THE DANCING GIRLS, THE PETRIFIED TOE AND THE ALASKAN HIGHWAY MILE ZERO

P1020106Dawson City was at one time a bustling gold mining town of about 30,000. Now it has a population of about 1,800, but there are still some mines being worked. The town’s buildings are painted pastel colors, giving it a personality of its own. We took the walking history tour in the morning and then looked around the rest of the city in the afternoon including the local cemeteries on the top of the hill.

P1020054 P1020032 P1020036 We had met Jamie, a friendly Aussie, in Chicken who told us about the “Drunken Goat” Greek Restaurant in Dawson City. We had dinner there and saw Jamie again. Later we went to the “Follies” show at Diamond Tooth Gerties. We shared a table with some people from Montreal including a local miner, who told us about current mining in the Dawson City area. The dancers were very professional and the show entertaining.

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THE TOE!

Later, Lennard continued his tradition of participating in whatever crazy scheme the bars have dreamed up to sell liquor, at the Sourdough Saloon. This one took the cake though. You buy a shot of at least 40 percent alcohol and then you actually pay to have them put a real, petrified toe in the shot and then you drink the shot, but not the toe of course. It was disgusting! And…he survived the Sourtoe drink. The toe is black and I guess has been in formaldehyde. Anyway, I hope it has. We may have to take Lennard to the vet too. P1020126 P1020129

The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake has approximately 80,000 signs put there by visitors. It started in 1942 and has grown since then. We met Jay and Sherrie at the RV Park and together Lennard and Jay made signs so we could contribute to the forest. Ours is near the iron picnic table in the grove of 7 pine trees if you ever go there. We will be giving Jay and Sherrie a call the next time we are in San Diego, as we had a great time with them.

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Now we are on our way down through British Columbia towards Dawson Creek and Jasper National Park. We will be traveling some long days, so I will be writing again in a few days, as we approach Jasper National Park, Banff and Lake Louise.

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Preparation for the Top of the World Highway

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Bison along the highway are “normal”

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Update. There is a raging fire in Jasper National Park, so we will have to see what our options are. We had to travel though one fire on our way to Dawson Creek. The smoke was thick and stifling. To see the devastation of hundreds of acres of forest hurts your soul.P1020204

Before we got to Fort Nelson and Dawson Creek, we were able to stop at Liard Hot Springs for an hours dip in the river hot springs used by the men and women who constructed the Alaskan Highway. It was a marvelous stop and sooo refreshing, even though the temperatures were from a 100 to 116. You pay just $5.00 and follow a boardwalk through a marsh, where we saw a moose by the way, to the springs.

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Dawson Creek is mile zero on the Alaska Highway. Most people start here, but we went the opposite way and ended here. Either way, we can say we traveled the entire Alaskan Highway. Hopefully, the fire will be contained and we can proceed from here tomorrow.P1020219 P1020221

SURVIVED THE TOP OF THE WORLD HIGHWAY!

After a lovely dinner with our friends, Tom and Linda, we went back to our RV to drink a little Tuaca. That stuff tastes great, but is dangerous! Count on a headache the next day for sure. The next night we had dinner at our RV and the halibut Lennard caught was simply delicious. Mostly it was the company. We will miss the stunning landscape of Homer.

With sad hearts we left Homer and stopped at Kenai on our way to Alaska. It is a historical town with lots of preserved old cabins and a lovely restaurant where we had an outside lunch. There is also an Old Russian Orthodox church in operation since 1841.

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Then we had a brief stop back in Anchorage with Dennis and Sandy, and then off across the Glenn Highway to Glennallen for the night, before heading to Chicken, Alaska for the Fourth of July. Lennard taped heavy plastic to the front of the RV to protect it from the gravel we knew we would incur. Along the Glen Highway we stopped to see the Mantanuska Glacier which is 27 miles long and at its widest 4 miles wide. It is beautifulP1010964 P1010954 P1010985

Chicken is the stop prior to the Top of the World Highway, and it is the highway I had steadfastly declined to go on and had relented the night of the Tuaca debacle, due to Tom’s urging. Chicken is also where the miners did a lot of gold mining.

We arrived in time to hear the music and went to bed early, only to be awakened at 11PM by the cannon outside the bar. They shoot it off when they get a pair of underwear to use as powder. Silly tradition, but effective in waking up the whole RV Park in the middle of the night.

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The Top of the World Highway is about a 125 mile stretch of mostly gravel, narrow road with pot holes, bumps, wash board, no shoulders or guard rails, and thousand foot drops. Fun…no. I was terrified most of the way, but Lennard stayed calm in spite of my muttering about “the end is coming”! We crossed the border into Canada at Poker Creek, the highest border crossing in North America to add to the ambiance of the trip. We survived it and I was happy.

