Thursday, 25 June 2009

15/06/2009 - Valdez, Alaska - 02/07/2009 Calgary, Alberta

15/05/2009 - Valdez - Not too far out of Valdez we had the privilege of seeing a mother moose and her young calf trot across the road in front of Stubbie. We had a lovely drive into Valdez seeing more glaciers and a number beautiful waterfalls. Valdez is very similar to some of the other little towns on the Kenai Peninsular that we have stopped at i.e. Homer, Seward. We spent a day wandering around the streets and stopped in at one of the Museums. It was interesting to note that back in 1964 -Valdez was only 45 miles away from North America’s worst every Earthquake, the Good Friday Earthquake, measuring 8.4 - 8.6 on the Richer Scale. It is the second largest earthquake ever recorded. After the Earthquake, they actually relocated the whole town. Another interesting little fact is that Valdez is at the end of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. And one more little tidbit it is also where the Exxon Valdez Oil Tanker was grounded on the Bligh Reef, spilling at least 11 million gallons of crude oil. So Valdez was a good little stop where I learnt a few things and once again got to eat some good fish and chips. Of course that is my summary, but I'm sure if Dave was writing this it would be a lot longer and a lot more detailed. The Big Fella was interested in knowing how all the mechanics of the pipeline actually work.

One thing that we have noticed on our travels through out Alaska is the Murals that are painted on many buildings through out the small towns - not too dissimilar to our Graffiti - NOT. They really do take pride in their towns. In away it was sad to leave Valdez as this was our last Alaska town that we were going to visit. So Goodbye Alaska.

17/06/2009 -18/06/2009 - As we were leaving Alaska - we noticed that once again we were going the wrong way, all the other RV'ers were just making their way into Alaska (in this convoy there were 22 RVs) - but not us no we are leaving. Whilst it has been a bit disappointing that a few of the attractions have not been open and we haven't actually got to see Bear catching the Salmon, it has also been great to see so much wildlife on the sides of the roads and also to see many of the mountains with snow capped peaks.

We start to make our way over to Dawson City via the Top of the World Highway. We have been told that this really is something that you must do - we had planned on doing this on our way up - but we were a bit early and the roads and ferries weren't all open.

Well all I can say is the Big Fella is "Not Happy, Jan". This so called Highway is mainly washboard gravel and he is limited to doing an average of about 15 miles per hour, I wasn't game to tell him that the highway only went for a mere 281 km's. So after two days (we thought it would take 3 hours), we finally arrive on one side of the Yukon River - I had also neglected to tell him that we needed to cross the river by ferry. When we got to the ferry crossing there was this tyny ferry fighting the current and was making hard work of it. So with some intrepudatoin we load Stubbie on the ferry amd make our way across to Dawson City.

One of the main attractions here in Dawson City (and the only one we are going to) is Diamond Tooth Gerties - it's a gambling hall that puts on three 1/2 hours shows a night. Of course we just happened to be there for the first two and if the Big Fella hadn't wanted to go home, I'm sure I would have seen all three. We had a great night - except the Big Fella is a LOSER. After losing on the Blackjack Table and the Roulette, he thought he would try his hand at Texas Hold 'Em (first time for Texas), no luck here either.

Of course me not being one to brag just happened to have a small win - okay it covered my two drinks - but hey a win is a win and I don’t have a Big L on my forehead.

19/06/2009 - Whitehorse. On our way to Whitehorse we just had to stop off at this shop to buy one the World Famous Cinnamon Buns. This place actually has an airstrip just across the road which is actually called the Cinnamon Bun Strip. When we were talking to Bobby's brother and sister-in-law about the trip, Maury and Gwen, they had told us stories about people that actually do fly in here just to get these Buns. Well I don't particularly like cinnamon and I'm not a great sweet lover - well you never would have guessed - I hoed into this cinnamon bun like it was my last meal. I'm embarrassed to say that when the Big Fella stopped eating, I was still going and I didn't stop until it was all finished.

We've decided to spend the night at Wal-Mart as tomorrow morning we are going to see the Fish Ladder - one of the sights we missed out on our way up, plus we need to look into getting a windscreen chip repair fixed (thank goodness I wasn't driving when it happened). After walking around the parking lot, Dave is now threatening me with what our next motorhome could be. He has told me that it will be a lot more economical, easier to manoeuvre, easier to clean and we would be a lot closer - have a look, you could probably guess my reaction. But hey I think it's just perfect for Darian.

