Sunday, September 14, 2014

Closing Thoughts from the Ehlenberg's

Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014

Think it is finally time to wind up our final thoughts on the ALASKAN ODYSSEY.

It has now been almost 5 months since we started this wonderful adventure.  We have covered 12,000 in the RV alone not including all those miles in our various toads.  Every day was like Christmas with a new package to open.  Of course, some more enjoyable and impressive than others, but everything great in its own way.

The majesty of the mountains and the vastness of the ever-light skies were so very impressive.  The great museums built thanks to Exxon and the Valdez spill were some of the best ever.  Learning the history of the settlement of Alaska and the gold rush adventures were fascinating.  It was hard to imagine that this land has very little sunlight in the winter, along with snow and frigid temperatures.  For those of us who do not like the heat and humidity of the south in the summer, Alaska was the place to be.

As we are heading south, we are remembering how our shorts were hardly worn this summer.  Blue jeans were the major dress code.  Rarely did we see temps above 70 during the day.  We saw lots of misty rainy days, but nothing slowed down our activities.  Consider ourselves to be fortunate enough to view Mt. Denali (part of the 30%).

Haven driven from Spokane to Alabama we're rethinking the quality of the Alaskan/Canadian roads.  Yes, they were extremely bunpy, graveled, and dirt in many places.  Unfortunately, we have encountered plenty of interstates almost as bumpy..  We've even gotten another chip on the windshield in the lower 48.  Using the roads as an excuse to not make the trip is "no excuse", BUT, it is a long trip to get to Alaska.  Having so specific plans and going with the flow made it more fun.  No deadlines or places we had to be!  Whatever we decided for the day was what we did.

It is extremely difficult to pick out any one favorite, but some of the highlights were the LuLu Belle boat cruise in Valdez, eating fresh caught fish on the spit in Homer, bus ride into Denali, visiting with all the dogs that provide  dog sled transportation in the winter.

We have to remember that a good bit of the trip was in Canada.  Some interesting places were Dawson City, White Horse and we can't forget the problems of getting fuel without having card lock cards.  Also found Canada is be extremely expensive for groceries and fuel, but beautiful mountains.

Our bodies will be glad to be off the road for awhile and our RV's will be happy to rest and returned to their clean, pristine state .

When given the opportunity to make the trip to Alaska, say YES, just realize it is a long way up and a long way back, but well worth it!!!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Alaska Odyssey Winds Down!!

We End Our Great Alaska Odyssey Trip!!!

What a great run from May in Indiana to Alaska and back to the border of the 48 in late August!!!

Tam and Ray have posted their "closing memories" of our fantastic summer-long trip!  Eventually, I will add an epilogue of my favorite memories as I sort out "The Best of the Best" from all the images in my memory bank, and I am sure Betty and Jack will chime in with their own "fondest" list!  But first, let me close out our trip back toward the lower 48.

We drifted down from Dawson City, YK, (after crossing the Top of the World Highway!)...we all loved that little town!!  On south down the Klondike Highway in the Yukon Territory where we stopped again in Whitehorse for a couple of nights so we could take an auto day trip down to Skagway, Alaska.  As you know, Alaska has a long narrow "tail" of territory which runs southeast from the southwest corner of the Yukon Territory and down along the west side of British Columbia.  Skagway was the seaport which was the final maritime stop for the Klondike Gold Rushers and also the end of the Klondike Highway--so we traversed the journey of the Klondikers backwards:  from Dawson City down to Skagway.

With four cruise ships in port, there were lots of "shoppers" strolling along Broadway and stopping in all the tourista oriented stores.
We had lunch in the old brewery on Broadway--this is the façade from yesteryear!

Waiting for our lunch to arrive!

The brew pub façade today!

We drove out to the beginning of the Chilkoot trail, as Betty has posted.  After leaving their steamer ship, the Klondikers had to traverse over the Chilkoot trail, climbing up a 45 degree slope the last quarter mile to the pass and then on down to Whitehorse.  Each "prospector" had to move his pack up over the pass--for some, this took multiple days, and many perished in the process.  Their graves are found in Gold Hill Cemetery.
There are many graves dated to 1901 and 1902--it was a tough journey that didn't end in riches for most of the Klondikers!
From Whitehorse, we started the multiple day journey down through British Columbia towards the lower 48.  We stopped again in Watson Lake at the Baby Nugget RV Park, and then dropped south to Stewart, BC, for one last stop in Alaskan territory:  Hyder, which is just across the border from Stewart at the tail end of the long Alaskan "tail".  Why?  Because we had to stop off at the "Bear Place"!  There is a bear viewing platform a short drive north of Hyder at Fish Creek (a US Forest Service facility) which one could walk out on to see bears feeding in the water on the salmon.
I didn't see the sign which read, "Stay on Boardwalk", so I walked across the highway to get this picture--the Ranger followed me because one of the shaggy visitors at 6:00 a.m. had gone into the woods nearby and may not have gone totally off into the mountain side.
This is Fish Creek which was full of salmon but no bears!  That's the Ranger office up near the highway and parking lot!

