Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
At was another day on the road with only a stop for lunch to break up the day. We are truly back in civilization where one small town looks like another and farms and cattle dot the landscape. The terrain is mostly rolling hills with many lakes and rivers.
We arrived in Prince George, BC about 3 PM after traveling about 200 miles. It is a major city with a population of about 160,000 in the city and surrounding area. They have everything modern life could need. We decided to stop for a week and do some cleaning and resting from all the travels. We need to let expenses catch up with travel. It only costs us $20-$30 a day to sit somewhere, but it costs about $50 for every 100 miles we travel. Obviously, it costs less to stay put than to move. We need to do some shopping and I will need to purchase about 50 gallons of fuel in order to make it all the way back to the US without adding more. Diesel as well as gas is very expensive up here so I don’t want to buy more than I need.
We looked in our camping guides and selected Southpark RV Park. The ads said they had long, wide sites and internet. Our camping club book said they offered a 25% discount for members. They informed me that that was a misprint and the discount was only 15%, which made it the most expensive park in town. It is not cheap, but it looked like a quality place. I asked about the internet service, figuring that if it was of good quality the extra cost would be worth it. First they surprised me by saying it was run by an independent company and it cost $6 per day or $20 per month. I don’t know the weekly rate yet. But, they assured me it was very high speed and the connectivity was excellent everywhere in the park. Given those assurances I decided to stay, even though it was much a more expensive place than we normally stay, and paid them rent for a week.
Immediately it was obvious things were not as advertised when we discovered the sites were indeed long enough, but they are so narrow that our slide outs touch the tree branches on both sides. In addition, they have things positioned at the corners so it was a challenge getting turned into the site and will be a major challenge getting out. Then, when I tried to sign up for a week’s internet it was not working. It is now 7 PM and it is still not working. I also realized that it is probably going to cost me twice as much as I initially thought because I will probably not be able to use both computers on one account. Why do campgrounds do this? It does not cost that much to properly equip a place for wireless internet and then to charge for it on top of the campground rent is really out of line. And then, when it does not even work….. You can tell I am not a happy camper right now.
Anyway, we may not post everyday for a while. We may take a couple tours and see some sights around the area so if we find anything worth talking about we will post it.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
It rained off and on all night and into the morning. By about 10 AM we could see that it was going to clear off soon, but the clouds still obscured all the mountains and there were still scattered rain showers so we decided to stay put for one more day. Since this may be the only time we ever go through this area it would be nice to actually see it.
By about noon it had started to clear off with even some patches of sunshine interspersed with showers. I took advantage of the opportunity to clean the windows and back end of the trailer with lake water. Now we can see out our windows again, and people behind us can see that we are not just a dirt covered box going down the road.
By 2 PM the sun was shining so we decided to drive down the highway about five miles where a trail leads to another lake and Cascade Falls. It sounded pretty so off we went. In the five miles from the campground to the trail head we drove through two showers and it was raining hard when we got there. Scratch that idea. We returned to our camp site. The sun was out and we could see snow on all the mountains surrounding us when the clouds lifted just a little. If it clears off tomorrow morning it should be beautiful.
We had more of our halibut for dinner. Afterwards we talked to the campground host about the falls we tried to go to this afternoon. She said it is good we did not try since it requires a boat to cross the lake to the trail on the other side. She agrees that it is not well marked and should be addressed. There is a trail from the end of our campground that goes along the lake side. She said it was OK for a while, but did not think we could get all the way to the river that flows out. She was right. It was a muddy mess that could better be called a path than a trail. Ok well, we got a little exercise.
Dianna figures we have now experienced all four seasons on our trip. She considers the snowfall last night and the below freezing temperatures to be winter, so as we head south we will probably get to experience fall all over again. We have seen the foliage changing at different rates as we have gone south. A trip like this really gives you a perspective on how plants and animals react to the changes in climate. By now on the North Slope it is not getting above freezing during the day and winter has already set in. All the animals everywhere are migrating south, as so are we.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
It rained all night and was still raining this morning when we got up. We took a vote and decided to stay put until the weather clears up some. There is no reason we have to be anywhere at any specific time, and driving these slippery, rough roads in wet and foggy conditions is not the safest thing to do. Besides, with all the low clouds we would not see any of the beautiful scenery around us.
