Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Well, after we picked up "Doc" in Colorado, we felt an even stronger urge to get home. The weather cooperated by being "uncooperative". It rained and stormed on us for nearly the entire trip east from Colorado. We were not tempted to stop and do any sightseeing. On Tuesday, the weather and Dallas traffic kept us on the road far longer than we had planned, but the plus side was that we made it HOME Wednesday afternoon. Within 10 minutes of disconnecting the 5th wheel, Brenda was on her way to visit her parents.

The trip was awesome, but Toto (aka Chloe), agrees that there is no place like home.

We put 12,809 miles on the odometer. In addition, we had the ferry ride from Haines, AK, to Prince Rupert, BC, CA, which accounts for even more miles.

We are tired, but what an experience!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Flashback to June border crossing into Canada

Well, having finally returned to the lower 48 and, thus, having crossed my last border out of Canada, I will give a few more details about what happened last June 22. When we crossed into Canada at Sweetgrass, Montana, the Canadian customs agent asked about firearms and bear spray (among other things). I affirmed that I had a shotgun and bear spray. I was directed to a lot beside the entry buildings in order to pay my $25 for the Canadian gun permit. After paying the fee, I was directed into an enclosed barn, where the truck and camper were thoroughly searched. Brenda and I were in a side room, separate from the search area. [BTW, the room was bugged]
When the agent found a Folgers coffee can in the tool box of my truck with my three canisters of OC (bear spray), he came into the room where Brenda and I were waiting and informed me that I had three canisters, not just one. I told him I had never stated the number of canisters, just that I had bear spray. At that point, I was accused of “having an attitude” and was threatened with hand cuffs and jail. The upshot of it was that one canister was confiscated, because OC is not considered bear spray in Canada. It is considered a personal weapon and is prohibited. In addition, I was charged with “unlawfully imported by reason of Non-Report” the other two canisters of OC. My truck, in which they were found, was impounded. For $500 for each canister, I could have my truck back.
I began to enter a protest, arguing that if I was smuggling the canisters, I certainly would not have put them with the canister I reported. This resulted in another threat of hand cuffs and jail. I paid the $1000 and was released with a cheery invitation to enjoy my vacation.
Having safely returned to the lower 48, let me say that it will be a cold day in Hell before I again go to Canada. A tentatively planned trip to the Canadian Maritime Provinces for next fall has been permanently nixed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whew! Lots of travel in a short time.

Our trip on the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry boat) from Haines, AK, to Prince Rupert, BC, Canada, was wonderfully relaxing. We loaded the rig without difficulty, after I got to the correct boat (see prior note). Our stateroom had an outside window, so we could "see where we were" by peeking outside. Of course, we didn't really know, because the multiple-islands shoreline gave no clue of our progress. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful ride. We saw some humpbacks and porpoise, incredible numbers of birds, and a boatload of strangers with whom to talk, swap stories and become temporary friends. When the boat docked in Prince Rupert, we all hastened to our cars and trucks, waved a cheery good-bye to one another and then headed our separate ways.

Canadian customs was manned by a Kevlar-vested officer. He was curt, efficient and polite. He checked the serial number of my shotgun and never asked me about any damn bear spray! And with that we were off through British Columbia.

The drive southbound through BC was delightful. The weather was cooperative, although we did encounter some smoke on the second day of driving. Our feeling of "getting closer to home" was increased, also on the second day, as we encountered farms with row crops, lots of hay fields (with baled hay stacked in plastic barns -- bales that must have measured 4x4x8 feet!) and increasing numbers of neat and well-maintained villages. We hurried through BC for two reasons. One, we had scheduled a visit with an dear Army friend of mine, whom I hadn't seen in three decades. Second, we miscalculated some distances and had to make a very long day of driving on day two to get back on schedule.

We crossed the US border about 11AM on the 10th of August! With a big smile, the officer welcomed us back home. Our "search" of the rig was accomplished by driving it slowly through a huge detector -- it looked like the devices one walks through when getting to the boarding area of an airline. With that, we drove to Bellevue, WA, parked the 5th wheel, disconnected and drove to Gig Harbor. By the way, we did stop long enough to shower and put on clean clothes.

The visit with my friends, David and Linda, was truly delightful. He has white hair and a white beard, just like I do. Brenda was introduced and incorporated into the conversations easily -- one of her many talents is her marvelous ability to talk to people and show them her sweet, bouncy personality. David fixed us Sockeye Salmon on a cedar plank and it is definitely a recipe I'll try to duplicate once Bob and Sallie bring home some salmon. Reluctantly, we drove back to Bellevue and the camper -- a long, but satisfying day.

The 11th took us across the state of Washington to Fairchild AFB, where we will spend two nights. We need to rest, stock the refrigerator and clean us/clothes/camper. Washington state is gorgeous. Perhaps, we'll have to make another trip to see more of the diverse countryside. It has tropical rainforest-like western coast and desert in the west.

