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Old 05-02-2010, 10:57 PM
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Ayatollahgondola Ayatollahgondola is offline
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Default The Great Alaska Road Trip

For those that don't know that much about me, I have been a road traveler since I was a toddler. There was a little bit of sailboat traveling, but mainly I'm a land cruiser. Some was in a tent; Some was in a truck with a camper, and a lot was with a travel trailer. I consider it a very thorough way to see America. My tours have been confined to the western states for the most part, although a bit of Baja California was visited this same way. I introduced my wife to this as soon as we met, and it became our way instead of just my way. We had very modest RV's by todays standards, but always had the main components of home built in. As circumstances permitted, we increased our radius of travel, but mainly we did long weekends, and one or two week vacations as a maximum. Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona were always nice tours, as well as California's many unvisited locales, but we always fantasized about going to Florida's keys.

As business in California became more demanding to maintain, our trips shortened and were fewer in between. A few years pattern like this increased our desire to take a super vacation; One such as Florida or Yellowstone, that was long enough to take us away from our troubled world, and make up for lost outdoor opportunities. One target we had always discussed was Alaska. That great state offered everything an outdoor enthusiast could want in a northern climate, and still be in the US. We began to scheme and plan, coming close two times. Both were thwarted by the business climate again, but we did forge ahead by buying a new, big fifth wheel trailer in anticipation of making the trip. Once we even set out with it, but alas got only as far as the California Border, at which time the main manager I left in charge of my work fell suddenly ill, and passed out on the floor of the warehouse.

We persevered though, and in 1999, business started to recover from the California recession that pretty much broke our bank at home, we decided to go for it again. As the summer months neared, we sat down with maps and pamphlets to plan the trip. The month of June is the best time to set out for Alaska, as it would place us in the wilderness in the middle of summer. This time though we Elaines parents wanted wingman status, and purchased a new motorhome for the trip. This worked out pretty well all around, as when I was a kid and visited Alaska by camper, we had another family that toured with us in their rig too. Alaska can be very remote and hostile if you suffer a breakdown or other calamity. There's strength in numbers and that multiplies when it is family.

As the trip moved closer, it looked more like a certainty with each passing week. Then, disaster struck again. My business was located on the banks of the Sacramento River, a stones throw from Old Sacramento, but on the west side. For 11 years we had a select perch that pretty much nobody else wanted because the ground was contaminated and the area not conducive to development. All that changed when Baseball came to town. Suddenly, the Citiy of West Sac, a fledgling baseball association, and a desparate property owner came together and demanded I move 60 thousand square feet of equipment and displays that had taken years to put there, out right away.

We rebelled this time. Our trip was cast, and somehow, even in the face of outright abandonment, we were determined to go. The following is a day by day description of the events throughout our 6 weeks long trailer trip to the great northern state of Alaska. Sorry to say there are no pictures this time, as this was before the digital camera age, and the log is pretty much all I kept. I will post in installments every few days until the end.

I'll spare you the majority of the drama surrounding the business move, as it was pretty truamatic financially and mentally. We left town with a very uncertain future, bleak prospects, and crippled finances. But leave town we did

North To Alaska: Week 1

June 16th, 1999

We started out the morning at 5:00 a.m., organizing the equipment still to be loaded into the trailer. The blasted sprinklers watered the lawn just as I was getting outside, making one final cut of the back lawn too hard. I packed equipment, sorted tools, and waited for daylight so I could see the tire that still needed to be repaired on the trailer. Elaine made some brekkie as I jacked the trailer axle up and removed the propane tanks so they could be filled while I was at the tire shop. There was no time to waste since we had to meet with her parents at the first campsite in Ashland, Oregon, before our 2 kids went to bed. We ate together and moved right along to chores with little distraction. I dropped off the tires, filled the propane tanks; and scurried off to the attorney’s office. It was hard to part with all that cash, knowing we would be a long ways from help on our trip. But it was the only true way to get the liens lifted and all the money from the relocation project protected. After getting the paperwork filed, I went straight back to the tire shop and then straight home. There would be no allowance for distraction now. We loaded the final stocks and supplies; hooked up the trailer, and pointed north at the highest rate of speed the law would allow. It was around high noon once again and we had about 7 hours of road ahead of us.

I had left a great deal of work undone at my business, hoping to somehow do a bit of it on the road by using the cell phone and the computer online. I fretted for the first several days about leaving under those conditions. I especially worried about the money that we didn’t have and that which we were supposed to get. The first time I checked in, there were problems at work, but they were working through them. When I checked in with the attorney, I was told that the State was willing to release the liens on our existing bank accounts, but they were keeping the money. Although we had the law on our side, there is an old rule of possession being 9/10ths of the law. If we wanted the money back, we would have to file suit in federal court to get it.

As for the trip, Our first leg was pretty much old, dull, highway 5 north miles. A steady speed up to Ashland where we met Elaine's parents and our kids. The campground was just a plane Jane type along the roadway. We saw some deer alongside the freeway just before we left California. When we arrived at the campground at around dusk, we met up with our kids and my in-laws. While visiting them, and seeing there brand new motor home, I heard the very distinctive hissing of air leaking out of one of his new tires. Sure enough he had the first flat tire of the trip on the way. Fortunately there was a tire repair place just a few miles away and a phone call was all it took to get the thing fixed.

June 17th

We made some more hard miles through Oregon to Washington state. We experienced loss of power with the truck just a few miles south of the campground we stayed at just above Vancouver and I decided to investigate.

June 18th

On the morning of the 18th, I abandoned everyone in the campground to visit the Dodge dealership 8 miles south to Vancouver. I was at the doorstep at opening time and they had me evaluated within 40 minutes. The bad news was, there was also a leak in the right front wheel bearing. A sizable one at that. After giving it some careful thought, I thought it best to have it repaired now. The road to Alaska is a difficult one and there are too few opportunities for parts in the remote areas. I had the front brakes changed before leaving Sacramento, along with adding the new 88 gallon fuel tank for safety. The front wheel bearing was most likely damaged when they removed the front rotors. Coincidentally, the fuel tank installation fell short of something as well since that seemed to be causing the power loss. I didn’t have enough time to research this all the way right now.

We were able to get on the road by 1:00 p.m. and continue north to our first stop in Canada. About half way through Washington we drove right through a traveling swarm of bees. A few hundred of them were splattered all over the truck and trailer. We traveled through some of the most fertile farm land I have had the displeasure to smell, within a 20 mile radius of the border. We entered B.C. at a quaint little town called Abbottsford, and pulled into the campground at dusk. The smell of manure permeated the air as we hooked up our trailer connections. There was water, sewer, electricity, and cable t.v.. A heated pool was within splashing distance and a spa sent its’ vapors wafting skyward like a bouquet of balloons. All you had to do was get past the smell and you had it licked.

June 19th

We set out again towards the northeast. Canada was now beginning to show signs of remoteness. Fuel stations were smaller and fewer and with each passing kilometer, (yes, I said Kilometer), the prices escalated about 1/10th of a cent. The mighty Fraser river was our guide as we wound around mountains and hills. We are steadily climbing in altitude and the accelerator pedal is pressed to the floorboard so often I wish I could just glue it there for the duration. We took our lunch at a rest stop and hunted through rocks for hidden geological treasures. The stop we made for the evening was a small private trailer camp with complete hook ups all around. There was a school nearby so we took advantage of the playground facilities both that evening and the next morning. The kids especially liked the teeter totter.

June 20th

After a brief breakfast in the trailer, We warmed up the engines for the days ride. We are still having power loss on the rear tank, but it mostly happens when traveling up steep hills. To compensate, I switch between tanks when going down or uphill. It’s annoying but it does allow us to use the big tank and make fewer fuel stops. Today, there are numerous Black Bear, Moose, and Deer sightings all throughout the day. Mothers with cubs and calves are frequently spotted. One particular 30 mile stretch of road seems to be especially attractive to these animals as we see them grazing or foraging right alongside the road. After choosing a shortcut that will take us by a provincial park, we opt for the advertised full service 30 amp hookups at a lakeside resort. Much to our disappointment, there was only 30 amp electrical hookup and no water or sewer. Nor was there a dump station. I think the full service hookup is more than just a bit misleading when all of this is considered. The resort did have free firewood, rental paddle boats, and small showers. We took a paddle boat out for the half hour tour as Joey and Sara fought over the steering rights and finished the evening smoking our clothes around a warm camp fire. The mosquitoes were plenty thick and really hungry. It was here we first noticed the sun was staying out much longer than before.

June 21st

Today we have a pretty casual day with only a few mountain sheep and moose being seen. By now we have a points system in place for each animal type; the first sighting of the day; and for seeing 2 types of animals in the same area. But there are few points awarded today and the only thing we end up looking forward to is the campsite this afternoon with its’ full hook ups and Laundromat. A large "Good Sam" convoy is gathering here for the night too. There are at least 75 different trailers and motor homes here already, and more on the way. The kids ride their bikes around the lot as Ray and I try to change our currency for Canadian and find some auto accessories. One of the most important is the siphon hose to move the fuel from the rear tank to the front tank. Also, new windshield wipers as the bugs this time of the year have pushed our already weak ones over the edge. Later, we all go to the newer restaurant in town and try the local food. My personal taste buds were not impressed. The kids are getting the first taste of eating in a smoking section. Yes, up here in the north, smokers are still in the majority. The water here has a real earthy or mossy taste to it, but they do let the kids play with electronic games as we wait for the food. Our evening gives us the first hint of the coming long summer daylight hours as we go off to bed before the darkness really sets in.

June 22nd

Our goal today is to make it to Liard Hot Springs before the 50 or so campsites are taken. Many of the trailers and motor homes from the big convoy have already left by 7:00 a.m. and Elaine is especially concerned about them gobbling up every spot before we arrive. I am being hurried this morning and I won’t get a chance to siphon the fuel to the main tank.

Once on the road, I spare no drop of fuel to get past every Good Sam vehicle with a number emblazoned on its’ front. I have to treat them like the enemy for now or we could end up sitting in a mud hole alongside the road and walking a mile to get to the hot springs. I am encouraged by the progress for the first hour, but then a long, long line of vehicles becomes visible as we round a bend and tilt slightly downhill. They are stopping traffic and convoying vehicles through a construction site in the road. Later, this would prove to be a rock slide. A half hour is lost here, but I throttle up the Cummins engine to once again pass all the lumbering beasts as they climb the coming hills. My first multiple passes are soon surpassed by my first multiple vehicle passes at one time. I feel like king of the road and there will be no stopping his majesty while en route to the royal baths. Guess what? ...Our brute strength has paid off. We make it with sites to spare, and decent choices at that. There are no hookups, no flush toilets, and the only water has to be hand pumped on an old, nearly antique metal pump, rusted and corroded from exposure to the elements. None of this proves to be a problem. The mineral springs are about a quarter mile up a slightly elevated wooden planked pathway. There is lush foliage, and small wildlife everywhere. The smell of sulfur dioxide is present, but not overwhelming and the surroundings seem almost sub tropical. The baths there are just like a wide stream bed with several small pools just deep enough for people to stand in up to waist deep water. Where the water boils to the surface, it is too hot for humans, but as the water flows away from this area, it mixes with some streams flowing off the surface of the mountains to buffer the temperature a few more degrees for every 10 feet or so. It is not hard to find a perfect area to suit your particular needs at any moment, for you adjust the temperature by simply dog paddling down or upstream. We stay in for hours and return for a final dip the next morning. It is more relaxing than a spa because you have so much room there and there are plants, flowers, chirping birds, and someone reported a moose grazing in the warm marsh as they walked by. We all predict that this is destined to be one of the highlights of our trip. After our morning dip, we hike to the lodge across the street for a true roadhouse breakfast. This is a small lodge with an attached restaurant The menu is short. The service is casual at best, and the food would only be acceptable to a road weary traveler. But it doesn’t have to be any better than mediocrity since they have location, location, location.

