Wednesday, September 26, 2007


We stayed in Susanville until the 23rd since the weather turned on us. A very unusual Pacific storm blew through and we got wind and rain. It rained again most of the night but it stopped by 7 am and was predicted to clear off so we got ready to leave. Just as we got in the truck to pull out of the park it started raining again and continued as we drove south into Reno and up I-80 over Donner Pass. It got down to about 43 degrees at the summit but there was no snow. Traffic was extremely heavy, including a gazillion motorcycles that had been at a rally in Reno for the weekend. They were not having any fun in the cold and rain.

Once again we enjoyed the power of our truck as we drove at the speed limit (which is 55 when towing in California) whenever the traffic would allow, and using the jake brake coming down the other side of the mountain kept the speed in check without touching the service brakes. It finally stopped raining as we neared Auburn in the western Sierra foothills.

We called Dianna’s cousin Carrie and made arrangements to park in her yard for a few days. She was thrilled but soon called back to tell us her idiot landlord would not allow us to do that because he was afraid we would sue him if our RV was broken into. That has to be the dumbest excuse I have ever heard! Carrie called another friend who was willing to let us park at their place, but when we arrived she was finally able to contact her brother Mike who said he had plenty of space for us to park at his new place so we went there instead.

Mike and Randi live a mile or so from Carrie so it is convenient and feels much better camping in a relatives front yard than in the front yard of people we had never met. Mike now has his own business fabricating and repairing harvesting equipment which he runs from a shop he has built next to his house. This means he is home most of the time.

We set up in their front yard, visited with Carrie who stayed for dinner, watched TV and went to bed.

We are using just our solar panels for power and it has been very sunny so we were able to recharge by about noon the first night but since then we have been using much more. It is still keeping up with our use just fine. Solar charging is really amazing.

Tuesday morning Mike finished work on the shuttle truck he had been fabricating for several months and its owner picked it up and took it directly to the field. We drove over in the afternoon to see it in action. Mike did quite a job fabricating this machine using a rebuilt diesel engine driving several hydraulic pumps and motors. It is really impressive. Its purpose is to shuttle nuts from the pickup machine to the transport trucks without requiring the pickup machine to stop. It pulls up behind the trailer being pulled by the pickup machine and bumps into it causing a probe to start the conveyor belt to unload the nuts into the shuttle truck. When full it backs off and then takes the nuts to the truck loading elevator. Fun to watch.

Dianna went over to Carrie’s again for several hours, and when she got home we had to run the A/C for an hour or so. It was about 85 yesterday.

We took a nice scooter ride today. Mike mapped out a trip for us that took us to two covered bridges. The first is in Roberts Ferry and is still in use. Actually it is a new bridge that was built less than 10 years ago to replace one that used to stand there. They had some interesting placards around the bridge that gave us a good history lesson about this area of the San Joaquin Valley.

Our next stop was at Don Pedro Dam visitor center. It was a good place for a stop and a good view of the lake.

Then we rode down to Knights Ferry where the BLM has campgrounds and an interesting collection of historic buildings and a covered bridge that was actually built in 1864. We were able to walk across it and they have kept it in very good repair. The buildings there were once a flour mill and later became a power plant. While we were in the visitor center talking to the ranger we mentioned that we were camp hosts for the State Parks. She was excited when she heard that and told us they needed some camp hosts and would love to have us anytime we could give them three months or so.

We stopped for a late lunch and then rode back home. The trip was about 85 miles and very scenic in the foothills of the Sierras. It was quite warm today, but moving along on the scooter made it bearable. When we got home we had to run the A/C an hour or so until the sun went down and it began to cool off. It was a fun day.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


It was a cold night but not as bad as we feared. The front must have passed through and we awoke to clear skies and lots of deer in the campground.

The trip south on 395 was uneventful. We passed large shallow lakes and a lot of farming that is supported by irrigation. For the most part the mountains were left behind and we followed wide valleys toward Susanville. We found a very nice RV park in Standish, a little town about 13 miles from Susanville. Since we needed to do laundry and some shopping we decided to spend at least a couple nights here.

