21 June 2009

Ready to ride

I am sitting in an Alaska Railroad car, our group -- six of us and a guide -- having been boarded early for an orientation to the traveling we will be doing today. We have been assigned 16 seats at the front of the car and Tal and I are sharing two sets of seats facing each other with a table between them. (No, the computer is not, I repeat NOT, on the table.)

Alaska Wildland Adventures has been contracted by Road Scholars to coordinate this six-day excursion and our guide, on first impression, is terrific -- lively, encouraging, knowledgeable and obviously engaged by this vast state. I am so grateful that Nancy is in charge, choreographing departures, shuttles, hotels, admissions, etc. At every turn I find myself breathing a sigh of relief that I’m not, minute by minute, having to have it all figured out.

The group is small and what an interesting bunch. A pediatrician who worked with the National Institute of Health for most of his career; a kindergarten teacher who is also an avid birder, her checklist at the ready; the former chair of the School of Social Work at Smith College; a professor of social work. All of us are for most part retired. And, some of the travels experienced are pretty awesome, the Milford Track in New Zealand being, perhaps, the most dramatic and taxing.

Our two initial ventures -- to the Museum of the North before dinner and the Trans-Alaska (Alyeska) Pipeline in the evening were, I realize, mere dips of a toe into what there is to see, know and experience in those two locations. I’m not going to go into any explanation of either, so breathe a sigh of relief. But, I will add a couple of photographs, first of the interior of the museum and, secondly, of the pipeline outside Fairbanks.

This is the main hall, the Gallery of Alaska to my back and the Alaska Range Viewing Window beyond the stairs.

The section of pipeline we visited was north of Fairbanks. I am facing north for this shot, where the pipeline emerges from underground.

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