Monday, August 31, 2009


We said goodbye and left Dennis' parent's house this morning and drove across the Cascade mountains on highway 2 through Stevens Pass. It was a pleasant trip with great weather. We looked forward to getting west of the mountains as we had had several very hot days and expected cooler temperatures. It could not be much nicer than today. We stopped in Monroe at the Thunderbird Leasure Time Resort which we can stay at with our thousand trails membership. We were a bit concerned as we had some mixed information on how the sites would be for a larger RV but it turned out to be fine. We found a long back in site. There were a number of others available. We took it easy the rest of the day. Barbara noticed some blackberries growing in the campground and went out and picked a couple of quarts.

what a great pie these will make, cant wait

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Electric City, Washington

We are parked now for a week at Dennis' parent's house in Electric City, Washington. Until we went to Alaska, we had always thought of Electric City as being a very small and somewhat remote town. But our perspective is a bit different now. It is hard to see it as remote when within a couple of miles there is a large supermarket and other amenities of civilization like a hardware store, several restaurants, barber shops, dentists, etc. Still, Electric City is the kind of place where if you ask someone for a phone number, they respond with a four digit number. If you look puzzled or ask for the 3 digit prefix, they know you are a stranger. If you don't know the area code, they immediately understand that you are from another planet.

Electric City is best known and named for being a couple of miles above Grand Coulee Dam. It is secondarily known for being on Banks Lake which is the man made lake made from water pumped out of the Columbia River at Grand Coulee Dam for ultimate use in irrigation in Eastern and Central Washington. Banks Lake has increasingly become a recreation area for boating, camping, and bass fishing. People from western Washington often come here in the summer for its warm, sunny, dry weather.
banks lake near Electric city

In addition to visiting, we are helping Dennis' parents with a few things around the house and yard, and some housekeeping issues of our own. Dennis replaced a hose on our generator that had a small leak and got a ladder and climbed up on our roof to repair our roof vent fan. We are also washing the bus and car, and repacking items that we left here while we traveled to Alaska, and Dennis will change the oil in the generator.

Here are some pictures of the dam and the area.

there is great fishing and boating of all kinds here,

view of coulee dam

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time to get things fixed

Yesterday we left the Little Diamond NACO park at Newport and drove to the Detroit Diesel shop in the Spokane Valley. We were a bit worried as our discussion with the mechanic in Whitehorse as well as phone conversation with the manager of the Spokane shop indicated that oil leaking from the top back of the engine is usually a labor intensive fix. When we got there Dennis showed them the leak and said that he had thought that it was diesel fuel but the mechanic in the Yukon check and was sure it was an oil leak. They did a preliminary check and agreed with Dennis that it was in fact diesel fuel. That was good news as the leak if hard to get at was likely at least to be external to the engine itself. So we left the bus with them optimistic that it could be repaired in a couple of hours rather than a couple of days.

While we were waiting we decided to drive over to Lake Couer d'Alene. We spent some time walking along a path along the lake shore and just enjoying the setting on a perfect morning. When we returned the bus was done as it had simply been a bad fuel line. So it was an easy fix. And after discussion with the mechanic we decided that this was the likely culprit in our loss of engine prime in Seward, Alaska several weeks ago.this city has a beautiful lake and bike and running path.

We proceeded to the Ponderosa Falls RV Park. We are scheduled to stay in here for 4 days. This park is a contrast to the last one in that it is nearly full and quite busy. We got a full hookup 50 amp site through ROD. They have more than the usual activities and recreation facilities. We are at the edge of the Spokane area and close to amenities of a larger city but still in an ancrowded area. The park itself is has many tall pine trees that provide some pleasant shade as today is one of the hottest days of the summer here. Among the facilites this park has 2 pickleball courts, although only one currently has a net. We haven't been on a pickleball court in months so we went out and hit some balls today.

Wow it was great to get out onto a pickleball court even thou Barb has a bad ankle, we were able to get some practice in. The exercise felt good

We wanted to stay here in part to be able to get some things taken care of that would be probably be easier in a larger town. We had been having some intermittent problems with starting our car and had put off getting it taken care of. Dennis took it in today and had a new starter and battery installed. We also contacted our insurance about our windshield and they scheduled someone to come out tomorrow and replace it. So these items along with the bus fuel leak are the major things we needed to get done.

This is a nice waterfall here at the campground, you can see where the place got its name.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back in the U.S.A.

We made it back to the U.S. Yesterday we left Raduim Hot Springs and drove south on highway 95 crossing into the U.S. at Eastport, Idaho. There was a line of cars at the border but fortunately it moved quickly. The border guard who questioned us for a few minutes had an odd style of questioning and we were unsure if this reflected a lack of social skills or an attempt to intimidate or throw us off our guard, but it was quick and not really unpleasant.