Both of us often still feel the urge to keep moving on, which is a feeling that we understand from other retired full timers takes a year or two to overcome. When we were traveling on vacation or moving from one work location to another, we always had deadlines and time limits on when we needed to be somewhere. Early this summer when we had the grandkids with us, we had the same kind of time restraints since we had airline reservations and wanted to show the kids as much as we could in the time available. Now, we have no such constraints. But it still takes some doing to really get your head around the concept. It is harder for Dianna than for me, partly because she is not fond of the weather we have had up here. I am in my element, but she is a warm weather girl and wishes we were out of the cold and rain. I reminded her that just about everyone in the lower 48 would gladly trade places with us right now, sitting on a pristine lake, gentle rain falling, snug and warm in our RV and looking at a thermometer that reads 45 degrees at 11 AM.
Many retired full timers follow the 2-2-2 rule. That means they never travel more than 200 miles in one day, always stop by 2 PM and always stay for at least 2 days in each place. We are not at that point yet, but it is a goal and we are close. Maybe we need to modify the stopping by 2 PM rule since we often don’t get on the road until close to noon, but if we travel no more than four hours that should do it. So far our trip this summer has taken us just about 10,000 miles in 86 days. That averages only 116 miles per day.
One of the blogs I follow is Tioga George. The link to his site is in my links. He is a single full timer whose goal is to average no more than 30 miles per day. He does pretty close to that and still covers a lot of ground during the year. He usually winters in Baja California and spends his summers traveling to cooler country in the Rocky Mountain States. His blog is fun to follow.
It is now 9 PM and the rain has not stopped. It has rained for over 24 hours straight. We obviously did not do much today. We played computer games, worked on crafts and I cleaned out the receipt tray, a project that has needed doing for some time. I had to run the generator for a couple hours to replenish the electricity we have used since there is no sun for the solar panels. That is the first time in a couple weeks we have even started the generator. We did take a walk in the rain late this afternoon, with raincoats on, but that was the only time we were outside all day. The campground host said the rain is supposed to stop late tomorrow so we will be ready to move south when it does.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Realizing that we would not be near a decent sized store for a couple of weeks, we made another trip to WalMart to buy some staples.
Next was a stop at the bank to get some cash from an ATM. I have discovered that MasterCard is charging 2.07 per transaction in addition to the exchange rate for my credit card use. That is not too bad on a decent sized purchase, like $400 in fuel, but horrible on a small purchase. I decided it was less expensive to get some cash and use it for the small stuff. The exchange rate right now is about 94 cents to one Canadian dollar. I had always heard that using a credit card was the best way to handle foreign cash transactions since you would get a decent exchange rate. Maybe the fee I am being charged is something I can get them to waive. I will try when we get phone service again.
We left Whitehorse about 12:30 and drove until around 4. We stopped in exactly the same place we parked when we were headed north on June 14. Tomorrow we will continue south and make the turnoff onto the Cassiar Highway just before we get to Watson Lake. We have been over this section of highway before, but it looks completely different from this direction.
What a difference two months makes. Heading north we saw snow capped mountains, beautiful waterfalls, abundant wildflowers and hordes of mosquitoes. Now there is almost no snow left on the mountains, the waterfalls have dried up and the foliage is changing color so you can tell that fall is coming fast in the North Country. In place of the mosquitoes are tiny Black Flies. They can entirely encapsulate a weak animal in order to kill it and get into every open orifice on the human body if you happen to be where they are swarming. Fortunately that’s not everywhere though we have experienced them.
We had tentatively planned to stop earlier at a well known restaurant and free RV park back up the road called Mukluk Annie’s, but they were closed for the season already. I know that sounds strange to all of you roasting your tushies off in the lower 48, but winter’s a comin’. You better get your heavy coats ready!
