Trip To Alaska – Prologue

Prologue

 The Last Frontier

 Gail and Paul Harren

 

In just a few short days we will be leaving for our planned vacation destination of Alaska.  We have been looking forward to this trip ever since we began talking about it one year ago.  Although the goal is reaching Alaska, we plan on stopping at any sites and communities along the way that tweak our interests.  Since we are now both retired, we are really “foot loose and fancy free” to take the time to see whatever we want and not be held to a schedule to be back home at any particular time.  Our expectation is to put four months into this travel and experience what this country and western Canada have to offer.

We are not unfamiliar with long trips since we did take the summer of 1984 to travel from Long Island to the Pacific coast and points in between.  This vacation was two months in length.  At that time, we also did it in an RV.  There were six of us and our dog and we all returned none the worse for wear.  Over the years that passed since then, we have often reminisced over the interesting experiences, enjoyments, and the fun that we all had.

We are planning to leave on Saturday, May 30, arriving in Alaska by mid-June, good Lord willing, and return sometime in September.  Daily entries will be made to this blog and include interesting pictures of the day.  Of course, we may not always have daily internet access so there may be times when there will be an absence of entries to then be followed with accumulated entries.

For now, on to the last frontier!

 

Final days of preparation.

Day 1, 5/30/15

 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weather:  partial cloudy, temperature 88

Our target date for the start of the Alaskan trip has been achieved.  We had planned on an early departure this morning but the hands of the clock moved faster than we did.  We pulled away from home at approximately 1:30 pm. and headed for the Garden State Parkway.  Having checked yesterday with the Turnpike Authority to be sure that RVs were authorized throughout the Parkway, we headed north from exit 98 and proceeded to I 280.  This eventually became I 80 and the route for the rest of today’s trip.

The drive through New Jersey was very pleasant.  Since today was the first time we were traveling with a loaded camper and few of the appliances had not been used before, the day was also the maiden trial voyage.  We became pleasantly aware with the operation of the vehicle both from the handling, and power of the engine.  Even though much of the Pennsylvania travel was through the mountains, our mileage was 13 to 14 mpg.

Shortly after crossing the Delaware Water Gap, the weather began to change with the arrival of dark ominous clouds.  It was not very long that the rain began and lasted with us for the entirety of the afternoon and evening.  The only stops made were once to fuel up with diesel and once to cook dinner.

Our day ended at 10:30 where we pulled into a rest area located at North Latitude 41.202,  West Longitude -79.944 and joined other RVs and an army of trucks.

For our grandchildren who have accepted the latitude/longitude challenge, we will reveal the actual location where we have now stopped at the beginning of tomorrow’s blog.  Happy hunting in finding the actual location of these coordinates.

G & P

Heading out!
Heading out!

 

 

Day 2, 5/31/15

 

Day #2, 5/31/15

Weather:  temperature 70, rain and windy all day

After having breakfast in the RV, we left the rest area in Harrisville, Pa. at 9:30 am.  Our plan was to drive through the day with only one planned stop and that would be the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.  However, by 1 pm we had to pull into a service area in Clyde, Ohio because of the rain that was coming down so heavily that visibility was dangerously low.  In addition, the wind gusts had increased.

We used this time to make lunch and add DEF to the emission system.  By 3 pm, we were back on the road continuing west on Rt. 80.  At 6:45 we reached ND.  We did have enough time to visit the Basilica and make a quick stop at the book store.  The campus has continued to be enlarged since our last visit for a football game about eight years ago.  We had a quick dinner in the RV and then left to continue our westward movement on Rt. 80.

Our final destination was at a Walmart store just northwest of Chicago, N43° 2’ 22”  W89°  22’ 50”, elevation 880 ft.  We did some shopping for additional food and then remained parked in their lot for the rest of the night.  Although this was a rough day for traveling, we did get to visit ND and put more distance behind us and closer to Alaska.

G & P

Gail in front of Sacred Heart Basilica at ND
Gail in front of Sacred Heart Basilica at ND
Golden Dome in background.
Golden Dome in background.

