Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Homeward Bound via Shaver Lake

Monday, July 27, 2009 – Brett called us as we were hooking up to leave the campground and asked us to meet them for coffee before we left. Through a series of lost calls and bad cell phone reception we settled on the meeting place and met them for coffee and good-byes. We left Paradise and continued south to Fresno where we took the cut-off to Shaver Lake. Steve gave us directions to a largo park and ride lot just before the 7-Mile Hill going up to Shaver. We disconnected the car, parked the motorhome and headed up the mountain to spend the night with Steve and Janice Mitchell. Their new home turned out beautiful and they are very excited to finally be in after almost two years of building. Janice made a delicious pork tenderloin for dinner and we had a great visit with them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 – We had a light breakfast of Shaver Lake’s Chunky Bread and fresh fruit smoothies. After breakfast we took a little walk around their new neighborhood to see some of the houses and properties near them. We said our good-byes and got on the road just before 10:00 AM. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the park and ride lot where we hooked up the motorhome and headed for home. After 70 days and 10,539 miles we arrived back home in Murrieta around 6:00 PM. Trips are always great but there's no place like home!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Visit with Brett and Sarah

Saturday, July 25, 2009 – We left Yreka and continued south on Interstate 5 and state 99 into Chico where we planned to spend the night and have a short visit with Brett and Sarah. The campground we had planned to use was full so we came into Paradise and stayed at the Quail Trail RV Park where we stayed last year when we were here. Since we did not know our plans we could not give them any notice so they are both working today. We were able to see them each for a short visit but we will be able to spend more time with them tomorrow before we head home with an overnight stop at Shaver Lake to see our good friends, Steve and Janice Mitchell.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 – We met Brett and Sarah at their home in Magalia and went to breakfast at a little diner they have discovered near them. Brett worked until after 2:00 AM and then didn’t get home until almost 4:00 so he was exhausted and Sarah had to work at the Boot Barn so after breakfast we went back to the motorhome for the day. Around 5:00 we drove over and picked up Brett and we drove to Chico and met Sarah when she got off of work. The four of us went to dinner at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Restaurant. We had a good meal but most of all it was great getting to see the kids. We went back to their place after dinner and visited and showed them some of the photographs from our trip before leaving them around 11:00.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Back in the "Lower 48"

Friday, July 24, 2009 – Once again we spent several hours at the repair facility only to be told they cannot replace the bad cooling sensor. They assured us that it will be fine to drive with the fan turned on all the time until we get home. We left Eugene around 11:00 AM and continued on towards home via Interstate 5 South. When we crossed the border into California the border inspection asked about fruits and vegetables and we told him we had a few apples, some blueberries, and a partial head of lettuce. He asked if we had any cherries and I had forgotten that we had a box in the refrigerator. I showed him what we had and he told us that for future reference cherries from Washington and Oregon are not allowed in California but since we had been so forthcoming about declaring them we could keep them but not to throw the pits away indiscriminately due to the threat of fruit fly contamination. Who knew? We continued on into Yreka and got a space at the Yreka RV Park for the night. We drove around Yreka and stopped for a few groceries. The campground host recommended the Puerto Vallarta Restaurant and since I never turn down Mexican food we went there for dinner. The food was great especially my molcajete which is a spicy Mexican stew. I had never had it before but immediately went online and found a recipe because it is a dish I will want to cook at home. At the end of the meal the waiter brought us each a complimentary tequila shot. I was reluctant to try it but it was surprisingly smooth and did not have a strong alcohol taste at all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Overheating, Bad Tires, Worn Out Wipers - What's next?

