Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 99 Closing Thoughts

Welcome! Closing Thoughts of North to Alaska


This is a day later than I originally planned, my excuse is I got involved in putting together a trampoline at Abby’s and Aidan’s house. While I totally enjoyed our long driving trip it was very nice to be able to work on something in which I helped accomplished something.

Some Stats:

We travelled 12,756 miles. Not counting the 12 days we were on trains or buses. By the time we reach Euless it will be over 13,000.

We used 565.497 gallons of gas (After converting the liters in Canada to Gallons).

The most we paid for gas was 5.939 per gallon in Fort Nelson CA. If I had filled up in Dawson City (Top of the World Highway) the prices was about 6.50 per gallon.

The least we paid was 2.859 at the end of our trip in Cypress TX.

We only stayed in the same place for two nights in a row 7 times.

We were in Canada a total of 16 days.

We were in Alaska a total of 24 days.

As one moves further north the tree line drops in elevation.

In Canada they are serious about recycling as evident that everywhere you see a trash car you will see a recycling container. This is at gas stations, hotel rooms, rest stops, literally everywhere.

Permafrost in Alaska and Yukon where the ground is frozen just under the surface and does not defrost in the summer months. This is effects trees that grow at angles. The effects the roads as it causes the pavement buckles. This is prevalent in the Northern part of Alaska and most of the Yukon Territory.

The building of the Alaska pipeline is now right up there with the building of Hoover Dam. Learning how the many obstacles were overcame makes be appreciate the engineers who planned and then executed their plan.

We met many people and when they heard of our trip most were amazed we did not have an RV or Camping Trailer.

We met many people from Australia.

We tried to play the license plate game on the Alaska Highway. In the true summer months, last half of June, July, and first half of August we may have seen more. We saw very few out of area licenses. While there are many out of state tourist in Alaska most fly in and rent cars.

By Oct 1 most places in northern Alaska and Yukon Territory were closing their doors.
We did laundry three different times about 5 loads each time. We visited Sams Club twice for water and diet coke. We used over 156 8 oz. bottles of water, we used over 72 12 oz bottles of Diet Code.(In Canada they do not sell 12 oz bottles).

That's all for now maybe on the next trip I will try again. By the way next planned trip in next July/August two weeks with the entire gang all eleven going west Carlsbad, Grand Canyon, Durango, Pikes Peak will be a few of the highlights.

Bye for now, hope all will have a great holiday season.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 58_60

Welcome! Day 58/59/60 (Oct 05/06/07) of North to Alaska


Day 58, 59, and 60 were all very similar. We were travelling toward home. We could see the end to our trip.

Day 58 we left Durango, CO heading south east on 550 toward Albuquerque, NM with the intent to ride the Sandia Peak Aerial tram and have lunch on top of the peak. Unfortunately we did not realize that his weekend was part of the annual Balloon Festival which brings tons of people to the area. It was easily a two hour wait to ride the tram up. So we decided to move on toward Los Cruces. Note we did not see nary a one balloon either on the ground or in the sky. The rest of the day was uneventful.

Day 59 we travelled to Sonora, TX about 400 miles from El Paso.  The notable event of the day was I10 was closed thru part of El Paso for bridge building. Also we saw more trucks between New Mexico border and the split at I10 and I20 than on any other part of our trip. Seems most of the trucks merged over to I20. For us that was good. Also it was nice to see speed limits of 80. Our old Buick just loved it especially after our many, many miles travelling on curvy mountain roads. We landed in Sonora about 5:30.

Day 60 we were surprised at breakfast. We stayed at a Best Western were we are very familiar with their breakfast as most are all the same. At this one they had a cook which prepared cook to order eggs and pancakes. Cassie had eggs over easy and I had pancakes. Both were good. We then left late and headed to Cypress, TX. Cypress is North West of Houston on Highway 290. More importantly it is the home of Abby and Aidan, two of my 5 wonderful grandkids. On the way between San Antonio and Houston is a very large Buck-ees, a very nice stopping place. I recommend everyone should stop if you see one. We got a couple of sandwiches to take with us. We arrived about 3:30 and had a good reunion.

