Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grande Prairie - Night in the hotel

OK, made 340 miles today to Grand Prairie. 55.14 N, 118.48 W I figure at this pace, it is another 6 days to Alaska. I doubt that I will keep up this pace of 350 miles per day. Too hard to see stuff, take the time to walk the dog, find places to post the blog and replenish ice and beer.

Anyway, after Edmonton, it started to rain and get cold and windy. As far as I could see - rain. So I called Dorene for a forecast and she said rain would stop around 11:00 pm tonight. So, she looked up pet friendly hotels and here I am at the Days Inn. Quite frankly, good to take a break and not have to snuggle up to a wet and dirty dog. Yes, sometimes even I think I am crazy. But all in all, it is great fun. I also have a little time to comment on some other things that I have seen - like rolls of hay spontaneously combusting in the fields of Manitoba. And the two giant oil refineries. One is in Saskatchawan right at the Alberta border in Lloydminster. That one belongs to Husky. The other one is on the east side of Edmonton (the Oilers ) and it belongs to Co-op which is something akin to Sams Club or Costco. I can buy gas and groceries at their stores and they ask for a Co-op membership number. Without one they charge you more. And how about this? - $81.00 for an oil change at a Lube-X - their equivalent of a Jiffy Lube.

Also, the number of crazy (even crazier than me) cross country bicycle riders. These folks have solid metal saddle bags on their bikes, little orange flags and are apparently going very long distances on their bikes.

Finally, the craziest group is an organization out of Saskatchawan - I cruised by one of their covered wagons on the Alaska Highway today - looked like Gypsies - with a big yellow tarp covering the wagon facing right into the driving rain. I have attached a picture - but it is not my original - I could not get to the camera in time - so I grabbed it off of their website.

While it is still pretty flat here in Grande Prairie, the land is starting to change. I have seen some impressive foothills - up to 3000 ft. Along with that, some pretty valleys and rivers. Plenty of Moose Crossing signs on the highway.

So, tomorrow I will be somewhere in British Columbia around Pink Mountain or Buckinghorse. Don't know when the next post will come.

It's getting good!

352 Miles today to Elk Island National Park. 53.40 N, 112.49 W 78 F when we arrived, 56 F when we left

So yesterday we stopped at the Skatchewan Northern Prairie Museum and Leo spent time in the parking lot checking out prairie dog holes. He wanted to dig them all up. When we got to Elk Island Park last night we barely had time to cook dinner, clean up and rig the tarp before some big thunderstorms hit. My kimchi tent held up well and we stayed warm and dry. Bison sausage was great - Leo enjoyed some too. I'll get it again if I can. We saw some active beaver dams on our way into the park. The place is full of wildlife. Beautiful redwinged blackbirds and a large black bird with white wingtips. I'll have to look that one up. We heard coyotes during the night as well as loons in the lake. We got up early and went walkin. We found a great area where Leo could run off of the leash (not supposed to because of the game) Well, we headed that way and sure enough there was a pack of coyotes wandering across and yipping. Leo wanted to go pretend it was a dog show and he was very disappointed when I put him on the leash and cut the walk short. I tried to take a pictire - just way too foggy from the storm. Then this am leaving the park, we drove through a herd of buffalo with their calves. See pics. Leo had to bark at all of them and I though one momma might charge us.

We did not see any elk in the park itself, but on Hwy 16 headed toward Edmonton, we saw two grazing by yhe fence. Camera was not ready - oops.

Headed for Grande Prairie. Probably look for an oil change tomorrow as well.

This retirement thing is not too bad!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saskatoon to Edmonton

This is a quickie because I am in a Starbucks in Lloydminster on the SK / Alberta Border. Want to get to Elk Mountain just east of Edmonton tonight. We stopped and got some buffalo sausage for dinner tonight. Wanted to get buffalo steak but the butcher sayd that he is having a tough time gettin buffalo. All of you Americans ar buying it. He will get his first buffalo in several months next Tuesday.

WIFI is getting harder to find, so, be patient, I have not stopped the blog.

More Prairie -Saskatchewan to Alberta


Left Riding Mountain around 8:15 EDT. And we are at Pike Lake Provincial Park just south of Saskatoon.. Another nice city.

