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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I have updated my public albums again. Not only have I added Week 6, but I also included The Golden Days Parade in Fairbanks. Hope I'm not overloading you guys...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

28 July What is that?

We drove further east on the Edgerton Highway to Chitina and then toward McCarthy. At the end of that road (it really is the end of the road) is a restored copper mine. However, from Chitina to McCarthy (60 miles) the road is gravel and dirt. That is no problem for the Ford 4X4, but the smoke from a fire south of McCarthy definitely was a problem. The best I can relate it to is driving in heavy fog. With other traffic on the road, kicking up dust, and with no guard rails for lateral guidance, I was too busy driving to view any of the scenery that was obscured by the smoke. We turned off onto a side road, drove a couple of miles on a dirt lane and ate lunch beside a large plywood sign that warned of “orcs, goblins and locals”. Lunch consumed, and with visions of Deliverance in my mind, we retraced our path to the gravel road and returned to the campground.

On the way back, we stopped at the Copper River to view some fish wheels in action. Well, not exactly. The wheels were turning, but the salmon are not yet up this far in the river. I stopped to talk to one of the men tending a wheel/trap and he said 40-50 thousand salmon are expected to swim past here in the next twenty-four hours. Interesting as it was, we decided we wouldn't wait for the fish to arrive. My initial impression about the fish wheel was it's likeness to a hoop net – at least in purpose and function, although the hoop net is far less complicated. I asked about that and the reason of the fish wheel instead of hoop net is ridiculously simple. Hoop nets are not legal.

OK. The picture is a field of yak. I don't have any details about them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Edgerton Hwy

Sunday, 26th July, we departed Eielson AFB, south of Fairbanks, about 0900. This was scheduled to be a short day and it was. The wind was terrible, buffeting the rig whenever we drove through a pass between the mountains. Generally, our route was south along the Tanana River. I have heard much about this river, but, on actually seeing it, I am underwhelmed. It resembles the delta regions we see in our larger Southern rivers, except the water is gray instead of brown. Fallen trees (all of the coniferous variety) litter the river and riverbed. Although the Tanana is in some places nearly a mile wide, when it is this wide, it is quite shallow. When it is narrow, it is a roaring torrent.

As we approached Delta Junction (our destination for the night), we stopped at Rika's, a restored roadhouse from the early days of the Richardson Highway. The Richardson is older than the AlCan; it runs from Valdez to Fairbanks. Rika was a Swedish lady, who ran the roadhouse from the 1920s to late in the 1940s. Her operation was nearly a total self-sustaining enterprise. She raised chickens, goats, sheep, cattle (both steers for beef and cows for milk) and had a huge garden for vegetables. Today, there is a restaurant (it is still a roadhouse), camping and a gift shop. Having already done our gifts-for-grandkids bit, I was a trifle bored with yet another gift shop. Well, this was not your usual gift shop. They had furs. Not the raw furs, dreadfully overpriced and poorly tanned, that we have seen elsewhere. These were finished furs – coats of many different styles, jackets, wraps, hats and boots. Hanging on the wall, somewhat apart from the remainder of the stock, was a Beaver Jacket. It was marked as a Clearance/Sale item. At my urging, Brenda slipped it on. Considering her not overly long proportions, we were surprised that it fit perfectly. I suspect the length of the arms of the jacket made it “unfitting” for most potential customers. That really is the last souvenir we are going to buy.

We drove a few miles further to camp. Bergstad's campground is on the road to Tok. We took a slight detour to get here. The Alaska Camping book said they had full hook ups, but “frequently no one is around to check you in”. I was curious about that...and, no, I wasn't planning on stiffing the management for my camping fee. We pulled into the campground and I found my way to the office. The first door, clearly marked “Office”, led to an enclosed porch with a sign directing me down the hall to a second door. In the hallway was the biggest house cat I have ever seen. He had to be 25 pounds. I did not stop to scratch his ears, just in case he did not like his ears scratched. At the far end of the hall, after knocking and being invited in, I was in the office/kitchen/sitting room/bedroom. A white-haired, elderly lady, seated in an overstuffed chair, greeted me and took my $15 for one night of camping with full hookups. For those of you who don't camp, that is about half-priced. Her companion dog – I think he is an Australian Shepard – never took his eyes off me. He wasn't threatening in any way, but then, neither was I. A bed was off to her left, about six feet from her chair. A small kitchen nook was directly behind her, likewise about 6-8 feet. The area to her right was filled with old magazines, bundles of “stuff”, and various pieces of old furniture stacked willy nilly atop one another. There was no unpleasant odor as one might expect from such a scene. Very curious. You, indeed, do see strange things in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Leaving Fairbanks

We are heading South in the morning. I don't know when I'll get on the Internet again.

Fairbanks has been a great place to visit. I touched on some things in the previous post. In addition, we have been up close and personal with the famous Alaskan Pipeline. Having actually been in and on the territory through which it was built, makes the engineering even more spectacular. There is a really good "Theme Park" here, called Pioneer Park. It is educational, as well as entertaining. The only amusement ride is a "Choo Choo Train", which we dutifully used to circle the park two times. I did spy a pond with two hen Mallards and offspring. Frankly, I did not immediately recognize the Mallards! The typical blue feathers were not clearly visible, the bill was more grey than yellow, and they were swimming so wing colors were not shown. In defense of my failure to immediately ID them, summer feathers are different from the plumage we see in the winter in Louisiana. I took pictures of them and later was sure of the ID by use of Sibley's book. By the way, Brenda and I have greatly expanded our "bird list" while on this trip. Yesterday, we saw three Varied Thrushes.

North Pole, Alaska, is between Fairbanks and Eielson. We stopped to get the appropriate photographs. In side a gift shop, to get a souvenir Christmas ornament, I even got a picture of Brenda on Santa's lap. The grand kids will be envious.