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When you get to Dawson City, you have to take a ferry across the wide, Yukon River. It is fairly small and we just fit in our lane with the tow car. That was fun too. By the time we got to the other side, I had completely disintegrated into a small, sniveling ball.

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Our Gypsy had eaten some Foxtail and was coughing like she could not get her breath, so we found the RMCP office and asked for a vet. They told us about John, the local vet, and he was kind enough to see her at his house and gave us some antibiotics. The next day she was better, but we still have to keep an eye on her. I’ll get back to this tomorrow and tell you about Dawson City.

WHEN DOES THE SUN SET? OR WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MOON?

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Mt McKinley

As we travel north and get closer to the summer solstice on June 21, we have more and more daylight. We haven’t seen night for over a week now. It is so strange to be out at 11PM and it’s still daylight.

Well, so much for the Alaskan Highway being a great road, which it was up to Tok. The road from there to Fairbanks was fraught with road work, pot holes, frost heave and gravel! But, taking advice from our friend, Frank, we drove slow and survived it. We did see a grizzly and some beautiful scenery along the road though. Can you imagine Lennard’s face when he saw how dirty the RV and tow care were? Yikes!!

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Our RV park in Fairbanks was terrific. We had a site right along the Chena River with lots of space and trees. I was able to do laundry there in a clean laundry room.

We took the Discovery Paddle Boat up the Chena River with views of Fairbank homes along the river bank, an example of the local Athabascan Indians camp, salmon preparation demonstration,and a show by mushers and their sled dogs. Susan Butcher was the second woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1986. She won four out of the next five sequential years. Her daughter, Tekla, carries on her tradition taking care of the descendants of her sled dogs. Her lead dog, Granite, was a hero among sled dogs. Unfortunately, Susan succumbed to cancer in 2006, but her tradition lives on

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Thirsty after the sled run!

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Discovery Paddle Boat

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Soon to be sled dogs.

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Tekla and her sled dogs.

Lennard and I both joined the “Turtle Club” and got “turtled” at a local restaurant.  You have to answer four questions to join.  For every question you can’t answer, you have to drink a shot. ! Luckily, we figured out all but one question.  We have our friend, Sam, to thank for this experience! We are now certified turtles with club cards.

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Sam the best bartender!

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The last day in Fairbanks we boarded Bella and Gypsy out to “Holy Dogs” and took a tour to the Arctic Circle via the Dalton Highway. We left at 6AM and returned at 11PM. It was a long day, but only one percent of all the tourists who visit Alaska cross the Arctic Circle. Along the way we stopped at a trapper store, saw some wildlife and the Alaskan Pipeline, and several lookout points. We got to walk on the tundra which is soft and dangerous for walking because it is very uneven. Underneath the tundra is frozen ground. And No, there wasn’t any ice or snow there in the summer. I was surprised about that. We had a little celebration at the demarcation line. I was expecting champagne, but got tundra chocolate cake with snowcap whipped cream on top. Nice.

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Alaskan Pipeline There are over 800 miles of it.

Our next stop was the exquisite wilderness of Denali Park. It is home to the highest spot in America, Mt. McKinley at 20,320 feet above sea level. The locals call it Mt. Denali. In Denali we stayed in a virtual parking lot. I shouldn’t complain, as at least it was only a mile from the park entrance. We should have stayed in the park and dry camped. Our mistake, but never mind.

We took an all day tour to see Mt. McKinley and it was a spectacular day. (Only 10% of visitors actually get to see it because of usual cloud cover.) We had the best day you can have for viewing the majestic mountain. Along the way we saw moose, caribou, grizzly bear, and Dall sheep. Dall sheep are the only pure white sheep in America. We stopped at several view points, but the last one was spectacular. We are grateful for that perfect day.

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The road to Mt. McKinley

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Grizzly

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That night we had dinner at the famous Denali Salmon Bake Restaurant. I looked in the kitchen and it looked like Hell’s Kitchen, with everyone yelling out the next items due up. The food was great, but as usual…too much of it.

The next day we took the dogs on a little hike, keeping in mind Pomeranians don’t necessarily realize they are appetizers for grizzlies. Later we visited the only national park sled dog kennel in America. The dogs here were different from the ones in Fairbanks. These were all huskies, bred to pull loads while the ones in Fairbanks that we visited were mixed breeds, bred to race. It was HOT in Denali that day and most of them were sleeping until time to hook up and they all went wild. They also had a liter of six puppies born just a month ago. Their mom was just about to the point of deciding she had had just about enough of them and weaning them off her milk. They had other ideas about that program.