June 23

One more time we make our getaway from a campground relatively early. There are many road miles to get behind us as we pass slower moving travelers in pursuit of our Alaskan destination. There are few stops today and a great deal more 65 and 70 miles per hour periods of uninterrupted travel. Little game is spotted on this leg of the journey, but there have been reports of a beautiful lake with an unusual shade to it. One of our stops is Watson Lake where I try to find some new windshield wiper blades at the Napa Auto Parts store. Across the street are rows and rows of 20 foot tall square posts with multiple signs tourists have posted one over another for many years. I remember stopping here as a teenager over 30 years ago and posting a sign then. Most of the signs are showing signs of deterioration after less than 10 years, however a lighthearted search is conducted just for the sake of curiosity. We make our planned campsite at Teslin in the late afternoon by the side of a medium sized lake stocked with extra large, hungry mosquitoes. Teslin turns out to be a mere village with no services but a trading post. We spend only what is necessary to get by for the evening, and trip on back to raid our own pantry for the evening meal. Some extra daylight hours are spent giving the trailer a going over, as some weaknesses are becoming evident. Screws come loose. Some wires are rubbing through the insulation, and lubrication is in order at just about every visible moving metal part. The kids frolic among the camps amenities and showers are taken. This campsites’ services are pretty clean overall. Since we have come so far north this summer, the sun is setting for only an hour or 2 every night. It makes the sleeping difficult, especially for the kids who still use darkness as a trigger for their body clocks. Elaine and I have some trouble sleeping too, and to add to the sunlight problem, a hungry mosquito is patrolling the airways in our room carelessly buzzing our heads while relentlessly probing for weak spots in our protective cocoon made of blankets and OFF.

Continued soon

Last edited by admin; 05-24-2010 at 12:13 AM.
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Old 05-05-2010, 08:07 PM
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Ayatollahgondola Ayatollahgondola is offline
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June 24th

Morning brings a bit of edginess among the lot of us due largely in part to the lack of sleep. We are up at 6:00 a.m. and after a midnight bedtime it is decided we will attend the morning breakfast at the campground cafe. Once again, the menu is simple. But the place is clean and the staff quite helpful. We ingest 3 full cups of strong coffee with real cream. The butter for the pancakes and toast is true, artery hardening, fat saturated dairy product from real Canadian cows. None of the condiments are imitation or facsimile, and that is right up my address. A sign of a good restaurant in my book. The only thing that places an establishment above this level is cloth napkins and fresh breadsticks table side, but one cannot expect such luxuries while on safari.
Another tank of fuel and we’re back on the road again. The fuel problem has found an inconvenient but simple solution. A cheap siphon pump is used to draw the fuel out of the auxiliary tank in the truck bed and draw it to the stock tank under the vehicle that has a fuel pump. Diesel fuel is thicker than gas though and takes an hour or more to move the 30 gallons the bottom tank holds. But having 110 gallons on board gives us about 1200 miles between fuel purchasing options and that is very appealing when you are able to pass up buying $2.00 per gallon diesel.
Almost immediately this morning we are faced with passing a 20 van convoy of group tourists. Plus, there is road work today. Luckily, we haven’t far to travel to our next campsite at Skagway, AK. And while having that bit of good fortune planned into our itinerary by my time conscious wife, the next bit was a bonus as we saw all those vans pull off the roadway granting us full access to the highway for nearly the rest of the leg of this trip. We reached Skagway near lunch time and were treated to a most glorious sunshiny and warm day. It was hard to believe we were in Alaska as we walked around all the quaint tourist shops in tank tops and shorts. Skagway is a tourist trap for sure, but it was a welcome trap after having been subjected to shopping at mini mart style trading posts with little to offer. The campground here was a little Spartan and the showers and toilets kind of dirty. Welcome back to the US we told ourselves. We all took a tour around the general vicinity with our bikes, crossing a small wooden bridge and being propelled by the 20 or better knot winds on the way back from the boat harbor. A pleasant dinner within our trailers was consumed and then we watched the single channel available on t.v. until it was well past our bedtime. Once again we had to work at getting in the mood for sleep. I think it was midnight or more before I began to drop off. Even with the pillows propped up across the rear windows, some of that long northern summer sunlight still fills the inside of the trailer.

June 25th

Elaine and I are blessed with a little “sleep in” time this morning as Joey and Sara take the train ride up the canyon with Grandma and Papa at 6 or 7 a.m.. We take relatively long showers and then leisurely sip our coffees while scrutinizing the 4 page newspaper from town as if to try to stretch it into a big city paper. Afterwards, we prepare the trailer and truck for the ferry ride across the bay to Haines. Our big steel box mounted on the rear of the trailer needs to be removed and stored in order to stay under the maximum length allowed for the money we paid for the ride. Then, we dumped the tanks and took our position in lane 4 to await the 2:00 p.m. loading time. Leaving the rigs in line, we all venture out for a quick lunch in the tourist traps. Lunch is slow to arrive and just a bit below average. The water is smooth and cold though. Since lunch was so slow, we hurry back to make our deadline to drive aboard the ferry. But for all our hurrying, we are treated to another hour of waiting before we are ushered aboard the ship. Getting on was a little scary since there was limited height, steep ramps and a very hard left turn. Once aboard, they made us leave our vehicles and complete the trip on the upper passenger decks. There was an after deck there with a giant sun roof and open on one end. This shelters the area from the wind while allowing the welcome sunshine in to warm the passengers. There is also a basic bar, snack and restaurant facilities, along with some decks with reclining chairs for sleeping. When the giant ships engines begin to propel us towards our next port, the vibration makes it easy to drift off to a most relaxing afternoon nap. Joey and Sara are very anxious to explore every deck, cabin, and stairway the ships will allow them in or on. Both try every angle possible to encourage one of us to accompany them on their expedition. The trip across this body of water is more like a fjord than an inlet of bay. Both sides offer glimpses of mountainous peaks almost straight up and down, and there are bald eagles patrolling from above for their own supper. The water is pretty cold looking and every so often an eagle skims the surface in an attempt to grasp some unfortunate fish coming up for a bite of insect.
As the ship makes a wide turn to line up the gangway door with the dock, it lists noticeably to one side. The loudspeaker calls all drivers to the lower car hold for immediate unloading. All of us sit in our cars and trucks with the windows rolled up to avoid being asphyxiated by the exhaust from the more impatient drivers who start their cars far ahead of the signalman's instruction. We are out the gate sooner than most, and as we climb the steep ramp, I watch the 5th wheel connection rather closely for the angle is once again a little steep and I am concerned the trailer will hit the top of the truck bed. Once in Haines, we first look at the marina trailer park. It shows a little too plain for our needs today. Instead, we opt for the one in town that has everything, including a velvety soft, lush, manicured lawn to park our trailer on. After a quick hook up and level, we are off to the restaurant suggested by the campsite owner. Once again, we are disappointed by the service and only sustained by its’ fare. The only table large enough for all of us is upstairs, and this is all it seems to take to discourage the servers from checking on us periodically. The waiter forgets one whole fish sandwich which takes much too long to correct later. There are some compliments on the decaffeinated coffee, and the water is top notch too. While waiting for Rays forgotten order, I check out a candy case downstairs that displays truffles in the shape of clams and starfish. We all choose a suitable piece, including me, since they have sugar free selection as well. Tonight, the mountains offer some protection from the late sunlight, and we all seem to be able to sleep a little longer and better.
June 26th

This morning offers a little break from the normal routine of eat and run for we are staying another day here in Haines. A basic brekkie is served; Eggs, toast and homemade coffee for me; Sugary sweet cereal for Elaine and Sara. Joey eats pancakes at Grandma’s. A few chores are accomplished such as laundry, paperwork, and clean up. Then, we are off to hike a few miles to get a better view of a local glacier. A park just a few miles from town has a well beaten trail complete with wooden slats over some of the streams, and even a stairway carved into a fallen tree. Even with these improvements, the pathway hides from us every so often making me wonder if I shouldn’t have a detailed map and radio with me as we go. Not to worry though. The distinct footprints of other humans reveal themselves over and under the tracks of local moose in the muddier spots of the trail. If we get lost, we’ll have company. The forest here is somewhat dense in most areas and the foliage is lush all over. It is almost jungle like without the macaws and the parrots screeching overhead. Wary of the sign at the outset of the trail, we have our rock banging, hymn singing daughter in charge of making the bears aware of our incursion. This portion of the walk is going downhill and fairly quickly too. When we get to a clearing, an UN-populated large bay is revealed. A small but qualifying glacier hangs over the top of the closest mountain on the opposite side from us. We lay one of our decent walking sticks down with some rocks for later retrieval and then head off for some reconnaissance. Lots of blooming wildflowers carpet the area. Mussel shells turn up here and there. Snacks are then distributed and a few candid shots are taken with the camera. It is now time to head back. On the way to the trail, we see a small group of hikers coming in. One has possession of our walking stick. Oh well. I still have mine. The trip uphill is somewhat harder. Breathing is heavy and sweat is expressed by the time we hit the top. Before getting in to the truck, Either a badger or a beaver walks casually by the parking lot.
Getting back to town, mail is retrieved and sent at the post office. Next, a trip to the fuel depot where we buy 100 gallons of diesel fuel for a 5 cents per gallon discount for quantity and free popcorn. The popcorn is stale and cool, but the fuel seems to be good grade. Then, a necessary trip to one of the 2 local grocers where we all put several “needs” into a shopping cart. After a bit, We all ride bikes to the local school yard and use the swings, teeter totter, and playground. A short shopping spree in some of the shops where Joey buys a shiny knife from Alaska. Then a nice leisurely downhill cruise back to the trailer. The kids play outside in the grass while a hearty Guamanian style chicken dinner is prepared. After that, we all take a trip to yet another recommended park about 8 miles away where bear and eagle sightings are common. We are not disappointed either. A mother grizzly with 3 cubs are frolicking in the high grass just across the river or creek. They put on a good show for the cameras and eagles are sighted on the river bank pecking at today's fresh catch, and perched on a treetop. We cap off the evening with a cool non-alcohol beer and I finally rig the computer to a data port and make contact with the home front. It’s a midnight bedtime once again for me, but hey! It’s still light outside, and I am a big boy so who’s counting?

