Vancouver

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 30-09-2009

We were sad to leave Alice Lake as it was so peaceful and we knew we were in for a city experience.  After being in the “bush” for so long, we hoped we would acclimate to a city with all its people without incident!  The girls and I continued to follow the RV and when Ken took a right instead of a left turn, we were suddenly thrust into the heart of  Vancouver. I mean the downtown CITY of Vancouver.  The girls and I almost fell out of the van when we saw Ken head towards the lights of the city.  I kept telling Nikki to take pictures as I knew our Canadian friends would never believe we took this busy route.  Alas, Ken is an amazing driver (he must have been a 26 wheel driver in another life) and we made it through the city (and all the people and cars and, did I mention, people?) unscathed.  We arrived in the historic town of Fort Langley (birthplace of British Columbia) and found a wonderful Regional Park along the Fraser River. 

Back in the Concrete Jungle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, we took a two hour (each way) ferry ride to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.  We were so impressed with the ferry as it was akin to a mini cruise ship.  The seats were comfy and there was full food service.  We sat with great views, reading magazines, playing cards and walking along the upper deck.  The weather was still warm and sunny so it make the ride that much more enjoyable.  We disembarked the ferry and met up with Larry, a good friend we met in Mexico last winter.  He drove us to the marina where we joined up with his wife Kim and their son Mitch.  They treated us to a wonderful lunch along the water.  It’s so great to meet a couple who enjoy life to the fullest and have dreams.  We are looking forward to meeting up with them again in Mazatlan this winter.

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On Saturday, we spent the day in the city of Vancouver.  The girls and I got dressed up as we were ready to spend the day shopping and “doing lunch”.   The boys goal was to find some great places (multiple) to eat!   Nikki, Lauren and I walked down Robson Street (think Rodeo Drive), window shopped and then actually bought a few things at Sears no less!  When we watched in, we could not believe it was a Sears!  It had the most amazing cosmetic area that one would have thought they were in Bloomingdales.  The girls bought some “skinny jeans” and we were on our way to lunch!  (They hoped the jeans would still fit after lunch!)  Meanwhile, Ken and Andrew went throughout the town looking for interesting food places.  They found some Mediterranean food and then followed it with some authentic Canadian food  of fries with gravy and cheese curds.   Their dessert was a smoothie with boba (tapioca balls).  The girls and I ate  a much more “she-she” lunch and had some yummy crepes.  (Well Poohnut had pizza but it was at the crepe place). 

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Following our city experience, we all changed our clothes and prepped for a bike ride around Stanley Park.  This park is a must see and we now know why.  It reminded us of Golden Gate Park in San Fran and Central Park in NYC.  Our bikeride started out smoothly as we rode alongside the marina.  After about 30 minutes, we made a turn and merged onto the bike path along the open ocean.  The wind was gusty and the swells were at least five feet with big white caps.    It was quite exciting and a real effort to keep riding our bikes.  Poohnut was quite exhausted at this point.  Nikki ended up with a flat tire (I swear her 6ththis month!) so I insisted Ken and the other two kids continue riding.  I would walk with Nikki and we would simply meet  up with them at the starting point.  “Simply”was a word I should have not used so loosely.  Nikki and I were on the pedestrian portion of the park and the route continued on and out of the park, much to our ignorance.  At  one point, I asked a gentleman if we were still in Stanley Park.  I fully assumed him to say “YES!”.   His actually response was something akin to  “Heck no!  You are about 6 KM from the park!”  UGH!!  How did that happen!  Well, I hate to admit it (as I was a girl scout for a couple years)but it got worse from there.  We were lost and there was no family in sight.  Nikki and I continued walking and walking and actually made it to the place where we all separated.  What a lot of effort for NO reward!!  FINALLY, Andrew ( my HERO!) found us and we reunited with our beloved family.  Poohnutwas quite happy and Ken, while happy, was still somewhat bugged that he ever agreed to  separating.  I think we will stay close like an amoeba until death do us part.  (Or Ken will buy me a GPS for Christmas.)

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We camped at a wonderful Regional Park in Historical Fort Langley.  This is known as the birthplace of British Columbia.  The town was so charming, like out of a wonderful book, and was located right on the Fraser River.  I spent one-on-one time with each of the kids in the town (any reason to keep going back) and Ken and I enjoyed a latte on morning before school.  A really nice and peaceful place to spend a few days.

