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.

1 comment:

Chrissy Holbrook said...

Keep letting us know your progress! Your post about the news coverage of healthcare in Canada is interesting. That info should really be reported over here in the states. The Canadian system may not be as awesome as some think.

As for my Walmart/ Mississippi comments go, sorry about that. I know it sounds snooty. I was simply relaying the reaction of some friends that I talk with. Much of their reaction about people who live in Mississippi is based on stereotype so they just don't know that there are plenty of people who are bright, productive citizens that live in MS. I'm still not totally excited about the Walmart parking lots.Those who know me well know that is a running joke in our family as we are definitely a Target house!!