Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Wildlife & Mishap Count on our Alcan Road Trip

Here it is - finally - the last post about our Alaska Highway Adventure. We kept a running list of daily wildlife sightings and road mishaps. All in all, we fared MUCH better than many we saw along the way. We did NOT have a tire blow - on 3 vehicles, we did not have to have our windshield replaced, we did not run out of gas, but it is QUITE a road and one would be wise to have full insurance on their vehicles before leaving if driving beat up cars bothers them. LOL

Day 1  - Through Oregon 

Day 2 - Through Washington 

* I know but they were animals which charmed us - they stay on the list. 

Day 4 -Lynden, WA to Kokanee Bay, Lac la Hache
Eagles - 2 one with fish in talon 

Day 5 - Lac La Hache to Prince George

Day 6 - Prince George to Dawson Creek 
Mosquitoes - they are ubiquitous and they count

Day 8 Dawson Creek - Fort Nelson 
Falcons (2)
Black Bear - Michael and Alex

* Michael begins to think of a solution to our wildlife photo blahs. They SEE them first in the motorhome, but can't stop quickly. We are following with the cell phone, but don't always see what Michael sees. When we DO see them we have a cell phone camera.  He comes up with a solution. From here on out, Alex will continue to take photos with my Nikon in Uchi. I will have Michael's camera (by far our best camera) in the Jeep. They will act as spotters, flash their lights to show us which side of the road they see animals and alert us on the radio....we will stop and take photos. We're ready to give the plan a shot! 

Day 9 - Fort Nelson to Liard River Hot Springs
3 Black Bears - this was the last blah shot before we implemented Michael's photo strategy.

Numerous hawks

2 Falcons

32 Mountain Sheep (or more) near Stone Mountain Provincial Park

Numerous Beaver Dams

Day 10 Liard Hot Springs - Watson Lake, Yukon Territory
We wanted to see more moose and bear now that we were implementing Michael's photography plan. We also hoped for the Bison the highway signs kept promising.

4 Bears

Little too friendly - I got back in the Jeep 

Big Bison - worth the wait!

Day 11 - Watson Lake - Whitehorse, YT
Dead Bob Cat

Day 12 - Whitehorse, YT  - Beaver Creek 
*Be sure to get gas leaving Whitehorse!

Day 13 Beaver Creek, YT - Glenallen, AK
Bull Moose

Cow Moose


Day 14  Glenallen - Valley Area

Mishaps/Repairs/Breakdowns on the trip
Day 1 
"Go to Portland Fairview RV Park " is interpreted as "Go to Joe's Coffee, Portland" by GPS

Day 2
My (De'Etta) laptop - crunched and battered and pieces hanging from it - but working
Brake controller in Uchi isn't working properly - began fix

Day 3 
Nose of RV crunched in a VERY slow moving, RV park mishap

Day 4
Tightened Bicycle carrier on Nimo

Day 6
Rocks dings Nimo's windshield
We saw many having their windshields replaced on the road (both cars and RVs). We feel lucky. 

Day 7 
Continue fix on brakes - something about trailer and uchi and playing nice together

Day 8
Windshield wipers blew off twice! Whut?

Day 9
Rock dings on Nimo
Trailer Brakes

Day 10 
Instruments on Uchi (Motorhome)

Day 11
Spray of rocks dinged and chunked the front of Uchi
*Note WE are driving slowly, you can't help others who zip past and spray rocks

Day 12 
Steps on Uchi won't retract

Day 13 
Bikes pop up and hit the Jeep window
Misc gravel dings on all vehicles

Arriving In Valley/Anchorage - Day 14 of AlCan Road Trip

::snort:: ::gasp:: We KNEW it would be raining when we drove into Alaska. Beautiful weather until we arrived!  I'm sure it will clear up in a few days. August is the rainy month.  In any event, we were relieved to see the beauty continued beyond the border. 


These are snow poles. I know this as the milepost says they are. 

