This page is the illustrated journal of our fourth quarter-year of Dreamstreaming around North America, Apr - Jun 2008
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June 29, 2008
The days have been full of activity and so little time to write. I know, I know, you want a little discipline from this outfit, right? Just can't do all this and write every day, too. Let's talk about today. We went to early church at Bozeman United Methodist Church (click BUMC to see their website). Dave McConnell, the Pastor, celebrated this morning his tenth year with this congregation. His message was wonderful and his delivery so engaging. He happened to mention his sermons are heard around the world via the internet, according to emails he has received. We checked the web page for his sermons and listened to one from a month ago. This may be our new Sunday morning service when we don't reach a local church.
We returned from church in time to fix a fab hot breakfast of eggs, toast, and juice and pack for our rafting trip today. Our WBCCI group arranged for a rafting trip on the much-swollen Yellowstone River. Eighty-four of us boarded two cruise buses near the MSU stadium and rode eighty miles to Gardiner, MT.
We checked out personal flotation devices (you know, kapoks vests or Mae Wests. Our river guide introduced herself, Mary from the east coast. She graduated in History from MSU and is enjoying spending this summer on the river. She was delightful, knowledgeable about the ranches lining the Yellowstone River shores and the wildlife and, of course, the area's history. We enjoyed her skillful guiding down the river, and the weather and river conditions were almost perfect. Great skies, 45 degree water, and at over 16,000 cfs the river was full but not too swift. At one point, Jim jumped into the river for a refreshing cooling-off. We had a really nice day and will look forward to another river trip.
June 25, 2008
Full-timing seems to be a good lesson in flexibility, at least for us. We're still relaxing from our work roles' pace and standards. This requires a measure of conscious effort at times. Debbie has tried four days to obtain a key for the room she needs for her volunteer position locally. Her persistence paid off today, thankfully. Debbie is Awards Chairman for the WBCCI International Rally this week and next. She will coordinate distributing to the activities chairpersons their respective allocations of trophies, rosette ribbons, and string ribbons. Man, you should have seen her go to work once she accessed the room. Debbie was strictly business unpacking, counting, and arranging the awards when she obtained access to her room. What a great organizer, you just can't take the professionalism out of the career worker. I enjoyed watching her trying to demonstrate sufficient flexibility while she maneuvered to obtain her key this week. We're evolving into retirees, I suppose.
We're settled into the MSU campus. We found the Methodist Church and attended Sunday with the Halls. We had our truck serviced at the local Chevrolet dealer. They repaired an engine oil leak and changed the oil for us. We washed the truck, stocked up on groceries, and walked the campus and neighborhoods. There's a nice little historic house for sale eight blocks from our camper. Built 1892, three stories and a finished basement, a carriage house, a separate studio, original stencilling above the picture rail, fastidiously maintained all its life. Check it out while the link lasts at www.419southgrand.com. Most of the houses aren't quite so grand in this neighborhood, but this is an interesting and eclectic housing area. Some great bargains, and some jewels not so inexpensive. We could live here through five or six months, easily. Winter? Dig me a partially underground house, give me four or five cords of hot-burning cured wood and a well-controlled wood burner. I'd last at least one winter, I guess.
The weather has been absolutely wonderful in Bozeman. Despite this, (or because of the dryness or high altitude?) several of our club members have visited the local medical clinics and the hospital for coughs and other respiratory problems. Still, the weather is beautiful. The high today was 78 degrees, like most days. The low last night was in the low 50s, very comfortable for sleeping with open windows. Hmmm, this is a nice place this time of year, isn't it?
But we have no such designs on winter climates for now. This is a great place to visit right now because our Airstream owners association rally is here and this is on the way to our next fun activities. More on that later. While we're here we are trying to catch a few of the local attractions. We'll simply have to return to enjoy hiking, which looks fabulous. We're staying pleasantly busy with the pre-rally and rally activities and will undoubtedly add other local fun things to our "future list".
June 19, 2008
Our friends Jerry and Ann Hall arrived today from their stay at the Yellowstone Riverside Campground. We had driven by this on our way to Bozeman and remaked on what a scenic campground it was. Had we know the Halls were there we would have stopped and visited. They were parked after lunch and came by to visit.
We visited with many of our neighbors at the Social Hour sponsored by Bob and Carol Tasler. They have a 22 foot 1964 vintage Airstream - very cute. Afterwards we had promised to share the Miller Dining experience with the Halls and Bob and Faith Simms. We really tried to control ourselves, but again we are somewhat miserable from overeating. Deb has sworn off Miller Dining Hall for now.
June 18, 2008
Wednesday we again participated in the pancake breakfast; thank goodness this is the last day they are offering it. Deb sat across from Bobbi Moen and, on exchanging pleasantries, they learned that they were office-mates. Bobbi offered to show Deb around the various WBCCI offices to check on her assignments and property. This was very helpful as Deb was asked to be the Awards Chairman on the last day of the Alaskan caravan and has no experience. Fortunately, it looks like the person who did the job previously did a grea job of documenting the responsibilites and a number of people offered to provide assistance shoule she need it.
Jim again spent the morning and afternoon in the ham radio station learning all about his upcoming responsibilites as candidate for 3rd vice president of the WBCCI Amateur Radio Club. He will, if elected, be inducted as an officer at the club luncheon. That evening, we celebrated Sandy Carriker's birthday at the Miller Dining room on campus. It is cafeteria-style but the food is exceptional for a campus eatery. We all enjoyed dinner, especially the ice cream.
June 17, 2008
Tuesday morning we enjoyed a pancake breakfast provided by the rally for the early workers. We connected with old friends and made new ones at the communal tables. After breakfast, we visited the sign-up tables for the Early Worker tours. We signed up for a tour of the local TV station, KTVM, Smith Tow Haul and a granite fabrication operation. Unfortunately, the tour we really wanted of the Powder Coat factory was already full.
Jim spent the afternoon helping Jack Mitchell (pictured) to set up the ham radio anntenae on top of the stadium building and getting the station ready for use. After dinner, we took another walk through the campus and adjoining residental neighbor stopping at the Pickle Barrel for ice cream again. Knowing what we knew now about the size of the cones, we shared one.
June 16, 2008
Monday morning we prepared for our drive to Bozeman.
We headed north on the Canyon Road where we saw a lone wolf loping along the edge of the woods. We pulled over for a better view with the binoculars and watched until he disappeared into the woods. After an absence of over 70 years, the wolf was reintroduced into the park in 1995. Most wolves are futher north than our spotting so we were lucky to see this one. Next on our drive, we came across a grizzly having his breakfast. He was ravenously tearing at an elk carcass. Coyotes had moved off to one side so we think maybe they had brought the elk down and had finished with it before the bear came along. Or maybe he was just bigger and they didn't want to argue with him. Thanks to a fellow viewer with a high-powered scope, we were able to get a good look at the feasting bear. Unfortunately, we were not close enough for photos. Herds of elk and small groups of bison completed our wildlife viewing for the morning drive.
Along the way we were amazed at the number of hot springs and mud pots we saw. Some were close enough to the road that we were able to stop and gaze into the boiling pots of acidic mud. Even more amazing are the large numbers of microscopic organisms that thrive in these springs and mud pots. This water is just below battery acid on the pH scale. Yellowstone contains approximately half of the hydrothermal features in the world. That's more than 10,000, of which Old Faithful is the most famous.
Watching the bubbling mud, the erupting hot springs with their water vapor and other gases being expelled from the ground we were again reminded that the earth is alive and ever changing. Our earth is not a stable, dead rock with humanity perched on the surface. We don't think about what is going on beneath us until confronted with the evidence. Makes you wonder why we continually try to work against Mother Nature by building on beaches and floodplains, filling in deltas, etc when she's sure to win in the end.
Towards the end of our drive, approaching Mammoth Springs, we came across an outdoor museum built in 1931. It had a plaque describing the Obsidian Cliff and Golden Gate geological features in the park. They are chemically identical but look very different because they cooled under different conditions. In 1885 a wooden trestle was built along the Golden Gate to reach the Yellowstone Plateau from Mammoth Springs. It shortened the trip by half a day. Fortunately for us, the wooden trestle has been replaced by a road. We left Yellowstone by the North Entrance and entered the town of Gardiner. Highway 89 took us through huge ranches at the foot of the mountains. We reached I-90 and finished our trip to Bozeman.
We arrived in Bozeman looking for a car wash to get truck and trailer cleaned up. Not finding any on our route into town, we preceeded to the MSU campus and were parked in the Bull Pen for about two hours. Parkers moved us to a parking area on the football stadium parking lot. We're not far from the fieldhouse where many of our activities will take place and we're parked mostly on grass - not bad. We have 30amp electrical and low-pressure water service.
After supper we walked through campus in search of ice cream, ours having run out the previous night. We were directed to the corner of campus, a little sandwich shop called the Pickle Barrel. After enjoying our sweet treats, we walked through an old neighborhood that reminded us of our walks in Dilworth. We reached Main St and walked through the historic downtown district of Bozeman.
June 15, 2008
After breakfast and a leisurely morning, we set out for Storm Point for an easy hike. A ranger at the Visitor's Center had suggested this particular hike as one of the most scenic in the park. At 2.3 miles it seemed like a good range for us to get back into walking which we have been remiss about lately. It was as beautiful as promised. We hiked through open meadow surrounded by snow-covered mountains where the new warmth was bringing out millions of tiny white flowers. Then we entered dense pine forrests that smelled fresh and pine-scented after the recent snow. All of the hiking was along the Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-elevation lake in North America. The lake is amazing shades of deep blue and green, surrounded by trees and mountains.
Midway through the hike we reached Storm Point, an outcropping of rock and sand sitting high above the lake. We climbed up on the rocks and sat for a while enjoying the scenery and serenity. Climbing down finally, we continued around the lake and back into denser forest than before. There were so many downed trees here you could not have walked through but for the cleared path. We wondered if this was natural, or had some castatrosphic event caused such a large number of trees to fall? We talked loudly and called out for bears during the whole hike. This must have worked to give the bears wide clearance of us as we saw none. We saw only one lone bison on this hike.
This evening we joined our friends, John and Sandy, for a delicious dinner at the Lake Lodge cafeteria. This was way above what you think of as "cafeteria" food. We enjoyed trout and pot roast with wonderful sides and a fabulous carrot cake for dessert. After our meal, we browsed the gift shop and Debbie found a Yellowstone souvenir for her grandaughter, Eleanor.
June 14, 2008
John Carriker suggested we stop at the Shoshone Reservoir and Buffalo Bill Dam, just west of Cody, WY on our way to Yellowstone. Boy are we glad we did. This was a very nicely done presentation on the history and function of the dam, completed in 1915. This dam is an engineering marvel and a real testimony to the hardiness of the many workers involved in building it. They worked through several winters in minus 15 Farenheit conditions to complete this job on time. Three construction companies, in turn, were bankrupted by the work. Seven workers were killed in the several years of the construction project. The project was completed and has served almost 100 years. The dam height was increased twenty years ago. It now provides water for 90,000 homes and ranches in six communities in the area. William F. Cody envisioned, almost one hundred years ago, a reservoir could be built to provide water for 100,000 families and businesses in the area. He had it pretty close, didn't he?
Before long we found ourselves heading over a snowy pass in Yellowstone National Park. We passed snowbanks four to six feet high where the roads had been cleared. Fortunately for us, the crews had done a great job as all roads were free of snow by the time we got to Yellowstone. We drove thirty-some miles to our campsite at Fishing Bridge, the only campground in the park with full hookups.
After getting hooked up, unhitched, and making a bite of lunch, we set out to explore the park. We stopped first at the Fishing Bridge Visitor's Center where we learned some of the history and geology of the park. We then headed north toward the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, first stopping at the Lower Falls and the Upper Falls. At 308 and 109 feet respectively, these falls were very impressive. The canyon itself was breathtaking as the formidable Yellowstone River roared through the multicolored cliffs.
