I declared yesterday that we would have no more posts. Although the day went by pretty uneventful, upon arriving at Comfort Suites in Fort Stockton, we had surprise visitors. Debbie, Chuck, and Ross had driven up from Alpine to surprise us, but mainly Dylan. He and I walked into the lobby to check in and we looked to the right to see familiar faces, but it took a few seconds for it to register who they were. I made Gwynne come in, telling her they needed her at the desk to register. We all had a nice visit. It was nice to see some familiar faces.
We left Hard Rock Hotel & Casino at 10 a.m. and stopped in Las Cruces at one of our faves....La Posta de Mesilla restaurant. Dylan 'oohed' and 'ahhed' at the birds and fish. Gwynne had a taco salad while I enjoyed a beef fajita salad. She partook in a libation, I water. For dessert, Gwynne treated us to sopapillas. Dylan drank his apple juice. He did not want to take in any of the restaurant food. He'd rather have his p, b, and j.
Thunderstorms surrounded us all up and down IH-10, but we really only got rained on once. The view of the super cells was an awesome site! (Jennifer)
Likely our last entry tonight as tomorrow we will be in Texas and home free. We traveled 620 miles today on interstates as well as US highways to get from SLC, Utah to south of Albuquerque, NM by 6:30 p.m.....valet service (thanks to Gwynne) and room service dinner (thanks to Gwynne). Dylan and I stay in the room while Gwynne gambles. We will take our time leaving in the a.m., no alarm. We will travel 500+ tomorrow to Fort Stockton and home Thursday afternoon. (Jennifer)
A fairly uneventful day....still smoke in the air. Different, I think, than any other trip I can remember, we were on the same interstate highway ALL DAY! IH-15 took us from Great Falls, Montana 560ish miles to south of Salt Lake City, Utah. Gwynne still makes fun of me while we pass a humongous silo near Salt Lake that I inquired on one of our trips if that was the Morman Tabernacle. I will not live it down. So when we pass by this huge complex, we salute.
Dylan, once again, was a trooper, playing on my iPad games the entire trip looking up only when there was a train or cows/horses. The speed limit was 75 and we drove between 75 and 90 mph to make good time. We were keeping up with the traffic through Montana, Idaho, and Utah. We skirted the Great Salt Lake. I didn't realize it was so close to the highway. We were arriving in the SLC area around rush hour, but it went smooth enough.
Dylan and I went for a short swim. The pool, of course, was inside. We WERE going to spend 30 minutes, but the area was like a sauna. The pool was comfortable, the hot tub too hot. Dylan finally got to watch his Sprout channel, an amenity he did not have before today after we left Ninilchik. His highlight of the day is playing in the bathtub as he was stuck with showering for 3 months.
We move on to Albuerquerque area tomorrow, staying at the Isleta Hard Rock Casino so Gwynne can get her fix of gambling. Dylan and I will spend quality time together. (Jennifer)
On a whim, Gwynne and I decided at the last minute to change our route from one hotel to the next, over 600 miles away....our origin, Whitecourt, 100 miles northwest of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.....our destination, Great Falls, Montana, USA. Now I don't know how many of you have traveled that road, but it is well traveled, well established, and VERY boring. Trying to manuever through Edmonton and Calgary with the terrible signage was something we did not want to do. We had already decided the day before to take one indirect road to Edmonton instead of the main highway. But upon driving that road, I proposed a plan. All day, we traveled parallel to the main drag on back roads. It took us through scenic farmland. Small towns broke the monotony of the seemingly long trek from Edmonton to Calgary. We crossed the border at Waterton National Park and Glacier National Park on the east side, not another soul in sight on the US side....piece of cake.
Upon approaching the border, perhaps 75 miles out or so, we started seeing the mountains with a bad haze. This lasted for over 200 miles. The haze was from fires across Montana and Idaho. It was bad, but lightened up just shy of Great Falls.
We arrived in Great Falls at 6 p.m. having driven, perhaps, 25 miles more than scheduled, but with sanity intact. We made way to our steakhouse "Jaker's" for a ribeye. Gwynne treated me to a glass of wine and she shared dessert....creme brulee (sp?). To bed at Comfort Inn by 9:30 p.m. Off to Salt Lake City on IH-15 the whole way going 75mph. (Jennifer)
p.s. Here is a link to view a short video of a herd of free-range bison on the Alaska Highway:
We are on the road again, now in Whitecourt, Alberta Canada after a boring days drive of 542 miles. Yesterday was an adventure, bar none, with a herd of buffalos, and some spread out along the way. We also saw Stone Mountain sheep down in a river bed and on the road in Stone Mountain Provincial Park. We had a stay at Fort Nelson, nothing too exciting. We are ready to be home and will hit the border tomorrow evening, ending our day in Great Falls Montana. After that off to Salt Lake Utah and then on to Albuequerque to stay at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on the Ysleta reservation....next Fort Stockton and on the 13th, we will be reunited with our families in San Antonio....Hooooo Ray!!!
