Saturday, October 15, 2011

Arrived at the Grand Canyon

I haven't posted since the morning of the 12th so I do need to catch up. We are now at Mather Campground of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had not planned on arriving here until tomorrow, but we decided to come on because if I wanted to be successful at getting a permit to camp at Indian Garden, I needed to be at the Backcountry office before 8:00 am. We do not have to be at Phantom Ranch until late afternoon on Tuesday so Janie and Mason Honeycutt and I had decided that we wanted to hike down to Indian Garden on Monday, set up camp and then go out to Plateau Point at sunset. Then we would hike on down to Phantom on Tuesday. In order to do that we would need a permit and the only (usually) way to get one is to apply four months in advance or be in line when the office opens on the day prior to when the permit is needed. This is because they do hold back a few "walk up" permits. Even if I were to follow that procedure, our chances of getting a permit are not good.
Hopefully, my chance encounter with a ranger will help us get the permit. It so happens that just when we pulled into the campground a ranger that I had met on a previous service project pulled up. I spoke with her and explained what we wanted to do. She was already aware that someone (I had called the backcountry office last week) was trying to get a permit. She said she thought she could get one for us and I am to go by the office in the morning and they should have a permit for us. I hope this works out!

Before leaving Durango, we spent time on Thursday exploring Silverton. We have been there many times, but on that day the weather was absolutely beautiful. The trees were a bit past peak, but they were still amazing.

While in Silverton we were admiring the Wyman Hotel exterior and decided to go in and look around. The desk clerk was very kind and after talking with her for a bit we soon discovered that we had much in common as she is a retired teacher from TX. The more we talked, the more we had in common and we soon learned that the owner of the hotel is an avid ultra runner and very active with the Hard Rock 100
While I was upstairs touring the unoccupied rooms, Hollie stayed downstairs to continue to talk to the lady. When I got back down, there was the owner. We talked with him for quite a long time and  I ended up breaking one of my self imposed rules of running shirts. I almost never buy or wear a shirt from a race that I have not run or served as a volunteer. I asked if he had any extra shirts that I could buy, thinking that I would get one for my son. He did have shirts, but only smaller sizes so I bought 3 from different races---for myself. They are tech shirts and I just could not resist the price. I can rationalize by saying that a race sponsor gave them to me (at a big discount) and that I do plan to return to Silverton and serve as a volunteer for the race---I just don’t know when that will be.
Yesterday was my last workout for the canyon hike. I walked up/down/around the Fort Lewis College campus. The school is situated high above Durango and there are dirt trails all around it. I walked 8.25 miles and now I am in taper mode.
On today's drive from Durango, we passed through Tuba City, AZ and they were having some sort of fair/celebration. There were people everywhere and considering that Tuba City is in the middle of "no where" it was surprising to so many people. I'll have to research this to determine exactly what it was all about.
The next two days I will probably play tourist and do the non hiking things such as going out to the various viewpoints and taking pictures. I'll try to post some of them tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Durango, CO

Yesterday we left Taos, NM with the intention of staying in Pagosa Springs, CO for a couple of days. It has been several years since we were in Pagosa and it seems that during that time, many of the stores/businesses have shut down. It’s still an interesting town, but we just decided to continue on to Durango, CO where we are now at the Alpine Rose RV Park which is located about 6 or so miles North of Durango on Highway 550. This is a nice place and we will probably stay here for several days.
After arriving and getting the trailer set up, we drove back into town so we could walk/run on the Animis River Trail. I had planned on running 3-5 miles and I did get in 3.25 miles, but it was only because I did some walking between running segments. The elevation really kicked my butt and my heart rate was really high, so I just ran until I felt the need to walk and then walked until I was recovered enough to run again.
I also have a very sore gracilis (I think that’s what it is) muscle. The other night I experienced a cramp in that area and now it is quite sore. It seems to loosen up when walking and running but when I am still for any length of time such as when sitting, it hurts until I get moving. Hopefully, this is just a minor issue and will soon go away. Although, a couple of years ago I had such an injury that took months to heal.
In a bit, I plan to head out to Highway 550 and see if I can get in a better run. If not, I’ll do the walk/run routine for at least an hour. It is a beautiful day here in Durango.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wild Rivers Recreation Area

Today I did one of my very favorite hikes. It is one that I have done at least 5-6 times and each time it seems to be more beautiful than ever before. This in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area and it is located near Taos and Questa, NM. Since I have previously done all three trails that lead down into the gorge, I knew which would be better for going down and which would be better for coming out. There is a difference!

All three trails lead to the Rio Grande river and there is a trail that goes along the river to connect them. The elevation change on each trail is between 680-800 feet over a distance of about a mile for each trail. I chose to go down the Big Arsenic Springs Trail and come out the La Junta Trail. This was a wise decision because the La Junta is the steepest and you even have to climb up a short ladder and open metal stair steps. I'm just more comfortable going up steep as opposed to coming down. There is a far greater chance of falling when coming down.

The river trail that connects the Big Arsenic and La Junta is absolutely beautiful and it is relatively flat. While hiking the 2.5 mile trail I saw only 4 people fishing and on the way down Big Arsenic, I met 3 people coming out. That is the total of 7 people that I over the course of the entire hike. I do not understand why more people do not visit this area, but that's the way it is each time I come here.

Halfway on the river trail, I stopped to call my friends Mary Ruth and Mac MIddlebrook. I was at the spot where Mary Ruth and I have twice camped for 2 nights each. I was not able to talk to her, but Mac has also hiked this area and could relate to what I was describing to him.

After taking that break, I continued on to La Junta which is so named because it is where the Red River meets the Rio Grande. There used to be a foot bridge that went across the Red and met another trail. That bridge has been washed out. I have pictures from years ago when Mary Ruth and I crawled across a big log that was all that was left of the bridge. Even the log is now gone.

The total distance I covered was somewhere between 5-6 miles with significant elevation changes which is what I needed to do in order to keep my training level in preparation for the Grand Canyon Service Project. While I was hiking, Hollie was riding the park roads. I think he rode about 27 miles which had lots of hills. He told me he saw dozens of tarantula.

Tomorrow we will be going to Pagosa Springs, CO. We will probably be there 2 mights and then go to Durango, CO.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Morning in Taos

After leaving Hattiesburg on Thursday, we drove to Gladewater, TX for the night and then on to Childress, TX for Friday night. On the way to Childress, we stopped at a Family Y in Amarillo, TX so that we could workout. I ran 5.25 miles and walked 1 mile on the treadmill and Hollie rode a stationary bike and did a weight lifiting workout. We then showered and headed to Childress. We boondocked, along with about 4 other RVs and dozens of big trucks. It was quite a night with winds 20-25 MPH and by morning gusts of 40 mph. We decided to spend some time in the McDonalds so that the front could clear before we started our journey toward Taos, NM.

We like to stay off interstates as much as possible and we were able to do that for much of the day as we were only on I-40 for a short time and then at Tucumcari, NM we drove to Las Vegas, NM. This is where Hollie got his Masters degree and worked as Assistant Basketball Coach at New Mexico Highlands University. We drove around the town and the college and then on to Taos. We could see that the mountains had a dusting of snow and when we drove over the pass, we saw quite a bit of it and we later learned that they had gotten 2-3 inches on Friday night and Saturday morning.

We are at the Taos Valley RV Park where we will stay for 1 or 2 more nights. Last night the temperature was in the high 20s/low 30s and when we turned on the furnace, it worked fine. Then it went off. I thought it would cycle back on, but it did not.  So, we headed out to the Wal-mart where we purchased a small electric heater and we were cozy and warm for the night.

As usual, this is another beautiful day in Taos. At 10:00 am the temperature is about 50 degrees, but when in the sun it feels quite nice. We will soon go out for our exercise and then spend the rest of the day checking out the area. We have been in Taos dozens of times and we always find something to do or see that is new and interesting.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 1 of Grand Canyon Trip

We left Hattiesburg at about 9:00 am this morning and will work our way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with an arrival date of October 16. On our way, we plan to spend a couple of days in Taos, Pagosa Spring and Durango. On October 18 we will meet up with our work crew at Phantom Ranch. If we are able to get a backcountry permit, Janie and Mason Honeycutt and I will start down on October 17 and spend 1 night at Indian Garden where we would like to do a sunset hike out to Plateau Point. The next day we would then hike into Phantom. Hopefully, that will work out, but I won't know until I get to the backcountry office on October 16.
This morning we had to make a side trip to Brandon, MS so that Hollie could get a computer installed on his Cattrike. That took about an hour which made us arrive late at the Antique Capital RV Park in Gladewater, TX. Because of that, we were not able to get in a workout. That's probably for the good since I haven't had a rest day in 10 days and after Tuesday's 3 hour walk on the steps and ramps of USM football stadium and a very slow 3 mile run yesterday, my body needs a break.

