Zero-Zero visibility blankets scenic mountain ride from Skagway
Buildings in Carcross duplicated colorful native art work on these new structures, housing sandwich and ice cream shops.
It happens occasionally when least expected: driving the RV and tow car into a parking lot crowded with cars and big tourist buses and not enough room to turn around.
We had stopped for lunch in Carcross, Yukon, Canada, partially because we were attracted to the colorful buildings located adjacent the White Pass and Yukon Railroad track which runs through the middle of town, when the RV parking snafu occurred. We also stopped because it’s lunch time and both driver and passenger were hungry and for the first time since leaving Florida six weeks ago and almost 7,000 road miles, we let our stomachs overrule common sense and drove head-on into parking lot too small to accommodate RV and tow car.
Carcross, like most small Alaska and northern Canadian town consists of only a few blocks of commercial businesses, but more than enough to take care of its 300 year-round residents. The railroad and the Klondike Highway, however, bring thousands of parading tourists through here most every day bringing smiles to business owners and a bit of aggravation to the locals. Several hundred tourists bailed out of the train as we bailed out of the RV to unhook the tow car. Even more had bailed out of the buses.
We managed lunch in a busy new sandwich place, enjoyed a black walnut ice cream cone for desert then paired the tow car to the RV again and headed back on the highway to Teslin, where we will camp for the evening.
The weather was bright and sunny, the road flat and smooth (remarkable for a change); quite an improvement since this morning when we left Skagway, AK, and headed up the mountain for Canada during a heavy misting, drizzling rain and strong north winds. It worsened about 10 miles out of town, turning into ground clouds and thick fog. Visibility was zero-zero as we puttered slowly up the mountain and then crossed the William Moore suspension bridge which spans a 110-foot-wide over a gorge at Moore Creek, 180 feet below. We failed to notice the truck emergency runout ramp or vehicle turnouts approaching White Pass probably because of the fog and the steep incline which required an all-hands-on-deck effort.
The weather improved somewhat when we passed through Canadian customs a few miles down the road than finally gave way to sunshine, showing off the “beware of avalanches” signs.
The road passed through a rocky valley referred to as a Moonscape” where the landscape of stunted trees and lakes represents a transition zone between the treed lower elevations and the tree line, as described by Milepost Magazine. It was like waking up in a different world.
The weather was clear and dry for a change however, the landscape offered nothing to brag about. And, there was no wildlife to see.
We drove the Tagish-Carcross Scenic Loop and arrived in Teslin about 4 p.m. and enjoyed a dinner of fresh Kenai sockeye salmon, salad and potatoes with our traveling friends Don and Sue.
Today’s trip from Skagway covered 165 miles, which is less than an average day’s drive of about 250, but tomorrow’s trip to Dease Lake will cover 300 miles, making up
Dove Island and Windy Arm, a tributary off Tagish Lake, was a nice rest stop on the road from Skagway, AK to Carcross and Teslin.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 76
GALLONS OF FUEL: 844
COST OF FUEL; $2,836
MILES ON THE ROAD: 7,599
Just what is a Sebago, anyway?
Colleagues where I once worked (in another life) surely called me worse names when I first bought and distributed a half-ton of fresh-dug Hastings Sebago potatoes to co-workers. “You’re giving us what?” one person said. “Most bosses give away turkeys or hams,” he said.”Potatoes?
Regardless, they gladly (?) carried home a 10-pound bag of jumbo-sized Sebago potatoes at the end of the work day to a spouse who undoubtedly thought the boss sure enough had loose screws.
Although now retired I still have cravings for the Sebagos each spring. I have managed to piggy-back the annual office purchase and buy three 50-pound bags which is usually about 125 pounds more than our household of two can consume before they (the potatoes) start to smell.
Like Johnny Appleseed who earned his nickname giving away apple seeds, Spuds Hughes will earn his name and leave a legacy giving away Sebagos.
One bag was distributed to friends and neighbors, another divided among our daughters, thus leaving 50 pounds. The potatoes, which arrived two days before we left Florida on this two-month trip to northeast Canada, were placed in a lower storage compartment of the RV.
