Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our 30 year Anniversary

Not Clancy!  The humans...Jenna and Bruce!  [Pic in Alaska]
Thirty years of marital bliss.  Plus the first unsanctioned year, when we were practicing, if you know what I mean.  In the first 27 years, we lived in four states [NJ, AZ, AR, and WA], in which we owned nine houses and held too many jobs.  Living as nomads for the last three plus years.  Many dogs, coupla cats, and uninvited mice. 

How have we lived together thru all this change?  Without separating or straying?  After all, we have a lot of differences, in our communications styles and heights and numbers of head follicles.  And different genders, with all that entails.

Well, maybe we're more similar now than we were at first.  But more importantly, we share the same values of honesty and compassion and adventure and simplicity.  And a loving commitment to our relationship, through thick and thin.  [Not that we expect to see "thin" again.]

For example, we thought only of each other at ten years when Jenna was ill.  At twenty years when Bruce was unemployed.

Now we're retired, through a combination of luck, planning, and hard work.  Make no mistake about it, you need all three. 

Thirty years.  More to come....


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thoughts on the Lunar Eclipse on Winter Solstice

Watching the total lunar eclipse in the Tucson night sky lying back in our loungers. Thinking of the mysteries above us, how what we know constantly changes and leads us to further questions and new temporary knowledge.

Thinking of the Man on the Moon watching his solar eclipse. Does he wonder why those earthlings know so little and can't just get along on such a beautiful planet? And he thinks, "Probably doesn't matter, as they won't be around much longer anyway."

The Moon will emerge from darkness intact. Will we?


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Children's Store Converted to Jewish Temple

Still working on that Star of David tho.

[Seen in El Paso, Texas.]

Don't get it?  Try reading this Definition of Oy Vey


Monday, December 13, 2010

Tucson 1

Finally we achieved our destination.  Beautiful, stimulating Tucson AZ.  Mature readers will recall our last winter in this fair city.  Hope so, for as my mother would say, "I don't sell my cabbage twice."  [What a comedian!  Now you know where I get it from.]

After one week here, Jenna's sister, Pat, who lives in North Carolina, arrived for a visit.  Tomorrow we will head off to Las Cruces, New Mexico to visit their brother and his GF, who lives in El Paso, Texas.

What, you say?  No more repairs?  Fear not.  We are still waiting for the hydraulic pump, as well as some fiberglass work left over from the Unfortunate Awning Incident.  More challenges ahead.

Sure like them tires tho!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Quartzsite and Casa Grande, AZ

We spent one night drycamping in Quartzsite and visiting our Lake Tyee friends Steve and Sandy.  Saw the cute Christmas lights parade through town.

Steve and Sandy introduced us to Howie and Nora, friends of theirs.  First words out of Howie's mouth, "I like the way you change tires."  Uh oh!  Blog reader!!  I was just kidding!!!  Don't throw away those lug nuts!!!!  You may need them!!!!!

Tonight we drycamped at the Escapees Park in Casa Grande, where we met up with our Canadian friends Doug and Toni.  And parked in front of owners of another Excel.  We traded stories of repairs, as do all RV owners.  Heck, Doug and Toni, who have an SOB [Some Other Brand] regaled us with their adventure of blown tires and a broken axle while recently traveling in Georgia.  We felt better.

Tucson ahead.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Prepare to Repair and Then Some

First we stopped south of Fresno to replace the equalizers [suspension system] that we just replaced with locally available but inadequate parts in late August.  This repair went well and we left without incident.

From there, we drove to a Lippert plant in Rialto CA to repair our broken slide once again.  We expected this repair to take a few hours.  One thing led to another. And another.  They had never worked on a fancy trailer like ours before.  We spent two days and nights at the plant.  Dry camped in the cul-de-sac, then sent the RV inside, while we spent our days at the local park.

Back in August, in Canada, we ran into a problem with our hydraulic slides.  As in this post.  Now, in the last month, this problem has worsened.  By time we arrived in Rialto, the problem slide was moving in and out when I raised and lowered the jacks.  And vice versa. Entertaining in a certain way, but ultimately frustrating.  So the Lippert guys spent a third day working on this problem and we went back to the local park. 

Turned out to be a leaking hydraulic pump.  Which they did not have in stock.  Lippert Central promised a new one in two weeks (!).  So we left for Tucson with the promise that Lippert would ship the part there and pay a local technician to install it.

The hydraulic pump was covered under warranty.  No cost.

The slide repair took 30 man-hours.  But the plant manager felt badly about the length of time to repair everything, as well as forcing us to camp on the street for three nights.  He didn't charge us at all!  Ha ha ha!!  I didn't ask him what it should have cost.  But I can estimate $3,000, or even $2,000 if they knew what they were doing the entire time.  Whew!!!

Have a nice day indeed!  Now if these repairs will only work.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Installing Tires for Dummies

Since installing those tires on my RV, people keep asking me questions.  Like
* Why did you install them yourself?  Couldn't find the wheels locally.
* Don't those tires weigh too much to handle?  No! Just use my technique!!
* Are you some kinda dummy for trying it yourself?  Yes!
As a public service, I'll describe the methods I used for an easy and safe tire installation on our RV.

1 Select the correct tires and rims.  This involves learning the boring technical requirements of tires and wheels.  And ingestion of high quality beer.  Suggestion:  buy wheels with more than the original number of lug nuts, in case you lose your nuts in the grass.

2 Raise the rear wheels of the trailer.  This is actually easier than it sounds, by using leverage.  [Mathematically, this is expressed by M = Fd.]

