Saturday, June 30, 2012

Portage Glacier and Seward


I have no idea how I ever tolerated living in Houston all those years. We had thought we would stay tonight and maybe tomorrow night in Anchorage. But, I just can’t stand the traffic and the time it takes to get from point A to point B. I would much rather drive hundreds of miles in rural areas.

We did make it to the Y to workout and now we are in a National Park campground with an excellent view of the Portage Glacier. Since we have the all access senior citizen pass, we get free entry into the park and pay half price $9 for the campsite. There is no water or electric, but the view sure beats the Wal-mart parking lot. When we were here last year, it was much cooler and rainy. Today is cool (about 55-60 degrees, but it is now very sunny (at 9:15 pm) We also have much more snow on the mountains. I think I read that Anchorage had one of  the highest snow measurements ever for this winter. There are quite a few cascades and falls from snow melt that are visible from our campsite. The mountainside that is without snow is very green and the contrast with the snow and the blue of the glacier is beautiful. I’m sure that my pictures will not capture the beauty, but I have a great memory.

We do not have to be in Seward until July 2 so we have a few days to explore. Tomorrow we will check out Hope and maybe stay there for the night.


We are now at a Forest Service campground about 25 miles North of Seward. Our furnace has decided to stop working and we do not have electric at this place. You ask why that should be a problem. The answer is that it got down to 43 degrees last night. That’s OK because I have two blankets and I just stayed in bed until it warmed up a bit and then I wrapped myself in a blanket while I ate breakfast.

Yesterday when I ran in Seward, I made the mistake of starting out with the wind behind me and then I compounded that by misjudging how far I was from the truck when I decided to walk it in. The wind was blowing in over the water and I got really cold. That will teach me that I need to plan for these much lower temps and the wind.

Our forest service campground, located about 25 miles north of Seward is very nice. It is in a wooded area with views of the snow capped mountains and near a river and lake. We will be here two more nights and then go into Seward for a week at a upscale RV park.

Seward hosts the Mountain Marathon on July 4. The event is a 3 to 3.5 mile race up and down a mountain. The distance varies depending upon the route. It starts at an elevation of less than 100 feet and goes up to just under 3000 feet. This will be the 85th running of the race and the entire town is already packed with people. It is very difficult to obtain entry into the event, which is limited to a field of about 1000 adults. They also have akids race with about 350 and they do half the distance. Seward also hosts a really neat “small town” 4th of July celebration. Last year we really enjoyed watching the race, the parade and feasting on some of the food items.

Here’s a link to last year’s race:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Talkeetna and Anchorage


Yesterday we drove from Fairbanks to Talkeetna. As I previously wrote, Hollie is on a quest to get a clear view of  Mt McKinley. When we were here last year, we took a bus tour 82 miles back into Denali National Park and it was a cloudy day so we did not see it at all. I think that is the case 2 out of every 3 days. Like last year, when we got to Denali National Park, it was raining so we decided to drive on to Talkeetna.

This is a really neat town that is probably most famous for two things. The most impressive to me is that it is the Ranger Station where all people who are going to attempt a climb of Mt McKinley have to attend a class and make all their plans known before they are allowed to get on a plane that will deposit them at about 7,000 feet. From there they will take 2-3 weeks if they are able to make the round trip to the top. Most people do not make it. There have been 6 deaths this year and right now there are about 200 people on the mountain. The other claim to fame for Talkeetna is that the locals say it was the basis for the town in the TV series, Northern Exposure.

It is a very small town, with lots of unique shops and restaurants. It is also a side trip for many Alaskan cruises. There are many packages, one of which has passengers arrive by cruise ship and then get on a train or bus and go to Denali. Many stop in Talkeetna for several hours.

We are at the only decent campground in the town. It is located very close to the train depot and it is neat to see the passenger trains arriving and departing. Tomorrow, if the weather is good, we plan to take a 100 plus mile round trip on one of the last remaining “flag” trains in the US. The way it works is people flag or wave down the engineer and can get on or off anywhere along the route. It only runs once a day so you better have firm plans as to what you will be doing once you get off. This is about as remote as Alaska gets without actually being in backcountry.

This morning when I ran, the temperature was in the low 50s. I forgot to check when I started but when I finished just after noon, the temperature was 56 degrees. I had a really nice, but very slow, 7 mile run where I just meandered around the town. Most of the roads that I ran on were hard packed dirt.

