February 22, 2015

North [Back] to Alaska

North to Alaska, isn't that a movie?

We stow all belongings for the road, hitch up our trailer, and pull out. Headed home.
Ready to depart.
We didn't go very far the first night, just to Birch Bay campground at Blaine Washington. Blaine is just minutes from the Canadian border.

Nice sunset
This is a very nice campground, nice sites, well spread apart, a clean, heated restroom-shower house, a well maintained beach with picnic sites and separate tent areas. Some of the  larger camper areas even had plug-ins for electricity.

We had 1000 miles to get to Prince Rupert for our Friday, Feb 27th reservation on the Alaska Ferry, Taku. The weather cooperated with us most of the way. I'm glad that we allotted some extra time to get there though. The roads were mostly clean and dry, hardly any ice or snow, but some of them weren't in the best shape. Even paved roads get ruts in them, and pulling the loaded trailer in some areas took all of Bill's concentration.  Since it is only the end of February, there aren't any RV parks, or campgrounds, or in some communities, no motels, or restaurants, or fuel stations open.  It got to be a challenge finding a place to stop for the night.  There are usually paved, or gravel pullouts, but sometimes these weren't plowed yet either. The ones that were plowed have no camping signs, but we did stay anyway. Figured that we had an excuse since nothing else was open, and we are a self contained unit, so no worries about leaving any trace.  Some pullouts had outhouses, and garbage containers, but most didn't. Thanks to the essential Milepost guide, we could read ahead and know how many pullouts were coming up. Anyone who plans on driving to Alaska or in Alaska, and aren't familiar with the area, should have one of these handy guides.
This gravel pullout is plowed, and had a beautiful view.

Cold, but beautiful, I'm grateful for the camper furnace.
We averaged 250-350 miles a day, which may not seem like much, but when you account for the fully loaded (almost to the limit) trailer, and the twisty-turny, uphill-downhill mountain summits, the less than ideal road surfaces, AND the loaded semi trucks, who apparently don't have to observe any speed limits, we were worn out at the end of the day. (And by we....I mean Bill, as he does all of the driving, I was just hanging on, and checking the Milepost for what's next.) 

We reach Prince Rupert early afternoon on Thursday. YAY, we made it in time, with plenty to spare. The road ends at the ferry dock, and is 5 lanes wide. Lanes 1-4 have lines drawn on them for vehicles to line up in preparation for loading onto the ferry. Line 5 leads to the BC Ferry system.  

Map from the Milepost
Again, you aren't supposed to camp overnight there, after all, it is right in the road, but a ferry employee stopped by, and advised us that it was no big deal, and to go ahead park there until 5:00am, which is Alaska Ferry check-in time for our 7:00am departure. We got our tickets, our vehicle sticker, and parked the Wakefield Wagontrain for the night.  Later that afternoon, a nice pickup truck parked in the lane next to us, and we met a young man who was from Ketchikan. He wanted to drive around and sight-see the town, and invited us along. After our excursion, we invited him back to the camper for dinner and conversation. William and his wife Silva were originally from Iran, and they had moved to Holland first, then southern California, and now with their two children were living in Ketchikan. William had owned a fish charter business there, but his main line of work is construction. He had been working in Colorado, and was headed home. We had fun sharing some of his culture, and food, while we shared our dinner with him. 

Five in the morning came very quickly, as we brewed our morning coffee, and pulled out our wheel chocks to get in line for US Customs at the entrance to loading onto the ferry.  We cleared, and got our wagontrain into line for our position in the ferry.
Parked and ready for travel onboard the Alaska Ferry Taku.
Once the vehicle is in place, we gathered up what we needed for the day, and headed up to the forward lounge to claim our window seats.
The sun isn't quite up as we cast off our lines and motor out.
I realize that between Prince Rupert and Ketchikan, we have another Dixon Entrance crossing to navigate. (Well at least the Captain does, I'm riding along.) It looks like it may be another calm one. Two in a row, the purser said that he could get a collection going, and I could ride along on all of his trips.  He had seen some fairly nasty weather crossing from the opening to the Pacific Ocean.

video

We arrive Ketchikan in the early afternoon, and find out that we have a six hour lay over that we didn't know about.  
Arriving Ketchikan, next to us, the ship Columbia is in dry dock for repairs.
William offers to take us to his home for food, and we gratefully accept.  Their home is WAAAY up on the hill with a gorgeous view, and we meet his beautiful wife Silva.






