Friday, August 30, 2013

Alaska - By The Numbers

Our trip started and finished in Mesa, AZ. We were on the road 135 days, at least one of us stayed in the Scamp each night with the exception of the two nights we spent in a yurt.

We drove 15,331 miles: 5,355 northbound to Eagle River, Alaska via the California gold country, the Pacific coast, Oregon & Washington, the Okanogan, Lake Louise, Jasper, and the Alaska Highway. We drove 5837 miles in Alaska after arrival in Eagle River. The southbound trip from Eagle River to Mesa was a bit shorter at 4139 miles via the Cassiar Highway. Of the 15,331 miles, 3,891 were driven without the trailer including trips to Deadhorse and to McCarthy. Of the bobtail miles, 733 miles were specifically related to care for Turk.

We used 1055 gallons (I converted Canadian purchases to gallons) of gas, averaging 14.56 miles per gallon. I figure the canoe and associated racks cost us about 1 mpg. Gasoline cost averaged $4.43 per gallon. The most expensive was $7.19 at Muncho Lake Lodge and the least expensive was the gas we bought yesterday at our neighborhood station at $3.28.

We spent 11 nights in boondocking situations, typically roadside pullouts, 10 nights compliments of our favorite Bentonville, Arkansas retailer, and 6 nights at other stores. We spent 49 nights in public (town, county, state, national) parks that varied in cost from $0 (7 nights) to $35; 4 nights in commercial RV parks, and 53 nights (quite a bit more than originally anticipated) in private driveways. Average cost for the public sites was $16.22 while the commercial parks averaged $29.85. We did leverage Golden Age discounts when available and selected 30 amp rather than 50 amp sites when available in commercial parks.

We planned to travel no more than 200 miles on a normal travel day which worked very well for us. We did end up with some 300 mile days, especially southbound when the navigator started showing signs of gethomeitis and I did over 500 miles one day on the solo bobtail trip to Deadhorse &  return.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 29 - Home Again

After a nice cool night in Jacob Lake, we started down the hill, quickly leaving the ponderosa pine  and juniper behind. It felt a bit strange to have been in Jacob Lake and not spend any time on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

As we continued drifting lower, the Vermilion Cliffs were showing their glory in the morning light.

We stopped near Soap Creek so I could get pictures of the balancing rocks

and the house that someone had built around one of the rocks.

The Colorado River at Marble Canyon was muddy, indicating the Paria River had flashed with the hard rains yesterday. I was going to go up to Lees Ferry to see if any raft trips were preparing to launch for the trip through the Grand Canyon but they were repaving the road so we avoided the construction.

The bridges over the Colorado at Marble Canyon (old on the left, new on the right) are the last picture from our 4 1/2 month Alaska trip, bridging from a wonderful road trip to whatever comes next.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 28 - Jacob Lake, AZ

We went out to breakfast at IHOP and appreciated the plant growth in their back parking lot before heading south from Springville, Utah this morning.

After some additional freeway, we got to enjoy the quirky nature of the small towns and wonderful scenery of Highway 89. Someone in Gunnison decided that the world needed a Dodge version of Tow Mater.

The towns had their share of old buildings in various states of repair like this building in Marysvale

as well as beautiful, often brick, homes.  This one was in Panguitch, but nearly every town had homes of similar vintage in excellent condition.

In between the towns was either sagebrush and beautiful scenery,

or green fields and beautiful scenery.

Every now and then there would be buildings or foundations indicating a location where someone had once lived. (The pictures would be better but most were taken on the fly.)

On the south side of Kanab, Utah, in the midst of road construction, we spotted a sign that confirms this four and one-half month trip is just about over.

Home for tonight is the USFS Campground in Jacob Lake, Arizona. This is posted via our Millenicom Mi-Fi using our Wilson amplifier and external antenna to pull in a 3G signal.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27 - Springville, Utah

At least twenty people showing up last night that we'd worked with many years ago. Great Indonesian food and good fellowship made for a wonderful evening playing catch-up.

We had an 8 a.m. appointment with the Discount Tire store in Nampa and were on the road at 8:10 a.m. - no kidding! They worked with the manager at the Discount Tire store that I normally deal with and have us set up with a pair of tires until we get home when I expect we'll make yet more decisions. The whole story after we get the final selection in place.

There aren't many pictures today since the camera is acting up. It will take pictures but the LCD screen isn't lighting up so it's like shooting in the dark. Much of the day was through high rolling hills with cattle or wheat predominately, and occasionally a deserted homestead. We didn't even stop at interesting places like Rattlesnake Pass to see why it got its name. Obviously, some rain today.