So far, we really do like our new 19 foot Scamp camper. It's amazing what a difference those 3 feet (our other Scamp was 16 feet) make. It is so nice to not have to convert the dinette into a bed each night. Right now, Hollie is setting at the dinette reading the paper and watching TV and I am in the loft playing on the computer. There is something to be said for a little bit of distance when we are spending so much time together.

I'm not sure where we will be tomorrow night. I do know that we will be getting off the interstate. We do drive so much slower than the traffic flow and we need to get out of the way of these speedsters. We also really enjoy seeing the sights of the "normal" countryside.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to the Grand Canyon

This morning I got notification that I have been accepted for a week long service project in the Phantom Ranch area of the Grand Canyon. This will be my 7th overnight trip into the canyon and my 3rd such service project. I am very excited and will start my training tomorrow. Even though I am in pretty good running condition, hiking in and out of the canyon requires a very different type of fitness. I will be walking the steps/ramps of USM’s football stadium, walking at incline on a treadmill, as well as walking in the heat of the day in a subdivision that has short very steep hills. The project is October 18-24 so I have lots of time to get ready.

I first visited the Grand Canyon about 30 years ago. Like most people, I took a short hike down Bright Angel trail to the 1.5 mile rest house. I also drove to various overlooks. I was hooked and I knew that I would return to hike into the canyon.

It was about 10 years before I got back. On my first overnight hike, I was with my friends Darleen Schauer and Margy Ferrara. We were all runners and in very good condition---for running. We hiked down and spent 1 night in the dorms at Phantom Ranch and then hiked out the next day. I can't even remember which trails we hiked. I do remember that we had a great time and I was hooked on the canyon.

The 2nd overnight hike was about 12 years ago when I was retired and moved to Hattiesburg. I organized a group of women for a rim to rim. There were 11 of us and that was quite a lesson in group dynamics and my inability to motivate adult women to actually train for such a difficult hike. That hike was the most difficult of all that I have done. We hiked over 14 miles down the North Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch for 1 night and then out the 10 mile Bright Angel trail. On that trip, we got caught on the trail during a severe thunderstorm that was one of the scariest experiences of my life.

Trip number 3 was another rim to rim with my friend Darleen Schauer and my 2 adult children. On that one we hiked halfway down North Kaibab to Cottonwood campground for the night. The next day we hiked on to Phantom Ranch for 1 night and then half way out Bright Angel trail, spending 1 night at Indian Garden campground.

Trip number 4 was a service project with about 10 other people, including my friend Mary Ruth Middlebrook. We worked at Phantom Ranch for a week, sleeping in the crew workers bunkhouse. That was a very nice experience since we did not have to carry as much weight. We did such projects as trimming trees, cleaning irrigation ditches, breaking up man-made dams in the Bright Angel creek, and cleaning the crew house. On this project we worked 2-3 days until early afternoon, had 1 day off and then worked another 2-3 days. We had lots of time to hike around and really get to know the Phantom Ranch area.

Trip number 5 was another rim to rim. This time it was with my then 12 year old granddaughter and my daughter and son-in-law. We hiked down North Kaibab to Cottonwood for 1 night and then on to Phantom Ranch for 1 night. On the hike out Bright Angel trail, we spent 1 night at Indian Garden campground. This was a great family experience, especially the time spent with my granddaughter. She was an amazingly good hiker and we spent some quality time together.

The last trip was a service project. There were about 10 of us and we stayed at Roaring Springs in the old pump house residence which has been made into a work crew house/ranger residence. We commuted 1.5 miles each day to Cottonwood campground where we worked building trails, painting, building storage areas and making general repairs as needed. We were there for 4-5 days and then hiked down to Phantom Ranch for 2 days before hiking out the South Kaibab trail.

The upcoming service project will be a Phantom Ranch and I think one of the reasons I was chosen is because they need someone to paint all the food storage boxes at the Bright Angel campground. Most people do not like to paint and would rather be working on the more active projects. On the previous project I painted all the storage boxes at Cottonwood campground and I don't mind the work. In fact it is quite interesting because you get to do so much people watching and interacting with campers/hikers.

We will probably begin our trip leaving Hattiesburg in early October and returning to Hattiesburg in early November. I am very excited, but I know that each year these hikes/projects will be more physically difficult. It is for that reason that tomorrow I will begin my training. That will involve walking the steps and ramps and USM's football stadium, walking at incline on a treadmill and walking in the heat of the day in a subdivision that has some short/steep hills.

I'll keep you posted on my preparation for this very unique and rewarding experience. I'm not sure who will be on the project, other than my long-time running friend, Janie Honeycutt and her husband. We have done a previous project and they are great hikers and hard workers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Drive From MN to AR

After we picked up our Scamp last week, we stayed in the Backus, MN area for a couple of days to make sure everything was working correctly. It's a good thing we did that because we had a problem with the hot water heater, which we thought they fixed after our first night and then found the next morning it was still not right. We also found that the outside step had not been installed correctly. The good news is that Scamp has excellent customer service. This is a family owned company and when presenting our concerns, we dealt directly with the son of the owner who personally took care of our needs.

On Friday we drove to the Odessa, MO area where we ran a 5K on Saturday. I have been running/racing for over 40 years and have done hundreds of 5Ks, including one in Leadville, CO (altitude of over 11,000 feet) where I ended up walking about a 100 yards. Saturday's 5K marked the second time I have walked in a 5K. In fact, I walked 3 times, running my slowest time ever for the 5K distance. Yet, I still won my age group. At age 66, there just aren't that many entries and those who do enter are mostly walkers. My time was so slow that I will not be posting it.

After spending 6 weeks running in temperatures in the 40-65 degree range, I simply was not prepared for the heat and humidity. I was so hot after the race that when I went back to the trailer and saw some people out in their yard, I asked them if I could cool off in their water hose. They agreed that I could. Since I had not had a shower in a couple of days, I just got my shampoo and washed my hair and took a cold shower (with my running clothes on) after which I felt so much better.

While on this trip, I have also not been "training" and I was not hydrated and my entire body has not been doing well after all the hours of driving. As you can see, I had lots of excuses. After the race, I said to Hollie that I had all the excuses for my poor performance and his response was, "excuses are for losers" and my response to him was that I wasn't a loser since I had won my age group.

After the race, we drove to Fayetteville, AR where we are now visiting my sister. The temperatures here have been well over a hundred for many days. Yesterday was no different. Knowing that I am going to have get acclimated for the heat and humidity of MS, I headed out for a run. My plan for acclimation is the run as far/long as I can and then run/walk until I've had enough. My sister lives near a bike/hike trail so I headed out on that. First, I walked .75 mile and then I ran 3 miles. I felt fine with that run, but stopped as soon as I felt I was overheating. It's a good thing I did stop and turn around because it took me forever to get back to the start. There was no water available on the trail and I was very near having big-time problems. As soon as I got back to the house, I drank a bunch of water. I then stood/sat under a cold shower until I began to feel somewhat normal. As soon as I got something to eat and started hydrating, I felt OK.

We plan to leave tomorrow to make our way home. We'll stop at least one night. I have a couple of high school classmates who live in the Pine Bluff area. I haven't seen them since 1962 and I may try to meet up with them.

This has been a very good trip and Hollie and I plan to return to Alaska next year. Other travel plans include a couple of weeks in the FL Keys in Nov and Dec and some extended time in TX, NM, and AZ in Jan and Feb.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In MN in our new 19 Foot 5th Wheel Trailer

I have not posted since last Thursday, so this will be rather long as I try to catch up. We are now in MN where yesterday we picked up our new 19 foot 5th wheel Scamp travel trailer. After we picked it up we boon docked in the Wal-mart parking lot. We wanted to make sure everything was working properly before we start our journey back to MS. It's a good thing we did that because the gas water heater was burning so hot that it blackened the outside grate covering of the trailer. As soon as we noticed the problem we turned the heater off. This morning we went back to the Scamp factory and they said there was too much air in the mixture. They made an adjustment and hopefully it will be OK. They easily removed the blackening on the grate.