June 13, 2008
Our second day in Cody, WY consisted of a leisurely tour of the Draper Museum of Natural History, another of the five museums in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. We spent several hours strolling through the many levels of this fascinating collection of exhibits. The displays are captivating for their variety of media, the presentation of a number of hands-on articles, and the organization of the museum in levels corresponding to the habitat elevation of the featured species. So the top level has the bald eagles and mountain goats, marmots and pikas. The next level has the owls and falcons and lodgepole pines and forest fire exhibits. Another level down has wolves, foxes, bison, elk. And down several more levels, further down until under ground with the prairie dogs, burrowing owls, ferrets and snakes.
Drawn of all viewing energy, we rode over to the Irma Hotel, famous since 1902. It's interesting to note this date is only about five years after Buffalo Bill helped organize a town called Cody. (Irma is the name of one of his daughters.) And the hotel and saloon and restaurant are really something. We enjoyed the buffet lunch, including Irma's famous bread pudding with whiskey sauce. It was very good and fueled us for our next adventure, walking all the way up and down the main shopping district. We stopped in two motorcycle stores, a saddle and western wear store, a spice store, the outdoor outfitter store, and the candy store. Can you guess in which store we bought something? No, Debbie isn't ready for a Harley yet.
Then it was time to do a little laundry before we head out of Cody. We won't want to spend time in Yellowstone doing laundry. And the laundry may be a half-mile from our camper in Bozeman, on the Montana State University campus. So, Deb washed and dried a load of clothes to get us by another week. The Cody campground we're staying in has very reasonably priced laundry machines almost immediately behind our camper. $1.75 for washing and drying a load of laundry is so reasonable it could put appliance companies out of business if more places charged this.
We've enjoyed Cody, WY and look forward to returning in three weeks with our Wally Byam Club caravan. We left a few things to do upon our return visit.
June 12, 2008
Hard rains last night rinsed off the windshields from yesterday's two-hundred mile accumulation after last fill-up and cleaning. And the rain and a very cool night made for nice sleeping. The forecast was for lows to 34 but it seemed to stay above 40. We added a comforter and slept without heat in the camper. This morning's inside temperature was just over 50, pretty comfortable. We ran the furnace for a few minutes while dressing and had the inside up to over 65 in no time.
We toured the Buffalo Bill Museums today for over six hours. William Cody and his family left a rich legacy and Cody, WY seems happy to have and display it. His endeavors as a express rider, military scout, hunter, guide, and showman provided Buffalo Bill with many treasures for this interesting set of five museums. I had not previously realized the largest collection of American firearms in the world is in Cody at the Cody Firearms Museum , a part of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
An army shouldn't march on an empty stomach. We took one break today from our museum shuffle to join the Carrikers for lunch at Granny's. It was everything they promised. We had homestyle food and loved it. I recommend the meat loaf with mashed potatoes and apple dumpling a la mode. Service was superb, food was hot, and everything was very tasty. So refueled we returned to the Historical Center
to see what else we could absorb. We were surprised by many of the things we saw and learned in these museums. We spent all our time in the Plains Indian Museum, the Firearms Museum, and the Buffalo Bill Museum. Our admission today is good for two days so I hope we can return to catch the Draper Museum of Natural History and perhaps the Western Art Museum. We had planned to leave Cody tomorrow morning for Yellowstone but will wait another day to let the past few days' snows melt before we try to enter this high altitude National Park. Cody, WY bills itself as having 300 days of sunshine annually. Today has been another sunny and windy day in Cody, WY with magnificent clouds.
June 11, 2008
We steamed out here pretty fast, five days of four hundred miles a day. The days haven't been very tense because we're following another Airstream and he is driving under 55 mph at all times. Traffic has, at all times on this trip, been really light. So the road time is actually sort of relaxing, just bopping down the road and letting everyone pass us. I don't mind at all.
The weather has been glorious, for the most part. Today was the coolest day, we briefly saw a high of 58 degrees somewhere between Scottsbluff and Cody. We really enjoy the scenes as we drive around, whether in a village or out in the countryside. The hills and plains between the Rockies and the Mississippi river can be so striking to look at. We've waved to the prairie dogs, saw ostriches today, and saw as many deer as cattle (unless you count the humongous cattle feed lots with zillions of cows shoulder-to-shoulder getting their "custom feed"). We drove up through the Wind River Canyon heading north toward Cody and it was fabulously beautiful.
We drove today through strong winds all day and arrived in Cody with gusts up to 30 mph. We hit Cody at supper time so set up the campers and fixed breakfast for supper, fitting since we've been getting up and driving without breakfast some days. Then we visited Sierra Trading Post, always a treat for me. As much as I love not buying, I love seeing how much I can save on things I really need. I found the one thing I went there for and saved seventy dollars off list price for a rain shell. My fleece zips into it if I want (and I'm sure I will want for a few days at least) or I could wear it as a windbreaker instead. Since we didn't bring our hiking boots, Deb needed a pair of waterproof walking shoes. Sierra Trading Post had a really nice pair of trail shoes and she saved over forty dollars on these. Isn't this fun? But I don't think we can afford to go saving money like this anymore. Too expensive.
June 10, 2008
Prominent geographical features have been cornerstones of navigation since time began. The Nebraska panhandle had a notable landmark used by fur traders, missionaries, military expeditions, and settlers, on their westward journeys. This high bluff was visible for several days as they traveled the Emigrant Trail because it rose over 800 feet from the plains. Scottsbluff, Nebraska is named for this nearby high bluff. It is the largest city in the panhandle and has a campground, park, and city zoo convenient to the small city. We stayed in the Riverside Campground one night. This may be our best deal all summer, ten dollars a night includes hook-ups. There is a nice walking trail around the park and campground and along the river. Not a beautiful campground, but clean, level, and very well-kept. We'll mark it on our maps for another visit.
June 9, 2008
We enjoyed the hospitality of Bill Thomas Camper Sales in St. Louis, MO last night and this morning. A little more than we planned, in fact. We stopped here last night for the courtesy parking with full hook-ups and were delighted with a very well-planned and situated camping space. John this morning unplugged his 30 amp plug from the power pole and only came out with two prongs instead of three. The third prong had melted from his cord and stayed in the now damaged receptacle. Apparently something had caused excessive heat in his cord plug and melted the plug. This couldn't have happened in a better place, of course.
Bill Thomas Camper Sales is a gorgeous place, the cleanest Airstream dealership (actually any brand) we've visited. I had the pleasure to meet Bill Thomas' son, Glenn, this morning. Glenn told me his dad took advantage of a must-move situation (to make room for airport expansions) and carefully planned this new location. He did a fabulous job. The showroom is first-class, the service bays are clean, neat, and light, and the building and grounds are very attractive. Sales staff arrived this morning and turned on the interior and exterior lights of the showroom campers. Neat!
The effort to have a great dealership would be wasted if service didn't match the appearance. John walked up to the service bays at opening time. A mechanic with a multi-meter and experience followed John back to the camper to determine what was needed. Sandy, Debbie, and I browsed the TABs, Holiday Ramblers, the Airstream DWR, and the well-organized camper supply store. The mechanic from Bill Thomas Camper Sales fixed John's and Sandy's power cord and we were on our way by shortly after 9:00 this morning. If we are going to have an emergency parts or service need, let's do it at a place like Bill Thomas Camper Sales.
It was a nice day of driving. We saw too many acres of fields flooded, just devastated. The flooding may not be over yet. Very sad for the farmers in lowlands. We arrived Lincoln, NE at the Cracker Bbl and walked in straightaway for a great vegetable plate. After supper we leveled up the trailer's front end (needed plus eight inches) so the refrigerator would work. Then we spent an hour hunting a good stopping point for tomorrow evening, halfway to Cody, WY. Just figured the route and now to bed. We're meeting the Carrikers for breakfast tomorrow early. Outside temperatures are much cooler here, high today was 81, low forecast tonight is 59. Feels great already with windows open, even in an asphalt parking lot behind the restaurant. Good night!
June 8, 2008
Today was a day of driving. We left Countryside RV Resort in Lebanon, TN shortly after 8:00 a.m., drove in hot temperatures seven hours with less than an hour of breaks for gas, lunch, and other necessities. The day was sunny and hot, the roads were trouble-free, and we were in the catbird seat. We followed one-quarter mile behind John and Sandy. John calls us on the CB to let us know of lane shifts, stopped motorists, and upcoming rest stops. Otherwise, we're just cruising along in a semi-relaxed state, attending most to keeping the truck and trailer between the ditches.
Countryside looks like a nice place to stay a little longer than overnight. A small nine-hole golf course on the campus is open to "experienced golfers only" due to the somehwat close proximity to expensive recreational vehicles. Wouldn't you just hate to find out you're suddenly responsible for a one or two-thousand dollar repair due to an errant golf ball from your hands? Lessons would be far cheaper. . . An inviting tennis court sits near the clubhouse. The only amenity I would have really wanted to use would have been the swimming pool, considering the 95 degrees outside temperature. The highlight of our driving today was seeing the arch in St. Louis from as close as I've ever been.
June 7, 2008
We left Kannapolis yesterday for a one-hour drive up I-85 to High Point for our local Unit's June Rally. There are ten units camping from our club and we had three more couples show up just for the Saturday business meeting. Despite the heat we enjoyed sitting out and visiting with each other and having meals together. Our rally cooks set us up this morning for omelets cooked in freezer baggies. It was fun and really tasty and good fuel to start us on our drive to TN. We wish we could stay another day with our Carolinas Unit of NC for this rally. Despite the heat we would have enjoyed the company of our fellow members and the very nice members of the Rambling Rebels Unit of the Holiday Rambler Club.
Okay, it's deja vu all over again. Last August we attended the Carolinas Unit of NC WBCCI rally in Salisbury, NC and sweltered in nearly one-hundred degree outside temperatures. We left a day early from the hot August rally to strike out for cooler places like Vancouver, BC. It worked really well. Here we go again, we left a sizzling rally in High Point, NC mid-morning today to catch up with John and Sandy Carriker, fellow Airstreamers and WBCCI members from Carolinas Unit. They waited for us in a campground in Lebanon, TN.
We had an easy day from High Point to Lebanon, just east of Nashville, TN. Debbie did the lions share of driving and Jim conked out. We didn't have a very comfortable bed in the rented Four Winds class C motorhome in Alaska but after eighteen nights we became accustomed to it. And the nights in Alaska were much, much cooler than here. Well, this nice (but a little warm) comfortable bed in our Airstream isn't instantly acceptable. So Jim didn't get all his sleep the past two nights. Just takes a few nights to get readjusted to proper comfort.
June 5, 2008
We're back, we arrived in Kannapolis, NC after a pretty long day. We were at the Ted Stephens Anchorage International Airport yesterday at seven o'clock p.m. eastern daylight time. We boarded the plane at five o'clock a.m., stopped an hour and a half in Phoenix and arrived Charlotte five-thirty p.m. this evening. Sleeping on the plane was fitful and not very restful.
Charlotte didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat for us. It was in the high nineties all afternoon. We've had the air conditioner on in the Airstream since we arrived over three hours ago. It's down to 88 degrees in the Airstream now. Tonight outside temperatures will be less than seventy, so we'll open windows and cool off with the evening. We haven't used the air conditioner since August 6, 2007, other than to test it periodically and today to cool the Airstream after storing it closed up.
Deb's parents fed us a fabulous chicken pie, fresh corn, and fresh homemade strawberry pie. Deb washed the clothes while I packed a few things in the truck and checked truck and trailer systems for our drive tomorrow. The truck and trailer are hitched up, battery, oil, and tires all checked out. We're washed up and washed out, and looking forward to our next adventure. It starts tomorrow. Let's go to Bozeman!
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We were in Alaska May 18 to June 4, 2008. To skip down to the beginning of this WBCCI Alaska Fly-Drive Caravan journal click your mouse on Fly-Drive Alaska Caravan
June 4, 2008
Early prayer for the road this morning then our fearless caravan leader instructed us to arrive at CruiseAmerica's Anchorage HQ by 1:00 p.m. We are all to have our campers clean inside and personal effects packed up for flights home. Our left over dry goods and cleaning supplies we donated to local needs through the caravan leader. The drive to Anchorage from Talkeetna was only 2.5 hours. Everyone will stop to refill propane and gasoline, and to make a final dump of the holding tanks before we return our campers.