Departing Ketchikan, we arrive Wrangell at 12:45am, and drive off of the ferry in the dark. Next to the harbor where Denali Rose floats in her slip, is the parking area for vehicles and trailers, and the ramp to load small boats into the water.  There is a sign that says "No overnight camping" (as usual), but we reason that it is 1:00am, we pay for a slip in the harbor, and we aren't going to "camp" for a long period of time.  In the morning, a local police truck scopes us out, but we think he sees the Ferry Sticker in the window, and figures out that we aren't trying to homestead there.

Overlooking Heritage Harbor
With about 1/2 of our belongings.......we're home.

February 12, 2015

February was a busy month....

After retrieving our vehicle from the clutches of the mud monster, we had clean-up. packing, and provisioning to do.  We spent some time getting the rest of the mold and mildew out of the camper, putting our clothes, bedroll, and a few food stuffs back in, and then we were ready to roll.

Our first stop was to Bellingham, where friends of Bill, the Tanners have their home and business. They had been buddies about 15 years ago, and refreshed their friendship at the Seattle Boat Show. Mark and Diana are the owner/operators of Tanner Manufacturing and Design, and they make mirror stainless tubing for all kinds and sizes of boats.  The tubing is used for railings, davits, solar panel mounts, radar arches, or any kind of use and design you and they can come up with.  It was a fun visit, to get to know new friends (for me), and see their lovely home, and work environment. Good food, good beverages, great hospitality, and friends, perfect.  We positioned the truck in their driveway for the night, slept in the camper, and said our goodbyes the next morning.  Then we headed for Oregon.

Our next destination was Portland to visit with one of Bill's staff (in a previous life), Aida, her husband Seth, and their two boys Emile, and Marc. Their home is beautiful, it is new construction, but built in the style of their older neighbors.
A warm Portland day.
The amount of food that was consumed in two days time was monumental! O M Gosh, Aida cooked us an authentic Kazakhstan dinner, (absolutely delicious), and then took us to Indian, and Mexican restaurants, and a German Deli. We loaded up on some German sausages, jerky, and mustard. Both Bill and I have to say, the jerky is the best we have ever had.

Aida still works for UAF from Portland so during the day, we went out to see some sights. We drove along the Willamette River for a couple of miles, they have a scenic path for walking and biking next to the river, but we couldn't find a place to park and access it. So we went to a park that is just over the hill behind the house, as we needed to stretch our legs and get some exercise.


Tall trees
The Mexican restaurant had some pretty strong margaritas, and I was a bit worse for wear the next day.....we went back for lunch, and after a bowl of homemade chicken soup (Mexican style), I was good to go.  Thanks to the de l'Isle family for a fun two day visit in Portland, we have many more restaurants to sample, with your recommendation, and accompaniment, so we will be back. :-)

We were off to Corvallis next.  One of our peer managers at the university (Pete) had taken a position with Oregon State recently and had moved there with his wife Cyndi.  They landed in a really nice home and had room for guests.  We wanted to stop at a grocery store before we showed up and EUREKA, there was a Trader Joe right nearby. We LOVE Trader Joes!  We got some great wine, beer and snacks for our stay.

We stocked up on other items as well, because we wanted to have easy meals, and treats for our road trip to Prince Rupert later in the month.

Downtown Corvallis is very quaint, with older architecture.  Doesn't this remind you of "Back to the Future"?
Misty evening
Pete drove us to the coast town Newport, about an hours time away, and we enjoyed a days outing.



Donna and Bill at the beach.

Pete and Cyndi at the beach.

We ate out at the Rogue's Brewery, good food, good beer.


Another great visit with good friends. We look forward to hosting you on Denali Rose in the near future.

Now it is back to Seattle to move the trailer out of the hopefully dry back yard.  Ralph, meanwhile, had used his engineering degree to take a shovel to the ruts, smooth them out, and put tarps over the whole area so that it could dry out.  Again, I'm sorry, and thanks for helping out.


The trailer is free!
We parked the trailer in the front yard on the pavement, and then headed to Vancouver for our Nexus interview.  The Nexus card gives us expedited border crossings at the US and Canada borders and also gives us TSA pre-check. We choose Vancouver because we could also get a retina scan at their office, which gives us expedited customs for air travel in Canada as well.  In our cruising life, we may be crossing into and out of Canadian waters, so when we call from the boat into Customs, they will have us in their database, and may elect to record our information, and then send us on.

