Sunday, June 29, 2008

"SPIT" & POLISH. . . . . Blog # 13

   It is a little after 9 am, Sunday morning, at Homer Spit, Alaska. Sweet Lynda is getting ready for church. Shortly we are heading over to worship with the Nazarene congregation. A while ago I stepped over to the water's edge and wetted the toes of my shoes in the waters of  Kachemak Bay that surrounds this five mile long, skinny little strip of land. The sun is shining at the moment and the winds are calm. I try to take in the whole scene of the encompassing, snowcapped mountains and the charter fishing boats heading out into the waters for the day's catch. When they return in a few hours the Halibut and all will be strung up, photographed, and bragged over. The motorcoach is parked looking out at the bay, the mountains and the rocky beach. Several tenters are camped on the beach even though it has been very cold here. 

   I tell myself that I want to remember and be able to recall all of this at a future time. Of course, we will do that in some fashion or other through pictures. But really, it's a spiritual thing. I want to inhale deeply and do my best to absorb it in it's entirety into my heart and soul. I want to take it with me when we leave. I joyfully concur with the words of the Psalmist in chapter 103, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His hold name."

    Homer Spit is a crazy place: from the Salty Dog Saloon to the Spit Sisters Cafe, to the Spit Licks ice cream shop, to the numerous charter fishing outfits and the myriad restaurants and eatin' joints. Campgrounds and campsites litter the place. There are RV's of every era and kind. All are equal here. A few kids are around, but mostly older "hippies." Not that Lynda and I qualify for that designation, of course. Not often, anyway. One old couple camped across from us the past couple of nights in an old VW Microbus camper with a flip-up top. Neat!  Another couple, Bob & Mary,  from near Traverse City, Michigan, are pulling a very well preserved 1972 Holiday Rambler trailer. It looks like the one my folks pulled in the early seventies. In the wintertime, Bob & Mary, both several years older then me, drive big John Deere tractors grooming hundreds of miles of trails for various snowmobile groups. She fed us tasty lemon squares while we chatted for a spell.

    In this area float planes are parked at the docks. Class C rental motorhomes are virtually everywhere. In town there is a great True Value hardware store and Pharmacy combination, along with delightful bookstores and gift shops, as well as a couple of large ocean-going vessels anchored off shore. Yesterday we watched a sailing regatta on the bay in front of us. We are enjoying it all.  You might say we've been "Homer-ized."

   Traveling this way over the Sterling highway a few days ago, we became more acutely aware of the many, fast-moving rivers. They are everywhere. We had a late breakfast that day at the lovely and rustic Princess Lodge overlooking the Kenai river gorge. We parked along with many other rv'ers that night, in Fred Myers lot in Saldotna and then took our time cruising on down here to Homer alongside the breath-taking Cook Inlet. 

   From Louis L'Amour's "Lando".   These would be words from the book's main character, Orlando Sackett.
   "Odd thing, I'd never thought of my pa as a person. I expect a child rarely does think of his parents that way.  They are a father and mother, but nobody thinks of them as having hopes, dreams, ambitions and desires and loves. . . . I got to wondering if he ever doubted himself like I did, if he ever felt short of what he wished to be, if he ever longed for things beyond him that he couldn't quite put into words."

   Well, it's Sunday afternoon now. Lynda is working on a bit of lunch. She has taken a multitude of pictures.  We met for the first time three years ago tomorrow at the farm at Herrington Lake. Love at first sight? Pretty much. It didn't us long to discover that we cared for one another. And fortunately, the relationship continues to grow and prosper. We travel well and happily together. Tomorrow I'll take her out to dinner (the early-bird special), and tell her I love her for the umteenth time. Those are words we never tire of hearing from one another.

   On Tuesday we'll head out of here for other parts of this 49th state, but a chunk of my heart will remain at Homer Spit. I've eye-balled this little finger of land on the map for many years, wondering what it was like. Now I know.

Blessings. . . . . on the road with Winston & Lynda



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What a Country!!! Blog # 12

   It was late afternoon a few days ago when Sweet Lynda turned to me and said, "My wonderful, darling husband; (Those may not have been the EXACT words), here we are surrounded by gorgeous snow-cappped mountains, a blazing campfire crackling at our feet, the aromatic assimilation of thick wood smoke oozing into the pores of our skin to a point where we no longer need to worry about deodorant or a shower, food on our plates, the warm sun beating down on our backs, mosquitos flying in from all over. You know hon," she said, "It just doesn't get any better then this!"  And of course, she's right. This a wonderful and exciting voyage.

