Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 16/17...Talkeetna to Anchorage...Paul and Hunter Arrive

I left Talkeetna around 10:00AM heading to Anchorage to meet up with Paul's sister, brother-in-law and niece.
I really enjoyed my time in Talkeetna...it has an "eclectic" mix of people...long-time locals primarily in the flying business (pilots, mechanics, etc.), 1960's-era "flower children" (aka "hippies"), bikers, younger "new-age" vegans, etc. I met a few locals who suggested the "Tee-Pee", a spot for locals, as a good place for cocktails...it was. I met more than a few "interesting" people that night. One observation...I have asked almost everyone that I met about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (Anwr) and, without exception, everyone up here is in favor of drilling.
The drive to Anchorage was scenic...more mountains, a few more moose. I stopped for gas about 40 miles south of Talkeetna, and the nice lady ther pumped my gas and washed my windows...also, free coffee. I got to Anchorage around 1:00pm, grabbed a quick lunch, and headed to the local REI store to buy a couple of sweatshirts and the all-important bear spray (a combination of pepper spray and tear gas)...shoots a twelve-foot wide pattern thirty feet. I also stopped off at the New Sagaya Market to check out their selection of gourmet foods...in preparation for our trip tomorrow down to the town of Ninilchik...for "clamming"!
I met up with Paul's sister and his niece's boyfriend for a great dinner at the "Moose's Tooth"...absolutely fantastic pizza. Paul and Hunter got in around 10:30PM. We sat around and talked for an hour or two before getting to bed...everybody was pretty tired.
Today, we've got a lot of work to do. We're unloading and repacking the Escape to make room for two extra passengers, we've got to get the Escape washed (it's absolutely filthy!), we've got shopping to do at New Sagaya and Costco...then it's off to Ninilchik where we have rented a "rustic cabin". Friday morning, we'll be up early to catch the right tide at the beach and get our razor clams...hopefully, we'll be enjoying linguine with clam sauce Friday night in the town of Homer, where we'll be camping on the Homer "Spit".

More later...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 15...Fairbanks to Talkeetna...A Great Day...Spectacular Views Around Denali and a Fun Drive











I left Fairbanks for Talkeetna this morning around 11:00AM. It rained most of the night and into the morning.
I stopped about 40 miles south of Fairbanks for a good burger at the "Moderosa Grill" on Highway 3. Heading toward Denali, I was apprehensive about the weather which was dark and overcast...I wondered if I'd even get to see any part of Mt. McKinley. About 20 miles or so from the Park entrance, I had some great luck as the clouds parted and the sun came out. As a result, I was able to get some absolutely fantastic photos of Mt. McKinley. At almost 4 miles high, the saying is that it makes it's own weather. The whole drive was mile after mile of brilliant scenery. Route 3 was good for much of the trip, except for a ten mile stretch south of the Park entrance where the road was under construction, and everyone had to travel in a line behind a "pilot vehicle".
At about 6:30PM, I left Highway 3 to take the "Talkeetna Cut-off". As I entered the town, I had the best view of Mt. McKinley yet...as you can see from the photos. I like Talkeetna...it's just what I expected...local, "quirky" and fun. I was very lucky to get a room at the Talkeetna Roadhouse...a very nice room right above the best restaurant in town. I can't wait for tomorrow morning because the Roadhouse is famous for their cinnamon rolls, and I'm going to be waking up to the smell of them baking in the kitchen right below my room.
Now. something very embarrassing...last night in Fairbanks, I went for Ice Cream at a really great place called "Hot Licks"...they are famous for their gourmet "small batch" ice cream. It was there that I made an incredibly stupid mistake that only a tourist can make. All that I can tell you is that if you come up here to Alaska do not, repeat, do not order "moose tracks" or "moose droppings" ice cream...they use the real thing up here, and it is absolutely disgusting. OK...lesson learned.
Tomorrow, I'll be sleeping in late again and then heading down to Anchorage. I'm going to do a little walking around and shopping there before stopping at the home of Paul's sister and brother-in-law, Mary and Warren. We'll be picking up Paul and Hunter at the airport at 10:00Pm...they are going to love it up here!

Daily Wound Report
I know that many of you will be deeply disappointed, but I have decided to discontinue the "Daily Wound Report". I am sorry about this because I know that a lot of you eagerly awaited this report each day. But, with everything healing up so well, there's just nothing to report anymore.

