Day 2: Juneau
Bernard said yesterday’s blue sky was rare for Seattle, and on cue, we woke up today to the Pacific Northwest’s usual gray overcast skies. But it wasn’t raining, so hey, whatever. We proceeded to enjoy Super 8’s tasty continental breakfast — including the “make-your-own” waffle machine which will pay dividends in their forthcoming Trip Advisor report, I believe.
After breakfast, Bernard dropped me off at SeaTac airport. I navigated the Alaska Airlines check-in kiosks and SeaTac security, then had an hour or so to wait for my 10:50AM flight. Some awesome person has decided that SeaTac airport should offer free WiFi, so I took advantage of that for a while, mainly because I can’t at stingy airports like O’Hare or Midway.
Originally, both parents and I were on the 10:50AM flight to Juneau (Flight 75), but when my parents’ early flight out of MSP was axed by Delta for some reason, they ended up sliding Mom and Dad to a later flight out of Seattle as well. Hence, I won this leg of the Amazing Race.
Upon arrival at Juneau, I confirmed there was no hotel shuttle, and due to the weekend, the express bus was not running. The Juneau airport is not exactly Grand Central Station. It clears out pretty quick after handling the passengers who have just arrived and assumes the feel of a high school building during summer break until the next flight arrives. After pondering the situation, I decided to go find the regular bus (vs cab) because it would save a few bucks and I had time to kill.
Turns out the closest regular bus station was at Nugget Mall — a 20-minute, hitchhiker-style walk along the side of the highway, down a couple non-descript side roads, past some closed commercial buildings, to the back of this completely depressing strip mall. A guy pulled over in a pickup and offered to give me a lift to catch up to the previous bus, but I declined and ducked inside to get exact change before the next bus arrived.
After catching the next bus, the ride into town was smooth. I found our hotel and dropped of my bag in the room. I wandered around Juneau for about an hour before my parents successfully arrived and called me from the airport. I suggested they opt for a cab rather than try to replicate my strip-mall bus stop method. Thankfully, they did.
It’s about a 10 minute walk along Franklin Street from the Westmark Baranof Hotel (located near the center of town) to the port area where all the cruise liners dock and let their passengers off to swarm the touristy shops along the shoreline.
If you’re not a docking a boat and unloading passengers, then you are probably docking a boat and unloading fish, which is processed and packaged by a local fishery. One of the operations runs a nearby gift shop with live demonstrations of cutting and preparing the fish when fresh catches arrive. Dad and I can confirm they sell excellent salmon jerky.
Heading back north along, we found a savory crepe stand and ordered a tasty dinner. We strolled in and out of the various tourist shops, many of which are jewelry operations touting gemstone names that sound made up. Mom found a quilting shop and nearly disappeared for the rest of the evening.
There are some really big birds around Juneau. Eagles and hawks are a given, of course, but the crows hanging around town look like they are on steroids.
Juneau also offers plenty of excellent photo ops of animals… which are stuffed.
In less than 4 or 5 hours, I think we got a pretty good idea what downtown Juneau is all about. There are quieter and more residential parts to the northwest of our hotel, but that’s about it. There is a WalMart about 10 minutes back toward the airport, so depending on how you see it, Juneau is not that far out of the loop”¦ or WalMart is everywhere.
Last, but not least, the Alaskan Brewing Company is based in Juneau and offers a brewery tour that has been added to my to-do list in the next few days. In the meantime, I found a nearby convenience store and got a head start. Mmmmm”¦ beer.