A Great Northern Adventure
Lisa Dunham and Shauna Wenzl
Lisa and I (Shauna) passed the writing of this journal back and forth. Dad mostly snacked on caramel corn, life savers, jerky, drove, and filled the gas tank. His most important job was making the martinis when we landed for the night. I'm not sure whose writing was more legible, but most of the writing occurred while driving (of course I mean the passenger of the moment, not the driver, and certainly not after the martinis in the evening, even though the sun was still shining....most of the night!) This was a spectacular, unforgettable, completely fantastic-in-every-way dream of a road trip.
July 2, 2010 It's Friday at 7:30 a.m. The odometer reads 44,175 miles, and we're ready to hit the road. Lisa, me (Shauna) and Dad are headed for our great adventure driving to Alaska where we'll spend about four weeks. We stopped for breakfast in Redding at the Black Bear Diner around 9:30 am, and called the Boulware's about stopping to visit them in Salem. Meanwhile we rotate drivers every so many miles. Lisa takes over where Dad left off.
Plenty of time for stories on the road. Dad tells about a time when he was about 5 or 6 years of age. His Uncle Albert "Mutt" Smith was a great kidder...who kept offering him chewing tobacco to tease him. Eventually Denny got hold of some and ended up sick as a dog down by the creek. Never touched the stuff since.
Stopped in to see Lisa's best friends in Yreka, California. Other best friends from Grass Valley, Jim and Anita Mills were here visiting Adehl too! Great visit and photos. Adehl says that as we go through Oregon a good stop is Exit 86...A little place called "Heaven on Earth" has the best cinnamon rolls we'll ever find. The owner, Christine, just gives away extras; a slice of pie here, a little something there. So we'll see... If it doesn't work out for us, maybe it will for someone else who reads this. We pulled in for gas ($43) at Exit 104 in Oregon. They put the gas in for us and even washed the window! Way cool. Picked up a couple of Mountain Dews and a Pepsi, and nobody used the facilities...good bladders. Missed Heaven on Earth, because we were too busy gabbing, but no, we really didn't miss it...we're experiencing it. Listening to country music...Didn't know that "rain" rhymes with "thing" 'til today.
Arrived in Salem at 5:30 pm, and checked into Best Western at exit 258. Then we headed over to the Boulware's. It rained a little. Over some KFC at Aunt Virginia and Bill's another story from the past pops up. When Mom (Kathy) told her sister (Virginia) that she is in love with Dennis Smith, the response was..."NOT HIM!" Dad and Aunt Virginia were in the same high school physics class. Dad set a bonfire on a silver dollar and put it on the desk-chair in front of him occupied by George McClosky. Aunt Virginia, sitting next to Dad made the mistake of looking totally appalled at George when he yelled, and "little miss perfect" was sent to the principal's office for the first time in her life. Mr. Franz was a retired navy commander; the scar on the side of his face added to his stern demeanor.
At Fly Geyser on Bureau of Land Management property...Motorcycle and helicopter ride. Lisa and Jess. Jess (Paul and Donna N's daughter) got into the driver's seat. While pulling out and and at the same time adjusting mirrors...drove into the center divide gravel, and ended up rolling the car. It landed on it's tires although causing 2 flats on one side. Unhurt, the two gals looked at each other and embraced after realizing they were okay. A man came up to the car and said "Excuse me, while I turn off the engine." They couldn't open the doors so they crawled out the windows. The Tow truck pumped up the tires, the car ran alright, so they continued on their trip home. They just had to get in and out through the windows. Kind of like the inconvenience of a one piece swimming suit.
We got back to the hotel at 8:30 pm, after driving 436 miles today.
July 3rd. Up and on the road again at 8:35 am, and stopped for gas a few hours later. We had lunch at Jack in the Box Marysville, Washington. By 3:30 we'd driven 370 miles, and crossed the border into Canada. The only thing we had to do was throw away a bag of fresh cherries. We crossed the border at Sumas. We noticed that the town had an American flag flying from every power pole. It was a little sad to be leaving our beautiful country the day before it's birthday.
At Hope British Columbia. Had to pick up olives and onions for martinis, and ice at local market. Stayed at Hope City Center Motel. It's run by an Indian couple (as in India) with a 3rd grade daughter and 3 year old boy. Had trouble going on the internet and our host called Dell to help us get on. Olga stopped talking to us at the border. We couldn't find a Staples to enable her to enable her to enter Canada and Alaska. We miss her. Also, phones are roaming so we turned them off. Isolation...freedom! We had dinner at Excellent Chinese Smorgasbord (not buffet). Wonder if there's an actual Chinese word for "all you can eat?" We opted for the dinner for two and that was plenty.
July 4th. Happy Birthday America! Up and at 'em again. Lots of hotels on the road heading east on highway 1. Around 10 am we stopped for breakfast at Rumors and Spenser's Bridge on Highway 1. Out on the deck enjoying perfect weather...around 74 degrees. Oh yeah, I should be talking Celsius. When we saw low 12 degrees and high 21 degrees we thought we were in big trouble. Whew! rainy section of drive. At 12:50 we stopped for gas at Esso Gas..$60.
Listened to Vinyl Cafe-Stewart McClain at 100 Mile House and story about Roger Woodard who was 7 years old when he went over Niagra Falls in a life jacket. It happened 50 years ago on July 9. A family friend took Roger and his 17 year old sister out near the falls in a small aluminum fishing boat. There were only two life vests. Roger had one on, the other was under the seat. The boat's engine died when the boat hit a shoal, then waves capsized the boat as his sister Deanna was trying to get the other life vest on. She swam with the current and a man on the island between the U.S. and Canada called out to her but they missed each other. He sprinted to get ahead of her, running out of land and she grabbed his thumb 100 feet from the falls. A truck driver rushed over to help and they pulled her up. She frantically asked about her brother and he saw Roger's head bobbing up and down approaching the falls.