We are headed for Delta Junction (on the Alaskan Highway), then on toward Valdez via the Richardson Highway, with an intermediate stop on the Edgerton Highway to see a copper mine. We'll be in Valdez by the 30th, at which time I should be able to again connect to the "Net.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, 21 July, we visited the Museum at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Wow! What an impressive display of artifacts! The building itself was impressive from an architectural point of view, but that is another subject matter. The museum displays show Alaska from pre-historic times up to the present petroleum and tourist industries. There were skeletal remains of Mammoths and Mastodons – I had no idea of the difference in size, but look at the lower jaw bones...
By the way, those long curled things in the background are Mastodon ivory.
The hunting, whaling and fishing techniques of the original Alaska inhabitants were well covered. I guess you could call whaling a type of fishing, but it is more like hunting...from a boat. The boats were frames of wood over which animal skins were stretched. Can you imagine going onto the open sea in a seal skin canoe? And, then, chasing after several tons of mammal with the intent of sticking spears into him? Then, waiting around for him to bleed out and die, so you could cut him up? I don't think I am ready to sign up for that adventure. The museum had lots and lots of displays and pictures of whaling, including a video. It was fascinating.
Fishing was a huge part of the subsistence equation. Lots of techniques were displayed, but none showed a proper fly rod, reel or a Caddis fly. These folks fished on a commercial scale. Wooden fish traps – obvious progenitors of the hoop nets seen in Louisiana – were used to capture spawning salmon. The one shown is about 8 feet long.

We spent several hours in the Museum and only left when we were saturated and couldn't absorb any more. One last comment about the museum: There was a special summer display concerning the Polar Bear. Global warming, in the opinion of the curator who set up the photographic display, is endangering the Polar Bear. Also, in his opinion, the warming is the result of humans burning fossil fuels. All the little placards, posted beside the absolutely wonderful photographs of the bears, continued the assault on humans for our wasteful and wanton habits. Being somewhat unrepressed in stating my own opinion on the subject, Brenda, in the interest of proper museum decorum, eventually forbade me from reading any more placards. After I quit reading those silly cards, I really enjoyed looking at the Polar Bear pictures.

We had ripe blueberries at Byers Lake. But, my goodness, they were nothing compared to the raspberries. These fellas came off bushes within 50 feet of our camper. They were bathed in half 'n half and consumed immediately after this picture was taken.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eielson Air Force Base

On Monday, 20 July, we had a pleasant drive from Tatlanika to Eielson Air Force Base (Fairbanks). When we left the Nenana River, the sky was a full overcast, which cleared as we drove north. However, the overcast was replaced by smoke. There are several fires burning in the area through which we traveled. We didn't actually see any of the fire, but the smoke was impressive. You could smell it inside the truck, even with the windows rolled up.

The devastation of a fire up here is hard to imagine. This land is permafrost. The Spruce trees (dominant species) are root-pruned by the action of the permafrost. They are thin and spindly; not nearly as tall and full as the trees further south. At a traffic turn-out, I was chatting with an Army E-5, touring on his motorcycle, southbound on our highway. He is home on a mid-tour leave from the sandbox. He came to Alaska on orders and liked it so much has re-upped to stay here. He and his wife live in North Pole, Alaska (only a few miles from Eielson). He said he was digging in his yard/garden and the frozen ground was a bit less than two feet from the surface. You can imagine what that does for tree roots. Annual growth is much slower than that to which we are accustomed. Furthermore, the process of decay is much delayed. There are no termites, no ants, and very little fungus activity. Most of the year everything is frozen. Old burn sites are still clearly visible as a burn as much as ten years later! Like I said, it is hard to imagine the devastation.

The FamCamp at Eielson is way below par for FamCamps. They had a flood a year or two ago, and it appears they have not yet put things back in order. The registration office was ruined. Registration now is by means of an “Iron Ranger” – a lock box on an iron post. You are on your honor to fill in the registration data correctly and to pay the proper amount. Some of the interior roads are still closed, which means those campsites are no longer available. Regardless, it is a very pleasant bucolic environment. Brenda found abundant wild raspberry bushes covered with ripe berries. The only problem of significance at the camp is the showers have no hot water! I am too old to need a cold shower. We can, of course, shower in the 5th wheel. But with a six gallon hot water tank, one must be very careful, while showering, about not singing the second verse of any songs. When the hot water runs out, my voice becomes decidedly tenor.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Photos Byers Lake and Tatlanika

Cabin, abandoned along the shore
of Byers Lake. Built in 1959 by a
husband and wife team -- trappers.

Denali -- the Big Mountain, tallest peak in North America

...and, finally, here is a shed
full of manly toys: a Winnebago motorcoach, a 450 Case dozer, a Ford 8N tractor with rotary cutter, a twin-hulled two-man float boat, a 4-wheeler, a flat-bottomed skiff with a (YES!) Go-Devil engine, and a single-engine airplane. The skis and pontoons for the airplane were in an adjacent building. If the adage about the winner being the one with the most toys is correct, this guy is a contender.

On the way to Fairbanks

In my last post, I failed to make it clear that after church on Sunday the 12th, we drove back up to Elmendorf AFB to camp in their FamCamp. This allowed us to restock the refrigerator and pantry and, generally, regroup. We did a bit of grieving for Missy, too. While back in Anchorage, we made an Al-Anon meeting and an open AA meeting – both very good meetings.

On Thursday, we left the FamCamp at Elmendorf with a full battery, full fresh water tank, and empty gray and black water tanks. We knew we would be camping in self-contained mode for a few days. Our path took us up the Parks Highway from Anchorage to Wasilla (home of former Gov. Sarah Palin), then North toward Fairbanks. However, we stopped at Byers Lake State campground for a few days of fishing. This is on the southern edge of the Denali National Park.
Byers Lake is what you think of when someone talks about an Alaskan fishing lake – clear, dark blue-green water, surrounded by snow capped mountains. White spruce trees stand sentinel around the shore. Byers Creek feeds into the lake from the north end. We camped at a site near the west bank of the lake. Early Friday morning, Brenda and I gathered up our waders and hiked about 2 miles to get to the north creek entry. We were greeted by a single, eerie loon call. Presently, however, we heard the unmistakable blast of a boater's air horn. Sigh. A flotilla of kayaks – red, blue and yellow – were touring down the eastern shore. They gleefully chatted to one another, splashed about, and tooted their several horns. Fishing completed for the day, we returned to camp.

A short hike away from our campsite is a Veterans Memorial, in honor of the five military branches. Bob Cooper would be upset with anyone who could name only four. The “forgotten” branch is, of course, the Coast Guard. The memorial has interpretative kiosks about some of the little known facts concerning Alaska and WWII. For example, the Battle for Attu was remarkable in that the Japanese had landed and taken US soil. The North American mainland actually was invaded! The interpretive site was very well done. The reason for the location in Denali park is, of course, the nearby presence of “the big one” – Denali Peak/Mount McKinley. On Thursday, we arrived at Byers Lake shortly before a rain shower arrived. Needless to say, the mountain remained invisible. Heavy overcast continued throughout Friday. I was sure the mountain is there, because I could see the base beneath the mists.