We left the Alaskan Highway at Tok. However, I decided to add this day's travel to the trip otherwise we would just be hanging out on the highway forever. LOL

We did a U-turn, not an easy feat with this caravan, to go back to stop at the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation area.  Stacia's first time to see a glacier. The video is at the end of the post. Stacia's reactions are priceless.
Nolan, Stacia, Alex

Mat-Su Glacier

As I took shot after shot, in the rain, trying to get them all in and STILL see the glacier, Michael finally gave me "the look" below. ::snort:: "Give me the camera, I'm taller. I can get the shot."

And he could. 

Michael set the GPS for an RV park in Palmer. It turns out it is 1.3 miles from the home we are negotiating to buy. We knew the kids would like to see - so we drove by. This was not our 1st or 2nd choice of a home, and we'd not given it or the neighborhood the close scrutiny we gave the other two homes we knew interested us. We were relieved to see the neighborhood is really nicer than either of the other two.
Lazy Mountain from the RV park 

I can live with this view for a few days
 We met up with Jamin and enjoyed hearing what he's been up to since graduating from A & M. We checked out another campsite closer to where the kids live in Eagle River. Um....seems there is an injured sow with cubs on the loose. She'd injured some hikers days ago. We opted not to stay at this park.

We bought some pizza and met JaRissa at their home for dinner. I didn't take many photos, but did think to grab one. 

We've decided to stay at our current RV park for at least a week. We'll look into Fort Rich Fam Camp (which also has bear incidents - it IS Alaska) or others after that....or maybe we'll go see another part of the state for a couple of weeks. For NOW - Michael wants down days - and we are all on board with that plan.

Visitor's Observations of Canada

Now that we've entered Alaska, here are some random thoughts about our days in Canada.

We're stretching our conversion skills going from KPH to MPH and miles to kilometers....the hwy speeds are much slower....and for the post part the driver's seem content to go the limit and stay behind us. This is different than some of the other places we've traveled.

Our first night in Canada, at the Hungry Bear Diner, I saw Poutine on the menu. I asked and was told it is fries, cheese curds and gravy! If it weren't for my migraine problem with cheese.....but I'm driving this trip.  We also saw pierogies as the base for poutine!
Gave in and had some poutine in Dawson Creek - I'll figure out a vegan alternative
Normal sized muffins at bakeries, vs. GIANT sugar-laden Costco like muffins in America, seem to be the norm. My favorite have been Maple Streusel (blueberry pictured below all maple disappeared). YUM.

Wrappers in English and French, rather than English and Spanish.

This is an idea whose time has come! Have you seen these in your parts of the States? We haven't. I keep a P 31 bag as our s'more kit.

It's been a long time since I've seen fully functioning phone booths - but they are pretty normal in British Columbia and Yukon Territories. I'm sure it has something to do with the non-existent or spotty cell service. Even our CANADIAN cell phone didn't work outside of Dawson Creek.

A word about the Canadian Rockies - SPECTACULAR.  I've been in the Rockies (American) often and they are beautiful and gorgeous....but this area is breath-taking. I do believe the Canadian Rockies may have bested the American Rockies. 😍😲😳

No electronic signatures at card readers in gas stations or stores - at least not in BC and YT.  Slide the card  (even in self-check out),  and then go sign the paper copy of your receipt.

Full hook up RV spots are CHEAPER up here (even before the exchange is considered), however, the majority of showers we encounter take a Loonie and the "free" wi-fi has been nearly non-existent past Fort Nelson.

Technically, it's the "Alaskan Hwy" and only Americans seem to call it the "AlCan Hwy," I'll adjust blog titles.

I've seen very little trash and few examples of tagging in BC and YT.

We had no trouble using our American credit cards AFTER we called the company and reminded them we had told them we were DRIVING to ALASKA. They seemed to have forgotten that would involve a drive through Canada. Others with USAA have mentioned the same - I advise calling (vs the online notification) and making sure they NOTE you will be in CANADA.

We plan to be back to explore more of Canada. We've barely seen the country.....we've driving through parts of Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon Territory and could spend many happy weeks exploring each one.

Monday, June 19, 2017

On to Glenallen, Alaska - Day 13 AlCan Road Trip Thoughts on being "Home" in Alaska

We woke up very excited about this day. We've loved every mile in Canada, but today, we reach Alaska.  The sign below is one we've come to know very well. It means, "GET READY!" 
Rough roads ahead

Yukon Territory is not as lush as British Columbia, but it lives up to it's motto. It truly is larger than life!

