Friday, June 28, 2013

"North to Alaska"...Day 24...Thursday, June 27, 2013

A short hop today from Fort Nelson to Muncho Lake. The in the morning...on the road at 9:00.
A pretty drive, but things will get better further up the road.
Around 1:00, we reach the Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake...a very nice place...I stayed here in 2008. Bill and I opt for a "rustic cabin"...simple, but nice. Soon, we are settled in and charging up laptops, cameras, etc.
Around 4:00, it's cocktail hour...a Manhattan for me, a few beers for cousin Bill. At 7:00, we head up to the Lodge for dinner...German beer on draft and an excellent "Scnitzel" for dinner...I even get ice cream for dessert. We meet some fellow campers heading south, and they have some good info on road conditions and weather up ahead.
After dinner, back to the cabin...they have cable we watch some news. to bed. A nice fluffy and comfy bed. It's going to be a great night of sleep!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"North to Alaska"...Day 23...Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's a very soggy morning. It rained all night and, as I slide out of the camper, there's a light drizzle. Too rainy to make coffee this morning. Fortunately, Bill has already been up and about for an hour... and he's picked up coffee from a nearby gas station.
We head into the town of Dawson Creek to a little restaurant for breakfast...eggs over easy, sausage, hash browns, toast, coffee and a big glass of milk. Later, back at the campground, we pack up for an early start. We have a 280 mile drive, and it's expected to rain all the way.
It's a challenging, way up here, you have to be on the lookout for animals (moose, deer, etc.), rock slides, bad highway, and a host of other things. It takes us almost six hours to cover the stretch between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson. We stop every hour or so to stretch our legs and give Kechi a walk. It's not a particularly scenic drive, especially with all of the rain. There are a few low mountains and rolling hills...a few steep grades and a number of small rivers. That will all change once we leave Fort Nelson. Then, we'll be on the approach to the Rocky Mountains...lots of steep grades, winding highway, rives/streams and, hopefully, some wildlife.
These long drives have given me opportunities to listen to some great music. Sometimes (particularly in the morning), I listen to CNN or BBC News...but the rest of the time, it's all music. I've listened to all four of the Brahms symphonies, the Mahler 5th, Dvorak's 9th. Every other day or so, I listen to my favorite "Mash-up" (Girl Talk's "All Day". I've got over fifty Techno "podcasts" stored on my iPod, so there's plenty of that to listen to while I'm driving. Cousin Bill listens to CBC Radio mostly...and that's good because he's up to date on weather conditions and road closures.
Around 3:30, we roll into Fort Nelson and find our campground. It's not much this campground...pretty barren...but it's got water, electricity, Wi-Fi, bathrooms and showers...everything that you could want. We actually have a little bit of sun as we park our campers. I have my usual afternoon Manhattan and a few snacks.
Around 5:30, Bill and I start setting up for dinner...that comes to a halt when the rain starts. But it's a short rain and, by 6:30 or so, we're cooking. Bill makes Pepper Steak with some leftover beef. I grill up a batch of Tandoori Chicken and heat up a pouch of "Bombay Potatoes".
After dinner, we have a few beers and listen to CBC Radio. We've switched over to Pacific Time, and it's a struggle to stay up past 10:00.
We've got a short drive tomorrow...155 miles to Muncho Lake. But I know from my first trip up here that things will start to change tomorrow. The landscape will get more interesting as we enter the far northern end of the Rockies. About fifty miles out of Fort Nelson, we'll lose our cell phone signal...won't get that back until we hit the Alaskan border. I'll also lose my Sirius radio'll be all iPod until Anchorage. Last rip, I lost satellite radio all through the Yukon and Alaska. This is because of the curvature of the earth and the position of the Sirius/XM satellite. But I read an article recently about how Sirius/XM has installed a series of "repeaters" up in Alaska to put out a signal in the major towns like Anchorage and Fairbanks...I'll find out soon how successful that project turned out.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"North to Alaska"...Day 22...Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I stayed up much later than usual las night. Although the temperature dropped fifteen degrees or so after dinner, I was in a beer and great music "groove" until after 11:00.
So...this morning, I'm up a little later. Morning cigar, coffee from the thermos...the "usual".
While Bill's packing up, I run into town for gas. Back at the campground, I check out at the office, but the "hottie" who was working the desk is not there this morning. We were actually lucky to get a site here at this's basically full/packed. Most of the "residents" are oil field workers. They head to the fields during the week, then back to the campground for the weekend. The oil boom here in northern Alberta is apparent everywhere...wells all over, high employment levels and excellent wages.
Around 9:30 or so, Bill and I are off to Dawson 80 mile drive. Weather is sunny and warm...nice.
We take our time with the drive and arrive in Dawson Creek a little after noon. Around 10:30, we crossed from Alberta into British Columbia, switched to "Pacific time", and picked up an hour. After setting up camp, we drive into "town" for the obligatory photo shots of the "Milepost 0" monument. Back at camp, Bill starts working on his camper. He's got some persistent leak problems. When he bought his camper, the windows had to be replaced. He bought one replacement window at $350.00 and covered the other window space with a thick piece of translucent plastic...riveting that in and sealing the edges with caulk. The problem is...when the camper is folded down flat and rolling down the highway, that plastic piece flexes like a drum. This breaks the seal and loosens the caulk which blows away. So...when it rains, that area leaks. And a leaky camper makes for a cranky and unhappy camper. So, today Bill is putting some "braces" on the outside and the inside of the plastic to reduce the flexing.
When the braces are in place, Bill looks to re-caulk. But...there are dark clouds on the horizon...really. Over the course of two hours or so, we watch a huge storm front roll skies, a temperature drop...and then the rain. It comes down in buckets while we seek shelter in Bill's camper...equipped with towels at the windows to handle the leaks. After an hour or so, the rain slows to a drizzle.
There will be no cooking at the campsite this night. So...Bill and I head into Dawson Creek in search of dinner. When you are in a remote location like Dawson Creek, the general rule for dining is keep it simple and local. So...Bill and I opt for sushi. It turns out to be not great sushi, but decent. We throw down a few beers and a bottle of saki with the sushi.
Back at camp, we're hanging out in Bill's camper while the rain continues outside. It will rain all night.
We've switched over to Pacific time and picked up an, around 9:00, we're pretty tired. Bill falls aslepp while I dash over to my camper for bed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