- Pull down on the trailer king pin.  You may need an extra strong rope.
- The trailer will pivot on the front axle [the fulcrum], lifting the rear axle off the ground.
- Tie off the rope to a heavy object, like a park bench.  If none around, find a heavy friend.  Safety first!

3 Now pull out your new tires.  Each tire weighs about 110 pounds - very heavy to work with.  Then I noticed that the tires were inflated to 110 pounds per square inch.  That can't be coincidental.  This undoubtedly means the tire contains 110 pounds of air.  That's too much!  So I let some out, reducing it to 70 pounds.  That's better!

4 Remove the old tires and mount the new ones as usual.  Now you appreciate having those extra lug nuts, don't you?

5 Tighten the lug nuts with a good torque wrench.  Ooof, that's a lot of pressure.  Wait a minute!  I need 110 foot pounds.  Another coincidence?  I think not.  [Remember, this is a tire system .]   I reduced it to 80 pounds [70, + 10 for safety again.]

6 Lower the trailer slowly and carefully.  Find a new friend.   Don't let him talk to your old friend.

7 Raise the front wheels of the trailer by reversing the process.  Tell your new friend to stand on the back bumper.  Tie your new friend to a heavy object so you don't damage your bumper.

8 Install front wheels.

9 Then I realized that all those pounds of air pushing against the inside of the tread must cause the tire to wear out prematurely.  So I reduced the pounds of air to 60, and the lug nuts to 70 [60 + 10 remember?]  Should be enough, I reckon.  If not, I'll let some more air out later.

That's it really.  Oh, wait.  I also wondered how to keep those tires as clean as they look now.  So I looked on the Internet [naturally].

Motor oil!  Coat the tires with motor oil.  Same color as the tires!  But what rating?  Turns out oil weight refers to the weight of the tires.  [Some people think it refers to engine operating temperature.  Why would they call it "weight??"   Now who's the dummy?]

Couldn't find 50W oil, so I lowered the tire pressure to 40 and used 40W oil on them. [Don't forget the lug nuts!]

So that's it!  Tow safely!!


PS Just throw away those extra lug nuts.  You won't need 'em now.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, American Style

Didja see the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade on TV?  Floats with happy children, marching bands, and Spiderman!

In the same frame, sharp eyed viewers would also spot a billboard on a building in the background. A woman in a Victoria's Secret bra.  Ha ha ha!

"Oh look at Mrs. Santa Claus!  As well as her errant daughter!!  Gosh, they look so much alike!!!"

The Sacred and the Profane.

More News you can't Use.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tires On. Move On.

At last I have reached the end of the month long saga of installing new tires on the RV.  Slapped them on with a lot of help from my friends.  Sorry no pictures of the operation.  But certainly one of the result.


Now we be ready for the road again!  Weather of late has been cold and rainish.  But of course we will wait for our community Thanksgiving dinner!  And the leftovers luncheon on Saturday!!

Monday we depart for southern California for a final (ha ha ha!) repair on our slide.  Then Tucson bound!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Tired of Tires

People without RVs think that people living in RVs lead simple lives. True enough in some respects.  We don't mow the lawn, pay property taxes, or...ummmm...mow the lawn.

We do work on home maintenance just like normal people.  And then some.  Two electrical systems, appliances with multiple fuels, effluent duties. There are some differences.

Which brings me to differences between a car vehicle and a recreational vehicle.  When normal people buy tires, they drive over to the tire store.  "Gimme a set of tires," they say.  Maybe they choose a brand, like the ones made by the fat funny looking cartoon, who rates restaurants on the side.  ["I'll try the steel belted radials with a side of roadkill."]   Or tires sold by George Foreman.  After all, what did the heavy weight champion of the world know about electric grills?

Not so us.  We need new tires on our trailer.  Which lead me to consider buying heavier wheels and bigger tires so we can carry more toilet paper around the country.  Which lead me to discover that you can't find such wheels easily now, what with cutbacks in production due to creeping socialism in the aluminum industry.

To make a long story short [too late!], I ordered four tires and wheels from Ohio.  Shipped by FedEx freight.  And so I await delivery of a 450 pound box of rubber and metal.  How much does this cost?  Don't ask.

Watch here for pictures of the Blog Writer wrestling 100 pound tires into position.  Followed by pictures of the aforementioned Writer entering his chiropractor's office, driven there by Mrs. Writer, who is saying to him, "I told you so!"


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Summer Plans Already

We lead a life of serendipity.  Meaning whatever we want as long as it doesn't cost too much and our health doesn't interfere and Clancy agrees.  But sometimes we plan ahead. 

Like planning for summer, when working people dream of taking a break and enjoying themselves too.  They resist the Capitalist Manifesto, which requires people to work more for less so a few can work less and have more.  Which is why the few recently took even more, so people would lose their jobs and stay home instead of going on vacation.  If they still had homes.

Of course, when they lose their homes, they feel unencumbered and travel more, looking for work.  Thereby living their dreams after all.  So it all works out...for a few.

Where was I?  Doesn't take much.

Last year (2009) we worked as volunteers for the Oregon Parks Department.  This year, we did not secure positions at Fort Stevens for 2011.  Instead we will spend June at Collier Memorial State Park in the Cascade Mountains near Crater Lake.  Then July and August on the coast at Nehalem Bay State Park , 10 miles south of Cannon Beach.  In each park, we will work in the Information Center, dispensing brochures and wisdom about the local attractions and the closest wifi service.  No selling firewood or cleaning campgrounds.  Sounds great!

