Monday, 23 July 2012

My Whole Trip in Summary

115 days on the road.  15,334 miles.   468.6 US Gals of petrol at a cost of $2268.58.   An average of 33.19 mpg (US Gals) or 39.8 mpg (Imp Gals).  57 nights in a tent at a cost of $1266.72,  and 19 nights in motels at a cost of $1547.95, and the rest were in people's homes.  I only have a total of $1591.85 listed for meals and food, but I know quite a lot of cash transactions didn't get written down so I would think it would be closer to $2500 for food. Also $2399.92 on Equipment, which was mostly camping gear and clothes, but also included the cost of the tear-offs for the windscreen. On top of that were car preparation costs, (which, like the equipment, I still have so don't really count unless something is worn out), and shipping costs, which are still not finalised but will be about $6000 all up..

So that is a summary of my costs !!!   As for a sumary of the trip, that will be a bit harder, because trying to condense a 4 month trip into a couple of pages is almost impossible as just too much would get left out. I have done a selection of photos and include a map of where the photos were taken to try to give an overall visual of the entire route - You can judge for yourselves if that has worked, but it sure took a lot of time to do !! For the written section I am going to try bullet points, and see if that works,  but first I want to state quite categorically that every single one of the people I have met along the way are the REAL high points of my trip.  I met so many of you, and although I mention a few, there were many more - You know who you were, and I apologise if I haven't mentioned you by name, even if I only met you for 5 minutes in a gas station somewhere and we had a chat, or you saw my blog address on the car while I was driving on the freeway and you contacted me.   But please believe me it was YOU that made the trip so memorable, so THANK YOU.  Anyway, here goes with the written part :-

  • 4th Jan 2011  Elsie delivered to Brisbane docks for shipment to Los Angeles.
  • 28th Feb. I fly to America to meet car and stay with Chris and Louise.
  • 5th March Car finally arrives LA after slight delay, and I leave LA on 7th Match and head up Californa Hwy 1 coast road to Big Sur.

  • First few nights in tent are a bit of a shock with cold and thin mattress, but survive.
  • 10th March. Magical weekend on track at Laguna Seca - The Corkscrew is all they say !!!

  • 5 miserable wet days in San Francisco, saved only by the friendship of the Golden Gate Lotus Club members, especially Kiyoshi.  Big thanks.
  • Drive down through Bakersfield to Las Vegas, and then on out to Zion NP, which was just amazing.   Met Sheriff Carl there.

  • 25th March. Ran out of time due to committment date with Lotus Club in Colorado, and had to sprint from Zion to Colorado - Missed a lot of great things as a result.  But Pikes Peak on a clear day with no traffic was a delight, and the meeting with Lotus Club Colorado well worth it, as was meeting with William Taylor and seeing his Lotus "collection".  Really enjoyed Colorado. 

  • Bit boring (driving wise) up through Wyoming, but it is still stunning countryside, and great to catch up with friend Jeremy and his family, and to drive to my old company mine in Greybull.
  • 2nd April. Disappointed that due to time of year I couldn't drive into Yellowstone via Bear Tooth Pass, but always knew there could be weather problems on this part of the trip. But the northern road in Yellowstone was open, had snow, and my first buffalo, and it just wetted my appetite to return.
  • And up to Missoula Montana to meet with Sheriff Carl Ibsen who I had met in Zion - Great to see him in uniform, great evening with him, and then the next day the stunning Lolo Pass (in a blizzard) on Hwy 12 down to Richland, WA. 

