2012 - 2017 Travel Map - Now in Congress AZ

Portland Oregon

September 26 – 28, 2017: 

This is somewhat of a short post about our also short visit to Portland Oregon. 

Not a great state sign entering Oregon

We left South Prairie Creek Washington on Monday the 26th heading further south.  We were in Portland OR 5 years ago but for just a drive through.  This was a relatively short drive for us with the RV of just 160 miles.  We were originally headed to the fairgrounds to stay there but there was an event scheduled for when we wanted to be there. So we had to call around to find another place on our way there.  We had a pretty hard time finding a place too!  It seems that most of the RV parks close to Portland are mostly full with permanent live in folks. We have not seen that in other areas of the country at least to this level!  We finally did get a place at the Columbia River RV Park.  



We are going to be in Portland for 2 full days or 3 nights in the Park.  The first day we spent getting some food shopping done and planning for a day in Portland.  


Mt. Hood was on the eastern horizon in Portland OR

Next to our RV Park on the river were these boathouses.  These boathouses were as big as some peoples homes.  We have seen them this big and maybe larger but never this many big ones together.

The only thing that sounded good to us was the dinner river cruise on the Willamette River.  


Our cruise trip on the Willamette River

The dinner cruise boarded at 6 pm, right at rush hour! The information on the cruise didn’t tell us that there wasn’t any parking at the cruise port either! So we are near the cruise during rush hour in heavy traffic looking for parking near the cruise, what fun.  We finally managed to find a place not too far but we had to circle the place a couple of times before we could get in the proper lane at the right time to get to the entrance to the parking place.  This parking place was under a bridge that used one of those pay machines for payment which was not working.  So we parked for free and we made the boarding time, whew!  


Our cruise boat

We had a nice time doing this cruise. The only improvement would be to add some upbeat music. We like a cruise that has some dancing after dinner or at least some party music.  This cruise just had a guy playing nice dinner type music the whole cruise, sort of like elevator music.  The food was very good!  I had salmon that was better than the salmon that I had in Alaska!


Views along the river of Portland OR





So that was pretty much for Portland Oregon! 

Next, we are heading to northeastern California and Reno Nevada.

Stay tuned!

Vancouver BC and Patty Health Update

September 12 - 25, 2017

As I said in the last post, Patty was not at all in good health when we got back to Vancouver BC.  We were in Vancouver for the next week and Patty was in bed for most of it.  We had plans to spend time with her nephew, Brian Schumacher, and his wife and daughter Ina & Joey. But this wasn't to be. I kept busy with hiking around the area and doing some minor work on the RV.  It looks like (sadly) we will have to see Vancouver some other time.

On our last day Patty was up and about but not completely well.  We managed a trip to Walmart for some food shopping and getting fuel for the truck.  We need the fuel to get to our next stop.  Since Patty hasn’t been well for some time we decided to take her to a hospital in the US on our next stop.  Our next stop was going to be near Tacoma Washington.  Then after her hospital visit we would take a more direct route to our winter place in south Texas.

During our drive to the states Patty felt pretty good so she decided she didn’t want or need to go to the hospital.  So we decided to take another route that wasn’t as direct to Texas.  That was all good for our leaving day, but she went downhill the next day at our first US campground in Prairie Ridge WA.  By around 8pm that night we decided she had to go to a close by hospital.  So off we went to the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw WA.



By the time she was seen by a doctor here and since our cruise she has developed Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).  The reason she developed DKA was due to her Diabetic Gastroparesis.  I believe that she had too much wine to drink a month earlier with friends in Lake Logan BC that upset her digestive system.  The wine upset her gastro balance giving her a gastro episode of extreme vomiting and diarrhea.  (Patty believes this is bullshit.)



