Summer Travel Map

Monday, August 31, 2009

Welcome to Oregon

August 31, 2009
Cannon Beach, OR

Don't forget: you can click on any thumbnail picture to see it full size.

OK, to start, here are a couple of pictures from Sunday that got stuck in the camera.

(Trying different formatting on the pictures...)

Today, we did a bit of sightseeing. First, we were quite taken aback by one of the neighbors. What a coach! What a mess. Oh, well, one person's mess is another's livelihood, I suppose.

Later, we took a trip to the beach. We definitely remember being here on our 1993 trip. Today was cool and breezy, so we didn't stay long. We made a quick trip to Seaside (~8 miles north) for some tax-free outlet shopping (didn't buy much) and headed home for Geri's world-famous Chicken Alfredo. Mmmm.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I love the smell of chip-seal in the morning

August 30, 2009
Cannon Beach, OR

We made the easy drive from Forks to Cannon Beach today and were rewarded with - more road construction. We had 14 miles of chip sealing south of Forks and 44 miles of it south of Queets on US-101 in Washington. Chip sealing is a process where they spread a layer of asphalt covered by loose stone chips to put a new surface on a road. It's way easier (and cheaper, of course) than new blacktop, but it's a stop-gap treatment at best. They do nothing to eliminate frost heaves (yes, US-101 is full of them which surprised me since I though the climate was too moderate here for that) and create a rough surface that increases road noise and throws small rocks everywhere. With the cover on the car, we're relatively safe from damage.

All in all, it was a reasonably nice drive. The weather was cool and cloudy but it didn't rain. The scenery was mostly forested, with a lot of logging having been done over the years. Whole swaths of the trees are of "different vintages" as they've been harvested and replanted at different times. There was even an area where hurricane-force winds took out a lot of trees in 2007; those were harvested as well.

The sun came out for a few minutes as we came to the mouth of the Columbia River. We had a nice view as we crossed the tall bridge into Astoria, Oregon, and enjoyed pointing out a few sites we saw when we did this drive in the fall of 1993 (surprised that memory still works!).

We arrived in Cannon Beach on schedule, except that I turned right instead of left getting off the 101, so we had a slight detour through part of town before we got settled. I apparently didn't ask enough questions when I made the reservation since we got a 30-amp site instead of 50-amp, but we'll survive. With temperatures in the upper-60s, we certainly don't need the air conditioning!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Check: Northwestern Point

August 29, 2009
Cape Flattery, Makah Indian Nation, Washington

Note: don't forget to click on pictures to enlarge, and to click on the link below to view all the posted pictures.

One of our "projects" (some call them "bucket list" items) is to visit interesting places, especially geographic extremes. We've been to West Quoddy Head Light in Lubec, Maine (easternmost point in the US), Key West's "most southerly point" marker (close the actual point), and Anchor Point, Alaska (most westerly point in the US connected by roads - OK, a stretch). Now, we've been to the most northwestern point in the continental US, Cape Flattery.

Surrounded by the Olympic National Forest and National Park, the Makah Indian Nation Reservation sits on the end of the peninsula along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Technically a channel, the Strait separates the US (Washington) from Vancouver Island in Canada. Interestingly enough, the border is still subject to dispute and interpretation between the US and Canada, with the US advocating the border be based on equal distances between shorelines and Canada claiming that the border should be the deepest part of the channel. Who knew that there was still an ongoing dispute?

Anyway, we packed a lunch and the pups and headed out mid-morning. North on US-101 and WA-113, then west on WA-112, we had clouds and some fog on the drive. We picked up our tribal permit in Neah Bay and made the drive out to the Cape from there, parking at the trailhead and making the short 20-minute walk out to the point. Well, we might have taken more than 20 minutes, but who cares? we're retired. I give Geri a lot of credit for making the trek, as there was a bit of verticality involved. We got quite a few photos (click here for pictures) and saw some wildlife (mostly birds and the odd sea otter). All in all, a great day trip.