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
We took the one mile hike to the observation platform above the rapids. It was good exercise for so early in the day.
Our next stop was at a place our Guidepost told us about where you can buy huge cinnamon buns. We bought one which we had ¼ of for desert after lunch, and the rest will probably disappear tomorrow sometime. It is huge, about the size of a pie only 3 inches high, and very good.
We arrived in Whitehorse late in the afternoon, did some shopping at WalMart and checked into the Pioneer RV Park where we stayed on our way up. We now have to retrace our route down to Watson Lake where we will take the Cassiar Highway instead of the Alaska Highway on the way south.
One of the reasons for stopping at WalMart was to try to fill a prescription. When I got my annual prescription for my thyroid medication late last year my Dr. wrote it for 90 tablets with three refills. WalMart pharmacy misread it and set it up for only two refills. I noticed it right away and had my Dr. call them to correct it. He did, but they didn’t which I did not find out until I tried to refill it in California. So, I was three months short of my years supply. I knew I would run out so had my Dr. send me another prescription. I received it in Tok but learned there was no pharmacy there. I figured I would get it filled in Whitehorse, but when I took it in today they told me they cannot fill a prescription written by a US Dr. The way the internet pharmacies do it is they have a Canadian Dr. sign off on all prescriptions they get.
Anyway, the long and short of it is I will run out of my medication in a few days, so I will once again have a medical excuse for being fat, lazy and stupid – at least until I get back to the US and can get the prescription refilled.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Today was a travel day and not much more. We continued our journey toward Whitehorse after leaving our campsite about 11 AM. The road was paved but there were some frost heaves so we took it fairly slow. Then we hit a stretch where they had recently chip sealed the surface so there were small rocks up to ¾ inch in diameter all over the road. There is no way to stop them from being thrown everywhere and many vehicles do not slow down when meeting other vehicles. I always do, but we had lots of rocks thrown our way. Fortunately none of them hit the windshield or headlights hard enough to break anything.
The other bad thing about rocks is that the rear tires pick them up and throw them at the front of the trailer, even though my mud flaps come within an inch of the road. This is making a mess of the front of the trailer. When we get back to the lower 48 we will have to have it repaired in some way. I am toying with the idea of having it coated with Line‑X or a similar product. That is a spray on material like the coating on my truck bed and what many people have sprayed in their pickups to line them. It comes in many colors and is almost indestructible. Some people are even using it to replace their rubber roofs on RV’s.
This road is not like most roads we have been on in the north country. We sometimes went many miles with no place to pull off the road. It took almost an hour to find a decent place to stop for lunch and when we were ready to stop for the day the only good place we could find was a Yukon park. It is similar to a forest service campground which means we have to pay $12 for nothing but a place to park. And, it is right next to the road so it is not any less noisy than the pullout we were in last night. At least there is not much traffic.
It has rained off and on all day so it is kind of gloomy. Looks like the only summer we will see was the really warm day in Dawson City. We should be in Whitehorse tomorrow.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
We packed up and left the RV park about noon, headed up a road along side Bonanza Creek toward a gold dredge. Bonanza Creek flows into the Klondike River. Dredge No. 4 is now a historic site and run by the Canadian Parks System. We took an hour and a half tour with a very knowledgeable guide who explained all about dredges.
They were brought into the area in the early1900’s, shortly after gold was discovered in the area. All the gold around Dawson is the gold dust or gold flake kind. There are very few nuggets. The only way to get the gold out is to dig up the dirt and use a gold pan or a sluice box. All the individual miners do their mining with pick and shovel, but some major companies got into it in a big way. They built huge machines that were capable of excavating a whole river valley down to 60 feet deep, and processing the gold dust out of it.
Although the dredge was run by only four men it took over 100 men working in the surrounding area to keep the water flowing into it and preparing land for the dredge to work in. They were run by electricity that was generated many miles away in hydroelectric plants on the McKenzie River. It was these dredges that drove the industrial development of the area since they needed electricity to run and were very sophisticated pieces of industrial equipment for the time.
