Sunday, September 25, 2011

The trip of a lifetime is done!

When I last wrote a blog about our trip this summer we were leaving Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, Texas, and heading to Oklahoma City, OK. The trip was easy as we traveled on interstate all the way. Our plan was to "camp" at a Wal-Mart near our friends' home. We found it with no problem and parked, checked in with the manager and drove to see our friends. Actually, Frank is a friend of Jim from childhood. Frank and his wife, Kay, are old motorcycle traveling buddies of Jim's. They done lots of traveling in years past. We spent the entire afternoon and evening with Frank and Kay. The three friends reminised about old times and I enjoyed hearing new stories about those fun times. It was good to see them again.

The worst part of our trip happened that night. The generator on the motorhome just stopped. We had to endure the night of heat with no air conditioner!!! We opened all the windows and tried to remember how we survived as children in Texas without air conditioners. When I hit the bed the sheets were hot...the bed actually felt like there was a heated mattress. I could have enjoyed that in Alaska but it was tough when the air inside and out was HOT! We managed and woke up early to get on the road before the sun came up.

We drove all the way through Dallas and to our lakehouse on Cedar Creek Lake. Everything was fine at the house and it took us a short time to turn on the air conditioner and cool the place off. It helps that it is shaded by a huge oak tree and that it is almost as small as the motorhome! Jim spent the next days there doing a little work outside...mostly in early morning. It was just too hot to be outside much. We drove to Palestine to visit with my mom. I had a chance to go through the photos I sent while traveling and share some of our experiences. It was good to be back with my mom and closer to home.

After a few days at the lake house it was time to head back to our home in Covington, LA. I couldn't wait to see Zach and to also see how well he kept the house while we were away for 103 days. I was ready to be back in my own house but not too excited to live in the heat and humidity. I had so enjoyed the coolness of the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Canada.

The house was in great order. Zach took good care of everything. The weeds in the beds were chin high but the lawn looked nice and the house was not a disaster. I never thought it would be.
I still cannot believe we made this trip. I would do it again in a minute...not sure Jim would. He drove the motorhome 12,320 miles and put at least 4,000 miles on the tow car. Eventhough we took this trip day by day and mile by mile it still was a huge endeavor.
Now to start planning next summer's trip to cooler climate.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Palo Duro State Park, Canyon, TX, August 17-19, 2011

We have reserved a campsite at Palo Duro State Park near Amarillo, Texas. We also have tickets to the show TEXAS which is performed in the open-air theater right in the park. We've wanted to see this for years but have never been in the area at the right time. We are just making it though...our tickets are for Aug. 18th and the last performance is Aug. 20th. I just hoped the weather (meaning the HEAT) would not be a factor. It was not.

The only problem getting to the park was that when we unhooked the tow car to make the steep drive down into the canyon we discovered the car was dead. Jim had to get out the jumper cables and get it going. Our campsite is the same one we had here in 2007. It is all the way in the back of the park...8 miles from the entrance. We were the only ones camping there until the morning we left. Anyway, we got camped just fine. Thankfully the site has water and electric (50 amp.). We started both air conditioners to cool down the interior. It did not take long until we were very comfortable.

In the morning we got up and out early...Jim wanted to get a new battery for the car. We found the Walmart and had the battery checked. We did not get a new battery since we were told the one we had was good. We've had no problem since. We made the mistake of leaving a charger plugged into the cigarette lighter while we towed and that is what ran the battery down.

After running a few errands in Canyon, Texas, we went back to the rig to have some lunch and get ready for our dinner and show in the evening.

Our tickets were for a Big Texas Steak Dinner at the theater before the show. We arrived at around 7 PM and went through the buffet to get our steak, salad and fixin's. We sat at the covered tables where there were misting machines all around the covers. Some of those were doing more than misting and I got spit on a couple of times walking to our table. It helped with the heat and I didn't complain. The dinner was good. After eating we went to the courtyard area of the theater. They had a country band playing. We strolled through the gift shop and Jim stopped to talk to Gerald McCathern, a western author who was there autographing books. The only thing I purchased was water and a fan!

We went back outside and sat to listen to the band. The same misters were hanging all around to cool off the area. They did a good job. It was very pleasant. We met one of the greeters...there were lots of older people working there to greet the guests. The man we spoke to had formerly lived in Alaska! Jim talked to him and shared some of our adventures.

The show began at 8:30 PM. The theater was just about full. It was hot but, thankfully, the sun had gone down behind the canyon rim. I won't tell you about the show except to say it was great! Outside with the canyon rim wall as a backdrop. Horses being ridden and pulling wagons and carriages moved in the background area. A deer even pranced across...don't think that was part of the show, it just happened. We had seen lots of deer in the area. There was a storm with lightening and even the shrubs caught fire at one time. It was all well done and we enjoyed it very much. It is put on by young college students and others and one runs during the summer months. It is worth the trip to Palo Duro Canyon.

We left there the next morning and headed to Oklahoma City. We are going there to see some old friends of Jim's. I'm sure there will be lots of reminising and laughing. We don't have a campground. Our plan is to stay at the Walmart near our friends home. We'll see how we manage the 100+ temps!

Castle Rock, Colorado, August 15-16, 2011

We left Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, WY, early on August 14th, our oldest son’s, Zach, birthday. He is 27! I miss him so much and wish we could have been at home with him. We did talk on the phone and will have a birthday dinner when we get home. We are all going together to Houston for my nephew’s wedding. That will be fun.

We are stopping in Rawlins, WY, for the night since it’s a long way to Castle Rock, Colorado. We found an rv park, Western Hills, just off the interstate. It reminded me of the park we stopped at in Van Horn, Texas, at the beginning of this adventure. Big open gravel area with electrical posts sticking up all over. Very easy to get in and out of. There were clouds in the sky which made for the most beautiful sunset. I will miss Wyoming.

We got an early start next morning and headed towards Castle Rock just beyond Denver. We are planning to see some old Texaco friends who have retired there. We didn’t know exactly the plans to get together so we pulled into a Wal-Mart to camp and to shop, of course. The first thing Jim wanted to do was get the tow car washed. He says it looks like a mudball…it’s nothing compared to what it looked like in Alaska.

Got the car washed and had a look around the town…found a Dairy Queen and couldn’t resist the urge to have a blizzard. We will miss those too when we get back to Louisiana. Jim talked to one of our friends and we decided to meet for drinks. Met Phil at one restaurant which turned out to be closed on Mondays so he took us in his car to meet John and Flora at Rodney’s for some drinks. Phil had one drink but needed to go but John and Flora stayed and we ate some dinner. We were invited to a wine tasting on the patio so we had a nice evening. We went with John and Flora to their home and took a tour of the place. Beautiful! We sat on the upper patio and had a nightcap while we watched the sun set. I could get used to this!

Finally got back to the motorhome at the Walmart and had a good night with the windows open and a nice cool breeze. Had alot of traffic noise from the highway and some train noise from all that traffic nearby. No problem sleeping though. We got up the next morning and moved to a campground down the highway in Larkspur. We took care of some rv maintenance and laundry and just general things around the rig. We met Phil and Sandy and John and Flora at The Stone Church restaurant for happy hour then dinner. The food was delicious and we really enjoyed visiting with our friends. It's been too long a time since we've seen each other. Hope we can see them again soon.

After saying goodbye to our friends Jim and I went back to the motorhome and got ready to break camp in the morning. We are headed to Texas!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grand Teton National Park, August 12-13, 2011

We had to drive back through Yellowstone to get to Grand Teton NP. We got to see more geysers from the road. They were very steamy this morning. The road is like a very good two lane highway with lots of turnouts. It was very easy to travel through the park. Part of the road on the south entrance is very high up and hanging out off the side of a mountain with a canyon below. I just kept looking ahead and tried not to think about where we were driving and praying we would not meet a big motorhome coming from the other direction. Made it through and finally to Grand Teton. The parks are connected and you go right from one to the other. We didn’t have a campground yet but hoped to camp at Colter Bay campground…we were lucky and got a nice long site for the night. We got set up and headed out to drive the loop road. We had seen the mountains from the road as we drove into the park but we hadn’t seen anything yet. We drove up Signal Mountain road expecting to see a fantastic view of the mountains and the lake. Wrong!!! The view at the top of Signal Mountain was of the area opposite the mountains and Jackson, WY, in the distance. I was very disappointed. As we headed back down the road we stopped at Jackson overlook and walked down a trail to a view of Grand Teton Mountain. I walked a little bit further through some scrub and flowers to finally see a full view of the entire mountain range and also the lake. It was spectacular. We took lots of pics.

When we got to the main road we continued on around the loop stopping at all the turnouts to take more photos. As we turned towards the Gros Verde campground we saw a large bison herd on the plains. This is so cool. I love to see bison. We drove through the campground to have a look as we are planning on moving there tomorrow.
We continued on around the loop road stopping at an old homestead on Mormon Row. We walked through the yards and around all the buildings. I took some more photos. It seems like everywhere you stop you get a different view of the mountains. It all so close and the sky is so clear the view is full.

When we headed back to our campground we stopped at the Jackson Lodge. We found the bar area and sat down to try some local brew. We saw a wedding which was happening on the patio. Beautiful backdrop but the sun was so brilliant it was blinding. Didn’t see our old friends from Yellowstone…maybe they are staying at another lodge.
Made it back to our campground and had a good evening listening to our audio book then to bed.

