Friday, September 25, 2009

Grumbling on the road...with Dad

All right, so I don't these observations.

1. Driving the Alcan (now called the Alaska Hwy) is rough in a car – those of you who’ve done it can attest to that (PK, Bruce, Jack, Joe & Jen, Lanny – in a ’53 Jeep Willie, no less). In an RV it’s like running in low-quarters (or wing-tips for you non-military types) or high heels for the ladies. You know how new running shoes feel like you're running on pillows? Well, this is the opposite...every bump is magnified and the little swales that make for a somewhat pleasant roller-coaster feel in a car cause the shocks to bottom out and feel like the entire undercarriage is going to scrape on the road. And when the swale runs at an angle across the road it causes the four wheels to cross it separately creating a major contortion as the vehicle twists in opposite directions. Plus you get to slam on the brakes frequently prior to hitting a rough spot which reduces your speed and causes the entire RV to crash around you – wonderful for the gas mileage, not to mention a few broken dishes.
2. We are extremely fortunate to live in the US for a number of reasons. For example, the average price for gas in Canada is about $1.30/liter. Now that doesn’t sound too bad, except that there are 3.8L/gallon so you’re actually paying $4.94/gal. We actually paid upwards of $2.00/l in northern British Columbia. Dave, to answer your question that works out to $.85/mile. We had intended to enjoy a leisurely drive across Canada enroute to Alaska and back to WA, but it became a dawn to dusk forced march in order to get back to the good ole USA as quickly as possible. Secondly, phone/internet charges. Being savvy AT&T users, we got the Canada plan which brought the rates down from $.79/min to $.59/min. Those charges start as soon as you initiate the call. They also start as soon as your phone starts ringing on an incoming call. So for dear Mom’s normal hour+ calls to her mom, we only had to pay $35 (saved $12 using the plan!!). Better yet, the internet plan reduced the charges from $10/MB to a meager $1.25/MB. Every time you go to a different page on a website, it takes about 1 MB. So, for a typical period of surfing the internet, the 10 minutes required a download of 15-20 MB runs about $20-25. Like I said, be thankful we’re Americans (and not only for the lower cost of living)!

3. The dream of carelessly cruising around North America without a care in the world isn’t quite accurate. The house back in MI is still there (in the 3 weeks they’ve been in the house, the renters have complained about a broken shower, faulty electrical outlets, screens that don’t slide and brown water – Tim, you want to buy that house back?). The normal mechanical issues associated with driving a combustion engine vehicle are magnified when you put a house on the back of it. Daily monitoring and adjusting fluid levels, tire pressure, air shock dampener, loosening plumbing fixtures, doors and drawers that get loose and don’t work and heating duct work (remember it was 20 degrees this morning). Finally, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up – the pension is great, but after living on a pretty good salary, trying to do the same thing on 50% of that salary is tough – see previous paragraph.
4. Of course, given the alternative, this ain't all bad. Life on the road is pretty cool. You get to see a lot of beautiful scenery, get to watch the kids appreciate the beauty and majesty of God’s creation and you get to share it all with the people you love the most. We get to spend a lot of time together (well, sometimes this isn’t a positive, but 99% of the time it is). As I write, the sun is coming up over the mountains in the Yukon Territory. It’s neat to be able to experience Whitehorse, YT, but the sun coming up over snow-capped mountains on a crystal clear day when the temp is about 25 is a phenomenal experience that our family will treasure for a lifetime. Well, my dear wife and I will, the others are still in the rack!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Toley vs. The Bike

Experiences with the bike are … well let’s just say, biking isn’t my favorite. I don’t mind taking a nice little stroll through the woods on a nice warm day. But we tend to fly by on the side of the road in freezing weather for miles. Z-man says I’m wimpy and just to wait a couple years till he goes to college and then I’ll build some real character, so I’m not looking forward to that day very much.

While we were in Mqt. I got lost in the small little campsite and the other day my bike fell on me while I was petting the dog. Then two days ago we were biking home from the pool and I ran into a stop sign. Thankfully a bruised knee was all I suffered. Although, one time while biking home from the PX we saw meese while biking on a bridge (One goose; two geese-One, Moose; two meese). There was a Mama and baby and we got some good snapshots of them both. They crossed right in front of the bike path. Mom made us back up because Mama moose can charge when their babies are around. All went well though and we were really excited from seeing wild meese.

I guess maybe something good can come out of biking, occasionally


Monday, September 21, 2009

Grumblers afoot!

I have come to realize that most of the stuff I want to write about is either already written about by the kids or has to do with non RV type things, so I guess you could put this in the latter category. My husband has asked me to put in pictures because all good blogs have pictures, but I really don't have one for this, so you are going to have to deal with a picturless entry and a heavy one too.