On Saturday, we had misty rain and full overcast. We drove a few miles south on the highway to a bridge crossing Byers Creek. This was a few miles from the lake. The water was swift and clear. I caught a nice rainbow. I didn't know if this was a catch and release stream or not (most are), so I released him. Later in the day, the sky cleared and Brenda and I trekked back to the Veterans Memorial. There was the mountain! I took a photograph, which I'll upload in a day or two. An hour later, the overcast was back. During our entire stay at the Byers Lake site, that was the only opportunity to see Denali. We were blessed.

Sunday morning dawned to misty rain. Our battery was showing 50% power, the fresh water tank was down to a third, and the black water tanks said we were full of...well, we were full. We broke camp and drove 120 miles to a campground with hook-ups in Tatlanika on the Nenanan River. Glory be! They have WiFi, so I am posting this.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Picasa Web Albums - bfun

I have added Week 4 to my public albums. Please click on the above link to check it out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sad News

On Sunday morning, 12 July, I awoke early and did some private writing, not originally intended to be shared:

“This morning, the fog is so thick that I can see nothing beyond the old spruce stump at the edge of the bluff. For all I can tell, Cook's Inlet does not exist, nor the volcanoes, nor the sea shore, nor eagles or gulls...except I can still hear the constant purr-swish of the waves as they brake on the beach. It is a monotonous sound, but not a boring sound. It is, in fact, quite comforting. Purr-swish, purr-swish – like the lub-dub, lub-dub when auscultating someone's audible confirmation that something I cannot see is still there and functioning as expected.
“I think Faith in a Higher Power is somewhat like hearing that constant purr-swish. I have the steadfast assurance of spiritual guidance – regardless of my inability to see or touch or question or argue – precisely because I can hear the purr-swish coming to me out of the fog. My guidance comes from being attached to the sound of those waves, from seeking His Will for me; then, the counsel comes to me unbidden from out of the fog that surrounds me.”

On the drive north out of the Kenai Peninsula, I got the unhappy news that my German Short-haired Pointer, Missy, had gotten loose and was killed on the highway. Purr-swish. I don't understand – perhaps I never will – but I am glad I had those thoughts earlier in the day.

some pictures

Bald Eagle

St. Augustine's Church

Quarter beside moose track

...back at Elmendorf AFB

We moved a grand total of about 30 miles Friday. Homer was a pretty little coastal community, heavily steeped in the counter-culture, liberal tradition of the post-1960s flower children. These flower children have aged right along with the rest of us, but they still long for the Utopian ideal of a modern world full of electronic communication (I-Pods and I-Phones abound), BMW motorcycles (to save gas, of course) and twenty-first century medicine (they are entering the age of coronary bypass and the need for medications to assist with erectile dysfunction), but abhor the desecration of the pristine Alaskan wilderness. While Brenda was in the Post Office mailing a package to Florence, I was in the parking lot chatting with a lady of about my age. She is an avid birdwatcher (having traveled all the way to the Florida Keys to see her most rare bird), who admitted to “being hypocritical” because she buys ground meat and steaks at the store (in answer to “do you hunt?”), and who informed me that she is reluctant to even buy that beef because the “cows” don't really like corn, “they make them eat it”. Apparently, according to this lady, this process is due to the rapacious nature of the corn producers...forcing the cows to eat corn to provide a market of the corn growers. I was going to coin a new cliché...something about leading a cow to corn, but being unable to force “him” to eat it, but the whole topic of bovine gender – cows, bulls and steers – was too daunting and I just let it slide. I did correct her misunderstanding about what “cows” consider palatable, assuring her that we have fences to keep them out of the corn fields, not in them.
We left Homer and drove about thirty miles to Stariski State Campground. We'll be here for at least three nights. It is a dry camp, but the location and view are wonderful. We are on a bluff about 150 feet above Cook's Inlet. It is nearly shear, but I may try a descent. Brenda and I had a discussion about whose “dead body” – hers, over which I would have to step to make my attempt; or mine, which would be at the bottom of the cliff, if I tried. After setting up the trailer, we backtracked to the Norman Lowell Gallery. He is an 80 year old artist, who has captured on canvas the wild spirit of Alaska. His paintings are magnificent. They are mostly paintings of snow covered mountains, waterfalls, and springtime re-greening. It was curious to me that his works do not include the indigenous animals...not even an eagle soaring near the mountains. Which reminds me, when we returned to the campsite, I was sitting on the bluff watching the water and the shore. Some gulls were arguing about ownership of some fish scraps on the water's edge, when suddenly they all took to the air...and a shadow drifted across my field of view. Almost immediately a Golden Eagle landed and claimed the fish. He was more than twice the size of the gulls he chased away. After about ten minutes, a passing boat prompted him to take to the air again. Later, I was delighted to see a Bald Eagle fly by, confirming the ID of the Golden, because of the contrasts between the two.
The next day (Saturday), we drove up into the mountains seeking a small lake to fish. We were well off the beaten track, and found the lake I'd seen on the topographic map, but it was fishless. Not even a small minnow along the sunny bank. I suspect it is too high, too shallow and gets too cold and frozen in winter. On the other hand, it did provide a good breeding place for mosquitoes. I'll attach in a later post some photographs of a hen Ptarmigan and some moose tracks from that trip. We did see a cow moose about 50 yards from the road on the way up the mountain. They really are huge animals.
On Sunday we went to Bob's church, St. Augustine's Episcopal, in Homer. I'll also attach some photographs of the church with a later post.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Heading to upper Kenai...

It is almost 10AM on Friday 10 July. My blog posts are still tied to Central Time, which is three hours later than here in Alaska. We are going to move up the Kenai and do some dry camping. For those who don't know, dry camping is being totally self-contained. We'll have no electricity, no water, and no computer/Internet. So, it will be several days before we can report again. Current plans are to move on back to Anchorage by Sunday evening, where we'll again have a WiFi connection. Of course, it is a WiFi hot spot in a Starbucks coffee house. Don't you feel sorry for us?

