I went back to Alaska in August 2004, this time with
Sarah Jane. It was her first trip to that wonderful state, which, I
usually visit in the winter. It was quite a different trip for me too,
as I had never been to the lower part of Alaska. We flew to Seattle,
caught a shuttle bus from the airport directly to the ferry slip in
Bellingham, Washington, where we went on board the MS Columbia. The
ferries are operated by the State of Alaska and the system is known
as the Marine Highway. We had a small cabin but found the ship very
spacious with a good cafeteria, plenty of deck space and many salons.
There were daily lectures and slide shows by the resident ranger on
board, usually held in the amazing front salon of the ship, which featured
an almost 180 degree view of the Inland Passage.
Loved this mural of the ladies
gold rush days in Wrangell
I make friends with Hugh Neff's
Our ship stopped in
Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau and Haines and ended in Skagway.
We were able to disembark at all the ports and 3 ½ days later
we arrived in Skagway. We stayed in that gold rush town for 5 days,
had lots of adventures like taking a helicopter up to the Denver Glacier
to take a sled dog ride and riding the White Pass and Yukon Railroad
up towards Canada. We also rented a car for a few days and explored
nearby Dyea, where I was able to renew acquaintances with Hugh Neff,
whom I had met in Nome last year. Hugh was the rookie of the year
in the 2004 Iditarod and was spending the summer with his dogs giving
rides for tourists near the Chilcot Trail. We met up with Hugh and
his girlfriend Tamra for lunch the next day in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
after a beautiful drive from Alaska to Canada. Visited the Yukon Quest
Headquarters in Whitehorse and took a trolley ride along the Yukon
This year Hugh intends to do both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod
sled dog races. Sarah Jane was very taken with him and became one
of his sponsors.
In October, another trip with Sarah Jane, this time to Eastern Europe
which included a delightful trip on the Danube from the Black Sea
to Budapest, Hungary. As soon as we landed in the Bucharest Airport,
I was met and then taken for a visit to Castel Studios where the film
"Cold Mountain" was shot. I later wrote about the visit
on the Women In Film web-site. We spent a day sightseeing in Bucharest
and then took a train to Constanza on the Black Sea.
After a few hours walking around that seaside resort town, we boarded
our beautiful boat, the River Adagio. Later that afternoon we sailed
through a canal which got us back to the Danube. We were on the boat
for almost a week and visited many towns in Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia,
and Serbia. Our cruise ended in Budapest, Hungary where we were taken
ashore to a hotel to stay for three days. It was wonderful to be back
in that fascinating town, and I was able to look up old friends and
also spend an afternoon soaking in the hot springs complex in the
center of the city.
We then went by bus to the Czech Republic, stopping for a home-hosted
meal in a small village in Slovakia. Later that afternoon we reached
Prague. We stayed in Prague for 4 days and I fell in love with that
beautiful city. The old town was fascinating. I was very moved by
my visit to the Jewish quarter in the town where a memorial next to
one of the synagogues and cemetery listed the names of the Czech Jewish
citizens who had died in concentration camps.
Hot Springs complex in Budapest
Jesse Littell in his studio
I was also able to look up and have dinner with Jesse Littell, the
artist son of my dear friend writer, Bob Littell, whom I had visited
in France last summer. Jesse has a wonderful studio on the top floor
of an apartment building that he owns and had put together.
On our last day in Prague, I took a tour to visit Terezin, a "model"
town, which the Nazis endeavored to fool the Red Cross into believing
it was a settlement place for the Jews, but was, in reality, a concentration
camp. They had a very interesting museum there with photos and drawings
made by all the children who passed through or lived in Terezin. All
in all, it was a very sobering and emotional experience.
In December I went to Malta, an island in the Meditteranean not far
from Tunisia. The weather was mild and the islands were filled with
prehistoric ruins, some older than the Pyramids or Stonehenge. The towns
and harbors of Malta are really extraordinary and we were able to learn
a lot about the "Knights of Malta". A few of us took a two
day side trip to the nearby island of Gozo where we saw a trotting race
in the center of one of the towns.
Horse race on the Island of
Beautiful old town in Malta
At Christmas, since my new love Jim (see "What's
New" on this web-site) had to go to Idaho to visit his daughter
and grandson, I decided to take a road trip to Arizona.
Stopped in Glendale for two days to visit a Terry McManus, a playwright
interested in doing a play on the Exile summer of the Rolling Stones.
Terry was wondering if I would like to collaborate with him on the
project so we spent many hours together talking and looking at Rolling
Stones books and video. Leaving the Phoenix area I stopped off for
lunch in Tucson with Astrid Lundstrom, Rolling Stone Bill Wyman's
Martha Elliott and her altar
Christmas lunch in Patagonia
Then on to Patagonia to spend two days with Martha Elliott, Ramblin'
Jack's ex-wife and Aiyana's mother. Got there on Xmas Eve and Martha
loaned me a wonderful cabin which was part of an old B&B she was
caretaking. I loved that little town and had a wonderful Christmas
dinner with friends of Martha's. Drove to Bisbee, a colorful town
filled with former copper mines and explored one of them on an underground
tour. Finally, went to Tombstone for a quick look and a hot drink
and then on to Kartchner Caverns, the most amazing living caves near
Benson. Spent the day at the caves with time off for a great spare
rib lunch in Benson and finally drove all the way back to Glendale.
The next day I braved wind, sand and heavy rainstorms on my way back
to Los Angeles. Picked up Jim at the airport on Dec. 31st and we were
able to spend our first New Year's Eve together.
Vet check at Iditarod Headquarters
Visiting Iditarod Headquarters
For the fifth time I went back to Alaska in the winter 2005, to
volunteer for the Iditarod. This time I went up early enough to go
out to the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla for the vet check. It
was amazing to see the many dog trucks in the parking lot and on the
ground, vets and helpers checking over all the dogs, one team at a
time. The next day I started right in with my phone and email room
duties, which I really enjoy. It's not just the fun of being in touch
with people from all over the world who are fans or interested in
the race, it's the great people you meet who are working next to you.
This year was special, because my new love Jim Weeks (see What's
New on this web-site) was coming up to Alaska to join me for the
race start weekend. It was his first time to that amazing state and
it was fun seeing it though his eyes too.
We met all my buddies at the ceremonial start in Anchorage, walking
through the thick snow that had been trucked in the night before,
and then watching some of the starts from a second floor window. That
night we went out to a restaurant in Anchorage and had what Jim claimed
was "the best fish and chips he had ever tasted". I think
it was local halibut in a beer batter. The next day we were up early
and first went to Wasilla so Jim could see Iditarod Headquarters,
then to Palmer to visit with Mike Dillingham, Rivers the blind sled
dog's dad for coffee and donuts. Then on to Willow for the re-start.
On the way up, Denali came out and Jim was delighted as he had always
wanted to see that mountain; even if he calls it Mt. McKinley.
Jim could only stay up there for 2 full days because of work, but
we crowded a lot into those wonderful 48 hours. He arrived at midnight
on Friday and left at midnight on Sunday and I stayed on for another
week to continue my volunteer duties. I was asked to bring Chako,
an 8 week old Alaskan Husky home to LA with me for his new mom, Kathy.
Dog and Aunt June survived the trip, Kathy nervously waiting for us
at LAX at 6 AM. But all are doing well!
Alice brings Chako to the
Anchorage airport with his carrier
Happy new mom Kathy at LAX
with Chako's Auntie June
Future plans are a long weekend to Washington, D.C. in April, again
with Jim to see some of the new museums and monuments and a visit
to Boise, Idaho in May to stay with Jim's daughter, son-in-law and