I have been observing my family these last few weeks and I notice A LOT of grumbling going on, myself included. You know what I mean, moaning, groaning, complaining - LOUDLY. But, there IS a lot to grumble about! HAHA! There is so much change in our daily life, not to mention the crowded quarters and the fact that there are almost 3 (nearly 17, nearly 15 and 12 1/2 ) teenagers living under one roof!

But I don't like it. I don't like it when I hear myself talking that way, but even worse is hearing the kids talk that way. Truth be told, I am kinda a grumbler by nature. I am not necessarily unhappy, I just like the world to know things aren't perfect. :) Yes, a big flaw on my part. But to watch your kids "catch" what you have is , well, pretty ugly! You know they didn't learn that on their own, they had to get it from somewhere and this is one of the things I can't blame on my husband. He is not a grumbler at all.

Before we moved from Marquette our Pastor Brian spoke on grumbling during his sermon one Sunday. UGH! That was ugly! I kept shrinking lower and lower in the pew wondering if he was talking directly to me, if the kids saw their mother in his speaking or worse yet if the rest of the congregation knew he was speaking to me. Now in all fairness, I am sure Pastor Brian wasn't speaking directly to me as there are many grumblers in the world, but that particular sermon hit me right in the heart. YES! I am a grumbler!! It was hard to listen to, but worth it. I believe that we all need to hear about our faults every so often; just to keep our pride in check if nothing else. For me it was a painful day!! HA! But also a day of learning.

So, the other morning I was reading Exodus and here is our friend Moses. Man was he a grumbler and not just to anyone, he grumbled right to God. God asked him, came to him in a burning bush, spoke his name and actually had a conversation with Moses and what does Moses do? He complains about being asked to talk to the Israelites! "Oh Lord do I really have to talk to them, I am poor in speech...yada yada yada...." There are other times of grumbling by Moses and is shocks me each time I read about it. I mean it is one thing to grumble to a friend or spouse, but to God! OUT LOUD! Yikes!!

So what does an old man from the Old Testament have to teach us? For me, it is a reminder that God can use even the grumblers to show others His love for them. Maybe not while they are grumbling per say........ It is a comfort to me to see that God puts imperfect people in places of importance throughout the Bible. That he can use anyone, to do His work. PHEW! I thought my list of sins was too long :)

The funny thing is, is that I think that maybe Moses' grumbling was catchy. The Israelites complained constantly throughout their years in the desert. Yes, there were many things to grumble about as they were stuck in a desert for what seemed like forever, but God was there. God saved them from slavery, but they were thirsty! God gave them food, but they wanted more or something different. God constantly showed his love to them yet all they could do was grumble, find something else to worship or yell at Moses. Why the constant grumbling, especially since God was right there, in a cloud, with them always! Can you imagine how awesome that would be? You would think that alone would stop the them from grumbling, but not the Israelites, they just kept at it.

Do you see where I am going with this? God is constantly showing His love to me and my family, yet we still grumble. He has blessed us beyond measure with a great family, a great extended family, wonderful friends and a roof over our heads. Not to mention my husbands pension, food, clothing,and........the list can go on for hours, months, days, even years, but still, I grumble, the kids grumble why? Well, I have all sorts of reasons why, mostly it comes down to the fact that we are human after all. We can't just stop at the snap of a finger and be someone different. But God can help us do that. He has the power and strength to help us to stop a behavior that is undesirable. The question is, will you call on Him to help you?

Love you all,


Friday, September 18, 2009

Kenai Peninsula

After Fairbanks we continued on our journey through the Last Frontier down to Seward in the Kenai Peninsula. The town is at the end of a large Fjord, which is a Norwegian word for a U-shaped inlet created by a glacier and filled with water. The story of it was pretty cool. The bay was discovered in the 1700s by Russian explorers who were caught in a storm at sea. After days of being tossed around by waves they landed in a particular bay on what they later remembered to be Easter Sunday, so they called the bay Resurrection Bay.

