This post is a week overdue! Here is what is new in our lives!
I have been working full-time as a teacher's assistant in a special education classroom. I love it! I work with small groups of students (4th, 5th, and 6th grade) and we focus on reading skills, the writing process, and math. With a little over 500 students in the school, about half of them come from military families. I enjoy talking to them about where they moved from, how long they have lived here, etc. The school year calendar here runs from mid-August to mid-May. In fact, the students are done May 14th! The spring and summer here is beautiful and ALWAYS sunny so I think it is a good idea to take a break from the school routine then too!
Andrew and I had a delicious Chinese dinner at a local restaurant called Pagoda. It was featured on The Food Channel's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Everyone I talked to to (from home and here) would mention the restaurant and refer to the fact that it was on the television show. It seriously was the best Chinese food we have ever eaten and so we will be taking our family there when they visit!
Andrew had a four-day weekend and I had a three-day weekend because of the holiday, so we ventured to Anchorage, Alaska...the largest city in the state! It was about a 6 1/2 hour drive, mainly because we left at 5:30 in the morning and saw no one on the highway for most of our trip! The Alaska Highway 3 runs from Fairbanks, through the towns of Nenana, Denali (WOW!), Talkeetna, Wasilla (looked for Ms. Palin!), and finally, Anchorage. There were a few small towns aka villages of a few homes and a community/grocer store and a church on the way too. The majority of the Alaska 3 is not a highway like you would imagine in PA, mostly because it is one-lane for the majority of the miles. We ended up passing about 20 cars during our trip.
The highway cuts right by the entrance to Denali National Park, and therefore, we rode through beautiful mountains, valleys, and canyons. We even almost hit three moose (a cow and her two calves) because as we came around a bend they were finishing their walk across the road! It was our first moose-sighting since living here and it was exciting! By the time I got my camera they were gone into the wood line! However, we did manage to hit (or it hit us?) a fairly large bird. After doing some research I am pretty certain that we hit a sharp-shinned hawk, considering the colors of the feathers and the shape of its beak. The birds were all over the roads and there was no way of avoiding them, so, we just smacked right into it going 60 miles an hour! Ouch! A few feathers flew up and we felt bad for a few minutes but then our thoughts trailed to something else and it was forgotten. All birds go to heaven, right?!...They are lucky because they actually have the wings!
However, when we arrived at the hotel, Andrew told me that we had a treat in our Explorer's grill. Yep, there is was, a five or six pound bird with a sharp beak smashed into our grill, ew. The only amusement I got out of it was watching Andrew fish it out with a long ice scrapper that we had in our car (while taking pictures of course). If the bird didn't die on contact it certainly froze to death with the four hour car ride from Denali to Anchorage. It did break a part of the grill but it is minor damage and something that can be eventually fixed.
The drive was beautiful, especially around the Denali area. The park is closed until May, when it opens the season until September. There are beautiful lodges, hotels, and cabins all around the park entrance, waiting for the summer season to begin. Andrew and I cannot wait to venture there this summer. The only way into the park is to take a bus provided by the National Park Service. You can choose how far you would like to travel into the park, with one tour even going as deep as a 12-hour ride. After talking with a few people, it is guaranteed that you will see caribou, grizzlies, moose, and birds galore inside Denali. The park is gigantic, covering over 9,000 miles. We saw Mount McKinley from a distance but failed to take any decent pictures of it! What we do have our some beautiful pictures of the Alaskan 3 through the Denali area.
In Anchorage we stayed at a very nice Hampton Inn. They had fresh-baked cookies waiting at the check-in desk, stuffed animals hung around the fireplace, free shuttle service to the downtown, and free breakfast in the morning...perfect for us! We did a little shopping, considering they had a REAL, LARGE mall, a Target, and a Best Buy. In Fairbanks, we are not accustomed to such high-end stores!! Andrew and I had a lovely and romantic dinner at a local seafood restaurant, Simon and Seafurd. The restaurants sits on a ledge and overlooks an inlet from the ocean. Here is a picture of each of us outside of the restaurant, with the water behind us.
We went out on Saturday evening to the only well-known bar and club in Anchorage, Chilkook Charlies. We then had a late night snack at a local brewery and pizza pub, Moose Tooth. We are convinced that there is not a good place to eat wings in the whole state of Alaska! We will continue our search (in other words, Andrew's search!) for our love affair of delicious buffalo wings. We had planned on visiting a museum but the days got away from us as we ate and shopped and walked and the museum visit never happened. Always another time!
Our verdict on the city of Anchorage as compared to our city of Fairbanks...despite the lack of shopping venues in Fairbanks, we would live in Fairbanks any day over living in Anchorage. There is quite a bit of rift-raft in Anchorage and the people weren't as friendly as the Fairbanks-eans. The roads and streets were covered in dirty brown snow because of the higher temperatures. It averaged about 30 degrees in Anchorage and Andrew and I didn't pile on clothing like we were used to doing. Anchorage is surrounded by beautiful snow-covered mountains, but Fairbanks has a cleaner-quality to it's surroundings. We would like to go back this summer when we know it will look quite different!
Anchorage, Alaska- surrounded by mountains
Our car loved us when we gave it a bath!