The photo is blurry - but THIS is the first time Stacia has set foot in Alaska since she was about 1 year old. I was pregnant with her when we left, and we came back, as a family, when she was about one. She's heard the stories and knew it was to be our new home....

The iconic sign at the border between Canada and Alaska.

The back of the sign....

We're here to stay now! LOL 

Note the cleared trees....they go on and on on both sides of the highway - the line. 

One foot in both countries

Nolan's in Alaska, Stacia's on the line, Alex is in Canada

A word about our vehicle decoration. The idea belonged to Stacia and me.  We have had waves, smiles, cars slowing down to read all the comments on the trailer, people stop to talk in campgrounds and parking lots.....as we got ready to leave here, the state worker maintaining the site, came and talked to me. She had noted the "USAF Retired" sticker and all the writing on the vehicles. "Home 2 Alaska," seemed to resonate with her most. She thanked me for our service and said, "Welcome Home."

I teared up. Four days later I'm still tearing up. Many know Alaska is not my first choice for retirement. C'mon, I grew up in tropical weather.🌞🍌🌴🌴🌞  However, when we lived here from 2002- 2005, God did a LASTING work in my life. He taught me how to find and choose joy....and I came to love Alaska. I didn't realize, yes, it DOES feel like home, until the moment the state worker spoke her words at the international line.

 Home has always been centered in RELATIONSHIPS and not a location. As a missionary child, we moved every few years. As a pastor's wife and then military spouse, we've moved every 2 - 4 years. Driving in to Alaska, having her welcome me HOME,  spoke to me in ways I find hard to even communicate. (I have tears rolling down my face as I type this four days later). Our younger kids have NEVER lived in one place more than four years. The norm has been 2 1/2 - 3. Our older kids lived in Hardin, MT for 5 years and that was their longest stint as children.  I tried to share my thoughts with Nolan as I sniffled my way to the border crossing.

I was determined not to cry. We had a bit of a wait as these gentlemen had spilled diesel  and were made to clean it up. I collected myself and insisted to Nolan I was crossing the border without crying. The guard did her thing with Michael. BTW, crossing back into America was far more stringent for us than crossing into Canada - contrary to what we've heard from others. This guard DID have a sense of humor and we joked as she went about what she needed to do.

As we left she said, "Welcome Home to Alaska!"

I teared up again.

We talked in Tok, at Fast Eddies, and most, if not all, of us teared up. We are all feeling it - a connection to Alaska, a sense of, "This is home. This is where we belong." A thankfulness, while we may choose to travel or move in our olden golden years, this is a place we can put down roots that won't be up heaved in 2 - 3 years.

Stacia has said it in many ways as we introduce her to Alaska.... "I can make friends here and not have to say quick goodbyes."  And so it does come back to relationship in the end - for some of us. πŸ˜‰ My heart still longs for Japan, but my heart is also content to be here, in Alaska. I'm excited to see what God has in store for us here.

We traveled on.  Beautiful Alaska. 

Though I have no picture, it was THIS day that the bikes bounced around so much as we went up and down hills and ledges....they hit the back window of the Jeep. We stopped to make sure all was still strapped well - it was. We just had some major bounces. 

I'll get better photos but the fireweed is amazing
We saw wildflowers and wildlife. I'll document wildlife in "that post."  We were happy to stop in Glenallen and process the thoughts and emotions of the day. It was good to savor before we press on to the Valley/Anchorage area.

I sit this morning and sip tea from my favorite PWOC mug - reminded  I'm "Rooted in Christ,"  affirming  home is in Christ and relationships....and so very thankful for a season to discover the delight of being at home in Alaska.  God, in a plan we never saw coming and certainly didn't attempt to manipulate,  saw fit to migrate all but one (possibly two) of the Gherkins to Alaska. Yes, we wish more extended family would catch the bug, but they'll visit.  Michael has always wanted to come back here. I have wanted to be in Texas...BUT... my biggest retirement location requirement was to be within a day's drive of kids....and now we get both.....amazing plan, this.  And still, I renew my agreement with God to hold plans in open hands.

If you're interested in video highlights - click here.