More later...enjoy the photos

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 14...Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs and Back...Chilly, Rainy and Overcast






Today, I slept late at my hotel in Fairbanks.
For lunch, I drove up to Chena Hot Springs to the resort there 60 miles or so north and east of Fairbanks. It's a very nice resort with a lodge, a very good restaurant and, of course, the hot springs. It's a place that I might stay after Paul and Hunter head back to Michigan.
Other than that, I didn't do much today. The weather was chilly, rainy and overcast...people here say this is the worst summer in Alaska in decades. Two of the "harbingers" of fall, or the official end of summer, have already arrived here. "Terminal Dust" refers to the first light dusting of snow on certain mountaintops...they had it last week. And the other sign that signals the end of summer is the appearance of "fireweed"...it was all over the edges of the road on the way to Chena Hot Springs.
Tomorrow, I'll be leaving Fairbanks for the town of Talkeetna just south of Denali National Park. I'm hoping that the weather is clear because there should be some spectacular views of Mt. McKinley and other mountains along the way. If you remember the old TV show, Northern Exposure, about the small town in Alaska, then you already know a little a little about Talkeetna, the town that inspired the show.
There are a couple of places there that rent cabins...my new preferred accommodation.
No photos today...not much to photograph in this weather. I saw two more moose today on the drive to Chena Hot Springs...just moose, no squirrel. And, I still can't upload yesterday's photos from my hotel. I'll post them at my next stop.

Daily Wound Report
This morning, I went to a small "Walk-In" Clinic next to my hotel and paid $175.00 for a "wound check". The Doctor was surprised that I had healed so quickly...so...no more antibiotic cream or dressings are necessary. But...no lifting for one full month following the surgery and, though hiking is not recommended now, I should be OK for "light hiking" (no pack) in Denali in two weeks or so.

Today's Music
Two great CD's from the Cardigans and my favorite Argentine Tango Compilation CD...great music for a dreary day.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 13...Alaska!...Spectacular Views...Challenging Roadways...and...First Moose Sighting!

I left Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory at 9:00AM this morning. It's a nice little town. I did laundry at a local laundromat, had a "musk ox steak" for dinner...not bad, but a bit dry, and enjoyed some local band entertainment at "Flipper's".
Weather was partly cloudy heading out towards Kluane Lake. At the south end of the lake there was major road construction, and I followed two cycles for about twenty miles on very loose gravel. The roads did not improve much, although I will say that the Yukon government is meticulous in placing little red flags at every bump and dip in the road.
Lots of cool mountain scenery. I crossed the border into Alaska at around 2:30PM Pacific time (1:30PM Alaska time). I thought that the border crossing might be cool...duty free, etc...not quite...pretty ho-hum. Roads in Alaska were not an improvement over the Yukon...and...Alaska is not nearly as conscientious about the little red flags. Also, "loose gravel patch" is to Yukon as "road separates" is to Alaska. Once I got to the town of Tok, road conditions improved considerably, and I was able to travel at a consistent 70mph. At approximately 4:29PM (Alaska time), I finally spotted my first Moose...who promptly sauntered into the woods before I could get a photo. A few "Moose observations"...they're BIG, they don't respond well to human conversation ("Hey, Moose dude, 'sup" did not elicit any response, they do not always travel with flying squirrel...mine was "solo".
I am now relaxing at the Super 8 motel in Fairbanks after a long (11 hours) day of driving. Tomorrow, I'm thinking of heading northwest to the "Chena Hot Springs"...although I won't be able to "go in all the way" after my surgery.
Wednesday, I'll be heading down to Anchorage to rendezvous with Paul's sister, brother-in-law and niece...and...at 10:00PM, I'll be picking up Paul and Hunter at the airport. Then, it's down the Kenai peninsula to "Clam Gulch" for clamming, then on to Homer for camping on the Homer "Spit".

Today's Music
Early...all techno with all the best from DJ Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold, and John Digweed...good driving music! Later, Sunday with the Sundays...Reading, Writing & Arithmetic, Static & Silence, Blind.

Daily Wound Report
Everything still going great...healing up fast. If I can find one, I might stop at a "Walk-In" Clinic here in Fairbanks to have a Doctor check things out.

"Blogger.com" is not letting me upload any photos tonight...so...we'll just have to wait until tomorrow.

