Mackinac Island

Yesterday we made the short drive from Munising in the UP to the Mackinac Bridge…the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere…a little intimidating in the motorhome..

P1030601

……then, a very short drive to our campground on Lake Huron…..

P1030612P1030614

Today we took the ferry from Mackinaw City over to the island Mackinac IslandP1030633P1030634

then took the carriage ride………no cars……….everything horse drawn and thousands of bicycles…..

P1030643P1030653

Walked past the Grand Hotel……it has the longest covered porch in the world something over 600 feet…

P1030658P1030661

And for the all the animal lovers in our family….and especially for Thea who loves horses…..here  are a couple of the horses that pull the carriages to the Grand Hotel

P1030639P1030641

and here is the harness room and a couple of stalls in the stable of the Grand Hotel…they only work about half a day and get one day a week off …..not a bad life

P1030646P1030648

My favorites were these three…our driver said they were the biggest three Belgians on the island ….total weight  6500 pounds…

P1030649P1030651

…..and for those who love old houses….especially my son Brad…..here are a few of the “summer cottages” that sit on the bluff overlooking the Grand Hotel and everything else….

P1030662P1030664

P1030669P1030666

and for garden and flower lovers….these are Ronnie’s picks….

P1030672P1030667

this is probably our last blog about our Alaska trip since. We will be back at Caesar Creek Soaring Club in a couple days…..been on the road for 44 days since leaving July 13th…thanks for all your great comments !          Jim and Ronnie

Wisconsin into Michigan

We have had a great ride across the middle of the US on US 2……I am behind on posts but here are some photos of the last 3 campgrounds we stayed at…the first is a Corp of Engineers campground coming into Grand Rapids, Minnesota at the Pokegama Dam …this is one of 6 dams on the Mississippi River way up north …one of the prettiest campsites we have seen on the whole trip…

P1030554P1030558

P1030561

From there we continued on US 2 through Duluth, MN around the Apostle Islands to a little resort town called Bayfield on Lake Superior…..

P1030569P1030572

P1030574

Last night we talked to a neighbor who grew up on the Upper Peninsula and he suggested we go to a campground on Lake Superior near the town of Municing….we are here tonight. It is really beautiful…here are a couple of photos

P1030580P1030584

P1030585P1030586P1030587

This is our first time on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan….really pretty .tomorrow we plan to go across the Straights of Mackinac to Mackinaw City….…

Across Montana into North Dakota

This is several days old now but since I have it I will post it and try to catch up in the next post…

After leaving the Canadian Rockies, the province of Alberta becomes a great prairie with wheat fields going on and on. Crossing into Montana the scenery stays the same. We stayed at a campground near the intersection of Interstate 15 and US 2 the first night back in the US…..Shelby, Montana is not a big town but it has the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad going both east/west and north/south plus these two highways….we met a couple who were also on their first big motorhome trip ….they started north of Seattle  and just about went around the US and have been on the road for 4 months….their rig is on the right with the motorcycle

P1030550

We had a beautiful sunset….horse grazing in the field……windmills faintly visible on the horizon …

P1030548

.this couple told us about the Fort Peck Dam and Lake so we went their the next night….this is a very pretty place with grass and  trees located at the base of the Fort Peck dam on the Missouri River….we walked to an Interpretive Center for the amazing story of the building of the dam

The dam was started in 1933 and it took about 4 years to complete. Thousands of men worked on it. It is the largest earthen dam in the world….over 250 feet high and 12,000 feet long….to build it, 4 huge tunnels had to be dug through rock and shale in order to divert the Missouri River. Then material was dredged out of the river bottom and other surrounding areas to make the dam…..millions of cubic yards of material were piled on several million tons of steel support beams driven down as far as 160 feet below the surface of the river to find solid material so as to anchor the beams….President Roosevelt came here in 1936 to make one of his speeches trying to fire up a nation in the depths of the Great Depression.

Here is the campground and a Pontiac circa 1952 (I think)….he had towed in a tiny vintage camper behind it earlier but I missed the shot

IMG_2871 IMG_2867

Here is the dam from the campground below then from above….

