Need a Ride? On This Alaska Route, You Can Simply Flag Down a Train

Frank Kovalchek, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Frank Kovalchek, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

If you’re looking to catch a ride on Alaska Railroad’s Hurricane Turn train, you don’t need to head for a station—you can just walk up the tracks.

As 99% Invisible taught us, the train is perhaps the U.S.’s last remaining “flag stop” passenger train that allows riders to catch a lift at any point along its route. If you walk up to the tracks and wave a white flag, the train’s operator will stop the train and pick you up. (You can reportedly also wave your arms or use a white t-shirt.) The two-engine train is only three cars long, making it relatively easy to stop on short notice.

The 55-mile-long Hurricane Turn route begins in Talkeetna, a village north of Anchorage at the base of Denali, and runs north through the Indian River Valley to Hurricane Gulch, known for its picturesque bridge, the railroad’s longest and tallest.

The route cuts through the wilderness around Denali National Park, and the unique flag-stop system allows riders to get on and off in the back country, including people who own remote, off-the-grid cabins in the area.

During the summer, a trip from Talkeetna to Hurricane costs $54, while a winter trip costs $49. If you're not planning on heading to Alaska anytime soon, you can take a 360° virtual tour of the experience in the video below from KTUU, an Anchorage-based TV station.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

When Should You Book Your Thanksgiving and Christmas Flights? Right Now!

zoff-photo/iStock via Getty Images
zoff-photo/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, paying for distressingly expensive airline tickets is just part of life when it comes to traveling for the holidays. And, while you might think you’ll get the best deal by checking fluctuating prices obsessively from today until the day before Thanksgiving, you’re probably better off booking your flights right now.

“Once you get within three or four months, the chance of something cheap popping up for Christmas or New Year’s is not very likely,” Scott Keyes, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, told Travel + Leisure. “Certainly don’t wait until the last week or two because prices are going to be way higher.”

This is partially because airlines devise algorithms based on last year’s ticket sales and trends, and they know many travelers will fork over some serious cash rather than decide not to go home for the holidays—and there are always plenty of people who wait until the last minute to book their flights. In fact, so you know for next year, the absolute best time to book holiday travel is actually during the summer.

Scott Mayerowitz, the executive editorial director of The Points Guy, admits that it is possible to save a little money if you’re extremely diligent about following flight prices leading up to the holidays, but he thinks your mental health is worth much more than the pittance you might (or might not) save. “The heartache and headache of constantly searching for the best airfare can drive you insane,” he told Travel + Leisure. “Your time and sanity [are] worth something.”

If you’re not willing to throw in the towel just yet, you could always track the prices for a little while, and give yourself a hard deadline for booking your flights in a few weeks. Mayerowitz says buying your seats at least six weeks in advance—or earlier—is a good rule of thumb for holiday travel. That still leaves you several weeks to periodically scroll through flight listings and get a feel for what seems like a reasonable price.

To minimize your travel anxiety even further, try to fly one one of these dates, and check out eight other tips for a stress-free holiday trip.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Welcome to Cool, California. Population: 2520

Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

It’s not hard to find U.S. towns with some pretty weird (and sometimes depressing) names, so we shouldn't be surprised that people have the option of settling in the tiny town of Cool, California.

Initially named Cave Valley, due to the limestone formations nearby, the town popped up around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The population eventually grew to 4100 people.

It's unclear when the town went from Cave Valley to being Cool. One legend suggests that a beatnik named Todd Hausman bequeathed the name after passing through in the 1950s, but the veracity of that story is doubtful since the Cool Post Office was founded as early as 1885. According to Condé Nast Traveler, records show that a reverend named Peter Y. Cool came out to pan gold and settled in the town in 1850, possibly serving as the source of the change.

Whatever the origin of its name, the town of Cool has ample branding opportunities. There’s the Cool Grocery Store and the Cool Beerwerks brewery and restaurant, which specializes in Hawaiian-Japanese fusion cuisine. Cool has held the Way Too Cool 50K Endurance Run every year since 1990.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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