June 7, Wednesday
Today is the day we ended our marathon dash west, to arrive in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. You can go no further unless you want to end up in the ocean! I am reminded of Bob and Susan “Brubikers” who began their cross-country recumbent bicycle trip on the west coast by dipping their bike tires in the Pacific Ocean.
I'll begin with a picture of our little travel companion -- Charlie Button. She has adapted to long days in the truck beautifully. As a reward, we give her a large, raw, rib bone (with lots of meat) to chew on when we get to our destination. It helps her chew off some of her built-up energy!
Leaving Prince George and driving on Highway 16, we could tell that we were leaving the last spots of frequent civilization. There were nicely-developed towns, but they were separated by long stretches of two-lane highway with no visible population. The road itself was occupied by a lot of timber transport trucks, and every town seemed to have at least one operational lumberyard. The other feature that we noticed was that Spring was very much in evidence with lots of blooming lilac and new light-green growth on the deciduous trees. We also passed by people plowing their garden plots. And, when we got into the mountains, we saw a tremendous amount of spring snow melt flowing down the mountains
Just when we thought mountains were behind us, these beauties popped up in front of us. With just 311 km to go we wondered if we were going to be going up and over, around, or thru them! It turns out we went through them – not in tunnels, but in winding passes that skirted the bases of the mountains and with very little gain in altitude. We also saw caution signs to watch for moose, elk, bear, and jumping dear on the road. Should we be so lucky, I rode 400 miles with my camera in my lap!
At this point we have logged 3,500 miles and 64 driving hours in six days! This, Prince Rupert, is the real start of our Alaska adventure! Tomorrow will be a day to do laundry and clean up, and Friday we get on the ferry. Inside passage --- here we come!
Tuesday, June 6
Yesterday Kamloops RV park offered a nice rest stop after 11 hours of driving. Tom and I had showers in the park facilities, and Charlie had a bath in the double sink in the Silvermine! Her hair is clipped so short that she dries quickly. Tom studied the route for tomorrow and affirmed that it would be a short day driving to Prince George, British Colombia.
Today we were up at 6:00 (two hours after the sun put in a bright appearance!) and off at 6:30 –- driving north on highway 97, through handsome green valleys and smooth mountains covered in a green scrub carpet. Kamloops Lake was worthy of a quick photo-stop and there were several other stops for gas, potty breaks and lunch. There were a lot of signs warning of wildlife -- deer and moose, and even one sign warning of badgers! The road was basically two-lane traffic, but it had ample pass areas, and it was smooth and had frequent rest stop pull-offs.
A word about our “Great Courses” lecture series. We have progressed through the Greek and Persian civilizations and are now listening to 10 chapters of “what it was like to be Roman.” How could something that sounds so cut and dried, be so very interesting!
I'll leave you with a picture Tom just took of me and Charlie B working on the blog!
After that it was a straight shot out of North Dakota, into Montana and a turn north on Interstate 15. Along the way we passed by some old favorites: Custer Battlefield, Bighorn Canyon, and Yellowstone National Park! A little before noon we saw our first view of snow-capped mountains (still 200 miles away!), and as the temperature soared into the 90’s, we assumed we could expect a major cool-down later.
Two hours down the road several rain systems formed up – some to the north, then some to the south. As we zipped between them heading west, the temperatures literally went crazy going from 90 to 75 in several miles, and then back up to 88. Within 10 miles it was down to 62, and 5 miles later it was back up to 79, and minutes later to 90! We only had a few minutes of heavy rain and finally, the temperature stabilized at 88ish. After 765 miles we quit at 8:30 at Shelby, Montana, with a good feeling about being so much further down the road.
Monday, June 5
By 7:30 we were passing through Canadian customs (into the Province of Alberta) with no problem . . . very basic questions and no mention of the dog! We took in the legal amount of wine and beer (undeclared) . . . but threw out a fresh apple! Now we are getting used to driving 105 km/h and being comfortable at 20 degrees centigrade! We stopped at a bank to exchange some cash from USA-Canadian: "NOPE -- not unless you have an account with us.!"
Today’s drive took us past some epic Canadian memories that Tom and I both had as kids traveling with our parents: Banff, Lake Louise, Mount Revelstoke, Kicking Horse Pass, Glacier (Canadian) National Park, and Radiant Hot Springs. Highway 1 from Calgary to our destination of Kamloops was filled with views of mountain streams, snow-capped, and glaciered mountains. It was hard to just drive on by– but the promise has been made that the Canadian Rockies will be our trip next summer! Pictures through a dirty windshield just don’t do justice to the scenery we saw!.
This next photo shows that not all of the WHITE -- is snow. In this case, it is clouds!
Today's drive was 1000 Kilometers -- I will let you do the math on that! We pulled into the Kamloops RV Park in the Province of British Columbia by 6:30, even considering the time change.
