Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Seward's Folly

Almost a month ago I went to Anchorage to run a marathon on the summer solstice. I'm trying to run a marathon in all 50 states, so I thought I'd visit the nicer states first. Also, I've wanted to go to Alaska since I watched Insomniac with Dave Attell in 2003. It seemed like a strange place. Then, when I was in grad school in Western Mass, I watched every episode of Northern Exposure on DVD. I had to visit this very far away place.

I didn't have high hopes for food in Anchorage. Reviews of the best places on Yelp and Chowhound all ended with something like, "...considering it's Alaska, this place wasn't bad." After a disappointing sushi night, I decided to focus on carbo loading and eat in. 

I think this would have been one of my favorite marathons if it hadn't rained for the first 8-10 miles. In this photo I'm thinking, "It's raining. I really don't want to get out of the car. Why am I running another marathon?" But, my mother and I had made the trip to Alaska. The marathon was uphill the first half and downhill the second half. It cleared up a bit, but remained overcast. I ran a far-from-PR negative split. I enjoyed it and could walk the next day. After running nine marathons in nearly five years, it does become easier.

Anyway, enough marathon talk. After the marathon we drove down to Seward for a marine cruise. I was very excited to visit Seward, as I had written a paper about a woman, Queen Silver, who visited Seward in the early 20th century. I thought she was going to be the subject of my dissertation, but alas, no. It was fascinating to think about her visit to Seward in the teens. 

The guy cleaning up the trash on the touristy marine cruise asked me what I had planned for the solstice. I mentioned driving back to Anchorage and he said, "Oh, Anchorage. Go to Humpy's and have the halibut tacos and an Alaska Pale for me." I decided to follow up on that recommendation the next day.

The tacos look like a giant mess. Who doesn't love the 1990's squeeze bottle sauce presentation? It was halibut season and the tacos were the best food I ate in Alaska. I was not even offended by the flour tortillas. Looking back, everything in Anchorage seemed like it was from the 1990s: the architecture, the cars, the signage.

I also decided upon Alaska because my mother wanted to visit. Since it will likely be the only time she ventures to Alaska, I asked her if she wanted to take a plane to land on a glacier in Denali National Park. Denali doesn't seem like the type of park you can visit for one day. There's a whole bus system that (rightly so) limits vehicular traffic in the park. Sitting on a bus all day, after driving 4.5 hours, the day before a marathon, seemed like a miserable idea. Thus, I found the glacier landing. I would never do something like this. But, for my mom, I went with it. It was by far the best part of the trip. Landing on a glacier, with a view of Mt. McKinley, defies words. I felt like a giddy five-year-old when I stepped off the plane. It was other-worldly gorgeous.

I'm not sure that I would go back to Alaska. It is truly beautiful. It is truly far away. I might want to visit Fairbanks and drive north to the Arctic Circle or see the Northern Lights, but as long as I live on the east coast, Alaska is very far away folly.

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