He said something into her ear and she put her hands over her heart. When asked what he told her, he said "Say a prayer for your little brother." Roger describes the feeling of coming up to open space and having no idea that he was approaching the falls. He remembered thinking that he was going to die and thinking about his toys and who would his parents give them to. Then he felt at peace. Going over he had no sense of falling, just floating in the mist. No recollection of hitting the water. A tour boat veered off course anticipating where Roger would be and they found him. It took 3 throws of the ring before Roger could throw his arm over it, and they pulled him aboard (right). After hearing Stewart McClain tell his story, Roger came on to say a heart felt and emotional "Thank you." He said that he had told the story many times, but he had never really heard it, especially after it was so beautifully told. It was an accident and a tragedy he doesn't think of. It was a nightmare wonderfully told.
We're out of the rain now. At 2 pm we stopped at the Visitor Center at Williams Lake. Next we stopped at Staples to bring Olga back to life. They don't sell these anymore, but say we can probably download an upgrade. Okay to use their wireless with our computers. Lisa can't plug chip in, and mine has no battery....so we're back on the road. (Still no Olga). Saw a black bear run across the highway about 3:45 pm not far past Quesnel.
Drove through Prince George a little before 5 pm. It's a nice 61 degrees. At mile 471, just past Ft. Frazier we saw a small brown mama bear with her cub. We were still traveling fairly slow as we had just passed through a bridge under construction that had a red light for single lane passage.
Now Dad's driving. Burns Lake is coming up but we think we'll continue on to Smithers. We stopped and traded drivers at Lake Frazier, but we didn't really like it. That's when we decided to continue on to Smithers. The sun is so high in the sky at 6:30 pm we're having a hard time making ourselves stop! Just past where we saw the bear there was a campground that made Shauna and I reconsider our willingness to camp. Then Dad confirmed our skepticism when he said, "I get the car, you two get the tent...and you're taking the beef jerky with you." Got into Smithers at about 9 pm. The Sun is still up and smiling. Checked into the Aspen Inn, got dinner at Dairy Queen and took it back to the room. Onion rings and martinis. Doesn't get much better than that! And it made me hook up with Mathew McConoughy, so it did get better.
July 5. We'd traveled 428.7 miles on a tank of gas...617 miles yesterday. Had breakfast at Aspen Inn. Tried to resuscitate Olga at the hotel. They recommended a specialist at Four Dimension computer store. The store didn't have internet yet so they loaned us a card reader and sent us to the cafe next door, where bought coffee and paid for the internet. Hang in there Olga! We left Smithers around noon with a full tank of gas, but no Olga...and Dad driving.
(Note: Lisa is a wheeler dealer! In Hope, because internet wasn't working, she threatened to leave, so he said he would charge us $20 because we used the facilities; then got his phone and called Dell and got us online. Then in Smithers we were supposed to get $15 off for breakfast, but we only had a $10 certificate. So Lisa mentioned it at check-out and got an additional $5 off. Go Lisa!)
Stopped at Hazilton to walk down to the Suskawa River where we saw a bald eagle, and toured the Ksar Historical Village and museum.
July 6. We enjoyed a seafood lunch at Smiles Cafe; chowder and basket of a variety of fish with fries. The food was yummy, and the place packed with customers.
July 8. It's 6:50 am. We depart ferry at Haines, Alaska. It was a perfect journey on the ferry. Calm waters, beautiful scenery. Dad and Shauna saw a bear on shore. We saw many whales...just the spouts blowing and a tail now and then. Had breakfast in Haines. Not the best waitress. No road signs to get us on the right road, so we asked for directions at the visitors center. We crossed the border into Canada again north of Haines.
Entering the Yukon! No critters yet except for seagulls and loons, but you can see forever, mountains, glaciers, and beaver ponds. Brush giving way to more forest. Stop at a rest place, where Shauna takes over driving. Our first moose sighting. A bit distant for a photo. We think there may have been a calf also. Roads have been pretty rough through this section of the Al-Con Highway. We're listening to a book on tape by Lisa Scottoline called "Courting Trouble." Dad says the highway is better than the last time he came up. Now we stopped for construction. Not much of a wait. The road is now oiled gravel. Just got into a rainstorm. Saw a moose with her calf in a meadow close to the roadway, but couldn't stop for a picture with in raining hard and a big rig on our tail. Shauna's still driving! Boy do I owe her! We were up at 4 am! 8:40 pm were at Golden Bear Restaurant & Motel.
July 9. Got gas, checked oil, washed dirty dirty windows. Heading south on 1. It's 328 miles to Anchorage! We have learned to order two meals for the three of us. We were almost the only ones in the restaurant and the special was cream of broccoli soup and Chef salad. We ordered three specials (too much) and the cook / waitress said, "Oh, I'll have to boil another egg!" We told her it was okay to split what she had for the three of us. The soup was delicious! Hotel not so great...no consistent hot water, no blow dryer, charge for internet, only 3 or 4 channels, no news channel. Hit the road about 9 am. It's vacation! We don't need to hit the road at dawn cuz dawn is about 3 am and dusk is around midnight.
Lisa spotted a young bull moose (with velvet on horns) 20 miles from Tok. He was very shy, and disappeared into the brush when another car passed before we could get a photo. 32 miles from Tok we saw a mama moose with twins on the side of the road. Very shy and headed for brush as we slowed down.
Christochine Mountain...Glaciers..Wrangell, St. Elias National Park. Took pictures of the White Mountain. Spectacular! 119 miles from Tok, Gakone Lodge and Trading Post. Potty stop for the girls. The restaurant was closed but not locked, so we used it, right on the river. It felt like a scene out of "deliverance." I had Lisa's book. ...From Tok, made a decision on the fly to check out Valdez. 112 miles there and back. 112 miles to the cutoff to Anchorage.