Yesterday we "did" Homer. We toured a Nature Trail on property formerly owned by Carl Wynn (as in Wynn automobile fuel additives). The guide was extremely knowledgeable about every one of the nearly countless variety of plants. The walk was pleasant, but my brain got tired! I took a lot of photos of plants and just hope I can put names to them. We spent the afternoon in the Pratt Museum. Although the entire museaum was very enjoyable and informative, the highlights were two remore video cameras. Brenda and I sat for more than a hour watching brown bears catching, and feeding on, salmon in the McNeil River more than 200 miles from here. The Wildlife employee in the Museum had full control of the camera. She could pan the scene -- at one point, there were ten bears in view -- zoom in or out, and easily follow the activities of individual bears. This was live action; not recorded images. Fascinating! In the marine biology section, there was a similar camera set up on Gull Island. Here I was able to take the camera controls. We saw rafts of Murres, that we previously had only seen flying. I singled out a Tufted Puffin, too. That orange bill really stood out among the Kittiwakes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


As Jim said, we arrived in Homer yesterday. It is absolutely beautiful! We were worried about finding the Episcopal Church, but there was no need. Not long after we drove into town, we see this lovely little church right on the highway and yes, there was Father Bob and Sallie’s trailer. We were given a tour and awed by the spectacular view! We will hang around here another day or so and then we will head north to Fairbanks. We may rent a canoe in Fairbanks and try our hand at fishing again. Jim has already caught two, but I haven’t caught anything. That’s OK, there’s still time…
It is true, we aren’t going to take the ferry to Bellingham, Washington, but we are taking it from Haines, AK to Prince Rupert, BC, Canada. We will still have to go through Canadian customs, but will be bypassing much of Canada. Once we get to Prince Rupert, we will travel south through British Columbia down to Washington state. Anyway, it will be a new and different route home! But, don’t let me get ahead of myself, we have lots to do before then…

Finally at Homer, AK

July 5 – Happy Birthday, Sallie! We had a birthday dinner for Sallie. I prepared Woodcock served with egg noodles, which Bob dubbed “Cock-a-Noodle”. Nada brought a wonderful cake and ice cream. Then, we sat around a campfire and swapped stories.

Brenda and I left Seward the following morning (the 6th). After a harrowing drive to Whittier, we stopped and inquired about the ferry service to Bellingham, Washington state. I really, really wanted to avoid going through Canadian customs again. Sadly, we simply can't afford the ferry. Total cost would be about $6,000! The “harrowing drive” was because you have to go through a 2.5 mile long, single-lane tunnel in a mountain. No, you can't see the light at the other end of the tunnel. So, after driving through that damn tunnel again (did I mention that I have claustrophobia?) we drove on back up to Anchorage and Elmendorf AFB.

The FamCamp at Elmendorf is very pleasant with shaded RV sites (electricity and water), clean showers, and a nearby BX and commissary. There are several lakes for fishing on the base. On the 7th, we bought fishing licenses, re-stocked the pantry and Brenda did laundry. We scouted the base lakes, including Six Mile Lake, which afforded us a peek at a couple of loons and a baby.

Up early the next morning, we went to Fish Lake to make use of our new licenses. I caught two small rainbows – not enough for supper. Fish Lake is about an acre in size. It sits in the center of a muskeg bottom between hills all around. We were the only ones fishing...very quiet and serene. The muskeg is interesting stuff. If you walk on it and stand in one place, the initial feeling of stability fades with the realization that you are slowly sinking. Take another step and all is well until you pause for a few seconds; then, the sinking begins anew. Someplace, lurking in the back of your mind, is this feeling that the next step just might not be as firm as the others, and the sinking might start immediately. We pretty much stayed on the log and board walkways. Chloe, on the other hand, seemed well supported by the bog and she ran all over the place. No rangers showed up to chastise us for an unleashed dog, nor did any bears snatch her away, either.

About noon, after returning to the Elmendorf campsite, Brenda said she felt it was time for us to move. We packed up and drove to Homer. On the way into town, we passed by the new Episcopal Church and stopped to visit with the priest. Bob and Sallie had arrived about 3PM. We visited and toured the new church, then checked into the Ocean View RV Park. Brenda's Sixth Sense was working overtime today, because we then drove down to the “spit” and found Judy and Jack. They plan to leave Homer in the morning, beginning their trip back to Tennessee. We won't be seeing them again until sometime during the Louisiana hunting season. While on the spit, we saw eagles, Murres (a new bird for us), and sea otters.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 4th of July

My sister and brother-in-law (Judy and Jack Robinson) left Tennessee right after Memorial Day and headed to Alaska. When Brenda and I left Tok, we drove to Palmer, AK, and met up with Judy and Jack. We've had two days to compare travel notes, to reminisce about old times, and to break bread together. They leave in the morning, headed toward the Kenai; we're going to Seward to meet up with Bob and Sallie and their friends, the Torgersons.

Today we watched an immature eagle (bald or golden, too immature to tell) sitting in a tree beyond the back fence of the campground. Last night – yes, night: 1AM – Brenda and I were out driving, looking for animals. We saw Bullwinkle, for sure. Huge head gear! Easily seen with the available light, but too dark to photograph.
On the other hand, we did take some photographs from the top of Hatcher Pass.
Note that this photograph was taken just before midnight.

In addition, earlier on the 3rd, I got pictures of a cow and calf moose.

The 4th was quiet. No fireworks, because of forest fire hazard.
We are just resting and feeling very blessed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"A bunch of the boys were hooping it up..."