 

Day 3, 6/1/15

Day 3, 6/1/15

 

Weather:  Clear and sunny all day, temperature in the high 70s.

By local standards, here in Huntley, Illinois, elevation 880 ft., we rose early.  This was due to the time change when we crossed into the central time zone.  We left the Walmart parking lot at approximately 8 a.m. and again headed for Rt. 90.

Yesterday, we had become concerned when the computer read out on the dash board began showing a service code.  With only 2400 miles on the vehicle, we could not imagine what surprise now lay before us.  After numerous calls to the Sprinter manufacturer, we were able to discover that the vehicle needed an oil change, a totally unexpected surprise.  Arrangements were made with an approved dealership in Madison, Wisconsin to do the service at 1 p.m.  This worked out fine for us since they were located further west and along our route of travel.

Later in the day, we headed for Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin, N 43° 25’ 53”  W 89° 44’ 02” with an elevation of 984 ft.  We heard of this lovely place while talking with a young woman in Camping World, a shopping stop along our drive.  Devil’s Lake turned out to be a beautiful and well maintained family area.  We registered at the gate for a camp site for the evening.  This gave us a beautiful and relaxing end to day three.

G & P

Paul moving the RV onto the river ferry.
Paul moving the RV onto the river ferry.
Gail viewing the river scenery.
Gail viewing the river scenery.

 

 

Day 4, 6/2/15

Day 4, 6/2/15

Weather:  Partly cloudy all day, temperature in the 60s. 

As much as we enjoyed our short stay in Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo, Wisconsin, it was time to leave and continue our trip.  We rejoined Rt. 90 and continued through Wisconsin.  This is a beautiful state with flat farm lands in the east and hills in the western part of the state.  It was also noticeable that the amount of traffic was less now then when we were in the eastern states.

A few hours into the travel, we reached Minnesota.  As with Wisconsin, this state was primarily crop and cattle farms.  The beauty of the American heartland opened up before our eyes with every mile that went by.  The crops had not been planted that long ago and the corn was just rising as small plants awakening from sleep.  As we drove further west, the farm crops began to give way to wind farms.  As with many points on this part of the journey, we passed through mammoth size windmills as far as the eye could see on both the left and right.  It was a perfect spot to place these because we constantly had to battle the strong cross winds coming from the south.  The driving became laborious as the hours passed because of the constant winds that buffeted the RV.  Added to this was the additional wind impact as a semi passed.  None the less, the sheer beauty of these farm lands was worth what little annoyance that had to be endured from the winds.

During the afternoon, we decided to stop at Fairmont, Minnesota.  There was no particular reason for choosing this town except that we felt it was time to check one of the communities and also pick up some food supplies.  Fairmont is a beautiful community that boasts of having five lakes.  We met a woman in the supermarket who was interested to discover that we were passing through.  She recommended that while we were in town we should take time to drive to the nearest lake and see the beauty it offers.  We took her advice and used this lakeside beach of have our dinner.  From former trips that we have made, we often made a practice to stop in towns, sometimes get a copy of the local newspaper, chat with people and discover the things we wouldn’t have known otherwise.

 As we continued again on Rt. 90 we decided to call it a night in one of the rest areas just east of Sioux Falls.

 G& P

Day 5, 6/3/15

Day 5, 6/3/15

Weather:  Rain in the morning and clear in the afternoon, temperature in the 60s.

Now that we are in the mid-west, we are taking more time to enjoy what each of the states have to offer.  We departed the rest area in Adrian, Minnesota and again proceeded west on I 90.   Western Wisconsin begins the area of the Lakota Sioux nation.  In checking the guide book for the state, we discovered an area of interest called the Pipestone National Monument.  This is located in the prairie part of the country and is one of the few regions where the tall prairie grass still survives.  (www.nps.gov/pipe)

Pipestone is a soft, red rock located below surface rock.  The Pipestone is considered sacred because the Indians believe that the red color is actually the past ancestors.  Only native people are permitted by federal law to mine these quarries.  This area is also the only location in this country that has this particular rock.  Even today, certain members of the tribe continue to hand fashion pipes from chunks of the rock.  The various carvings form the actual pipe that makes up the sacred or peace pipe.  It is smoked for sacred and important ceremonies.