    We rolled out of Anchorage last Friday morning after filling up this monster with $ 4.19 a gallon gas and making a quick stop at Fred Myers for a few more groceries. What a lovely fifty mile or so southeastern drive along the waters of the Turnagain Arm. Many turnouts for viewing and photo ops. We downed part of a yucky lunch at the Girdwood turnoff and drove a few miles over to the Alyeska Resort. A sweetheart of a hotel where we could surely stand to hang out for awhile. Anyway, we rode the ski tram up to the top of the mountain for a look-see across the countryside. Whew! Colder then a bear up there. There was also a restaurant, a snack bar and other amenities as well.

   We drove another 20 miles or so down Whittier direction. Bad signage or no signage caused a bit of confusion with the tunnel and visitor's center. When we finally got there, the visitor's center turned out to be one of the best ever. All of the extra interactive add-on features not normally found in such places. We went back a second time the next day. We checked in at the nearby National Forest Service Winniwaw Campground where we ended up dry camping for the next three nights. A wonderful, scenic location featuring the Creator's awesome touch. On Saturday morning we drove the Blazer through the alternating one-way-at-a-time tunnel ($12), and into Whittier and connected up with Jim and Shirley, our dear friends from Akron, who had just disembarked from the Princess cruise ship and were boarding the Alaska Railway train for the continuation of their journey northbound. It was so good to see them for a few minutes. 
After that, it was a bit of breakfast at the Anchor Inn. 

    We just lolly-gaged around the campsite for a couple of days(see first paragraph), napped a little and did quite a bit of reading, crossword puzzles, sudoku and the like. Good idea to park for a day or two now and then. My sister, Vonda, called about 5 am one morning. It was 9 am where she lives in Michigan. She had forgotten about the time difference. We had a nice chat. We both have talked to all the kids in the past few days. Alan is at a conference at Saddleback church in California, Brad's hanging out in KY, Angel's taking care of her family in Michigan, Barb's doing the same thing with her clan in West Virginia and Evans is in Kazakhstan with wife, Teresa, and Jasmine. We just talked with them, visually and audibly, earlier this morning on Skype. They are working on the adoption of baby Sophie. She will be two in July. They have sent some great pictures of her.

   This is our third day in Seward. We stopped at the gorgeous Summit Lodge at mile 47 on the way down here and did the omelet thing again. May try to do it on the way back too. An absolutely delightful setting. Seward is a good-size town down here on Resurrection Bay. We did the Alaska Sea Life Center on the waterfront yesterday. $18 for seniors but a very special 2 or 3 hours. Real live creatures everywhere. If you ever get the chance. . . 

   We're parked at the Stoney Creek campground but tomorrow we're packing it up and heading over to the other side of the Kenai and down to Homer and Homer Spit campground. Here in Seward, RV's by the hundreds are parked along the waterfront. I think that's how we'll be in Homer. We'll see.

   Words from a 16th century poet:   "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."

   Well, I've got to get to work on my to-do list. My sweet Lynda is doing laundry at the moment. Rainy and chilly here today but all is well. Praise the Lord!

Love and blessings. . . . . on the road with Winston & Lynda

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anchorage Blog # 11

   Traveling south from Denali last Sunday afternoon, we dawdled our way along the Parks highway headed in the direction of Anchorage, about 225 miles away. We moved over on several occasions to let faster traffic shoot on by. Why would anyone want to rush through such majestic surroundings?

  Earlier we had driven for a final time around the area and had taken some final Denali photos. We stopped by the bookshop at the visitors center and picked up a few items, then drove to the top of a high cliff to the Alpenglow dining room at the Grand Denali Lodge and enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast...with a view. Back at the campground I emptied the holding tanks, disconnected, pulled in the slides and reluctantly, we slowly escaped in the southerly direction. We had truly loved and enjoyed Denali. Of course Denali has been in the news the past few days with the very real story of two young female summer employees that have been missing in the park for several days. That's the bad news. The GOOD news is that they were found yesterday and are in fine condition.

