Our Alaska Cruise

September 2006

The Cruise

Special Pages


It looks like the ladies have on campaign buttons. However, they are actually stickers, and rather than promoting a candidate, they say,
"Gotta Go to Goodmark Jewelers."
What is that all about? Goodmark Jewelers found a great way to get some advertising in, and I was frankly amazed by the tremendous competition that existed for jewelry stores in the Inland Passage area. Apparently many people actually take cruises, intentionally or unintentionally, in order to buy copious amounts of jewelry. There are jewelry stores on every corner it seems, and so getting noticed is probably pretty tough for any one store.

Some bright lad came up with the idea that if Goodmark could get ladies to wear buttons with the store's name printed on them; from the time they left the ship until they turned the buttons in at the store, those ladies would be walking advertisements for Goodmark's. Not only that, but it was guaranteed that most of those ladies would search out the store in order to cash in on the deal. (The deal, by the way, was a free pair of earrings.) It sure worked for Dotti and Tammy.

The only downside of this idea, at least from the store's point of view, was that they were located only about 100 yards from where we got off the ship. In fact the stern of the ms Westerdam was just about even with that jewelry store. Even so, it took us quite a while to actually work our way up that 100 yards, because there was a whole lot of shopping going on!

Diamonds International had a more interesting approach. This store is a chain and so they figured, why not take several shots at each customer? They gave a charm bracelet to each lady up front, and then if the ladies would search out the Diamond International store in each port of call, they would get a free charm to add to the bracelet. Once again, it worked. Jim and I followed the ladies to Diamonds International in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan.

The illusionist whose show we attended on the ship, rhetorically asked something along the lines of, "How many jewelry stores can you actually squeeze into one town?" It was an amusing line because these tourist cities have put more of these stores into a few city blocks than I would have thought possible.

Juneau was founded by two men from different backgrounds, but of similar purpose. Richard Harris was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and was 46 in 1880. Joe Juneau was 53, and was born in Quebec, and spoke primarily French, reading and writing English not at all.

The two prospectors were sent off in search of gold specifically by George Pilz, from Sitka. He was involved with mining gold there, and was in search of even better deposits. He dispatched several prospectors to cover the area, included Harris and Juneau.

With some help from the Auk Tlingit Chief, named Kowee (or Cowee), who was their guide, they found gold in the creek which runs through Downtown Juneau and empties into Juneau Harbor. Not terribly surprisingly, it was soon named Gold Creek. These two men knew enough about gold deposits to realize that they were close to the load which had dumped the gold into the stream.

Richard Harris pulled a few tricks in setting up the Harrisburg Mining District, counting his 3 Tlingit paddlers as "miners" to meet the required quorum. Even Joe Juneau, who was functionally illiterate in English wasn't really qualified to make things legal. The name for the district stuck but the town did not stay Harrisburg for long. The name was changed to Juneau City, and then shortened to just plain Juneau when it was recognized by the Postal Department.

The fact that Harris was over generous in the number of claims he was allowing for himself was outside standard practice as well. Later, in May of 1881, the whole thing was overturned once the rush was actually on, and 150 more miners had shown up. Partly because there were already a number of Harrisburgs around, the name of the town was ultimately changed by vote in December of 1881 to Juneau City, (various candidates for the town name were Rockwell, Harrisburg, and even Pilzburg). The official change was made with the postmaster on January 10, 1882, but the postal department shortened it to just Juneau.

Today, Richard Harris and Joe Juneau are honored all over town as the founders of the city, and even their Tlingit guide is called a "founder" in some areas. George Pilz, who was the real force behind the discovery that created the town gets little or no mention.

Harris and Juneau were outdoors prospectors, rough cut and hard. They made some money from gold, but couldn't hold on to it. Joe Juneau liked the saloons and blew his money there. Harris lost his in legal battles over ownership of overlapping claims. Joe Juneau died 1899 at 69. His body was moved to Juneau in 1903. Harris lived to 1907, and died at age 74 in an Oregon sanitarium. His body was moved as well. Today, Joe and Richard lie in adjoining graves in the Evergreen Cemetery in Juneau.

Port Call: Juneau!

September 20, 2006

Here's Jim showing off his new hat, seriously. The vertical black line on the ship right behind him is the glass enclosure of the scenic elevators on the port side of the ship.