I am fascinated with the prairie. The highway is two lane but it is not crowded and it is so flat and straight that passing is not a problem. Also fascinated with the railroads. They really know how to use them up here. The government owns some of the rail cars and some of the trains are ¾ of a mile long. I guess it is all for grain and potash. We have passed several potash processing plants – lots of fertilizer up here. But the railroad keeps trucks off of the road.

The whole prairie is dotted with lakes. Some of the lakes rival our NY Finger lakes. I have seen some farm ponds big enough to water ski on and many puddles are big enough for Leo to swim in. Which is exactly what he did after chasing a Prairie Dog in a roadside rest area. So, we got into and through Saskatoon , another nice city - modern and booming. Finally found the state park – this one is a disappointment. Good amenities – including a laundry – so I did some wash. But it is dirty – gravel, fire pit ashes and really hard to keep Leo clean after he goes running in the flooded drainage ditch behind the campsite. But he’s a dog and there was a deer back there, so we had to chase.

By the way, it is 11:20 pm EDT and I am still sitting at a picnic table in the light typing this (10:20) pm CDT)

391.7 Miles today 51.53 N, 106.48 W

Into the Prairie !


We left off in Kenora Ontario. Around Lake of the Woods. Lake of the Woods is really a series of bays feeding into one huge lake. It is all rugged granite, hilly territory. Everyone has a boat – maybe three. So when we left Kenora, it was raining and it did so on and off the whole day. Strong winds from the NW. We crossed ito manotoba nad the hills started to smooth out a bit but still with the birch and pine forest. Then about 30 miles into Manitoba, the forest disappeared completely and it became the flattest most featureless prairie that you could imagine. I could only imagine the steppes of Russia.

The are is planted in wheat, hay and canola. However it has been so wet here that the big rolls of hay are just sitting in the fields rotting. – shame. Winnipeg is right in the middle of the flat stuff. A nice city – definitely has a Canadian flavor to it. About 30 miles west of Winnepeg, the land begins to have some contour again. So we went up the hill to Riding Mountain Provincial Park. We were very alone – but nice facilites including a heated shower. Leo and I dined on steak and fried potatoes. And it was cold this am – about 49. Sleeping bag felt good. 391.5 miles 50.39 N, 99.57 W

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Off we go into Canada!

A little detour yesterday to check out the Mesabi Iron Ore range around Hibbing, Moutain Iron and Virginia MN - the place is full of red quarries - all filled with water now and mounds of tailings from the mines. Stopped at a memorial around Mountain Iron, I did not know that the big steel magnates imported labor from Eastern Europe to work the mines just like they did the mills in Chicago and Pittsburh. A lot of Polish names.

I wanted to stay in MN last night and use my $41.00 park permit but too many detours. So I crossed into CA and found the same problem with going due west. So we headed north on the eastern side of Lake of the Woods in Ontario. I stayed at a campground at Caliper Lake - a little finger off of the main lake. There are hundereds of fingers. It is getting wild up here - all fish camps, hunting camps and float planes. It is mainly birch and pine forest shallowly rooted in very rocky granite soil. And then lots of bogs. Very remote and gas is $4.00 / gal (Actually about $1.01 CA per Liter)

So, the camp was beautuful and the skies looked like they were clearing. So , I did not put the tarp up at the back of the car. Big mistake! Rained about 2:00 am and I had to scramble to keep from getting too wet. Closed the windows of the car but left the rear tailgate open. All of a sudden the nice breeze was gone and I was attacked by every mosquito in Western Ontario. I think they feed on deet - nothing repels them. Great hot showers though to wash away the oil. So, got an early start and this morning I passed a fox, two beaver dams and three deer - and on the same road - and only one car.

So, I'm in a McDonalds in Kenora ON today, hoping to make it northwest of Winnipeg tonight. And guess what - it's raining. Hope for dry weather.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 25th

Spent the previous night in Rock Creek State Park about 40 mi east of Des Moines. Park was great, people very friendly. My kudos to Iowa. It was surprisingly crowded for a Thursday night. Got on the road about 9:00 am and headed north to Minnesota. Stopped at the worlds largest Bass Pro Shop in Altoona IA looking for mosquito killer - no luck. Then on to I -35. Here is theis great big road in the middle of nowhere and it is more crowded than the Pa Turnpike - what gives? So, passed a bunch of wind turbine farms on the way - fascinating. Finally got one of those legendary breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches - picture enclosed. in Albert Lea Minnesota - just across the IA / MN border.Gorgeous territory along the way - basically flat but with some very gentle roll - lots of trees and ponds.