Check-in went smoothly for us and frenetically for CruiseAmerica. They inspected and cashed out fifteen motorhomes (one is staying another two days) between 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., while also processing and issuing perhaps a half-dozen for take-off by new arrivals to AK. We are happy to have our full damage deposit returned and, overall, the motorhome was a good fit for our tour here.
Our tour leaders dropped Deb and me at the Ted Stephens Anchorage Alaska Airport at 3:00 p.m. We tried to check our baggage so we could try out the "other" side of the airport. Yes, we will be glad to check your baggage after 9:45 p.m., or almost seven hours from now.
I have lots of time to explore the check-in side of the airport. This airport is really tiny, the only interesting thing I found is blocked life safety exits with no evidence of interim safety measures. But just like on the airplane, we've noted where the available exits are, this place is definitely not crowded, and we can get out in a hurry if needed. I have plenty of time to write. How long can you read? Nah, just a little more to say on this. We plan to board at 1:10 a.m. bound for Phoenix and arrive Charlotte sometime after 5:00 p.m. I think we'll miss the very nice cool temperatures in Alaska. Today is windy, mostly cloudy, and 60 degrees Farenheit in Anchorage. How's Charlotte? We hear it's 96 degrees tomorrow.
If you like our Alaska pictures in the paragraphs below, you can see all our Alaska pictures (and more) at our picture gallery.
June 3, 2008
Talkeetna is the take-off point for many Alaska Range mountain climbers. Several aviation services launch from Talkeetna's airstrips and transport hikers, climbers, and others anywhere in AK. The flight services, bars, and gift shops seem to dominate the small downtown of Talkeetna. We toured it all this afternoon, starting with the Little Red School House and associated museum buildings. We saw fascinating displays on Mt McKinley mountain climbers and their gear, and how the gear evolved from the 1960's to current, and accounts of ascents both successful and disastrous. Talkeetna is tiny and quaint. Just not much here, although a whole bunch more than when you go one mile in any direction from the town.
A resounding theme in our travels throughout this section of Alaska has been the frontier wilderness aspect of life
here. You will survive here if 1) you are lucky, 2) you are resourceful, and 3) you are strong. Not just one or another of these, it seems to me you must have all these characteristics and probably many more. Most residents outside Anchorage don't seem to have running water, many don't have electricity or sewer. A woman working in a store we visited today mentioned how thrilled she is to have just this year finally had an outhouse. And yesterday we overheard a conversation in another store, in Trapper Creek on AK Highway 3. It went like this: "So I heard you lost your dog?"
"Yeah, back about January but it seems like yesterday."
"Well, I just got him into the ground yesterday, I had to wait for the thaw."
And from overlooks or the plane we see cabins with no roads anywhere near them for miles. An Alaskan explains the cabins are near either the last American flag-stop railroad, or near an airstrip or a small lake, or the cabins cannot be accessed except in winter. Much of Alaska, below the Arctic Circle, is sort of swampy after the thaw and so is only traveled in Winter once the ground and waters freeze. We heard one in five Alaskans are pilots and it is still the best means to get between many places here. The same planes can land on pontoons on the water and on skis on the snow-covered frozen lake. Can you imagine being this far into the frontier in 2008?
Tonight all members of our Alaska Caravan assembled for the final banquet at the beautiful large Talkeetna Resort Lodge. We feasted on baked fresh halibut and apple pie before attending the evening entertainment. Our contingent included a few pro performers and we were fortunate to talk two of them into sharing their talent. One did a stand--up routine we had seen several years ago and still enjoyed greatly. The second act was a song written and performed by another of our troupe. She wrote the song this afternoon describing, in verse, many of the things we saw and thanking our caravan leaders for the great time we had.
June 2, 2008
Up early today to get ready to leave Denali National Park - hard to believe we've spent nearly three days here. It is so beautiful and manificent, we know we will have to return some day for a longer stay. Just before leaving the park, we spotted another moose across the road from our campsite. However, we missed the mother and two calves earlier this morning by the dumpster. We're beginning to think they are trained to wander the campground for the benefit of the tourists.
Driving to Talkeetna, we stopped at the Alaskan Veterans Memorial. The most interesting part of the display was the memorials that told stories of heroism in various wars. We also enjoyed the story of the Japanese WW II fighter plane. During a battle, a damaged Japanese Zero fighter plane crash-landed on a nearby island, killing the pilot but not seriously damaging the plane. U.S. forces recovered, inspected, and repaired the plane so that they could study it. Since this was a type that had proven very troublesome to the Allies in the war to date, it was valuable to learn its weaknesses.
Another planned stop on our way to Talkeetna was a return to Mary's McKinley View Lodge. We were looking forward to a great lunch there again but were disappointed to arrive and find that their cook had not reported for work today. We were able to enjoy the homemade pies, pecan for Jim and apple for Deb, that we had to pass up on the first visit due to our being so full from lunch.
Our next stop was Wal*Mike's - a very interesting place that we spotted on the drive north. They have a little bit of every kind of junk you can imagine. We walked through the piles of stuff outside and throughout the interior "store". Most of the inventory looked like it had been there many years. We could only guess at their small turnover of stock considering that the prices on everything seemed a bit high. They also had a reindeer tied up close by.
We arrived at the Talkeetna Camper Park just in time to freshen up before being picked up by Summit Flights. We had reservations for a 1700 hrs flightseeing tour of Denali offered by Talkeetna Aero Services. After weighing in so that we could be assigned seats to keep the plane balanced, our pilot Dave gave us our pre-flight instructions. He reviewed the use of the in-flight intercom and headsets we were to wear, the oxygen masks for the higher altitudes, and the usual plane stuff such as emergency exits, barf bags, etc.
The flight path took us over the confluence of three rivers, the Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna, and on to the Alaskan Mountains Range. We saw many glaciers including hanging glaciers thousands of feet thick that calf off and create massive avalanches. We flew all around Mt McKinley viewing the north and south summits and the West Buttress Route that the majority of the climbers use. Unfortunately, we did not see any climbers on the summit as did the group that flew yesterday. It was very cloudy but our pilot did a good job of getting around and between the clouds to insure us a good view. It was a truly incredible experience.
Back in camp, we settled in for the evening and enjoyed a bowl of hot soup for dinner and ice cream before bed. We are appreciating our electric hookup which allows us to use the furnace a little more than in Denali where we were dry-camping. Tomorrow we look forward to exploring the town of Talkeetna.
June 1, 2008
It is less than two miles to the Visitor Center from our Riley Creek Campground so we had a nice walk. The Center is beautiful with very nice informative displays about wildlife, natural history, and Park development. The Center is less informative about the substance behind its LEEDS certification. We asked and the Ranger offered us their LEEDS building notebook to peruse. You see many of the obvious, like the native building materials, the high number of photovoltaic panels, and the use of LED and natural lighting. Jim wanted details about the storage cells for pv energy and the water use and recycling, but these points weren't so available.
An extensive dog sled operation is necessary to winter operations of the six million acre Park in this part of AK. The National Park Service maintains thirty dogs and several modern sleds as their safest and most reliable means of making and maintaining snow trails and monitoring park usage in winter. We took a bus ride from the Visitor Center to the Park HQ and the Dog Sled Demonstration. Three young women serve as the Park Rangers in the Dog Sled Demo. They hovered and encouraged us while our busload of people mingled around the dogs. The dogs are very friendly and happy-seeming, and pretty uniformly were seeking shade even as we are seeking the sun's warmth.
It seems the dogs' optimum operating conditions include colder than -10 degrees Farenheit. The dogs are fine with colder but the mushers like it above -30 Farenheit for their own comfort. How would you like to take an outside job where the daily temperatures would hover between 0 and -30 Farenheit? Did you know the two Park Service mushers travel with two sleds and teams ninety miles in, to a cabin in the Kantishna area then sled areas of the park from there for a month before returning to the HQ? This might be the coldest volunteer assignment I can imagine wanting.
We had, a few days ago at Iditarod Race HQ, seen a display and demonstration on dog sledding so almost didn't bother to visit this one. Boy, that would have been a big mistake on our part. The dog kennels, sled room, tack room, grounds, and sledding demonstration were very well presented. Danica Yates is the Park Ranger who met our bus and provided the interpretive discussion about NPS dogsledding in Denali. Then we saw her in the campgrounds amphitheatre presenting on Leave No Trace in wilderness tundra and taiga areas. Her talks are well-organized, clear, and interesting. She knows her stuff.
Yesterday's "catch" on our tour into the wilderness area included many small animals and all the large animals except the moose. This evening Debbie bagged a moose right here in the campground. The Rangers have been emphatic about dangers to humans from the moose. The moose presents a greater danger to campers than a grizzly, because people are insufficiently afraid of the moose. Moose are huge, averaging around 1,400 pounds, they are not friendly, and, as one man told us, moose can kick in all directions at once. Deb was behind a tree at all times, she asserts, so our pictures are moose-safe. The moose was oblivious to at least a dozen people anxiously snapping her picture as she nibbled on the willow buds. Our trip to Denali is now complete and we can leave tomorrow, bound for Talkeetna.
May 31, 2008
Denali NP decided a few decades ago to restrict motor vehicle traffic into the park and implemented park-run buses for park tours. Very fuel and emissions efficient compared to hundreds of individual cars daily. Probably a lot safer, too. Our group boarded a big Blue Bird bus driven by a recently retired high school teacher from middle Illinois. We lucked out - Monty is a fantastic resource and a sharp eye for the wildlife and flora in the Park. We saw Harrier Falcon, Dall Sheep, Grizzly Bears, Horned Owl nesting, Caribou, Red Fox, Wolves, Marmot, and a zillion Snowshoe Hares. Oh, and the biggest trophy of all is the sighting we had of Denali's mountain and both north and south peaks. Although our views of Denali yesterday at lunch were better than today's.
We have a so-so wifi connection here (better than none) and a few 110vac receptacles. So we can still email and can post this little bit. I'm sitting in a cool windy spot and my hands are getting numb. I guess I should try to do this earlier in the day but we were out adventuring then. I'll go for now and maybe see you here tomorrow or the next day.
May 30, 2008
Soon after this morning's prayer for the road everyone packed up and lined up for the road to Denali. We teamed up with the Purmorts, Durrell and Terrie. We were the last two motorhomes before the caboose motorhomes. For the day the two couples enjoyed sightseeing together, sharing thoughts about what we see and dining together on the road. Caravanning together is a great way to get to know people better.
The most enjoyable sight was at Mary Carey's McKinley Lodge halfway between Palmer and Denali Park. This is on AK Highway 3 just past the bridge over the Chulitna River. Inside the lodge gift store is this precious little woman talking about her granddaughter, also in the store. We started talking with the woman who knows absolutely everything about Mary Carey's adventures homesteading in 1962 and establishing this lodge. Turns out, the woman is Mary Carey's daughter, Jean Carey Richardson and the little girl is Mary's great granddaughter. Mary Carey was a 49 year old widow teaching in Talkeetna, approximately twenty miles down the Chulitna River from the future McKinley Lodge. She had learned to fly and saw the Denali National Park, on the north side of Mt McKinley, was not on the most beautiful side of Mt McKinley, or Denali. Mary decided to create a homestead on the south side and near the Chulitna River.
Jean Carey Richardson tells the story fabulously, and probably a dozen or more times a day. Like her mother, Jean has published a number of books but Jean's are especially for children. Although we believed Jean would have easily engaged us and we could have listened much longer, we tore ourselves away to explore the dining room of the lodge. This is a magnificent room with large windows allowing views of Denali. The room is spruce log walls and beams, spruce post barstools, and a long and wide bar from one huge spruce log. Today we were in luck, the clouds cleared while we sat in one of the booths waiting for our hamburgers. Tough to call whether the view or the hamburgers were better. Both were great. We hated to pass up the homemade apple pie but hadn't left room after the wonderful hamburgers and fries.