The dredge we toured was first used in 1913 and worked until 1959 and extracted $9 million in gold over its lifetime. Of course, that was at from $20 to $35 per ounce. Today the price of gold is about $650 per ounce so they would probably be profitable again. There is a lot of mining going on in the area, but it is now all done with front end loaders and backhoes. No one seems to be getting rich, but they make a living.
Dredge No. 4 was built in Ohio and took three months to ship to Dawson City. Some of it came by train but the big parts were shipped to the Bering Sea and up the Yukon River on a barge. Rather than put pictures here we have posted them all in our gallery on the Klondike Loop album.
We had thought about going to the museum in Dawson City today, but decided we had seen enough in the past couple days so we stopped at the grocery store and then headed out toward Whitehorse. We passed the turn off to the Dempster Highway where Mom and Dad made their sojourn above the Arctic Circle, and stopped at a pull out about 30 miles from Dawson City for the night.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
We stopped by the cabin the famous Klondike poet, Robert Service, lived in as well as the home of Jack London.
We then rode the scooter up Dome Road. It leads to a peak right above Dawson City where you have spectacular views of the city, the river and the road we came in on yesterday. While we were there we watched two hang gliders take off and glide down toward the city. They were using a flexible, wide wing instead of the old style metal framed hang gliders. It looked like a lot of fun.
This evening we went back into to town for dinner (burgers) and to watch the show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Dance Hall and Saloon. It is an authentic building that is still in use today. They have a casino with slot machines and table games as well as a dance hall show they put on three times a night. It was a lot of fun.
Tomorrow we may stay and visit the museum and a historic gold dredge located a few miles out of town. No sense in rushing off when we have no place to go.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
We had baked potatoes to go with our halibut for dinner. I finished a book and Dianna worked on logic puzzles and cross stitch. It was a pleasant evening.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
We will head out in the morning for Eagle. We’ll leave the trailer at a pull-out while we make our way up the hill. The young man who took us on our tour told us there’s a very interesting old fort there that has been refurbished as well as other historic places so we know we will enjoy ourselves.
Monday, August 13, 2007
This morning I drove the truck back into Tok to check on the mail. It did not come on Saturday but the postmistress said to check back after 1 PM when today’s mail came in. So I filled the truck with the last of the inexpensive diesel fuel we will see for a while and returned to our camp. After lunch I made a trip in on the scooter and our mail was there! So, we are off.
We hooked up and headed up the Taylor Highway toward Dawson City, Yukon. The paved road ended after 64 miles and the metropolis of Chicken, Alaska was only two miles further. During the summer the population of Chicken is 21 and the winter population is 6. But, they do have two RV parks including one where a coupon in our Toursavers book let’s us stay for two nights for $10. Of course, that does not include any hookups, and it costs an extra $15 if we want to dump our tanks. The appealing part however, is that they have wireless internet available, so we decided to stay for a night or two. We have plenty of water and space in our holding tanks, and we make our own electricity, so we are set.
Tomorrow we will look around and take some pictures of the historic buildings and the gold dredge located here. That should be interesting. Chicken is an old gold mining town that got its name when the local residents couldn’t spell ptarmigan. I don’t blame them. I couldn’t spell it either without a spell checker.
We are not sure how long we will stay here. There is 41 miles of dirt road between here and the Canadian border where pavement begins and I don’t want to pull the trailer through mud if I can help it. So, when we leave depends a lot on the weather. Tonight there are dark clouds all around so we will see.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
The day started with high thin clouds but it cleared off nicely in the afternoon so we decided to take a ride on the scooter. First we rode back into Tok where we had wireless access so we could post the blog entry from yesterday and also check our email. It is nice to see that some people other than family are also reading about our journey. I posted our blog address on one of the RV forums I participate in and invited anyone who was interested to follow along.