     During our time in the area we had totally missed seeing Mt. McKinley It is so high that it makes it's own weather and was clouded in 24/7. Farther south there are some great viewing points for the highest peak in North America so after about a 100 mile drive we decided to park it all at the state campground at Byers Lake and try to get another look. All the mosquitos in the state of Alaska decided to park with us. We drove a few miles down the road to a designated viewing spot. No success. Drove a few yards farther to McKinley View Lodge for a piece of pie. They said, "Come back early in the morning and you'll be able to see it." Baloney! It was no better Monday morning. (But the pie was excellent)

   We stopped along the way at the Trapper Creek general store for propane and a little breakfast. For Sweet Lynda it was the obligatory mushroom omelet. The ladies running that place were super and very hard working. Got to talk with several fellow-travelers as well.

   At Wasilla we checked out the Transportation and Industry Museum. Good move. Some very nice old tractors. Airplanes, cars, railroad cars & stuff, old equipment and oodles of other interesting things. We spent a couple of hours there but more time would have been better. So glad we stopped.

   In Anchorage we went on a picnic, watched the trains go past the Ship Creek RV campground at least 100 times. Those tourist sight-seeing cars ARE fancy. We talked to owner Rosie at the Mountain View car wash and went to the Zoo. Got back a bit ago from having a wonderful dinner downtown at the Glacier Brew House . On top of that we went to WalMart, Barnes & Noble, and Fred Myer's grocery store a couple of times. Tomorrow we head south into the Kenai peninsula for a week or two. Might try to connect up with Jim & Shirley at Whittier  early Saturday morning before they board the train for their northward run.

   We discover that it's necessary to take a break and rest up a little now and then. Talked to Jamie. She and grandson Josh are in a family way. Another great-grandkid in the making. The Pike dynasty continues. (Now you know about this one too, Angel).

   From Louis L'Amour's Bendigo Shafter.....     "The world isn't built around people who do 
                                                                                     what they want to do. . . what they want regardless of who gets hurt.  It is built by people who do what they SHOULD do."

   More in a few days from down around Resurrection Bay.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Good stuff to see in Alaska Blog # 10

    "Welcome to the University of Alaska Museum of the North." So say the words across the top of the fancy brochure of this facility located in Fairbanks as part of the campus there.  We spent several hours there among the nearly 1.5 million artifacts and specimens. Objects of all sorts representing Alaska and it's native population from historic times up to the present. Hand made clothing and works of fine art are on display to draw your interest. You can have your photo taken with "Otto", an 8' 9" brown bear who appears to be the chief greeter. (stuffed, of course).

   Displays include birds and their migratory routes, a hugh gold display, a major layout on the building of the Alaska highway in the 40's, marine mammals of the western Arctic and the World War II Aleut evacuation. That of course, is a fabulously interesting story of it's own. There is much, much more.

    Upstairs is a room called, "The place where you go to listen." We listened for a few minutes and decided if too much time was spent in that place it would be perfect preparation for entrance into the "Funny Farm."  Had lunch in the nice little cafe and spent too much time and money in the book store and gift shop. Those folks know how we tourists are. They are nice, smiling, talkative people but definitely there for a purpose.  The whole building is architecturally wild and a delight to see. A very enjoyable day.

   On Thursday we drove on south of Fairbanks for 2 or 3 hours through some awesome and lovely countryside and are now parked a few miles north of Denali NP at the Denali RV campground. When we got here we went on down to the Wilderness Access Center and picked up our tickets for Friday's excursion. Went to see the Kennel and the Huskies while there. Sweet Lynda got to pet and talk to those beautiful animals a bit. Jen, the ranger, did an outstanding presentation for the group. Had a bite to eat in the park and stopped for ice cream on the way back.

      Got up early yesterday (Friday) morning. Things to do, places to go. Food and water has to go with us. The bus left at 8:15,  for a 12 hour, 184 mile round trip all the way back to Kantishna at the other end of the park. There were other "idiots" who made this long , bone-wrenching venture with us. We're talking school bus and third rate dirt roads here. Was it worth it?  YES! YES! YES! 

