Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 9: From Hope, BC to 100 Mile House, BC

On August 16, 2007, Day 9 of the road trip to Alaska, we headed north from Hope, BC on Trans Canada Highway 1, toward Cache Creek. The scenery was magnificent, as the road followed the Fraser River Canyon.

The Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways Crossing the Fraser River

Thompson River Canyon, British Columbia

Train traveling beside the Thompson River, British Columbia

After reaching Cache Creek, we decided to go awhile longer, following Highway 97. By the time we reached 100 Mile House, a city of about two thousand, we were ready to call it a day. Doug suggested that we get a room in a Super 8 for the night.

After we checked into the hotel and were on our way to a restaurant for supper, we saw our chatty neighbors from the RV Park in Hope, BC...the ones that like Nascar but not Jeff Gordon. Their RV had broken down, and they were sitting beside it in front of a Ford dealership. Fortunately, they were within striking distance of their destination and were waiting for a family member to come and pick them up.

It had been a hot day, and the air conditioning was out of order in the restaurant where we went for supper. That wasn't fun.

Later, we went to a local laundromat, making use of those loonies and toonies and that two dollar cup of detergent, sold to us on our first night in Canada by the price-gouging campground manager at the Riviera Campground in Grand Forks, BC. When we came out of the laundromat, the temperature had dropped considerably. Doug actually thought it was cool enough for a jacket. I was just grateful for the absence of the heat.

Day 8: Celebrating Our 20th Anniversary in An RV

Our 8th day on the road to Alaska in 2007, was also our 20th wedding anniversary! The trip was Doug's gift to me, but I wanted to have some small gift to give him in recognition of the occasion. So I had made a photo book for him, with pictures from our life together.

For the cover of the photo book, I used a professionally done photograph that we had made in December of 1986, while we were dating.

This is one page of the book, with a couple of pictures taken during our Hawaiian honeymoon in 1987.

I gave him a card and the photo book that morning. He was really touched by the photo book. I don't think I could have given him anything that would have meant more to him.

We broke camp (Doesn't that sound as if we'd been doing this camping thing all our lives?) and got on our way that morning, deciding to take Canada Highway 3 to Hope, BC. It was a beautiful drive all the way. At first, Doug was a little tense and uncomfortable with not being on U.S. soil and not knowing whether we were going to get stuck out in the wilderness somewhere. Also, we had some pretty steep hills and downgrades, and we were learning that Harvey just didn't perform well on those hills.

Then we hit the very busy, very touristy town of Osoyoos. That just about finished Doug off. But we stopped at a McDonald's; and, while Doug went in and got coffee for him and iced tea for me, I fixed sandwiches for our lunch in the RV. He perked up after that and seemed to really enjoy the trip.

Overlooking Osoyoos, BC

Checking maps at McDonald's in Osoyoos

You can see our tripod lying on the floor in the above picture. It's how we took pictures of ourselves along the way. And can you see that console between the two captain's chairs? We found that in an auto supply store for fifteen dollars. It had been languishing on a shelf in their back room, apparently for years, judging by the dust on the box. They seemed glad to sell it for any price, and we were thrilled to get it for fifteen dollars.

Canada Highway 3 - Keremeos to Princeton

Beaver Pond at Manning Provincial Park, East of Hope, BC

We pulled into Hope, BC about 5:00 p.m. and drove to the Wild Rose RV Park to reserve a space for the night. After registering, we drove back into Hope and had our anniversary dinner at the Home Restaurant.

Then we returned to the RV park, got Harvey all hooked up, and visited with our chatty neighbors, who were from Vancouver Island and were huge Nascar fans, but not huge Jeff Gordon fans. After visiting with them for awhile, we took a short walk through the RV park before settling down to do some reading before bedtime.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Days 6-7: Some Good, Some Bad, Some Ugly

Having spent Day 5 of our 2007 Alaska trip stranded at the Old West RV Park in Reed Point, Montana, we were eager to get back on the road on for our 6th day of travel. We left our campground at Reed Point that morning, August 13, and drove to Belgrade, Montana, just west of Bozeman, to pick up our repaired tire at Best Rate Towing. We had them check the valve stems on all the other tires, and they said they all looked okay.

We think we drove through some pretty scenery as we continued our westward journey that day, but we couldn't be sure since the smoke from wildfires obscured our vision until we were well past Missoula.