  • Found Reed Figley's house who had offered me a bed for the night in Richland, and went off to a local hotel to meet other members of the Strictly British Motor Club. Highlight was to find a US road registered S1 there belonging to Andy,  but as to exactly HOW it managed to become registered is just not really understood ! A pleasant evening with everyone, and the next mornng Reed took me over to Brad Sewart's garage - He had offered me the use of his hoist and tools to try to fix  a really bad squealing brake pad problem that was becoming embarrassing. We spent a couple of hours working on them, while Reed also re-attached a hand brake cable which had come adrift, following which I set off to Portland, Oregon.
  • 9th April.  Drove down the Columbia Gorge to Portland - what a stunning road ! Stay with Jim & Carol McVein, with a garage to get Elsie out of the rain ! Day in Portland where Mark Velky, President of Club Lotus NW, kindly gave up his day to show me around, inlcuding the stunning Multnomah Falls - A great day topped off with a meeting with club members at a nice micro-brewery in Portland. 
  • After a 2nd night with Jim, set off to Port Townsend where I was to meet my sister befoe travelling to her home in Anacortes where I was to take a breather for a couple of weeks. As always, a great drive up around the Olympic Mountains.  We camped that night at Fort Warden where the move "An Officer and a Gentleman" was filmed, and then the next morning aught the ferry across to Fidalgo Island and Anacortes.

  • Spent 2 1/2 weeks in Anacortes, during which time I went down to Seattle and stayed with Doug Jackson while meeting with the Evergreen Lotus Car Club and learning a lot about DeLoreans. Also did a lot of walking after I fell off Ted's bike and cut my knee quite badly; did an oil and brake pad change to the car; and attended an MG Car Rally in Burlington which had a lot of great cars attending. Finally set off North towards Alaska on the 30th April
  • Crossed the Canadian border in about 60 seconds with no questions asked about the car, and spent an evening with long time friend Dorothy Edwards, before heading into Vancouver. Wet wet day, so went to the excellent Museum of Anthropology for the day, before heading to Roger Malloy's house in N Vancouver, and a meeting with a few of the local Lotus owners who came out to join us for a meal and a pint.
  • Next day, 2nd May, headed off in the rain towards Whistler.  Great road (Sea to Sky Hwy) up through there, and sun came out, so after exploring a very "end of season" Whistler, carried on to a great campsite on the banks of a very full Fraser River in Lillooet. From there, it was more great roads in the sunshine over through Kamloops to Vavenby and good friends Sarah and Ed Shook for a wonderful evening of catching up, and a good night's rest.
  • 4th May  This is where I felt my trip north REALLY started - Up through Prince George where it was so cold during the night there were icicles under the tap beside my tent, then Smithers where it was a little warmer, and finally to Stewart Hyder by which time the rain had returned with a vengeance and I had to motel it and then leave the next morning because due to the weather, no glaciers or other sights were open, and no mountain tops visible. But the country was starting to become much more rugged and isolated. 
  • 8th May.  Continuing rain up through Dease Lake, I then made a big push to get to Whitehorse in one day due to the weather.  The Cassiar Hwy is supposed to be very scenic, but with the rain and a poor road surface, it meant I saw very little scenery. This was mentally one of the harder parts of the trip, where the wet weather was getting me down, no sightseeing tours or camp sites were open before late May, and I was starting to realise how hard a trip like this is when you are on your own, with no one to share both the highs and the lows with. By Whitehorse I was almost ready to quit and go home, but eventually support from friends and locals, and sitting down and working through the optons in writing, enabled me to refocus on what was needed, and after a great morning exploring Whitehorse in fine but freezing weather, I set off in an unexpected direction - Back south to Skagway !

  • 10th May  A great drive through a blizzard over the Chilkoot Pass down to Skagway reminded me of what the 1898 gold prospetors went through, and I had my first real encounter with a black bear along the way. Found a great little campsite in Skagway, and the next day really enjoyed a long hike in the woods in some great weather.  But then the rain and high winds returned, and despite meeting some great people in Skagway, (and buying my warm fur hat !), everyone who had arrived in Alaska early was starting to realise that to do so left you open to poor weather conditions.  Some headed off by plane to Fairbanks, some headed back to Whitehorse, but a number of us decided to catch a ferry over to Haines and hope for better weather on that side of the mountains.

