Monthly Archives: December 2016
Alaska RV trip is winding down
A couple young Amish boys drove a small buggy to a downtown farmers market at Mount Hope, Ohio.
The former headquarters of Longaberger Company near Newark, Ohio, is shaped like a giant version of the company’s signature product — a basket. The building is empty, a victim of the recession.
Tired of the interstate highway hassles, we drove the Winnebago Aspect east onto two lane Highway 2 from Nebraska City, Nebraska and, for a change, enjoyed the beautiful middle America’s small towns and countryside. The scenery is still dominated by head high corn growing on flat ground on both sides of the highway from horizon to horizon. The huge corn fields continue into Iowa, which wasn’t a surprise.
We passed through this area six years ago and recalled visiting the nearby Madison County covered bridges (http://www.rvcrossroads.com/?s=bridges+of+madison+county), made famous by the movie of the same town.
This extended RV trip started in May from Florida and thousands of miles later, drove to the end of the road in Homer, AK., and now we’re heading home to Florida. We travel in a 2015, 32 foot Winnebago Aspect and pull a Honda tow car.
A Frank Lloyd Wright home built in the early 1900’s in Springfield, ILL.
As frequently happens, the once smooth two lane road turned to 50 miles of potholes near Decatur City. We gave up mid-afternoon and camped in Keokuk, Iowa but left early the next morning and headed east again to Springfield, Illinois, home of President Lincoln (http://www.rvcrossroads.com/visiting-lincoln-at-home-in-illinois/.
A Frank Lloyd Wright home built in the early 1900’s in Springfield, ILL.
We stayed here two nights and among other sites, visited the Dana-Thomas House, which was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902. The 12,000 square foot home is typical of Wright’s early prairie style houses.
We drove 118 miles to Casey, settled the RV into a campground, then drove the tow car to nearby Arthur, home of a large Amish settlement. Lunch was buffet style at Yoder’s Restaurant with the typical Amish fare of fried chicken, ham and probably a half dozen vegetables and desserts to pick from.
The countryside around Arthur is home to more than 1,000 Amish families. As expected, farms were extremely neat, lawns well-trimmed plenty of big draft horses and trotters or pacers to pull various buggies and farm equipment.
We stocked up on groceries at an Amish market which included locally grown sweet corn on the cob, and plenty of homemade cookies, muffins, bread and cheese.
Back on the road we drove 313 miles to Buckeye Lake, Ohio, and the following day took a shortcut around Indianapolis to Berlin, Ohio, home of the world’s largest Amish settlement.
We were familiar with Berlin (http://www.rvcrossroads.com/?s=berlin%2C+ohio) since we were here a year ago on a trip to the Great Lakes. We camped here for three nights, ate copious amounts of fried chicken and pecan pie and drove for hours around the countryside, just marveling at the farms and the Amish lifestyle.
The Alaska Bound trip, which covered 12,675 miles, and almost four months, officially ended in St. Augustine, FL on Sept. 6.
NIGHTS ON THE ROAD: 115
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 12,675
TOTAL SPENT ON FUEL: $4,355
TOTAL GALLONS OF FUEL: 1,563 (rv only)
Salt and trees put Nebraska town on the map
The Morton mansion in Nebraska City, Nebraska
After three days camping in Cody, Wyoming, we headed southeast on Highway 120 to Thermopolis and Casper then took I-20 to Douglas where we overnighted.
The scenery along the nearly deserted road was mostly prairie with lots of sage brush and a few rolling hills. We spotted mule deer and pronghorn antelope sleeping or feeding along the roadway and occasionally, we would top a hill and see flat, desolate country for miles and miles and an occasional rain storm, probably in the next county. As I recall, we had no phone signals.
Just outside Thermopolis, a popular and busy little town known for its hot springs, we rode south and parallel with the Big Horn River passing through the Wind River Canyon, which shows off breathtakingly high and colorful cliffs. We should have spent more time here.
At Douglas, we spent the night in a very nice KOA campground, located on the outskirts of town and far enough from the Interstate that we could sleep undisturbed with the windows open.
Inside the Morton mansion.