To keep from having to discard rotten potatoes, we have passed them to new RV friends we have met along the road.
I told a friend, “It’s amazing how people look at you when they answer the knock on their RV door and there’ stands a gray-haired stranger holding a bag of potatoes.
“You want to give me what? What did you call them? Sebagos? What is a Sebago? Why are you giving me potatoes, anyway?”
Reminds me of the old Richard Prior line “…it’s amazing how people get out of your way when you’re running down the street and you’re on fire,” referring to that classic moment when he was freebasing cocaine and caught on fire.
Standing there at the door with Sebagos in hand, people stared at me the same way, like I was on fire. I understand their concerns, or in this day and time, maybe their fears. Potato bombs?
After explaining that I was the potato version of a modern day Johnny Appleseed and traveling the country spreading the Sebago gospel, they gladly (?) accepted the gift. The over-supply of potatoes were exhausted by the time we left Mayberry Campground, Mt. Airy, N.C. where this stranger giving away potatoes to a total stranger, fit in like one of the locals.
MORE ABOUT SEBAGOS
Known as the “cream of the crop” Sebagos are a popular table grade potato that was once the potato of choice in the Hastings vegetable growing region of northeast Florida. According to the internet, 95% of the 16,000 acres of potatoes planted in the Hastings area in 1952 were Sebagos. It has since been replaced with varieties grown especially for potato chips. So few are grown that Sebagos are not easily found. For years, we have depended on Robert Revels who grows a small acreage on his farm in East Palatka.
In the spring Sebagos can also be purchased at Curries Produce in St. Augustine and County Line Produce, Hastings, for those who don’t want to buy in 50-pound quantites. The table grade potato has been called the “cream of the crop” for its flavor and texture. It can be baked, fried, boiled, roasted and mashed.
Incidentally and also according to the internet, the Sebago potato is still the most popular variety grown in Australia.
One former Hastings grower said the Sebago is an “antique variety and more of a novelty. He speculated there may be less than 20-acres grown throughout the Hastings region.
A lesson learned in old Charleston
The historic Exchange and Provost building is a National Historic Landmark in Charleston. Built in the late 1770’s for the expanding shipping industry, but also served as a public market and meeting place.
Walking down one of Charleston’s many narrow walkway.
It is early June when we arrived here and pulled into a KOA Campground about 15 minutes from downtown Charleston. Outside of town Tropical Storm Andrea left little evidence of its passage, leaving a few fallen trees along I-26 and a few puddles in the campground.
We are accustomed to parking in tight spaces, particularly in older campgrounds that were built in a period before the popularity of today’s larger Class A motor homes and our campground for the next three days is no different. The necessary hookups and connections are made and we unwind from the Richmond Hill, Ga, to Charleston drive in camp chairs under big trees outside the RV with a cold drink. It’s early June and warm as usual in the deep south Lowcountry but the RV’s twin air-conditioners quickly cool the inside of the Green Knight. There will be no sleeping with windows open tonight. Speckled perch caught a month ago on a creek off the St. Johns River in Putnam County, Florida, is prepared on an outside grill and served inside with fresh sebago potatoes from Robert Revel’s Farm in East Palatka, FL., along with a salad. Although the mosquitoes are biting, life is good.
Wanting to beat the next day’s heat we leave the RV about 9 a.m., drive into downtown Charleston, find a spot in the city’s parking garage and walk to the nearby visitor’s center for a few brochures. Among those selected was a well-defined walking brochure of Charleston’s historic district, stretching from the city center to Waterfront Park, a twelve-acre park along about a half mile of the Cooper River. It appeared a good idea at 9:30 in the morning when temperatures were in the low 80’s. We bought a couple of mocha coffee drinks from a vendor across the street and headed downtown, on foot.
The Saturday morning Farmers Market on Charleston’s downtown Marion Square is a popular shopping and gathering place.
