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The CoolRVers are actually a couple of retirees, Judy and Luke Rinehimer and our 5 year old German Shepherd Dog, Miss Shady Lady. We are "extended-time" travelers with a home in Cool, California. Thanks for following along with us as we travel North America in our "rolling condo", enjoying the RV lifestyle. Your comments are always welcomed.



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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Seward, Alaska – Part 2

Today was an exploration day for us.  After a lazy start of the day, we hopped in the car and headed for the Seward Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center.  We actually did not pick up much literature there because we had most of the key booklets and brochures from all our previous stops at local Visitor Centers.  I now have TWO cloth bags of “Alaska Stuff” and we still have a few more weeks of travel up here.
Booked a Tour
Next on the agenda was to head for Major’s Marine Tours office near the harbor.  We are using the TourSaver 2-for-1 Coupon Book so we wanted to book a glacier and wildlife tour to the Kenai Fjords.  We had three different coupon options and decided to do the “big”, 7.5 hour trip that will take us beyond Resurrection Bay (where we are camped) and up into the Fjords National Park.  The earliest tour we could book was on Saturday so we’ll be staying in Seward a little longer. We also booked the all-you-can-eat prime rib and salmon buffet onboard meal.  Well, ya gotta eat, don’t you???
Docks of the Bay
We could not pass up the opportunity to stroll up and down a few docks in the Resurrection Bay Marina.  Luke and Frank found a few boats for sale, but Gloria and I just opted to pick out the tour boats (like the one we will be on for our tour) and liked the food that was being toted out by the wheel-barrel full.
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The Coast Guard also has a station in Seward and we had a chance to chat with a crew member of the USCGC Mustang about their mission of search and rescue and law enforcement.
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Train Wreck Lunch
IMG_4816While at the Visitor’s Center we  discovered a list of local restaurants and a collection of menus on display.  Decision was to hit “The Train Wreck” (a collection of former Alaska Railroad cars) for lunch at “The Smoke Shack”. The place only has six tables so we had about a half-hour wait.  Half of one rail car was the dining area and the other half had an open kitchen.  The other train cars in the collection included a two room “lodge", a bike rental shop, and a tour and gift shop. As for the food choices, the others were all attracted to the pulled pork sandwich with lots of sauce choices while I had the Railroad Burger (half-pound burger with smoked cheddar cheese and thick peppered bacon, served with beans and coleslaw.  Don’t tell my doctor.)
Of course the group had to find a Fudge Shop for “a little taste of something sweet” as Gloria quoted her late mother. My “taste” came home for a future late-night snack.  BTW, I DID as ask for sugar-free, but, darn, they didn’t have any.
SeaLife Center
IMG_4888Following the Valdez oil spill, fines were assessed the oil companies and, as a result, funding was made possible to create the SeaLife cold-water research and education institute.  The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only public aquarium in Alaska and includes interpretive displays, underwater galleries, hands-on experiences, and videos. (Our TourSaver coupons saved us another $20 today.)
A large display explains what happened during the oil spill and the resulting clean-up and mitigation efforts. Glass aquariums like this “Kelp Forest” gave us a chance to look below the surface of the Beriing Sea.
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The “rookery” featured the popular Alaskan bird, the puffin which we have only seen on signs for smoking and non-smoking areas so far. (We should see this bird in it’s natural environment during our Saturday cruise.)  This bird is actually a poor flyer, but a great swimmer and loves to dive below the surface of the water.
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Stellar sea lions and harbor seals also kept us entertained both above the water and through the undersea gallery area.
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In the outside Research area, this 2-yr-old seal was extremely playful and couldn’t resist teasing the huge 18-yr-old on the other side of the fence.
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Visitors of all ages were encouraged to gently touch the sea life on display.
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Dessert for Dinner
The SeaLife Center is just down the street from the “old” business area so our gang decided to stroll the gift shops.  Since we had large lunches, we had decided to skip dinner – until we found “Sweet Darlings” – the sister store to where we had stopped earlier in the day.  Back then we couldn’t decide between “Fresh Fudge” or Gelato Italian ice cream. Now the choice was easy – Gelato for dinner.  (I did have a scoop of “sugar-free” chocolate this time.)
We finished our walking tour checking out restaurants for future meals.  The Apollo Restaurant (which advertised itself as “Italian, Greek, and Seafood”) got the group’s attention.
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IMG_4889While they checked out the menu, I checked out the flower pots (er, boots) next door.



WILDLIFE
Besides the birds and residents of the SeaLife Center, our only wildlife sightings were soaring bald eagles (Gloria gets credit for spotting) and otters.
IMG_4860This guy was swimming off shore, not far from the SeaLife Center.  He looked pretty happy he wasn’t inside the Center.



In yesterday’s blog I introduced you to our neighborhood sea otter I nicknamed “Ollie”.  It turns out Ollie has a playmate and this evening the two of them did multiple laps in front of our parked RVs.  I can’t tell the gender of these folks so, for now, they will be known as Ollie and Olivia.
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NEXT:  Seward – Part 3

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