Summary from last Thursday to yesterday:

Thursday afternoon the drove our truck onto the ferry that would take us from Haines, AK to Prince Rupert, BC. The ferry holds about 88 vehicles depending upon size. There is also room for over 400 passengers. Our original plan was to sleep on the floor in one of the lounges. This is a common practice with many passengers. Once we looked around and saw how everything was arranged, we decided that we would not want to do that and we were lucky that there was one 2-person cabin left. The cabin had bunk beds and a restroom and the price was right.

This ferry ride was 36 hours and went through the beautiful inside passage. By taking the ferry, we cut off a significant amount of driving time and mileage. Since we no longer had our travel trailer in which to sleep, we also would have had to pay for motel rooms.

One of the highlights of the ride (for Hollie) came Friday morning when he was up and in the forward lounge early enough to see an estimated 70 whales, including humpback and orca, as well as dolphins. Also, the small towns where we stopped were absolutely beautiful. The amazing thing is that these places even exist because the only way you can get there is by boat or plane. But then, this is Alaska and it is just the way it is. There are very few miles of road in this very huge state.

We arrived in Prince Rupert at about 5:30 am and immediately started driving toward Backus, MN. We made about 450 miles the first day. Along the way we saw a couple of black bear and many lakes and rivers where people were camped and many were fishing. This past Monday was a holiday in many Canadian provinces and these people take their 3 day weekends seriously. The second day we also drove about 500-600 miles. We planned to do 400-600 miles each day and take 4 days to drive the distance of over 2000 miles. That did not work out. We had planned to stay the 3rd night in Minot, ND. We were unaware that there had been serious flooding in that area, with the displacement of many residents. That, coupled with an oil and gas exploration surge, meant that there were no rooms available.

I started calling various motel chains and found that the nearest reasonable rates were for motels in Fargo or Grand Forks. We decided to go for Fargo, which meant that we had to drive between 800-900 miles on Monday. The good news is that we were able to drive the remaining 100 plus miles yesterday and able to pick up our trailer a day early and save that night's motel bill.

We will probably say close to Backus another night---just in case we have any additional issues with the hot water heater or anything else. Then, we will probably head for Fayetteville, AR for a couple of days to visit my sister. We should be home in a week or so.

On the exercise front---neither Hollie nor I had done any running, walking or biking for 4 days so it felt good to get out and run. Right next to the Wal-mart where we boon docked was a hike/bike/cross country ski trail. I walked 1.25 miles and ran 5 miles. The temperature was somewhere between 70-80 degrees and since we had been exercising in Alaska in much lower (sometimes actually cold) temperatures, this was quite a shock. I am going to be in deep trouble when I get home where todays high is supposed to be 101.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

We Sold Our Scamp

Last September we bought our very nice 16 foot Scamp travel trailer. Since that purchase, we have spent over 100 nights in it and have covered over 15,000 miles. The only thing that we did not like about it was that in order to use the dinette/bed, we had to spend time and effort converting. Plus, the bed is actually smaller than a double. At home we sleep in a King and the double was just too small. When we started planning this trip, we tried to sell that Scamp and wanted to buy the 19 foot 5th wheel which has a queen bed in the loft and we would be able to keep the dinette in place. We were not able to sell before we left for this trip so we decided to try to sell it here in Alaska and then go to Backus, MN to pick up the 5th wheel and then head home. We had quite a few people look at the Scamp and on Tuesday we made the sale, getting just a little less than what we had paid for it in September. So, we will be getting the 5th wheel next week.

Then---the real adventure began. We now had $15,000 in cash that we wanted to get into our bank account. There was one bank in Tok where we had made the sell. They would not help is in any way in transferring funds into our credit union account. They said we had to have an account with them. We said we would open an account. They said we could not do that since we were not residents. We really needed to get to Haines, AK so that on Thursday we could catch the ferry to Prince Rupert. We were hoping we could "get rid" of the cash in Haines.

To get to Haines, we had to take a road that left Alaska and entered the Yukon Territory, CA and then reentered Alaska. That meant that we had to go through or past 4 border stations. When we drove past the US station South of Tok, we did not stop because we didn't know we were supposed to declare that we were leaving the US with more than $10,000. We did know that entering Canada, we needed to declare the cash. Not only did we have to declare it, but we had to count it out for the agent and complete some paperwork, as well as giving them a verbal explanation as to why we had that much cash. After we had finished all that, the Canada agent called the US border people who were located 20 miles back from where we had driven. They told him to send us back because we were supposed to declare the money and we would have to complete some documents. So, off we went. At the US Customs, we did not have to count the money or even show it to them. We completed the documents and headed off on the 400 plus mile drive. All this had taken nearly 2 hours and we really wanted to get to Haines so we could try to get rid of the cash.

Since Hollie had driven the entire time when we were pulling the trailer, he let me do most of the driving to Haines. Along the way we saw dozens of trumpeter swans and several bears. About half way between Haines Junction and Haines, we saw a grizzly bear and a black bear within a mile of each other. The grizzly was on the road and as we approached, it moved just the the side and down an embankment. We were able to watch it for several minutes.

When we got to the Canada border, we stopped at customs because that was what the previous customs guy had told us we would need to do. They just looked at our papers and sent us on. We then stopped at the US customs and showed them our papers and answered some questions and were sent on our way.

It was after 11:00 pm when we got to Haines. The first rather nice looking motel that we saw had a no vacancy sign. We then drove into the main part of town and saw a couple more motels. What a shock to have to pay over $130 for an absolute dump, especially considering we haven't been paying *anything* for our lodging. Oh---I know we have been paying in that we had to pay for the travel trailer, but it still was very odd to pay for such a pitiful room.

That was Tuesday night. Yesterday we found a room back at the nicer looking motel that had previously had none. It was fine, but still not worth the $100 we had to pay. I'm missing my Scamp!

Yesterday, as soon as the one bank opened, we were there! They allowed up to open an account and we were able to get the money in a safe place. We then spent the rest of the day checking out the town. There was a cruise ship in port so there were a lot of people in this small town. I got to see it from a good perspective as I did a 5 mile run and 1 mile walk.

This morning I ran 3 miles and now I'll be getting things ready for the ferry trip. When we sold the Scamp, we had quite a bit of "stuff" in it that we now have the bed of our truck. Since it rains quite often, we just put everything in trash bags and we'll deal with it when we get the new Scamp. We do have our clothes and personal items somewhat organized and in the cab of the truck, so we should be OK for the 36 hour ferry ride and the 2000 mile drive to MN.

This is a rather large ferry, but once we get on it with the truck, the only time we can go to the truck is when we are in port or at other designated times. This ferry has sleeping cabins, but we decided to just rough it with a pillow and blanket and sleep in deck chairs, on the floor or any other place we can find. The ferry has showers and food/drink can be purchased. We will be on it for over 36 hours during which we will go through some of the the most beautiful scenery in the world.

I'm not sure how many more blogs I will be able to post. This computer is acting like the hard drive is getting ready to crash. I'm just trying to keep it going long enough to make it home and it it checked out.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tok, AK

Yesterday we drove from Valdez to Tok and are staying at the Sourdough Campground. We will also be here tonight.

I have realized that I have not mentioned much about the trumpeter swans that we have seen. While we were in Valdez, we saw two. Yesterday we saw two adults and 5 young. This was about 40 miles before Tok. They were pretty far away, but with binnoculars we were able to watch them as they moved around their nest.

As far as my running goes, I have done 30 miles in the past 7 days. Where we are now located as an extensive network of bike paths. This is really strange because Tok has a very small population. I guess somebody is good at grant writing. I'm not complaining as I ran 4.5 miles and walked 1 mile.

This campground has nightly entertainment with a "Johnny Cash Tribute Artist" who has a good speaker system with good back up CDs. He entertains and in return gets meals, RV hookup, tips and can sell his CDs. In addition, there is a nightly sourdough pancake toss. You are given two chances to toss a pancake into a bucket from a distance of about 10 feet. If successful, you get a free pancake breakfast. I came close with a ringer.