Since this monument is a part of the National Park System, the rangers, along with a twenty minute film, were very helpful in explaining the history and significance of this area.

We drove further west into South Dakota where we visited the McCrory Gardens which is part of South Dakota State University in Brookings.  This is an extensive botanical garden that is part of the agricultural educational program at the University.  By this time, the sun had come out which helped to make this visit more pleasant than if it had been the morning visit.  The students were busy planting the annuals and trial beds.  They had a cottage built of bales of straw(Three Little Pigs?) with a “living roof”  of small plants.

The afternoon was getting late and we returned to Rt. 90.  This route by the way is one of the longest interstate roads in the U.S.  This was part of the inter-US highway system that came into existence during the time of the Eisenhower administration.  Within the regulations for the construction of these roads was the fact that within the road system there has to be portions where the road must be straight for one mile to accommodate airplanes that may experience problems and need a place to land.

We continued on our journey and turned off the highway at a Walmart in N 43° 41’11” , W 98°  00’ 37”, elevation 1407 ft.

Today was a great day.

G & P

Early quarry.
Early quarry.
Quarry being worked.
Quarry being worked.

Day 6, 6/4/15

Day 6, 6/4/15

Weather:  Rain in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon.  Temperatures were in the mid to low 60s.

When we finished breakfast this morning, we had very definite plans of what we wanted to do today.  On departing our overnight parking location at Walmart in Mitchell, SD, we headed for the nearest Post Office to mail some information to Beth.

We knew before we began the vacation that this part of the country opens up more interesting places that we do not have back home.  When we did the cross country trip in the mid-eighties, a whole new U.S. opened for the six of us.  The memories of these adventures have been talked about even to this day.

Today we headed for Chamberlain, SD to visit the St. Joseph’s Indian School (www.stjo.org) founded and serviced by the priests and brothers of the Sacred Heart order.  As of today, the total enrollment of the school is two hundred thirty-three boys and girls from first through eighth grade.  The students then go on to the Chamberlain High School.  The chapel of Our Lady of the Sioux is part of the school campus.  Here the traditions of Catholicism and the traditional Lakota spirituality are brought together.  We spent a good amount of time visiting the campus museum.  It is here that the history of the Sioux nation is explained and depicted from their first appearance on this continent through their turbulent years with the coming settlers.  The assimilation of the old and new cultures is enlightening to understand.

For anyone who has driven cross country on Rt. 90, they could not have missed the sign-board advertisements for Wall Drugs.  These advertisements begin approximately 350 miles east and west bound from Wall.  By the time you reach the exit at Wall, you are challenged to make the detour to see what this place is all about.  We first experienced this when we did our earlier cross country trip.  On this trip we knew that we were once again going to stop and visit the drug store and so we did.

After leaving Chamberlain, we resumed our western move to Badlands National Park (www.nps.gov/badl).  Up from nowhere, as we drove through the beautiful rolling hills and prairies of South Dakota, suddenly appears a landscape that is so absolutely and drastically different that it is hard to believe how it got here.  We drove in to this national park and began to appreciate the shapes and colors that have evolved here over the millions of years that it took for our climate to alter the topography in such a startling way.  To describe it is very difficult.  It is an area consisting of peaks, amazingly deep gullies, and buttes.  The walls of all of these three areas show beautiful color formations similar to what you would see at the Grand Canyon.  We drove the paved road through the park in order to view all of its mysterious wonders and to stop at many of the available scenic overlooks.  In its entirety, the park consists of 240,000 acres.  At the end of this drive, we were very pleased with our choice to visit this mysterious wonder in SD.

We concluded our day’s journey by registering in the Rushmore Shadows Resort camp site in    N 43 58’ 35”  W 103 19’ 41”, elevation 4,332 ft.

G & P

School court yard
School court yard

DSC_0170

Day 7, 2015

Day 7, 6/5/15

Weather:  Rain last night and into this morning.  The afternoon was partly cloudy and threatening rain.

