Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 46

June 28, 2016

Day 46 - North Pole, AK

Today was a wonderful day that started out a little wet and dreary and ended up being just a gorgeous sunny day.

Started out at National Park Headquarters in downtown Fairbanks and then went over to the Cultural / Visitor Center. Was very informative.

Then it was off to Fort Wainwright to visit the Commissary and the Post Exchange to stock up on some necessities for the rest of the trip.

I spent the rest of today at the North Pole. I expected much more tourism, but it was really quite sedate.

A typical little log cabin in North Pole, sodded on the roof.

There was a shop up the road a piece called the Knotty Shop.  They use burled wood to make a variety of yard art and gift items.  The burls are caused by the tree growing around a disease on the trunk/branch and surrounding it.  Quite cool stuff in the shop.

Made me homesick for Cascades.....

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 45

June 27, 2016

Day 45 - Talkeetna, AK to North Pole, AK - 285 Miles

Left Talkeetna, AK early and headed north to Fairbanks and North Pole, AK. It was a wet, dreary day and there were no scenic views to speak of as I passed Mt. Denali. 

Got into Fairbanks fairly early so it was off to the Ford Dealer for an oil change and to have them check the tires, windshield wipers and the generator.

Got the oil changed, tires are all ok, but they couldn't check the generator since I forgot to leave them the key to access it and they didn't carry the size wiper I need for the RV. They directed me to a Semi/RV parts place on the other side of town as a possible place to get a new wiper.

Hit a few Quilt Stores and then headed out to North Pole, AK and settled in at the Riverview RV Park.  I am here for 4 nights, so I got a rental car and tomorrow I am off to see the sights.

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 44

June 26, 2016

Day 44 - Wasilla, AK to Talkeetna, AK - ___ Miles

The day started off on a sour note...flat tire...the same one that went flat at the beginning of the trip...bummer, but I was able to drive the RV about a mile down to the filling station and fluff it up! Yeah!

Then it was off to Talkeetna, AK only about 75 miles up the road from Wasilla, AK. Arrived just in time to pull into Camper RV Village with enough time to do laundry, clean the RV and still make it to the Talkeetna Airport for the Dog Sledding Adventure on a glacier.

However, upon arrival I was informed that bad weather had grounded the plane to Collins Glacier and the dog sledding...double bummer...

Nothing much else to do so I called it an early day.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 43

June 25, 2016

Day 43 - Soldotna, AK to Wasilla, AK - ___ Miles

I left Soldatna today and headed around to the east side of the Kenai Peninsula to Seward, AK,  Like the other side, the mountains come down to the water, lake/inlet/river/sea.

This is the home of the Kenai-Fjiords National Park.  It was a rainy, foggy day.  The National Park is best known for its scenic boat tours or wildlife tours.

There aren’t any roads through the park; it’s all by waterways.  I figured since I couldn’t see much driving, there wasn’t much point in paying for a boat tour on such a dismal day.  There is one glacier accessible by vehicle, so I drove up to see it.

Exit Glacier at Kenai-Fjiords National Park
Glacier run-off from Exit Glacier
Seward was the hometown of Billy Benson.  In 1926, little Billy was a 7th grader in Seward, Alaska territory, and the school asked all the kids to design a flag for Alaska.  Billy chose a design with 8 stars on a blue background.  Seven stars were in the formation of the Big Dipper and the remaining one represented the North Star.  Billy’s design won, and he was awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

I tracked down the headquarters of the Iditarod Sled Race at Knik, AK and received a lesson on the history of the race.  There were some nice photo-ops, too.

Next I headed up to Wasilla and thought I would be able see Russia--I couldn't even though Sarah Palin said she could.  Must have been the fog.

By the way, the WalMart in Wasilla is the largest WalMart in the state of Alaska AND it sells more duct tape than any other WalMart in the World!  I can believe it.  The campground tonight caters more to locals than tourists...

Thank goodness, it’s only for one night and not much different than staying at the big WalMart for the night!

A shop in Wasilla.
  This is a food cache, a place to stash your food so the bears don't get it. I have seen these quite often, especially in parks or trail heads.

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 42

June 24, 2016

Day 42 - Soldotna, AK to Homer, AK to Soldotna, AK - 158 Miles

Today was an awesome day.  I drove to Homer, AK, which is known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World and took a charter boat out in the Cook Inlet to catch some halibut.  I did.  Caught my limit! There’s a two-fish limit on charter boats under Alaskan law and only one may be larger than 28 inches.  I saved a big fillet and shipped the rest to my brother. I hope he enjoys it as the processing/freezing and shipping charges were a wee bit steep.   The saved fillet will be cooked on the campfire in the coming days, since I don't like the smell of fish in the house much less the RV.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that the fridge in the RV doesn't go on the fritz!

It had to be under 50 degrees outside today, and the sun never really made an appearance.  The bow spray from crossing the waves got those of us on the back of the boat all wet. The water was a little choppy for 2 of the passengers once we got out of the port, but for me it was just awesome! I had a blast! Considering doing it again when I am back down in the Anchorage area in about 3 weeks when Marnie arrives.

I saw a bunch of sea otters and an Orca whale, along with seagulls and other waterfowl.

One other neat bit of trivia..  On the boat today, I am convinced one of the passengers was a reality show cast member -- same voice, looked just like the salt and pepper-haired old coote; grumpy old man -- from one of the Alaska-themed shows. 