We arrived in Dawson the afternoon of 30 June and “touristed”. I know that is not a proper word, but it should be. Touristed, verb: active. Meaning, when visiting an unknown place, to act as a tourist, to be appropriately awed, to exclaim “wow” or “neat”, and, especially, to leave money at the entrance to all attractions. We enjoyed the day and were delightfully educated about some of Dawson's most famous citizens. At the top of the list was the visit to Robert Service's log cabin, from which much of his Yukon verse was penned. Unlike most poets, he derived a considerable income from his work. The latter half of his life was spent with his French wife, either on the Brittany coast or the French Riviera. Not bad for a guy who wrote about the “wage slave”, eh? [The /eh/ is out of consideration for YT being in Canada] Also, in Dawson is a very complete presentation on Jack London, with a replica of his original cabin up on Henderson Creek. They said some of the logs in the replica were actual logs from the original...reminds me of the axe my Dad had, “passed down through six generations – four handles and a new head, but the same axe”.
1 July is Dominion Day in Canada (cf., 4 July, Independence Day in USA). Dominion Day celebrations were inaugurated by a speech (which we missed), a parade (which was a wonderful small-town affair, with farm wagon floats bedecked with almost pretty girls wearing too much rouge, fire trucks with fully functional sirens, and uncountable numbers of kids on bicycles weaving in and out of the parade vehicles), and a very satisfying strawberry cake dessert at the Visitor Center. Brenda's miniature Schnauzer accompanied us, as it was too hot to leave her in the camper. Chloe – who has learned to stay quietly at heel and to not jump up on people (amazing what 24/7 for three weeks will do) – was the recipient of literally hundreds of pats on the head and scratches behind the ear.
By early afternoon, we had had enough of Dawson. We hitched up and headed out to travel the Top of The World Highway and thence to Tok, AK. The drive was magnificent for the scenery. From Dawson with an elevation of 1400 feet, we climbed to over 4500 feet. Twice I had to stop to let the Ford cool off! After having gained the necessary elevation, we drove for miles on narrow twisting roads above the timber line, meandering through the mountains. In some places, the road was truly a single lane. Fortunately, when we encountered oncoming vehicles, we were in stretches of the road with sufficient room to pass side by side. With one dump truck, I did come to a complete stop as he eased by me. There are no guard rails. Before ascending the Top of The World Highway, I was chatting with a Swiss couple (we were taking a lunch break at a Provincial Park on the shores of {yes!} Lake Lebarge) who had taken a rented truck slide-in camper over the mountain. They were appalled at the lack of guard rails. I suppose when this road has as many centuries of travel on it as their Alps, it too will be guard railed. Meanwhile, it was a great adventure.
Right after the long haul over the Top, we cleared US customs. It took less than five minutes and didn't cost me anything! They didn't even ask me about any damn bear spray. The Customs Officer did ask if I had a gun. Then, when I said yes, he asked if I had declared it to Canadian Customs. I said yes, and that was that. He didn't want to see the shotgun nor the paperwork.
Chicken, AK, was the first town we passed. Oral history has it that the initial inhabitants of the community wanted to name it Ptarmigan, after the bird of that name; however, no one could spell Ptarmigan, so it became Chicken. We didn't stop in Chicken, but traveled on to Tok. Now, the oral history on Tok has it that the civil engineer drawing out the route for the Alaskan Highway indicated on the map that this was a good location for a “T” intersection. The main road (#2) goes on to Fairbanks and the side road (#1) goes to Glennallen. He penciled on the map: “T” OK. Of course, at the intersection of the highways, a small community arose and called itself Tok. We ate a restaurant hamburger, took a hot shower and went to bed. It was about 11PM and fully light enough outside for any daytime activity, but we were too tired for any more fun.

June 29, 2009

Despite the rain and cold, we thoroughly enjoyed Whitehorse. Jim, Sallie and I decided to do a little shopping while Bob was taking his nap. Miraculously, we found the knit shop. Since I am new at this, Sallie and the owner helped me pick out some yarn to make scarves for us. It is a beautiful baby alpaca yarn and very soft. I’ll let you know how it turns out! Next, we stopped at the grocery store. I was very surprised to find you had to deposit a loonie (one dollar coin) to get a grocery cart at the market. Upon returning it, you inserted the key attached to the cart and your loonie was returned. Amazing! That evening Jim and I decided to go out to dinner at the Klondike Ribs and Salmon BBQ. Great atmosphere and great food! It was housed in one of the oldest buildings in town - a bakery from 1900.
After leaving Whitehorse, Jim and I headed north on the Klondike Loop. Our first stop was an RV Park in the Village of Carmacks on the Yukon River. Carmacks was named after George Carmacks who was one of the three prospectors that found a rich deposit of gold in Bonanza Creek. This discovery inspired thousands of would-be prospectors to head north. As we were sitting on the bank of the Yukon River watching the swift current flow by, Jim and I spotted a Violet-Green Swallow. We know this because Jim took several pictures and we were able to check our Sibley Bird Book and make a positive ID.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Quiet Weekend

Before leaving Teslin, we stopped at the Tlingit Native American/George Johnston Museum. My sister, Judy, had recommended it and I totally agree that it is worthwhile. The Alaska-Canada Highway passes through the homeland of the Tlingit (pronounced Klingit) Indians. The photographer, George Johnston, was a camera-owning, picture-taking Klingit, who documented the lifestyle of these people before, during and after building the highway. His photographs form the basis of the museum. The only fly in the ointment was the customary swipe at the abrasive way the “invading” “occupying forces” (US troops) dealt with the Klingit – destroying hunting grounds and disturbing sacred burial sites. I commented to Brenda that if it had been Japanese soldiers invading North America (as was one Japanese plan), the Klingit would not have to complain – there would be no Klingit! If in doubt, ask the Chinese in Nan King. Regardless, it was a good museum visit. We left Teslin in light rain.
The drive to Whitehorse was otherwise uneventful. A few kilometers south of Whitehorse we stopped at the Fireweed RV Service Center. Even though it was Saturday afternoon, they fixed my water heater. We camped at High Country RV park in Whitehorse. This is a huge park with 130 spaces for RV rigs. They were full by 4PM! On the roads we have recently been traveling, fully 40% of the vehicles are campers. Damn tourists!
Sunday morning we awoke to a temperature of 37°; but sunshine, which quickly warmed things up. The four of us went to Sunday Services at the Anglican Church here in Whitehorse. After the service, Bob and Sallie stayed to talk and drink coffee. Brenda and I left to go sightseeing, but stopped by the Canadian Tire store to pick up a few things. Well, that dragged on for a couple of hours. Canadian Tire stores are a blend of Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Sears. We didn't buy much, but enjoyed seeing the different merchandise. Many, if not most, of the brand names were familiar, but the actual products were often quite different from anything we have seen in the States. Next door was a real Wal-Mart, so we finally went there to get vitamin B1 for mosquito repellent. By the time we did all that, it was raining and had gotten noticeably colder. We returned to the 5th wheel and did cleaning chores. I cooked a potted dish of venison, onions, peppers and potatoes. We added side dishes of sweet corn and marinated salad, topped off with a desert of ice cream, bananas and stewed cherries. Delicious!
We split from Bob and Sallie in the morning. Our trek takes us further North to Dawson City, home of Robert Service. Bob will have to tell you about where they go in his next report. We'll meet up with them again on 5 July.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Few Images...

Posted: Friday, 26 June 2009
(9:30 PM and broad daylight)

A young cow caribou

A Stellar Jay

A hungry bear, apparently eating grass.