Douglas has the distinction of being the home of the fabled jackalope tale. Seems a local taxidermist took the antlers from a deer and mated it with the body of a jack rabbit and to this day, there are some in this town who swear the jackalope exists. Douglas thought enough of the attention to erect an eight-foot statue in the middle of town.
Douglas’ real claim to fame? The town is listed in the 100 best small towns of America.
From Douglas we drove to Fort Collins, CO., dined with some Oklahoma friends from high school and college days then drove across Nebraska on the Pawnee Pioneer Trail. We passed mostly farm land, with thousands of acres of corn and soybeans, and a few beef and pork feeder lots and a bunch of oil pumping units. Land that wasn’t growing a cash crop was fenced and covered with prairie grass for grazing cattle.
We drove through corn fields on both sides of the highway as far as the eye could see. This site continued across Nebraska, Iowa and into Ohio.
Signs along the highway said we were driving parallel in some areas, to the famous Pony Express Route. We are in the once wild, wild west.
In North Platte, Nebraska, we enjoyed 50 degree nighttime temperatures, which is a rarity in this part of the country in mid-August and got back on the highway early the next morning and drove 270 miles around Lincoln to Nebraska City and camped in Victorian Acres, a well-appointed campground with big campsites and lots of green grass.
We spent two nights in Nebraska City whose most notable citizen was Morton Salt Company founder Jay Morton. A landmark in town is the Morton mansion, called Arbor Lodge. His father, J. Sterling Morton moved here in the mid 1800’s and complained there were no trees in town. He led a movement to plant trees and later became the founder of Arbor Day. He was also named Secretary of Agriculture by President Grover Cleveland. Morton built the original 32 room house but son Jay expanded it to more than 50.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 94
GALLONS OF GASOLINE: 1,288
COST OF FUEL: $3,879
MILES DRIVEN TO DATE: 10,639
Cody to Yellowstone: Most beautiful 50 miles in America
Buffalo Bill Cody Dam near Cody, Wyoming.
Traveling along Highway 20 between Cody, Wyoming and the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
The best part of our August visit to Yellowstone National Park, was not the park but the drive from Cody to the park’s east entrance.
The nation’s largest bison herd is in Yellowstone National Park. Last count estimated over 5,000 head.
Damage from recent forest fires in this photo taken near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Highway 20 is called the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway and made famous by some very important people, including President Theodore Roosevelt who famously named it the “fifty most beautiful miles in America.” Also known as the Wapiti Valley Road, the highway cuts through a spectacular valley and follows the Shoshone River for many miles. This wilderness is full of history and scenery, most of which Cody popularized in the late 19th century with private hunting trips for bear and other wildlife for political and industrial notables.
We are in Cody, Wyoming and headed back to Florida, where we left in May and traveled with Canadian RV friends to Alaska. So far, we have spent 89 nights on the road. Visitors to this blog can click on “Alaska Bound” and follow our posts from the trip’s beginning.
Visitors on this Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway will first pass the huge Buffalo Bill Dam/Reservoir and Buffalo Bill State Park. If it seems everything, including the largest town in this part of Wyoming, is named for the bigger than life western hero, that’s because it is.
The reservoir created by the Buffalo Bill Dam provides water for irrigating farms and crops in the Bighorn Basin in addition to a power plant that generates electricity for communities in the region. We stopped numerous times along the Scenic Byway for many quick photo opps, all point and shoot stuff, and even managed to photograph a deer through the car windshield as it ran across the highway and leaped into the brush.
On the day of our travels, the highway was virtually deserted since most Yellowstone visitors enter the park from the north, south or more popular west side. Only visitors from Cody use this highway to visit the park. The lack of highway traffic gave us plenty of time to slow down and soak up the canyons, huge red rock cliffs and wilderness.
Driving into Yellowstone, the scenery was still remarkable, but unfortunately, the crowds of tourists filled the more popular sites, and even finding a parking spot was difficult and sometimes impossible. We stood in line to peer over the Yellowstone River Falls for a quick picture while being jostled from behind from people anxious to see one of the park’s most spectacular views.
A deer passes in front of our car on the road near Buffalo Bill State Park.