More later...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 12, Saturday, July 26, 2008...Watson Lake to Whitehorse...Close to Alaska







About a 320 mile drive today through dark overcast skies and chilly rainy weather. I traveled parallel to the B.C./Yukon border crossing back and forth for about a hundred miles. The Canadian Rockies are now behind me, but new ranges appear around every curve. The tall peak with the snow on top is Dawson Peak (1966m), one of the tallest in the Cassiar Mountain range.
I'm already in the Pacific time zone and, today, I crossed the Continental Divide between Rancheria and Swift River. Tomorrow, I'll be heading northwest again, but mostly north parallel to the Yukon/Alaska border. I should have some great scenery tomorrow as, early on, I'll be going through part of the Kluane National Park and Preserve and, later, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I expect to hit the Alaskan border just north of Beaver Creek sometime in the early afternoon.
Tonight, I'm in the town of Whitehorse, the capitol of the Yukon Territory. Compared to the other Yukon towns where I've stayed, Whitehorse is pretty big. They even have a sushi bar.
I've enjoyed my drive through B.C. and the Yukon, but it sure will feel good to be back in the USA tomorrow.

Animal Sightings Report
Not much today because of the weather. I saw more black bears, but now I've seen so many...if they're not playing a musical instrument, juggling or performing some other clever trick, I don't even slow down.
Just north of the town of Teslin, I saw a red fox trotting down the side of the road with a rabbit in his mouth. Before I could get my camera out, he'd ducked into some cover.
One thing that I find curious is the fact that I have not yet seen a moose. I've passed a thousand signs telling me to watch out for them and I drove for three hundred miles on a highway nicknamed "Moose Alley", and still nothing.

Daily Wound Report
Still doing great...healing up nicely. Hopefully, I can camp in another week or two and hike in another two or three.

One last thing...I ran into two gals from Niles, Michigan last night in the restaurant at my hotel in Watson Lake. One of them retired as a teacher in the Niles school system and then took a job teaching outside of Anchorage. They both loved my "NILEZ" license plates.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 11, Friday, July 25, 2008...Muncho Lake to Watson Lake...Lions, Tigers, and Bears...Well, Bears Anyway...and More!








Another perfect day for driving!
While the scenery was less spectacular than yesterday, there were a lot of "wildlife sightings" today!
I left the Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake around 10:00AM. Ten miles out or so, I saw a deer (see photo...there's a deer in there, I promise). Another twenty miles or so on, I ran into a road construction crew...chatting with one of the guys, he told me that they were "tearing up the road a little", and it could be a bit of a wait. I mentioned the fact that I hadn't seen much wildlife yet, and he said that there were buffalo ahead. After a 45 minute delay, I was on my way again...and a few miles later, I hit my first "buffalo crossing" (see photos).
Later, as I approached the town of Coal River, I had my first "bear sighting" (more photos). I probably saw at least ten more bears along the way...stopping to get a few more photos.
At about 1:30PM, I crossed from British Columbia into the Yukon (photo) and, an hour later, I made it to Watson Lake (photo). I am staying at the Belvedere Motor Hotel...nice.
Tomorrow, I've got to be "up an at 'em" early. I'll be heading from Watson Lake to Whitehorse...about a six to seven hour trip that promises to reveal more wildlife.

"The Light"!
Wow...I haven't mentioned "the light" yet! I first noticed in Fort Nelson, how light it is at night. I got up and went outside my hotel room around 11:00PM and it was...well...light outside. Not daylight, mind you, more like dusk...and I could still see sunlight in the west. Now...it's "light" even later...midnight or so. It's only going to get better as I get closer...and into...Alaska.

Daily Wound Report
Still healing up nicely. The "triple antibiotic" cream is doing it's job, and the Amoxicillin has apparently done it's job as well.

