Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More pictures

We rode the bus for about 25 miles yesterday and came upon this sow with her two cubs.  I call this photo The Approach:

This 2nd photo I snapped just after the above, the dark cub hauled off and smacked the blond cub beside the head.  It was a classic sibling move...reminds me of my brothers.  LOL!
The Family.  I took all these pictures from the bus which is at times quite difficult as everyone is vying for position to get the best photos.  In some cases you end up shooting thru glass.

Pictures from our Friday trip when we drove to Toklat

Dall sheep on the road.



The sheep on the left is actually scratching his head with the other sheep's horn.
Bull moose taking a  rest in a mossy bed.

Hello from Teklanika campground!

Our first week at Teklanika has been great. Through Friday we had nice sunny weather and but for the mosquitos, you could stay outside in your shirtsleeves. Saturday through Monday were rain days but it really wasn’t so bad as it would rain for a bit and then the sun would peek out and then rain a little more. Dick is really enjoying himself talking to all the campers and helping them out when needed. Yesterday we had a couple come in a really big 5th wheel and a large 4 door Frieghtliner truck built for pulling his 5th wheel. Well he wasn’t paying attention and took out the bottom of his slide on a post that he hit. Fortunately it appeared to be just cosmetic damage but still costly. He could have easily made the curve but messed up. It happens…. Well then his slides would hardly come out, maybe dead batteries? Then a bit later Dick discovered that he had two generators going with a leaking gas can between them and he wasn’t even at their site!! So Dick had to rectify that situation! We do have generator hours from 8-10 am and 4-8 pm. Mostly we have had to ask people to move their tents as they are not allowed to camp off the provided gravel pads. The grass looks so inviting, I can understand why they pitch their tents where they do! The majority of our campers are in some sort of RV, a lot of pick up campers, trailers & 5th wheels and motorhomes too. The campground can accommodate RV’s to 40’ so we do get the occasional big class A in here but not too many.
This morning we had a little excitement when Dick came upon a lynx who was starring down a lady and her dog that were not all that far away from the lynx. Her dog was really well trained as she told it to sit and it did and didn’t make a sound! Ha, that would not be Chena! So the lynx and the lady just starred at each other for a minute or two and then the lynx went in the brush. Dick got a neat picture with both the lady and lynx in it. I am thinking that I will keep Chena very close to me and just walk near the camper where I have good visibility!
We makes rounds of the campground numerous times a day because we need the exercise. We are supposed to at least make rounds at 10 am and 8 pm. After our 10 am rounds today, we decided to ride the bus further into the park to see what we could see! For the last several days all the campers have been telling us about all the bears and wolves that they have seen. We didn’t have as good of luck as some of our campers but we did have a great bear viewing of a sow and her two cubs. Also saw a wolf with 2 pups but they were really far away in a gravel bed. Also saw a few caribou and sheep which have become rather ho-hum to us at this point!
I will be posting this tomorrow when we go into Fairbanks for our weekly shopping trip. We are picking up a new converter which will allow us to power the TV, stereo, charge camera batteries, make coffee without having to power up the generator. Our old converter died while we were watching Alice in Wonderland and we were just getting to the good part so I am anxious see the rest!

I am re-reading James Michner’s Alaska – it is much more relevant when you are living in the middle of the book so to speak! Not much else of interest, we are having a blast and haven’t gotten borred in the least. Wish you could be here with us!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hi from inside Denali National Park!

We are 53 miles inside the park today at a workcamp doing our laundry.  They have several computers here that are available for employee use.  Our campground is at mile 29 so we had 23 miles of the road that we were able to drive in our jeep.  That is way cool because cars are not normally allowed to drive on the park road.  the park road goes in about 90 miles or so and that's the only access by road in and out.

We had a great photo op on the way.  A group of dall sheep were standing on the road so I got some great pictures.  Unfortunately I will have to wait until I am able to use my computer before I can share them with you.

Last night there was a wolf in our camp although we didn't see it.  He left his scat which is how we were able to ID it as a wolf.  so I will have to be careful when walking Chena and we also will be advising tent campers to take care and also others with dogs.  I may have to sit up all night and watch what goes through the park when most folks are sleeping!!

Monday or Tuesday we will drive out of the park to Fairbanks which is about 2 hours or so away to pick up supplies and something we need for the motorhome.  I hope I will be able to post some photos then.

Dick is staying busy at the campground meeting and greeting.  You know he is a natural for that!  We have a radio & sat photo to communicate with park dispatch.