Yet life has a way of working on its own.  Check back in eight months to see if it works out.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Three Year Blog Anniversary

As is our habit, we reprise the last year of travel and adventure.  After all, what else do we have to do?

Clancy completed his second year of life and as part of our little family.   Fortunately for all concerned, his terrier behavior has improved some to the point of tolerable.  Others with terriers tell us that age three is the magic number for a companionable dog.  And so we pray.

We broadened our travel horizons, with journeys to Tucson, as well as Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks.  And then the RV Trip of a Lifetime to Alaska via Canada, several National Parks thereabouts, a visit to the Arctic Circle, and other experiences too numerous to type.  Read the blog.

We faced challenging RV equipment failures, but never let it get us down. Adds new meaning to "You can't take it with you."  Apparently you can, but it will cost ya.

We feel fine and look good.  [No, you don't get a picture to make your own judgment.]  What more can you want?  World Peace?  A woman for President, other than Sarah Palin?  We'll get back to you next year.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A-OK Inside and Out

We have completed most of our internal updates and prognosis is good.  Jenna met with her oncoman.  They decided to discontinue further treatments, since she remains in complete remission.  Which will give her more time to recover from two years of chemotherapy.  All is well well well.

No findings for the male side of the duo.  Stay the course.

Now we have entered the hosting phase of our remaining time here at Park Sierra.  Friends Russ and Dee from Lake Tyee are visiting right now.  eFriends Tom and Donna will arrive in a few days for a few days.  Other Lake Tyee friends Steve and Sandy will visit in a few weeks.  Fortunately all these folks bring their own homes, as we left our spare bedroom in Washington.

This week, we entered the 21st Century with the purchase of two Nook eReaders by Barnes and Noble.  Suddenly the world of literature has opened to us in convenient no-cost no calorie form.  Less time reading blogs, more time reading Kafka and Mark Twain.  It's a good trade-off.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Apple a Day

So begin our contributions to the financial health of the Fresno medical community.  A poke here, a prod there.  Scan scan, gurgle gurgle, cough cough.  Oww!

Jenna will see her cancerologist next week for a six month review of her condition.  They will decide on whether she should submit to one more round of potions, or just call it good for now.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Too Darn Busy

We live in a cooperative.  We (the Coop) expect everyone to contribute to maintaining and improving the park.  Works pretty well actually, which you would see if you visited.  [You never visit!]  Clean faciltites, structures in good condition, an active social life.

Last year I volunteered to help with the park phone and computer system.  Worked out pretty well last Spring, just going around fixing up wiring and installing a few internet routers.

For this Fall visit, I volunteered to write a maintenance manual for the phone and computer system.  Didn't know how soon I would need it.

Within a week, the most active member of our little communications group died.  Another knowledgeable fella went on a three week holiday.  Two others left for the week. Which left just two of us where seven once tread.

One week into it, we lost power in a lightning storm.  God damn!  Which started three days of heavy rain.  Which plays havoc with aging phone/computer wiring.

Know the one about the one arm paper hanger?  I feel his pain.  Piller to post, hither and yon, you get the idea.  Suffice to say, I'm busy.

In other news, we've made progress in arranging a repair on our misbehaving slideout at a southern CA facility on our way out of town.  No trip to Kansas in our plans, we hope....



Thursday, September 30, 2010

Too Darn Hot

The title says it all.  Days of 100 degrees here in our paradise in the mountains.  Temp records broken all over CA.  113 degrees in Los Angeles, the hottest temperature ever recorded there.  In fact, the thermometer quit recording at 113, and CA is probably too broke to buy another one.

In the future, aliens will find this blog in the ashes of civilization and wonder what the fuss was all about.  By then, 113 degrees may seem cool.

Speaking truth to heat.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Return to Kansas?

Uh oh.  Latest word today from RV fix-it land - no slide repair in southern CA.  If this proves true, we must drive to Kansas again this Spring.  During tornado season, just like last time.

And the good news?  Ummmm...mmmm...we're not driving to Kentucky.

Further clarification this coming week.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Return to Park Sierra

Sung to the melody of My Blue Heaven
Woodpeckers call, planting acorns real small,
Just hurry to my...broken...RV

Just turn left and right, the space is real tight
Will lead you to my...broken...RV.

You'll see a smilin' face, no fireplace, a cozy (very small) room,
That little pest that barks and groans if there's no food real soon.

Just Jenna and me,
And Clancy makes three (at least)
We're back now in Park Sierra.

And so we have returned to our lovely lot here in the Sierra Mountains after 9,000 miles and four months to and from Alaska and points Canadian. 

We enjoy living in our trailer with all slides extended again.  Living large, as it were. 

Latest word on repairing our big slide.  We may arrange a fix near San Bernadino, CA, on our way to Tucson in December.  Much easier than a jaunt to Kansas.  More to come....hopefully not too much more.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eugene Charm

You can say what you will about Eugene, Oregon.  We have, "cursed...vindictive...evil."  Well, maybe I exaggerated a bit on the last two.  But given our experiences here, can you blame me?

Yet, we also enjoy this city.   Even more so this time, during our enforced stay.  Today we attended a dog show, an exhibit on the history of the Hippie culture here, an excellent downtown farmers market filled with Hippies, and a McMenamins brewpub celebrating local microbrews.  Plus a local expresso bar, natch.  It's kinda like Olympia, our former hometown.  What more could you ask for?

A fully functioning RV?  Hey, let's be realistic!

On an entirely different subject, check out the 9/11/10 edition of Rex Morgan, MD comic. 

First box, Morgan and nameless female shown walking down a hospital corrider.

