May 2, 2003
are now the proud owners of a 25' 2004 Fleetwood Pioneer Travel Trailer.
Click here to see photos of the inside of it. During the course of
making preparations for the move, Steve and I had delegated duties
to make the move as "painless" as possible (if that is even
possible). Steve's responsibilities: Research and purchase a travel
trailer to make our cross-country trip more livable, make all reservations
at campgrounds along the way, make all necessary appointments with
the movers, etc. and last but of the MOST importance: to comfort me
when I begin losing my mind. In comparison, some may consider my duties
to be minuscule: contact utility companies for shutoff, secure a remote
post office box in Alaska so our mail will have someplace to go while
we're on the road for 31 days, and plan out making on-the-road payments
to creditors. In addition I've had the task of weeding through any
accumulated belongings in an attempt to lighten the load. GOOD
WILL will have lots of stuff to slap price tags on and resell
Today, I repackaged the porcelain dolls I had on display here at the
apartment. I didn't want to take any risks with them getting broken
by the packers. In addition to the ten I packed up today, there are
still more than 20 at our storage unit - still packed up from the
last move. Transient living isn't very conducive to keeping yourself
surrounded by the things you love. Before you unpack, you can't help
but think about whether it's really necessary or just one more thing
you'll be packing up again in a couple of years. We'll be in Alaska
for three years... maybe a few more of my dolls will get to come out
of their boxes.
May 5, 2003
|It's a little after 5am. I've
been up since 4am. This isn't anything new. Insomnia has been a regular
thing for me for a long time. First it was because of the stresses
of school, then it was the stresses of war and worrying about my son
and daughter-in-law in Iraq, and then it quickly became the stresses
of moving. I go to sleep fairly early (before 10pm) but find myself
wide awake at 3am with a million things going through my mind. Maybe
my body only needs 5 hours sleep. If that's true, then why do I sometimes
have those "power sleep" days every week or so when I sleep
a full 12 hours? Go figure...
Yesterday was a productive day for me. More cleaning and weeding out
old stuff. For any of you who know me well, I finally got rid of those
"Happy Meal" toys I've been collecting! *smile* A little
boy who lives below me will be thrilled to find the bag of toys hanging
on his apartment door. (OK... so I DID keep the ones from Lord of
the Rings and the ones with cute stuffed animals in them).
The "organized" me came out and I inventoried and made a
list of all of our movie tapes. Grand total: 224 - and that's not
counting the two boxes of Disney movies I have in storage. One thing's
for sure; we'll have enough movies to keep us busy when the nights
last all day long up in Alaska. Of course we have our favorites -
and will be taking a handful with us just in case we run into horrible
weather while camping and bad TV reception.
This week is the final stretch for us. Today the truck goes in the
shop to have the bedliner and truck top installed, and I have to go
by school and pick up my Honor Stole for graduation on Saturday. Tomorrow
the dog and cat go to the Vet for their wellness exams and I'll pick
up their records. We can't take them through Canada without a Well
Animal Certificate. Steve has final medical appointments necessary
for clearing this duty station. On Wednesday, Steve will go into work
and collect his personal belongings as well as his bike - which he
has kept there for PT. Thursday I will follow him to Orlando to ship
my car to AK. We'll continue on to Tampa, where we'll be staying with
friends since Steve has another clearing appointment at MacDill AFB
there. We'll return on Friday afternoon, pick the dog up at the kennel,
and try to "chill". Graduation ceremonies are at 11am on
Saturday, but I have to be there at 10am. The packers will arrive
on Monday and pack for two days. On Wednesday they will load us up
and the apartment landlord will do our check-out. Thursday we hit
the happy trail. We're hoping to be on the road by 4am so we can avoid
the horrible morning traffic. And then - we're NOMADS for 31 days.
May 6, 2003
Why is it that everything seems to happen at the last minute? Yesterday,
Steve called the Navy base to confirm our moving appointment. They
hadn't made the appointment yet! He notified them back in April
about this move. He explained that we have to be on the road on
the 15th and is at the base (as I write this) trying to straighten
Then... Yesterday I took Steve over to pick up his truck (which
had the cap and bedliner installed). When I tried to start the car,
I got ZIP. Steve jumped my car and we drove immediately to the Navy
Base to have someone at the Auto Shop look at it. We're supposed
to drive it to Orlando on Thursday to have it shipped! The mechanics
ran diagnostics on it and told us that the battery was fine - it
was the starter. Why did it start with the jump if it's the starter?
I suppose I should feel grateful that this all happened NOW and
not on the way to Orlando or once we got to Alaska.
On a happier note, I got an early morning phone call from my son,
Brandon - who is back in Kuwait and hoping to be back in the USA
by July 4th. (Keeping my fingers crossed). He also got to call my
daughter-in-law, Becky - who is back in Utah having surgery for
a knee injury she sustained while in Iraq.
This afternoon, I haul the dog and cat to their favorite place
- THE VET! Once I get them their wellness exams, I can cross one
more thing off my list of "to-dos".
BACK TO TOP
May 7, 2003
|Everything seems to be back on track. I
picked up my car and it runs fine again. The dog and the cat went
to the Vet for their wellness exams. The Vet told me that both my
animals are a bit too plump; but I knew that already. When the Vet
manipulated the "pooch" on my cat's belly and advised that
she lose about a half pound, I thought to myself "we should ALL
be so lucky!". Of course, a half pound is a lot for a 12 pound
cat. What am I supposed to do? Put her on a training schedule? She
lays around in the sun all day and once in a while brings me a lizard
or tree frog. I'd say she works pretty hard...
The "Do Not Pack" pile is growing in the guest bedroom.
For anyone who isn't military, this is the pile you place in an out
of the way room or area, with a huge sign on it that tells the movers
it's not going on the truck with them. This pile consists of clothing
we'll need on the road as well as any valuables we intend to hand-carry.
As much as we'd like to hope that the movers contracted by the military
are honest, there are many horror stories about cameras or CD's, etc.
which turn up missing. We don't take any risks. This means that all
of my photographic equipment is coming with us. What makes this move
different than the others is that we also have a pile of stuff that
will go into the camper so our cross-country trip will be as comfortable
Tomorrow I'll be following Steve to Orlando to ship my car. I'll see
it again in mid-June.
May 7, 2003, POSTSCRIPT
My grandfather died this afternoon (Pop Pop Smalley)... His passing
brought a tremendous sadness to me. Not only because he is no longer
here with us, but because I am in the process of moving. (When my
father died in 1996, I was also in the process of moving.) What
brings me comfort is knowing that Pop Pop is finally with his wife
and all his children - in a beautiful place where he no longer suffers.
Walter Louis Smalley
July 7, 1910 - May 7, 2003
not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
My Pop Pop was a great inspiration
to me. His love for photography is what got me started in the hobby.
His wonderful sense of humor brought laughter to every family gathering.
He was a very intelligent man. In the 1940's he worked on the Manhattan
Project helping to develop America's first atomic weapons. He enjoyed
tinkering with electronics and would build all kinds of contraptions
from scratch. He enjoyed when his children and grandchildren would
stop to visit every Sunday after church. I can honestly say that
I never knew him as anyone other than a humorous, smiling, and loving
man. How blessed I am that he was my grandfather. Pop Pop, you will
be missed by all. I love you.
May 9, 2003
We're home from Tampa. We left yesterday morning and drove from
Jacksonville to Orlando to drop off my car so it could be shipped
to Alaska. (I followed Steve) They estimate the car will get to
Fairbanks no later than June 9th - which means it will beat us there.
The military will store my car for thirty days after it arrives,
which gives us plenty of time to pick it up. The process was a fairly
long one. I suppose I just imagined I'd turn over the car, the keys,
and do some paperwork and we'd be on our way. But there's more to
it. The car has to be cleaned inside and out. (We knew that ahead
of time and took care of it before we left yesterday.) Except for
a few bug carcasses on the windshield, it looks great. The staff
then boxes up any personal stuff that is ALLOWED to go with the
car. This includes owner's manuals, the license plate, basic tools,
the jack and spare, and other items specific to the car. They hand
you back all the extra stuff such as sunglasses, cassette tapes/CDs;
even a set of winter gloves and a scarf I had in the trunk. Then
they go over the car with a fine tooth comb - making note of any
and all defects. My car is a 1995 Nissan Sentra. It has seen much
better days. The paperwork has a diagram of a car and the inspector
has to place "x"'s on the parts of the car that have damage
and then draw a line to a handwritten description written in the
space around the diagram. On our diagram, it looks like my car is
sporting a full fur coat with all the lines drawn out of the diagram!
Steve and I got a good laugh out of that. A little more than an
hour later, we were on our way to Tampa.
We made the decision to stay in Tampa last night because that's
where Steve had to attend his final "out-processing" appointments
this morning. We have great friends (Mark and Dawn Stephens and
their children Josh and Autumn) who are stationed at MacDill AFB
and they were gracious enough to open their home to us. Mark happens
to be deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, so we missed
the chance to say goodbye to him. But Dawn, Steve and I (and the
children) went out to a great dinner at a restaurant overlooking
the bay. Later at the house, the kids went off to bed and the adults
shared two delicious bottles of Merlot. Steve hit the sack at midnight
and Dawn and I stayed up till 3am this morning talking "girl
talk" and enjoying our last evening together. This morning
Dawn prepared a fabulous breakfast for all of us and, while Steve
was at his appointments, she and I gabbed some more. It was a little
sad to say goodbye, but I hope that they will find some time to
make the trip to AK to visit. Thank you, Dawn, for the wonderful
time we had at the "Stephens' Bed & Breakfast". We
Tomorrow I graduate from college! HOORAY! The ceremony is at 11am,
but I have to be there at 10am. My cap looks absolutely HORRID,
but I suppose I just have to deal with it. I am very proud of my
accomplishments and once graduation is over - it's our final chance
to decide what we'll hand carry on this trip and what we'll have
the movers pack up on Monday. Less than a week to go...
May 10, 2003
I did it! Today was graduation! It was a very nice ceremony. I
felt proud of myself and also a bit sad. I really wish my dad would
have been able to see me accomplish this. But I do believe that
he "sees" me anyway. They split the graduating class into
two sections; the AS (Associate in Science) students and the AA(Associate
in Arts) students. At the beginning of the procession were the Honor
Grads. First came the 4.0 grads, then the Highest Honor Grads, and
then the Honor Grads. Following these three groups was the rest
of the class. I walked to the front of the line and found two other
4.0 grads in the AS program. Since the AS students were getting
their certificates first, we would be the first ones across the
stage. No one wanted to go first! I said, "After all the hard
work I put into this - I will go first!" And I did... First
one in the auditorium; first one across the stage; first one to
get my degree. It was such a wonderful moment! I was so proud of
myself and yet, also a bit melancholic. I enjoyed attending school.
I enjoyed learning new things. I enjoyed meeting people who shared
my interests and had the same types of goals I did. I don't think
this is the end of my education; whether formal or not. After the
ceremony, Steve and I drove to a park nearby and he shot a few photos
Tonight we are going out to celebrate at our favorite restaurant
here in Jacksonville - Carrabbas. (Thank you brother Steve and sis
Diane for your gift certificate!) Tomorrow is our last day to organize
before the packers come. In five days, we leave FL behind.
BACK TO TOP
May 12, 2003
The packers came today. Boy, what a hectic mess! It's hard to fathom
how much stuff you have until someone comes out and starts loading
your belongings into boxes. It's like living in a Medieval fort
with the huge piles of boxes outlining only the narrowest of walkways
throughout the apartment. And then there is all the stuff they WON'T
pack and ship: anything flammable, anything liquid, cleaning supplies,
some foods, plants, etc. Take a second and look around your place
at all the liquid stuff you own... Half of our stuff is liquid!
Think about it... shampoo, liquid laundry detergent, some medicines,
peroxide and alcohol... you name it! We had to get rid of so much
stuff - what a waste of money and goods.
After packing the apartment, they followed Steve to the Store-All
to pack up the stuff we've had in storage since we got here. I don't
know why they have to re-pack stuff that was already packed; I guess
it's a liability thing.