From Tok...dinner in Valdez at Ernesto's Authentic Mexican Restaurant. 3:57 pm. Ernesto is from Santa Barbara and has been here for 14 years. Also has a restaurant in Anchorage. Tasty, but order beef, not steak tacos. There was a trailer fully engulfed in flames that we drive by. Then two fire trucks with sirens on drove past. Our waiter got a phone call after he seated us and got pretty loud asking his buddy to please check on his trailer cuz that's where he lives. Weird. Done with dinner at 4:30. Cruised around Valdez. Lisa driving.
79 degrees outside. Heading southwest. Sun is lowering. Lisa has to use a visor! (Shauna still doesn't). Right rear brake light blinker not working and window washer not working...Oh...figured it out...Way to go Lisa.
7:10 pm. Lisa the driver, spotted a large porcupine walking down the side of the road. I was looking at the map. We're listening to "Courting Trouble" by Lisa Scotoline.
Matanusla Glacier...Stopped for pictures. Checked out the bugs on the grill of the van and the van ended up with several large mosquito's. 8:10 pm ..We found them! Yowza! They squish like regular mosquito's but Lisa keeps scratching her legs. She's wearing shorts and driving...Now she's scratching her neck and arm...too funny. Sun is still up although I had to lower my visor. Drove 518.6 miles today. Staying in Palmer at the Peking Inn...Chinese restaurant delivering to our room. $42.00. Room $86.40.
July 10 9:10 am. Checking out of Peking Inn Motel in Palmer. Ate leftover Chinese for breakfast before we left motel. It was nice because the motel had a kitchen with real glass plates and real forks so we didn't have to eat from paper and plastics. Stopped in to pick up a brake light/blinker light from Schucks Auto Supply before we left town. $6.55. Hit the road at 9:25 Driver Shauna.
12:00 left Whittier Visitors Center. Windy, stormy, rainy 54 degrees. We'll come back on our way out of Homer. Supposed to clear up by Monday. Driver Lisa Portage Valley National Forest.
Arrived at Larry, Jan and Pepper Kimball's at 4 pm Saturday evening. Got a tour of the spit, walked through Shops, stopped at Safeway for some wine and I had to tell the guy my birth date...out loud...in a line of customers! He had to ask twice and I almost asked if I could give an approximate. Finally gave it up. We had spaghetti, french bread, and salad and wine. Jan doesn't drink so we behaved ourselves. They have had moose, but the Hoka Hey motorcycle challenge just came through about 4 days ago and nobody has been seeing moose. Over 200 motorcycles traveling from Florida to Homer competition. Watched a documentary on a guy at age 57 building a cabin up on twin lakes and documentary on bears. (July 12) 452.8 on gas tank. Stopped at Anchor Point, Thurmond's gas station cuz it's the "cheapest" place to get gas and the bathrooms are clean. gas $67.99.
Back to July 11 Sunday! Scrambled eggs, toast and coffee for breakfast, then played tourist with Jan and Larry as our guides. Headed out to Anchor River and saw King salmon from the bridge. Big Funnel contraption and two fish and game people were counting fry coming down...Said it's a new way to count and the count is about 1200 under what was expected. Larry asked about the cycle. 7 years from fry to spawn but they had no clue. They just loved the new contraption and were counting.
Stopped at Black Water Bend road stop for coffee and a killer cinnamon roll. Larry's treat. They said the orange vanilla milkshake's are killer! Jan has an incredible sweet tooth.
Larry has so many good stories! Also both have a keen interest in politics, very conservative. We read signs that there have been 252 moose killed on Alaska highways. Evidently there is a waiting list for road kill. Moose is killed and they start calling the waiting list until they get to someone who says "I'll take it!" Then that person has so many hours to get it for butchering. We have seen maybe one dead rabbit and a couple of ground squirrels. Not much wasted in this state.
They told us about Jean Keene, the Eagle Lady. She had a trailer out on the Spit and one hard year many of the eagles were dying so she went over to the cannery and got buckets full of fish carcasses and fed the eagles. It is illegal, but brought in National attention, so she is the only person in the U.S. who could legally feed the eagles. She passed away last year and there is, as yet, no memorial at her trailer spot where she fed the eagles for many years.
Also, Larry said the state pays college, tuition, room and board (even out of state) for residents with a commitment that they will work in Alaska after graduation for a specified number of years. He thinks 4-6 years.
Slow tourist year so far according to the Spit vendors, but better than last year. We have had no problem finding accommodations and most of the license plates are Alaskan. People seem to be traveling locally. Got Coal's seafood chowder for lunch. Monday morning before leaving the Kimball's, Larry popped in the back rear light bulb...Have blinker and brake light again. Got pictures of the volcanoes (active) Mt. Avaustin and Mt. Iliamna (which was smoking!)
Lisa drove 'til Lacey called...then Shauna drove the last 50 miles to Whittier from Homer...Leaving Whittier at 3:15. $12 to drive through one lane tunnel that is for cars and trains. Go in on the 1/2 hour and out on the hour unless a train is coming through. Had chowder at the Orca (so-so) for lunch.
Noted during lunch that after looking at all the pictures of sailors (mostly Italian and Swedes) I think I prefer cowboys. Also, lots and lots of very heavy women traveling...Does Halibut refer to anatomical enhancement? Lisa driving.