We arrived in Denali National Park's Riley Creek Campground with the rest of the Fly-Drive Alaska Caravan group in time to pile into a few motorhomes and carpool to our dinner theatre location. The Chalet Cabin Night Dinner Theatre provided a fun dining experience with fine singing and entertaining. The ribs, salmon, biscuits, and berry cobbler were my favorite parts of supper. The food was great but entertainment was even better. A dozen young performers sang, acted, and waited our tables in what they said was the style of a 1930's Alaska road house diner. They told and acted out stories, provided an insight to local history, and sang beautifully. We loved it and would go back anytime (but eat less).
This Riley Creek Campground is very pretty.
Thickly wooded with mostly spruce trees and a little birch, the sites are approximately 10 meters apart. The campground has three one-quarter mile loops, each with motorhomes, trailers, and tents. There are not any hook-ups for water, electric, or sewer, but there is a laundry/store/showers building with free wifi and an electrical outlet. The campground loops are paved but every site is fine gravel. Thirty meters behind our campsite is a small comfort station with flush toilets and lavatories and lights, but no heat. The low temperature outside tonight is thirty-four degrees. The camper, at 10:30 p.m. is already dropping below sixty degrees inside and will drop into the forties tonight. We sleep close together and keep each other warm under the covers. Good night.
P.S. Don't tell Deb the camper has a heater, okay?
May 29, 2008
We piled into several motorhomes and caravanned to the Palmer Musk Ox Farm nearby. These are not musky animals nor are they related to oxen. Musk oxen are related to mountain goats, readily survive Arctic winter temperatures, are very efficient eaters, and produce an exotic wool. Once yearly the herders can either comb or wait and collect moulted wool coats from the musk ox. The resulting wool is said to be the warmest and most expensive and softer than cashmere. Each pound of unwashed wool from the musk ox, we were told today, sells for up to $1,500. We didn't buy the $250 scarf, but it was very nice.
Our next stop was an overlook on the Matanuska River. The Matanuska area was settled in 1935 by a US Government relocatoin plan. The government selected welfare families with certain skills in Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Minnesota and offered them homesteads in the Matanuska Valley. The deal included a home, barn, machinery, forty acres, relocation, and free return to the states after one year, if the homestead didn't work out. One hundred forty homesteads were successful out of two hundred three started. Some of the crop yields from this valley are almost fantastic, including a sixty-two pound celery stalk, a turnip over sixty-five pounds, a forty-two pound beet, and a one hundred five pound cabbage. The valley enjoys up to twenty hours daily sunlight, plenty of rain, and steady warm temperatures throughout the growing season.
We tried to drive to Hatcher's Pass and visit the Independence Mines but apparently recent snowfalls determined to keep us away. Instead we played in the snow, walked about, and took lots of pictures. We had more time to enjoy the Iditarod Race Headquarters. We found a nice movie about
the race founder, Joe Reddington, the mushers and their dogs, and the equipment. We played with four little Husky puppies outside, and petted and talked with some Huskies in their harnesses. I wondered later if we had twice been suckered, first at the Anchorage Museum display on Joe Reddington and Iditarod and today at the Iditarod Race Headquarters. They glorify the race, the mushers, and the dogs. What about concerns about dogs' welfare? I searched and read June Price's article very carefully and followed her links. She shows both sides of the arguments and makes, I think, a convincing and favorable testimonial to the overall care and handling of the dogs in the Race. I'm favorably impressed with the mission and management of the Race.
The caravan will be dry-camping (no water, electric or drain hook-ups for the motorhomes) for the next three days so we have a few preparations to make. I took the camper to the gas station to inflate a low tire and top off the propane tank, then I emptied the toilet and rinse water holding tanks. Deb washed a load of clothes and I swept out the camper. We both used the campground's very nice shower facilities instead of adding water to our rinse water tank. We're ready to go in the morning. We had a quick supper of Progresso canned soup and smoked gouda cheese and triscuits in our motorhome then walked to the evening activity. The Homestead RV Park owners presented an interesting and thorough discussion on the history of the Matanuska Valley. Afterward we chatted and enjoyed ice cream and cake to celebrate current birthdays and anniversaries. There's so much more to see in this area I guess we'll just have to return soon.
May 28, 2008
A couple of you were curious
about our rental motorhome. We had a choice of 25 feet or 30 feet length. The 25 feet unit we chose (big surprise) is less expensive, and might use less gas to drive and less propane to heat. You can see in the picture it has a corner bed instead of a walk-around bed in the 30. We're used to the corner bed and don't mind it. The high bed above the driving cab is not as convenient as it looks. It is has only thirty inches between the ceiling and the mattress and is a climb up from the dinette seat. we have plenty of space for us, clothes, food, and cooking.
Our big sights today were two
Russian Orthodox Churches and Cooper Creek Crossing at the Kenai River. The first church was near Anchor Point 1/4 mile off the Sterling Highway. Although a beautiful church, It was unattended and we couldn't gain much information. The other was attended by a docent who cheerfully helped us understand the history and significance of the church and the special Spirit Houses.
The Athabascans' Russian Orthodox Church cemetery in Eklutna has Spirit Houses over graves older than one year. These decorate the grave and contain items special to, and in support of, the deceased. We also toured the very old Church and the newer one. The old building, much less ornate, dates from the nineteenth century and was moved to Eklutna in the early twentieth century. It was built of spruce logs and the construction materials are all original and in excellent condition.
The Cooper Creek confluence with the Kenai River
was stunningly gorgeous. The water is a light green color and runs extremely fast. The beavers have been
very busy and have cut many trees from two inches to six inches diameter and have been hard at work on much larger trees. It amazed us to find this twelve inch Birch tree almost felled. The beavers have assiduously carved their notch at all sides but the river side so the tree, when it falls, will hinge and fall directly toward the river. Now, how did they learn this woodcraft?
We're in Palmer, AK,
37 miles north of Anchorage. The Wengers and we drew caboose duty from Homer to Palmer. This primarily consists of being the last ones out of the campground and ensuring no one is stranded on the highway by themselves. Cabooses are supposed to b
e the last ones to arrive at the destination campground. We jointly did our best today to give everyone time to arrive before us and we were still in eleventh and twelfth of sixteen motorhomes. Best we can figure and from some reports, the others went shopping for necessities in Anchorage. At least we lost no one. We arrived in Homestead RV Park in Palmer just in time to park the motorhome and pile nine of us into a motorhome to drive to the Noisy Goose for dinner. Don't order the scallops! Everything else was very good.
May 27, 2008
Our walking took us by
several landmark spots in Homer. We started at the Main Street Mercantile, started in 1936 as the Homer Cash Store. Next was an interesting outfitter store, NOMAR, where they design, sew, and sell their own cold weather clothing, fishing gear, and boat covers. We stopped in the Alaska Wild Berry Products, famous in the same spot since 1946, for a few chocolate truffles. Next was the Driftwood Inn and campground. We saw, through the fence, an unusual camper so stepped in to investigate. This Born Free truck camper is the only one I've seen to overhang the truck bed sufficiently to require an additional axle. He doesn't tow it but uses it as a guest bedroom for visiting friends. We spoke at length with the owner who happens to be a full-timer and, after seventeen years summering in AK, has camped year-round in Homer the last three winters.
We took a leisurely drive 1,000 feet above the campground along Skyline Drive West. Skyline Drive runs the ridge overlooking Homer and is home to a wide variety of housing types. We were most attracted to the compact two-story log cabins with standing seam metal roofs, tucked neatly onto the hillside, overlooking Kamechak Bay. While we can imagine setting up housekeeping and preparing all year for winter, we have no idea what we'd do with twenty-two (22) hour nights. We'll stick to wintering in the lower 48 states for now.
Yesterday's fishing expedition provided Halibut for tonight's feast. Several of us fired up the grills and burners for frying and grilling fresh halibut. Other folks had prepared super-secret fresh fish casseroles, corn, cole slaw, rice. We quickly prepared a fresh fish feast for forty folks. And they lined up, all of our group, for sumptious servings of this great food. Then we topped it off with hot apple pie! They say Airstreamers meet to eat and we looked like it tonight.
Our three days in Homer have been excellent. Temperatures have been nice, sunshine has been warm and bright, and the long days have provided us ample opportunities to see whatever we wanted of Homer. Now as we prepare to leave we receive our instructions from our caravan leader at the drivers' meeting. He reviewed our duty assignments for the drive and the expected viewing highlights for tomorrow's 255 mile drive to Palmer, AK. We're clear on our assignments and ready for another bunch of things to feast our eyes on. Let's go to Palmer.
May 26, 2008
We had a great and beautiful day of walking in Homer, AK. Pratt Museum was a delight and we spent the most time there, especially talking with Linda. Linda is a very knowledgeable staffer at Pratt's wildlife displays. We were even more interested hearing about her hitchhiking to AK 31 years ago and settling in Homer in, among other habitats, an empty shell of an old Airstream trailer. While scoffing at what we easterners consider a cold winter, she admitted to some cold times before they improved their uninsulated thin aluminum shelter.
Another high point of the Pratt Museum (There were so many!) was
excerpts from the The Rich and Simple Life, a reading of Ruth Kilcher's diary entries by her children. Yule and Ruth Kilcher homesteaded in Homer in the forties and early fifties. Upon their mother's death the eight children discovered her very telling diary of this successful but strenuous lifestyle. You can see more information by clicking on Pratt Museum. Outside the Pratt Museum is a homesteader's cabin which at times housed up to eight people from two families. This had to be crowded in winter with the cabin's diminutive 120 square feet on the main floor and a loft above even smaller from roof pitches.
Linda referred us to a great lunch place, Fat Olive, just down the street and to Two Sisters for coffee and dessert. We had a fabuous spinach salad with fresh mozzarella followed by their Mediterranean pizza. Then, yes, we ambled further down the street to find Two Sisters Bakery. The cranberry scone and coffees were just right, and the bakery/coffee shop/B&B was warm and cozy. I'm going back tomorrow to enjoy another coffee and see if their wifi is better than our Verizon. It's bound to be, I think.
Now our bodies are fully stoked for another foray into the cool and windy day so we walk one-quarter mile up the hill to the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitors Center. This is a bargain
and a treat. [Actually, we probably pay a lot of tax money to build and maintain it, they don't charge admission.] The displays were easy to understand and well-organized. One of my favorites was about the oceanographic research ship M/V Tiglax, operated by the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The exhibit displayed and explained the missions accomplished throughout the Aleutian Islands by this intrepid crew. The ship travels 20,000 miles annually throughout the Alaskan Islands monitoring and trying to improve conditions for sea birds, mammals, and other environmental concerns.
We walked into the campground to learn our caravan's fishing trip was a great success. I'm still glad I toured Homer today instead. Tomorrow evening we'll all share some of today's halibut catch. I wouldn't give anything for the sights and tastes we enjoyed today in Homer, and we look forward to another sightseeing day tomorrow. I stayed up late enough to snap a nice picture of sunset on the Kenai Mountains across Kamechak Bay from us. Our days and evenings in Alaska have been gorgeous.
May 25, 2008
Jim was worn out yesterday from spending most of the afternoon in the rain and wind outside on the cruise ship's barf deck. He napped until 10:30 p.m. after we returned from the cruise then he stayed up to process yesterday's pictures, write the journal and emails, and work on the Sunday morning devotional for our caravan. He finally saw the day fade to night in Alaska. It was pretty dark this morning by the time he finally crashed. But it was only dark a couple hours!
This morning Jim led the caravanners in song and a brief devotional based on Exodus 33:14. He drew parallels between God's creatures we've seen in Kenai Fjord and the Israelites and the caravanners. God has promised all creatures shalom, which is much richer than 'rest for weariness'. The devotional was sweet and short and caravanners started leaving in groups of three motorhomes, bound for Homer. It's only a 175 mile drive and we have until 3:00 p.m. to arrive. We'll stop for propane, gasoline, groceries, and most importantly, some sightseeing along the way.