The only "feeders" in the creek while we were there were a bunch of gulls!

The dark spots in the photo are spawning salmon--the banks were full of salmon carcasses; the circle of life, salmon style!

Plenty of room for some bears with plenty of fish to feed them!
Even though there were no grizzlies in the creek, we did see black bears--a mom and her two cubs walking along the highway, and another one or two "boys" just strolling up the asphalt!  So yeah, we saw bears, but not brown bears!
Mama and two big cubs strolling across the highway!
Besides the bear viewing, one of the draws of Stewart/Hyder is a drive up to see the Salmon Glacier.  The road was typical of what we have experienced in our northern travels--gravel, dust, potholes, and washboard!  But we were treated to a spectacular view of the glacier from the summit!
Even though it was cloudy, the light on the snow fields was especially bright! 

The glacier flows down from the summit and makes a 90 degree turn to the right.

The Alaska Odyssey gang on one last tourista stop on our summer-long odyssey!

This is the toe of the glacier--the right hand turn is at the top.

We had to stop in Hyder, AK, for one last dinner in our 49th State.  Here we are at "The Bus" for our last meal in Alaska!  And all of us will say, "The meal was terrific!"

The lady chef is a special person:  she creates her own stuff--as in tartar sauce and batter--all in this bus of a "kitchen".  As has been our routine, when we stop in someplace, a bunch follows!!  How that happens we are in wonder!  Just like at The Bus, we arrive and suddenly there were 5 or 6 more couples or groups who showed up to order some really good food!  So, our last Alaska dinner!

From Stewart, it was back to the Cassair Highway and on down through BC.  In Houston, we stopped at a lovely campground full of beautiful flowers and hanging baskets.  The campground owner takes a lot of pride in her green thumb, and rightfully so!  Check out these photos from Shady Rest Campground:

Our last stop for The Alaska Odyssey was in Cache Creek , BC  As Tam and Ray have written, it was one last evening together before the three coaches scattered to the wind!  It was an outstanding journey and while we were soon to be parted...we were, and are, all happy to have shared this journey!!

From The Alaska Odyssey....Bon Voyage!!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ticking off the miles from Dawson City to Vancouver.

We have now traveled 1,905 miles from Dawson City and are still in Canada, traversing through two provinces, Yukon Territory and British Columbia.  The group left Dawson City on the 18th of August and drove the entire length of the Klondike Highway.  Our return to Whitehorse brought a return of our friend, the windshield repairman.  Both Ehlenberg's and Murley's were the recipients of Canadian road rocks and had to have the holes filled in our coach windshields.
Glass repairman repairing chipped  windshield

Wanting to visit Skagway, we decided to stay in Whitehorse for 2 days and use the second day to drive the 100 plus miles, one way, and cross back in into Alaska one more time.  Since we have been following the "gold rush frenzy" history, we wanted to see where many of the people arrived to start their trek over the famous Chilcoot Trail, on their way to Dawson City and riches beyond their wildest dreams.
The Chilcoot Trail Head
Heading out on Chilcoot Trail

The next stop was a return visit to Watson lake where we were able to stop at the famous "Sign Forest" and leave our group sign which is now hanging with about 75,000 others.  The people of that town do a remarkable job making sure the "forest" is there and available for others making the trip from their hometowns.
View of sign post forrest 
The five of us around our sign contribution

Our signs posted in the sign forrest
Six days later, we arrived in Stewart, BC, hoping to see bear feeding on salmon in  Fish Creek in Hyder, AK.  It is a 40 mile drive in, off the Cassier Highway, to Stewart, a town of about 700 people.  From there you need to drive 7 miles to the American border and enter Hyder, AK, population less than 100  then, another 9 miles out to the famous 600 foot long boardwalk.  The Park Rangers told us early morning or late evening were the best for viewing.  Everyone but Tam got up early the next morning in hopes of a sighting, no luck.  Several bears were spotted on the roadway near the river but none were seen in the river, although many people were hanging out for hours in hopes of a glimpse of just one.  We stopped back several times but, again, no luck.  We did spend one afternoon driving up to view Salmon Glacier, the 5th largest glacier in Canada.  This would be our last time in Alaska so decided to dine at the bus "Seafood Express," a landmark eatery in Hyder, quite the experience!
Boardwalk for viewing bears feeding on salmon