Stopped in Wasilla liquor store to restock. Shauna says seriously...that Todd Palin walked out as she was walking in! Dad and Shauna got directions to Iditarod Trail Head where the famous dog sled race is held. Liquor stop. 6:37 pm we stopped for gas. Looking for a motel but stopped for gas anyway. As Dad said, "If we can't find a Motel, at least we can keep going." There's a dog sled trail that has followed alongside the highway for many miles. Pretty cool. I'm sure that motorcycles and quads enjoy it too. There was a sign that identified it as such. We're tired. Our eyes are dry. It's about 75 degrees and sunny. Stopped for gas and asked about a motel. The attendant said there is one just down the road, but it's $200 a night. Ouch! So she lent Shauna a business card to call on a B&B down the street. I called and they didn't have a room available tonight. Then another customer gave us the "scoop" that there's a more reasonable motel further down the road with a Tesoro gas station just like this one we're at now. About 15 miles down. That's good! As we were traveling from Wasilla to the last gas stop we had to stop and wait in road construction for a pilot car. Dad's tired and we were ready for a motel. He said if we have to wait much longer he might have to make his martini right there. Ha! Ha!
371.4 total miles for July 12.
10:08 leaving Trapper Creek Inn. One bedroom with green bed and one bed in kitchen area. Great food, great staff, TV and free Internet. Drizzling rain. Lisa driving.
Denali National Park.
124.7 miles we parked at Denali National Park at about noon. We sent to Denali Princess Lodge to check on prices of tours. We knew you could only take a car 15 miles into the park and we wanted to take a bus farther in. We found out there are buses that can take you on a 6 hour tour, 8 hour tour, 11 hour or 12 hour tour. We thought 8 hours was just about right for us. The cute older lady searched availability of tours and found availability for 8:30 am for $140 each. She was pretty flirty with Dad, so we thought of inviting her along. We told here we would think about it and let her know. She let us know they do fill up so don't think too long. We drove straight up to the park entrance and near the Visitor Center there was a bus tour reservation center. We wanted to go to a dog sled demonstration so whatever you do in the park you need to pay entrance fee. We were about to pay when they mentioned if anyone at all in our group has a Lifetime Pass then we all get into the park free. Dad had one! And he had it with him! So we walked outside to fine the shuttle to take us to the demo and discovered buses leaving for the evening 8 hour tours. Hey! Let's do that. Then we found out there is one leaving in just one hour (2:00) and it cost $30 each instead of $140! So we got our tickets and packed a great lunch from sandwiches, fruit and drinks we got right there at the reservation place...besides grabbing some munchies from the car. It was a great day. We had only 8 people total on our bus plus Wayne, the driver. Dad and Shauna lingered one minute too long at a rest break we took. Wayne looked at me and said, "I'm leaving without them...You can stay with us or go with them." I stayed. Yikes! They caught a bus behind us and we met up again at the next rest stop. Whew!
We saw great sightings and caught pictures of wildlife. My favorite statement from a fellow tourist was, "Thars a bar over yonder on the other side of thet thar crik!" (They were from "Masura"... Missouri.) Our tour ended at 10 pm. We are heading north toward Fairbanks in search of a motel. It's now 10:45 pm and I've written this whole story in the car with no light on. It's as bright as early evening right now! Cash saved on the bus tour...$300, cash saved on motel outside of Nation Park...about $100. New "Masura" friends...Priceless...Driver Shauna.
Too cloudy and rainy to see Mt. McKinley. But we did see three mama Grizzly Bears each with cubs of different ages. One had cubs almost as big as her...probably 3 years old. One with Springers born last Spring. Also saw Dahl sheep, a huge moose, caribou. We hoped to see wolves, but no luck.
It's 11:30 pm and we just drove by someone that didn't have their headlights on. No...there are no street lights out here. They just don't need them. We pulled over to the side of the road to take a picture of the sunset. Shauna backed the car into a nearby driveway to get off the highway so an upcoming bicycle rider would have room to pass without veering onto the highway. We took pictures of the sun setting. Friendly truckers honked as they passed. Then along came the bicycle rider, who stopped. It was his driveway. His name is "Bill-the-Ridge-Rider." Friendly guy with a neon-green shirt on that he bought at a thrift store. His "Don't run over me shirt" as he calls it. He told us of many places to see in Fairbanks. Museum at the University, Reindeer form by Ester, and the Airplane Museum. He liked to visit, and we could tell he would like visiting much longer, but we had to get going. We stopped to get a picture of the sunset although feeling very tired and had about 20 miles to go to reach Fairbanks. About now, all we want is a pillow and a bed.
It's after midnight and still no motel. Shauna dang near ran over a flagman. She came barreling along, so he started waving his giant stop sign. When we finally stopped, it's expected to roll down the window and visit with the flag person. He was quite good natured about his near death experience...as Shauna apologized about 20 times. We all got a huge kick out of it just because we were so "punchy" by now. Especially when she started following the pilot car when it veered off at the other end, and she almost took out the flag person there.
Finally, we pulled into a lodge in Fairbanks by the airport. Dad hates the inside and three stories, so Lisa took over driving to the right that took us to the airport. Nice and quiet at midnight. While Lisa was looking for a room, I read Lisa's entry above...I really think she exaggerated, but Dad laughed 'til he cried. Only the 2nd time since we started. The first time was when Lisa was the wheeler dealer at the hotel in Hope. Around 1 am sitting in the car...should be the bar. Three guys who have already been partying piled into a car to head out to another party. Finally landed at the Ranch Motel and laughed about the day until about 3 am, and it still isn't dark outside!
July 14 At Northern Alaska Tour Co. we couldn't get tickets for tomorrow, so will fly to Barrow on the 16th.
