Sunday, August 30, 2009

34-2009 Omak to Shelton and Seattle Washington

34-2009 Washington

Campground: Omak City park. $20 a night. Full hookups. Nice shade trees, paved pads and green green grass.

Campground: Mason County Fairgrounds. $20 a night, Electric and water. Open flat grassy sites. Next to small regional airport where they do hang gliding from airplanes. Over air Tv, two fox stations and 11 religious stations.

A new Adventure begins.

My first stop in the state of Washington is Omak. Population: 689. It’s about 100 miles south of the Canadian boarder and is in what’s called the desert high country. I decided to stay two nights, so I could tour the

countryside and visit the Coulee Dam. It currently can produce the most electricity in the US and I believe the world, though that status will change shortly. Had a guided tour down into the 3rd and newest power generation plant. Even from above, I could feel the vibration and power of the water traveling through the concrete channel ways to the generators. The two facts that I found amazing is that the total cost of the dam and generators was around one billion dollars and that the power generated creates a billion dollar profit each year that goes directly to the Treasury department. Now if we could just build enough of them, we would never have a budget deficit. It was built starting in 1933 and completed just as we entered WWII in 1942.

Note: it’s not as impressive looking as the Hover dam, but provides more power to the 11 surrounding states and is the largest concrete structure in the US.

This desert high country around here is quite arid. Though the Columbia river provides not only power but enough water to irrigate over one million acres of land. Lots of fruit trees, hay and grain fields and I understand as more vineyards go in due to the wealth of irrigation in the area that Washington will eventually surpass all other states in the production of wine.

It’s an interesting land with some pine forests, lots of rugged native grass lands, volcanic rock occasionally poking through and the ever present greenway along the Columbia river. And it’s hot! It’s reached 101 both days I’ve been here, but has cooled off some (92) due to a hazy overcast sky this late Friday afternoon. My A/C has been working overtime and I’ve had to turn off all appliances to forestall another circuit breaker popping.

Two fires started in the area, thick smoke rising above the mountain ranges. As I headed out the next day, I was able to see the fires climbing along the western ridge of a mountain range. The Valleys filled with stagnant smoke hanging in the air.

I drove most of the following day. Traveling south on 97, then hooking up to Interstate 90, hwy 18, Interstate 99 (now you know your on the west coast when the interstate numbers are this high) and finally onto the 101 heading onto the Olympic peninsula. Lots of heavy interstate traffic, something I haven’t seen all summer long. South bound was a continuous flow. North bound was stop and go traffic. Highways that become parking lots.

I finally reached Shelton, my stop for a couple of weeks while I visit friends in the area and fly

back to Orlando to renew my drivers license. (this is the year I have to do it in person). Just as I entered the Shelton area my GPS died on me (the battery stopped charging, something wrong with the power cord). Not knowing the exact location to the campground I was going to stay in, I got off the highway and drove into the small town of Shelton in search of the visitors center for directions. It being closed of course, I met two “gentlemen” on the street and asked for directions. They were very happy to do so, come to find out they were, as the saying goes, stinking drunk. Most pleasant in every way otherwise and they each had a name tag stuck to their shirts. How nice that they help the inebriated by labeling them in case they forget who they are. I got my directions and headed to the campground.

I’m staying at the Mason County Fairgrounds and it‘s only about a city block from the Super Wal-Mart. Tom and Chris have had me over to their stunning home along the water. Huge fir trees surround the property. Just to get to their home one has to drive along a couple of miles of park like setting winding it’s way along thick evergreens until it eventually opens up to views of homes hugging the sides of steep hillsides leading to the waters edge.

I’ll be doing some touring of the Olympia peninsula with them and of course I should get over to Seattle as well.

I’m exhausted. We’ve been touring the peninsula from end to end or should I say from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean and back. I’m really enjoying the campsite at the county fairgrounds, big grassy sites with expansive views and the small airport with it’s hang gliders. Lots of fun to watch. We checked out another park I had intended on staying in when I got back, but it was so overgrown and the sites so tight, I decided to stay where I am.

Having friends that will take the time to bring you to out of the way places. Like the castle that Tom and Chris showed me on the Olympia Peninsula that a guy built for his new bride. She left him shortly afterwards and there sits this castle with one eyed Cyclops and fruit vineyards surrounding it. To read more on this story READ FEUD POISONING.

