Skagway Alaska

3

Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 30-07-2009

The drive to Skagway was beautiful as we hugged the long lake of Lake Tutshi much of the way from Watson Lake. The last 10 miles of our trek were shrouded in fog, so dense that we could barely go over 10 miles per hour. We knew the landscape was amazing but we couldn’t see any of it!

We arrived in the town of Skagway to find the streets filled with people. Cruise ship passengers who were checking out the town from one of FOUR cruise ships docked in the bay. Driving down the small streets in our RV made us feel like a big bull in a china shop. We set up home at Pullen RV Park with a clear view of the bay and all the ships. The day was cool and cloudy, which is what we expected.

The next day we awoke to bright sunshine and amazing views of the snow capped ragged mountains dropping into the bay. Spectacular to say the least. I took the girls into town to do some shopping while Ken and Andrew took off to do some salmon fishing. The girls and I had such fun as we have not been anywhere worthy of shopping in a very long time. Andrew and Ken arrived home with four pink salmon. This was just the beginning of a euphoric Alaskan fishing experience for Andrew. Her could barely speak he was so excited about “catching” in Alaska! That night we took Nikki out for her birthday dinner since we weren’t in any town with restaurants worth eating at since her birthday last week. We went to a really cool little restaurant with a view of the harbor and enjoyed fresh halibut (since we knew we had enough salmon at home for awhile!) Really special dinner for a really special daughter!

Very near to our RV park was a creek which spilled into a pond. This pond was full (I mean FULL) of KING salmon. We watched fisherman after fisherman hook a big King but no one could keep a hold of them and land them. Well that all changed when Andrew landed a big 50 pound King. You have never seen a happier boy! Many people from the cruise ships were passing by and heard the comossion. When he held it up for a photo, the crowd cheered! He went on to land another one and then become a mentor to other young fishermen. Andrew also gave Kevin (a very nice gentleman from New Zealand) the pool to reel in a big one. Kevin never landed one but he sure gave the fish a big fight!

Skagway is home to a small National Park. We stopped by and watched a film on the Klondike Gold Rush. Great story! Seems some residents of the Dawson City area found gold in 1896. Word spread fast and within months, people from all over the world were making the trek to the Klondike River near Dawson City. Gold mania was rampant and people were leaving their jobs in search of fortune. Even the mayor of Seattle resigned and headed to the Klondike River. It took more than a year to make the trek through abominable conditions and each person was required (by the Canadian government) to bring with them a TON of supplies, literally. Canada wanted to avoid a famine (a noble cause) but these gold seekers would be burdened with these supplies for hundreds upon hundreds of miles. On April 3 1898, there was a huge avalanche during and over 100 of the trekkers perished. We visited the “Slide Cemetery” in the town of Dyea. Few found gold as most of it had already been discovered by the time they arrived. But almost every person who made the trek said they would do it again as it was an experience of a lifetime. Pretty cool!

We met a very nice couple, Donna and Bob, who told us about Dyea. As history goes, this is the town where all the masses of people coming for the Klondike Gold Rush set up camp before making the trek by foot down one of the passes. The main camp later moved to Skagway leaving Dyea a simple and beautiful port with little activity. We enjoyed a picnic along the river in Dyea and Andrew did some fly fishing. Ken told the girls that the first of them to catch a salmon from the stream with their bare hands would be awarded $5. Half an hour later, Lauren emerged as the winner with a big female salmon in hand. There was a lot of screaming and excitement as you can imagine! Later, Nikki (with a little help from Daddy) reeled in a big pink salmon. She looked so proud with her catch! (Although getting her to eat it is a different story!)

We left Skagway full of great memories. Heck, Lauren and Andrew even want to live here one day! We are now off to Whitehorse, the capitol of the Yukkon.

[nggallery id=112]