Monday, July 20, 2009 – We pulled out just after 6:00 AM to fill the motorhome and have it to the Freightliner shop for our 7:00 appointment. They checked out the radiator cooling fan, the thermostat, and coolant levels and everything appears to be in working order. Due to all the dirt and gravel roads in Alaska the air filter was completely clogged with dirt and dust so they changed the air and fuel filters and did an oil change and sent us on our way. We finally pulled out of Prince George just before noon and headed south towards Vancouver. Just as we got on the road we came across a young couple, Samuel and Kate, who were trying to get to Kelowna which was right on our route so we gave them a ride. We continued down Highway 97 and it took very little time to discover that the heating problem persists. We had to stop several times for the engine to cool down and finally told Samuel and Kate that they might be better off and get home quicker on their own so they left us. Fortunately, they got picked up by someone else in just a few minutes. Since we had already been held up for 4 ½ days we decided to make it a long driving day. We finally pulled into a rest stop about 9:00 PM and stayed there for the night.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 – We pulled out of the rest stop about 6:30 and by going very slowly up the grades we were able to get to Surrey without overheating. The drive is a beautiful drive along the river passing through relatively low mountains and forested areas. Along the way you pass through 7 tunnels and a series of small towns. We arrived at the Dogwood Campground in Surrey by 10:00 AM and as soon as we got set up we got maps and drove about an hour into Vancouver. We got tickets for the Hop-On and Hop-Off Trolley and took the narrated tour around the city. We learned that Vancouver is a huge city with 2.2 million people and the third largest population density just after Mexico City and Manhattan, New York. We also learned that Vancouver is a huge filming center being third after New York and Los Angeles and that my favorite movie, “Pretty Woman”, was filmed there. We returned to the campground and took a quick orientation drive to figure out the location of the caterpillar repair center as we have an appointment with them in the morning to try once again to find out why we are overheating. We made dinner at home and tried to cool off – it was 103 inside the motorhome when we got back from Vancouver.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 – We left the campground early for our appointment at the CAT repair center in Surrey, BC to try and repair the continuing overheating problem. They determined that the diagnosis from Freightliner in Prince George was completely wrong and that the sensor that controls the cooling fan is not working. They did not have the part but were able to disconnect the sensor and allow the fan to run continuously and keep the engine cool so we could continue on our trip. The US/Canada border was only about a 15 mile drive from Surrey and after a 30 minute wait we crossed the border at Blaine, WA. We had heard so many horror stories about border crossing but with a total of 8 crossings during this trip we had not one single problem. We continued to drive south on Interstate 5 all the way through Washington and into Junction City, Oregon to the Country Coach factory. When we arrived we discovered that the on-site factory campground is no longer available and their operation reduced even more than we imagined after their recent bankruptcy. We ended up parking in the parking lot at the company headquarters and quickly drove to a Mexican restaurant where we had eaten on our last visit. We “dry camped” in the parking lot overnight and were able to get a satellite television signal for the first time in weeks so we were able to watch our local hometown news before going to bed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009 - When we woke up this morning before 7:00 AM we were told that Country Coach no longer offers any kind of service and we were directed to some other businesses in the area. We called a couple of the repair companies and could not get an appointment for today but we were able to get one for 8:00 AM tomorrow. I had noticed that our front tire looked a little worn on the outside edge so we stopped at Les Schwab Tire Center and had it inspected. We were told that we needed to replace at least the two front tires very soon and since Oregon does not have sales tax we would save well over $100 by getting the tires while we are here so we had it done. They said the wear pattern on the tires indicated an alignment problem so they sent us to a brake and alignment company nearby. Unfortunately they had no appointments available for almost a week so we decided to wait until we get home for that service. We dropped off the motorhome at a very nice campground called the Premier RV Resort where we will camp for tonight and then headed off to take care of some errands. In addition to the overheating problem we wanted to take care of some small do-it-yourself type repairs. We needed to replace clips for two of our drawers so they don’t open while we drive and we needed new wiper blades. The drawer clips were easy but it took several stops before we were able to get the right size of wiper blades. We completed our projects once we got back to the campground, went to the Jacuzzi for a while and made some of the halibut we caught in Ninilchik. If we can get the other repair done in the morning we will once again be on our way home.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Waiting and Waiting ... 4 Days in Prince George

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 – We have not seen nearly the amount of wild life we thought we would see in Alaska but this morning we saw two bears and for the first time ever we saw a wolf. As we drove we continued to have trouble with overheating which means we will have to get it checked as soon as possible. We traveled as far as Burns Lake when the guys decided they were tired of driving and ready to stop for the night. Unfortunately, as we pulled into the campground Bill Dickey discovered that he had lost the tread on his tow vehicle and the flapping of the rubber had damaged his truck. We both disconnected and quickly set up then we followed him to the dealership to get a new tire. We stopped at the store for a few groceries and picked up KFC for dinner before returning to the campground for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, July 16, 2009 – The first thing this morning Bill called Country Coach and the Caterpillar hotline for repair referrals. He got the number for a Freightliner repair center in Prince George and made an appointment. However, they cannot see us until Monday at 7:00 AM which means we will be held over in Prince George for at least the next 4 days. After we got set up we all left together to get some lunch and go to Costco. We finished our shopping and returned to camp for the rest of the evening.

