Anchorage, Alaska insight: driving/time
Expect to see a lot of homeless people wandering our streets and be careful when driving. In addition to terrible street maintenance on heavily traveled streets (quite a few with no traffic lines left on them and deep ruts), one never knows when a drunk or homeless person with little children in tow will suddenly step into oncoming traffic to cross the street.
In fact, when driving, watch out for bad streets, drunks, and moose. Always take your time driving and never be in a hurry.
Alaskans live on their own clock. Don't go anywhere expecting to be in a rush or you will just be upset and frustrated over a situation you can't change. Businesses open late and close when they want to, even if you are in the shop. Things start when the employees arrive and are ready. Just getting a mocha can take so much time it seems like an eternity, even when at least three employees are standing around watching one do everything alone, and most businesses are understaffed to begin with.
If people were smarter here, we would invest in a nicer, lovelier city with more fun things to do, rather than just the core downtown tourist center. If we did, we could provide more to families and be a destination city. Instead, Anchorage is mostly a pass-through city for tours, cruise tourists on their way to somewhere else, outdoors enthusiasts, hunters, and fishing enthusiasts. We don't do it, though, because the population isn't progressive enough to invest in it.
The thrill of Alaska is outside of Anchorage so if you have the time, strike out for smaller communities elsewhere in the state.
Alaska is also very expensive during tourist/hunting/holiday seasons. Like Las Vegas, the prices are jacked up. The cost is of living is more than in the lower 48 anyway, and then prices go up even more during busy tourist seasons. Come with enough money to enjoy yourself and be prepared during cruise season to have many businesses focused only on the cruise and bus tours to the detriment of independent travelers.Related to:
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I'm lucky to never have seen a bear within the city limits of Anchorage. For the past two summers the bears seem to be venturing in to the city constantly. This is very disturbing and is part of the reason I'm seriously considering moving out of Alaska once the recession is over! The bears are getting way too close for comfort!
The bear in the pic was hit by a vehicle in front of Cal Worthington Ford on the Seward Highway on 8/22/08.Related to:
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Anchorage is not known for its spectacular weather. Perhaps not as rainy as southeast Alaska or as snowy as other places along the southcentral coast, but we do get our fair share of crappy weather. Winters are cold but not like Fairbanks…though we do drop below 0 F (-17 C) and it’s not unusual. When it snows, it sticks around. When it melts a little during the day, it freezes at night. After a short time, the layers of ice and snow accumulate and make walking an art form. Driving isn’t easy initially, either—we have studded tires and all wheel drive but still slide on occasion. Roads are not plowed very well, if at all—parking lots just get a scraping but this doesn’t remove the ice build up.
When it’s not snowing, it’s often rainy, but you bless the rain because it’s not snow. Streets do flood and the rain is usually chilly…definitely in the spring and fall. Summer, which takes place after our long season of snow and lingering season of mud, is reportedly pleasant. When I visited before in the summer, it definitely was. The long days, the mild temperatures create our tourist season.
We also have very cold clear days where apparently, the snow is upset that it can’t fall so it creates diamond dust instead. Little tiny particles of ice that shimmer on surfaces and in the air when captured by the sun, but with no accumulation. (The most common place for diamond dust is in Antarctica if that tells you something) Often, we have low clouds and resulting fog. Directly along the water, especially along Turnagain Arm outside of the city, winds of tropical storm strength are common.
Sound good? Then come on up! Seriously, though…we do have good days and like I said on my intro, they are not taken for granted.
While some roads in the Anchorage area are classified as interstates, there is no real fast way through or around the city. Alaska 1 is an interstate before and after the city, but you have to deal with the traffic lights, the merging and rush hour…there’s no way around it. When 1 does again turn into something that more resembles an interstate or at least a highway, everyone takes it, so you still have the congestion near the ramps. Additionally, most vehicles are large which limits your visibility and trucks have to take this route too, which ties things up even more. During bad weather or an event like a hockey game, it’s even slower. It can get frustrating but the good news is that as quickly as you get stuck in traffic, you can get out of it (though it might not seem quick at the time).
Dimond Blvd. is one of the worst roads for traffic because the majority of shopping and restaurants are in this area.
Ingra and Gambell (which are the roads Alaska 1 splits into) has gridlock too…before it splits off, around Merrill Field, you’re likely to be sitting in traffic as well.
Now, I don’t mean to offend anyone but why in the world would you be homeless here?? Maybe you don’t have a choice, but it just so happens every one of our homeless people are veterans (according to their cardboard signs) or they stand by buildings that say “now hiring” for entry level or labor jobs. We do have a problem with panhandlers who stand on the corners, waiting for red lights to walk in front of your car and give you a cold, hard stare. Some just sit in a chair by the mall…I’m not sure how these more passive types make money, but one thing is certain, you come to Anchorage, you’ll see this. It’s sad, in a way because I couldn’t imagine being homeless in the first place, but to be homeless here has to be an entirely different experience than in a warmer climate. There are shelters and like I said, jobs. Like in other cities, I wouldn’t give these people money from your vehicle. If you feel so compelled to contribute, do so with meal coupons or through organizations like the Salvation Army or something which are also abundant in Anchorage.