We awoke here in Rapid City, SD to rain and the forecast that this could continue intermittently throughout the day.  Because of this, we decided to take today as a rest and relaxation day.  Our plan to visit Mount Rushmore will be the agenda for tomorrow. We attended a meeting this morning that was geared to discussimg this camp ground as well as the others that are part of this campground’s association.  When this was over, we took the opportunity to do the accumulating laundry and also meet and chat with other campers about their camping experiences.  Although we had done extensive RV traveling in the past, it is always interesting to talk to others and learn from their recent experiences.

This evening we went to dinner at a local restaurant where country music was scheduled for dinner entertainment.   This was a great decision because the meal was chuck wagon style and the performance was truly entertaining.  It was also good to eat family style and have the opportunity to meet people from all over the U.S.

G & P

Ft. Hays Country Band
Ft. Hays Country Band
Colonel's office from Dances With Wolves set
Colonel’s office from Dances With Wolves set
Buffalo carving at Ft. Hays
Buffalo carving at Ft. Hays

 

Day 8, 6/6/15

 

Day 8, 6/6/15

Weather:  Very overcast in the morning changing to heavy rain and strong thunderstorms in the afternoon.  The evening was clear.  Temperatures were in the 70s.

Right after breakfast, we drove through the Black Hills to Keystone, SD.  A steep drive up the winding mountain road brought us to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  With the weather looking quite threatening, it was wonderful to see how many people were there to visit this site.  It is also pleasant to have the opportunity to again meet new people such as the young family from southwestern New Jersey.

My reaction to seeing the memorial for the second time was of the imagination, strength, and determination of effective leadership given by these four presidents at different critical periods of time in our country’s history.

It appears to us that this part of our country is susceptible to frequently changing weather.  It was only about two hours after we arrived that a dark sky began to appear coming over the black hills.  Along with the heavy down-pours came the accompanying lightning.  Needless to say, we were drenched when we made a retreat to where the RV was parked.

On the way back to the camp grounds, we could not pass up the opportunity to stop in Keystone to see what this old historic town had to offer in the shops along its one main street.

We returned to our home site and spent the rest of the day and evening relaxing.  We are planning to leave tomorrow morning for the “Big Sky” country, Montana.

G & PDSC_0354

 

 

Day 9, 6/7/15

Day 9, 6/7/15, Sunday

Weather clear, temperatures in high 70s to low 80s

We left Rushmore Shadow camp grounds at 9:30 and drove a short distance to Ft. Hays for breakfast. Similar to the dinner of the other evening, this was chuck wagon style, pancakes, biscuits and sausage, coffee or tea. Again we had the opportunity to chat with other travelers as we all sat at the long family style tables. With breakfast concluded, we attended a non-denomination service that was being offered in an adjacent room.

Our trip commenced as we rejoined Rt. 90 to Spearfish, SD. At this point, we turned northwest and eventually picked up Rt. 212 which brought us across the border into “the big sky country” Montana. Our destination for this day will be the St. Labre Indian school in N 45° 36’ 19” W 106° 16’ 43” elevation 2,909 ft.

At 5:00, we arrived at the school to find it closed up for the night. We met a few workers that were leaving and they told that the kindergarten graduation had taken place this afternoon. If we had been able to arrive a little earlier we would have loved to attend this.

We checked with security and were given the OK to stay on the property. Tomorrow morning we will take a tour of the elementary and high school and chat with the staff. The reason that we chose to visit this location is because we had chosen many years ago to donate to the school. As a donor, we were invited every year to visit. So, this year we are accepting the invitation.

G & PGail at the St. Labre Chapel

Day 10, 6/8/15

Day 10, 6/8/15, Monday

Weather was clear all day.  Temperatures were in the high 80s.