We will be staying here until next Monday. Also Pam and her family are to join us on Friday. We look forward to seeing Maggie, Drew and Katie.

So this actually concludes our trip. I plan to publish one more post tomorrow or Wednesday to give some stats and point out a few things I learned from the trip.   
Aerial Tran


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 56_57

Welcome! Day 56/57 (Oct 03/04) of North to Alaska


Quote: Chocolate doesn’t ask silly questions, Chocolate understands.  Seen on a wall in Silverton, CO.

Sometimes one just needs some chocolate.

The day of the train. Day 56 we used as a travel day from Blanding UT. Blanding to Durango takes about 2 hours, but we took a longer drive and visited Four Corners. The only place in the US were four states touch. It is on the Navajo Reservation so it did not shut down with the government. It does not take long to see, but there is a structure where Indian jewelry and other trinkets are sold as well as the marker for the four corners.  Since we had time I am glad we stopped. It is on the agenda for next summer’s trip with the grandkids as is a ride on the Durango Silverton Train which we rode on Day57. We took the bus up to Silverton and rode the train back to Durango. The bus up was not crowded and the driver was a good tour guide. We passed over two summits, one just over 10,000 feet and the other 11,150 feet. We did not really feel the altitude. The highest elevation on the train is Silverton just over 9,000 feet. The night before our arrival in Silverton the temperature dropped below freezing and they had some snow. Most was gone by 11:30 when we arrived. Due to rode conditions the bus stops running around Oct 6 while the train keeps going until Oct 25. Our train was scheduled to leave at 2:30 for 3 ½ hour trip the bus makes it in 1 ½ hours. On some sections the train travels at 5 mph because of some sharp curves. Proving it is a small world, we shared a table with a couple from Euless. They live about 2 miles form us. While the train ride was long, the scenery was great, I did enjoy the trip and look forward to next year when we do it again on our grandkid trip.

We explored Silverton and ate lunch, eating lunch was the best part, exploring part was just walking thru all the shops. We ate at Natalia’s Restaurant established 1912. You could order from menu or eat from the buffet. We chose the buffet and all the food I tried was very good. It was a good choice.

It was a good day. Tomorrow we will spend the night in Las Cruces. 
Durango train station

Cassie and the bus


One of many peaks over 13,000 feet

Snow capped mountains

More colors

Train from high above bus

Silverton from Bus

Mountains from Silverton

Silverton Main street

Snow peak from Silverton

Our train from last car on train

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 54_55

Welcome! Day 54/55 (Oct 01/02) of North to Alaska


Quote: There's a book that tells you where you should go on your vacation.  It's called your checkbook.  ~Author Unknown

The days of the Canyons. Day 54 and day 55 were spent in southern Utah, better known as Canyon Land. A few years back we briefly saw a small portion of this area. Cassie has always wanted to come back and see more. Now she has. As we started out we had our first encounter with “The Government” at its finest. Natural parks were all closed. Since state highways passed thru most of the parks people could still drive along the highway but were not allowed to take any road or do any activity not on the state highway. Luckily for the government we had not planned to partake of any activity except site seeing or Cassie would have been mad, she told me so. I just kept driving. Normally they charge a park entrance fee at the park entrance on Highway 9 even if you are just passing thru and do not plan on using any of the park side roads. Since they are not open they cannot charge a fee so I think more people took advantage of seeing what they could. We travelled slowly as on Day 54 there was a good deal of cars on the road. Many of the paved pull out were blocked but most people found a gravel place to pull into when needing to take pictures. I did take several. On day 55 the traffic was very lite.