We are planning on spending a few days in the Whitehorse area to get a few things done. Stubbie got a nice grease and oil change, and she finally got her windscreen repaired. Dave needed to do a makeshift fix on the Back-up Camera -I'm always a little bit frightened when he goes into Tim the Toolman Taylor mode. I must admit he is becoming very handy and I think he is actually enjoying most of this work, even if he wont admit it.

23/06/2009 - We are now on our way to Jasper, Alberta just a short 4000 km trip (give or take a few km's). It's now about 7:00pm and we are heading towards Dease Lake when we have a sighting of two Grizzly Bears on the side of the road - another great sight. So after stopping and watching the Grizzlies we keep on driving for about another 10 minutes down the Cassiar Highway - (another dirt road - but no where near as bad as the Top of the World Highway and at least this one does have some sections of bitumen) when Stubbie decides to fail us. She just stops we have lost all electrical, we have no ignition, no lights etc etc. So the Big Fella gets out and after a while realises that there is nothing that he can do. So after about another 10 minutes we finally hail someone down who gives Dave a lift into Dease Lake, I stay behind to guard Stubbie, plus I'm hungry, and there is a fridge full of food here. Dease Lake supposedly has a population of 450, well I don't know how they got that number, I think they must count the number of tourists who drive through as well. At around 9:30pm Dave finally comes back and tells me how much fun he has had trying to find a mechanic and / or a Tow Truck that will pull Stubbie, at this point I don't tell him that I've been lying down reading my book, having a nice cold glass of wine with a few nibbles, I do tell him that I was worried about him. At around 10:00pm a Semi Tow Truck pulls up and we safely hook Stubbie up. So now we have to ride in the front of the Semi (I'm right in the back) for the next 40 km's towing Stubbie to the nearest RV park. Dave explains to the Towie what happened and what he thinks is wrong, but unfortunately they are unable to do anything. Well it's way past midnight now and I'm tired, unfortunately for me, Dave is a little wound up and frustrated and decides to starts taking the Dash apart (oh - with the very quiet electric drill) - (of course I still haven't mentioned that it was only one day ago that he had the dash out to fix the back-up camera - now is not the best time). Not sure what time the Big Fella got to bed or if he did at all, because he was up at 7:000am (as most people will know this doesn't happen too often - oh unless of course it's for golf) and was heading to the mechanics. Dave arrives back to Stubbie and says the mechanic will be here when he has finishes his current job - of course I ask how long - and Dave tells me that the answer from the mechanic was when he finishes his current job. Well the young mechanic (Bill) finally shows up - this guy makes Dave look like a teenager. ...... I think the sad thing was that Dave actually knew a lot more than the mechanic (it was an electrical problem after all). So after a few phone calls to technicians and rv mechanics (what makes it even more fun is our cell phone has no coverage and there is no cell phone coverage for any carrier in this town) this is where Bill came in handy to a point, he let Dave use the phone, but of course some of the techs and mechanics said they would ring back - great. Except that when Bill's phone rings he doesn't answer it, he lets the machine take a message. They finally get the okay to do a fix that Dave had actually figured out a couple of hours ago (he was just making sure that it was okay and that it wouldn't cause any more problems). So now we just need to get to Calgary and get the new part installed - should be there in a couple of days. Ohh and of course we managed to gather another windscreen chip.

One thing I really hated out of all this was: When Dave gets stressed he doesn't eat, but I eat for both of us when he is stressing.
Of course now we are a bit nervous that every time we turn Stubbie off - she might not start, so we decided to head for some larger towns.

Jasper National Park– We arrive in to Jasper (a really pretty little town) and spend the afternoon wandering around the shops. We then head on to our campground Wabasso Lake. We have a great night; we light the fire, have a couple of drinks and just sit back and relax. I think this is where Dave releases some of the stress and frustration of the last few days, he really does need it.

We wake up in the morning and head onto Athabasca Falls, the most powerful flow to be found anywhere in the mountain parks.

After the Falls we then head on up to Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake – all extremely beautiful. It is a shame that it is not a very clear day, as the photos really don’t do the colour of the water etc any justice. From here we headed on back down to Sunwapta Falls, past the Columbia Icefields (leaving Jasper National Park behind and entering into Banff National Park) and onto our camp for the night. We have decided to boon dock tonight in a great little pull off on the high way. About 100 meters from where we are staying, there are a group of young kids trying to get the last bit of their snow boarding season in, they are walking up the mountain and then snow boarding back down – we are not that keen and definitely not that fit.