It had been so long since she has had DKA that I didn’t even think of that possibility.  But when she fights off a gastro attack her blood sugar goes up and she really doesn’t have any good ways to bring it down.  Left with blood sugar too high for too long and you get DKA which is much more serious than a gastro event.  The problem is that a gastro event and DKA present the same way.  I now think that she probably developed mild DKA before the cruise and never really recovered from it.

Patty was in the hospital for 3 days and released on Saturday the 23rd of September to her insistence.  We decided to play it by ear and see how she did while we traveled. No matter how we traveled we were going south for the winter.  So we modified our travel schedule some to allow for the extra time in the hospital and to put us back in Texas a little earlier than we had planned originally.  

We had several people we were going to stop and see on our way south that we just cut out of our schedule.  Some of the reason was time but more important was she didn’t want to be sick when we were seeing people.  It has happened to us a couple of times now where we have planned to visit someone and she is sick the whole time.

The day after her hospital stay we ventured out to the Washington State Fair.  Today, Sunday was the last day of the fair too. Patty felt like she was OK to go so went as it was a great day weather wise, 70s and full sun. We went with the understanding that she started to feel bad we would leave.


One of 4 entrances to the Washington State Fair

Love that it says Texas Sized!  But look at the number of turkey legs!

Cool Coke bike!  Both of these bikes are at the Orange County Chopper tent.  That is Orange County NY by the way.



Patty with the mascot of the fair

This is where the turkey legs were coming from.  Oh, the truck is from Texas too!

The Washington State Fair is really big!  We managed to walk around and through most of it.  We really needed more time to see and experience all of it. But 4 hours was enough time to get the flavor of it and we didn't want to push Patty too hard her first day out of the hospital.

Our last day in Washington State we took a short hike on the foothills trail. The trail is very close to our site in the RV park we are staying in.  The trail runs about 20 miles and we just did 2.5 miles one way for a total of 5 miles.  The trail is very flat so it was an easy trail to hike on.  Patty did fine on the hike.  I am hoping she is back to good health now.  We just need to be careful of her eating pattern.



After the trail ride went out to eat here at Bootleggers.  We probably would not recommend this place.  It advertised as a restaurant bar.  It really is a Bar that happens to have a small restaurant. I had the worst fish and chips here.


We left Prairie Ridge on Tuesday the 26th and headed south to Portland Oregon.


Some pictures of Mt. Hood from our travels around the area



Our future south travel plan is to travel to Portland OR, Bend OR, Reno/Lake Tahoe NV, Death Valley NV, Las Vegas NV, Congress AZ, Tucson AZ, Marfa TX, and then to our winter site in Elsa TX.  We are planning to arrive at our winter place around the 1st of November.

So this will do it for our post about Patty’s health and our travel plans going south for the winter.

Hopefully the next post we will have a better feeling about her health so we can continue to enjoy our travel.

Stay Tuned!!

15 Day Alaska Tour (7 day Land Tour Half)

September 04 - 12, 2017.  The 7 day land tour half of our Alaskan trip.

We met our tour guide Janet and the bus driver John for the first time.  We also met the other 30 some passengers that we will be with on the bus for the next 7 days.


Janet our tour director and John our bus driver.  This is their last tour of the season. Janet lives in Fairbanks and John lives in Colorado. John drives a tour bus in Colorado during the winter too.  Janet was a great tour guide, she really likes doing this, you can tell.  And she is good at it!


Tour busses left of debarkation ramp.  Ours will be the farthest one near the water in this picture.

The first bus is ours

Patty rushing to be first to board the bus
This is the first land tour Patty and I have ever taken.  We have always avoided them because I like to do my own thing on our time.  I used to be that way with all tours but have found that you really miss a lot without a guide.  Unless someone is telling you what to look at and just what you are looking at you stay pretty ignorant.  A guided bus tour is a whole different thing though.  I’ll give my perspective on bus tours at the end of this post.


It wasn't too long into our bus trip and we saw this eagle pacing the bus!