Tomorrow we are to meet a couple who have told us they will have the cash to purchase our 16 foot Scamp. If the deal works out, we will then drive to Haines, AK and take a ferry (36 hours) to Prince Rupert. This goes through the inside passage which is a very beautiful area. I did this ferry trip from Bellingham, WA to Juneau many years a go, but Hollie wants to see the inside passage and it will cut off quite a bit of our driving distance. We have already made arrangements with the Scamp people in Backus, MN so that we will continue on there to pick up a 19 foot 5th wheel Scamp. I've spent most of today getting the trailer clean and everything packed so that we can hit the road tomorrow as soon as the deal is complete. Cross your fingers for us. We really do like our Scamp, but the larger 5th wheel will better meet our needs.

Time to go for a run. I need to get in some miles since I probably won't be able to run for 4-5 days.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lots of Bears, Eagles and Sea Lions

On Thursday, after I posted my blog, I went for a run around town. While on the street where the high school is located, I heard a loud boom, followed by crashing of tree limbs. As I neared the sound, I saw a "public safety officer" with a very large gun. He told me there had been a young bear in a tree and he had frightened it out and it was headed behind the HS. Needless to say, I kept my eyes open for it and I stayed away from the HS. After my run, we drove back out to the Solomon Fish Hatchery area. Just as we pulled into the parking lot we saw all these people running in one direction. Of course, we followed them and that's when I saw the brown bear frolicking in the water. That's the best way to describe his/her actions. It was a fairly young bear and it was jumping up and down and looking at us like it was there to entertain us. After awhile it got down to the business of catching fish. In a short time it was successful and then, with fish in mouth, it walked across the road into the woods. What a treat to see this animal in action.

In the same location we saw numerous eagles, including the largest juvenile that I have ever seen. In addition, there were quite a few sea lions in the area. The fisher people were not even using bait; they were just throwing out their lure and snagging the fish.

Yesterday was another beautiful day in Valdez. The Valdez glacier is located just down the road from our campground and we drove back there to watch the kayakers. We also returned to Robe Lake to see if there was any wildlife action there.While Hollie was doing his bike ride, I went to the Valdez Museum which helped me to get a better understanding of the history of Valdez, including how the earthquak, pipeline terminal, oil tanker spill have impacted the Prince William Sound area.

I did another run around town, managing 5.5 miles plus 1.5 miles walking. There are quite a few runners in the area. I just imagine most of them are visitors, although I'm sure the locals are enjoying what they tell me is the best weather that they have had in years.

Last night when I was waiting for an available shower I was talking with a guy who is in a campsite near us. He asked me if I had seen the bear last night. He then told me that a small black bear had walked right through our sight. We were not at the site at that time, so I did not see it, although I have been hearing noises at night that I think are bear.

This morning we went back out to the Solomon Hatchery area where we ran along the bike/pedestrain path. There were quite a few eagles and sea lions, but we did not see bear. We are now in town where I will probably go to another museum.

We will be leaving tomorrow to meet some people in Tok on Tuesday. They are supposed to buy our trailer and if it happens, we will then drive to Haines and take the ferry to Prince Rupert where we will then make our way to Backus, MN to pick up a 5th wheel Scamp.

I hope that my blog is not totally confusing as far as my timelines. I do not have regular internet access and by the time I get around to posting, I may not have thing in exactly the right time frame.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Tuesday morning while in Anchorage, I ran on a really beautiful trail where I had been warned to be on the lookout for a moose. I never did see the moose, but I did have a very enjoyable run with the temperature being in the low 60s and full sun. The flowers and other plants, along the creek side were wonderful. After the run, I went to a YMCA to shower and then we headed out for Valdez.

It took us two days to make the drive, mostly because we kept stopping for wildlife or scenic attractions/views. We spent the night at a very rustic campground about 10 miles West of Glennallen. Our site was next to a creek and we enjoyed walking through the campgrouds and seeing evidence of moose and other wildlife. The mosquitos were unreal. They weren't as large as some in other arts of Alaska, but there were so many of them. They are really slow, so we could usually swat them before they did any damage. Just before going to bed, I walked down to the restroom and on my way back I kept thinking that it was really cold. When we woke up yesterday morning, our thermometer read 36 degrees. No wonder I thought it was cold!

We then drove the rest of the way into Valdez, but that 120 miles took all day as we stopped to visit Wrangell-St Elias National Park which is the largest park in the US. On down the road we stopped to walk up to the foot of a glacier. Then, we had to make several stops to view and take pictures of some really tall waterfalls. This was probably the best weather and most scenic day that we have had in Alaska. Where we stopped for our roadside lunch was overlooking a huge lake with some very tall mountains in the background. Also, we stopped once to get an up close view of an above ground portion of the Alaska pipeline. What an amazing project! And, it is certainly not something that interfered with our enjoyment of the scenery. Also, by the evidence of lots of scat, the moose are not offended by the location of the line.

We arrived in Valdez early enough to drive around town. We quickly decided that we did not want to be at an in town campground with the "tourists" since we don't consider ourselves to be such and don't enjoy all the noise, etc. On the way into town, we had seen a sign for a camp ground on the road to the Valdez glacier. When we got there, we drove around and picked a nice quiet site with a waterfall view just out our door. When I turned in our money, the host told us to stay away from certain areas as a bear had killed a dog the previous day. The dog belonged to a guy who was out for a run. According to him, had he not had the dog, the bear would have attacked him. I did not get a more complete story, but that was enough for me to drive back into town for my run.

This morning we drove back to the Valdez glacier and then to Robe lake where we talked to a couple of people who were at the lake giving their dogs a swim. They told us that there seemed to be many more bear this year than usual and suggested some areas that we should avoid. We followed those suggestions.

After that we drove to the Solomon Fish Hatchery which is located on the road to the Alaska Pipe Line terminus. At the Hatchery, the salmon where running and I got pictures of them where there were so many it looked like the water was boiling. Due to high security, we could not get anywhere near the pipeline terminus.

We are now in the Valdez library and in a bit we will go for our run/walk and then we plan to eat at a fish restaurant, where they serve only local product. Hopefully, it will be to our expectations.

Since the weather here has been so great and there is so much to see, we have decided to stay a bit longer in Valdez, taking it day by day. We need to be in Skagway/Haines by next Thursday if we are going to take the ferry through the inside passage.

Monday, July 18, 2011

5K Age Group Wins in Alaska

Before I post about our 5K race, I want to tell you that the fish finally arrived at the mouth of the Kenai river and the whole town, along with the town of Soldotna and much of this part of Alaska was out there netting the salmon. It was constant action and many people had elaborate systems worked out where some people would be in the water netting, some others would meet them on the beach and bop the fish and then take it to someone else who would fillet. I'm sure that everyone go their limit. By the way, this netting is only open to residents of Alaska and must be within the first 3 miles of the mouth of the river.

On Friday Hollie and I went to the HS to enter Saturday's 5K race. I had previously called the race director to make sure we would get the pre-register fee rather than the late fee. Not only did we get the reduced rate, but we also got the family rate and were able to enter our grandchildren (even though they were not with us). For the $50, we got 5 long-sleeved shirts and 5 pair of running socks. Since these were the brand socks that I like, I traded for my size so now I have 5 new pair of running socks.

The race was a point to point and was nearly entirely downhill. Since I like to do a 30-45 minute warmup, I had Hollie take me out to the start. He went back and parked at the finish and took the shuttle bus to the start. I have not been doing much training. I have been running; just not training so I really thought I'd run about 28 minutes. In hindsight, I should have just blown it out and gone for a sub 26. My time was 27:29 and with it being so much downhill, I really should have run faster. I did win my AG, but instead of the usual trophy/plaque awards that we are used to, they gave out ribbons. I'm not complaining since in addition to all the above mentioned race goodies, they also had post-race hotdogs, hamburgers chips, bananas, soft drinks and coffee. They also had doorprize drawing for round trip air from Soldotna to Anchorage.

The real race highlight for us was that Hollie ran the first mile continuously, in a time of about 9 minutes. As many of you know, three years ago he had a severe ankle injury where he had to have surgery and now has 10 screws and several metal plates in his ankle. He has not been running until a couple of months ago, although he alternates a 4-5 mile racewalks and 15-25 mile bike rides every other day.

After he ran that first mile, he alternated running and walking and was able to win his AG. He says the ankle feels fine and he thinks he will be able to start training. He'll probably just slowly increase his running and do less walking and continue to bike on alternate days. I think he can do quite well in his AG. I do know he had really missed running and he is really hoping this will work.

