For a change I had no tent to pack up, and Debra cooked me a lovely breakfast so I had a very leisurely morning compared to my normal early start ! After I had the car ready and we had taken some photos on their verandah of the lovely view of Shuswap Lake, I set off at about 9.30. After a brief hiccup where Tom Tom took me the wrong way onto the freeway due to some new roads in the area, we set off on what was to be the last driving day of my long trip, returning to my Sister Janet’s house in Anacortes. And the day looked promising weatherwise, so I had decided to go back down through the full length of the Okanagan Valley because I had been told that the southern part was really beautiful, so I wanted to see it for myself, and then I was going to cross the US border and then go through the North Cascades National Park that is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in the area. I had planned to drive into Anacortes on this road back in March when I arrived from Montana, but due to the heavy snow this winter, the road was still closed then. So it was too good an opportunity to miss doing it now.
Thursday, 28 June 2012
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Woke up early at 5.30 am and it was still not raining !! So got up and got packed up while everything was still pretty dry, as I knew I had a lot of miles to cover today, and all of it was going to be on twisty B type roads – No freeways to help ! The campsite was on top of quite a high hill, and was in sunshine when I left, so the roof was off. But 5 minutes later at the bottom of the hill, Radium township was in thick fog !! Never mind, went out of town past a solar powered flashing Big Horn Sheep danger warning sign (never seen one flashing before – Must be lots on the road?) It was just one of those beautiful mornings for driving, - cool, but not cold, and the sun trying to break through the fog and low cloud, but no hint of any rain. So we bombed along down Hwy 93 just enjoying the morning.
So spent the night in about the only room left in Canmore, just outside Calgary. Can’t believe it was so busy – but apparently it is where the US Nordic skiing and biathlon teams live and train, so is not the sleepy little village I imagined !!It was very overcast so kept the roof on, and decided to go into Calgary for a look, since I was so close, and then went out to High River (40 minutes S of Calgary) where I had been told there was a rodeo and chuck wagon racing on – The Calgary Stampede is not just a one off even but one of a series, and the round before the Stampede (which is on from 6-15th July) was at High River.
Saturday, 23 June 2012
Woke up really early this morning for some reason, and was completely packed up and showered by 7.30 am. It was dry but overcast, and I decided to head south to see Lake Louise and then on down to Banff as, although we had been there 35 years ago, the weather was so bad that we essentially saw nothing. If I remember correctly Damien was 1, so that dates it !!! Anyway, got going with the roof off and fingers crossed, but not 15 miles into it, the rain started, so I stopped and put the roof up. And from then on it was regular showers and low cloud all day, although the drive down through the Columbia Icefield was pretty stunning. Would love to see it on a fine day !
Day off driving today, as it has been non stop for over a week. Despite threats of rain, the day dawned nice and sunny, so the first thing I did was confirm a second night in the camp site. They really aren’t too full till net month, so this was not a problem. I then went into town and had a cooked breakfast for a change – A yummy Mexican omelette ! This café is about the only wifi place in town (unless you’re in a hotel, as no Starucks or McDonalds here !) so was also able to post my blog which I had written last night. Then back to the campsite to change for a hike somewhere, to stretch my legs after sitting in the car so much.On the way back, have a couple of birthdays coming up in the family so had to find cards, and a post office for stamps, and then, annoyingly, had to go back to wifi café to log back on to get an address that was in email that required me to be logged on to get it !! Anyway, by the time all this was done, it was 1 o’clock !! So I then was able to set off on my hike.
Friday, 22 June 2012
Well I might have woken up early, (with the dawn at 5.30 am) but I certainy didn’t leave the camp site very early ! The morning was one long precession of people to chat to, and they varied from a Frenchman cycling though America who has been on the road or 5 years, to a guy from Arkansas towing a Honda Gold Wing trike to Alaska because that is the only US state he hasn’t ridden it in, to a blow up doll strapped on the back of a bike !! And hen I did finally get away, it was a beautiful sunny day, and the drive just got…..better the closer we got to Jasper. Except for one torrential downpour !!!
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Well, today has certainly been different ! Enjoyable, but very different, from start to finish !! First of all, I was doing my blog last night in the laundry (as usual – Hey, its warm, has light, has power, and you can shut the door against skeeters !!) Finally finished at about 11.30 pm, went outsid – And couldn’t see a thing !!!! It was dark !! Completely took me by surprise because I have just become used to it being light all night ! I won’t say I quite needed a torch, but I also didn’t need to pull my beanie down over my eyes to keep the light out when I went to sleep either ! So that was a big wake up call that I really am heading south !!
