Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A quiet day

It rained most of the day so we stayed inside enjoying Internet until late afternoon when we found a used book store so Dianna could get some more reading material, and then we did a little shopping at Fred Meyer. Really quiet day of rest.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fairbanks Again

It was only about 85 miles into Fairbanks so we took our time. After looking at a couple RV parks we decided to stay at the Rivers Edge RV Park for two or three nights so we could do laundry and catch up on internet activities.

I went to the Kenworth dealer here in town to see about getting the repairs on the truck. They think it is just an O-ring replacement for the coolant leak, so that will be much less expensive than I had feared. They have also ordered shocks for it and I will have both installed on Wednesday if they arrive from where ever they found them.

In the meantime, I have uploaded to the gallery all the photos we have taken so far on our trip. They are just grouped in broad categories and not edited or titled, but please feel free to look them over. I’m not sure when I will have time to work on them.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Yummy Scrumptious!

We slept in late this Sunday morning and did not leave Talkeetna until almost noon. The area we drove through was the part we did not see on our way down due to smoke, clouds and rain so it was nice to finally be able to see what we missed. We did catch a glimpse of the top of Denali a couple times, but other than that it was just beautiful views of the Alaska Range.

About 2 PM the truck flashed a warning that the coolant was low so we stopped for lunch and I checked it. Sure enough, it looks like we have a small leak coming out of the front of the engine. I don’t know what it means, but that is one more thing to have looked at when we get to Fairbanks.

We stopped for the night about 25 miles north of the Denali National Park area in a secluded pull out. It appears to be an abandoned gravel pit and the roads down into it mask the highway and get us far enough away that the noise will be less. We discovered that there are wild raspberries growing here so we picked a bunch and Dianna made a pie after our halibut dinner. We had it before bed and it was yummy scrumptious!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Landing on a Glacier

We left Anchorage, hopefully for the last time, and headed north. In only about 30 miles we left most of the traffic behind and were out in the wilds of the North Country once again. After a lunch stop along the highway we took the spur road toward Talkeetna, about 125 miles from Anchorage. Almost immediately after leaving Anchorage the skies cleared and the temperature climbed into the 70’s.

Talkeetna is a historic town at the meeting of three rivers that has become a tourist mecca. The streets in the downtown area are lined with gift shops and restaurants, and there is even a mule wagon you can take a tour in. Many of the buildings are on the National Historic Register so it is an old town, but it now makes it living by selling souvenirs, fishing trips, jet boat rides and, of interest to us, plane trips up to Denali.

We made our usual grand entrance into town. There is a small town square and when we pulled in with our trailer in tow, all 200 or so people stopped and starred as we drove around the square. I guess it is nice being noticed, but it sure makes me nervous about my driving and shifting. I want to look like I know what I am doing so I am even more cautious than normal. Whenever we stop we still get stares, and an amazing number of people stop and talk to us about our rig. Universally they are impressed and even more so when I tell them the truck cost less than a new pickup, has 525 horsepower and gets over 8 MPG towing the trailer.

We signed up for a 7 PM sight seeing trip to the mountain that included a landing on a glacier. Their planes are equipped with skis so this would be a first. There were clouds as usual around Denali and even some thunderstorms roaming the area, but we flew up over many of the glaciers and dodged the storms easily. As we climbed into the mountains it grew more and more impressive. The ruggedness of the mountains and the scouring, flowing glaciers, the blinding white of the snow on the mountains and the clouds we were flying around combined to make it spectacular. It was true mountain flying as we skimmed over passes and flew right next to huge rock walls.

The clouds parted and we were given a fantastic view of the summit of Denali, floating above the lower clouds.

Our pilot has been flying in Alaska for over 30 years, and the plane was an almost new 8 passenger turbine DeHaviland Otter which is one of the best bush planes ever made so we felt very secure as he zoomed and swooped around mountain bowls and finally made a circle approach to an uphill landing on a glacier in an area known as “base camp”. It is where all the climbers start out from when they climb Denali. Landing on skis, which are lowered hydraulically below the wheels, was a lot rougher than landing on wheels. The snow was very soft and he later said he would not be returning to that spot again until it gets much colder.

We all got out and spent about 20 minutes taking pictures, sinking into the snow, watching snow and rock falls on the mountains around us, and soaking in the majesty and grandeur of the place. It was a wonderful experience.

On the way back to Talkeetna we flew over lakes, rivers, gold mines and a lot of muskeg.

If you want to see all the pictures we took you can see all 63 on our gallery.

We had parked the truck and trailer on an empty lot near the airport and decided to just spend the night here. One of the great things about Alaska is that you can park just about anywhere and no one cares.