The St. Labre Mission School is located on the Northern Cheyenne/Crow reservation in Ashland, SD (http://www.labre.org)

The summer staff began arriving at 7:30.  By 8:30, after having breakfast, we went into the school’s museum and met Barry.  He let us know that there would be a student from the junior class who would be our guide and show us all we wanted to see.  We took time to view the objects on display and found that the greatest majority of the items were donated over the past years from people across the country.  Serena, our guide, joined us in the museum and introduced herself.  Serena said that she was working at the school for the summer as a guide and assistant in the main office.

The three of us then began our tour of the campus.  We discovered that St. Labre is one of three campuses all under the direction of the administration of St. Labre.  This campus serves 450 students.  The reason for the multiple campuses is because of the vast size of this reservation.  The mission school was founded during the time of the Indians being placed on the present reservation.  Little attention was given to them so some of the leaders approached the Jesuit priests.  The Jesuits in conjunction with the Bishop established the school on the same grounds upon which the present campus is located.  Eventually the Jesuits turned the school over to the Capuchins who still maintain the responsibility.  In addition to the priest who is in residence there are sisters from the Ursuline order that teach in the school.  The arrival of the Ursulines date back to 1884.

We were very impressed with the campus and did get to see all of the facilities.  Among the number of buildings was a dormitory building that can house up to eighty-five middle school through high school students who live too far away to even be bused daily.  It was very evident to us that they rely heavily on the generosity of the donors.  The buildings were not elaborate.  The architecture exemplified Indian culture and tradition.  The classrooms had the necessary support materials such as computers and white boards.  Many of the students who have graduated from the high school have gone on to impressive four year colleges.  As for Serena, her plan is to go on to become a pediatrician.   By the end of the tour we were very pleased that we decided to make this one of our must-do stops.

Our next destination was to stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield.  This federal park occupies a small area within the Crow reservation.  Here we took a bus tour run by members of the Crow nation.  The guide described in great detail the events that took place leading up to the fatal battle that took the lives of many of the 7th Cavalry.  These depictions were later supported when we attended a talk given by one of the Park Rangers.  It is disheartening to realize how limited the information of this time is reflected in the history books used in our schools.

It was now getting late in the afternoon and we wanted to get back on Rt. 90 and put some more territory behind us.  To our dismay we discovered there were no camp grounds along our route that were not miles off this highway.  We also realized that Montana would not permit overnight parking in the rest areas.  Ah ha, now what will the plan be?  Since it was too far to Bozman we spotted a Pilot service station, N 45° 49’ 36”  W 109° 58’ 19”, elevation 4,096 ft., just off 90 that was a significant truck stop.  This gave us a place to stay.

G & P

Special question for our grandchildren.

How are you doing each evening figuring out the location of the latitude and longitudes of the places that we are spending the nights?  Send us an email or text to let us know.

Battlefield

Day 11, 6/9/15

Day 11, 6/9/15, Tuesday

Weather: Sunny and clear all day.  Temperatures in the low 90s

The day dawned clear and sunny.  We left the overnight parking area again headed west on Rt. 90.  However, this would be the day that the westward movement would take the turn to the north.

A few hours out, we reached Bozeman.  As a result of our first trip here, Paul fell in love with this town.  After thirty years, this area still is very beautiful and still #1 on Paul’s list of where to move.  We took the opportunity to drive through the main street and also fuel-up for the continuation of the trip.

We eventually reached Billings where we made our turn on to Rt. 15 and our movement toward the Canadian border.  The average mountain climbs and descents were six degrees each time for about 3 miles.  The RV and Paul handled the mountains well.  We also crossed the continental divide at about 6,363 feet, took a decent and re-crossed the divide again as the road twisted through the mountains.  At about 3 pm, we reached a service area in Great Falls, Montana.  We stopped primarily because our supply of propane had depleted.  While the attendant was completing the propane fill he detected a leak near one of the pipe elbows.  On his recommendation we contacted the Breen Oil Co. located here in Great Falls and found that they would be willing to check our problem out as soon as we could get there.  One hour later the problem was resolved, thanks to Tucker.  One of the two regulators on the propane system, the one for the refrigerator, had gone bad and was leaking.  A leak such as this is a dangerous problem to encounter.   A potential trip ending event was avoided.