The next morning we packed up and moved to the Gros Verde campground near the south side of the park. Got set up then headed out to Jackson, WY, to see the town. It is a really cute, typical tourist town. I bet it is jumping during the winter. We could see ski slopes right at the end of town. We walked through several galleries and even had a beer at the The Wort Hotel in their Silver Dollar Saloon. The entire bar is covered with Silver dollars. The halls near the bar are covered with framed photos from movies which were filmed in the area. I must watch some of those films now that I’ve been here.
We drove back into Grand Teton NP and went to see the Chapel of the Transfiguration. The window in the Sanctuary has a view of Grand Teton Mountain. Beautiful!!

We walked down to the old ferry on the Snake River and visited with the “shop keeper” in the General Store. He was a full-time RV’er who has worked in the park the last 6 years. He gave Jim the website where he found the job. I think Jim is interested in doing this next summer. We will probably want to find somewhere cool to go to get away from the southern heat! Sounds like it would be something fun to try.
Got back to the motorhome and fixed dinner. We finally sat outside to eat and had wine with dinner. We got the chairs out and finished the wine watching the sun set over the mountains. Not a bad way to spend an evening. Tomorrow we will head down the road. We are planning on getting to Denver in a couple of days and seeing some old friends there.

Yellowstone National Park, August 9-11, 2011

We really didn’t have far to drive to make it to Yellowstone. We took 287 out of Helena and saw some more open spaces. Connected with I-90 but took off near Bozeman and headed down 191 to West Yellowstone where we found a campground. The drive down 191 was along side Gallatin River. We saw lots of fly fishermen and rafters. So exciting to see. We got to our campground fairly early and wanted to go into Yellowstone to spend the afternoon. We had heard there was road construction on the West Entrance road and we did see them putting down new gravel. We had no problem getting through that road. We saw elk on some of the meadows we passed as we headed to Madison and the Grand Loop Road. We turned south towards Old Faithful and stopped at every trail to see geysers and thermal ponds. You could see steam rising from far away…it almost looked like the forest was on fire. Whenever we saw cars stopped or grouped on the road we knew there was wildlife nearby. Mostly saw elk. We finally made it to Old Faithful area. Jim had been there years ago when traveling on his motorcycle. There is a new visitor’s center which we visited then walked to the Old Faithful Inn where Jim had stayed. He didn’t remember much about it. It was beautiful…built with logs with huge fireplace in the reception area. We found the bar to get a drink before Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt at 7:19 PM. We met a couple of older gentlemen at the bar who were at Yellowstone with a family reunion. The older of the two lives in South Dakota and the other lives in Florida. We had a very enjoyable talk sharing some of our trip details and asked lots of questions about what to see in South Dakota. We’re having fun trying local beers and meeting people. Everyone is so amazed to hear we’re traveling in a motorhome and that we drove all the way to Alaska.
After our drink we went out and found a front row seat to wait for Old Faithful. It was very overcast and had sprinkled rain a little. The wind was very strong and I was only dressed in a little shirt…no jacket. I was freezing. Jim had to wrap me in his arms to warm me up. I was still cold.
We chatted with the lady next to us while we waited. Old Faithful teased us a bit by steaming and spitting water several times. The benches were full of people cameras in hand. Some kept standing every time the geyser spitted. Finally at 7:24 PM Old Faithful finally came to life. I took lots of pics. When it was finished all the people disappeared inside to get out of the cold. Jim and I got to the car and headed back to the campground for the night.
When we got back I made hot chocolate…I’ll miss this cool weather when we get back home to 100+ degree temps.
In the morning we set out again and headed north on the Grand Loop Road to check out more geysers, falls and wildlife. It is all so beautiful. Yellowstone covers a huge area and has so many different types of landscape. We drove to The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and saw the falls. They have a North Rim Drive and a South Rim Drive. We did both. On the South Rim Drive I saw a bison right on the side of the road then also saw a couple of beautiful antlered elk grazing near one of the trailheads. Lots of people were there takings photos. One lady started yelling, either to her husband or son, telling them every thing to do. I couldn’t believe it. Most of the people were laughing but one young man told her to “be quiet”. It was unbelieveable that she would stand there yelling at the top of her lungs.
On our drive around the rest of the loop we ran into a herd of bison. One young bison was crossing the road. A park ranger tried to get him across so the traffic could go on but the bison kept getting in the road. By the time we got up near them we saw the young bison on one side and probably his mother on the opposite side. Hopefully, that finally got together. I took some pics and that was fun to see. We made it back around to Old Faithful again and went back to the Inn bar for a beer and to check out the next scheduled eruption. Just as we walked up we saw everyone sitting on the benches and figured out it was about that time. In five minutes time, Old Faithful came to life again. It was beautifully sunny and hot. I got some pics with my phone as well as a good video. Now I just need to figure out how to get the video to my PC. After that we headed to the bar and found our two old friends from the day before. We sat again and visited with them about what we had done and seen that day and they also shared there activities and their plans for the coming days. They are also leaving on the Friday and traveling to Grand Teton NP just like us. I wonder if we’ll see them there.
The second full day in Yellowstone we wanted to drive the Upper Loop. The Upper Loop road climbs through the mountains. We stopped at a fantastic overlook and could see for miles and miles. The hillside there was covered with wildflowers. People had crossed the road and were taking photos of each other sitting in the flowers. That loop road is so different than the lower loop where all the geysers are. We also ran into some construction at the junction with the northeast entrance road. We sat there on the road for about 30 minutes before we got to move. We had planned to stop at the lodge for lunch but decided to get out of the area and head for Mammoth Springs.
When we got there the town was packed with cars and people. We were lucky to find a parking place and decided to go to the grill for lunch instead of the café. Bad decision!!! I got a cheeseburger. It was cold and the cheese was not even warm enough to be soft. I was very unhappy and completed a survey and left it in the box. It won’t matter…they don’t read those things anyway. We left there and walked to the Mammoth Spring. It was a huge mound of tiered levels of mineral deposits. So otherworldly looking. As we walked back to the car we stopped to get ice cream. The guy dipping was from Texas and he gave me two Texas-sized scoops. It was about a pint of ice cream. It made up for the horrible lunch.
We headed back down towards Madison and the road out of the park. On the way we saw more bison. They are everywhere in this park. They have flashing signs warning about bison.
We left the next morning and drove through the park again to get to Grand Teton NP. More about that later.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Glacier National Park to Helena, Montana, August 7-8, 2011

A little worried about the road out of St. Mary’s but Jim had no problem. It was a little curvy and narrow and up and down but we got out of that and into some wide open spaces nearer to Helena. We are camping at the Lincoln RV Park north of Helena. As soon as we were camped a monster rig towing a HUGE matching trailer pulled into the park a couple of spaces from ours. It was the largest thing we’ve ever seen. Never did find out who they were…decided it was some kind of entertainer with equipment in the trailer. Actually we never found out who it was but they had a Lexus and a couple of motorcycles in the trailer!
Jim has an old college friend who lives in Montana so he looked up his address…he lives right in Helena! We decided to give him a call after we returned from our shopping trip to Walmart. This is the first supercenter we’ve shopped at since we left the continental US.
Jim called his friend, Farrell, and invited him to our campground for hamburgers. It was good to meet him. Jim and Farrell had not seen each other since 1959! They just took up like no time had passed. That’s what’s great about friends. We had fun visiting with Farrell and made plans to get together the next day. Jim is planning to finally have the windshield chips repaired in the morning then we’ll check with Farrell.
The windshield repairman came to the campground and worked for a couple of hours repairing the two chips in the motorhome and two others in the tow car. While he was working Jim checked with Farrell. We will meet him for lunch in town then Farrell has some plans for us to see Helena. At lunch we met Farrell’s wife, Nancy, their daughter, Melanie, and their granddaughter, Carly. We enjoyed talking about our lives and our families over good food. Once we were done, Farrell took us to the Helena Historical Society museum for a ride on the Train Tour of Helena. We had some time so we decided to have a look in the museum. They are offering free admission to veterans and their family members so we all got in free. We only had a little time before the “train” left so we spent it looking at a special exhibit of Charlie Russell paintings and sculptures. They were beautiful. The were of the old west….indians, cowboys, horses and buffalo. They also had letters he had written friends and on each letter he had painted a little piece of art. What a great thing to send to a friend.
We finally got on the “Train” and the conductor drove us around town and told us all about the buildings and the people who had built homes in the early days. I was amazed to see so much original construction which is still being used today. I really loved Helena. Farrell also took us on a tour of the capitol building and the old Catholic cathedral. We finished the day by having dinner at The Broadway. It was a great day and we enjoyed the time spent with Farrell.
We went back to the motorhome and planned our departure in the morning. We are headed to Yellowstone National Park. Hope we can find a campground!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Banff, AB, to Glacier National Park, Montana, August 5-7, 2011

