My custom driving tour of Juneau: The true capital city experience

Downtown Juneau. (Photo by Angelo Saggiomo)

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome aboard my Custom Driving Tour of Juneau. Experience the capital city the way I do — without ever stepping foot outside my vehicle.


Watch your step. My kids tend to leave shoes, toys, sports equipment, old lunch boxes and moldering wet socks on every available surface. By the way, please help yourself to any partly eaten fruit roll-ups you find back there; just brush off the sand. The gum wads in the cup holders are also complimentary.

All right, let’s get rolling. Lots of ground to cover, by which, of course, I mean the same endless loop, over and over, day after day. Speaking of endless loops, anyone want to listen to Mix 106? It’s not a Juneau driving tour without incessant radio ads for Alaska’s Sleep Doctor.

Heading out of my neighborhood, you’ll notice a sweeping panorama of the town. Ignore it. Instead, direct your full attention to all the illegally parked cars, which not only constrict traffic, but also obscure the off-leash black lab that invariably darts at my tires like they’re made of steel-belted bacon.

Oh! Up ahead I’ve spotted another local wildlife species: the Dark-Clothed Juneau Jaywalker, a whole flock! See how engrossed they are in their iPhones as they blithely stroll across the highway during the morning rush, virtually invisible and nowhere near a designated crosswalk? Now they’re glaring at me like I’m the one disregarding traffic rules. Typical Juneau Jaywalker behavior, right there. Don’t worry if you didn’t get a good picture; there’ll be another photo op at 5.

Well, folks, seems we’re in for a real treat today: random blowing trash cans, courtesy of the Taku winds, which flow off the Juneau Icefield through gaps in the mountains. The Taku winds are not to be mistaken for the taco winds, which also emanate from deep within interior passes. Sorry about that. I’d tell you to crack a window, but, you know, child safety locks.

Shall we continue? As we approach our next stop, drop-off at my daughter’s elementary school, once again I direct your attention to all the illegally parked cars, especially that Leaf with the “Commit Random Acts of Kindness” bumper sticker — it’s always in the fire lane. In fact, it’ll probably be there in an hour when we double back because my daughter forgot her jacket, undoubtedly a tour highlight.

Next stop: my son’s elementary school for drop-off. Yes, I send my kids to two different elementary schools. Don’t ask why. That’s just one of those things people do around here, you know, like parking their eco-powered “Random Kindness”-mobiles in the fire lane of their own kids’ school.

Now we’re about to cross the Douglas Bridge. To your right you’ll notice a “yield” sign. What’s so special about this yield sign? No one yields for it. And on the other side of the bridge, behold the famous Douglas Bridge merge, where motorists neither give nor accept the right-of-way. Magnificent, isn’t it?

And speaking of magnificent, if you glance below you’ll see the world’s most unnecessary humpback whale sculpture as well as the world’s most unnecessary humpback whale sculpture park, still under construction after two building seasons. No matter. Once completed, this complex will also rank as the world’s most expensive seagull toilet.

The neighborhood we’re now entering is called the “Flats,” for some reason. Behold the former site of America’s last remaining Blockbuster video franchise. Sure, you can snap a selfie. I won’t stop, but I will slow down, inexplicably, in the middle of the street, no matter how many cars pile up behind me. I may even roll down my window to chat with every pedestrian I know, even though I couldn’t possibly have anything worth stalling traffic to say.

At this point in the tour I offer my customers a choice. We can check out Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau’s most popular tourist attraction — not to mention its cleanest, best-stocked public restrooms (no peeing in a Nalgene for us!).

Perhaps you’d like to delve into historic Juneau. Catty-corner to the post office, we can cruise past the old Taco Bell, now a pan-Asian restaurant (if you look closely you can still make out the abandoned drive-thru windows) and explore the ruins of yet another defunct Blockbuster video.

Or maybe you wish to sample Juneau’s resurgent culinary scene — we now have carts, shacks AND trucks. Our brick-and-mortar establishments also feature elaborately tattooed kitchen staff, so you know they’re good, too. And Juneau also boasts the world’s smallest Costco; it doesn’t even have a bakery anymore.

Of course, we can always just hit up a dispensary and go chill out at my place.

Yeah, sounds good to me, too.

• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday.


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