Now we're living with the bare necessities. All the stuff we're
hauling is in a pile off by itself in the guest bedroom or already
in the camper. Tomorrow the packers will be back to wrap the furniture
and the movers will follow to load the stuff into crates. When you
do an "overseas" move, your belongings go into huge crates
so that they will make the transition from moving van to barge and
then back to moving van again without being downloaded box by box.
Only days to go....
May 15, 2003
The past few days have been extremely hectic (as you can imagine).
On Tuesday, the packers came back and loaded our household goods.
Then they drove over to our store-all to load the stuff we had over
there. When everything was loaded and crated, and we started going
over the paperwork, we noticed that an inventory page was missing.
It seems that one of the packers had tagged the items and loaded
them on the truck without writing them on the inventory sheet. (He
later said that he "thought he remembered running out of inventory
sheets"). Needless to say, there was no way we could sign off
on the job. We called a representative at NAS JAX Navy Base (the
Navy is moving us) and were advised to make a report of the problem
to protect ourselves on the receiving end in the event something
is missing. What upset me the most is that the store-all was where
all my porcelain dolls, photo albums and other memorabilia, and
Steve's tools were stored. I can only hope that everything shows
up in Alaska intact.
On Tuesday night we slept on an air mattress on the living room
floor. We still had some boxes of stuff that we had to load into
the camper and carry with us but other than that, the apartment
was empty. Exhausted from the intensive cleaning of the place, we
fell asleep fairly easily. At 2am it was abundantly clear to us
what exactly our cat does at night which makes her sleep all day.
Running at amazing speed, she crossed the apartment - back and forth.
When she got into one of the empty guestrooms, she'd chatter to
herself and then race back to the living room again. This went on
for about an hour. I suppose I never realized she behaved this way
because we typically slept with the bedroom door closed. Steve and
I lay in the dark laughing out loud at our black furry maniac.
Yesterday, we finished loading up our belongings and the landlord
inspected the place. It looked better when we left it than it did
when we moved in. With nothing keeping us in FL, we decided to begin
our trip. We bid farewell to Jacksonville at 5:15pm and arrived
in Hope Mills, NC (our first stop) at midnight. Now we can spend
the entire day here visiting with old friends. We hope to hit the
road about 4am in the morning en route to Philadelphia.
While in NC, we also enjoyed visiting with Samantha and Felicia
- Barbara and Mike's granddaughters. As usual, I snapped photos
of these two beautiful girls and enjoyed hanging out with everyone.
down, 6900 to go!
May 17, 2003
PA - Staying with brother Steve and sis Diane & niece and nephew,
Rachel and Sean.
Yesterday we left NC at 4am so that we could avoid the traffic
in the DC area. Anyone who has ever made the trip up the east coast
via I-95 knows that the entire trip must be planned around rush
hour in our nation's capitol. If you don't plan correctly, you can
face delays up to 2-3 hours. (More if there's a traffic accident
- which is common)
We hit rain in northern Virginia and it stayed with us the rest
of the trip. Despite the low visibility and the heavy crosswinds
(which made towing the camper a lot more difficult), we made the
trip from NC to Philadelphia in about 10 hours.
Last night, my brother Marc and my sister-in-law Denise came over
to hang out with us. We watched a movie, had a little champagne,
and laughed a lot. Steve and I went to bed early; rising at 3:30am
yesterday really took its toll.
Today is Pop Pop's funeral service - a Life Celebration. Although
it will be a sad affair, I am looking forward to seeing the extended
Smalley family. It's just a shame that as you get older, it seems
the only family gatherings are at funerals...
May 18, 2003
|Here's a photo
of some of my family and friends who attended our going away party.
What a wonderful evening I had last night! Diane and Steve were
gracious enough to open their house to family and friends so that
I could have the chance to say goodbye before beginning the cross-country
part of the trip.
Many of my cousins visited and a few friends I haven't seen in
years. It was great seeing my friend, Denise Allavena. She and I
met nearly 24 years ago when we both worked as data entry operators
for the IRS. I hadn't seen her in probably 15+ years! My friend
Lee came by too. He and I worked together at the Post Office and
it's been about 2 years since we've seen each other.
I think the highlight of the evening was the slide show my cousin,
John set up. John has hundreds of slides which my Pop Pop took.
These photos were taken when our parents were just married - some
even when they were only dating! Other photos were of all of us
children when we were only toddlers and infants. Not only were the
photos entertaining... but we took turns interjecting hysterical
commentary to go along with them. We all laughed so hard, at times
we had tears streaming down our faces. I've posted some of these
old photos HERE.
May 19, 2003
Crystal Rock Campground
(Scale of 1 to 10 - 10 being excellent)
The only thing that got them the 3 is the cleanliness of the bathrooms.
The campsites were very small and maneuvering of any large trailer
to get to the site is difficult.
The campsite cost us $24.00 - the average cost of a campsite for
a travel trailer.
Raining and cool - highs and lows in the 50's
ABOUT 1500 MILES
DOWN - 5800 TO GO!
I am sitting in my camper for the very first time! This is our
first night finally using the camper, since the previous few nights
have been spent with family and friends. Setting up for the first
time wasn't too difficult, but we did have to take our time and
make sure we did everything in the right sequence in order to get
the camper level and functioning properly.
We made great time coming out here from Philadelphia. We took the
PA Turnpike out of Bensalem, PA and then the Northeast Extension
all the way to I-80. We took I-80 all the way into Ohio before we
picked up the Ohio Turnpike. It was an easy drive and traffic was
very light. My brother, Steve, gave us a portable CB radio and we
listened to the truckers all the way. What a wonderful method of
keeping up on the road conditions - to include accidents and radar
traps (which we dodged at least four times). Sadly, we heard the
news come over the CB about an 'Evel Kneivel' (motorcyclist) who
had just run headlong into the back of a pickup truck. We passed
the accident as paramedics were strapping the victim to a backboard
and we noticed that he was injured gravely. We drove even more carefully
after witnessing that scene.
We arrived in Sandusky a little after 4pm and visited a grocery
store before checking into our campsite. It is now only a little
after 9pm and Steve and I are looking forward to finally discovering
if our camper bed is going to be a nightmare to sleep on or comfortable.
If it turns out to be a restless night for Steve, tomorrow could
turn into a stressful event. (Fingers crossed that we don't have
We expect to get on the road by 9am at the latest.
The fortunate thing is that we will gain an hour as we cross into
the Central Time Zone.
like this dotted the countryside. The Lehigh Tunnel goes through
the Pocono Mountains in PA and is a mile long. We really enjoyed
the rolling hills and acres of farmland we passed. Very nice!
BACK TO TOP
May 20, 2003
Baraboo Hills Campground
(Scale of 1 to 10 - 10 being excellent)
Well-kept, shaded lots, beautiful countryside.
Large sites, laundry, pool (not open yet), very clean bathrooms
and showers, mini-golf, modem at office.
With AAA discount, we saved 10% off the daily fee. Three days -
Sunny and temperate at arrival (about 60), nighttime lows: 30's
- BRRRRRRRRRRRR! We used our camper furnace for the first time.
Tomorrow they are predicting the same temps.
The trip from Sandusky, OH to Baraboo, WI was fairly uneventful.
We stayed on the Ohio Turnpike the entire way and then crossed Indiana
on the Indiana Turnpike. Just before crossing into Indiana the rain
started. Nevertheless we were still able to average about 60-65
Entering Illinois brought a change to everything.
Chicago is right up there with our nation's capitol when it comes
to traffic problems. Lots of construction, lots of intersecting
highways, and because we chose the toll road (Northwest Tollway)
- lots of stops at toll booths to pay. We estimate that we stopped
at least 7 times to pay our 80 cent toll. Not only was this an inconvenience,
but it caused serious backups on the highway. I would like to know
where the money goes; the roads were awful.
Once we left Chicago behind and skirted Rockford,
Illinois, the countryside began to change. The urban sprawl of the
big city fell behind us as we began moving through true farmland
and past magnificent ranches.
The CB radio saved the day when an alert came across
the airways about a "parking lot" on I-90/I-94 due to
construction. We hopped off the interstate just before the traffic
jam (phew!) and drove through some of the most awe-inspiring rolling
hills and agricultural tracts. Despite the 35 mph speed limits,
we were making better time than those poor people stuck on the highway.
We arrived at our campground by 5pm. Leveling and
hooking up only took us about an hour this time (we're still novices!).
We were settled in with enough time to watch the season
finale of "24" (one of our favorite shows). As soon as
it was over, we went to bed and fell fast asleep. Until 3:30am that
is... that's when the extreme cold woke us both and we turned on
the heater for the first time.
May 21, 2003
Visiting with Chris
Me, Chris, and Steve
What a wonderful day! We were up by 7:30am and out the door by
9:00am on our way to Madison to pick up Chris. Chris will be spending
today and tomorrow with us and we will take him home again as we
pass through Madison on Friday morning en route to our next stop
in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
It was so good seeing my son again! Our last visit was in April,
2002 when Chris flew to FL to visit with us. We stopped and had
breakfast before continuing on to Wisconsin Dells. Our plan for
the day included a scenic boat ride down the Wisconsin River - the
Wisconsin Dells is just like any other resort town. The roads leading
into Wisconsin Dells are rural and pass by many magnificent farms,
but once you get into the city its "touristy" feel is
apparent. There are gift shops and restaurants and water parks and
amusement parks and all kinds of scenic attractions.
We took an hour-long ride a little way down the Lower Dells. The
rock formations were amazing - caused by the advance and retreat
of glaciers over millions of years. I shot a few photos, but wish
I would have had more opportunity to take my time and explore without
the constraints of the boat ride.
Tomorrow we are planning a trip to Devil's Lake just south of here.
There are hiking trails there and Chris says that there are also
plenty of photo ops in the area. At least we'll be on foot and have
the freedom to go wherever our feet can take us.
May 22, 2003
Devils Lake State Park
Just south of Baraboo, WI
Chris and Steve
On the hiking trail
60's and sunny
View from the hiking trail - Notice the
rock stairs ascending the hill
Last night the temperatures dipped into the 30's
again. We heard the heat go on in the camper several times and
the cat found a nice warm spot to curl up underneath Chris's blanket
on the futon sofa/bed.
We were all up before 7am - the sun shining in the
sky and the morning already starting to warm up. After eating
a light breakfast, we headed to Devil's Lake.
What an absolutely gorgeous place! We got a map
showing the hiking trails at the guardhouse and decided to take
the EAST BLUFF WOODS trail - a 1.3 mile easy to moderate walk
up the East Bluff. There were several fairly steep grades and
we stopped to rest a bit from time to time. Once we got to the
top of the bluff, we decided to take the BALANCED ROCK TRAIL back
to the parking lot. This trail was extremely steep and difficult
and traversed over stone "steps" on the south face of
the East Bluff. The views were awe-inspiring, but several times
I felt the dizziness of vertigo as I made my way across boulders
and down steep stone stairs with nothing to hold on to. I am thankful
that Steve and Chris were there to assist me. Once, I stepped
onto a huge, flat rock and my foot slipped. I panicked but luckily
didn't lose my footing completely (which would have caused me
to fall 30 feet to the rocks below). After Steve grabbed me and
pulled me to safety, I fell apart. All I could think about was
just how dangerous this trail was and how easy it would be to
be hurt or even killed in a fall. Behind us, a young scout troop
followed. I could only imagine the trip releases that those parents
were made to sign! View some additional pictures by clicking here.
May 23, 2003
Bluffs Run Casino RV Park
Council Bluffs, IA
Our rating: 3
A place to park - that's it. Basically it's a parking lot with water
and electric hookups.
74 degrees and SUNNY!
2300 miles down,
5500 to go!
We left our nice campground in Baraboo at 7:30am this morning.
The drive back to Madison to drop Chris off at his apartment took
about 45 minutes. We then spent an additional 30 minutes or so saying
goodbye. I always love spending time with Chris and hate when our
time visiting is over. We had a fabulous time hanging out and he
promised to come to Alaska as soon as we get settled in.