Heading toward Canyon Village, we joined hundreds of rubber-neckers stopping in the middle of the roadway to take pictures out the car windows of bison, which were grazing nearby. Some motorists exited their cars and walked within a dozen or so feet of the big animals. Some bison were simply walking casually on the road, only feet from gawking tourists. We had lunch at Canyon Village and then drove to the North Rim and took a long switchback walkway down the canyon wall to the upper and lower falls. Crowds were awful—just too many people to enjoy the scenery.
In an effort to escape some of the crowd, we continued to Tower Falls near the Roosevelt Lodge. The road is windy with switchbacks and many drop offs. The crowds here were just as bad. One quick picture and we were in the car and headed back to Cody.
Seeing the Bill Cody Scenic Byway from west to east was just as spectacular as the drive into the park.
Again, we promised to visit the more popular national parks in spring or fall to avoid the summer rush.
Back in Cody, we dined at Irma’s Cafe, a hotel and restaurant Buffalo Bill Cody built in 1902 and named for his daughter. He said it was the “sweetest hotel there ever was.”
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 89
MILES DRIVEN TO DATE: 9,936
GALLONS OF GASOLINE: 1,213
COST OF FUEL: $3,720
Pronghorns in Montana; Cody’s museum in Wyoming
A cowboy chuckwagon cook prepares a pot of pinto beans at the entrance to the Cody Center of the West Museum in Cody, WY.
Crossing the border from Canada into Montana did not bring a change in scenery. The flat, treeless prairie landscape in southern Alberta, Canada, continued until we reached the Missouri River north of Helena where the flat grasslands were replaced with big canyons and trees.
Float boats were drifting the river made famous by Lewis and Clark
The pony express rider heading west in Montana is actually a metal sculpture but certainly appears authentic.
, hoping to catch trout and small bunches of pronghorn antelope were spotted numerous times feeding near the highway. Pronghorns are seen throughout the west and in some areas are almost common sights. Most motorists fail to see the wildlife because Montana has an 80 mile per hour speed limit on this section of Interstate 15.
The chuck wagon cook stirs the beans and offers samples to bystanders.
After spending two nights in Great Falls, we drove south on I-15, stopped for lunch at Wheat Montana Bread and Bakery located at the intersections of I-15 and I-90. We splurged and stocked up on homemade bread, a couple giant cinnamon buns, muffins and cookies.
A field of sunflowers near Cody, Wyoming.
We spent the night in a KOA at Big Timber, Montana—a nice, clean campground but near a railroad track and the interstate highway. Campground owners apologized in advance for the train and highway noise. Martha mentioned that we have been on the road now for three months, leaving Florida in early May and traveling north into Canada and finally to Alaska.
The 173-mile route to Cody, Wyoming started on Interstate 90 in eastern Montana and continued to Laurel. We left the four lane highway for a less traveled Highway 310 into Wyoming and changed to Highway 114 and finally Highway 14 to the KOA in Cody. Along the way we passed sparse landscape
Authentic teepees outside the entrance to the Cody Museum in Cody, Wyoming.
with some farmland, lots of prairie and rolling bare rock hills and the occasional canyon. Parts of the landscape reminded us of the Badlands in South Dakota.
We came to Cody to see the popular Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West Museum and we were not disappointed. The museum is extremely well-done with a huge collection of Cody’s memorabilia, covering his family life, professional career including when he owned a newspaper, his days as a pony express rider and a scout for the U. S. Army, which won Cody the Medal of Honor. It was his Wild West Show, however, that made Cody a household name in the United States and Europe.
A plains Indian display at Cody’s museum.
The complex includes the Plains Indian Museum which might be the largest collection of Indian artwork and artifacts in the country. The Museum of Natural History displays an almost unbelievable collection of firearms and western art.
It took a full day to tour the complex. Tomorrow we are driving into Yellowstone National Park through the east entrance, about an hour away from Cody.
A bald eagle performs in the raptor center at Cody Museum.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 89
MILES DRIVEN TO DATE: 9,936
GALLONS OF GASOLINE: 1,210
COST OF FUEL: $3720
Quick trip through Jasper, Banff National Parks
It rained most of the evening and was still drizzling when we left Hinton, Alberta, Canada
drove back through Jasper and joined the tourist traffic south on the Icefield Parkway through Jasper and Banff National Parks.