We arrived Friday afternoon after spending the previous evening back in Anchorage. Upon arrival, Dad, Toley and Pooh biked into town on a recon mission. They brought back all sorts of pamphlets on small marine cruises you could take into the Gulf of Alaska. So Mom and Dad mulled over this while I hooked up our newly acquired TV cable and we entertained ourselves with some non-Andy Griffith TV for the first time in a few months. It was kinda boring actually, although, I must say that ESPN was a welcome sight to the whole family (give or take a few people).
The following morning Dad and I went for our weekly 10-mile hike. The road we took was pretty cool, winding along at the base of one of the surrounding mountains and on the shore of the bay. The weather was miserable but hey, it probably built some character. When we got back we found out that Mom and Dad had decided on going on one of the cruises. This specific tour took us on a five hour ride into the Gulf of Alaska and to Bear Glacier, which is part of the Harding Ice Field of Kenai National Park. We left at noon aboard the Star of the Northwest and headed down the bay. This was no short trip either, Resurrection Bay itself is roughly 10 miles long and that was just the beginning. At the end of the bay we were told that another boat had seen a pod of Orcas out in the water a little while earlier. We spotted the Killer Whales a few minutes later. There were about four whales in all, two males, a female and a baby. They were so cool. Three of them were spotted first surfacing together and then a few minutes later the boat almost ran one over. The whale was literally 10 feet from the boat when we first saw it. We got some great pictures!

We saw all sorts of animals during the rest of the tour. All in all we spotted about five bald eagles, a sea otter, a small lagoon of brightly colored jellyfish!, a couple rocks full of lazy, fat sea lions and hundreds of sea birds!! It was really cool. Another sight I especially liked was a small island with the remains of a WWII lookout post on it. The island was so steep that the only way to get men and supplies to the top was by a cable, which we saw parts of. The glacier was pretty cool too. There were even a few icebergs in a small lake in front of it, some of which got up to 400 feet tall!

The trip back home was Kik’s favorite park. He got to become a Kenai Fjords Junior Park Ranger and took an oath promising to protect the park and pick up “glitter” (litter, for those who don’t speak Kikish). He even got a badge, which totally made his day.
The next day we had our own little Bible study since the only church we could find was two mile s away and it was pouring rain. We spent the day pretty much doing nothing and that night Dad and I suffered through the Green & Gold’s first game. Thankfully they won which made the rest of the evening that much better.

We left the next day and drove to Homer, another town on the Kenai Peninsula, where we spent the next couple of days. The town was right on the water and there were bush planes taking off from the lake across the street from our RV Park. We were able to take a small hike on the beach as well. The mountains around the area were beautiful! Mom and dad really liked this town. They said it had a nice feel to it. They took the girls out biking on the Homer Spit that stretched far out into the Cook Inlet which empties into the Pacific. They were hoping to see some beluga whales (being that the nearby bay is called Beluga Bay), but were unsuccessful. Deep sea fishing seems to be the big thing in Homer. But that was easy to figure out since the welcome sign says “Welcome to Homer, Halibut Fishing Capital of the World”
Well our time in Alaska is starting to wind down. Hope none of you are bored of it yet, there is still more to come.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

To the North Pole

North Pole, AK is an actual town – one we used to live and where Z-man was born so he was, in effect, returning to see “his people.” But before that, a quick recap. After the tour in Denali, Z-man and I did our weekly 10 mile walk to Healy, AK where we attended church at the Morning Star Baptist Church. Nice service and nice people – Pastor Pete introduced himself before leading the singing, delivering the sermon and finally baptizing his daughter. We drove the rest of the way to Fairbanks and on to Eielson where we got a place for a couple of days.

The photo is of the lake that we were on in Eielson and the home of a few beaver. We couldn’t figure out what the loud “kerplunk” that sounded like a large rock being thrown in the lake was, until we figured out that the beavers would slap their tales to scare us when we got too close. Cooler still was the 4 or 5 fallen trees that were obviously cut down by the beaver.

From Eielson I rode to the airport and picked up a rental Ford Explorer. We drove out Chena Hot Springs Road, back thru Fairbanks via Farmer’s Loop Rd but didn’t see anything. Mom and I enjoyed the drive around Fairbanks, but recognized that it had changed significantly in the 15 years since we left here.

The next day Mom took the kids to the Knotty Shop (which is a very cool shop made out of knotty pine. They have all sorts of interesting Alaskan made things – this was written by mom because this story needed a little more than bullet points!!) while I drove to Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. Pioneer Park is a really neat place that replicates Fairbanks in the early 1900s during the gold rush. We met up at Pioneer Park and drove the rental car back to Santa Claus House in North Pole then to our old house on Wanda Dr. The house looked totally different. Z couldn’t remember his room (not sure why since he was almost 18 mos when we left here). More needed by mom here. The house is an A frame and that and the fact that it was still brownish red were the only two things that were recognizable. So much had changed. They closed off the garage, moved the front door and cut down the near acre of woods in the back. The grass was beautiful and reminded me of the 3 square inch of grass that my dear husband tried to grow while we lived there. Anyway, on the more exciting bullet points by Dad……. moved to another RV park near the Chena River that was pretty nice.