Friday, July 17, 2009 – Both guys went to play golf this morning and had a good time. Pam and I went to the mall and went grocery shopping. Corey called to tell us that our dog, Lady is vomiting, not eating, and quite lethargic. He will take her to the vet in the morning.

Saturday, July 18, 2009 - Bill and I drove to the downtown section of Prince George and went to the Farmer’s Market. We got some fresh cherries and also found a special housewarming gift for our good friends Steve and Janice. When we returned home we received a call from Corey with bad news from the vet. Lady has terminal kidney disease and will be hospitalized over the weekend with IVs and medication. We had some rain this afternoon which helped wash some of the grime off the car and motorhome. The time in camp gave me a good opportunity to get caught up with labeling all of our photographs from this trip. We had a simple dinner of leftovers and Bill and Pam came over to play games for a while.

Sunday, July 19, 2009 – Bill and Pam left this morning and continued on their trip since we are stuck in Prince George until at least Monday morning. Bill and I tried to go to a movie but there was very little we were interested in seeing and our timing was all off for what was showing. At the suggestion of the campground host we went to the Bonnet Hill Pub for dinner. It was a good recommendation because the food was good, the prices were reasonable, and it had a relaxing and casual atmosphere. I was able to finish labeling all of my photos and got the banking and bill paying up to date.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What, No Bears in Hyder?

Monday, July 13, 2009 – We continued on down the Cassiar Highway through beautiful scenery along a well maintained road. We have been having a little problem with overheating so when we got to a pull-out near Bear Glacier we stopped and Bill and Pam continued on to Hyder, AK to secure campsites for both of us. After a short time we completed the remaining short drive into Hyder and our site at Camp Run-A-Muck. Hyder, Alaska is an interesting spot consisting of all dirt and gravel roads, several abandoned businesses, a couple of gift shops, the Glacier Inn and Bar/Restaurant, the Sealaska Inn and Bar/Restaurant, the General Store and the campground. Suzi, who runs Camp Run-A-Muck is very friendly and helpful proudly circling points of interest in and around town as we registered. After we settled in, which was no small feat given that it took four or five attempts to get leveled, we drove up the road to the Fish Creek Bear Viewing platform only to discover that we came all this way to see the bears who have not yet arrived due to the fact that the salmon run is late. As we got out of the car Bill noticed one large black bear in the rear view mirror and by the time the rest of us saw him he was almost across the road and into the bushes not to be seen again. We stayed a short time at the viewing area before deciding to go to “The Bus” for dinner. We have heard nothing but rave reviews about The Bus as the lady who runs it is married to a commercial fisherman and she cooks all the fresh seafood in a bus. It is supposed to be delicious but we will have to wait and see because when we arrived we were greeted with a hand-lettered sign saying it was closed for the day. Oh well, we thought since seafood was out of the question we would go have some pizza at the Sealaska. We drove the equivalent of a block or two and parked in front of the place and went inside only to be told the kitchen was closed. So as a last resort we drove over to the Glacier Inn and Bar. When you step inside you notice that all of the walls, every square inch of them, are covered in bills with messages written on them. This is a common theme in Alaska as we saw it at the Howling Dog Saloon in Fairbanks, the Salty Dog Saloon in Homer, and now here in Hyder. The bills starting appearing in 1956 and in some places hinged panels have been installed making the layers of bills 3 deep. According to the waitress there is over $80,000 worth of bills on the walls. In addition to the bills there is an assortment of animal trophies and hard hats mounted throughout the place. The Glacier Inn’s claim to fame is that the bar was used as The Eternity Bar in the filming of the movie Leaving Normal and tourist are reminded to go there and get “hyderized” before leaving town. We all had the halibut nuggets with fries and found them to be good but not fantastic which we are finding to be pretty much the norm. After we had dinner we returned to the Bear Viewing platform where we saw no bears but we did see a pair of beavers, several spawning salmon, and some bald eagles.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 – We headed toward Salmon Glacier with a stop at the Fish Creek Bear Viewing platform only to be told that there had been two bears a little earlier but they were now gone. We continued on up the gravel road toward the glacier and the farther we went the foggier it got. At about mile 13 on the 20-mile drive it was apparent that we were not going to see any part of the glacier since we could barely see the side of the road. We turned around and returned to camp with another stop at the viewing platform only to be told once again there are no bears. We kept an eye on the sky and when the clouds and fog cleared late in the afternoon Bill and I once again headed up to the glacier. Our persistence paid off with one of the most spectacular views we have ever seen. Although we have seen dozens of glaciers we have never had the vantage point of being up above the glacier and looking down upon it. The sky was completely clear and some young visitors we talked to said that it is rare for the sky to be so clear and that very few people get the view we got. Up until this point in all of our travels Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon have been the most awe-inspiring views we have seen but the Salmon Glacier is certainly at least their equal. After spending about half an hour at the top we made our way back down the mountain to our campground. When we got back we told Bill and Pam that they absolutely had to drive up there and see the view for themselves because our words could not begin to do it justice. While they drove up we went over to “The Bus” for our seafood dinner. We had halibut and since it was our last night in Alaska we also splurged on an order of Alaskan king crab legs to share. We shared a table with four men traveling by motorcycle from Illinois and Alabama. During dinner we asked them if they had seen the glacier and they had not. After hearing us rave about it they really wanted to see it but did not have enough gas in their bikes and the gas station was already closed so we loaned them our car. We walked the short distance back to camp and about two hours later the bikers returned with our car. They were as awed by the view as we were and we very appreciative that we had insisted they go and take our car. After they got their bikes and checked into their hotel one of them came back and gave us his card and said if we are ever in Alabama to be sure and look him up. In the morning we will leave Alaska and continue south on the Cassiar Highway toward Prince George, British Columbia.