This afternoon we drove into town to get Dianna’s prescription filled and do a little shopping. Then it was home to watch some TV and catch up on internet stuff.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


You would have thought we were back in Alaska. Snow!

We left the state park this morning under cloudy skies and the further south we drove the more the clouds lowered. We continued to climb mountains to about 5,000 feet and drop into valleys that were 3,500 or so. Soon we saw snow on the mountains in the distance and we soon caught up with it. It was raining where we were but it had snowed earlier since the ground was covered and there was even some still on the road. The temperature dropped to 34 degrees.

Eventually we dropped down a little more in elevation and finally arrived at our campsite for the night. We are in Goose Lake State Park which is still in Oregon but right on the California border. When we leave the park in the morning we turn right and immediately cross the border.

This campground is another very nice Oregon park. It is built in an old apple orchard and the mule deer still visit every evening and morning to eat. We had several of them around the trailer this evening while we were eating dinner. The temperature is now about 44 outside so we are probably in for a cold night.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pendelton Oregon

We drove the 30 miles or so to Pendleton and first stopped at the local WalMart Supercenter for a few groceries. Then it was off to visit the Pendleton Woolen Mills. We took a tour of the mill and watched wool being carded, spun and then woven into blankets. That is the primary end user product they still make at this mill. Other mills make the material for some of their other clothing.

We looked at some things in their mill shop. In addition to being very expensive it seemed like all their clothing was made in China, the Philippines or some other third world country. They apparently still weave most of the material here but they send it overseas to be turned into clothing. I guess nothing is sacred anymore.

We then turned straight south on US 395 and soon began climbing in elevation. Eventually we climbed to over 5,000 feet and were climbing and descending tree covered mountains. The scenery reminded me of the area in the White Mountains around Big Lake. It was pretty but very dry this time of year.

We stopped for the night in an Oregon State Park in Mt. Vernon, OR. This is a beautiful a state park as I have ever seen. Each site even has water and electric (50 amp) hookups. It looks better than most private campgrounds we have stayed in.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back on DirecTV

We did stay put today and got the satellite internet and TV up and working again. As I expected I had to call both companies to get it turned back on and working right again.

The only other thing we did today was some cleaning in the outside compartments that had collected a lot of dust while in Alaska.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Columbia River Gorge

We left Washington this morning and crossed the Columbia River on I-205, then stopped for fuel at the Flying J in Troutville, OR before heading up the Columbia River Gorge. The drive was very scenic as we passed waterfalls and several dams along the river. Unfortunately, our truck with trailer was too long to take the scenic route or even stop at some of the visitor spots along the way. There was not much room and they were limited to vehicles no more than 50 feet long. We are 65 feet long. We watched wind surfers on the river as the famous winds in the gorge blew from behind us. It was good for fuel economy and much more pleasant than a headwind would have been.

The scenery changed as we passed through the Cascades and the lush green changed to dry, barren and brown. We soon found ourselves in the great basin and country that looks very different from what we have been in for the past four months.

We drove about 200 miles today, which is a long day for us. We stopped in Hermiston, OR for the night. We are only about 30 miles from Pendleton, OR where we will pick up highway 395 and follow it down to Reno. We may stay here for another night and try to get the satellite internet set up again. I will probably have to spend some time on the phone with customer service so we will see.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Visiting Friends

We only moved about 40 miles today. Dianna had made arrangements to meet Sue Spink, a long time friend who now lives in Vancouver, WA. We parked the rig in an RV park in Ridgefield, WA and drove the truck down to town. Dianna and Sue were friends in junior high school and have maintained contact all these years.

We had a nice visit all afternoon and realized it was dinner time. We went out to dinner at Whosong and Larry’s Mexican Restaurant which is located on the Columbia River just east of the I-5 bridge. We ate outside and the scenery was very pleasant.

After dinner Sue took us on a tour of downtown Vancouver and across the river through downtown Portland, OR as well. Portland has an active nightlife in its downtown area.

We did not get home until almost 10PM.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mt. St. Helens

I guess this is no longer the Alaska Journal, but in our mind we are still returning so we will continue to post about our journey.

Today we saw as much as we could of Mt. St. Helens. Unfortunately, it was very overcast today so that was not much. We went to three of the five visitor centers, which were interesting, but we turned around before we got to the last two since we were in the clouds and visibility was about 50 feet.