Left Ninilchik at 6:09, arrived at our destination, Tok, AK at 4:30 only to find our reservation was good, but none of the help showed up that day to clean rooms, so nothing was available. We looked in this vacant town for other motels. Most are shutting down for winter. Fortunately, the restaurant we frequent helped us find one and it ended up being 'nicer' than the original. Too bad we won't be back to experience this one again!
The scenery today was unreal. Fall colors abound! Rain through Anchorage (who had just had hurricane force winds the night before, electrical outage throughout, school dismissed for the day, trees obviously uprooted and visible), sunshine therafter. The fireweed no longer blooms, but the leaves turn red and are prettier than the blossoms....range from orange to bright red....the trees that are not pine/juniper/evergreen are a beautiful yellow and yellow orange. The pictures I'm posting do not do it justice. So be patient and look for Gwynne's as this is when I was driving and she used her iPad when she could....better quality. (Jennifer)
p.s. Dylan spent some time yesterday afternoon imagining formations from the clouds....a fish crab, beluga whale, a frozen bear made out of bubbles.
Location: Ninilchik Alaska, USA
We are saying goodbye to Ninilchik today and the Jones' cabin as well...many memories, many precious moments....will remember this special piece of heaven for an eternity...
Change of plans.....woke up leisurely this morning, paying bills, and my sister proposed a plan that I accepted and we ran with it.
We were scheduled to leave Saturday and ride the ferry from Skagway to Bellingham. The weather here has made a turn for the worse and boredom has set in. We have canceled the ferry reservations and opted to drive straight home, arriving sometime around the 13th....5 days earlier than planned. The time has come to go home, so there's no waiting around.
We washed clothes, mailed boxes home, called home to notify loved ones of the change in plans, and have changed all the reservations. We saved steaks for our last night meal so we won't have that craving on the road.
Wish us luck getting across the border w/ Dylan. We ran into a small problem on the way up. We have warned Audrey (his mom) to be prepared to answer the phone just in case.
We will post pictures and diary entries barring frustration from the slow service typically found in the bush. (Jennifer)
Yesterday we reached a significant mark in our travels...one week until we depart. Dylan is now putting 'gold' stickers on the calendar to signify the last week of Alaska. We are ALL ready! Our only problem may be that we will have a hard time waking up to our wake-up calls in our motels on the road.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, although a little brisk. The temperature stayed in the 50's. I spray painted about 10 small pine cones gold for Dylan to have at home at Christmas....a little part of Alaska and Ninilchik and the Jones' compound.
We stayed in ALL day as Gwynne and Gene made a trip to Soldotna for necessities and fly making materials. I crocheted. Dylan played learning games on the computer and watched a few dvds on the computer as well. He has not watched a dvd in weeks.
Friday we had Gene over for Gwynne's quiche and parmesean biscuits. Afterwards, Gene demonstrated the rigorous process (for him) of making the flies he will use to fish for Silvers during September. The whole process took about an hour. Pictures under August 31st have been posted showing the process. Today Gene will come over for another one of Gwynne's lunches, chicken I think, and he may demonstrate how to make another fly.
We plan on returning to Soldotna one day this week (Wednesday or Thursday) to send some large packages home, go to the bank, shop for the road (have to have some Ferry snacks), just to name a few.
There are no more visitors at the Jones'. Sherri (their daughter) and Ron (her husband) left Friday. They were staying at the other cabin for two weeks. Another friend of a friend was staying at the 5 th wheel trailer and left Friday as well. They will be winterizing all the cabins once WE leave. (Jennifer)
Its sad, in a way, experiencing our lasts
.last visit to Homer, last visit to Ninilchik with Alton, last days eating at the Senior Center. Knowing this will likely be the last trip up to Alaska makes me reminisce on all the past visits. However, I truly think Im ready for a change
first road trip to the East Cost (Maine and Nova Scotia specifically). Without flying as an option, the places one can visit are limited, but the US and Canada have so much to offer, I doubt I will run out of firsts before my clock runs out!
Last night, I rode with Gene to drop Alton off at the Kenai Airport. It was, I believe, the first time I saw darkness of night (however, often in the morning). We left at 8 p.m. and returned home at 11 p.m. We will miss Alton, but look forward to seeing him at home.
The ritual of beach visits in the sunshine in the afternoon has halted for the time being. This morning we woke up to rainy, gray skies. We left at 9:30 a.m. with a goal of making it to the ferry terminal in Homer to watch cars drive on to the Tustumena ferry. Mission accomplished! Although a dreary day, it was NOT raining at the time, so Dylan and I took a few minutes to explore the rocky beach at the ferry harbor. So we have been to a beach five days in a row!
