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07 August 2015

Alaska: Contrast July 2015 with August 1973

What a privilege to travel to Alaska in 1973 and again in 2015, the following are a few of my remembrances in comparing the two trips. The two trips were one month short of 42 year. No wonder I did not find anyone that understood what I was talking about. When talking with people on the trip, I had already lost 10 years, saying I was in Alaska in 1983, but more than dates are gone. Write it NOW!
Following are a few of my trip stories:

Port - in 2015 we left from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for 14 days and in 1973 we left from Seattle, Washington for three weeks.

Mode of transportation - 2015 Norwegian Sun Cruise Ship, scenic motor coach and train and in 1973 our entire trip was in a 27 foot Travco Dodge private motor home.

Route - 2015 inward passage planned cruise with three ports and four days land trip. Our ports were Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. Each port offers many optional tours. The last two days at sea, we enjoyed beautiful, clean, clear glaciers at Glacier Bay and Hubbard. These glacier sightings  were my personal highlight on my cruise. The land tour included part of a day at Seward, animal conservation area, dog kennel, Denali Park, state military memorial and Anchorage. Bill, our driver, and Laura, our tour guide, included many details that are only possible by guided tour. In Denali, Brian pointed out points of interest and animals during an eight hour ride. Again, this is only possible by a guided tour. In 1973, we traveled up the inward passage by Alaska Ferry. We ended up on the same ferry as the animals traveling to the Tannah Valley State Fair.  We continued driving around the state from the fair, Valdez, Anchorage, Fairbanks, North Pole, Tok, Dawson, Yukon and down the gravel highway to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Crew/passengers - 2015 the Cruise Ship holds about 2,000 passengers and 900 crew, the motor coach holds 52 passengers with a driver and tour guide and the train car about 80 passengers with our tour guide continuing the trip. In 1973 we had the same four crew and passengers (our family) plus two Irish Terrier dogs.

Food - 2015 on board plenty with many choices of top quality food, prepared and served 24 hours per day. We did not have to shop, prepare, serve or clean up (We got over the guilty feeling fast and enjoyed being waited on continually). If any questions about ingredients, the staff was very willing to share information. Personally, I got plenty of greens and yogurt before my desserts. In 1973, all the meals, including baking bread, were prepared in an electric fry pan and an Amana Radar Range (prototype microwave). All food was purchased from area stores. Milk was frozen, vegetables and fruits were very fresh with in season choices. We were told that the high quality came from imports from Japan. Our prices were the same when we returned to the lower 48.

Entertainment - Many cruise entertainment choices from game shows to chamber music. Quality musicians and shows. We especially liked the music of Inovation. The group paid tributes to stars such as Elvis Presley and times such as 50's and 60's Sock Hop. On the land tour, we played Alaska bingo. This game provided us with hints of important facts to sharpened our eyes and ears. Thank you Bill and Laura for a safe and enjoyable tour. We visited the beautiful sanctuary for animals that may not acclimate to wild life. We learned of their breeding program to reintroduce land bison. At the kennel, we learned about the sled dog's looks, personalities and training. We were part of the 30% that saw the top of Denali; our sighting was from the train to Anchorage. Joey and I were eating a delicious prime rib dinner and enjoying the view.  In 1973, we walked the city streets and talked with nationals. In Juneau we climbed a mountain. We entertained our family by joining nationals at the Tannah Valley State Fair. We met the lady who consistently won top awards in jelly and jams. In 1973 after gathering wild berries, she received only three or four blue ribbons; she had a one month old baby. In Valdez at the end of fishing season all the families celebrate with a fish dinner as we were the only tourists in town we were welcomed to join in this festival. We stopped at the Earthquake Park in Anchorage; the airport had only one runway which was used by both cars and planes.  We drove into Dawson, Yukon on the gravel road called Top of the World road. "How did you get here?" we were asked. We pointed to the gravel highway. The response was "no, there is only one road in and one road out. You came in the out road." As this was a steep, single, gravel road, we were very glad not to meet another vehicle. We did see many trailers at the bottom of ravine.

Other memories - In 1973, I knitted four heavy, brown, lined, zipper sweaters. We wore them every day. The problem was that other tourists knew we were together; my son was reminded many times that the rest of his group was "over there."  In 2015, my knitting was socks; not for us to wear. In 1973, we were the outsiders, everyone else was native. We were always welcomed. In 2015, the people we met were tourists like us on cruises and shopping in the many seasonal stores. The workers go "outside" from October to March or April. Laura and Bill live in Alaska (land tour). They shared their daily lives. In Juneau, we met the docent at Juneau-Douglas City Museum who moved to Alaska in the late 1940's. Also, the U.S. Park Service workers live in Alaska all year. They offer great tips and tales.

Photos - In 2015 over 1700 digital photos taken. These photos have been downloaded, backed up on external hard drives and the cloud. In 1973 the photos taken are all lost; many of my memories are lost too. Write your story NOW!!!

Joey and I search bookstores for area authors and history; we found many and purchased a few. These books will be reviewed. The first book is I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven published in 1973. A few of the photos are on my Facebook page (Selma Blackmon). Please share your stories at or on your Facebook or blog page.

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