We did drive into what was part of the original blast zone when the volcano blew up in 1980. It sure does not seem like it has been 27 years! Shortly after the explosion the federal government took a part of the area around the mountain and turned it into a National Monument. Much of the rest of the area is owned by Weyerhaeuser. Two different approaches have been used in the two areas. The National Monument has been allowed to remain completely natural. The Weyerhaeuser part was harvested and replanted as quickly as possible.

The part of the mountain we were in was the Weyerhaeuser part. It is hard if not impossible to tell that anything happened. The trees that were planted in the early 1980’s are now 20 to 30 feet tall and it looks like the area outside the blast area. The area within the National Monument is also recovering, but not nearly as rapidly. Unfortunately, like I explained, we were not able to see this for ourselves because of the low clouds, but we watched several movies and saw displays in the visitor centers.

We got to thinking and realized it has been at least 30 years since we have been in this part of the country. We have not been up here since Mt. St. Helens exploded. That is really surprising since this is one of my favorite parts of the country. We need to spend a summer up here sometime in the near future. There is so much to see and it is so pretty.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More photos uploaded

We are in Castle Rock, Washington tonight and will spend tomorrow touring the Mt. St. Helens area.

I uploaded the rest of the pictures we took in Southern British Columbia. You can check them out on our gallery.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Boeing Tour

Today I decided to ride the scooter down to Everett and visit Boeing’s Future of Flight Center and take the plant tour. In a word -- disappointing.

It was overcast this morning so I put on my cold weather gear and rode the 40 miles to the Boeing facility. The Future of Flight Center and Tour Center is a very impressive building, with lots of stainless steel and glass. Inside on the main floor are two stores where you can buy very overpriced sweatshirts and the usual tourist stuff with the word Boeing on it. There is also a café that is open during the lunch hour.

The Future of Flight Center is downstairs. It is built using the new high tech approach so many places are using where they place LCD monitors around the room and let you watch a short video at each location. There was one for each of the 700 series of airplanes, but they were each only about a minute long and were of excellent production quality but very short on real information. There were a few static displays that were OK. They had an engine from a 747 opened up, a cut away of a 737 near the rear so you could see what was below the floor, a mock up of the cabin and cockpit of the new 787 and a landing gear. There may have been a couple other things, but I don’t remember what they were so they did not make much impression on me.

Then it was time for my tour. First, we were not allowed to take any electronic device with us. No cameras or even cell phones. We were gathered in an auditorium where they showed us two 7 minute videos. The first was just pictures of many of the aircraft, spacecraft, helicopters and other products Boeing builds. There was no narration, just the video. They then showed another 7 minute video that was a collapsing of the four months of 777 assembly into 7 minutes. It was OK, but nothing exciting.

Then they loaded us on a bus and drove us to the assembly building. They told us about the building itself and about some of the aircraft we saw on the way out. We parked by the building and were ushered down a set of stairs, through a tunnel and into a freight elevator that took us up to a balcony at the fourth floor level. From there we could see the assembly line for the 777 and see the first 787 sitting on the other side. Nothing was moving and it was really not very exciting to look at. The tour guide explained how the aircraft move from location to location during the assembly process. I figured we would go see the other aircraft assembly areas and sub assembly areas, or maybe the paint shop, or even just drive around the building or down the flight line so we could see some of the other new airplanes being built, but we just drove back to the Tour Center and the tour was over. We only spent about 15 minutes in the assembly building itself, and about 10 minutes driving each way. All together the whole tour lasted just about an hour.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to see, but when I toured the Cessna plant in Wichita last year we were shown the whole place, driven around to see all kinds of different planes, made several stops and even had an opportunity to walk through the factory itself. The Cessna tour was free. The tour I took today cost $17.50. My brother Don who works for Boeing could take the tour for half price as long as he has his employee badge with him. Save your money, Don.

The sun was out by the time the tour was over so the ride back to the campground was more pleasant. Dianna spent the day doing laundry and playing on the internet. We found someone in the park who has an open wireless router and are using his connection. It is better than most of the services we have had on our trip.