And then this morning, woke up at 5.30 amd was going to get on the internet to check out weather and email, and the internet was down !!! Again !!! So much for getting up early to get it all done ! So I started to pack up, and then met Ken from Alabama who was camped net to me and was on a bike headed to Alaska, and shortly after that I met Juneal and Linda from Minnesota, and before you knew it, one thing led to another, and it was 10.30 in the morning and I was still there !!! As I say, a very different day, but great fun nevertheless !
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow. Yup, that was a 5 wow day, up there with the Whitehorse to Skagway and the Haines to Haines Junction mountains drives. After all the rain last night, I got up at 5.30 when I heard a break in the rain and packed up everything while I could. Then I had breakfast, and after that, everything just kind of got ……….better !! The shower facilities were really good, the laundry was warm and dry to sit in and wok on my blog, the internet worked (well, as good as any recently) which made skype possible, and then the sun came out !! I drove out of the campsite at about 9 am, still with the roof on, and hadn’t even got into 4th gear on the road when I saw my first bear for the day, climbing a bank just beside the road. Yes, it was all looking promising after such a miserable night last night. I drove the 12 miles into Watson Lake to fill up with gas, and while there took the roof off, and also managed to get a really good jam filled donut from the bakery attached to the gas station. Better every minute. Even managed to get some cash out of an ATM with only a $2 charge, which was also good ! So off down the road to Fort Nelson – a 350 mile drive on a road that I had never driven before.
Monday, 18 June 2012
It has been wet ! Probably the easiest way to put it. I just got the tent pitched in Whitehorse last night, and then it started raining, and it rained most of the night. Luckily I woke up at 6 am this morning and found it had stopped for a moment, but I could see more black clouds coming, so I got everything packed up by 7 am, and then the rain started again ! It then rained off and on all day while driving, and then in Watson Lake tonight I just got the tent pitched before the heavens opened again – This time a full blown thunder storm, the first thunder I have heard in this part of the world, although apparently thunderstorms are quite common in the summer. So the pictures today are mostly of rain clouds and wet roads – Not very exciting. I drove this section of road some 6 weeks ago, and I have to say this country is more interesting to me when it is snow covered and cold – I just do not find the summer greenery to be as dramatic. There are also a lot more people, and a lot more mosquitoes at this time of year !!!
Sunday, 17 June 2012
Slept right through til 7 am this morning ! That’s a first – I must be getting used to this permanent daylight ! Had a lazy Saturday in Dawson, and then today drove from Dawson City to Whitehorse – Nothing stunning, but a really pleasant days drive – Made even better by having some new Moody Blues CD’s to listen to that I had forgotten about ! Oh, and I found a packet (edible) of Wine Gums at last (although most of them were green ones L ), so a good day was assured. The fact that the scenery was great only made it, well,……..better !!!
Friday, 15 June 2012
Having gone to bed reasonably early last night, I was awake and ready for action by 5.30 am, but sat cooling my heels for a while as I needed gas and groceries before heading off to Chicken, and not much opens in Tok before 8 am !! But as soon as they were open, I got what I needed, and headed off up the Chicken road.I didn’t see another car for maybe 45 minutes ! I was starting to wonder if there was a problem somewhere !! But eventually a few appeared, and they were all pretty dirty – Which indicated the road ahead was going to be all the fun I expected ! This is the Top of the World Highway, with over 100 miles of dirt, and supposedly stunning scenery, and I have been reading about it and looking forward to it for 3 years. I was supposed to come up to Alaska on this Klondike Highway, but the Yukon River was still frozen at that stage, so the ferry, the only way to cross the iver, was not in the water or operating at that time.
