Monday, August 31, 2009

Skagway and Haines, Alaska

Hi Everyone,

What a beautiful day in Haines, Alaska. We were up at 5 am to catch to 7 am ferry from Skagway to Haines. It was a one hour trip by ferry. We left Skagway in fog and arrived in Haines with blue skies, a few white puffy clouds, temperature of 64 degrees F, and just a little wind.

After leaving the ferry, we checked out the three RV parks in Haines and settled in on the one that caught our attention the most. After eating breakfast, taking a nap (we aren't used to getting up at 5 am), and eating lunch, we set out to explore the town on our bikes. It was a perfect day for that.

We stopped first at the American Bald Eagle Foundation and toured the small facility. We learned that nearly 3,000 bald eagles gather along a four mile stretch of the Chilkat River, close to Haines, every fall to feast on the late salmon run. We will miss the event because it happens in October and November and is the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world each year.

While at the Foundation, we saw over 300 stuffed animals, birds and fish. Even though they are dead, it is interesting to see them up and close. The picture is of a blue heron.

Here is our take on Haines thus far. It is night and day from Skagway. Where Skagway was a quaint conclave of small gift shops, one right after another (60% being jewelry stores), Haines is more or less like the small town I grew up in -- where people actually live here. The few gift shops that are here are scathered here and there around Haines, a town of 2,300 people.

But, the cruise ships still stop here. And we can see why. Like Skagway, the town of Haines is surrounded by mountains, trees and water.

Yesterday, in Skagway, Jerry went on a hike and video-taped it. Here it is.

We leave on our next ferry going to Juneau (the capitol) on Thursday.

Enjoy your week! Continue to live the life you love!
Jerry and Mary

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Whitehorse and Skagway, Alaska

Rain, rain and more rain! Can't really complain, though, as we've had the most fantastic weather on this trip thus far. It was bound to catch up with us at some point, though. But, before we get into that, let's talk about Whitehorse.

It did not rain during our stay in Whitehorse earlier this week.

We were even able to get out our bikes and travel into town. It was smooth going downhill for about a mile after leaving the RV park, but murder trying to get back up the hill to the camp. We had to walk our bikes up the hill facing into extremely high winds.

Whitehorse has a great bike bath that took us past the historic SS Kondike riverboat.

On Thursday (August 27), we drove to Skagway. It started to rain that day, but even with the rain, the scenery was beautiful. We stopped along the way for lunch.

At one point, we had to go through extremely thick fog, almost as bad as in Cambria at times.

We are parked near the water in Skagway and can see the extremely large tour vessels coming and going each day. Skagway has a population of 800 and has over 800,000 tourist coming through this small town each year. There is really only one main commercial street in the town with lots of shops along both sides of it. Nearly every other shop is a jewelry store with very high priced items.

We are parked a couple of blocks from the center of town. We've walked the shops on one side of the street yesterday and will go back to check out the other side before we leave on Monday, putting the RV on a boat as we travel by cruise down to Haines.

Very poor internet here, so will keep this blog short.

Have a good weekend.

Jerry and Mary

Monday, August 24, 2009

Delta Junction, Tok, Chicken, Top of the World Highway and Dawson City

Hi Everyone,

What a week! After leaving North Pole, we drove to Delta Junction which is the end of the Alaskan Highway -- 1422 miles from Dawson Creek. We stopped to take some pictures, eat our lunch on a bench outside the Visitor's Center and pick some juicy sweet choke cherries on a tree at the Center.
Then, we moved on to Tok for just a stop over. (We were in Tok at the beginning of our trip in June.) We took the advice of Ron Dalby who wrote an article in Motorhome Magazine recommending "Fast Eddy's," a restaurant. Hey Dave and Dorothy, we had some of the best pizza at Fast Eddy's that we've ever had.

For nearly two months, Jerry was vacillating on whether or not to drive to the town of Chicken and take the Top of the World Highway. We heard all kinds of horror stories about that particular road, including from some travelers staying at North Pole who just arrived from taking the trip over the Highway. Unfortunately for them, the day they drove the Highway it was raining and foggy. It made for a miserable trip! Others have said that the road is not conducive to big RVs as big trucks can force one off to the side of the road, and that the road is very narrow, unpaved and the scenery is bland. But, others said that the trip was definitely worth it. Jerry, not really a believer in astrology, happened to read his horoscope that said he should "take the high road." Jerry also felt that, since 45 foot tour buses can make the trip, our 40 foot coach should also be able to make the trip.

First, let us tell you about the town of Chicken, 78 miles from Tok. Its population is 15 in the winter and 30-50 in the summer. We stopped in Chicken where we had the pie I've been waiting for all summer long. Susan is the baker and owner of the Chicken Creek Cafe, Saloon and Mercantile Emporium. Her pies are the attraction and written about in many articles about Chicken. Her pie lived up to its reputation. We even took a couple of pieces with us to have later that evening. Then we continued on to the "Top of the World Highway."