Took the ferry from Bremerton (a major navy shipyard) over to Seattle to visit with my good buddies Jimmy and John. They showed me around the town a bit, had lunch down at the Market near the waterfront. Lots of tourists down in that area. We then went on Seattle’s own subway and busses for even more touring. What a gorgeous city. It’s a real people oriented city, great for walking, oh and maybe a cocktail at one of the outdoor café’s, with Tiffany’s, J-Crew and Nordstrom’s just across the street. Lots of local upscale shops and great bookstores as well. There are at least five districts in town and they are all vibrant active parts of this new city.

How nice to meet up with friends I’ve met while camping along the way and have a chance to see the world through their eyes.

I could babble on, but for once will stop here until next time.

and you know there are tons of pictures on my picasa site.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

33-2009 Prince George BC to Omak Washington

33-2009 Prince George to U.S. boarder
The Official End of the Alaskan Journey……

Campground: Prince George Casino. Free, dry camping.

Campground: Williams Lake Stampede campground (city). $21, 15 amp, water. Big gravel circle. Ok site for a couple nights. Next year will have 30 amp and wi-fi at all sites.

Campground: Monte Lake, Heritage Campground. $21, 15 amp, water, pull thru site. Nice evergreen treed sites on side of hill overlooking lake. Most sites are back in, some full hookups.

It’s been quite a journey so far. I’ve arrived in Prince George, the 4th largest city in BC. Pop. 80,000. Heavy lumber industry up here. Canada is already getting out of the recession and is looking forward. Hope the U.S. is starting to turn around as well. I’m staying at a Casino parking lot, no hookups but it’s free. Tried my luck in the casino and there was no luck to be had. Besides, their machines take a bit more than the usual penny slots I’m used too. Still, I’m saving between $50 and $60 by staying here two nights. Can’t beat that.

The window in the truck was repaired quickly and obviously I’m back on the road. Not a whole lot to see in the Prince George area. Even the visitor center directed me further south for a few sight seeing places.

My tire pressure monitor started blinking red, meaning one of the tires was a bit low on air. Checked it and put about 10 lbs air back in…. nice to have a monitor to tell me when the tires need checking. I’ll check it again before heading out to insure there’s not a slow leak. (Later) The sensor is bad and will need to be replaced.

The further I drive south, the more I’m starting to see farms again. Until recently, It’s been all forest. Lots and lots of forest. Kind of nice to start seeing farms with hay bails all rolled up throughout the fields. Some cattle and horses as well.

Finally drove into Williams Lake around noon today. Home of the Stampede, a huge rodeo that takes place every July 1st. I’m staying at the Stampede campground so I get to watch the teenage cowboys and cowgirls practicing their horse skills.

As I’m heading back to the U.S. boarder, there have been a few sites I could have visited, like Barkerville, a preserved gold rush mining town. Actors dress the part of late 1800 miners and townfolk. I’m over some of these sites while heading back, not that they‘re not great sites to visit. Sometimes one just gets burned out seeing these “re-creations”. A number of towns also have tours of the lumber industry which could be quite interesting.

Canadian sales tax has gone up with what’s called the HST, Harmony Sales Tax. Combined with the other existing taxes it’s now up to 12% on most all sales. Yikkes that can add up fast to any purchase. The sneaky politicians that were elected this past time hadn’t mentioned beans about wanting to put in this national tax. As soon as they were elected, boom, it was voted in.

Does it ever get hot in Canada? You betcha. It’s been up into the mid to high 80’s the last couple of days. The evenings cool off nicely. 53 degrees last night.

One last day as I head out of Canada. I took a “scenic” route. Lots of curves, couple of nice lake views, no wildlife. I’m heading a bit east, going to travel down hwy 97 into Washington. Stopped into a small café along route 24. A mother who used to be a professional fisherman, moved here with her kids (early teens). Fishing had gone down the tubes and it was time for a change. Opened the café, took the play station, Wii and other video games away from the kids to give them a chance to see the world and get back to a simpler life. They’ve combined three trailers together (one a nice single wide). The kids and Dad(?) just installed new wood steps to the trailers. Mom was ecstatic. Simple things, simple lives. Closer to family, closer to nature.

My campsite at Monte Lake BC is an evergreen wooded hillside site. Lots of shade. No Tv, no internet, no radio, just the outdoors. Cars going by on hwy 97. Windows open, gentle breeze. Sun setting early tonight due to big mountain on other side of lake.