The “White Man” plays to a young audience at the Farmer’s Market in Charleston.
Barely two blocks later we find Marion Square where we stumble upon the weekly Saturday morning Farmers Market and get an early morning taste of Charleston. Twenty-nine farmers and growers from the area are peddling fresh local produce, most of which are organically grown, seafood from nearby waters, potted plants and cut flowers. A half dozen vendors are selling ethnic foods. There are booths offering the southern favorite boiled peanuts, specialty flavored coffees, pastries, fresh juices and more. Local artisans booths, including the popular sweetgrass basket makers are scattered throughout the square.
Obviously the weekly Farmer’s Market is a popular gathering place for Charleston residents who are here in huge numbers supporting the farmers, growers and artist. We pitched in and added to the local economy buying a couple fresh pastries but had to pass on other interesting “stuff” because we were walking.
We joined the parade of tourists heading deeper into the old city and found the City Market, an historic complex that was established in the 1790’s and stretches for four city blocks in a building that is designated a National Historic Landmark including a dozen or so historic Gullah sweetgrass basket makers, selling their handcrafted wares.
It’s about 11 a.m. and the weather is building to its 90 degree prediction when we finish walking the City Market and head further into the historic district, where the $6 self guided walking brochure promises we will “walk in the footsteps of revolutionaries, patriots, pirates, planters, Southern bells, slaves and finally freedmen.”
Reading the brochure and rescued somewhat from the heat by the shade of the city’s towering old oak trees, we continue the walk to Waterfront Park.
Although five years younger than St. Augustine, Charleston has many Colonial era structures still standing and most are found along the 3.5 mile walking route from Bay Street to Waterfront Park. We escaped the heat for a hour or so as we took a guided tour through the historic Heyward-Washington House. A signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Heyward, Jr., entertained George Washington in this house for seven days on his visit to Charleston in 1791. We thought it interesting that Heyward was exiled to St. Augustine in 1780 during the Revolutionary War when he was captured by the British. The museum grade house is furnished with a large collection of Charleston-made furniture including the Holmes Bookcase, considered to be the finest example of American-made furniture and considered priceless in value.
Thoroughly rung out and dripping wet from the heat, we reach Waterfront Park, a 12 acre park fronting on the Cooper River. Other whipped tourists are lounging on the grounds in the cooling shade of oak trees and resting for the walk back downtown. Unfortunately, there are no street vendors in the park, offering badly needed bottled water. The park has a storied history and has withstood dozens of hurricanes during its existence but none as costly as Hurricane Hugo which struck in 1989, Hurricane Hugo, causing about $1 million of damage.
In the heat, we walked back to the downtown area and had lunch at a nice restaurant, then walked the rest of the way back to the visitors center where our car was parked. If our next visit to Charleston is during the summer, we vowed to take a bus tour and leave the walking to the younger visitors.
GREAT STEAK FOR LUNCH
Dinner at lunch prices is what we received at Grill 225, located in the Market Pavilion Hotel at 225 East Bay Street. Like many fine dining restaurants, the lunch menu prices are discounted over the more pricey evening meals but the food is the same. We both ate steaks, prime and aged 42-50 days. They welcome tourists off the streets, even those hot and sweaty ones who were foolish enough to walked the walking tour on a hot summer day instead of taking the bus.
TOUR THE YORKTOWN
The WWII aircraft carrier which fought in the famous battle of Midway is anchored at Patriot’s Point in Charlotte Harbor which is also the embarkation point for Fort Sumter tour boats. Accompanied by a nice sea breeze, we took a walking tour of the ship, inside and out. Known as the “ship that would not die,” the ship is also home to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society museum and houses many planes in the hanger bay and on the flight deck.
NEXT STOP: Galax, Va., located near the Blue Ridge Parkway OFF I-77 for a Rosanne Cash concert at the Blue Ridge Music Center and a small town music and arts festival in downtown Galax, home of the popular National Fiddling Contest.
The USS Yorktown is now at anchor in Charlotte Harbor after serving in WWII and Vietnam.
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