While in Vancouver, we also got to go to the Feathercraft factory and drop off our two collapsible kayaks for a new retro-fit to current technology.  We got to see their new inflatable kayak, and we were kind of smitten. We had driven away, but almost returned to buy 2 of them.  Don't be surprised to see a post in the future that announces the addition of two more kayaks to our fleet.

Due to time constraints, we had to put off another visit to our friends on Gabriola Island, but we will be back....(is that a threat or a promise? hehe )

Back to Seattle again, for the last time, as we gather up all of the rest of our belongings and head north. It's time to let Rohwer South have their spare bedroom, their backyard, their front yard, and their life back. We can't express how much we have appreciated their help in this transition to the life that we have chosen. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you


February 10, 2015

More February meanderings

When we returned to Seattle, our plan was to drive the truck/camper out of the backyard, and head out to see friends in multiple locations.  Yay! Road trip! Our first attempt at getting the truck out didn't go so well.

 

Bill tried to drive out our truck, and it kept slipping on the water logged green grass and weeds.  He was trying not to slide into Ralph's truck, and felt like he needed to move it first.  That was also a no-go, as it did the same thing, and neither truck could get traction to move the way we wanted them to go.  Bill decided that the best course of action, was to call a local towing company, and winch both vehicles out.

 

As it turns out, the owner of this company lives just down the road, so the technician was motivated to do a good job, not that he wouldn't have, but just sayin'.  He winched out Ralph's truck first, since it was the easiest, and in the way of the big Ford.

This was the hole left behind by the silver truck.
Then they repositioned the tow truck and connected up to the Ford.
 


video

Here we go.... I sped up the movie so it wouldn't be too long, and I obviously did not stand still. (sorry)  He winched it up till all tires were on on more stable ground, and Bill drove it out.

Read to drive it out
And then what we left behind, I apologize to my brother and sister-in-law for the mess.


Add caption
We are out, thanks to MAC towing,  ready to go visit friends.  We left the trailer behind with hopes that the yard would dry out in our week absence, and if not made contingency plans with the tow truck to come back and help get the trailer out.


February 1, 2015

February Meanderings

        Following is a detailed version of what we outlined in our Planning: 1st half of 2015 post:

We attended a jazz concert our last evening in Seattle before we left for Maryland.  We were as close to the stage as I need to be! Great concert, lots of fun!
The Rippingtons
Early next morning it was off to Bowie, Maryland for our usual SuperBowl party at our friends Bill, and Maureen.  The east coast had severe weather predicted, but it was to the north of us, and we enjoyed 40/50 degrees.  We always have great food, conversation, and outings at the "Peterson B & B".

One of our great outings, was a trip to the Annapolis Naval Museum. Exhibits ranged from the 1700's to today, and it kept me, (the museum lover), and the two Bills occupied all afternoon.

A model of the signing of surrender from the Japanese

The sextant used on the Admiral Byrd"s 1938 expedition to the Antarctic.

Commodore Matthew Perry, among other accomplishments, credited with helping to establish the curriculum at the Naval Academy.
They had a whole floor of ship models that were made in the 1700s. The intricate details on these models was amazing!



Even the cabinets were extraordinary.


Hand-written flag book.




Then it was off to Pennsylvania to visit the previous owners of Denali Rose.  We were looking forward to our visit to catch up with Jack and Fred (Susan), and to see the pre-Civil War home that they bought and were restoring. They have incorporated the old cookhouse, and smokehouse, and made them the pantry and dining room, as well as highlighted the original hand-hewed hemlock logs the house was made with. It will be a spectacular home when they are finished.

The town of Greencastle has some very beautiful architecture.
Cool architecture doesn't include the water tower, although, to an Alaskan, it's very different to see.


This home is across the street from Jack and Fred, it has been converted into apartments. How cool to live there?
Jack and Fred have very quiet neighbors:


We had a very nice day catching up on house stories, and Denali Rose stories.  We look forward to our next east coast visit, and to seeing the progress.

Next stop was - back to Seattle to pick up the truck/camper and head to Oregon. We ended up with a small hitch in the plans.