Friday's Music
I started out with "Come Softly...the Best of the Fleetwoods" because a little "doo wop" seemed appropriate. I also loaded the "Best of ABBA" (OK, everyone has their dirty secrets), and then...I listened to Howard Hansen's Fourth Symphony ("The Romantic"). That got me thinking about the time that I actually met Howard Hansen. My parents were away in Florida, so I spent the 1974 Christmas Holidays with my good friend, Ron Buttarazzi, in Rochester, New York. We were doing a lot of "partying" back then, and I remember that on the second day of my visit, Ron's mom put a sign on their liquor cabinet that said "THE BAR IS CLOSED!!!"...Ha!...as if a mere sign could thwart man's most primitive and fundamental drive for intoxication!
Anyway, about day four, I mentioned to my friend Ron that one of my favorite composers, Howard Hansen, lived in Rochester. Emboldened by some particularly powerful "weed", we got out a phone book, and there it was...a listing for "Howard Hansen". We wasted no time driving to the address given and, soon, we were ringing the doorbell. This nice older lady (his wife) answered the door and asked how she could help us. We told her that we were big fans of Howard Hansen, the composer, and that we wanted to meet him. In a hushed voice, she said, "oh, he's upstairs composing, I'll get him". "Howard", she shouted, "there's some young people down here that want to talk to you". And a minute or two later, there he was. At that time, he was already in his 80's, and we were able to talk about all the famous composers that he had met in his lifetime...many of the "giants" of 20th Century music...Bartok, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, you name them. He was kind enough to autograph an "LP" of his Romantic Symphony", which I still have...somewhere.
He explained that he was busy composing a "tone poem" on commission from the Albuquerque, New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. I've always wanted to hear that work...just to see if somewhere, there's this little passage with a "solo" for doorbell.
More later...

Day 10...Thursday, July 24, 2008...Fort Nelson to Muncho Lake...Spectacular Views, challenging Roadways, A Few Mountain Sheep and 300 Spartans









WOW...an absolute spectacular drive today through the northern Canadian Rockies. I left Fort Nelson late after deciding to spend a night at the Northern Rockies Lodge in Muncho Lake...recommended by a number of people in Fort Nelson.
Weather was perfect and the road was excellent heading northwest up and over the Canadian Rockies. Not far out of Fort Nelson, I came across a "mountain sheep crossing" (see photos). I stopped briefly and thought about how attractive sheep can be...and how sensuous female sheep can be...then I thought...Wow!...I've been on the road too long...and maybe I should just get back in my vehicle and go before I get in a "rutting contest" that I just can't win.
Further on, I went through Summit Lake Pass (see photo of approach) and miles upon miles of great views of mountains, riverbeds and more (see photos). At around 3:00PM, I came around a bend in the road, and I was driving right next to Muncho Lake (photo). It was absolutely beautiful there. I stayed at the Northern Rockies Lodge in a small "cozy cabin" (more photos). The owners were Swiss, and my limited knowledge of German helped me get my cabin and some really excellent service.
Dinner was pretty good...N.Y. Strip, spaetzle, salad...and a really, really good banana split. About the time that my dessert arrived, a busload of people came in...some wearing MSU shirts. Of all the cruel luck...I'm in the middle of nowhere, and I run into a bunch of Spartans! Still, in this part of the world, even Spartans can be a friend (Spartans, mind you, not Buckeyes). We shared a few beers and more than a few stories...immediately after I went back to my cabin and put on my best UM shirt.
Back at my cabin, I polished off a bottle of 2007 Juan Gill Spanish Monastrell...fantastic. Appropriately "sedated", I slept like a baby.

Daily Wound Report
Still healing well...good thing that I've always been a fast "healer". A little "itching", and that's a good sign.

Thursday's Music
Well, even my Sirius satellite radio is "iffy" now. So...lots of CD's...more classical...Dvorak's 9th Symphony...a rousing piece of music composed after Dvorak spent a few months in the U.S. at a colony of Czech immigrants in Iowa...some traditional American folk melodies woven in there. Mahler's Symphony #1 (The Titan")...great for driving. And..."Monster Hits of the 80's...the Bangles, Tears for Fears, etc.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 9...Wednesday, July23, 2008...Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson




Today was an absolutely perfect day for driving...bright, sunny and hardly a cloud in the sky.
I'm not quite "in" the Canadian Rockies yet, but the drive was spectacular nonetheless. I finally felt like I was "out there". At around 11:00AM, just south of Pink Lake, British Columbia, I saw the mountains for the first time (see photos)...awesome!
Just north of Pink Lake, I learned the meaning of the term "loose gravel patch"...saw a lot of those signs today between Pink Lake and Fort Nelson. Because of "frost heaves" and the like, the road (Route 97...the Alaskan Highway) breaks up a lot, and they fill in the "holes", indeed, whole stretches of highway with loose gravel. Driving on that, particularly down some really, really steep roads made for some "interesting" driving. Loose gravel patches+steep descents=Thank God I got a "brake job" on the Escape before I left.
Except for the stretches of gravel, Route 97 was a great section of highway, and I was able to travel at a consistent 65mph, even 70-80mph at times.
Terrain was hilly and mountainous with large valleys and millions upon millions of trees (pine, birch, etc.). We may run out of oil, but Canada will never, repeat never run out of trees! I must have seen over a hundred logging trucks today.
More geat music selections today. Heading out of Dawson Creek, I listened to "Walk, Don't Run...The Best of the Ventures"...excellent. I also listened to the 2nd and 3rd symphonies of Sergei Rachmaninoff, conducted by Sir Georg Solti with the Chicago Philharmonic...very "uplifting" with all of those stirring Russian folk melodies. It got me thinking about Rachmaninoff, the man, and how he had to flee Soviet Russia for the U.S...and how lonely he was there...and how much he missed Russia...and how you can hear that in his music.
I also listened to Gustav Holst's "The Planets"...that piece of music (particularly the section called "Venus") always reminds me of my college girlfriend, Maureen Jarvis. I was thinking about our one and only "big date" during Christmas break of my junior year at Michigan. My parents were vacationing in Florida, I had the house to myself, and I invited Maureen over for dinner. I was so excited about that date, I could hardly sit still. I decided to make my then-"specialty", stuffed Italian shells with sausage and marinara sauce. I spent all afternoon working on the shells...ricotta cheese, a little mozzarella and parmesan, an egg, and a little oregano and parsley...then the marinara...olive oil, garlic, tomatoes. All that was left was the sausage...so, I put the sausage in a saucepan with about an inch of water, turned on the heat, and went upstairs to take a shower. Fifteen or twenty minutes into the shower, I smelled smoke...rushed out of the shower downstairs...and found all the sausage burned black and the house filled with smoke. Panicking, I opened every window and door in the house to "air it out". Fifteen minutes later, Maureen arrived, and the house was as cold as a tomb. I forget my excuse, but the house eventually warmed up, I cooked more sausage, and my date was a great success. Regrettably, that was my last date with Maureen. A few months later, she was married and, a few months after that, she had a son...but that's another story.

Tomorrow is going to be a big! driving day. I stopped in for a snack and a few beers at Dan's Neighborhood Pub here in Fort Nelson, and everyone told me the biggest risk driving tomorrow was looking out for tourists stopped in the middle of the highway looking at the scenery. My original plan was to drive to Watson Lake tomorrow but, if I can get a cabin for the night, I'm thinking about staying at a lodge at a place called Muncho Lake...everybody said that was a cool place to stay.

I have no cell service here, and I suspect that I won't get a signal again until I cross the border from the Yukon Territory into Alaska...that should be sometime Sunday afternoon (July 27th)...so...if you call and can't get me, don't worry. I may be out of touch for a day or two, but I'll be just fine.

Daily Wound Report
No change from yesterday...still healing up and no signs of infection.

More later...tomorrow...Into the Wild!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 8...Tuesday, July 22, 2008...Edmonton to Dawson Creek




A great drive today! Left Edmonton around 7:30AM under dark skies, rain and a chilly breeze, but the sun was out by 10:00AM. I saw my first "Moose Crossing" sign around 9:30AM but, even though Alberta Route 43 is known as "Moose Alley", I did not see a single moose today.
Route 43 is just a great road...four lane, divided highway, Interstate quality...with the exception of one 10 mile stretch that narrowed to two lanes, I was able to do 70-75 mph all the way from Edmonton. Terrain went from rolling prairie to densely wooded forest as I approached the foothills of the Canadian Rockies
When you start studying the Alaskan Highway, four towns stand out along the way...Whitehorse (Yukon), Watson Lake (Yukon), Fort Nelson (British Columbia) and Dawson Creek (British Columbia). Today/tonight, I'm at the Ramada Inn in Dawson Creek. Dawson Creek is the official "beginning" of the Alaskan Highway (see photos). It's also the end of the 'prairie" and the beginning of the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. From here on, it's going to be all beautiful scenery up and over the Rockies. All of the driving up to this point was just the "appetizer"...starting tomorrow, we're on to the "main course". I'm excited about tomorrow's drive to Fort Nelson because this is the part of my trip that I've really been looking forward to.
I'll be taking lots of photos.
I listened to some great music on today's drive...Amy Winehouse (about whom I would never know were it not for my good friend, Kammi Whatley, from Shreveport, Louisiana), Zero 7 (The Garden), Buddha Bar Chillout in Paris...and Mahler's 5th Symphony, conducted by Georg Solti and the Chicago Philharmonic. I had forgotten how much I love that piece of music...I first heard the "Adagio" movement as an encore at Pine Knob and, even though I didn't know what it was, it blew me away.
I had also forgotten how friendly the Canadian people can be...like the cute little gal with the cool piercings who pumped my gas and cleaned my windows in Grand Prairie, Alberta...
"Where you heading?", she said.
"All the way to Alaska".
"Wow, you'll be going through the Yukon, where I'm from".
"I'm looking forward to that".
"Make sure you don't close your eyes because, if you do, you'll miss something beautiful."