After the computer work was done we rode toward Valdez on the Tok Cut off highway. It is the best road we have seen in all of Alaska. We rode about 20 miles and came to a State Park Campground at Clearwater Creek and decided to check it out.
The campground had a one mile nature trail and another two mile trail to a lookout point. We decided to take the nature trail and it was excellent. The trail was well marked and the explanatory signs were very informative. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike.
The campground was like most of the State Park Campgrounds we have seen in Alaska. The facilities were new and very well maintained, the camping spots were too small for anything except tents or small RV’s, and there was absolutely no one there. We have seen a few campgrounds where they have added large pull through spots for bigger RV’s, but when they do they place them in an open field and line them up side by side. Nothing like the camping experience you would have in the other spots.
But, the interesting thing we have noticed is the lack of use of the campgrounds. This is a phenomenon we have seen everywhere we have been in Alaska. The state has built many beautiful campgrounds, but they insist on charging at least $15 a night for using them. While they are often in very pretty locations, the only facilities they provide are pit toilets, a picnic table and a fire pit. There are no facilities for RV’s at all. No electric, water faucet (most have well pumps), and no dump stations. For most people, us included, $15 a night for just a place to park does not make sense. We have found nice commercial campgrounds with full hookups for as little as $20 a night. So for us, and for most people, it makes more sense to stay for free in one of the thousands of pull outs along the highway the state also provides. For example, the pull out we are in tonight has five other rigs besides ours here, and we are well spread out with plenty of room for everyone.
If I was a consultant to the Alaska State Parks system I would encourage them to lower the price of their campgrounds, especially in remote, unused areas so they would get more use. It seems a shame for such nice places to just deteriorate due to lack of use. We often see fees of $5 to $10 for such facilities in other locations including in the Yukon on the way up here. I guess Alaska thinks they need to charge a lot just because everything is expensive here. But this is one of those situations where they have priced themselves out of the game due to the abundant availability of less expensive options. The other thing I would encourage them to do is to remodel the campgrounds for primarily RV use. Tent campers can always use a spot designed for an RV, but not vice versa. There are very few people who tent camp, and we often see those that do camped in the pull outs as well. They are even less inclined to pay $15 a night for a place to pitch a tent.
End of editorial.
On the ride back to our rig we stopped in Tok again so Dianna could try to call Darin and her folks. Neither of them answered their phones so after an ice cream bar at the market, we continued on to our site below the Tanana River where we spent an uneventful evening reading and working on crafts.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
We puttered around and finished another load of laundry before leaving the campground at noon. We did not go far. About 12 miles south of Tok is the Tanana River crossing. Just south is a very large two ended pull out that goes behind a small hill. We have made camp here for a couple nights while we wait for our mail.
During the afternoon I unloaded the scooter and made a trip into Tok to buy oil for the generator. It was down a quart and I had forgotten to buy it while we were in Fairbanks earlier. The scooter was fine, despite all the mud it had received. There was still some mud in hidden places but I got most of it with a bucket and rag.
We have not used the scooter nearly as much as I would have liked. When we are in a place only over night it is somewhat of a hassle to unload for such a short time, and when we have been in places longer the weather has been too cold or rainy to enjoy it. If tomorrow is as nice as today was, we may take a ride somewhere.
Friday, August 10, 2007
As promised, we motored on down to Tok today. We arrived shortly after noon and checked into the Sourdough Campground for the night. Dianna began doing laundry and is still doing it as I write this a little after 9 PM. I think this is the 7th load.
We just got back from the “show” here at the campground. They have a singing group who were not bad, and a comedy act that includes throwing pancakes into a bucket for a free breakfast. It was a hoot. We also had pie and coffee along with a couple roasted marshmallows.
I checked on our U.S. mail this afternoon and it was not here yet. I really did not expect it to be, so we will be here until at least Monday since the post office is not open on Saturday or Sunday. We will not stay here in the campground but will find a place where it does not cost anything and the nearest neighbor is a lot farther away. That will also mean less access to internet so postings may become more sporadic again.