One of our first stops was for an
overlook back at the Kenai Mountains from the Sterling Highway between Seward and Homer. Deb took this picture and it represents so well so many of the views we had from Anchorage to Seward. The mountains are almost completely snow-covered on their north side and are starting to melt off on the southern sides. It was interesting and, at first, a little disappointing today to lose sight of the snow-covered mountains. About the time we were coming into Soldotna we had more plains and ocean views and less mountains. Tonight we again have views of Kenai Mtns across Kachemak Bay from Homer.
Another of our roadside stops today was at the chainsaw carving place near Soldotna. I guess the artist(s) was
at lunch but the displays were interesting and well-carved. Some were whimisical, too. The piece Jim liked best was the porch column carved with figures of a fisherman and a bear. Other large animal carvings were for sale for $800 to $1,200. We left without helping the local economy much.
The drive between Soldotna and Homer is pretty spectacular. The road is along a very high bluff above Cook Inlet to the west and a sort of rugged high plains to the east. It was fascinating to view the diverse styles of homesteads niched into the terrain on both sides of the highway. It is difficult to imagine joy for us in living long in this environment. No doubt the summers are fabulous here and probably make the extremely arduous winters worthwhile. We're softies, though. We like 75 degrees and we like regular and repeated doses of big city. Anchorage is 225 miles from here. And while Anchorage is the big thing for the 685,000 Alaskans, Anchorage is not at all large at 175,000 people.
We had time before supper
for a quick shower and a beer upon arriving in the Ocean View campground in Homer. Most of the campers in this rv park are rental motorhomes from CanaDream or CruiseAmerica. Our crowd of thirty-eight piled into several motor homes and rode to Lands End at the far end of the 4.5 mile Homer Spit. Homer Spit sticks well out into Kachemak Bay and offers a lot of camping on both sides of the road and great dining at Lands End. We enjoyed a nice baked halibut topped with artichoke heart and crabmeat and asparagus and a green salad. A cup of green tea later we are winding down a little. The sun is beginning to sink low on the horizon on the Bering Sea. Another great day in Alaska slowly closes.
May 24, 2008
We boarded the Renown Cruises ship Glacial Explorer
this morning at 10:30 and settled into seats in the large lower enclosed cabin with Wes and Allison Hurner from TN. Hot chocolate and tea warmed us -- it was around 43 degrees in our campground this morning. The captain's voice spelled out over the public address speakers the safety rules and guidelines for enjoyment of today's cruise. Number 1 safety rule? Don't go overboard. The water temperature is a very cold 45-48 degrees and would induce hypothermia in no time at all. And, overboard passengers slow down the cruise since the captain usually waits for their rescue before steaming forward again. We'll be careful.
The Glacial Explorer was soon underway and we had smooth sailing through Resurrection Bay. We saw otters playing over 100 yards away in the bay and saw an eagle watching over things from his rocky perch. Then we started entering more open waters. We're all wearing our WBCCI namebadges, still Jim was surprised when a young woman asked him for a seasickness bag on her way to the aft deck. Always the Boy Scout, he found her not only a bag but also a crew member. Crew members here apparently have two prime missions -- comfort of the passengers and emergency stations for alarms. Luckily our crew members were completely available for our comfort. Some of us were greatly comforted by their attentive care. One section of the cruise waters is named the "Washing Machine" for the four heavy currents mixing there. Yes, it must feel just like that inside a clothes washer.
We enjoyed seeing Orca whale pods, a few humpback whales, and several haul outs full of sea lions and various seabirds. We layed in near the Aialka Glacier for almost a half hour so folks could listen to the groaning and thunder of the highly compressed glacial ice straining and advancing. The glacier and a lot of floating ice about the ship lent a very cold feeling to the place. We thought we had dressed warmly for an enclosed cabin and were wearing long underwear top and bottom and fleece jackets under goretex pants and jackets.
We were still cold. We hadn't counted on the amount of time the ship's forward and aft hatches would be open for everyone to obtain great viewing and photographing positions. And we hadn't considered we might have a reason not to stay inside the warm cozy heated cabin. Jim spent most of his time up on the open-air deck, choosing freezing cold to offset his discomfort from motion. How can he participate in the deep-sea fishing in Homer?
The cruise ended on a very nice note. The sun broke out and fully illuminated Marathon Mountain and Seward. The water in Resurrection Bay was completely calm and the wind was down. We gratefully landed on terra firma and returned to our campground for rehydration, carbs, warmth, catching up on the newspaper, and a nap.
May 23, 2008
Light rain fell all night and into the morning. The NOAA radio predicted continued rain and gale force winds (40-50 knots) for today. We were relieved when our caravan leader came around to announce that our Kenai Fjords National Park cruise had been postponed until tomorrow. This meant switching our Saturday activites to today. No problem - we're flexible.
We walked a few short blocks in a light mist to the Alaska Sealife Center. Here we viewed many exhibits related to sea life in the Bering Sea. A park ranger from the Kenai Fjords National Parks service presented a fascinating program on the archaeology of the area. At the seabird habitat, we were amazed to see the birds diving and swimming underwater, using their wings like flippers. In other habitats, we watched sea lions and harbor seals swimming and frolicking in the water. An exhibit on the life cycle of salmon showed us the perilous journey that the fish take from their spawning grounds out to sea and back. We were interested to learn that they return to the same place they were originally spawned. Scientists have not figured out how they do this.
After lunch at the Yukon Bar, we walked back along the beach to our campground for a trip to Exit Glacier. We rode with a group to Kenai Fjords National Park but were disappointed to find that the entrance road was covered with snow. We saw the glacier from a distance on our drive in but could not get up close and personal and "gaze into the brillant blue ice" as promised. Maybe next time. After leaving the park, we drove around Seward and took in additional sights.
May 22, 2008
Today is our first caravanning day. Sixteen motorhomes left Anchorage this morning after coffee and muffins and a prayer for the road. We didn't want to clog the highways with a long train of motorhomes, so we left in groups of three motorhomes at thirty minute intervals. Occasionally we would catch up with the contingent ahead of us at the more interesting stops. The jade shop is a good example, where at one point we had at least one dozen motorhomes collected. The jade shop's seven foot long diamond-tipped saw was two days into it's three-month long cut through the large block of jade. The jade and ivory carvings and jewelry were beautiful and tempting.
Seward, AK, besides being Mile 0 of the Iditarod Race, is beautiful, breezy, bright, and not a little remote. Seward is 75 miles south of Anchorage as the crow flies and 125 miles by highway. Navigating here was a cinch - and not because we have a GPS. Only one exit ramp between Anchorage and Seward and it leads to the road to Homer. We'll do that next week. Today it was driving with lots of roadside stops to cram a two hour drive into seven hours. A hard and fast caravanning rule is to never arrive in the destination campground before the appointed time. Something about making sure the advance party has time to finish their beers before we arrive, I think.
We pulled off the highway for a slow drive through the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This is the largest North American preserve for some large mammal species. The center is dedicated to preserving Alaska's wildlife and takes in orphaned or injured animals and attempts to reintroduce them to their natural habitat. Any that cannot be returned to their natural habitat are provided permanent home in the center. We were three feet from several brown bears and enjoyed watching another playing with his toy in the large nearby pond. We saw a lot of Wood Bison including several cute little tan ones. Bald eagle weren't hanging around today but we had a good look at many other inhabitants.
There are no alternate roads into Seward from Anchorage. The alternate routes are road, water, air. The only road is Seward Highway. And they don't use highway numbers so much. There aren't very many highway numbers, just 1, 3, 9 that we've seen so far. But these numbers aren't particularly descriptive since the highways weave around and change direction. Apparently the clearest route description is like we used to have in NC, the Seward Highway or the Denali or Barrow or whatever direction you want to go. All those names may well be on the same route # but you still call the section you're going to take by the name of the next big destination.
We enjoyed stopping along the highway in marked turnouts and gazing with binoculars up at the smooth snow-covered mountains rising a thousand feet and more on either side of the road. We could make out the snowboard tracks weaving down in the mountain's snow cover, and foot tracks climbing back up. An incredible climb it must be and makes us wonder how many enjoyable trips down they get to make in a day. Like our driving, you really need to enjoy the journey too. The descent might be too fast to make a 1/2 day of trekking worthwhile otherwise.
St. Peters Episcopal provided our dinner tonight. Theirs is a pretty little church built in 1906 on one of the streets fifteen minutes up the hill from our city park beach campsite. The ladies prepared us a delicious dinner of baked chicken breasts, baked potatoes, an assortment of salads, and sheet cake. After dinner our caravan organizer asked us to stand up as couples and introduce ourselves to the group with a brief biography. Everyone enjoyed the vignettes and getting to know a little about one another. I'm sure we'll learn much more about our new friends over the next thirteen days.
Deb and I walked around Seward after dinner but decided to get out of the cold wind before we blew away. It's time for hot showers and bedtime reading. We've enjoyed our first driving day of the caravan and look forward to tomorrow by Resurrection Bay in Seward.
May 21, 2008
We are finishing our Anchorage visit with this last night's stay in Fred Meyer's parking lot. Today was our tour of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, staffed and interpreted by Native Alaskans from the many regions of this huge state. They performed dancing, singing, drumming, and explained their "pre-contact" habitat and the changes from contact with Russians and Europeans and Americans.
We learned more about how focused and difficult their survival was, and how they embraced and enjoyed winters as a time of greater mobility. Frozen rivers are much easier to navigate, cross, and work than swollen wet rivers.Instead of cutting off their village or camp, a frozen river offers access to areas they can't even reach in the warmer months. Interesting!
This evening we dined at Sourdough Mill, one of many touristy large restaurants in Anchorage. Deb and I shared a seafood stew with halibut, shrimp, and clams, with a side dish of corn fritters. The stew was great but not nearly as good as our fresh halibut downtown yesterday. We're looking forward to more in the next days, and to our first taste of really fresh King Salmon or Coho. Wow, we'll even be able to name the four or five kinds of salmon from the Northwest!
Our tour starts tomorrow morning with coffee and doughnuts at 7am (that's 11am your time, if you're eastern standard time) then prayers for the road and depart at 8am for Seward, 126 miles south-southeast. We'll take our time and stop whenever we want to see things along the way. They've told us we're not permitted to arrive at the campground before 4pm, to allow our parking crew to arrive first and arrange things with the campground. We don't mind, this is what we've wanted to study -- how to slow down better.
I don't know if we'll have connections after this, so this might be our last message for a few days or longer. If so, know we'll still be writing, We're thinking of you, and will send helloes when we next connect. As I prepare to sign off, I'm looking out the front window of the motorhome -- the sun is just setting and it's 2250 hours. Man, this is cool. I don't have to drive far tomorrow, I think I'll stay up and watch dusk to dark.
May 20, 2008
We pinched ourselves and we're still in Alaska so this must be real.
We can hardly believe it. It was still daylight still when we went to
bed after eleven last night and I awoke this morning before 0530 and
it was bright streaming glaring daylight. Still or again? I'm not
intentionally going to stay up and try to find it dark. We slept well
The camper was 50 degrees this morning, we don't know what temperature it was
outside, but it was pretty and comfortable in the sun. We wore long
sleeved shirts, fleece (that's plural for floose, right?) and
windbreakers and rode the bus the 90 blocks downtown. Toured the
Federal Building exhibits, slept through a short video, walked about,
lunched on wonderful super-fresh halibut and green tea, then spent six
hours touring the Anchorage Museum. The museum galleries include art works from 1700's forward and a
juried art show of 100 works. I slept through a short video and enjoyed
tremendous exhibits of Alaskan history up to and including the pipeline construction and the Iditarod.
The public transit is very well-utilized here. We rode a full bus
downtown and another back to our parking lot. We arrived to find a new
caravan companion, this a couple from Dawson, GA and a brother along
for the ride. So one third of our caravanners have arrived. We all
get together tomorrow (Wednesday) evening for a supper meeting and
start on the road Thursday for Seward, 126 miles away.