A few observations on "equipment performance" as I near the halfway point of the Alaska leg of the trip...

Things that worked well:
Rola Cargo Carrier...I had a ton of choices for rear cargo carriers, but went with the one recommended by U-Haul...a great choice. I was worried about stability, but it's performed like a champ.
Sirius Radio...before I left, XM was my favorite, but I have not lost the Sirius signal once during the entire trip.

Things that did not work so well:
XM Radio...I don't have a signal nearly half the time...pretty annoying when you've listened to something for a half hour or so and then miss the last five minutes.
Garmin/Escape "built-in" navigator...In Jamestown, the Garmin directed me into a dead-end in the middle of some farmer's field...nice. The "built-in" navigator in the Escape is even worse...it shows me in an "off-road" condition half the time, AND it repeats an annoying message every ten minutes or so..."Your route contains incomplete data. Safe driving is the responsibility of the driver."

Daily "Wound Report"
All the surgical wounds are still looking OK...well...let me rephrase that...they look ugly, but they're healthy...healing up, no sign of infection.

That's it for today. Tomorrow...the Rockies!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 7...Monday, July 21, 2008...Edmonton...Post #2



I arrived in Edmonton after the short drive from Calgary.
I was able to stop north of Red Deer, Alberta in the town of Ponoka and spend an hour or so with Maureen O'Connell, the daughter of my close friends, Dan and Sheila O'Connell. I hadn't seen Maureen since she was in High School and came to one of my Summer Picnics years ago. She is now 31 with a Doctorate in Psychology. She is a counselor at a Center for Head Injuries in Ponoka. She's a fine young person...just like her parents. How great to meet someone that you know over a thousand miles from home.
I'm posting a photo from our meeting. I'm also posting a photo from my first camp in Jamestown, North Dakota...this photo is significant because it is the last known photo of me when I still had an appendix.
Tomorrow, I'm off to Dawson Creek where I've already booked a room at the Ramada. Dawson Creek is at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, so I should start to see some really beautiful scenery...I'll take plenty of photos to post.

Day 7...Monday, July 21, 2008...Calgary to Edmonton

Today I'm off to a late start heading from Calgary to Edmonton...a "short" drive of 150 miles or so.
I had a great dinner last night at the River Cafe...carpaccio of Elk and a Venison rib eye...excellent. I had hoped to visit the Cat and Fiddle bar, recommended by my friends Dick and Diane, but I just didn't have the strength after dinner.
This afternoon, I'll be reorganizing everything in the Escape in preparation for leaving tomorrow morning for Dawson Creek, my last stop in Alberta before entering British Columbia. It's cooler than I anticipated in the evening, so I need to get out a few pieces of my colder weather clothing (sweats, jackets, etc.). Also, because it's pretty desolate once I leave Edmonton, I want to make sure that I've pretty much got everything that I need (in terms of food, water, etc.) to get to Alaska.
You probably don't need this level of detail, but I changed my dressings last night and all of my "wounds" looked pretty good. I applied a "triple antibiotic" ointment and new dressings, so I'm good to go.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

R & R in Calgary

Day 5...Saturday, July 19, 2008...Calgary
Today, I decided to drive on past my scheduled stop in Medicine Hat, Alberta to Calgary. With Paul's help, I was able to book two nights at the Westin Hotel. The folks here at the Westin could not have been more helpful...helping to unload a ton of camping gear and putting me on the "preferred business floor" with high-speed Internet, unlimited calls in North America, free breakfast and a really, really comfortable bed.
I got in around 5:30PM and had an early dinner at the Vintage Chop House...forty-day dry-aged buffalo rib eye steak, creamed spinach and two glasses of Argentinian Malbec...for awhile, I finally felt human again. I went back to the hotel and slept ten hours.