We camped that night in a beautiful campground...Campground St. St. Regis, Montana. The sites were very nice, with lots of trees; and the bath house was clean and nice. We preferred to use our own shower, though, so took a site with full hookups. St. Regis was our most expensive campground so far ($30.69), and that was after our AAA discount.

Campground St. Regis in St. Regis, Montana

The restrooms at Campground St. Regis were kept locked, and campers were provided with the push-button code required to open them. On the morning of August 14, Day 7 of our trip, the combination to open the men's restroom wouldn't work, and no one was in the office to provide assistance. A note on the door said someone would be there at 8:30 a.m. The office lady finally showed up about 8:50 a.m. She was greeted by a lot of desperate men.

Meanwhile, I went to the women's restroom and found it empty, so I sent Doug in there while I stood guard. He could have used Harvey's bathroom, but he preferred to save that for emergencies. This nearly was one.

With all that, we got a later start than we had intended. The man in the next site discouraged us from going through Seattle, saying that the traffic around Seattle was horrendous. So we got the maps out and decided to take I-90 to Spokane, then US 395 into Canada. We found a campground in the Passport America directory, just south of the Canadian border. I called there, before we hit the road that morning, and left a message, requesting a campsite for that night.

We'd been hearing a noise that seemed to be coming from the right front tire and decided we'd better get it checked out before we got into Canada. We found a Les Schwab tire center, and they pulled the wheel off and checked the brakes, but found nothing wrong. They didn't charge us anything at all for doing that.

We also stopped at a Walmart for a few things.

We tried again to make phone contact with Rockcut Campground, without success; so we checked out another campground in Kettle Falls, Washington. It looked kind of trashy, so we pushed on 25 more miles to Rockcut. Our hearts sank when we found it closed and apparently abandoned.

By then, we were almost at the Canadian border, so we went on across to find a campground in British Columbia. We wound up at Riviera Campground in Grand Forks, BC. It was on a narrow strip of land between Canada Highway 3 and the Kettle River, and it was cramped, expensive, and crowded. The campsites were so small that the awning of the camper next to us was almost touching Harvey's roof.

We had thought we might do some laundry. Happy to engage in a little additional price gouging, the campground owner sold us a cup of detergent for two dollars. He also sold us some Canadian Loonies (one-dollar coins) and Toonies (two-dollar coins) for use in the washers and dryers.

Poor Doug was hot and tired and frustrated, and he still had to level Harvey and do the hookups. I heated supper in the microwave and had it ready when he came in. But I think he was wishing he'd never met Harvey.

We decided to let the laundry go and do it some other time. But we saved the Loonies and Toonies and that two-dollar cup of detergent.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 5: An Unplanned Delay at the Old West RV Park in Reed Point, Montana

We awoke on Sunday, August 12, Day 5 of our 2007 Alaska trip, to find that Harvey's outside tire on the right rear was totally without air. We had a spare with us, stored on Harvey's roof; but we just didn't feel confident enough in our ability to deal with the situation ourselves, especially since we didn't know what had caused the flat in the first place. Besides, isn't that why we have Triple A and Good Sam's roadside service?

Our campground was located in Reed Point, Montana, a tiny little town with no tire service and no pay phone and no reliable cell phone service. We tried several times to reach Good Sam's or AAA on our TracFone, but we always lost service before we could speak to anyone. A man in the neighboring RV let us use his cell phone, saying that he had free weekend minutes and that we might have better luck with his Verizon service. Using his phone, we were able to get through to Good Sam's and put in our request for help, but we weren't able to get their return call on our TracFone.

On top of that, another RV pulled in about one o'clock that afternoon, having a reservation for our spot. Fortunately the RV park had an extra spot in front of the office, where we could have electricity. So we paid for another night, parked Harvey in front of the office, and just spent the afternoon reading.

Sometime during the afternoon, we borrowed a cordless phone from an employee of the RV park to try to reach Good Sam's again and find out what was happening. After holding for 20 minutes, I reached someone who said he would transfer me to the person who was handling our request, and he put me on hold again! After holding for another 20 minutes, I was finally connected to a person; but the phone cut out before we could get anywhere. I didn't know whether the battery had died or what had happened.

Late in the afternoon, the man who had first loaned us his Verizon cell phone came over and asked how we were doing. When we told him, he insisted that we use his phone again to call Good Sam's. We again had the 20-minute holding time before speaking to anyone. This time I told the person who answered what we had already been through that day and begged him not to put me on hold again. While I was waiting, they located someone from 90 miles west of Reed Point who was willing to come to our aid.