The weather today is dry and 55 degrees and bright bright sunny. I
didn't wear my windbreaker at all and only wore my fleece for a little
while this morning. It is 82 degrees in our camper now at 8:20 p.m. and the sun is still pouring it on. The solar panel gets a workout for twenty hours a day here, I guess. Pretty good deal. I'm heating some water for showers while it's still warm in the camper. Then we'll cook some soup and have cheese and crackers for supper.
May 19, 2008
We're in Anchorage camped temporarily in a parking lot with friends.
We arrived AK after a long but easy day of flying. We boarded our first plane in NC at 0820 hrs EST, left Las Vegas 1130 hrs Mountain Time, and arrived 1600 hrs Alaska Time. Our tour leaders met us
at airport and drove us to RV rental place to pick up this little rental
motor home. It is now 10:35 p.m. AK time, and the sun is just now
setting. We learned from the woman next to us on the plane, daylight
is currently at approx 20 hours per day. Good grief, we forgot our
We are dry-camping in Fred Meyers department store parking lot, in exchange for which we all have purchased our supplies and groceries from the department store. We greatly appreciate having this staging space before we link up with the other sixteen motorhomes for our caravan. We are, so far, with three
other Cruise America Class C motorhomes. Ours has a double bed above
the driving cab and a double bed in the curbside rear corner. Deb is
showering, I'm sitting in the front passenger seat. We just finished
a small supper of lentil soup, followed by delicious ice cream. I
had a 22 oz "double" IPA, locally brewed. Just
awesome, and btw is 8% alcohol by vol. A little strong for this boy.
Tomorrow we pick up the tram to downtown and view the Heritage Centers
and downtown Anchorage. Following day our guided tour starts at the
Sourdough Restaurant. We know a few of the folks on this tour
already, including the tour guides. Should be great! Forecast is thirties tonight. We'll be snuggling under the two
sleeping bags they gave us as blankets for our bed.
Poor internet connection here, and no AC power. We may run the generator a little tomorrow to charge everything up, including the laptop. Then we can perhaps find a coffee shop or something to gain wireless connection. One thing I wish I'd brought -- the 175 watt Xantrex pocket inverter. I would have plugged it into the cigarette lighter outlet and kept the laptop or any other 110vac powered device charged up. I didn't even think to bring it. And less useful but interesting, I would have liked to have brought my outdoor thermometer.
May 18, 2008
Today is packing day for our flight and three-week Alaska trip. Our flight is 0830 hours tomorrow (Monday) so we completed all packing today. Also, the truck and trailer are layed up ready for the cross-country trip we'll take immediately upon returning from AK. Today we dumped the holding tanks, took spoilables out of the fridge, cleaned the bathroom, and secured everything. Except for one night at the house of Deb's parents, we'll be on the road almost five months. Two weeks has been a welcome and relaxing respite. We've done a lot of preventive and required maintenance, caught up on the Atlanta Braves, enjoyed seeing family, done a little shopping. Now we're ready to go to Alaska!
Fly-Drive Alaska Caravan is from this point up on this page, May 18 - Jun 04, 2007
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May 17, 2008
We prepared for our next five months' travel with a trip to our storage unit to exchange a few things. Our backpacking equipment and Jim's golf bag stay behind to make room for furniture for Deb's granddaughter in Vancouver, BC. Lunch was at the fabulous little Mr. K's on South Blvd at McDonald Ave, for a chocolate malted and a Mr. K Burger. Back in Kannapolis, Jim emptied the truck completely and we repacked it with the furniture. Amazingly, we were still able to put everything we needed in the truck. We'll have to re-evaluate the importance of the three large totes we can for 5 months leave behind. Why have we been carrying them around all this time?
We went to dinner Friday evening with Bryan and Nikki, and drove Saturday morning to Asheville to see Jim's children. We enjoyed a nice lunch at Kubo's with Hannah and Charles, after seeing their workplaces. Charles has been working the past year at Artful Shelter in Asheville, and Hannah has an art studio in a loft near Charles' workplace. It's been a beautiful day in NC with bright and almost cloudless skies and temperatures in the low seventies. Jim painted the welds holding the the HF antenna bracket to the new hitch receiver and reconnected the antenna wiring. We're about ready for our Alaska trip.
May 15, 2008
Debbie took the truck to the local Chevrolet dealer to look at the trailer hitch. The pin box was deforming, apparently, from the hitch pin getting pushed back and forth on the pin box's weak metal. Deb's brothers both expressed grave concern over the continued durability of the hitch under this wear. The Chevrolet dealer didn't hesitate to replace the entire hitch assembly, attached to the truck with eight large bolts. The work was quick, we have a completely new hitch receiver assembly hopefully free of the recall dangers posed by factory hitch receivers. We also had the dealer inspect the truck although not due until June. We'll be on the road until October and didn't want to concern NC's computers about an outstanding issue.
Today our forwarded mail again found us. Perfect timing! Escapees Mail Service has done a great job for us every time. We had a short learning curve to provide the optimal lead time from the date of our request until when we wanted the mail to arrive. This package arrived in three days from request, about normal. The package has three magazines, a stock prospectus, several items about WBCCI International Rally, and not much else of importance. Oh, and a great thing, almost no junk mail! We'll arrange for our next package somewhere in Alaska.
May 14, 2008
I've been busy. Monday Deb and I bought the new Quick-Bite Coupler (where the tow ball connects to pull a trailer) for our Airstream. On our way back from Mooresville we were lucky to catch Susan & Dorlin Kerr at home and we visited a couple hours and lunched with them. Susan and I went to high school together and by coincidence Dorlin and I were working for the same maintenance company in Chapel Hill and realized I knew Dorlin's fiancee. We've all shared a warm friendship since.
Debbie's brother, Donnie Shaver, is an amazing man. An inventor, creator, mechanic extraordinaire and wonderful father. And a great brother-in-law, too. I took the camper to his house Monday afternoon. He had just returned home from work and went right back to work on "his sister's camper". Donnie spent the entire afternoon installing our new Quick-Bite Coupler The only surprise was the large amount of effort required to cut away the original coupler. He ground and ground and sliced and burned and finally we pried away the old coupler. The new coupler went on very quickly, requiring only an adjustment to move rearward the bottom stabilizer for the hitch jack post.
Donnie also created an extension to raise the lid on our battery box. Our new golf cart batteries are just over an inch taller than the battery box so the aluminum lid might have contacted the battery terminals. He fabricated and installed an extension which looks at least as good as the original work. I marvelled at his work. He made no missteps, had no hesitation. Okay, he's a professional, right? Still, error-free work seems a scarce commodity these days. Thanks, Donnie!.
Yesterday I walked 18 holes of golf with the Methodist Men from Dilworth Methodist, then ground, sanded, and painted the new Quick-Bite Coupler hitch, re-worked the propane bottles bracket, and joined in the Tuesday night 2 meter emergency net for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Amateur Radio Emergency Service. A great day!
May 11, 2008
Happy Mother's Day! We breakfasted with Debbie's mom and dad then attended our Dilworth Methodist Church in Charlotte. It was nice to catch up with friends we hadn't seen since January. Debbie sang in the Chancel Choir and Jim attended his class before the service. This evening we celebrated Mother's Day with Jim's mom, her husband Dow, and Jim's brother and sister, Chuck and Ginny, and their spouses, Nanelle and Alan.
The past few days we have completed installation of the batteries, refilled the empty propane bottle, numbered the roof of the camper, cleaned the windows and polished the camper, adjusted the windows latches, installed the camper CB radio and antenna, defrosted and cleaned the freezer, mended some clothes and one flag, and replaced the awning tie-down ropes with 3/8" poly.
Yesterday we visited with Deb's siblings to celebrate their mother's day. The guys assembled first under the hood of the truck then to discuss the camper replacement coupler. We're going to replace it this week, if we can, with a Quick-Bite Coupler. We saw this in St. Augustine two months ago and really like it.
May 8, 2008
We started installing the new batteries yesterday morning. Deb had her hair appointment at 3:30 so Jim dropped her off then started on his remaining Charlotte errands. We visited with James Funderburk afterward and discussed the Africa Caravan and the Airstream Argosy improvements. We're so excited they are planning on joining us for the Africa Caravan and we will be working together on the Argosy. Then we went to the last Wonderful Wednesday for a presentation on the church's capital campaign. Visiting with everyone was a lot of fun.
This morning Deb and her mom lit out early to pick strawberries at Patterson's Farm in Mt Ulla. Jim completed the trailer's new battery installation and installed the antenna and cable for our new CB radio. He tried to fill one of the propane tanks at the local hardware store in Kannapolis but the pump is out of order until tomorrow. Debbie and her mom cut, washed, and made jam from over twelve quarts of strawberries they picked this morning.
May 6, 2008
Today we both had our semi-annual dental visit, picked up paperwork at the Sheriff's Dept, visited our favorite hardware store, Little Hardware in Charlotte, purchased our new deep-deep cycle batteries (Interstate 2200s) for the camper, played tennis, got a haircut, and did our banking. Pretty good day, eh?
The new fuel tank had four gallons saved from the removed tank. The installing mechanic said it might not be enough to start the engine. The tank is so long four gallons would coat the bottom of the tank. He added $20 of gas and the tank still registered empty on the dash gauge. We drove a few blocks and filled up. We had never previously had a gas pump automatically stop at $100. We restarted the pump and added another $20 of gas.
The tank was full and provides us much better driving range. Driving without the trailer we can go more than 700 miles, and with the trailer we can expect over 500 miles. We cannot stay in the truck 500 miles but appreciate flexibility to carry on past shuttered gas stations. Also we can shop for lower gas prices without risking running out of fuel.
May 5, 2008
We are sitting in Tom's 4-Wheel in Lexington.
Our truck is sitting in the repair bay having a fuel tankectomy. We're putting a 45 gallon gas tank in the truck to provide us more flexibility in range between refuelings. The tank is made in USA by Tranfer Flow Sales to replace oem fuel tanks. Tom's has been in business 38 years in this location so we feel pretty good trusting our truck to their care for this important job. We'll let you know later how it turns out.
Yesterday we arrived at Debbie's parent's house after a very short drive from the Yost's. Debbie attended with her mother a mother-daughter banquet at church while Jim and John worked on a few small projects in John's shop. Some of us enjoyed watching the Atlanta Braves on television trouncing the Reds. It was a relaxing and warm homecoming for us.
May 4, 2008
The Carolinas Unit of NC WBCCI rally ended this morning after four days beautiful weather, tasty food, merry music, and fun fellowship. Members of our unit, Frank and Joyce Yost, hosted our unit to their farm near Salibury, NC. We had limited electric and water and choice of shade or sun on a gorgeous one-acre yard below their driveway between the house and expansive fields of wheat and vineyards.
We arrived from Chapel Hill to the Yost's Farm Thursday afternoon and found a dozen Airstreams already setting up. Ultimately we had sixteen or seventeen trailers and motorhomes including a special guest and former member of our Unit, Dwight Moody of the WBT Briarhoppers. The rally provided breakfasts, lunch, and suppers, live entertainment two evenings, hayrides touring the Farm, and a wide variety of local activities including Patterson's Farm for you-pick strawberries. You can see pictures of this great rally at our club's picture gallery at the Yost Farm Rally scrapbook at this address http://picasaweb.google.com/carolinasnc/
The rally cooks prepared baked potatoes and steaks Saturday night and the Yosts provided fresh-baked pound cakes, cocoanut cream cakes, sugar cookies, and over a gallon of fresh-cut strawberries. We ate really light this morning, had a wonderful worship service together on the rally grounds, and after lots of hugs and farewell greetings people starting breaking camp. Deb and I were almost the last to leave as we stayed to meet with Bert Kalet about the plans for Capetown to Cairo to Capetown Caravan in 2009.
April 30, 2008
The weather cooled off last night to 45 degrees. Jim woke up this morning at 730, dressed, and immediately climbed up to finish waxing the roof. The work went quickly since already washed and the roof was dry since there was no noticeable dew last night. We have so enjoyed sharing meals with Dave and Bea. This morning we had tea and granola with homemade yogurt and fresh fruit.
