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Alaska, Last State in North America, 2017 (No Boat to Hawaii)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Who is Andrew McCulloch?

I would have like to spend more time in Vancouver, and perhaps on our return trip we will. I originally scheduled four days there, but shortened our reservation after feeling "stuck" in Oregon and Washington. I am so ready to get moving, and driving to places with names like Dawson Creek and Whitehorse!

I like to travel in the Alfa from one park to another, get settled, and then go places in the Jeep. I'm not crazy about trying to park the Alfa in crowded parking lots. 

So, on Monday, leaving the Alfa at the RV park, we set out in the Jeep to see a place Craig had read about in the last Escapee magazine, and I had noticed in a couple of my guide books: the Othello Tunnels.

Located in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, near Hope BC, the series of five railroad tunnels were designed and engineered by Andrew McCulloch one hundred years ago. 




Our son-in-law is a professor of engineering named Andrew 
McCulloch, which peaked our interest in this attraction.



I find it hard to come up with appropriate words to describe the tunnels, other than remarkable.  Each was created by blasting and clearing tons of rock. The gravel walk-through that is there now is over the original roadbed. I think the tracks were removed. 



You can see straight through to the exit on some, but this one had a little correcting curve.


Four of the tunnels were rough blasted rock, but this one in the middle of the set had a cement ceiling and portal, with cement struts on the sides. Presumably for structural reasons.



The tunnels are linked by bridges over the roaring river canyon below. 

They now have sturdy wood handrails to protect the awestruck tourists. But when they were in use by the railroad, no railing existed.  


Looking over the edge you could see the old railroad ties and metal supports of some sort.

One of the posters said that most of the trains were scheduled to run at night so the passengers could not see the river canyon as they crossed over it.




The river is really wild through this area. It continues to carve away at the rock canyon walls.























Another view of the rapidly moving water.



The five tunnels are quite close together. A final bridge leaves the last, and hikers are able to continue along a wooded trail that was once the railroad right-of-way overlooking the river.



We walked a little way and then turned around and went back through the tunnels to the parking area where we enjoyed our picnic lunch on a table in the shade.

By the way, if you happen to be here because you are interested in Andrew McCullochs, here are the ones on Wikipedia:

It was still early afternoon when we drove back west toward our second tourist stop of the day, the Harrison Hot Springs public hot spring pool. I had noticed some information about it last fall when I was first researching our route. 



There are two hot springs in the area, and mineral water is pumped to the public pool and cooled to a nice 100°F. Very relaxing and good for old bodies! I can imagine the locals must love it on a cold January day! We spent about an hour there. 

Finally:



One of the mountain peaks we saw today. I'm sure it has a name, but I don't know what it is.

We drive tomorrow (Tuesday) and I'm a bit apprehensive. I've been reading the road description in The Milepost, a book about all things relating to driving to Alaska, and it seems we are heading for a 50 mile stretch of winding roads and sharp curves with seven tunnels!

Oh well, if you are reading this, we survived.  (No Wifi at our Wednesday night spot, but there is at our Thursday - Friday location near St. George BC.)

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Very Busy day in Vancouver BC

I expect this to be a long post, because we did more in one day than we do in some weeks. So grab a seat, and read on if you have time.

We are staying at the Eagle Wind RV park in Abbotsford, which is right across the US border and about 40 miles east of Vancouver. I decided to stop here because it is on our route, and would rather drive the car in to Vancouver than stay at a closer park and have to go in and back with the RV.

There are many things to see and do in Vancouver. The weather was great, and I did my homework, making a list of several recommended activities.

First up was the Sun Yat-Sen Ming Garden in downtown Vancouver. At first I was a little disappointed, because due to renovations that were underway there was no water in the ponds. Since the ponds are a major element, instead of visiting a calm garden, I felt like I was at an abandoned construction site. (It was Saturday and no one was working.)



But, after joining the group that was on the tour, and having the guide point out and explain many of the garden elements, I was able to appreciate what was there and overlook the empty ponds. 



The red leaf tree in this image is an element of penzai, the cultivation of miniature plants that preceded and inspired Japanese bonsai.

[From Craig] Look at the top of the central rock. I see a padre with a hat on and his right hand raised in greeting. Or perhaps a ghost that's more solid than usual?