It was a great day. Tomorrow we continue our trek toward Fairbanks.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Alaska Air History Museum

I took the truck to the alignment shop this morning and they put it on their machine, only to find out that the alignment was not off by enough to cause the tire wear. They think the wear problem was caused by a bad shock absorber on that corner of the truck, and that is one of the possibilities that was suggested by the Michelin dealer yesterday, so they tried to find a replacement. There is none in Anchorage. So, I decided we would head for Fairbanks as planned and see if I can get someone there to order a set and have them installed there.

Then I went back to the Michelin dealer and had them replace the badly worn tire. You think your tires cost a lot. Try $528 for one tire! With rotation and balancing it was a about $650. At least it now rides very smoothly. I’ve just got to get that shock replaced before I head south so another tire does not get damaged beyond repair. Actually, if I do have to drive it back down to the lower 48 it would not be that much of a problem, but I would rather get it fixed before we leave if I can.

This afternoon we went to the Alaska Heritage Air Museum located at Hood Lake by the international airport. They have several old airplanes that were used here in Alaska during the early days of flight up here, as well as some movies you can watch and some other static displays. Afterwards we watched float planes taking off on the lake and made a drive around it. I did not know so many float planes existed in the world. There are hundreds of them. It was interesting.

Then it was back to home, a little grocery shopping and a quiet evening of TV. Tomorrow we will begin our journey away from the coast toward Fairbanks again. It has only gotten up to 70 degrees three times this month in Anchorage and Dianna would like to find some warmer weather. Fairbanks is usually about 10 degrees warmer than Anchorage so that will make her happier.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Truck Repairs

This morning I took the truck to the Michelin dealer and the factory rep from the lower 48 just happened to be making his monthly visit. He and the rest of the employees there convinced me that the problem with the front left tire was caused by an alignment problem of some sort, not because the tire was bad. They were actually quite helpful and suggested I have the truck aligned, reverse and rotate the rear tires which would cause the uneven wear pattern on the rear to correct itself, and have the front left tire trued. Truing is a process where the tire is ground down until it is round again. This does remove a considerable amount of tread life, but saves the tire. Unfortunately, there is no one in Alaska who can do that, so it looks like I will have to buy a new tire. I will take the bad one down south with me and perhaps have it trued at some future date when I need another tire.

Afterwards, we went to the coffee shop where we have been getting internet access to pay some bills and check email. Then it was an exercise in futility as we tried to figure out how to get a prescription written for Dianna at a reasonable cost. We went to a clinic where we were informed she would have to be seen by someone and the charges would “start at $100”! After filling out the paperwork Dianna decided she didn’t want to pay that much just to get a prescription. She has been cutting her pills in half & will just continue doing that until they run out.

We came home, paid for another two nights and asked the woman who took our money for a recommendation of a good, reasonably priced steak & seafood restaurant. She told us of the Sea Galley. It reminded us of a Red Lobster, food was pretty good and we brought enough home for another meal. It sure gives us more for our money that way.

Another flooding story:

Dayna called us last night to tell us Chris was drilling a hole in the wall of their living room as he was putting up a dartboard . He hit a water line & flooded their living room & dining room before he could get the water shut off! She said the wood floor they put in just last year has buckled and it may have damaged their dining room table (our old one) as the water spurted across the room. Since they caused the problem she wasn’t sure if the insurance would cover the damage but we’re pretty sure it should. Accidents happen in the home all the time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Anchorage Again

This morning we did laundry. I say we because whenever we do laundry without hookups I have to haul water to and from the trailer while Dianna does the simple stuff with the washing machine and dryer.

This afternoon I took the truck in for service. We have had a front end vibration that has been getting worse lately. They found a loose and worn front right wheel bearing which they replaced. They also found a bad spot on the front left tire which I will take to the Michelin dealer tomorrow for a replacement. I will probably have the front end aligned as well to insure that everything is in good shape.

We watched TV again tonight until bedtime.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Whittier Almost

It rained most of the night and most of today as well. We continued toward Anchorage and took the road toward Portage Glacier. It is only a few miles off the main highway along Turnagain Arm, but the weather deteriorated considerably in that distance. When we got to the visitor center the wind was blowing the rain sideways and it was 50 degrees. There were huge whitecaps on the lake below the glacier. They had tour boats to take you out to it, but the weather was so nasty we just looked at the exhibits in the visitor center and continued our journey into Anchorage.

We had thought about driving through the railroad tunnel into Whittier, but the weather discouraged us. I would have to have unhooked the trailer to avoid paying a huge toll, and even then we would have had to negotiate the fee due to the size of our truck. Motorhomes (which we are registered as) under 28 feet long pay $12. Trucks over 12,000 pounds (which we also are) pay $35. We decided it was not worth having to deal with, and I had no desire to get out and unhook the trailer in that weather either.

