Friday, August 31, 2012

Clear Skies and Another State

Today we entered yet another state, Utah. That is four this week. Driving into and across Idaho, we continued to have smokey skies.

During our 2-night stay in Boise, we were able to run (John) and walk (Carol) three miles each morning along the Boise River. It is a really neat trail through the woods

across the river

and along upscale neighborhoods.

The campground is right next to the fair grounds, which are very large, but old. I loved this sign.

We saw these cormorants above the river.

I don't often blog about the RV parks we stay in, especially those located behind a gas station. But the one we stayed in last night, Valley of Trees, was really special. The first photo is of our site. The driveway you see is for the next site over. Since no one parked there overnight, the second photo shows the view we had of the Valley of Trees between us and the gas station.

Today, as we drove from Declo, ID, to Brigham City, UT, the skies were smoke free but filled with a mix of clouds and sun. I really liked these clouds.

We saw very little evidence of wildfires today. Yesterday, we drove by mile after mile of burned sagebrush. We did see this hillside that had been burned.

In this photo, we couldn't decide if we were seeing smoke or irrigation sprinklers in the distance.

During our stay at Santa Ana NWR in Alamo, TX, early this year, we saw fields of onions being harvested. Today we saw this truckload of Idaho onions. Obviously, we have fresh produce year-round because different parts of the country raise fruits and vegetables at different times of the year.

Not only do they grow onions in this part of the country, they also raise cattle. This is the sign for Grants Range Bulls.

And that's no bull. It's plastic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What is Home?

The word "home" can mean many different things. I can go "home" to the physical space I live in; or to my "home" town; or to the state where I live or where I grew up; or to the part of the country or the country where I live.

We have been "home" in the United States since we entered Alaska from Canada on June 29. We have lived this whole time in the RV which is our "home" (except for the 4 nights on the ferry). As we drive south and east from the Seattle, Washington, area, we feel we are getting closer and closer to "home." Why? Because of the cattle in the fields.

And the sagebrush.

And the round wheat and hay fields, growing that way because of the irrigation sprinkler that goes in a circle.

The air is getting drier. We have both lived most of our lives in the higher altitudes of Colorado and, more recently, in the Arizona desert. The humidity we found in much of Alaska is not "home" to us.

I am happy to report that the nights are once again dark. Among other things, that means I can see the moon at night. For many weeks, I was never up when it was dark. As the nights got a little longer, we were often along the ocean and the sky was covered with clouds. But for the last two nights, I actually saw a moon in the sky before I went to bed.

We drove from Ellensburg, Washington, to Pendleton, Oregon, then today to Boise, Idaho. That is three states in three days. If you drive on the East Coast, you can easily pass through three states in one day. Out west, where the states are larger, our trip is pretty amazing, especially for us.

Eastern Washington and Oregon have interesting hills, mostly covered with brown grass.

We also saw lots of vineyards, providing a good dark green contrast to the brown.

There are lots of hills to go up and down. And triple-trailer loads are allowed, leading to this sign on a FedEx truck.

Hay is a major cash crop around Ellensburg, where we saw lots of covered haystacks.

Pendleton, of course, is home to the famous Pendleton Woolen Mills. We didn't tour the mill, but we did check out the mill's outlet store. Of course, there were lots of Pendleton clothes, most made of wool. And we don't need those in Arizona. We did enjoy looking at the shelves of blankets.

And, through a window, we saw stacks of different colored yarn and a bright blanket on the loom.

Our RV park in Pendleton sat on a hill and we could look out over the valley and part of the town. Look above the ground and you can see the thick smoke that blankets the area and got worse, the closer we came to Boise. A number of wildfires are burning in Idaho and have been for several weeks. I read a story said they don't anticipate a major storm that could put the fires out at least until after October 1.

Driving from Ellensburg to Pendleton, we saw two mountains. I hope someone can let us know if this is Mt. St. Helens?

And, is this Mt. Rainier?

They sure are beautiful.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blogging the Journey

On May 17, we left Littleton, Colorado, headed for Canada and Alaska.  Friday, August 28, we drove off Alaska Ferry M/V Columbia in Bellingham, Washington.  Back in May I decided I would blog every day of our journey to Alaska and back.  I have done that.

We use the blog as our scrap book and get it printed in book form, with all the photos included, through a service called blog2print. We get a hard cover book and a downloadable copy, which I burn to a CD.  (You can never have too many backups.) For 2012, I intend to get one book printed on our Alaska journey, a second with blogs from the rest of the year.  The daily blog posts will be a great trip journal.

Many bloggers post every day.  After this experience, I have an even greater appreciation for what they do.  I enjoy blogging.  My college degree is in journalism, but I have done very little writing many of the years since then.  Since beginning this blog is 2006, I have really enjoyed using (and I hope improving) my skills.  It is fun.  I find myself looking at my world in terms of how I will blog about it.  I think in photo captions and blog titles.

However, over the 100 days between May 17 and August 24, I began to feel real pressure to get the daily blog done.  Each afternoon or evening I had to download dozens, sometimes hundreds of photos from our two cameras, decide which ones belong in the blog, then put the blog together.  When we were without internet, I learned to use Microsoft Live Writer so I could do the blog and then publish it later.

All of this explanation is to explain why I will continue to blog, but the posts won’t be done every day. 

Yesterday, we drove from Mount Vernon to Ellensburg, WA.  We are staying in a KOA, something we rarely do any more.  They are often more expensive than other parks and they usually attract families with children.  We prefer adult parks.  However, when we checked, we decided this was our best choice here.  Tomorrow, we think we will head to Pendleton, Oregon.