We got on the PH 1 in the morning and planned to connect with PH 2 in Calgary to start our trip south. We saw some signs as we entered Calgary for PH 2 so we took the exit and ended up driving through busy roads through new shopping areas and restaurants to finally get to PH 2A then PH 2 outside of Calgary. Not the route I expected but we made it out alive.
The road to Calgary was more like interstates in the US and Jim mentioned how easy it was to drive now than it had been on gravel roads in Alaska and parts of Canada near there. The land also changed to very Texas looking pastures and ranches.
We took a small detour off PH 2 just before the border crossing to check out the Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump National Historic Monument. We had been advised to see this by our friends, and former RVers, Ed and Reta. It was well worth the trip. It was a beautifully designed building…constructed so that it fit right in the side of a hill and looked like part of the landscape. We watched a film at the beginning of our tour through the facility. The movie depicted how the natives who hunted buffalo 6,000 years ago herded the buffalo and stampeded them over a cliff. It was a community effort every year where several different groups came together to organize this hunt. There were other exhibits about the natives and about the archeological digs which made studies and discoveries about the event.
We had a little lunch in the motorhome before getting back on the road to the border. When we reached the border crossing it began to storm…dark clouds, rain, lightening and thunder. This was the first hard rain we’ve seen since our trip began. I know we’ve had rain on this trip but usually at night and not a real storm.
It wasn’t very far to our campground from the border. We’re camping at Johnson’s Campground and RV Park in St. Mary, Montana, just outside Glacier National Park. I had made reservations before we left Banff. We also made reservations to do the Crown of the Continent Red Bus Tour on Saturday.
After we got settled we went up to the office to try and connect with wifi using our phones. It worked well and I checked email and facebook. We walked to the office and back to the rig. I ran first up a steep path before Jim left the office. It looked like more rain was coming but it never developed. We had some soup then Jim went back to the office with his laptop to do some real work.
In the morning I had set my alarm to get up in time to shower and wash my hair before we went on our red bus tour. We had plenty of time to get ready and went to the office early to check out email. The bus picked us up at the office at about 9:45. We had a full bus…we were packed in like sardines. Not much legroom and four sitting on a bench seat. Jim and I sat in the first row behind the driver. I don’t know why the others already on the bus hadn’t sat there but I was happy we did. I could hear the bus driver very well even when his voice missed the microphone. The drive into the park was beautiful. We stopped at St. Mary’s lake for photos and along the way for other picture opportunities. We made it to Logan’s Pass where we got out to stretch before heading on up the road. We saw some mountain goats and snow still on the mountain peaks. Then came the real ride…the road was cut out of the side of a mountain…sometimes they didn’t cut out enough!! We could see the road wrapping around the side up ahead because the road was also climbing and curvy. We even saw a trail also just on the side of the same mountain only higher. I couldn’t believe people we walking on it! The views were spectacular. Waterfalls were all over the place. We even drove along a portion of the road called Weeping Wall…waterfalls were just pouring out of the rock wall and falling on the road. We ended up going down to the canyon floor and driving through the trees and along McDonald Creek. We stopped at the lodge at McDonald Lake and had an hour’s break for lunch. Jim and I ate in the bar area…I had salad and Jim a turkey sandwich.
There were other RVers on the bus tour. One of the couples right behind us is also going to Yellowstone and the Grand Teton NP. They were also in Alaska and visited a lot of the places we visited. It was fun to share information and compare notes about the places we’ve seen. The couple who sat next to us on the bus were from Boston and had flown in with their two young sons. I still love meeting all the different people. Tomorrow we head to Helena, Montana, on our way to Yellowstone.

Jasper to Banff, AB, August 3-5, 2011

Jim was up bright and early and ready to get going ahead of the crowd. We need to stop by the sanidump on our way out. This campground has 718 sites! Luckily the dump has 8 stations. While Jim was taking care of that and filling the water tank I spoke to a young man next to us. He was from Taiwan and vacationing in Vancouver, Jasper and Banff. He had rented an RV. He told us he actually had lived in Beaumont, Texas for about 1-2 years going to Lamar University. Jim mentioned that he had also attended Lamar University and lived in Beaumont. Small world!
After leaving the park we went back into Jasper to fill the RV with diesel. On the way we saw an entire herd of elk on the side of the highway. I wanted to stop to take pics but I remembered Jim was following in the RV and I didn’t want a repeat of the “turkey” story so I kept on going trying to snap a pic from the car. We got to the station but it was full of other rv’s so we opted for another station we passed earlier. We got into that one easily and got out and back to a little turnout on the Icefields Parkway to hook up the car. Now we off!
The drive to Banff was spectacular!!! The scenery just kept getting more amazing as we went. We stopped at several turnouts to take some photos. We also managed to stop at the Icefields Center. We did not go into the center just took photos from the parking lot. We actually saw large tour buses driving onto the glacier. I don’t know how they do that..but there was one after the other. We got back on the road and kept on going. We stopped at one really large turnout…everyone else was stopping there too. One man and his wife in a fifth-wheel just stopped and started putting out his slides and setting up camp. Don’t know what he was doing. Anyway, the mountains were magnificient and the lake in front of them was the most beautiful shade of deep blue. I was taking pics when a French girl came up and offered to take a pic of me and Jim if I would take a pic of her and her friend. We’ve met lots of people who took our pic and we theirs on this trip.
We finally got to Banff and exited the highway only to get behind some cyclists. We couldn’t pass because the road was narrow and hilly with curves. We just followed behind. Before we finally got to our turn into the campground one of the leaders in the cyclist group fell back and stayed in front of us weaving along the lane and going as slow as possible. Jim though she was doing it on purpose and it sure looked that way. It wasn’t long before we got to our turn into the Tunnel Mountain Trailer campground. We were given a site with hookups which wasn’t the best but they said make do…take both sites if necessary. The campground looks like they have plenty of better sites for us but we stayed where they put us. Jim says he feels like a mountain goat getting in the rig because the steps open to just a small bit of ground before dropping off. It’s only two nights so we’ll stay.
We went into Banff and walked to the visitor center to pick up maps and get some recommendations on what we should do. We set off walking down the main road to the Bow River bridge then along the river to the Bow Falls. We walked up lots of steps and steep trails and more steps to finally arrive at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It looks like a castle on a hill. We just went to the bar and had a beer then walked back into town. Along the way we saw a large deer with antlers eating brush next to the river. He just stood there while people were taking photos. I guess he’s accustomed to people. Along our walk back to the car we stopped into an ice cream parlor and got some cones. They were the most expensive ice cream cones ever! One small scoop in a cone for $4.95 each! We found the car, finished our cones and found the local Safeway to do some shopping. Tomorrow we will drive to Lake Louise! I’m sure it will be breathtakingly beautiful too.
We did finally get up this morning after a nice sleep. It’s warmer here than we’re used to but still cool enough for comfort. We drove directly to Lake Louise and stopped at the visitor’s center for advice. After getting a map of the area we walked around the little shopping area and visited the Post Office to see if we could get on wifi without a password. We needed to pay for 15 minutes so we opted to just go on to the lake. It wasn’t a very long drive to Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel which is on the shoreline of the lake. It looks like something from Walt Disney…majestic mountains in the background with a beautiful blue lake sitting below. It was crowded with people which seemed to be mostly Chinese or Japanese all with cameras and posing for a million photos. We found a couple to take our photo so we took theirs too. On our walk around the lake I saw a poor man trying to take his own photo with the lake and mountains in the background. Of course, I offered and he was so appreciative.
The first thing I heard when we got out of the car was bagpipes. As soon as we made it to the lake and the hotel we saw a drum and bagpipe band playing. It was a perfect accompaniment to the visual beauty. We didn’t walk all the way around the lake (I don’t think you can) but turned back and went into the hotel to have a look. Very regal looking…I imagine they charge a pretty penny or shilling for a room. I took a photo of the view from the café. What a way to wake up in the morning.
We left Lake Louise and headed to Moraine Lake. We had to take another longer road to that lake. It was very narrow and steep and twisty. Beautiful sights along the way…views of surrounding mountain peaks. Pretty soon we got to a place where cars were parked along the right side of the road. As we went further we found they had no room in the small parking lot at the lake and people were walking up the main road. We tried to drive slowly through the parking lot hoping someone would leave and let us in but no such luck. We decided we’d have to miss Moraine Lake. I’m sure it was also beautiful.
We drove back to the Village and had lunch at the Family restaurant. I had a Caesar salad with grilled teriyaki chicken and a nice piece of garlic butter Texas toast. It hit the spot. We had seen all we could at Lake Louise and decided to drive the scenic Highway 1A route back to Banff. There were warnings all around about bears and wolves and “watch for the wildlife” but it took a little while before we saw our bear. Actually it was, I think, a mama bear, older baby bear and new baby bear…all grizzly. They were eating berries and grass on the side of the road. I tried to get a good photo but they were on Jim’s side of the road and they were mostly hidden by grasses and shrubs. We were recommended to stop by Johnston Canyon to see the falls. Before we reached that area we started seeing cars parked on both sides of the road…”what now?” They were parked to see the falls. We tried the parking lot and had no trouble finding a space. We walked to the canyon and read about the trail. There were actually two trails…1/2 mile to midway up the canyon and the lower falls and 1-1/2 mile to top of the canyon and the upper falls. We opted for the shorter walk. Most of the walk was on catwalks hung on the side of the canyon. It was just big enough for a single line of people going up and a single line of people going down. Sometimes one way had to wait to let people by. It was worth the walk and I’m sure the upper falls were even better but we’d walked enough today and were satisfied with what we saw. There was even a little cave in the wall which I went through which put me right at the falls. I didn’t stay to get really wet but it was fun going through the tunnel cave.
After we got back on the road to Banff we kept our eyes peeled for wildlife but never saw anything else.
Before going back to the campground we took a side trip to Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park. It too was surrounded by mountains and was a beautiful blue color and crystal clear. We took the loop road back and passed by Johnson Lake and stopped to take some photos. We did see lots of stone sheep along the road.
Now back in the motorhome we are preparing to leave tomorrow and head to the USA!!! We are stopping in St. Mary, Montana, to visit Glacier National Park. I’m sure the drive tomorrow will be as spectacular as all the others have been.

