Epic Journey – Part 2

We’ve actually been in part two since our departure from the lower 48 back on May 8th, but spotty wi-fi and near constant travel have slowed down my posting.  Before we go too much farther, I thought I’d better outline the schedule since we don’t expect connectivity to improve.  Plus, I’ll be trying to enjoy the moments and not spend a lot of time writing about them!

Part 2 Itinerary – In Pencil

One thing we’ve learned is that the “plan” often does not pan out.  Fortunately, we seem to end up in a better place or in better weather when that happens.  Missing a campground one night meant we found one better positioned for the next day’s drive to avoid a storm.  Also staying in a not so great place for 3 days to rest meant we missed the underwater road on our route.  So, if we just go with it, everything seems to work out fine.

Part 2 stops include everything up to the point where we enter the main part of Alaska – British Columbia, a few stops in Alaska’s Southeast, and Yukon Territory.  Here’s where our noodling and re-noodling has taken us:

  • 5/8 – Enter Canada – Kaleden, BC (Banbury Green RV Park)
  • 5/9 – Kamloops, BC (Knutsford RV Park)
  • 5/10 – Williams Lake, BC (Wildwood Mobile Home & RV Park)
  • 5/11 – 5/13 – Prince George, BC (Mama Yeh RV Park)
  • 5/14 – Houston, BC (Shady Rest RV Park)
  • 5/15 – Hazelton, BC (‘Ksan Campground – and where I’m tucked in with the computer currently)

All the above already happened of course, and not exactly as we planned, but all good. All are noted on the travel map with a picture for each stop.  Check it out.  Next up:

  • 5/16-17 – Hyder, AK – Yes for you doubters, we will finally make it to Alaska TOMORROW!
  • 5/18 – Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park outside Tatogga, BC
  • 5/19 – Dease Lake, BC
  • 5/20-21 – Watson Lake, YT (Yukon Territory!  I feel remote just typing it.  And this is where we are for sure the cell coverage ends for a while)
  • 5/22 – Teslin, YT
  • 5/23-26 – Skagway, AK
  • 5/27-30 – Whitehorse, YT
  • 5/31 – Carmacks, YT
  • 6/1-5 – Dawson City, YT

From here we will enter Alaska for the balance of the Summer, thus embarking upon Epic Journey – Part 3 and the main event!  Keep in mind, the stuff above will likely shuffle about a bit, and hopefully for the good, but at least you have some idea of where we’ll be.

O Canada!

We were so excited to enter Canada since it really felt like we were getting somewhere.  However, a look at the British Columbia map just shows how much farther we have to go.   A couple of firsts on our first day in Canada.  We successfully complete our first border crossing in 15 minutes.  That included parking and going in for the required background checks.

Fortunately we’re not very exciting in the criminal mastermind department, had only one bottle of wine & a few bottles of beer to show for ourselves, AND no weapons.  We are free to move about the country.

Another first in the first big city.  We discover that we have no coverage on my phone, so no Googling for directions any longer.  Seems we’ve come to rely heavily on that.  Our paper atlas proves to be woefully inadequate in Canada.  This results in missing a turn to the campground and our attempt to turn around lands us in a gravel dead end.  Complete with big pile of gravel, aaaand the dump truck comes to bring more as we are unhooking the car.  Yes, we were in a tight spot and one we could not get out of without releasing Bitsy.  We knew this day would come and at least it didn’t block traffic or require law enforcement intervention.

The easiest thing we did all day was exchange money.  Oooh the pretty colors and the bills have see-through windows.  We are such dumb American tourists.

Driving in Canada

A few observations about driving in Canada.  The road sides are covered with signage.  Everything from badger crossings (I kid you not – there was a sign!) to km/hr to parks to not passing snow plows on the right.  You get the idea.  It was a bit bewildering, plus I was going old-school navigating with the paper map.  We think it was also a psychological game.  We knew we were in another country and just expected it to be tricky.  It really wasn’t.

Some examples of the signs.  Sorry I missed the badger one.  But logging trucks?  Yep!  Lots and lots of logging trucks.  Also no moose sightings yet, but we can now identify moose droppings.

I also shut down the first full day and I’m blaming it on a raging headache.  I was no help at all and the twists, turns, bobs and weaves of the motorhome scared me and the dog.  Fortunately one day only and Pat persevered.

Advantage to no cell coverage and wi-fi – no worrying about nonsense in the news.  The most news we had for a few days was from our camping neighbor.  He told us who was in the Stanley Cup playoff game that night and the unsavory US political scandal of the day.  We had not missed that at all!

Eating in Canada

We thought we had the rest stops on the map figured out.  It was a BC map after all and proving to be much more helpful that the US Atlas we started with.  So, we missed the rest stop I had carefully picked out.  Pat quickly whipped off the road (yes he did – seatbelts definitely required!) when he saw a spot big enough for us at Diner 97.  This was the greatest place.  We had our first order of poutine and I say first because it definitely won’t be my last.  Poutine is a delicious pile of fries covered with brown gravy and normally cheese curds.  Diner 97 style has grated mozzarella instead of the cheese curds.  Fantastic!  We followed this up with hot-out-of-oven lasagna, Canadian-style of course, and finally homemade apple pie and ice cream.  Roll us back out to the RV!

This is the spot where we also learned about mean hummingbirds.  Turns out the diner owner had to get 3 additional feeders due to the one hummer bully.

