dogs to get him safely to each checkpoint. He considers his dog team partners not master and animal. It was a very interesting presentation. I really enjoyed this excursion and would definitely recommend it to any and all animal lovers. So much fun playing with these dogs!

Come on! Let’s go!

The Great White North

North to Denali

The farther north we went the easier it was to see that spring hadn’t really sprung yet. The scenery was spectacular but it was snow and ice. As the Denali Express rumbled over a trestle bridge we could look down into the steep chasm below. This was pretty rugged country.Trestle bridge shadow

raindeerA pair of caribou raced across a frozen river as we passed by. At one stop some mushers came on to talk to us about dog sledding. About that time someone spotted a coupled of grizzly bears fresh out of hibernation. They were just tiny dots in the distance. After the first excitement of the train ride wore off it began to get a bit long. Lots of people used the time to nap. The 9 1/2 hour trip seemed endless. Probably because it stretched to 11 hours before we pulled into the station in Denali.


Off the train and onto a bus

We all tumbled off the train and were immediately loaded onto a bus for the short trip to the Denali Princess Wilderness lodge.  The accommodations weren’t bad. And even if the weather was cold we had the warm Alaskan welcome to shake off the chill.

We didn’t have long to linger in the room because dinner was being served along with a stage show. The waitstaff were also the performers and they were amazing. After the show it was time to head to bed. The sun was just setting this far north but we had an early morning tour. We were going into the National Park. Hopefully we’d finally see some animals. Our park adventure was a half day tour. Turns out the best tour would have been the all day trip but once again we relied on our travel agent when selecting the excursion. 

Into Denali National Park

Our Tour Bus Awaits

In the morning after a huge breakfast at one of the resort restaurants (which were not included in the package) we climbed aboard another bus for our trip into Denali National Park. We began to see a little more animal life. There were a couple of moose and some caribou but no bears. We really wanted to see bears. When the all day tour returned they said they has bears surround their bus. Clearly we should have taken the longer trip.