Friday, August 28, 2009

No Vamps Yet

August 28, 2009
Forks, WA

As always, click on any picture to enlarge...

OK, so you have to be up on the latest trends to know why Forks, WA is famous. It's the central location of a series of novels that were encapsulated in the movie Twilight. Similar to the phenomenon after the movie Sideways turned people on to Pinot Noir, the Santa Maria/Santa Ynez valleys in California, or (hopefully for them) both, a cottage industry has grown up in this area around themes drawn from the movie. There are maps and tours, none of which really intrigued us as DIY folks. It's fun, though, to see the various manifestations, most kitschy.

After we arrived, we took a ride out to Rialto Beach because it was a sunny, cloudless day. As we're staying about 10 miles from the Pacific, we headed west on WA-110. As we were driving, I noticed a headwind growing in strength and we soon realized that we were in for some sea air. As we got closer to the coast, we could see the low clouds billowing up and, sure enough, it was cloudy and breezy on the beach. We walked a bit and took a few photos before heading to the small town of La Push, where the weather was pretty much the same. No worries; we still got some interesting shots even though the rock formation just offshore weren't completely in view.

Even though yesterday was nice, this is the Washington coast so today dawned cloudy with showers. No worries; let's just chill out today! We made reservations for the remainder of our trip, that portion from Napa (end of the caravan) back to AZ. We'll stay a week each in Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Buellton (all on the California central coast) and Las Vegas. I booked our tickets for Cirque du Soleil's show (dinner at Craftsteak in advance), and may book another if we have time (OK, if we have time and money).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Wonderful Rest

August 26, 2009
Chimacum, WA

Wow, how quickly two weeks can go by! We decided to "drop anchor" for a bit to recharge after our trip north through western Canada to Alaska and back, and we certainly picked a good spot for that. The Escapees park in Chimacum was quiet and relaxing. Other than some minor issues with the 30 amp power, we enjoyed the full hook-ups. We'll have 50 amp power or be dry camping for the rest of the trip.

The weather has been great, with mostly sunny days and cool nights. We relaxed, read some, and finally got the energy to run through all the laundry and tackle a few minor maintenance projects around the coach. I replaced a switch for the water pump with one I got at Napa Auto Parts, and fixed a loose spot in the rubber gasket that protects the bottom on the radiator. I cleaned the drain in the lavatory sink. You get the idea.

We did dodge three bullets during the visit, though. The first was a week ago Wednesday. I dropped Geri off so she could get her hair done and explored the area a bit in the nearby town of Poulsbo. I found the Home Depot and the WalMart Supercenter (the essentials of life, in that order), and picked her up on schedule. As we left the hair place, she spotted a Central Market and we knew we had to stop. Central Market is a grocery chain that's not quite as foo-foo as Whole Foods but way more interesting than Safeway. It's most like Stew Leonard's or Wegman's, which are mostly in the northeast.

Anyway, we picked up a few things, made some notes on things to get on a return trip with menu ideas mapped out, and headed for WalMart to grab the remaining things on "the list". As I was walking into the store, I took of my sunglasses and reached to my collar to get my "regular" pair - uh oh - where are my glasses? Instantly, I vaguely remembered hearing a clicking sound as I was loading bags into the car at Central Market. Just as quickly, I started to rue the decision I made to not have my spare pair (yes, I got spares before we headed off to the wilds of Alaska) made with the bifocals I so desperately need). Leaving Geri to do the shopping, I high-tailed it back to Central Market, found our parking spot and dropped to my knees to see if the glasses were there (crushed or not). Nope. Let's look all around the area. Nada. OK, let's pull everything out of the cooler and the bags to see if I got lucky. Ha. OK, into the store to see if anyone found them. "Sorry, fella; give us your name and number and we'll call you if they're found". Dejected, I head back to WalMart to pick Geri up. As I park, the phone rings; I figure it's Geri asking me where I am. But, no! It's Central Market - someone found the glasses in their cart. Whew! Back to Central Market and back in business on the sight thing. Bullet #1 dodged.