After our tour (Day 2) we finished the drive across North Dakota, ending up on the western border at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We drove a little over 500 miles, and with another time-change we still got to our campsite by 4:30. Our campsite was short and fat, with not much room for Tom to maneuver. Luckily the neighbors across the street were gone, and Tom used their parking spot for a good backing angle to work into the campsite.
Our campsite is beautiful, along the river with what appeared to be a wild-life trail (with different types of poop and hoof prints!) leading down to the water. Time will tell what uses the trail! There are no hook-ups, but nice bathroom facilities throughout the campground. We went for a short drive after setting up – came back to the camper and cooked supper (brats, grilled onions, potatoes, strawberries, baked beans) and then went for an evening drive to look for wildlife. We didn’t see any – but got a good view of the variety of topography that makes up the park.
Back at the campground I worked inside the trailer and Tom took Charlie for a walk. 5 minutes, Tom called me on the phone to tell me to look out the window – a bison was making his way up the game path from the river into our campsite. His destination was our picnic table, and his goal was to use the corners of it for a good scratching – head, belly, and butt. I stood in the doorway and got pictures and a video of him. He took his time.
Here is a video of the big boy taken as I stood inside the Airstream!
Day 3, June 3rd
We slept late (7:30!) and had our first go at brewing old-fashioned, stove-top, percolated coffee. It was good and strong, and as my mother used to say (and HER father): “If you add one more grain . . . . you could make another barrel.”
From our Cottonwood campground we turned right onto the Scenic Loop trail that dodges and dives for 36 miles around the park’s broken topography and magnificent panoramas. Passing places like Scoria Point Overlook, Badlands Overlook, and Boicourt Overlook we stopped for pictures of the striking scenery. We also drove back on a few dirt roads to some trailheads – but pets are not allowed on the trails!
A highlight of the morning drive was a side-road to the top of Buck Hill. Halfway down the dirt road a herd of buffalo (40 adults and 5 calves) and three wild horses were lazing around in no particular hurry -- blocking the road!
We made it back to the trailer for lunch . . . and a tick-check! Yes, we have found some ticks on all three of us, and plan to do regular tick-search during rest stops . . . drop the pants, Tom! (Look away, this may not be pretty.) There was a sign at the campground check-in site that said “tick check” – I don’t know if they do free checks there, but we decided to do our own.
After lunch we left Charlie in the Silvermine and headed down to look over the Park Visitor Center, and then another 6 miles down the road to the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. Mid-afternoon we rested a bit, and then geared up for another drive into the town of Medora. Many shops allowed “well-behaved” dogs, and we enjoyed a walk around the town. The only purchase was three different types of nuts from “The Peanut House.”
The big question for the evening is if our big bison buddy would be back for another scratch on the picnic table. Our evening plans included full showers (in the Airstream) for both of us, and a good vacuum of the floors – our campsite is mostly a fine powdery dust that gets dragged inside as we go in and out.
After showers and clean-up, we sat at the dinette and looked out across the river at four bison on the move! At first they appeared to pass us by but eventually, they crossed the river and followed the path up into our campsite. We will without a doubt remember our short stay at Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a long time!
Thursday June 1st:
After a full year in the planning for our Alaska expedition, we were on the road by 6:00 a.m. As we were heading West on US Route 30, Caleb honked and waved as he was heading East into work; what a great send-off!
We followed Route 30 through Fort Wayne to Interstate 65 and headed North, and then turned LEFT up near Chicago and followed Interstate 94 West – which we will be on for several days. We were in five states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and ended up just West of Minneapolis after 600 miles -- 13 hours including a time-change.
I don’t even want to total up the $ spent on toll roads – or the time spent in morning traffic in Chicago and afternoon traffic in Minneapolis. But, the weather was beautiful and we had plenty of entertainment in the truck: Sirius XM radio (50’s, 60’s, Country Classic, Beatles, Garth, Fox news, comedy club . . . ) and an audible book (Great Courses; the Other Side of History.) Professor Robert Garland has a series of 50 hours of lecture about ancient history from prehistoric man to the Middle Ages with focus on daily life of regular people in all of the major time-periods. We made it through ancient Greek civilization!
Friday, June 2nd:
Today’s drive was a straight shot across the rest of Minnesota and clear through North Dakota on Interstate 94. Today there was no big-city traffic to slow us down – and we had our first visit to a tourist ambush! Jamestown, North Dakota is the home of the National Buffalo Museum, featuring the legendary white buffalo, the world’s largest buffalo monument, a live buffalo heard, a small frontier town, and stage-coach rides!! The good news was that it was all free; it was a nice chance to get out of the car for an hour and stretch our legs and begin to feel that we were really on vacation.
I'm not sure if the laundry was a part of the original log cabin display -- or somebody's "real" laundry!
The story of the White Buffalo is a prophecy that a sacred white buffalo will one day come to unite all races to live together in harmony. Would we all agree that the time is ripe for that?
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown