Long and winding road, Part 2-Alaska and more

September 1-8 — The Alaska cruise shoved away from the Vancouver dock at 6pm, two hours later than scheduled because the Canadian port authorities were drastically understaffed on September 1, Labor Day. There were two ships boarding at the same time through the same access point. The Disney ship and our Norwegian Sun, collectively, they had more than two thousand people moving through zig-zag lines for two-hours. Boy, was that fun? Not! Day 2 we were at sea and found our way around the ship. Great entertainment, good food, grazed all day. Day 3 we stopped at Ketchikan at 7am for the day. Most people leaving the ship board buses to head off for their guided tour sightseeing adventure. Sandy and I went in the opposite direction, by foot, without a guide. We asked the first local person we could find where was the best hiking trail. We head to Dear Mountain for a five hour hike. Then, we walked the town of Ketchikan, including the legendary red light Creek Street district. We saw thousands of Salmon spawning in the creeks before we walk to Annibel’s for a late lunch. Day 4, We were in Juneau. Did you know that Juneau is the only State capitol that cannot be accessed by automobile? The only way to get to Juneau is by sea or by air. Once again, Sandy and I watched as the ship passengers loaded buses to depart for the day. It was raining when we marched down the road for a one mile walk to get from ship to downtown Juneau. As soon as we got to town we trekked straight up a huge hill to find the Perseverance Trail head. Near the entrance we met a couple from Minnesota, Dave and Peg, who were as lost as we were. We became fast friends. We hiked with them all morning. Then they joined us for lunch at the Red Dog Saloon. Finally, we took a bust for 13 miles up to see the Mendenhall Glacier. This was a highlight of our Alaska trip. We took photo’s of the Glacier and a spectacular 30 foot wide waterfall that you could walk right up to the edge. Day 5 we exited the ship to spend a great day on Skagway. Same drill as before, the tourist went one way and we went the other. And, like the other days we would talk to the local people in town to find the best hiking trail. This day, however, the best trail was 800 feet straight up. It took us two hours to climb 1/2 mile. Once we located Dewey Lake we decided we couldn’t hike through the mud and slippery rock so we started down the same trail that we had just ascended. Again, it took 2 hours going down. Time for lunch at Sweet Tooth. This was first disappointing meal based upon a recommendation from someone who lived in the area. Her favorite Haddock sandwich was not worth the stop. We finished the afternoon with another exhilarating hike. I do mean exhilarating. The wind must have been 40 mile an hour around Smuggler’s point, and on the bridge to get to the hiking trail. Sandy could not cross the bridge without holding on tight to the rails. Day 6 and Day 7 we were at sea for spectacular views of Glacier Bay and Hubbard Bay. Finally, we port in Whittier for a one hour bus ride to Anchorage. Alaska is really a special place. We will be back.

September 9-12 Our thanks to Kerry and Kris for giving up their bedroom so that we could spend another day on their farm in Mount Vernon. Then, our thanks to Mark and Kelly for allowing us accommodations at their home in Anacortes and three nights on Guemes Island. We enjoyed spending time with Brian, Emily, Amaya, Mark, Kelly, Rumi, Teo, Kristen, Kerry, Sienna and Sebastian. And, did we have some great homemade dinners? Our compliments to all chefs.

September 13- We left Guemes Island by ferry boat then headed to a field for Rumi’s first ever soccer game. The coach told her to play center midfield. She put two fingers in her mouth and stood in place without moving for the first ten minutes. One time the ball actually rolled near her so she tried to kick it but whiffed. In the second quarter the coach moved Rumi to forward. They told her to chase the ball wherever it went. Rumi follows directions well.  Rumi was gaining confidence and catching on quickly by the third quarter. She nearly scored a goal. In the 4th period the coach put Rumi in goal. The two fingers went back in her mouth. The confidence went down a little bit when the other team scored two goals. But, I predict Rumi will be a player.  In the afternoon we headed for Cannon Beach, Oregon, Route 101. To our surprise, Cannon Beach was sold out so we drove on to the next upscale town on the ocean, i.e., Manzanita. Suprise again, SOLD OUT. We keep going south on RT. 101 for three more little towns. No room in any of those places either. This has never happened to us despite our many travels. We end up finding a place at 8pm. It was a GREAT place called the Proposal Rock Inn in Neskowin, Oregon. We really enjoyed the meal at Hawks Creek Cafe, right next to the hotel. This was a super find.

September 14- All day gorgeous drive down the Oregon coast. We stopped for a short walk at Cape Perpetua, Suisse National Forest. We spent the night on Gold Beach.

September 15- We drive further south until we find the Redwoods in California. We stopped for a great short hike through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove of Redwoods. After a full day of sight seeing we end up spending the night in Eureka, California.

September 16- After a 36 mile drive south we find the world famous 31 mile stretch of Redwoods called Avenue of the Giants. At one place we saw 17 of the worlds top 100 tallest Redwood trees. This was really a sight for lifetime memories. At noon we finally head east. We are on our way home, but we intend to get there through many of the country’s least traveled roads.  No big hurry. One day at a time. We sometimes feel like Alice in Wonderland when she was lost. We have no idea what road we will travel from day to day. We make it up as we go. We end the day in Sacramento, CA.