Thursday, 14 June 2012
Yesterday was a lazy day in Anchorage for me. Was staying in friend Tom’s garage and was superbly comfortable, given that it is centrally heated, and has a bedroom and bathroom and all mod cons !! After a month living out of just the tent and car, you occasionally need a couple of days to just sort yourself out, and do some of the things both personal and to the car, that just don’t get done when you are perpetually cold and outdoors. It was so nice just to sleep in a bed after 4 weeks on the air mattress, and I know the car appreciated getting a bit of oil, and a clean air filter that was caked with mud and grime. I also got hold of Joe and Dave, and while Joe had only just got back into town from a business trip and was tied up, it was good to touch base with him again. And I arranged to meet Dave for coffee the next morning. And on the way home in the evening, I couldn’t decide what I wanted for supper, but just at the bottom of the hill up to Tom’s house I saw an ad for Burgers that were kind of home made - “Wee-B’s Burgers”. Anyway, went in and t was one of the best burgers and fries have had in a long time – Buffalo meat, juicy, perfectly cooked, with cheese and jalapenos, and the chips were hand cut – Not machine made. Just delicious – and I told them so !! Then it was off up the hill to the garage and to bed.
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
Woke up at about 5.30 am this morning - My beanie (which I wear to keep my head warm, and keep pulled down over my eyes to keep it dark) must have fallen off and let some of the permanent daylight in !! Actually, I wake up quite often during the night because each time I turn over I either get tangled up in my sleeping bag liner, my sleeping bag, or I fall off my sleeping mat onto the hard(er) ground - Or more usually all 3 at once !!! Anyway, had my breakfast while I packed up, as usual, and by about 8 am was ready for off - And then the next 1 1/2 hours were spent talking to people who decided to come over for a chat before I left !! Lots of interesting people in the campsite, with Brian and Margaret from Overton in Hampshire on one side, a german couple on the other side, and then Geoff from New York somewhere (but Alabama originally) who had been in Alaska off and on for many years, and had travelled extensively to many of the native villages out in the middle of nowhere. Very interesting. Anyway, by about 10 am (by the time I had said farewell to the camp owner, I hit the road - A cloudy day, but it looked lighter ahead, so I took the roof off as usual, and temp was a pleasant 10 deg C.
Monday, 11 June 2012
Homer Day 2 – The Fishing Trip
Woke up at 5 am feeling pretty good, which pleased me because when I was trying to do my blog last night before I went to sleep I suddenly felt really tired and had a bit of an upset tummy, so I wondered if I was coming down with something. But all seems good this morning. So I got myself breakfasted and ready to meet the other guys before 6 am so we could drive up to the jetty in their motorhome and be down on the boat Irish Mist before 6.30 am. I have never been on a fishing charter before, but the crew of John and Chuck were great – Chuck is actually John’s grandfather, so that is lovely. It was raining and very grey as we set of from Homer harbour (past fishing ship “Time Bandit” from “The World’s Deadliest Catch” TV show) and we were expecting a wet day. We set off to go about 2 hours west from Homer Spit, so quite a long way into the Cook Strait, and near the 4000 ft active Augustine Volcano, which is an island in itself.
When the wind blows in Homer, it blows cold !! Woke up this morning at about 5.30 am after having had a late night last night trying to get the blog and photos uploaded. I am not overly impressed by the internet in Alaska, but then I guess it wouldn’t be any better in Coober Pedy or Cunnamulla camp sites !! But it wasn’t raining – And I am learning that in Alaska, that means it is a nice day !! So after a while thinking about the contortions I needed to go through to get me dressed to go out into the outside world, I put my thoughts into action, got dressed, and went for a walk down the spit. Lots of the bat charters go out at about 6 or 6.30 am, so the place is a hive of activity early. While on my walk I went to check out the dock from which my ferry would be leaving later, and also went further down the spit where I had been told that sea otters often congregate in the mornings – But apparently not this morning !! Not much wildlife out there at all this morning, which was a bit disappointing. However, I had the ferry trip to look forward to, so went back to camp, and by the time I had showered and had my breakfast, and chatted to several people who came wandering by and wanted to talk, it was time to head for the dock.
My first windy pack up of camp this morning, so that was quite interesting, to say the least – You take out the tent pegs and the whole tent blows down through the camp site !!! You have to find a whole new way of doing it, and folding everything up when all it wants to do is blow up like a parachute in the wind !! However, all successfully accomplished, and I was on the road by a surprisingly early 7.45 am.