Finally got up to Minn / St. Paul area around 3:00 pm. Again, arrived in the middle of a tornado warning. Traffic was TERRIBLE!! Washington DC is easier to get around. So finally headed north in US 169 to Mille Lacs State Park. Rained, rained and rained some more. Pulled into the campsite about 9:00 pm. Rain had stopped but the place was a sea of mud and skeets everywhere. 100% Deet again, I smell like an oil well. Oh by the way $41.00 to camp, no running water, no showers.

So, I took Leo for a walk down one of the trails - beautiful and peaceful listening to the loons but then Mr. Leo decided to run into the filthiest black mud hole he could find. I had to rinse him with bottled water. Again, a night in a car with a wet dog and skeets - I need some strong liquor! Believe it or not though, the temps were cool and I slept well. Saw two deer on the way out of the park - Leo wanted to chase. So, this morning, I took him to a public boat ramp on Mille Lac and gave him a bath in the lake. That helped some. But Mille Lac is beautuful and I woul love to find a way to fish the place. Lots ofe expensive summer cottages and a big Indian Casino.

So today, we head to the Mesabi Iron Range to see some iron ore - that's where steel starts in case you did not know. Then into Canada and hopefully back into MN to camp on the shores of Lake of the Woods.

Friday, June 25, 2010

First & Second Nights on the Road

First Night - Indiana Dunes State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan. Got there in tome to climb to the top of the dunes and look at the lake - then run back and listen to the tornado warnings on the weather radio. Had to wait an hour in the car as the storm passed and then set up the tarp in the rain. Leo and I ate our beans, Vienna sausage and fruit cocktail-- Yummy! Next day we actually got to the beach. Leo swam in the surf with a steel mill in the background. Earlier we passed the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart IN. There was one Camry in the parking lot. Mosquitos were terrible - it was hot & clammy - not the best night sleep. Limbs were down all over the park. But the Park Workers are apparently Teamsters and they were on srtike. So the trees were being cleared by scabs being guarded by Shereiffs Deputies. Sounds like they need a Labor Relations Person.

Finally got a cold shower and left about 8:00 am EDT. Weather cleared and I decided to go across Route 30 as opposed to the interstate. Big mistake! Traffic light every mile - 3 hours to go 55 miles. Finall got to I- 80 and cruised. Passed Ronald Regans birthplace in Illinois and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in Iowa. No big line of cars to get there. But lots of signs along the highway advertising theat the roadwork is Economic Stimulus money. Well out of battery - more of day 2 later.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Here we go!

First Leg. Made it to Sugar Grove. The car and the carrier ride well. Very little loss of gas mileage. We passed a car fire on I-66 and summertime construction south of Breezewood. Look out if you are headed toward Pittsburgh.

But the big news was on the local Warren Pa radio station this morning. Four Amish boys were arrested for underage drinking. Two were riding on top of the buggy. We don't know if their buggy driving licenses were suspended or not. Anyone know a good Amish Attorney?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

3-2-1 Blast Off

Saturday night. All is packed. Down to the last details. Thanks to my friend Sam Bowen, I have plenty of Ramen Noodles and Siraccha sauce to keep me going. Today I added some Vienna sausages, cans of fruit cocktail, some pork & beans and onion. Oh baby - 42 days of gourmet dining!! I even have a roll of scotch tape to encapsulate the ticks that I will pick off of Leo and most likely myself. No pics yet but tomorrow I will take a few of the loaded vehicle as we pull out on our way to Sugar Grove. You do know that all roads lead to Sugar Grove?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Learning how to do a blog

OK, as all of my friends know, I am one of the most computer savvy folks you will ever find. Microsoft, Apple and Google have been trying to recruit me for years. but they will never catch me because I'm headed for Alaska with my dog and an old Subaru.

We are about two weeks away from departure. I've gathered most of my stuff but have not yet packed the car. No good pictures yet except for one of the dog (Leo) and the Subaru. This was Virginia last winter - will Alaska in the summer be a replay? I guess we will find out.