We used the last of our Canadian cash to pay for the campground (they do it like a hotel, where you pay when you check out). We were past the point where we usually fill up with fuel, but we guessed correctly that fuel would be cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada so we waited to fill up after the border. In lieu of a truck stop we pulled into a gas station with a lot of room. The fuel was cheaper than we have seen for some time and offered a 5 cent a gallon discount for cash. Dennis went in to ask if they needed prepayment for the cash price. When they said yes, he said "here's $400 for pump 5", and the startled clerk who had not seen what we were driving seemed astounded saying "You want $400 worth of gas!" Fortunately we only needed 125 gallons so we got some change.

Dennis has been concerned about an oil leak in our engine. The mechanic who changed our oil in Whitehorse said that it needed to be repaired by an engine shop but should be able to wait "until you get home" which was reassuring as he had noticed the Florida plates. But we decided to contact the Detroit Diesel shop in Spokane as we can't really see an advantage to waiting to get the problem repaired and we have the time now. We had been told they would look at it today but when we called to confirm they said they were really busy and asked if we could come in tomorrow instead. So we decided to stop for a couple of days at the Little Diamond NACO park in Newport, Washington. This is a relaxing place with a lot of room and a lot of woods and not many people. There is not a lot to do but we don't mind for a couple of days. We will go on to the shop tomorrow.

We are noticing signs that we are back. We got back just in time for a warming trend. We ran our a.c. today for the first time in at least 2 months. And it gets dark before we go to bed. It seems odd now for it to be dark at 9 o'clock in the evening.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Raduim Hot Springs

We are now at the Raduim Valley Vacation Resort in Radium Hot Springs, B. C. This is a very nice RPI park, probably the nicest that we have stayed at. They have very long 50 amp. full service sites, just a little close side to side. Each site has a small cabana with a grill. It is a well kept park with a nice recreation building with pools and hot tub and a nice excercise room. They provide cable tv with a lot of channels. Although they have a wifi hotspot in the rec center, we opted to pay extra for a cable modem which is probably the best internet connection that we have ever had on the road.

We drove less that 100 miles yesterday morning from Lake Louise. It had rained most of the night and still some rain in the morning. We drove through the mountains going from Banff National Park to Kootenay National Park which ended just before the little town of Radium Hot Springs. We saw some fresh snow above us on the mountains. The only wildlife that we saw on the drive was several elk.

Raduim Hot Springs and Invermere a few miles to the south are 2 of the resort towns in this mountain area. Radium Hot Springs is named for the springs in Kootenay Park just up the mountain from the town. We saw something saying that Radium Hot Springs is also the Bighorn capital of B.C. We weren't much impressed until we saw a few of these guys stopping traffic in the middle of town.

We mostly took it easy today, and did a little local site seeing. We have moved every day for 8 days in a row and that is tiring. We plan to stay here two more nights before crossing the border on Monday. We drove into Invermere this evening and had a very good meal at the Oriental Palace.

This gull looks like it is larger than the boat.

The Columbia river seems to be much smaller here than in Electric City, Wa

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Icefield Parkway and Lake Louise

We got up and left early this morning. We headed through the mountains to Jasper and Banff National Parks. We expected travel to be slow and wanted time for sight seeing. We were also concerned about finding a suitable place to stay in the park as we had not made a reservation.

The drive was nice with a lot of pretty views, even with the sky becoming more overcast as the day went on. The only wildlife that we saw were 6 or 7 deer on the Bighorn Highway even before we got into the parks. And with the combination of the deer being skittish and not having the camera ready at the right times we didn't even get a picture of any of them.

We drove the Icefield Parkway and saw several glacier views but not up close as we did not want to take the time to hike or take a tour bus up. Travel was a bit slow but not as bad as we feared.
We watched the buses for a while and then moved on, would have been fun to do but very pricey.

nice view of the glacier

We had identified the Lake Louise Campground in Banff National Park as the best option if available. We had also been told that it is often possible to get a site without a reservation if you arrive early in the afternoon. About 2 o'clock we pulled into a line of RV's waiting to get in. Another camper came by and said they had only 5 unreserved sites left and there were more than 5 RV's ahead of us, so it all depended on how many of the ones ahead of us had reservations. It turns out we got lucky. We got the last unreserved electrical site. We would not have stayed on one without electricity as they have severe restrictions on generator use. It is a nice campground. We were very happy with the size of the sites and the wide roads for easy turns. We are right near the rapidly moving river with views of the mountains peaking through the clouds.