July 15 10:50 clearing for today breakfast. North Pole...Lisa and I both spent about the same amount of money! $180! It was way fun! Dad even spent $71.54. Didn't see any of the restaurants recommended by Guy Fierri (cooking channel). 3:35 pm and 115.6 miles for the day...we're leaving Chena Hot Spring with Lisa driving at the NE end of highway 2. Commercial resort with an ice museum, indoor pool, outdoor pool lined with rocks, little ice skating pond in winter, cross country trails and an aurora borealis viewing spot. $10 to swim, $15 to see the ice sculptures and $15 to have an appltini at the ice bar. We settled for a cup of chowder in the lodge, took a walk on the trails, saw bear and moose tracks, saw a huge greenhouse and some small outdoor gardens, lots of old equipment, cars and tractors. It's cloudy and 54 degrees. Oh yeah, guided scenic horse rides and massages too. Definitely a hot spring resort. Lisa, the connoisseur of water, said the water at the restaurant tasted horrible (like mineral water), and we'll see later how it works...unless we have Taco Bell for dinner. Then we'll never know...We crossed the North Fork of the Chena River about 6 times. It was like...Twilight Zone...or Ground Hog Day...
133.9 miles from start of day, or at mile marker 42/43 we watched a cow moose in Chena River eating with it's head under the water. She'd raise her head for air, and to watch the people pulled over. Awesome! Low fuel light came on. 421 miles on this tank of gas. I believe we can make it all the way back to Fairbanks. Probably because of all the "I believe" signs for sale at the North Pole. There is one gas station between Chena Springs and Fairbanks. We'll wimp out and pull in there.
Saw a cow moose by the side of the road....and another in the grass next to the river.
Stopped at Two Rivers Post Office for gassss.
"Whoop-dee-do-eee roads with lots of dips because of the perma frost. Lisa's driving and that's how she describes it. Lisa found the hotel, and passed it, because we need food. Yep! Stopped at Taco Bell. We'll never know about the mineral water affect. We drove 184.3 miles today, and are back at the Ranch Motel in Fairbanks. The sun's still shining.
July 16 Friday. At 10:30 we're leaving the Ranch Motel-Home Town Family Restaurant. Breakfast was good. Jr. breakfasts were $6 each for 1 egg, 1 piece of toast, and hash browns or pancakes. Lisa and I split a Denver omelet for $9 this morning. We shopped at Northern Threads.
We talked about Dad's time in the air force as a flight engineer and mechanic. B-25 flying with two navy guys from Illinois to Texas. The engine cuts power to shift to high blow and the navy guys scrambled for their parachutes. The air force guys just laugh. Then Dad didn't feel so hot, so he tried to get some fresh air from the machine gun turret, but got a lung full of exhaust that made him up-chuck all over. The navy guys didn't laugh because they didn't feel so hot either. Preflighted an AT6 and forgot to turn off the carburetor heat (left on by the pilot) and the plane caught on fire. Dad grabbed a fire extinguisher and fire trucks rolled. The line Sergeant asked him to check it and Dad turned it off. Line chief knew, or suspected what happened, so Dad spent the next two weeks replacing hoses and repairing the plane. He flew into Louisiana and did some duck hunting, and flew to Vegas where he did some gambling and drinking.
Stopped at Fairbanks Visitors Center at noon. Ate at the Taco King on Old Skese Highway. Really good food. We asked for two fish tacos and got four, so they weren't too happy to take back two, but we tipped them. Yummmm.
July 17 Saturday, around 10:10 am we took in a great military band in downtown Fairbanks by a big fountain and Visitors Center. pet a great sled dog that was 15 months old and already over 100 lbs. Solo and her mom Kaya. Then we caught a plane to Barrow (red dot at right). After arriving in Barrow we thought, "Uh...now what?" Thank goodness our Adventure Tour company answered the phone. They told us we could stay at the Top of The World Hotel, and called them to come pick us up. We had a nice dinner at Pepe's where Fran Panche still runs her restaurant at age 82. Dad was here when she took her Polar Club Plunge for her 80th birthday. She tried to get 80 people to dive with her but only rounded up 63. She gave Dad a nice Pepe's cap for returning. She also gave all the men in the restaurant a free chocolate cupcake for dessert. Shauna and I ate it. Dad had a shrimp basket for dinner and Shauna and I split a pesto shrimp pasta dinner. Good. There was live music for dinner by four guys who are doctors and pharmacists by day. They were middle of nowhere musicians, but very fun entertainment for a night out.
We talked the concierge into a room with an ocean view. So glad we did because the sun never goes down. All the roads are packed sand. Our room was hot, so I finally cracked the window open. I'd rather have the road noise than the heat. We were on the 2nd floor.
We had a free muffin and coffee for breakfast, then climbed into a school bus for our tour of Barrow. Our guide was a really nice native Alaskan who even took us to his ice freezer...a big hole underground. Came back to Pepe's for lunch. Taco's for Shauna and me; a BLT for Dad. There's some talk of a polar plunge into the Arctic. (It's 37 degrees, cold and windy prompting jackets and gloves). Then we're back on the bus for an extensive tour out to the cultural center to learn about whale hunting. We saw a fabulous dance demonstration by some local families. Then went out to the point, "Top of The World." Brrrr...It's windy and cold! A 27 year old military girl named Kate was considering the polar plunge too, but she didn't have a change of clothes. I told her she could use a pair of my shorts. I lent her my shorts and she lent me her courage and WE DID IT!
Then we caught the plane back to Fairbanks and the Ranch Motel.
July 18. Breakfast at Home Town Family Restaurant, after which we left Fairbanks (Shauna driving) and headed for Tok, where we fueled up. Dad started driving around 2pm.
3:30-4:00 Started reading "The Tristan Betrayal" novel by Robert Ludlum. We drove 275.6 miles and arrived in Chicken, Alaska where the road is closed. Have to turn around and go back to Tok before we can get to Whitehorse. Dang! That just cost us 150 miles of road for nothing. At 8:15 pm it was 434.9 miles today. Stopping in Beaver Creek. Cooking dinner in room, and ate at the picnic table with famous mosquito's. I didn't see a single mosquito on the Alaska highway...they were all married with lots of children. It's partly cloudy and 76 degrees.