This is not the bully, but another hummer from another campground.  They are everywhere up here.  Diner guy also told us that the scenery is “shocking” when we get further West.  He also introduced us to the Canadian phrase “right on!”  We’ve heard it now from several people along with the predictable “eh”.

I’ve also learned that a sleeve of beer is 14 ounces, eggs are graded like ours, and meat in Canada is AAA for the best cuts.  Pat has learned that Canadians like their food just like he does.  Nothing to offend anyone and not a bit spicy.

People in Canada

The best thing by far we’ve found is the people.  They are so very friendly.  The campground manager at Wildwood came out of the office with two slabs of chocolate zucchini cake.  Truly hit the spot since this was the day we missed our planned stop and drove longer.

We also met some new friends in Prince George.  We post our whereabouts on RVillage, a social media site for RVers, and it always shows us if anyone else is in the same park or the surrounding area.  At this stop Lyla & Bill reached out to us and we were able to meet them for lunch.  We had a grand time and they told us things the locals know along with  some great stopping points on the way to Alaska.  Believe it or not, Bill is an avid sailor and electrician, so lots in common with Pat.  Lyla and I determined that we are happy to be landlubbers and sit on the shore sipping a beverage.  She made us homemade ginger cookies that were outstanding.  Reminded me of the ginger snaps my mom always brought along on car trips.  I’m eating them as we drive and smiling.

RVillage also got us in touch with another couple also heading to Alaska.  We hope to rendezvous with Cheryl and Dave when we get to Hyder.  They are from Plano, so a fun Texas connection and they, too, have a son named Ethan.

Roadside Oddities

The towns along the way in Canada all have RV and dog-friendly information centers.  In front of most of them, there is some “biggest one in the world” item that just makes you stop for a picture.  I’m sure this is by design.  Here are the ones we’ve stopped for thus far:

Biggest set of cross country skis at 100 Mile House, Mr. PG in Prince George, biggest fly fishing rod and reel in Houston and the lumberjack in Hazelton.  Jackson is not sure if that is a real guy or not.  He did a double take.

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And for my good buddy Wendy.  You can charge up your Tesla at the Kamloops visitor center!

Best of the Best

I have some favorite shots from all the stops so far.  They just do not do this country justice.

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From Kaleden on the banks of Lake Skaha.

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100 Mile House visitor’s Center.  Love the velvety grasses.

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Overlooking Prince George and the Fraser River from LC Gunn Park.  Grumpy weather, but our raingear passed with flying colors.  Also the one campground where we were afraid we might get stuck.  The campground water tasted like metal and even Jackson wouldn’t drink it.

Houston, BC.  Poor cows up to their knees.  The creeks and rivers were over the top due to all the rain and snow melt combined.

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I think we’ve finally made it to “shocking”.  Lucy at the foot of the mountains.

The peaceful walking trail, Jackson reveling in the sun and grass and the boys by the riverbank.

We had to cross this single lane bridge to get to ‘Ksan, where we are now.  It has an open metal grate bottom and it is high.  In a show of solidarity for Pat, I couldn’t look either.  Just straight ahead and hope we make it.  Good job Pat.  Now we just have to do it again to leave!

For once we had a short day so we could sight-see.  We took a drive to nearby Kispiox to see the totem pole village.

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Two more for you.  Top one shows the raging river and the bottom one is at the campground.  Rows and rows of trees like sentries on the high bank.  And the mountains – so very blue.

That’s it for now, and probably will be for a while until we have cell service & internet access again.   I’m taking notes each day so I don’t forget any good stuff.  See you on the way!

Steamboat Rock

So far, this was my favorite stop of anywhere we’ve been.  Really, truly stunning scenery in Washington.  We had no idea the area looked like this, and it was a total fluke that we ended up here.  It was a look on the map and say, hey, this is around the right location and is a state park.  Let’s roll up and see if they have availability.  Our jaws dropped as we got closer and closer and realized the gem we’d found.

Four Heavenly Days

We exited our beautiful, but noisy Oregon location in search of peace and quiet.  We were ever so hopeful that Steamboat Rock State Park would be it and planned to stay three days.  This was our second go at just driving up and saying we’re here.  Apparently they opened a new camping loop right before we arrived and we had our pick of spots.  This park is off a two lane road and not heavily traveled.  Hurray to no road noise for a change.  Steamboat Rock turns out to be a basalt butte that rises 800 feet above Banks Lake that completely surrounds it.  Our campsite was at the base of this magnificent spot, and I told Pat when we arrived that I didn’t need to go any further on this journey.  It was that good.

Here’s a shot from the drive to the park.  Such unexpected views!  Wish we knew the folks in front of us since I got some good pictures of them driving in the canyon.

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Steamboat Rock – our spot was over to the left behind a stand of tall poplars.

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View of the opposite canyon wall and lake from out site.

The topography in the area is so interesting and resulted from basalt flows covering most of Eastern Washington 10-15 million years ago.  Repeated flooding from a glacial lake created the current shape of the rock says the State Park Service literature.

We read that you should hike to the top if you are able for fantastic views of the surrounding area and Coulee.  And we learned that Coulee is a valley or drainage zone and taken from French meaning to flow.  Ok, so enough of the teachable moments.  We were determined to make it to the top and see what we could see.