Dawson Creek, BC, to Jasper, AB, August 1-3, 2011

We woke up to get ready Dawson Creek and leave when Jim discovered the battery was dead on the tow car. He did get one of our campground neighbors to jump the battery so Jim ran it until we got ready to go. We hooked it up and took off. Needed to fuel up first so we stopped at the Safeway fuel station and was able to get 5 cents off for each litre of diesel by using a coupon we were given when we shopped at the grocery store. The drive was a long way to get to Jasper, AB, in one day. The trip was beautiful and completely awesome once we got close to Jasper and into the park. We went directly to Whistler’s Campground hoping to get a site. It was difficult to make the turn off 93 because of cars stopped on both sides of the road…people were everywhere. We never saw what they were looking at but must have been some kind of wildlife. We were anxious to get set up. When we turned into the campground there were two long lines of RV’s and cars trying to get into the campground. We finally made it to the kiosk and I got out and asked the man at the window…”What have you got for me?” He started clicking the computer keys to check on available sites for our MH. All they had was unserviced sites…no hookups. That’s OK. He found us a great site…#29AA. The campground actually has 718 sites. All the sites on our loop are very deep and wide enough to be easily accessed. We got right to it and easily backed in. Jim was worn out from the drive…not only was it long but it was also a very windy day. I could feel the MH being pushed around on the road. Some of the roads were very narrow with steep drop offs…no shoulders. I fixed some canned soup which I doctored up with extra chicken, chicken stock and left over rice. It was very good. I grilled some bread with butter and olive oil to go with it. We had some wine and just relaxed to prepare for tomorrow.
Woke up this morning after a great night of sleeping. My shoulder feels much better this morning. Must remember to take care of how I use my arm. I must have done something wrong to have it feel as bad as it did for about three days.
We had our breakfast and Jim made some important calls back to the US. We left the MH and headed to Jasper to visit the information center. We got some maps and advice on what to do in one day. Jasper is such a cute town…very Scandinavian looking. First place we went was us Maligne Canyon road. Stopped at the canyon trail and walked the short trail to the falls in the canyon.
We left there and continued to the end of the canyon road to Maligne Lake. Very beautiful drive. We looked around the lake shore then took the trail to Moose Lake where we actually saw a moose! She was in the water close to the opposite shore from where we stood. She would stick her head completely under the water to eat the grass. She would walk along the shoreline and once went deep enough to be totally underwater. Her head would pop up with her chewing grass. It was exactly how I expected to see a moose…in a pond in and out of the water. We just stood there watching, swatting mosquitos and taking pics. It was so amazing to be that close. She soon walked out of the water and up a nearby hill.
We walked back down the trail to the lake and took the car over to the boathouse. You can rent canoes or kayaks to take out on the lake. They also have a boat tour of the lake. Jim and I just wanted to walk along the shore so we walked awhile then went back to the car and back towards Jasper.
We went back into the town to check out the diesel stations to fill up the motorhome when we leave. We also were hungry from all the walking so we found a little bakery with wifi and had a sandwich. We were able to connect with the web to check email and facebook. We left town and headed back to the Icefields Parkway driving out past our campground to a road which led to Mt. Edith Cavell. We’re never sure about these roads except they usually lead to something good to see. This road was steep, narrow and winding. We had to drive about 18 miles up this road to reach the end at the trailhead for Mt. Edith Cavell and the glacier. I wasn’t sure how much more I could walk and definitely did not want to meet more mosquitos but we started walking…I should say climbing…the trail. It was very open with lots of rocks and small trees. Pretty soon we would see the glacier and the lake…couldn’t stop now. It was a nice walk…sometimes a little steep…but I stopped to rest as needed. We finally made it to the lake which contained big chunks of ice from the glacier which disappeared into the lake itself. There was a large cave up further on the side of the mountain but we decided it was too far to go. It was very beautiful. We went back to the trailhead by another route through rocky terrain covered with small trees. All in all a very nice hike.
We made the drive back down the curvy road and headed to Athabaska Falls. It wasn’t a very far drive and we’re happy we went. We parked in the carpark which has parking for RV’s as well as cars. There are several viewpoints for the falls. I’m always amazed to see the power of water. We were sad to see a bench dedicated to a young man who lost his life over the falls. He was hiking with friends and fell into the river only to be carried over the falls. This was not a small little fall but a very rocky, fast and long falls. No way to survive that. It saddens me to think that people can underestimate the power of flowing water. We still saw young people at the edge, standing on rocks above the falls.
Anyway, it was a beautiful day. We were ready for a quiet night before getting back on the road in the morning.

Mile "0" Alaska Highway, Dawson Creek, BC, July 30-31, 2011

Needed to get diesel and found a station right on the main road. We pulled in behind a truck pulling a trailer. The guy seemed confused so I thought I’d just mosey out and see if I could help. The guy sounded French and wasn’t even sure the pump was diesel…I told him it was so he went about trying to fill up. I went back into the rig. Pretty soon he drove off and we drove up to the pump. When Jim was out getting ready to pump the fuel the little guy came running back…he had left his credit card in the reader. Then the attendant came out and told the little guy he needed to pay. Very confusing! Jim finally was able to get fuel and stood and talked to the attendant while it was pumping.
We finally got on the road to Dawson Creek. This road was pretty boring for awhile…just road with matching sides. We had a few hills to climb. The only exciting thing was that after all this time, and all the gravel roads, we finally got hit in the windshield with a rock. Nice nickel size crack on Jim’s side. When we got to Dawson Creek Jim called USAA to see about getting it repaired. Don’t think it will be very easy to have done in Canada especially on a long holiday weekend.
We found our campground in Dawson Creek…the Mile “O” Campground just as we came into town. The office was the smallest thing I’ve seen so far. He gave us a nice pull-through with full hookups. We drove into town to the Wal-Mart and the Safeway to do some shopping. We also found the Dairy Queen and had a blizzard…not our usual but we tried something new, Turtle Pecan Cluster. It was good but not as good as our German Chocolate favorite.
Out campground is right next to Pioneer Village…and little outdoor museum with old buildings in a town setting. We visited there first thing the next morning and went all through the buildings and the property. I still think it’s funny when I see things in a museum that I’m familiar with or have used myself. Lots of the stuff looks like it came out of my mom’s house. They also had lots of old farm equipment and cars. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the tour. The lady at Pioneer Village also provided us with a map of Dawson Creek and some ideas of what to do and see. We drove into town and stopped at the Visitor’s Information Center and toured their in-house museum. One side was about the train station and the other was a regular museum with all kinds of things about Dawson Creek and the Alaska Highway. We sat and watched a film about the building of the Highway. Dawson Creek is mile zero for the Alaska Highway. Right outside the Visitor’s Center is the official marker for Mile “0”. We took some photos but will come back when we leave and take one with the rig. We started on the walking tour with the Art Gallery. It was full of local artist work and also a large collection of photographs from the building of the Alaska Highway. From there we walked across the street (Alaska Highway) to downtown Dawson Creek and walked all around town looking at the locations of historical buildings and reading the booklet as we went. They have lots of murals painted on the sides of buildings. Lots to see. We drove through the city and out the other side of town trying to find the buffalo which was advertised on the map. Never found any buffalo but did see some other parts of Dawson Creek. We actually discovered there IS a creek running right through the middle of Dawson Creek.
We ended our day in Dawson Creek at the Dairy Queen for another blizzard. We’ve missed our DQ!

Watson Lake and Fort Nelson, YT, July 28-30, 2011

Left Whitehorse early in the morning after going by the dump station. There were all kinds of rv’s coming and going from the campground…some going out and some headed towards Alaska and elsewhere in Canada. I wish we had time to meet more people and spend some time getting to know them. Had much the same kinds of roads on the way to Watson Lake. Didn't see much in the way of wildlife on the roads. It was raining when we arrived at Watson Lake. Our campground is behind the local fuel station and convenience store. We're just happy we found a place and it even had hookups. There is not much there but the famous Sign Post Forest. Story goes that a soldier was homesick so he wrote his hometown on a board and nailed it up on a stake. You can see where this has gone. We looked all through the signs and found some we can relate was even from my hometown, Palestine, TX.