The other two dodged bullets involve the Range Rover. As we've been traveling, we've found that there's a tolerance for towing with respect to the battery life. It seems that the internal "alarm" on the dash display that tells you the transferbox is in neutral (basically allowing all four wheels to roll free and that you should apply the handbrake) stays on all the time. Towing for a long day will pretty much guarantee that the battery is brought down to the level where it may not start the engine. Well, over the last several weeks, that tow time has gradually been shrinking, and we finally got to the point where towing wasn't needed to drop the voltage too low. Oh, how I'm so glad I bought that portable "jump start in a box" device that we carry with us! Anyway, not wanting to pay dealer prices for a replacement, I start calling around for a Group 95 battery. Costco: no. WalMart: no. Sam's: no. Napa: sure. Well, this sounds promising. Do you have one? No, but we can get it. How long? Well, there's one in Portland we can have in a week. Hmmm, not optimum but how much? $320 plus shipping. Whoa; it's a battery, not gold. Finally, I call the nearest dealer, in Tacoma. $150, plus $50 to install. Sold. Turns out it was only $136, which is a standard price for an Interstate starting battery (I was quoted roughly the same for Interstates for the coach starting batteries) - at the dealer, no less. I decided to let them put it in, since I'd given it the eyeball and couldn't see how it could be done without removing the hood. Turns out, I was partially right; they had to release the struts and flip the bonnet back to the windscreen (it's British, after all) to get access - good to know for the future. While I was there, I had then change the brake sensors which had worn out and thrown a "check brake pads" alarm. Yes, the thing tells you when it's time to change the brakes and, yes, I should have changed the sensors when I changed the pads and rotors back in April. Hmmm, maybe the brake alarm contributed to the battery drain? No matter, all fixed. Bullet #2.

When the service writer brought back the paperwork and keys, he asked if I knew I needed new tires. Well, yes, I've been tracking the wear, especially on the rears, and was hoping I could get back to AZ, or at least no-tax Oregon before changing them. With a warning that I was on borrowed time, off I went. As I drove back home (Tacoma is about 90 minutes away), I started thinking I'd better check the tires, so I made a quick stop. Yes, they're pretty worn but what's the crisis. Let's crawl under and check the inside. Wow, they're worn all the way down to the cords, with the steel belts biting my fingers as I passed over them. Ouch! This really is critical. I diverted to the nearest Discount Tire (yes, the web browser on the BlackBerry actually is useful for some things) and found that they could get replacements the next day, Friday. OK, they lied and didn't get them until Monday (I called on Friday before driving there), but we're good for another 60,000 miles (towed plus driven) there. When I checked on the old tires as they were pulled off, I was amazed that we made it as far as we did (and ticked at myself that I didn't check them more thoroughly - lesson learned). I think they had an abnormal wear pattern due to the towing, so I'll try an adjustment in air bag height in the future. And that's Bullet # 3 avoided.

So, we wrapped up our time in Chimacum with a few nice meals. Steaks with parmesan-truffle fries and a wonderful aged Rioja from Spain. Bowties with chicken and brie with a wonderful creamy cheese from Central Market and a young Chianti. Geri's famous Lo Mein with chicken and shrimp and a nice fruity Zinfandel. MMMM!

Tonight, we wrapped up everything, packed the grill away, dumped the tanks and prepared to "set sail". Tomorrow, the adventure continues...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back in the lower 48

August 17, 2009
Chimacum, WA

As always, click on any picture to enlarge...

Wow, what a strange feeling to be back in the "lower 48" after being gone for so many weeks. Here's the catch up on what's been going on.

