Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We're Alaskans!

Well, we made it to Delta Junction, Alaska. The drive through Canada was absolutely beautiful. The mountains and lakes and forests provided nonstop gorgeous scenery. So much so that after a couple days, I'd point out a beautiful mountain lake and the kids would say, "Yep," instead of, "Wow! That is so beauuutiful!"

The house we're renting is perfect for us. The kids LOVE the yard with all the space, a jungle gym, a play house, and a fort. They went outside Monday morning after breakfast and were pretty much outside until we had to enforce broad daylight bedtime at 9:30. The light is kind of messing with my mind. I already have the tendency to get my second wind after the kids go to bed, and when it's sunny outside at 11:00pm, it is pretty hard for me to convince myself that I'm tired.

Our truck hasn't arrived yet--it got to Anchorage by Monday, but they said they only swing through Delta on Fridays. SO they'll drop the trailer on Friday and pick it up the next Friday. That is definitely not what the company originally told us, but it'll work for us. We are excited to get our beds and kitchenware and computer all of our other stuff so we can really start to feel at home here. I'm eager for that settled feeling. And when we get our computer and settle on a slow-speed internet option, I'll even be able to add pictures to better document our adventures. I can't really upload family pics to the library computer. So, more to come. Until then, we miss all of you and hope that the internet will help make the thousands of miles not feel quite as distant!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Alaska or Bust


We have always loved roadtrips. A few years ago, we took a mega road trip from Colorado to North Carolina and down to Alabama and Texas, seeing all the family and friends we could squeeze in along the way. Our total for that trip was 63 hours of driving time. This road trip up to Alaska would be almost 60 hours one way. That's what Aaron calls "epic."

Our first two days felt like a pretty normal road trip--driving all day and stopping to enjoy the hospitality of family. Monday we went into new roadtrip territory--leaving the country.

Monday, June 20
220 miles, 5 hours
After stopping at one of our old favorite stores, WinCo, to buy some roadtrip and camping food, and then stopping in the last town in the US to find a thrift store where we could get Aaron a couple shirts to wear to work since we had accidentally packed them all in the moving truck, we decided that a good goal for the day would be to just get through Canadian customs, drive past Vancouver, and find a lovely spot to camp.

Getting through customs proved to be quite an ordeal. Since my husband is a hunter with very strong protective instincts we'll just say, he could not fathom camping in the Canadian wilderness without some form of protection from bears. Of course he declared this at customs, which apparently made them concerned that he was stashing other things in there, so they did a full search of the vehicle. Meaning they take everything out and you have to pack it all back in.

At least the kids got a break from the car while we tried to get them to sit respectably in the customs waiting area with only the Canadian News to divert their attention. We couldn't even use the bathroom without express permission from the officer handling our family, and since he was busy, we got to wait.

Once in Canada, we soon discovered that it is absolutely gorgeous. Yes, Washington was lovely, too, but things seemed to get more stunning as we drove further north. I was really impressed with the city of Vancouver. It is a HUGE city that just had a really cool feel. Something about it reminded me of the city of Luzern, Switzerland. I liked it a lot. Note to self: when we have more time and money, go back and take a vacation in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Our trusty roadtrip guide, the Milepost, described the awesome scenic route called the Sea to Sky highway. The views were stunning, with oceans jutting right out of the sea. 

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-CDFAp100nSo/TnjlQ65lEzI/AAAAAAAAAtg/OE7uNg6ZLS8/s400/Alaska%2B126.jpgThese sea to sky views also reminded me of some places in the Alps.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Yg4G1NkOR2o/TnjlQ8px9tI/AAAAAAAAAtY/jO5aburA-PY/s400/Alaska%2B128.jpgWe saw an awesome campsite right on the water, but it was full. Just a mile or two up the road, there was another campsite. It was definitely dinnertime and we were ready to get our campstove cooking and set up camp for the night.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-5iy3N42IkHo/Tnjk66MtAqI/AAAAAAAAAtQ/BsGKeQmGfIM/s400/081.JPGThis campground was on the other side of the road, so it drew the mountain climbing bunch rather than the seafaring crowd. This mountain face, Stawamus Chief, is apparently the second largest granite monolith in the world. It seemed to be some sort of granola mecca. I don't know if I've ever seen so many dreadlocks in one place. The surrounding view was awesome, but the campsites were basically a gravel spot for your car another spot about the same size for your tent, right next to the next campers. Not much place for the kids to roam free, but luckily Xander and Elodie were great at exploring close by. I just had to hold Hazel until she was ready for bed.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-lDgRMkrQbik/Tnjk6m3JMtI/AAAAAAAAAtI/HH2sa9wMz5M/s400/084.JPGWe fired up our sweet propane stove and whipped up some cheesy rice with broccoli and cauliflower in no time. Delicious food, gorgeous view, the best people in the world--needless to say, we all had a great time! Aaron set up the tent for him and Xander and Elodie. We decided it would help more people sleep if I just slept in the car with Hazel. 