During the afternoon and evening, as we waited for help to arrive, we were watching a huge smoke cloud which eventually covered the area and began dropping ash on us. It was from a wildfire near Livingston, Montana. The owners of the RV park said they didn't have to worry this year because everything burnable in the area had been burned in a wildfire last year. Sure enough, you could look across the highway and see that all the trees, right down to the edge of the highway, were blackened from a previous fire.

Our help arrived about eight o'clock that night, in the form of a young guy and his wife or girlfriend. He determined that the problem with the tire was a cracked valve stem, and he didn't have a suitable replacement with him. He went up on top of Harvey to get the spare down and put that on in place of the flat tire. Then he took the tire with the bad valve stem with him to his shop near Bozeman, where we would stop to pick it up when we came through there the next day.

This delay was unplanned and was an inconvenience, to be sure. But there were blessings, too. For one, it gave us a day off from driving, which was good for us but which we wouldn't have done voluntarily. Also, we were in a lovely and peaceful setting, with electricity to run Harvey's air conditioner, rather than out on the highway somewhere. Yes, ash was falling from the sky; but the smoke cloud had it's own beauty, too. And we were protected by a natural fire break created by last year's fire.

But maybe the best blessing was that we experienced the kindness and camaraderie of other campers. All along our way, we found our fellow campers to be friendly and willing to help in any difficult situation.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Days 2-4: A Visit to Pompey's Pillar (and more)

On August 9, the second day of our road trip to Alaska in 2007, it became uncomfortably apparent that something was indeed wrong with Harvey's air conditioner. We stopped at Camping World in Rogers, Minnesota to see if they could charge it for us.

They sent us to the local Chevy garage who, in turn, sent us to a little Sinclair gas station with two service bays. They charged the air conditioner for us; and, when we mentioned the trouble we were having with getting the radio adjusted properly, the owner/manager called a young man out to take a look at it. That young guy fixed the settings on our radio, without even a glance at the manual that I had been studying since we left home the day before. And the radio sounded MUCH better when he was finished. And, even more importantly, the air conditioner was working!

That night, we stayed in Melrose, Minnesota, where we found a little camping area in a community park on the Sauk River. There were a dozen sites, with water and electric hookups and a dump station. There was a concert going on at the park at the time, and the music was a pleasant accompaniment to our peaceful campsite beside the river.

A sign said that the camping fee was $12 and that a police officer would be around to collect. If we missed the officer, we were to go to the City Center to pay. Well, no police officer showed up to collect our camping fee, so we set out to find the Melrose City Center the next day. The streets were confusing, and it took us awhile to find the right place; but we finally did, paid our bill, and were on our way for our third day of travel.

Driving across North Dakota

That night's camp was at Camp on the Heart, in Dickinson, North Dakota, where a storm blew through and rocked Harvey a bit, but it didn't last long and caused no serious problems.

On Day 4, we stopped at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center and overlook, part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, near the North Dakota/Montana state line, on Interstate 94.

Painted Canyon at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We didn't spend a lot of time there...just enough to look around and get some photos. But we knew it was a place we wanted to return to and investigate more thoroughly, which we did in 2010.

Later, we stopped again to drive a short distance off I-94 on Road 253, a scenic byway, near Terry, Montana. We came to a road sign that said "Scenic View" and decided to walk up the path because it looked too steep and too rough for Harvey. There was some beautiful "badlands" type of scenery there, and a small painted canyon.

Scenic View Near Terry, Montana

A look back at Harvey, where he waited for us as we walked up the path to the scenic view.

It was a nice break for both of us, but especially for Doug, who was doing all the driving. He felt that Harvey was too hard to handle for me to drive it. I didn't argue, since I enjoy riding and watching the scenery.

Just east of Billings, Montana, we stopped to see Pompey's Pillar, on which William Clark had inscribed his name in 1806. Part of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition, Clark was exploring the Yellowstone River, on his way back to civilization after spending the winter with the expedition on the Pacific coast, when this unique rock formation caught his eye.

Captain Clark named the Pillar "Pompey's Tower," in honor of Sacagawea's son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, whom he had nicknamed "Pomp." Nicholas Biddle, first editor of Lewis and Clark's journals, changed the name to "Pompey's Pillar."

Sacagawea was the only female member of the expedition, serving as an interpreter among the Indians. Her son was born in February, 1805, at the expedition's winter camp on their westward journey.