We are loving it to say the least!!  I must say that we are not enjoying "feeding" the mosquitos though!!

Maggi and Dick

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Solstice

 
Today is the longest day of the year. It is almost midnight and it is quite light outside, the sun is still up. I could go outside and read a book without a light. Its a beautiful evening, I guess by lower 48 standards, it looks to be around 7:30 pm maybe. The sun will go down for a couple hours I guess but it definitely won't get dark!


Here are some photos of our trip into Denali:



We've gone nuts -

We had a wonderful 3 days in the park and saw lots of wildlife - bears, a wolf, arctic fox, moose, caribou, ptarmagin, loons, trumpeter swan, rabbits and squirrels!  Oh yeah, LOTS of mosquitos and a few robins!  We loved it so much that we decided to volunteer for the vacant campground host spot at the campground.  This means that we will be camped at this campground through the end of July acting as campground hosts.  Our duties will be to greet other campers and answer questions, make sure all food etc is kept secure and away from any wandering critters like BIG BROWN BEARS and help visitors with whatever they need.  In exchange for that we will have a campsite provided to us as well as propane, fire wood, diesel fuel, water and sewer.  No electricity - who needs it right??  LOL, we have a generator for any electrical needs that we may have.  We will be able to drive out of the campground one day a week for grocery shopping (that will be 2 1/2 hrs away), laundry, internet and phone access.  No we won't have a telephone and no wifi.  Just us and the bears!  We work 32 hours a week and can use the bus system as much as we like and also will have use of the National Park Service employee facilities.  Work will be mostly hanging out in the campground so its not exactly hard work!!  We are excited about it and think it will be a real adventure.  I will only be able to update the blog once a week now but I will look forward to hearing from all of you as it will be our weekly connectio to the world. 

At this point we haven't a clue as to what is going on in the world.   I kind of like this oblivion!!  We do check the stock market when we are able to make sure that we still have a retirement account.

Chena in her new back yard!!


America the Beautiful!


I took this picture 66 miles into the park at the Eielson Visitor center.  I just thought it was neat with the flag in the foreground and the beautiful Alaska range behind it. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Posting comments...

If you wish to leave us a message you can click on comments and  abox should open up where you can type a message.  Then at the comment as box click on the arrow to see a drop down menu and select anonymous, then click the "Post Comment " box and hopefully your comment will post!  Be sure to leave your name so we'll know who you are!!

Still in Fairbanks

We are still in Fairbanks and enjoying playing tourist and visiting with friends.  Last night we had dinner with a friend that I used to work with when we lived here.  We had a great dinner of ribs, beer can chicken and risotto!  It was great and I love eating other people's cooking!  Our wonderful hosts:

We leave here on Friday morning heading to Denali National Park which is about 3 1/2 hours away.  We are kind of excited about this trip as we will be camping 29 miles inside the park which is kind of special.  There are only about 52 RV sites available inside the park and I never thought we'd be able to get a camping site at this late date but we lucked out on that!  You have to stay a minimum of 3 nights so we will be out of touch for a while.  No cell or Internet service.  Just us, the bears, moose and wolves!  It would be neat to hear the wolves howling as that's an Alaskan experience we've not had!  We will be allowed to drive our RV only into the camp so we will have to leave our Jeep in an overflow parking site.  The park has buses that go 90 some miles into the park and that is the only way you can visit.  You are not allowed to drive your vehicle into the park unless you are going to the campground as we are.  And for that we get a special permit that allows us to only drive in and drive out.  We will be able to use the bus system inside the park as much as we want.  The park services uses school buses and a round trip all the way into the park and out takes about 12 hours.  No food or water is available in the park and there are only pit toilets.  It is a long day to say the least!  We will pack sandwiches and bring water of course!

There is one time a year when the park allows you to drive into the park in your own vehicle and that is the weekend closest to Sept 15th.  You have to apply for a permit and the permits are chosen  in a lottery drawing and 400 vehicles a day are allowed in for a four day weekend, weather permitting.  Sometimes, weather closes the road and so you may only get in part way or not at all.  We won the lottery twice and it was a wonderful experience to drive in.  the animals seem to be very active that time of year as they are preparing for the winter that is arriving  in Denali by mid-September.

We are being lazy today, we slept in until 9 am!  I can't remember the last time I did that!!  We are going to an antique car museum in a bit.

BTW, we have driven 5232 miles in the RV so far!