We heeded the warnings to gas the RV before leaving Jasper since there are no service stations until Banff. There were no campground vacancies between Jasper and Canmore. Even the huge provincial parks were full. Martha managed to get a camp site in Calgary, a distance of 300 miles from Hinton where we left this morning.
Passing through Jasper National Park, there were plenty of turnoffs to view more mountain, lake and waterfalls scenery but parking lots were already full. We managed to find a parking spot in a large gravel lot in the Icefields area for one photo opportunity but gave up trying to find one at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center. Tour buses, RV’s and automobiles got there ahead of us. Traffic was just as crowded as we drove through Banff National Park and chose to pass up Lake Louise.
Roadside wildlife was also sparse, spotting only one bighorn sheep but again, there was no place to park. Elk, deer and an occasional bear are commonly seen along the highway. We saw a small black bear in the Bow Lake area, eating berries alongside the highway. Mountains through the icefields were still topped with snow when we drove through the area.
Columbia Icefields in Jasper and Banff National Parks, Alberta, Canada. The icefields give visitors the opportunity to walk on a glacier.
We arrived into a KOA campground in west Calgary, Alberta at 5 pm. and parked in a hillside site that overlooked the downtown area. Calgary is a huge city of over a million people. Martha found a route that would bypass most of the city, which we took the following morning and drove all day through the Great Plains prairie region, passing miles and miles of waist high wheat, lots of dairy farms and other crops, including canola, almost ready for harvest. There was not a tree in site from horizon to horizon and the highway was smooth with little vehicle traffic. Farmers in the area bale hay alongside highways and center medians.
It felt like home when we passed through Canadian customs and into the small village of Sweetgrass, Montana, where we filled the RV with cheap gas and enjoyed a sandwich in a visitor center parking lot before getting onto Interstate 15 to Great Falls, Montana where we stayed two nights. The following day we cleaned the RV interior, took care of laundry duties and went grocery shopping before grilling Alaska sockeye salmon, fresh asparagus and corn, on the grill for dinner.
This trip started in May, 2016 in St. Augustine, Florida and continued across the United States, Canada and into Alaska, before turning around at Homer, AK.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 86
TOTAL MILES ON THE ROAD: 9,512
GALLONS OF FUEL: 1,165
COST OF FUEL: $3,610
RV issue ends trip with Canada traveling friends near Jasper, Alberta
Several elk cows and a half dozen calves crossed the busy four lane highway just outside Jasper, Alberta, Canada.
With the Canadian portion of our Alaska trip quickly coming to an end, we pulled off the highway into tiny McBride at Beaver View RV Park (the only one in town and very nice) and grilled halibut steaks, caught a couple weeks ago in Cook Inlet Near Homer, AK, for dinner.
Dinner was served on a picnic table outside the RV’s and the temperature was in the upper 60’s and calm. Very fair weather for mid August this far north.
We drove into downtown McBride and joined some local folks at a bluegrass music jam and sing-along at the local library before retiring for the evening. It was a welcomed break from the road. Typical small town friendly folks who gather here weekly and provide their own entertainment, asked us to join in the singing and playing. I struggled through some familiar songs on a 12-string guitar with the group which included a keyboard, bass, mandolin, accordian and another guitar. Don, Sue and Martha joined in the sing-along.
The following morning Don and Sue, our RV traveling companions from near Ottawa, Canada, discovered their refrigerator had quit working. RV’s are equipped with special refrigerators that operate on electricity or propane; depending whether parked in an RV campground or traveling the road.
When in campgrounds, the refrigerators will automatically switch to electricity but on the road it switches to propane which we carry in large 75 gallon tanks attached underneath the RV frame. Their refrigerator freezer is packed with halibut and sockeye salmon from Alaska. Unfortunately, finding a replacement refrigerator in the back country of northwest Canada will be impossible.
Mount Robson is the largest mountain in the Canadian Rockies and is located within Mount Robson Provincial Park.
The drive from McBride to Hinton took us through the mountains of Mt. Robson Provincial Park, through Red Pass and into tourist busy Jasper, Alberta, Canada where we managed to find parking alongside the highway and then walked a couple blocks into the heavily trafficked town for lunch. Meanwhile Don arranged for a mobile RV repairman to come to the campground this evening in Hinton and attempt to fix the refrigerator. Campgrounds in Jasper had no vacancies and no RV repair service.