I had expected the route and road to be worse than it was. I thought the road would be more like the mountains and coast line we had previously seen. I am sure if we had been allowed to take any of the side roads they would have been more to my expectations. We took Highway 9 out of Hurricane which turned into Highway 12 at Zion Natural Park. We then went on to Torrey about a 4 hour drive. Mostly on Day 54 we drove either on top of the canyons or at least part way up the sides of canyons. The views were fantastic. After staying the night in Torrey we slept in (Cassie I got up around 6:30) and headed out toward Blanding, UT. On Day 55 we travelled a lot in the bottom of canyons although at one point we were at elevation 7115. Leaving Torrey we first took Highway 24 then Highway 95 down to Blanding UT. The views were also fantastic but with a different perspective. The drive for this day was about 3 hours since we were not allowed to take any side trips.

Blanding was not originally planned as a stopping place. At first we were going on to Durango and ride the Durango/Silverton train the next day. But since we were not sure after leaving Canada of our route or timing I had not made any reservations for the train. I also assumed that this late in the year the train would not be crowded. My bad. I looked a few days back and it appeared that here were many open spaces for the train so again I assumed all was ok. When in Hurricane I decided to make reservations just to be sure we had a spot. As before when I checked I put in any train for Oct 3. They have an 8 AM and an 8:30 AM for that day. With that filter all cars showed up from the open air to the President’s car. I thought the seating was wide open. So I was surprised when in Hurricane, I actually selected the middle of the road price wise, Deluxe Car, it returned a message saying not available. I tried all the cars at both time slots and all combinations of train up and back, bus up and train back and train up and bus back for each time slots, nothing available. I had assumed the first filter would have returned not available instead of showing all options. I guess all programmers do not think as I do, I wonder why. So I tried the next day and found one seat in one car and two seats in another, Cassie almost had to stay in the hotel. So instead of spending three nights in Durango we elected to break the day into two and make the driving shorter. Blanding is a small town but has a Super 8 and a Quality Inn. We selected the Quality Inn it is small but nice and cheap. But as I write this I am using the battery on my laptop as the power is off at the motel, I am now wondering about my choice.

Tomorrow on t0 Durango and exciting times.
As we were leaving Hurricane

From Hwy 9

From Hwy 9

From Hwy 9

Red Canyon

First Summit Before Boulder UT

From Summit

From next Summit near 9600

Cassie is nervous of height

Summit between Boulder and Torrey

Just past 9600

Trees turning colors

From Hwy 95

From Hwy 95

From Hwy 95

From Hwy 95

From Hwy 95

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Day 53

Welcome! Day 53 (Sept 30) of North to Alaska


Quote: Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. Jerry Seinfeld

Hoover Dam day, the day I have been looking forward to since our trip started back on Aug 9. I know I have been here many times during the last 43 years. But this is an awesome place. It was built on time within budget. It was built during the depression from 1931 to 1935. It was an architectural masterpiece. Working with the knowledge and tools of the time it was an unbelievable engineering feat. The workers were awesome. They came from all over. It was the depression they needed work and they produced. A town was erected to house the workers and sometimes their families. To watch the film of how it was built is moving. I have been to Las Vegas a few times for conventions on each trip I made my way to visit. When I lived in Arizona (Air Force) Cassie and I went just to see it and did not even visit Las Vegas. I took my girls when they were young. I took them again after they were married. I even took my in-laws. It has been about ten years since I was last there. I was looking forward to seeing it again.

