Friday, August 26, 2011

We are still here

For those who are following this blog, we’d like to let everyone know that we are still around.  We drove hard to get from Montana to Duluth as quickly as possible, arriving on Friday the 12th.  Services for Clifford were held on Saturday afternoon, the 13th, with all of his family there. 

The past week has been quite busy with lots of food, cards, condolences and activities.  Things have slowed down a bit, so we have moved out of the driveway to the cabin, about 45 miles outside of Duluth,  close enough to get back and help if needed, and far enough away to allow things to get back to the new normal.

We have no place to go (for awhile) and all kinds of time to get there, so we will hang here for a few days.  Next week we will spend time in the Twin Cities, with all the grand-daughters, and help with some back-to-school shopping and the State Fair.  Then we will come back to the cabin for Labor Day weekend, to get some final electrical work done for the year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Our Journey's End

Today our journey home was impacted by some very sad news.  Paige's father, Cliff, passed away this afternoon.  Dad has been suffering from intermitent health problems that have escalated recently.  Yesterday Mom and Dad took a ride to the cabin.  Dad enjoyed the beautiful day and the work that had been done to update the siding and windows on the cabin last spring.  The cabin was one of his greatest joys; along with family.  His passing was quick today which was always what he wanted.  We are in Miles City, MT and have 700+ miles to Duluth.  We are going to try to arrive in Duluth late on Friday. 

Dad was a huge supporter of this Alaskan trip.  Mom always showed him our blogs and said this was one of the highlights of his days.  When we called him, he wanted to know where we were and what we were doing.  He'd always end the conversation with a wish that we would have a great trip.  We will miss him!

 Cliff Benson  6/29/28 - 8/10/11

Back in USA

Sunday we made surprisingly good time.  We would like to cut back to shorter driving days of 200 to 250 miles, but with an early start, minimal traffic (our direction), and efficient border crossings we crossed back into the US by mid-afternoon and arrived at Dee and Andy’s house just outside of Glacier Park by late afternoon.  It was a 300-mile day of mostly 2 lane roads through the mountains.  Our cell phones recognized the border and alerted us to e-mails within ½ mile of leaving the border station.  We are back among the “wired”.  We’ve been gone for over 60 days: 35 in Alaska, 27 in Canada (both coming and going), and more getting to and from the border.

We met Dee and Andy last winter on our work project in Arizona.  They had us park in front of their house in Columbia Falls, MT, where we stayed for 2 nights.  We had a couple of errands to run on Monday so they showed us around and Paige found another yarn shop.  We had such a great time with them!  Here we are having a late lunch/early dinner:
On Tuesday, it was back to normal: us on the road again, and them continuing on preparing for their next company later this week.  We drove US2 around the southern edge of Glacier Park, out to Browning, and south to Great Falls.  The geography changed dramatically.  Here are 3 shots taken in less than an hour:

Now it is time to catch up with family and friends by phone and emails while we head for Minnesota.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Catching Up

We left Prince George on Friday morning, generally following the Fraser River upstream towards its headwaters near Yellowhead Pass, which is on the Continental Divide.  The broad river valley got narrower and the mountains got higher as we climbed toward the pass.  At one rest area we had a great view of Mt Robson, which is Canada’s highest peak.

This was just prior to the pass, and afterwards it was only a short way to the town of Jasper, home of Jasper National Park.  We haven’t made many reservations all summer, and this time it caught up with us.  All of the campgrounds near Jasper were already full so we had to go further east, outside of the park for a site at a nearby KOA which was very nice, even if a little expensive.

Saturday morning we backtracked to Jasper to catch the Icefields Parkway tollroad through Jasper and Banff National Parks.  We were here in 1998 on a motorcycle trip from south to north.  It was fun to test our memories of that trip and to see the same geography from the opposite direction.  Bob thinks this highway, from Jasper nearly to Calgary, is the MOST scenic drive in North America.  Even though is not twisty, nor steep, nor narrow.  It is lined with sharp mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and rivers for almost 250 miles.  Here are a couple of snapshots, although our point-and-shoot camera cannot begin to do it justice.

If this drive is not already on our readers’ “bucket list” it should be, and at the top.
We are spending Saturday night, without hookups, at a small provincial park near Banff.  On Sunday we will backtrack just a little to head west into British Columbia once again.  Then we head south to cross the border back into USA, where our cell phones should return to normal.  Although they will work here, they are turned off to avoid $2/minute International Roaming charges.  We will be stopping in Montana to visit with fellow Nomads from last winter’s Arizona project.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hanging Around in Prince George

As planned yesterday, we did laundry and cleaning today.  The Saturn's wheel bearing was replaced and we had it back by noon.  A test drive confirmed that it does in fact sound much better!  So glad it was just a blip on the trip.

This afternoon we decided to go on a walk.  We set out for a provencial park but the trail turned out to be a long ways away and was just being groomed.  Still had many wet spots and difficult to navigate.  Bob also scoped out a few geocaches and we stopped to check two of them out.  Bob found both of these today - yipee!
We then stopped at a swimming beach at a lake.  There was a short trail there that we took.  The lake was very pretty and reminded me of Minnesota.
We ended up the afternoon at the ice cream shop again.  It is a very popular and good place!

