Roadhouses: A Dying Breed… North to Alaska

One fun thing about roadhouses is that they have different personalities. This mountain goat with sunglasses greeted us a King Mountain Lodge on the Glenallen Highway in Alaska.

A fun thing about roadhouses is that they have different personalities. This mountain goat with sunglasses greeted us a King Mountain Lodge on the Glenallen Highway in Alaska.

Peggy and I are off in Alaska as you read this blog. Since I won’t have time for blogging or reading blogs, I decided to repost a few blogs from the trip we made to Alaska three years ago. If you have been following me for a while, you will have read these blogs previously. I will try to respond to comments. –Curt

There was a time when roadhouses meant survival on the lonely highway to Alaska. You would find one every several miles. The amenities were simple but many: basic food, a place to sleep, enough auto repair to get you down the road, a place to hang out in a storm, advice on the next section of highway, and a friendly face. Beyond the basics, however, each roadhouse was slightly different. It reflected the personality of the owner. And people who chose to live and survive in the far north, tended to have strong personalities. There was no McDonalds’ mentality.

This dining set at the King Mountain Lodge was definitely reminiscent of those found in 50's diners, but what was with the Harley parked in the dining room?

This dining set at the King Mountain Lodge was definitely reminiscent of those found in 50’s diners, but what was with the Harley parked in the dining room?

The Milepost has served as the Bible for those traveling the Alaska Highway since 1949. I used it religiously on my five trips over the highway. You could always depend on it to list the next roadhouse and the services provided. Sadly, even though the legendary travel guide is revised annually, it can no longer keep up with the number of roadhouses being closed. Roadhouses, like family diners, have become a victim of the times. Modern, paved highways and fast travelling vehicles mean that travellers can easily get from one major community to the next, from one fast food joint to the next, and from one motel chain to the next. No longer do dirt roads in poor repair with car-eating potholes and hubcap deep mud force travellers to make frequent stops at roadhouses. We made an effort to patronize roadhouses on this trip, when we could find them. One in particular stood out as a representative of the dying breed, the King Mountain Lodge on the Glenallen Highway between Tok and Anchorage.

A hand printed sign at the King Mountain Lodge announced that food was available and we were hungry. In this photo, Darlene, the cook and owner's wife heads back inside after waving goodbye to us.

A hand printed sign at the King Mountain Lodge announced that food was available and we were hungry. In this photo, Darlene, the cook and owner’s wife, heads back inside after waving goodbye to us.

The breakfast menu at the lodge.

The breakfast menu at the lodge. The owner, his wife, and a friend immediately entered into a lively conversation with us on what we wanted for lunch. The owner, Mike, and his wife then disappeared into the kitchen while the friend Claire gave us a tour.

Darlene and Claire share a laugh with us over Claire's T-Shirt.

Darlene and Claire share a laugh with us over Claire’s T-Shirt.

Our tour included the bar. Check out the bar stools. Each is hand made and different. A number of signs were found over the bar and throughout the room.

Our tour included the bar. Check out the bar stools. Each is hand-made and different. A number of signs were found over the bar and throughout the room.

This sign was typical.

This sign was typical.

There was even a location for people who wanted to snivel.

There was even a location for people who wanted to snivel.

This photo caught my attention. In 1985, Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the Iditarod, Alaska's famous sled dog race. Shortly afterwards she did a photo shoot for Vogue Magazine. I picked her up at the Anchorage airport on her return to Alaska and escorted her around town for a couple of days. She had volunteered to do publicity for the non-profit where I served as Executive Director.

This photo on the wall caught my attention. In 1985, Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the Iditarod, Alaska’s famous sled dog race. Shortly afterwards she did a photo shoot for Vogue Magazine, which is where this photo was taken. I picked her up at the Anchorage airport on her return to Alaska and escorted her around town to various media outlets for a couple of days. I had called Libby shortly after she won the race and talked her into doing publicity for the non-profit where I served as Executive Director.

The bar also had a glass case that included this M&M collector's piece. Turns out that the Brays, who were traveling with us, have a thing for M&M s. Linda talked the owner into selling her the M&M baseball player for five dollars.

The bar also had a glass case that included this M&M collector’s piece. Turns out that the Bob and Linda Bray, who were traveling with us, have a serious collection of M&M dispensers. Linda talked the owner into selling her the M&M baseball player for five dollars.

Meanwhile, Peggy had decided she had to try the Harley out for size.

Meanwhile, Peggy had decided she had to try the Harley out for size.

Mike the owner of King Mountain Lodge, and the motorcycle, immediately showed up and insisted that if Peggy was going to sit on the Harley, she had to go for a ride. Out they went for a quick spin around the parking lot and the highway.

Mike the owner of King Mountain Lodge, and the motorcycle, immediately showed up and insisted that if Peggy was going to sit on the Harley, she had to go for a ride. Out they went for a quick spin around the parking lot and the highway.

Needless to say, we all had a great time at the roadhouse. BTW, the food was quite good. Doreen and Claire came out to rescue Peggy from the motorcycle and send us on our way.

 

15 comments on “Roadhouses: A Dying Breed… North to Alaska

  1. These really are wonderful. When I think of “roadhouse”, I tend to think of something more along the line of the icehouses on Texas back roads. They’re meant simply for refreshment, though – not survival.

    I was startled by the photo of the bar. It looks remarkably like a place I wandered into in Elko, Nevada. Even the stools look much the same. That was simply a cafe or restaurant, but believe me – I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere and was glad to find all those cowboys lined up at the bar were friendly!

    The photo of Libby Riddles is gorgeous. What experiences you’ve had!

    • Roadhouses… whether in Elko or Alaska have a lot in common. Especially to the degree that they reflect local character… and there are a lot of characters in Elko and Alaska. (grin)

      Libby was both beautiful and gracious. And boy was she a star. I don’t think the President would have received as much attention as she did after she won the Iditarod. _Curt

  2. Two thoughts: I’ve never owned a Harley but have dealt with many who have. The best of chains and locks merely slow down the Harley thieves so “out of sight” is the best protection. I found the little biker chick’s story lacking in honesty when I had to step over the oil puddle in her small living room to ask her about her fugitive boyfriend and she said, “He ain’t been here.” Also, country stores and bars were like the internet for news and gossip before computers took over the world. Just had to be careful we weren’t asking about the owner’s kin when we went in on a case.

    • Interesting, Mike. Thanks for your insight. The roadhouse is a dying institution but once it was the center of the small communities along the Alaska Highway. It still seemed so when I first drove the road in 1986. Paved highways make it easy for travelers to go from one town to the next for their lodging and meals. This one was definitely a return to earlier years, however. –Curt

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