The GoldPanner at Chicken, Alaska
Beaver Creek's right on the Canadian border. At 9:30 am we're leaving for White Horse, Northwest Territory. Wow! We notice at least three other motels and a Laundromat as we drive though Beaver Creek. Our room had 1 queen and 1 single with a kitchenette. It's 58 degrees outside and partly cloudy. The road from Beaver Creek to Haines Junction is very damaged...pot holes and dips. Dad's glasses fell off! I (Shauna) drove it going up and had a blast flying over bumps. Lisa is driving much better than I did, so we might not lose the tail light this time. Getting back into mountainous territory with beautiful views and lots of lakes. The "news" is terrible. All about Mel Gibson's stupid phone conversations...Who cares!
Stopped in Whitehorse for soda, McFlurry and Parfait. Shauna's driving and she and Dad saw a ptarmigan (image at right). Also a moose with her young in a shallow pond near the road marker 1065. Arrived in Watson Lake at 7:40. Three motels are full...bingo on the 4th. Cedar Lodge.
July 20 It's Tuesday around 9 am and we're looking for breakfast at BJ's. Got gas and went back to hotel for some on-line banking. Hit the road at 11:25 heading for Prince George! It's 67 degrees and partly cloudy. Dads driving. Yesterday evening we pulled into a small lakeside dock to try to hear loons. Jackpot!! We also saw a pair of Eider ducks. Tons of mosquitoes but they were normal size. Lisa had some repellant so we didn't loose too much blood. Also saw a young eagle in the median strip with some seagulls. A young bear eating berries beside the road just below Contact Creek. Got video and pictures. It's 12:15 pm. Signs show that we are in buffalo territory. Did see five fat horses grazing along the road. We see trees with scratch marks too. They sell little bells to hikers to wear, and warn you to look for bear scratch marks and droppings. You can tell if it's bear feces by the little bells in it.
Young bear that was eating berries.
At 1:40 we spot a buffalo on the side of the highway taking a dust bath in one of the dusty patches by the road. Lots of road work. Didn't pull over because of the road work a couple of miles north of Laird River. We see another buffalo and stop to get pictures of this one.
Now we're getting into the mountains and the temperature has dropped from 75 to 62 degrees and it's raining. We see three Dahl's mountain sheep by Lake Murcho, and further on five Caribou. The temperature is now 78. At 3:30 we stopped at Toad River Lodge. Enjoyed a cup of chicken-rice soup with home made bread. The place has a hat collection on the ceiling that began in 1979 when the highway was being constructed. Motorists had to be towed across the Toad River. Now there are 7,000 hats stapled to the ceiling. Dad drove 205 miles, and Lisa takes over.
We saw more mountain sheep; ewes with little babies. It's raining. A big black bear's in a field and we take more movies and pictures...Awesome! Yabadaba doo! It's 5:15 pm. Beautiful black bear. We had to wait 20 minutes for a flag man and lead car. Luckily I wasn't driving. I've been known to almost ignore them. The road crew truck actually passed us on the shoulder on the right while we were taking pictures...Rude! Nobody else was on the road and if we pulled over on the shoulder we would have been 20 feet from the bear! It was way cool especially since Lisa didn't freak us out. She left the side door closed. Total miles today 345.8. Stayed at Blue Bell Inn.
July 21 Wednesday It's 8:35 am and we're going to breakfast in Fort Nelson. Mag and Mel's Dixie Lee's. After breakfast we hit the road. Prince George here we come! Speaking of George...Lisa struck up a conversation with neighbor George at the hotel while Dad was mixing martinis. After dinner and martinis, Lisa and I headed out to listen for wolves. She invited George along. He's working as a contractor, lives 4 hours away, and is divorced with 4 grown kids. Nice guy and a real talker. He would have liked more then a hug when we got back to the hotel at midnight. (Evidently Lisa let him know that I was recently divorced.) Short, bald, a little round, sparkling blue eyes...nice guy. There weren't any wolves... Bull elk though.
On the road to Prince George. Dad's driving and it's 69 degrees and partly cloudy. Dad told us about living in an apartment on the Oakland-Berkeley border when he was going to U. C. Berkeley. His landlord lived across the hall and he had the door open. He was watching a tiny 5" screen television. That was the first he'd ever seen. We remembered watching black and white TV at our Butler St. house in Grass Valley. I vividly remember Star Trek, Lost in Space, Twilight Zone, Saturday morning cartoons, Fury, and Andy Griffith. (Lisa's...I never really liked it...couldn't stand Barney Pfieff).
We stopped at McDonalds for lunch at Fort St. John. Stinky town. Industrial, and lots of logging trucks. Fueled up in McKenzie. We drove 429.4 miles on this tanks.
It's 7:45 pm when we pulled into Prince George, and eagle eye Dad, who didn't spot any animals all day, spotted a KFC restaurant. We drove in and ordered a 4 piece meal for Dad and Lisa to split. It's 8 pm and I pigged out on BBQ potato chips while Lisa drove. I'll get my vegetables when we check into a motel...pickled onion and green olive. It's windy and raining as we pulled into the Prince Motel. 525.9 miles for the day.
July 22 Thursday. It's 8:50 am and we're hitting the road...and in two blocks found a Family Restaurant and D'Lanos. Breakfast was delicious. Conversation was about Nevada House of ill repute...priceless! Of course Dad claims the madam tossed him and his buddy out cuz they were drinking and sharing conversation with the girls...only conversation. After breakfast we're on the road again heading for Japer. It's 59 degrees and rainy. At 2 pm we fueled up at Jasper.
292.4 for the day. We stayed at Sunwapta Falls. We enjoyed Salmon with blueberry sauce and pear salad split three ways. Delicious! They had a room for $225...while checking for rooms in Jasper they were $190-230 because it's a resort and it's the summer season. So, at the last place near Jasper, I asked where reasonable rates were and she said at Sunwapta Falls, about 40 minutes down the road. That it has rooms starting at $119. Then Lisa asked for the senior/AAA discount...Too funny! Really nice room with chairs out on a deck overlooking a trail through the woods. We walked to the falls which were spectacular; then had a martini and went to dinner. About 10 pm, after Dad was asleep, Lisa and I headed out on the road to find a quiet place to listen for wolves. We couldn't get far enough away from the river to hear well and it was rainy, so no luck. Maybe tomorrow.
July 23 Friday. It's 9:30 am Mountain Time, Dad's driving as we hit the road (One hour later when we hit Alberta). Harry Lum quote, "If only mosquito's sucked fat instead of blood." Saw some Canadian geese on the river...proving that they actually do live in Canada too!
Around noon we pulled into Lake Louise. Parking is limited, very crowded and beautiful. Had seafood chowder at the Saloon Bar while sitting at an outside table. My treat cuz chowder was $2 a bowl and it was worth it! I unfortunately was out of Canadian money so Lisa paid and I have to pay her back in American money...in Alaska. I paid $20 American and Dad paid me back Canadian. Since the dollar is stronger than Canadian I lose again. Always one sucker in the group. We stopped to take pictures and some people who offered to take one of us know Dad! Virginia Black, the retired sheriff of Yuba County, her husband a retired sergeant, a retired Superior Court judge and another woman in the photo above. We chatted and Virginia showed us a photo of her champion quarter-horse; a beautiful two year old buckskin. We took the pictures. Turned out that they are on a golfing vacation. Small world. Back on the road again with Lisa at the wheel.
At Radium Hotsprings we saw three beautiful rams on the road.
5:40 pm and 371.1 miles for the day we're now in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Mom had stuffed eggs, veggies and dip, chips, shrimp, nuts and drinks set up on the patio. Nice.
July 24 Saturday around 10:00 am. Going to the Farmers Market. Dad staying behind to work on the snow blower. Called family and should have kept our location a secret. We have plenty of time left, but are way too close to home. Went to visit Lois and Don. Nice visit. Stopped at new grocery store in Sandpoint just to take a look. A lady heading out handed us a coupon for free bacon that she didn't need, so we got a package for tomorrows breakfast! Had a beautiful dinner with candles and music at Mom's. Clam fettuccini.
July 25 Sunday. Shauna walked to a neighbors yard sale prepared to negotiate the cost of a set of Harry Potter books she saw there yesterday morning. They had already sold so she picked up a few easy-read trashy novels instead. She even paid extra for them because she had such a great visit with the home owners Ronnie and "Road-Kill" Mike. I'll have Shauna write more about their visit when she's not driving.
Shauna writes, "Mom's neighbors Ronnie and Road Kill Mike were killing me how he gets called for area road kill. He'll pick up deer or moose, butcher them in his garage, and give most of the meat to the area food banks. There used to be a list of organizations called for road kill, but the churches were only giving to the parishioners, so now it's just "Road Kill" that gets the call. He's a trucker. Last winter a moose and calf were in their driveway. (Of course Mom didn't see them, she has yet to see a live, wild moose). Ronnie called "Road Kill" to let him know that the moose are delivering themselves. They had two carcasses hanging in the garage at the time. She just took pictures of course. They also mentioned their little Yorkie loves Mom's rocks. I remarked that they're like a doggie newspaper indicating who's been by. The also try not to let their dog poop in yards of people they like...Hopefully, Mom made that list. They prefer the dog do it's business in yards of renters. They have a hug garden and donate lots of veggie's to the food bank as well. I got four paperbacks for $1."
Then we took a trip down to see Pat. Mom came along, but was on the verge of another "episode." Upset stomach, pain between her shoulders. She needs to call the doctor tomorrow. Left over side effects from gallbladder. Had a nice visit with Pat. She has lots of animals. Pretty horses, including a stallion. Lots of dogs, including three two week old puppies, and a spotted fawn frolicking in a pen. Delbert had plenty to talk about and a girl named Angie bathed the stud in the yard while we visited. Headed home to Moms and filled her gas tank.
July 26 Monday. It's 11 am and we're on the road again! We had to stop before we even got two miles from Mom's house because ideas still popped into our head on which direction to go. Glacier National Park; then on to Yellowstone is the final answer. Yippee! Good plan! Maybe we will hear a wolf yet! It's 84 degrees and we're traveling on highway 2. When we stopped for lunch at McDonalds in Kalispell, we discovered we'd left Shauna's phone at moms.
Arrived at Glacier Park. On our third stop for pictures when Shauna decides to dig out all the binoculars, she finds two sets. Light bulb goes on in Lisa's head...Dang! I left Dad's set at the first stop when I took my shoes off to dangle my feet in the river. So....we go back six miles and "Whew!" They were still there!
9:10 pm We're leaving Glacier National Park ...hopefully with all of our equipment. Stopped for a black bear, but there was a crowd of nosey people. At 11 pm Mt. time, we finally found a motel after trying four different towns. Too tired for martinis. Went straight to bed.
July 27 Tuesday at 9:35 am, we just finished a complimentary breakfast and put gas in the car. Shauna's driving. We traveled 284 miles for the day to Livingston about 4 pm. We filled up the gas tank again, because we'll be heading into Yellowstone.