We continued on into the city and drove directly to Centennial Park Campground where we spent almost two weeks earlier. They saw us coming and came out to tell us our spot was available. Space 10 is very large, secluded and easy to get into with our rig. It also is in a location where I can run a hose to fill with water, and it will get sunshine to charge the batteries if we ever see it again.

We watched a movie on TV before bed. It was a strange English movie that had both of us scratching our heads at time.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Leaving Homer

We left Homer today and headed back toward Anchorage. The rain never stopped and there were times the fog was so heavy we had to slow to 45 or less. We stopped at the Fred Meyer’s in Soldotna to buy groceries and had a dickens of a time finding a place to park in their parking lot. Like a lot of Wal-Marts, they allow people to camp in their parking lots. The problem is that this is a very busy store and their parking lot is usually very crowded. When you add the dozens of people camping there as well, it is a challenge. I have no problem with the store allowing people to park overnight, but many of these people are just camping here for an extended period which leaves no place for someone with a large rig to park while just shopping. Dumb.

We continued on to Sterling and stopped to see if the campground we had stayed in last week had a space. They didn’t, so we just camped at a pull out along the highway. Lot’s cheaper anyway.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Halibut fishing in Homer

Yesterday was one of the nicest day’s we have had in Homer, or anywhere in Alaska. Today I scheduled a halibut fishing trip and so we woke to one of the worst. It was 50 degrees, rain, low clouds and fog.

I dressed in all the warmest wet weather gear I could and set out. I had on a sweatshirt, my down jacket and my rain suit over that. I wore my insulated rubber boots. Thank goodness for my cold and wet weather motorcycle gear.

The boat was called the Spirit and only held 25 passengers. We motored out of Kachemak Bay and into the ocean about 25 miles from Homer which took about an hour and a half. Although it was rainy and cold, there was little wind and the seas were quite calm. We arrived at the fishing hole and they gave us each deep sea tackle that was baited with herring. It had a three pound weight on it and you just dropped it straight down to the bottom, 400 feet below. Halibut are bottom feeders.

Immediately we were pulling in fish. Sure, there were some tangled lines because people did not do what they were told, but the ocean floor must have been covered in halibut. In only 45 minutes, all but 3 people had caught their limit of two. It took them a little longer, but we were on our way back in an hour. Halibut are not sport fish. They do not fight much and the only work is reeling them up 400 feet from the bottom. My arms got tired quickly.

My two fish were of average size. They were each between 10 and 15 pounds; easily the largest fish I have ever caught. On the way back in, the crew filleted and bagged all the fish. When I got home I weighed it. I had 11 ½ pounds of pure fillet. Guess what we had for dinner. Halibut is considered the filet mignon of fish. It is tender white, boneless meat with absolutely no fish taste. It was good but we baked it and over cooked it. Still, it was very nice.

Considering all the cost the halibut was about $10 a pound which is about $7 a pound less than you can buy it off the docks here for. It probably sells for less down south, but I just couldn’t go to Alaska and not do some deep sea fishing. We’ll see about salmon later.

Dianna had a peaceful day by herself, playing games, working cross stitch and reading.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

East End Road, Homer AK

We spent another quiet day in Homer and the weather was beautiful. We did take a drive out the East End Road from Homer about 20 miles until the pavement ended. We got almost to the end of Kachemak Bay. There were some nice views of the glaciers on the other side and the wild flowers were really pretty.


This evening we took a little walk, watched the tide come in and go out, then watched Disclosure on DVD.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sitting on Homer Spit

We did the most nothing we have done in a long time. We watched the ocean, worked on needlepoint and played games on the computer most of the day. The only time we left was to walk down to the Central Charter office where I signed up for a half day halibut fishing trip on Sunday afternoon and purchased my one day Alaska fishing license.

We watched Amistad on DVD before bed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


We woke to rain on the roof, but it cleared off later and we even got some sunshine. We made a run into town to get propane, mail a letter and do some grocery shopping. On the way back we stopped and had a stone chip in our windshield repaired. It is still obvious, but since it is on the passenger side that will not be a big problem. And, now it should not get any larger. We took a rock in the windshield about three days ago just outside of Soldotna. Everyone worries about rocks from big trucks on gravel roads but this rock hit us on a major, paved highway. It was kicked up from a pickup truck we met who was pulling a small trailer. It could have happened anywhere.

One of the things I have enjoyed most during this trip has been the opportunity to watch our countries symbol, the bald eagle, living and flying in his natural habitat. I had never seen one anywhere but in a zoo before. They are the most magnificent bird there is. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but the way they hold they hold their wings while flying and soaring gives them such a powerful, regal look. We saw eagles during both of our cruises, but the last place I expected to see them was here on Homer Spit. Wrong. There are at least four of them who visit the area frequently.