Tomorrow we will move further south. We are not sure where.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Visiting Relatives

It was another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest with record high temperatures. For this area that means the high was 84. It was perfect scooter weather again.

Dianna had contacted her aunt and some cousins on her father’s side who had moved up here years ago. We arranged to meet them and the scooter was the way to go. Our first stop was in Stanwood where our mail was waiting for us and then we took the back roads down to Kirkland where her relatives live. It was a little over 60 miles and a great ride.

We had a nice visit with Aunt Martha and cousins Bob and Terry. It had been a long time. Bob worked on the Alaska Pipeline so it was fun showing him the pictures of our trip up the Dalton Highway. He said it had changed some, but mostly because he had never seen much of it during the summer. He worked mostly in the winter season.

The trip back north was less pleasant due to rush hour traffic. We ended up taking the freeway part of the way just because the back roads were not moving at all. It took a little longer to get home due to the traffic but it was not bad.

We walked across the street to a Mexican Restaurant for dinner. It was surprisingly good and was the first we have had in a long time. Then we watched TV for a while and went to bed early. 130 miles on the scooter in heavy traffic can be tiring.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Back in the lower 48

They let us back in! We drove down the beautiful Fraser River Valley and got in line to cross the border at Sumas, WA. We waited in line for about 1 hour and 20 minutes until it was our turn. Once again it seemed like everyone else took a long time with the customs agent, but it seemed we were only there a minute. He asked where we lived (Texas), where we had been (Alaska), and when we left for Alaska (early June). Then he asked if we had purchased anything while in Canada (souvenirs for the grandkids) and if I used to be a truck driver (no, just a big trailer). What did you do before you retired, (Worked with computers for Ross Perot)? He then said “I voted for him. Welcome home.”

That was it. No questions about meat, produce or anything else. Of course, if we had not eaten it all up he would have wanted to inspect the trailer.

We found an RV park about 15 minutes from where our mail is supposed to come. It should be here tomorrow if we are lucky. The first thing I did was unload the scooter and ride to the nearest Wells Fargo Bank to get some cash. We used all but a couple dollars in Canada and I did not want to pay the $5 fee for using a non Wells Fargo ATM and have to deal with getting rid of Canadian cash so we waited until we were south of the border.

The park we are in is quite nice except they do not have any wireless internet. It seems strange that any park till does not since it is almost expected any more. But, there are plenty of Starbucks and every other kind of coffee shop up here to use for internet.

I’m not sure it feels any different to be back in the US. There is always a nagging feeling that you are not in your country when you are in Canada, but since everything we are doing is pretty superficial and touristy, noticing any big differences would be pretty hard to do. Other than not having to convert kilometers, liters and Celsius temperatures it is pretty much the same. So, I guess it is nice to be back in familiar places.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Minter Gardens

Today was our last full day in Canada, and what a beautiful day it was. Not a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the upper 70’s. It was another perfect day for a scooter ride.

We rode about 25 miles down the Trans Canada Highway toward Vancouver to the town of Chilliwack where Minter Gardens is located. It is 33 acres of beautiful flowers, gardens, cedar forests, fountains, statues, pools and waterfalls. We spent about three hours wandering around, looking and relaxing.

Tomorrow we plan to enter the US at Sumas, WA and probably stay at a campground near Stanwood, WA for a few days. That is north of Seattle but relatively close to some of Dianna’s relatives that we have not seen for a few years.

After that we will continue down through Washington to just north of Portland where she wants to visit a high school friend she has not seen for years. Then through Oregon and into California as the temperatures allow. We don’t know what route we will take or when we will be where. The only place we have tentatively planned to visit is the Mt. Saint Helens area, and maybe the Boeing Plant tour while in the Seattle area.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Othello Tunnels

It was a beautiful day so I unloaded the scooter. We rode back through town, about three miles away, and on to Othello Tunnels Provincial Park. It’s just a few miles out of town along the Coquihalla River. In the early 1900’s they built a railroad line down the canyon. It is a very narrow and deep canyon and they had to cut four tunnels through the rock in the tightest place. The railroad was washed out in the late 1950’s and it was turned into a park sometime after that. The scenery is beautiful and walking through the tunnels is fun. One of them is long enough that a flashlight would really help you see where to step.