June 27

Today we are off to make up some mileage, 300 or more hopefully. The road is greeting us with many potholes, construction areas, and washboard sections that sneak up over the tops of small hills and around blind corners. We cross into Canada once again and get minimal attention from Canadian customs . Mountains are our obstacles now since we are climbing for the next hour or so. At one point, a stop is in order to walk on some roadside leftover snow and toss a few snowballs. Back to the highway again, and we are traveling through a most remote looking mountainous park. It looks hardly touched by humans. Pristine hillsides with short, steep mountains that have an almost moonscape look to them. A few miles farther, we pick up some wooded areas again and a big Grizzly bear is laying in the short grass just by the road as we pass. I could not help but try to figure out why that bear was there. Was it a mother waiting for a cub that may have been hit by a car? Or possibly waiting for a morsel of scrap thrown from a passing ignorant motorist. Whatever the reason, I am still glad to see wildlife. I have been talking to Joey a lot about hunting, and that is making me think of all these animals in a much different light. I am now looking at the bounty of Alaskan and Canadian wildlife as if it were a smorgasbord for my taste palate. Even on a full stomach I am fantasizing how a mountain goat or beaver tastes. Also, let’s grab a pole and catch up some of them salmon or trout. How did we get on this subject anyway? Oh yeah. Grizzly bear..........mmmmmmm!
The campsites we have estimated reaching today are turning up closed. We have to continue northward for another 30 or 40 miles. It has been a long day in the truck. Everyone is showing signs of wear as we travel slowly through an area that just had a forest fire. The crews are still hosing the area down for several miles. A cow and calf moose cross the road in front of us and there are some threatening clouds on the horizon. A campsite with electric and water hook ups beckons us in at Beaver Creek. Much clean up is effected after a quick, but decent leftovers meal. Fuel is siphoned; Repairs are made to the refrigerator which is now not working at all. Ray and Ann wash off the motor home for the second time in 24 hours. The kids ride bikes and watch TV Another mid niter for me, and what else?.... it’s still light enough outside to read without any artificial light.

June 28th

Neither of us hear the alarm this morning, and before we know it 8:30 a.m. is upon us. A quick decision to spend breakfast among the locals and other tourists takes us to the local lodge. The menus in this part of the world have been consistently short and limited so far. Our choices are brought to us in good order and fairly quickly by recently set standards. Much to Sara’s delight, the Canadians seem to place little packets of peanut butter on the table with the jams and jellies, along with honey. She assigns us each an acceptable amount to take with us without showing greed or poor manners. Hitting the road a little late today is not causing us to fall behind since we made quite a few miles farther than we were supposed to the previous day. Our ride is a relatively short one to Tok. The campsite is an RV village near the road with water, sewer, and electric hook ups. This is a pretty clean and fairly large place considering the town here is so small. After getting connected, I make the required trips to the post office, Napa auto parts store for wiper blades; and the r.v. repair shop to see about fixing the refrigerator. This shop owner knows exactly what I need, but has been waiting for that very part for over a week since it is a common problem. I have the refer going for now, but I am uncomfortable with the way it’s “hot wired”. I lost a bit of sleep the night before, conjuring up images of a fire starting or propane leaking in to the trailer. I even tested the smoke alarm at 1:00 a.m. just to give myself a bit more assurance of a safe nights rest for all inside. I also left the front door unlocked just in case we needed to be rescued.
Elaine and the kids ride their bikes around town to shop at the handful of shops that cater to tourists. Some chores are completed and then some further shopping at the only grocery store and a visit to yet another tourist shop. Here are some dogs and puppies for sale. All of us talk to these working dogs as if they were house mutts, but the truth is, they are very much bred for this environment and even though they are cute to look at, they might just snap and snarl if you got any closer to them than the cages would allow. Later, a lightning storm rolls in and pelts us soundly with first some sizable hailstones, and then some thick rain which drenches all unprepared souls with some of that great tasting northern water. This campsite is full of people. There are over a hundred in here and packed pretty closely I might add. It is a bit cooler this evening with all that moisture from the rain evaporating, so I am wishing I had a campfire. There have been too few campfires this trip so far. A barbecued steak dinner is had by all along with some cooked fresh vegetables and yams. A brief walk around the campsite and then some card games before retiring for the evening. Nighty-night comes earlier for all including me this evening.

June 29th

Today starts off with breakfast at Fast Eddies. The menu has grown a little here so We all get something different today. This food is pretty good and I have to take some with me. Next, we go straight back and hook up the rig for another day of travel towards Fairbanks. On the way out, I stop to check on the refer part. After checking on it starts to cut into travel time, Elaine shows distress outwardly. Later, this turns into a more personal, profanity laced attack on me. The kids and I are silent for quite a while after this and a distance is placed between her and I. It is hard for me to get past this for the entire day. Fairbanks is reached in good order with only a moose and a wolverine sighting under my belt today. The site is full hook-ups and there are easy pull through spaces. A river is close by and there are telephones that I immediately use to try to solve problems on the business front. Several other people have their laptops with them and are competing for the data port. I seem to be one of the few that can actually make it work though. Later in the day, we visit town and shop at the huge Fred Meyer store where some fishing reels, drinks, snacks, and CD’s are purchased. Back at the trailer, I try to get the refer going again since it is completely out and won’t jump now. After some thorough electrical testing, I head out to get some fuses to replace the broken ones. After a couple stops, while pulling into a store parking lot, I spot an RV repair truck. I sniffed him out in the store and as luck would finally be in my corner (even if for a brief visit), He had the faulty part we could not get anywhere else on the trip so far. He had about 10 of these in his parts bin. The price was even negotiated down from the marked one on the bag of $127.00. This gentleman was a true hard-core repairman with tool marks on his pockets, manuals spilling out as he opened doors and drawers, and chain smoking tobacco stained fingers. “tell you what” he said. Got any young uns ? I replied affirmatively wondering if he was going to give me the pity price on that account or just making small talk. “ Just give me a C-note then “ he said. I passed him 5 twenties and thanked him for being here for me. Then it was back for a quickie installation job and a little relaxation for the evening.

June 30th

Waking up late this morning, I immediately headed for the camp shower for a long hot one. Next, I took up where Elaine left off making brekkie which consisted of pancakes, sausage, and over eggs. After that, some phone calls were made and then we were off to the University of Alaska where we checked out all the exhibits the museum had to offer. Then, we did a little shopping at the very small farmers market alongside the road. Unfulfilled there, we supplemented by shopping at the Big K Mart. Then, Joey had us visiting the local army surplus shop where he purchased a practice hand grenade. At dinner time we went to a rather pricey and extravagant restaurant on the local river bank. Mostly, Halibut was ordered and consumed. Along with baked potato, fresh mixed vegetables, and some excellent bread with flower shaped butter. We finished our day with some golf at the in-house course, and a bit of rock hunting to satisfy Sara’s sudden Jade habit. When everyone else drifts off to the river or the golf course one last time, I try to get to the bottom of the problems that are now mushrooming into disasters at the home front. There are, in the very least, 3 angry customers. The bulk of the problems seems to be one employee's lack of interest in one job, and his abandonment of another. In trying to find an easy solution to one of those 2 projects, he has robbed from Peter to pay Paul on yet a third project, which is now starting to suffer along with the other 2. I cannot seem to control the situation from here, and that is making it extremely difficult to have any enjoyment on this portion of the trip. To complicate this, I cannot get good and useful access to telephones. Lines form before and after me as I wait for my “turn” in the laundry rooms, recreation areas, and bathrooms at the campgrounds. One woman using the phone ahead of everyone is extremely loud as if the other person listening was deaf. In addition, it seemed the person listening was a moron or just completely disinterested. She spelled the name of a person she was looking for the address for about 10 different times. With every spelling I clenched my teeth and the booklet I had in hand harder to keep from screaming out some type of insult or even profanity to make her at least shut up, quiet down or get out. I gave up instead and waited until it was past everyone's bed time to do the on line work, but never did make the calls to people during the time they needed to be made

Continued soon

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Old 05-08-2010, 08:33 PM
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July 1st

Back to the showers early enough to beat most of the people from the convoy of vans that we had passed so many days back on the trip here. As I passed the telephone on the way back, I saw no fewer than 4 people waiting with laptops in hand for the only 2 data ports available in the campground. Back at the trailer, Elaine had already started breakfast comprised of English muffins with a cheese slice; scrambled egg, and topped with a piece of cooked ham. It was a home made egg Mcmuffin. After breakie I made only one phone call which lasted far too long. An angry customer trying to exploit an already distorted problem. I could do very little here, being this far away and unable to communicate with everyone involved. This did not stop the problem for those at the site though, and I became hostile towards the customer and an employee for getting me involved so deeply in this project for no good reason and then just abandoning them before all was done or at least collected. Now we have done all this work at their store for no reason and no money. I have now wasted an hour and still made no progress on my trip, or for work. At this point I am very disturbed over losing precious time from my life and getting nothing but stress for it. I am once again angry to start out the day this way and see no way to get resolution for, or even respite from this. To compound it, the washing bay for vehicles at the campground is always busy with people trying to make their motor homes spotless before they leave. I am just trying to get the bulk of the road mud off, and have been interested in doing so for a week. It was quite annoying to see someone taking the time to polish screws and buff to a lustrous shine, a giant motor home which will get covered with dust a few miles from the campsite. We leave with our dirt once again. On the way out, we had to send the payroll from the post office. Guess what? .....A line that snaked nearly out the door was our greeting. I reached into the depths of my paperwork bulging wallet and pulled out an express mail stamp I had purchased in Haines for an occasion when the post was closed or something. This didn’t qualify as an emergency, but it was a dilemma, and that lowered the standard a little to make it excusable to dip into the stamp fund. After this, we went to Safeway for some supplies and some sugarless pie.

Back on the road, we made good time to our next stop at Denali national park. Upon entering, I found out there would be no contact with the world once we had driven the 20 or so miles to the campground. Once in, you weren’t allowed to drive your own cars out until you left for good. As the song went, ...No phone...No light...No motor car.....Not a single luxury.....Like Robinson Carusoe....... I’d be out of touch as one could be. So... I went for the telephone as Elaine and the kids attended the park greeting seminar. All’s I got there was bad news. I just wanted to close the place down and freeze everything from that day forward until we got back. This is what is now my main goal and seemingly the only one that could let me enjoy the trip. I would have to write off the 2 jobs that were already disasters. Just finish the move with as few people as possible, and get the third job done without losing money or another customer. Cut the payroll was first. Second was securing and holding on to what was not already damaged. Third, collect and protect the remainder of the baseball association money that was due from the city any day. All’s I could think of right now is all those greedy, self-interested people using that money as their own personal safety cushion to comfort them while apathetically going through some of the motions of their jobs until I got back. It is now my mission to convince them they would not be party to even one thin Canadian dime of it since they were not insuring any part of its’ future any longer.
When this was set into motion, We entered the campground that immediately presented a most wild and scenic atmosphere. There were Caribou and Sheep sightings from the road. After reaching the campground, we found a covey of Ptarmigan replete with very young chicks. They were not too fearful of us, allowing Sara, and later most of us, to come within a few feet of them. We capped the night off by seeing a whole herd of Dall sheep on a nearby mountain, and breaking rocks from the road in an effort to find more jade for Sara’s new collection.