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Here’s my favorite of me from the top of the rock.  Exhilarating to say the least, especially since we had to literally scramble through the loose rocks at times to get up the path.  It was only a mile up, but pretty steep and I had to stop to let the heart rate go down a few times.

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My favorite of Pat at the top of the rock – literally.  There are 600 acres on top of the butte and we’re overlooking it all here.

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This is the view Pat is looking at on top of that big rock.

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We thought the wildflowers were spectacular at the base of the rock.  That was nothing compared to the top.  I actually burst into song from the Sound of Music.  The hills are alive!  No Julie Andrews twirl, but I’m sure this is how she must have felt.  The lupine, and alpine balsam were grand.

A few more for you.  Looking back up the canyon.  Pat striding over to find that big rock and on the trail on the way down.  Definitely had to watch our step on the loose rocks.

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Jackson wanted to go up to the top, but we knew he couldn’t make that.  He did get good walks to the base of the rock though.  Pat and the good boy head back to the campground.

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 This view shows Banks Lake, Beacon Rock and Castle Rock.  Lots of great formations besides Steamboat Rock.

This was definitely the peaceful spot.  So quiet we could hear the birds, and that include wild turkeys.  We never actually saw them, but they did their gobbling in the brush behind our site every evening.

Grand Coulee Dam

One reason we ended up in this area is because I was perusing the map and found the Grand Coulee Dam listed.  “Oh we must see this”, I proclaim.  The state park was right outside Electric City which is aptly named for the power produced by the grand dam.

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Free tours are offered daily, but security is tight.  Pretty much the same as the airport with metal detectors and no purses or bags of any kind.  One of the guides was kind enough to take our picture in front of the dam.

It doesn’t really look like it but the Grand Coulee Dam is larger than the Hoover Dam with four times as much concrete and handling three times as much water.  In fact it is the second largest concrete structure in the world, second only to a dam in China.  It operates in cooperation with three dams upstream in Canada and coordinates with dams downstream to provide irrigation to the area.  Irrigation was the original primary reason for the dam back in the FDR days and is the reason the area is knows for crops including mint.  Of course power is huge, too, providing electricity for a big part of the West Coast.

A Real Waterfall

Right across from the park on the facing rock wall was a “real” waterfall.  Not that hole in the ground I showed you way back from our travels in Florida.

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If you look really closely, there is a guy fishing down by the water to give you an idea of size.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Ah, but Alaska is the goal and we must leave.  We extended our stay to four days and loved every minute of Steamboat Rock and the surrounding area.  I was sad to say good-by to this spot, but our last night was a good one.

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We were treated to a moonrise over the glowing canyon walls at sunset.

Next up – good-by US, hello Canada!  We’re headed across the border into British Columbia and Alaska is really getting close.  See you on the way!

Idaho & Orgeon

We can’t do justice to these two beauties with just our brief stops along the way, but I’ll give you the highlights.  Also, we have now entered the spotty coverage for communication along our route, so I’ll post when I can and go dark when I have to.  It was always expected in the Yukon, but we weren’t quite ready for radio silence in British Columbia.  Given the state of US news these days as reported to us in Ethan’s texts, it may be just as well!

Idaho

Let’s start with Idaho.  All I’ve ever really heard about is potatoes.  We used to check to see where the potatoes were from for the Five Guys french fries, and they were always from Idaho.  I was pretty sure there was more to it, but didn’t have a mental picture of the state.  Who do you even know who’s been to Idaho?  Keep in mind we only saw the Southern portion which is less mountainous, but the terrain was surprising.  It was sometimes hilly, sometimes flat, farmland and pastures were sprinkled about and that Snake River seemed to loom at every turn.  Oh, and they have lots of horses.  AND it is Spring, so babies abound.

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The first stop in Idaho was at a campground right off the highway, but right on the bank of the Snake River.  We could see this field full of mommas and babies from our campsite.  This is the flat view, but turn directly around and you get a view of distant mountains.

This campground also had a cafe where we had a hot meal for dinner and ice cream cones were included.  Very popular with the mister.  I tried Huckleberry since I’d never heard of it for eating – just Hound and Finn.  It tastes like a fruity drink of some sort with the ice melted and it’s all diluted.  The gal who served it agreed it wasn’t her thing either and we couldn’t describe it any better than that.  Apparently a Northwestern thing since I’ve seen it now in Oregon and Canada.

Here are a few shots from the drive.  A bit like the Kansas farmland, but certainly different with the hills and mountains in the background.

Next stop in Idaho was after another windy day of driving.  I did the honors through Boise to give Pat a break.  This day we weren’t on the road ten minutes before a big semi passed us on the interstate and Crack!  Up flies a rock and we have our first windshield chip.  No way, we’re thinking!  We were prepared for windshield damage in Alaska on the gravels roads, but weren’t expecting it in the lower 48.  In fact, Pat and I agreed that neither of us had ever had a damaged windshield before.  Good thing we were prepared and brought along three repair kits.

This second private campground was not nearly as scenic as the first one.  We saw some pretty unfortunate rigs there complete with tarps, plywood, and duct tape and it had some majorly big thorns in the grass.  Jackson picked up one in his paw and is just now getting over the limp.  We did go for a walk along the Snake River.  Yep, there it is again.  Very high this time of year since the high places got tons of snow and the snow melt was really flowing.

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See the flooded picnic area?  There was even a catfish sitting in the water where the sidewalk would have been.  Also, this was the spot where I kept smelling something so good as we drove around.  I though it was a restaurant, but turns out there is an onion processing plant just down from the campground.  Smelled delicious.