Saturday, 9 June 2012
I was woken up by the wind at about 5 am, with the tent shaking and straining at the guy ropes. Looked out, and they had been right, it was fine – But that wind was super icy blowing up the Resurrection Bay – What is the good of “fine” weather if the wind is so strong and cold that you need to stay out of it ? !!!! After a while of lying their thinking about things, I decided to go for a walk, so I rugged up (or rather “I didn’t take any of my night clothes off” !!) and set off beside the Bay. It was actually quite pleasant, but sitting around at a table to eat my breakfast wouldn’t be much fun. Once again I ended up trying to boil the billy for a cup of tea inside the tent, and eating my cereal and yoghurt inside too. Not too promising. One of the local Seward attractions is a glacier that comes right down to the road, just 11 or so miles out of town. So I got myself sorted out, made a couple of sandwiches for the hike, and set off to the Exit Glacier. By the time I got there the wind was dropping and the day was turning out to be beautiful.
Woke up early in order to try and get on the road and hopefully find some wifi in Seward to do my blog and get email. After freezing outside a closed Starbuck’s in Anchorage last night, and then going to 3 different McDonald’s to try to find some wifi (2 of them closed, and one had their wifi “not working tonight, sir” !!), this morning I first went to an open Starbuck’s to get my blog out, and then went round to REI to buy a couple of spare cans of gas for my little cooker – Only to find REI didn’t open till 10 am !! So sat outside REI for 40 minutes, and naturally ended up with about 20 people round the car chatting as we all waited for the store to open ! 2 minutes after the doors opened, I was on my way south to Seward, gas cans safely stowed.
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
I awoke to another clear blue sky, and knew what was in store for me today because I had driven part of the road last night with Mark and Emmie. And they had said that the drive today, all 300 miles of it back to Anchorage, was going to be like that most of the way, except for a “boring bit” in the middle !! And they were right !!
It was a cold night in Valdez on Sunday night. The sky was clear, and for the first time in a week or so I had to get my chemical hand warmers working and put them down in my socks to keep my feet warm !! Also needed quite a lot of clothes on to keep warm, but once I finally had everything on, I was warm as toast !!
Monday, 4 June 2012
Woke up to rain this morning at about 3 am – was this to be my first wet pack up ? If so, no matter – I guess I must be getting used to this camping life !! But my mind did start to try to work out how I could do it without getting everything (including the inside of the car) too wet. The first thing I had to do was get the roof on the car ! I had the shower cape on in the hope it would stay fine – Whoops – this is Alaska !! So in a lull in the rain at about 4 am I nipped out and got the roof on, then back to bed for a while. I don’t really sleep in the tent – More a case of dozing a it between frequent wake-ups ! Probably about every hour I either find myself off my narrow sleeping mat, or need to turn over, or get some breathing space due to having my beanie pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the perpetual light, or because my woollen neck warmer is covering my mouth !! Certainly a regular bed will take some getting used to !! Anyway, at 6 am, I gave up, got dressed for the rain, and went for an hour’s walk around what there is of Whittier. What an absolutely incredible place.
It is 10 past 11 at night and I am sitting on the beach in Valdez to get a wifi signal, and I am cold. I am very cold. In fact I am freezing my proverbial nuts off. So I am NOT going to write lots now - Will update tomorrow. (4.6.12 Now updated)
But basically, went down beside the fjord, Turnaround Arm, and Portage Glacier, from Anchorage, sun out, train with waving passengers beside me, with the most unbelievable view possible. Words would fail me even if I wasn't cold !! It was simply one of the most divine Elise drives ever. (Have I said that before ?) Seriously, just jaw dropping, and to be bombing down there with Elsie purring, it was almost too good to be true. It was THAT good that in a break in the traffic I actually got up over 100 mph, just because it was that kind of day. And then it got ................better........
Saturday, 2 June 2012
I arrived in Anchorage on Wednesday from Denali, and the camp site is not exactly the best, being beside a railway line and under the flight path for many of the small planes that fly out of here up to the mountains, but fortunately both of these don’t seem to be too active at night, despite the light. And the showers are clean and hot. Unfortunately, their wifi is pathetic and you can’t even go into google, so it means I have to go up to Starbuck’s yet again to get wifi, which is a 30 minute walk and is a royal PITA. But apparently it is the best camp site in Anchorage !!
Had a lazy Wednesday evening, mostly spent chatting to the hoards of Aussies that rolled in in 20 motor homes - I had met some of them in Fairbanks and also passed quite a few on the highway, so we all kind of knew each other anyway. They hand their motorhomes back in on Friday morning, and then catch the inside passage cruise back to Vancouver, from where they fly home. For me, a visit to the shops to get some food and beer, and I bought some spare ribs and salad for supper from the shops which were delicious for a change from my “home cooking” !!