Bears and Moose still an issue
We might joke about "Los Anchorage" but they do still have resident bears. You won't see Brown or Black bears downtown but you can run into them anywhere on the outskirts of town, such as the hillside area. There are usually 4 or 5 incidents a year where either the bear is killed or someone mauled. Folks are getting better about sealing their garbage cans and keeping dog food inside so the number of encounters is declining. Local residents are fined if their garbage can is not bear proof or if they take their garbage out to the curb the night before pickup.
Use common sense and when you leave civilization keep an eye out. Making noise as you walk along is always smart, especially in thick brush or around a blind corner. They want to avoid dealing with you as much as you with them. Lots of folks pack a gun, but I have discovered unless you are carrying something huge like a .454 you're just going to pi** them off.
McHugh Creek is an area where there have been several bear incidents recently.
Another animal to be cautious around are moose. Anchorage has many, especially in winter, and you are likely to see one just strolling down a residential street. They will attack and their hooves are deadly. We lived in the Sand Lake area just south of the airport and had many encounters with the big lugs.
There are several sketchy looking gentlemen in the downtown area that deal the hard stuff. They can be a bit belligerent at times, especially when one of their "girls" is around which they are having a problem with. The police seem to know what's going on, but nobody seems to care. They loiter outside of the downtown shops, much to the disappointment of the merchants.
Please do not be an ugly American.
I have lived and traveled the world the one thing I can not stand is the Ugly American.. They are too loud and to arrogant and tend to make us all look bad. When in another area than the one you came from realize that they may not care how you do things where you come from. For example In Alaska we are not real happy when you come here and think you are in Kansas and go wondering out in the Woods Unprepared for our way of life. Then we have to come look for you because you thought our outdoors was like what you saw on the Disney channel or watching that *** Timothy Treadwell sing to bears. May he rest in peace.
Please know that most of the way others do things where they live are the tried and true ways to survive there. Like when you Visit Hawaii they do not like Loud outsiders that talk to much. Koreans really are not fond of what they call we san Chas It is a term that means two faced. Like the Germans they will like you fine if they decide you are real.
What I am saying is show respect for the people that live where you are a GUEST. You will have a much better and safer time and remember just because you saw it on TV does not mean it is the reality where you are now.Related to:
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Moose warnings for drivers
You have propably heard that mooses are all around in Alaska, but it is good to remember that they are in Anchorage too! Mooses of Alaska are bigger and more social than every where else. You might have learned that they avoid human's smell...not in Alaska.
Mooses here come to near everything and they don't care is it a downtown or your home. I have seen mooses in Anchorage almost everywhere, even in downtown.
So beware while driving there and once you meet moose, try to be calm. Mooses are not dangerous nor aggressive, so don't be scare. In the other hand they are wildanimals, so better not pet them...
Sometimes cows with calves might be very protective, but I haven't heard any stories about violent mooses.
Freak Lightening Storm
Well, lightening storms are not too common in Anchorage, but this year has been unconditionally warmer then any year in history, we had record breaking temperature 45 days straight over 70 degrees... and all that heat and rain clashed, we had a wonderful loud storm as you can see here on the lake.Related to:
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City of Moose
Many locals tell stories about moose wandering onto streets and into the yards of residents. I was told that its not entirely uncommon to see moose in downtown Anchorage at night, even in the summer. Be careful driving, or even walking. Although they don't look like it, at least to me, moose can be aggressive.
Don't Waddle On The Ice
I took this picture when it was about twenty degrees below, so there wasn't a danger of ducks crossing the road and falling through thin ice.
In the summer there are tons of Canadian geese in Anchorage, attracted by the huge fields of grass at the local area high schools and parks. There are also a handful of lakes within the Anchorage city limits that are home to water fowl each summer (the real reason for warning signs).Related to:
- Road Trip
Moose & Cars Don't Mix
Moose are known to run out into the middle of the road. Though moose are typically the loser in the confrontation, over the years a lot of people have been killed in these collisions. So please be wary while driving in Anchorage, and on Alaskan Highways in general.
The moose population is higher on the roads in the winter because they are down at the lower elevations, but even in the summer moose are present. In the daylight they are pretty easy to spot in the snow. But the problem comes is that moose are most active starting around dusk and into the evening it seems. Often you'll only see their eyes shining in your headlight.Related to:
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Moose on the Loose
"Moose on the Loose" is more than a saying around Anchorage, it's a warning. Urban Alaskans have created lots of prime moose munchies with all landscaped yards people plant. Anchorage has more moose than the residents know what to do with. But, the problem comes because they are wild animals. From time to time moose are known to attack children, dogs, gardners chasing after them for eating the prize shrub in the yard, people trying to get to their car so they won't be late for work, etc...
Moose tend to be most dangerous when they are provoked in some way, but they are unpredictable as any other wild animal. Give them a wide berth. This moose was stubborn, and seemed to know that it was in my way. I kept opening my door to peek out and see if it was still around. The ornery critter just stood there for a good 10 minutes.Related to:
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I never have seen one during my visits.. but they're out there.
If you where a 'Bear Bell", they'll likely hear you coming and avoid you.
The worst attacks occur when you 'surprise' a bear, especially an adult mother with her cubs nearby.
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