Then we decided to take a ride 35 miles back up the Fraser River the way we came from Prince George to Hell’s Gate. It is the narrowest place on the Fraser River. There is a tram that runs down into the gorge to the river and a suspension bridge you can walk across down close to the water. The water is forced through a canyon only 33 yards across, and that is not much space for twice the volume of Niagara Falls. We arrived at about 4:15. It closed at 4.

It was a beautiful day for a ride and the road was great for motorcycles. Seeing Hells Gate would have been fun, but the ride and the scenery was super too.

Tonight we ate more of our Canadian meat and produce for dinner. After dinner Dianna made a ton of scalloped potatoes with ham. It’s always better the second day so she now makes it the day before we plan to eat it. We don’t expect them to tell us we can’t take left over scalloped potatoes into the US!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Hope, BC

We left the Lac La Hache Provencial Park this morning and soon joined up with the Fraser River again. Then it was up and over the mountains and down into the Thompson River Valley where we followed it through a twisting canyon. The river had train tracks on both sides and as we sat in a pull out eating lunch we watched non-stop trains heading north on the eastern side.

The scenery had radically changed. I never knew British Columbia had a desert, but this area looked much like the area around Bakersfield, California. Everything was brown and low scrub covered except the farmers fields which were all irrigated. For the first time in a long time we had to turn on the air conditioner.

We joined the Trans Canada Highway at Cache Creek. I remember passing through here in 1967 when Bill Chapman and I drove from Vancouver to Montreal. The scenery down the Thompson River Canyon was quite stark as the sides of the canyon were steep and bare. When we rejoined the Fraser River at Lytton the sides of the canyon was still steep and the road winding, but the mountains were covered with trees and everything was green and lush again.

We stopped in Hope, BC at the Wild Rose RV Park. We have decided to stay here for three nights and cross back into the US on Monday. The RV park is very nice and does have free internet. It is not fast, and the connection is poor, but it is better than the connection we had in Prince George. This will give us time to eat up all our contraband food as well as keep us in place over the weekend. One of the rules full timers like to follow is to get somewhere on Thursday or early Friday and stay put until Monday. This lets the weekenders do their thing while we lay low.

Hope is where we broke down many years ago when we were pulling a trailer with our van. It developed an overheating problem and I had to have the radiator rebuilt. There is a lot to do in the area and it is a pretty place so we will find plenty to keep us busy.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Leaving Prince George

We finally had good internet performance last night so we caught up with postings and some work with the gallery. It was nice to finally get what we were promised when we first checked in. Unfortunately, this morning it was horrible again but we still managed to send Escapees the instructions on where to send our mail. Then we got ready to travel for the first time in a week.

The day was uneventful and the road was good. We were along side the Fraser River for much of the way, and also had to make several climbs and descents. We stopped for lunch at a rest area and again read the signs that are posted at all the rest areas in about the pine and spruce beetle invasion. It is rapidly destroying all the pine and spruce trees in central BC. The reasons for its spread include forests that are just the right age for the beetle, lack of natural fires to keep the beetle at bay and to clean the forests, several dry seasons that let them get a good foothold, and finally because it has not been cold enough long enough in the past several years to kill them off. The result is that millions of acres of trees are being killed. They are trying to harvest them as fast as they can, then replant new seedlings, but much will not get harvested before it rots.

We stopped for the night at a BC Provincial Park and took a nature hike through the woods. It was sad to see the amount of devastation to the trees. Almost all in this area are either already dead or are dying. As usual, it is a very nice park and not crowded at all, especially this late in the season. The camp host is already gone but there should be someone around later this evening to collect the fee.

We had forgotten about the restrictions on bringing meat and produce from Canada into the US. We had just bought a ham and stocked up on hamburger, lunch meats and fresh fruit and vegetables. The frustrating thing is that much of it was actually grown in the US. When we thought of it we immediately began eating ham for every meal so we can finish it before we cross the border. If necessary, we will stay a day or two so we don’t have to surrender any of it. After all, we are not in any hurry.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Galbraith Lake Panorama

This photo is a 360 degree panorama of our campsite at Galbraith Lake. We were about 3 miles off the Dalton Highway, north of Atigun Pass and the Brooks Range. We still had about 135 miles to go to Prudhoe Bay and Deadhorse.