We have met many nice people, many of whom want to talk to us about our Scamp trailer. During one conversation today, Hollie and the man were discussing things that can go wrong when towing a trailer or driving a large RV and towing a car. This guy told us that one time he was driving along and he noticed that his jeep that he was towing behind his large RV was not there. Something in the hitch had broken and the jeep had come loose. Luckily, no damage was done to the jeep and it had just come to a stop on the side of the road. I hope we don’t have any problems remotely similar to that.


It started raining early this morning and the cloud cover is very low, so we decided that we did not want to do the train ride. Instead, we will drive to Anchorage where we will have access to a Family Y where we can workout and shower. When we left Talkeetna, the temperature was 50 and it was still raining.

BTW, if you look at some of my earlier posts, I have now edited them to include some pictures. Check back later and I should have more pictures included to math previous posts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beautiful two days in Fairbanks, AK

We have been in Fairbanks, AK for the past two days and the weather has been fantastic. The highs have been in the low 80s with very low humidity. Each night I have worn a jacket. Considering the temperature at home in Hattiesburg, MS is close to 100, I’m really enjoying this. Once again, we stayed in a Wal-mart parking lot with many close friends. Hollie counted about 40 RVs and there may have been some who left before he arose for the day. We are trying to do this trip on the cheap. Considering the cost of gas in Canada and also here in AK, we need to save any way we can.

We were able to get our Toyota Tundra 5000 mile checkup done and they gave us a license plate bracket since we did not have one and Hollie thought it would be an attention getter to drive around Hattiesburg with something from Fairbanks.

Yesterday when I was getting ready for my run, someone knocked on the trailer. When I opened it there stood a women and she said she just had to talk to someone from MS. It turns out that she is from just outside Philadelphia, MS where she owns 400 acres and a house. She had been a teacher in Fairbanks for many years and had retired here. She has been back to MS once or twice a year and has kept her house all those years. She now has health problems and is moving back to MS. We had a great conversation and exchanged contact information. She is an avid golfer and I am an infrequent golfer (when I am injured and cannot run) so I thought we might get together once she makes it back to MS which will be about the time we get home.

I really wish we had arrived in Fairbanks a day earlier because they had the Midnight Run 10K and I really would have liked to do that. That will teach me to do more research because we could have worked our plans where we got here earlier. The times in my AG were really soft and I think I could have won.
Today we will drive to the Denali National Park area. When we were there last year, it was too cloudy to see the mountain and Hollie really wants to do that. Hopefully, we’ll get lucky.

I’m still working on posting pictures to this blog and to Facebook. I just need a good internet connection and the time.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Now in Fairbanks


Being in a different town each night has me very confused and because I haven’t had internet access and because I have been lazy, I have not posted in a few days. In summary, on Friday we drove from Watson Lake, YT to Whitehorse, YT. We spent the night in the Wal-mart parking lot with about 50 other rvs. Whitehorse has a nice trail system and I ran 5 miles and walked 1.5 miles.

Hollie had to get some work done on his cat trike and the repair people told us that they have about 2 months of Summer and during that time, the bike shop is extremely busy. They had a sign on the door indicating that they would do repairs, etc only by appointment, but the repair guy *wanted* to work on the cat trike so we got the work done without an appointment. There is something to be said for having a unique trike.

Yesterday we had planned to drive from Whitehorse to Beaver Creek, but decided to go on to Tok which has a much nicer campground and a trail on which we could run/walk/bike. This 400 mile section of the Alaska is the absolute worse. There are many sections of gravel and there are sections of pavement which have “heaves” that make it somewhat like a roller coaster ride. We try to get behind a large RV and watch what is happening to their rig so we can attempt to avoid the big bumps and dips.

We finally solved a mystery that has been bugging us for a couple of days. We have been having a brown granular material appear on the floor of the trailer. We could not figure out what it was or where it was coming from. Tonight I emptied cabinets and discovered that the lid had come off a jar of instant coffee and it was all over the floor of the cabinets and had migrated to areas that are impossible to reach with a small broom. It will take a vacuum cleaner to get it out and I do not have one with me. We’ll have to see if a car wash has a vacuum with a long enough hose to reach the area.