July 2nd

Everyone but I had the breakfast of champions this morning. Sweet crunchy cereal. I ate cold leftover steak with a bread and butter. Weak coffee was on the stove too. Then, we headed to the river for some rock collecting. No jade was found, however there were a few crystals needing identification and some agates. After that, we packed a lunch, some snacks and drinks, and headed off to the bus stop with the cameras and binoculars to make the trip to a lake about 60 miles away. In this park, You are not allowed to drive the road by yourself to get anywhere. Park and resort owned buses seem to have a monopoly on the trips back and forth. These buses seemed to be packed with travelers and they are hard to see out of if you don’t have a window seat. The windows go only half way down, so there is a dividing line in the center. Also, they do not break with the seats, so some seats have a “cross” in the middle to obstruct the view. The seats are OK for the first 40 miles or so, and then they get a little uncomfortable. Windows are closed a lot so the dust doesn’t get in and at times, it gets a little stuffy in there and you must also contend with the ever present odor of insect repellent. I had a difficult time seeing anything through the binoculars when we are moving because of the bumpiness. There were Caribou and Sheep spotted within the first hour. Some stops were made for 20 and 10 minutes to use the facilities along the way. I climbed about 250 feet up a mountain side to get a better view of the glacier at one of these. This is a long trip and not quite as interesting to someone used to better things under more desirable conditions. I especially do not like to be cooped up with too many strangers and have to cow tow to their every whims. But, there is more wildlife and the only way now to see this area is by one of these cattle cars, so it is best to try to make the best of this. A bull moose is seen in a small pond with a cow close by. Wander lake is the turnaround point and we are allotted only enough time to walk to the edge of the water and feed the starving mosquitoes. Getting back into the bus the air seemed humid and stale. On the trip back, we saw Grizzly Bears and more Caribou. While seeing this vast open land nearly completely void of any man made structures, I remember coming here over 30 years ago and seeing most of the state that way. When it was time to hunt, we had only to pull over at a convenient dugout and camp for a few days. while we pursued Moose, Caribou, and Mountain sheep. No one around for miles with the exception of a very small handful of other hunters. Now we have to be chaperoned through areas where there are rules that prohibit personal entry so as not to disturb the declining wildlife habitat. Busses pass each other every 15 minutes or so on this trip making it so very clear to me that there are far too many people on this planet at once, and all of us are encroaching into these types of areas making all this regulation a basic necessity. If we keep multiplying at the current rate, Our children's children will only be able to see videos of areas like this one.
I was anxious as hell to reach the campground after being cooped up from 10:30 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. with only 10, 20, and one 30 minute breaks. Once back, Sara needed a jade “fix” after being away from the hunt for so long. So we had some dinner first and were only interrupted by a couple of volunteer rangers giving us a bear warning. After they left we grabbed hammers and went to the roadway only 100 or so feet from our trailer where some pea gravel had been graded into a barely used service road. After only chipping 20 or so rocks, A ranger visited us and warned us that breaking rocks or, for that matter, even collecting them was not allowed. He went on to give us justification for the law by telling us that if everyone came in and broke rocks, pretty soon there would be no more unbroken rocks. I had a hard time visualizing the rock shortage in this part of the world, and the application of the law as it pertained to this situation, but heaven forbid that I or my family should contribute to the next extinction of a species in this area. We moved back to our site and I tried to start the generator to charge the batteries for an hour or so. But the generator was not working properly so I began a diagnostic.
After about an hour, a pair of volunteer rangers, and seemingly campground type “hosts” walked up just as I had just shut down the generator. Seems they were here to tell me to shut it down because there was a quiet time beginning at 9:00 p.m.. It was about 5 minutes before and I told him I knew the rules and was tracking the time. But one of them continued to “advise” me about how some folks arrive off the airplane, and because of the long daylight hours, think it’s party time 24 hours a day. Both of them kept interjecting as I tried a couple of more times to assure them I was aware of the time, and the attitudes of some tourists, thereby wasting the few last valuable minutes of repair time I had left. I spent the last few hours of the day scouting with the binoculars and doing some inside the trailer work, then went off to bed. There was no radio or t.v. stations to hear this far out, so sometimes it is better to catch up on some sleep.

July 3rd

We awaken in Denali park a little later this morning. There is nothing on the agenda today, so languishing in bed is not unforgivable, even if we are in natures domain. Breakfast of Eggs Goldenrod was enjoyed by all, and complimented with some fresh coffee. Some of the brekkie is stored for later, but coffee is completely consumed. The whole family gathers drinks and snacks in a pack, and then set of on a hike up a nearby hill. The trip immediately becomes somewhat steep by city slicker standards, and there are some slippery spots where the dust acts like a lubricant. Everyone makes it up the hill though, and that exposes a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Lush vegetation carpets the hills and flatlands where trees are all but nonexistent. It is a good feeling to see so much open land without any power lines, roads, and other man made obstructions. No wildlife shows up on this hike with the exception of the mosquitoes that were silently waiting for us at a pond near the bottom of the hill. These bugs go off like a swarm of bees when they are disturbed, and attack relentlessly until you are far away from their watery habitat. The hike has encouraged everyone to forage for food when we get back to the trailers. While this is happening, some of us spend the time prepping the trailers for the trip out tomorrow. As pretty and remote as this place is, the atmosphere is still a little too tense for our tastes due to all the restrictions. Unless you have a penchant for hiking or a passion for photography, this place can be a bit of a bore.

Because we want to leave early tomorrow, we get to bed pretty early. But not before one last walk up the wide rocky river bed that is a short walk from our camp. The riverbed is about 4 or 500 feet wide and , but flat all the way across, save for the small fingers of babbling waterways splintering off in several directions. The kids find the soft mud that pockets in the bends of the streams and get the greatest thrills of past several days by letting it squish between the cracks of their toes. They become so enthralled with this that they are careless and end up slipping and sliding into the mud. Joey ends up needing an outside shower before he can be allowed in the trailer.
We have a slight snack around the campfire and then get off to sleep.

July 4th

This day begins early and with a troublesome discovery. During the clean up after the previous days breakfast, part of the coffee pot found its’ way into the trash can. We mount up with a minimal breakfast and set off for Anchorage with a secondary goal of coffee on the road. (Who knows how long it would be before coffee became our primary goal.) On the way out, some moose, Caribou, and rabbits are seen. Only a half hour into the trip and we find fuel for Ray and Ann’s rig and coffee with cream. The scenery on the way to Anchorage is mountainous and a bit more busy on the roadway. Just outside anchorage, a little town called Houston comes into view. Their are huge signs advertising fireworks all over, along with giant blow up gorillas, and other animals. Very soon, a large pocket of fireworks stands appears with one semi-circular one standing out among the rest. A replica of the Bat mobile sits out front for camera shots, and people in gorilla suits motion for passers-by to stop in. As we approach the stand, it reveals a veritable cornucopia of pyrotechnics that even a fire Marshall could be swayed by. Being a bit ignorant of the local laws on such things, I was compelled to ask one of the sales people if we could light these off in or around Anchorage. Although she was evasive of the question, she did offer enough of an answer to give me at least the impression that what I was doing was not illegal. Especially if I was in their town. We bought some Roman candles, a package of rockets, and a box of assorted fireworks. Since we spent over $40.00, she threw in some free sparklers and smoke bombs. The kids could hardly wait for the evening, and had started dividing up the stuff for lighting privileges right away.
The trailer park we found was more resembling a parking lot, but it did have hook ups and laundry. We hunted around town a little and visited the earthquake park. This large area of town dropped about 30 or 40 feet and turned the area into a silty muddy mess for nearly 2 miles along the bay front. Because there was little else that could be done with that area, they just made it into a local park. The kids found the area too irresistible to ignore and coerced me into making a foray down to the waters edge. Guess what they found? The closer to the water, the muddier it got. Too much fun and frolic was happening and dirt was getting all over the kids within minutes, so we had to head back up the hill. On the way back to the trailer, we check out some future trailer sites but are not encouraged to move. Once back at the r.v. park, we load up everyone and head out of town to shoot off some fireworks.
About a half hours drive across the river, and on a small island, smoke and flashes signal us in as a fireworks friendly area. There is a small beachhead with approximately 100 or so people firing off everything from sparklers to mortar fired “flowers” from the waters edge, with cars passing on the bridge only a hundred feet or so away. The beach is littered with shell casings and firecracker carcasses, and sticks and spent packages floating by us in the fairly swift moving current. We opened our chairs and boxes of rockets to join in the revelry, and lighted up one by one, everything we had purchased only a few hours earlier. I tell you, there is nothing more enjoyable for a kid on fourth of July such as firing off rockets the likes of which are completely forbidden by law in your home state. Joey and Sara were excited about this too, since this is their first and possibly only exposure to this type of unregulated pyrotechnic expression. Both take turns reloading the launch pad we made from an empty non-alcoholic beer bottle and lighting the fuses. The air around us is filled with the smell of burned powder and thick smoke.
Everyone on the island is concurrently setting off fireworks from their own arsenals. The sky overhead is like a war zone with small explosions going off 50 to 100 feet from the ground. Bits of paper and plastic fall like shrapnel, on and around us. Towards the end of our stash, a trio of teens are observed walking among the gathering carrying some sporty model souped-up looking 22 caliber rifles haphazardly in one hand. Many people in the area cast more than a casual glance at them. It seems at any festivity, there is always a single or small group of people prone to express themselves more forcefully than everyone else. Although guns are part of the very background of this holiday, it seems just a bit out of place within this area. Firearms are a very accepted part of American culture. But similar to skinny dipping or passing gas, things of this type are better experienced among a small group of acquaintances or friends that you feel more comfortable with.
As we pack up and leave, there are several more cars arriving to fill the void we left. This celebration will carry on until the wee hours of the morning since during that time, the only real darkness will happen in this part of the world for a fleeting few hours. From our trailer, we here the deep sounds of mortar based fireworks display put on by permit inside Anchorage. This is heard even as we get to bed at 1:30 a.m.

July 5th

9:30 am is the unscheduled wake up today. Breakfast is out again at what turns out to be a very busy place. The food and menu was pretty decent, but it was just barely clean. Afterwards, we went to Sam’s club for a little shopping. Sam’s is good for when you're at home, but the packages are just too large for our trailer. Then, home for some laundry and fuel siphoning. Then, Joey and Sara wanted to visit the GI Joe Surplus store, so we walked around eyeing some old military gear. Joey felt compelled to purchase a stainless steel officers flask with Soviet insignia. It was fun to stare at all this paraphernalia and wonder just what was all that stuff used for anyway. After that, a trip to the grocery store while some dinner was barbecued. We ended the day with a couple of rented videos and then went off to bed.

July 6th

Golf is first on the to do list this morning. The course is just a quarter mile away and breakfast of pancakes and eggs with coffee perked in our new glass coffee maker. I dropped Elaine, the kids and Ray off at a pretty quiet little park and an UN-populated golf course by California standards. After that, I ducked in to the lube shop for an oil change. There was too many people there at the time so, I came back later, only to find that they lacked the necessary parts to complete the work. So I did a bit of computer work and went back to pick up the golfers. Off to burger king for lunch and then we washed both of the vehicles. Thousands of miles of forced air had plastered every bug in the northwest on the fronts of the trailer and truck, then the sun baked them on like an enamel finish. It took hours and hot water with soap to get down to an acceptable layer of outer skin and bug remnants. Next, we visited the downtown area and shopped enthusiastically. T-shirts, jewelry, and pullover sweaters were purchased along with syrups in little boxes. The downtown area is one of the more attractive areas in Anchorage so far. When our bags are full, we head off to the fish viewing platform where we saw some huge Salmon moving about in the frigid fast moving water. 2 teenagers waded into the waist deep, rushing water in an effort to net some of the fish as they work their way upstream. Next, we headed back to the trailer for some dinner and a rented movie. I am eager to get back into the wilds again, and especially so towards the ocean. We’ll get off to bed early tonight.