Day 6...Sunday, July 20, 2008...Calgary
I was up at 9:00AM this morning and had a big breakfast. I wish that I could say that I have spent the day exploring Calgary but, to be honest, I have slept most of the day. I have observed that the people here are pretty friendly and the city itself is very clean and well-maintained.
I did take a walk over to the downtown mall to get some medical supplies at the drug store. Today, I need to change the bandages applied at surgery, so I wanted to get some powerful antibiotic ointment and replacement bandages.
Tonight, I'm having dinner at the River Cafe (http://www.river-cafe.com/), a short walk from my hotel. They specialize in "up-scale" interpretations of regional Canadian cuisine, so I should be able to get a game dish and some other interesting things.
Tomorrow, it's on to Edmonton, just a short drive of 180 miles or so. I may stay an extra day in Edmonton because, once I leave there, I'm going to be in pretty desolate territory until I get to Anchorage. From Edmonton, I'll be driving over the Canadian Rockies to Dawson Creek, British, Columbia and, from there, to Watson Lake, Fort Nelson and Whitehorse. It's a little under 2000 miles from Edmonton to Anchorage so, at this point, I've completed less that a third of the trip, and I've got a long way to go.
I'm not sure what kind of phone reception I'll have once I leave Edmonton, so don't be concerned if I'm out of touch for a few days. Likewise with Internet access...after Edmonton, I may not be able to post again until Anchorage.
One final note, please don't call me on my cell phone tomorrow between 1:00PM and 2:00PM...I'll be downloading my weekly ringtones from Kanye West, Lil' Wayne and Young Jeezy.



Friday, July 18, 2008

The Trip to Alaska!

Internet access has been limited, but I'm on the lobby PC at a hotel in Moosejaw, Saskatchawan. It has been an interesting couple of days to say the least...so here goes...

Day 1 (Tuesday) Detroit to Eau Claire
Dick and Diane!
My day 1 drive to Eau Claire was uneventful...clear skies and open roads. As I absolutely knew, I had a great time with my good friends, Dick and Diane Zahorik. They are two of the nicest people I know, and I wish that everyone that I know could meet them. Back in 1980, a severe wind storm hit Eau Claire and knocked out the power in Dick and Diane's neighborhood for days. In response, all of the neighbors on Dick and Diane's block banded together to make sure that coffee was available, have open cookouts and, most importantly, provide an uninterrupted supply of beer. Each year since, the block hosts a party to commemorate the big storm and the spirit of neighborliness. This year, I was fortunate enough to be at Dick and Diane's as they hosted this year's party. This gave me an opportunity to see some old friends (Bernie and Karla) again and make some new ones as well.
All in all, a great start to my trip.

Day 2 (Wednesday) Eau Claire to Jamestown, North Dakota
First Camp
Heavy clouds and rain heading out of Eau Claire through Minneapolis. I stopped on the western edge of Minneapolis and bought a tarp to "bungee-down" over the containers in the rear cargo carrier...smart move!
I reached the campground in Jamestown around 5:00PM and had my camp set up in about 45 minutes. After a few Margaritas, I had a great dinner of grilled hangar steak and roasted potatoes...along with a few glasses of a nice little 2005 Bordeaux.

Day 3 (Thursday) Jamestown to Regina, Saskatchewan (not!)
Dude, Where's my Appendix?!
On Wednesday afternoon/evening, I experienced a little abdominal "cramping" which I thought might be indigestion. As I broke camp Thursday morning, they returned (only worse). Four pepto bismols and two advils helped a little but, as I neared the town of Carrington, North Dakota, they got much worse. So...I used my "Garmin" to find a local medical facility. The people there were great...much as I found most of the North Dakotans that I met (I especially liked the Doctor's Assistant, Jacqui). They took an x-ray of the abdomen and a blood sample for tests. I hit the road again, and they promised to phone in the results. Forty-five minutes or so later, as I approached the town of Minot, North Dakota, the results came in...highly elevated "white count" which, coupled with the location of the pain, was indicative of possible appendicitis.
So...I checked in at Trinity Memorial Hospital and, several blood tests and a CT scan later...thanks to the nice Doctors at Trinity, I was able to realize my lifelong dream of an emergency appendectomy in Minot, North Dakota. I went under at 9:30PM with a "United Nations" of physicians...attending physician from Puerto Rico, anesthegiologist from Burma, and surgeon from Nigeria. The laproscopic procedure went perfect and, with the help of a little (well...maybe a little more than a "little") morphine, I had a comfortable evening.