Female says to Morgan, "The only possible source of a leak could be the urologist."  Ha ha!  Wait, that's not supposed to be funny.  Ha ha ha!


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Eugene Curse

In our last post, we reprised our misfortunes in Eugene Oregon.  The scene of numerous troubles which bear no repetition here.

This visit started well.  We had a new solar panel installed at wonderful AM Solar in nearby Springfield.  Good, good.

Then we towed our trailer over the Sutton RV, the dealer that repaired our big slide a few months ago.  "The slide sticks during retraction now," we said.  "I'll have a look at it," in reply.

Short answer - bad.  The metal frame for the slide room that moves in and out is failing.  Metal cutting in on metal.  Matter of time before it will move in no longer, causing profanity and gnashing of teeth, both metal and bone.  "I've never seen anything like this in 23 years of working on RVs."  Small comfort.

Solution - likely another trip back to the factory in Kansas.  Our faithful reader will recall our prior trip there, escorted by numerous tornados.  Forgot about it?  See this post 

Service manager is exploring a local alternative, but we will not know till next week.

And so we sit in Eugene.  Two nights camped again behind a shopping mall, next to the beautiful Willamette River.  Then we will move to the local county park again, where we stayed during our last ill-fated visit.

We will try to enjoy the sights and events here in Eugene this weekend.  But we may take taxis.  No sense tempting fate.  And I think we are not welcome on the city buses.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eugene again

Don't we like to press our luck, going back to Eugene.  Long time readers with good memories will recall that a few months ago, we drove into Eugene with a slideout hanging out.  After repair, we drove by a Eugene city bus and rammed it with an out-of-control awning.  Much earlier in our short full timing career, we left an installer ill prepared and drove through town with a slideout partially open.  The fun never ends in Eugene.

A superstitious person would feel uneasy returning to such an ill-starred town.  But we don't believe in blind superstition.  We pursue blind stupidity.

This time, we will get a second solar panel installed on our roof by AM Solar.  Then we return to the same Excel dealer, because our same slideout ain't working up to specs.  It didn't break like the last two times.  But it is not pulling the slide in with enough force, thus requiring Bruce to push too.

Pray for us.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Happy Birthday Clancy

Clancy, our cute Australian Terrier, is two years old today.

Here he is on day one.
And today, a mench at last.
It was touch and go for a while there.  First year was hell, you betcha.  Since then, he has shown steady improvement to the dog he is today.

And so, in his honor, a new song for Clancy!

Inspiration comes from Ricky Nelson, Travelin' Man

I'm a travelin' dog,
And I've dropped a lot of poop on most of the states.
And in every park I try to wizz and bark,
Plus I'm always lookin' for steaks.

Oh my sweet Dachshund down in Berlin town,
Makes my tail start to yearn,
And my little Shih Tzu makes me want to poo,
Then she'll take her turn.

I've a pretty Hairless Dog just awaitin' for me,
Down in old Mexico,
But there's too many fish swimming in the sea,
And I don't like those refried tacos.

Oh my sweet Shepherd down in Germantown,
Makes me think of my food,
And my Pekingese makes me want to sneeze,
And think thoughts so crude.

Pretty Irish Terrier from yon over the sea,
I remember July,
When we romped in the woods and did all that we could,
Then I turned around and bid you goodbye.

Oh my Pappillon down in gay Paree,
Makes me feel so all aglow,
She just shows her rump and gives it a bump,
And I want to go.

Pretty Westie Terrier from down over next door,
I remember the night,
When we wizzed on a log and I called you my dog,
Then I turned around and gave you a bite.

Oh, I'm a travelin' dog.
Yes, I'm a travelin' dog.
Bark bark bark bark bark bark
Grrr grrr grrr whine whine whine whine.

Give him a cookie!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Miscellaneous Impressions of Our Alaska and Canada trip

  • Rugged people.
  • Salmon.
  • Three legged dogs.
  • Shot out highway signs outside Anchorage.
  • Fish and chips or hamburgers.  A bargain under $20.
  • Colorful Canadian money.
  • Bear spray.
  • Endless displays about the construction of the Alaska Highway..."Mile after mile of mile after mile."
  • Native corporations and First Nation lands.
  • Grizzly bear greeting our tour bus.
  • Gold rush, gold rush, gold rush.
  • Bald eagles and seagulls scavenging on the beach.
  • Beautiful overnight camping alongside the road.
  • Ice blue growlers from the Columbia Glacier.
  • Brown bear scat versus black bear scat.
  • Dying spruce trees in BC from the spruce bark beetle.
  • Yukon Brewery, "Beer worth freezing for."
  • The Alaska-Kansas border, according to Verizon Wireless.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back in the USA

Five days travel from Dawson Creek to Anacortes WA put us back in country.  Land of money we understand and miles per gallon.

We stopped at Whiskers Point Provincial Park for coupla days, as we did on the way up.  Then in the Fraser Canyon, we found a great little park, Skihist Provincial Park, for a night.

What a great trip!  We figure we drove about 7,000 miles from the Washington border through Canada, throughout Alaska, and back to Washington.  Which does not count 1,000 miles each way from our Park Sierra in California.  By mid-September, we will have driven about 9,000 miles in four months.

Want to try it yourself next year?  You can contact us via this blog or our personal email address for information on expenses, as well as a copy of our GPS data in Alaska, BC, and the Yukon.

Today we took one of our favorite trips - a ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands.  With our friends Steve and Sandy, whom we see once or twice each year since meeting them at Lake Tyee, our first home since starting fulltime RVing.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

From Whitehorse to Dawson Creek

We dry camped our way down the Alaska Highway for four nights of five nights to reach Dawson Creek, BC. 

