...at least, I think it was morning. I woke up not knowing or caring what time it 'really' was. I was awake, and that was all that really mattered. There was a slight chance it was the middle of the night, either figuratively or literally speaking. It was probably about 6 am, because I spent a good amount of time allowing the caffeine from my vending machine energy drink absorb into my bloodstream before we went downstairs to the hotel restaurant to eat a mediocre breakfast of scrambled eggs and cereal. By the time we were off, it was about 10:00.
The plan was to walk until we found something cool, and we made it exactly half a city block before we found it. The bike rental shop we saw the day before was there (http://www.
alaska-bike-rentals.com), and we went inside to inquire about pricing and availability of children's bikes. I struck up a conversation with the owner, and I mentioned we had no idea what to do in Anchorage, as we had dreamed up this plan yesterday. He was immediately like "Oh, you must be an airline employee." Haha, is it that obvious? Well, I was in luck, he said, because he offered an airline discount. Instead of $16 for three hours, you pay $15 for five hours. Sounded like a plan to me!
We had no idea where to go and didn't have so much as a map, but the kid working at the store was awesome and gave us a few ideas. I was a little skeptical that I could finish the 11 mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail he was suggesting (which obviously makes 22 miles there and back), but he insisted I could (probably because I look more like a biker than I am .
..or was at the time). He drew me a map and gave me detailed verbal instructions, adjusted our bikes and we were off!
On the way out, we probably stopped about 500 times. I wanted to stop constantly to take pictures. I was completely mesmerized by every single sight. Alaska is like no place I had ever been. I could sit here and throw adjectives at you all day, but Trinity stated it as well as anyone. She simply said that it was like being inside a painting. So we stopped to take pictures, we stopped to read signs, we stopped and parked our bikes and walked down short trails, we stopped everywhere we had a place to stop that looked even the slightest bit interesting. The problem is that it was all interesting. The trail goes right through the airport, so there are a few great spots to stop and watch planes fly right over you.
It's amazing if you're an airplane geek, which I only kind of am. (Meaning that I love airplanes, but I am not a true nerd in that I can identify aircraft types or who they are licensed to, etc.) Somewhere in the middle of the trail, I saw my first moose walking in the woods. Of course, when you are out venturing in strange new lands, the key goal is to spot some type of wildlife that is indigenous to the area, especially if you have never seen that animal before. It might as well have been a dinosaur, that's how big it looked to me. I had just finished reading a sign about how a moose could theoretically kill me, however, there was a lady standing right in front of the moose and she seemed pretty nonchalant. It was in the distance though, and Trinity missed it. We tried following it but it disappeared into the woods as quickly as it appeared.
Still, I didn't think I could check "seeing a moose" off my bucket list if Trinity didn't also see it to validate it.
The last mile of the trail was almost all uphill, and I was pretty sure I was going to die. We had already used up 3 1/2 hours of our allotted five hour bike rental by stopping so many times, but dammit, I was not about to turn around on the 10th mile. We made it to the top though, albeit the only thing thrilling at the end of the trail was the satisfaction of knowing you had made it there. It ended with a very non-romantic gravel road and a sign telling us that bicycle helmets save lives - I already knew that! But we did it! We made it to the end of the 11 mile trail. Yes! We celebrated with high fives. But now, of course, we had to make it back 11 miles.
..plus the mile back to the bike shop. As I said, I was not a biker before this fateful day. I hike and walk a lot, I exercise, etc, but as it turns out you don't use all the same muscles for these activities. We assumed that since it took us almost four hours to make it to the end of the trail, even factoring in the fact that we stopped a million times on the way up, we were both tired and it would take at least two hours to make it back. I figured I would just pay an additional fee to keep the bikes longer, but that idea annoyed me because I have to stick to as tight a budget as possible all summer. This was only the first DAY of summer.
We headed our journey back. The good part now was that the first mile was all downhill, so we were off to good start. About halfway down the huge hill, cruising pretty fast with me in the lead, when I almost crashed straight into a moose! Easily one of the coolest things ever.
It was like wow!cool!omgwillitkillme! In a moment Trinity was there with me, the two of us standing only about four feet from a moose on the concrete trail. It was a small moose (not a baby) but a small moose is still bigger than any animal I've even seen. I didn't know whether to back away or stay still, so I chose standing still and fumbling for my camera. Eventually the moose must have got bored of us standing there like idiots saying things like "OMG this is so cool!" and it just walked a few feet away and started eating leaves. So I got my pictures, and we stood there and watched it until it got even more bored and left to eat elsewhere. Add another 15 minutes to the bike rental! Essentially it took us over four hours before we even began heading back to downtown Anchorage, and plus we were hungry.
We rode all the way back without stopping a single time. When we made it back to the bike shop, the person who was now working there seemed very unconcerned about who we were or what time it was, she just told us to leave the bikes on the sidewalk and asked how far we made it. We told her we made it to the end o the trail, and she rewarded us with free ice cream as a prize! Two free Drumsticks, woo-hoo! I was sure it was at least two hours past the time we needed to return the bikes, so I looked at my phone to check the time. Turns out it was only 45 minutes after the time we started heading back. We still had 15 minutes to spare! Long story short, as soon as I got back to Milwaukee I bought a brand new bike, and I ride it pretty much every day now. That was a gift I got from Alaska.
We went back to our room to relax but we couldn't manage to do that very long. We were too pumped about our biking successes and we wanted to see more stuff! I think we went swimming for a while and then started wandering around downtown, taking lots of pictures with fake animals in front of tourist shops. We spent a while at a park watching people fly kites. We booked a glacier cruise for the following morning and a bus that would take us to Whittier. Expensive, but, I factor a few expensive things into the summer travel plans. Some expensive things you have to do, or it pretty much defeats the purpose of being where you are in the first place. We ate dinner at a...pirate themed restaurant? I'll be honest, at the time I'm writing this, it is nearly a year later.
I don't remember what we ate or how the food tasted, but I'm sure there was a pirate thing going on there. I also remember there were statues of the Blues Brothers sitting next to a statue of a pig, and I thought of my sister, because both of those things are inside jokes with the two of us. We watched some local kids dancing in the park across the street, walked some more, realized everything was started to close and remembered that it must be getting late, so we went 'home' for the night...