We stretched the day to get through Salt Lake City ahead of the afternoon rush hour instead of hitting the morning rush hour tomorrow.

Home for the night is the Walmart in Springville - 400 miles from where we started. Obviously, someone didn't get the message about not obviously 'camping' when staying at Walmart! Always handy to have a coax from the TV antenna to the window to use as a clothes line.

Gotta go - BJ made pizza...

Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26 - Nampa, Idaho

We looked for the Oregon Trail today since the freeway (yup, that word) runs essentially parallel for much of the day, but never found it. We did find a place where the gate was closed since visitors only stop three days each week.

We'll be running freeways for the next couple days as well. I'm hoping the Idaho and Utah freeways will be as smooth as the Oregon freeway was!

Our first destination for the day was the Sierra Trading Post Outlet store. This one is bigger than the one in Reno AND we get to count a cuddly bear among the wildlife (four deer) we saw today.

Our real destination for the day was the offices of Mission Aviation Fellowship in Nampa, Idaho. We're looking forward to dinner tonight with a bunch of folks that we worked with in Indonesia nearly twenty-five years ago. Should be lots of fun.

Once we get home, we'll have another post about tires. I've been very happy with the Maxxis tires we're run for nearly three years but that's not what we're going to running when we finish the trip. For that matter, the tires we're putting on tomorrow morning are going to come off as soon as we get home. It's a long story for later.

August 25 - Pendleton, Oregon

After four days at the Wenatchee River County Park in Monitor, it was time to leave the Wenatchee area and point the rig towards home. We decided we really likes the Park, even with the sound of trains from the track across the river. Shady, super clean, and a much better deal than the state park.

Our route took us down the Columbia River gorge past orchards

and sometimes right along the river.

As we approached Richland, Washington, we passed through the Hanford Reservation, famous for its part in development of the atomic bomb and for challenges with the clean-up.

Our destination for the day was Pendleton, Oregon with an initial stop at the woolen mill outlet store. We didn't get out empty handed, but her shirt does look nice.

We decided it was too warm for Walmart and the free RV parking in front of the Wildhorse Resort, so we're parked in their RV park where a 30 amp full hook-up with Good Sam discount was just over $20 complete with a view of harvested wheat fields and the rolling hills of Eastern Oregon out the back window.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 22-24 - Wenatchee, Washington

We've been busy the past three days as most of the siblings and some grands gathered to move Mom into a different apartment in her retirement complex. The moving part wasn't so hard, it was the sorting that was the biggest challenge. Since I'm the retired one, I now have many boxes of negatives and photos to be scanned and shared with the family members. I guess I know what I'll be doing in my spare time once we get home.

We did take time out this morning to stop by the Pybus Market to see how things are progressing since we visited during their first week when we were northbound. Saturday is the day for the outside booths and we timed it early enough that they weren't picked over yet. Lots of fruit,


and flowers. We ended up buying onions, green beans, cherry tomatoes, peaches, and apples, all of which were picked last night.

They had races for the kids, based on zucchini vehicles the kids built, running on a sloped pinewood derby track.

Inside most of the shop spaces have been leased but a number weren't open at 8:30 in the morning.  The bakery was...

We'll be leaving town tomorrow headed towards the barn. If all goes well, this week will be the last week of travel for this trip.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 21 - Monitor, Washington

We left Tulalip later than usual this morning since we "had" to wait until the shops opened at Seattle Premium Outlets next door to the Casino. With Columbia, Mountain Hardware, Eddy Baer, and NorthFace all represented, we had to take a cruise through them but didn't leave any money behind.

We ate at the Resort hotel last night at Cedar's Cafe. Really good food. I would never have dreamed of dungeness crab enchiladas, but they were wonderful!

The RV parking was a bit noisy (traffic) and bright (street lights) but the price was right and I'd do it again if we needed to stay in the area.

The drive over Stevens Pass was beautiful as usual. It's not fast since you drive through the middle of a bunch of small towns, but we weren't in a hurry. Turns out it was good timing. The Evergreen State Fair opens tomorrow which means traffic will be a zoo, at least for the western portion of the route.

Highway 2 between Everett and Wenatchee is part of the Cascade Loop, a one (in a car, not stopping) to many day trip that should be included in any summer visit to Washingon State. The North Cascades portion (which we didn't drive this time) is closed in the winter but gives Alberta's Icefields Highway a serious run for the money. We did stop at the top of Stevens Pass for lunch where the ski area was obviously silent.

The rivers that parallel the route were the lowest I've ever seen them. This portion of the Tumwater Canyon is normally a Class 5 run, but it sure didn't look that way now. Technical, yes, but not as tough as normal.