We stayed in Henderson which is only about thirty minutes away.  Cassie decided to stay in the hotel and rest so I could get an early start. I left the room about 7, stopped at McDonalds and got a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit combo with coffee and hash browns. I ate the hash browns and took the sandwich and coffee back to the room for Cassie to warm up when she awoke. I did not plan to be back until at least 11 and I would need to hurry to make that time. The WEB site said the first tour was at 9:30 for an hour. The parking garage would open at 8 so I planned to be there soon after. This would give me time to look around on top before the tour started. I also wanted to be in the first group of twenty for the first tour. After doing my good deed for Cassie I headed out and was there at 8. Actually I was the third person in line. I was surprised with the lack of people. But took my camera and headed across the bridge taking pictures as I went. I checked, the ticket booth did not open until 9 so I had a little time to explore before I needed to be in line. I kept a watchful eye on the traffic so I was ready to take the down escalator toward the ticket entrance when I saw people heading that way. I saw a few busses drive across the top of the dam turn around and drive back. No one got off so just site seers. Once the bypass bridge was built the road going up the hill on the Arizona side was closed. About 8:30 I went to the ticket door, still locked. There were about 12 people in line so I got in line. I though I sure was lucky to come on a Monday, no people. By the time the door opened there were about 30 people in line. But I was not worried since some of the people were taking the power plant tour and a few others were just going to the visitors’ center, cost 8 dollars just to do that. So I was feeling good until the metal detector stopped me. I took everything out of my pockets, still I was blocked. I was wearing shorts so the guard noticed my scar and ask if I had knee replacement surgery. Of course I had last November, so he used the wand and I was permitted to enter. I approached the ticket lady, she asked if I wanted the Power Plant Tour or Visitors center, I said I wanted the Dam Tour, she replied there is no Dam Tour today. I said I will take the Visitors center do I get to see the movie there she replied the movie is only on the Dam Tour which is not today. I later found out the Dam Tour is very infrequent because of staffing. Only once during last month and that was for a special group. They are having trouble hiring people. I did look at some things in the Visitors center and was able to get to a better observation deck for a few pictures. I was back at the motel by 10:20, Cassie was surprised. I told her there was not a Dam Tour so I just came back.

I loaded the car and we headed out. After a stop at Sams for water, our forth 48 bottle case, and diet coke, we got back on I15 and headed to Hurricane, UT.

As you can see a very disappointing day. Tomorrow more curvy roads as we head thru canyon lands.
View from top of dam

Old elevator used during my early visits


Bypass Bridge

Backside of Dam

River flowing from dam

Lake Mead

Day 49_52

Welcome! Day 49/50/51/52 (Sept 26/27/28/29) of North to Alaska


Quote: "I'm not lost, I've just temporarily lost sight of my destination."

I must apologize since I have been sort of lazy in posting. No valid reason but we have not done much except drive. While driving is great to do, sometimes I feel there is not much to say about it. Today I plan on getting closer to being caught up. So here goes.

Day 49: Tonight we are in San Rafael. This is just north of San Francisco. We are staying at an Embassy Suites. It is very nice. We left Crescent City heading south on US 101. This took us right into the Redwood forest. The road was good, paved with lines down the middle, but without shoulders since the trees came all the way to the pavement. There was no place to pull over so I could take pictures. The trees were beautiful and very tall. Some were very red. After a bit we were able to drive through a park area where we did see a tree where normal cars could drive through. I was able to get the front end of my car in but the mirrors would not let me drive completely through. If the word for Alaska was mountains then the word for today was trees. Not many pictures here but don’t fret on Day 52 I got some from another park. We did try a few other side trips but none lived up to their advertisements. One did put us on a dirt road about 2000 feet above the ocean making the road to Pikes Peak look like a piece of pie. I could see the white knuckles on Cassie’s hands. There was no way to turn around, we just hoped this was a one way road. But it all worked out as we made our way back to a hard surface road that descended normally. The rest of the day was very routine.

Day 50: Being at an Embassy Suites we started the day with a great breakfast. We did not want to leave too early since 101 would take us directly into San Francisco. We left about 10. Knowing that US 101 would take us directly through downtown I decided to give our GPS a try without altering its output. I normally put in enough info to make it point the way I really want to go. So the GPS took over and we did cross some large bridges but we took an Interstate and bypassed downtown. Most all the way around town we were travelling in opposite direction to the traffic flow. We made good time. We left the Interstate and heading back over to US 101 at San Jose.  We travelled south for a few miles and then cut over to Highway 1 to follow the coast all the way down to Morro Bay our destination for the day. The part of Highway 1 between Carmel and San Simeon is commonly referred to as Big Sur. This consists of a very curvy, winding road with a lot of traffic and not many places for rest rooms or gas purchases. This road makes me consider that driving the “Road to Hana” may not have been the worst road I have driven. As we neared San Simeon I noticed my gas gage indicated I was very low on fuel. We finally found a place called Ragged Point. I decided I should fill up to be sure I could make Morro Bay another 40 miles. I pulled up to the pumps and quickly changed my mind. I decided to just put in $20 worth which gave me about 3.4 gallons. The place was very busy with its cafĂ© and convenience store. Another example of location, location, when you are the only place in town not much else matters.