Hope everyone is having a great summer, wish you were here with us!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Good morning!

Gee, we have no where to drive today!  We're just going to hang out in Fairbanks and maybe get some laundry done.  It is supposed to be a nice day - maybe Dick will fix the window on my jeep so that it goes up and down!  That will be novel since it hasn't worked in several years.

We appreciate the comments you have left for us!  We love hearing from all of you!   Every campground that we have stayed in has had wi-fi but most of the time the reception in the RV is very poor if at all.  Patiience is the name of the game as it takes a while to post anything.  I have had a little more success in logging on than Dick has had.  However, he has his Blackberry.  Interesting that some of the time he has been able to receive emails on his Blackberry but couldn't make a phone call.  We have great phone reception here in Fairbanks and will be here for several days if anyone needs to talk to us.

Melissa,  we enjoyed our visit with you although it was brief!  When we get back we hope to have more visiting time.  I guess that depends on if your Dad goes back to work.  Hugs and kisses to you and the family.

Lunch bunch, my ears burn every Thursday around noon!  Now why is that??  LOL!  Miss my lunches with all of you!  Wish I could have brought you all with me.

WE are camped on the banks of the Chena river - that's the river that our Chena was named after.  She loves reading her "pee" mail at each new stop!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The beginning and the end...

The beginning of the Alaska Highway:  This sign used to be at the beginning in a round-a-bout but there were a lot of accidents so they moved it a block or so over - its not really at the beginning anymore. 


















And the end of the highway in Delta Junction, AK.







More bears along the way - this guy was an adult grizzly I'd guess, he was a nice size.  Photo is not so great 'cause I took it through the window.




ALASKA!! – Saturday, June 12, 2010




We made it!! We felt like silly little children grinning from ear to ear when we crossed the border because we were so excited to back in this state that we both love so much. We stopped and took pictures and chatted with some other travelers and then got back in the RV for the final leg of our journey. On this night we drove to Delta Junction, AK which is the official end of the Alaska Highway. It is raining in Alaska – oh well, wait 10 minutes and the weather will change.

Border crossing:


The weather – I must say that when I first stepped out of the motorhome in Denver and encountered nice cool, low humidity, air, I thought I had died and gone to heaven!! It was in the 70’s and I needed my polartec in the evening. As much as I love the south, I do really miss the low humidity of the west.



We have encountered a bit of rain here and there as well as winds that buffeted the motorhome a bit. But all in all, it’s been a great drive and the weather has been fairly nice. I think this morning, Sunday, June 13, was the worst when we drove the final 100 miles to Fairbanks from Delta Junction – it was rain all the way. We arrived in Fairbanks around 10:45 and checked into a campground that is conveniently located in town. Then we headed over to one of our favorite restaurants to enjoy a Sunday champagne brunch. We were happy to find out that some things had not changed!

After brunch we went and found our friends Lee and Anna that we know from our days in Colorado. They are work camping in Fairbanks this summer. We had a great visit with them and will plan to get together this week. We want to show them around Fairbanks a little bit and show them where we lived here.
By the way, it is now 8 pm and the sun is shining and its beautiful outside. The rain clouds have moved on and we are hoping for nice weather although we hear that rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week.

Thank goodness we have room darkening shades in the RV or I’d never get any sleep as we haven’t seen dark for several days now. It looks like its about 4 o’clock outside. Sunset is at 12:39 AM and sunrise is at 3:02 AM. Right now, sun up time is increasing about 3.5 minutes a day. On the longest day of the year a baseball game is played that begins at 10 pm and there are no lights on the field!

North Pole is a small town just outside of Fairbanks, obviously, its not the "real" north pole!

Postcard world

Sometimes I feel like we are driving through a postcard because the world we are in is so beautiful. The road just keeps winding west and north. We are surprised at how little traffic we have encountered for each night at the campgrounds where we have stopped we see a lot of other RV’s and cars heading for Alaska. But it seems that on the road we are spaced out and the necessity of passing another vehicle has been very rare. Often we don’t see any other vehicles in front of us. The occasional truck passes us going south and I’m sad to say that several Walmart and Sams trucks have passed us!
Time and progress does indeed, march on, and we are surprised at how “things” have changed. There were a couple of nights during our 1995 move to Alaska that we had to stay in VERY OLD motels that only had locks on the inside so that when you left your room you had to leave it unlocked. Once we got a ways north up the highway, it seemed that everything was old and from a different era. Today, in 2010, we saw a lot of nice new hotels and motels and many franchises from the lower 48. I don’t think we would have had to stay in one of those old beaten up motels. It gave us an appreciation for our experience in 1995. We can only imagine what it must have been like for the hearty travelers of the 50’s through the 70’s and even into the 80’s when the Alaska Highway was largely gravel and services were few and far between.