William Clark's inscription on Pompey's Pillar is the only remaining physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

By the time we left Pompey's Pillar, it was getting on towards supper time. We decided to drive in to Billings, eat supper at a restaurant, and get a motel room for the night. We did find a place to eat, but no motel rooms were available because the Montana State Fair had opened that day in Billings.

We drove on to Reed Point, Montana, about an hour away, where the Lord blessed us with a campsite at the Old West RV Park. The owner told us that this was the first night all summer that they hadn't been full.

It was after 10 PM local time when we pulled in, and it didn't take us long to hook up and get ready for bed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 1: Our Introduction to Camping

After purchasing Harvey, the RV, on Memorial Day weekend back in 2007, and then spending the next several weeks cleaning, polishing, preparing, and repairing it for our trip to Alaska, we were at last ready to begin our trip.

It was August 8, 2007, when we set out. Doug was nervous about the whole camping thing. I was excited about the adventure. It was a beautiful day, but very hot. The air conditioner in Harvey didn't seem to be cooling as well as it should have, but it was still more comfortable inside the RV than outside.

We were having problems with the newly installed radio, too. I was reading the manual and trying to tweak it as we drove, but we just couldn't get good sound out of it.

As evening approached, we used our cell phone and our Passport America campground directory to call ahead and reserve a campsite at the Fox Hill RV Park and Campground near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

We were pretty nervous on this first real camping experience. We'd slept in Harvey a couple of times in our driveway at home; and we had gone to a real campground once, about 25 miles from home, just to practice the hookups and work out any kinks.

On this first night of our Alaska trip, we chose a site with water and electric hookups. But our nervousness about the whole experience wasn't helped any by the discovery that our electric cable wasn't long enough to reach from Harvey to the source of electricity. Doug had to go to the office and explain our problem, and the the campground kindly loaned us an extension to reach the electric hookup.

Then we found that our water hose wouldn't reach the water hookup, either. Fortunately, on the advice of some camping friends, we had brought a six-gallon container for water. Doug used that to fill our "potable" water tank.

For those who aren't familiar with that term, "potable" means "drinkable." So why don't they just use the word "drinkable?" To first-time campers like us, "potable" sounds like something related to "potty."

After Doug filled our potable water tank, we saw water running out of it. Our first reaction was more frustration over what we perceived as a leak. After awhile, though, the "leak" stopped; and we realized that we had just overfilled the tank. What we at first thought was a leak was just the excess water draining from the overflow.

We used the campground showers on that first night out and didn't find that much to our liking. Bedtime preparations were a little rough on that first night, too. But we got through it and found that we were gaining some camping confidence through the experience.

Our first night of camping on our way to Alaska, 2007 

Those blocks under the tires are leveling blocks. Leveling Harvey every night became the bane of Doug's existence for the weeks of our vacation. We had been advised of the importance of leveling, with warnings that the refrigerator could cease to work properly if we didn't level the RV when we camped. Doug tends to be a perfectionist, and he wanted that bubble on the level to be smack in the middle. It was always a challenge, no matter how level the camping site looked when we arrived.

The Alaska trip included many challenges, but there were some great experiences, too. More to come.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Baseball Birthday

My great-nephew, Carson, will celebrate his 10th birthday on Monday. His parents gave him a wonderful birthday party on Friday night in the form of a birthday package at a minor league baseball park. Included in the package was a birthday cake and the opportunity to throw out a "first" pitch. I put that "first" in quotation marks because there were several children celebrating birthdays who each got to throw out the "first" pitch.

Above is Carson with his dad, Dave.

The children (and a few adults) were lined up in order of their ages, youngest first. Here, they're receiving some last-minute instructions from a guy in a hula skirt.

Then they were introduced by name to throw their pitch. After everyone had thrown, each one was given a baseball to keep. Following is a video clip of Carson's pitch.

Somewhere around the third or fourth inning, the birthday celebrant and his guests could go to a small picnic area to enjoy the birthday cake.

Of course, the baseball game itself was part of the fun evening, too. And the home team won!

Here, the opposing pitcher manages to catch one of the home team guys trying to steal second base.

There was always something going on between innings.

A beautiful golden retriever entertained the crowd with a variety of activities including retrieving stray balls, dropped bats, and an occasional frisbee. In the above picture, the dog is delivering a bottle of water to an umpire.