Every meal has both entailed, and been followed by, intriguing conversations. This morning was no exception as we talked about how different educational experience is for people based simply on their discipline or lack thereof. And we did have both cases represented at the table. Oddly, Jim thought, it seemed the women represented the more disciplined and studious lot than Jim and Dave.
Bea, Debbie, and Jim called then drove out to visit with a friend of Jim's from 1975, Wayne Lacock. Wayne had worked at Knight-Campbell Hardware in Chapel Hill since 1954 when Jim started in 1975. Jim worked there 1975 and 1976 and absolutely loved working with Wayne and working in Knight-Campbell. This job was Jim's first out of college and suited him perfectly. Jim's dad was very handy and Jim picked this up. The hardware store provided Jim an opportunity to work with a lot of customers, solve problems, and apply the life learning he had so far gained.
Wayne sort of adopted Jim. He drafted Jim onto the Carrboro Volunteer Fire Department, invited him out to the Lacock homestead west of Carrboro, and watched over Jim at the hardware store. Jim and Wayne immediately fell into a comfortable chat as they remembered people and events at the hardware store. Wayne caught Jim up on what's transpired since, and shared about Wayne's daughters and granddaughter, Tater Bug. No, that's not her real name. It's just the only thing Wayne calls her. His granddaughter and daughters clearly are the pride of his rich life.
Bea remembered Wayne from excellent help he had provided respective to her Chapel Hill log cabin. Bea and Wayne quickly remembered hardware store and house issues they had discussed before and then reminisced about mutual friends from the area. Wayne's family has lived on this farm for 100 years. Wayne walked us around, showing us how he is restoring buildings he grew up in and around and which are far, far older than he. This was a nice visit with a good friend from so long ago.
April 29, 2008
After breakfast we walked two doors down to Milt Forsyth's house. He is an amateur radio operator (W4MDF) with many years experience and has a nice ham shack carved into the closet in one of his bedrooms. He showed us how he monitors digital mode on 20 meters and can sometimes read the text cascading down the screen. He uses Ham Radio Deluxe on a laptop to operate his Kenwood radio in digital mode. This was a good demonstration for us on digital send/receive.
Jim and Dave washed the roof on our Airstream and Jim waxed the rear 1/3 of the roof (from the solar panels back to the end cap). Then they tackled a couple issues on the Witten's Airstream trailer. The refrigerator wouldn't stay closed and the fantastic fan wouldn't turn on when the cap raised. They readily adjusted the door and the latch works very well now. The fan took a little longer.
Dave had some experience with this and suspected the problem was in the lid switch. As the fan's lid raises it allows a spring loaded switch to close (or connect) and turn the fan on. When the fan lid closes the fan turns off. Dave's switch was sticking and not allowing the fan to run at any time. Jim and Dave took the fan apart, disconnected power and removed the switch. The switch was sticking in the open (not completing the circuit) position due to corrosion in the switch's barrel sleeve. After unsuccessfully attempting to take apart the switch they decided they could chuck the switch in an electric drill and spin it while holding the other end to polish out the rough spots between the switch spindle and the sleeve.
They put a couple drops of oil in the rough spot and starting spinning it with the drill. After just a minute or two the switch was smoothly operating up and down. They reinstalled it, tested it, and it works great. For now, that is. The corroding part will probably mess up again. Dave will shop for a new one next visit online or at an Airstream dealer. But for today, Mission Accomplished! Jim and Dave made another successful trip to the tennis courts as a reward for their hard work today. Jim thinks Dave is a really wonderful player, very consistent and steady and gets to everything. They had long rallies, probably enhanced by the clay court surface slowing the ball down for hitting.
April 28, 2008
We toured Southern Season and enjoyed browsing with Bea and Dave for awhile. They had other business to attend to and left us. We then shopped Roses, Kerr Drugs, then toured Franklin St, Weaver St, Rosemary St, Hillsborough St, and UNC's South Campus. Southern Season http://www.southernseason.com/store.asp is a real treat for shopping. We browsed for almost three hours before we knew it. And we found so many things we would love to have but don't have room or weight capacity. We'll be back!
We found at Rose's a gorgeous University of North Carolina Tarheels 3' X 5' flag for our Airstream's flagpole and are already flying it. The highlight though, was driving around Chapel Hill and Carrboro and reminiscing about the places we each haunted in the many years we spent so long ago in this sweet university town.
April 27, 2008
We had a leisurely departure from Raleigh NC State Fairgrounds, almost the last ones out. On our way out the gate we stopped and talked to Jim and Midge Markus. Then we had an hour drive to Chapel Hill to Dave and Bea Witten's house. They have a great parking place beside their garage with 30a and water. Jim played tennis over an hour with Dave at Chapel Hill Tennis Club on their fantastic clay courts. This is a rare treat for Jim as most campgrounds lack tennis facilities. He'll take it where he can find it, though, and this was a great workout and fun.
April 26, 2008
Jim chaired a golf tournament yesterday morning for sixteen of the WBCCI Region 3 Rally attendees. They played at Raleigh Golf Association, a fun course with very challenging and large greens. It was a beautiful high sixties degrees temperature day and sunny, just perfect for golf. Deb's roommate after college lives in Durham and she invited us to come over for dinner. We stayed at Lu and John Pittman's until 0140 hrs, then almost it was 0230 hrs before we returned home and were ready for bed.
Today we were slow to arise, nothing much going on this morning. We sloughed around the park visiting with people and enjoyed another beautiful day. The vintage trailers show was after lunch and Jim walked down to socialize with folks and see some of the trailers he missed when we were at Florida State Rally in Sarasota two months ago. While there he met Sidney and Liz and Ruby and Jack, who are interested in finding an Airstream. Jim insisted they see Bob and Bonnie Herman's precious 1964 Airstream because it so aptly shows the durability and timelessness of Airstream trailers. Then Jim invited Liz and Sidney to bring the children up and look at our Airstream as an example of larger living. The Herman's vintage Airstream seems to be a 17' trailer so ours is both much newer and is half-again longer. We ended up talking animatedly for a good long while and enjoyed every minute of it.
We cleaned up and hurried to the announcements and entertainment. Jim had fun presenting the awards for the golf tournament. This was his second major rally serving as the golf chairman. After announcements the Leon Jordan Continentals played big band music for two hours. The music brought many people to their feet shagging, jitterbugging, and slow dancing. While we enjoyed dancing a few times we enjoyed even more watching Jim and Pat Waters jitterbugging. They are a great dancing couple from our Carolinas Unit. We need to ask them to teach us!
April 21, 2008
The Sunday paper revealed some deals we could take advantage of. We restocked vitamins and shampoo/conditioner at buy one-get one free prices, and some groceries at fire sale prices. Jim had flag practice and committee chairperson meetings. Our Carolinas Unit cooked and served the dinner tonight for all the Unit Presidents and committee chairpersons. So we get to read, catch up with friends, and work on the websites a little. We reviewed plans for the next six months. We're programmed almost completely May through September, so far. This is not as happy-go-lucky as we might have imagined it, you know?
April 20, 2008
We are in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the NC State Fairgrounds for the WBCCI Region 3 Rally. They're expecting 115 Airstreams to arrive over the next few days. Today a dozen, like us, have pulled in and parked. The Rally starts Tuesday evening with a social and opening ceremony. We benefit doubly by arriving early. We have a greater selection of parking sites for our camper, and we get to settle in, meet, and greet some of our friends before the programs begin Tuesday. [photo by David & Denese Lee]
Yesterday we skipped breakfast and left Crooked River State Park at 9am. I-95 northbound traffic was pretty light and our 275 mile drive was easy. We set cruise control at 55-60 mph regardless of the interstate speed limit. Occasionally we will pass a car or truck. Otherwise we have almost no lane changes for over one hundred miles. Our overnight stay for Saturday was a Passports America campground near Florence, SC. The campground seems to serve mostly full-timers or snowbirds from Quebec, Maine, Ohio, and Texas. We met a Florence, SC couple who keep a condo 4 miles from the campground but prefer staying in their fifth wheel in the campground. They say their campsite neighbors are friendlier and have socials and meals together several times a week. They invited us to stay an extra day and join in on one of the meals, but Raleigh was calling us.
Our trip today was only 175 miles, from Florence SC to Raleigh. Cloudy skies and 70 degrees made for an almost perfect travel day. We kept the truck's a/c off and just used the vents. We save a little bit on gas this way but also find it very comfortable when the sunshine and outside temperature both cooperate to make a cool spring day. We arrived at the Fairgrounds just after 1300 hours. As soon as we'd blocked, levelled and connected the camper, and raised the flags, we enjoyed a wonderful fresh tomato sandwich. A short walk off the fairgrounds turned up a newspaper stand, so we have a Sunday paper to catch up on, a good parking place, and beautiful weather. This is going to be a nice rally venue.
April 18, 2008
Today was a maintenance day around the trailer. Jim started the day by shortening the mudflaps on the truck. We discovered that they had a tiddlywink effect of picking up rocks and flipping them back against the trailer when we drive through dips in the road. Jim cut off about 1 1/2 inches from the top and remounted them in hopes that this will prevent them from dragging when we hit low spots. He then modified the flagpole holder by adding a scrap piece of the mudflap to the bottom of the socket. This will keep the poles from resting directly on the holder and cutting through eventually. He also reorganized the cargo compartments and the bed of the truck and other tasks to get us ready to leave in the morning.
While Jim was busy with all this maintenance, Deb did laundry which was a real workout. There are two comfort stations at Crooked River SP and each one has a washer and dryer. First she loaded up one washer. When the other one became available, she loaded it also. Then back to the first one to move clothes to the dryer. Debbie continued this relay between the two laundry stations and the trailer until all three loads were completed. One dryer would not dry clothes even after a second 45 minute spin so these clothes had to be moved to the other one across campus. After three hours, all clothes were clean. Thank goodness we only have to do laundry every two weeks. The only realy advantage to doing it here at the park was the cost, less than $5, about half of what we usually spend.
April 17, 2008
Up and out early today to catch the St Marys ferry to Cumberland Island National Seashore. Because we didn't reserve our ferry tickets early enough to choose times we had less than five hours on the island. We walked from Sea Camp Station to Dungeness, the ruins of Carnegie's 1884 four-story beach cottage. Lucy Carnegie, wife of Thomas (Andrew's brother & business partner) raised her children here, then built magnificent houses for them, too. Some of these are still in use but Dungeness had been vacant since the 1920s and was burned in 1959. The grounds were tremendous and it is pretty difficult to imagine buying most of a 36,000 acre island for your family. The Carnegie's created an almost wholly self-sufficient estate with a staff of up to 300 people on the island.
We walked from the ruins of Dungeness across the salt marsh on a boardwalk. We saw a raccoon picking his way between the marsh grass. Aren't they supposed to be nocturnal? We saw hundreds of tiny crabs scurrying about while the tide was out, many of them carrying little pieces of sawgrass and other things back to wherever they were going. Horses were grazing under live oaks, almost hidden from view. The salt marsh is supposed to be the richest and most vibrant ecosystem anywhere.
The boardwalk ended at the edge of the dunes at a trail to the beach. Some of the dunes were twenty feet tall and they went on for hundreds of yards before we started seeing the ocean then found this tremendous and beautiful beach. We walked a mile or two up the beach, looking out for shark teeth or nice shells. There were dozens of starfish left on the beach above the tide, and we found a half-dozen empty and pretty conk shells.
A nice thing about the National Park Service's management of this National Seashore is trying to reduce people pressure on the island's assets. We saw no trash cans anywhere, including in the bathrooms -- you are advised beforehand to pack out everything you bring in, including your trash. The NPS is controlling the number of people at one time accessing the island. Only two ferry trips daily carry visitors out, each holding perhaps one hundred people. Some people camp for up to seven days on any of the island's numerous campsites. Most people are day-visitors, like we are. Nothing was crowded today and hopefully the impact upon this national treasure is mitigated somewhat. We think they are doing a great job with this one. Note: we took a lot more than these four pictures of our visit today and you can see the remainder at http://picasaweb.google.com/dreamstreamr/april2008/.