Expecting we would have no propane to cook dinner and  needing  to relax, we decided to go out to dinner.  We simply chose a restaurant along the road that we were taking back to the original service area.  This interlude was just what we needed to also discuss our plans for tomorrow.  It is possible that we will not have access to wifi tomorrow.

Since there were no camping parks in the immediate area and, it was a long drive to our next destination, we spent the night at the service area N47° 28’ 06”  W 111° 21’ 29”, elevation 3,695., down almost 3,000 feet from earlier!

 

G & P

Rt 15 near Helena

 

Day 12, 6/10/15

Wednesday, 6/10/15

Weather:  Sunny all day.  Temperatures in the 80s

The early morning sun rose over Great Falls, Montana.  We had breakfast at the Denny’s restaurant located at the service plaza and fueled the RV for the day’s travel.

We resumed our trip northward on Rt. 15 with the Glacier National Park as our intended destination.  As we neared the mountain climb, we entered the Blackfoot Indian Reservation and the town of Browning.  Naturally, we stopped in the town at a store that sold Blackfeet made products, clothing, and visitor novelties.

As we now continued the climb of the mountains again.  Although in many spots the speed limit permitted seventy miles per hour, for this northeastern driver that was pure insanity.  We went from steep climbs to steep declines, sharp turns and most of these with no warning what the road was like around the turn or as you reached the summit what to expect downward.  Of course the locals had no problem although there were crosses and flowers decorating intervals of the road.  The only real aggravating part of the drive was the driver that followed so closely that he disappeared from view of the outside mirrors.

We decided to stop at the Glacier Haven RV and Campground, N 48.36491  W 113.66320, elevation 3,850 and enter the National Park tomorrow morning.

G & P

 

Climbing the  mountain

Climb approaching Glacier NP

Day 13, 6/11/15

Thursday, 6/11/15

Weather:  Sunny all day.  Temperatures in the 80s.  Very pleasant

The temperatures during the night dropped as did the humidity level.  Sunrise brought a beautiful bright morning.  We left the Glacier Haven Campgrounds in West Glacier, Montana and continued our mountain climb to Glacier National Park.

After approximately two hours we reached the entrance to the Park N 48° 31’ 31” W 113° 58’ 48”, elevation 3,269.  Before entering, we continued another few miles to fuel the RV.  It is not difficult to find diesel fuel but, the distances between gas stations tend to become greater the further we move from populated areas.

When we turned into the main gate entrance we stopped at the visitor’s center.  It was the Canadian information center which surprised me.  However, I did come to realize that the border of Canada is only one to two miles further north and that Glacier park ends at that border and beyond that is the Canadian Park.  The visit there was very informative.  The young representative provided us with a great deal of information on Alberta and other points of interest that we would have available on our drive through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory.

As we moved further into Glacier Park, I found it very interesting on how you are assigned a camp site.  The fact is the site is not assigned.  You drive to the camp area in which you want to stay.  At the entrance to the chosen area, you take an envelope from a box on a notice board.  You drive through the camping area and when you find a site that delights your fantasy you simply take a marking tag from the envelope and place it on a hook located on a pole.  Then drive back to the notice board and place the amount of money inside the envelope for the number of nights that we will be staying (2).

We stopped briefly to see Lake McDonald that is adjacent to our camp area.  Since we came equipped with an inflatable kayak, our plan is to take it on its first voyage tomorrow.  The lake is quite large, beautiful, and the water is crystal clear.

G & P

 

Lake McDonald

Day 14

Day 14, 6/12/15, Friday

Weather:  Sunny and very pleasant all day.  Temperatures in the 70s

This is our second day at Glacier National Park in West Glacier, Montana.  As we have moved northerly in our trip the sunrise has come a little earlier each day and sunset comes at approximately 9 pm.