Continued soon

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July 7th

We are up with the working folks today since it’s hit the highway time. But first, a trip to the local Dodge dealer for a lube and a possible diagnosis for the real fuel tank problem. While they work on the truck, I inspect the Hummers on the lot and make phone calls from the customer lounge. The fuel problem is solved by new filters being installed. One for now, and one for the next couple thousand miles. Seems the new tank was not entirely clean when it was installed and a bunch of paint and metal flakes were lying in wait at the bottom to be drawn into the fuel line. the filter at the bottom was so clogged that even air wouldn’t pass through now. It took more time to get the generic part than to get it installed. But it did feel good to get the thing fixed and I would be real happy to not be siphoning fuel any more. We left town around noon with just a stop for fuel topping off. The view from the roadway was pretty attractive on this section of our trip, and there were Mountain Sheep standing on a hillside close to the road. There was so little to stand on for them that they almost looked like they were painted on the rocks behind them. After a truck passed us on the road, a loud unusual noise alerted Elaine and I so we stopped for a brief inspection. Nothing was apparent though and we merged back on to the highway. Shortly, another noise was heard. This time the culprit was spotted. It seems that when we cleaned the trailer, the front canopy never got locked down again. When the wind caught it, it flipped up and bent the frame, breaking the fiberglass in several spots too. I will require a checklist from now on before we actually start driving so we don’t forget things like this. Arriving at the trailer park, we discover that they are not in complete control of the place. There are too many campers and the sites are more than doubled up. We didn’t even have a space to pull into until after another camper reluctantly moved his trailer from its’ cocked position. He didn’t arrive to do this until well after dinner time. In the interim, we drove around town, booked a tour for tomorrow, and did a bit of shopping. When we returned, the other trailer was still not out of the way, so we had dinner in town and came back. This time, the other trailer had been moved over, but there was only on electrical pole with 2 plugs on it and there was already 5 trailers plugged into it. There was not enough room to get another large RV plug on to the add on home style splitter they had on, and there was only 2 twenty amp breakers on it. With all those other campers plugging in their 30 amp cords, putting ours on would have brought us up to around a 180 amp draw if everyone started using appliances at once. In any case, there was no place for me to hook on. The young girl at the office assured me that there would be someone by later to get that solved. By 11:30 at night, that had not happened. When I approached the owner who was just getting there, he was not interested and said there just wouldn’t be electrical hook up there this evening. I walked away saying that I would call the local fire Marshall over and have him look at this electrical nightmare he had going on and the owner started yelling at me. I went to bed on a bad note that night, and wanted out of that space tomorrow.

July 8th

Still interested in getting out of this place, I showered and walked up to the Good Sam park mile up the hill. Turned out that they had space available with full hook ups and good management. We moved immediately and got settled in. Next, we went to town and waited for our boat trip around Resurrection Bay. In the interim, we stopped at a little bay side bakery where we had some strong coffee which I had to use 10 of those little half & half creamers to buffer. Then, we boarded the ship and embarked on our tour. Although I don’t usually enjoy such scheduled package type trips like these, being out on the water made up for it. The captain nosed this large vessel into every interesting cove and nook where wildlife was usually seen, Puffins nesting and eating, Seals resting, Otters eating, and remnants of WWII buildings were some of the highlights. The ship served salmon and chicken lunch, and a desert bar afterwards. It was a 4 hour trip in all. Afterwards we visited some of the local gift shops and spent a few dollars on trinkets for the folks back home.
Before going back to the trailer that evening, we headed up to Exit Glacier for a close up of a real, honest to goodness Alaskan glacier. You drive up to the park which is a few miles from town. Then, you have to hike about of a mile uphill. The glacier is magnificent both afar and up close. The ice inside is deep and pure. We couldn’t resist cutting cool clear pieces of ice and crunching them like candy. To get the deepest, solid chunks is the key, but you have to get under the overhanging precipices and carefully chip away without causing an avalanche right on your very head. Also, ice cold water can run down your back when you are underneath, since the glaciated ice is in a state of decline during these summer months. Evidence of a more prominent and continual retreat is marked by posts along the road out where the glaciers’ end was positioned in the years 1978, 1951, 1909, 1898, and earlier. There are some miles in between some of these markers now. The river flowing from the melting ice has carved a shallow, rocky, expanse that the road follows now. Back at the trailer, it is now around 9:00 p.m. and as usual, the sun is still hanging around for its’ evening encore.

July 9th

We are not breaking speed records today getting started towards Homer. But once on the road we make pretty decent time. The road down is bumpy for quite awhile, and mostly two lanes. Only one stop for Ray’s fuel and no wildlife was seen on the entire ride. As we neared Homer, we saw strings of Halibut out front of guide shops alongside the road to both boast the fishermen's catch and advertise the guides services. The bay started showing within 10 miles or so, and it is really large and calm. You can see islands out there miles from the town and snow capped mountains ring the area. We settled in the r.v. camp which was fully hooked up and had a pretty spectacular, if not panoramic view of the entire area. We went out to eat at what turned out to be one of the few restaurants in the town. there are a bunch of little deep fried halibut shacks, and there is other fast food and bars. But there are hardly any places to eat that are comparable to Sizzler, or Black Angus. Next, we went to the grocery store and bought a few staples. Getting to sleep was once again pretty hard because it was still light out and we had little hard exercise lately.

July 10th

We slept in until 8:30 am and had brekkie in. Today is the big fish Hunt for Ray and Joey. There was not enough space for me on the boat. While dropping those guys off at Anchor River, we drove on the trail beach-side to check out the primitive camp that fisherman use. While coming back, we got a close up view of a Bald Eagle munching on something that either a fisherman or the ocean had cast out. Seeing this bird up close made me realize just how big they really are. They’re built like bulldogs with wings, being really stout, strong, and as far as birds go, solid looking. The Eagle stared right at us for a minute just before flying off. Several other people spotted it and were running over with their cameras and binoculars, but were disappointed by not being as timely as us. Unfortunately we lacked camera in hand too, as we had come prepared to catch fish.
While Joey and Ray fished, Elaine, Sara and I went to town and hunted for souvenirs and did some laundry. A house fire erupted nearby and was burned nearly to the framework before the fire dept. got there. The local mall was really tiny, having only a handful of shops to look through, but we did manage to find a few goodies at the combination True Value/ Hallmark store, and a bath and body shop.
When the time came, I drove out and picked up Joey and Ray. The guide's house was about 15 or more miles from Homer, and when I got there, they were already filleting the catch. Joey caught 2, and Ray 3. As the guide cut through fish skin and guts, thick swarms of mosquitoes hovered all around the table. The guide sprayed repellent haphazardly in the air as if it were OK to season the fish with it too. Joey’s first fishing trip was replayed in a condensed version by the guide, Joey, and Ray. Ray got seasick for a bit and Joey followed, although to a lesser degree, later on. The fish were biting as quickly as the bait got close to the bottom, which was estimated to be 150 feet or more. Everyone in the boat smoked cigarettes with the exception of Ray, Joey, and an 11 year old girl. Hardly any of the snacks we packed got consumed. Mostly everybody was busy fishing or catching. After loading up the bounty, we headed back to camp with a plastic bag full of Halibut. On the trip out, we saw first a cow moose; then, another cow with 2 very young calves. When we reached the trailer, dinner was being served and the sun finally came out and stayed out for the remainder of the evening. After dinner we watched some television and went to bed.

July 11th

We slept in until 8:30 this morning and then had a pretty decent home breakfast. Then we started packing the trailer up for the trip up to Soldotna. This is only a 70 mile or so trip up a 2 lane coastal highway and it goes pretty quickly. The new campsite is RiverQuest RV park located in Soldotna, and right on the river. The place is pretty clean and has water and electric hookup. There are multiple small boat launches here and one can see why after a brief walk around the camp. There are small boats in nearly every campsite. This is a fisherman's camp for sure. Some of the trailers are more permanently located here right on the riverbank. There is a small lagoon on the end of the site that is ringed with small boats for both personal and charter use in front of well kept trailers with wooden decks and in one case, a well manicured front lawn about the size of an unrolled sleeping bag. The river running by has an extremely treacherous looking current, and by Alaska standards, is also fairly deep. The water in the lagoon has a deep shade to it. One thing I have noted in relation to Alaska’s waterways is that the water is almost never clear. Even when shallow. There is so much loose mineral and the rivers and streams are spread out across so much territory that the water never gets a chance to pool up and filter out. Rather, it is always picking up new travelers on its’ trip down stream.
This campground has little else to do besides fishing, so we hit the town for some shopping for lack of better entertainment. Mostly we found the same old tired gift shops, but I did buy some cigars and some matches. We visited the grocery store and then went back to camp.

July 12th

Since there was little to do last night and we got to bed early, getting up at 6:30 was hard to avoid. A trip to Kenai was all we could come up with for amusement. All of us packed into the truck and drove to Captain Cook recreation area. On the way there, we stopped at the little town of Kenai and looked out over the ocean from a viewpoint bluff. The wind was blowing a little and there was little to see there with the exception of a few natives trying to net Salmon as they entered the river. So we headed towards Captain Cook. When we got there we found a pretty plain beach that was extremely muddy when the tide was all the way out. We didn’t spend much time there and drove back to town for some video rental and a stop at the post office. Next, we tried our luck at fishing off the pier at the campsite. This river is one fast moving body of water. Dropping a line in sees your rig taken about 1/8 mile downstream before you can get the bail set and get control of the lure. Lure is a bit of an overstatement too, since you are only in hopes of snagging these fish. They are not the least bit interested in food while they are headed upstream. Your best shot at catching them lies in the very nature of these fish's natural instinct to open and close their mouths all the time. After losing a few rigs and getting no “bites”, We lose patience immediately and head off to the trailer for videos and dinner. Before retiring for the evening, I was compelled to hit the river one last time with the pole and lure. I didn’t have any luck, however I did get a chance to smoke a decent cigar and watch what passes for a sunset in this latitude.

July 13th

I was nudged out of bed early today and had to have 3 or more cups of home made coffee to get myself up to speed. We hit the road by 9:00 a.m. with a stop at the video store to drop off the rental movies, and one at the post office. The road today doesn’t provide us with any animal sightings but the scenery is quite dramatic after we left Anchorage. The road was 2 lanes and hilly, while following the rivers. We saw the Matanuska Glacier and some open country all around. The glacier was showing signs of retreat even from the distance we saw it You could see where the old ice was and had cut the rocks for several acres. When we got to the campsite, we were instantly attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. Once again, we tried our luck with the fishing poles in the stream right behind the trailer. After having no bites, we abandoned that and walked through the campsite. Here we were treated to a real Alaskan mosquito welcome. They were constantly biting, landing, buzzing, and hovering. If you stood still, it was like an invitation for them to feast. Here we all were dressed for a summer evening too, with tank tops and shorts. If these mosquitoes were ever brought to trial for their attack upon us, I could see them mustering up a defense of, “well your honor, just look at the scanty clothes they were wearing. They’re just askin’ for it”. We decided to run back to the trailer for cover. On the way, we pulled 2 or 3 foot plants and used them like animals do with their tails, swishing them as we gained speed with each bite or landing. I went through 2 plants in less than 1/8 of a mile. For the remainder of the evening, We watched a little t.v. and did some catching up on the books.