IMG_2866IMG_2880

Leaving Fort Peck, continuing east on US 2 the scene changes dramatically as you near  the border of North Dakota…..Williston , ND is the epicenter of the hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) industry in North Dakota….we didn’t take any pictures and I don’t know how to describe it. The city of Williston is exploding…all the highways are inadequate and are under construction…there is no place for all the workers to live…great complexes of modular housing compounds are everywhere….they look like prisons or concentration camps…not pretty. Trucks and tankers line US 2 in both directions….carrying stuff we have never seen before….at one place we saw a line of specially built rigs of the CalFrac company ..each one had the largest diesel engine I could imaging integrated with a giant pump…

….the US Geological Survey along with ND Dept of Natural Resources released a new report and they now believe the oil reserves alone in the Bakken formation of the Williston basin area exceeds 74 Billion Barrels obtainable with current technology……I just read a great piece about this in National Geographic but to see it is amazing……the demand for workers is so great they can’t house them….last night in Minot, ND we stayed at campground that has basically become a “frackers” trailer park….satellite dishes….kids everywhere….this has been a boon for North Dakota……the state has one of the lowest unemployment numbers in the nation and has a surplus of over $1 Billion…

I love Montana…it is really beautiful …golden wheat fields dominate as far as you can see…western North Dakota is not quite the same but after Minot we went to Devil’s Lake for a night  and it changes

Canadian Rockies

Today is Monday, August 19 and we are in Minot, ND for the night…..wanted to post a few photos from the drive through the Canadian Rocky Mountains from Jasper to Banff which we did 3 days ago

The Icefield Parkway runs about 175 miles through the heart of the mountains and the Columbia Icefield…so there are many glaciers as you go…..this is one of the best mountain drives in North America…we camped the night before in a small village called Grande Cache in Alberta…Ronnie was able to get a fire going ….

IMG_2832

We have seen a good selection of wldlife on our trip such as these …

IMG_2829IMG_2858

Around every curve the mountains and glaciers just keep coming….

IMG_2839IMG_2842

P1030516IMG_2851

And  the weeping wall….P1030520

The glaciers really are receding….when I was there with Brad and Kathy  the Athabasca Glacier was much larger, now there is just a lot of dirt and gravel where it was then….still massive though

Our  one  regret was that it went too  fast ……. the park is so crowded that you can’t find campground space….

We are now on the drive back across the US and have decided to drive on US 2…..the first day across Montana was really beautiful…..the “big skies” of Montana are  really big….wheat fields that stretch to the horizon …very few trees….then the wheat fields turned.to hay fields ….beautiful in a very different way

Last night we stayed at a great site below the Fort Peck Dam in eastern Montana….more on that next…

Fjordland cruise to Juneau

Today is Wednesday the 14th and we have pulled in to the campground by the Sikanni River where we stayed on the way up….we left Scagway yesterday heading back out of Alaska. Our trip to Juneau on the Alaska Fjordland was one of the best days we had on the trip so I hope to be able to put in a lot of pictures….no individual captions….not enough time but a little bit about the trip….

The boat is a 65 foot hull, special design for use in the choppy waters of this fjord….the longest and deepest in North America….the owners operated a water taxi service between Scagway and Haines for 12 years and wanted a faster bigger design so it could make the round trip to Juneau in a day. What a wonderful boat…It seats 48 passengers, cruises at 28 knots easily and the slim twin hulls just slice through the water…right out of  Scagway we saw a mother and calf humpback whale and watched them feed for at least half an hour….captain said the calves gain 8 pounds an hour…later on the return we saw a really big hunpback that he estimated to be 40,000 pounds

No way to describe the scenery on the way down and photos don’t do it…the ship stops at Haines for passengers then on about 50 miles or so I guess to a point where we got off north of Junear and got on a bus for the final leg….can’t go directly there from the north ….

Juneau had 5 cruise ships in and the narrator on the bus said that adds about 15,000 people to the small city of about 32,000. …Ronnie and I watched the liner from Holland America dock and our jaws dropped….must be over a 1000 feet long and is way higher than the tallest building in Juneau…..the place was a zoo of people but what fun.