Here, the grounds crew drop their equipment and break into a dance.

Of course, our fellow spectators provided a degree of entertainment, too.

This is a photo of the shirt of a guy who was sitting in front of me.

After the game, a fireworks display provided a perfect ending to the day.

Carson's mom reports that, as Carson was getting ready for bed Friday night, he declared that it had been "the best day of my life."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rose of Sharon Blossoms and A Dragonfly

This photo of a white Rose of Sharon blossom was actually shot a year ago.

This pink one, though, was taken yesterday.

We had just had a rain shower, and some of the droplets are clinging to the blooms.

This dragonfly posed on our azalea bush long enough for me to shoot several photos of him.

There's almost a rainbow effect created by the light on his translucent wings.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Ultimate Dog Tease

Once in awhile, I come across a YouTube video that just tickles my funny bone; and I just have to share it here. This is one of those times. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wolf Park

When Doug and I took our little pre-anniversary trip last week, we included a visit to Wolf Park, near Battle Ground, Indiana. It's something we've talked about doing for several years now but just had never gotten around to it.

We went in the afternoon, for a walking tour of the park. I wasn't able to get the quality of photos that I had hoped because a chain link fence separated the humans from the wolves. Also, unfortunately, the wolves we saw on that walk were all napping in the mid-day heat.

The wolf in the above photo is Eclipse. Eclipse doesn't "play well with others," and lives alone in her own pen.

The park's two coyotes were alert and lively, though.

This is Twister, the male coyote.

The park also has two foxes, but they proved too elusive for me and my camera.

We went back in the evening for Howl Night. The evening started at the fox pen, with a brief presentation about foxes. Then we moved to the bleachers outside the seven acres where the main wolf pack lives. Park staffers spent some time educating us about the wolves. No wolves were in sight initially, but then we spotted a couple of them on the other side of the three-acre lake in their compound. They appeared to be making their way toward us. Soon, all five wolves in the main pack had gathered in front of us.

The park's photographer and one of the staffers went inside the compound with the wolves, and it was surprising to see how well the wolves received them. The staffers explained that, while the wolves are "socialized," they are not "domesticated." The socializing enables the staffers to interact with them and to provide medical care when needed, without drugging the animals or causing them undue stress. But the wolves remain wild and interact with each other in the pack much as their counterparts who live in the wild.

The park's photographer is on the right in the above picture. The other gentleman is a park staffer.

The park feeds the wolves with roadkill deer for the most part. This wolf retrieved part of a carcass and brought it back to tease the other wolves. He would drop it right in front of one of the others, as if he was challenging them to try to take it from him.

Sometimes, one or more of the wolves would pose on top of this large log.

Following is a short video clip of the howling. The wolves in the main pack didn't really get into the howling, but I think I could hear some wolves from another area of the park. And the coyotes were getting pretty worked up.

You'll hear the humans begin the howling, trying to get the wolves to join in. But, if you listen closely, you'll hear some wolves, in addition to the coyotes.

And now for a few bonus photos:

We noticed this cross in the sky as we were sitting on the bleachers, waiting for Howl Night to begin.

The sunset as we were leaving Wolf Park.

I just liked the vintage look of this McDonald's restaurant. It was very up to date on the inside. though. And the food was good, too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

24 Years Ago Today...

Today is Doug's and my 24th wedding anniversary. We were 42 and 44 when we married; and I remember thinking to myself, "Well, at least, if we're making a mistake, we won't have to live with it as long as some people."

I don't think either of us thought we'd live long enough to say we'd been married 24 years. That would make us 66 and 68, and that seemed awfully old. Besides, we felt that there was a good possibility that the Lord would come back before that much time went by.

But here we are, 24 years later, remembering our special day and celebrating all over again.

My lovely niece, Beckie, was in charge of the guest book.

Beckie's handsome brother, Dave, walked my Aunt Bea, down the aisle. Aunt Bea filled in for my deceased mother. Would you believe that she was 77 when this photo was taken? And that's her natural hair color.

I was escorted down the aisle by a dear friend, a widower who was also an associate pastor at our church, who was standing in for my deceased father.

The wedding party.

Pledging our love and faithfulness before God and our witnesses.

Officially man and wife.

Here we are with Doyle and Janet, the couple who introduced us.

Janet made this quilt for us, then arranged for wedding guests to sign the back of it, making it an extra special gift.

Cutting the cake.

And they lived happily ever after.

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