Tuesday, June 21
300 miles, 7 hours

A little past William's Lake, we were ready to cook some dinner and enjoy the evening. We found a quaint little country campsite behind a mom and pop general store where there was plenty grass for the kids to run around. I've never been a huge fan of hot dogs, so I whipped up some spinach soup concoction that was pretty tasty and the rest of the fam enjoyed roasting their dogs.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Q65uI_yoJck/Tnjk6Awdq_I/AAAAAAAAAtA/_FV4XFWcMeg/s400/088.JPGHazel LOVED the chance to stretch.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-R2AJA3hAckE/Tnjk58IW5mI/AAAAAAAAAs4/xPgaG8dLriw/s400/089.JPGShe was ecstatic to have room to roll.
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-hN3J7HMg4KE/Tnjk5jF8cmI/AAAAAAAAAsw/AO0mtTuWaYc/s400/093.JPGWednesday, June 22
600 miles, 13 hours

We didn't really mean to drive so far on Wednesday. We made it to Prince George around lunchtime and found an awesome park. The town had a great, family-friendly feel. I found myself really falling in love with British Columbia! The kids would have liked to stay at that park the rest of the day, but we managed to get them back in the confines of the car. They are really amazing travelers. After two nights of camping, it seemed like we had earned a shower and a night in a real bed. Plus, our Milepost warned that there were a lot of bears in the area, and Aaron didn't particularly want to risk camping with bears on the prowl. So when we got to Hazelton and a cluster of towns at the junction, we started looking for a Bed and Breakfast. After two nights of sleeping in the car with Hazel (trying to sleep, that is), I was really hoping for a place with an adjoining room or somewhere we could tuck Hazel where I was not in her line of sight. We discovered that our trusty Milepost didn't list every B&B, so we were just trying to keep our eyes peeled. We passed one--it was too late to make the turn, so we blew past. Not wanting to turn back, we decided we'd wait for the next. Whoops, we passed another one, I think. But there were still some more towns coming soon, according to the book, and we were all still feeling good, so we kept driving. Those towns had no B&B's, so we kept going, hoping to find just the perfect place. We got onto the Cassiar Highway, which turns out to be the most isolated stretch of road we encountered our whole trip. Mile after mile after mile there were gorgeous mountain views and amazing forests and not a sign of civilization beyond the paved road. No lodging for us. At nearly 10:00, we came to the Bell 2 Lodge. Not the quaint B&B I had been hoping for, but a very nice-looking, new lodge with lots of cute little cabins. It did not look cheap, but since it was the only lodging we'd seen in 2 hours, we didn't have much room for bargain hunting. There was only one room left, and they were about to close for the night. The lady said she thought there was another place about 1 1/2 further down the road. So yes, they could charge us whatever they wanted. And we paid it, grateful for a safe, comfortable place to sleep!
http://www.canadianpacificvacations.com/Lodges/Bell%202.jpg
Once again, Hazel was so excited to have room to MOVE!
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-hxQ9cCvEa8Y/TnjjYy1_AVI/AAAAAAAAAso/ZZnOkIulpXA/s400/094.JPGThe lodge was really nice and the beds were super comfy. While there was only one room (it was a 4-plex cabin type thing), the bathroom was large enough for Hazel to sleep in, so we got a pretty good night's rest. The fact that it was still broad daylight when we arrived at nearly 10:00 sure helped make the extended drive that day very doable. And the blackout curtains did their job nicely.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ck12d_BN1FQ/TnjjYvL3xDI/AAAAAAAAAsg/IVpvTqpicio/s400/097.JPGThursday, June 23
460 miles, 11 hours