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Alice Lake and Whistler

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 24-09-2009

Our drive continued along the Sea to Sky Highway and while full of turns, we enjoyed the beauty and peace.  At one point, I had to stop and take a picture of  the road sign indicating a 13% grade up ahead.  YIKES!!  We made it thanks to a great engine break system.  Our drive ended at Alice Lake Provincial Park which is now our favorite provincial park in all of Canada.  Each spot was so secluded and woody.  We quickly set up camp and took a walk around beautiful Alice Lake.  We decided to spend a few days here as we loved it that much.  We strung our lights and had every dinner outside as the warm weather was thankfully still with us. 

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The next day we left early in the morning and headed to Whistler.  There were signs along the highway indicating the Olympic event at each exit.  We also saw where the 2010 Olympic athletes will spend their days. This town  surpassed all our of expectations.  We walked through Whistler Village and could feel the excitement in the area with the upcoming Olympic events approaching.    We had a yummy lunch at an outdoor cafe and watched while mountain bikers road the almost vertical “slopes”.   Lauren (Poohnut) bought a new animal, “Pooky”,  and is now a mother of 42.  A very enjoyable day at a beautiful place in Canada. 

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Lillooet BC, along the Sea to Sky Highway

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 21-09-2009

Several of our Canadian friends told us about Highway 99 or the Sea to Sky Highway.  We heard the scenery was spectacular but heard it was not a relaxing ride.  Ken put up some blogs on RV.net and asked other RVers about the road conditions and the responses gave us confidence to make the ride.   Once we passed the Hat Creek Ranch (our first stop in BC back in July) we were committed to the trek.   We were now driving through the semi-desert benchlands of the upper Fraser River canyon.  It was so completely different than any other part of BC as it was dry and the hills were golden with dried wheat and bushes.  The road twisted and turned and the girls and I followed the RV in our van.  It was worth the drive even though we went only an average of 25 MPH.  We stopped at the town of Lillooet, perched high above the Fraser River.  The campground was simple and was right on the Fraser River.  Andrew’s first fishing outing yielded three pink salmon caught by hand.  He strung them on a old piece of wood and gave two of them to a German couple in our campground.  They were SO excited!  Andrew was hoping to catch a big 1000 pound (yes that’s 3 zeros) sturgeon but no such luck.   (Not sure where we would have put all this fish!) Just more pink salmon.  No problem here!  There was a nice and warm little beach along the river and the girls and I sat on the banks, the girls making sand balls and I reading my books.  We were joined by “Lassie” , the dog from the campground.  The kids grew quite fond of this lovable and calm dog. Now off to Whistler and home to the 2010 Olympics!

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Quesnel and Barkerville BC

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 19-09-2009

We experienced many a rainy and cloudy day over the past few weeks so we were hoping for a break in the weather.  When we reached Quesnel, our wishes were granted.  The weather was sunny and the breezes were warm.  We found an amazing private campground (Robert’s Roost) positioned right on beautiful Dragon Lake.  The RV park was such a pleasant surprise as we aren’t used to finding special private campgrounds.  Most have been rather crowded with little space between RVs.  Robert’s Roost also hosts weddings so the gardens around the park were beautiful.  Ken made a huge roaring fire one night and the wild windst0rm whipped up the flames.  We met a nice couple from the BC area and chatted while the kids roasted an interesting rice square dessert. 

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We had heard a lot about Barkerville and decided to take the hour drive to this historic town in the Cariboo gold fields.  The route (Highway 26)was the original Cariboo Wagon Trail and had many attractions along the way.  We made a stop at the historical “Blessing’s Grave”.  Charles Morgan Blessing was murdered in 1866 on his way to Barkerville.  His killer, James Barry, was caught when he gave a keepsake of Blessings to a dance hall girl.  James Barry was the only white man hanged in the Cariboo during the gold rush.  We also stopped at  the ghost gold rush towns of Stanley and Van Winkle.  The last stop before Barkerville was the town of  Wells.  Once  home to a big gold mine, Wells now is an attraction for tourists due in part to the very colorful array of houses.

When we reached Barkerville, we expected a rather touristy kind of place.  What we found was an amazing and authentic town full of old mining stores, hotels and houses.  It gave us such a sense of going back in time to the old gold rush days.  People in costume passed us by and bid us “Good Day!”    Barkerville was named for miner Billy Barker who struck gold on Williams Creek.  The resulting gold rush in 1862 created Barkerville.  History really was brought back to life in this historic town.  We loved it!   