I was thinking I wasn’t getting very good rates for campsites, but when I look back at my charges for each month, I’ve been averaging about $22 a night. Not bad at all. When I get back into the states I’ll be able to use my Verizon air-card for 24/7 internet access. That always helps as I can check a couple of my internet sites for the best deal in each town. But for winging it through Canada and Alaska, I really have done pretty well.

Tomorrow I’ll cross the boarder into the U.S. and this will be the official end of my Alaskan Journey, even though I will be traveling through the NW heading back towards AZ for the winter months. I consider that part a whole new journey.


Crossing the boarder, one last time. Yup, I crossed into the US around noon today. They
inspected my camper and took my apples! They were from New Zealand. Who knew they were illegal in the US. I did buy some great fruit with the last couple of Canadian dollars I had, peaches, nectarines, three types of plums which they let me take over the boarder. Hwy 97 through lower BC is wine country and fruit country. Lots of lakes and mountains… pretty country.

I hope you enjoyed my Alaskan adventure. I’d do it again in a heart beat.

Lots more to follow, so keep on reading my posts…..

Final photo's have been uploaded to my Picasa web site, which is at it's limit as well as adding photos to my blog, so I guess I'm going to have to start paying to add more photos.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

32-2009 British Columbia Canada

32-2009 Leaving Ketchikan
Ferry ride to Prince Rupert BC
Terrace BC
Burn Lake, “Crunch, Crack, Pop…. Ekk! What was That?”

Campground: Burn Lake Municipal City park. Free (3 day limit). Dry camping. Next to a bike and skate park and on the lake. Tight sites. Recommend large Rv’s just park in the open gravel parking area next to the lake.

The fog has descended on Ketchikan blanketing the hillsides and islands across the channel. A fine mist and the occasional light shower fill the air. This is what the scenery is like much of the year. Ketchikan gets 162 inches of rain each year. Turning every scene into a gray landscape of soft edges. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to experience it, as the past couple of weeks, except for my time in Skagway has been unseasonably sunny and warm. This is what a temperate rain forest feels like. Damp. Everything covered in a moist blanket.

I’m staying at a Wal-Mart parking lot for the very first time. I’ve never been opposed to doing it, it has just never been necessary in the past. I had an extra day to bum around so I thought why not get a bit closer into town. This Wal-Mart is surrounded on two sides by high rock walls holding back the hill it’s parking lot was carved out of. I’m parked against one of these walls. Away from all traffic. One other motor home is parked next to me.

Staying at a Wal-Mart (I understand some others like Safeway occasionally let campers stay overnight) is pretty cool and with the cost of campsites this summer, I’m saving $30+ a night by staying here. I’ll save another $30 by parking at the ferry landing tonight, as my ferry ride will be at 5 am the following morning.

When I was in Fairbanks, a very nice couple mentioned that they stay in free places like this a couple of times a month to cut down on their monthly camping expenses. I might start doing it myself. Especially in cooler climates like this where one doesn’t need a/c.

My friend Ron in Mich. has started his first time as a camp host at Pictured Rocks and is documenting the experience on his Blog site: If you read it from the bottom up, you’ll be able to follow his experience from day one. He’s a great writer and I found it very informative and just a darn good read.

What was I thinking. I got to the ferry dock and parked my camper around 4:30 pm. I’m not scheduled to leave till 5:15 in the morning. Thinking I could just sleep in the camper. For one thing, I had to keep both slides closed, as other travels arrived to line up early as well. That said, I was climbing over furniture and such just to get around inside the camper. I finally went to bed around 9:30 and got all of two hours sleep. Being awakened by a fork lift operator working all night long. His back up beeper going off every time he went into reverse. We are next to working docks after all.

Obviously I was awake and ready to get on the ferry way ahead of time. The 6 hour ride was like floating through a sea of misty channels. The viewing windows were filled with droplets of rain that collected till they formed rivulets running down in winding channels. Of course not having any sleep probably made it seem more surreal than it really was.

A barge goes by, loaded with containers… and on the top back end of the barge a prefab house. Someone’s house is coming home. Don’t you know they are excited today. Within days, they will have a house set up on their lot that normally would have taken months to build.

We arrived in Prince Rupert to the continuous downpour of light rain and low clouds covering the surrounding mountains. Rather than staying in the area, I’ve decide to drive east following the Skeena River, as it will probably begin to clear up the further inland I get. An awesome sight, as the river looks more like a large long lake with huge mountains plunging upwards along it’s banks. The narrow two lane road and train tracks follow the river making for one enormously long scenic view.

