Saturday, August 7, 2010

Follow the action live (sort of)

Post 5 - Aug. 15th
This will be my last post for this trip. I'm enjoying my 2nd 8 hour layover at LAX in a week; this time I thought I would make a quick trip to In & Out Burger, a Californian institution. The closest one is a free shuttle ride away from the terminal (if you pretend you're going to a hotel or picking up a parked car), and the planes come zooming in for their landing almost right next door, so it makes for a pretty cool experience. In & Out Burger, of course, was referenced in one of our favorite movies, "The Big Lebowski", and is known as the fast food chain that isn't like other fast food chains, because it uses fresh ingredients and doesn't pay its employees the absolute minimum required by law. It's a noble idea, but let's face it, fast food is fast food - I'll rate the taste as o.k. but not great, but I'm glad to have finally experienced it.

Post 4 - Aug. 14th

Well the meeting wrapped up last night with a banquet on board the Riverboat Discovery, a replica paddlewheeler. We cruised the Chena River for three hours, enjoyed some nice hors d'oeuvres, listened to some reasonable Alaskan bluegrass music, and had a couple of drinks. It's all over - time to get back to Brissy!
Oh yeah, and they grow 'em big in Alaska! Cabbages that is.

Post 3 - Aug. 13th

We spent yesterday in beautiful Denali National Park. It's a real tourist hotspot, with plenty of buses moving around and the usual tourist traps (restaurants, giftshops, etc.). The highlight of the day was a hike to the top of Mount Healy. The views were spectacular, as the photos attest, and we saw some small but interesting wildlife, including Arctic ground squirrels and a hoary marmot.

Earlier in the day we stopped for lunch at the Savage River, a classic glacier fed system (sparse vegetation, clear water), and I managed to get up close to a pair of ptarmigan ("famous for being dumb" according to bird expert Keith Hobson) with fledglings.

So we didn't see any of the "charismatic megafauna" of the park (bears, wolves, caribou) but it was a great trip nonetheless. We returned tired and happy to our accommodation and got a few precious hours of sleep.

Post 2 - Aug. 11th
Well I made it into Fairbanks on Saturday, sans luggage but in good spirits after inhaling the fresh Alaskan air, which was particularly fresh after 29 hours of travel. My bags were delivered to me first thing in the morning so thankfully I didn't have to give my presentation in my travel clothes (as happened several years ago in New Zealand).

Alaska is beautiful and the people are very friendly. We're having a good time and I'm reminded of home often, most notably from the sound of Canada geese honking away at a wildlife refuge not very far from campus.

The state fair is in town so I stopped in for a peek. All the classic treats were there in great excess - lots of t-shirts with semi-funny slogans, cotton candy, nachos, and deep fried just about anything (halibut and pb and jelly sandwiches being prime examples). And the now-obligatory talent show "Fairbanks has talent" was also on. Good to see the local talent on display.

Last night we hired a cab to take us out to a great joint called the Turtle Club where we had a great feed of seafood. As a tribute to "The Deadliest Catch", I had the king crab, a local favorite, and it was deliciously proteinaceous.

That's all for now; tomorrow I'm off to Denali National Park, home of bears, caribou and North America's highest peak.

Post 1 - Aug. 7th
I'm en route to Alaska for a conference, currently in LAX airport. Thought I would pass along a few shots of Santa Monica pier - freeway by the beach anyone? I took the shots while I was killing a few of the eight hours before my next flight to Seattle. Santa Monica really isn't bad for a one dollar bus ride from the airport. It was a smoggy morning and the sun has just come out (at 1:00 pm), but nevertheless I enjoyed my lunch of clams n' fries and watermelon juice. Two other minor highlights - someone landed a stingray on a line while I was there, and a busker did an excellent version of Paul Simon's "Under African Skies"

I've decided that LA is just like Brisbane, except bigger, dirtier, concretier, and has a wider gap in socioeconomic status (the richest of the rich, the poorest of the poor). So let's say we won't be visiting here as a family anytime soon. I've also decided that I am now officially conditioned to subtropical life. Witnessing people swimming this morning when it was a bone chilling 18 degrees made me think they were crazy. I've gone soft.

Next update will be from the land of the midnight sun!