Our first stop is Homer Alaska.  We spent 2 nights there with a whole day to do whatever we wanted.  It was cold (40s to 50s) and on and off rain the whole time there.  Homer is basically a sandbar with loads of tourist shops and restaurants on it.  Homer is very expensive too.  Actually, we found Alaska to be just as expensive as Hawaii.  Other than the beautiful view from our hotel room, we weren’t impressed with Homer.


Rainy and cold on our way to Homer Alaska on the bus

Our first stop was an old Russian church that dates to the time Russia owned Alaska.  This is a list of the graves of people who served in the military and are buried in the church cemetery




A rest stop and there was this funny sign.  Kids don't float

Our gang for the next 7 days.  We are in the center right

Stopped here before we reached our hotel for the next 2 nights.  Had a nice film about the science that is done on the islands around Homer

Another eagle on a rooftop in Homer.  

Our hotel for the next 2 nights

Patty in front of our room

View from our room


This trolly took us from our hotel to the Homer spit and all around Homer for $15 each.  Way too much for this but it is the only game in town if you don't have your own vehicle.

Boat junkyard on the way out on the spit

Typical shops on the spit

The spit has tourist shops, restaurants, and fishing charter excursions

Newly built condos on the spit.

Spit art

Nice picture of the spit with a rainbow and the Salty Dawg Saloon on the left


People hang dollar bills on the walls of the Salty Dawg

Fish haul being cleaned in the open on the spit


Of course we had a meal here

We had a meal here too. I wanted to taste fresh king crab legs and I was going to pay for it.  The legs were $66 for a pound!!  They were great!  Not worth $66 though.  The next night we found them for $44 a pound in Homer.

Just interesting at a restaurant

We didn't eat at these places but they had cool buildings


This was our breakfast place while we in Homer.  It is filled with 60s hippies who came here back then and didn't leave.  Music was Grateful Deadd with coffee! 

Our last night in Homer we had Halibut fish and chips.  They were very good!

Next stop for just one night was Anchorage.  Bag pull was at 7am. Bag pull was a new term for us.  It is when we are to put our bags outside our room so they can load them on the bus. 


Bus waiting to pick us up, we were walking back from breakfast

First stop on our way to Anchorage was this artist gallery and workshop.  We never heard of him but he is very good and very expensive!

Artist's house

And nice gallery

One of his works.  You can walk away with it for just $64k!

Artist is the guy with his hands in his pockets talking to our tour director

Interesting clock in the gallery.  It was made by
someone else and is made entirely of wood.

Always a totem pole somewhere

Next stop was a wildlife preserve.  This place keeps damaged animals or ones that cannot be returned to the wild.

Very cool wolf standing on a hut

Grizzly bear

Moose


Made it to Anchorage!

We didn’t get to Anchorage until around 6pm and we were leaving at 8am so we had no time there at all.  The trip is about 200 miles from Homer.  We stopped for lunch and then a couple more times for some local sights. We were bushed by the time we got off of the bus so we just ate in the bar and then went to bed.  


Our table in the bar for dinner

View from our room in Anchorage
Day 10, Thursday the 7th, we had bag pull at 7am and the bus was leaving at 8am so we had breakfast in the hotel.  The breakfast was a standard buffet that usually was included in your stay - well not here in Alaska.  The buffet was $20 a person!  I just had a bowl of oatmeal that was now a $20 bowl of oatmeal! We found out that this is a common practice here in Alaska.  If you want your money's worth you need to eat heavy.  Note to self, next time bring my own oatmeal.

Today we went to the town of Talkeetna where we boarded an Alaska Rail train to Denali Park.  On the way there we passed through Wasilla where Sara Palin lives.  She was the mayor here too when she started in politics and before she was governor of Alaska.  Our guide said she is very popular here too. We learned that Wasilla was the fastest growing city in Alaska, mainly due to its closeness to Anchorage with a new highway to it.  The town has a large lake in the center and Palin's house is on the lake.  Wasilla is actually a very nice city/town!