We ran a few errands while in Homer, landing at a Pho (Vietamese) restaurant. The food was WONDERFUL and the owners very friendly. Our last stop was Safeway for a few things to make it through the week.
There are no plans except sleep in, relax, make it to the Senior Center for two more lunches (theyre closed Monday), make a trip to Soldotna, mail packages home, finish my afghan for Gene, and Im sure something Ive missed
..BUT none of them have to be done any given day
..just done by NEXT Friday afternoon. (Jennifer)
The fish arrived safe, sound, and frozen. Thank you Debbie & Chuck for receiving the boxes and caring for them!
The weather here has taken a turn for the best....clear skies going on three days now, no wind. The first day I thought the wind would blow Dylan and I down on the beach whilst we hunted for pretty rocks. Yesterday, it was calm seas. I found a beautiful piece of granite embedded in the sand, dug it up, brought it home, and rinsed it off. I've vowed to take it home, but have also got to have some flexibility as it may not fit! I've told Bob he may find a big rock in his yard upon our departure. To most it would be just another rock. To me it is a piece of Deep Creek beach to which I will likely not return.
Today, Gwynne will take the car in for tire rotation, oil change, and general looking-over...scheduled for 10 a.m. This involves Gene as she will need a ride home and then back again to pick it up. I will vacuum the messy floors and clean the dash and seats on the day before we leave. Gwynne continually spends $10-$15 having the car washed in Soldotna, Kenai, or Homer. This to keep the good reputation of the Jones compound for its appearance. However, upon returning to our home here in Alaska, the dust has already accumulated a thin layer. The roads are NOT paved on the way in. They are graded every couple of weeks. The rain keeps the dust to a minimum, but when we have clear days, this turns to dust....an on-going battle.
Sometime today, I will make a trip to the laundrymat, making sure to space out the trips so we land there next Friday for our last wash day before hitting the road. The tubs will be lighter of clothes and more on 'junk' as I am ridding myself of a few of Dylan's clothes that no longer fit AND of the fishing clothes I've worn. The smell of fish and eggs is not one you can get rid of.
This evening Gene and I will transport Alton and his two 50 lb. boxes of fish to the Kenai airport. There, it is only necessary to arrive an hour early, especially at this time of season....not many people traveling.
Tonight is steak night at the A-frame, thanks to Sister Gwynne. You know I am a happy camper! (Jennifer)
p.s. On Wed Aug 29 05:50:55 PDT 2012 Kenai Peninsula, Alaska (60.31, -150.71) 4.4 58.7km .....4.4 earthquake this morning at 4:50 a.m. our time...Gwynne felt it. Dylan and I were sawing logs and felt nothing.
The fish departed Ninilchik at 6:02 a.m. headed for Kendalia with a tracking number....very interesting to watch how fast these things can go 4500 miles. I just hope BOTH packages make it safe and sound. Sister Debbie is receiving them sometime today. I've since been offered clamming for packages of clams and packages of halibut, but it is too late.
Yesterday I spent one of my last four gift card lunches at the senior center. I will give one of mine to Gwynne today so we don't lose them. Alton and Gene joined me. We had meat stroganoff (which means Moose instead of Beef), potato salad, salad, dessert (of which ice cream is always a choice). It was good, but not up to the S.C. standards, in my opinion. Today Gwynne will have pork and saurkraut.
After lunch, I took Alton to drop off his clothes at the laundrymat (Hylen's campground....now called the Alaskan Angler RV Park) and then we hunted the Ninlchik Beach for jade. After dropping Alton off to complete the laundrying, I ran a few errands in town (Ha!)....P.O., printing at the Library, shop the old taxadermist shop (which is closing). Then Alton was returned to his abode. He will be leaving us to go home tomorrow night. I will travel with Gene to keep him alert in the darkness....moose on the road and a man who has a reputation for falling asleep sitting upright.
The fishing boots have been retired as I spent 30 minutes scrubbing fish blood (and some of my own), salmon egg juice, mud, and Deep Creek novelties off with liquid Lava soap and a brush. This is a sure sign that I will not be returning to the fishing scene (except in the daytime, hopefully with Gene, to take Dylan for a shot at fishing).
Thursday we are planning our last trip to Homer for last minute groceries to tide us over, eat at Pho's, and most importantly to watch cars drive on a ferry so Dylan can see the process. The ferry Tustumena travels weekly from Homer to Seldovia to Kodiak and ultimately Dutch Harbor in the Aluetian chain. One might ask why we don't take a ferry from Homer to Bellingham (on a different ferry)? This requires a cross Gulf leg that I am not willing to risk, especially with a four-year old. If the water was like it was yesterday, the whole population on the ferry would have been sick! The inside passage is smooth sailing (I hope). (Jennifer)