Enough, I need to get some RV repairs done.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eagles & Bears in Haines

Although Haines is the “Valley of Eagles”, we didn't see too many. Most were perched high up and in the Spruce trees, making photography unrewarding. We were camped in a really nice RV park, but we spent most of our time scouting the nearby streams for bears or eagles, mostly to no avail. Our reason for going to Haines was to catch the Alaska Ferry boat to take us from Haines to Prince Rupert, BC, Canada. Of course, we did want to see the bears and eagles for which the location is famous.

God has such a wonderful sense of timing. Here is what happened. We departed the RV park the morning of the 6th and headed to the Ferry Terminal. When I went to the ticket counter to check-in, the clerk indulgently informed me that my ferry wouldn't leave until after the one at the dock had left...and wouldn't I, please, move my truck and camper out of the vehicle line. I don't do well with egg on my face. Hastily, I did a U-turn in the parking lot and hit the road. It turns out that this road, after passing the ferry terminal, runs alongside about a mile of stream in which the salmon were running. We had driven that stretch several times in search of photo-opportunities. One more time we eased down that road. The resulting pictures I took on the return trip. Is that perfect timing, or what?

Bear coveting Eagle's catch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Valdez to Haines

On 2 August, we left Valdez and headed for Tok. Yes, we were there before, when we were inbound to Alaska. Of course, this is the return trip and we are headed home! The smoke and haze had cleared from the harbor in Valdez and the view as we left town was spectacular. We stayed overnight in Tok, then headed south toward Haines. The trip from Tok to Haines is 450 miles, so we spent the next night in the Yukon Territory at Cottonwood RV Park on Lake Kluane. Unfortunately, the smoke caught up with us and we could only partially appreciate the gorgeous scenery. This campground was unique in that there are no electrical lines in this area. They run a generator (24/7) to power the camp. I must admit, the sound was barely audible and not at all intrusive.

On the way to Cottonwood RV Park, we stopped at several lakes to photograph Swans. There are both Trumpeter and Tundra varieties in this area. I did get some pictures, but the birds were too far away to get very excited about the results. Perhaps I need a longer lens? Brenda and I were discussing the shortcomings of my 300 mm, but too slow, lens. She hinted that if I was a good boy, I might get a present. Then, I explained to her the lens I was coveting was about $6K and she told me to forget it. There was no possibility I could be that good. Regardless of the inferior swan pictures, I surprised, and was surprised by, a lone coyote. He photographed nicely.

We made it to Haines mid-day on the 4th. Our ferry leaves at noon on the 6th. In between those times, we'll “do” Haines (they have a museum here that boasts 1,500 hammers – I gotta find out what that is about), get the rig squared away for putting on the ferry, and buy food supplies to supplement our meals on board. It is rumored that we may have WiFi on the ship! If not, we'll be out of touch until at least the 8th, and possibly until the 11th, when we should get to Washington state.
By the way, if you click on the link Brenda provided in the previous post, you can see the latest photographs -- week 7 or 8 or however long it has been!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Valdez is absolutely one of the most beautiful places we have visited on this trip. The view from our campsite is awesome! The seafood is great. Jim bought fresh tuna steaks and halibut from the Peter Pan Seafood Supplier here on the harbor. Delicious!!!
Jim told you about our trip on the LuLu Bell. Here are the photos, as promised!

Prince William Sound

We cruised the Prince William Sound on the last day of July. It is amazing how tired we were, when the only thing we did all day was sit and watch animals, birds, fish and mountains. Brenda will post a sampling of the photographs on her albums.

The final stop of the trip was Columbia glacier. We could not get closer than 7 miles because the approach is choked with icebergs – thousand upon thousands of them. Many were much larger than our boat. Captain Fred, who kept a running monologue going for the entire trip (my ears were as sore as my butt), explained that the Columbia has gone through a period of receding, but was now stable. His explanation was that the earthquake of 1964 in Valdez (9.2 for 4 minutes, and totally destroyed the old Valdez) had introduced some cracks which, in the late 1970s as that portion of the glacier reached the water, resulted in increased fragmenting of the glacier into the sea. Anyway, the glacier is now again stable – growing at the same rate it looses parts into the water. By the way, there are many glaciers in Alaska that are growing! Imagine that – in spite of global warming.

We saw several varieties of gulls, bald eagles, Pigeon Guillemot, Kittlitz's Murrelets, and both Horned and Tufted Puffins. The last four were new birds to us.

Of course, we saw whales. The only species we saw was Humpbacked, but we identified three different individuals. You can tell them apart by the coloring of their tails – I bet you didn't know that. There were lots of sea lions (which I photographed) and a few sea otters (of which I could not get a good picture). At one time during the cruise, we were totally surrounded by Dall's Porpoises. Getting a picture of one out of the water was almost impossible. Unlike our Gulf Coast porpoise, this one resembles a miniature Orca whale.

A great day, but we were plenty tired when we got home. Fortunately, I had purchased some Halibut that morning and we didn't have to go out to eat. Halibut fried up in a Cajun corn meal batter is pretty tasty.