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Stewart BC/Hyder AK

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 15-09-2009

 We opted to take the “road less travelled”, the Cassiar Highway, to make our way back south.  The Cassiar Highway offered outstanding scenery and had the best wildlife viewing of our whole trip.  We saw three black bears along the highway which was very exciting.  The bears were eating little berries that grew along the road in the sunshine.   The beginning of the highway was under construction and it was a very rough ride.   We began wondering if we had made the right move.  But the road soon smoothed out and we sat back enjoying the amazing views.  On our way, we made a one night stop at Kinaskan Provincial Park which was right on Kinaskan Lake.  Canada does an exceptional job with its  provincial parks and this one was no exception.  

The next morning, we branched off the Cassiar Highway and took the Steward-Hyder Access Road.  We stopped to see the “Bear Glacier” which was stunning in the morning light.  We then drove through Bear River Canyon which was very narrow with scenic steep walls.  We finally reached the town of Stewart BC and set up camp.  We were warned by the campground owner that a bear was in the area.  Not just any bear, but an aggressive bear looking for food.  He had smashed the window of the campground owner’s window that morning.  The “bear catching patrol” came and set up some bear  traps around the campground and we hung cans from the RV as an early warning system.  Much to our relief, we never saw the dude (I am assuming it was a male bear).  The next day, however, we did see a black bear eating a salmon down at Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area.  just like in the Alaskan tourism ads!   Fish Creek is located in the town of Hyder just about 5 miles down the road and is actually in Alaska. Hyder is a funky town with some cool old buildings and some great old residents.   About an hour up the road from the town  is Salmon Glacier.  This glacier is visited by people from around the world and is spectacular. We took a picnic lunch of homemade rice balls and enjoyed sitting in the sun just looking at this amazing site.     Stopping in Steward and Hyder was a great call and we are glad we added this to our itinerary. 

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Our trek back through the Yukon

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 12-09-2009

We left Dawson City to continue our southward trek and stopped for the night at a Yukon Government campground near the town of Carmacks. Carmacks was named for George Carmack who established a trading post here in 1885, hoping to strike it rich. He spent the next 10 years hoping for the mother lode of gold only to end up bankrupt. He moved his family to “Fortymile” and it was there his persistence paid off. He ended up extracting more than a ton of gold from the creek (which was renamed Bonanza Creek) and when his discovery reached the outside world, it sparked the Klondike Gold Rush. So cool to see history in person instead of just reading about it in books!

Our campground was beautiful and simple with the added benefit of having a huge wood burring stove in a big covered picnic area. Ken made a roaring fire in the stove with the free firewood and we sat by it feeling very toasty, enjoying our dinner.  After our meal, we sipped tea with our freshly made banana bread.  We were happy to welcome two women from Germany (Marian and Susie) who were visiting Canada. They won a two week trip complete with a big motor home.  We had fun sitting with them by the warm stove and chatting about other treks they have made, including Iceland!  Ken invited them for a tour of our RV as they had never seen a big class A before.  They realized it is indeed a “home” instead of just a means of getting from place to place.  In the morning, they were up to wave us good-bye. Now it’s off to Whitehorse, a place we visited in July with hopes of catching perhaps the end of the salmon run? Andrew’s is SO crossing his fingers (and toes! – Oops, is he missing a toe???)  [nggallery id=126]

We enjoyed our return to Whitehorse as the campground is great and the town had everything we needed.  Ken made a stop at “Canadian Tire” which has SO much more than tires!  We stayed a couple nights and then headed to Watson Lake which is the last place we will return to before heading off onto new territory.   About 5 miles outside of Watson Lake, our RV engine started beeping.  “What could this be?”  I ask calmly, trying not to sound freaked out.    Ken figured he could keep driving and get us to a service center but the engine started heating up so we had to park it along side the road.  It wasn’t a very convenient spot to park our big rig as we kind of hung out into the road.  Ken took the van and drove into the not so big town of Watson Lake.  It was Saturday of a 3 day holiday weekend and we wouldn’t get the part (a belt was the prognosis) until Friday.  It could have been SO much worse (as in we could have been in the middle of NOWHERE (which is where we spent the last couple months)) but it could have been so much better  (in that we could have been in a town where they was actually something to DO!) but it all worked out.  We started school that week so we just got really caught up!  We also visited the Sign Post Forest to make sure our signs were still in tact.  We had enough time to actually count all 60,000+ signs but passed on that idea!  On Saturday morning, Ken helped the mechanic put in the belt and off we went on the Cassiar Highway, a new route for us. 