Spent one night at the Continental Divide.  Here you dump your RV tanks in the parking lot and the fluid flows in opposite directions.  Ha ha ha!  Tasteless RV joke!!  Ain't we a riot?

Spent one night at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park, at one of the largest natural hot springs in the province.  Nice, nice.

We thoroughly enjoyed the crafts and history exhibits at the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre.  We particularly like their style of masks and clothing among all the Native tribes.

We noticed the fireweed going to seed on August 23.  Traditionally this signals the end of summer, with "termination dust" (the first snow) following soon thereafter.

Now we're spending two nights back at Dawson Creek Mile Zero campground.  Tomorrow we take the trailer to the local suspension shop for some (hopefully) minor maintenance to the trailer springs.

The wildfire situation along our route has improved markedly.  Thus south we go!

Current itinerary
 - Four days to Anacortes, WA, where we will join friends for a ferry ride to Friday Harbor.  One of our favorite pass times in past times.
 - Fifteen miles to the Camping World at Burlington, WA.  Finally replacing the awning that the city bus snatched from our home last May.
 - One day to Olympia, WA, our former home, to see friends and the local Costco, in that order.
 - One day to Eugene, OR, for a second solar panel on the roof.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Show Me the Way to Go Home

As we prepare to drive east and south back to the US, we have become acutely aware of wildfires along our path of travel. 
We have already given up taking the Cassiar Highway, which was closed today due to a month long fire.  Other wildfires menace that highway further south.

Smoke from hundreds of wildfires in southern British Columbia cover a wide area.  Even taking a 500 mile detour to Edmonton will not help, as the smoke reaches that far east.

Current plan  - drive the 900 miles to Dawson Creek, BC, north of the fires.  Which will take us about one week.  At that point, review the situation for the road ahead.

When we return home, I will write a letter to our Embassy.  Surely the Canadian government must take some action to protect American citizens from inconvenience.  I smell Lawsuit!

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore."

Bruce  (mad)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dawson City, YT

We thoroughly enjoyed our four days in Dawson City, home of the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century.  Unlike some theme parks, this town combines historic buildings protected by the Park Service and year round residents living on tourism and gold mining.

We arrived at the start of the Discovery Days Festival, a legal holiday in the Yukon Territory.  The town held a parade, pictures of which you can see here, along with others of the town.  Pics here.  The parade offered an unusally eclectic and inclusive view of their lives mingled with the past and present.

We also took tours of the historic buildings and saw the  floor show and cancan girls at Diamond Tooth Gerties (the only legal casino in the territory).  Visited the cabins of Robert Service, the "Bard of the Yukon," and Jack London, who wrote Call of the Wild and White Fang, among others.

We drove the famous Top of the World Highway to the Alaska border.  The Taylor Highway on the west side of this road was mostly closed, cutting traffic on the TOW Highway to a trickle.  We saw maybe 20 vehicles on our roundtrip from Dawson.

We attended the Danoja Zho Cultural Center, which presents the culture and traditions of the local First Nation people.  They lived in this area for millennia before the stampeders displaced them downriver. 

And so we turn south to Whitehorse and the gradual journey home.  We hope to take a different route, the Cassiar highway, if we can get past the fire which has blocked the road for almost one month now.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Criminal Behavior on the Way to Dawson City, YT

We arrived at Dawson City without incident.  Spent one night on the way in the parking lot of the tiny Visitors Center in Stewart Crossing, YT.  We parked between two of the three "No Overnight Camping" signs.   

We were desperate.  The local campground had closed.  No one in this town of 45 bothered us, tho Jenna woke up early with visions of SWAT teams descending on us. 

But still.  What if the Mounties arrested us and deported us via the nearest border, i.e. Alaska?  As convicted felons, we could not reenter Canada!  How would we drive back home?

So we slept in our clothing, put a muzzle on Clancy, and fled from town at first light.  Close call that one.  We live on the edge!

More about Dawson City in our next post.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Down at Fox Lake

After three days on the road, we settle in for the night at a lovely little pullout on Fox Lake, on the Klondike Highway toward Dawson City.  Ten feet from the lake, water lapping at the shore.  Nice!

In the morning, we ready ourselves for departure, only to discover that one of our front jacks won't retract.  Uh oh, can't go down the road like that. 

Next day, Bruce backtracks 40 miles to the city of Whitehorse, where he searches in vain for a technician to make a service call out there.  Phone service problems throughout the Yukon, coupled with an upcoming holiday, throw a spanner in the works.  He returns home with instructions on a temporary fix.

Fix works - drain the fluid from that leg, which raises the jack.  Ha ha!  Then we drive back to Whitehorse where we find someone to fix it.  Turns out as faulty wiring in the hand control for the hydraulic jack system.  Fixie fixie we hope.

Back on the road tomorrow.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Fairbanks #3

Bruce took a two hour ride on a Segway.  Rode through the outskirts of Fairbanks, along with three young fellas.  These fun transportation devices move along at 12 mph.  In Fairbanks, you can ride them whereever you can ride a bike.  A good time was had by all, as evidenced by pictures and videos soon available here.  BTW, you can find city tours on Segways in many cities.  One of several companies offers "Guided Segway tours in Paris, Munich, Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, San Francisco, Budapest, Vienna and Berlin!"

We spent several hours at the University of Alaska's premire Museum of the North.  They offer exhibits on Northern culture and environment, including a moving exhibit on the Army's forced relocation of Aleutian Island Natives during WWII.  Many Natives died living in deplorable conditions far from the environs they knew.  Most tellingly, German POWs fifty miles away in camps lived better than these American citizens.