We were eating dinner when I noticed a commotion among the sea gulls. They are everywhere and spend their time scavenging the fish cleaning remains that fishermen throw into the water all the time. When we first saw fishermen cleaning their fish at the shoreline and throwing the guts into the water we were shocked, but we soon saw that the gulls clean it up quickly so no harm is done. A fisherman had cleaned a fish at the waters edge just down from our trailer. At first I thought the gulls were just fighting over the remains but then realized they were all just excitedly flying around, not going near it. Then I saw why. From right over our trailer a beautiful black form glided down toward the fish. He made a low pass, then climbed back up and circled around a couple times. All the while the gulls were flapping around. None of them dared to go near it. Finally, the eagle made a low pass, extended his talons, and snatched his prize from the water less than 100 feet from where we were standing. The photo I captured was about a half second late, but you can clearly see where he had disturbed the water. It was quite a show and one we will not grow tired of watching while we are here.

This evening we watched “Pearl Harbor” on DVD. It was a three hour movie and I think Dianna cried through at least 2 hours of it. It was a romantic love story built around the Pearl Harbor attack and the Doolittle Raid.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Homer, Again

Today we moved to the Homer Spit. We are camped in a city campground right on the beach. At high tide the ocean is not more than 25 feet from the back of the trailer and we have a really nice view out our back window of the bay and the mountains on the other side.

There are no hookups of any kind so we will be relying on our solar panels and generator to keep us powered. I can haul water as necessary if we stay long enough to need it.

We just sat and watched the tide come in last night, and the fishermen who were casting right off the shore and catching some. Unfortunately, the weather has been overcast and rainy again so it is cold, dreary weather. Somehow, that feels appropriate though, as we sit out in the bay.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


It was another beautiful day so we decided to take a scooter ride. The only area nearby we have not been to is the town of Nikishka, located about 10 miles north of Kenai. It is not included on any of the destination guides as a place worth going. Now we know why. They don’t want you to know about the offshore oil wells, LNG processing plant, fertilizer plant and oil refinery that is located there! We had always been told that all the gasoline and diesel up here was brought up from the lower 48 which was why it was so expensive. Not so. They refine gasoline, diesel and jet fuel right there. Maybe someone up here want’s to keep all that a secret.

Our trip started out with the temperature in the mid 70’s, so we did not put on our heaviest coats. That was a mistake. We are located inland quite a distance from the ocean and the temperature fell by 10 degrees as we neared the coast. I was wearing a decent coat, but Dianna only had on a light jacket. She was getting really cold so we stopped at a Salvation Army thrift store in Kenai and spent $6.50 on a really nice coat. She was fine after that.

We explored some of the side roads around Nikishka and found that it was a nice little town with very complete public services. Its economy is obviously not based on tourism and therefore there is plenty of oil money to do anything they want. We rode down to the harbor which was not much. There is access to a long beach there as well, but it would have required 4 wheel drive. I’ve only got 1 wheel drive.

On the way back we stopped at a McDonalds and had a couple cups of “senior” coffee. We have learned to ask for that since the price in the lower 48 is usually only .25. Up here it is .75, which is still less than half the regular price. By the way, if you ask for a senior soda at McDonalds the price in the lower 48 is only .25 for a small in most places, and you can refill it as many times as you want. Just a few cost saving tips, brought to you by The Frugal Full Time RV’ers.

We leave the campground tomorrow morning and will probably be staying in free places for the next few days. Not sure where we are headed, but possibly back down towards Homer. That means no internet and sporadic blog posting.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kenai Fijords National Park

We awoke to our first blue skies in weeks! It was absolutely gorgeous all day. I think it was the only day we haven’t had some precipitation.

We drove to Seward to take the Kenai Fjords dinner cruise at 3pm. The captain was extremely knowledgeable about the biology as well as the geology of the area and made the day go quickly with constant bits of information. Our first wildlife sighting was a bald eagle scouting for prey from his perch high in a tree at the point of an island. We soon found ourselves surrounded by multitudes of sea birds; gulls, cormorants, puffins, meres (sp?) among others.

The puffins gorge themselves until they can barely get airborne. They only fly six inches to a foot off the ocean and have to flap continuously as they have such short wings. The captain said that when they come in for a landing it’s a controlled crash landing & sometimes not very controlled!

He soon spotted a couple of humpback whales and we circled for awhile trying to get good views of them. They were a mom & her baby. She had learned a unique trick for feeding – swimming along with her mouth open to capture as many fish as possible. Her baby had been born last winter, probably in the Hawaiian Islands. They summer in Alaska due to the abundance of food here. The babies are born the size of a pickup truck & feed often gaining up to 200# a day until they are ready to head north with mom in late spring. They were a delight to watch!