Unfortunately the weather became worse as the day wore on with intermittent periods of rain. After parking we drove to Banff as we had planned. But the rain was picking up which got in the way of sight seeing. When we reached the town of Banff it was raining so hard that it made no sense to get out and walk around. We thought that we would stop somewhere for a snack, but couldn't find a place with close parking to avoid the downpour so we headed back. We were able to return on a different road and see a bit more of the park. It is a disappointment as we plan to move on tommorrow (the site we are on was only available for one night), but it also reminded us of how lucky we have been with weather on this trip.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To Mile 0 and Beyond

Yesterday we drove the rest of the way to Dawson Creek and stayed the night at the Mile 0 RV Park. We didn't care much for the park. We didn't like the poor wifi, the unfriendly staff, and the fact that they told us that the only sites unreserved were the 50 amp. full service pull throughs (the most expensive sites in the park) when by the end of the day it was very clear that was not true.

We shopped a little and looked around Dawson Creek a little. We stopped by the Alaska Mile 0 post downtown.

We had decided to divert into Alberta to go through Banff and Jaster National Parks. This morning we drove to Cache Creek, Alberta. This was an easy drive, less than 200 miles, through the prarie county then south into the mountains again. We stopped for fuel at Fas Gas just past the Alberta border and were happy that it was nearly a dollar less than our last diesel purchase in the Yukon.
what a long winding road, bad weather coming in.

Just so beautiful to look at even in the rain.

We stopped at the Cache Creek Municipal Campground and are very pleased. It is a friendly, well managed campground with large wooded sites and easy to maneuver. We were also happy that the wifi here though a bit slow works consistently as we had been essentially off line for 3 days. It would be a nice spot to stay and relax for a few days but we will be moving on tomorrow.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Almost to Mile Zero

Tonight we are at the mile 80 rest area on the Alaska Highway. The highway was curvy with a number of steep grades some of which we had to climb in first gear. But we got an early start and might have made it to Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek but we had more construction stops than we have seen before. We followed pilot cars 5 or 6 times, some after long waits. It makes for slow traveling and a long day.

We drove through the Rocky Mountain section of the highway. We had many great views of the mountains and saw more variety of wildlife than we had seen on any day except when we took the tour bus at Denali.

The wildlife that we saw included buffalo, elk, caribou, and stone sheep.
These stone sheep were really cool, they walked in front of the bus as we pulled over, then they ran down the side of the road, almost disappearing in all the rocks.
these two were on the other side of the road and the one seem to be saying talk to the butt!!
this is a lone caribou

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hot Springs Tonight

We had an easy drive today from Watson Lake to Laird Hot Springs Provincial Park. We had heard a lot about the hot springs here as being a don't miss along the Alaska Highway. We got here about noon and it seemed too soon to stay but we weren't sure we would feel like driving after a good soak in the hot springs, so we took a spot for the night. It was $19 for a no hookup spot for the night which seems high, but it includes free use of the hot spa which is ordinarily $5/person, so in a sense we are only paying $9 for the campsite. In any case, the campsites are large and wooded, a pleasant setting, and easy to maneuver in our bus. We enjoyed the hot springs in the afternoon so much we returned again in the evening.

Looks like Dennis needs to get back in the sun and improve his tan.

The drive over was easy. The highlight was a close look at this buffalo walking along the road.

this is a really big guy.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Watson Lake

Today we drove from Whitehorse to Watson Lake most of which involved the only portion of the Alaska highway that we had already driven. We hit an area of thick smoke around Teslin but it cleared up to the point that there is no smoke in Watson Lake. We are parked at the Downtown RV Park in Watson Lake which seems to be a good choice for an overnight stop. We are next to the nice First Wye Lake City Park.

first wye lake city park

We made a couple of stops at the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Center and the George Johnston Museum. The George Johnston Museum had the best coffee that we have had for a while. We drove the Old Alaska Highway for a mile or 2 at Teslin then got back on and went over this bridge which is the longest one on the Alaska Highway.
The longest bridge in the Yukon

side view of the bridge, there is a lot of smoke, visibility was very poor.

We had really good coffee here and the young girl who worked there was very informative about the area

One of several totem poles

More totem poles

After getting parked at the RV park we looked around Watson Lake a little and went to the Northern Lights Center where we saw a video and light display focused on the aurora borealis and a somewhat disconnected but interesting video on astronaut training.

We went to the only fast food place in town and were pleased to see that they had pizza listed on the menu as we have not had one for a while. As soon as we mentioned pizza the proprietor/cook said "no pizza." We said "but it's on the menu". She said that she was too busy and essentially threated that she would burn it if she made it. So we decided to order something else from their limited menu (since its the only place in town).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Whitehorse, Yukon

Fortunately the smoke eased up by the time we got to Whitehorse making is easier to enjoy our visit. We are staying at Pioneer RV Park near Whitehorse. This is a nice park with large full hookup sites and good wifi and cable tv included in the price. They also have amenities like discount fuel, car wash and pet wash, all of which we have had occasion to use. They even have an oil change facility and mechanic at the park. Dennis was happy about this as we are due for an oil change, grease and general servicing which he was going to himself at his parents house when we get back to Washington. He talked with the shop where they are quite familiar with MCI buses as the park owner also has a tour bus service. And their prices were good so we had them do the needed maintenance and also do an inspections for any other potential problems. The bad news is that they did identify a couple of items that will need attention but not urgently, so we will get them taken care of later.