The museum also contained exhibits on Native crafts and the effects of climate change on the Arctic.  We stayed till Bruce got cranky.

We returned to the Fairbanks Visitors Center for Athabascan dancers and dog mushing.  The dancers hoofed around in barn dance fashion, accompanied by a fiddle player and guitarists.  The Natives adopted these instruments brought over by the Hudson Bay Company (!).  While they didn't say, we figured they also learned the folk dancing from traders too.  We could have been watching folk dancing in Arkansas, where we once lived.  Some of their dances did portray their lives as hunters.  They invited the audience to join them on stage, which we did.

Tomorrow we leave Alaska for Dawson City, Yukon.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fort Yukon, Ak, above the Arctic Circle

Big day today.  We flew in a ten passenger twin prop airplane to a Native village eight miles north of the Arctic Circle.
pic 2 here

Chilly Willi it wasn't.  This was day three of a relative heat wave.  85 degrees doesn't sound bad. Till you stand in the intense summer arctic sun. 

Still not so bad compared to 100+ in the East.  Till you spend 90 minutes in the sun baked wood smoke filled airplane.  Smoke from fires like these.

We finally reached Fort Yukon, a Native village of about 500 souls.  Most of them are related by blood or marriage.  Just seven square miles.  While only 145 air miles from Fairbanks, no roads reach Fort Yukon.  Travel by boat along the Yukon River, or via commuter plane like the one we used.  Permafrost surrounds the village, making for hard going during the warm weather.  The villagers use snow machines much of the rest of the year.

What to think of this village?  80% unemployment.  Milk costs $23/gallon.  35 cents/kilowatt for electricity. (In California we pay about nine cents/kilowatt.)  Natives hunt and fish for their food.  Tho salmon runs and moose populations are declining due to climate change and overfishing and overhunting.  Eskimo tribes likewise worry about declining whale

Most of the houses were rundown, tho our guide said that they contained microwaves, TVs, and computers.  Thus the outer world intrudes, likely raising expectations.  The village has lost half their population in the last few years, due to economic conditions.

On the other hand, a few days later, we attended a Native dance demonstration, which included people from Fort Yukon.  They warmly described their village life, with closeknit families and dancing celebrations.
I certainly couldn't judge their lives.  They seem to lack the conveniences of modern living, but value their subsistence way of life, which means "to face the world on one's own terms, not on terms defined by outside cultures."  More on this link

They have lived this way for thousands of years, far longer than western societies.  Time will tell whether they can maintain this life in the face of environmental, political, and cultural pressures.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Fairbanks, AK

We drove straight out from Denali NP to Fairbanks, AK.  What a nice place.  Like the old saying about a woman's skirt, "Big enough to cover the essentials, but small enough to keep it interesting."
In these first few days, we toured the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center.  One of the nicest visitors centers we've seen, with elaborate displays about life in the northern climes and the Native villages.

At the Cremer's Field Wildlife Refuge, we saw sandhill cranes that migrate to Alaska for the summer.

As well as a line of RVs with people waiting for days to snag one of the limited permits to hunt moose.  No doubt these were non-Native people.  Natives are exempt from severe hunting and fishing restrictions as they hunt for food on their traditional lands, classified "subsistence."

On the drive from Denali, we saw some smoke off to the east from the highway and figured some woods were burning.  Turns out this months long fire burned just about five miles south of Fairbanks.  Here is one day of ash on a chair outside our RV.

Tomorrow we fly to a Native village just north of the Arctic Circle.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Denali National Park - Part 2

We enjoyed our time at Savage Creek Campground.  Further from the hub-bub of the larger campgrounds and the helicopters at "Glitter Gulch," the commercial district at the entrance to the Park.

First morning, we saw this female moose (cow) and her baby (calf) twenty feet from the back of our home.

Moose present a serious danger to the unwary in the best of circumstances, doubly so when accompanied by their young.  So I snapped this photo thru the back window rather than my usual method of running outside for a closer encounter.  (Readers with excellent recall will remember that time with a bear at Yellowstone NP.  This one

Another day, we rode the park shuttle for seven hours round trip to the Eielson Visitor Center at mile 66 of the park road.  During the ride, we saw numerous grizzly bears, including this threesome on a hill.
As well as a mother (sow) and her two cubs, and another grizzly maybe 20 feet from the bus.    Also moose, a golden eagle, a caribou, mu gulls, dall sheep, and squirrels.

Last morning, day of departure, we finally saw Mt. Denali (McKinley) from our campground.
75 miles away.

Then on our way out, this moose grazing in the shrubs by the road.

And so we leave the wilderness for now.  On to the metropolis of Fairbanks.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Denali National Park

Nice place, this Denali.  The Park Service  maintains one road into the wilderness, which runs 15 miles of pavement, then another 50 miles of gravel.   By arriving early, we scored a nice site in the Riley Campground one mile from the entrance.

Mt. Denali is the principle attraction, at 20,320 feet, it is the highest peak in North America.  All the more impressive, you see it from 1,500 feet elevation, thus view far more of the mountain than peaks even in the Himalayas.  Less impressive, however, clouds typically obscure the view in the summer, particularly in this unusually wet summer of 2010.  Thus our view of Denali on day 1 from 50 miles away, and every day since.
You can see why we drove 3,000 miles to Alaska.

During our first few days, we took a bus tour 15 miles into the Park.  We saw several mooses, as well as a grizzly bear ambling down a dry creek bed.