The temperatures here are the warmest we have seen all summer.  Finally, shorts weather!  The high temp yesterday was 85 and today it is supposed to get to 90. 

During this journey, we have had incredible good luck (we’ve been blessed) to get good views of Mt. McKinley and the volcanoes Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna west of Homer and Ninilchik.  Yesterday, we got a quick peek of Mt. Rainier.  That is unusual, too.  Because of the route we were driving and all the tall trees, I never got a good photo, but we did see it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Alaska–Day 100

We’re back in the Lower 48!  The Columbia arrived at the dock in Bellingham, Washington, right on time, at 8 am Pacific Time.  The ferry runs on Alaska Time, but when we drove off, we were in the Pacific time zone.

We drove 20 miles to Mount Vernon, where we parked and hooked up and started getting our refrigerator cold.  We drove to a nearby Walmart to restock an empty refrigerator and panty.  Since we buy way more than food there, we ended up spending over $300.  But the same items would probably have cost $100 more in Alaska or the Yukon (if we could even find them there).  So, it wasn’t too bad.

For the last week in Alaska, I cooked according to what we needed to use up, so it is nice to be restocked.

It feels good to be here, off the water, off the frontier, driving on good roads.  It is time to head for home.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Alaska–Day 99

No shore time today.  After we left Ketchikan late yesterday afternoon, we picked up a salad (me) and sandwich (John) from the Cafeteria and had dinner in our cabin.  Near 8 pm, the captain announced there was a great sunset.  I went to the forward lounge to take some pictures.  We also saw some porpoise playing in the water.  No pictures of them.


Later, they paged anyone with medical training to come to the Purser’s Desk.  About an hour later, it was announced that the ship would detour to Prince Rupert for a medical evacuation. This morning over coffee, John learned a crew member had a stroke last night.

The M/V (Marine Vessel) Columbia was built in 1974 at the cost of $20 million.  It is 418 feet long, 85 feet wide, with 103 staterooms, a crew of 66 and is authorized to carry up to 499 passengers.  It has a vehicle capacity of 2,680 linear feet or approximately 134 tween foot vehicles.

Again, the water was incredibly smooth in the morning. The fog added to the beauty.



It rained a lot during the day, so viewing the scenery out the windows was often difficult.

We had about and hour and a half of open water during the afternoon, meaning there was no island between us and the open ocean.  That meant more swells and rolling of the boat.  An hour before we reached this area, they suggested we take Dramaine and use care when moving around the ferry. The water wasn’t so smooth during that time.

The clouds did clear and we could see some more, including a rainbow.



Tomorrow, we finish this part of the journey and arrive in Bellingham, WA.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alaska–Day 98

We had a long stop at Ketchikan today, from noon to 5 pm.  But first there was a morning at sea.  We saw whales and eagles.



It has not been sunny, but the weather has been good and the water unbelievably smooth much of the time.  I had no idea the water of the Inside Passage could be so smooth, with great reflections.  However, if I was in a sailboat with no motor, this might not be as favorable conditions.


We are again thankful we have a cabin on the ferry.  This is the Solarium on the Bridge Deck.  A number of 20- and 30-somethings are camped here.  And even whole families and some grandparents.  There are heat lamps in the ceiling, so the temperature is fairly comfortable.  And there are coin-operated lockers to store valuable possessions when the owners leave the area.  But, it is not the way we would like to travel, especially at our age.


Ketchikan is a fairly large town—12,000 residents-- with a big boat service area.  The working part of the town is old and pretty run down. 



After lunch at The Landing across the road from the ferry terminal, we walked east to the Cruise Dock and Creek Street, once the town’s red light district and now the tourist area.  Today two cruise ships, one Princess Line and one Celebrity, were there.  Tomorrow, four cruise ships are supposed to be in town.  It will be crowded. 


We didn’t buy anything and skipped the Logging Show and Totem Pole exhibits.  When we were here before, we took a charter boat to Misty Fjords National Monument.  What a beautiful trip. Today, we walked nearly eight miles, total.  And, with lots of others, rode the city bus back to the ferry terminal.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Alaska–Day 97

Many people have been on cruises, including Alaskan cruises.  These trips take you through the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska.  But that experience is very different from ours this week. A cruise ship has wonderful food—all included in the price.  Many of the cabins are spacious. There are lots of activities, lots of space to move around, exercise rooms, shopping.  Long stops in various ports provide extensive tour opportunities and lots of shopping opportunities, if you are looking for jewelry or art. Travel through scenic areas is done during daylight hours.

Riding the ferry, meals are not included.  However, we did bring a cooler and food tor breakfast and lunch.  We are eating dinner in the cafeteria each night—not as expensive as the dining room.  Since eating out is never high on our agenda, the cafeteria is just fine.  The Columbia does have a theater.  From the titles they showed yesterday, I think it is mainly entertainment for families with children.  The goal for the ferry is to get us from one point to another, so travel, and even stops for boarding and leaving are not times for convenience or the scenery.  Stops this trip in Juneau (the Alaska capital) and Petersburg were in the middle of the night.

When the ferry stopped in Sitka for a little under 2 hours today, we got off and went for a good hike in the rain forest. 





Aside from that, we can watch the scenery,



read, walk a few short hallways, nap.  One woman brought a sewing machine and is making short skirts.


A number of people are playing games.


Others are on their computers.  Obviously, I am too.  We only have internet when we are passing a town, but there are other things to do on them, as well.

Many people have ipads with cameras. This is one way they are used.