We spotted a few Dall porpoises and watched their antics for awhile. Sorry we didn’t see them with you Deidra & Dom.

They served us our gilled salmon dinner on our way to the glacier that was our last stop before returning to Resurrection Bay. It is about ¾ mile wide & 300-400 feet high. While drifting we heard a sound like a thunder clap and saw the glacier calve. It was quite a sight!

On the way back we saw a couple of orcas. They are predators of porpoises & other mammals, and are very stealthy, not surfacing much like the humpbacks. We were lucky to have seen them at all.

We also saw some more porpoises swimming with two adult humpbacks. They cruised with the ship for quite awhile so we really got to enjoy them.

Otters are normally very shy animals. The ones we saw out in the ocean were pretty skittish when we tried to get closer for a better view but one just outside the harbor swam lazily along until the wake from the boat woke him up!

All in all it was a glorious day; beautiful weather, a wonderful cruise, fantastic wildlife and awesome vistas.

They keep saying the Kenai is home to abundant wildlife. We saw a lot on the cruise today but nothing else. Suddenly there she was; a moose grazing along side the road. She’s only about the fourth or fifth we’ve seen on our entire trip.

I am writing this on our way home. It is 11pm & the sun is just beginning to set.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A walk in the park

Today we were really lazy. Somehow we managed to sleep in until after 10! Lounged around & headed out in the afternoon for the Visitor’s Center of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. There were a few displays inside and several trails in a beautiful wetlands area. The Refuge itself covers several hundred square miles on the peninsula.

The first short trail led us to a small lake and then we continued on around the Centennial Loop for another 2¼ mi through mosquito infested marsh lands. We did see a family of grouse in the brush but we found our pace continuing to quicken as we tried to fend off the voracious mosquitoes (we had forgotten to put on insect repellant) and return to the truck before being eaten alive!  The grouse were very well camaflouged.  See if you can find any of them.

We also found out how out of shape we are. Our legs were shaking with fatigue when we returned. We have not had a chance nor much inclination due to the flying blood suckers to do many outdoor activities. Until this week we had spent most of our time traveling to show Deidra & Dom as much as we could before leaving for Phoenix.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Homer, AK

We took a trip to Homer today. It is only about 80 miles from where we are staying and is the end of the road. They call it “Lands End”. The road runs from here in Sterling over toward the coast and follows it down to Homer. The scenery along the coast was great.

Our first stop was at the little town of Ninilchik where we visited another Russian Orthodox Church. Like the one we visited in Kenai, this one is still very active. The little settlement of Ninilchik is still mostly of that faith and the cemetery is very active as well. We spent some time walking through the cemetery and reading gravestones. That may not be entertaining to most people, but we find it interesting.

From the cemetery on the bluffs we were able to look down to the beach and saw an amazing sight. Hundreds of clammers were hard at work digging razorback clams.

We drove down and checked it out. If we liked clams we might have given it a try, but you really need special equipment we didn’t have. We could have rented some, but the tide was coming in so clamming was ending anyway. Besides, neither of us like clams prepared any way other than in chowder.

We then continued our drive toward Homer, stopping at the scenic overlook located along the highway just before you descend into town. The view is one of the most beautiful in Alaska. The glacier covered mountains across Kachemak Bay, the green hills, the dark blue-green water and the famous Homer Spit sticking out into the sea combine in a most striking way.

There were some beautiful flower beds at the scenic overlook and we just had to take a picture of one of the blossoms that caught our eye. We have no idea what kind of flower it is, but it sure is pretty.

Our first stop in town was an Arby’s for lunch. I know it’s not Alaskan, but if we ate lunch at a local restaurant for $50 or so, we would not be able to afford to stay in Alaska very long. We are saving our eating out for special occasions.

Then we drove out on the Homer spit. It is a five mile long finger of land, never more than 100 yards wide, made of sand and gravel, extending out into the bay. It has developed into a huge fishing mecca for people around the world. There are hundreds of charter fishing boats and thousands of fishermen. The fish of choice is halibut, for which the area is famous. There are a few gift shops scattered among the fishing charter offices, but even they usually book fishing trips as well.

There are thousands of cars and RV’s parked along the spit. Toward the end there are mostly parking lots where people park while out on a fishing trip. A little closer in are the RV parks with hookups (which charge up to $70 per day) and some state campgrounds with no services that charge a much smaller daily fee. Some people come just to soak in the scenery, but I’m surprised the spit doesn’t sink under the weight of all the vehicles! We understand that the spit sank four to six feet after the 1964 earthquake. Maybe all the cars will push it down farther. The photos below are taken from one spot and face left and right.