Another day, we visited the Park sled dog kennels.  The NPS rangers still use sled dogs to patrol and service the backcountry of the park during the winter.

Bruce went on a river rafting excursion on the Nenana River, including some Class 2, 3 and 4 rapids.  A good and wet time was had by all.  Bruce, the (ahem) senior member of the crew, is showing the young blond how to paddle.  You gotta teach 'em everything.

Tomorrow we move our RV to a campground 15 miles into the park.  No phone, no Internet service, no nothin'.  Just the way we like it. 

Don't call us.  We can't call you.


Monday, July 19, 2010

The Way Home

Curious about our plans from here?

Thinking of joining us?  With your own sleeping arrangements, of course.  Remember the wisdom of the successful RVer.

Our RV
Drinks for 8
Dinner for 4
Sleeps 2 + Clancy
Friends and family excepted.

Herein our thoughts about our route from here:
  • Denali National Park - see our Alaska song for our plans to see wildlife
  • Fairbanks, Alaska's big city
  • Back to Whitehorse, YT for more time at the Yukon brewery
  • Dawson City, YT, the famous gold rush town
  • Drive the fabulous Top of the World Highway, returning to Dawson City the same day
  • South on the Cassier Highway, another fabulous and remote highway in western British Columbia
  • Washington Border - gimme back my guns!  (No guns.)
  • Olympia, WA to see friends once more
  • Eugene, OR for another solar panel
  • Ashland and Grants Pass, OR - we like it there
  • Park Sierra

Figure another seven to eight weeks till our return.  For a total of about four months and 10,000 miles since we left Park Sierra.

Then let the tire cool down. Check in with our medical practitioners, to see if they are feeling OK.

Tucson for the winter?  Maybe, if Arizona pulls back some on their current political initiatives, i.e. DWWNW (Driving or Walking While Not White) and packing heat in restaurants and bars. 
We ain't the only ones either.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Return to Seward

So we returned to Seward, to our same fabulous site looking out into Resurrection Bay.

We visited nearby Exit Glacier.  You can hike up to the edge of this retreating glacier, which comprises just one part of the Harding Ice Field.

Took a nice boat cruise on the bay, where we viewed mountain goats, puffins, and saw the edge of the Kenai Fjord National Park.  One of the few sunny days since we arrived in Alaska.  We felt mildly sea sick as we sailed along the edge of the Alaska Bay.

Chatted with a couple whom we met at Park Sierra  3,000 miles away early last year.  Small nation that.   Clancy took exception to the presence of their dog in our trailer, even tho he had played with him during their last meeting.  Must have been wearing a different cologne.

And otherwise waited to leave for our reserved spots at Denali National Park.  We depart tomorrow, expecting to arrive two days later.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

South Kenai and Homer

We spent a few days in the south part of the peninsula. 

We visited friends Gene and Joyce at the Deep Creek State Recreation Area, where they are working for the summer.  We drycamped along the beach, just five feet above and ten feet from the high tide line. 

The two main activities at this SRA - fishing and bald eagle watching.  Many salmon carcasses on the beach attract eagles and gulls.  One morning I counted 18 bald eagles along a 50 feet strip of beach in front of us.

From there, we drove 30 miles to Homer, another fishing and tourist town similar to Seward.

Big news there was the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Ride from Florida, ending in Homer.  Bikers were arriving in twos and threes, some learning for the first time that others wonder if the whole enterprise was a scam.

Since we don't fish, the park was so far from everything but fish, and we faced a forcast of rain for seven days, we returned to Seward.  And moved back onto the same site we occupied during our last visit, The Best View We Have Ever Seen.


Towers of Power

True Story

Since we arrived in Alaska, my cell phone only rings once or twice, short rings at that.  Then the caller goes to voicemail.  In other words, I can't receive phone calls.  I'm just not that fast any longer.

I've called Verizon several times without result.  Today I learned something new.

[The Short Version]
"My phone doesn't ring properly since I arrived in Alaska."

"I'm sorry sir.  You must connect to one of our Verizon towers to reset your phone programming."

"I haven't found any Verizon towers.  I'm always roaming.  Do you have towers in Alaska?"

"One moment sir....Are you near Kansas?  Or Toronto?

Kansas?  Kansas?

"Yes, sir, the state of Kansas."

Which explains why some of your calls don't go through.

Not So True Story
Approaching the Alaska-Kansas Border

"Now remember, we're just passing through, on vacation."

Border Guard:  "Good Afternoon, sir.  Passports please."

Us:  "Certainly.  Here you are."

"Do you have any fruits or vegetables or pets?"

"Just Clancy, our Australian Terrier."

"That's fine then.  What is your reason for entering Kansas today?"

"We're just passing through.  We're taking Clancy to see his home in Australia."

"Fine, fine.  Australia is just a few hours east of here."

"Then we're off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

"OK, don't give me that fairy tale.  Step out of the truck, nice and easy now."

"Is there something wrong Officer?"

"Hold on now.  Give me those cell phones."

"Cell phones?"

"Just as I thought.  You're roaming, aren't you?"

"Oh no.  Are we roaming?  I didn't notice!"

"Don't hand me that.  You want to connect to our Verizon cell towers, don't you?  And you couldn't find Toronto!"

"All right, I admit it.  Please!  Please!!"
[Breaks into song, of course.]

Oh give me a Home where I don't need to Roam,
Where I'll make and receive calls all day.
Where voices I'll hear on a signal so clear,
And I don't throw my minutes away.

Home, home....

"Shut up!  Same old song.  You make me sick."