We stayed last night at the ToK RV Center which is a large RV park with 120 spaces in an area with lots of trees and the showers were very large, clean and the water was hot. Because the sun does not set until about 2:00 am, I found myself not realizing it was after midnight when I finished my shower. Then, the sun comes back up at about 4:00 am so Hollie and I are both a bit more confused than usual. I’m especially time challenged because I’ve misplaced my watch and we have not had cell service until today in Fairbanks. I usually depend on my phone to keep me abreast of the time. Alaska time is 4 hours earlier than Hattiesburg.

This morning we left Tok and made the 200 mile drive to Fairbanks with plenty of time to workout. I found a really nice track and did a good speed workout. I had attempted speed a couple of days ago and it was pretty pitiful, but that was a combination of sitting/riding too many hours and the fact that I was not on a track. This track was as nice as any that I have seen in quite a long time. The surface was ideal of distance runners in that it was very soft.

Tomorrow we will get our truck serviced and probably stay here another night. Then we will go to Talkeetna or Danali as we attempt to get a clear view of the mountain.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Alaska Trip 2012

Ever since leaving Hattiesburg on June 9th, I have been trying to get my blog updated. The format for this will not be good and I will try to improve and add pictures later.


We are finally on the road! Our original plan was to leave Hattiesburg on Thursday, June 7. That did not happen because we decided to buy a new truck and it took longer than anticipated to get the trailer hitch and window tinting done. Thus far it has been worth the wait as our 2012 Toyota Tundra is a very nice tow vehicle. On the first gas fill up we got 17.7. Of course that may be because we were driving 50-55 miles per hour---the warranty book says that if we are towing, we need to do that for the first 1000 miles. That’s OK because we usually don’t drive much faster when towing. Just ask our son and daughter who are constantly giving us grief about how slow we drive.

When we left Hattiesburg, our odometer read 464. It will be interesting to see how many miles we cover on this trip. We have no firm plans, except to go to Fayetteville, AR tomorrow where we will visit with my sister for a couple of days. Our next target is to arrive in Seward, AK on July 2, where we will stay for a week. Last year we were there for the Mountain Man Marathon which is a 3.5 mile race/run/walk/crawl straight up and down a mountain (without a clear trail) held on July 4. Details on that event will be posted later.

We are currently parked in a Wal-mart parking lot on Olive Road in Pine Bluff. There are no other RVs here, but I spoke with the manager and he gave us the OK. Hopefully it will not be too bright or noisy. If it is, I have ear plugs and an eye mask so I will be good to go.


We made it to my sister’s home and I had intended to blog each day, but that did not happen. In summary, we talked endless politics. She is a liberal and Hollie and I are conservative. Most people would label Hollie as an ultraconservative and my sister and I tend to be a bit more moderate. She and Hollie love to discuss politics, but after awhile, it wears on me.

I had a couple of good running days and one that was not so good. When we arrived on Sunday, we were early enough that I went out on one of the “commuter” trails and ran 3 miles. Monday we drove about 30 miles up to Pea Ridge National Park and although it rained all the way up there, by the time we arrived it had stopped. There is a 6-7 mile road that encircles the park and I had intended to walk a mile and then run 5 miles, followed by a 1 mile walk. That did not go as planned. About 2 miles into the run I met a long hill that kicked my butt and had me walking for about a quarter mile. That motivated me to attempt to run the remaining distance which was relatively flat. So, I ended up walking a total of 2 miles and running a total of 6 miles.

Tuesday I planned to walk to the University of Arkansas track and then do a speed session on the track. The track is about a mile from my sister’s house and that would make for a nice warm up walk, but when I got there I was disappointed that I could not use the track without permission. Had I been able to locate a coach, I probably could have talked my way in since I am a retired coach and they would have known I would not likely do any damage to the facility. Instead, I figured I’d walk back to the HS track where I first began running over 40 years ago. When I got there, I was disappointed to see that the entire football field and most of the track had been torn up and there was lots of big equipment present and active.

I then decided to just run around the U of A campus. I went a couple of hundred yards and came upon some more construction that had taken out most of the sidewalk. At that point, I gave up and ran back toward my sister’s house where I knew I could run on the commuter trail. I ended up with a 3 mile run, but I had really wanted to do speed.


We spent last night in Grand Island, NE, arriving early enough to get in a workout. Whenever we can find a Y, we do our workout, shower there and then boon dock at a Wal-mart or other place that will give us permission. All we are doing is parking there for the night and we don’t need electric or sewer. We have enough water to last about 5 days and can easily add to that. We also try to use the restrooms in the Wal-mart in order to reduce the need to empty the black water tank.