After another good nights sleep we drive onto Peyto Lake. After a short walk uphill we are led to a view of Peyto Lake, glacially-fed and brilliantly turquoise. This has been one of the most brilliant lakes that we have seen to date, the colour is just awesome.

We have decided to talk a small detour into Golden and go white-water rafting; people have been telling us that this is the place to go – down the Kicking Horse River – Grade IV rapids. We have booked ourselves in for the most extreme part of the trip, you needed to have previously negotiated Grade IV rapids. We head on over to our campground – which supposedly has wifi – we are feeling a bit lost lately without our access to home. Well you do get wifi from the motorhome if there is no other motorhome parked between you and the office; you stand on one foot and hold your tongue to the left. The next morning we wake up and prepare ourselves for our white-water rafting experience. We are feeling a bit tentative not knowing what to expect and especially when the guide tells that for the first 15 – 20 minutes, there will be no stopping (paddling) and that it will be very hectic. So we all jump into the raft and off we go, well we had a good time, but unfortunately I don’t think that the rapids over here compare anywhere to our rapids back home. These were more like our grade III rapids.

From here it is onto Lake Louise, we have been looking forward to seeing Lake Louise in the summer, we have preciously visited here only in winter. We were really surprised by the huge number of visitors to the Lake, it was hard to even get a park in their many car parking facilities. The Lake was beautiful so after a walk around – it was onto Banff.

Well we thought Lake Louise was busy – nothing compared to Banff (oh we have found out that the School Summer holidays have started – could explain the volume) – but from what we have seen we believe that Banff and Lake Louise are busier in the Summer than the Winter, not sure if this is really the case or not.

Calgary – We are staying in a campground just across the highway from where we need to get Stubbie fixed. Of course whilst we are here, our TV in the front decides to pack it in – ouch. This is one of the reasons Dave and I haven’t killed each other, we both have a TV and a Laptop. We phone the Technicians and they advise that it is a known fault and that the problem will be fixed under warranty, we just need to get the mechanics to phone them and get a new circuit board forwarded on and replace the one we currently have. So after a couple of nights here we finally have the first problem of Stubbie fixed and it’s onto our Calgary West Campground. The RV dealership will contact the TV technicians, they believe the whole TV will need replacing, obviously they’ve seen this problem before, oh well they will keep us informed, when they talk to the TV tech, it is of course the 4th of July weekend. We arrive at our campground where we will be spending our time for the whole of the Calgary Stampede – Yee Haw. The campgrounds are completely booked out – we were lucky that for once we did book in advance, not something we usually do, you never know how or if our plans will change (one of the things that we love about our trip). We are really looking forward to catching up with the Howard’s and the Navin’s.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

05/06/2009 - 14/06/2009 - Anchorage to Seward

05/06/2009 - On our way out of Anchorage heading to Homer we decided to stop at the Alaska Zoo. Whilst it was great to see the Bears i.e. Polar, Grizzly and Black up close, they were in what I considered to be a small enclosure, which was a little bit distressing. I much prefer to see them out in the wild. All of the animals are rescue animals which was a good thing. I really am in awe of these magnificent creatures. I could honestly watch them for hours and hours.
06/06/2009 - We arrived in Homer and just couldn't believe the number of people fishing. They were fishing for King Salmon. A couple of things we found out:

1. You have a maximum limit of 2 King Salmon a Day - a maximum of 5 per Season.

2. You need to not only have a Fishing license but you also need to have an additional King Salmon license.

3. Up until the end of June you are not allowed to Snag a King Salmon you must catch the fish via the hook in its mouth - if you do happen to snag a fish in the tail etc. you need to release it immediately. Dave did mention that I would go hungry, but I told the Big Fella that I landed him by the .....

4. And that the time of day does not predict when you fish only the tide. There seems to be just as many people out at 3:00pm as
there is at 3;00am. This photo was taken at midnight.

Dave and I are both having a bit of trouble sleeping, it never gets really dark as you can see from the photo above. This photo was taken from where we were Dry Camping, we looked straight into one of the inlets where the fishing just never stopped.