One thing I am expecting in the mail is a new prescription for my thyroid medication. I asked at the visitor center where the nearest pharmacy is, and they said Fairbanks. That’s 220 miles the wrong way. Guess I will have to wait until we get to Whitehorse, YT again. Fortunately, I have enough to get me through. Just consider that this is on the main highway. What do people who live out in the boonies do? Plan ahead, I suppose.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
We decided to stay in Fairbanks another night and see a couple more things before leaving. We went to the museum at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks but decided we did not want to pay the $20 admission fee. It was probably a fair price, but we have seen so much in other places for far less that we just decided to pass. So, we went to Walmart and spent $70 on groceries in preparation for leaving the “big city” and heading for more rural places for the next couple weeks.
This evening I did go to the aviation museum here at Pioneer Village. It was quite good and well worth the $2 admission fee, if I had paid it. I was behind a lady and her grandson who told the clerk “family ticket”. The price for a whole family was $5. The clerk assumed I was with them and sold them the family ticket. When I handed him a $20 bill he looked confused. I explained that I was not with the other two and he tried to give them back their extra dollar. The lady said “He can be part of our family tonight, if that is OK.” The clerk thought it was fine, and I did too. I wanted to give her the dollar but all I had was a twenty so all she got was my heartfelt thanks.
Tomorrow, for sure, we head south toward Delta Junction and Tok. Or maybe not.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Monday, August 6, 2007
What a miserable day. It was raining and the wind was blowing when we woke up and it did not stop all day. We had originally planned to move down toward Fairbanks somewhere and do some shopping, post the blog, wash the truck and get back to civilization today, but I could not bring myself to getting out in this mess to hook up and move. So, I let the rain wash as much of the mud off the truck as it would and we spent the day playing games on the computer, working on needlepoint and reading.
Oh well. After the hard day yesterday, I guess we needed a day off. It finally quit raining about 7 PM so hopefully tomorrow we can get out and do something.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
We awoke to a rainy day and, unfortunately, it continued all day. We didn’t get as early a start as we would have liked considering we were driving all the way back to our house – 335 miles. That’s a long day’s drive for us under normal conditions, and today’s drive was far from normal.
Our first major hurdle was Atigun Pass…again. I prayed we would get down it safely and we did. But not without my being terror stricken and in tears as we came down the two mile, 12% grade on a slippery, muddy, wet road in the rain and fog. About the only good thing that can be said is we didn’t meet up with any other vehicles while Richard expertly maneuvered us down the treacherous Pass. How the truckers do that stretch of road in the winter on snow and ice we cannot imagine.
We spotted a black bear scampering across the road about 30 miles north of Coldfoot, but he was soon far off into the woods before we got close enough to try to take a picture. He turned out to be the only bear we saw on the Dalton Highway. We were hoping to spot a grizzly or polar bear but it wasn’t to be. Our guide, yesterday, said they had a polar bear there just a week ago!
Everything was green when we drove up last Wed. – Fri. I thought I noticed that the colors on the shrubs and trees seemed to be changing to yellow and orange today so when we stopped at the Artic Visitors Center again I asked if that were true. They informed me that within a week everything will be cloaked in fall plumage! The day after the longest day things started turning - absolutely amazing.
After a fitful night’s sleep and my stressful event earlier I needed a nap and was soon sound asleep. (I could handle anything after Atigun Pass!) Richard soon found himself on a stretch of black mud. It turns black where they have put calcium chloride on the roads. It turns them in to a slippery slime when they’re wet. He met up with two trucks and did a valiant job maintaining control. I was glad I slept through it all!
We continued on to our trailer still parked at Hilltop Truck Stop where we had dinner, cleaned out the truck, put everything away, took showers and climbed into bed, wondering how we are ever going to get all the mud off the truck and scooter.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
We continued on through a couple heavy downpours and stopped for the night at Galbraith Lake again. After dinner we played cards again and turned in.
This picture was taken at our campsite at Galbraith Lake. It and the whole area was amazing. There was a full rainbow behind the truck.