We had two plans in mind to accomplish today.  The first was to take the Going To The Sun Road which travels across into the Park northeastward from our campground.  The trip would encompass twenty miles and at that point only vehicles less than twenty-one feet could proceed.  Those who were able to drive further had an additional ten miles before they too had to turn around.  The final piece of that road is under planned reconstruction and is not due to open until the end of June.  When we arrived yesterday, we discovered that some of the services in the Park are not operational. The shuttle bus that could take us the full length of the Going to the Sun Road, if it was open, and many ranger activities are not scheduled to start for two weeks. We have always taken advantage of ranger programs in our National Parks, from Acadia in Maine to Yosemite in California. With our Senior Park Pass all admissions are free and camping fees are half!  Due to the weather here the Park closed after Labor Day.

The drive along the road was beautiful and very scenic with many areas available to pull off and enjoy the view.  The mountain driving is steadily becoming easier to us nor’easterners as the days pass.  At the end of this drive we went to the Canadian visitors’ center just outside the Park.  It is the only wifi in the area. Thank you Canada!

Our second goal for the day was to go kayaking.  We were ready to unload our inflatable kayak and put it into Lake McDonald.  However, we were not able to fulfill this plan because of the windy conditions and the white caps on the lake.  There were actually waves on the lake too! Plans are to try again in the morning.

When we do finally leave, we will be stopping on the east side of Glacier before crossing into Alberta Province, Canada, and probable heading for Banff.  From Banff we will travel on to Calgary.

G & P

 

Sightseeing on Lake McDonald
Sightseeing on Lake McDonald

 

Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald
Waves on Lake McDonald
Waves on Lake McDonald
Prairie Dog at McDonald Lodge
Prairie Dog at McDonald Lodge
McDonald Creek
McDonald Creek

 

Day 16

Day 16, 6/14/15, Sunday

Weather:  Cloudy, scattered thunderstorms in travel area during the day.  Temperature in the 70s.

Rain had come in during the night and the outside temperature was cold.  We awoke early but by park regulations we could not turn on the generator until 8 am.  We need the generator to power the stabilizing legs and to power the slide room.

By 9 am we departed Many Glacier, Glacier Nat. Park camp ground in Babb, Montana and returned to Rt. 89 northbound.  About one hour after we left the park (Gail took MANY pictures on the exit road) we arrived at the border crossing at Port of Piegon, Montana/Carway, Alberta.  Upon entering Canada the route number changed to Rt. 2. Another change was the speed signs posted in metric, kilometers per hour, instead of miles per hour that we have in the States.  Some quick calculations and a setting change in the GPS and we were on our way.

The scenery as we drove on was of beautiful open prairie inhabited by scattered farm houses, horses, cows, bulls, and buffalo. The flat land was a relief after yesterday’s continuous steep inclines/declines.  Our destination for the day was to find a camping park somewhere north of Calgary. This would have given us about three hundred miles total travel for the day.

We stopped in Fort Macloud, Alberta to purchase some food supplies and top-off the fuel tank.  Although we were going to make a stop in Calgary, we decided not to because the information that we had received showed nothing exciting going on. It’s still early in the season here too.  We continued on with the driving.

No sooner had we passed Calgary than the onboard computer began flashing engine warning symbols.  We checked the manual and all of the information indicated that we needed to go to a qualified service center.  A call was made to Mercedes Canada and they gave us the nearest location that could handle us.  Wouldn’t you know that service area was back in Calgary.  Naturally being Sunday, the service was closed.  So we had to make their parking area our location to spend the night.  Now we wait until the morning to see what the prognoses will be.

G & P

Peaks Reaching For The Sky
Peaks Reaching For The Sky
Low Clouds
Low Clouds
Glacier
Glacier
Campsite In Mini Glacier
Campsite In Mini Glacier
River At Many Glacier Park
River At Many Glacier Park

Day 17

Day 17, 6/15/15, Monday

Weather:  Partial sunny through the day.  Temperatures in the 60s’

The first of the workers at the Hyatt Mercedes service department arrived at 6:15 am.  By 7 everyone was there including a line of vehicles waiting to be dropped off for service.  We met with a service representative who took our information and invited us to wait until they had the time to check out what was causing our problem.