We wandered around town for a while and soaked in a sense of the place, but left after an hour or so. We have come to the inescapable conclusion that the Kenai Peninsula offers some history and scenery, but if you don’t fish, you won’t find a lot to do. Every stream and river is fished for salmon, the lakes for trout, and deep sea charters run from every port. Clamming along the beaches fits in there somewhere. Some people come just to camp and view wildlife, but the vast majority of the people come here to fish.

We returned home and had green chile chicken enchiladas for dinner.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Soldotna, AK

Today we explored Soldotna, a town just 10 miles from where we are staying. It is called the crossroads of the Kenai Peninsula since it is centrally located and is where the road splits toward Kenai or Homer. The Kenai River also runs through it and it is supposed to be some of the best salmon fishing in the world.

We stopped first at an antler carving place on the way. The artist there carves reliefs into moose and other horns. The carvings are very beautiful, but also very expensive. We did not see anything for less than $300, so the carvings are going to stay right where they are.

Our next stop was at a wood carving place. It is a large facility and seems to be cranking out the work by the dozens. Much of the stuff was inside and fairly small, but the big stuff outside was impressive and also very expensive. There is a hand carved wooden carrousel outside with all Alaskan animals. You can ride it for a dollar, but we did not see anyone who did. We took lots of pictures and then had an ice cream at the stand located in the parking lot.

We then visited the Soldotna Visitor Center and walked down to the catwalk along the river where you can fish. There were a few people there, but no one seemed to be catching anything.

We then walked down a trail along the river to the Soldotna Historical Society’s Homestead Museum. They have several cabins and other structures that were built during the early homesteading years in the area, mostly by ex GI’s who were stationed in Alaska during WW II and stayed when it was over. The late 1940’s and early 1950’s saw the beginning of the town.

We only receive 6 stations on cable TV, but the internet works most of the time now. Between the two we manage to find plenty to keep us entertained.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Today we visited Kenai. It was one of the first areas of the Peninsula to be settled, perhaps as far back as the Stone Age. We stopped first at the visitor center and then saw some of the sites. The Russians first settled here long before anyone else other than natives. They established a small community of which some buildings are still standing. Today the area is known as Historic Kenai. We visited a Russian Orthodox Church that is still active. They have services every Sunday and all Feast Days. The priest was a very informative character.  He said he's been there for 30 years & this is the coldest, wettest June/July he can remember.

We also had lunch at Veronica’s Coffee House and CafĂ© which is also located there. Good soup, corn bread and pasta.

Then we went to Kenai Landing where an old cannery is located. They have restored many of the buildings and turned them into hotels, restaurants and tourist trap type gift and souvenir shops. However, it does not look to us like it is going to make it. There was practically no one there and most of the shops were closed. It was sort of interesting, but not worth spending much time.

Then we did our grocery shopping and made a stop at a Radio Shack for a USB G antenna. It works on the desktop system, but just marginally. The RV park only has a home type router in the office so it does not broadcast or receive very far. My laptop seems to work pretty well, but it took quite a while to find a place for the new antenna to work. It is now hanging out a window and the cord is running across the floor. Oh well. At least Dianna is able to download her 1,800 emails.

It rained most of the day and more is forecast for the rest of the week. It seems like more than normal, but this is Alaska.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Out to the Kenai Penninsula

We hooked up the trailer and moved for the first time in almost two weeks. We took the same route out of Anchorage as when we made the trip to Seward, but this time we continued on the main road toward Homer. We stopped in the small town of Sterling where we decided to spend a week. The RV park rates are not bad for full hookups including free wireless, and it will give us some time to get laundry done, relax after a hectic trip to Phoenix and will serve as a good base for visiting the rest of the Kenai Penninsula.

We arrived about 3 pm and didn’t do much of anything for the rest of the day. I finally changed some wiring that allows us to be able to take advantage of cable TV when it is available in the RV park. We have not watched much TV lately, but probably will now that the kids are gone and we are not spending so much time on the road.

One thing we have discovered is that some of the RV parks in Alaska that have free wireless only support 802.11G, not 802.11B which is the older standard. My laptop works fine, but I do not have a wireless antenna for the desktop that supports G. I plan to look around and see if I can find one somewhere, but I’m not holding my breath for success until we get back to Anchorage.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Drip, Drip

We had originally planed to leave Anchorage today, but since we did not get home until almost 1 AM we decided to sleep in and stay in town one more night. We tried to go to a downtown theater that had a show about Alaska and about the big earthquake back in the 1960’s. Donna said she enjoyed it when she was there. We had a coupon in our tour book that gave us half off and it had the address printed on it. We wandered up and down the street but all we saw was a vacant lot. We finally asked someone at the performing arts center next door and they told us it was bulldozed earlier this year. The vacant lot is all that is left. Guess that coupon isn’t worth much.