The Yukon

0

Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 26-07-2009

The drive to the Yukon was filled with many animal sightings. It started with a family of big horned sheep. Up close, these guys are not nearly as big as we thought. Perhaps they were a skinny bunch of sheep. Next, we encountered a herd of bison. These guys were huge and seemed uninterested with our big rig passing by them. Thank goodness as they were huge!  Lastly, we passed a cute little baby moose who appeared lost. He was rambling down the highway seemingly without any real destination in mind. He was so adorable and if Hobie would have let us, we would have adopted him!
We arrived early at our campground and tackled a bunch of chores. Some of the passes along the Alaskan Highway were dusty (as in we can’t see in front of us) and our RV and van were looking pretty gritty.   After our big clean up,  Andrew and I walked across the street of this teeny town of Watson Lake to the “Department Store”. This place was a cross between the dollar store, a swap meet and a pricey department store. What a collection of stuff! (Ken would have used another term).    Later in the day, Ken and I walked over to the small Wye Lake adjacent to our campground and enjoyed a glass of wine while looking out over the lake.  I have forgotten to mention the length of our days at this point.  It doesn’t get dark until after 11PM and we are all staying up way too late.  The sun rises around 4AM and we are thankful for our black out blinds!
In the morning, Andrew, Ken and I went for a nice bike ride around Wye Lake. We then packed up our signs and headed over to the Sign Post Forest. What a place!! “Signs”  is a loose term and could mean virtually ANYTHING from a wooden sign to a metal sign to a spatula or a pair of sandals.  Anything to leave one’s mark in the forest.   The Signpost Forest was started by a GI during the construction of the Alaskan Highway. The original signpost has grown to a true forest with over 10,000 signs. We had fun looking for signs of places we visited or lived.  We found a big one for “Carmel Indiana”, one for “Simi Valley CA” and another one for “Boise Idaho”.  We put up our family sign (had one made that should withstand the harsh weather conditions) and added a sign for our dear Canadian friends (who weren’t aware of the Signpost Forest on their trek to Alaska last summer). We also mounted a sign for the guy who made our sign in California. He was a  great guy and had never heard of the Signpost Forest. We insisted he put up a sign here as he is in the business of signs! It was great fun to mount all the signs and it was even more fun to drive by and see them from the road.  Perhaps our kids will take their kids to the Signpost Forest one day and find their sign. 
Northern Lights Center
Tomorrow we depart for Skagway Alaska. We are so excited to finally reach Alaska.

[nggallery id=110]

British Columbia

1

Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 25-07-2009

Our first stop in BC was at the Hat Creek campground. It was a wonderful ranch style campground with simple amenities. It was very hot (much warmer than we expected in BC) and we sat outside enjoying the views of the mountains while we drank cool ice tea.   The area was really beautiful and included an old inn, a barn with horses for trail rides and a little gift shop with ice cream.  We met another full time RV Family with four kids under 7.   Wow!!   They were a great unit and we had fun chatting with them in the morning before heading out.  
 
Our first Provincial Park experience in Canada, Crooked River Provincial Park, was excellent. What a beautiful campground overlooking a clear lake. We drank our coffee outside in the cool dew and took a nice hike around the lake.
[nggallery id=106]
  
I remember watching the show Dawson Creek and the town in the show was much more colorful than the real thing. No complaints though as it had everything we needed – a gas station, a market and a great visitor’s center where we picked up a copy of the Mile Post for our trip north. Dawson Creek is Mile Zero of the Alaskan Highway and we were excited to hit the road, anticipating Mile 2 and beyond!
 [nggallery id=111]

We decided to plan a two night stay in Fort Nelson so we wouldn’t be traveling on Nikki’s 12thbirthday. Turns out that Fort Nelson is one of the most basic towns on the planet and the campground was ever so basic as well. Nikki was happy not to be traveling on her birthday but had a craving to shop. Shopping was not something I could offer in this town although we did try to find something in the morning. All we found was  a Movie Gallery store where we rented the first season of Grey’s Anatomy for watching later in the day.  Since there was nothing to do outside of our simple campground, the day focused on food! Nikki awoke to homemade crepes (thank you Daddy!), taco salad for lunch (ala Mommy) then Daddy’s famous potato balls for dinner. Warm brownies with ice cream and whipped cream ended the day full of carbs! Nikki was oh so happy to receive the top gift on her birthday list – a red ipod (red was her request as some of the money goes towards children with AIDS in Africa) and she spent most of the day setting up all her songs. Nikki’s 12th birthday was a memorable day and I am sure we will look back and chuckle when we think of Fort Nelson on her 13th birthday.

We met some really great people at the campground who cycled in from Fairbanks. Ward and Jacky were great to chat with and we were so impressed to learn they have biked in 46 countries so far! They were biking with an Englishman, John, who they met along the way and added the SPOT GPS unit to the trek. Now everyone knows where this trio is located at any moment. Ward and Jacky visit schools and give the students a piece of paper and a pencil. They ask the children to write down their dreams as “with paper and a pencil, you can create anything!” We plan to keep track of them through their website, www.fromthebenchesoftheworld.com.

[nggallery id=108]

We have heard from many people how a stop at Liards Hot Springs is a MUST! We are so glad we made the stop as it was really amazing. The Hot Springs (110 F) were about a ½ mile walk along a nice boardwalk through meadows and a forest. We all soaked in the hot water enjoying the relaxation of the beautiful natural setting and the cool rain which lasted for only a few minutes. We woke up early the next day to have a quick soak before heading off to the Yukon!