Yesterday I ran 4 miles and walked 1 mile, followed by weights and a shower at the Y. In the past 7 days I have run over 30 miles and I have a 14 day running streak going. I hate to take a planned rest day because I know that eventually we will be somewhere with bad weather and not have access to a treadmill. So I guess I will just keep on running until I reach that day or my body tells me it has had enough.

BTW, our new 2012 Tundra double cab has been getting 17-18 MPG on the road pulling the Scamp 5th wheel. In town, with the trailer, we are getting 16-17. It will be interesting to see what our average will be after more miles.

Grand Island, NE to Pierre, SD

We are now in Pierre, SD. The drive from Grand Island, NE to Pierre was really beautiful---through the sand hills and small towns. We stopped for lunch in Bassett, NE. The special was Mountain Oysters. I overheard a woman at a table next to us saying that they should not get the special because it was not the correct month for oysters. Her husband told her those weren’t the kind of oysters you got out of the water. I have had both kinds of oysters and I passed on today’s special.

We parked our trailer at the Family Y and I just finished a 4.5 mile run around the Capitol area and then showered at the Y and am now using their wireless. Tonight we will once again be in a Wal-Mart parking lot. So far, in 7 nights on the road, we have yet to pay a campground fee. We stayed 3 nights with my sister and 4 at Wal-Mart's. My daughter told me that she was not going to tell he Atlanta friends that her parents were making their way to Alaska by sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots. She said she has a hard enough time telling them that we retired and moved to *Mississippi*.

Pierre, SD to Minot, ND

I have visited the Dakotas before, and have spent 4-5 days in the Rapid City/Deadwood, SD area. Until today, I had only seen a small part of ND. It is a beautiful state and is very sparsely populated.

We spent last night in Pierre, SD. The Y where we worked out is located very near the capitol so I went for a 4.5 mile run in that area. I was very impressed with the capitol grounds and especially the war memorials. They had some really nice sculptures of military persons from WW 1 through present. It was very moving and I was very impressed with the detail and realism of the art work.

I need to check this, but I think that the city of Pierre is the smallest of all state capitols. The city is very hilly---just like most of the surrounding area. I’m not talking mountains. These are just rolling hills, but that is what much of the state is like.

Today we drove through Bismarck, ND (state capitol) and are now in Minot, ND. We did stop in Bismarck and because today has been so windy, with gusts up to 35 mph, we walked/ran on the treadmill at the Y. This was the nicest Y that I have ever visited. They had a dressing room that would equal most spas and the weight room was probably 10 times larger than the Hattiesburg Y. They also had many more types of cardio equipment. I was very impressed.

Tomorrow we will enter Canada and I have no idea where we will be staying. As for tonight, we are once again in a  Wal-mart parking lot. Since leaving Hattiesburg, we have not had to pay for a campground. We spent 3 mights with my sister in Fayetteville and this is our 5th night at a Wal-mart. Tonight we have the company of 15-20 other Rvs. I was told that many of these are people who are working in oil and gas and are unable to find housing. I know that last year when we drove through the Dakotas, we had to drive over 800 miles to Fargo before we were able to find a motel room. That was when we were in Alaska and we had sold our 16 foot Scamp and were driving to Backus, MN to pick up our 19 foot Scamp. There is something to be said about hauling your bedroom, kitchen and bathroom behind you.

Surprise, surprise - when Hollie woke up this morning he headed toward the Wal-mart so he could buy a few items before we headed out. They were closed! Yes, there are still states that have “Blue Laws” with SD having some of the most strict. The Wal-mart had closed at midnight and would open at noon.


The highlight of the day was seeing a young male moose running across a field, heading toward the highway. I hope he made it across. Moose have very poor vision and they do cause quite a few accidents. Other than that, the drive was uneventful, but we encountered quite a bit of rain. Because of that, we did not get our usual exercise, which is probably a good thing as I am very tired and I can’t imagine how it would have felt to try to run today.

We are once again boon docking in a Wal-mart parking lot. Being able to do that has made this a very economical trip. We have yet to stay in a campground and pay those fees. Of course, we do all our shopping at Wal-mart so they get a return on this courtesy.