The drive to Council Bluffs, IA took us through some pretty nondescript
countryside. Iowa is basically flat and nothing but farmland. Steve
refers to Iowa as "Iowa DZ" (DZ is 'drop zone' for those
who aren't familiar with military acronyms.)
When we got close to our exit on the highway and realized that
there was hardly any greenery at all, we knew our "campsite"
was going to be- at the very least- hot.
Pulling into the casino parking lot verified our fears... we are
now the proud renters of a 30x65 cement pad. The positive thing
about this location is that there are hookups and the site is totally
level, which facilitated setup. Oh... and did I mention we are the
youngest campers here? Seems this casino does a booming business
with our silver-haired population. Our trip inside to get dinner
revealed a noisy, smoke-filled facility complete with bells and
whistles and sirens and screaming seniors as they pumped handful
after handful of nickels and quarters into the slot machines.
May 24, 2003
Eagles Canyon Hideaway
(on Lake McGonaughy)
Our Rating: Overall - 5
The sites are small, there are no trees, and the campground is soft
sand which makes for difficult leveling.
There's a pool, general store, dogwalk, small snackbar, cabins,
and close proximity to lake.
$31.65 - They said it's because of the holiday weekend. I thought
it was a bit higher than the site was worth, however the staff was
very nice and helpful.
Today got off to a wet start. The rain started last night just
before we fell asleep, and continued until we got about 20 miles
west of Omaha. We had breakfast in the Casino - utilizing our complimentary
half-off coupons presented to us when we checked in last night.
Actually, it wasn't bad. The buffet was hot, included a variety
of items, and for a grand total of $5.50 for BOTH of us - quite
Driving was a bit stressful. I-80 across Nebraska is bumpy- very
bumpy. Steve chose to drive in the passing lane to avoid the extreme
bumpiness of the other lane and became the topic of conversation
with all the truckers surrounding us. (He was holding up traffic
because he couldn't keep up the speed due to a steady uphill climb).
Finally, the road became a bit smoother and we were able to get
back into the "slow" lane.
We heard of a fatal accident (via CB radio) that has shut down
I-80 just west of where we are. Apparently an 18-wheeler ran into
the bridge pillar of an overpass and collapsed the entire bridge.
I-80 is closed in both directions, so we have to find an alternate
(slower) route to get past it.
The landscape of Nebraska was also pretty nondescript
until we got closer to the western side of the state. Finally, rolling
hills are appearing again. Obviously these are the very beginning
of the foothills which lead to the Rocky Mountains and the Continental
Divide. (Which we will cross tomorrow) Click
here to see more photos.
BACK TO TOP
May 25, 2003
Tex's Travel Camp
Green River, Wyoming
Our Rating: Overall - 8.5
The pull-through sites aren't as nicely landscaped as the other
The bathrooms and showers are immaculate. The majority of the campground
is beautifully landscaped. Close proximity to the lake for fishing
and kayaking is a plus.
Laundry, Cable TV, Modem, Fishing, etc. and all for $25.00.
Weather: 73 and sunny until
a torrential downpour fell this afternoon and lasted about 40 minutes.
days of our trip were the longest and our gas expenses show it.
Steve's truck gets an average of 6 mpg pulling the camper - however
we have found that when going downhill on some of the steep grades,
we have reached 64 mpg! (Of course I don't like the white-knuckle
feeling of careening down a steep road at 70 mph) What this means
is that the average 450 mile day means three fill-ups. And this
translates into about 100.00/day in gas alone. We will get reimbursement
for a portion of our trip, but the side trip we're taking along
the Oregon and Washington coast - as well as the trip up the east
coast to see family and friends - is our expense alone. Anyone making
such a long trip, should seriously think about the fuel expense
and prepare ahead of time.
Today was a day full of so many emotions - mixed emotions. As we
traveled through the western part of Nebraska, with its gorgeous
bluffs and miles of ranchland, I felt content to sit and watch the
landscape go by. Traffic was light on the interstate and even though
we had a long day ahead of us (400+ miles), Steve and I were both
feeling very relaxed. We knew that we would shortly be entering
Wyoming and the landscape would change once again.
like this one dotted the countryside. The pastures were full of
cattle and the number of babies grazing with their mothers was incredible.
Last season's corn fields were brown and dried, but this season's
hay fields were lush and green. Beautiful wildflowers dotted the
land - some standing alone, some in clumps that went on as far as
the eye could see. The sun was shining and it was in the 70's -
perfect weather for a drive across America.
As we crossed the border into Wyoming, things remained relatively
the same. The one big difference was the poverty we began to see
as we passed through Cheyenne and Laramie. Like many bigger cities,
it seems that the most depressed parts of town are those closest
to the interstate. Soon the landscape began to gradually change
and the rolling green hills gave way to sagebrush-dotted mounds
of rocks and sand. As we moved closer to the central part of Wyoming,
we were rendered silent by the appearance of snowcapped mountains
on the horizon. This was the Wyoming we remembered from our drive
to Montana several years ago.
interstate climbed and fell - steeply in places - and we began climbing
higher in altitude. I felt at peace; seeing such beauty outside
my window brought a calmness over me. The same calmness that Steve
and I experience whenever we explore the western part of our country.
How different it is from Philadelphia and the entire east coast...
Steve asked me to read to him from The Milepost. The Milepost is
a thick informational magazine/publication put out each year and
is the "bible" of anyone traveling through western Canada
and Alaska. I suppose he was in the mood to hear about what other
wondrous sites we would experience when we left the Lower 48 behind.
As I read from the book, it suddenly dawned on me just how far
we are going to be from everyone. I suppose I never really thought
about moving to Alaska as anything other than an adventure. In moving
with the military, I've learned to go into autopilot during these
upheavals. Viewing the moves as an adventure makes things go much
smoother. But in those moments while reading, I began thinking about
Chris in Wisconsin and Brandon still in Kuwait, and my mom and my
brothers and sister-in-laws and niece and nephews in PA. And my
many wonderful friends spread out all over the east coast... In
Alaska, we would be so far and I was already missing everyone. I
wept for a good 15 minutes and expressed my sadness and fear to
Steve. As usual, he calmed me and promised that I could go "home"
anytime I wanted to; making me realize that I was only a plane-ride
away from my family.
As the mountains grew closer, and the wildlife became more abundant
(we saw Pronghorn Antelope, Prairie Dogs, Chipmunks, Coyotes, and
Deer), I regained a peaceful feeling again. After setting up camp,
Steve and I sat on a bench overlooking the river and canyon and
watched the sunset. It wasn't as spectacular as some of the sunsets
I've seen in FL, but it was the first of many sunsets we will share
during this great adventure.Click here to see more photos.
May 26, 2003 Memorial
Salt Lake KOA
Salt Lake City
Our Rating: Overall - 9
KOA's have everything you could possibly ask for but you are also
crammed into small spaces. It suited our purposes just fine.
Weather: 85 and Sunny
TODAY WE MET MY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW, BECKY, AND HER PARENTS!
Steve and Becky
and Linda Zimmer and Becky
Today was a short day for us. We took our time this morning before
leaving Wyoming and hitting the road for Utah. We figured that we
would get into town around 3pm and before leaving WY, Steve called
Becky's mom, Linda, and told her when she could expect us. Linda
and Ray invited us to have dinner at their house followed by a tour
of Salt Lake City. Steve and I were excited about finally meeting
the young woman our son had married back in January, as well as
The drive into Utah - particularly the Salt Lake City area - was
breathtaking. Towering cliffs of various shades of red poked up
from the lush green tundra. In the distance were towering snow-covered
mountains. The roads also became steeper and we alternated between
climbing slowly at a dismal 40 mph and descending in low gear to
prevent ourselves from reaching speeds over 90 mph. Although Steve
and I had been to Utah before, our exploration kept us in the southeastern
portion of the state. We were looking forward to seeing the state's
at a rest stop along the way, a paved pathway took us to an overlook
where I captured this shot. The colors were brilliant in the afternoon
sun and the temperatures were hot.
After settling in at our campsite, Linda and Becky picked us up
to take us back to their house for dinner. Once we arrived we met
almost the entire family. We met Grandma and Becky's siblings (she
is one of 7). I remember some of the names, but not all - my memory
has really slipped in my old age! Therefore, I won't even mention
the brothers and sisters I remember, so as not to offend those whose
names I can't recall. We had a delicious dinner of steak and salmon
and fruit and pie for dessert. What a welcome change from the fast
food that Steve and I have become accustomed to during this trip.
The conversation at dinner was terrific. Becky's family is much
like mine - lots of talking and laughing during the dinner hour.
Brandon will fit in just fine...
After dinner, Ray and Linda and Becky took Steve and I into town
and we toured Temple Square. I got great photos of the Salt Lake
Temple, the Tabernacle, and the gardens. I also took some photos
of Becky. You can view them HERE.
May 27, 2003
Double Dice RV Park
Gravel parking lot, pay showers, no modem, no amenities (except
for gambling, which we aren't into)
Anyone who equates Nevada to Las Vegas, has absolutely no idea
of the beauty of this state. Steve and I have found that the most
awe-inspiring sights are those that are far off the beaten path.
Great Salt Lake
WEATHER: 85 and Sunny
We got sunburn on our faces in less than 20 minutes.
3500 miles down 4000 miles to
Today was our second leisurely day. With only 224 miles on today's
schedule, we were able to sleep in and take our time in departing
Salt Lake City.
Almost immediately after leaving Salt Lake City, we got our first
glimpse of the Great Salt Lake. Soon after we found ourselves traversing
miles upon miles of nothing but salt flats. The pure whiteness of
the salt appears to be snow. There is nothing in the salt flats
- no cities, no facilities, nothing. Only when we got closer to
Wendover, did we see signs for the Bonneville Speedway (which is
where they attempt the World Land Speed Record - which is currently
somewhere up around 800mph)
Unfortunately our drive was not a relaxing one. When we were only
27 miles from Nevada, Steve and I were the eyewitnesses to a horrible
accident involving a tractor trailer and a pickup truck towing a
van. (We were in the westbound lanes; they were in the eastbound
lanes) We watched as the driver of the pickup attempted to pass
the semi and lost control of his vehicle in the truck's wake. (We
learned a long time ago about the strength of a semi's wind when
it passes) The pickup cleared the front end of the semi, but the
van he was towing ended up fishtailing all over the highway. This
caused the pickup and the van to jackknife in front of the semi
- who then plowed into both vehicles, driving them to the shoulder.
Steve immediately pulled over to the shoulder and ran to the accident
site to see if there were any injuries while I used our cell phone
to call 911. Amazingly, both drivers were uninjured, but the towed
van was a total loss - snapping an axle, blowing out all the windows,
and suffering massive body damage. While watching the accident occur,
Steve and I were convinced there were going to be fatalities. How
glad we were to learn that no one was hurt. We continued on with
our drive, shaken and driving much more defensively.
As we got close to the Utah/Nevada border, we began noticing some
more snowcapped mountains on the horizon. They seemed to rise up
almost immediately after crossing into the state. Not only did mountains
rise up, but so did mile after mile of Casinos. We stopped at the
Nevada Welcome Center to get a map and some information about Elko
- our next stop.
After setting up camp (another one of those gravel-paved parking
lots), Steve and I headed for Lamoille (La-MOE) and the Canyon Trail
Road - a scenic drive in the Humboldt-Toyabe National Forest, which
climbs high into the Ruby Mountains. If we wouldn't have stopped
at the Welcome Center for information, we wouldn't have even known
this scenic drive existed. What a totally breathless drive! I shot
over a hundred photos on this hour-long trip.
The road winds up between tall snowcapped peaks. Much of the road
is barely two lanes wide and guardrails are few and far between.