Continued soon

Last edited by admin; 05-24-2010 at 12:41 AM.
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Old 05-15-2010, 09:30 AM
tiresmokindad tiresmokindad is offline
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Nice information. I learn lots like Hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing, boating and other outdoor activities. Good post my dear.
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Old 05-16-2010, 08:28 AM
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Ayatollahgondola Ayatollahgondola is offline
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July 14th

I was shaken at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. and urged to get up, but I was having none of that. I was ready for a sleep in today and that is what I did. When we finally got on the road, it must have been around 9:00 or past. We headed for breakfast at Glen Allen, which was about 30 minutes ahead. We were immediately stopped by a road crew putting rocks and gravel down on a weak section. That took a half hour and all the while a voice in the back of my head kept calling out for “ COFFEEEEE!!! ,,, COFFEEEEE!!!. Glen Allen came about around lunch time, but everybody ordered breakfast anyway. Joey, Elaine, and Sara paid a visit to the gift shop while I sipped coffee. Giant pancakes were served with sausage patty and egg. Honey was available for topping your biscuits or cakes, and although the coffee looked as dark as Alaskan crude oil, it was pretty smooth. After eating our fill and taking leftovers, I gave the trailer tires a second look and found they were indeed wearing unusually. Inside treads were nearly rubbed off of 3 of the tires. I decided to investigate this further in Tok. The rest of this trip was mostly rough, bumpy road chock full of pot holes, waves, and dips that sent the trailer and truck into convulsions went we hit them. Watching us from afar must have been like seeing a whip crack The scenery was a little disappointing also. Tok was a welcome sight today, for many reasons. #1, we had been here before and coming back gives you a feeling that you have accomplished a journey. #2, services are available here and I immediately looked at the wheels on the trailer again. A most disturbing sight was revealed. The insides of the tires had worn through to the cords. Whatever the problem, it had increased over the last 200 miles. First, I checked into the repair and was told to come back at 5:00 PM. Then, I called around and found tires, for even if the repairs were effected, we could not travel any further on the tires we had.
Elaine and the kids headed out for some shopping on their bikes as I went to get tires replaced. Having done that, I moved on to the repair shop. This ended up taking a couple of hours, so I shopped for some trinkets at the local gift shops in the interim. All was fixed in good time and order, and I headed back to the trailer for some leftover sugarless cherry pie and to finish off the day cleaning up old chores. There is only one channel here in Tok, so television is barely an option for the evening closing. I took a walk around the trailer park and studied the different types of RV’s. It was midnight and still light enough to read books outside.

July 15th

Getting off this morning was pretty easy. Elaine made simple brekkie in, and I flushed both of the holding tanks before disconnecting. I also filled the water tank to capacity, because we are heading to no-man’s land today, and there may be nothing available there. We made a quick stop at the post office to mail some stuff off. Then, we headed out northeast. The road turned to gravel after 50 or so miles, and then it became dirt with some gravel. In any case, it was rough, dusty, and slow going. Just outside of the next town we made our first confirmed wolf sighting. This animal trotted right alongside the road for a a few minutes to give us a pretty good showing. Then, he trotted off into the brush, making us strain for a look at every last hair of his existence as further proof. We made a stop at a town called Chicken to see if they had any fresh fruit or cream. From the outside this place looked like an old wild west saloon. The floor was plywood built right on the ground. All of the floors were uneven when you walked on them, and there was dirt all around. The store consisted mostly of T- shirts and other tourist trappings. There were no staples with the exception of what was sold at the restaurant. The bar had dirt showing through the cracks in the plywood and if there was ever anything liquid besides alcohol spilled there, I’m sure that something would start growing there. On every wall and the ceiling there were caps and business cards from people who had visited previously, pasted over the top of one another so thick you could only guess that there was a filthy wall behind there made of who knows what. Outside there were outhouses, one each men and women, that I’m sure even a hardened soldier would have been reluctant to use. That this place has character is to state the obvious. It is incredibly difficult to run across establishments such as these that were built in such a primitive and reckless manner, and operated in the spirit of years past. I don’t think even one square foot of that place would pass inspection in the over-regulated world we come from. I thought of taking a photo of the front and sending it anonymously to our county building inspector just to see if they would post it as a “wanted” with a “reward” below. I think I remembered visiting this place 30 years ago too, because there were flashbacks of me breaking beer bottles outside with my boots as my grandparents drank a beer and got information on hunting and fishing from whomever was tending the place at the time.

We moved a few hundred yards up the road to see about a sign that said groceries, but there was a little disappointment once again. Groceries here seem to mean as little as a few cans of soda and candy bars. I wouldn’t want to even check what the inside of a quickie mart might contain. Next, we hit the trail again, and trail was about the proper term too. This road was washboard, dipped, bumped, rocky, slender, windy and sometimes all of this at once. A dust cloud followed us for mile as we motored, never over 40, and usually around 30 miles per hour. There was nothing but Alaskan wilderness all around and as far as you could see. Only a roadside cabin every once in a great while to remind us there was really life out there. About half way, we met Ray and Ann coming out. They had tired of the rough road and were heading back. I was sorry to see them go, and as we discussed it, we would probably not see them again until we got back. A sense of aloneness rapidly spread through the ranks for a while and there was remorse about this leg of our journey. I even began to worry about mutiny as more of this rough road started making us climb to over 3500 feet in elevation. Some tour busses filled with people passed us going the opposite direction and that at least bolstered everyone's hope of finding some civilization on the end of the trail. If a tour bus full of geriatrics could find both a reason and a way out this far, then we could do it too. We stopped at a roadside gift shop and Sara bought a couple of trinkets. We petted the owner's dog before getting on and finishing the bad road today.

The remainder of the trail was completed and we reached our destination by 2:00 when the town of Eagle started revealing itself as we slowly lumbered in. We went to the store first and checked into the hook up sites, but they were already full. So we walked around a little and then made our way to the forest service campground just up the hill. This was a clean camp with a handful of other travelers in it. No hook ups or even water was available, but there were good sized sites to back in, with tables and fire pits. The host here sold firewood for 1.50 per bundle. We settled in and had some dinner. Then, we went for a hike in the woods so Joey could shoot the BB gun. On the way there, we checked out a beaver dam on a small pond. Mosquitoes picked up our scent there and followed us for the next half hour. Joey was bearing the brunt of the attack for wearing too little protection and not enough repellent. He could barely concentrate on his shooting since he was getting bit so much. Sara waved them off of him with a pie tin that we later used as a target. Next, we took our bikes on tour of the town and the surrounding campsite. This was an old army barracks in the 1800’s and later, so they have resurrected a lot of the old buildings for tourism. They’ve done a fantastic job of this too... they look so authentic and unspoiled. They were still open to walk through at 7:00 PM and I wonder if they close some of them at all. We went to the boat launch at the end of town, which is also the end of the road too. On the way there we passed a tent city looking house with several dirty young kids playing outside next to an enormous pile of bicycle frames. I don’t think there was any way they could stay in that plastic covered hut through the winter. All around the town there were some remnants of the residents or passers-through vehicles and boats. Shacks were for sale too. We headed back, and on the way there we stopped to pick some tiny strawberries from the field that also was their local airstrip. 4 very small planes were standing by for rental or emergency runs. While we were inside one of the museums, all the local dogs began to howl and bark in unison, making me wonder if there was about to be an earthquake or worse. But it proved to be a lone camper or local walking by another locals’ dog pen that had disturbed them so greatly. These animals seem to be greatly territorial and generally not as friendly as dogs from our part of the world. They barely give you a look when you call out to them or try to get their attention. If you had done that at home, they would set their ears back and bend down to beckon you closer for a rub or pet. Any one of these working dogs here give you the impression that they are not interested in this type of socializing, so don’t bother.
We pedaled back uphill to the campsite and then sat around the campfire for a bit. Then we had showers in our trailer and nighty-nited it, kind of late for us at around midnight.

July 16th

Everybody sleeps in today and we don’t get up until around 9:00 am. Our decision yesterday is to move along the waterfront to the full hook up spots which are supposed to be vacated by now. We chose the most satisfactory spot from the 3 they had, and then went to breakfast at the only restaurant in town. This place had pretty low standards for cleanliness, but neither of us were willing to cook in the trailer today. After filling up on local food, we talked to the locals for a few minutes and then went shopping at the 3 gift shops located here. We also took in the museum/courthouse tour which was like the others, a pretty hands on type of display. This is in complete contrast to our part of the country where they only let you look at things behind thick protective glass or bars. During our shopping trip, Rain, lightening, and thunder hit the area making us seek the shelter of our trailer for some time.
After the rain slowed a little, we decided to attempt a rental canoe trip for awhile. We packed some sandwiches and water, then headed to the boat launch to meet the rental guy. I paid him 20.00 for the day and we set out to paddling upstream. It was only a few minutes before the current of the mighty Yukon River had robbed us of what little gain we made, and before we knew it, we were headed downstream at too rapid a pace for an effective recovery. Our next plan of action took us on a direct path across this 1/8 mile wide river where we pulled the canoe upstream to make up the distance lost, and then some. We halted for a snack. And then again for a sandwich. Rain set in again and everybody had a mind to head back before we got a thorough drenching. We decided to paddle upstream once again to take advantage of the lesser current on this side of the river so we could have an easy coast downstream to the launch site. As we pushed forward, we saw a sandy spot that had been undercut by the river during higher water. The kids wanted to stop and step on these to watch them collapse like they were causing a landslide. Everyone got interested in something or another while there, and a couple hours went by rather soon. Sara found a square spike. Joey and Elaine shot the BB gun. I turned up a jawbone of a small rodent or similar with tiny molars still attached. I climbed the steep rocky hillside where I found a US Geological survey marker set in 1972. Below it, out in the river, there was a net set out about 12 feet or more and had markers out with it. The current out behind this rock was causing swirls, whirlpools and eddies that gave it a rather ominous look and I decided not to take the canoe any farther upstream. Some more rocks were collected and then we headed back across the river to make dinner. This was a nice gentle cruise with the current and we coasted most of the way. After loading up our gear we drove down towards the Abathascan Indian village near the end of the road. By the end of the road, I mean the end of all roads in this part of the country. This would be the jumping off spot for hikers, hunters etc. After driving for a few miles, we turned around and headed back. On the way, Elaine detoured us right into the village. Right away, a friendly native asked us to join in a group meal and wanted to talk to us. Despite the denials of our kids, we pulled over and went inside to have Kool aid and dry dinner rolls. A game of horseshoes was being waged out back, and a friendly dog begged me for a petting. As he rolled over on his back and I bent down, I saw a whole leg of a Caribou, complete with hooves and some fur on it, laying next to him. This had been chewed right down to the white bone. We visited for about 15 minutes and then went back to our trailer in town.