South Klondike and Cassiar Highways

Saturday, July 11, 2009 – We drove to the main part of Skagway and did a little shopping before stopping for lunch at the Sweet Tooth CafĂ©. We checked out of our campground just before 2:00 PM and then headed north on the South Klondike Highway. We crossed out of Alaska and into British Columbia about 20 miles north of Skagway. The crossing went fairly well with the usual questions about alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. In addition, the border agent asked if we were retired, what our jobs had been, if we were full time RVers, and whether we had more than $10,000 in cash. We answered all of his questions and then he asked to come on board. He wanted to see what alcohol we had and asked if we had a safe for our valuables. We told him we had no safe so he wanted to see where we kept our money. I showed him what he wanted to see, he thanked us, and we were on our way. The South Klondike Highway is a well maintained road through picturesque mountains and past several beautiful lakes and rivers. We took the Carcross Road cut-off which rejoins the Alaska Highway a little south of Whitehorse. We stopped at Yukon Motel and RV Park for the night. It is a nice campground right on Teslin Lake in Teslin, BC. Tomorrow we will continue retracing our path down the Alaska Highway to the junction with the Cassiar Highway.

Sunday, July 12, 2009 – We woke up early so got on the road by 8:00 AM continuing to retrace our route on the Alaska Highway to just west of Watson Lake. We stopped for lunch and fuel at Nugget City before starting south on the Cassiar Highway. We have heard wildly varying stories about the driving conditions on this particular highway so we were not sure what to expect but given some of the roads we have traveled it couldn’t be worse at least. As expected the first 16 miles was under construction and had numerous gravel breaks. From there the road continued mostly narrow paved roads with an occasional gravel break or frost heave but overall a decent road. We made a couple of stops at Jade City which claims to produce and export 90% of the world’s supply of jade. We also made a short stop to look at some moose in one of the numerous lakes, ponds, rivers, and creeks along the route. It was approaching 5:00 PM and both guys were tired of driving so we pulled in to the Dease Lake RV Park. It is a nice enough park with water, electric, and free wi-fi for only $22 and best of all very few mosquitoes. Alaska is notorious for their mosquitoes which are jokingly referred to as their state bird and British Columbia is almost as bad. We have all come to hate the nasty things as we are covered from head to toe with nasty bites and welts and will be surprised if we don’t come down with malaria or West Nile Virus.