Here I am showing off my new hat, merrily. Jim has recently been commenting on how he is seeing more gray in my hair. That is true as you can see the hair peeking out from under my cap. Our eyes are the same color already and looking between our two pictures, it won't be long and our hair color will be the same too. We're looking more like brothers every day.

Tammy and Dotti wandered over to the coffee stand in search of some caffeine. We hadn't really moved much so far. We left the ship, went across the street, and went into the shop. It was 10:10 a.m. and we had been on land for one hour and fifteen minutes so far. But we didn't care, because we were having fun! There was plenty to talk about, it was nice to be in the open air, and not limited to the confines of the ship. Here we were in the capitol of our nation's largest and least populated state.

For those who were interested in something more than just coffee, they had a few edible treats to choose from as well. Fortunately, we had just had a good breakfast.

It was time to leave Caribou Crossings finally. We had spent over an hour at 497 S. Franklin Street, enjoyed our coffee, and it was time to move on and search out other shops where other interesting things might be seen.

As we moved out onto Franklin Street and up towards the center of town, I took this picture that shows the place where Jim and I had played basketball. Was it already two days ago? The net enclosed court looks deserted, but still it waits for the next passengers to enjoy. Our days were filled to overflowing but still they were passing very quickly.

Martin Way was right beside Caribou Crossings, but we were making headway now, breaking new ground. Looking up Franklin Street we could see various shops lining the street. Fur, leather, and gift shops were everywhere that they could squeeze them in between the jewelry stores. On the left the Fur Factory is visible and just beyond that is Goodmark Jewelers.

If you look in the upper left hand part of the picture you will see that ms Westerdam is towering over the buildings here, and we haven't come close to moving past the stern of the vessel yet.

Dotti is very friendly, and so it was no surprise that she almost immediately found a new friend. Judging from appearances, he was an old miner, and he was sitting in front of the store, with his mining hat on and just enjoying the great gray day. He wasn't much of a conversationalist however, and so Dotti finally gave up trying to get him to open up about himself. He just sort of sat there with a glazed look in his eye. Dotti has that effect on me too.

We met a lot of very nice people on this cruise, and of course with our background, we always love to meet vets of the US military. We met this handsome couple from California in the store; and they were kind enough to pose with us for these two pictures. The gentleman had served in the Marine Corps and of course Jim is a retired US Navy Chief. The years of solid marriage, the work ethic, and the service to country represented by all four of these people is a great example of why there is an America today. And when Dotti and I were allowed to join with these two new friends, we were proud to stand with them as well.

Dotti is standing across the street from the store where the previous pictures were taken. The signs on the store are shouting that there is a "storewide sale" and "50% off." We were on the final cruise of the 2006 season, and all the stores were running very intense sale campaigns. This was their last hurrah until late next spring.

You can see that we have not yet come very far, because the cables for the Mount Roberts Tramway are visible rising into the air behind Dotti, who still has her sticker on.

There were lots of stuffed animals, and cute little displays decorating the shelves and floors of these shops. It was as much fun simply looking the stores over as it was actually finding something we really wanted to buy. Here I am visiting with Bullwinkle's cousin who had a promising career in the mining industry before being retired to the wall.

This little guy wasn't pretty, but he was cute anyway. I got all the way down on the floor to shoot up at him. He was equipped with a plunger box and looked ready to open up a mine in the back wall. When I stood up he only came up to my knees, and other than the beard and gray hair, he looked like a kid that was looking for his mom.

A few interesting things about this picture come to mind. First of all it was 11:07 a.m., and we had been ashore about 2 and a quarter hours; and we had finally made it past the end of the ship! The shop owners in Juneau are expert in creating fun, interesting, and well stocked tourist corrals where they herd us in and keep us pinned up with sales, merchandise and humorous displays. We may not have been accumulating miles on our odometer, but we were gathering in a very good time!

Next, if you look on the Promenade Deck right at the rear of ship there is a life vest drill going on. We appeared to have taken on new passengers in Juneau. Were they bound for Seattle?

The full court basketball facility stands alone inside of its net on the Sports Deck. The court seemed large when we were playing on it. Now the aft backboard stands like a tiny toy waiting patiently for its child to play with it. I guess that is pretty close to what it is.

The streets are wet, and the sky is gray, even reaching its grayness down like a hand covering the mountains of Douglas Island. Some rain was falling, but we felt so at home that Tammy never opened her umbrella and we didn't even have on water proof coats. This is good Pacific Northwest weather, and it feels like home.

You may think that this is a picture of a large stuffed eagle, but that would be misleading. If you look beyond the eagle, you will see something far more interesting; for here I have captured an image of Dotti in her natural habitat of shopping. It looks like she might be getting ready to pounce on a really good deal in this leather goods store.

Along with being beautiful, and besides loving to have a good time, both Tammy and Dotti love stuffed animals! Tammy has a large collection of Beenie Bears and Dotti has more stuffed Tweeties than we can count. Other stuffed creatures of various shapes and sizes can also be found around our houses. So, this eagle made an incredible chick magnet for these two. They couldn't keep their hands off of him. If he weren't stuffed, I would say he was one lucky bird.

Also, notice that the ladies hands are empty, (well, except for stuffed eagle wing) and this is after a couple hours of heavy shopping! How can this be? It was about here that Jim gallantly made a run back to the ship. Our merchandise load was getting larger and we thought it would be good to unload it, so we wouldn't have to carry it, and to make room: just in case we might find one or two more items during the rest of our day here that we might want to buy. I offered to make the run, but Jim had something he needed to get on the ship and so he did it. (Later on, we both made another run for the same purpose. So, we had found a couple more items. )

Here we are at the intersection with Marine Way. This building is the Juneau Public Library, with Douglas Island covered in gray but looking back at us as if it were afraid that it might miss out on something.

The library has a nice feature, which I wish more downtown buildings were able to offer: self contained parking. There is little parking space surrounding the building, but there is a great deal inside of it. By building upwards and merging the parking with the rest, a fairly small footprint is taken from the city land, while allowing for a large collection of books, and a place for those who read them to leave their cars out of harm's and traffic's way. Very nice. Sadly there was not enough time for us to see the inside.

Still at Marine Way and Franklin, we are now looking northward up Franklin Street past a jade shop, and next a jewelry store. (How many jewelry stores can you squeeze into one town? ) On the left in the distance is the Red Dog Saloon and the Northern Lights gift shop.

The Red Dog Saloon is set up for tourists, and it was crowded, but other than some stuffed animals on the wall and sawdust on the floor, there wasn't much to see inside the swinging doors, unless you were looking for a menu. It is an operational restaurant, and I read that the ribs were good. We were looking for something a little different for lunch, and so, when we got there, we just stuck our heads in and left.

A collection of various tee shirts with either off color or drinking messages; the Alaskan favorite themes of moose and bears are well represented. Perhaps heavily represented would be more correct.

As Jim is looking at a few of the tee-shirts hanging out on display, we are looking back along Franklin Street from whence we came. Alaska figures prominently in the the shop names that we have been passing. The sign for Alaska Doll is a reminder for all of the Russian shops that had progressively smaller wooden dolls enclosed in larger dolls, like a having a very small Christmas present buried inside box after box, each smaller box hidden inside a larger box, and you open each one only to find another one inside. These shops had lots of Christmas things as well, including many Santa Claus dolls, and they had many beautiful blonde and blue eyed girl dolls too; since Russia was heavily populated by the Vikings long ago.

Off to the right our ship is still visible over the top of the building.

Time 11:23, and we are looking back at the ship, but we haven't gotten very much past it yet.

From here there are a few things that are easier to see, now we have a little distance between us. For instance, the exhaust stacks near the rear of the ship, run right down through the ship into the engine rooms below. So, when you take the ship's tour, you will find that towards the aft end of the ship all passenger foot traffic has to work around them. Of course, inside you would never know that was what was going on just by looking.

The basketball court on top is looking smaller and smaller as we go along, and the entire ship is decreasing in apparent size, at least until you see the two story building in front being dwarfed by having the ship looking over its head—peering with its odd spheres, hiding satellite antennas inside, and looking a bit like barbaric trophies of slain enemies mounted on top of poles.

The wet road, with the heavily overcast skies belied the actual weather. We never felt like we got wet, even though a lot of our walking was under the sky without any protection. We didn't open the umbrella, or have to dash for an open doorway to get out of the rain, because what rain there was, was quite civilized and light.