We left the next morning expecting to stop at Muncho Lake but decided to on to Fort Nelson. This had to be the most eventful drive so far. We saw more wildlife on this trip that any other drive. It all began with some horses right on the sides of the highway then we saw a black bear on the side of the road. We had seen warnings about bison and then we saw why. We came across lots of bison right on the sides of the road. Traffic was stopped on both sides for people to take pics. There were so many everywhere. We also saw other black bears as well as a grizzly bear just beside the road. Luckily it was on my side so I could take some pics from the rig. Some people got out of their cars. I was happy with my viewpoint inside the motorhome. We also came across some stone sheep and lots of them right on the road. I couldn’t believe how many different things we saw. I was clicking my camera all the time. I hated to go to the bathroom afraid I might miss something!
We got to Fort Nelson and camped in Triple “G” Campground. When we arrived I went into the office and the lady already had a check in slip completed for me…I guess everyone comes for only one night. She was very nice and had a young man lead us to our pull-through site. We didn’t even need to unhook. It was a nice campground. It was such a long drive we just relaxed for the evening and worked on our plans for the coming days and did some laundry. Went to bed early so we can get a good start in the morning.

Dawson City to Whitehorse, YT, July 26-27, 2011

Jim cleaned the RV at the RV wash station before we left Dawson City. The car and the rig were both covered in dirt and rocks after the trip across Top of the World Highway. It is so nice to be in a clean rig. Probably won’t last long but it’s good for now.
We refueled at the station next door then hit the road. Not long out of town I saw a fox crossing the road. That was about all the wildlife we would see on this trip. We would see lots of water. We crossed several large rivers and creeks. We stopped at a turnout just above Pelly’s Crossing. We could look down on the town and the Yukon River which wrapped around it. We had to cross over the river. At the turnout we met a man from Canada and talked to him for awhile. He was traveling in the opposite direction.
There was one patch of roadway that was under construction and we had to be led through that with a guide car. It was pretty messy but got through that OK. We finally made it to Whitehorse. Whitehouse is the largest town we’ve seen in a long while. The highway skirts the town and our campground is just at the last turn off the highway for the city. We drove into the campground hoping we’d find a spot with no problem. The first thing I was told was that they had nothing. Uh oh! Our luck has run out. After talking to the lady she said she had a site with electric (15 amp) and water but no sewer but she wasn’t sure we’d fit. She also had an unserviced site…no hookups…which was a large pull-through. She said we could check them both out. We decided to take the smaller one with some hookups but we had a difficult time getting into it. Jim finally just headed in and dragged the electric and water hose from the back to the hookups. It was fine and had plenty of room for the tow to park. One problem we had was the tow was making a horrible sound again like a rock was stuck in the brake. Jim said he would check it out in the morning. I didn’t mention that during all this it was raining. These times are not the fun times. We got all settled and dry and had a wonderful evening just getting our plans in order for the morning.
Jim did remove the tire on the tow and found something which had become bent. He straightened it our as best he could and the car sounded fine. We headed out first to a trail and footbridge across the Yukon River. It wasn’t far from our campground and we found it with no trouble. We parked at the trailhead and walked down some steps to right beside the river. We walked across the footbridge and enjoyed the view of the river running fast below. There was a trail along the river and one which was just on the edge. We saw a young woman with her dog walking there…I took a pic.
Jim and I walked for awhile along the other side but didn’t go far before turning back and crossing the bridge again. It was swaying a little….I could feel it moving.
We drove into town and found the visitor’s center where we watched a film about the town. We got some recommendations on what to see. We first walked back out to the river…they have a river walk all down along the river. We decided to save time we would drive out to the fish hatchery and then back into town to the McBride Museum. The fish hatchery has the longest ladder in the world. The salmon that migrate back to this fishery make the longest migration in the world…2,000 miles. There were no salmon yet but they expected them to arrive in the next five days. They have received reports from other locations on the arrival.
We left the fish hatchery and went back into town and parked right at the museum. We went all through the museum and saw some beautiful but stuffed animals. We also went through one exhibit which had lots of stories and equipment from the gold rush days.
We drove the car to the SS Klondike National Heritage Site and took a guided tour of the paddlewheeler. We watched a film first about the days of the paddlewheelers on the Yukon and how they were used during the gold rush days. Our tour guide was very good and knew lots of facts and stories about paddlewheelers and the SS Klondike. The most amazing thing was how much wood they needed to keep the ship running on steam. It was a beautiful ship and must have been an exciting time to travel that way.

Chicken, AK to Dawson City, YT, July 25, 2011

Woke up in our dusty campsite and got back on the road…Top of the World Highway to be exact. It sounds great but it is a dirt road along the edge of a mountain and is wide enough in some places for just our motorhome. Thankfully, we got an early start hoping to beat anyone coming the other way. Some of the road ran along side some creeks and rivers and we saw cabins and trailers which are used by gold miners. We saw one little boat with a small dredge on it. We really saw no other cars for awhile. The weather was good..some sprinkles but no hard rain which would make the road muddy. We arrived at the border crossing into Canada right
behind another RV. We had no trouble getting through. We were
now in the Yukon Territory. The road is still dirt and gravel but we did see some paved areas. We also ran into fog or should I say clouds over the road. We were truly at the top of the world. It was amazing to see even though we had lots of clouds and overcast skies.

We made it to the Yukon River and watched the ferry come across to pick us up. It’s just a little thing and the river current is so fast. They look like they are being swept down with the current but they fight their way back to the dock. We actually fit on the ferry with the tow attached and took off for the other side. When we got close we couldn’t see where the dock was….it was just a pile of dirt on the edge of the river. They ran right up near it and dropped the ramp on the dirt and we drove off. It’s free…no complaints!

We drove through Dawson City... dirt roads too and found our campground on the outskirts of town. We set up camp, unhooked our filthy car and Jim took it to the car wash area to hose it off. We then went back into town to the visitor’s center. We picked up a walking tour and set off down the dirt streets. We saw all the sites and stopped in Bombay Peggy’s for a beer. On our way back to the car we decided to get pizza so, of course, we went to the Greek restaurant for that. Should’ve known better…the pizza was edible but that’s all I can say. The good news was we had half a pizza to eat another day! Got back to the rig and called it a night. We are leaving in the morning after Jim’s uses the RV wash to clean up the rig.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Valdez to Chicken, July 24, 2011

Woke up to rain in Valdez the morning of our departure. We were hoping to stop and get some photos of the area as we traveled back through Keystone Canyon and along the Thompson Pass past Worthington Glacier. We set off and stopped at the Forest Service shack to check on the arrival of the salmon…none yet. We hooked up the tow car and got on the road. We did stop at the Worthington Glacier visitor center and walked up to the observation area. It is actually most spectacular from up on the road looking down on the entire glacier. It was cold and spitting rain. Wanted to get back where it was dry. The area was still beautiful even though we had rain and clouds and fog. This road to Valdez on the Richardson Highway may be the most spectacular drive of our journey.
Our plan is to get to Chicken, AK, to drive the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City, YT. This part of the trip will take us back on the Richardson Highway connecting with the Tok Cutoff to Tok, AK, heading down the Alaska Highway and cutting off on the Taylor Highway to Chicken. We’ll see what it’s like when we get along further up the road. Don’t know where we will stop to camp.
We actually drove all the way to Chicken and camped at the Gold Camp RV Park and Outpost. There is really nothing in Chicken but this camp and another and three or four other business in the “town” of Chicken…a merchantile, a bar, a café and maybe another. Jim and I parked the rig in a no hookup pullthrough and walked to the “town”. We walked through the merchantile (souvenirs) and continued on next door to the bar. It had to be the smallest bar I’d seen with junk all over the walls and ceiling. The bartender looked like one of Jimmy’s friends and was from Philadelphia. One of his mother’s cousins owned the bar so he worked here last summer and this summer. We talked to a miner who had formerly worked as an oil hand in Louisiana….small world. It is so much fun meeting all these colorful people.
We ate in the motorhome and settled in for the night before we tackled the Top of the World Highway.

On to Valdez, AK, July 22-23, 2011

The morning was clear and bright and a great day to travel. It was interesting to see the mountains illuminated by the sun from the east. Different look altogether. We took our time but still got on the road early. We ran into some construction right away and had to wait for about 10 minutes to be guided through it. It gave me some time to take some photos of the mountains. The roads were full of frost heaves so the ride was a little like a roller coaster. No major problems. We stopped at Wragnell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve on the Richardson Highway. Watched a film about the park. It was made by a man who came to the park for the first time when he was six years old. He came with his dad and family. It was a very good film about the park and the mountains in the park. Wish we could explore more of the park but we don’t have time.

We talked to a native Alaskan who made the fish wheel and he explained how they work. He actually uses one on his property which fronts the Copper River. He has four deep freezers at his home to hold all his catch for the winter. So glad we stopped to talk to him. He’s getting ready for hunting season. He can have two caribou and one moose. I love meeting the local people.