They've been dealing with forest fires in the area so the sky is smokey, but not enough to smell it.

Home for the next four nights is the Wenatchee River County Park in Monitor. It's the same place we stayed the night before we crossed the Canadian border northbound in May. With the mid 80 temps, the AC is nice!  For the next couple days we'll be working with siblings to move Mom from one apartment to another in her retirement community.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 20 - Tulalip, Washington

Home last night was under the cedars trees. This is the second campground where we've been in a heavily treed area, darker than we've experienced for this summer, but the smell of the trees was wonderful.

I hadn't been to Washington Park for over 30 years. I was a bit surprised to see the lack of maintenance on the facilities. The restroom building had trees growing out of the moss on the shingles!

I was less surprised to see banana slugs on the ground, a clear indication that we're back on the wet coast of Washington.

This morning we stopped by the marina in Anacortes to see the W.T. Preston on display.  As a kid, the Corp of Engineers operated Preston was often seen tied up on the riverfront in town or moored somewhere pulling logs and snags from the river.

And of course, I couldn't miss the opportunity for a marina picture.

Home for the night is the free RV parking at the Tulalip Resort & Casino near I-5 in Marysville where we had a chance to go to dinner with wonderful SAR / river friends.

Monday, August 19, 2013

August 19 - Back in the Lower 48

After a beautiful traverse of western Canada, we're back in the land of data and connectivity. We left Skihist Provincial Park this morning and stopped by the Visitor Centre in Lytton where they weren't open yet but the wi-fi could be easily reached from across the street by the caboose.

As we continued down the Fraser River Canyon, the upstream wind offset the downhill advantage but we enjoyed the views and the minimal traffic.  Traffic increased once we got on the four lane but moved along with everyone playing nicely.

The signs on the freeway said waiting time was 20 minutes for Customs at Sumas and 80 minutes at Blaine so we joined the line in Sumas and watched it continue to build behind us. Wait was 45 minutes but the actual chat took about a minute and we were on our way again.

I thought it was nice of them to provide something shiny to look at while we waited.

The world changed on the south side of the border. By the time we approached the freeway in Bellingham the traffic was just nasty. I think it's going to take some time to get used to crowded streets again!

Home for the night is Washington Park in Anacortes, Washington. It was an excuse to drive through Mt. Vernon and see how much it has changed since I was last on the west side of town. 'Sides that, we got to check out the progress on the replacement span for the Skagit river bridge while driving across the temporary span.

August 17 & 18 - Quesnel & Skihist Provincial Park

We left Smithers the morning of the 17th after discovering that the bakery in the Safeway store wouldn’t have any donuts until after 10 a.m.  Most of the day was spent traveling through rolling hills with pastures interspersed with stands of birch or evergreen trees.

Lots of places had the hay baled but still in the fields. Some farms were storing the bales in long tubes of vinyl, while others were stacking it.

There were quite a few places with large herds of beef cattle although we didn’t get a picture of the cattle as we sped. Weather was varied all day, sometimes bright sun, occasionally hard rain.

We intended to overnight in Prince George but got there early and weren’t impressed with the crowds of RVs at the Walmart so we turned and continued south.

Over the past couple days we’ve seen lots of vehicles with canoes, generally very nice, light weight canoes. When I spotted this sign, it all went together. Bowren Lakes is a famous canoe circuit attracting paddlers from all over the world.

Quesnal claims to have the world’s largest gold pan as does Burwash Landing in the Yukon. There is no question that Quesnal has much nicer flowers around theirs!  Quesnal is also home to large fleets of logging trucks and several large saw mills.

Home for the night was the Wallyworld in South Quesnal. Nice.

Between Quesnal and Cache Creek we saw lots of old log cabins and barns as well as relatively new log homes – way too large to be termed a “cabin” in my mind. We’ve run further than originally planned on several days and today was the same. We’re nicely positioned for a border crossing tomorrow in Sumas.

We stopped for our last Canadian gas in 100 Mile House and started hitting a headwind shortly thereafter. Once we got into the Cache Creek area, we started seeing sagebrush on the hills.

We stopped in Spences Bridge where the Thompson and the Fraser Rivers join, just to get a picture of the sign. It’s too bad they didn’t spell it correctly! Just one letter off.

Home for the night is the Skihist Provincial Park in the Fraser River canyon about 50 miles south of Cache Creek. The sites are in a Ponderosa pine forest on the hillside above the Fraser river and the highway. If we’re quiet we can just hear the trains down in the canyon.

This post made possible by the public wi-fi at the Visitor Centre in Lytton.