Kluane Lake has to be one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I've ever seen.  These pictures don't do it justice.  When the sun is shining, the water is a turquoise blue.  That surrounded by snowcapped mountains is a sight to see!




Construction and Frost Heaves!



When we drove to Alaska in 1995 we encountered a lot of road construction along the way. At times we would have to wait for 30 minutes or more for the “Follow Me” truck to lead us through the maze of construction equipment. There were a couple of occasions in the construction zones where we were driving on roadbeds that consisted of baseball size rocks. Mom and Dad also came through this kind of construction when they visited us in 1996 they cracked the windshield, headlights and incurred much paint chipping from the flying gravel on their just about new Honda Accord. So we decided we would be prepared, both having been scouts and all that! Dick built a really substantial shield to protect our Jeep from the flying rocks. Well we encountered almost no road construction the entire trip and what little we did encounter consisted of nicely graded gravel roadbed that was actually better than the paved roads. And that leads me to tell you about frost heaves!

Frost heaves occur when a road is built over permafrost which is permanently frozen ground. When the surface is paved it causes the earth beneath the road bed to heat up, thus melting the permafrost turning it to a jello-like consistency. The melting causes the road bed to “heave” creating a highway that is much like a roller coaster with dips that can be as much as a foot. It heaves from side to side as well front to back. Imagine cruising along at 55 mph and hitting this, you will be AIRBORN! We just heard about several people who broke their tow bars between their motorhomes and tow vehicle because they were unaware of the seriousness of frost heaves. We thought the frost heaves were much worse on this trip than before and that is because the road is older now. Frost heaves are a way of life up here and engineers are still trying to devise a road construction method that will preserve the permafrost. We passed over several experimental sections of highway on our way north.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Ooops, forgot this picture!


I love getting good bear photos - this guy was along the side of the road.  He wasn't too big so I'm guessing he was a juvenile that was recently separated from his Mom.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wildlife sightings!



Before we left Dawson Creek we went to the museum and saw a film about the building of the Alaska Highway.  It was quite the engineering feat and was completed in about 8 months which is really incredible .  It really speaks to the need of the military and the gumption of all those involved in punching the road through.  Today, the highway has been rebuilt so that it is an easy trip.  Here and there we can see where the original road was. The highway has been rebuilt, straightening it and leveling some of the climbs.   It is actually shorter today than it was when built.

After leaving Dawson Creek we spotted 2 adult black bear!  Unfortunately, I couldn't get the camera lens cover off in time so no photo....Then Dick saw 2 juvenile black bears on his side but I couldn't see them.  We also saw a young male moose,  a few deer and an owl.  Bad camera day - no pictures!

We arrived in Fort Nelson in time to visit the museum there.  They had a nice collection of old cars, trucks, and highway memorabila among other "stuff".

We left Fort Nelson this morning headed up the road to Watson Lake where there is the neatest "sign forest."  There are thousands of signs from all over the world there that people have nailed up.  We were looking for a Spring Hope sign that my parents said they put up in 1996 or 1997 but we coul\dn;t find it however, we did find this one that Dick's cousin put up in 2008.

















Today was an interesting day.  We drove in and out of rain and sunshine and met alot of critters along the way.  These are  Stone Sheep along the highway.  they look more like goats than sheep but they are sheep.  I took the photo out the front window so its not such a great shot. 


The day got even better when we saw this big guy and his herd along the road. The babies were so cute headbutting each other.




Wi-fi on the road is not all its cracked up to be!  Most of the campgrounds we have been at have Wi-fi but it doesn't work so well.  I think I am lucky if I get all this posted!

We are having a wonderful time and enjoying the roadtrip!  Hope to see more moose tomorrow!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Made it to Dawson Creek




You know we had big grins on our faces when we saw this sign even though Alaska is still a long, long ways!  Something like 1400 - 1500 miles I think.
We made it to Dawson Creek which is where the Alaska Highway begins.  The highway is about 1500 miles long and was built during WWII to facilitate the movement of troops and support from the lower 48 to Alaska so that the US could protect itself from the Japanese.  The Japanese actually did occupy a small portion of Alaska along the Aleutian Islands.  I will bone up on my history of this famous highway tomorrow when we visit the museum!