We did some shopping at Wal-mart and we tried to find a faucet repair kit for the bathroom faucet at an Ace Hardware and Home Depot. I had taken the faucet in the bathroom apart since it was leaking, but it was a Moen brand and no one seems to carry replacement parts for them. They have a lifetime guarantee and will mail you free replacement parts if it ever leaks. I decided to just do that and let it leak, but while putting it back together I broke the ceramic disc inside, so now we had to do something. It is a special faucet that fits in only one hole in the counter, unlike most bathroom faucets that have two holes on four inch centers. We went to Lowes, since we knew Home Depot did not have any that would fit, and found one that would work. It was $108 we did not plan to spend. Of course, I had to purchase some adapters so I could hook it to the RV water connections, but finally managed to get it done.

We had planned a quiet evening, but it took until almost 7:30 to finish the plumbing work. Oh well.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Trip to Phoenix and Dayna Graduates from College

Three Thirty AM comes very early, but we all got up and quickly got ready. The streets of Anchorage were empty as we drove to the off-airport parking lot. The shuttle bus took us to our terminal and we checked our luggage and made our way through the pain and hassle of security. Our Alaska Airlines flight left on time and the kids were impressed with First Class seats. They were not however, impressed with First Class food. On the flight down to Seattle we were served a quiche that was not bad, but the “lunch” they served on the flight from Seattle to Phoenix consisted of some brie cheese, some cheddar cheese, four crackers and a small bunch of grapes. Flying First Class sure isn’t what it used to be!

The scenery was spectacular on the way down the coast of Alaska and British Columbia and we spent a lot time looking out the window and watching our individual DVD players the airline provided. The leg from Seattle was pretty at first but soon became brown and desert (the Grand Canyon was spectacular though!). When we took off in Anchorage the temperature was 55 but when we landed in Phoenix it was 117. Ouch! We picked up our rental car and drove to Donna’s where we all spent the night. Donna fed us all well while we were there and we all appreciated her hospitality.

Friday, Dayna and her best friend, Crystal, arrived from New Mexico so Dianna and I moved to Daryl and Gisele’s house for the rest of our stay. It was fun seeing everyone, including Devon and Derek, but we all probably spent more time fussing with Apollo than anything else. He has grown tremendously since we last saw him, and is a beautiful Husky. Friday afternoon we visited Mom and the kids finished up the hooked rugs they had been making for their mommy.

Saturday morning Chris arrived from Dallas and that afternoon we all (including Donna) found our way to the University of Phoenix Stadium for Dayna’s college graduation. It was a very nice ceremony and we are so proud of her for what she has accomplished.

In fact, we are more than proud. Since Dayna never reads our blog, I can let everyone know just how proud we are of what she has done and what kind of woman she has become. She has certainly done it the hard way. She dropped out of high school and got her GED. She then worked for a few companies before starting her own company and learning many lessons of life. She then enrolled in a college program that demanded much more discipline and dedication than any regular college, and for five years she devoted herself to it. She graduated with mostly “A’s” and a BS in Accounting while at the same time was a mom and wife, and held down a full time job that should have been filled by someone who with a college degree. She did not get much sleep, but never missed a little league game or dance program for her kids. She is quite a young woman and we think she is very special. We love you, Dayna.

Sunday we first visited Lauren’s Institute for Education (LIFE) that will open in August. It is a therapy center that Carrie Reed has dreamed and willed into existence. It is a tremendous undertaking that will provide a centralized therapy center for special needs children in the southeast valley. Afterwards we all spent the afternoon at Brian and Carrie’s home in Queen Creek for a graduation pool party for Dayna and Devon (who graduated with high honors from Harvey Mudd College). There were lots of proud parents, grandparents, friends and relatives there. The whole Arizona clan was in attendance, including Mark and Heather. We thank Brian and Carrie for opening their home and hosting the party.

Monday morning we all headed our separate ways. We took Chris to the airport at 9 and Dayna, Crystal, Deidra and Dom left by car for New Mexico around 10. After watching “Letters from Iwo Jima” with Daryl and Gisele we left for the airport where we said goodbye to hot, hot, Phoenix. Off to Seattle and then on to Anchorage where we retrieved our truck and finally made our way home. Home is where we park our RV.

It was a busy, exhausting, emotion-filled weekend but extremely satisfying in seeing the first of our family graduate from college! The only disappointment was not having Darin and his family join us for this momentous occasion.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Preparation for a trip to Phoenix

It was a very quiet holiday for us. It rained most of the day and we spent the entire day getting ready to go to Phoenix. Many loads of laundry were done and we checked everywhere in the truck and trailer for kid stuff. All the suitcases were packed and we went to bed early since we have to get up at 3:30 to catch our flight that leaves at 6:05.