After the race we drove to Whittier, AK which is famous for having a 2.5 mile tunnel that until a couple of years ago was only used by trains. It is now used for auto traffic. Traffic is one way so they have an elaborate schedule for timing which direction will be using the tunnel. Train traffic has priority. The weather was cold and rainly, but that did not stop us from walking aroung the "town" which has about 300 year round residents, but several thousand during the Summer. We parked at a campground that was more like a rock field with three porta potties. Needless to say, we only stayed one night. The interesting thing was that when we left yesterday morning, it was rain and cold in Whittier. When we drove the 2.5 miles through the tunnel and exited, it was sunny and warm. We then stopped several places along the way to Anchorage so that we could see wildlife and glaciers and we took a couple of short hikes.

We are now in Anchorage and will probably stay another night or two. This is a beautiful city with flowers everywhere. The hanging baskets are the size of a washtub. I guess this is due to all the sun (18-22 hours a day) and all the rain. Today we toured the ULU knife factory where they were serving free reindeer hot dogs. I better not tell the grandkids.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cook State Recreation Area

We have spent the past two nights parked at the North Kenia Peninsula Recreation Area. This place has a little bit of everything, including a huge domed swimming facility with a 132 foot slide. They allow free overnight RV parking and for $2 we can use their shower facility.

Yesterday we decided to drive out to the Cook State Recreation Area. Our intention was that we would stay in the campground, but after driving around the campground, we decided to just use the day use area which had beautiful views of the Cook inlet, beach and the mountains with four "active" volcanoes. We had previously bought a load of firewood from a roadside vendor and we really wanted to have a fire and watch the sunset. We arrived at the area at about 3:00 pm and took off for our daily run. I ran out a couple of miles and on my return trip I saw a moose about a hundred yards off the road. It was near river and was quietly watching me. I watched it for awhile an then headed back to my starting area. On our drive into the area, I saw what I thought were three fox.

Hollie and I then started about building our fire. I'm sure you Mississippi people have a difficult time relating to building a campfrie in July. But, you have to realize that the temperature was in the 50s and would be in the 40s at night. Just after we got the fire going a Native American family of grandma, adult son, adult daughter and granddaughter pulled into the parking lot. They kept looking at our fire and finally the young man came over and asked if we would like to share our fire with them. He said they wanted to teach the granddaughter how to make Smores and they would share them with us. How could we refuse? It turned out to be a good decision as we thoroughly enjoyed talking with them---especially the grandmother who shared some interesting stories about growing up on an island and living in Alaska.

Eventually, they left and we cooked our hotdogs, green peppers/onions and chili. We also had some deviled egg potato salad that we had purchased from Walmart. We topped the meal off with Smores that they had left for us. We then sat around the fire until sunset (sometime between 11-12 pm) and eventually drove back to the rec center to park for the night. Since it was closed, we had to go to sleep smelling like the campfire. After this morning's run, I was very happy to get a hot shower and put those stinkly clothes away.

We then drove into Kenai to watch the dip net fishing. We had never seen nor heard of this, but it was interesting to watch. The people use these huge nets attached to a long aluminum pole. They get in the water (wearing chest-high waders) and as the fish swim by they get caught in the nets. They then haul the net onto the beach and take the fish out of the nets and hit them with a small bat (like a miniature baseball bat). According to the locals, the run has not really started, but it should at any moment. How do they know this?

We are planning to stay in the Kenai Walmart parking lot tonight and in the Soldotna Fred Meyer lot tomorrow. We probably would leave the area tomorrow, but there is a 5K and 10 mile race on Saturday. I always like to do a race when we are on our travels and I especially want to do one in Alaska. Hollie and I will both do the 5K.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Still in Soldotna

Last night was our 3rd night in Soldotna, AK. We had to stay through today because we needed to replace the tires on the trailer. We have about 15,000 miles on them and on Saturday I noticed that one of them had something imbeded in the tread. All the tire places were closed until today and we decided to also get the bearings packed or greased or whatever is recommended.

Yesterday we went on a 3- mile hike in the Wildlife Refuge. Before we did that we watched a really good film on the wildlife of Denali. The day before we had seen another one of the guy who decided at age 52 that he wanted to build a cabin in the wilderness of Alaska and then spend a year there. This area was accessible only by airplane. He ended up staying over 30 years. The film was a documentation of his first year while building the cabin. He was a Master carpenter and it was very interesting to see how he made his own tools and build the log cabin. He also kept a journal and his experiences have been included in a book, the title of which I cannot recall.

Today we drove out to the Cook State park. Along the way we passed through a small community that had an amazing domed swimming pool/recreation center. I imagine this facility was funded by the oil and gas operations that are abundant in the area. The pool had a 132 water slide, along with many other outstanding features. They also had a small fitness center and we found that they allow overnight RV parking. Depending upon tomorrow's weather (rain is forecast) we may stay there one night and take advantage of the fitness facility and the showers. Then, we weill go to the state park for at least a couple of nights. The campsights are in a very lush setting and overlook the Cook inlet and offer beautiful views. We are really looking forward to a campfire so we can use some of that wood that we purchased from a roadside vendor the other day. For $10 we got a huge amount. This was on the honor system where they had various amounts of wood stacked with price signs and a box into which you were to place the money.

This area is home to the guy who grows world champion gourds, melons, etc. I may try to find him and see his garden. I'm sure some of my Hattiesburg gardeners would like pictures. I still cannot get pictures to load at any of the wi-fi places I am using. Maybe I will eventually get that done. I have taken quite a few and they really would make this blog come alive.

I want to stay in this area at least until Saturday. I have always wanted to do a race in Alaska and we learned that there is a fairly large 5K/10 miler on Saturday. Of course, I will do the 5K since I am in no way prepared for a 10 miler.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Soldotna

We are now in Soldotna, AK which is famous for the abundant fish action. Although we don't fish, we certainly like watching those who do and we certainly enjoy the beautiful scenery.

I really didn't get to see as much of Homer as I wanted to see because for about 36 hours I had some sort of "throwing up" illness. I was down for the court for about 24 hours and just now am beginning to feel normal.

We are now boondocking in a Fred Meyer parking lot. There are about 20 other RV units here. We'll be here for until Monday for sure. Just when I was getting in the trailer, I noticed that there was a split in one of the tires. It will be Monday before we can get it replaced. Lucky for us, the Fred Meyer allows us to unhook from the Tundra so we are able to get around and see the area without worrying about the trailer tire.

We have already discovered a wonderful bakery, "Moose in on the Loose" which I'm sure we will return to each day. I had a pecan caramel something and Hollie had an apple fritter. We also found a place that had one of the best burger platters that I've ever tasted. It might have something to do with not having eaten anything in a couple of days.

Between Homer and Soldatna we visited a Russian Orthodox chuch which was very unusual and had a beautiful and very interesting cemetery.

I'm not sure how much more I'll be able to post to my blog as I have about to run out of battery. I will attempt to post pictures on some of my previous blog posts.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Homer, AK

We are now in Homer, AK and I am in awe of all the eagles we have been seeing. Just before we left Seward, we walked down to the salmon ladder area that was about 800 meters from our campground. At one point, we counted 18 eagles perched in nearby trees, including quite a few juveniles. Here in Homer, we have seen two nests with juveniles. These are located very close to busy roads/tourists areas.

I've been running so slow that I wanted to do some speed work. I asked the young woman at the campground office about local tracks. She told me not to use the HS track because "it is so bad, they don't even have meets on it" She advised me to use the MS track. All I can say is that if the MS track is better than the HS, I don't want to go anywhere near it. The MS track was so bad that I had to use the outside lanes. Since my Garmin was messed up and I didn't want to take the time to fool with it, I just wore a regular watch. Running the the outside lanes, I didn't want to have to tax my brain by trying to make conversions, so I just decided to do a timed speed session, consisting of 1:00, 1:15, 1:30, 1:45, 2:00, 1:45, 1:30, 1:15, 1:00 with double time recovery jog between each speed segment. With warm-up and cool-down, I figure I ran about 5 miles.

The temperature when I ran was about 50 degrees with a brisk wind. Being from hot/humid climate, I was cold so I wore long tights, a long-sleeved shirt, windbreaker and gloves. I never did get overheated and had a nice workout.

I'm still having trouble posting pictures to this blog, but if you are on Facebook, I have been posting some there.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Seward, AK

We have seen so much and been so busy, I really don't know where to start. I guess I'll just have to wing it from memory as the days just seem to fly past and I'm having so much fun that I don't seem to have time to get this blog done in a timely manner. I so want everyone to read my blog and at least get a feel for this very beautiful state.