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There is a heat wave here this week and everyone is loving the weather, as it usually is a lot cooler. I’m hoping it will cool down again. After all, that was one of the benefits of leaving Las Vegas for the summer!

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THE BEAUTIFUL, YET TERRIFYING ALASKAN HIGHWAY

After completing the drive from the stunning Cassiar Highway, we started our journey to the great Alaskan Highway.

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The first stop was Dease Lake where we dry camped at Waters Edge RV Camp.

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Does a bear cross the road in the woods?

It rained all night and we prayed we could get up the dirt hill in the morning.   Next stop Watson Lake.  The Baby Nugget RV Park called our name, and we got an early start setting up.  (Allowing Lennard to clean the RV and car) We were lucky enough to see a bear crossing the road as a big wheel truck honked it’s horn along the way.

A short stop at Jade City was mandatory.  They actually export their jade to China and have it imported back after it has been designed into jewelry or art.  Who knew a lot of China’s jade comes from the Yukon?

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Can you believe this?

The next day we arrived in Whitehorse in the Yukon.  Our site was the narrowest we have ever seen at the Hy Country RV Park.  Lennard did a great job backing in… with my help of course.  P1000540

Dinner was at the famous Klondike Restaurant serving ribs and salmon. It is an eclectic place with crazy décor and smiling waitresses.  Along with the dinner fare they serve the largest deserts we have ever seen.  Did we share one?  YES!

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The next day we started sightseeing at Miles Canyon, which was a beautiful canyon with a river running through it and a bridge to the other side.  I stayed behind with the dogs and was lucky enough to have a chat with the world renown travel writer, Rosemary McClure.  She was there working on an article for the Los Angeles Times.  Her photographer had the largest lens I have ever seen. I’m looking forward to reading the piece and seeing the photos. She did ask me a few questions.  Will our story get in her article? I hope so. Never the less, it was a real pleasure talking with her.

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An old paddle wheel ship is located downtown.  The SS Klondike was used to transport goods and people in the  late 1800’s.  You can take a tour, but we just viewed it from the outside.

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After seeing the historic downtown, we ended the day with a trip to Walmart where the parking lot was crowded with RVs.  There must have been 50 of them  of all shapes and sizes, taking advantage of the free parking.  There was hardly room for cars to navigate.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve is about 20 minutes out of town.  We opted for their 6 kilometer walk through the preserve the next day.  Our first stop was next to the bison area, where a mama bison was protecting her calf near the fence.  She rolled in the dust and  roared and grunted as we passed by.  After we passed, they did not let anyone down that pathway.  What? It was scary.  The rest of the park was calm and it was a great day.

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Mad Mama Bison and baby.

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Moose in field

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Elk

IMG_0145 IMG_0154 IMG_0168 IMG_0180 P1000598A last, but mandatory stop was made at the Yukon Brewery where we missed the last tour but bought the beer! Their newest creation was called Special Agent and was 8.1% alcohol.

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We were surprised to find that the Alaskan Highway was really a pretty good road without any pot holes, gravel or problems all the way to Whitehorse.  We were thinking about all the stories we had heard about it and wondering where the bad parts were.

Ha! we would soon find out the real truth next day on our trip from Whitehorse to Tok, Alaska.  But, that’s a story for another day.

DATE SET TO START THE EPIC ADVENTURE

We have finally set the date to start our epic adventure.  We leave May 10, 2015 and hope we will make the entire planned journey, which should take 5-6 months and 18,000 miles.  We are headed to the north-east coast and then to Alaska and the Alcan Highway first! After that, we traverse across the US into northeastern Canada and then down the east coast and to the Great Smoky Mountains.  Next we drive down to the Florida Keys and then back through the Midwest and home. Yes, I admit is it very ambitious for new RVers, but hey, what the heck? If you don’t choose to live life to the fullest you miss out.  What is the worst that can happen?  We  change the itinerary or we come home early.  So, then we sell it or start out again.  (Depending on how we fared and if we are still talking to each other. We do have boxing gloves courtesy of  our friends,Vickie and Thayne.)

The RV is in the service department again for all those minor cosmetic repairs and to have some after-market stuff put on.  One is a stabilizer and the other some type of stabilizer tow bar.  Okay, I might have to check with my husband to let you all know what they are really called.

We will be making a trial trip to Zion this month, with the Sun City Anthem RV Club. The trip should show us if everything is in good shape before we leave on the big trip. If not, then we will have a week or so to fix or adjust. It is also a trial for our two loved, happy, but yappy Pomeranians to see how they do.

Photos from Zion to come after the trip!