As I drove along, a small baby black bear bounded across the road. Now how cool is that. Looked to be the happiest bear I’ve ever seen. You’d think it had springs on it’s paws the way it almost bounced across the highway. A bit further, I catch a glimpse of a waterfalls high up on the mountain side. Within a short distance the water fall comes into full view for the briefest of time. It’s huge with tons of water cascading down the sides. No place to turn off and get a picture, it remains one of those scenes that can only be replayed in my mind.

The town of Terrace. Hwy 16 British Columbia. I need to stop over for a couple of days and get some chores done. The truck needs an oil change and it’s time for a new fuel filter. The fridge had to be turned off during it’s ride on the ferry, so I’ve got to start restocking it with food. At least I was able to give it a good cleaning while it was empty.

Terrace is mainly a lumber town from what I’ve seen so far and an Indian reservation is near by. The First Nation people can show that they’ve lived in this area for over 10,000 years. Imagine knowing your ancestors have lived in an area for that length of time.

So, after getting a few chores done here in Terrace, I headed out early Wed. morning, not knowing how far I would drive today, but knowing, I’m going to need to put on some miles to get down to Seattle Washington by the last week in August.

I went through a number of small towns including Smithers, Telkwa, Houston, Topley and finally Burns Lake. Burns has a small Municipal City park that I thought I’d give a try. I made the wrong turn to get to the park and ended up on a dead end road. Not to worry, I could just pull into a drive and back up. Unfortunately the drive was at an angle that wasn’t conducive to backing up. But since I’d already pulled in, I had to continue with the maneuver. Not so fast there buddy. After a half a dozen attempts, not wanting to get stuck in the culvert next to the dirt drive, I suddenly heard a crack, pop, crunch…. Ekkk! What was that? That didn’t sound good. As I turned around, I noticed the fresh air coming in from the now missing back window.

Amazing, I’ve been towing a Titanium 5th wheel camper for over 8 years now with nary a problem. It is designed to be able to make a 90 degree turn…. Well, I guess I made a 92 degree turn. Darn, darn, darn. Popped the back window out and put a dimple in the top passenger side of the roof. Called my insurance and informed them of the situation and within 30 minutes had found a local glass dealer that could get a new window within the next two days.

I’m staying at the Municipal Park for free, so lets see if I stay here for a month, it will make up for the expense of getting the window fixed.

I’d better end this saga before anything else happens. Oh, I had quite an adventure trying to get to an opal mine, but that’s another story….

Thursday, August 6, 2009

31-2009 Ketchikan Alaska

31-2009 Ketchikan Alaska

Campground: Clover Pass Resort. Full hookups w/satelite tv. $31. This is a marina/fish camp with motels rooms. Laundry $1 per wash and dry. Note: water is tea colored. Place is not well cleaned. Laundry room is dirty, outdoor sitting area near dock has refuse left over from late evening parties and is not cleaned up by staff. Fellow campers recommend not getting a site next to water as the partiers will keep you awake all night. Restaurant is not open to public, but motel guests may use the kitchen facilities and gas grill.

I’ve only been here a couple of days, but realized I just didn’t want to exit Alaska so quickly. That being decided, I drove down to the Ferry terminal and changed my ferry ride for a week later. The ticket agent, a 29 yr. old guy made the changes. I asked how he ended up in Ketchikan and he told me his story. When he was 21, still living with his parents, his dad asked him if he’d like to go to Alaska. He responded, “sure, when are we going?”. His dad came back and said, we’re not going, you are. You see he has a sister up here and his parents decided it was time he flew the coop, with a bit of a nudge from them. He’s been up here for 8 years now. Left for a short time, and came right back.

Back at Clover Marina Resort, I was sitting down on the raised dock area overlooking the Bahn canal when a couple of large birds flew by. Took me a minute to realize they were bald eagles and yes they really are large. How dramatic to see them catch a fish and fly back to their nest.

I headed into Ketchikan Saturday to attend the Blueberry Festival. I’m about 16 miles north of the town on the North Tongass road. The closer I get into town, the more shipping containers, barges and tug boats I see along the channel . Although the island is fairly large and long, the only land that is buildable is a narrow strip of land along the western edge. The rest of the land, well over 95% is part of the Tongass National Forest. Also as I get closer to town, I notice there are many areas with debris such as old building supplies, rusted out construction vehicles that no longer work and other debris. It appears as if once it’s no longer needed or working, it gets dumped where ever along this narrow strip of land.