Rocks are an important feature of this type of garden. The Chinese considered nature to be the master sculptor, and the intricate shapes of the rocks stirred their imagination.

Note:  The regular Senior admission into the garden is $9, but was discounted due to the empty ponds. We parked at a paid parking garage across from the back side of the walled garden. Look for the big Orange P signs. Parking cost $5.25 (Canadian) for the time we were in the garden. There was also metered street parking but it was full.

Next on my list was a visit to Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver.  I'm not going to write about getting lost because someone put the name of the wrong park into the GPS, but it did give us an opportunity to drive around the Vancouver area a bit. 😀


As you know, we like to get  little hiking in and never seem to tire of beautiful forest paths and rushing rivers.

I was surprised by how many people were there. It must have been because it was a Saturday and a really nice weekend, weather-wise. We heard several other languages being spoken, so I guess it is a popular park in the tourist guide books. I got it from a Moon Book, and read a TripAdvisor review. But as usual, I was able to look past the other people and see the beauty of the park.





One feature at Lynn Canyon Park is this suspension bridge over the river below. 

The park is well maintained, car parking was available, but not for RVs. There was a nice lunch cafe and I saw people eating hamburgers and ice cream for lunch. Entry into the park was free.

There is another suspension bridge mentioned in the guide books called the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Treetops Adventure. It sounded a bit more like a commercial venture with a network of swinging bridges and tree houses. There the senior admission was $34.95 each, plus $5 for parking. 

I like free.

Besides, I'm not a daredevil, and am too old for "challenging swinging bridges" as described in my Moon Guide book.



The forest is considered young since it had been logged out in the past.


But there is plenty of evidence of the old growth throughout. Craig is taking a picture of the river gorge below. The edges of the cliff sides were well fenced off because they are very dangerous.


Numerous foolish people have had accidents and some have died falling off the edges of the canyon.













The paths were almost all boardwalks, but there were many steps up and down.



Every time we do one of these walks, I wish I weighed less and/or was 20 years younger, but  I remind myself I am lucky I can still do it. I'd hate to be missing these places.  Oh yes, Sunday morning I woke with very sore knees, but a couple of Tylenol fixed them.

After all this fresh air and exercise, we were ready for some dinner.

I'm not going to write about the stress of having one of our credit cards not work at a gas station, (it did later at the restaurant) nor about getting semi-lost a few more times, nor finding our first and second food destinations closed, because where we did end up was outstanding!

Based on a TripAdvisor recommendation we went to Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant, located at 3888 Main Street, Vancouver. We arrived just after six and did not have reservations. Our wait was only a half hour. By the time we were leaving the entry waiting area was jam packed.

image from web
The food was terrific and we agree with the reviews that it was one of the best Chinese restaurants we have eaten at. 


It was as white table cloth dining experience, but the final tab was remarkably reasonable.

[From Craig] The conversion from CA$ to US$ helped with being reasonable.



Tired, full, and happy, we headed back to Abbotsford. 

We thought our day's adventures were done when we noticed a large black cloud of smoke ahead.

Although it was evening, there was still plenty of daylight to be had, and we were in no rush to get back to the Alfa. So we decided to try to get closer.





As we were crossing a bridge near the fire, we were able to see it seemed to be on a small island on the river. We got off the highway and worked our way closer. We ended up following some other cars that looked like they knew the area, and parked on a residential street near the river.



We joined quite a few fellow fire-chasers in the back yard of a lady who greeted us and granted us passage to see the fire. We did ask, and said thank you when we left.  The fire was raging, and the fire engines were blasting it with water.

We learned from the neighborhood people that what was burning was an old warehouse compound that was used by an old hoarder. No one knew the fate of the owner, but assumed because it was daytime he was probably safely out. In general they seemed to express a "good riddance" and "let it burn to the ground" sentiment. 

We heard a lot of booms and bangs, and a long volley of pop-pop-pops. We were told he collected old paint, propane tanks and gas cans, and the place had been considered a fire hazard for many years. There is a large working lumber mill not far away, and the firemen did well protecting it and the two large white boats that were docked nearby.

As I said at the beginning of this post, it was a long day!

Sunday we stayed home and Craig watched the Indy 500, while I wrote this post.

Our adventure will resume Monday. I have more plans!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Wrapping up loose ends ...