I spotted this sign from across the street and had to come over and read the destinations. I think these types of signs are always fun because they give you a feel for where you are. I have been to a number of the destinations listed from this view (New York, Dallas, Manila, Chicago: Hi Michael!), and I just missed on another, when I landed in Japan, but not in Tokyo. There are a number of Kingstons in the world, but the one referred to here is in Jamaica. That makes sense, because this area of Juneau is heavily visited by cruise ships and that is a very popular cruise destination.

The Glacier Smoothie definitely said, "Alaska," and the "reserved for Orca parking" made us wonder if whales really do need a place to put their cars.

Coming around to the other side, the names of Honolulu and Sydney are now in view. Both of my sons, Glenn and LeRoy have been to Sydney, Australia; and LeRoy was born while Dotti and I were in Honolulu.

The Juneau library isn't seen from its best angle here, but it looks like a very solid building nonetheless.

Looking back at Jim, from next to the destination sign; this is still Marine Way and Franklin. Jim is about to make his run back to the ship, and he has a couple of the bags in his hands. Behind him are the shops where Dotti and Tammy were busy finding good things to buy. The names around us are continue to remind us where we are: Glacier Gem, Alaska Fur, and Gray Line of Alaska.

Little Switzerland (236 Franklin Street) was another place we visited. It has watches and clocks, as you might imagine from the name, and jewelry. (We clearly needed to see more of that of course. )

Across the street was Marine View Center, an office building that has various official Juneau city offices, where you can get permits, and that house the Engineering Department, and provides conference rooms, etc. On the face of the building are presented the faces of Joe Juneau, and Richard Harris (this one died in 1907, 23 years before the actor of the same name was born), the two men who founded Juneau and the Tlingit Chief name Kowee who was their guide in finding the gold that drove the gold rush into the Juneau area.

I kept my camera busy as we were walking along, in between stores, I got the ladies' attention every so often, for just long enough to snap a picture. Every now and then Tammy would mumble something about paybacks, but I am not sure what she could have been talking about.

Here is an Alaska license plate caught in its native habitat! Before this cruise, I had never seen one on its home turf.

With Diamonds International ahead of us (at 207 South Franklin)—did I mention that there are a lot of jewelry stores in Juneau?—you can see that the group had a feeling like it was Christmas. It was a happy day, and we were feeling enthusiastic about being out and about in the open air, with solid ground below us. We were closer to the Artic Circle than we were to home and we were having fun!

Franklin Street climbs up the side of the hill in front of us. Later Jim and I would be taking a quick stroll up to about where the white house is visible above the top of the stores. Behind that, Mt. Juneau is playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds.

Every now and then I can coax Tammy into posing for a picture, and we all benefit when she does, because as I always tell her, "Cameras were created to take pictures of beautiful women." (Look at magazine covers if you don't believe me. Men's magazines and women's magazines fight with each other to see which can have the most beautiful women on their covers. Too bad for them; they have to settle for supermodels, but I get to take pictures of these two lovely ladies!)

All right! We finally did it, after walking for over 3 hours we could finally look back down the street and no longer see our ship. Not only that, but if you look across the street, you will see a store named Peabody's Monster.

A brief side trip: The name Peabody is an interesting one to me. Most of my life I pronounced it as "Pea-Body." Then, in 1988 we moved to Massachusetts. They have a town name Peabody, and we ended up living in it. However, nobody called it "Pea-body." Instead it was "Pea'-Buh-dee," with the long 'e' at the end sharply cut off.)

During lunch we could see that Peabody's Monster sign from our table in the restaurant. Oh yes! It was lunch time, and we had made it to 157 South Franklin Street, where the El Sombrero Restaurant is located. We had asked the locals for a good restaurant, and this is the one they recommended. After it was all over, we have to agree with them, it was great! From the service to the food, we had no complaints, and a lot of raves to hand out.

Part of the directions that we were given included the fact that theJuneau Historic Clock Tower El Sombrero Restaurant was located across from the Juneau Historic Clock Tower. I had been searching the skyline for a tower reaching up high into the sky. I had the traditional 4-sided tower in mind, with a clock face on each side. We had found the restaurant before we figured out that this little clock, which did have four faces, and which stood little higher than the antique appearing light posts lining the street behind it, was the grandiose sounding "Clock Tower." The clock stands on the northwest corner of Front Street and Franklin Street. The second view is looking west, down the south side of Front Street.

It was 1:30 PM and it was time for lunch! Shopping can work up a real appetite.

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