The town itself has a unique character being a fishing and a working staging center for goods and services for all the other islands along the Alaskan inner passage. Many of the well worn buildings sit right on the edge of the roadway, barely enough room for a sidewalk or parking. Older houses hug the sides of the steep hills facing the water. A couple of aging apartment buildings sit on the edge of town anywhere from 5 to 15 stories high. Most of the windows open with curtains flapping in the breeze. No one has air conditioning up here since this is normally a cool damp place being in the temperate rain forest. But on a warm sunny day like this, every door and window is open.

The tourist part of town has winding narrow streets near the cruise line docks. A bit further is the old shanty town district where the locals pushed all the hookers once they decided to clean up Ketchikan. Dolly’s house is now a museum. It’s now a quaint shopping district with it’s buildings perched over the river where hundreds of salmon are now spawning upstream. Some already dead, belly up. You know they die as soon as they lay their eggs.

I parked about 4 blocks from town and walked through the one way tunnel at the entrance to town. Up the street and to a parking garage in a newer building where most of the vendors had set up. It sits high up above the downtown area and I could see boats and float planes taking off. This festival is mainly for the locals and the locals are really noisy. Talking to everyone they meet, happy to have a chance to share stories with one another. Two young teenage boys, cousins by the sound of it, discussed their high schools. One said, how many girls are pregnant in your school. The other said 3 or 4. Some are getting an abortion, others not. An older native American or first Nation person as they are often called up here was thrilled to see a young man. She knew what island he had moved to and for how long and was so happy to see him back in Ketchikan. Family is very big in these smaller communities.

I waited in line for a blueberry crepe and later in another line for a blueberry smoothie. Had a cup of Alaskan coffee which is awesome. They were having a battle of the bands and the small stage was very well organized. All the equipment being set up ahead of time, each performer merely got up on stage, plugged in their instrument and began playing. I left after the bagpipe player came on stage… never having been a fan of that particular instrument. Oh and I missed the slug races. Darn.

From the book “If you lived here, I’d know your name”. Heather Lende there is a quote I liked: “How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives”. The book is about her life in Haines Alaska. She’s an obit writer for the local paper, writes a column in the Anchorage paper. Her stories intertwine with life and death, a rugged life where everyone knows their neighbor and everyone lives on the edge of this wilderness lifestyle.

I spent my day driving around Ketchikan, exploring the Ketchikan History Museum, which I might add was small but very well done. Giving a sense of the Inuit life here before the white man arrived. Then the wave of fishermen, miners, lumber men and tourists, each adding their own dimension to this town. And the previous day I had a super nice Sunday drive to the south end of the island to Herring Bay where I got out and walked around the tiny community. Next to the bridge I started a conversation with a young couple rehabbing an old home next to the river. They were painting the railing around a wrap around deck. The house needs tons of work but has more than that in potential as their home. A dreamy location if there ever was one. I hated to leave and will probably drive back there just to see it one more time.

What’s important to Alaskans? In the Ketchikan Daily News, which is the widest paper I’ve ever read, it’s the success of the “Blueberriest of days“, the Blueberry festival. U.S. Rep. Lu Young’s wife died. He is so well liked throughout Alaska, they will lower the states flag to half mast for his beloved wife on Tuesday. And the King salmon are vanishing from western Alaska due to Pollock fisheries. They use large nets to capture the Pollock out in the Bering Sea also capturing the king salmon along the way. It’s not only important nationally but also because of subsistence fishing and hunting is permitted in Alaska as many natives and non natives live on what they catch or kill. Without the kings swimming upstream each year, many natives living in remote areas of Alaska will go hungry. Probably the last place in North America where people live off the land.

On one of my last days in town, I had breakfast at a local restaurant called the Pioneer café. I mentioned to the waitress that I thought it was neat that Wal-Mart has a courtesy shuttle van for the locals to get to and from the store. She said, oh no, it’s not for the locals, it’s only for the cruise ship passengers. If you’re a local, they won’t let you on the shuttle. How strange.

John Seibert and his lovely wife are up here on a cruise celebrating their 35 (?) anniversary. I
met them at the dock and we walked around town a bit, had coffee and later on lunch. What a surprise to meet a former co-worker up here in Alaska. And Linda Hill will be here as well in a few more days. Seems like everyone’s coming to Alaska this summer and for good reason. It’s one special place. Can’t wait to share our experiences with each other.

Next stop, Prince Rupert British Columbia.

more photos on my picasa site.