We crossed the US/Canadian border today, and I now declare our Alaskan Adventure has begun! But before I start posting about the next chapter of our lives, I want to post a little about some of our less notable doings. I do this for myself, because if I have written about something, I am more likely to be able to recall it in the future.

Since we visited Seattle a few years ago, we did not feel a draw to spend time in the city. Instead we settled in a small RV park in a little town called Mount Vernon. 


As we drove into town I noticed a small park trailhead sign and a parking area on the corner of a woods. It looked like a nice walking trail, so I got Craig to go with me the next day to explore it.

The day was a perfect temperature for a walk, and the path was wonderfully level.






Unfortunately, the woods only lasted for about a quarter of a mile before it opened out onto a berm between a country road and the river.



We decided to keep going and see what we could. The fields across the road had just been worked. The rows were perfect! I guess tractors have GPS.


The four trees in front of the house made me think of gnomes. The unusual tree in the picture on the right must have been a grafted creation. Possibly two kinds of fruit.

Our walk was not long, but it was nice.

Our last two days in Washington were spent in Bellingham. We stopped there because it had the last Trader Joe's we were going to see for several months. There are none in Canada, nor Alaska. So over the weeks beforehand I tried to use up as much as I could in the freezer to make room for our favorite TJ products. Keeping in mind border-crossing restrictions, I skipped buying any fresh vegetables, uncooked meats, or eggs.

In addition to shopping, we were also able to fit in a visit to the Sparks Museum of Electrical Inventions while in Bellingham. We enjoy finding these "One Subject" museums around the country. 



Electricity in nature has always been a magical mystery. We take it for granted, but scientists worked hard to understand and control it for hundreds, if not thousands of years. 

"The term 'electricity' is derived from a term used by William Gilbert in 1600 to describe static electricity."  from the Web



The collections of all things having to do with electricity were amazing. The story of light bulbs, radios, telegraphs, and recording of sound were well represented.



These phonograph horns were my favorite artifacts. Each was hand made with great precision. Function was important, but elegant form was a necessary element. You know they were treasured possessions in their time.

I'm so glad we have the time to see small museums like this one. We were the only ones there except for a grandfather showing his eight or nine year old grandson around. What a lucky boy. He may not realize it now, but someday, in his memories will be the day his grandpa showed him some neat stuff that the Apple store doesn't sell. 

As we travel we continue to meet some of the nicest people in the world. Other RVers! When we were at the Bellingham RV park, I met a nice man who was also on his way to Alaska. He was sitting out in the sunshine, and I was hauling my wash down to the laundry. It is normal to say Hi, or otherwise acknowledge people you see in an RV park. Somehow, other RVers are not strangers. They are neighbors for a few days. He had noticed our "North to Alaska" sign and started up a conversation. 

Before long he offered to loan me three DVDs about RVing in Alaska and the Alaskan Highway. The only condition was that I promise to return them before we left the next day. How nice was that! 

The DVDs were good, but the generosity of this stranger made my day. I returned them, and we both said we would watch for each other in Alaska. Who knows, we might just cross paths with this man and his wife.

Happy Trails!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cauliflower




The Miracle of Cauliflower

Cauliflower is often considered one of the healthiest foods on earth, and there is good reason why. With its rich supply of health-promoting phytochemicals, high level of anti-inflammatory compounds, and ability to ward off cancer, heart disease, brain disease, and even weight gain, it seems there isn’t much cauliflower can’t do. From the Web

As a child, I had to eat cauliflower, but never liked the soggy boiled version my mother served. Now I'm getting to be a real fan of this readily available vegetable.

The following is an easy, but really good recipe I found in a magazine.

Baked Cauliflower Steaks
1 medium cauliflower head
2 eggs
splash of milk or water
1 1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper

parchment lined baking sheet

Trim leaves and stem off cauliflower, but do not core
with core side down, cut from top to bottom 1 inch "planks"
Cut the larger planks in half thru the core. Trim any medium size sections that come off so they are 1 inch in thickness.

Whisk eggs and water or milk together.

In a larger pan or bowl mix panko, cheese, paprika, salt and pepper together.

Dip cauliflower into egg mixture and then into panko mix. Coat both sides.

Place on parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake in pre-heated 400° oven for about 25-30 minutes.

I turned them after 10 minutes, and at 20 minutes turned the oven down to 300° because they were getting done before I was ready to serve.