Momma bear with cubs on roadway along viewing stream
Our last meal in Alaska and it was Halibut for all of us.
The Murley's were leading the caravan the next morning and had a black bear run out from the bushes into the road, think about it and run back across into the same bushes.  Applying the breaks to avoid an accident, Rich, second in line, went flying past in the oncoming lane.  All we heard on the radio was "sorry Ray."  Seems he looked down momentarily at his gages and when he looked up, he needed about 3 more coach lengths to stop, so he took the only way out and, unexpectedly, took the lead.

Three days later, we arrived in Cache Creek, BC.  What a scenic drive into that town.  The locals refer to it as a "low desert."  They say if you can irrigate it they can grow it.  We saw many instances of lush green on the desert floor and stark steep barren hills.
The surrounding hills are desert and the irrigated valley is lush green
The next morning brought a change to our group.  The Ehlenberg's left on their anticipated start toward their long drive back to Alabama, Rich decided to stay on one more day for health reasons and we headed for Vancouver, the first time we have been separated for more the a few hours since the trip began except for Rich's absence on two occasions.

This part of the journey is over but we will meet up with Rich in the lower 48 and continue our wonderful experience.  We will all get together in January for the usual winter filled with great rallies.

We have finally left the potholes, dusty roads, no shoulders and twists and turns of Canadian and Alaskan  roadways.  Leaving Hope, we discovered the road turned into a 4 lane divided highway,  a welcome experience.  Vancouver will be home to us for the next 4 days as we play tourist in a town new to us.

What we will NOT miss now?  Let's see - the list goes something like this:  high fuel prices, expensive groceries, cold damp days, overinflated restaurant prices, lack of phone/internet services for days on end, no TV, cold damp days, only 30 amp service (because we need 50 amps to run our clothes dryer, so we have seen many loonies and toonies dropped in laundromat dryers), wilderness driving, cold damp days, watching for wildlife, dusty and often full of pothole roads or when wet - sloppy muddy roads, card lock fueling stations and leaves already turning and falling.  Did you get the idea we really got tired of cold damp days?

The problems with the coaches were pretty minimal considering the beating they took, cudos to Monaco.  The Ehlenberg's middle AC unit failed as did their fireplace and one of their tire pressure sensors.  Jack replaced one windshield wiper on the coach and one on his toad and needs to replace the other one.  They also needed to be towed in Anchorage because their starter failed.  Rich had his entry door handle break which necessitated him keeping one window unlocked in case he was unable to enter from the door (not a pretty sight!) and his Jeep front tire went flat in Dawson City from a loose valve stem.  We lost our rear AC unit, have a leaking driver's side window and entry steps that would not retract until a full can of WD 40 was applied to wash out all of the dust and mud that collected on them.  Not to be forgotten are the windshield stars.  Rich had 3 on his jeep, Jack and Betty had 1 on their coach and we took 3 to our coach windshield.  Fortunately, everything that happened did so in a safe place and was usually repairable.

We will be crossing the border into Washington State on Labor Day.  Our only obligation in the near future is to attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta for 4 days in mid-October with Rich and 78 other Monaco coaches.  By October 13th, we will be heading east across I 40 and back to Florida, nearly 6 months after leaving on April 24, 2014 on our most anticipated Alaska Oddysey.  What a trip!!!!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hyder, Ak / Stewart, BC

Our w/e was fun but also a slight disappointment. There were still lots of salmon in the river but the bears were full. We did see mama bear and cubs walking on the road. It was rather sad to see so many  salmon coming to the end of their lives. They have an amazing life cycle returning to the place of their birth, laying eggs, and then passing.

We did have a fabulous last dinner at "The School Bus" - sautéed halibut!

Monday morning we continued on the Cassiar Hwy until we reached Cache Creek on Wednesday night. This was the last stop for the Ehlenberg's in Canada. We crossed the border yesterday. They checked the RV a and toad. Not sure what they were looking for. but found nothing. Maybe being a holiday w/e they were checking everyone.  Murley's continued on to Vancouver and Rich opted for another day of rest.

That brings to an end our Alaskan Odyssey portion of the trip. A fabulous trip of a lifetime with way too many memories..  Really hope everyone enjoyed traveling along with us as we did with each other. Looking forward to reuniting this winter in Florida.