As we passed thru San Simeon we stopped at Hearst Castle. It was only 3:20 but the last tour had just left. So we reserve on for 10:40 the next morning, the earliest we could get. We then headed into Morro Bay about 20 miles, the hotels at San Simeon were all booked.

While this was not a long day it was a tiring drive.

Day 51: Was Hearst Castle day. We visited “The Biltmore” several years back and I thought it was awesome with a great history. I now think the same for Hearst Castle although they are very different in my mind. Hearst is more of a museum actually it is mostly a museum housed in a great building. I took many pictures some you can see below. It took 28 years to build mostly because of the architecture changing many times. Still the end results are amazing. There are several tours. We went on the Grand Tour which is basic and the one with the least stairs to climb, still had 106, all outside of the house. Then we were on our own to visit the grounds outside the main house. I thought it was interesting that Hearst had accumulated so many works of art and many silver castings he was not so refined as to not use ketchup and mustard from the bottle.

After our time at the castle we headed for Porterville, more toward the middle of the state near the Sequoia National parks. We decided to take some shortcuts. i.e. more backcountry roads. This was a combination of GPS and Cassie’s maps. It turned out we did not take the most direct routes but it was a fun afternoon.


Day 52: Today was a contrast between mountains, trees, and desert land. We travelled from Porterville, CA to Henderson, NV just outside of Las Vegas. For the early part of the day I could not fool the GPS enough to direct our route and we soon found that most of the roads we took were not on Cassie’s maps, but from looking at the AAA internet maps I had a feeling of where I wanted to go so off we went, Cassie was not as excited as me but she hung on. Leaving Porterville we started heading up along curvy roads much like our normal days travel. Soon we were in the Sequoia National Monument. Trees we did see I was able to stop a few times and took pictures. As we entered the park elevation was at 1000 feet. Within about 16 miles we quickly rose to over 6000 feet while doing sharp turns and many switchbacks. Traffic was very lite but we did see some other fools driving this road. Somewhere around the 6000 feet mark Cassie said “I wonder where we are” my reply “I don’t know but I do know we are not turning around” so onward we went. After a few more hours our GPS did pick us up and Cassie was able to locate us on the map. Note the GPS knew where we were but just couldn’t tell us were to head to reach our destination. After following many roads we found I15 just north of Barstow. We then headed toward Las Vegas through the Mojave Desert. This was Sunday afternoon and I believe within about 100 miles we saw more cars travelling toward Los Angeles than we had seen previously on our entire trip, this included our 20 odd miles around San Francisco. At points the cars appeared to be bumper to bumper.

As you expected we did make it to Vegas. We did drive down “the strip” but did not stop until we arrived at our hotel in Henderson. I figured I had gambled enough just taking those mountain roads I did not need any more temptation.
So today was truly trees, mountains and desert. Tomorrow we start with a Hoover Dam tour then on to Utah.

Cassie in the Tree

It just will not fit.

Castle upon arriving

Front view of towers

Cassie are the walk up.

400 year old door with 1 inch tile floor

Standup chairs

Ketchup bottles

Silver Chandler

French pool table no pockets

View from rear of castle


Neptune Pool Sand Filtered water 

Bell Tower

Roman Reflective Pool

Sequoia (Redwood) Tree

Redwood Trees

More Trees

Two trees growing together

Upper part of trees