This post may seem a bit confusing, if so, it is because I’m writing from memory. For various reasons, I did not get around to writing for three days. Last night we stayed in an RV park in Toad River which is along the Alaska Highway between Fort Nelson, BC and Watson Lake, YT. It is a very quiet, beautiful setting. I told Hollie I needed time to just catch up and clean up and organize. After being on the road for 13 days, things tend to get out of place and I need a little time to simply catch up.

 June 17,we drove from Saskatoon, SK to Edmonton, AB and we had a lot of difficulty finding a Y so that we could workout and then use their showers. My GPS sent us to two Ys that turned out to be schools that had after school child care run by the Y. I usually call to confirm the availability of equipment, hours of operation, etc, but I do not have cell phone service in Canada. We finally found a city run activity center where we could have worked out for a fee. They were able to tell us the location of the Y that had the amenities that we needed. I then used their phone to confirm their hours, location and equipment. That was very frustrating and by the time we finished our workouts and showered, it was 10:00 pm.

June 19, we drove from Edmonton, AB to Dawson Creek, BC where we spent the night in the company of 17 other Rvs. The closer we get to Alaska, the more Rvs we will see. I had planned to do a “speed” workout today, but sitting in the car has taken the speed and much more out of my body. I opted for a meander around the town and ended up running 4.5 miles and walking 1.75 miles.

June 20, we drove from Dawson Creek, BC to Toad River, BC. Along the way, we stopped in Fort Nelson because I had read that they had a very nice recreation center and a 5K paved fitness trail. Once we arrived at the recreation center, I found that they did not have showers, but they directed me to the Aquatic Center where I found that they did have showers, but they cautioned me not to use the fitness trail because there had been quite a bit of bear sightings and activity along the trail. As I have gotten older, I have gotten slower but smarter and I knew that if a bear got after me, I would make a great meal so I opted to do my run around town. That turned out to be an adventure. I was doing great and planned to do 5-6 miles. At about 4.5 miles, it started to rain---really hard. Had there been lightening, I would have taken cover. As it was, I was so far from the trailer that I knew I would get wet even if I turned around and immediately headed back. So I just decided to get in my 5 miles of running and walk back to the center. It poured and I got soaked. When I stopped running at 5 miles and started to walk, I got chilled so I did the walk/run routine until I got to the center. That shower felt great.

One thing that we have noticed in BC is that oil and gas is booming. There are work camps all over. These are modular housing communities where the workers stay. This is not family housing. These are like small villages and the workers live in the camps and are bussed out to the work areas. Most of the traffic that we see consists of trucks hauling various equipment, water and supplies for the camps and the drilling areas. Fort Nelson is a work base for several exploration sites and the town is booming. The recreation/visitor center was beautiful (even though they did not have showers).  The recreation center had a gym, a curling/hockey/skating rink. Across the street was a water park. All of this in a town of between 5,000 to 10,000population.

In many ways, I feel that our adventure began yesterday evening. Once we left Fort Nelson, the scenery and wildlife was amazing. When we did this trip last year, my friend Susan Davidson had given me a Milepost book which provides detailed information of *everything* along the Alaska Highway. As we traveled along, I documented all the wildlife sightings and sure enough, this year, the animals were very close to the same spots where we had seen them last year. Our total sightings were 8 black bear, 3 moose, numerous deer, 12 elk and several Stone Sheep. I got some good pictures and will eventually post them.

I just went for a walk around the lake and as I said before, this is a beautiful setting. The lake is surrounded by mountains and there is a huge beaver lodge, lots of water birds and nesting birds. Hopefully, the pictures will do this justice. We are now packing up to go to Watson Lake. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get this blog and the pictures posted.

We made it to Watson Lake and we are at a campground that has cable TV and Wi-Fi so I should be able to get this blog posted. We have a small TV and this is the first that I have watched in over a week. The big topic on TV and radio is health care---just like in the US. Their wait time for most surgeries is way longer than in the US and because they have been treating “non-citizens/refugees“, there is much discussion about the sky rocketing costs and how they will most likely stop treating all but citizens or people who have the financial means to pay for service.

On the way to Watson Lake, we saw herds of a special kind of  Bison, of which less than 1000 exist. We also saw numerous black bear, elk, deer, 1 grizzly, several moose and about 15 Stone sheep.

Today is the longest day of  the year. We have been in so many time zones that I'm not sure about the current time. I think it is about midnight and it is as light as it would be at 7:00 pm at home.