Dinner was Pork Chops and Brussels Sprouts, along with rice and gravy. After that, we drove to the beach down a muddy narrow path where ATV’s were usually the only vehicles to pass through. During our brief look around there, the clouds started looking real threatening and lightning flashes began sparking more and more. Before we got back up to the top of the road again, rain was setting in. And for the remainder of the evening, a lightning show entertained us while the thunder kept tempo. All of us went to sleep wondering if all of this weather was going to affect our travel back out of this place. There is only one road out. I reassured myself by remembering our big 6 wheeled truck had 4 wheel drive with mud and snow tires. It rained again during the night and that made for more relaxing sleep. There’s something comforting about being safely tucked in during a storm, especially when you are out in the back country where just anything can happen.

July 17th

I slept in until 7:00 a.m. while Elaine made brekkie of pancakes with applesauce flavoring. Because we were going to be back on the rough road, I filled to capacity and flushed the holding tanks. Also getting extra attention was the water tank and all the latches and locks. Town was really quiet this morning. There were no cars and hardly any people. I guess Saturday is a lazy day for the locals too. We headed out with our 4 wheels locked in and stayed in lower gears as we made the first climb uphill. There was mud on the road, but it was helping keep the dust down. After a first stop at a plateau around 3500 feet, I made a quick check outside and then inside where I found the refrigerator dripping from an overturned soy sauce container. We had to clean it up before we moved on too, or it would get everywhere and be harder later. Then we got back on the road again and made pretty good time to the roadway. It took a little over 2 hours to make the 65 miles to the junction where we picked up the route towards Dawson City. We made another stop at Boundary, AK. to use the facilities and check out the last or first gift shop in Alaska. This little stop has a small bar/snack shop/ and gift store. Also an outhouse with a giant hand carving with a finger in an obscene gesture. While looking for some snacks for myself, I made another annoying discovery in the refrigerator. Both the milk and the orange juice cartons had flipped upside down and emptied. The floor of the RV was wet everywhere. We had to get the liquid wiped up soon since the milk would spoil and stink up the trailer pretty bad. This took half a roll of paper towels and 20 minutes. After that, we got back on the road and in a few minutes we were at the Canadian border. A short wait there accompanied by some routine questions and we were making our way towards Dawson City. The road was paved, but it had many sections of fresh gravel that made the trailer fishtail when dragged over them. Rocks from vehicles traveling the opposite direction were thrown against our windshield several times. The scenery was pretty good though. Rolling hills with small trees as far as you could see. There were no animals at all the entire day save for some dogs leaning out the windows of other tourists. Our next stop was at the dock where the ferry would carry us across the mighty Yukon river to the town of Dawson City. There were 7 or more trailers in front of us and the ferry could only take a few at a time so I decided to get out and make a vehicle check again. As I was cutting off the propane tanks, A man signaling me from up the road as he was walking towards me turned out to be Ray. They had waited here for us to come back from Eagle. It is always nice to see friendly faces so far from home, and especially so when they were your traveling companions. Sara rode the ferry across to see her waiting grandma as we waited our turn on the bank. As we loaded on the ship and proceeded across the river, The ferry pushed massive amounts of water forward of its’ bow. The current carried this heavy boat downstream for a few hundred yards and then released it from the grip as soon as it hit the slower backwater near the bank. The ferry operator had to make several attempts to land straight on the run with Sara and Ray, but he was able to do ours on the first time. We crossed the plank and headed straight for the RV park at the far end of town. This park had a car wash wand and we used that right away. It took 6 or more dollars to get the bulk of the road dirt off of the trailer, and some of the film off of the truck. Ann already made dinner as if she knew we were going to be here at the right time today. So we filled up on rice and meat and all of us made a tour of the town. This is a similar town to Old Sacramento, except it has a more authentic flavor to it. Also, the products are a more desirable quality. As we walked down wooden sidewalks where old dogs awaited their’ owners drinking in local bars, You could easily forget that your home has paved streets with parking meters and time limits to boot. Here the locals pull up, get out and go. Without locking their cars too I might add.. There was a school with many tents erected in the center of town. There was also some museums and a casino that I wanted to see, but it was closed. In the first store we went in, I developed a craving for a vest that was padded for warmth and had good quality material both outside and in. Also, it had many pockets, pouches, and zippers dispersed throughout. I passed it up in favor of finding a whole jacket just like it and thought it also might be cheaper when we got to a bigger town like Whitehorse. Before heading back to camp, we tried to find an open grocery where we could purchase some of the bare essentials we need such as cream and sugarless gum, but all the stores, and I mean all of them closed at 9:00 o’clock sharp if not a minute or too before. I have to think it a conspiracy among all the merchants to keep hours the same since they all open at the same time as well. But this is Canada and for all an ignorant tourist such as myself would know is that it may even be the rule of the land, with floggings or horsewhips for those who would defy it. More likely explanation though is that these folks live a less frantic and more relaxed lifestyle in these parts. Elaine commented that this may be the reason there are no Chinese or Vietnamese in the area, for they would go mad here in an effort to keep “ Chinamen hours “, (working 18 hours per day), in an effort to get ahead.
We decided to call it a night and went to the trailers. We wanted an early start tomorrow since there were many miles to our next leg of what was now the trip back home. A brief rain came in the night as we slept.

July 18th

Before we got on the road today, we went to town in search of food. We still hadn’t any cream and what is breakfast when there is no cream for the coffee?
We had to hunt around a little for the one breakkie place open on Sunday morning. They had some pretty good food there too. Joey bought a hot chocolate that resembled an ice cream float. The place was full of younger people in rain gear and we later came to the conclusion that these were the fire fighters who were also responsible for the many tents in the school yard in town. There have been several forest fires in Alaska and Canada lately. While we were getting into Eagle, the air was thick with smoke yet and it impaired visibility greatly for a day or two. After eating all of our food and helping ourselves to some of the containers of peanut butter and jam on the table, we filled up the fuel and hooked up the rig for the journey. This day on the road was a day of boredom broken up by a motor home that ran off the road, and turned on its' side. People were still scrambling to get the driver out of the mamoth rig. This road, although the usual bumpy, rocky and curvy highway, has managed to put some old geezer to sleep while driving it. When we stopped for lunch at a rest stop called five fingers, I checked out an unusual movement I detected in the forward part of the trailer. There was a little too much travel up and down on the upper portion of the trailer as it met the fifth wheel. I couldn’t figure it out where I was at the time, but I didn’t think it looked right. When we got back on the road, I kept glancing at it, but it got relegated to the back of my mind after a while. We reached Whitehorse with time left over to make dinner and have a shower or two. There were full hook ups and cable TV. After dinner we went to look for souvenirs and groceries, but alas! We had forgotten about the Canadian prime directive again. Everything closes at 7:00 on Sundays. So we stopped by the local school yard and let the kids play on the teeter totters and bars. Then we went off to home where I found some loose bolts and nuts on all of the axles. It took over an hour to torque them all down again. I don’t think they were ever tightened properly when they flipped the axles before we left Sacramento. We enjoyed a little television and went to bed.

July 19th

There was a breakfast buffet at the RV park at 7:00 am so we all got early and met there. Choice of sourdough or buttermilk pancakes with scrambled eggs, bacon, or sausage. The waitress was pushing the sourdough cakes the hardest, but they proved to be a bit too sour for a breakfast food to suit my tastes. But I ate what was given me as did everyone else. The service was slow, and the waitress was somewhat inattentive, but we have learned that these Canadians must be encouraged a little more due to their more relaxed way of life. After breakfast, we went out for a couple hours of shopping for groceries, auto parts, and general tourist items. Whitehorse turned out to be pretty disappointing as a shopping place overall. The selection was weak; the prices high; and there were few places to even go in as a whole. The grocery store was first on the list and that set the tone for the tour. It costs a quarter to rent a shopping cart, so we just used hand baskets. The fruit looked good, but it was soft and tasteless when we ate it later. When Ray and Ann paid with a hundred dollar travelers cheque, it created some confusion which took them as long to sort out as they took to shop. One store clerk commented that “why didn’t we cash our money at the bank first?” Well, that is a dumb question here in Canada on Monday before 10:00 am. The banks are closed all weekend and don’t open until late today. I did end up buying some incense and some fudge which proved to be a little rich for me to eat. After we shopped and got back to the trailer, we headed out for the Alaskan Highway south and proceeded to make some time towards our destination of the day, which was supposed to be a few miles past the junction of the Cassiar Highway. At our first stop for lunch though, I became too concerned over the movement of the trailer over the fifth wheel. It was decided we would look for a repair shop about 15 miles past the junction on the Alaska highway at the town of Watson Lake. We arrived there at 5:00 PM and I immediately started looking for a repairman. There was not too much available though. The last RV repairman and shop left town recently owing money to a lot of people and most of the other folks in town were not qualified or not interested in this. A great deal of businesses in these towns just cannot survive with so short a season of work, so they tend to be pretty transient. No one even knows each other very well, and that would seem odd given the size of this town. Also, These folks don’t seem to have any confidence in other persons or businesses in the area, and seem to make you understand that you may be dealing with a substandard type of business if you go “there”. Our best opportunity seemed to be a welder and machine shop that had been there for some years, but we first had to find out what the problem was first. We settled into a campground and I promptly worked on skinning the metal off the forward portion of the trailer. There are a few hundred screws, staples, and bolts holding all this aluminum panels and trim on, and they are pressed on with power tools. All we had was a pack of sockets, screw drivers and pliers. The vice grips proved to be quite useful this time as the staples were really hard to remove without damaging the sheet metal. After some hours of tedious work we found a most distressing and disappointing discovery. When they manufactured the trailer, they laid the wall panels right against the frame of the trailer and for support, if you could call it that, they put four or less bolts on each side that were neither thick enough, strong enough, or supported enough to hold this type of structure on the ground, let alone a couple thousand pounds of trailer and gear bouncing down the highway at 55 miles per hour. All the bolts or screws had either broken off, pulled out of the steel, or dug through the 2 x 2’s or paneling and was just dangling independent of the framework. It was sure to break off and collapse onto the truck bed after a few hundred miles and cause a real bad problem or even an accident. I made some plans on how to fix it, and then started stripping back more metal. Because it needed to be welded, all the wood underneath had to be removed and the metal framework exposed. One conclusion I came to was that this was very poorly engineered and poorly installed, probably in an attempt to speed production and cut costs. Because this is a vehicle, I couldn’t see them justifying this in any way. It could have easily injured one of us during a collapse after hitting a major bump in the road. As a further measure of safety, I called the company that manufactured it and told them of the problem. It turned out that they are well aware of the problem and advised me of “the fix”, which was pretty much what I thought it needed.