We left Telkwa as planned on August 12th. We checked the road conditions based on the known forest fires and made the decision to bypass Whistler and Vancouver on this trip. BC-99 was still experiencing some impact from the forest fires, even though there had been some rain over the last few days, and we were feeling like it was more important to get somewhere where we could chill for a couple of weeks. The combination led us to make a beeline for the border. Well, there's no such thing as a "beeline" in that area, but we made pretty good time. We passed through the little town of Hope (why are all the places called "Hope" little towns?), with its many decorated poles and hydrants, the larger burg of Prince George (Oooo, Costco!), and eventually Chilliwack. As we got closer to the border, rest areas became less frequent, smaller, and restrictive ("Please limit your stay to 8 hours").

We stopped at the WalMart in Chilliwack only to find a 2-hour parking limit, so we headed for the border crossing at the little town of Sumas, purported to be much easier than the one at Blaine on I-5. Ha, I say! We had a heck of a time negotiating the narrow and curved entry way to the checkpoint, and were rewarded with an inquisition and search for our trouble. It didn't bother me too much if they wanted to look through the coach and car; I was just happy that I hadn't ripped the sides off on the concrete barriers. "Take your time".

From the border crossing, we headed west to pick up I-5 north of Bellingham, stopped at the first rest area to grab a bite and then headed to the next WalMart down the road to boondock for the night in a quiet place (rest areas on I-5 are generally not quiet). There were a few RVs there, but many more homeless people sleeping in their cars. Welcome back to the "real world".

From Bellingham, we made the big circle south and then northwest, through Seattle and Tacoma and up the western side of the Puget Sound. We did the math (OK, I did the math) and knew that the ferry from Keystone to Port Townsend would be a better deal, compared with the fuel to drive all the way around. "Sorry; no ferry for you" when I called for a reservation. Oh, well, it was worth a shot. Our destination was a park run by the Escapees, an RVing organization we've belonged to for several years, just south of Port Townsend. We'll stay here for probably two weeks before heading south through Oregon to northern California.

So, we've been chilling, just as we planned. Saturday, we headed up to Sequim for shopping, passing through several small towns and by a couple of interesting "locals". Sunday, as it turned out, there was a family event in the area. We planned to get in touch with Geri's niece's son, Michael, while we were here, since they now live in Puyallup, right near Tacoma. Well, it turns out that this weekend was their son Brandon's birthday, and Geri's niece, Cindy, was in town with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Jennifer. We quickly made plans to drive down yesterday afternoon, and had a good time visiting for a few hours. The weather has turned beautiful, so it was a great day.

Below, left to right, Mike and Mike (Cindy's husband and son); Leslie manages the crowd; birthday boy Brandon; Geri and Cindy

Today, we made a quick trip into Port Townsend, a quaint little village, if a little on the touristy side. I picked up a small clip at the local Napa to fix the linkage on one of the bay doors (nothing like going to dump the tanks and finding out that the door to the "wet bay" won't open), we had lunch at a brew pub (no oysters!), and found a bunch of interesting wines at the local independent wine shop (who can resist that?). From there, it was back "home" and out with the grill for a nice pork tenderloin, butter-sautéed red potatoes (aka "Grandma Reds"), and grilled zucchini. Paired with a 2000 Touriga-Nacional from the Dão in Portugal (going back tomorrow and buying the rest), and a splash of a Pedro Ximénez Solera Sherry - woo-hoo! A great meal completes a good day.

Below: A-ville well represented again in Port Townsend; interesting bumper at the Safeway

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back on the road - what clean coach and car?

August 11, 2009
Quesnel, BC, Canada

Today was a driving day. Nothing special, jus about 300 miles from Telkwa to Quesnel, still in BC. We followed TC-16 to Prince George, then took BC-97 south. Good roads, limited construction, and just enough rain to dirty up the coach and car on the outside - but nowhere near what we saw farther north. We're neatly parked at the local WalMart, as expected. There's more weather on the way, so who knows how long the Internet will be connected?