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Dawson City YK

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 04-09-2009

When we emerged from the beautiful mountains of the Top of the World Highway, we were greatly rewarded with the prize of Dawson City, located right on the amazing Yukon River.   To get to Dawson City, we had to put our big rig on a ferry (free for all thanks to the Yukon Government).   It was quite exciting for all of us!    The ferry can fit about eight cars but when we got in line, the ferry operator had us ride solo. The kids and I rode on the deck of the ferry while Ken drove on and across into Dawson City.

Dawson City is located on the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers. (We took pictures of the two rivers merging and you could see the brown Klondike mixing with the blue-ish Yukon). In 1896, gold was discovered in what is now called Bonanza Creek and the population swelled for about 2 years. Dawson City is now a national historical site and 35 buildings have been restored or reconstructed to bring back the old gold rush days.

We camped in the middle of the city at Gold Rush campground. We could walk to the town which was dotted with little cafes serving wonderful cappuccinos and ice cream parlors on the boardwalk. We enjoyed bike rides along the Yukon River and throughout the streets of the town which were filled with wonderful old buildings and homes.   Ken and I rode our bike past the cabin of Jack London on whom the book s  “Call of the Wild”  and “White fang” were based.   Andrew made a new friend, Martin (from Germany), and we are hoping to hook up again with him and his family in Whitehorse.

The owner of our campground told us that we HAD to visit the “Downtown Hotel” and experience a sourTOE cocktail. Ewww!! As the story goes, a miner lost his toe years ago and it ended up at the Downtown Hotel. (that his long story made short). We were greeted by Captain Al in the lobby who announced the following to those of us who dared to drink this cocktail:   “You can drink it fast or You can drink it slow.  But those fare lips, must touch this gnarly toe.”

EWWWW again!!

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 SourToe Cocktail Club

  Are you ready to drink the Toe!!!

Video of Andrew doing the Toe

He proceeded to read us the details of the certificate (given to us only if we did indeed have that horrid toe touch our lips) and we were all set to drink a toe. Andrew was the first to begin this icky procession, followed by his new friend Martin, Ken and then myself. There was NO way the girls were going to participate but they sure had fun watching. In the end, we were $20 poorer but so much richer in experience. (Ya right!)

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Now onto Whitehorse in the Yukon (again) as we head further south.

Top of the World Highway

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 01-09-2009

Since the very beginning of our Alaskan adventure, people have been telling us about the “Top of the World Highway”. It is touted as being very beautiful but also apparently very weather dependent.   If it’s foggy or raining hard, you had better put it off for a better day or even consider traveling an alternate route. When we checked the weather on the internet, RAIN was in the forecast for every day of the week! Knowing these weather stations can be oh so wrong, we decided to take fate into our hands and just plan a day and go for it. We were so pleased to have a beautiful morning for our departure from Chicken and our big trek across this famous highway.

We knew the highway would be gravel and I imagined hairpin turns with sheer drop-offs, at least that’s what we were told to expect. Compared to Highway 200 in Mexico and the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado, this highway was a piece of cake!! The Top of the World Highway is, without a doubt, our favorite route in all of Alaska. While it is indeed mostly gravel and narrow in spots, the vast views of rolling mountains and autumn colors with views of meandering rivers more than made up for the lack of a paved road. There weren’t many turnouts to take pictures but since there was so little traffic, we could simply stop in middle of the road as needed for a photo. There was one time, however, that I was being a total tourist with camera in hand, looking for the perfect angle only to finally look behind me to see a huge tour bus. Oops!!

During one of our stops, we were all gazing outward in silence and heard the flapping of a raven’s wings in the distance. THAT’S how quiet and peaceful this special place on earth is and we can’t wait to go back again. When we were about half way through our 100 mile trek on the highway, we again entered Canada. This time our goodbye to Alaska was for good (at least for this RV trip) and it was really hard to bid farewell to a state which really is the last frontier. We have no doubt we will return to this amazing state but next time, we want to come in the winter!

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