I didn't take a picture, but this one off the Web looks pretty much like what I ended up with.

I liked it as a great substitute for potatoes and/or other vegetables. 



I have also made it on the grill. I put just a splash of olive oil and minced garlic and chunked cauliflower in a plastic bag, and shook it before roasting the it on a grill pan. (I took it out of the plastic bag 😜)

Happy cooking! 



Friday, May 19, 2017

Mice, Tires, and other RV things

MICE:
We have been very lucky in our RV travels, to not have been plagued by invasions of mice. But Tuesday we seemed to have picked up a hitch-hiker. I know the large drawer where I keep pots and pans was mouse-free on Monday when I put the dishes away, but when I opened it on Tuesday evening to get a pan, I saw lots of little mouse droppings.  UGG!

Except for the fact that I will have to wash and sanitize everything in there, plus two adjacent drawers, I was not really disturbed. It comes with RVing and parking on grassy fields. 


I found our VICTOR Electronic Rat zappers, armed them with new batteries and put one in the drawer and one on the floor. This morning, the little gray critter was a stiff in the drawer trap. The one on the floor was empty, but then there had been no droppings on the floor.

After emptying the zapper, I put it back in the drawer with the pans and left everything undisturbed for a second night. The amount of droppings suggested that there might be more than one mouse! We were planning on going out for dinner that night anyway. 

Over the years I have read about many mice remedies. Some claim peppermint oil, Irish Spring soap, or dryer sheets are wonderful repellents. Some mice ignore the oil, eat the soap, and use the dryer sheets as nesting material. Some try to plug every possible entry, but I have heard of gnawed or pushed-aside steel wool. If they want to get in, they will!

Putting out poison may work, but the mouse is likely to crawl into some hidden place and smell bad.

Some might ask if using a rat trap is overkill for just a little mouse. I have the rat traps because we have run into some wood rats, and heard of pack rats getting into RVs. I don't know if there is a smaller electronic trap for mice.  


While on the subject, TOM CAT snap traps are pretty good too. The only problem I have had with them is sometimes the mouse is only caught by a leg and is still alive in the trap when checked. Not good. 

I used them a lot when we lived in a house surrounded by forest and meadows. At $4-5 each, they were inexpensive enough to replace if they got yucky or the spring stopped working. No batteries needed!

TIRES:
If you are thinking about buying an RV, you should be sure you also think about the expense of maintenance and repair. Our Alfa is getting older, but we continue to try to keep her in tip-top shape. We replaced the front tires in 2012, and the back in 2014. We figured we were good for a few years yet, but when we had the windows worked on last month, the glass guy pointed out that the tires didn't look good.  Because we were on our way to Alaska, we decided to have them looked at, and ended up replacing the front tires. The tire guy said he thought we might get a rebate from the warranty, but it would take some time.  Not what we wanted to spend our money on  this month! We got a second opinion on the rear tires, and decided not to replace them at this time. 

Because we are FMCA members, we were able to buy Michelins at almost half price. The $50 membership fee is more than made up for by the Advantage discount. Read about it under Benefits on the FMCA page. But half price or not, it took a bite out of this months budget!

FULL RV PARKS:
As we have traveled up the West Coast, we have been surprised 
by how full many of the RV parks are. It is still "off season", but on several occasions we have been told the park is full when calling a day or two ahead.  I admit, I usually start by calling the lower-priced places, but have also found at least one high end resort without a vacancy. 

When we look around, we see that there are many older rigs in the parks that have not moved for months at a time. More and more people are living in them, including younger working folks. As the cost of rent goes up in the cities, the RV life style is not just for vacationing or retired older folks traveling around the country for a few years. When we were at the library in La Pine, Oregon, I saw a notice addressed to "families living in cars or RV parks" about their children's eligibility to enroll in public school. 


Now that we live full-time in a motorhome, I find I have a different view than when I was among the housebound.

We are not poor, we are not rich, we are probably not middle class. Having sold the house, we have money enough to not be strapped by bills, and if we wanted we could afford a small home in most places other than California.  

But for now we will continue to travel and live among the:



In other words, I no longer judge anyone for where or how they live. 

After a month of travel plagued by rain and cold nights, it seems we are finally in the right place weather-wise.





Yup, Washington is sunny and temps are in the 70°s. We will be here for another week before crossing into Canada.