Tomorrow we're going to head towards Jasper.  We were there about 10 years ago on a motorcycle trip with the Almekinder's and remember the beauty of it.  So we're looking forward to seeing the mountains again.  It doesn't look like we'll have internet service for the next couple of days so we'll post again when we can.  We should be in the U.S. on Sunday or Monday.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Surgery for the Saturn

Wednesday we stayed in Prince George, British Columbia.  Because we heard a loud whining sound in the Saturn, we started the day at a car dealership here.  They did a test drive and diagnosed the noise as a bad wheel bearing.  They ordered a part and will fix it tomorrow.  In the meantime we rented a car and did some sightseeing around here.
Above is a picture of the city from one of the high spots in town.  It's a very nice city of approximately 80,000 people.  We were lucky and found a very nice yarn shop.  Paige worries about running out of yarn for socks!  That won't happen anytime in the next couple of years, but it is nice to have a variety to choose from.

Next we went geocaching.  Bob found 4 different options fairly close to our campground.  Here is a picture of him going off into the woods to find one.  Paige stayed by the road and kept watch for bears.  Bob was unlucky today and didn't find a single one!
We ended our afternoon outing with a stop at Walmart for milk and then found a very nice ice cream shop for a good cone.  Since the day was so beautiful, we ended up on lawn chairs at the campground and read our Nooks.  A nice, quiet afternoon.

We plan on staying put for one more day as we don't know when our Saturn will be back on its wheels.  It will be a good day to do laundry and try to get rid of some of the dust in the motorhome.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Another day's drive in British Columbia

We had considered taking a day off and staying put for awhile.  Here is how we spent last night in Smithers:

We started the morning early by grocery shopping and visiting, what else, a Tim Horton's.  Eventually we decided on one more driving day to a larger city, Prince George.  Here is what we saw on our way:
Worlds largest fly rod in Houston, BC

We missed getting a picture of the sign for the geographical center of British Columbia. (Dave and Brett will appreciate this!).

Scenery along the YellowHead Highway (no more mountains)

We drove to Prince George on Tuesday and got a parking spot at the Sintich RV Park just south of town.  This place gives us 50Amp service, cable TV, grass, and WiFi (what more could we want?). We will take things easy here on Wednesday doing laundry and a few maintenance items.  We have already learned there are at least 2 Tim Hortons here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hyder and Smithers

Here are a couple of photos of Hyder, as we left this morning. This is a view down main street.  Looks a lot like "Northern Exposure"!

These are some of their potholes.

And another shot of the Bear Glacier
plus the glacier's namesake (who walked in front of us this morning).

People say that Alaska is BIG...and it is.  But what most don't say is that Canada is also big, and it is between Alaska and the lower 48.  We've now been on the road for 5 days since leaving Alaska, and we are only 1/2 way down the height of British Columbia.  I expect another 4 days of driving to get to Idaho or Montana (we will probably come back to Washington in the future).  Of course, since we are retired, we don't have to put in 400-500 mile days like people on vacation do :-).  Since we have come this far South, we've both noticed darkness at night, rather than continual twilight. 

Both of us have also mentioned how scenic British Columbia is.  We had always thought it likely but now we know.  We learned this morning that today, Aug 1, is "British Columbia Day" although no one seems to know is an excuse for another long weekend, or time and 1/2 for those who are at work. 

Tonight we're in Smithers (named for a former Chairman of Grand Trunk Pacific Railway).  We saw on their website that the people here are called "Smithereens" (don't think I'd like to be called this!).  This is the largest town nearby and the home of a popular ski area, Hudson Bay Mountain, 24km up and outside of town.  We have mountain views all around us again.  This feels like civilization - we have TV!!

A Sunday Drive to Hyder

Hyder is a small town that is about as far East as it’s possible to be and still be in Alaska.  It is also about the southern-most town (Ketchikan is further south, but you can’t get there by road).  To get to Hyder, we left Dease Lake at a reasonable time and went south on the Cassiar Highway about 200 miles to Meziadin Lake Junction.

One guidebook says this of the remaining 40 miles into Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK, “…is one of the most scenic in British Columbia.”  WOW, it sure beat any other scenery we’ve seen this year – it is right up there with Montana and the BC/Alberta border for some of the greatest scenery in North America.  Sounds like we are “gushing”, right?  Here are some examples showing Bear Glacier (about halfway to town)

All that “nice road” stuff changes at the border.  Stewart BC is large enough to have paved streets, but neighboring Hyder has potholes comparable to “Top of the World”. 

We are staying at Camp Run-a-Muck.  We couldn’t pass up a place with such a name.  A couple of miles outside of town the US Forest Service set up a day-use area to keep tourists on an elevated boardwalk and watch bears catch their own salmon dinners in Fish Creek below.  I guess the fish are tastier and the boardwalk is too high for the bears to bother with us.

We spent about an hour waiting for the bears, but they must have been on a different schedule.  We did see a lot of salmon, however, in 3 to 6 inches of clear water.