We left Wasilla on Sunday morning and drove through Anchorage, without spending any time there. Our plan is to see more when we go back there on our return. Between Anchorage and Seward was the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen. Again, we did not stop very oftern because we want to plan for more time to really appreciate it. We arrived in Seward to find the entire town packed with people. Susan Davidson had told me that if we were anywhere near Seward on July 4, we had to include it on our trip. So, we timed it that way and she was absolutely correct. The people of Seward and all the visitors really do know how to have fun and to celebrate. This *is* small town America at its best.

We attempted to drive around and find a place to park our trailer in or close to town, but finally realized that would be impossible. Seward has a population of about 4000 and it is estimated there are about 40,000 in town for the 4th. We had passed several private RV parks on the way into town so we drove back and stopped at a couple of them. At the 3rd or 4th stop, we found one that had a space. It is the Bear Creek Lake Campground and although it is a bit old, it is fine for us. It is about 7-8 miles from town and has everything we need, so we will be here for 3 nights, leaving tomorrow.

The morning of the 4th, we got into town early enough to get a good parking spot so that we could walk to various areas to view the start/finish and parts (mostly through binoculars) of the Mountain Marathon race. This is not a marathon distance, but it certainly is a mountain race. I really cannot do it justice by trying to give a description. Briefly, it is a 3.5 mile race up and down a mountain without the benefit of maintained trails. The shortest distance that one could do is 3.5 miles, with an elevation gain of over 3000 feet. Some people choose routes that make the distance longer. There are three races, one for ages 7-17 that goes halfway up, and one each for male and female 18 and over. If you are interested, there are several youtube videos of the event. The one I like best is The Mountain Marathon Experience mp4

In all my years of running, coaching and watching races, I have never seen anything like this. The first section is asphalt street, followed by gravel road and then up the mountain. I would have had trouble running the asphalt part.

When I was watching the age 7-17 race, I got rather emotional. In today's society, it is so unusual to see kids who would even think about doing something like this. IT IS VERY DIFFICULT!!! To see young boys and girls pushing themselves so much both physically and emotionally gave me chills. As they were approaching the finish area, some of them were muddy, scraped and bleeding but nearly all of them looked so pleased and happy. The crowds were so supportive and appreciative of their effort.

That race was followed by the women which turned out to be a duel between two young women who were teammates on the US Olympic Cross Country Ski Team. They ran/crawled/slid together for much of the race, with one turning it on within the last 200 meters to take the victory.

By the time the men ran, I was exhausted. All together, I took about 700 pictures. I have a new camera and it lets me take multiple shots in a matter of a second. Of course I don't know any of these people, but it was still fun to take pictures and view them on computer where I could really see their expressions and how physically spent they were.

Today we did a hike to Exit Glacier. That was really beautiful and interesting to see how much it has changed over the years. On the way back to the campground, we spotted an eagle and a nest and I took quite a few pictures. When we got to the campground, we walked about 500 yards toward the lake and I spotted another eagle. I was so busy taking its pictures and even though I saw that it was getting ready to take off, I was so in awe of it that I couldn't react quickly enough to get pictures of it in flight. We then walked down a bit more and saw a juvenile eagle.

Running-wise, I hve been using the wide shoulder/bike path of the Seward Highway. The drivers seems to be used to runners and bikers and give me a wide berth when I am on the highway. With all the walking I did yesterday, I had a hard time running, although I did manage 3 miles. The day before I had done 5.75. Today, I'll try for 4-5 miles. I am finding that I want to run each day, but I just don't want to run fast; I want to enjoy everything and not push the pace.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Denali to Wasilla

Yesterday morning we toured the sled dog facility at Denali National Park. That was quite interesting to learn that the dog sleds are still used as the major method of accessing remote areas of Denali. It was also a treat to get to see some of the dogs and to learn about their training, diet, etc.

From Denali we drove to Wasilla, AK home of Sarah Palin. Wasilla is a beautiful town. We have yet to meet anyone who is not very friendly and appears to be very happy. I am also very impressed with the work ethic of the people of Wasilla. Yesterday I met a young man who works two jobs and he told me that he had worked 80 hours in the past 4 days. He said he was trying to save money to go back to college, but in the meantime he has decided to join the Army. He didn't see any reason to stop working until he enlists.

We have seen no graffiti and there are hike/bike trails everywhere. The schools are very new and quite attractive. In general, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on recreation. If it did not get so cold in Winter, I think this would be a very nice place to live.

This afternoon we drove up to Hatcher pass which is known for gold mining. The place is now a state historical area. The drive up there was beautiful and the tour of the mining area was very interesting.

Today I wanted to do speed work so we went to the Wasilla High School track. The track was not nearly as nice as I had expected. I guess track is not a big deal up here. Of course, neither is football. Basketball and ice hockey are *the* sports. I ran a total of 5 miles, including 8 x 400 @ a little over 9 MPM pace. I am slow, but since I haven't been doing any speedwork, I need to accept that until I do such, I will be slow.

Tomorrow we will drive to Seward, AK where we will observe the most well known race in Alaska. It is a 5K, but it goes straight up a mountain and then straight back down. I understand that it is not much of a trail---just a run up and down the face of a mountain. I am told that most people fall at some point in the race. I was happy to learn that the event registration closed in March. Otherwise, I would be tempted to do it and I probably would end up severely injured. I think Seward has a population of about 4000, but the weekend of the 4th they expect to have a total of about 40,000 people in town. We have no idea where we will park our Scamp. All the campgrounds a full, but I'm told that people just park wherever they can find a spot and the party begins.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Left Denali and now in Wasilla, AK

When we arrived in Denali National Park on Tuesday, there were no camping spots available, but we were able to get a spot for Wednesday and Thursday. We also purchased bus tickets for the winderness tour out to Wonder Lake. This was an 11 hour bus trip out about 85 miles and back. Most of it was on a well maintained gravel road and we made frequent rest stops and stops to photograph wildlife. In total we saw 5 grizzly bear, one fox, several caribou, 26 Dall sheep (these were so high up that they simply looked like dots, but with binoculars I counted 26) several moose including a huge bull. This bus trip is the only way to see the wilderness areas of Denali (with the exception of backpacking among the wildlife and I'm chicken with that.)

I think I'm on the downside of this cold that I caught from Hollie. I was so tired yesterday that I just could not think about running.

This morning we took the sled dog tour/demonstration. That was quite interesting to learn that in Winter, dog sled in the major mode of transportation. Since much of Denali is a designated wilderness area, there is limited motor transportation during Winter.

We are now in Wasilla, AK which seems to be a very nice city. They have a population of about 10,000 but there are outlying communities that make it seem much larger. Also, they have most of the major big box stores including Wal-mart and Target. We are parked in the Wal-mart lot with about 20 other RVs. I am now in a coffee cafe which is located just across the street---with free internet.

As soon as I get this posted, I'm going to head out for a run which will probably be slow and short but I'm sure I'll fell better; that's the way it usually works.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Denali National Park

Rain, rain and more rain. The rain started early this morning and has continued most of the day. We arrived at Denali National Park a couple of hours ago and the campgrounds were all full, but we got a space for tomorrow and the next night. We also got seats on the 11 hour shuttle/tour bus for Thursday. This is one of the few ways that you can see the interior of Denali (other than backpacking or biking) and we decided to go for it. We had choices of 8 hour, 11 hour or 12 hour trips. A person at a visitor center told us that the only way to really see MT McKinley is on the 11 hour and of course, we want to see that.

We are now at a private campground a couple of miles from the park. It has cable tv and internet. Can you imagine that with a charge of $36, they still charge $3 for a 10 minute shower? Since we have been boondocking (no hookups in a Wal-mart parking lot) for the past two nights, I may just have to pay that or use our tiny shower.

The temperature is currently 50-55 degrees and it's raining. I would like to get in a workout today and tomorrow because I know I won't be able to do so on Thursday. I may just have to put on some rain gear and head out. I know my Hattiesburg friends would love to run in those temps, with or without rain.

Rhubarb Pie

My good friend Mary Ruth Middlebrook has travelled many miles with me. Many years ago on one of our adventures in Northwest Arkansas, we stopped at at Mom and Pop cafe and on the counter there was one of the most beautiful pies that I have ever seen. Mary Ruth agreed that it was very unusual, with the highest meringue topping that I had ever seen, and she proceeded to take a picture of the pie. The staff at the cafe thought we had lost our minds.