We are in Teslin, YT. This country is incredibly rugged, but beautiful in an unfamiliar way. The struggle for existence in such forbidding territory is clearly written in the scraggly trees, the stunted bushes, the wariness of the animals, and the gaunt, wrinkled faces of the human inhabitants. Why anyone would wish to live here is a mystery to me. We are grateful to be able to see it, but even more grateful not to call this home.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

North from Banff

Monday 22nd – From Banff
We had mule deer wander beside the trailer, while we ate breakfast. There was one mature doe, who appeared gravid, a yearling doe and two yearling bucks. Their antlers were only 6-8 inches and covered in heavy velvet. The rain of the previous evening had stopped. The air was crisp and cool. However, we still had a full overcast. Before leaving, but after hooking up the rig, three elk wandered into the campsite. The bull had a radio collar and ear tag. They were not in the least fearful of people or their dogs. Chloe, at about 20 pounds, was eager to go “check out” the new arrivals, but I thought better of it.
The drive through Banff toward Jasper was somewhat less spectacular than the drive into Banff. Perhaps this was because of the cloudy and hazy atmosphere, which eventually became rainfall; or perhaps we just got jaded on viewing the huge mountains and sheer expansiveness of it all. We camped in McBride, BC, at the BeaverView campground. Diesel is $96.9 per liter, which is nearly $3.70 per gallon. Brenda and I bought some things at a small supermarket. The prices weren't too alarming – mostly about what you would pay at a convenience store. We got a birthday present for Sallie at a local artist's shop. We were unable to post any email, although we did download some (this had something to do with the BeaverView router setup. Fixing it was none of my business, but I was tempted to offer!).
Critters seen: mule deer, elk and a black bear. There are very few birds!

Tuesday 23rd – Early morning temperatures were in the mid-40s. We drove through monotonous forested mountainsides and saw very few animals. We camped at Azouzetta Lake Lodge, where they average 41 feet of snow annually. Well, Azouzetta has seen better days. The lake was beautiful with clear, cold water. However, the campsite did NOT have water, nor electricity. Actually, that was a blessing in disguise. I fired up the propane water heater – up until this night, we had used the electric water heater – and it didn't work. A little detective work revealed a mud dauber nest in the gas burner. Apparently that shorted out something, because there is a wire nearly melted in two. Part of the controls, I presume. No problem, we can heat water on the stove...except at that moment my propane tanks ran dry. I carry an extra 20gal bottle to run the outside grill, so I swapped out one of the empty tanks for the full one. Then, I noticed that the lights were getting dim. Battery check showed an almost discharged battery. Bob had a spare, so I swapped out batteries, too. I really don't know, yet, the cause of that failure. We stopped at an RV repair facility (labor @ $90/hr), but they were too busy to even look at it. BTW, Bob's heater didn't work either. So, the blessing is: we know we need to fix a few things before boon docking.

Wednesday 24th – We have been on the road for two weeks. Total mileage at the start of this day is more than 3,200 miles. We stopped for awhile in Dawson Creek to fill my propane tanks (the fella who filled the tanks is a lifelong resident of Dawson Creek, but his brother-in-law is from Baton Rouge!). We, also, drove past mile marker zero of the Alaska-Canada Highway. Brenda and Sallie shopped briefly at a WalMart (the first in two weeks), then we headed to a campsite at Pink Mountain. The name comes from a peculiar fall foliage. Unfortunately, the promised WiFi is not here. I was assured that “they are working on it”, but the expected delivery date is probably close to the human gestation time frame. So, it has been since Monday that we have received any email, and longer than that since we have been able to send any. Grandson Parker had a set of ear tubes inserted today, so Brenda had to call home to check that all went well – it did. Our drive today was more forested mountainsides. We did see one cow moose, Stellar jays, crows and ravens. The plan for tomorrow it to definitely get a campground with WiFi.

And, today, the 25th, we have WiFi! Our drive was in rain all day. Nonetheless, it was beautiful. In fact, driving into and out of the clouds, as we climbed over the 6,700 foot summit, was a series of "Oh, look at that" experiences. The forested mountains have given way to a different tree. It is still the same Spruce species, but appears definitely stunted. The explanation I was given is that the permafrost keeps all the trees stunted -- somewhat like a huge Bonsai forest! Streams are everywhere. I'd like to try fishing, but will wait until I get to Alaska to buy a license. I certainly don't need any more confrontations with Canadian authorities!

We are spending this night at Toad River, BC. This name, too, needs explanation. In the land of permafrost, toads are not common. And, in fact, the reptile has nothing to do with this place. Originally, one had to be towed across the river at this point. I guess spelling caused a lot of problems for the folks up here.

We saw a calf caribou beside the road today and a beaver. I think I saw an otter, but my attention was mostly on the road, not the roadside. Bought fuel at only $1.55 per liter, which is a paltry $5.89/gallon!

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Border Incident" and more...

I have a couple comments on the “Border Incident”. First, I can’t believe “bear spray” is such a big deal in Canada. These guys were like the Gestapo! They really didn’t care whether LA Wildlife and Fisheries used pepper spray for bears or not. Thank God Jim realized you couldn’t reason with these people. He handled the situation as rationally as possible and got us out of there.
I don’t have the words to describe the Canadian Rocky Mountains, but I will try. To me, it was like driving through a forest of Christmas trees with the huge, snow-capped, bigger-than-life mountains in the background (not in the distance, but right there). As you were driving along, you might see a cascade of water rushing off the mountain into a beautiful blue-green stream. It was awesome!
This morning at our campsite in Banff, we were eating breakfast and looked out the window to see mule deer. Jim also saw elk at that same campground. And, we saw our first black bear between Jasper and McBride.