Tomorrow will be another driving day. We'll continue to head south on BC-97, and make a decision mid-day on taking BC-99 to Vancouver via Whistler or staying on BC-97 to TC-1 toward the Canada/US border at Sumas.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cleaning Up

August 10, 2009
Fort Telkwa, BC, Canada

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity, although not the kind we're used to! From our Bear Glacier boondocking spot, Friday morning we continued south on BC-37 to Kitwanga, where we fueled up at the junction with Trans-Canada-16. Heading east on TC-16, we decided to stop in Smithers for lunch and found that they have a Safeway. Time to stock up on groceries! While the shopping was being done, I stopped at the hardware store for some specialized screws (have a slide lock strike plate that's loose) and checked out the route ahead. Lo and behold, there's an RV Park in the next town with a free high-pressure RV wash! Just what the doctor ordered after the last few weeks of collecting dirt. Bob & Marlene agreed, and we both pulled in for two nights. Geri was a little shocked at the sign they have by the front gate, but it turned out to be a good place to stop.

On Saturday, it was time to tackle washing the coach. I'd done the Range Rover the evening before, and I couldn't put it off any further. Having used their pressure washer on the RR, I decided to ask if it was OK to use the small one I'd picked up earlier in the trip right at our site. This would avoid having to unhook, and Geri was already doing laundry in the coach. The fine people in the office gave the OK, and I was ready to go. I started with the roof and then did all the outside, trying to work with (actually out of) the sun as it peeked in and out of the clouds. I even cleaned the inside of the bay doors (they were caked with road dirt along the bottom edge), the battery compartment, and the engine compartment. I'd have done the generator compartment as well, if I hadn't pulled so far into the site and left little room to open it. Later in the afternoon, I got the ladder and cleaned the water spots from the windows. I even washed the ladder!

While all this was going on, Geri was working hard on the inside, getting most of the laundry done and cleaning the bath and shower. When the day was done, we knew we needed another day or so to finish the inside, so we made the decision to stay another two nights.

Since Bob & Marlene were ready to roll, we said our "safe travels" and they headed out Sunday morning. We tackled the rest of the inside cleaning yesterday and spent today relaxing and putzing. Geri made dog food and cooked up some of the provisions we had in the freezer for easy on-the-road meals, then whipped up a great veal parm dinner. I started figuring out where we'll head next, recognizing that a) we're still wary of forest fires south of here and b) we're really in need of a place to chill for a couple of weeks prior to our upcoming caravan in California. I got far enough to know where we'll stay the next few nights, where we'll cross the border, and where we'll stay in Washington. Don't want to start planning too far in advance! I caught up on some bill paying and email reading as well (forgot to mention that the dish is back in operation, although our DirecTV receivers need reauthorization - have to call for TV). Overall, we're ready to hit the road south tomorrow, rain (it's rained on and off for two days - first rain we've seen in weeks) or shine.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK

August 6, 2009
Bear Glacier, Stewart, BC

Yesterday's travels were mostly uneventful. We continued south on the Cassiar Highway, making our way through some more construction zones. One was so "fresh" with gravel, I think they were using the through traffic (us) to pack it down for them. Slow going!

Once past Dease Lake, about halfway down the Cassiar, the road turned better, with some sections having been rebuilt as late as 2008. We went from slow to smooth, always wondering when it'd turn slow again. The rest of the day was pretty good, though. We caught up with Bob & Marlene at the junction of the road to Stewart/Hyder, made a bad choice for a stopping spot, and had to drive about two miles farther on looking for a place to turn around. Oh, well; it happens.

Once oriented in the right direction, we headed toward Stewart/Hyder but opted to stop at Bear Glacier, about 25 miles out. What a good call! We parked right across a small pond that's partially fed from the glacier. We had a great view and a quiet night. Geri got the best glacier picture of the bunch, posted below.