We visited the Copperbelt Railway and Mining Museum including a train ride. We visited some of the interesting parks and saw the world's largest fish ladder.

this is some old copper mining equipment used to work the mine below.

We also stopped by the see the SS KLONDIKE
and also visited the old log church in downtown Whitehorse:

Dennis spent a couple of fascinating hours going through the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center today. We could easily have spent more time in Whitehorse but we need to move on tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back to Yukon

We left Fairbanks yesterday after refueling and started the long drive back to the lower 48. We wanted to get to Tok before the Post Office closed as we had mail including a replacement GPS waiting for us there. We were in smoky conditions until shortly before we reached Delta Junction. We had hoped that we might see some buffalo in that area but apparently the prime viewing area was not on our route. We did stop at the Delta Information Center and saw the end of the Alaska Highway signposts. Now we just have to get to the beginning as we drove only a couple short sections of the Alaska Highway on the way up.

We arrived at Tok in mid afternoon to find that our mail including the new GPS unit was in fact there. We decided to go on.

We entered Canada at BeaverCreek without difficulty and only a short wait for 5 or 6 vehicles ahead of us. Around that time we started to see smoke again. We drove on looking for a place to stop and nothing met our needs. We were surprised to find that most businesses along this route seemed to have been closed. We were looking for a good pullout along the road to stop for the night but found nothing suitable. We ended up stopping at the Lake Creek Yukon Government Campground. It was a nice quiet campground in the woods along the creek. We did not notice the smoke when we were stopped but the mosquitoes were everywhere.

We continued on this morning having decided that we would probably stop at Haines Junction. We had reluctantly decided not to make the 300 mile trip down to Haines and back even though we understand that it is a nice drive and an interesting town. The smoke was getting worse and we had decided that we would prefer to keep going than to stop in so much smoke. We did stop at the visitor center in Haines Junction and talked to a couple of people who told us that the smoke was worse going on to Whitehorse so that didn't make sense. So we turned about and drove about a half mile back to the Klaune RV Kampground in Haines Junction. This afternoon the smoke had eased a little and we looked around Haines Junction and drove about 30 miles down the highway toward Haines and stopped at Kathleen Lake in Klaune National Park and also walked part of the Rock Glacier Trail.

This is a statue that is located at the intersection of the Alaska hwy and Haines junction.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Transfer station

This morning we prepared to leave Fairbanks, Dennis was going to fuel up the bus and I was to meet him at the gas station after I took the trash to the transfer station.

Let me explain the TRANSFER STATION, most places would call this a landfill, but not here. This is one of the most happening places around these parts.

I think that a lot of Fairbanks homes have been furnished from here. The only thing I can say it that you must see it to believe it.

This place is dumpster diving heaven.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Chena Hot Springs

Today we drove to Chena Hot Springs. Dennis' Aunt Pat went with us. Chena Hot Springs is a resort about 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. The ride was scenic but a bit slow because of some areas of construction.

A major attraction of Chena Hot Springs is the Aurora Ice Museum. This is a unique frozen building with everything inside made of ice. There is a Polar Bear, Igloo, Bar area, and a duplicate of a prize winning ice statue of jousters. There are 2 bedrooms that can be rented for the night but apparently no one has yet made it through the night on the beds of ice. You can order a cocktail at the bar in a glass of ice. We passed as the drinks were expensive and hold the ice glass and drinking in the freezing museum did not seem appealing.

This is the area where the ice is made for the ice building.

Beautiful ice pieces here

dennis crawling out of the igloo.

love these colors were just beautiful
how would you like to park your bare butt on this ice toliet.

We really love this polar bear bed, but dont think we could spend the nite sleeping on it.

We also went on a tour of the operation of the geothermal aspects of the facility. All buildings are heated directly with the hot springs water. In addition in recent years the facility has developed the capacity to generate it own electricity by turning turbine generators with the hot water. This was apparently a challange because the water is only 165 degrees which is not as hot as that of some other similar facilities. In addition, they have a greenhouse which is also heated and powered by the hot springs.
These were really huge hanging tomatoes.

This large planter caught our eyes, very well done.

We also visited a farmers market and flea market near the university and had a great dinner at the Chena Pump House in Fairbanks

this is a dead tree that has been carved out. the tree in sitting on the dinning deck at the pump house.

more of ther carved tree

these veggies were outside the front of the pump house.

You can see how large the cabbage is by looking at the take out box.

After dinner we went over to the large animal research farm to check out the must ox

What a way to end a great day.