The drive to our campground was beautiful. First we crossed an alpine meadow mountain top with snow still sitting in the low areas. Then we went through Keystone Canyon…very deep with waterfalls coming over the walls right by the road. Finally came out to roads surrounded by snow and ice covered mountain tops. Glaciers were visible everywhere. Our campground is right on the edge of Valdez, the Eagle’s Rest RV Park. Just a large gravel parking lot. We came to the park without reservations but had no trouble getting a spot. When cars drive through the sound reminds me of a drive-in movie. We have full hookups with WiFi (some) and cable. We set up camp, listened to our audio book for awhile then set off to explore. We drove to the other side of the bay to a place called Allison Point. There is a fish hatchery on the road so we stopped when we saw lots of people around a fish weir. There were tons of salmon and sea lions, seals and otters feasting on the fish. We stayed for awhile and I took some photos and film. Amazing to see those animals so close feeding in the wild. Someone there said a bear usually comes later in the day to fill up on salmon. We left there and went to see Valdez Glacier. The road to the glacier went right beside the airport. We were just going along when over the top of trees was an airplane right over us coming to land. Wish I had my camera ready. We arrived at the glacier driving up a dirt road and parked at the edge of a glacier lake with icebergs in the water. The glacier was high up in the mountain so I don’t know where the icebergs came from. We came back to the rig for the night. We’ll go into town to the visitor’s center in the morning.
Had a wonderful and cool night at the campground. Had breakfast then set off for a day of touring. We stopped first at the Valdez Museum and looked at all their exhibits. I always think I can’t look at another museum but we always find new and interesting things in each one. There was lots in the Valdez Museum about the gold rush, the Alaska Pipeline construction and, of course, the Exxon Valdez spill. I still can’t believe how the people of the gold rush survived the conditions they found here. There was also a special annex which housed information about the 1964 earthquake. Old Valdez was complete destroyed…buildings did survive with damage but the whole town was moved to a new location. We saw a miniature model of the complete town of Old Valdez before the earthquake. The gentleman who took our tickets walked around with us and explained all about the model and showed us the homes and businesses which had been moved to the new town. His grandmother’s home was one of them. He shared lots of information about the people, the day the earthquake hit and the aftermath and creation of New Valdez. Well worth the visit. We finally made it to the Visitor’s Center. We couldn’t find it before because the sign had been removed during painting. The girl there told us about a hike to a viewpoint in the city. It was near Ruth’s Lake. Jim and I parked at the trailhead and started climbing the steps. Caution tape was all over the handrails with a note to be cautious because of bear activity! The steps seemed to have been rocked by an earthquake…a little bit leaning and uneven. At the top was a covered area with picnic table. There was a good view of the bay and the city. The girl at the visitor’s center also mentioned a scenic drive above the city. We decided to take the drive. We had to go through streets with homes and finally got to a dirt road and went on. We soon came to a board bridge over a creek but continued on up the road…just a one lane path. I started to think we shouldn’t be driving up there. Finally we saw where some other cars were parked up ahead so we parked as well. There were kids and dogs playing in the water coming across the road. Actually the water had broken down the road and there was no way across with a car. We crossed at the foot of the waterfall on a broken wood footpath. Talked to some ladies picking berries…salmon berries. I took some pics then we left and headed back to town. We parked down at the docks and walked along the shops until we found somewhere to stop for lunch. It was a beautiful day so we sat outside. I ordered halibut with fries but when they came it was cold. I took it back and had to wait for another. The next meal was hot…not the best I’ve had on this trip but it satisfied my growling stomach. We walked back to the car and decided to head back to Allison Point to see the sea lions again. This time the tide was out so I could walk out far on the rocks. The salmon were actually jumping up the fish weir trying to get to the ladder. There were still otters and sea lions around. We saw one big sea lion coming close to where we were to feast on the fish. I’m sure he just had to open his mouth to get a fish. He must be enormous…he looked big from what I saw but can imagine what was lurking under the water! I met a young man who was there from Palmer, AK. He is in the military, originally from Washington, DC, and getting ready to be deployed to Afghanistan. He loves Palmer and Alaska…he said he might never want to leave. Jim and I also met a couple from upstate New York. It was their first trip to Alaska too. We compared stories on our travels and had a nice time visiting. We left there and stopped by the Forest Service shack to see if any silver salmon had come to the spawning area…not yet! Went to town and found a place to have a beer then went back to the rig for the night. We had a full day and a good one in Valdez. We’re leaving in the morning and headed towards Tok and our way out of Alaska.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Anchorage Again, July 21, 2011

Made the trip back to Anchorage from Seward along the Seward Highway. We awoke to rain this morning but it was clear and beautiful by the time we left our camp at 8 AM. We’re hoping to get to Anchorage early so Jim can take the tow car back into the shop and have them check the struts and suspension. There was not much traffic as there just about never is on the roads in Alaska. Only in the larger towns have we found traffic. There are lots of lakes and other waterways along this part of the highway. All the hills and mountains are covered with green until the snow and ice at the tops. All the rivers are running fast with glacier melt. The water looks like very thin concrete because of the glacier “flour” mixed with the water. Along the roads I am amazed to see how the mountains come right down to the road or straight down into the lakes. Lots of undisturbed land. Most of the homes we see, which are not many, are log homes or homes made of wood…no brick like at home. The fireweed is abundant along the sides of the highway and sometimes covers open areas of land. The roads have been good…no frost heaves or potholes. Some of the roads are narrow and we’ve crossed many of one-lane bridges.

We did get to Anchorage early…about 10:30 AM. We parked at the Sam’s Club on Old Seward Highway and Jim took the car to the shop. I stayed at the motorhome and had some salad to eat. I made some calls and just relaxed until Jim returned with the car and said the service group could not find anything wrong with the car. It has mysteriously lost the rattle and squeak in the rear. I guess we’ll just go on towards Valdez. We stop to refuel the motorhome and then headed out of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. We’ve decided to stop midway and find a camp to stay the night.
We did find a campground, Grand View RV Park, to stay tonight. It was just in time as we had to recover from the trip from MM 80 to MM 109 where the campground is located. The road follows along side the Matanuska River and sometimes at a great height. Jim drove on some pretty narrow roads which were up and down and curving all around with steep drops and no guardrails! I was on the steep drop side so tried to keep looking straight ahead. Amazing sights but a little scary too. Our campground is set right in the middle of mountains and just past Matanuska Glacier. Too bad we didn’t feel we could pull over anywhere to get some photos. Just trust me that it was breathtaking to say the least. We could have unhooked the tow and driven back but we were tired and ready to settle down for the night. In the morning we head to Valdez.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seward, Alaska, July 19-20, 2011

Woke up to another beautiful day in Homer. We took our time getting packed up and on the road. As I was getting prepared to “back” Jim out of our site I noticed that we were still plugged into the power. Man…one little thing can upset out procedure! Jim came out and unplugged us and packed away the power cords then we were ready to go. Had to go to the dump on the way out…no full hookups at the site. We also tried to top up the fresh water tank but had a little trouble so we didn’t bother. We will have full hookups in Seward. We took the motorhome to fill up with fuel..hooked up the tow car..then hit the road. WOW is it a beautiful day!!!
We had to double back up the Sterling Highway to get to the junction with Seward Highway. We went back through Soldotna. Saw no wildlife on the road the entire way. The only sad thing was that a US Senator from North Dakota was killed in a car accident at MM 104 a couple of days before. He had been in Alaska for a fishing trip to Homer. Don’t know if we passed him on our way there. So sad.
No problems traveling to Seward. The mountains were beautiful and the sky is so clear. Temperature is mild too…a little windy but that’s not a problem right now.
We found our campground, Stoney Creek RV Park, easily. We set up camp and headed to town. Stopped by the Visitor’s Center to pick up maps and brochures. First stop was the Alaska SeaLife Center. It has large fish tanks full of all kinds of local fish…halibut and salmon, of course. They also have enormous tanks with seals, sea lions and birds. We’ve never seen a bird exhibit like this one. Puffins, red-legged kittiwakes and others I can’t remember. We were there when the trainer was doing tricks with the sea lion…funny! We looked all through the exhibits and left to explore the town. We drove through the small town and found all the city rv campgrounds. Right on Resurrection Bay…but no hookups. We parked the car and went into a restaurant on the docks for a beer. While we were sitting there a young man came and sat beside us. Jim asked him if he ran one of the fishing boats…he had been talking to the bartender so we thought he was. In fact, he does captain one of the private fishing charters. Jim asked him a few questions about fishing and also if he was from Alaska originally. Turns out he was from Mississippi and graduated from LSU!! Of course, we had to sit there awhile and talk to him. He was very nice and told us a little bit about his family back home and what he does and how he became a boat captain. It was a good evening.
When we left the restaurant we walked down to the docks where all the boats were coming in with fishermen. Fish…mainly halibut…was everywhere. There is a long processing table with lots of stations. I stopped to watch a young woman cleaning a halibut and cutting fillets. She was pretty handy with the big sharp knife.
We headed back to the motorhome and ate our leftovers…red beans and rice. It was very good!
The next morning we drove to the Exit Glacier. There is a trailhead right near the glacier and they have guides lead people on hikes to the edge of the glacier. We were there just in time to take the guided hike. I knew we were in trouble when people came up all covered in netting and the guide was spraying herself with bug spray. We went on and started the hike but whenever the guide stopped to tell us something I was covered in flies! They were all over me. Everyone knows I’m a bug magnet!! I tried to keep going but finally gave up. I got the car keys from Jim and went back to the car…Jim went on with the guide and the group. I got to the car and decided I wasn’t going to miss the hike so I took off my black jacket (bugs like dark clothes) and put on a baseball cap and sprayed myself silly with bug spray. Loaded up my backpack with water and the spray and also a knit cap just in case. Off I went…I just kept walking briskly..never stopping to let the bugs get me. That was the key…keep walking. I was hoping to catch up with Jim and the group but I never saw them. I got to the edge of the glacier and the group was nowhere to be found. I took some pics and decided to head back. I was afraid Jim would worry if he couldn’t find me anywhere when he got back. Anyway, I headed back down the trail. Not long down the trail I looked ahead and saw a group with the guide and there was Jim. They were just getting to the edge…they must have gone a different way. I never passed them on the trail I took. I sat down and waited for them to see me. Jim was so surprised I was there. “Where did I come from?” I can’t believe I beat him up after going back and spending time getting ready to begin my hike. I was really moving up that trail! I went back to the edge with Jim and someone took our photo. We went back down as fast as we could move but the bugs finally found us. It was a race to get back in the open air as quickly as possible. It was all good really and I’m happy I decided to brave it! Bugs and me don’t get along at all!!
After the hike we drove up Nash Road to see the view of Seward across the Resurrection Bay. It was very beautiful and Seward looked so small against the mountains. When we got back into town we found a place for lunch then headed to the Library and watched a film about the 1964 earthquake. Scary!! The film had conversations with survivors and also film footage and photos of the devastation. Part of Seward just dropped into the Bay. The tales about the tsunami afterwards were unbelievable. One man said after the quake there was no water in the bay and then they heard the wave…a 30-40 foot wall of water heading right to the town. Amazing!
We visited the Seward Museum after that. It was in a little building with lots of displays. All the displays had written explanations and stories about the people and the lives they led in Seward. It was a tough life. Really personal museum.
When we left the museum we drove out to Lowell Point. It was a dirt road along the edge of the bay with a wall of rock and trees on the other side. No place to be during another earthquake. The road led to Lowell Point where we found Miller’s Landing…a campground with fishing charters. Beautiful views … we could even see Seward at the head of the bay.
Time to find a place for a little drink before we head back to the motorhome. We tried a different place tonight. Not as much fun but just as quaint and beautiful located right on the docks. We’ve enjoyed Seward. The weather has been perfect.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homer, Alaska, July 16-18, 2011