Z-man and I hit the DMV so he could get an AK driver’s license which turned out to be a challenge……something about scalping Packer tickets and a mug shot, but it was all unclear. Took quite a while to convince them that he could get one comparable to the one he got in Michigan, but we were successful. After lunch we headed to Pioneer Park which, unfortunately, was closed for the season on Labor Day. Turns out my desire to run the Equinox marathon has messed up our timing in many ways. Anyway, we made the best of it then ran up to Beaver Sports to find out my shocks on my bike are shot (not that it was any news) and will take $125-150 to rebuild. After a yummy dinner of potato soup in sourdough bread bowls, the kids and I went to Freddy’s for ice cream while Mommy toiled at home cleaning the RV in preparation for leaving Fairbanks the following morning.



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Walk on the Wild Side

Denali National Park was the next stop and what a stop it was. We got there Friday and stayed right outside the park.
The next morning, bright and early we biked two miles in 30 degree weather down to the visitor’s center. We had gotten a great deal on shuttle bus tickets.
The ride was eight hours long and went all the way to Mt. McKinley. We learned some interesting facts about Denali too. One of them was Denali is 6,000,000 acres, which is about the same size as Massachusetts, except with a lot more trees. We had a great time and saw lots of wildlife. Soon after we started we saw two Bull Moose, we got some great snapshots. Then we saw caribou and Dall sheep, which are the only white, wild sheep. Later on we saw grizzly bears, in all we saw about six. One of them was by himself about half way up a hill. He started walking closer and closer toward us. We got some good close-ups like the picture in the collage. Soon he came up and went on the road right around the bus. It was really cool!
The views were very pretty too. The hills were strange colors, purplish red, green and mustard yellow. The bushes all around were red; it looked like a fairytale land. All the mountains looked like this except Mt. McKinley which, we found out, is over 20,000 ft. tall! It was covered in snow, which isn’t surprising. We spent half an hour eating, hiking and gaping at the mountain before the four hour trip home.
Afterwards we decided to try Alaskan Pizza, which turned out to be pretty tasty. We had a great day in Denali.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Alaska or Bust

Sorry it took so long to write. Okay let`s see here. After Hyder we headed up through the Yukon Territory and then on the potholed roads to Tok Alaska, (thankfully the R.V. didn’t fall apart while we were driving over them) where we spent the time just hanging out, and getting postcards. Z-man and Daddy had a great time taking pictures of the little store that sold “Reindeer hotdogs” and mommy and daddy at reindeer chili that night, Toley and I were horrified. We finally made it to the post where our campsite was in Anchorage. We stopped at the commissary and BX/PX to get some (a ton) of groceries. Z-man thinks I eat too much. “Hey I`m growing!” When we got to our campsite it was about 1:00pm. We hung out and then went to bed peacefully, not knowing what Dad had planned for us the next day!

The following day, Sunday, we biked to the church on post. It was only about a mile; which was easy compared what we did after that! A couple hours later (after church) we needed some more things. So we all biked to the commissary which was right next to the PX. That took, with Kik, about 15-20 min, with the wind against us. When we finally got there we sat down in the food court to do some computer stuff. Pretty tempting. We ate lunch there. While Z-man stayed with his beloved computer the rest of us went shopping in the PX. When we were getting ready to leave I was in a great panic trying to find my helmet which, of course, was on my head. When we got home Dad decided to do some bike maintenance stuff with us (Our bikes had taken a beating from all the pot holes in Canada). This also included the two girls. “C`mon it`s good for ya!” AHHHH Too many bikes!! Kik enjoyed it though, teaching me how to pump up a tire. A couple days later Toley and I were taking the dog for a walk in the woods right next us, where I stepped on a mushroom that popped and green smoke came out of it. I must say I was a bit frightened, we also found some Meese (Moose) droppings. I think that’s what they were. It was nice staying in one place for more then……a day. Not worrying about packing up all the time. Well I think Toley is going to update next.

Tata for now,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

By the numbers...

30 Aug 2009 (Sunday)

Days on the road since Z and Dad left Mqt: 31
Miles driven: 6830
Gallons of gas: 765
Campsites: 12
US States: 15 (MI, WI, IL, IN, OH, WV, VA, DE, NJ, PA, NY, MN, ND, MT, AK)
Canadian Provinces: 4 (OR, AL, BC, YT)
Bald Eagles seen: 4
Bears seen: 3
Moose seen: 2
Windshield cracks: 1
Miles of construction: 150 (mostly in BC)
Miles of rough road: ~
# of times my wife closed her eyes while I was driving: 52
Aunt/great aunt who had a significant birthday,
I won't go into numbers, but it rhymes with the actor
who played the Hulk (and Eddie's Father) : 1

QBs who've fallen out of favor: 1