Oregon

Now this is a state where I think of trees – big ones.  And mountains, too.  Oregon did not disappoint and oh how I’ve missed my trees!

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Jackson and I tromp around on the mound of snow in the parking lot and gawk at the huge old forest.  This place is called Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area and is along the Oregon Trail.  Emigrant, just so you know, is a person who leaves one place for another, says Webster.  The emigrants who traveled the original Oregon Trail really suffered some hardships.  They described the forests as so vast and so dense that it was like night inside.  Plus those cattle kept wandering off.  It was a dangerous business to go after them with the cold and the wildlife.  We only had the leftover piles of snow from clearing the parking lots, so nothing too risky for us.

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We loved the beauty of this place since it was everything we pictured for Oregon, and hoped it would be a nice, peaceful respite from our back-to-back travel days.  Unfortunately the park was right on the side of the interstate.  With the semi engine braking and constant traffic, we just had to move on after two days instead of the three that we had planned.  Before our departure, we decided to take a short drive to the nearby overlook.

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So very glad we did.  This is my most favorite shot from Oregon.  Just gorgeous.

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I’ve run out of adjectives for these hills and trees.  Stunning, gorgeous, and beautiful just don’t cut it.

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Oh and we haven’t forgotten about Poop.  We took him for the overlook photo shoot.  Silly thing tried to sleep through it, but I woke him up.

A Few Housekeeping Items

We do love our residential fridge, but apparently the starting current was too high for the wire run to the inverter to handle.  Insert blah, blah, blah, electrical problem here.  You know I don’t have any idea what that really means.  Anyhoo, it means that if we have to boondock in Alaska, and don’t have any shore power, it will alarm and not start.  That’s bad, very bad.  Since we couldn’t hear ourselves think at Emigrant Springs, but needed to chill for two days, we went into town – a one horse one by the local guy’s assessment – and bought electrical supplies.  Pat was able to run new wire, blah, blah, blah, and the problem appears to be fixed.  Score one for us.

It seems we also crossed over the 45th Parallel while traveling North in Oregon.  For those of you, like me, who don’t know what that means, I’ll just tell you.  It means we crossed over the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole.  Not sure what that gets you, but there was a great big sign, aaaand I missed it.  At least for picture purposes.

Finally, we restocked our provisions in Oregon.  Yes, another Walmart stop.  Pat marveled at the food prices – cheap eggs, produce and cheese slices.  Meat was pretty good, too.  They have no sales tax there, but they apparently have hefty taxes for residents.  Just passing through….

So that’s a wrap for two new states.  On to Washington and my personal favorite stop so far.  See you on the way!

 

Great Salt Lake

Salt Lake City was a great stop for us even if we did camp smack dab in the downtown area.  We love our nature time at state parks, but there are trade-offs.  Back to nature usually means no shopping or dining options or not many.  Normally that’s just fine, but we wanted to see the city stuff this time, have a nice sit-down meal, and we needed a spare tire.  So, city was definitely called for.

Utah

I wasn’t sure what to name this post.  I considered Utah, but really we only drove through a small part and camped in only one location.  I can’t say that we’ve “done” Utah knowing what I know about the Southern part.  Totally different and we’ll be back for that during our West travels next year.  Then I considered Salt Lake City, but I was most taken with the Great Salt Lake.

Getting there was an ever-changing drive. Sun, snow, rain, sleet, wind, mountains, rock faces, tunnel, you name it.  We picked this route on I-80 since having read that it’s the easiest crossing over the Rockies.  There are horror stories about grades and curves and scary mountain passes on other routes.  Driving big Lucy with Bitsy in tow, we definitely wanted the easiest passage.  Still, I was really apprehensive and envisioned something like dropping off the side of a mountain.

At this point it helped that the last stop was so nasty that I didn’t even care.  (Remember the mud pit in Rock Springs?)  Fortunately the steepest part was dropping down right into Salt Lake City and we had the good fortune (or not) to be behind a double tanker truck taking it slow with his flashers on.  We tucked in behind him and did the same.  Success, and it didn’t even seem that steep going so slowly.

These shots are all from our 175 mile drive from Rock Springs to Salt Lake City.  Hardly the same looking road from one 30 mile stretch to the next.

We did have a great time at the welcome station just before Salt Lake City.  Beautiful spot to stretch the legs and take a short hike to a few overlooks.

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The first view is when we arrived and had a fantastic view of the valley and roadway below.  Then ten minutes later the snow rolled in and we couldn’t see anything.

A nice truck driver offered to take our picture with the Utah sign.  Sorry for the Jackson butt.  He never cooperates for photos.  In the second shot he does relent and look at the camera.

Finally the best part of the stop for me.  We saw these critters sitting outside of their burrows all over the grassy areas.  We thought maybe they were prairie dogs, but they didn’t look quite right.  They sounded a high pitched squealing alarm whenever we got too close.  Then poof!  They were gone down the holes.  Inside the visitor center, the lady told us they were ground squirrels and quite tame.  They even had little cups of “feed” for them.  The food looked suspiciously like Cheerios which we had in the RV, but Pat splurged on a 25 cent cup for me.