September 17- What a fantastic day for the memories. We begin by getting the car an oil change. The temp in Sacramento was 62 degrees. Two hours later we have driven through the forest fire smoke to the Northern rim of Lake Tahoe and it’s 97 degrees. We continue to Fallon Nevada where we have lunch on the back of our car next to the only shade tree that we could find. By 3pm we stopped in Austin, NV and had the world’s best Blueberry malt. We spent the night in a real Western Hotel built in 1929 in Ely, Nevada. Sandy and I won $26 in the casino, it almost covered the cost of dinner.

September 18- A long day of driving through some of the most interesting terrain. We drive for miles of desert canyon in Nevada before arriving at Zion National Park in Utah. If you have never been there we urge you to go. It is one of the most spectacular vistas you will ever witness. The painted rock formations are amazing. We end the day at a little cabin about 15 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park. We look forward to morning coffee in Bryce Cannon.

September 19- This day tops yesterday. Bryce Canyon views were better than Zion, even better than the Grand Canyon, and that’s saying a lot. After the morning visit in Bryce where the day started at 48 degrees we drove for four hours to Green River UT, where we will spend the night. This is an interesting little place about 50 miles west of our destination, Arches National Park. The temperature here at 6pm is 95 degrees. We dropped in on Green River expecting to find many lodging options to find only one hotel with rooms available. It’s a Super 8. Why you might ask would this little town in rural Utah be sold out? Well its the Mellon Festival, of course. And, there is a big music festival all weekend in Arches and Mohab National Parks. By the way, after driving through Utah the past two days Sandy and I have decided this is the most beautiful State we have ever driven through.. Finally….Happy Birthday to Todd.

September 20-21 – We drive into Arches National Park at 9am expecting to be among the first early arrivals. To our surprise there are many tourists, most in our age bracket, who will be exploring this amazing sight today. It’s a Saturday. Arches is different from Zion and different from Bryce Cannon. Many rock formations are in the form of Arches, or see-through windows, others are massive rocks teetering on top of each other. At any moment one could expect to hear a rock crash to the ground. But, none do. This place has a Jurrasic Park feel to it. Where are the dinosaurs? We see nothing in that park. By noon we are on our way to Colorado. By 5pm we are pulling off the road to find a hotel. We end up in Silverthorn, just east of Copper Mountain. The drive through the Mountains was spectacular. The fall colors are bright yellow, burnt orange, and burning red among the green trees and mountain landscape. We have now determined Colorado and Utah are tied for first place as the most beautiful States for a drive. We know, Maine, Montana, Vermont and upper state New York are close behind. Washington, Oregon, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri aren’t bad either. You know what? All of the United States has something special to offer, except maybe Nevada. That drive was worse than driving through Kansas. Really!   We are now in Abilene, Kansas, less than 500 miles from home.

September 22- We had dinner last night at Ike’s Place. The walls were covered with photos of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower– interesting little town in the middle of Kansas. We drive the last 400 miles without incident arriving home by 2pm. We traveled 7310 by car and at least 3700 more miles by train, plane, cruise ship, and shuttle bus.What a trip!

REFLECTIONS- Sandy and I have traveled together for 54 straight days. We covered 10,000 miles and got a close up view of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Alberta, Canada, BC, Canada, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. This special trip is one for our memories. We renewed our love for each other and our friendship that now extends beyond 52 years.

Here is what we learned….there are more Bear Warning signs in Alaska than there are bears. In our eight days in Alaska we saw no bears, no wolves, no sheep, no eagles, no whales. We saw one cool looking bird in Skagway but that’s it. Still we will go back and explore by car or train not by cruise ship. No group tours for us. If you want to travel the country by car here are a few more things we have learned. If you want to see corn, lots of corn, go to Nebraska. If you want to join a Harley Davidson biker group go to South Dakota, anywhere near Sturgis. If you want to visit a State not worth returning to for any reason go to North Dakota. If you want to visit a State that should be visited by everyone at least once, go to Montana. If you want to enjoy a restful rustic romantic hideaway for outdoor hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing and kick back bond fires go to Guemes Island, Washington. If you want to see the best of the Northwest coast line drive down Oregon Hyway 101. California has more to offer than big cities. We really enjoyed the Redwoods and Lake Tahoe area. If you want to skip a State to drive through skip Nevada. If you have never been to Utah, put it on your bucket list. It is spectacular.

Finally a word about animals. We have learned via these travels that California must have the smartest wild life animals in North America. Apparently they can read road signs. Often we saw signs that read, Elk Crossing -20 miles. How do the Elk know that they are allowed to cross the road only on those 20 miles? There are no signs for coyotes and sure enough we saw one cross the road just ahead of us in California.

Everyday that we have traveled, 54 wonderful days, we have offered prayers for family and friends and prayers of thankgiving, very grateful that we have had this opportunity. As we return to Saint Louis we are searching for ways that we can “give back.”

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