July 20th

In the morning, I followed a few slight possibilities for a repairman, but fell pretty short. We had to rely on the welder who had worked all night and was now asleep until god knows when. He agreed to do the work at 1:30 or 2:00. Elaine decided to let the kids continue on with their grandparents, and we would attempt to meet up with them after we were mobile again. They left about 10:00 am or so and we had to sit around the park for some time since we already had the work done that we could do. In the meantime, we had some pretty institutional tasting food at the local Chinese restaurant. After that we checked out the bakery and then stopped by the welders place. I was really mad when we found it closed and deserted. We headed back to the trailer where we tried other options such as the telephone book for a welder with a mobile rig that was in a different town, but this proved fruitless. After that, I started scheming to support the upper deck with some other materials but it was just too far beyond that. This was a pretty bad problem to have even in a big town. We were basically redesigning part of the trailer, with the added work of undoing something already there. At 5:00 PM, I headed up towards the telephone to try someone else, but just as I rounded the corner, the welder was pulling in. He scoped it out and started marking and clamping things. All the while he was complaining about my design and kept criticizing my choice of metal gauges. For the first few minutes he was letting us know that he would really rather be up golfing, and this was a big favor of him to do this for us now. He asked if we had any whiskey for when he was finished, and this may have just been my paranoia from lack of sleep, but I swear he was eyeballing my wife too. I didn’t dare chastise him for being late for fear he would roll up his cords and go. I directed the fix, but left him to the craftsmanship. They finished in just an hour, but the difficult task of reassembling was now at hand and time was running out. Piece by painstaking piece we put screws, panels wires, latches, lights, trims, and sealant back on with small hand tools. It took hours for both of us. Complications were numerous too. Mainly, all the holes were not lining up, probably due to the realignment of the trailer when we put it together and supported it properly. As quiet time began in the trailer park, we made a last desperate attempt to get on the road by skipping some screws and some final trim. But this paid off with us leaving Watson Lake at about 11:00 PM. As we pulled out and began bouncing down the highway, I breathed a sigh of relief when there was absolutely no movement at the bad spot before. A few minutes later, we hit a really bad, unmarked dip in the road just past the junction of the Cassiar Highway that sent us rocking and reeling, but gave the new welding job the supreme test. It passed superbly. We pedaled on down the Cassiar for 2 and a half more hours, in an attempt to close the gap between our kids and us. The Cassiar is a remote, beautiful route, but it is rough, bumpy, narrow, and a great deal unpaved. The best speed I could safely manage was 40. As we motored along, the air was thick with some type of bugs that almost looked like rain when we plowed through them. Pullouts by creeks, rivers, and lakes beckoned us in every 15 or 20 minutes. As tired as we were, I still wanted to push on a little farther. Plus, it felt really good to be out away from everything with a safe vehicle and a full tank of fuel. The sound of gravel under the wheels, mountains and trees all about, and not a single artificial light in sight for miles kind of gives you a feeling of both domination of the small area you are occupying while still being humbled by the vastness of the land and the fear of being exposed to its’ wild inhabitants should you be forced out of your safe, warm, and moving enclosure. We pulled in to a turnout about 1:30 am and called it a night. It was the first time it was fairly dark when we went to bed since we first got to Canada. We went to bed with 2 triumphs under our belt today. The first one being the major breakdown that we didn’t let sidetrack us for a long time. The other was that we were able to go back the intended route of the Cassiar. I was seriously considering taking the Alaskan highway back after hearing how crude the Cassiar was, and given our previous situation before the repair. Our sleep started out really good, but was interrupted through out the night by more than a hundred hungry, noisy mosquitoes that had somehow found their way inside the trailer at once. All morning we fought and hid from these tenacious and persistent little pests. At one point, Elaine got up and sprayed half of the trailer with the heavy duty OFF.

July 20th

When I finally got up at 8:00, there were still 40 or 50 of these little devils harassing me every step of the way. I found Elaine wrapped in a bedspread, mummy style, in attempt to close every gap available to them as an entry into her skin. We showered, dressed and drove off in search of a restaurant and lots of hot strong coffee. It took over an hour to get to a town since as I mentioned before, this is a remote location. There was only one restaurant here and it is a whole lot better to look at from the outside. Inside, the tables were not bussed and the service pretty slow. We sat at a dirty table and after a while, the waitress brought us some coffee and said they would clean the table shortly. When this didn’t happen, I offered to do it. As I mentioned earlier, Canadians seem to need a little more encouragement than Americans as a whole to get them to do something for you. Breakfast wasn’t too bad after all was said and done. I even gathered some extra containers of jams, jellies, and peanut butter for my trouble before we left. One thing to remember is, out here there are never any newspapers to read. Old or new. I haven’t sit down to read the paper for some weeks now since we have been camping in some out of the way towns and even some named towns. They just don’t have papers.
We hit the road once more to pick away at those pesky miles we had so many of to get under our truck today and this road once again proved to be a formidable one. We hit many stretches of dirt that was now muddy due to rain that came during the night and today. I drove with the 4 wheels locked in for quite a bit because of the extra traction it provides, since we slipped and slid a few times around turns. The scenery here is very inviting all along the way. Mountains jutting up all around us everywhere with sections of forest climbing part way up, and then giving way to carpets of shrubbery and moss at the top. Clouds hung part way over some of them as this weather system passed through the area. Raspberries grew everywhere along the roadside. We saw a fox cross the road directly in front of us, and later we saw 4 different bears. Some of the places I saw today were interesting enough to think about revisiting the area as a single trip. Then we stopped for dinner at a combo Taco Bell / Kentucky Fried Chicken and ate some pretty bad Mexican food there. We drove on to the campground and met up with our kids at the town of Smithers where we stayed alongside the river and the road. We had put 400 miles past us today and I was ready for a little rest while watching some cable TV and doing some computer work. There were still 25 or more mosquitoes left in the trailer, so the kids made some sport out of dispatching them. Tomorrow we promised a little sleep in time so I left the alarm off on my watch and went off to bed.

Last edited by admin; 05-24-2010 at 07:34 AM.
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Old 05-17-2010, 12:15 PM
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Ever do any time travel?

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Old 05-17-2010, 12:26 PM
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Ayatollahgondola Ayatollahgondola is offline
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Originally Posted by REWHBLCAIN View Post
Ever do any time travel?

Yes, of course. I visited you. But you won't remember it because it was in the future.
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Old 05-19-2010, 11:29 PM
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Ayatollahgondola Ayatollahgondola is offline
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July 22nd

Breakkie was in today at 10:00 am. Next on the agenda was a trailer and truck wash before we pulled out for the road. The campground had free use of their pressure washer and we were carrying a couple hundred pounds of Canadian dirt with us from the dirt roads before. About an hour of scrubbing and washing brought us to an acceptable level of cleanliness. We got on the road and headed south towards home. We saw a couple of bears today, and it rained quite often. This leg of the trip started to show us civilization more often. There was houses, farms and businesses every few miles. It signaled the end of the trip for me as there was no more magical remoteness ahead of us. There was a bear along the road, but little else in the way of wild animals We stopped at a Chinese food place for lunch/dinner and shopped a little at a dollar store. Before we started on the road again, we shopped at the grocery store for some fruit and juices. We stocked up the refrigerator and hit the road again. The campground we stayed at was off the road a mile or two, and we muddied up the trailer again because it was a dirt road. Like so many before it, this was a bit of a parking lot with lots of plants around it. I tuned the TV in and we watched a few channels and went off to bed in near darkness for a change. It rained gently most of the night.

July 23rd

Elaine had breakkie ready when I got up at around 7:00 am and we warmed up the truck for another long haul day. We drove for miles and miles averaging 65 per hour and saw only 2 deer the whole day. British Columbia is a beautiful province though. It is lush with vegetation, populated with mountains that are ripe with streams and waterfalls, and there seem to always be clouds of water vapor hanging over the hills and valleys like smoke after a big fire. We once again followed the mighty Fraser river through the gorge towards Vancouver BC. This river is one huge, fast moving body of water. The river is not really white water at every turn, but it is always roiling, and filled with eddies and whirlpools. Big ones too. I doubt one would survive a fall into this river. We arrived at our campground in Hope about 4:30 PM. I tried to get the truck serviced but there was no shop here that carries late model Dodge truck parts. Luckily I had purchased an air filter at the Napa auto parts store back in the last town before we came through the canyon. Our filter was as dirty as I have ever seen it before. The filter minder was almost in the red zone. After settling in the camp, I went back to town to shop at the store. This grocery had really old equipment in it, but it was stocked to the max. There was no room for customers to pass in the aisles without bumping each other and some of the stock had to be reached with a ladder. I bought some fruit and Belgium pancake mix. Then I drove up to the bakery for some hamburger buns. After we had hamburgers we set off on a hike to the waterfall about a mile away. The path was clearly cut through the woods, but it was really wilderness and jungle like as we walked uphill towards the falling water. Raspberries were wild all over the place and towering trees reached up so far they blocked the sky. The hike up was approximately mile to the falls where a few hundred gallons per minute of very clean looking water were falling just about straight down from 1,000 or so feet above us. Heavy moss carpeted the rocks making it look like a lush, well manicured lawn. I tried climbing up a ways, but it was incredibly slippery and now was a bad time for a fall. We headed downhill at a brisk pace that soon accelerated to jogging. This kept us 1 step ahead of the mosquitoes as well as hastening our trip to the trailer. Tonight we were to see a little darkness before our bedtime which lent itself well to sleeping.

July 24th

We are off pretty early today since there are many miles to go. We don’t know how far we are going to get, but everyone has a secret goal that seems to grow farther with each passing town. We pass back through American customs with no fruit loss and minimal time. At our first stop at a roadside rest, Ray and Ann decide to go on alone and give us back our hand held radio. We go on to pass Washington, Portland, Eugene, and other points south. We settled in for the night at a private creek side campsite just a few miles west of I-5. We covered over 500 miles today. After settling in, Elaine and Sara went off to the camp shower while Joey and I sat by the creek and watched bats swoop within a couple of feet of us while they entered and exited their home. Small fish jumped after the hundreds of bugs that were hovering over the water. We picked a few handfuls of blackberries and went back to the trailer for bed. During the night, and it was really night now, all of us were awakened by a mysterious loud noise that sounded like a landslide. We slept a bit lighter for the remainder of the night.

July 25th

In the morning, we found out that the noise that awakened us was rail cars being loaded with logs. They’d just dump 50 or so logs into the bottom of an empty steel car and let the sound reverberate for 10 miles or so. Glad we don’t live near here. Our first chore today is to find a restaurant. This proved a little more difficult than we thought considering this was not the Yukon or Alaska. We had to go as far as Grants Pass to be treated rudely at a busy, dirty restaurant. We tipped the waitress with two Canadian quarters and I think that may have been too much, even at current exchange rates. Our path was clearly ahead of us now. I-5 south for 400 plus miles. Everyone is anxious to get home and do something special like pet the dog, soak in the spa, or sit on the balcony. Our first welcome back to Sacramento was extended by the 5 o’clock commuters who reintroduced the frantic pace of city freeway driving back into our lives by carelessly weaving in and out of the lane we are in without signaling, or even looking in some cases. The anxiety of watching out for so many rude, careless, and even obnoxious drivers after being away from them for so long does not fit well right away. I can’t wait to get home and get out of the drivers seat. Our street looks smaller than when we left as we pull in, but I chalk it up to perspective which I have in bushels right now. I am sincerely glad I made this trip and would go again next year if it were possible.

Last edited by admin; 05-24-2010 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 05-20-2010, 02:58 AM
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Jeanfromfillmore Jeanfromfillmore is offline
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Thank you for sharing that story with us. I really enjoyed reading it.
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