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Man, oh man, do they like Cheerios!  No more running away down the hole once they find out you have snacks.  The first shot is me feeding and they get closer and closer.  See that guy on his hind legs in the second picture?  That’s right before he jumped on my leg.  Wasn’t getting his share, but unfortunately I was all out.  They were so cute eating the cereal like little corn cobs.  Just delightful!

Salt Lake City Sights

We were originally only going to stay two nights here, but the weather turned ugly after the first night with more rain and snow.  That convinced us to tuck in for one more day so we’d be able to actually do a little sight-seeing.  The icky day gave us a chance to do laundry and wash mud out of towels, jeans and couch pillow covers.  It also gave us a chance to venture out to buy a spare tire for Bitsy.  One more thing crossed off our list to prepare for some of the remote spots in Alaska.

The second full day dawns sunny and beautiful and off we go to see the sights.  We needed a spot to walk Jackson since the campground really didn’t have many places for him to do his thing.  We found a small community park not far away.  Turns out that Steenblik Park is a lot smaller than the pictures led me to believe.  It did, however, come through on the promised giant cat sculptures.

They call them the Dairy Cats and they are cast in bronze with four different patinas.  Jackson could care less about them, but we thought they were kinda cool.

We aren’t particular history buffs, but we do like to learn a bit about the areas we visit including why and how the places came to be.  Salt Lake City , or SLC, was founded by Brigham  Young and other Mormon followers back in 1847.  Pat and I could definitely see why they chose this spot.  For one, if they struggled over those mountain peaks and then found themselves in the flat valley, I’m sure they were quite eager to stop and settle.  We saw lots of sheep, horses and cattle driving in, and everything was so green.  Stark comparison to the sagebrush and rocks on the other side of the mountains.   So, it seemed fitting that we venture downtown to see the Mormon Temple and the square.

Temple Square was beautifully landscaped and filled with flowering trees, tulips, poppies and other colorful flowers.  Obviously they had better weather before we arrived.  The organist was even practicing in the Tabernacle for a recital later in the day and we were able to take a peek inside and listen in.  As a kid, I remember watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on TV.  Mom was a big fan and if they or the Boston Pops were on, we watched.

Downtown was so very clean, and loaded with people walking around Temple Square and to the surrounding upscale stores.

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Jackson was on his best behavior amongst all the people.  I think in these situations some of his former service-dog-in-training skills kick in and he is really extraordinarily well mannered.  Two people asked permission to pet him and he always loves that.

Great Salt Lake

We just couldn’t leave the area without seeing The Lake.  And what a day to see it.  Stunningly beautiful even if it was still a little biting with the wind.

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I liked this picture the best, but there were many to choose from.  Here are a few more so you get a better sense of the surrounding area….

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This shot shows the Oquirrh Mountains to the South of the lake.  It also shows the prominent smokestack for the smelter at the open-pit copper mine that lies on the other side of those same mountains.  This is the largest man-made excavation in the world producing not only copper, but also gold, silver, molybdenum, and sulfuric acid.  We would have loved to tour the grounds, but it isn’t open to the public.

A few other facts we learned – salinity in the lake ranges from 6-25% (oceans are about 3.5%), so no fishing here.  Mostly brine shrimp live in the lake and the multitude of bird species feed upon them.  Yep, birds are eating your Sea Monkeys!  With such a high salt content, it is really easy to float and I would have tried it, but just too cold this time around.  There is a state park on Antelope Island further to the North and we’ll target a stay there next time to float and see the wild Bison herd roaming on the island.

They do harvest salt from drying basins, but it isn’t pure enough for table salt.  Mostly used for road salt, water softeners and animal salt licks.  The reason for the saltiness?  It has three rivers that flow in, but there is no outlet except for evaporation, thus concentrating the salt.  And just a side note.  The lake is so large that we continued to see it in the distance almost all the way to Idaho.  BIG!

Cathedral of the Madeleine

Staying that extra night also gave us the opportunity to attend Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.  A spectacular cathedral, and according to their website, is the mother church for Roman Catholics in the state of Utah.  We happened to be there during a special event and Bishop Oscar along with seven additional priests celebrated Mass on Saturday evening.

Red Iguana & the Prom Dinner

One nod to SLC for food.  There were lots of dining options and we had a hard time choosing.  The first night we were starved and went off to eat like old people at 4:30pm – literally.  Turns out that was a good thing since we went to the Red Iguana, featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.  They are packed most of the time and we narrowly missed the rush dining so early.  I had tacos al carbon that were to die for, and highly recommended them to a total stranger at the next table.

We are also fans of Zaxby’s, which is a chicken fast-food chain based out of Atlanta.   They are only in the Southeast, except for, you guessed it, Utah!  It was our last chance for their chicken strips and fries for quite a while, so we grabbed lunch there on the icky day.

Finally, after Mass on Saturday, we stayed downtown and found our way to Benihana’s.  A chain, I know, but we have had spectacularly bad Japanese food for most of this trip and wanted a surer thing.  The parking garage attendant informed us that it was prom night and we might have quite the wait.  Fortunately a party of two can sneak in most any time and that’s just what we did, along with another couple.  We had a grand time people-watching at least 8 or 9 tables full of high school prom goers from multiple schools.  Lots of sequins, dizzying high heels and tuxedos.  The other couple gave us some people to talk to.  They were locals, answered our questions about the area, and let us know that they can get snow as late as June.  Dashed our hopes of this being “the place” we might want to settle one day.  Gorgeous here, but no can do on Summer snow.