Going up the road was a little tense for me. Being able to see deep
into the gorges below was disconcerting to say the least. But the
scenery was magnificent. As we climbed higher, the temperatures
dropped. When we started the drive it was 84 degrees. At the end
of the route it was barely 50 degrees. The snow was still deep in
places - more than 5 feet deep. But the road was clear. There were
many waterfalls along the way as the winter snow melted and ran
down to the river deep in the gorge. The contrast of the bright
green new leaves of the aspen trees, the yellow of the wildflowers,
and the pristine white of the snow was everything a photographer
could hope for.
After completing our drive, we took the advice of our brochure
and stopped at O'Carroll's Bar and Grill in Lamoille for a quick
beer. The bar was a typical cowboy bar and full of locals. We were
the only "tourists" and at first felt a bit out of place.
But we sidled up to the bar with the rest of the patrons and within
minutes we were talking to them about our trip and where we had
come from, etc. It turns out that another lady at the bar was born
and raised in Anchorage and left AK because it was too cold for
her (and the Nevada mountains don't get cold??!) She did tell us
that it was an absolutely breathtaking state and that Steve and
I would enjoy it if we were the type who liked to get out an explore.
I wish I could post all of my photos - so many of them are beautiful
- but I'm limited. If you click here, you can see some more of my
BACK TO TOP
May 28, 2003
Lake Tahoe, CA
Tahoe Valley Campground
Our Rating: 7
Shaded sites, older bathrooms, a few amenities.
- near 90 and absolutely BEAUTIFUL!
Steve on overlook
We are finally in the second half of our journey. Tomorrow we'll
be in Bodega Bay (Remember "THE BIRDS"?)
3900 miles down 3600 to
This was the highest altitude since passing through the mountains
in central Wyoming.
I was up at 5:15am. I don't know why. I didn't get to bed till
after 10pm last night. The sun was already up and shining brightly
in the early morning sky. Steve and I were on our way to Lake Tahoe
at 7:30am. We had a 350 mile drive ahead of us and wanted to get
to Tahoe with enough time to explore.
The trip through the western half of Nevada was pretty boring.
The snowcapped mountains were gone and only brown hills surrounded
us. When we reached Carson City, the desolate countryside disappeared
and urban sprawl took over. (How spoiled we have become with open
We climbed to over 7200 feet in altitude as we made our way to
Lake Tahoe. I started suffering mild symptoms of altitude sickness
about 2 hours into our drive. I got a pounding headache, suffered
mild nausea, and just felt "blah". My asthma attacks were
frequent. I read about altitude sickness and knew that as my body
got used to the change, it would soon adjust.
After setting up camp, Steve and I went out looking for a place
to have dinner. At first we thought we'd enjoy a romantic Italian
dinner in one of the nicer restaurants in town. Then we came upon
the South Lake Tahoe Marina Restaurant & Bar and saw that the
parking lot was packed with cars even though it was only 4:30pm.
We decided to go in.
The restaurant was right on South Lake Tahoe beach. We chose to
eat outside. A live band was playing. People of every age were there
- from children to seniors. Because the outdoor part of the restaurant
was on the beach, lots of people were in their bathing suits and
barefoot. Others were dressed up for a night on the town. It didn't
matter - anything went.
We only had burgers and a few beers, but it was one of our favorite
meals since heading west. Tahoe is one huge resort town and the
only purpose to being there is to have fun. And we did.
After dinner, we took a short walk on one of the docks and then
drove up scenic route 89 on the westside of the lake. It was gorgeous!
Emerald Bay Overlook
Approaching South Lake Tahoe
May 29, 2003
Bodega Bay, CA
Bodega Bay RV Park
Our Rating: 7
No trees, sites very close, no sewer hookup at site.
A WORD OF WISDOM:
Do NOT try to navigate the streets of San Francisco while towing
30' of camper. Some streets were off-limit to trucks and long vehicles,
but the ones that weren't were narrow and too congested to navigate
comfortably. Our drive past Fisherman's Wharf was too stressful
for us to enjoy the views. All we wanted to do was get out of San
Francisco. There is a lot of road construction going on as well
- even Golden Gate Park was closed temporarily.
Weather: A cool 55 degrees.
Drizzling on and off. Very windy - especially at the higher altitudes.
This sea lion obviously calls Bodega
Bay his permanent home. Hanging out below a fish
market, he barked constantly until the fishermen threw him their
scraps. How neat to see a creature like this outside of a zoo!
a few more photos HERE
Bodega Bay Panorama
We left Lake Tahoe by 7am - just as we had planned. Our drive today
was 275 miles. The drive along Highway 50 was fairly easy, but things
started to change after leaving Sacramento behind and beginning
the approach to San Francisco. It is no wonder that the auto insurance
rates in California are so high. Stress levels in our vehicle were
at an all-time high and both Steve and I wished we would have chosen
an alternate route.
After crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge and entering San Francisco,
chaos ensued. Even though my husband has never driven a semi, he
could almost definitely get his trucking license after demonstrating
some of the moves he did today. (You should have witnessed the illegal
U-turn we made in downtown 'Frisco.... we just wanted to ESCAPE!)
The view of the Golden Gate Bridge was practically nonexistent.
A light rain was falling and the winds were gusting at almost 60mph
at the bridge overlook. The upper part of the bridge was invisible
- cloaked in fog. Even so... the weather made for some interesting
After setting up in Bodega Bay (which is located along the coastal
highway), we went out for dinner and then drove all around the bay.
We'll definitely be using the heater tonight...
Gate Bridge shrouded in fog
overlooking Bodega Bay
May 30, 2003
Hiouchi Hamlet RV Resort
Crescent City, CA
Our Rating: 9
Grass, nice landscaping, nice location
in the Klamath National Forest.
we drove the California Coast Highway (Rt. 1) from Bodega Bay to
Leggett. The drive was 135 miles and took us 6 hours to complete
because of the switchback roads, the ascent and descent over the
coastal mountains, and stops to sightsee. We averaged only 30 miles
per hour (if that). The views were terrific, but the drive was stressful.
In most places there are no guardrails and the roads are narrow.
Drop-offs to the ocean or forest floor below were as much as 500
After reaching Leggett, we still had to go about 200 miles to get
here (Crescent City), but at least we were taking the freeway for
that stretch. We spent 10 1/2 hours on the road today and we are
50's in Bodega Bay, reached as high as 68 when we were inland. Currently
it's 55 degrees and overcast.
Small hamlet on the way
Steve and I were both up by 5am and on the road by 7:15am. We knew
the drive along the coastal highway was going to be a long one and
wanted to get going as soon as possible.
Along the way, we stopped a few times to snap pictures, but I was
looking forward to exploring Mendocino - an artists' enclave just
south of Fort Bragg, CA (which looks nothing like the Fort Bragg,
NC Steve and I were stationed at for 6 years!) We found a parking
spot in Mendocino and walked a few streets so I could shoot some
photos. Then we sat in the camper and ate lunch before getting back
on the road.
The small hamlets along the coastal highway are very picturesque
and interesting. Many of them have a New England flavor (as Mendocino
does) and others look like fishing villages. Still others are fairly
depressed with few amenities except for a small "Mom and Pop"
grocery store and a gas station. Nevertheless, I was completely
enthralled with the scenery as we made our way north.
We will be staying here in Crescent City tomorrow night as well
and will be exploring Redwood National Forest. Here are some photos
I shot today.
morning started out foggy and remained that way most of the day
while we followed the coast. As the road moved inland, the sun came
out and the temperatures heated up to a balmy 68. Making our way
back to the coast (and to our campground) brought fog and cooler
temperatures once again.
in the boulders like this one were normal. As the waves made their
way into shore, they would crash through these openings. This photo
was shot along the coastal highway, when we stopped to walk the
dog and admire the wildflowers - blooming in abundance along the
times during our drive, the road reached beach level. I liked the
way the driftwood littered the beach at this location and asked
Steve to stop so I could take a photo. It also gave the faster motorists
a chance to pass us - the "slow" people in the RV.
the background (faintly) you can see Port Arena Lighthouse just
south of Fort Bragg, CA.
Today is day 16 of our trip. It is also the first camping stop
on the west coast in which we stay more than one night. We'll be
staying two nights each in the next 3 locations. Hopefully these
small breaks will rejuvenate us and prepare us for the long journey
across western Canada.
down - 3000 to go!
BACK TO TOP
May 31, 2003
What an absolutely gorgeous day we are having! It
is only 3pm in the afternoon (6pm ET), but the office closes at
5, so I need to get this page uploaded.
Steve and I drove through the Redwood Forest today - a gravel scenic
route that the locals told us about at the little restaurant we
had breakfast at this morning. Again, I can't emphasize how important
it is to mingle with the locals if you want to learn about those
"off the beaten path places". What a treasure the drive
We walked through the Stout Grove and I shot more than a hundred
photos. As usual, I can only post a few. I can't wait to print them
out for my album.
After our drive through the redwoods, we took a
drive along the Crescent City coastline and visited the Battery
Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was inaccessible at this time because
the tide was in and separated it from the coast. With the sun shining
high in the sky, and a cool breeze blowing off the ocean, Steve
and I meandered along the coast admiring not only the huge rocks
offshore, but the beautiful homes lining the street. One thing we
noticed here is that the flowers are HUGE! Rose bushes are everywhere
with blooms that are larger than a man's fist.
Battery Point Lighthouse
Just a little info about the Coast Redwood:
Coast redwoods tower over all other trees in the world. One redwood
was discovered with a height of 367.8 feet. Redwoods develop the
world's greatest reported volume of living matter per unit of land
surface. Giant sequoias, their cousins, grow larger in diameter
and bulk, but not in height. Coast redwoods survive to be about
2000 years old, averaging 500 to 700 years old. They have no known
killing diseases and suffer no significant insect damage.
No words can explain what we experienced while walking through this
Tomorrow we leave for Oregon. This part of the trip is the part
we have waited for. Finally a bit of a vacation. Two days in each
campground for the next three campgrounds. Then we enter Washington
State en route to our crossover into Canada.
June 1, 2003
Bullards Beach State Park
Our Rating: 7
No cable, no modem, mosquitos, lots of underbrush, no maps. It's
a state park and this is pretty normal. The location is wonderful.
Short drive to beach and lighthouse.
between 60-68 degrees, with the beach temps being much cooler and
having wind gusts up to 35mph.
We were actually able to walk down
onto this jetty and between the huge rocks. While down there shooting
photos, the tide started coming in. Once the tide is fully in, the
beach is gone and the rocks are separated from the shore. It was
What a relief it was to begin what we are considering the "vacation"
part of our trip. We are spending two days here at Bullards Beach,
two days on the central Oregon coast and two days on the northern
Oregon coast. What this means is that we are only moving 3 times
over the next 6 days and each move is less than 150 miles.
We left our campsite in the Redwoods and took our time driving
to Bandon, OR. Along the way we stopped several times to take photos
and video and once took a walk on one of the sandy jetties during
low tide (Myers Beach). It was our first close-up look at some of
the huge rocks which pepper the coastline. Stopping at the visitor
center after crossing the state line from CA to OR, we discovered
that Oregon has nine lighthouses and all of them are on our route.
Now our mission is to see all nine (or at least get as close as
possible and photograph them); we saw three today: Cape Blanco Lighthouse,
Coquille River Lighthouse, and Cape Arago Lighthouse.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse is currently being repaired/restored and
is surrounded by scaffolding, but I took a photo anyway.
Blanco Lighthouse (1)
This is the oldest standing lighthouse on the Oregon coast; commissioned
in 1870 to aid shipping generated by gold mining and the lumber
industry. It is located on a cliff 245' above the ocean and the
tower rises 59 feet.
River Lighthouse (2)
This is the lighthouse located in the state
park we're staying in (Bullards State Park). It was commissioned
in 1896 to guide mariners across a dangerous bar. It has a 40' octagonal
tower. While visiting this lighthouse and exploring the jetties
surrounding it, Steve and I caught our first sight of seal pups.
Arago Lighthouse (3)
This the closest anyone can get to this lighthouse.
This lighthouse has a unique foghorn
How thankful I am for a self-timer on my camera! These photos taken
at Myers Beach and at the Coquille River Lighthouse.
