Hope, Whittier, and along the Sterling Highway
July 22, 2021
We were at the Anchorage airport at 9:00am to pick up our rental car. With all the horror stories about rental car scarcities, we were a little nervous about this part but Budget assured us if we had a reservation, we had a car. And it was true! We celebrated by having a great breakfast at a classic diner, Sami’s City Diner.
The drive around Hope and Whittier was beautiful. (It takes a while when you keep stopping at photo opportunities but it’s well worth it.) The Whittier Tunnel is “the longest (2.5 miles) highway tunnel in North America, and the first designed for -40 °F temperatures and 150 mph winds! The one-lane tunnel must be shared by cars and trains traveling in both directions, and it usually needs to be aired out in between trips (with jet turbine ventilation, another first!).” We hit the tunnel at 4:20 and it was scheduled to open for us at 4:40. Good timing!
We checked into our suite at the Inn at Whittier. It was all that was available, but it was a fun treat for ourselves. Turns out the best restaurant in town is in our hotel, so that’s where we had dinner too. In addition to good food, the views were great, and the setting was really attractive.
Rodney went out around midnight during the two hours of darkness and took some magnificent photos of Whittier Harbor.
July 23, 2021
We left Whittier and started our scenic drive to Homer. It was a drizzly, gray day. We wanted to go to Portage Glacier but the visitors’ center with details was closed and it was foggy enough we weren’t sure what we might see or not see, so we just admired it from afar and kept going. We made a pit stop in Cooper Landingthen detoured off of Sterling Highway onto Skilak Lake Road, an 18-mile scenic drive on a gravel road.
Even in the rain, the views were gorgeous. Fields of pink fireweed, which start to bloom first at the bottom and go up the stalk throughout the summer. The legend is that when the flowers at the top bloom, summer is over.
We found a fun place for lunch in Soldotna called Buckets Sports Grill.  They had two sizes of nachos on the menu: Texas size $15.99 and Alaska size $26.99. We Texans appreciated the humor.
We went to Kenai Beach where we learned about “Dipnetters”: Between July 10th and 31st Alaska residents can get a “personal use fishery permit” and fish for salmon on the Kenai River using dip nets. They stand in the water on the edge of the river and scoop up salmon in their REALLY BIG nets.
Next stop was an overlook near Homer where we could view the town, a glacier and Kachemak Bay.
We went to Alice’s Champagne Palace, about the only place open and still serving food after 8:00pm. Gotta love a place called a champagne palace with chandeliers over the bar.
We made it to Homer and checked into our home for the next three nights at the Majestic View B&B. And what a majestic view from the balcony of our cabin at the B&B! Now we know where they got their name.
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