In the morning, we woke to find a new neighbor had pulled in during the night. A guy driving a SUV towing a cargo trailer had stopped, almost out of gas. Bob let him borrow their car to go to town for fuel; nice guy!

Once we were on the road, we headed into Stewart, BC. It's a small port town (Canada's most northern ice-free harbor) that relies on logging more than anything these days. We saw thousands of logs piled up or floating in the harbor, waiting to be loaded on ships bound for who knows where. We left the coaches parked at the Visitor's Centre, and headed across the border to the funky little town of Hyder, Alaska. It's pretty small and only accessible by road from Stewart. We had the easiest border crossing of the trip - the US doesn't even maintain a checkpoint, so we didn't even have to stop!

Once in Hyder, we were disappointed to find that the road up to Salmon Glacier was under repair and they were only letting two tour busses (actually a school bus) up there a week. We know it was a school bus since we saw it leave town. We knew we weren't going to hang around waiting for the next bus, or for the road to open, so we headed to the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area. This is one of the best places to see bears catching salmon - except we were there at the wrong time of day. We watched the salmon for a while and decided to save Hyder for our next trip.

We collected the coaches, Geri saw a colorful fire hydrant, we took advantage of the free dump/water station in town, and then we headed back to our new favorite spot overlooking Bear Glacier for another restful evening.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the way south from Skagway

August 4, 2009
Jade City, BC, Canada

Yesterday was a simple driving day. We left Skagway midday (a late start for us) and headed back up the hill for Carcross. It was a short drive, but we wanted to stop for pictures at some of the turnouts we'd "saved" for the return trip. Well, that's a lesson learned - don't do that! The smoke was so bad we really weren't able to get many shots once we left Skagway. Geri took a shot of a tourist trap in town (note the signs on the building next door), and more of a small waterfall along the highway. There are a number of these small falls along the roads, fed by snowmelt (yes, there's still some snow melting at elevation in August.

We caught up with Bob & Marlene in a small town called Carcross, back in the Yukon Territory. It was originally called "Caribou Crossing", but later shortened. We bookdocked in a large lot in the middle of the small town, where it was pretty quiet. If they had sidewalks, they'd have been rolled up before sunset (now a 10:30 PM event).

Today was a little more complicated, but still basically a driving day. We left Carcross and headed back toward the Alaska Highway on the "Tagish Cut-off". It was a smooth drive all the way to Watson Lake, where we fueled up at the PetroPass card-lock site. After a quick lunch, we headed south on the Cassiar Highway. Well, we were in for a surprise. We found some of the worst road conditions we've seen all summer, and that includes the "dreaded Top of the World Highway" into Dawson City. Bad construction zones, no shoulders, and severe frost heaves were all in abundance. To make matters worse, we caught up with a series of slow-moving RVs (mostly travel trailers and fifth wheels - and don't you know some idiots were passing everyone in the gravel stretches? I thought we were at the dirt-track races ("They're two-wide in the corners, Jimmy!"). We let that whole crowd pass or fall back after a while, but the road didn't improve much. We made it to a place called Jade City, where a large portion of the world's jade is mined and processed (who knew?). We stopped in the shop and looked over the mining and processing equipment outside, but didn't feel tempted by anything other than their free overnight RV parking. Friendly people, though.

Click here for pictures.

Tomorrow, we'll continue down the Cassiar Highway, looking for better road conditions and heading for the little towns of Stewart, BC, and Hyder, AK.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Historic Dyea

August 2, 2009
Dyea, AK

Awaking to a cloudy day for a change, we decided to make the trip out to the historic town at Dyea. Pronounced "die-yea", it's a preservation site of the National Park Service (yes, we're back in the US at this point), and we use the term "preservation" very loosely. Once a thriving port, only a few traces are left just over 100 years later.