  • The ferry ride was interesting if wet, but Haines didn't look much better weather-wise, so after a wet night in a motel, and a quick trip to a Bald Eagle spotting area,  I headed north and had one of the 3 or 4 most stunning drives of the trip. After a short while the roof came off, and the drive through the snow over the Haines Summit was just delightful, with lots of widlife everywhere, including my first grizzly. And to top it off, just as I was pitching my tent, a Caterham from Juneau pulled in for gas, so we had a chat !  Next morning off up to Beaver Creek where I satyed at Buckshot Betty's motel due to VERY black clouds - Correct choice as woke up to find 2 inches of snow outside ! After confirming that an English couple heading south on bicycles were OK out on the snow covered road, I headed north towards Tok and the Alaska border, and after a long 9 hours in the car, reached Fairbanks in the evening of 15th May.
  •  After checking weather forecasts at the Visitor Centre and finding clear blue skies would be around for a couple of days, decided to cut and run to Denali NP in order to hopefully see Mt McKinley in all its glory. So packed up early next morning and headed south - Great drive down there, pitched camp, and then took advantage of the pre-season option to drive up to Mile 29 in the park. Even so, McKinley was still almost invisible far in the distance, so I decided I had to fly up there, and booked flight for early the next morning, along with german friends Lambert and Heinrich (first met in Skagway), who I had caught up with the day before. 
  • 18th May.  Fantastic flight up to McKinley, landing on the Ruth Glacier at the foot of the mountain, and the weather being so calm and fine the pilot could fly really low and close to the mountains. Amazing.

  • A day in Denali followed, with a visit out to the airport to take my pilot from yesterday out in Elsie, then a dog sled demonstration in the park, and a great hike (with "Bear Hazard" notices everywhere !) in the eastern end of the Park, and the following day a drive back up to Fairbanks to tackle the run to the Arctic Circle while the weather was still good.
  • 23rd May  Due to the horror stories I was given about the state of the Dalton Hwy, I decided to take a tour bus up there first to check it out.  A very interesting day with information on the pipeline and permafrost and the history of the Dalton, but happy that the road itself held no impassable horrors for Elsie.  
  • After a day in Fairbanks having tyres rotated, buying a CB radio, visiting the local Museum of the North, had an early night so I could leave at the crack of dawn for the Arctic Circle.ON the 25th May, got up at 4.30 am and set off, roof off and sandwiches packed. M-I SWACO (old company) trucks, road works, dirt roads, wet muddy sections, chatting to truckies on CB, crossing Yukon River, and finally - Elsie at the Arctic Circle !!  I then carried on up to Coldfoot, and then into the foothills of the Brooks Range to Sukakpak Mountain at mile 204.  I would like to have got to top of the Atigun Pass, but will save it for next time - There were major road works going on this time and I still had a long way to go !! Safely back to Fairbanks after a 15 hour / 572 mile day. 
          First Lotus Elise ever to cross the Alaska / Dalton Hwy Arctic Circle.

  • Couple of quiet days in Fairbanks, exploring the walks along the river downtown, the excellent Fountainhead Car Museum, a fascinating walk through beaver country at Creamer's Field,  an explore of North Pole (including Santa's House !!), and a meeting with fellow traveller Lucy Hayward to chat about our respective journeys and reasons for doing them. And then off back to Denali NP again.
  • 29th May.  After pitching my tent in Denali, had a close encounter with a moose, which shortly afterwards I found out was having a battle with a bear that had killed the moose's calf in the middle of the car park of the Riley Creek Mercantile !!  Never dull around here !  Long chat with Rory and Caren who were en route to Tierra del Fuego ! Next day went on a shuttle bus up to Mile 53 in the park, and it was SO good - Just makes me want to come back when I can get all the way to the end and go camping and exploring up at Kantishna / Wonder Lake at Mile 83.  Finished off my stay in Denali with a great meal with friends Dave and Amy in their motorhome !!
  • 31st May. Great drive south to Anchorage driving down the back of Mt McKinley and the Alaska Range, and a side trip to Talkeetna (hmmm, very touristy !).  Invited to dinner with Tom and Jane Meecham, next day met with Joe Terrell, and, after climbing (and almost conquering!) Flat Top mountain, had dinner with Glen (all Lotus connections), before setting off to Whittier down on the Kenai Peninsula.
  • 4th June.  Great drive in the sunshine down alongside Turnagain Arm, and then through the only rail / car dual direction tunnel in the world through to Whittier. Whittier is the strangest place - handed over by the army in the 1960's, it really has little reason to exist - But eventually growns on you !  Went on a great glacier cruise, camped in the rain, met Dave the hunter, and next day set off on the ferry to Valdez.