In the words of Charles Emerson Winchester, “I only observe one 3:30 per day, and this is not it!”

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Thunderbird Falls and Hatcher Pass

We got up at a decent hour today and made preparations for an outing. First was a trip to the nearest Starbucks so we could use the internet to post on the blog, pay some bills and send and receive emails. The big Starbucks on Tudor was our first stop. They told us none of the Starbucks in Anchorage had internet but another customer said the downtown one did. So we went downtown and found a place to park. Parking in the big truck is not always the easiest thing to do. Unfortunately, this Starbucks did not have internet access after all, but one of the employees there told us of another coffee house just a couple blocks away that did. We walked over there and found that he was correct. In addition to internet access, Deidra says they have the best caramel something or other drink she has ever tasted. Mission accomplished.

Next we decided to go to Thunderbird Falls. It is about 25 miles north of Anchorage and listed in our guides as a nice place to visit. There was a one mile hike up to the falls and we were very disappointed. I guess the falls were OK, but after what we had been seeing on our trips to Skagway and Valdez, this falls was not much to look at. When we got there we all looked, said “That was a waste of time!” and left. Worse yet, we had to pay $5.00 just to park for the 45 minutes we were there.

Next was Hatcher Pass and the Independence Mine State Historic Park. It was about another 25 miles further north up through Palmer. The road followed a beautiful stream that was rushing over many, many rocks. It was a very overcast, drizzly day and as we climbed higher we found the clouds. The last five miles were in dense cloud, at 15 MPH with four way flashers going. Visibility was 25 to 50 feet at best. We finally found the place and took a walking tour. It was very strange to be walking around in such dense fog and drizzle. If they had not had maps, plenty of good signs and well marked trails we would have been hopelessly lost. The mine closed in 1943 and was interesting. They had several places where you could enjoy panoramic views of the mountains above and of Palmer below. You couldn’t prove either existed by us. There was a place you could pan for gold in a stream in the park, but we did not have pan, shovel or the inclination to spend any more time in the clouds and cold rain.

We returned to our campsite in Centennial Park and did a couple loads of laundry in preparation for our leaving for Phoenix. Deidra worked on her hooked rug and Dom played with dominoes again during the evening. It was an interesting last day of seeing the sights for Deidra and Dom.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Springy Steps

I thought I would see just how long these lazy critters would sleep if no one woke them up. Turns out Nana was the first awake at a little before 11 am. She said she did not go to sleep until about 2. She woke the kids. Hummmmm.

After a lunch of waffles I investigated the step on the trailer. It has been too springy lately and seemed to be getting worse the past few days. I tightened all the bolts a couple days ago but that did not help much. Today I used a flashlight and looked it over closely and found that the metal had cracked where it mounted. I guess it was just from all the use. It had nothing to do with Alaska roads or this trip. I removed it and took it to an auto repair shop up the road to have it welded. Then brought it back and reinstalled it. I know it does not sound like much, but it is very heavy and required crawling around on my back under the trailer. I even had to build a wood scaffold to hold it in place while I bolted it back in. I needed a nap when I was done.

Meanwhile, Nana and the kids played lots of games and watched a DVD. The weather has been lousy today, with sprinkles and low clouds so staying inside was about all anyone wanted to do. There is no sun so the batteries do not recharge very much. We have been using the generator from time to time since we need it on if we are going to do any baking. The inverter is just not enough to run the convection oven for long so running the generator recharges the batteries as well as powering the oven. We can keep going this way for a while, but sun sure would be better for a lot of reasons.

This evening we went shopping and then Nana and Deidra played games, Papa played on the computer and Dom built domino fall down things. They were pretty complex and he had great fun until time for bed. We plan to take a day trip somewhere tomorrow.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Candles and Jade

Fortunately, we finally got a decent night’s sleep by not getting up until almost 10 AM to a steady downpour. We had breakfast and decided we did not want to make a trip to Homer in that kind of weather so just headed back to Anchorage, stopping along the way for coffee and later for lunch along the Turnagain Arm again. The rain finally quit, but it was overcast and cool so it was not a great day for seeing scenery. We stopped at a candle factory and a jade shop in Girdwood, and of course Nana found things she could not live without in both. She says they are gifts and she is getting her Christmas shopping done early. Right.

Back at camp in Anchorage we unloaded the truck, emptied and filled the tanks on the trailer, and Nana did a load of clothes. Dom was outside playing and came running in to tell us he had seen a fox in the campground. That is not surprising. There was a bear here last week.

We watched Robots on DVD and went to bed around 11.