We will continue our travels on: for our family and friends

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dawson City -- Epilogue

One last look at Dawson City

As you know from Betty's post, we are already well down the road from Dawson City--in fact, we are now parked for two nights in Stewart, British Columbia, just next door to Hyder, Alaska:  we took this little side trip hoping to see the famous "bears of Fish Creek" outside of Hyder.  Went out late this afternoon in the rain...lots of salmon in the creek, but no bears having dinner.  More on this later!

Discovery Days Parade

As I have already mentioned, we came upon a weekend celebration in Dawson City--we didn't plan it, I can assure you!  It just happened that our clock is aligned on this trip [The Gods certainly are with us!!] and here we were in the Gold Rush Capital of the World for a big party!  And what community celebration would be complete if there weren't a parade!  So Saturday morning, we walked from our campground through the forming up area and then down to the main street--Front Street it's called because it runs right along the eastern bank of the Yukon River.  Here are a collection of photos and captions from the Discovery Days Parade in Dawson City!

The Honor Guard starts to form up with old cars carrying Dawson City's oldest residents right behind!

There is always a queen or two in any community parade...riding on the back of a convertible, of course!

And here is Mr. and Mrs. Dawson City...we have no clue, but they got a convertible to ride in, too!

Never did figure out who this group was, but they had an upfront location in the parade!
Have you ever been to a parade that didn't have music, usually at least one marching band?  Well, I hadn't until Dawson City--at least as to the bands!  But there was music...a Scottish bagpiper did lead the parade!
Here he is warming up the tubes!
And here he comes, leading the parade out in front of the color guard!!
And here he is again, after the parade, serenading folks in front of one of the downtown stores!
And what city in Canada would host a parade without their contingent of the RMP?  Check out the two guys in the back--big boys, for sure!  Ain't many grizzlies would want to go up against those fellers!
Hey kids!  C'mon down, decorate your bikes and ride in the parade...small towns every do this, don't they?
Fire trucks are mandatory, aren't they, in all parades??  Here is a repeat from Dawson City II...the "girls" from the saloon!
Another old fire truck in grand condition...featuring....damned if I know now, but they waved and through candy!
The parade also featured aerial is a hang glider flying down to City Park!

Not every one saw this display, but he touched down right on the river bank in the City Park!
One of the observations I have made up here in the North Country is that there are a lot of pickup trucks and many of those are four-wheel, seems to me.  Most likely, this is due to the issues of driving in the winter...or getting out of your driveway!...or selling plowing services!  Nonetheless, there are a lot of pickemups, and many have the big, noisy mufflers!  Back in my day in the '60s, I think we called them Glasspacks!  Loud, OMG!!  Well, we still had a Big Event to go to during Discovery Days:  a mudbog!  That was the finale event on Sunday, and we couldn't resist going up to see it!  But first, we got a preview in the parade of several of the vehicles who would participate in the mudbog race....some photos!
Check out this "high-rider" pickemup!  And look behind:  here comes Inferno!!
Belching fire and smoke!  A mudbogger shows his stuff in the parade!  Oh, and noise!  Lots of that!
Now VW never imagined looking like this!!  Really good clearance for the mud and water in the bog!

OK, Now We Have Seen the Mudbog Preview...onto the Real Thing!

Sunday morning broke bright and sunny...this trip has given us some bad weather at times, but almost every time we needed good sunshiny days, we got it.  Sunday in Dawson City for Discovery Days was certainly no exception!  The feature event was, of course, the mudbog races.  They were held up on a hillside north of town just below the Moose Hide Slide which you have seen now and then in these pictures.  Here is a full shot of it:
City Park market tents in the foreground with the Moose Hide Slide on the hill in the background!  It is an old geological formation dating back millennia...but there is a myth and story from the natives about how it occurred to save their village!
Anyway, partly up the hill toward the slide...the Discovery Days Agenda said "below the Moose Hide Slide"...there was a mudbog bit dug for the mudboggers to race in, and the spectators to sit up on the hillside above it to watch.  I won't post all the photos that I just couldn't resist taking...but here is a sample:
A Hummer goes against "Big Yellow"!  They have gotten the "GO" flag and mud is already flying!
This is "Big Yellow" after Round 1!  Check out the racing lanes just above the top of "Big Yellow"!

Trying to do a little clean up on "Big Yellow"...notice the mud scrappers being used!

I will come back tomorrow for the addition of more pictures...I am on a limited WIFI site and I think I am about out of MegaBytes....more to follow!