Dyea was the starting point for the Chilkoot Trail, used by the early stampeders headed for Dawson City in the Yukon in 1897-1898. Each person wanting to cross the mountains into Canada was required to bring a year's worth of supplies with them - roughly two tons of "stuff" - to ensure that they could survive. They had to have everything shipped in by steamer from Seattle, then carried (by themselves or by hired help, usually Native Americans/First Nations people, depending on which side of the border you were on) over the 3,000'+ Chilkoot Pass, then by boat (many self-constructed on the fly) across the lakes and down the Yukon River. It took the better part of a year, depending on the seasons and weather, to make the journey. No wonder they called it "gold fever" - you had to be crazy to try!

Now, all that's left of Dyea are some ruins in what's become a wooded glen, and a few pilings out in the tidal flats. Abandoned in the early-1900s, most of the structures were salvaged for scrap or left to rot. The pier, which extended out into the tidal bay for two miles to reach deeper water, is almost gone. Interestingly, because the valley was formed by glacial forces in the last Ice Age, the land is "springing back" at the rate of 3/4" per year - that means that the town site is over 6' higher than it was during the Gold Rush, changing the ability to support plant life - the whole thing is treed over at this point, to the point where it's remarkable to imagine that there was a bustling port town there just 100+ years ago. Being from the east coast, where "historical" sites are generally from the 1620s-1860s timeframes, it's an interesting change of perspective.

After a self-guided walking tour and a 15 minute session with the on-site Park Ranger talking about the history, we had lunch in the car, spotting a black bear poking his nose out of the brush in the process. We then drove out on the tidal flats to the ruins of the pier, startling a bald eagle resting on one of the pilings in the process. On the way back to Skagway, we stopped at two cemeteries: one in Dyea called "Slide Cemetery" (over 70 people were killed on Palm Sunday, 1898, when a spring avalanche caught everyone by surprise) and the other in Skagway. It's amazing that these cemeteries survive, deep in the woods as they are today.

On the hill above the Skagway "Gold Rush Cemetery", I found a small waterfall that was worth a few photos. It was more interesting than the "world's largest gold nugget" - a painted boulder, ha ha.

Click here for pictures.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

On to Skagway

August 1, 2009
Skagway, AK

It was a relatively quiet day. We drove the 150+/- miles from Whitehorse to Skagway, traveling down the historic Klondike Highway. I'm not sure why it's so historic, since it was the last mode of transportation built, lagging behind the Yukon River (since the last Ice Age), the Chilkoot Trail (walking trail used by the First Nations people as a trading route, followed by the early Gold Rush stampeders), the railroad (the White Pass & Yukon Route was completed in the early 1900s), and then the actual roads in the 1940-1960 timeframe.

In any case, it was an easy drive. We stopped at Emerald Lake and learned about how the calcium carbonate deposits left in the Ice Age cause the distinct coloration of the water. We passed the small town of Carcross (where Bob & Marlene were waiting for us - we didn't see them and they didn't see us - oops) and headed down into Skagway. Many of the port cities and towns have the same winding, descending access roads: Valdez, Seward, Homer, Skagway. Now that we're near the southeast panhandle of Alaska, there is a border crossing involved in getting to each Alaskan town, since coastal access is by water only.

We arrived in Skagway early in the afternoon and checked into one of the three RV parks in town, and older place with pretty tight site spacing. As I was backing into the spot, one of the "neighbors" was out with his camera; I'm sure he was waiting for an accident of some kind. Sorry, fella. For two nights, we can make anything work. Bob & Marlene arrived shortly thereafter and took the spot next to us.

Late in the afternoon, we drove "downtown" for souvenir shopping, dodging the cruise boat people, then headed up to a scenic overlook for a couple of late day pictures. I had a hankering for pizza, but we met a "local" at the overlook who steered us to a fish/BBQ place down by the docks. Was he working on commission? Who knows. They had some interesting decorations inside and out. The food was good - Geri had halibut and chips and I had ribs (almost as good as I can make at home). We had a good time with Bob & Marlene, trying to guess if the hostess was wearing a thong. And that's all I'm goin' to say about that.