A couple of weeks ago when I visited Mary Ruth in Granbury, TX, we talked about that pie that we had seen in Arkansas. She told me she wanted me to eat some rhubarb pie and take a picture of it to send to her. This is a picture of that pie.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In Fairbanks

Yesterday we drove from Beaver Creek, YT to Fairbanks, AK. The first half of the drive was very nice, with great scenery. Then, it rained for most of the second half. Once again, we are amazed at the number of solo bike riders. They are so loaded down and there are so many ups and downs and gravel sections. I don't know how they do it, especially on the gravel sections and when it is raining.

Before it started raining, we did spot a pair of trumpeter swans nesting on a small island on a small lake. If we had been able to make a u-turn we would have gone back to get a picture.

I do wish I had taken a picture when we saw where the Alaska pipeline crosses a big river near Delta Junction. It was interesting to see the pipeline and within a few hundred yards there was a boat launch where people were putting in, along with about 25 empty boat trailers parked nearby. My impression was that the pipeline did not interfer with fishing. The picture would have shown this contrast.

Now that we have driven so many miles in Canada and are now in Alaska, we have seen for ourselves how this really is a wilderness area and there is so much space for so many activities. In my opinion, those activities should include oil and gas drilling. It is my impression, due to the vastness of this area, such drilling would be done in such a small area where so few people will ever visit. And, yes, I do know that there might possibly be a negative impact on animal life, but if we continue at the present rate with our reliance on others for gas and oil, we humans will certainly have a very negative impact on our everyday life.

OK---I'll get off my soapbox, but with one last statement. I think that all members of congress should be forced to spend time driving around Alaska so they could get first-hand knowledge of what this area is really like. It is so unpopulated that you can drive a hundred miles without seeing a place to purchase food or gas. On my run on Saturday, I ran down the middle of the Alaska highway for at least a mile without encountering any traffic other than a moose on the side of the road.

Yesterday, the rain stopped just before we arrived in Fairbanks. Our first impression is that we really like the city and we will be staying at least one other night. Last night we were in a Wal-mart parking lot with about 50 other RVs. When we entered the parking lot we saw these strange yellow posts at the edge of each parking space in about half of the lot. At first we thought maybe they provided electric service. In a way they do. You see, it gets so cold in the winter that people have to plug into electricity to keep the transmission and motor oil from freezing.

Last night I found a very nice asphalt hike/bike trail that is just across the road from the Wal-mart. It is fenced on both sides, so it is very protected from the busy road which it paralleled. It did worry me a bit as to why it was fenced on both sides. I kept thinking that maybe it was because of bears. I did a very pleasant 5 mile and also walked 1.25 miles.

This morning, we will explore the city.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Whitehorse to Beaver Creek, YT

We spent most of yesterday just fooling around the Whitehorse area. We toured the fish ladder, took a drive up to a a very isolated lake and then walked around the downtown. Eventually we did our workouts. There are numerous walking/biking trails and I chose the one that went through downtown and out to the Alaskan Highway. I passed several parks and the big ship display. In total, I ran 5 miles and walked 1 mile.

We left Whitehorse at about 9:00 am. Everyone around us in the Wal-mart parking lot where we are boondocking with about 50 other RVs seem to also get a late start. Hollie and I are so confused and mixed up about the time. That's understandable when the sun sets after 11:00 pm and rises sometime around 5:00 am.

This was a beautiful drive with views of the largest mountain and the largest lake in Canada, as well as many other small lakes. I'll try to post pictures later. The last 75 miles of the drive were very difficult. This was the worst "paved" road I have ever been on, with dips, holes, patches, bumps, etc and lots of gravel sections. Now I know why we have been seeing so many very dirty cars, trucks and RVs. We were very lucky that we followed another truck/trailer almost the entire way. Hollie was able to see what he did wrong and try something else. We spent a lot of time on the wrong side of the road as we attempted to dodge the bad stuff. With so little traffic, that tactic was not a problem.

We are now at a campground in Beaver Creek, YT. This is a "large" settlement with a population of several hundred. I don't know where we'll be tomorrow. It will depend on the road conditions. We already had to change our plans due to a road closure because of a slide. We had planned to go on the Klondike Highway up to Dawson Creek. We will see that area on the way back.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Heading to Whitehorse

Tuesday we drove from Grand Prairie, AB to Fort Nelson, BC. Along the way we took my friend Susan Davidson's advice and stopped in Dawson Creek, BC to tour the Alaska Highway House. This is a free museum "which showcases the Alaska Highway, from its inception after the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the Japanese invasion of Attu and Kiska islands in Alaska's Aleutians, through its construction in 1942-43, to its role today as a vital transportation route to the North and the driving adventiure of a lifetime." It really gave us an appreciation of what an amazing job these guys did in completing this very long road in 8 months time.

We then headed out for the adventure. The scenery was beautiful and we were really enjoying the drive until late in the day when we once again we had to drive in rain. The farther we drove, the fewer places there were to stop for gas, etc. This reminded me that Susan had said to keep an eye on the gas gauge and always be aware of how far it would be before the next opportunity to fill or top off the tank. About 40 miles from Fort Nelson, we saw what we thought was a long legged cat slowly walking across the road. We slowed down and just as it crossed the road and turned back to look at us, we realized that it was a lynx. That was quite a thrill! Of course, I did not have the camera handy.

When we arrived in Fort Nelson, it was still raining so we did not get a workout. That was OK with me because I had run 9 straight days. I am finding that after being in the truck for so many hours, I really do want to run. While I am getting my mileage up, my speed is slowing down significatly. That was my plan for the trip---to work on my running base and try to get my weekly mileage up to about 30 and then work on speed. So far, it is working. On Wednesday, we drove from Fort Nelson to Watson Lake, YT. We had only driven about 30 miles when we saw a black bear and two cubs. Then, about 30 miles on up the road we spotted a sow and three cubs. Once again, I did not have the camera at the ready. Hopefully, I am learning my lesson. Later, I did get a picture of a black bear feeding on the roadside. Our total wildlife sightings for the day consisted of a moose, several elk, about 35 bison, several deer, and quite a few stone sheep. The wildest sighting was not animal, but was four naked boys/men frolicking in Summit Lake. I can't imagine how cold that must have been.

We arrived in Watson Lake early enough to work out. I ran 6.25 miles and walked 1.5 miles. Then, we walked down to Watson Lake Signpost forest which contains more than 62,000 signs which tourists have been leaving since the completion of the highway. This forest is like a maze, with fencing to which all these town/city signs, license tags, homemade and professionally made family sigans, and whatever aother kind of sign you can imagine have been attached.

Running/walking is a very good way to see these towns, but I do have to be very careful. After I finished my run, I was going to do my cool down walk in the signpost forest. Twice I had a drunk or otherwise scary person attempt to engage me in conversation. There were a few other people around, but I decided to come back later with Hollie. When we made it back, those same two guys were attempting to engage other people. They were just plain scary.

Something that we noticed on this leg of the trip was how many roadside businesses are closed. There weren't that many to begin with, but over the years, as autos are more able to go greater distances, many of those which were once essential are now closed. When we pass a place with gas, people are lined up. No one wants to run out of gas on this highway. Another observation is how many people are doing cycling/camping trips on this road. We saw some who were so loaded down that I doubt I could have ridden any distance without the packs. We saw one solo female out in the middle of no where. Later when we stopped at a service station we were talking to some people from Indiana that we've leap frogged with for two days. They told us they stopped the woman to tell her about a bear that was just up the road. On way would I be camping on this road. I'm sure she was going to camp because she was not near any loding.

Yesterday we made it to Whitehorse and boondocked with 40-50 other RVs. We will stay again tonight and maybe another night. I'll try to post a summery later this evening.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Catching Up

Due to not having internet access, this post is a summary of Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

On Saturday we drove from to Lethbridge, AB. Hollie and I are members of the Hattiesburg Family Y and this gives us access to any Y in the world. That came in handy on Saturday because it had rained off and on all day and we needed to be inside for our workout. We also planned to "boondock" in the Walmart parking lot and we wanted to be able to shower after our workout. The Y was very nice with state of the art treadmills which I really found to be cushioned to my liking which meant that I ran 5.5 miles and walked 1 mile. After we showered, we headed to the Walmart where we parked (along with 7 other RVs) for the night.