"But, but...."

"Turn this RV around.  Go back to Alaska."

"No!  No!!"

"Yes!  And leave Clancy with us."

"But why?"

"He doesn't wear a cell phone.  He's a watch dog."


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Kenai and Soldotna

We spent one week at the small Kenai RV Park, owned by a nice Native couple from Anchorage.  On July 4, they served us deep fried halibut at a pot luck.  Good time for sure.

We visited an active Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai, including an impressive number of religious artifacts.  More churches await us on our trip south on the Peninsula.

This was our first contact with the the remnants of Russian settlements in Alaska, which began in the 18th century.  Russian fur traders enslaved the native populations in Alaska in search of otter skins and other animals.  The Russian Orthodox church arrived later to convert the natives.  Such activities continued until Russia sold Alaska to the USA, at which time the process started again.

What else?  We spent parts of two days with Lu and Larry, our immediate neighbors at Park Sierra.  They live here in the summer.

Saw this very nice moose on the edge of town.
Still can't find my keys!

And then we turned south.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Glamorous Life

We lead a glamorous life.
  • Travel to exotic places.  Currently we are touring Alaska, The Last Frontier.  Next week we camp on a beach without utilities.  Again.
  • Sleep in top rated highway rest stops in the middle of nowhere.
  • Eat at exclusive restaurants.  We last dined at the Burger Bus next door.
  • Turn down interviews with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous magazine, as well as RV Septic Monthly.
  • Kill our own food, grow our own coffee, and make water from wine.


The "Little People" don't always understand the strain we live under to maintain such an exclusive lifestyle, the way we work to live a life they can envy. 

You know you envy us and we know you at least try to understand.  We do it for you.  And us.  Mostly us.

But sometimes the effort takes everything we have.  Every ounce of strength.  Every last calorie of that Tiramisu Fondu and that Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  All of it.

Then we fall to earth, exhausted, but happy for you.
Now you know.  And you thank us.

You're welcome.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

So Long to Seward

We had a very nice time in Seward. Five days of doin' nothin' mostly. As already mentioned, the views of the snow tinged mountains around the harbor were killer. Couldn't beat walking along the water, gazing hither and yon.
Nice Alaska Sealife Center marine museum with a large bird tank and additional tanks for sea lions and seals. Paid for with settlement money from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Laundry, coffee, groceries, mocha hazelnut gilato.


Next stop, Kenai on the Kenai Peninsula.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Superlatives in Seward

Readers with memories longer than mine will recall that I wrote on June 14, 2010, "In three years of traveling, this is the most beautiful view ever through our window."

I was wrong.  We are now dry camping at a city park in Seward.  THIS is the most beautiful view ever through our window.

At 8.30pm
 Now a discerning reader might reasonably ask, "What makes you think you won't find another spot even more beautiful than this one?"

Nothing makes me think.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


We spent three days in Anchorage.  We picked up our General Delivery mail from the post office, and made ports of call at Fred Meyers, Costco, and the local RV stores.

Plus we thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits at the Anchorage Museum, particularly one created by the

Smithsonian Museum of the Alaskan indigenous tribes.

For those wondering about RV parks in Anchorage, don't plan on any.  We saw one mediocre park, the Golden Nugget, whose chief attraction was its location across from Costco.  Otherwise, forget it.  We dry camped at the Eagle River State Recreation Area, 13 miles from the center of the city.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Solstice in Alaska

You have no doubt heard of the long hours of summer light here in Alaska, culminating at the summer solstice.  Well, you ain't nothin till you lived it. 

We live it.  Sitting around in the evening, reading or some such activity.

"Hey, Jenna.  What time is it?"



So, of course, I wrote a poem, while laying in bed in the light.  No song to accompany it this time.  Rather a riff on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous ode, tho unrelated in subject.

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth just right out there,
No need to get it 'fore the night,
There is no dark.  Nay, all is light.

That damned Sun shines the whole day through,
He takes no rest, I'm telling you,
You wait for night, for blessed sleep,
You get more light and counting sheep.

Then six months hence, no Sun you see,
Then all is dark, no archery,
You grope around and turn on lights,
You curse the dark, you curse the night.

Ol Sol he just can't figure out,
Can't hear me moan, can't hear me shout,
"Just strike a balance, dark and light!"
"Twelve hours day, twelve hours night!"

The Sun so bright, seems stupefied.
So big, yet just so mystified,
We need a new one, that's for sure,
Elect another, smart and pure.

Not Democrat nor 'publican,
No Tea Party Lib'tarian,
Just someone smart to oversee,
Got just the guy, of course it's ME!

Click here for the original poem


Friday, June 18, 2010

Valdez, AK

We have spent four nights in Valdez.  What a surprising place. 

A village of 4,000 people working for the oil and fishing industries.  Glacier covered mountains rise 5 to 6 thousand feet above the village and harbor, when the clouds clear from time to time.
They've seen their troubles.  In 1964, a 9.0 earthquake leveled the town.  Twenty five years - more trouble in the form of the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez.

We saw a few museums and the town bakery (twice).

Enjoyed the eagle show at the park

Bruce went out on a kayak trip to the Columbia Glacier ice flow.  Paddled around small to medium size floating pieces of ice under a light rain. 

Saw sea otters

and a variety of birds.  A unique experience.  And cold.

Next day, we took a wildlife cruise on the LuluBelle.  Saw whales,
 dall porpoises,
Click here for slideshow of porpoises surfing the bow wave 
 sea lions, and birds of many feathers.  And sailed among the ice of the same glacier.

Next stop - Anchorage.