We walked uptown to a really neat bagel and sandwich place then past the Governor’s Mansion and back down to the heart of town…the bus stopped at the Mendenhall Glacier on the way back to our boat

More wildlife on the return….Harbor Seals on rocks and Sea Lions on the buoy…

It got to be very late and the colors turned very soft in the evening….coming into the fishing village of Haines it was just twilight and so beautiful….then on to Scagway….where a cruise ship was making a slow journey south to Juneau …almost dark when we docked about 9PM…..13 hours since we left ….it was a magnificent dayAlaskaFjordlandFjordlandWouldbe captain

Going outScagway out

Haines 2JUnear us

JUnear downtownJunear lunch

Junear gov houseJunear floatplane

Junear allJunear cruise

Lighthouse 2Seals

SeaLions 5Haines

Haines duskTo Juneau

ToJuneau

Tomorrow we head farther south and will probably be in Jasper in a couple days

Skagway, Alaska

A little catching up here…today is Sunday, August 11….we left Valdez on Thursday and drove north to Tok. On Friday we drove from Tok to Haines Junction, Yukon. When you cross the border into Canada the highway turns from good to poor immediately and stays that way for the next 100 miles with dirt, gravel, construction and permafrost heaves…then for the next 100 miles to Haines Junction it improves some but still only fair…this is the worst of all the road we have to drive and from here on the roads are generally pretty good.

We spent Friday night at a campground there…we departed Haines Junction very early Saturday morning for Skagway.  Here is a view in the early morning…

IMG_2671

To get to Skagway, you leave the Alaska Highway a little past Whitehorse and turn south on the Klondike Highway….the scenery keeps getting better as you go..

IMG_2676

We made very good time but had a long wait crossing back into the US….It was a beautiful day and I think  there were a lot of Yukon folks going to Skagway for the day….We waited about 45 minutes to get through

IMG_2685

The sign here is at a very dramatic point…….the drive down the mountain was very intimidating….I am not looking forward to the ride outIMG_2679

the weather here is the best we have had since Fairbanks…sunny and about 70.

One reason for coming to Skagway is to ride the train to White Pass and return on the White Pass and Yukon RR…..on the ride today the tour guide said this 20 mile section of railroad is considered one of the three greatest engineering feats along with the great wall of China

….it is hair raising….Ronnie spent a lot of time studying the wood paneling on the opposite  side of the train

IMG_2715IMG_2728

IMG_2735IMG_2745

This was the bridge across the gorge used until 1969….I can’t imaging going across it ever

IMG_2748IMG_2753

At the top you can catch your breath before the ride back down….there are 5 flags at the top…Alaska, USA, Canada, Yukon and British Columbia

IMG_2758IMG_2764IMG_2775IMG_2767

The horizontal gash is the rail line and toward the left side of the picture is one of the bridges

IMG_2779IMG_2795

This ride is a must if you get to Skagway….tomorrow we are going on a long boat cruise to Juneau and back….more later

Cruise on the Lu-Lu Belle at Valdez, Alaska

Yesterday we took a cruise on a beautiful smaller boat to see the Columbia Glacier……on the way saw some great marine life…I made a small slideshow below….the morning started very foggy but gradually cleared some…we saw a big group of Sea Otters on the way out called a “raft”……all of them floating on their backs…the captain pulled his ship right into three different caves so we could see the Puffin nesting on the ledges…

The Sea Lions were really fun to see….they were so curious, several swimming up close to the boat to look at us…very noisy, honking and barking…

Then the glacier…really hard to get any perspective on it’s massive size but the captain said he measured the height of the face last year using a sextant and it is about 300 feet above the water….we were amazed that he could negotiate through the huge chunks of ice to within 1/4 mile of the face…the temperature there was in the 30′s…..we stayed there for about an hour and got to see some very large pieces fall into the ocean….it makes a huge bang and the waves created are enormous..

We passed some fishing ships and on the way back passed the Aurora which is the Alaska Marine Highway ship that  mostly ferries between here and Whittier….

Also got a good look at the Terminal for the pipeline….it was closed to visitors after 9/11/2001…too bad…..it must be something to see on a tour…. the 18  tanks on top are 62 feet high and 250 feet in diameter,… each holding 500,000 barrels. The terminal ships about 650,000 barrels a day now down from nearly 2,000,000 a day at the peak….one tanker holds about a million barrels

The folks at the campground told us about the bunnies….a man had some in a pen about 20 years ago and when he died his daughter released them….they seem to be thriving….there must be hundreds of them all over the city…the residents feed them to help them through the winters…..average annual snowfall in Valdez is in the 30 to 40 FOOT. range…400 to 500 inches….when the city was moved and rebuilt after the earthquake they left  many places throughout the city open …..that’s where the snow get’s piled in winter.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.