By now we’ve departed SLC, are in Idaho and soon to cross into Oregon, but I’ll leave you with one more fun fact about Utah.  It’s the beehive state.  All the state highway signs have a little beehive with the road number in it.  Ok, so maybe we’ve seen a few too many road signs.  See you on the way as we buzz on down the road!

Rock Springs

Our second stop in Wyoming wasn’t nearly as exciting as the first.  We had a planned stop in Rock Springs, WY as a halfway point of sorts between Cheyenne and Salt Lake City.  Another rough travel day and we were rewarded by the biggest mud hole posing as a campground.

Blow Over Risk

We heard horror stories about I-80 and the blow overs due to the wind and were a little apprehensive about the drive across Wyoming.  Pat has now determined that the wind in Kansas was just the warm up.  Wyoming has the “real” wind with 40-50+ mph gusts.  There were overhead signs all along the way warning of blow overs and the speed limit dropped to as low as 35 at one point.  We took it super slow even though the truckers were whizzing past.  At one point we saw two of them in the ditch.  They didn’t heed the speed limit we’re guessing and we felt kinda smug.

It started out bright enough, even sunny, but then takes a turn for the worse.  My side of the windshield was iced over and the road was getting nasty, too.  Just when we were ready to bail out, the snow stopped and the road cleared up.  The wind, however, never let up.

The Mud Pit

We finally make it to Rock Springs only to find the campground a muddy mess.  It was such a quagmire that the guy in the camper next to us carried his rather large dog to the grassy dog park.  The rest of the park was gravel and brown, sticky mud.  We took off our shoes as is our normal custom, put down towels for Jackson, wiped his feet, and still managed to get mud on everything.  Mud on the floor, mud on the couch, mud on the couch pillows.  And the relentless wind blew the mud on our pants – up to our thighs!  If we hadn’t had reservations here, I think we would have mushed on.

Lonely Beauty

We did find that the area lived up to Pat’s mom’s assessment.  She told us it had a lonely beauty and I’d have to agree.  The hills were layers of colors, but craggy with very little vegetation.  And different faces depending on the weather, which remained mostly icky.

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View from our campsite of the misty, moisty hills.

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The next day we took a walk and enjoyed a little sunlight and the stark beauty.  Some of the nasty mud did dry up.  This picture is the hands-down favorite for this stop.

Top picture is looking back towards the highway with the snow capped hills and train in the background.  Pat and Jackson start climbing and of course I had to take a picture of the delicate flowers that managed to hang on to the craggy soil.  I was delighted by the Jack Rabbits, but they were too quick for photos.  They had really tall ears and big pom pom tails.  Just goes to show you that even the nastiest spots have something interesting to offer.

Re-routing

We took the day of downtime in the goop to do some chores.  I needed to get some graduation cards in the mail and Pat worked on paying the bills and recording receipts.  We also needed to seriously think about the next part of the trip since we only had one more reservation in Salt Lake City.  With the continued snowy, cold weather, we decided to look at a different path.  Surprisingly farther North was faring better than our current latitude.  So, we’re going to try to go West and North a bit quicker.  Montana is out and Oregon is in!  We have tentative spots picked out – two in Idaho, one in Oregon and two in Washington, but we’re going to see how it goes.  You’ll know where when we do.

Hey, another bit of good news.  We bought a pizza in the campground store and baked it in the convection oven.  Our first pizza and it turned out great!  A nice little treat while we watched it rain, snow, and sleet.

Next up is Salt Lake City and the drive over the mountains.  And ground squirrels!  Can’t wait to tell you about them.  See you on the way.

 

Cheyenne

Another action-packed family visit and another state to add to our list.  The stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming was all we hoped it would be with lots of quality time with Pat’s mom, brother Jamie, and nephew Tyler.  Tons of fun with some wild weather thrown in for good measure.

Pet the Bison

I texted my mother-in-law prior to our arrival and said I wanted to pet a bison.  She could arrange that right?  Truly I was kidding about the petting part, but I have to give her total credit.  She came through in a big way.  Since rain, snow and other assorted ick was forecast for later in the visit, we decided to head out to Terry Bison Ranch on our first full day in Cheyenne.  Oh man, we had some fun.

We bought tickets for the train ride to go out to the bison pasture, but while we waited, we amused ourselves in the gift shop.  I “rode” the bison just in case that was as close as I could get.  Mom took her turn on the Jackalope, but Pat wins the prize for the biggest ham of the afternoon.

The ranch has a long and interesting history along with some incredible views that just embody what I think of when I picture Wyoming.  Except camels.  I don’t think of camels, but they have them, too.

As for the ranch, the first territorial governor of Wyoming bought it in 1885 and raised sheep and cattle.  President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the ranch twice during his Cheyenne visits, in 1903 and 1910.  Raising bison entered the scene in 1993 and the owner wanted the public to be able to “get up close and personal to the Great North American Bison” according to their website.

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You don’t get more up close and personal than feeding, petting and even smelling some foul bison breath.  My wish was granted!  Just so you know, the bison have long tapered gray tongues that slime your hands pretty well.  And they love the alfalfa pellets that look like giant-sized rabbit food.

These bison are the pregnant females and we though for a while we might see one being born.  False alarm for mom, however.  We learned from our excellent tour guide that these gals weigh over 2000 pounds, can run up to 40 miles per hour, and can hop a 6 foot fence from a standstill.  Unbelievable statistics for such a large beast.