A Surprise on Entry into Canada

On Friday (19 June), the temperature low was 49° and high 75°, humidity 50%. We stayed at Malmstrom AFB in their FamCamp. These were very nice grounds and facilities. Friday was a no-travel day. We toured the Lewis & Clark Interpretative Center on the Missouri River. This was especially interesting to us, because, as we have been traveling, we have been listening to an audio book: Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. Serendipitously, in the book, the Corps of Discovery were arriving at the falls on the Missouri River at the same time that Brenda and I were actually seeing it! That provided wonderful background for our visit.
I fixed the lighting in the slide out (a fuse) and, generally, we cleaned up. We rested a little. Then, we went to the commissary for some groceries and ate at Fudruckers. Brenda had Huckleberry ice cream for desert. [It was a gawd-awful purple color]

On Saturday (20 June) we left Malmstrom and met Bob and Sallie at Shelby, MT. Then, we drove to Sweetgrass, MT, to cross into Canada. My shotgun was no problem; however, the “bear spray” I had is not considered bear spray by Canadian customs. In fact, it was considered a weapon and thus contraband -- a $1,000 worth. But, for $1,000, I got my truck back. There is a long story here, but it is best left for a later telling. Generally, this has tainted my opinion of Canada. I won't be back, if I can help it. After finally clearing customs, we drove through the Alberta countryside of wheat fields and range land. This is gentle rolling hills, much like eastern Kansas. Of course, in January it might appear differently. Gradually, the prairie gave way to some deciduous trees and conifers. The deciduous varieties were obviously handicapped, because sometimes entire limbs would be dead and bare of leaves. Clearly, the winter is a killer for trees like this. On the other hand, the conifers are tall and straight. We camped at River's Edge Provincial Park. For our evening meal, we had grilled pork tenderloin, fresh yellow potatoes and topped it off with coffee ice cream for desert.
We awoke fairly early on Sunday (21 June) to go see the “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump” Interpretive Center. However, they didn't open for another hour (the summer hours of 9AM on the brochure don't start until July). So, we drove off into the countryside. Most memorable from this drive was seeing two young buck Mule deer cross the road in front of us. I captured one on camera as he effortlessly jumped a fence. You can see the grace in the photo.

The buffalo jump site and display was very interesting and informative. This site is where plains Indians drove bison off the cliff edge, thus procuring a large quantity of meat, hides, etc, for the winter season. Apparently, once in the distant past, a young brave wanted to see the bison fall to their death up close and personal. He waited on the ground beneath the jump site. That particular “hunt” was very productive, and the brave was buried under the bison. When they finally dug him out, his skull was crushed; hence, the name. As our good luck would have it, on this day the center was sponsoring a special event. We listened to Blackfoot Native Americans sing and play drums and we watched some authentic dances. For your information, the authentic beaded clothing the performers were wearing is NOT to be called a costume – “that is what a circus clown wears” – it is to be called “regalia”. I am sure you wanted to know that.
We didn't get away from the River's Edge park until after lunch. We drove only as far as Banff. Gentle rolling hills gave way to steeper slopes and lots of rocks. Then, it got even steeper and rockier. And, then voila! We were in the Rocky Mountains. The drive into Banff was punctuated at each turn of the road by Brenda's exclamations of awe and amazement. These mountains are truly beautiful. We camped at the Tunnel Mountain, Second Village Provincial campground with full hook ups. It is very nice, but it is pricey. In fact, everything I have purchased in Canada has been pricey. Diesel fuel was $0.85 a liter, which is about $3.25 a gallon. Coffee from a convenience store at the gas station was $1.60 a cup! On the other hand, I don't think the temperature ever got above 65 degrees today. It started raining by 6 PM and continued into nightfall, which, by the way, is after 10PM.
The campground is very nice, but has lots of spaces and lots of campers. After setting up camp, Brenda and I went for a hike to view the HooDoos. It was more than a mile hike from our site. HooDoos are, if you don't know, stone columns along the river bed. For reasons known to geologists, but totally sounding like BS to me when I read the descriptions, the erosive forces of wind and water carved out the river bottom, but left these huge vertical spires standing. Anyway, we had a much needed bit of exercise. Chloe enjoyed the walk, too. She especially liked sniffing the ground squirrel holes.
Animals seen today: Mule deer, Marmot, prairie dog, weasel, Mallards, BW teal, Magpie and 13-stripe chipmunks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I beg your pardon, but...

Well, I have been keeping notes and so far we have traveled from Waterproof through Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming (only across the corner) and finally here to Montana. We have traveled a total of over 2, 200 miles. This country is absolutely beautiful!

I e-mailed my Alaska pictures to many of you, but realized many more were not in my Outlook Contacts. So, I have attached the URL to this blog, should you like to view them. If the link doesn't work, cut and paste into your browser.

Great Falls, MT

Well, I am guilty of a major tactical error. I have not been keeping daily notes, assuming that I would well-remember the events of the past week. This is somewhat akin to the oft-proven fallacy of placing unlabeled packages into a deep freezer. Nonetheless, I do remember a lot of the past eight days, but, I must confess, imperfectly.

Most happily, I report that grandson, Hiser, is, if not fully recovered, at home and “eating macaroni, cheese and wieners”. His full recovery is just a matter of time.

Traveling due north from Cabela's in Sidney, we visited Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. It is a very impressive place, but too many people. On the other hand, the ice cream was great! We camped that night at Spearfish, South Dakota, in their city-run RV park. It is located on the grounds of a no-longer-working fish hatchery. There are still plenty of fish in the adjoining ponds.

The next morning, we arrived at the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. My history lessons said that a week prior to that infamous battle, at a nearby location, was the Battle of the Rosebud. Militarily, it was significant for what happened to Custer a week later. We were unable to actually visit that battlefield because of a huge thunderstorm (and I thought the West was dry). However, we were at the location of Custer's Last Stand exactly 133 years after the Rosebud fight. We toured the site, listened to the Ranger's informative talk, and absorbed the solemnity of the place, then we moved on to camp at Hardin, Montana.

We went to bed to the sound of gentle rain...and awoke the next morning to the same sound.

Sadly, we parted company with Bob and Sallie the next morning (Thursday). We said our good-byes in Billings, MT, in the parking lot of the newest Cabela's store. So Brenda and I have shopped in Cabela's oldest and newest stores (and a couple in between, too). Our separation from the Coopers will be short-lived. They went on to visit an old friend further up the trail.

Brenda and I are in the FamCamp at Malmstrom AFB. Our drive to Great Falls, Montana, was in rain for the first few hours. Then, the clouds vanished to reveal the Big Sky of Montana. This is some of the most awe-inspiring country I have ever seen. After leaving the rough barren ground west of the Black Hills, the verdant rolling hills, as we approached Great Falls, made driving dangerous because of my rubber-necking to look at all the terrain. We saw numerous antelope, one doe Mule deer, and several birds I have yet to identify.

We will rest an extra day here, then rejoin Bob and Sallie to cross into Canada on Saturday, June 20.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Buffalo Bill and Cabela's

First, grandson Hiser continues to improve. He sat in his Momma's lap today -- the first time in 8 days!