Drove back to Soldatna to plan my day tomorrow, Not exactly sure what I want to do...a lot depends on the weather.

Oh yeah, I ran into a friend from the LEU Bike Ride, Keith Neiswender and his family at the RV Park in Soldotna, AK. Was nice to sit and chat for a while. 

Waiting to board the Foxfire, Homer, AK

Sea Otter frolicing in Cook Inlet
Caught my limit!
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve Viewpoint on the Kenai Peninsula

Keith and I at the Klondike RV Park, Soldotna, AK

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 41

June 23, 2016

Day 41 - Glennallen, AK to Soldotna, AK - 325 Miles

Oh, what a busy day!  I traveled about 325 miles from Glennallen, AK to Soldatna, AK on the Kenai Peninsula.

Again, the scenery was exquisite. The mountains met the clouds and I saw glaciers interspersed with the rock mountains.  One mountain was named “Gunsight” for its notch at the top and another was named Lion’s Head, for its quirky domed-shape.

Gunsight Mountain
Lion's Head Mountain
Dall sheep are common in this area, but I didn’t see any.  They lick the mountain rock to get calcium and magnesium into their diet.

A highlight of the day was a visit to a Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, AK to see the shaggy prehistoric beasts.  They produce a fine wool called “qiviut” – rhymes with “Who gives a hoot”.  Kind of cool.

Next I visited a Reindeer Farm down the road.  The difference between reindeer and caribou is simply “which side of the fence the animal is on”.  Caribou are wild; reindeer are domesticated.  In domesticating them, the reindeer were bred smaller, but a reindeer who jumps the fence and runs away becomes a caribou.  Their antlers are shed each year.  When they still have the velvet-skin on their antlers, they are very sensitive – blood and nerve endings.  After the skin sheds, they have very hard, durable, strong antlers.  Another nice visit, although they slobber all over me.  I hand-fed them and it was safe, since they have no upper front teeth.  They had some elk at the farm also, which I also petted and fed.

They had some elk that I got to feed! 
It was after 9 pm – but still daylight! – when I pulled into the campground at Soldatna, AK.

2:30 am and still light outside...I'm loving this!

A glacier passed along the way.
I've run out of words to describe the beauty of Alaska!

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 40

June 22, 2016

Day 40 - Slana, AK to Glennallen, AK - 77 Miles

Today may have been one of the most scenic days on this trip.  I left Slana, AK, which is situated at the edge of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  The park is the largest of the US National Parks, and the mountains are among the most beautiful.

The first stop was the Gakona Lodge and Trading Post.  It was an old roadhouse back in the late 1800s, is still available for lodging and has a general store – and a ghost who smokes a pipe!

I had planned to head to Glennallen, AK, about 80 miles down the road. Since it was such a short drive, I decided to catch a bit more sightseeing in the general area, which I had planned to do later in the trip after Marnie arrives.

I visited the national park where they had a salmon fishing wheel on display.  Quite ingenious and simple.

I saw my first Alaskan wildlife, other than a bunny.  Today’s animal of the day was a moose, which crossed in front of me so fast that I missed getting a picture...I decided slamming on the brakes was the best course of action...

Next I headed for a Tibetian Yak farm. The yaks have a very soft undercoat, which can be cleaned, carded and spun into a fine yarn for sweaters, hats, socks, etc. The leather hide is very strong and yet supple, making for a really nice baseball glove.  These items were available in the gift shop with really exclusive pricing.

The final stop was a visit to Valdez, AK (Remember the Exxon-Valdez???) The drive to Valdez took me about a 100 miles on the Richardson Highway through the Chugach Mountain range. I drove alongside the Alaskan Pipeline for much of the day. It is 48 inches in diameter, by the way. 

The poles are about 15+ feet high and are used by the snowplowers as a road guide. Not that they do much good when there is 50 feet of snow!

Worthington Glacier.
The Richardson Highway was Alaska’s first road and was used by the gold stampeders in 1898 to travel from Valdez up through Alaska’s interior to Fairbanks.

 The mountains get higher and more spectacular with each mile.  I went over Thompson Pass which gets 50 feet of snow each year and went by Worthington glacier. I traveled through some avalanche areas (Posted “Avalanche area – Do not Stop”) and through the Keystone canyon.

I passed an old railroad tunnel through the mountains which was never used.  The tunnel was hand-cut back in the early 1900s to carry oil out of the Alaska territory.  Before the track was laid, about 9 oil companies fought to take advantage of the short route from the Valdez coast to the copper country to the east.  However, a feud interrupted progress.  A gun battle was fought and the railroad was never finished.

The highway has mile-markers posted, although I learned that milepost “0” is actually 4 miles from the Valdez village that I saw today.  The reason is that the mileposts were erected before 1964, when a large earthquake hit in Valdez and wiped out the old town.  New Valdez was rebuilt 4 miles beyond the Old Valdez.

This cut in the mountain was made a few years ago to improve the road.  About 200 tons of rock were removed.
 It was almost 7pm by the time I arrived, but I just made it to the visitor’s center before they closed at 7.  There was a quilt shop in Valdez also, which stays open until 8 on Wednesdays; I made it there just in time as well.  Then I headed to Roma’s Italian restaurant overlooking the port of Valdez.  The food was awesome!

Just gorgeous....
So what do you think? Adds to the wardrobe, right?
Bridal Veil falls on the way to Valdez.
Horsetail falls on the way to Valdez.
Port of Valdez.
 Ryder is just chillin’ at my feet.