[nggallery id=109]

We’ve crossed the Canadian border!

0

Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 17-07-2009

We left the Los Angeles area on Monday with the goal of reaching Seattle by Wednesday.  Our first stop was north of Lake Shasta. It was so great to be back in nature and among the trees. We stopped at a makeshift truck stop which turned out to be a great find. There was a funky little café and gas station nearby and we had a nice conversation with the owner. We were surrounded by Ponderosa pine trees and the smell of French vanilla filled the air. The next morning, we continued our trek and it was a very pretty drive. We ended staying the night in front of a Walmart with a few other campers. No amenities of course but nothing beats FREE! 
 
 On Wednesday, we reached the beautiful state of Washington. The day was sunny and warm and we had a clear view of Mt. Rainier topped with snow. Really cool! We found a great state park and settled in for our two night stay.
 

On Thursday, we took off for Pike’s Place in downtown Seattle. Ken took me to Seattle many years ago and I have never forgotten Pike’s Place.   It is foody heaven!  We started our eating agenda at a Russian Bakery with a yummy combination of goodies that were all filled with everything from smoked salmon to marzipan. Oh how fat I would be if we went there everyday!  I was craving a good cappuccino and found myself inside the ORIGINAL Starbucks!  It was pretty cool to be where the coffee craze all started.  The Starbucks sign was brown and beige, not the green we see today.  Quite fun!  We all ate our goodies overlooking beautiful Puget Sound.  Pike’s Place is a wonderful shopping experience and houses one of the most beautiful flower markets in the world.  You could smell the sweetness of the flowers throughout the whole place.  We passed many people selling everything from leather journals (Andrew bought one make of bison leather with paper from handmade cotton), to pure honey (had to get some of that!) to amazing fruit (we bought a ton of cherries) to HUGE fish (counting on Andrew to catch us some salmon in Alaska!)  A guy ordered a big halibut and salmon and they THREW the fish to the filet table and shouted the whole time.  All part of the fun show!

[nggallery id=102]

We left Seattle early en route for the Canadian border.  We were ready with all our paperwork including passports.  The gal at the booth was very friendly and we passed through with no problems.  We did have to toss some of our fruit out (why I don’t know) and the pass through for our RV was SO tight that I can’t believe Ken made it through without a scratch.  We were in Canada (the second country to visit on our RV trip) and that was very exciting! 

[nggallery id=107]

Our Beloved “Tun”

0

Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 13-07-2009

When Andrew was little, he tried to call Ken’s mother by the Japanese name for grandmother,  Oba-chan.  All that emerged from his little mouth was “Tun”.  This name stayed with her for 13 years.  On July 4 2009, our beloved Tun passed away.  She was an amazing woman and we will miss her very much. 

Tun

When Tun was just 43 years old, her husband (Ken’s father) passed away from cancer.  With two growing children (Ellen was 13 and Ken 10), she found herself standing at many crossroads.  She spoke little English,  had no business background and was being encouraged to return to Japan.  She decided to stay in Los Angeles and raise her children in America.  She  opened  “Miura Market” in the San Fernando Valley and managed to send Ellen and Ken to private Catholic school.  This small framed woman was huge in her desire to give her children a wonderful childhood and will forever be their hero. 

Tun loved to travel and eat all kinds of different foods.  When Ken moved to Switzerland for work, she and Ellen visited this beautiful country.  Tun fell in love with Switzerland.  She returned again to Europe and visited many other countries.  When we lived in Brazil, Tun came over several times and fell in love with Brazil as well.

This is part of Andrew’s speech at Tun’s funeral.  It is a sweet memory.  Isn’t that what life is all about – creating as many wonderful memories as possible in our own book of life?

“One time when we visited her, we drove all the way from Arizona when she was at her nursing home.  We would bring her something fun to eat like sushi or something she didn’t usually get at her nursing home.  One day, we brought her ice tea.  But, knowing Tun, what she really liked was beer!  So we went out to our motor home, dumped out all the ice tea and filled the cup with beer.  (Because you know nursing home don’t let you bring in beer!!)  We snuck in the “ice tea”, put a straw in it and handed it  to Tun.  She took a sip and a huge smile came across her face.  She loved the beer!  I will miss Tun and I will have memories of being with her that will last a lifetime.  I am so glad I had her as my grandma.”

