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This blog is normally dedicated to bicycling and bicycle rides but once in awhile, I get off the saddle and look around. This is one of those occasions (plus, its been so hot that I haven't ridden much lately).

Last week, I returned from a wonderful one-week vacation to Juneau, Alaska. I accepted the generous invitation of an old college buddy and stayed with him and his Labrador retriever while his wife and son were out of town for the week.

One of the first things a newcomer to Juneau notices is the beautiful scenery. Tall, snow-capped mountains covered in trees and blanketed with low-hanging clouds can be seen on both sides of this Alaskan capitol city of 31,000. During my time there, the termperatures were in the mid-50s and it seemed to be drizzling every day. Quite a pleasant change from the hot, dry weather of South Texas. While my friend was at work during the day, I took his dog out for a walk on the beautiful hiking trail behind his house. I also took tours of the Alaska State Capitol building, a Russian Orthodox Church, the Alaska Brewing Co. (they offer free samples before, during and after the tour). Also took the Mount Roberts Tram Car to the top and did a little hiking around there, enjoying spectacular views of the area. Juneau offers 262 miles of hiking rails, many through lush, green forests with waterfalls.

In the evenings, my friend, Chuck took me on a driving tour of the area and visited the Mendenhall Glacier Park with its blue-tinted glacier, hiking trails, waterfall and salmon-filled streams. We also visited a ski-lodge that, during the off-season, appeared to be a ghost town. One cold and drizzly morning, we went out on his 26-foot boat and into the channel looking for whales. Didn't see any today but we did see a sea lion cavorting in the water and swatting at seagulls trying to get at his food.

One day, I took the ferry up to Skagway, Alaska, a small tourist town proud of its gold mining heritage. The ferry trip itself offered breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains on both sides of the waterway.

Juneau also offered something called Cycle Alaska tours but when I checked them out, I had already visited most of the tour stops (glacier park and brewery). Maybe I will do that on my next trip.

Just a reminder: The Conquer the Coast bicycle ride is Saturday, Sept. 22 in Corpus Christi. There is a 25-mile ride and a 65-mile ride. For more information, check out this site: conquerthecoast.org. I plan to do the 65-mile route. I'll probably be the slow poke rider you pass early in the ride. Hope to see you there!