  • 5th June.  Really enjoyed Valdez - Had nice weather, met a great couple in Mark & Emmie who not only invited me to their home for dinner, but also took me for an amazing sail in their yacht on the Valdez fjord, and then a midnight run in our respective convertibles up into the snow covered mountains - a magical evening.  Following day drove back over the great mountain passes to Anchorage, and then on down to Seward.
  • 9th June. Seward has a great camping area, in the middle of town, right alongside the edge of the Resurrection Fjord. Rained in the evening and night, but cleared up (but windy) by morning so I went off to the nearby Exit Glacier and hiked up to that for the morning, and in the afternoon visited the excellent Alaska Sea Life centre in Seward. 

  • 11th June. Following day a long drive down to Homer - Not the most interesting drive, but Homer Spit makes up for that - jutting out 4 1/2 miles into the bay, it is all restaurants, campsites, and fishing boats ! Great atmosphere.  Camped right on the beach, and explored everything.  Met up with Woody, Wendy, Ray and Wilma, (last seen in Valdez !) who kindly invited me to join them on a fishing charter two days later  So the next day I went on a small ferry, Danny J, out to Gull Island to see puffins and Eagles, and then Halibut Cove for lunch, which was great.   The next day was Halibut fishing, which was just amazing - suffice it to say we all caught our permitted limit, and I sent mine back down to sister Janet in Anacortes where we were to enjoy it once I got back there. But it was a fantastic day wih perfect (calm and sunny) weather, and with a great group of people.

  • 12th June After sorting out our frozen fish shipments the next morning, I set off from Homer to start heading home. To Anchorage and through to Tok was on roads already travelled, but at Tok I turned onto the Taylor Hwy to Chicken, and then the dirt Top of the Word Hwy across to Dawon City on the banks of the Yukon River - The real centre of the Yukon Gold Rush.  What a great few days - Shame about the rain much of the first day.  Never the less, the Top of the World Hwy was fantastic, even though the 100 mile dirt section after Chicken was very very muddy. I can only imagine how amazing it would be if it were fine.  Then we dropped down to a very swollen Yukon River which we had to cross by ferry into Dawson City. 
  • 16th June  Found a good campsite in Dawson and had a full day there, walking through the historical town, watching a "Top of the World" Highland Games, and exploring a couple of the local saloons and restaurants.  Fascinating city with lots of gold rush history, buildings subsiding due to thawed permafrost, and dirt streets with wooden sidewalks.
  • 17th June. After that, it was really non stop driving for the next week - Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Fort Nelson, and Dawson Creek down to Jasper on the22nd June. But it was good weather for most of the way, and the section on the Alaska Highway (which I hadn't driven previously) from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson was truly amazing. Not only was it a great road to drive on, with the dramatic Munch Pass and Lake, and so much wildlife - More than I had seen anywhere else.  Just a wonderful day.

  • Arriving in Jasper the weather was dry to start with, and I had a day there to try a couple of the hikes, one great one out to Pyramid Lake and Mountain which I really enjoyed even though it was a lot longer than was signposted !!  But at the end of the day the rain returned, and it was wet for the run down through the National Park down to Banff.  But the run was still spectacular, with the Athabasca Falls swollen by snow melt, the Columbi Icefields glaciers so imposing even in the low cloud, and Lake Louise still looking amazing, although for some reason it has now failed to REALLY impress me twice now.  Maybe I need to just see it on a beautiful sunny day instead of in the rain !
  • 26th June.  I had been told that the weekend that I was in Banff there was a final round of the rodeo / chuck wagon racing circuit prior to the Calgary Stampede round 2 weeks later, and it was to be held just south of Calgary, in High River. So despite the rain, I drove out through Calgary to High River, and found a very sodden rodeo. The chuck wagon races had been cancelled due to the weather, and the rodeo was very limited for the same reason.  Most unfortunate, but nothing I could do about it, so I returned sadly to Banff.