The drive again, along the Sterling Highway, was beautiful. We went through several Moose Danger Zones but only saw a mom and baby in Soldotna. Nothing along the way from there to Homer. One of the people we met in Kenai told us to stop at the viewpoint stop just at the top of the hill before we get to Homer. We did stop and saw the awesome vista down to Homer and the Spit. The backdrop was the mountain peaks across Kachemak Bay and the glaciers and ice flow from the Harding Ice Field. Our campground is at the tip of the Homer Spit…hence the name Homer Spit Campground. Our campsite looks out over the Kachemak Bay and the mountain peaks beyond. Unreal!
Homer is a big fishing village. Actually, they have bumper stickers which say it’s a drinking village with a little fishing problem. If you ever want to go fishing…this is the place. Lots of charters out of the harbor. Salmon and halibut are the fish of choice. They have a fishing derby every year. You must buy a derby ticket to have any catch entered into the derby. It lasts the entire season. Every restaurant has halibut as a special. We ate dinner one night at The Wasabi Restaurant. Halibut was the special so we had that. It was delicious and a huge chunk of halibut. Couldn’t not have been fresher than right off the boat!
We also visited the Alaska Island and Ocean Visitors Center, the Pratt Museum and had a dock tour through the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. On the CACS tour Jim found a true star and was able to pick it off the underside of the dock…it was eating a mussle. We had a guide and he explained everything we saw. So happy we went on that tour. We learned a lot about what lurks under the boat docks. We also took a bus tour for “wildlife” around the town. Mostly we saw sand cranes, eagles, swans, black legged kittiwakes and some others. We went to the Land’s End Restaurant for a beer one night. It is right on the end of the spit and has a great view. We got to watch the fishing boats coming and going. We even saw a guy fishing in a kayak. It was bad weather and rough seas but he was still out there fishing. Brave guy. I also saw a seal playing out in the water. We drove all around the roads in Homer. Found the Bear Creek Winery and had a tasting...good Alaskan fruit wine. We bought four bottles. It's so much fun meeting people everywhere we go. The same story..."I came and never left"...holds true most of the time. I was hoping to see whales but never did. The last night there I could see Sea otters fishing in Kachemak Bay from inside my motorhome. This could be addicting! Next stop is Seward, AK.

The Kenai Penisula, Alaska

Picked up the car from the shop in Anchorage and went back downtown to hopefully see Mt. McKinley. It’s a beautiful today after a day of rain yesterday. We didn’t see McKinley this morning but did see mountains across the Cook Inlet. The weather is perfect for travel to Homer. The drive was amazing. The Sterling Highway followed Turnagain Bay with mountains all around. We saw some surfers using parachutes to move them through the water. Also saw plane refuel a helicopter in midair. There is no way to capture the beauty of this drive.
We were planning to stop in Soldotna but there was traffic..traffic..traffic! We pulled into the Fred Meyer’s and it was full of motorhomes, fifth wheels and all kinds of Rv’s. I called and found a campground a little further down the highway at Kasilof…The Decanter Inn and RV Park. Not very busy there. We went to the restaurant/bar after setting up and had a beer. The owners are from Louisiana!! Go figure. We went back into Soldotna and had Mexican food…too much to eat but very good. We parked at the Visitor’s Center and walked on the boardwalk along the Kenai River. There were people there cleaning very large salmon they had caught. Not many others fishing. We found the local brewery…Kenai Brewery. Went in to have some “tastings”. Very nice beer and a very nice guy serving! Met a lady who came in for some tastings too. She is on her way to Kodiak...she’s with the Coast Guard. After that we went back to the rig. We are planning to leave the next morning to finish our trip to Homer and hope to visit Kenai before we pull out.
Got up the next morning and set out for Kenai.
Drove to the city and found a little park on a bluff overlooking the mouth of the Kenai River. There were at least one thousand, maybe two, standing along the mouth and even into the water. It was prime time for the running of the reds…Sockeye Salmon. The only people allowed to dip net salmon are Alaskans…we couldn’t do it. It was amazing to see. The nets were large…some five feet in diameter on long poles. The tide was going out and people just stood on the banks or in the water with these nets catching salmon. Each head of household is allowed 25 salmon and each other member is allowed 10 each. A family of five could go home with 65 salmon! After the big morning run we went down to the beach and met a guy netting. He was originally from Arizona but had moved to Alaska years ago. That’s the normal story…they visit and never go back! After doing some more exploring around the area we got back on the road headed toward Homer.

Anchorage, July 12-15, 2011

Woke up in Denali NP and it was raining. We did OK getting out of the park and getting on the road but we had rain and clouds all the way. We stopped at a large turnout on the way (would have seen Mt. McKinley if it was clear). We set up the camera on Jim’s workbench under the cover of an umbrella and took a photo of us both in front of the rig. A couple in a little Class B stopped and asked us what we were doing…you see, it was raining. When we told them we needed a Christmas card photo with Mt McKinley in the background the man commented that he knew we were either crazy or doing something fun. A little of both I thought!
We drove into Anchorage looking for a campground called Midtown RV Park. It was midtown alright…right in a busy part of town. We found the campground…what a dump. We drove around the block and tried to get out of there. I was looking in the campground book to find something else. We headed back north towards Golden Nugget RV Park. I called the office to see if they had space for us. It was funny because the guy in the office started the reservation process “what’s your name, etc.” I asked him if I could do that when I got there as it would only be a few minutes. He said come on! We paid a little more than we wanted to but we were needing a camp. We had an appointment at the Honda service for the tow car in the morning. Anyway, it was good…full hookups, WiFi. Jim took the car in the morning and came back to the rig to wait on good/bad news about the tow. We did laundry and caught up on some things. Went back and picked up the car to wait until they ordered parts. We went downtown and parked the car at the JC Penney’s downtown. Went to the Visitor Center and took a trolley tour around the town. Very good tour guide…she was raised in Anchorage and she knew all about the history. Took us to Earthquake Park and told us all about the quake which happened on Good Friday 1964. There was a tsunami and everything. Quite amazing! Our guide finished our tour by singing the Alaska State Song. It was worth the $15. After the tour we walked all the way to the Snow City Café. Tom, the courtesy car driver, recommended it. It was very popular…we had to wait about 40 minutes to be seated. It was worth the wait. We drove around the area. Went back and walked thru Earthquake Park. Drove past the airport where we saw moose and saw some more. Cannot believe there are moose right in the town! We also stopped to take pics of FedEx planes taking off right over our heads. Next day took the tow back into the shop and had the courtesy car take us downtown. We took a free shuttle to the zoo. Very natural surroundings in the zoo. Saw lots of native animals…brown bears, Dall sheep, wolves, eagles, etc. Returned to the city and visited the Anchorage Museum…saw lots of beautiful art work and historical displays. Stayed for a beer in the lounge waiting for Tom to pick us up. Car will stay in shop for the night. Hope to pick up car in the morning and get out of town to Homer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Denali National Park, July 9-12, 2011