July 28 Wednesday. Staying at the Parkside Inn, one bedroom, 2 beds, wireless, fridge and microwave, not AAA rated cuz it's just a small hotel. Lightening and thunder and rain throughout the night, but sunny with partial clouds today. Supposed to get hot with chance of thundershowers and even hotter tomorrow. We're going to spend the night so we can spend the whole day touring the park. It's 66 degrees with light breeze. (Yesterday was windy!) Perfect. Stopping for breakfast at Clark's at 9: am. Nice breakfast except they make you go through the gift shop to get to the restaurant. Dropped more bucks on our way out. Took too long to make up my mind on a candle. Lisa bought it. Second time she aced me out...sometimes it's tough to be Libra...can never make up my mind! Finally headed out to the park at 10:45 with Lisa driving.
Dad realized he left some meds (for blood pressure and vitamins) at Mom's yesterday. Never before...comes in threes...my phone, Lisa binoculars, Dad's meds. Definitely genetic. It's 11 am, 75 degrees, partly cloudy, gas tank and bellies are full, and we're 30 miles from the park's entrance.
7:18 pm. We've gone 149 miles. Had a great dinner of bison meatloaf and trout almandine with a glass of wine for Shauna and me, and an Ale for Dad at the lodge at Old Faithful. We'll exit the park through Madison to Mammoth, which is another 50 miles or so after we exit the park. We had a beautiful day in the park with a challenging hike to the headwaters of a magnificent waterfall, a telescoping view of an osprey nest with mother and babies in it (below). Saw a huge Bison along the drive, and some beasty elk in full velvet were right alongside the road. 259.8 miles today.
Osprey nest on cliff.
July 29 Thursday. Went to the same restaurant as yesterday. Clarks. They cook everything perfectly. Yum! 10:25 am we're heading out for the park. Added a quart of oil, got some fruit (grapes and apples) at Albertson's. Amazing sunset, elk, rainbows and lightening on the way out of Yellowstone. Didn't hear a wolf. Lisa suggested we camp and let Dad head for the hotel...Nice thought, but our stuff is in the hotel. I wear contact lenses and I'm sure that Dad wouldn't be too thrilled to drive 50 miles by himself and then pack up stuff at the hotel, and haul it all back 50 miles to pick up our freezing bodies in the morning. Really like the thought though.
Lisa's driving, it's 77 degrees, no clouds and breezy. Now we have to make a decision...head south out of Glacier to see the Teton's or exit west to drive along the Snake River. (Oh! There's antelope in a field on the way out.) Dad checked the map and said, "We can do this!" And calculated a route to back track about 70 miles on highway 26! Sweet! We don't have to go through SLC...then he said Twin Falls has a miserable town plan... roads make no sense. That means Lisa's driving that leg, unless they don't mind detours and U-turns, then I can do it. Where have all the clouds gone? Yesterday three people were attacked by bears in Cooke (northeast corner of Yellowstone.) One person died, one man was bitten on his cap and walked out for help. One woman in a tent woke up a split second before the bear bit into her arm. She screamed and flailed, then played dead and the bear went away. Crushed, broken bone and lacerations requiring stitches. They set five traps in three locations because they weren't sure if more than one bear was responsible. Glad we decided not to spend the night out there. It would have been the northeast side but still about 47 miles from Cooke. 52.2 miles into the day, we're at highway 89 entrance to Yellowstone for the second time. Dahl's mountain sheep on the way in and Lisa's driving. We've seen enough of them so she didn't stop. At mile 114 for the day, we stopped at a looping road with a turnout and parked. Took our munchies to a little beach, sat on a log, and had a nice picnic watching the seagulls and a pelican on the water. Back in the car now with Dad driving. So glad we don't have to choose between the Tetons or Snake River. We get to see it all! Yay!
Went to a liquor store for gin and got Chinese to go. Good food!
July 30 Friday 10:40 am Heading out after breakfast. Stopped at Staples to look for the excellent carmel corn and to get a flash drive for our pictures and movies. Genevieve's had the best coffee on the trip so far, and spicy good country potatoes and jalapeno bacon corn bread. Yum! Lisa and I hit the happenin' town of Jackson Hole. Lots of families traveling with kids. Very kid friendly. Local kids at playground and biking around on their own. Spent some money on souvenirs, refrigerator note pads, and a T-shirt for Steven Haack that says, "If I was meant to be a vegetarian, they would have made broccoli more fun to shoot at."
Dad had to replace the back left brake light/turn signal...Not my fault! So we got full use of the $6 we paid for the pair (replaced back right in Homer...so I'm thinking not my fault either.) That was in the Staples parking lot. Back to last night. We finally decided to go into a bar...the Cowboy Bar featuring pool tables and live music. The guy stopped us at the door and said, "Ladies, $3 cover charge tonight." What?! With Lisa's cute smile and my fine ---?? Guess if we were 20 years younger....Anyway, we were tired and completely happy with the whole day.
Road construction on I-86 brought us to a crawl. We saw rafters on the Snake River and Dad told us about a two day raft trip he went on with the Yuba Sutter Sheriff's Aero squadron consisting of about fourteen people and two rafts. They flew into Provo, caught a tour shuttle to Green River. Served dinner at campsite. Great rapids. Fishing at campsite. The water wasn't green. It was brown. Dad was Secretary the first year, then vice-commander for two years, then commander for one year. He owned his Mooney Mark NK-21 at the time.
Lunch at Rand B Burgers, and gassed up. So far we've gone 175.6 miles. We're in American Falls, Idaho. At 7 pm Pacific time we pulled into Economy Inn at Elko, Nevada. 432.8 miles for the day. No cost for dinner...we had left over Chinese and left over hamburger from lunch.
July 31 Saturday. Had breakfast at JR's Casino...Huge meal. Then hit the road at 8:50 am. Stopped in Winemucca for gas at 10:40 am. We arrived at Lisa's house in Nevada City at 4:20 pm! Big hugs and picture! (377.3 miles for the day). Down and over the hill, Dad and I pulled into his place at 5:30 pm totaling 418.5 miles for the day. His dogs are sooooo happy!!!
Thanks Dad for the trip of a lifetime!
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