Tomorrow we hope to explore the town of Bandon (historic) and make
another trip up to Coos Bay to purchase some more fresh seafood
for dinner tomorrow night.
June 2, 2003
Still in Bandon
50's - Low 60's
Wind gusts 25-35 mph
We've been staying in a State Park which is why
I don't have modem access and you will be reading this days after
it was written.
Shore Acres State Park
On the bridge across the pond
Shore Acres Gardens
What a root system!
I had a bad case of insomnia last night. We were in bed by 10pm
and I was wide awake at 2:45am. I closed the accordion curtain between
the living space and the bedroom to try and keep the light from
waking Steve, but I disturbed him nonetheless. I made myself a cup
of hot tea and played computer card games until I got drowsy again
around 4am. I slept an additional 3 1/2 hours and woke up again
at 7:30 to the smell of coffee brewing.
Steve and I planned our itinerary last night, using our AAA tourbook
and brochures we picked up at the Info Center. Our first stop was
Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint in Bandon (proper).
immense sea stack is named Face Rock because it strikes a remarkable
humanlike profile that, according to Native American legend, belongs
to a maiden turned into stone by an evil spirit. (If you look at
it closely, the profile is facing upwards on the right side and
it appears as if her hair is entering the water to the left.
After breakfast (at a local eatery where we got to talk to some
Bandon natives about the cranberry business - a major income producer
in this part of the country), we visited the Bandon Glass Art Studio
& Gallery, which is a working hot glass studio with absolutely
gloriously colored Glass Art crafted by hand on the premises. There
were paperweights and vases, perfume bottles and ornaments, and
a myriad of breathtakingly beautiful and colorful works of art.
Huge glass windows looked into the studio itself and Steve and I
stood mesmerized along with a handful of other patrons as the artist
(Dutch Schulze) crafted magnificent pieces from glass. We could
have stood there watching all day...
We then parked the car and explored the historic area of Bandon.
Bandon is not only known for its cranberry exports, but also for
its cheese. Bandon beach also boasts the largest natural collection
of agates, jaspers, and other semiprecious stones and is very popular
The historic part of Bandon has
many gift shops, restaurants, art galleries, and businesses. Steve
and I came across a great bargain on fleece lined wool gloves and
couldn't pass up the deal. (Thinking of the next few years) We also
bought some fudge at the candy store.
After exploring the historic district of Bandon, Steve and I visited
the Bandon Cheese Visitor Center where we sampled and purchased
lots of cheese. We also indulged in an ice cream cone (waffle cone,
two huge scoops - $1.50!) Our refrigerator now houses some great
hunks of sharp cheddar, Monterey jack and Swiss cheese.
(Before I forget... gas has been
costing us between 1.75 - 2.09/gallon. We gassed up in Coos Bay
- $1.77 - and it was FULL SERVICE! The attendant not only filled
our tank, but also cleaned our windows. When was the last time you
had that happen?)
Our last stop was Shore Acres State Park, where we explored the
gardens and wandered out to the observation building and overlook
to shoot additional photos. We also hoped to see some migrating
whales - which we weren't lucky enough to find.
We are leaving for the beach in 30 minutes (it's 8pm our time;
11pm ET) to catch what we hope will be a beautiful sunset down by
the Coquille River Lighthouse (right here in the state park with
us). Although we'll be bending the rules a bit, we're taking a bottle
of champagne with us. What a way to bid goodbye to another day...
Tomorrow we're off to Newport, OR and hope to visit FOUR lighthouses,
Oregon dunes, and a sea lion aquarium. I'll fill you in later....
BACK TO TOP
June 3, 2003
Beverly Beach State Park
Newport Beach, OR
Our Rating: 9
This is a state park with cable and we are on a beach-front site!
We will be able to watch the sunset from our camper. It's packed
- which is another indication that it is a popular place to stay.
Oh... and the mosquitos are pretty much nonexistent
are hovering around the low 60's and it's sunny. The winds are 10-15
mph. However... walks along the shoreline can be chilly. There have
been times I've really started to rethink this AK thing!
We visited the Oregon Aquarium and saw lots of marine
life indigenous to not only Oregon, but all over the country.
Starfish, anemones, etc.
Puffin - my favorite bird!
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (#6)
The day after tomorrow we head to the northern Oregon
coast (Seaside) and then we will cross over into Washington state.
It is day 20 of our 31 day trip.
This morning we left Bandon, OR en route to Newport. Our itinerary
included quite a few stops along the way. Our first stop was at
Oregon Dunes National Rec Area.
These sand dunes extend from Florence
south for approximately 40 miles to Coos Bay. Some of the dunes
are as high as 300 feet and are quite visible from the highway.
No matter how much time is spent trying to "control" them,
they are constantly shifting and covering vegetation, dune fencing,
and even structures.
Our next stop was at the Umpqua River Lighthouse. It was early in
the morning, but the volunteer was already on the job and told us
the history of the lighthouse.
Umpqua River Lighthouse
(4): An earlier structure was commissioned on the
north spit of the Umpqua River in 1857 and was the first lighthouse
on the Oregon coast. After sand eroded its foundation, it fell into
the river. This lighthouse has a 65-foot tower and overlooks the
sand dunes from an elevation of 165'. Across from this lighthouse
was an observation deck where you can watch the migration of whales
in the spring. The lighthouse volunteer told us that he sat out
on a the jetty and watched hundreds of grey whales migrate in early
After visiting the first lighthouse on our daily itinerary, we visited
the Sea Lion Caves attraction. Here, we walked out on a cement path
to an overlook where we could see hundreds of sea lions sunning
themselves on the rocks. After snapping a few photos and enjoying
their constant barking, we took an elevator down 208 feet to the
largest sea lion cave in the country. The cave was empty (they were
all outside on the rocks), but there were exhibits and photos to
look at. There was also an opening in the cave which faced the Haceta
Head Lighthouse (Lighthouse #5 on our list).
Sea Lion Cave
Sea Lions Sunning
After the sea lion caves, we drove to the parking area for Haceta
Head Lighthouse and hiked up a hill to tour the lighthouse. "Bob"
- the lighthouse volunteer - was quite longwinded and we learned
just about EVERYTHING you could about the lighthouse, its history,
and how it was built. We thought we'd only stop for about 15 minutes;
our stay lasted closer to an hour.
Haceta Head Lighthouse (from
Sea Lion Caves) #5
Haceta Head Keepers House
Haceta Head Lighthouse
|After visiting the Haceta
Head Lighthouse, we visited the Yaquina (Yah-kwih-nah)
Bay Lighthouse (#6). (Photo on left) It's the second oldest
standing lighthouse structure on the Oregon coast. The lens
is 161' above sea level.
Last night we went to the beach in Bandon to see
the sunset. We took Sedona (our dog) with us and she enjoyed romping
on the beach with Steve. It was SO COLD! The wind was really kicking
and I couldn't shake the chill... AK is going to be BRUTAL! See
photos taken last night HERE.
June 4, 2003
Still in Newport Beach:
Beverly Beach State Park
Me and Sedona
Steve and Sedona
Sunset on Beverly Beach
Weather: 65 and SUNNY, with
cool breezes coming off the ocean.
Last night we walked the few short yards to the beach here at Beverly
to watch the sun set. It was definitely warmer here, but the ocean
still had a cool chill coming off of it. We weren't alone this time;
a few other campers had the same idea. They also had the same idea
of sharing the sunset with their dogs and Sedona's hair on her back
stood up constantly. (She thinks she's tough). Photos at left.
After having breakfast, we drove south back through Newport to visit
the Nye Beach Historic District. This is the original resort area
of Newport and has a variety of shops as well as the Yaquina Art
Museum. Steve and I browsed some shops and bought some gourmet coffee
and salt water taffy. We also walked on the beach looking for agates,
but had no luck. On the way to Nye Beach, we spoke to a local about
a good vantage point for the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. (We didn't
want to pay a $5.00 admission fee just to take a photo) He directed
us to a residential street which ended in a gravel road. We followed
it to a small lookout and I got great shots of the lighthouse.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse (#7)
House on Hill - What a view!
Whale blowing - it's migration season
Tomorrow we're off to Seaside, Oregon and I'm hoping for MODEM!
June 5, 2003
Circle Creek RV Park
Our Rating: 7
The grass is nice, the location is good (just south
of the congestion of Seaside), but they have a block on their phone
line so I couldn't upload (there isn't a local number for Netzero).
Fortunately, the campground host made a few calls for us and found
a place in town with cable modem access that charges 5.00/half hour.
I would have paid ANYTHING to upload!
It's a HEATWAVE! Everyone is talking about the high temps they've
been having. It reached the mid 90's today and the sun was blazing.
Even on the beach at sunset, it was warm.
"Terrible Tilly" is located one mile off
shore and is no longer a functioning lighthouse. It is now used
to house the ashes of some of the deceased. The only way to reach
it is by boat or helicopter.
Steve and I had a pretty leisurely drive today. We took our time
driving further north up the Oregon coast, stopping along the way
at scenic overlooks and opting for scenic loop drives as opposed
to the highway. There was really only one thing we needed to stop
and see along the way - Lighthouse #8: Cape Meares Lighthouse.
Cape Meares Lighthouse is not a functioning
lighthouse anymore. A beacon was installed on the hill above the
lighthouse years ago to guide watercraft along the coast. Tours
are given, but we opted out of this one. The view from the cliff
where the lighthouse stands is magnificent.
Once we got settled here in Seaside, we drove into town to wander
this historical resort town. Seaside reminds me much of the towns
along the Jersey Shore where I spent many summer days in my youth.
It has a promenade (The Prom) which is basically a "boardwalk"
to us Northeasterners. Perpendicular to Highway 101 (which runs
along the coast) is Broadway Blvd. Broadway goes all the way to
the beach and at the end of the street is a "turnaround".
To this day, people cruise Broadway to the beach and the turnaround
and then back out on Broadway again. In the center of the turnaround
is a statue of Lewis and Clark - the End of the Trail Monument.
All along Broadway are shops and restaurants, a carousel, miniature
golf, bumper cars, arcades, etc. Steve and I had a delicious dinner
at Guido & Vito's Italian Eatery and then left Seaside to make
the trip a few miles south to Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock for
sunset. (The most photographed rock on the Oregon coast).
You can view the photos of Haystack Rock and the beach here.
Tomorrow we'll still be here in Seaside. We are planning on returning
to Cannon Beach to visit some of the galleries and shops.
BACK TO TOP
June 6, 2003
Still in Seaside, OR
and sunny. Light fog over the beaches and mountains.
This morning I was up at 5:15am. I find that I've been getting
up fairly early since we hit the west coast and the Pacific Time
Zone. Perhaps I'm still getting accustomed to the time change, but
I think it's due more to the fact that dawn occurs before 5am. We
have a skylight over our bed and the break of day illuminates the
entire camper. I don't really mind at all. I get up, get the coffee
brewing, and look through our travel information to plan the day.
I also like to open the blinds and watch the birds in the morning.
The early morning silence is wonderful.
After eating breakfast, Steve and I headed back into Cannon Beach
to visit some of the shops and galleries we passed last night on
our way to Haystack Rock. The morning was cool and I wore my fleece
jacket. Looking around at the rest of the people on the streets,
I knew that I stuck out as a tourist. The others were in shorts
and tank tops, despite the 53 degree weather. To me, it was chilly;
to them, it was balmy. People were even heading to the beach! BRRRR!
is just one of many beautiful and unique signs outside of the businesses
that line the shopping district. (If you can't make out the small
sign to the left, it's the library) Carved and painted wood signs
are the norm and they look absolutely wonderful against the cedar
siding of the buildings. The landscaping is lush and colorful and
statuary is everywhere. We've been through Cannon Beach three times
and each time, I've discovered something new.
After browsing the shops in Cannon Beach, Steve and I drove north
towards Washington State (only 26 miles north of where we are currently
staying). We wanted to check out Astoria and decided to drive into
Washington to pick up some tourist information so we'll be more
prepared for our trip through the state over the next two days.