It is called "Top of the World Highway" because of the spectacular views and vistas. It is high above the trees and you feel like you can see forever. But, to call it a "Highway" is stretching the definition of a "highway." It is "high" up, though. And, at times the gravel road was a bit bumpy and washboard-like, narrow, and with soft shoulders. See saw one incident in which a driver of a small RV misjudge the shoulder and slid off of the road.
But, had we not made the trip, we would have missed out on one of the most awesome experiences we've had so far in Alaska. Granted, we lucked out with the weather and the particular day and time of the year to make this trip. The Highway is 108 miles long from Chicken. Yes, it took us over 6 hours from Tok (and another 3 hours, with both of us working, to clean the RV after the trip), but it was definitely worth it! From Chicken to Dawson City, our average speed was 24.8 miles per hour. At times, the road had so many pot holes, that we slowed to only 15 miles per hour. About 90% of the road is unpaved dirt and gravel. Half way along the road, we passed from Alaska into the Yukon territory.
Below is a slide show of pictures taken mostly from the RV as we traveled the "Top of the World Highway."

The Highway ends at the Yukon River. We had to take a ferry across the river to Dawson City. We have been in Dawson City for three days now. Yesterday, we road our bikes into town and checked out the place. It feels like the old west. The streets are dirt and the buildings are both historical or designed to look like the late 1800s.

Since we are in Canada, we have turned off our cell phones until we get back into Alaska at the end of this week. We will be in Canada until the end of the week, when we will cross back into Alaska to get to Skagway where we will travel down the in-land passage on a number of ferries. We leave here tomorrow (Tuesday) for Whitehorse.

Enjoy your week!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's Christmas Every Day at North Pole, Alaska

Hi Everyone,

We are at the most exciting place to be any time of the year! North Pole, Alaska -- where Santa and his elves are busy making great gifts -- and we got to see some of the new ones for this coming Christmas. We saw Santa's reindeer who are grazing and relaxing 364 days a year while getting ready for the big night, Christmas Eve.

I was so honored that Santa took some time to talk to me about Natalie, James, Angela, Christian, Samantha, Erin, Sara, Brenna, Ivan and Daniel. Santa whispered a special message in my ear for each of you that I put on a post card and mailed today. Look for yours in the mailbox next week.
It was a beautiful day today at North Pole -- 70 degrees. Now, if only it will stay this way for the next week as we are about to travel the Top of the World Highway. More on that next time.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fairbanks, Alaska

Hi Everyone,

We arrived on Monday in Fairbanks and are staying at the Pioneer Park. It is basically a city park with a large parking lot and with many activities going on and things to see inside the park. It has real fast free wi-fi! We've walked all around the place (it goes on for blocks).
Buses with tourists arrived constantly, dropping off loads of people who come here for the "all you can eat" dinner (prime rib, salmon, halibut, and cod).

Jerry wanted the ultimate Alaskan experience - what it feels like at -40F degrees. (Having spent many years in North Dakota, I had no desire to re-experience that again.) He lasted three minutes!!

We also took the local bus line around the city today, stopping first at the highly recommended University of Alaska Museum of the North. Let me tell you, it is probably one of the nicest museums we have ever been in. It is ultra modern (re-done in 2005) and contains award winning exhibits focusing on the culture, wildlife, geography, and history of Alaska.

(The architechural team designed the museum to evoke images of "alpine ridges, glaciers and a diving whale's tail" per its brochure.) Here are some more pictures we took inside the museum.
Something I really enjoyed was the "The Place Where You Go To Listen." It can't be described in words. It has to be experienced. But, here is what the designer had in mind:

"We are immersed in music. The earth beneath us, the air around us, and the sky above us are filled with vibrations. Most of these vibrations are beyond the reach of our ears.

In this room you will hear some of this music.

You will hear no familiar musical instruments or sounds of nature. Yet every sound you will hear is connected directly to natural world, here and now.

The atmosphere of sound and sight changes with the movements of the sun, the rhythms of day and night. Daylight sings like a choir of bright voices. Its colors are yellow, orange and red. The voices of night are darker. Its colors are violet, blue and cyan.

The moon rises and falls, appears and disappears, like a solo voice.

When the aurora borealis is active (even if hidden by daylight and clouds) bell-like sounds float across the ceiling.

When the earth quakes (even imperceptibly) the walls and the floor shudder and rumble like deep drums.

The music has no beginning, middle or end. Even in moments of apparent stillness, it is always changing. But it changes at the tempo of nature. To experience its full range requires listening in the day and night, winter and summer.

This is an ecosystem of sound and light that resonates with the larger world around it. When no one is here, the forces of nature continue to reverberate within this space.