  • As I left Banff to head south, the weather cleared, but it was too late to save me from a long detour caused by mud slides from the heavy rain in the region for the past few days. I was heading to the northern end of the Okanagan Valley, which should have been about a 3 or 4 hour 150 mile drive west from Banff.  Instead I had to go some 500 miles south, west, and then north through the Okanagan Valley to get there !  And after a wonderful fine evening drive from Banff to Radium Hot Springs (where I overnighted), it then rained for much of the rest of the trip to their home in Blind Bay on the 27th June. Once I finally got there, I had a great evening with Bill and Debra - I had met them in Zion right at the beginning of my trip, and they had followed my blog throughout, so it was great to be able to spend time with them at the other end of my trip.

  • 28th June  My last drive was down through the Okanagan Valley, and the weather was fine initially and enabled me to see some of the beauty of this area. But after I crossed back into the US at Osoyoos and then headed west into the Cascades NP, the rain returned, and the views as I drove through this famously scenic area were severely limited by the low cloud and rain.  But it was still a great final drive through a stunning mountain pass.  As I came out of the mountains towards Anacortes, and the 15,000 miles total for the trip came close to ticking over, the sun actually came out again, and I took off the roof for the final 100 miles into Anacortes.  My mind was full of all the things that had happened, all the places I had been, all the scenery I had seen, and all the people I had met during the last 4 months - It was a very emotional last couple of hours, I can assure you. Most of all I could now relax because Elsie had made it without missing a beat all the way (apart from squealing brakes !!).  It had truly been a memorable trip from the bottom to the top of the world in my little Lotus Elise.It had started out just as a (bt of a crazy) drive, but along the way it turned into a truly life changing experience that has not only changed the way I think and feel about many aspects of life, but has also left me wanting more !!!   So where to next ?
  • Elsie was taken down to the Tacoma docks on 2nd July, and sailed for Brisbane on 17th July. She is due to arrive in Brisbane on approx 27th August, and I plan to be there to collect her.
Thank you ALL for sharing my journey with me and being a part of it, and for sending me emails and comments of support and of things you particularly enjoyed.  Please do keep in touch, and I look forward to sharing my next journey with you all.

As far as Alaska goes, I feel I am no longer a Cheechako, but have now graduated to being a Sourdough !!!     (Google that if you don;t understand it !!)

Summary photo gallery here :
(Some lessons learned :-
  • Make more careful notes of peoples names and contact details at the time you meet them. Scribbled notes get misunderstood later, or lost.
  • Make the car / camping system work better in wet weather.  While the Elise was the integral reason for this trip, Elise + small tent makes it very difficult in the rain, and as it WILL rain, you need to make sure that wet weather is not able to put a damper on the trip because you can't cope with it.
  • Do go out of season where possible. The NP's in the US get so very crowded in summer, and part of the joy on this trip was being able to see things without the crowds. Penalty is having to cope with possible poor weather (see item immediately above !!).
  • Don't travel alone - a large part of the enjoyment of anything is sharing it with others.  I have learned that I need someone to travel with - Not only to share things with, but also because you often do so much more exploring of things when there are two or more of you egging each other on a little.  It also helps to have someone to read the maps and travel guides while the other is driving !
  • Free camp where possible - Accomodation is the largest expense - Keep this down and you can go further and for longer !!!
  • Have a secondary purpose behind the trip.  For me, the meetings with the various Lotus Clubs around the country made the trip very special. Maybe you want to see art galleries, or motor museums, or follow a history trail in the area, or some other specific thing - If you can find something else to combine with the trip, it makes it even more enjoyable.
  • Don't try to see / do everything.  It just isn't possible.  Try to work out the things you really want to see and do, and then target them specifically.
  • Talk to everyone you can. It makes every day of the trip so special.
  • Smile.   Life is too short.