Not too far from Bell 2 Lodge, we saw this little guy. When we stopped to get a picture, he came right up to our car. I guess Elodie wanted a better view, so she started rolling down her window. Aaron kinda freaked out 'cause the bear was right by her window and started to try to put its nose in the car. Aaron got her window up in a flash and took away her roll-down power. Then the bear mosied around to the back and tried to climb on the tailgate hitch haul thing, so Aaron decided it was time to drive outta there.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-o8AvZvjjHG8/TnjjYZiSp-I/AAAAAAAAAsY/XO9HWR3iSAY/s400/098.JPGFor lunch, we stopped by a beautiful river and cooked up the most delicious Ramen noodles and leftover hot dogs ever. We must have been really hungry. Or maybe it had just been too long since our last hot meal. Breakfast was not included at the lodge, and I couldn't bring myself to spend $40 on breakfast after what we'd just dumped on lodging, so we shook up some powdered milk and had cold cereal for breakfast. And with the late arrival the night before, we had eaten roadtrip munchies for dinner.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ErOLZFVo4-g/TnjjYMa8E6I/AAAAAAAAAsQ/yuiCInbOmxU/s400/102.JPGI wanted to cook up some tasty tortilla soup, but it started raining right after we stopped to cook. Too hungry to be deterred, we opted for the much faster Ramen noodles. Ramen has never tasted better. And gratefully, it was just a quick mountain thunderstorm, so it was over before the food was ready. Again, what a gorgeous, peaceful setting. These leisurely meal breaks were some of the highlights of our trip.
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-MeHChDIGXl0/TnjjXkZ8VtI/AAAAAAAAAsI/-Fvvfux7bp4/s400/103.JPGLater that day, after making it to a new territory, the Yukon, and a new Highway, the Alaska Highway, Xander got to learn what a Totem Pole is.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-keYwYInqJNU/Tnjhymil0CI/AAAAAAAAAsA/LLaXblLBRVM/s400/104.JPGIn all of our days on the road, we had not yet stopped at any type of restaurant to eat. After seeing the bear, Aaron had determined that he did not want to cook dinner at the same place we camped, and we had already stopped to cook lunch, so it seemed like the perfect time to go out for dinner. Here's the classy joint we ended up with--Wolf It Down. Yes, that is the name of the restaurant. The food was overpriced and mediocre. Aaron and I agreed that the Ramen noodles at lunch tasted better. Ah well.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-02ognltq8Io/TnjhyUKOI3I/AAAAAAAAAr4/pQqngidBMPw/s400/106.JPGThe day had been long and the night short, so in no time, Xander was asleep and Elodie ahd to go to the bathroom.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-iZmsd8uVOsI/TnjhyJ08DJI/AAAAAAAAArw/b5gASCSVADE/s400/113.JPGThis was the next rest stop, complete with portapotty and informative signs about the native peoples of the area. of course the view in person was far more spectacular than my pathetic photography can capture.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-77TaqWJCgTU/Tnjhx3dy3HI/AAAAAAAAAro/zAUcGhSqdUc/s400/115.JPGThe bear had made Aaron hesitant about camping in a tent that night, and the price of lodging made me hesitant about that, so Aaron had the bright idea that we could lay down the seats in the Beast and all camp in the car. What fun! Well, if we were going to sleep in the car, there was no sense in stopping early, so we just kept driving. It was still daylight and we were still feeling chipper, so why stop? At around 11:00, we found a campsite and pulled in. Aaron rearranged the car and we all tried to sleep. Xander and Elodie thought it was pretty fun at first. Too fun. How are you supposed to just fall asleep when it's still light and you're all squished in there like a party? It was really hard for everyone to be quiet enough for Hazel to fall asleep. And it was hot and stuffy, but the cloud of mosquitos outside prevented us from opening the windows. Did I mention that it was a little squishy? By 5:00 in the morning, we were done trying to sleep. There was nothing to do but get back on the road. We had planned 8 days to make the drive so we could take it easy and enjoy it, but we just accidentally kept doing 10 and 11 hour days. 

Friday, June 24

450 miles, 10 1/2 hours
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http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-C0h-aKi-FaU/TnjgCGBk0TI/AAAAAAAAArA/Sm22T7rNy8Q/s400/134.JPGSaturday, June 25
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