But the awareness of the listener brings it to life.

The Place Where You Go To Listen is not complete until you are present and listening."

John Luther Adams

Jerry took a picture of me in this room.From there, we took the bus to downtown. Pictures of the downtown area are shown below and on the side of this blog.

Until next time - take care.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Denali National Park

Hi Everyone,
When someone says "Denali National Park," one immediately thinks of Mt. McKinley. But, did you know that only about 20-30% of the people coming to see the Mt. actually see it? It is so high (nearly 4 miles high) that, as they say around here, "it creates its own weather pattern." Thus, most of the time, the Mt. is shrouded in cloud, fog or mist. We took a shuttle to try to see the mountain, but ended up in the 70-80% of the people who did not see it. Jerry even asked the shuttle bus driver to stop so that he could get out and take a picture of what he can't see. The shuttle bus driver (who has been driving the bus all summer long) said that he has seen it only four times. He also said that sometimes one can see it going into the park, but cannot see it coming out again.
Unfortunately, also, it rained off and on every day we were in the park, including the day we had planned a hike. Notwithstanding, we did take a bike ride (in the rain) around the area to see the various sites. Except for a few pictures, there is not much more for us to say about our experience in this beautiful park.

Today (Monday, August 17), we traveled from Denali to Fairbanks. The scenery was quite nice.
(See another picture below.)
We are staying in the Pioneer Park right in town. Will tell you more about Fairbanks in the next blog -- but from what we have seen thus far, it is a clean and modern city (compared to Anchorage) with wide double-lane streets. I think we will have fun here.

Until next time, have a great week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Whittier, Anchorage and Willow, Alaska

Hi Everyone,

We are the road again! The scenery on the drive from Seward to Whittier is just breathtaking.

First, we went back to Whittier because, again, it is an awesome place -- the most beautiful campgrounds we've ever seen -- everything paved, private, large sites, and surrounded by high mountains with snow and glaciers all around. Plus, it has the most wonderful bike/walking paths though the woods and along the waters that you can find anywhere.

We stayed two days and took a long bike ride one of the days. We saw salmon spawning, rode up close to the glaciers, took a look at what was left of the iceberg in the water (see earlier picture below of all the icebergs we saw the first time we were in Whittier), and basically hoped we wouldn't run into a bear (as they were in the area).

Then, at night, Jerry built a fire. Here is also where he decided to document the wonders of the mosquito zapper. See video below.

The weather was in the low 60s most of the time, and overcast with a few sprinkles.

From Whittier, we drove to Anchorage (our third time in Anchorage). We met with a Toastmaster friend from our Central Coast area and all went out for Mexican dinner. It really taste good after all the halibut we've been eating.

Unfortunately, the RV parks in Anchorage (and there are three of them) are just stopping off places as we move on to other more scenic parks. Here is a picture of our neighbor in the Anchorage RV park last night.
Today (Thursday, August 13), we drove to Willow and are at a very neat RV park right on a river. After salmon spawn, the female fish do not eat and eventually die. Guess that is what is happening at the river right in front of our RV.
We expect to move again tomorrow, as we continue to make our way to Denali National Park.
Until next time (which may be awhile if we don't get internet connection), enjoy the life you love.
As always -- Jerry and Mary

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dealing With Mosquitoes in Alaska

Hi Everyone,

Watch this video. The mosquito zapper is cool!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Seward (again), Alaska

Hi Everyone,

We moved on to Seward on Thursday (August 6). The scenery on the trip from Seldotna to Seward is beautiful. (See pictures below.) We were in Seward on the front part of our trip to Alaska, but it had rained most of the time when we were here last time. It was the only real rain we experienced on this trip so far. We wanted to see Seward without the rain because it is such a beautiful city on the shores of Resurrection Bay. We were lucky enough to get a spot for our RV as this place is filled with RVers this time because the silver salmon fishing season opened this weekend.

We weren't here 5 minutes and guess who showed up again!! It was great. We had two more days with Dorothy and Dave.

On Friday, the four of us went to visit the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska's only public aquarium. It is a learning center, enabling visitors to view an assortment of birds, fish, sea lions, sea urchins, and experience various interactive displays. We listened to yet another presentation on the devastation of the Valdez oil spill some twenty years ago by now, and were told that the oil is still hanging around some of Alaska's shores.

Jerry and I took our bikes out for a ride around the place yesterday, and, of course, we stopped for a mocha.

Last night, we all had a great salmon dinner with Dorothy and Dave. Afterwards, we said our "good byes" once again. Only this time we think it is for real. So, for those of you following Dorothy and Dave's trip, you will just have to wait for Dorothy's post cards to arrive.

We will leave here tomorrow and head north towards Fairbanks and Denali National Park.

Until next time, have a great week!