We were driving through Alberta most of the day today and just entered British Columbia before calling it quits for the day in Dawson Creek.  We left the praries where we saw so much canola, barley, wheat, and hay growing and entered the rolling hills where you see lots of telephone poles, black spruce, birch and aspen trees, and only the occasional house.  We also saw many large herds of cattle and even a few bison herds.  Still we could tell that there has been alot of building in the area and the towns look to be thriving with lots of new construction.  We were told that there has been an oil boom in the area and that has cotnributed much to the increased town size and populations.  It is beautiful country here, the sky is so big and the vistas go forever.  For part of our drive we could see the Canadian Rockies to the west and that reminded me alot of Colorado where the mountains just rise off the prarie.  Many of the mountain tops were snow capped and it was so beautiful!!



We drove through some rain yesterday and our Canadian friends lived on a dirt road so the lower part of the  motorhome is a muddy mess now but that is to to be expected along the Highway.  Near the end of the Alaska Highway, RV washing is a big business as everyone comes off the road looking like they've been 4-wheeling in their RVs!  There is a lot of road construction going on and that entails driving on gravel and dirt roads at times.  They water the road to help keep the dust down so even if there's no rain, you still get good and muddy!

Well it is 10 pm and still quite light out.  We may be in total daylight by tomorrow night.I'm glad we've got good shades in the RV!

Well I must get to  bed, tomorrow is another fun filled day on the road! 


Monday, June 7, 2010

Waving hi from Canada!!

We are parked at a friend's house 40 miles west of Red Deer which is about an hour north of Calgary.  I met Wendy on the web in 2005 on a scrapbooking website and we have become web friends.  It was really great to  meet her in person after five years! She and her family live on a big farm so we have really enjoyed learning all about their farm.  They have about 200 head of cattle and they grow wheat, canola, barley and hay.  I was flabbergasted at the size of one of their the tractors, it made me feel very, very small!  Was fun learning about farming here in the north!

Hello to my lunchbunch!  I hope all of you are having a great summer.  Now don't go talking about me too much while you eat lunch!!  :-) 

We brought Parker's BarBQue with us for our friends Willie and Jodi in Denver. I fried some corn bread for them too, they loved it!  I made some field peas for our Canadian friends tonight and they treated us to home grown steaks.  They loved the peas.  Next time we are through I told them I would bring them a southern meal.  Wish I had some grits with me as they asked me about those too.

Tomorrow we head towards the Alcan highway, the beginning is Dawson Creek - don't know how far we'll get and don't really care!  From here on  we are just gonna chug along at whatever pace feels good.

We got stopped at the border and searched again!  This happened to us last summer when we went to the Maritime Provinces.  I don't know.....maybe Dick looks like a thug?

Chena is doing better and seems to have settled into the routine.  At first I think she was a little concerned about what was going on.  Perhaps she was wondering where Chili was.  I think she may have thought we were taking her away.  She seems ok now, thankfully!

It is 10 pm and there is still light in the sky.  It won't be long before we will have daylight 24/7.  That takes a little getting used to, but it is great once you adjust. 

That's all the news from the northwest for now!  Hope everyone is well and happy!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

On the road again!







We're in Billings, Montana tonight!  We had a great, but busy visit in Denver.  Dick and I both visited our work places in Denver Friday and had lunch with former co-workers.  We also had dinner & champagne with our dear friends Willie and Jodi.  Wednesday I spent the entire day shopping for a few necessities while Dick and Willie replaced the batteries in the RV.  We saved $200 + by stopping through Denver for new RV batteries.  Thursday was laundry day and Chena's bath day.  Friday was lunch with co-workers and get ready to hit the road again today, Saturday.

The "mechanics":

We are feeling really Alaskan now as we have added some duct tape to our car window.  All good Alaskans use duct tape!   My passenger window has not worked for several years other than intermittently and all of a sudden the window just fell down. The motor wouldn't put it back up so we were able to push it up only for the window to fall  back down again.  So we are using the duct tape to hold the window up.  In the meantime Dick was able to find a complete motor assembly in Denver so he will be able to fix that.  I told him that we should leave the duct tape so that we would look like Alaskans!  HA!

My pilot:














Beautfiful Wyoming and Montana:


Wiile, Maggi, Dick, Jodi




Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chena is not spoiled......


Chena eating her dinner......