Another little interesting fact that we have found is that around most of the boat harbours they have a Life jacket Loaner Station (no fee) - for Life jackets for Children whilst out in the boats. The law is that children under the age of 13 must wear a Life jacket while boating - I think it's a great idea to have the Life jackets so handy and it is such a great honour system. We had a good time in Homer - it's a small fishing / tourist town.

07/06/2009 - 11/06/2009. After leaving Homer we headed straight for Seward. We spent our first night in a small RV part about 10 miles outside of Seward. At the back of the campground was a creek, where we actually got to see the Salmon Spawning - unfortunately or probably more fortunately there were no Bears in sight. Seward is another lovely little fishing / tourist town. Apparently the cruise ships dock in Seward 3-4 times a week. Seward has a great vibe, a really pretty Marina and a really cute little downtown area. Seward is situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula, Seward is known as the 'Gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. On one of my walks along the shore front, I ran into 4 Americans from Mississippi. We had previously seen and had a quick chat with through out our travels around Alaska. I stopped and had a little chat with Jerry and Irma and then headed on back to Stubbie. After a short time Jerry and Ed both arrived at our motorhome and invited us back to their motorhomes (they both have huge and fantastic motorhomes - makes Stubbie look so small) for a drink and then out to dinner. We arrived at their motorhomes for a drink before we headed out for a lovely dinner. It was a really wonderful evening. They are such lovely people you could not help but enjoy yourself, whilst also learning a bit more about their country and I finally got to try the King Crab. It was nice but for me our Mud and/or Sand crabs win hands down. Dave tried the famous Halibut, which he enjoyed but also said that it doesn't have a lot of flavour. The next afternoon Dave and I went for a walk to see them all and to drop off some DVD's that we had already watched. Well their hospitality was just amazing. We ended up having a few Margarita's , a lovely Taco Salad for dinner and another great evening.

Dave and I have decided to lash out and have a splurge on one of the tours, it's a helicopter ride to Bear Lake where we will land and then Kayak for about 3 1/2 hours around Bear Glacier and the Ice Bergs before returning back to Seward via helicopter. Of course the morning of our tour, I'm awake at 5:00am we are not getting picked up until 8:15am, but I can't sleep in anymore, I'm like a big child at Christmas time. Up until this morning the weather had been sunny and and a nice warm 12 degrees- but not today it's overcast a nice cool 7 degrees and it looks like rain - oh well not to worry. We arrive out to the helicopter pad and the pilot is a bit worried about the weight, but after a couple more calculations - it looks like it's a goer. We are given a few quick instructions and then we are off. It was just awesome, we only flew about 200 feet above the ground and you could see the coastline so clearly. The coastline was a lot more breath taking than what I had expected, an added bonus was that I got to see another Black Bear wandering around just below the helicopter. After we landed and walked to our Cache to collect our Kayaks, a surprise was that Dave and I are in a double kayak. We are given a few minutes of instructions and away we go. The Lake is just like glass, there are hardly any ripples on the water - it really is magnificent. The ice bergs are just striking - they really are a lot like some art sculptures - only to me a lot more beautiful. The blue ice bergs are just absolutely gorgeous. It was just so peaceful and tranquil that sometime the only noise that you could hear was the great boom of either an ice berg breaking in two or part of the Glacier calving away. After about 3 hours of kayaking it is time to head back to the Cache - It's now that I realise that my right shoulder is really starting to ache and that tomorrow I might be in a bit of trouble. But all I can say is that it was totally worth it - it was just such a marvellous day, one that I will always remember. On the ride back I got to sit in the front of the helicopter, the view was just fantastic. All in all the day was over way to quick, even though I really don't think I could of kayaked for too much longer, luckily we were in a double and the Big Fella really dug deep at the end. Luckily because I did notice that in the beginning he was being a bit slack and that I had to paddle a lot more because he was "busy taking photos".

After our Big Day we stop in to see Ed and Falba (our friends from Mississippi) unfortunately Falba has developed laryngitis - so unfortunately we will miss out on their lovely company for dinner. Dave and I have a lovely meal at the Salmon Bake and start to make our way into Anchorage - Why are we going back to Anchorage, one might ask, well I might as well tell you - because if I don't I'm sure the Big Fella will dob me in. Okay so I left the Cell Phone at the Alaska Zoo - well at least I found it. So after another quick stop in Anchorage we are now on our way to Valdez.
Just in case you are interested Dave's team won the NHL Stanley Cup this year....The Penguins..Yep they beat the Flames and the Canucks..