"North to Alaska"...Day 21...Monday, June 24, 2013

Warm and sunny when I wake up. Leftover (hot) coffee in my thermos.
I head up to the campground office to pay for my campsite (and Cousin Bill's). We arrived late last night, and the office was closed. The gal at the office is cute...I flirt with her while she's checking us in. Her name is Faith...maybe I'll get a chance to see her on our trip back down from Alaska.
Cousin Bill is out...into town to pick up supplies to fix his leak problem. When he returns, we survey my "shelf problem". Back into town to the Home Depot...plywood, 2x3's, bolts, screws, carpeting. Then more stops for beer and groceries.
When we get back to camp, I unload, clean and repack my cooler. Now we have food to get us up the "Highway" to Whitehorse in the Yukon.
Bill (mostly) and I replace the shelf in the rear hatch of my camper...plywood, new hinges, a new wooden "brace, carriage bolts. It takes the better part of six hours...but it's fixed and "Alaska Highway-ready". Kechi is a big help to us in our work.
History repeats itself. My late father was as mechanically "dis-inclined" as I am. Whenever he needed something "fixed", he'd call my Cousin Bill's father, Albert, to "come over for dinner and bring your toolbox". Now...fifty years later...I'm asking my cousin to "come over and bring your toolbox". Bill will not do a "half-ass" job on anything. Everything is measures...calculated...the right screws...the right bolts...everything "just right". I invite Cousin Bill over for dinner...AAA Alberta steaks...Heirloom Tomato Salad with Feta...a nice California Cab.
Life is good.
And...tomorrow...the start of the Alaska Highway.

"North to Alaska"...Day 20...Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wow...for the first time in days, I wake up to warm and sunny rain.
I make coffee in the French Press...yoghurt and granola for breakfast. Later, a welcome shower and shave.
It rained last night, so Cousin Bill's caulk job on his camper was not successful. We just need to "hole up" somewhere without rain and make a few repairs.
We head out around 9:00 for Grande Prairie...about 270 miles away. It's a pretty uneventful drive, except for the 100 mile stretch through "Moose Alley". This area has the highest incidence of "moose accidents" in all of Canada. We don't see (or hit) any...mainly because the Provincial government has "twinned" the road in the last few years.
I was not able to program the address for our campground into my we head into Grande Prairie, we're "winging it". We get lost...we're both "cranky"...we "snipe" at one another. But...we're "family", so that is soon forgotten. And...thanks to some helpful "Albertans", and their good directions, we at last arrive at Happy Trails Campground.
Manhattans and cocktail "snacks" follow. Bill makes a mean batch of au jus, and we have French Dip Sandwiches wahed down with a nice red blend from California.
We're going to stay over here tomorrow. Bill has to fix his camper leaks, and we need to replace the shelf in the rear hatch of my has totally detached and collapsed.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"North to Alaska"...Day 19...Saturday, June 22, 2013

For the first time in days, it's not raining when I climb out of my camper at around 7:00AM. Bill's made a small pot of coffee, so I have a cup of that while I brew my own in the French Press.
Even though it didn't rain overnight, it's still wet in the campground because the ground is saturated. You can see some of the water in the photos with this post. I wander over to the men's may be closed by the Health Department, but I'm sneaking in anyway. But they are clever, these campground owners...unlike last night, this morning they have the doors locked. So...that all means a rather hasty exit this morning.
Our drive to Edmonton is pretty uneventful...sunny and clear skies.
I don't have an exact address for our campground, but we sorta "stumble upon it". It's only $30.00 because it's a municipal campground run by the city. They only have one site available with electricity, so I let cousin Bill take that one. My site is nice and shady...although, with the temperatures in the low 60's, I'd have preferred a little sun.
Cousin Bill needs cash, caulk, beer and he heads off in search of that. While he's gone, I take advantage of the Wi-Fi to do bills (very important), post on Facebook, check emails, etc.
An hour or so later, I get a call from cousin Bill...he's upset because an ATM "ate" his debit card. He has to wait an hour for someone to come to the bank, open the ATM, and retrieve his card. He picks up beer and ice for me...$33.00 for a 12-pack of beer and $4.00 for a four pound bag of ice. Man...I would have trouble living up here...both prices and taxes are very, $5.25 or so a gallon for gas, $13.00 for a cheeseburger...Yikes!
The weather here in Edmonton is nice and sunny with temperatures in the mid-60's. I check weather for the next week or so, and it's all good...sunny, highs in the mid-70's, lows in the high 50's. So...we should have good weather as we start our trek up the Alaska Highway.
It's late afternoon now. Bill is busy "caulking" the roof of his camper. I'm enjoying a Manhattan and some of those excellent spiced pecans while I write this blog post. We're having pasta for dinner...penne with a jar of Mario Batali sauce and some chopped side pork...should be good with a nice bottle of Chianti.
Tomorrow, we've got a two hundred and eighty or do mile drive from Grande Prairie. Then, it's only eighty miles or so to Dawson Creek...Mile "0" on the Alaska Highway. It should be a great adventure!