After the pasture tour, we checked out the rest of the animals on site which include – surprise – Clydesdales.

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I got a huge kick out of the alpacas.

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Check out the teeth!

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How does he see?

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Very deep thoughts

On the way over to the animal pens, my long lost cat came running.

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Seriously, this cat made a beeline across the parking lot right over to me.  I scooped it up and it just purred and purred.  This scruffy little barn cat knew I was missing some kitty love.

Wicked Wyoming Weather

When we arrived at the campground in Cheyenne, they told us that snow was forecast in two days.  Yeah right.  I am in total denial.  Well that doesn’t stop the snow.  This trip is all about walking the fine weather line and looks like we crossed over it on this stop.  It did indeed snow and all day long, too.

It truly looked like a Christmas postcard.  The snow was heavy, wet, messy and delightful to Jackson.  His first romp in the stuff.  It was lovely to look at, but we were just as glad for it to melt away the next day.

Prom & Bowling

The great thing about hanging around on our family stops for a week is that we get to participate in whatever is going on.  This time it meant helping with corsage consultations, giving an eye shadow opinion (to the girlfriend, of course) and pulling out my camera for a prom photo shoot.  Pat’s nephew Tyler had a very busy week when we arrived, culminating in that magical prom night.  It was so much fun to be part of the excitement.

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Tyler and Trinity gave their approval for me to share a shot from the evening.  Stunning couple and such sweet kids!  Plus, since I have a son and no daughter, I loved all the talk of hair, nails and eye shadow.

Of course us oldies but goodies had to do something that night, so we went bowling.  It was Jamie’s great idea.  Bowling is one of those perfect social activities.  Just enough work hefting the bowling ball every so often, sandwiched between plenty of talk and heckle time with the rest of the group.  It helps if no one is any good, which we weren’t.

Mom, Pat and Jamie do their worst.  Since I’m taking the pictures, there is no shot of my behind.  And for those of you with inquiring minds, I bowled three strikes in a row in the last two frames of the first game to pull out a win.  Couldn’t do that again if I tried.  Pat won game two by a landslide.

Just Hanging Out

The rest of time consisted of just regular everyday activities with family we hadn’t seen in oh so long.  And I have to say, that is really what it’s all about.  Mom made meatloaf and it was delicious.  Our second meatloaf score on this trip, and this one tasted like my mom’s!  Actually Mom cooked for us constantly and it was nice to have the home-cooked meals.  I also managed to do 8 loads of laundry.  Not all at the same time, of course, since we don’t have that many clothes.  So nice to have all clean clothes, sheets, towels AND dog bedding.  Plus no quarters required!

We played quite a few games of Yahtzee, which is one of my favorites.  The dice were not rolling my way, and Pat managed to roll Yahtzee twice in the same game.  And you know you are in trouble when you accuse your mother-in-law of cheating.  Well let’s just say creative score-keeping.  Jackson also enjoyed this visit since he was able to go to Grandma’s every single day and walk in her neighborhood.  And she had Milk Bones.  And she fed him a whole slice of that delicious meatloaf before I could stop her.

So Long, Farewell, & Thunder Snow

It was our last night in Cheyenne, so we took a round of family shots.  In the past we used to hold up a paper plate if someone was missing.  This time Mom didn’t have any paper plates so she whipped out a coffee filter for Jamie who was taking a nap.  Fortunately he did wake up to take the place of the filter.

Those pictures before everyone is ready are just the best.  Pat, Mom, Jamie, Tyler & Trinity.  Pretty good looking group.

So all the hugs and good-bys are done and we’re back at the campground.  Cheyenne has one more weather whammy for us.  It rains and sleets and finally snows.  But what gets me out of bed in the middle of the night is the thunder!  I’d heard of thunder snow before, but never experienced it.  Jackson needs a happy pill it is so loud.

We laughed so much during this week and we hate to go, but Alaska still calls.  I have one more stop in Wyoming up next.  See you on the way!

Rocky Mountain High

I know that title sounds like a cliche, but it’s such an apt description of Colorado, particularly the Denver area.  We traded farmland views for the beautiful Rockies.  And my dad loved John Denver, so there you go.

Colorado – Epic Journey State #6

Yes, we’re clicking off the states now and they’ll come fast and furious from here on out.  By this time next month we’ll be out of the country!  As for Colorado, we made a stop at the welcome station and then an overnight stop in Seibert, CO at Shady Grove Campground.  A small, but friendly little place that was just right for a rest before pushing into greater Denver.

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Cherry Creek State Park

This almost week-long stay isn’t about sight-seeing, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you the sights from this fantastic state park.  We had a view of the Rockies right from our campsite even though we’re right smack in the middle of Aurora, CO.  Turns out it is a pretty big burb for Denver.  Wind your way a mile or so out of the park and bam!  You come face to face with a subdivision, McDonald’s, gas stations, etc.  If you don’t listen too hard for road noise, you’d think you were truly in the middle of nowhere.

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View from the campsite – zoomed in a bit, but spectacular!

Here are a few more views I thought were also pretty good.

Of course the most amazing part of this park is the fact that the wildlife is plentiful, even with all the traffic and human chaos so close by.  We came back to the motorhome after dark the first night to find a group of deer feeding right by the door.  They had even turned on the motion-activated porch light.  Weren’t the least bit afraid of us or even Jackson.  They strolled through the park regularly day and night.