After accomplishing our mission, we backtracked to Astoria and drove
up and down the streets so I could admire the sea-weathered Victorians
and Cape Cod style homes. The town has the same feel as any seaside
village, but the fact that it's built on several tiers (because
of the mountainous terrain) made it even more interesting. It seemed
that everyone had a great view of either the Columbia River or the
ocean. And no matter where you were, you could see the coast of
We visited the Astoria Column, which was erected in 1926 to commemorate
the discovery, exploration and settlement of the area. The tower
has 164 steps to an observation deck where we could see the mountains,
river, and ocean. You could buy handheld balsa wood gliders at the
visitor center (4 for only 75 cents) and launch them off the observation
deck. The thermals were incredible and some of them stayed aloft
for more than a minute.
On the way back to the campground, we stopped for pizza at a local
pizzeria. What a great change from the typical Dominoes or Pizza
Hut. It was hand-tossed, double baked and delicious! Now we're in
for the evening, despite the fact that it's only a little after
5pm. Tomorrow we'll be packing up and heading to Westport, WA (also
on the coast). I'm planning to stop back at the Phone Connection
to upload the two entries I made while here in Seaside.
June 7, 2003
American Sunset RV & Tent Resort - Westport,
Our Rating: 8
This campground is primarily for RVs with level gravel sites for
ease of setting up. There is also a heated pool, which we're going
to bypass (no suits). The proprietors are very nice and extremely
helpful with suggestions on where to go and what to see.
65 and partly cloudy. Light wind. Early morning fog which dissipated
just before noon. There is really no humidity here so even at 65
degrees, it feels chilly to me.
Tomorrow we will be camping in Lyndon - just
northeast of Bellingham. It is our last campsite in the United States.
It may also be the last time (if this isn't) I have access to Internet
upload. I hope not; I'd like to be able to share our Canadian adventure
with you all. We'll see...
NOTE FROM ME
I am so glad that many of you are enjoying my journal entries.
I just wanted to let you know that last month my site had
almost 3000 hits (in only 2 weeks!) and this month (so far)
I've had more than 1200 hits. If this keeps up, I will have
to upgrade my membership to allow for extra bandwidth. This
is a good thing for me and not a problem. I never expected
for the site to be such a "hit". It is wonderful
to share it with you. Thank you for your support.
Another leisurely drive for us - the last one before reaching our
final destination. There will be no further drives which are less
220 miles; our longest days will top 400 miles.
We took our time this morning and didn't pull out of Seaside until
just before 9am. This gave me enough time to stop at the Phone Connection
to upload the last two journal entries. Because we had already explored
Astoria, there was no need to stop. Then we decided on a whim to
stop at the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse on the Cape Disappointment
Bay on the Washington coast about 40 miles into our trip. We figured
that since we had seen all the lighthouses on the Oregon coast -
why not stop for this one too?
The walk to the lighthouse was 3/4 of a mile each way. And it was
a strenuous 3/4 miles. The trail meandered through a wooded area
in pretty much an uphill direction almost all the way to the lighthouse.
I remembered thinking that I was surely going to burn off the Pop
Tart I had quickly swallowed before leaving Seaside. With all the
climbing and hiking I've been doing, I definitely have something
on those "Buns of Steel" commercials. Is it a good thing
or a bad thing when your pulse is pounding so strongly that you
can literally hear it in your ears?
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
View from trail
Sunset and evening
star, and one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to
But such a tide as moving seems asleep, to full for sound
When that which drew from out the boundless deep, turns again
Twilight and evening bell, and after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell, when I embark.
For though from out our borne of time and place, the flood
may bear me far,
I hope to see my pilot face to face, when I have crossed the
Things I've noticed about the Northwest... Espresso is a BIG business
up here. There are espresso stands on almost every corner throughout
Oregon and Washington. Full-serve gas in Oregon is a welcome surprise
(it's THROUGHOUT Oregon!). California obviously up-prices their
gas... we saw $2.99/gallon for premium gas there. The people are
very friendly and don't have a problem talking to strangers (ie:
especially obvious tourists). The 3-Star Service Flag we have hanging
in the window of our camper (a star each for Steve, Brandon and
Becky), has incited quite a few people to inquire or share their
stories about loved ones they have serving in the Middle East. We
have also gotten our share of honks, "thumbs up", and
cheers. That makes us feel proud to be a part of the US Military.
People here do not have "airs". Basically the people are
hard-working, down to earth, and very homey. There are no department
stores in this part of the country - unless you go to the bigger
cities. The "mom and pop" stores are a pleasure to visit.
Everyone says hello to you and you feel welcome. How wonderful it
would be if the entire country could be this way. The graduating
classes of the local town high schools boast an average of 20 students.
Not only does the high school billboard have a congratulations posting
on it, but so do the churches, the Chamber of Commerce, and local
businesses. EVERYONE is supportive of the new group of young people
leaving school and moving into adulthood. It's a great place to
raise your children.
Until next time...
June 8, 2003
Hidden Village RV Park
Lyndon, WA (about 8 miles from the Canadian border)
Our Rating: 8
This campground is in an out of the way place, has a pool, nice
grassy sites (although they're not too level) and lots of shade
trees. The proprietors have only owned the park for a bit more than
a year and told us it was really a shambles when they took it over.
They're doing a great job of bringing it back to life.
Mid 70's and the sun is shining (although it drizzled a bit when
we left Westport and was overcast for quite a few miles into our
Although our camping information
indicates that we have modem access at a few campgrounds throughout
Canada, there's always the possibility I won't be able to upload
until we get to AK. I'll do the best I can to keep you informed...
5200 miles down
2300 to go!
Despite the warm weather yesterday, last night was another night
when we had to fire up the heat in the camper. It seems that when
darkness falls here in the Northwest, the temperatures do as well.
It's nights like these when I feel quite fortunate not to be tenting.
(Although snuggling to stay warm is always a plus)
Tonight we're BBQ-ing on our gas grill. Last night in Westport,
one of our camping neighbors gave Steve three good size pieces of
sea bass that he had caught and didn't have any room left in his
freezer for. Because I'm not a seafood eater, I'm looking forward
to the boneless pork loin we picked up while in Oregon. We both
treasure times like this, when we can take our time preparing a
nice home-cooked meal, rather than heating up leftovers or throwing
something together quickly.
passing through Seattle, we stopped at a highway rest stop and met
two friendly couples who are also on their way to AK. The first
couple - older and retired - have a summer home in Anchorage (which
is where their grown children all live) and a winter home in Arizona.
They are making their way back to AK to spend the next few months
with their kids and grandkids. The woman followed me into the restroom
and told me that another couple taking a break at the rest stop
were also on their way to AK - Fairbanks, like us.
When we all got back to our vehicles/campers, we stood around and
chatted for more than 30 minutes. The older couple had some great
information for Steve and I about the drive on the ALCAN highway.
They also convinced us to cut back on our daily mileage as the roads
can be slow going with road repairs and gravel paving. We're heeding
their advice and will most likely be changing our itinerary. We're
hoping now to drive as far as we comfortably can tomorrow, so our
second day (which was going to be one topping 400 miles) is cut
shorter. That second day will be the day when we begin traversing
mountains and we know it's going to be slow going.
The second couple - about our age - are visiting AK on vacation.
They also came from AZ - Fort Huachuaca (sp?), near Tucson. The
husband is retired Navy and their children are also grown and gone.
They have always wanted to see AK and their loop begins in Fairbanks,
circles to Anchorage, goes through Seward, and continues onward.
Their enthusiasm about this trip matched ours, and they also listened
intently to the "senior guy" regarding travel tips and
We'll be setting the alarm for 4:30am and hope to be on the road
by 6:00. Despite earlier plans to stop in Lac La Hache, British
Columbia, we're going to keep going as far as we can. The more miles
we tackle tomorrow, the better off we'll be.
June 9, 2003
The Blue Spruce RV Park & Campground - Prince
George, British Columbia, Canada
We really can't rate this park honestly. It looks great, but we
rolled into it without reservations and during a torrential downpour.
The proprietors are very nice, and the fact that there was a site
available is a major plus. The brochure lists a great number of
amenities, but since we'll only really be sleeping here we won't
get to check them out. Our cost: $24.17 (Canadian money) which exchanges
to about $19.33 in American money.
a day! This morning when we left the Bellingham area, it was 50
degrees and cloudy. The sun broke through the clouds soon after
entering Canada and traveling along the Cascade Mountains. The temperature
also rose to a high of 73. About 6 hours into our drive (we drove
10 hours today), we were deluged with rain, hail, lightning and
thunder for a good 10 miles or so. Visibility was awful and the
temperature dipped to 49 degrees. Our driving speed also dipped
to about 35mph and we lost some time. The rain came back again just
as we got close to our destination here in Prince George. We had
to set up camp in it, which was terrible but allowed us to break
a new record for total trailer setup - less than 15 minutes! And
that even included walking (or should I say dragging) the dog before
taking shelter for the evening.
we're off to Dawson Creek (NOT of TV fame). Although the mileage
from here is only 364 km (about 227 miles), the drive is estimated
to take almost 6 hours because of the mountainous terrain.
Despite setting the alarm for 5am (4:30am is too early!), Steve
and I were up and moving a little after 4am. Perhaps it's because
the sky was already becoming light at 4:15. We knew we'd experience
long days of sunlight in AK, but I suppose we didn't realize that
the Northwest also gets some pretty long days too.
We only had to drive about 23 miles to the 24-hour border crossing.
We wondered what kind of questions and/or searches we'd be subjected
to. We had nothing to hide. The dog and cat both had their health
certificates, we both had our birth certificates, and we didn't
have any firearms. The only thing that concerned me was the 5-liter
box of cheap wine I had stashed in the pantry - for personal consumption.
The limit on bringing wine into the country duty free is 1.5 liters.
(I'm not sure if that's per person or not - even so, my 5-liter
box was surely against the "rules") At the most, we'd
have to declare it and pay taxes on it.
Our border check was absolutely PAINLESS. The border guard asked
us where we were coming from, where we were going, how long we'd
be in Canada before getting to AK, why we were going to AK, and
where our vehicle was registered. He did take a look at our license
plate and may have run a check on it. He then asked us if we had
any tobacco products or alcohol. Steve told him he had 10 cigars
and I told him I had a box of wine. After a few short minutes, he
bid us a safe trip through Canada. That was it. No showing of birth
certificates or pet health certificates or even vehicle registration.
I'm sure that other people have had the same experience that we
did, but I'm also sure there are those who have had much different
experiences. I guess there's no good advice to give to anyone traveling
into Canada except to be prepared for any possible scenario.
We had read that we should exchange some money before entering
the country, but decided not to. We have been putting most of our
expenses on our Visa card and Visa will do the exchange rate for
us. We were advised that the best exchange rates are those given
by banks, which is why it is suggested that you use a major credit
card when making purchases. In the few cases when we've purchased
anything using cash (small purchases), the cashier has made the
conversion for us. (It may or may not have been at the best rate,
but for as small as the purchases were, we didn't care)
biggest adjustment for us is using kilometers instead of miles and
liters instead of gallons. The speed limit signs can be a bit surprising
when you first enter Canada. To someone who doesn't see the "km/h"
under the speed limit, you would think you had a license to drive
like Mario Andretti. (100 km/h is the same as 62mph - luckily the
speedometers on our cars reflect this unit of measurement). In the
case of liters vs. gallons - what an awakening when gassing up!
Steve's truck takes 26 gallons when it's empty. The average cost
of gas has been 76.9/liter here in BC. It's a bit shocking to spend
almost $70.00 on a tank of gas. Even with the exchange rate, it's
still a big expense.
I just discovered that Netzero doesn't offer service anywhere for
the remainder of our trip. I also discovered that they don't offer
service in Fairbanks. I had already planned on getting a cable modem
or DSL once we got settled, and this only reinforces that decision.
I hope I can find another business which has upload capabilities
while we're traveling along our final stretch.