Leaving Jasper, we stopped in the middle of the highway when three elk cows and a half dozen calves crossed the road in front of our RV. Traffic in both lanes stopped to allow the urban elk, which were not in a hurry, to cross the road.
In Hinton, a town of about 10,000, we checked into a KOA and met the mobile RV repairman who inspected the refrigerator, pronounced it beyond repair and a replacement would not be found in Hinton. Back on the telephone, Don found a cooling unit in Edmonton, Alberta, which is due east of Hinton and a full day’s drive east instead of south, the direction home. Over dinner, we decided to buy block ice for the refrigerator to keep the contents from spoiling. Keeping the freezer door shut for the second straight day should save the frozen fish.
Our traveling companions decided to head east in hopes of fixing the refrigerator.
We spent our last evening together at a so-so pizza restaurant and relived the many highs and a few lows of two months together on the road, beginning in early June in Winnipeg, Canada and ending two months later in Hinton, Alberta, Canada. We decided to head south through Jasper and Banff National Parks to Calgary and cross into the states at the Montana border town of Sweetgrass, Montana.
We hugged, shook hands and departed early the next morning on the near 3,000 mile journey home to Florida.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 82
GALLONS OF FUEL: 1,092
COST OF FUEL: $3,400
MILES ON THE ROAD: 8,884
Work camp breakfast gets us back on the road in British Columbia
As usual, skies were a dull gray color and overcast when we left Stewart, British Columbia, headed for a campground in Smithers about 200 miles away. It’s July 31 and leaves on birch trees were already turning a slight yellow color, some of which were falling to the ground and just another reminder that we were still in the north country. However, it was not raining for a change.
Along with our traveling partners from Canada, Don and Sue, we have been on the road for 79 days, traveling north through Canada and to the end of the road in Homer, Alaska. We have seen and traveled through mountains most every day, marveled at the roadside wildlife and caught enough salmon and halibut to fill the small RV freezers. Now, we are driving south through the Rockies in northwest Canada after over-nighting in Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK.,heading for home in Florida.
The RV Campground in Smithers, B.C., faced Glacier Gulch where this photo was taken.
Leaving Stewart, we drove through huge mountains, spotted a couple of impressive glaciers and marveled at beautiful Lake Meziadin before stopping at a crossroads with a service station and a work camp restaurant which also served the traveling public. Breakfast fare here was what one would expect in a work camp with fried eggs, potatoes and white toast. The meal was almost satisfactory, although service was slow and the meal was expensive. Martha’s journal noted that the parking lot here was about an acre of dirt and potholes. There was nothing else resembling a restaurant for 200 miles.
The Nass River on Highway 27 en route to Smither, B. C. Photo taken from a one lane wooden bridge.
As a back note, while at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Center in Hyder last night, we asked a Department of Interior employee if there was a restaurant in Meziadin? He said he didn’t know for sure when he was interrupted by another worker who said “Don’t ask him. He hasn’t been out of town in six years.” Welcome to Alaska.
One never knows what to expect on the road: We were on BC Highway 37 when the road suddenly narrowed, slowing traffic for a one lane wooden bridge ahead over the Nass River. We stopped at the Junction of Highways 16 and 37 to photograph the picturesque Seven Sisters Peaks and continued on to Smithers, arriving about 4:30 to nice warm temperatures and a setting sun.
Early the next morning Martha took pictures of Glacier Gulch, which faces the campground while I unhooked the RV in preparation for the 240 mile drive to Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. Except for nursing a bad cold and Martha still suffering from unknown back pains, it was a pleasant, uneventful drive to Prince George, which will be the largest town we visit until reaching Jasper in a couple of days.
Don and Sue, our traveling partners from Canada, found a dealership to change the oil in their RV, but unfortunately, another motorist backed into their RV, causing minor but aggravating damage that will not be fixed until arriving at their home near Ottawa, Canada.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 79
GALLONS OF FUEL: 935
COST OF FUEL: $3,189
MILES ON THE ROAD: 8,339