On Sunday we drove from Lethbridge to the West side of Edmonton. Along the way, we made a stop at a shopping center in Calgary. We were surprised when we saw thousands of people walking around with hockey sticks. We quickly learned that the center was hosting a four on four hockey tournament. They had set up small rinks (no ice/no skates) all over the entire mall parking area. As you can imagine, hockey is a big deal up here.

After we left Calgary, heading to Edmonton, the rain started and once again we were faced with how to get in our workouts without getting soaked. You must know that the temperatures were in the 50-60 F range and we did not want to run/bike in the rain in those temps. We stopped at the visitor's center in Red Deer, AB and learned that there was a public fitness center that we could use. It was the Collicutt Centre and it was amazing. I think it is a city facility and it was 250,000 square feet of aquatic fun, badminton, basketball, gymnastics, dance, ice hockey, floor hockey, volleyball, coffee shop/snack bar, library/reading room, indoor track, TV rooms, dressing rooms, and more. If I lived there I'd probably just spend most of my day there. As it was, I ran about 4 miles on the indoor track which was about 300 meters in length. It was not the traditional oval, but had a long straight of about 130 meters and the rest of it was an odd wavy shape. After showering, we once again hit the road for Edmonton where we boodocked at a Walmart. It rained all night and did not let up until about 9:00 am this morning. We waited until there was break in the rain and then we pulled out with the plan to make it to Grand Prairie, AB. We had only driven about 20 minutes when we were once again in rain. After a couple of hours we finally got out of that.

When we arrived in Grand Prairie, we decided that we wanted to stay at full service RV park. After we got set up, we drove to the visitor center where we learned about the beautiful trail system where Hollie rode his cat trike for 23 miles and I ran 3.5 miles and walked 1.25. We then drove back to the Happy Trails RV park where we are set for the evening.

I'm not sure where we will be tomorrow night. I just hope we are done with the rain for awhile.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Great Falls, MT

It is now 9:15 pm and the sun has not yet set in Great Falls, MT. We spent last night in Hardin, MT and it rained all night. We were dry and snug in our Scamp. During the drive from Hardin to Great Falls, we made a stop in Harlowtown for cookies and coffee. This is a very small, old town that is quickly becoming even smaller. The business district consisted of about 4 blocks. While we were walking the town we heard hymns being played over the loudspeaker of a church. Earlier I had commented to Hollie about how many cars there were on the streets, but how quiet it was. We looked down the street toward the church and saw that there was a funeral in progress. Later when I was in a quilt shop, the owner told me it was a service for a man who died just weeks prior to his 100th BD. She said that he had already bought his elk tag in preparation for going hunting.

It is very windy here and that made for a not so pleasant run. The RV park where we are staying is a few blocks from the Missouri river which is somewhat out of its banks. We did find a trail that ran along the river for a short distance and connected to sidewalks. It is usually difficult to find places to run since we have not ever been to these towns. I walked 1.25 miles and ran 4 miles.

Tomorrow we will be entering Canada. We have no idea where we will stop or how long we will stay; we're just going on up the road and will eventually get to Alaska. We are enjoying the journey.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hardin, MT

Today was a shorter drive than what we've been doing. We left Casper, WY at about 8:00 am and stopped for a couple of hours in Buffalo, WY. This is a neat town with lots of "wild west" history. This area has been experiencing quite a bit of rain and that added to the increased snow melt this year has caused some flooding, with more expected. In Buffalo, many of the businesses had sand bags at the ready in anticipation of a rise in the river (can't remember the name of the river) and more rain.

We had originally thought we would make it to Billings, but decided to stop earlier so that we could get our workouts done before the rain. That was a good decision in that it has been raining for the past hour. We are in Hardin, MT at an RV park that is near the high school. I haven't done a speed workout in nearly a month and decided that I'd check out the track. Even though there was a light rain, I hit the track for a mile and 2 half miles @ 8:50 pace. The total workout was 4.25 miles of running and 2 miles walking.

A couple of you have asked for details about the weather. Yesterday's high was about 70 and last night the low was 45 and today's high was about 60. The humidity yesterday was less than 10%. Eat your heart out!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Now in Casper, WY

I never got around to posting yesterday, but there really wasn't much to write about. Last night was spent at a KOA Campground about 30 miles East of Denver. That 5.25 miles that I ran on a not so cushioned treadmill on Monday, along with all the sitting miles made for a not so good run. I was very slow, but I did run 3.5 miles and walk 2 miles.

This morning Hollie and I both woke up very early and were able to get past Denver without having to contend with rush hour traffic. When we drove through Cheyenne this morning, we made a stop at the Sierra Trading Post Outlet store. This is the warehouse location and they had a huge selection of all things outdoors. On the bottom floor is a regular store, but upstairs there were four separate areas. The first had discounted items, the second had more discounted items, the other two areas contained what are called "thirds" meaning that they are items that have been worn, washed, or are perhaps defective and have been returned. I didn't buy anything, but I sure had fun looking.

We arrived in Casper, WY at about 5:00 pm. This is a neat town and even though its population is only about 60,000, it is much like Hattiesburg in that it is a regional shopping center. There have just about all the usual franchise stores. We visited the Sam's so we could stock up on items before we enter Canada which will probably be in a couple of days.

As far as wildlife sightings, we have found it so interesting to see all the antelope grazing along side the cattle. We've also sighted some colorful birds, but since I don't have any of my birding books with me, I can't ID them.

Tonight's run was not so good. It was very windy with gusts up to 25 MPH. The area where we are staying is on a major highway, but I was able to walk through business parking lots and eventually get to an area that had some sidewalks. I ran 4 miles and walked 1 mile. The elevation and the car riding miles are contributing to my runs being very slow. Now, I'm enjoying lying on my bed and catching up on email and this blog.

We're not sure where we will end up tomorrow night. I think my body is ready for a rest day from riding so that will be a determining factor.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hot and Windy in Amarillo

In Amarillo, TX and at 5:00 pm the temperature was 103 and the winds were gusting up to 30 MPH. It felt like an oven with a big fan. Thankfully, the RV park where we are staying has an exercise room with a treadmill. I ran 5.25 miles and walked .5 miles. When I walked out of the exercise room, I was slapped with the heat, the wind and the odor from the stockyard. I don't think I would ever want to live in this place, nor do I plan to stay more than this one night. Tomorrow we will probably spend the night somewhere in Colorado. I'm ready for those cooler tempts that I've been anticipating.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In Granbury, TX

Yesterday we arrived in Granbury, TX where we are visiting our friends that we have known for over 30 years. They live in a gated golf community that has a place to hook up RVs so we parked our Scamp there and then went over to visit them. They convinced us that even though we had the Scamp set up for the night, we should stay with them in their home. They love to play Canista and we played a game.This past Friday they celebrated their 50 wedding anniversary. This morning she and I played a 9 hole par 3 golf course and that was a hoot since neither of us have played in years. We weren't nearly as bad as we thought we'd be After our golf adventure, while she was taking a nap I went out for a run. It was about noon and I have no idea of the temperature. All I know is that with the heat and the hills, I was proud that I was able to run 3 miles and walk 1.

Tomorrow we continue making our way toward Alaska.

Friday, June 10, 2011

In Gladewater, TX

After changing our departure date several times, we are finally on the road headed to Alaska. We are driving a 2005 Toyota Tundra and pulling a 16 foot Scamp travel trailer. We left Hattiesburg this morning at about 8:20 am and are now at the Antique Capital RV Park in Gladewater, TX. When we arrived at about 5:00 pm, the temperature was 95 degrees so we decided to wait until later to get our workouts done. Shortly after 7:00 pm the temperature about 92 degrees but we needed to get going so that we could finish before dark.

This RV Park is very large and Hollie and I intended to remain in the park walking and running on the park roads. After about 1.75 miles, I couldn't take any more of the rocks and uneven surface so I went out on the highway to finish my run. The shoulder of the road was very wide and there was a moderate amount of traffic. I ended up running 4 miles and walking 1 mile.

Tomorrow we will drive to Granbury, TX to visit our friends. They live in a gated golf community that has an RV Park for use by residents and guests. That should be interesting. These are friends that we have known for over 30 years. Mary Ruth and I met at a 5K race where there was a sudden thunderstorm and she was wearing sunglasses and almost ran into a stop sign. I grabbed her and pulled her away and after the race we got to talking and have been great friends since then.