June 10, 2003
Northern Lights RV Park
Dawson Creek, British Columbia
Our Rating: 4.5
This place is basically a place to unhook
the trailer and spend the night. Dawson Creek is a HUGE tourist
trap due to its claim to mile-marker "0" on the Alaska
Highway. It is geared towards the traveler - with restaurants, bars,
gift shops, and services (which includes liquor stores, car repair,
grocery stores, etc.) I know I sound negative, but in reality, I
don't mean to come across that way. If there is anything you need
before you begin your 1500+ mile up the "Highway", you
can get it here.
I am happy to report that I did find a business which allows internet
access, so you will all be able to read this entry (tomorrow morning).
Sign at Visitor Center - Dawson Creek.
Sunny and 62
It is currently 8:10pm and the sun
is shining brightly enough that we have had to close the blinds.
It still hovers about 3 inches above the horizon and will probably
take an additional 3 hours to "set".
6000 down - 1500 to go!
Let me begin this entry by sharing my first observation since arriving
in British Columbia yesterday afternoon at about 4pm in the afternoon
(Pacific Time). After setting up camp, we did absolutely NOTHING.
This was our opportunity - especially after having such a long driving
day - to chill out and relax. It is easier said than done. We watched
some television (we are thankful for cable TV in most of our campgrounds)
and were ready to hit the sack whenever the urge hit us.
At 10:15pm, just after one of the sitcoms we were watching was over,
we noticed that it was still light outside. Steve took the dog out
for a walk, and ran into quite a few people standing outside their
campers looking up at the "night" sky. I'm sure they were
all thinking the same thing we were. Talk about strange! Imagine
being outside after 10pm and the sky being as light out as it is
at dinnertime (especially as we are accustomed on the east coast
of the U.S.)
Sleep was sporadic, to say the least. I awoke at 3:30am and the
sky was as bright as it would be just after dawn. As we hooked up
the camper in preparation for our trip (at 7am), we noticed our
neighbors' trailers - and their foil-lined light blockers on all
of their windows. Just a tidbit of information... the birds awake
at 4:30am here and are quite happy to begin their songs of serenade.
We took our time leaving Prince George. Our day was going to be
relatively short (as compared to some of our longer days) - and
with the daylight hours being so long, we knew we had plenty of
time to make the journey.
the West Access Route (and cross-referencing The
Milepost -a MUST for anyone attempting this adventure),
Steve and I began our 402.3 km trip from Prince George to Dawson
Creek. After approximately 153km (95 miles), we began crossing the
Rocky Mountains. If not for the slightly overcast skies, we would
have had picture-perfect views. Nevertheless, it was awesome to
see these snowcapped mountains appear on the horizon.
We passed through several small towns along the way and also several
Provincial Parks (The equivalent to State Parks in the USA). Many
of them offered camping opportunities - although some had no amenities
such as electric or water (or a combination of the two). If you
are a tenter (or don't mind roughing it for a day or two), there
are many opportunities to set your stakes in a gorgeous place. There
are lots of great places to cast a line and catch some fish as well.
stopped to have lunch at Bijoux Falls Provincial Park (kilometer
185.6). The falls were beautiful and the sound of the rumbling water
was a pleasant backdrop while we sat in our camper and dined. There
were bathroom facilities, a few picnic tables, a gravel parking
area, and lots of the gorgeous steller jays flitting about. (Unfortunately,
I didn't get any photos of these blue plumed birds; maybe next time)
We passed through Chetwynd - known for its collection of chain saw
sculptures - but didn't stop to photograph any. Chetwynd lies at
the northern end of the North East Coal resource, one of he largest
coal deposits on earth.
A little further down the highway, we passed through Tumbler Ridge,
which is the site of some recent dinosaur fossil finds. At this
point, you have the option of taking the Hudson Loop instead of
continuing on towards Dawson Creek. The Hudson Loop also intersects
with the Alaska Highway, but cuts about 29 miles off the trip. If
you're someone who wants to get that photo of milemarker "0"
(or needs to pick up supplies or have repairs made on your vehicle),
you'll want to continue on to Dawson Creek, instead of taking this
While here in Dawson Creek, Steve and I visited Canadian Tire -
a combination auto/home store, where we purchased a bug screen for
the truck (it mounts over the grill and keeps insects out of the
radiator). We also snapped some obligatory photos of milemarker
"0" and found a business that allows Internet upload.
Tomorrow, we head to Fort Nelson, British Columbia - a 450km (280
Some information about "Mile 0" on the Alaska Highway
(from an information sign posted at the visitor center):
At this spot in the
spring of 1942 at the height of World War II the US Army Engineers
began the construction of the overland route to Alaska. Nine months
later, at a cost of over $140,000.00 the road was completed. This
is a road construction feat unsurpassed in modern times; 11,000
troops and 16,000 civilians were employed in this project.
There are 133 bridges and 8000 culverts embodied in the 1523 miles
of gravel highway. The rattle and roar of the mighty bulldozers
was a source of amazement to both the local white man and the northern
Over this lifeline to the Northwest, thousands of troops, food and
war supplies have been transported. In more recent times, the mighty
H BOMB was known to travel this route. It was maintained by the
Canadian Army until April 1964. Maintenance was then taken over
by the Dept. of Public Works, Ottawa.
June 11, 2003
Westend RV Campground
Fort Nelson, British Columbia
Our Rating: 3
This is one of the only RV parks
in Fort Nelson. Our original reservation was at a campground well
north of Fort Nelson and we needed to pick up supplies and wanted
to eat dinner in a restaurant tonight, so we chose to stay here
in town. The town itself is quaint and the locals are very friendly
and helpful, so I don't want this rating to reflect on the town
itself. The campground is unkempt. The smell of urine is pervasive.
(Either the campers here have no common decency or the waste system
needs a total overhaul) There are several Provincial Parks along
this stretch of the Alaska Highway (however, they may not offer
services such as water or electric) and they would have probably
been a more pleasant place to put down stakes for the evening. On
a more positive note... the proprietor was very friendly and allowed
us to use her personal phone to cancel our reservation north of
here. There is modem hookup, but only if you have a toll-free number
for your Internet provider. The campground is completely overrun
with a caravan of RV'ers - probably 40 units - and I suspect we'll
be running into the same group again on this final stretch of our
and overcast. The heat is on in our camper. Light winds currently.
Our trip here took us through several hard rains, but they were
almost welcome as they cleaned some of the dirt and bugs from our
we have a 330 mile (525.7 km) trip to Watson Lake. Estimates are
that it will be more than a 7-hour drive - and that's if the roads
are in decent shape. Today we had several small areas of gravel
and frost heaves. Nothing that slowed us down tremendously. We learned
from a seasoned traveler to watch out for the red squares placed
on the side of the road - these are an indication of road upheaval.
Basically there is no warning, so you have to stay aware at all
times. We also descended on our first 9% grade and also had several
6%-8% grades. Gearing down helped a lot, but it still was a bit
disconcerting to be pointing nose downward with a trailer attached
to us. Most of these grades also went into fairly sharp turns. All
in all, the drivers of the Alaska Highway are very courteous. Whenever
there is room to pull out, slower moving traffic moves over to let
the others pass. It's nice to drive alongside of people with good
manners. Another big change from the "big city" we're
Fort Nelson's existence was originally based on
the fur trade. In the 1920's, trapping was the main business in
this isolated pioneer community. Fort Nelson expanded in the 1940's
and 50's as people came here to work for the government or to start
their own small business. Major gas discoveries were made in the
1960's. Westcoast Energy - the largest natural gas processing plant
in North America - purifies the gas before sending it south through
a 800-mile-long pipeline.
Last night we froze! I woke up around 3am and turned on the heat,
but still couldn't manage to get warm. When we finally got out of
bed this morning at 7am, we realized that two windows were open.
We had opened them when setting up the camper - when the temperature
was still in the comfortable 60's. So much for heating the outside...
Before hooking up the trailer, we decided to go into town to have
breakfast and then run over to Internet Emporium to upload yesterday's
journal entry. We found a small diner-type restaurant (The Lodge
Motor Inn & Cafe) and ordered the 'special' - a ham & cheese
omelet, hash browns, and toast - for only $4.95; a real bargain!
The food was plentiful and the staff was very friendly on this rainy
After uploading ($3.00/per 30 minutes of Internet time), we came
back to the trailer, hooked up and continued north.
34 miles (55km) into our drive, we came to the Peace River Bridge.
Bridging the Peace was one of the first goals of Alaska Highway
engineers in 1942. Traffic moving north from Dawson Creek was limited
by the Peace River crossing, where 2 ferries with a capacity of
10 trucks per hour were operating. Work on a permanent bridge was
completed in July 1943, but it collapsed in 1957 after erosion undermined
the north anchor block. This bridge was completed in 1960. (Information
taken from The MILEPOST).
of the first small towns we drove through was Fort St. John. Although
we didn't stop there, The MILEPOST lists several attractions in
the Fort St. John area. It was at this point in our drive, that
we began seeing signs warning of moose. I was so excited about the
possibility of seeing moose! Shortly after snapping a photo of this
sign, I caught a quick glimpse of a moose cow and her calf grazing
around a small waterhole just off the highway. A few miles later,
we spotted another cow standing on a hill as if she were watching
the traffic go by. As an added thrill, only a few short miles after
that sighting, we saw a coyote standing in a ravine at roadside.
(For all of you who are used to sightings of this kind of wildlife,
I must sound like a crazed nut... but for us, it was just one more
indication that we were far from the hustle-bustle life we have
become accustomed to.)
I can't stress enough how valuable The MILEPOST has been to us
while making this journey. With warnings about rough roads and gravel,
and warnings about last stops for fuel, etc. it has been a godsend
for us. At first I balked a bit at the $25.95 pricetag, but it has
paid for itself many times over. Plus, it makes for great reading!
Steve and I stopped at milemarker 182.8 (294.2 km) - a large gravel
turnout on the west side of the highway - to stretch our legs, walk
the dog, and snap a few photos of the scenery. Traffic is few and
far between at times. Other times, you find yourself traveling with
the same group of people for many miles. We've enjoyed looking at
the license plates of vehicles and we've struck up conversations
with folks from all over Florida. Almost all of the people we've
met and talked to are older and retired. When we checked into our
campground last night, the proprietor pinned us as military. "All
the young people going north are either military, looking to move,
or looking for work. The older people are on vacation or traveling."
I wouldn't consider Steve or myself as "young people",
but the compliment made us smile.
Desolation at Milemarker 182.8
The Peace River Valley (milemarker 35)
Steve and I visited the Visitor Information Center here in Fort
Nelson to ask about Internet connection capabilities. Although there
are several Internet Cafe's, none of them allow a person to use
their own laptop to upload. They are basically to enable a person
to check their e-mail. We asked the girl if there were any computer
stores in town. She pointed us to NORTECH - a computer supply store
which basically sells printer cartridges, network cards, and some
computers. We drove over and spoke to one of the clerks there. He
told us that they didn't offer that service. We explained our situation
and my project and he told us that he would be glad to unplug one
of his computers and let me hook onto the network. He's even going
to meet us at the store before it opens at 9am! THANK YOU, THANK
YOU, THANK YOU! Thumbs up to the great staff at Nortech in Fort
STICKER SHOCK ITEMS:
Four 16-oz cans of Guinness Stout we ordered
with dinner at a local restaurant (USA price - $8.50/4pack) cost
us a whopping $29.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ($7.25 per can) Gas is currently
90 cents/litre. This translates to $3.41/gallon. We've been told
it's going to get higher as we move further north.
Yukon Territory, Canada
Gateway to the Yukon and Home of the Signpost Forest
June 12, 2003
Downtown RV Park
Watson Lake, Y.T.
Our Rating: 5
This campground is a huge gravel parking lot. There aren't any trees
or any picnic tables (not that we really care). The major plus is
that it offers a free RV wash with an overnight stay. We definitely
took advantage of that benefit. Now the truck and the camper are
looking pretty spiffy - temporarily at least.The proprietor is very
nice and our fellow campers are very friendly. We met several campers
who lost windshields on the stretch of highway before getting here.