Life is Good!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mt.St. Helen

Mt. St. Helen is a volcano. I remember when it last exploded 36 or 37 years ago. It seemed so unlikely that there was an active volcano in the continental United States. But then, I still had my midwest mindset about our country.



The image above is a "before" picture that was on display at the Visitor's Center. 



This was taken of her now from the view point at the VC. The top is gone!



On Wednesday we drove Hwy 504 as far east as we were allowed to go. This is into the blast area, but far from the volcano itself. 



There were numerous pullouts that allowed us to view the valley below. It was much deeper before the eruption, and you can still see large amounts of mud and ash. The green forest in the foreground is a Weyerhauser tree farm planted within three years of the blast.


We always take the time to read the informative signs and posters. This one told us how life returns after the total destruction caused by the eruption. 

This one told the story of how tiny spiders are carried into an area by the wind. Small plant seeds are trapped by their webs and are watered by the morning dew that condenses on them. Life is a very strong force.


All of the views were beautiful. 


Lakes were totally destroyed by the blast, but new lakes were also created by the mudflow blocking streams. In the first two years after the blast they did an intense salvage operation to remove usable dead trees. Enough lumber was brought out of the area to construct 65,000 three bedroom homes!  And yet, even all these years later the wreckage seems to be everywhere.



We had our picnic lunch at a table near this lake. I noticed a single fruit tree among the new growth. I wonder if its seed was from an apple tossed by some other picnicker, or from a bird.

Just for fun we tossed our date pits into the woods, but we doubt a palm tree will grow from them. 

The day was just perfect. Not hot, not cold, just sunny with a slight breeze. There were only a few other people on the roads or at the view points. I don't mind crowds, but this was really nice.



We saw this colorful Class C at the lake parking lot. It had a European license plate and this fun EU decal on the side. Most American RVs are so boring by comparison with their generic  neutral colors. Repaints and wraps are usually more colorful, but if you want to retain "resale" value you have to stick with blah! 

Personally I love the dog in the windows of the Cruise America rigs, but then I wear silly, colorful socks.

If you are an RVer, would you choose a more colorful motif if it was available, or would you stick to the standard swooshes?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Vancouver, Washington

(Catching up after a few days at a park with weak internet access.)

On one of the days we spent in Vancouver Washington, we went on a three mile loop walk. The route was one of several shown on a city tour map I picked up in the RV park office.

We parked quite near where there was a Farmer's Market going on. We had done a big shop the day before and knew our fridge was full, so we just browsed the craft booths.



I took a picture of the wood vases above for my grandson, Dylan. He and his father have been learning to turn items on the lathe they got for Christmas. Dylan had turned his first bowl in his woodworking class in school, and thought his Dad would also enjoy it.

Our walk took us along the officers' row at Fort Vancouver.



These beautifully maintained and restored homes were the residences of Commanders and Generals when Fort Vancouver was a military base. Craig's favorite was the Marshall House. General George Marshall lived here for several years.



My favorite was the Grant House. Ulysses Grant was posted to Fort Vancouver two years after the house was built, but he never lived in the house. It is now a restaurant.



The lawns and other landscaping were incredible. This was one of the biggest Horse Chestnut trees I have ever seen. When I was a child, one of our neighbors had a much smaller Horse Chestnut tree. The kids would collect the nuts, which were inedible, because they looked like buck eyes.


I am standing at the base of this tree to give you an idea of how big it is.
Our walk took us along a path that went along the edge of the Fort grounds. I think this tree is a Giant Sequoia.  We have seen some spectacular trees during our time in Oregon and Washington.



Speaking of big old trees, the one above is a very old apple tree. It dates from the late 1800's and is among those that started the first apple orchards in Washington. Hopefully the fencing will continue to protect it from vandals for many years to come.



The path took us along the river, and we had a good view of the lower part of one of the big bridges.



This large sculpture caught our imaginations. Does it represent a boat or a fish?



The last bridge we went under as we approached our car, had a very colorful mural on it. I enjoy public murals. I imagine the fun it must be to participate in the design and execution of them. There was no information (easily seen) about this one. The images are of things having to do with the river, and the Vancouver area. 

Although the walk was only three miles, it tired us out. But it was a good tiredness. We really have to do more walks like this to get back into shape.  

My next post is about our drive to Mount St. Helens. Stay tuned...