We have now traveled about 1,200 miles. I'll try to be specific about mileage next time I write. Since my last note, we stayed at an RV park in Liberal, Kansas, that hosts pheasant and quail hunting every November. Brenda and I are already planning on a pre-Thanksgiving trip. The city is somehow related to the Wizard of Oz story, 'cause they have "Dorothy's House" as a city attraction. Well, we didn't have any tornados, but we were treated to a huge downpour complete with hail. Fortunately, we had no damage.

North Platte, Nebraska, was our next stop. North Platte's most famous citizen was William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill. His home is a state historical site, complete with adjoining campground. We went to bed under threat of rain, hail and possible tornadoes, but only had a light rain. The tour of the house and horse barn the next morning was well worth the time spent. In all, I guess we were there for more than two hours. On display were several firearms. One in particular was a double-barrelled rifle! No mention of the unique arm was made in the notations within the display case. I doubt if the rarity of the London-made piece is known to the curators. We left Buffalo Bill's place about noon and headed West to Sidney, Nebraska, from where I am writing.

Sidney is the home of the very first Cabela's retail store. In honor of that, Brenda and I felt obliged to spend some money. Her retirement gift card from Cabela's has also been retired. Oh, we had another rain storm with some small hail. Dinner was Nebraska-raised beef, provided from Sallie's freezer.

Our traveling pace has slowed down to a more comfortable tempo. We are entering parts of the country neither Brenda nor I have ever seen. That means we will have to stop more often to see it better. Bob and Sallie are wonderful tour guides, although Sallie was a bit more enthusiastic when we were in Texas.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"...without undue stress..."

Well, we are indeed Alaska-bound. In fact, we are more than 700 miles from home. However, prior to our departure, we had to make a couple of trips to Jackson, Mississippi, to check on our grandson, Hiser, who was (and still is) in the Pediatric ICU at the University Medical Center. The short version is: spontaneous septic arthritis of the right hip and infection of the right anterior thigh muscles. He has been in an MRI scanner once and to the OR twice. I am grateful to report, he is improving and should make a full recovery. If it were otherwise, we would not have left!

Bob and Sallie Cooper were also delayed in their departure -- although in not nearly as dramatic a fashion as Brenda and I. We joined up Thursday morning and are caravaning together. Friday afternoon, we made it to our scheduled rendezvous with Maggie Young, M.D. and her husband. Maggie is a long-time friend of Sallie's and their annual get-together is important to both of them.

North Texas, where we are camped, is hot. The wind is blowing, so the heat is tolerable. There are some folks here that would disagree with that comment about tolerable. With the delayed departure and the relative urgency of arriving on time to meet Maggie, we have put in two rather grueling days. Bob assures me that we will slow down the pace from here on...I'll let you know. Furthermore, I have not taken a single photograph. Brenda has taken a few, but she hasn't shared them with me, yet.

Now that we are underway, and now that the travel pace is promised to be more vacation-like, I hope to take some pictures and smell some roses. Meanwhile, y'all pray for Hiser's continued recovery.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Back on Schedule

Guest House is wired. Done with that project until September.
The 5th wheel is cleaned and ready to load. We have added wire shelves and various storage devices to try to make storing and retrieving stuff easier. I gave up on building a basement fishing rod holder -- too crowded under there already.
My truck tool box got cleaned, tools sorted and cleaned, and a bunch of stuff added. All in all, steady progress...and we should be ready to leave as scheduled without undue stress.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

...learning curve is long.

I "Geo-tagged" the two images in today's post, but the tag didn't make it from my 'puter to the blog. Just for laughs, if you enter the following co-ordinates into Google Earth, you will bring up the location where the photos were taken. I intend to tag all the photos I post here, but may have to link to a web site repository. I'll keep working on it.

Co-ordinates: N31 50.38 W91 26.178

Guest House "dried-in" for the summer

Viewed from the South: The brick patio was the floor of the old gun room.

The image below also is from the South, but it shows the East wall of the Guest House -- this was the opening into the garage.

The interior will have to wait until we return in September. Only minor plumbing and the final electrical work are lacking from being "user friendly" right now. [My electrician became a GrandPa again, and is out of town trying to control GrandMa...Hahaha.]

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Slow but steady progress...

The Guest House is on hold until we return in September. It is relatively clean, the tools are cleaned and stacked on shelves, and the lumber is on a trailer under the shed and protected from weather. Still no electricity.

We have a very important trip to Dauphin Island coming up this weekend. Then, at the first of the week, we'll bring the 5th wheel up to the driveway and begin the final packing. All those lists will come into play.

BTW, my pneumonia is mostly resolved, but I tire easily.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Unexpected (unwelcome) delay

Well, I didn't keep to an "every Wednesday" schedule for even one cycle. Last weekend I became progressively ill with malaise, fever and productive cough. Having been reading up on Swine Flu, I assumed I was being psychosomatic. By Sunday, with two degrees of fever and large quantities of thick, brown sputum, I changed my diagnosis to bronco-pneumonia. On Monday, my private physician saw me in his office and, likewise, confirmed that diagnosis. Now, after four days of Ceftin and lots of rest, I am better. Amazingly, I have managed to get a few things prepared, in spite of the illness.

The ceiling is installed in the Guest House kitchen. The shower lacks only installation of the faucet to be completed. It is, otherwise, ready to cleanse bodies. Mr. Harper has been contacted to come complete the electrical wiring. Jimmy is a personal friend, and several years ago I asked him to come check out why a circuit breaker was popping. He discovered a dead short I had wired in as I put in a shop receptacle. He made me promise to always call him to do wiring. I'm not even supposed to take the cover plate off a wall switch! Hence, he will come finish up what he has already started.

Being unable to do more physical and manly things like building walls, I have been polishing lists. You know: kitchen items to take, camera items to sort and take, medical supplies to take, etc. The medical supplies are more than half ready. I'm taking enough surgical instruments to repair trauma, but not enough to get into trouble by starting something. My old black bag has long since gone missing, so I'll have to find a replacement.

All in all, we aren't much further along the road that last posting. However, I am sure we'll do better next week.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Early preparations

The last days of April...and D-day is less than six weeks away. My, oh my, so much yet to get ready! My grand plans for nearly completing the Guest House (remodel of garage from old house) must be significantly scaled back. I now hope to finish the shower and bathroom, put ceiling in kitchen, but that will probably be about all I can get done.

The 5th Wheel is pretty much road ready. Stowing the stuff inside is another matter. As Dad used to say, "Ten pounds of shit and a five pound bag."

I'll post again in another week to report (I hope) lots of progress.