Rainbow near Wasilla

The Alaska Rail Station in Talkeetna was a little over a hundred miles from Anchorage or about 2 hours’ drive.  We had about an hour to visit the cute town on a very sunny day.  The weather was just like a real nice fall day in New Jersey.  It was a nice 60F with no wind and all sun.  The sun is a little lower in the sky than we are used to so it gives everything a sort of surreal feel.  It had rained overnight so everything was wet.  This is another place that if we were on our own we would have spent more time here.  We barely walked into town before we needed to be back to board the train.








Our train coming into Talkeetna

Our very own rail car!
The train ride to the Denali Park Village is about 150 miles and took 5 hours on the train.  We were on our own double deck rail car. We sat on top in the glass observation deck and had lunch on the first deck that was set up like a dining room.



Boozy coffee for us!

Dining area on the lower level

It was a long ride but there was enough to see and we had lunch on board that was nice too.  About an hour into the ride we went down to the lower level on the train for lunch.  I was surprised, the lunch was very good!  Not like Amtrak food at all! 



That is the engine of our train going over a very high bridge

We are on the bridge now

A long way down

View along the way to Denali

Silly moose wave at a train going the other way

More scenery along the Railroad






The red buildings are the Denali Park Village where we are staying in Denali

By the time we got to Denali Park we were ready to be off of the train.  It didn’t help that Patty was feeling sick again so she slept through most of the train ride after lunch.  We were all excited too as the weather was great and it looked like it was going to stay that way for our trip into the park the next day.  I was worried at this point if Patty was going to make the trip into the park. I may be doing it on my own!

We got into our rooms at the Denali Park Village around 4:30 and Patty went to bed.  I needed to get out and walk around.  After this many days of eating and sitting I felt I needed a long walk.  I managed to walk just a couple of miles around the village before checking to see if Patty was going to eat.  It was a no for Patty so I went out and got a snack for dinner and then I was in bed too.



Our building where our room is

There was a s'mores event the night we arrived.

View from the back of our room

OK, day 11 was the big day for the highlight of the land trip, a bus ride 60 miles into Denali National Park.  To my surprise Patty was feeling better and had breakfast before our 9am leaving time on the bus.  

Before the Denali Park bus tour we went to see the dog sled training facility of Jeff King.  Jeff has been in the Iditarod race for over 20 years! This was actually very interesting!  We learned a lot about Alaskan sled dogs and their training. We also learned a lot about the Iditarod race.  This tour is a must when in this area of Alaska.


The bus that picked us up for the dog training event


Alaskan huskie pups.  They want people to hold them as it helps to socialize them



Some of the dog houses with their names on them


Hooking up the dogs to pull a quad around.  These dogs really want to pull!  As these dogs were being hooked up the ones that weren't were howling to go too


Dog team coming around the corner pulling the quad

This dog just loved getting a massage



The dogs loved this training wheel

Iditarod sled with the cold weather gear. Jeff King is in the background.

This bus tour of Denali Park is a very long trip of a little over 120 miles round trip.  The bus also made frequent stops for restrooms and for wildlife viewing.  The trip took us just over 10 hours!  We even ate on the bus!  A box lunch was provided, well actually it was more of a snack box containing little packages of nuts and seeds.  It did contain loads of calories and protein so we were not going to starve by any means.



We did a 3 mile hike here before the long bus ride into Denali





We came over this on our way in to Denali

Selfie near the RR trestle 

The tour was actually very good considering we were basically riding on a packed school bus for 8 hours.  What made the trip was the Denali tour guide, Jason.  Jason was a tree-hugging hippie that was still into it after 21 years of doing this tour.  This guy has been all over the world doing research in the wild when the tourist season is over here in Alaska.  The guy even has his Master’s in Biology!  When I first heard Jason speak on the bus sound system, I thought he was maybe just in his early 20s.  Jason had to be in his late 40s and he has not lost a bit of his fascination for the wild at all.  Oh, and he never stopped talking, and believe it or not, it was a good thing.  He was absolutely the best tour guide for this trip.  We just couldn’t believe he could do this every day and still be this fresh sounding!


This is our Denali tour bus

Views of Denali


Just a little scary as we took this big bus around these sharp and high turns in the park

Looking over the side from the bus



Beautiful rest stop in Denali



Elk




Moose



Just a little narrow here

Looks like we are flying from inside the bus on these steep curves!

OK, just a few more words about this bus trip.  The only downer was that we never saw the actual mountain that the Park was named for, Denali.  We had great weather with very few clouds but the 20k foot Denali was completely covered in clouds.  We could just barely make out the base of the mountain.  We understand that this happens a lot here as the mountain has its own weather.  

We got back to the hotel around 8pm and we were actually not hungry but we had a light dinner anyway.   The box lunch really did fill us up!  After dinner we waited for the sun to finally set around 10pm so we could try to see the northern lights.  There was just still too much light from the setting sun at 10pm to see anything.  Around 2am I woke up hearing people outside our window looking at the lights.  We both got up and saw the lights.  These were small northern lights and not real impressive.  They were basically white and looked like weird clouds.  The next day we saw some pictures people took with good cameras and the lights were green.  Anyway, we have now seen the northern lights!


Lots of this beer around in Alaska

Bag pull again at 7am with us on the bus by 8:30am.  Day 11 we headed further north to Fairbanks, our last stop on this land tour.  Fairbanks was 129 miles north of Denali.  


Bags being put on the bus to leave Denali
On the way out of Denali we saw these moose along side of the road

We made a rest stop in Nenana where we bought a cinnamon roll and split it.  We really needed a cinnamon roll!  Anyway, this town holds a contest every year that sort of starts the spring.  This contest is advertised all over the state.  The contest is to guess the exact time the ice in the Nenana River breaks up.  They put this large quad pod on the frozen river with a line stretched out to a tower on land.  When the ice breaks the quad pod moves and pulls the line that stops a clock it is attached to.  This clock, tower, and quad pod all have internet camera that you can watch.  To win you have to be the closest to the second when the clock stops.  The winning prize last year was just under half a million!



One of the Iditarod stops.  This is a supply stop for one of the mushers

We arrived in Fairbanks by lunch time and boy are we hungry! Just kidding!!  We had lunch in town and then we went for a river tour on a paddle wheel boat.  We were on the Tanana River that runs just south of Fairbanks.  This river boat tour is very touristy but still very good.  We had never seen a tour done like this either.  As we went down the river people came out with microphones and talked to us on the boat.  These weren’t actors; they were real people living along the shore who had cool stuff to talk about.  One of the speakers was a seaplane pilot who spoke as he took off and landed his plane next to the paddle boat.  Another was sled dog trainer.  Very interesting stuff!


This paddle wheel actually powers the boat 

Seaplane coming in for a landing next to our boat



An Iditarod musher and sled dog trainer.  His wife was a 3-time winner but has since passed of cancer.  Now their daughters race. He has a mic and gave a talk to us on the boat

Sled dog demonstration, sled dogs pulling a quad without an engine, just brakes

Very nice houses along the Chena River


Along the river they have a model Indian village that we walk through as part of the paddle boat tour.  It was well done! These are elk that come to greet us as we dock

Actual Indians give the presentations.  They are high school and college students.  They really do a great job!




Never seen a snow machine this old before!


This is the owner of the paddle boat tour.  She and her husband started the tour over 50 years ago.  She has a mic and talks to us too!

After the boat tour we headed out to the trans Alaska Pipeline.



This is called a pig.  They send this down the pipe to clean it out.  Gets it's name from the sound it makes going through the pipe.

Another pig

The pipe slides on this bearing surface.  The pipe moves with the weather temperature and earthquakes


After the pipeline tour we finally got to our hotel, Bear Lodge, where we said our goodbyes to our tour guide Janet and bus driver John.  It’s a little emotional as we have been with these 2 now for a week on a bus.  It was sort of like saying goodbye to family! 


Our hotel the Bear Lodge in Fairbanks AK

Now we were on our own finally.

My perspective of this land tour was that it was grueling.  It is all of the things people tell me they think they won't like about cruising.  It feels like we are constantly on the go and being herded along.  It gets old real fast! Now, don't get me wrong, we saw a lot of Alaska that we would have taken probably 2 months to see on our own. 

The other thing is that Alaska has a very short tourist season so seeing it on your own would probably take getting reservations everywhere which takes away a lot of the spontaneity that doing it on your own would give you.  We were there the last part of August first week of September and a lot was already closed for the season.  All of the RV parks in Homer were already closed!

We are glad that we did the trip this way, cruise and land tour.  The cruise is the only way you get to see that part of Alaska as it is not accessible by land. We found that we are not sure we could do a trip like this for a month, like we were thinking of doing in China next year.  Patty's health may be too unpredictable. So there you have our thoughts on this land tour.

When we made the plans for this trip a year ago we thought it would be nice to spend another day here in Fairbanks before we flew back.  Now after the grueling trip that didn’t sound as nice as it did then.  It didn’t matter though as our flights were booked so we were going to stay another day here if we wanted to or not.  

It was nice not having to get up and run on our last day.  The hotel we were staying at had a nature trail of about 2 miles that we walked after breakfast.  After that, there was a very good auto museum that we visited.  Actually, the museum was so good we didn’t make it back to the hotel until about 2:30 so we had lunch in the bar. Our last day ended with a nap and then dinner.





Animal tracks.  We think they are elk


The auto museum.  This was an unsuccessful snow machine.  It works great in Michigan in wet snow but not so good in Alaska powder  

My favorite cars.  Would love to roll up in one of these babies!


Monday the 11th we took an hour flight at 7:45am to Anchorage and then a 4-hour flight to Seattle Washington.  We arrived in Seattle at 2pm and took the light rail into town for our one night stay.  We had a couple beers and a sandwich at the hotel restaurant before hitting the hay.  


Fairbanks airport

Patty had a couple of Bloody Marys on the plane and then a couple beers with dinner and she is sick and vomiting again for our train trip to Vancouver.   Patty just wasn’t in any kind of shape to walk to the light rail to the Amtrak Station so we took a cab.  The cab was only $8, $10 with a tip so it really wasn’t much more than the light railway there. 


Light rail station at the Seattle airport

The Amtrak rail station in Seattle.  It was a long line to check in to our train to Vancouver Canada.  It was a good thing we were really early!


The train we are taking is called the Cascade number 510.  It really is a very cool ride but Patty slept the entire way so she didn’t see anything.  The trip is about 4 hours from Seattle to Vancouver BC.  It was our first time going across the border on a train.  It was very similar to doing it on an airplane.  We were given customs forms on board to fill out and then we went through passport control at the Vancouver Train Station.  It looked to me like it wasn’t as controlled as it is in an airport but I don’t think I would want to risk stepping out of line in any case though!


View of Seattle as we are leaving on the train


The line going to immigration in Vancouver Canada at the rail station


First thing we see when we enter the Vancouver rail station are Christmas trees.  This really seems early for this!  Found out they are for a movie being filmed.

Our last thing to do now was to get back to our RV.  There is a light rail station conveniently located by the main train station that takes us to within a couple miles of our RV.  Then with the same ticket we took a bus right to our RV Park.  Yay, we are home!  We were back in the RV taking a nap by 3pm after another long day!

Our plans are to see the city of Vancouver and visit with Patty's nephew with his new wife and daughter during the next week before heading south back across the border to Washington.


Stay Tuned!