   Mike handled the bus very well with brief rest stops every hour or so. The country soon opens up to enormous proportions. It's impossible to wrap your arms and soul around the vast size and measure of it all. We were overwhelmed as we literally rubbed shoulders with the Polychrome rock mountains and quietly observed as the myriad peaks of the Alaska Range, still robed in their winter vestments, watched over and guarded us as we crept along the precarious park road. 

   The game of "stop" was played throughout the day. We were not just out for a leisurely drive over this "drop-off-the-edge" highway. We wanted to see the inhabitants of this marvelous masterpiece of creation. And see them we did. Golden eagles, several foxes, Alaska ground squirrels everywhere, caribou, beaver, a pair of young owls, and flocks of Dall sheep high on the mountains. We saw eight grizzlies, two of them right next to the road. Several buses were stopped for a look but these monsters paid no attention. They were male and female. It's the beginning of the mating season. At this point they are just courting. They were just a few feet away and such a delight to watch. Worth the trip.

   Unbeknown to the bus riders, the driver's wife, Jen, (a different Jen) was onboard with us along with her mother Joanne and Bill Dunlea, her fiance'. Again, without anyones knowledge until we arrived there, a wedding was planned for our stop at Wonder Lake. Jen, the daughter, performed the ceremony. Half way through the vows a huge mama moose and her calf strolled out of the woods and into the lake behind the couple. A moment of wonder at Wonder Lake. Nature's blessing upon the event, if you will. The animals swam on out into the lake and the ceremony was was joyously wrapped up. They needed a second witness for the license so guess who stepped in? Yep, that's right. My name is now a footnote in the history and happenings of Denali. Is that exciting or what?

    This is truly God's country. There are by the way, park trips of various lengths. Nick and Miss Terry, I hope you have a chance to make this happen.
   I made a mistake in the last blog when I called IT by the wrong name. It's the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. After that last last blog, we got to talking a little more about outhouses. Sweet Lynda strongly suggests that we erect a nice two-holer in the backyard at home in Danville. No doubt the neighbors would appreciate it. At least the one in Joy, AK had regular toilet paper. As I recall, it seems like when I was a kid we used the 'thin' pages from an out-dated "Monkey Ward" catalog.  I could be wrong though.

   I appreciate AR's response to the blog from southern, CA. A nice touch.

   A guy told me the other day that he may be getting older, but he refuses to grow up. I kind of like his philosophy.    Well, this is the land of the Midnight Sun. When a nature break is need at 2am, it's still light out. Tomorrow we are headed Anchorage direction.

   To our kids and grandkids, we love you all. To our Ohio camping group, wish we could have been with you. Miss you too.

Blessings to all.....on the road with Winston & Lynda

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Awesome Alaska Blog # 9

   Apologies for this blog being a few days late. Paid $ 5.19 a gallon out in the hinterland yesterday on a little excursion. Prices around here average in the 4 twenties & thirties. Prices on everything are noticeably higher. Spending is up for us as well as everyone else in the nation. As far as government spending is concerned, I believe it was late senator from Illinois , Everett Dirksen, who remarked, "A billion here, a billion there; the first thing you know, you're talking about real money." Every body else seems to spend MY money like it's water. How about yours?

   Sweet Lynda continues to talk about waffles in the road, about red pancakes and a long snake across the landscape (read pipeline) and such stuff. She is trying to teach me all the important issues of life that I missed back in that one room Fox school up in the Thumb. With this dear lady's help my education is expanding at a rapid pace. Oh, the joy.

   Speaking of joy, we stopped by there yesterday too. Joy, Alaska that is. A young couple began homesteading up here in the early seventies, raised a large family and made a go of it all. They have a little store there now. Tour buses and tourists like us stop by. Fourteen year old, home-schooled  daughter, Molly, was in charge yesterday. Deluxe outhouses were just down the path. Nearly all the small group that stopped by used the facilities. We did too. Hey, what does a person do 70 miles from nowhere? For me, shades of growing up on the farm north of Decker. Lynda suggested I title this blog, "Joy in the Morning."

  But to digress a bit, we hustled out of Whitehorse, Yukon  last Monday morning, June 1st, after catching the Follies the night before. They were entertaining but hardly worth $24 per. We did however, get to hear a rendition of , "The cremation of Sam McGee." Heading north up the Klondike Highway, we stopped by "the marge of Lake Lebarge" to see where all this Sam McGee story took place. You say you've not read this? Pull that Robert Service poem off your computer and enjoy. We may try to stay at the campground there for a night on the way out of this territory in a few weeks. In the brief time we were there, Lynda decided it was definitely a place of peace, quiet , and serenity.  Not bad, huh? 

   Part way to Dawson City we stopped for an omelet at Braeburn Lodge. Remember that young squirt at the Canadian border who had a personality like a "decaying cypress stump?" I believe we met his dad at Braeburn. Only this old bird had no personality at all. Perhaps the cold north has caught up with him. The good news is that he is the exception to nearly all the people we have met on this voyage. We dry camped for a couple of days at the Klondike River Provincial Park just outside Dawson. Drove to the top of Midnight Dome mountain to look down on the city. Wow, what a view! Downtown it's dirt streets and old, historic and dilapidated buildings took us back about a century. Had a omelet in a nice hotel dining room. Bought a few things at the gift shop. Checked out the grocery and hardware stores as well as a dress shop. Then on up to 8th street to take a look at the old cabin of "The Bard of the Yukon", Robert Service. Lynda took a photo of me sitting in the old wicker chair in the front yard. I'm still working on memorizing "Sam McGee." It was over to First street for ice cream before heading back to the park and a nice evening camp fire. The ice cream store owner, from Toronto, had just bought the place. His daughter was helping him run the it. Nice folks.

   Early Wednesday morning we ferried the rig across the mighty Yukon river and headed up over the Top-of-the-World highway. I've looked at that little line on the map for well over twenty years but last week I got to experience it. A little scary in spots but everybody should try it at least once. Forty miles later we crossed the border into ALASKA. YES!!!  Finally made it. Sweet Lynda was unimpressed with the condition of the road, especially in the U.S.  Dirt...& not very wide, and of course, guard rails are yet to be invented. Had a cup of coffee at Boundry with the owner and his kids, then on to Chicken. The guy in Boundry was still selling last year's gas. Didn't buy any. Had lunch in Chicken (not much there), and headed on down the frost-heaved and dippy Taylor highway through burned out forest fire areas. 

   Got back on the Alaska highway, which we had left at Whitehorse, and drove a few miles west into Tok. Our packet of mail was there and another came on Thursday. Tok has no local government, no laws and no taxes. Sounds like Paradise, doesn't it? Betty, the very delightful and knowledgeable senior citizen and "executive operator" of the visitor's center there drives a sharp looking 1951 Mercury. Local personality, Dave Stancliff gave a mini concert at the RV park each evening. He sang songs like, "If you can't take a joke, don't come to Tok" and "It's a Moose" along with a few "tear jerkers." Jerry and Everett, you would love his gospel CD. We also heard 'Sam McGee' again.

   Stopped for an omelet at the Buffalo Diner at Delta Junction on our way to Fairbanks last Friday. The place is owned by a very personable Ann Richards and her husband. We are at Riverview RV park near North Pole. We have checked out the Santa Claus house, the visitors center and Harley's Diner here. Exciting stuff. In Fairbanks it was the Yarn Shoppe, Sam's club and Walmart. Even more exciting. At church on Sunday we connected up with Roger and Velma who invited us to there home for dinner. What a a delightful and energetic couple. New friends. Some other ironic and interesting things took place there which we might share later. We'll see.

   Actually, our excursion of yesterday took us, only with the car, over 200 miles away up the Elliott highway, paved, (where we encountered Joy) to the Dalton highway, mostly gravel, and up to the Arctic Circle. The Dalton is known as  the 'Haul' road. It more or less follows the Alyeska Pipeline , Trans America Pipeline all the way to Prudhoe Bay at the Arctic Ocean. We were about 300 miles shy of that. Bought that high priced gas at the Yukon river crossing outpost. The pipeline was close by and visible on much of the run. A very interesting and enjoyable time. We're catching up on odds and ends today. A little more sight-seeing tomorrow and a trip into Denali  National Park on Friday. After that, who knows.