April 16, 2008
It was sunnier and warmer today in Crooked River SP. We caught up on e-mails and WBCCI club business in the morning. We made a run to the grocery store and post office in the afternoon. We're finding that we really like Publix stores, good buys and no customer loyalty card to keep up with. We'll miss them when we head back north. We invited our neighbors, Bill and Laurel Ray from Monterrey CA, over for social hour in the evening. They had pulled into the campground in the afternoon just as we were heading out to run our errands. They have a 2007 25 foot front-bed International Airstream.
After a quick dinner of leftover Shimp and Grits casserole, Jim started our fire and Bill and Laurel joined us for an evening of discussing the virtues of our Airstreams and comparing notes on our favorite places we have each visited. It was a perfect evening for a fire, just cool enough to feel really good sitting out under the stars after another glorious sunset.
April 14, 2008
a cool day in Crooked River SP. At 1000 hrs it has risen to 57
outside. Light breeze, very clear skies, bright sunny.
This is a beautiful place, we're so happy Pete and Karen Abbot recommended
it to us. Jim spent the morning messing around outside. He worked up a large pile of kindling from some 2 X 10s we found abandoned in another campsite, then he strung his copper wire dipole antenna between a couple of tall trees to improve send/receive on his ham radio. We were going to hike some of the trails but after lunch the wind picked up and was howling. A perfect excuse to stay in and work on this website.
We uploaded dozens of new pictures from Melbourne, took new ones to flesh out our Home Improvements page, and organized the pictures. You wouldn't think we could work all day on so little, but one or the other of us was on this until after midnight. We enjoy doing this and, from your comments, some of you like our work. After dark Jim tried out the newly arranged antenna and made contacts on 20 meters and 40 meters with ham operators in northern California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Maryland, and others. This is the most contacts Jim has made in one sitting. And this was with the antenna hung sub-optimally because he couldn't reach the higher limbs with his throwing stick. Just wait 'til he gets his throwing arm limbered up!
April 13, 2008
Melbourne mid-morning and drove I-95 to Crooked River State Park
near historic St Marys GA. The two hundred mile drive was uneventful
and smooth. We stopped for gas after two hours, and had the
truck and camper weighed on the CAT scales. Our last weighing
was August 17, 2007, in Montana enroute to British Columbia.
If you've read our
last Summer's travels you'll remember we were on a nine week
rehearsal for this full-timing adventure. We tried to carry
everything we thought we'd need for full-timing. Our trailer
is three hundred pounds heavier than last August, and the truck is
one hundred pounds heavier. We're surprised we aren't
heavier than this, since we found we repeatedly were adding things
to the truck and trailer at the last minute as we vacated the
We are in our third month full-timing and think we have at least everything we
need. How much can we jettison? Anything we don't
need! We have two modes for weight management. One
is to move heavy items to the truck (which doesn't have very much
space remaining) which reduces weight on the trailer's axles.
The other is to completely eliminate items, which reduces our
rolling weight and should improve our gas mileage.
We are too early in the game to know what we won't need. Some things, though, are
already coming to mind. We moved two dozen books to the truck,
as well as three briefcases. If you cannot find something, you
probably haven't needed it. When we find the dumbbells we'll
mark them for disposal -- they total ninety pounds, I think.
Office supplies were dear to our hearts for so long we were
reluctant to leave them behind. We can probably dump some of
Our reluctance to let things go is a small example of how we
accidentally and unnecessarily complicate our lives. Our life
is much simpler now and can be even more so. Hmm, how many
bottles of wine should we carry?
April 12, 2008
made an early morning trip to the Flea market for heat-shrink tubing
and produce. Then spent a couple hours at Canova Beach,
toured a few neighborhoods, and back to Land Yacht Harbor to begin
the end of our two-week stay. We put away awnings, chairs,
grill, etc. in preparation for leaving the next morning.
April 11, 2008
early to wash and wax the trailer. We quickly washed the east
side before the sun heated it up, then washed the remainder.
Squeegeed and polished the exterior and waxed the shady sides.
Last trip to the hardware store to exchange unused items, resupply
our nuts/bolts assortment, and find a suitable "stay" for
positioning the catalytic heater while it's in use. Jim
installed the rod we had purchased to hold the catalytic heater in
place while it is in use and drilled holes in it for
positioning. This installation is now complete and is a big
improvement over the free-standing heater. We finished waxing
the other side of the trailer in the evening after it had cooled
off. This wax job should last us at least six months.
April 10, 2008
Jim cut and riveted two 18" squares of .0625" thick aluminum, then cut
them to shape the hanger for our catalytic heater. He
cleaned and sanded the squares and painted them and the bbq grill
lid with the bbq grill black paint. After riveting the
aluminum hanger to a piece of continuous hinge, he installed the
hanger in the camper. Then removed the hanger, mounted it to
the catalytic heater and re-installed it finally. Arranged a
reliable means of securing the heater while traveling, and called it
done for now.
April 7, 2008
Beach day at Paradise Beach. The beach was so crowded we knew we
were on Spring Break! Skies were gorgeous blue, beach was the
nicest one we've visited here. Water was very rough and not
particularly inviting. We read our books and tore ourselves
away after a couple hours.
Toured the Eau Gallie Hardware store for heat-resistant paint, bolts,
and brackets for improving the catalytic heater and the gas bbq
grill. The hardware store's late 1950's styling is bound to gain it an
historic site award. The wide variety of quality hardware made
it a winner for us. We quickly found all the pieces we
April 5, 2008
We shopped the local flea market this morning. It was tremendous
but not stupendous. Almost half of what we saw closely
resembled the Charleston Market, with leather goods, sunglasses,
jewelry, and special clothing. And the flea market had several
food vendors admittedly not as classy as the Charleston
Market. The big differentiator is the other half of the stuff we saw
today--the bunch of really cheap junk presented at this flea
We escaped with very fresh produce and a sort of
gladness we didn't buy anything else. We could have purchased
a three-pack of athletic socks, or some movie dvds, either one for
three dollars. I don't have any need for more one additional
pair of socks and we found no movie titles worth three
dollars. The produce, though, is excellent. We have
beautiful white corn, two red peppers, broccoli, grapefruit,
Valencia oranges, and avocado. Oh, and stupendous
After lunch Jim installed our Bose miniature
speakers in our front roof locker. They aim out at the concave
front corners of the Airstream's nose and bounce into the camper's
space. The sub-woofer is hidden between the dinette bench and
the sofa. They sound very nice and we are sort of surrounded
by the sound. Jim finished Michener's The Covenant last night and
today found a fiction adventure Cussler book to entertain him a few
days, and Deb is plodding through Michener's The Novel.
Halfway through it still hasn't swept her up. Some books just
a walk through every lane in this RV Park before cocktails this
evening. Immediately upon returning to our site the rain
started. We reefed the large curbside awning and closed the
unshielded windows on the same side. We still had three large
windows overhung fully with awnings. The rain hammered down,
we had lots of lightning and thunder, and the outside temperature
suddenly dropped seven degrees.
We like sitting
on the sofa so close to Mother Nature but still dry and enjoying even
heavy thunderstorms. The rain abated after one half-hour. We
opened more windows and the outer door to watch the sun peaking
through the passing storm clouds. [Excuse me, I'll be right
I'm back. The rain restarted and I had to close a roof vent,
the outside door, and a window, for now. The rain is going to
continue, softer and intermittently, for a while. We'll keep
an eye on the Memphis-UCLA NCAA Men's bb game, listen to Dixie
Chicks Home, and enjoy the rain.
Men's NCAA BB:
Kansas had a great night tonight and North Carolina didn't.
ACC season champion and ACC tournament Champion and Final Four is a
great run for the program. Roy Williams will still have plenty
of recruiting power. Our team will be back.
April 4, 2008
Today is laundry day. We found a nice
local laundromat a few miles away and checked it out. We
washed and dried two large loads of clothes for $8.50.
This is in line for our previous launderings. Since we carry
spare towels, bed linens and clothes, we are prepared for two-week
laundry intervals. This time we were seventeen days since last
washing. No problems, we had not run out of clean underwear or
anything, honest!Laundry goes pretty quickly for us, even with
over two weeks worth. We run two front-load commercial
washers, one with light and one with dark clothes. We carry a
bottle of liquid detergent and one of liquid softener. The
front load machines use less than one-half cup of detergent.
We read magazines or books for the 1/2 hour the washing machines
require, then again while the clothes dry. In just over an
hour we are hanging shirts and slacks and folding everything
else. In under an hour and one-half we are on our way home to
put everything away. It's a piece of cake.
April 3, 2008
We breakfasted on cold cereal with
amazing strawberries then drove out to the beach for a few hours of
sunning, reading, and relaxing. A few rain drops, 80 degrees,
and 15 mph winds all very comfortable. We returned to a hot RV
but quickly cooled it with opening windows and roof vent fans.
Its 78 inside the RV now, very comfortable with soft breezes flowing
through. We ate our lunch on the patio under the awning, read
the newspaper and some magazines. Just a really relaxing day.
We're trying to study carefully about using file transfer protocol (ftp) to completely change how we
manage our website. Our host company, Startlogic, rudely
forced us out of our former happiness into this new and supposedly
wonderfully capable platform. For now we are left with
text-only journalling until we determine how to incorporate graphics
into our pages. We hope we find it to be so wonderful once we
learn the requisite tricks to push our files up into the
website. We also hope you'll like the changes. Until
then, thanks for staying with us.
April 2, 2008
Leisurely breakfast of oatmeal with cinnamon
plus green tea before going to Publix for our big weekly grocery
shopping. Dumped the black and rinse water tanks, first time
since last Thursday. Returned from shopping just in time for
Jim to load his golf clubs into Jeff's car and off they went to play
a Donald Ross 1926 golf course in Melbourne. Deb put the
groceries away then received a phone call from the RV park
office. Our mail arrived.
Deb walked over to pick it up and was
going through it when Jim returned from golf. After golf we
relaxed the rest of the afternoon and cooked supper on our grill
outside. Jim held a fifteen minute ham radio chat with his
friend, George Lamb in Winston-Salem, on 60 meters. They're
doing two or three weekly now to test the radio wave propagation and
improve their operating procedures. We watched Apollo 13
before bed. The movie was more interesting for having visited
Kennedy Space Center this week. We understood more of the
machinations of the huge process involved in launching and operating
the mission. Wish we could show you pictures here -- we're
working on it. For now, you can view the pictures in the http://picasaweb.google.com/dreamstreamr/ site.
April 1, 2008
Up for breakfast and out early to
drive 40 minutes to Kennedy Space Center. Made the first tour
bus to LSC-39 observation platform, then the Apollo/Saturn V Center,
then International Space Center Plant and back to the Visitor Center
for lunch. We watched the two IMAX movies, toured the rocket
garden, and several other exhibits.
Returned to the RV Park
and found the rain had again pounded the park. Then the big
surprise -- one of our roof vent fans stayed open despite the hard
rains. So we have a dampened bed, water on the floor, and a
wet rug. Pretty good considering. A neighbor told us the
rain had poured down from noon until after 4:00 p.m. Oh well,
we learn these little lessons just frequently enough to reinforce
the principle. The roof vent fans feature automatic rain
sensors. They are very sensitive to dew or rain and close
until the sensor dries. Several of the five controls on each
fan can sabotage this automatic rain-proofing feature. If the
human leaves a control in the wrong position, rain will enter the
This point was made numerous times
today at Kennedy Space Center. The Apollo/Saturn V has over
two million systems each of which must perform their assigned
functions and must coordinate and cooperate with the other
systems. If someone leaves a switch in the wrong position then
rain could enter the capsule unabated. Or some other failure
much worse. Two million systems all are critical for the
survival of the crew. Okay, a little water in the camper
really is no big deal.