We found it amazing that with no ability to arrange a prior reservation, our situation was accepted immediately.  The test of the engine showed a glitch in the notification software.  The computer data was reentered and updated.  By 10 am we were back on the road.

We were back on Rt. 2 now continuing on toward Edmonton and beyond.  The landscape was a mixture of beautiful deep green colored farm land and prairie as we continued north westward through picturesque rolling hills.  Our intent for the day was to gain driving distance.

By 5 pm we had travelled a long distance and decided to call it a day at the Whitecourt Lions Campground,  We chose this place because of promised wifi at the our site…NOT! There are about 50+ sites and the wifi hotspot can accommodate 4 users.  At least it worked if we sat at the designated picnic table.  N 54° 06’ 47”    W 115° 38’ 50”, elevation 2,407 ft.

G & P

Rural Alberta
Rural Alberta

 

Day 18

Day 18, 6/16/15, Tuesday

Weather:  Partly cloudy all day.  Some light rain in the late afternoon.  Temperatures in the 50s

We prepared to leave the Whitecourt Lions Campground, Whitecourt, Alberta at 8 am.  As we were moving in the slider and raising the stabilizers, the manager of the campground came over to say goodbye.  Naturally, we never tend to limit ourselves to just a few words so; our actual departure was closer to 10 am. The Alberta Lions run several campgrounds for the funds to support their charitable work.  Don, the manager has been doing this campground for 3 seasons.

Today is intended to be a traveling day and if all goes well we should have no trouble reaching Dawson Creek.  This town is the official beginning point for the Alaska Highway, northbound.

The other end of the highway is the border into Alaska.  The traveling distance between the two points is approximately 1400 miles.  Information from the travel book, Milepost, shows that every fifty miles there is a service location that contains fuel and restaurant.  The most interesting piece of information that we have discovered about the food available is that travelers must try the homemade pies.  We think it is imperative to investigate and see if this is correct.

We arrived in Dawson Creek by 5:30 and proceeded to locate a campground.  We had no difficulty finding the popular Walmart store and parking lot already holding fourteen RVs prepared to stay for the night, N 55° 44’ 20”  W 120° 13’ 12”, elevation 2,180.  We pulled in and joined the group.  Before we leave tomorrow we will go into downtown and visit the museum that tells the story of the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

G & P

We Are Walmart Campers
We Are Walmart Campers

Day 19

Day 19, 6/1715, Wednesday

Weather: Sunny all day.  Temperatures today were in the 60s.

We left the parking area of the Walmart in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and drove a few blocks to downtown Dawson Creek.  We wanted to stop at the Visitors Center because it was there that the museum of the building of the Alaska Highway is housed.  Paul found many of the museum objects such as radio, telephone, etc. bring back memories of things that he can remember. He pre-dates the road.

In addition to the objects that date back to the 1940s, we also viewed a one hour video on the history of the building of the highway by the U.S. Army in cooperation with the Canadian government and local community. It is certainly an example of American ingenuity and determination.  When we left this museum it was much like the visit we made during the family’s cross country trip to the museum in St. Louis.  This was dedicated to the westward expansion.  When we returned to the RV and began our drive up the Alaska Highway we began to realize the work, effort, and regional impact that the construction of this highway had on both the U.S. and Canada.  We knew that we were travelling the historic road.

The remainder of the day was spent driving with only one stop to refuel.  Because of the length of the drive, it is important that we are clearly aware of the distances between service areas.  Last year, we had attended a presentation from someone who did this same drive.  One of the things that he mentioned was that every fifty miles we would find service stops that included food availability as well as fuel.  Well, we don’t know what road he actually drove but the fifty mile reality does not exist.  In fact in one part of the road there was a distance of one hundred sixty-eight miles between service areas.  Speed on the highway varied frequently due to climbes, declines, switch backs and periodic road construction.

At 7:30 pm we pulled into a service area (N 58.80190°  W -122.68020°, elevation, 1,383 ft.).

Tomorrow will be another driving day.

G & P

Camp Walmart
Camp Walmart

DSC_1087DSC_1094

Original Wooden Bridge
Original Wooden Bridge