And so began my first day in the adventure of a life time. A
one-time, never to be repeated exploring of a faraway land. A land much
heard about, especially around a certain time of the year but with few
visitors and scattered, sparsely populated residents.
Although this was first day of travel, the story begins in the
early months of the new year of 2013. At our monthly meetings of the
Train Riders Meet Up group in Fullerton, CA talk was about this
upcoming summer convention of the National Railway Historical Society
(NRHS). Every year the convention is held in different places in the
country. Time is usually spent riding the local trains. Last year it
was held in Iowa.
And this year in September of 2013 the NRHS was going to………Alaska
Hell yes, great. But alas at first blushed I thought going there
would be a pipe dream. Too far. Too expensive. And all the other Too’s.
But at each meeting the talk continued. And I investigated and
studied it further. Then Chris Guenzler (Chris G) and Chris Parker
(Chris P) said they were going and were making reservations and buying
tickets for the convention. Well I thought if I go I will know at least
two people. After much playing with figures and what is offered on the
trip I felt good saying yes for a go. Several things were paramount in
The bucket list. Have heard about "Seward’s Folly" since grade
school history class. And Mount McKinley, the highest point-20,320
feet, in North America was studied in Geography class. The Land of the
Midnight Sun. I could see Alaska and ride the Alaska Rail Road all over
the state. Two birds with one stone.
Also heard and saw TV shows about the Alaska Railroad and the great
scenery seen from the train. Remember seeing TV’s Huell Howser going to
Alaska and riding the train and stopping when someone would flag down
the train to stop. Or telling the conductor that you wanted to be left
off the train at a fish camp in the middle of the wilderness. And I was
curious as the affect this land would have on the senses. The smell of
the air, the temp, how verdant, what are the people like and the bugs.
When I was in the USAF, I worked with a sergeant who just came back
from being stationed there. The thing he missed was the smell of fresh
I checked if flights were available. If not then it would be a no go.
Alaska Airlines was giving a discount to conventioneers. Looking over
their flights if seem the best values are from LAX but that is a long
way from Huntington Beach, CA. So a plan was devised. Drive to Santa
Ana Train station (SNA) and park in garage for free for ten days, and
then take the Metrolink train from SNA to LA Union station, from there
take the FlyAway bus to LAX. Best of all the times would work well.
Plus returning would work if I took the correct flight
home. After booking flights I then bought tickets for the
convention. Then I made the hotels reservations.
Start your adventure here.
Now it was 6:50 AM on Friday the 13th and have made my first check
point. Be at the train station 30 mins before train departs. Parked in
nice shady spot in garage, then proceeded inside station to security
office to give the officer details of my parked car. No problem parking
and staying if you let them know about it and for how long. Next it was
to buy Metrolink ticket. The machine would not accept my credit card so
I paid by cash. Then went to get my morning coffee and a breakfast
burrito to have on the train at the little snack place at the station.
Morning sun at SNA with North
bound track nearest.
down to street, crossed the tracks to the northbound track side.
Metrolink Train 807
San Bernardino to Laguna Niguel on southbound track.
And right on time at 7:19 AM is
my train to LA Union Station.
Uneventful trip with on time arrival at 8:15AM at LA Union
Station. Proceeded down the ramp to tunnel turned right to East portal
then up escalator to outside and the bus bays at Patsaouras Transit
FlyAway is at the end bay # 9 at the turn around and by 8:25 had bought
my ticket and was sitting on the bus.
GPS:34 03.284 N, 118 14.018 W.
We departed at 8:32 for LAX. At 8:52 we were merging west bound on the
I 105 off the Harbor freeway. At 9:06 bus pulled up at LAX Terminal 1.
Several minutes later I was off the bus with luggage and heading to
Alaska Airlines and the check in and pay baggage fee. After extra-long
time spent at baggage check in, then proceeded upstairs to security
check. It was the usual stuff. After putting my shoes back on, then
proceeded to find gate. Yes it was at the far end of terminal. With
over an hour till boarding, I went to Ruby’s Dinette. Ordered an egg
breakfast sandwich and proceeded to back of dining room and took a seat
by the windows overlooking the tarmac. Nice view while eating.
Next back to gate and board flight 157 non stop to Anchorage. The
six hour flight was mostly over water. Soda and snacks were passed out
plus one could buy a meal. No cash accepted, just plastic.I bought the meat and noodles package. Smooth flight and I
finally relaxed and decompressed. The last check point was done and
passed. It was all downhill for the next ten days. All the work and
worrying and planning about this adventure was behind me. Now it is
time to enjoy my Alaska adventure.
On approach to Anchorage.
Arrived in Anchorage on time at 4:15 PM local with time set back
one hour. My next flight was to Fairbanks in three hours at 7:00 PM.
This left time to eat and explore the Ted Stevens Anchorage
International Airport (ANC).
GPS:61 10.513 N,
149 58.784 W.
Downtown Anchorage high rises.
Elevated rail road tracks in center of pictures.
Two eggs for $2.00.
The weather outside looked very familiar. Winters in Southern
California brings cold storms from Alaska and the north down the west
After an orientation walk around the terminal went up to
Observation lounge on the second floor. Nice place to hang out, watch
the tarmac, get on the internet and charge your batteries.
Art work in
adjoining B Concourse.
Then it was time for my last flight of the day.Flt 191 to Fairbanks with boarding at 7:00 PM. Everybody
was in the cabin and ready to push back ten mins early except for one
traveler so we waited. With only one min left the wayward passenger
arrives so we left on time but not early.
Arrived on time (7:40PM) at Fairbanks International Airport (FAI).
Didn’t spot or recognize any traveler in the terminal so proceeded
outside to taxi stand. Got a taxi and went to the convention hotel,
Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conf. Center.
After arriving at hotel I proceeded to check in. The hotel desk
clerk said they had no reservation for me. Is this a sign of things to
come? I couldn’t find my confirmation letter that I was sure I printed
it and brought it with me. The clerk searched several different ways
but could not find anything. She said she would get me a room and knew
I was with the NRHS and gave me that rate and the breakfast meal
ticket. The clerk also told me the ticket for the continental buffet
breakfast was good for Fri, Sat and Sun mornings. As I was in LA on Fri
morning I could not use it for the first day. Nor was it good for the
last day on Monday.
I was assigned a room on the seventh floor and farthest away from the
elevators. Nice room with view of Denali in the daylight.
Now it was time to find the NRHS check in desk. At the desk I showed my
ID and signed the wavers and received my convention badge and tickets
to the daily advents for the upcoming week.
A short while later I was in my room and ready to lay my head on a
nice pillow. The end of a long day that started in Southern California
and ended 2646 miles away and now less than 200 miles from the Article