Day 4 (Friday) Minot to Moosejaw, Saskatchawan
The Trip Continues
I was up and about at 7:00AM and, at noon, I was discharged. I had planned to spend a day/night in Minot to recuperate but, unfortunately, today is the first day of the North Dakota State Fair (held in Minot) and there was not a single room to be had. So...I decided to drive on to Canada. And now, I am in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan. After a quick dinner and a beer or two, I'm hitting the sack early. I'm feeling pretty good...amazingly enough, there's no pain at the incision, no fever or other bad surgical after-effects. We'll see tomorrow, as I head off to Medicine Hat, Alberta. Crossed another time zone today.
More later...sorry for the typos.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Picnic '08...Down to the Wire!/Jones!...Champion Mouser/Alaska...Updated Itinerary

Picnic '08...Down to the Wire!

We're working furiously this "Picnic Friday", but we are currently on schedule.
I got a new Ice Cream maker...a Musso Pola, and it is awesome.
See you tomorrow for the 36th Annual!


Jones!...Championship Mouser

Jones got his first mouse Wednesday night...he's gonna be a great mouser!


Alaska

My updated itinerary for Alaska is posted below.


Date

Mileage


Time


Origin

Destination




Total Mileage



Campground/Hotel (Tentative)

Tue 7/15

592.78


9 hrs 35 min


West Bloomfield

Eau Claire







Friends - Dick & Diane

Wed 7/16

420.2


6 hrs 23 min


Eau Claire

Jamestown


ND


1012.98



Frontier Fort Campground

Thur 7/17

414.7


7 hrs 36 min


Jamestown

Regina


Sask


1427.68



River Park Campground (Weyburn)

Fri 7/18

293.4


4 Hrs 46 min


Regina

Medicine Hat


Alb


1721.08



Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Sat 7/19

183.19


3 hrs 7 min


Medicine Hat

Calgary


Alb


1904.27


C

Calgary West Campground

Sun 7/20

186.22


2 hrs 53 min


Calgary

Edmonton


Alb


2090.49


C

Elk Island National Park

Mon 7/21

364.2


6 hrs 29 min


Edmonton

Dawson Creek


BC


2454.69



Northern Lights RV Park

Tue 7/22

282.3


5 hrs 4 min


Dawson Creek

Fort Nelson


BC


2736.99



Hotel or Campground ???

Wed 7/23

319.5


6 hrs


Fort Nelson

Watson Lake


Y


3056.49



Downtown RV Park

Thur 7/24

272.6


4 hrs 48 min


Watson Lake

Whitehorse


Y


3329.09



TakHini Hotsprings

Fri 7/25

387.7


7 hrs 29 min


Whitehorse

Tok


AK


3716.79



Tundra Lodge & RV Park

Sat 7/26

317.4


5 hrs 24 min


Tok

Anchorage


AK


4034.19


C

Riley Creek Campground

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Jones!/Picnic '08/Alaska


Jones!

That's Jones there enjoying some "cat castle" (right)and PC time (below middle)! He's fitting right in here, and he's giving Cleo a real run for her money!

Picnic 2008

We've been hard at work this weekend...those are the fillings for empanadas on the top. We're also knocking out all of the pastry crusts and rubbing down the pork belly with an Asian cure mix. Lots of great people have come to help...Paul, Sasha, Maureen, Brandy and Renee, just to name a few. Tomorrow, we're marinating the Cuban pork roasts and starting the soaking process for the country ham. We finished up the pork confit (bottom) last weekend. Monday is the last of the shopping, and that night, the cooking starts in earnest.

Alaska

I had a trailer hitch installed on the Escape and added a rear cargo carrier. This will increase by about a third the volume of "stuff" that I can take with me. I'm still finalizing the return route from Alaska, and AAA maps and stuff should be here next week.
I also got my rock pick (essential for proper gold panning) and Lodge camp oven last week. It's still a "go" to depart a week from this Tuesday.


More later....