We spied an interesting bird the first day.  One I had never seen before.  I called it my zebra bird.  Turns out they are Magpies and they do live up to the name.  Chatter, chatter, chatter all day and they seem to be very busy and nosy.

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Not the best shot, but all they would cooperate for during their busy-ness.  These birds have a really long tail and it looks almost green in the sunlight.

Easter With Pat’s Family

We normally spend Easter with my cousins and extended family in Florida.  Although I missed seeing them, it was great to spend the holiday with Pat’s family for a change.  Pat’s brother Dean, sister-in-law Terri and niece Rachel hosted us for Easter dinner.  His mom even drove down from Cheyenne to join in.  Nephew Brandon came over, too.  We had a scrumptious ham dinner with all the trimmings plus pie and ice cream.  Jackson was even invited over so he wouldn’t have to be alone all day at the motorhome.  He really enjoyed a fenced yard and lots of attention.  Our apologies to their cats who were relegated to the basement for the day since Jackson is a perfect gentleman with people, but not cats.

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The “boys” talk it up in the yard.  Jackson is passed out after taking all the stuffing out of his new Easter chicken.

The ladies chat on the porch.  I think a good time was had by all and it was nice to just sit and relax with the family.  We love all the adventures and sight-seeing we’re doing, but visiting the family on their home turf while sleeping in our own bed is awesome.

More Family Fun

Before Easter, we were able to join Dean, Terri, Rachel and Brandon at a fund-raiser dinner at Rachel’s school.  We were even lucky enough to be here for one of Rachel’s lacrosse games.  We had fond memories of watching Ethan play lacrosse and really enjoyed watching our first ladies lacrosse game.  They are tigers, but can’t whack each other with the sticks like the boys do.  Thank goodness.  Even so, during the game prior to Rachel’s, there was a tumble and one gal broke her leg.

We enjoyed lunch together after the game and got done in time to meet Pat’s mom and pick up our mountain of Amazon packages.  We went on another ordering binge and had them shipped to her house.  She hauled them all down for us since I begged.  Looking for that part to fix the shower!

Queen of Peace

Pat and I opted for the Easter vigil mass this year and it was a lovely service at Queen of Peace Catholic Church.  I have to mention it since it was quite an experience.  It lasted almost 3 hours, but that wasn’t the most noteworthy part.  We got there early and had great seats, but got up like most people to watch the candle-lighting outside and process in with our candles.  Our seats along with every other visible seat were taken when we got back in.  I admit, I was annoyed, but we stood at the back wall behind the back pews to make the best of it.  Into the first few readings, a gentleman in a pew directly in front of us had some kind of medical emergency.  His family member looked us right in the eyes and said she needed help.  I pulled out my phone, dialed 911, gave the church address, and then handed it over to her.  After the paramedics arrived, she returned the phone, I gave her a hug and Pat says “now we know why we lost our seats”.  Made me cry, but it was exactly what I was thinking.

Lunch With Brandon

Denver was a great stop since we got to visit with multiple family members.  Brandon is Pat’s oldest nephew and son of his sister Dee, who we saw in Springfield.  He’s lived all over the place and is well connected.  We had lunch with him after all the Easter hubbub was over.  Turns out he knows the manager and got the food portion comped.  He and Pat talk computers, finances, movies, books, you name it.  There’s never a lull in the conversation.

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Here we are saying our good-bys.  Good selfie, huh!  Brandon took it of course.

Chores

Always chores and this stop was no exception.  We had a few “developments” during this stop to report.  Actually the first one occurred in Seibert.  The AC completely froze up and wouldn’t cool.  Pat had to get out my hair dryer to thaw it all out.  He thought he knew what caused it, so he implemented his “fix” and we were keeping and eye on it in Denver.  Happy to report that the AC is working just fine, so no worries there.  I know you wouldn’t think that’s a big deal, but our coach is dark colored and heats up quickly in the sun even if the outdoor temp is cool.  We have to make sure the indoor temp stays cool for Jackson when we are away, so this is very important.  Whew!  At least we don’t need a new AC unit.  I’m sure those are cheap….

Then chromebook #2 did not awaken after I made the last post.  Dead as a doornail.  So off we go to Best Buy for another one.  Actually two Best Buys to find the same one again.  I say #2 since our first chromebook got crunched in the RV slideout during one of our first trips in Lucy.  We decided it was a good thing in disguise since we liked the new one so much better.  So join me in welcoming chromebook #3 to the blogging world.

We also spent some quality time in line at Petco to get two vaccines for Jackson.  He’ll be overdue by the time we get to Canada, so we needed to get them updated to make sure we can enter the country.  They are fussy about that.

Speaking of Alaska, we were advised that quality rain gear is a must if we’re spending any time at all there.  We are guaranteed rainy, icky weather at some point, and we don’t want that dampening our sightseeing experiences, literally!  So, off we go to a local sporting goods store and now we both have waterproof jackets and pants.

And the update you’ve all been waiting for.  Two words – HOT WATER!  Yes friends, Pat was able to replace the shower faucet apparatus and we now have water so hot I actually had to turn it down this morning.  Halleluia!  The full-timing lifestyle is saved and I can shower without my teeth chattering.

That about wraps it up for Denver.  We’re bugging out in the am and headed for Wyoming to spend a week with Pat’s mom, brother Jamie and nephew Tyler.  See you on the way!