We drove the Parks Highway all the way to Denali National Park. We crossed over the Tanana and Nenana Rivers. The Nenana will travel alongside us all the way to the park. The weather and the road was very nice. Of course, we had a few frost heaves and bumps but nothing dramatic. I had to travel backwards through The Milepost as the mileage was measured from Anchorage. The entrance to the park was after crossing the Nenana River and at milepost A 237.4. Our campground is right near the entrance so we pulled right into the registration office. While registering for our site we were given a “B” site just like the young man had told me on the phone. I didn’t think that was right and even called back to confirm we would fit.
Well….when we checked in we were told we probably would not fit in a “B” site and there were no “A” sites left. We were able to unhook the tow and drive through the loops to see if one of the “B” sites would fit. We found a great pull-through, B103, in the Caribou Loop. Perfect! After getting set up, which was easy since there are no hookups, we drove to the Wilderness Visitor Center and checked in for our tour in the morning. We were given our tickets and told where to meet the bus. Since it was early in the afternoon we drove as far as we’re allowed in our car…the Savage River bridge and trailhead. On the way we stopped at a turnout just in time to see Mt. McKinley. Yes…we’re one of the lucky ones. The weather was clear and sunny and we had a nice showing in the distance. When we arrived at the Savage River bridge we were able to see one large male caribou on the riverbank just grazing on grass and shrubs. We considered a hike but thought it would be best left until later…it was too late to begin a hike.
We drove into “town” to check out where we would meet our tour tomorrow and found a cute restaurant, Pioneer Pizza, to eat. After stuffing ourselves with pizza and beer we eturned to our campsite and I took a little walk. There was a moose and her baby in our campground just walking through sites and munching on shrubs. I got some good close pics. I actually had to warn a couple that a moose was headed for their campground. They were turned away and had no idea what was coming towards them. That was very exciting.
For our first full day at the park we had scheduled a Tundra Wilderness Tour which travels by bus 53 miles into the park. Our appointed departure time from the Princess Denali Hotel was 7:40 AM. We arrived about 6:15 and waited in the hotel lobby. It was full of people taking one tour or another. Our tour bus pulled into the loading zone and then left…the bus had bad brakes and needed to be checked out before hitting the Park Road. We finally departed one and one-half hour late but were given a $50 voucher for the delay. It says we can redeem for cash…we’ll see.
The tour was great. Our driven was very professional and answered all our questions and seemed to know all about the park and the animals. We saw moose, caribou, grizzly bears and Dall sheep…and, of course, the most beautiful scenery. Mt. McKinley was not visible today but we had already seen it yesterday.
We only saw the bears because when the tour was at it’s end another bus driver told our driver that there were bears a little bit further down the road. He extended our tour just a little bit so we could see them. On our way back we saw caribou again. Our driver gave each of us a Tundra Wilderness companion booklet of photos and information. Our driver actually has about 5 pics in that booklet…one of the best photos, showing a pack of wolves fighting off bear from their moose kill. I consider us fortunate to have gotten him as our driver. After this tour we were exhausted…at least 8 hours on the bus bumping over the gravel roads and navigating around steep ledges a thousand or two feet up the side of a mountain. We got back home and collapsed.
The second full day we got up later in the morning and drove back out to Salmon River to do the loop hike. On the way we saw a mama moose and her baby walking not far from the road. We stopped a took more pics and just watched them move on by. We made it to the trailhead for the loop hike but could not find a place to park. We parked up the hill on a turnout and walked down to start the hike. We saw some grouse…it looked like a little family. One was on one side of the road and all the others on the opposite. “He” kept calling “lookout”! At least that’s what it sounded like to me. We finally made it to the beginning of the loop. The path follows the river to a footbridge and back down the other side. The WIND was BLOWING hard. It was not a hard walk and we made it around with no problems. We saw a family of ptarmigans. We were also able to see the old caribou again on the other side of the big bridge and he had two other caribou with him. On our drive back down the park road we stopped at the viewpoint and, yes, there was Mt. McKinley again. We are living right! We checked out the railroad depot and also the Savage Cabin on our drive back to the rig. We also made a trip to the bridge over the Nenana to take some photos of the water and the rafters. It was so windy we didn’t stay on the bridge long. It started raining after we got back home so we stayed in for the night and prepared for our next journey to Anchorage. It rained on and off all night. Denali was beautiful and it was fun staying in a campground right in the park. Next time we’ll need to stay at Teklanika Campground which is accessible only by permit and has a 3 day minimum stay. No hookups but it’s on the edge of the Teklanika River. That would be exciting!

Fairbanks, July 7-9, 2011

Another fabulous night camping. Last night a huge motorhome towing a trailer holding a very nice Jeep and a full size boat on a top level maneuvered carefully through the trees into a pull-through just near us. He was very patient. The interesting thing was watching him, all alone, load the Jeep back onto the trailer in the morning. He’s obviously done that a few times before.
We left the campground and got back on the road and headed to Fairbanks. We plan to spend a full day there and have a look around. We saw some more fire remnants in the forest areas and more swans on the water. We went through some rain and saw a beautiful full rainbow spanning the road before us. That’s the second rainbow I’ve seen. The road is about the same…some gravel repaired bits and potholes.. a few dips and bumps. No real problems. There are many places to pull off the road along the way. One rest stop had a telephone booth! We crossed the Robertson River and there was still ice on the sandy areas where water was not running. No time for a pic of that. I even saw a MOOSE! At first sight I thought it was a cow (I am from Texas afterall). Then I saw the ears! Can’t believe I finally saw one. I wanted to call my friend, Kay, but had no phone service. I’ll need to do that later. We did stop at a large rest stop for Jim to stretch his legs and to eat some lunch. It was right beside the Tenana River which was moving very fast. We got out to take some pics and walk around. There was a work crew there having lunch so I talked to one of the girls. They were Americorps! They pointed out that we could see Mt. McKinley from where we were. There were too many clouds covering the top but we could see some of it and several mountains along side. Too bad it wasn’t perfectly clear. We will be going to Denali in a couple of days so we’ll hope to see it then. After getting back on the road it wasn’t long before we arrived in Fairbanks. I told Jim it looked like Texas. I couldn’t see any mountains for the trees and the road looked flat…it was definitely warmer and very sunny. I may not have know we were that north in Alaska if I had just been plopped down in that place. We stopped at Sam’s Club first to shop and then found our campground. We’re at the River’s Edge RV Park right on Chena River. Motorboats and kayaks and jet skis go down the river. I even saw some ducks with ducklings last night. The bad news is that we had some trouble with the tow car. It was making the most horrible noise when braking…I thought it was grinding, Jim thought it was whining. Anyway, we called and took it into the shop this morning. They brought us back to the motorhome and we were back in time to take a city tour. It was perfect to fill the time until the shop called to say our car was repaired. Turns out it was rocks in the brake system. After we picked it up we went into the city and toured the Ice Museum. Fairbanks hosts an International Ice Sculpture competition every year and the Ice Museum has a film about it and also has refrigerated display cases with ice sculptures. We could actually go into a display room where ice sculptures were standing…it was 20 degrees! Cold but not unbearable for the short time we were in there to take pictures. There was a Chinese young man who did a demonstration for us too. It was worth the time and $11 fee. We left downtown after that and went to Pioneer Park, formerly Alaskaland. It’s a free park with lots of old buildings from early Fairbanks days. There is a playground and a train. We didn’t stay there long enough but saw lots while were there. It looked like a storm was coming so we headed home. Not long after getting back to the rig it started raining…a nice rain with lightning and thunder. Jim cooked some stew in the crockpot so we will eat well tonight. Tomorrow we will go on to Denali National Park. We have two days there in Riley Campground and will take the Tundra Wilderness Tour. Until next blog…hope you are having a great summer.

Road to Tok, Part 2, July 6, 2011

Destruction Bay, YT, to Tok, AK

The Cottonwood RV Park was a very nice place to stay. The lake was amazing and the color of the water was unbelievable…so green and deep blue. The lake is fed by a glacier and is so clear. Jim and I sat outside in the sun and watched a storm on the opposite of the lake. It just rolled along dropping lots of rain but not on us. The wind did begin to pick up as it moved and it was frigid. We kept looking around and waiting for the resident grizzly to show up. The owner of the park said one had been coming through the park in the last few days so we should keep our eyes open. He/she never showed up.
The night was great sleeping again…so cool. The morning was brilliant…opened the front window drapes to see the sun rising over the mountains…it was blinding. Almost hate to leave this place but we must travel on. We had heard some scary stories about the road from now until the Canadian/Alaskan border so we’re a little tentative. We did see more construction and came through a long patch of muddy gravel. Stones were flying everywhere. We could hear them hitting under the rig. We did hit a couple of very hard bumps. Thankfully no tires blew and no axles snapped. It got a lot better once we past through customs and back into the US. The scenery was a little different…we saw lots of areas which had been burned in previous years. New growth was apparent but in some places it looked like the trees had just burned. We did see lots of little waterways along the way and some had swans swimming. The Milepost said there would be and we did see swans. We came into Tok in the afternoon and headed straight to Young’s Chevron to fill up the motorhome. We could have stayed there for free overnight with a fill up but we thought we should find a proper campground. We found Tundra Lodge and RV Park on the Alaska Highway just past the fuel station. Very nice wooded campground with a rv and car wash. I’m sure they make a pretty penny since everyone making it that far has probably come through the muddy gravel too. We washed the tow but not the motorhome. Didn’t even have to unhook the tow…we just settled in for the night. I even did some laundry. So happy we have a small washing machine/dryer in the motorhome. We can only do small loads but it’s great! We’ll get up and head to Fairbanks in the morning.