   Oldest son, Evans and wife, Teresa, along with 3 year old, Jasmine are in Kazakhstan for the purpose of adopting a little girl. Will be there for a few weeks. Keep them in your prayers up through July.

   From the pen of Will Rogers:   "There is no trick being a humorist when you have the whole
                                                             government working for you."

   To whomever is reading this, our love and blessings to you all. Keep on the sunny side.

On the road...with Winston & Lynda 



Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Alaska Highway Blog # 8

   Now I am in trouble.  I've been computerized for just over a month and suddenly fame has set in...or so it seems. Outside my family, friends and general circle of acquaintances, along comes "ar" from southern California who leaves a comment on my most recent blog. Is it possible this stuff I'm writing is available for the world to read? Wow!  Anyway, ar said some flattering things so he in fact, must be a nice guy.  Maybe I'll hear from again sometime. Whew! What a responsibility to my public. Of course I also received comment from Kristin, Evans, Teresa, and Michelle. But I expect them to say nice things because they ARE family and friends. So here goes. I'll try to "ring the bell" another time. Don't judge me too harshly.

   We dry camped last Wednesday night at Testa River Guest Ranch and Campground along with a new colt, Big Brown, and his mama. Archie runs the place and a generator powers the whole business. Primitive, but certainly enjoyable. Variety is good. Stopped an hour or so up the highway the next morning at Toad River for an omelet. Thousands of hats on display in the place. Later on in the afternoon it was break time at Coal River. The restaurant served up apple and bumbleberry pie...alamode, no less. Lynda insisted, so what could I do? Some folks from Kentucky joined us there. Small world.

   With few exceptions, road conditions were considerably better than expected. Because some of the work sites were watered down to control the dust, the equipment did get very muddy and dirty. Lots of yellow roadside signs with squiggly black lines on them. According to sweet Lynda, that's to let you know that snakes are ahead. She has a whole stockpile of thoughts like that. She told me that's the kind of stuff she used to teach to her 4th graders. I feel like I'm back in school all over again. Great entertainment!

   Thursday night it was the Downtown RV park in Watson Lake along with the infamous "Sign Post City." Tens of thousands of signs from everywhere around the world. The following morning at Rancheria it was another omelet. Do you see a pattern here? Of course breakfast is less expensive then dinner but very little is bargain-priced in Canada. Can't wait to get to Alaska where things will be cheap again.

   Along the way the Rocky mountain range ended with the Terminal mountains and the MacKenzie range kicked in.  After picking up a little more road mud and dirt(while Lynda was at the wheel) we rolled into the Pioneer RV Park at Whitehorse in the Yukon. We're still here.
Blew some "loonies" (Canadian dollars) and washed both vehicles. Had a little slide-out problem but the mechanic on duty was able to take care of it. There goes another day off of the trip. This is a neat town. There is the Fireweed book store, the fish ladder, galleries and museums. We went to a delightful church service this morning and we are going to the Follies tonight. Friday evening we had a lovely candlelight dinner in the Coach and last night it was very tasty sirloin tip followed by a time around the bonfire with new friends, one couple, fulltimers. Actually, we've met quite a few of those on this journey. We really decided to stay here an extra day so I could watch the NASCAR races and catch up on the world of motorsports.

   All is not well everywhere, however. One couple headed out of here yesterday in their very nice Allegro Bus and started home for Texas without ever going on into Alaska. Some emotional and other complications caused them to call an end to it all. He said he will put the RV on the market when they get home.  Life will never be a recreational vehicle. It will always be loving and meaningful relationships with those who mean the most to you. I hope those of you who are reading this feel richly blessed. We do!

From Louis L'Amour's "Conagher"
     "They like it strong out here. They say if you can't float a horseshoe on it the coffee is too weak."

   Tomorrow we are headed up the Klondike Highway (Rt. 2) to Dawson City. On Wednesday, it's over the Top of the World highway to Chicken, AK, and on down to Tok. Our mail should be there. Sweet Lynda is worried about the Top of the World. It's dirt and gravel and maybe mud. Perhaps we'll slide off that "hogback" and end up at the bottom of the mountain. If you do not hear from us again, you'll know what happened. (Just kidding)

   To our families scattered hither, thither, and yon, we love and miss you. Same goes for our friends all over the place.      

Until next time...on the road with Winston & Lynda