I stood in one location and took pictures in each direction as I turned. The truck is directly east of where I was standing.

If your browser works like mine you can zoom into the photograph to get the full effect. There is some spherical distortion, but it's not too bad. I am posting it now since I just obtained the software to stitch pictures together.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Prince George Railroad Museum

I called the internet service company first thing this morning and got them to refund my money. The service here has been up and down, and slower than dial up even when it is connected. It has been frustrating to say the least. The promise of good, fast internet service was one of the big reasons we decided to stay here for a week.

Today we visited the Prince George Railroad Museum. It was one of the best we have been to. They had some very old stock as well as some I did not think were that old, including an electric locomotive that was built in 1960 and retired in 1997. Many of the trains, including that locomotive, were open so you could explore inside them. The also had displays of the telephone history of the area as well as a display of historic chain saws. This is timber country.

The station managers house was equipped with this stove and washing machine. The stove probably looks similar to those stoves my Grandfather made.

After the railroad museum we drove to the pulp mill we had visited last week. The truck dumping lifts were working and we watched as semis were backed onto the lifts and then tilted up to 80 degrees so the wood chips in them would fall out the back.

Then, after another grocery shopping stop, I found a place where I could get rid of the bad tire we have been carrying since it was replaced in Anchorage. I kept it with us because our truck uses an unusual size. Most big trucks like ours do not carry a spare tire because it is impossible for someone to change tires without special equipment. You have to call a tire changing service, and they will bring a tire out with them if you need one. When I learned that the size we use was almost unheard of up here, I knew I would have a real problem if a tire was shredded somewhere in the wilds of Alaska and I did not have something to put on. So, I kept the old tire fastened on the bed. It had to stand upright against the motorcycle which rubbed on it and wore the paint in one spot. Now that we are back in civilization I figure we will be able to find a replacement tire somewhere if we need it, even if we have to wait a day or two. I was going to try to sell the tire since it has value for use on a trailer or even on the truck if it were trued, and the dealers were interested in buying it, but as soon as they saw the size they said it had no value to them at all. So I just junked it.

We had more halibut for dinner, fought with the horrible internet service, and watched a little TV.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Prince George TV

It was another day of doing nothing. We fought with internet all day and it worked slowly part of the time. Much of the time we could not connect at all. Everyone in the park is experiencing the same problems, but since it is Labor Day weekend the company is not going to work on it. And, since it was Labor Day it was not a day for doing much as things were closed.

We do have cable TV here, but there are only 5 channels. There are a few American shows sprinkled in, but for the most part it is news channels and something similar to our PBS channel. The programming is horrible and most of the time there is nothing to watch. We are beginning to miss our DirecTV as we know the new season will soon start for some of the shows we watch.

Our satellite internet connection will be available to us once we get into southern Washington. The particular satellite we are assigned to covers most of the US except the extreme northwest corner. That will be nice since our experience with wireless in the parks we have been in has been poor.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hanging around in Prince George

We tried to go to the Railroad Museum today, but when we got there they were closed. It seems we are out of the summer season and things here are already on their winter schedules. From what we could see it was an interesting place and we may return during the week if we have nothing else to do.

We did visit Connaught Hill Park, a city park on a hill near the downtown area. It is small but very pretty with views of the city in all directions and many well done flower beds. We took several photos of the flowers.

We then did some shopping for groceries again. We normally shop at WalMart for groceries when we can find them since they seem to have the best prices. The WalMarts in Canada only have a small grocery section so we went to the Canadian Superstore which is a huge discount grocery and department store similar to the Fred Meyer stores we shopped at in Alaska. They had great selections and their prices were actually better than WalMart’s prices here.

Dianna made a chicken recipe she got from Donna for dinner and she made a decadent chocolate cupcake kind of thing for dessert. We watched TV and a movie before going to bed.

Also, for those who would like to take another gander at our photo gallery, I have updated all the pictures since the beginning of the trip with captions. I still need to delete some duplicates and poor quality pictures, but that will take a better internet connection than I have here in this RV park.