111

Los Angeles CA

2

Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-07-2009

Tun brought us all together and it was really wonderful to visit with Ken’s family. Ken’s sister and daughter (Ellen and Aimee) visited from Sunrise Florida. Aimee is just three weeks younger than Lauren and is more like a sister to our kids than a cousin. Ellen and Aimee spent several nights with us in our RV and Aimee played in the campground pool with our kids while Ellen and Ken ran errands. Ken’s aunt and uncle (Chieko and Donald) live in Sun Valley and they are always very welcoming and Chieko keeps us well feed with her yummy food. Ken’s aunt, Noriko, flew in from Japan. Noriko is such an upbeat and positive person. She and her family live in Kawasaki Japan and we “pinky promised” to visit them soon. We can’t wait to show our kids Japan as they will surely fall in love with the country. Ken’s cousin, Aileen, flew in from Boise Idaho with her darling daughter McKenzie. We visited Aileen’s family in Boise last year and our kids got to know McKenzie really well. It was a great reunion. Ken has another cousin, Kathleen, who we got to spend time with along with her husband John and their three young adorable daughters (two of which are twins). It’s great to see Kathleen and John as parents and how great they are with their big family! Jimmy is one of Ken’s cousins who visited with his wife Mikki. They are looking at buying a house in the Pasadena area and Ken chatted at length with Jimmy about some do’s and don’ts of buying your first house. Haruko flew in from Hawaii with her husband Takeshi and it was fun to chat with her and her sister, Masako. Ellen’s best friend, Ruth, was a great help during this time and helped us immensely during the gathering after the funeral. While the event behind this big reunion was difficult, it reminded us all how great a family we have and how much we enjoy spending time with each other.

[nggallery id=101]

Our beloved “Tun” bestowed many “gifts” on her two children and one of them was her love of food.   That love of the culinary arts has been passed down to our children through Ken and it sure makes life more interesting!  During the time when we were not visiting Tun, we  visited many of her  favorites eateries throughout the Los Angeles area.  If only she could sit alongside us and enjoy it with us.  .  .  

One of her favorite places is “El Tepeyac”, a famous Mexican hole in the wall in East L.A.  We were greeted by Manual who has owned and operated this place for more than 50 years.  He humbly boosts  his many “jobs” which include  bouncer, wife stealer and  flirt.   Whoever this funny man is there is one thing for sure, he makes the BEST and BIGGEST burritos anywhere!  Ken and Andrew shared “Manuel’s Special” which is a 5 pound bundle of joy.  They almost finished it too!  Our niece Amiee joined us and we girls  had smaller versions (a mere 2 pounds) and managed to make another few meals out of them.  We also ate at the famous fish market in downtown L.A.  with Aimee and Ken’s sister Ellen.  We had shrimp and crab salads which were SO loaded with shrimp and crab that we couldn’t finish them!  (How often does that happen??)  All for a mere $8.95.  Such a deal!   Ken and Ellen stopped by Philippe’s,  the restaurant that INVENTED the French Dip sandwich.   We also stopped at  the original Tommy Burger (on Beverly and Rampart), King Taco (a place Ken used to take me when we were dating) and Orochan Ramen.  This last place is actually new to us and after seeing it on the Food Channel, we knew we had to make a stop.  They brag about having the HOTTEST ramen anywhere.  The challenge – Eat the number TWO ramen in 30 minutes or less and  you get your picture on their “wall of flame!”  Ken wasn’t up to the challenge but the guy behind us was and he actually did it!  He is now one of only 12 who have accomplished this challenge.  After he finished,  he looked a bit off color and admitted to having rid himself of the ramen.  (I will save the details!) 

[nggallery id=104]

Near the end of our time in the Los Angeles area, we drove out to beautiful Carpenteria (a seaside town south of Santa Barbara) and got together with my brother-in-law Kurt (Gretch’s husband), our three nephews, Ryan (17), Weston and Kyle (14) and his bride-to-be Gina with her two adorable girls Haily (15) and Chrissy (11).  It was SO wonderful to ALL be together and Kurt really seems happy.  Gina is a great person and her daughters are very sweet.   This seems to be a wonderful new family unit and we are very happy for everyone.   We watched Ryan’s basketball team play a great game and enjoyed Foster’s Freeze as a celebration desert! 

The next day, we drove out to Orange County to my sister Robin’s house.  Her and Steve recently renovated their backyard and it feels like you are relaxing at a beautiful spa hotel.  Our friends Rich and Mary joined us for the yummy BBQ along with their kids Katie and Dan.  The date was July 11 which happened to be Gretch’s birthday.  Robin and I toasted our wonderful sister and shared some special memories.  She is still so dearly missed by us all. 

Tomorrow we depart Valencia California after 16 days.  We are ready to return to our life on the road and plan to reach Canada within four days followed by our much anticipated destination,  Alaska .  It has been a difficult two weeks yet we know in our hearts that Tun is at peace.  She lived a full and wonderful life and we are all the better for having had her in our lives.