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.