We have been fortunate so far...
lowest temperature we experienced today was 29 degrees farenheit.
The high today was 48 degrees. Currently it is in the high 30's
and the heat is on in the camper once again. It's also just about
10pm and the sky is bright. Boy, is that going to take some getting
Steve and I stopped in Steamboat and had breakfast at the Steamboat
Mountain Cafe (milemarker 332.4 - 531.6 km) A few folks who were
part of yestereday's RV caravan showed up to eat while we were there
and we chatted a bit. The snow began to fall again. It looked beautiful!
a wonderful day we had today! Actually, it was probably our most
harrowing as far as travel goes because we woke up this morning
to huge snow flakes. When we turned on the TV, we learned it was
1 degree (C) - which is 33 degrees (F). We had to wear our rain
gear while hooking the trailer up and it was literally FREEZING
outside! By the time we pulled out of the campground to visit NORTECH
and upload yesterday's journal entry, the snow was coming down in
Immediately upon beginning our drive north, we ran into construction
and the highway became a gravel road for about 15km. Travel was
slow - 30mph at the most. As exciting it was to see snow - especially
after living in the southeast for the past 12 years - the realization
that snow was going to become a pretty normal thing for us was daunting.
Luckily the snow wasn't sticking to the road, but it was bathing
the trees and mountains with a glorious and pure white coat of powder.
Everything looked so clean and bright.
Only a short distance into our trip, we saw our first glimpse of
wildlife. We spotted bison grazing near a field. Soon after, we
spotted a moose. And then a moose cow and two calves stood grazing
on the roadside. The darkness of their coats against the whiteness
of the snow made them easy to spot. I was able to shoot a quick
picture. After crossing the summit of the Canadian Rockies, we spotted
a Stone sheep and I managed to snap a picture of her. However our
most thrilling sighting was of two black bears.
slowed down enough so I could open the truck window and shoot
this picture. The bear was moving pretty quickly along the treeline.
The man behind us actually got out of his truck to try and get
a photo. I hope we don't read about him in tomorrow morning's
Lake was an important point during construction of the Alaska Highway
in 1942. The airport, built in 1941, was one of the major refueling
stops along the Northwest Staging Route, the system of airfields
through Canada to ferry supplies to Alaska. The Watson Lake Signpost
Forest is at the north end of town and was started by Carl Lindley
(1919-2002) of Danville, IL, a US Army soldier working on the construction
of the Alaska Highway in 1942. Travelers are still adding signs
to the collection, which numbered more than 49,800 in September
2002. It is said that Carl Lindley returned to Watson Lake in 1992
in celebration of 50 years of the Signpost Forest and added another
sign - that which included his wife's name and his hometown. Steve
and I could have spent more than an hour reading the signs, license
plates, and handmade signs left by thousands of people over the
years. I wish we would have made one ourselves and added it. Perhaps
on the "flipside" in three years....
The views during this portion of
our trip were magnificent! You can see some of the photos I took
Tomorrow we'll be in Whitehorse - our last stop
in Canada, before we cross into Alaska. I can't believe the trip
is coming to an end. It has been one great adventure, and one that
Steve and I will never forget.
BACK TO TOP
June 13, 2003
MacKenzie's RV Park
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Our Rating: 6
We have discovered over the past few days that most of the RV parks
in Canada consist of mostly gravel sites. At first we were disappointed
in this because we were getting used to the tree-covered sites in
Oregon and Washington. Then we realized that it is probably a good
thing that there is no vegetation around us - the mosquitos can
be quite bad, especially after a rain. This campground is a fairly
nice one. The only downside is that it is six miles north of the
town of Whitehorse. I would have preferred to be closer to town...
On a plus - the bathrooms and showers are very nice.
of 35. High of 51. Presently (6:45pm PT) overcast and drizzling
with temps in the 40's.
Tomorrow we will cross back into the United States.
It will be a long driving day for us - 391 miles - to Tok, AK. Despite
our enjoyment traveling through and exploring Canada, it will be
nice to be back in the United States. We have a pocket full of Canadian
money we need to exchange, and I'm hoping that the gas prices will
drop. We have paid a high of .99 cents/litre while in Canada - the
equivalent of $3.75/gallon. A person would have to sell their firstborn
to be able to afford prices like this all the time!
Steve and I have already discussed the probability
that we will be visiting Canada many more times over the next three
years. There are many wonderful and exciting towns in BC and YT
that we hope to experience while we have the opportunity. Canada
is absolutely gorgeous out here and deserves much more of our attention.
This morning began as a cold and wet one. Although the rain had
stopped, there was still a light mist that seemed to fall around
us. The wind was cold and biting and Steve and I donned multiple
layers and gloves to hook the camper up. The heat ran practically
all night long, but it was warm and toasty inside. We didn't go
to bed until after 11pm. It was hard to get into sleep mode while
the sky was still light. This constant daylight is really going
to take some getting used to...
We were rolling down the road by 7am and the temperatures hovered
around freezing. We drove through freezing rain for almost an hour.
Fortunately, the roads weren't slick. We did travel on several miles
of gravel initially, but soon the hard paving took over. Once in
a while, we'd hit a small chunk of gravel, but other than that the
roads were in great shape.
crossed the Nisutlin Bay Bridge just before Teslin proper. This
bridge is the longest water span on the Alaska Highway at 1917 feet.
The Nisutlin River forms the "bay" as it flows into Teslin
Lake here. We stopped in Teslin (milemarker 804) to visit MUKLUK
ANNIE'S - a restaurant that was recommended to us by the older man
we met at the rest stop in Washington. Unfortunately we weren't
hungry for lunch yet (the restaurant has been rumored to have the
best ribs around), but we did browse her small gift shop.
A little further down the road, we took a small detour to the Tlingit
Heritage Center - a small museum that tells the story of the Tlingit
people of Teslin. I wanted to take a photo of the hand-carved totems
gracing the entrance.
Other views during today's journey along
the Alaska Highway
We arrived in Whitehorse (Historic Milepost 918) at about 1:30pm.
Our first stop was at the Visitor Information Centre to find out
if there were any companies that would allow me to get onto their
network to upload my journal entries. It looks like I'm out of luck
here in Whitehorse - despite it's appearance as a "big city"
type town. There are a few places that a person can go to check
their e-mail, but none where I can upload without a toll-free modem
number. (Which NETZERO doesn't offer; I canceled my membership with
them this afternoon).
After continuing north to our campground and setting up camp, we
drove back into town to explore some of the shops. Whitehorse is
a really neat city (it's the Capital of the Yukon Territory). Population
is about 22,500 and most of it is under the age of 30. It seems
to be a really laid-back, informal place to live - and the shops
are what our teenagers would consider "cool". Many shops
cater to the tourists who come through every summer season with
souvenirs and postcards. But there are art galleries, coffee shops,
and even "head shops" (anyone who is close to my age or
older will remember those establishments in the 60's and 70's).
I shot a few photos downtown that I think represent the city fairly
This was a restaurant in town
Town & Mountain Hotel
June 14, 2003
Tok (pronounced "toke"), AK
Our Rating: 7
Bath/Shower/Laundry facilities are nice. There's no cable and one
local TV channel. (We're listening to CD's and may watch a video
tape later). There is entertainment... a local guitarist/singer
performs each night for the campers. The sites are treed (which
is a welcome change, but also encourages the flying insect population)
The office is housed in a log cabin and has lots of neat souvenirs
and typical Alaskan and Native American goods such as gloves, art,
baskets, etc. Every morning from 7am-11am they prepare a "Sourdough
Pancake Breakfast" (fee) which can include reindeer sausage
if you're so inclined. (And Steve is VERY inclined)
Weather: The day started
out partly cloudy and 43 degrees. Soon into our drive, the skies
became much bluer, with huge puffy white clouds hovering on the
peaks of the nearby mountains. We reached a high of 63 when we crossed
into Alaska. It is currently 7:12pm (Alaska Time - which is 4 hours
behind ET) and the sun is blazing and still relatively high in the
While driving, I caught a glimpse of this
lake while making a turn along the Alaska Highway. At first, I thought
that Steve was driving too fast for the photo to be in focus as
I shot it out the window of the truck. Much to my surprise, the
photo turned out beautifully.
Tonight, Steve and I took advantage of the "free" entertainment
here at the campground. We were surrounded by approximately 25 fellow
campers as Dave Stancliff strummed his guitar and long-neck banjo
- performing songs he had written about life in Tok and all parts
of AK. His music was upbeat and humorous and was a great diversion
for us. As an added surprise, he gave us a CD of a song he had recorded
about our military after learning about Steve, Brandon and Becky.
How nice! It is now 9:43pm and the sun is still shining... I am
exhausted physically, but my mind is telling me it's too early to
go to bed.
After a quick run to the local McDonalds in Whitehorse (which doesn't
have ham on their menu, so my bagel had to have egg, cheese and
bacon on it), we hooked up the camper and were on the road
by 8am. It was going to be a long driving day for us and we weren't
sure what kind of surprises we'd come across in the way of road
construction. This portion of our drive was the one with the most
construction delays and horrible road conditions. Many times, we
had to slow considerably due to frost heaves and chuckholes (potholes).
There were also very long stretches of gravel paving and/or dirt
and mud. Today, we had to follow a pilot car twice; once for about
5km (3 miles) and the second time for about 10km. Average speed
during these stretches was only about 20-30mph.
The scenery was magnificent - as we have come to expect during
our drive through western Canada. Immediately upon leaving Whitehorse,
we got a look at snow-covered peaks on the horizon. We also caught
a quick glimpse of a coyote who seemed to be checking out some ponies
grazing near the road. The coyote took off when we slowed to try
to get a photo. (Darn!) We passed a couple of kennels on our way
out of town. Owned by dogsled champions, both of these kennels offered
tours of the facilities and an opportunity to meet their champion
huskies. In the winter, adventure tours are offered. (I hope to
experience a dogsled adventure while here in AK)
Not long after, the rugged snowcapped peaks of the Kluane (pronounced
kloo-WA-nee) Icefield Ranges and the outer portion of the St. Elias
Mountains came into view. The Kluane Icefield Ranges are Canada's
highest and the world's largest nonpolar alpine ice field.
Kluane Icefield Range
Driving around Kluane Lake
All along the way, there were many beautiful places to pull out
and shoot a photo or two. One such place was Pickhandle Lake (milemarker
1125.7 - 1864.7km). The sun was shining brightly and the lake had
only the slightest ripple in it, which made for great reflective
photos of the mountains and the fluffy clouds above.
Pickhandle Lake - Reflections
Our cross into Alaska at the Canada/United States border took only
slightly longer than travel into Canada out of Washington. Again
we were asked questions about our travel and whether or not we had
purchased anything in Canada that we needed to declare. Our liquor
content was well below the acceptable limits so that wasn't a problem.
The guard did ask us if we had any Canadian beef products in our
possession (Mad Cow), which we didn't. Also, the US had dogs at
the border. We weren't sure what they were sniffing for - explosives
or drugs. Nevertheless, we passed through with relative ease.
entering Alaska, one of the first things that came into view was
Midway Lake (milepost 1289.5). We also noticed that the highway
here was just as bad - if not worse - than that in Canada. We didn't
see any repair crews out once we crossed the border and hoped that
it didn't mean that the US doesn't care as much about the road maintenance
as the Canadians do. (And boy... do the Canadian's care! A big thumbs
up to the hard workers we passed over the last week)
TOMORROW WE ARRIVE IN FAIRBANKS!
OUR JOURNEY IS OVER, BUT THE ADVENTURE IS REALLY ONLY BEGINNING.
WELCOME TO FAIRBANKS!
|This is the
end of PART ONE of my journal - a day
by day chronical of our 31-day drive from Jacksonville, FL to Fairbanks,
AK. I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure. From this point
on, any postings will be for the purpose of keeping my friends and
family updated. You are welcome to continue stopping by...FAIRBANKS
JOURNAL CLICK HERE