Travel Tales from the Alaskan Road

We intentionally chose Glennallen this summer because of its central location, despite many people saying it was “the most boring place in Alaska.”  Well, we have absolutely not found that to be the case, instead I would say everyone passes through Glennallen eventually because of it’s central location.  Not only has that given us the opportunity to see friends as they toured Alaska, but it has also allowed us to meet some really cool people.  These meetings are often brief, but always impactfull, so at the beginning of the summer I started keeping notes on some of my favorites.  Since our time here is coming to a close, I thought now would be the best time to share these little encounters with you.

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Map of Glennallen showing it’s location to other major cities. Ignore the hour marker I wasn’t really sure how to get rid of that. 

The first couple that I met that made me start writing these down was a Finnish couple that spoke only a few words of English.  I got to see them three times, because they kept stopping back in as they traveled around.  We largely communicated through pantomime, try explaining shower tokens with no words, but I must have done OK though because they always had huge smiles when they saw me.  I think they were brother and sister, but honestly I am not 100% sure and I will say I was worried about them.  I mean seriously, who turned them loose on Alaska with no English?  But they did great, and from what I could gather really got to see some cool things.  I didn’t always take a picture of the people I met, but in this case I did take a picture and I will always remember them when I think of my summer in Alaska.

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The Finnish Couple

The next frequent visitors were Arnaud and Cyril from France.  They are adventurers who were hiking/paddling across Alaska.  Their blog is really interesting as they spent a significant amount of time going remote places I will never see and the courage and spirit of these two young men was inspiring.

https://facebook.com/greatnorthsurfexpedition

Arnaud and Cyril (Got these pictures from Facebook).  Here’s there blog info.  It does translate into English.  https://www.pureslo.fr/blogs/blog/172042567-great-north-surf-expedition-n-1

Arnaud

Cyril

 

Again I was pretty worried about these guys, but they seemed to have it together and they ended up calling Northern Nights “their home away from home” which was very sweet.  I may have mothered them a bit!

Not all of the encounters were that personal though, and some were very short.  There was a young couple biking their way across Alaska with a two year old in tow.  Yes, you read that right, a two year old.  He was in one of those baby bike carriers and I have absolutely no idea how they were making that work.  I wanted to go up and talk to them about it, but finally decided I just couldn’t ask the questions without letting out that I thought they were nuts so I let it pass.  Amazing though, really.

I also briefly met a couple who came from Seward where they had hit and killed a mother and baby moose that were lying in the road.  These folks were really shaken by the experience and I checked them in as efficiently as possible.  You could tell the husband was just sick about the whole thing and the accident had completely destroyed their drive shaft so they had to wait in Seward three extra days while it was repaired.  Later when I mentioned it to Kelly and Bill’s boss he said that had happened right down the road from their campground and that sort of thing happens more often than you would think.  Really sad.

There were lots of people who had major mechanical problems in Glennallen.  We are right after the Tok-Cutoff which this year was hands down the worst stretch of major road in Alaska.  Sections of the road required pilot cars and/or going 15-20 miles per hour and we many people who stopped in our campground had to have major repairs.  EGM is a repair place down the road and they sent many people to us, and I have to say almost everyone who had a problem just said it could have been a lot worse.  We saw three rigs whose tow apparatus broke and their tow vehicles went into ditches, multiple cases of structural damage to rigs, a broken radiator on a Class A that took 5 days to replace, and more broken windows than I could keep count of.  Yet in almost every case, the people made lemonade and again were super grateful they were safe and in a place as nice as ours until the repairs were done.

The people I got to know the best this summer were Sue and Jonathon.  She is from South Korea and teaches English online, and Jonathon, originally from Wyoming, met her there.  She lived in Seoul her entire life and never drove a car, and self admittedly used the Travel Channel to see the world. But after her mom died he talked her into this great adventure, and now they are full timing in a very nice tent.  Sue and I hit it off right away, and I had to show her how many other RV fulltimers lived.  We became Facebook friends and now I can keep up with their travels.   They aren’t interested in buying a rig because they plan to travel internationally as well, so the tent will work wherever they go.  I just was super impressed about the whole thing.  When I think about how much angst I went through to full time in my 400 square foot “luxury apartment on wheels”  versus her just jumping in, and in a tent no less…well lets just say I feel a little whiney. So very glad I got to meet them and hope we get to see each other again in the future.

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Jonathon and Sue

Most of the people were quick little moments, but the personalities of the people made enough of an impact that I wrote them down.  An example was Kathy Swenson who ran the Iditarod several times, and was one of the first women mushers.  I googled her after we chatted and found this article about her and her husband. She freely shared that she broke her collar bone while racing in  Europe 2 months after giving birth to her fourth child, and shortly thereafter her husband divorced her.  He left her with 4 kids and 150 dogs and she raised them largely on her own.  She was talking about writing a book, and in the short time I talked to her I absolutely encouraged her to do so.  Talk about a pioneer woman.

Kathy was only one of the very interesting locals I met here.  There was Kasey and Jay, a couple from Oklahoma who had moved to Alaska.  They were camping for the weekend and brought 8 baby chicks in their rig.  Apparently the chickens had just hatched and they couldn’t be left alone, so Kasey brought them and their heat lamp along.

My favorite local person though was Bob Tubbs, a young man who helps out around the campground with propane, welding etc.  He, his wife, and three kids live on 10 acres of land and are working towards “complete independence”.  He works for the forest service, as needed, driving a fuel truck for helicopters.  As he said, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to drive fuel into a fire area, but that’s what he does.   When they call he is gone for many days but is fairly compensated for it.  He worked 11 days while we were here on the Tok cutoff fire and made close to $7K.  In my mind he deserved every penny.  He and his wife have a large garden, she cans, they have egg laying chickens (they sell the excess) and next year he is adding a barn with goats and pigs.  Since milk costs $6 a gallon up here and they go through a gallon every other day, goat’s milk is an economic alternative.  Plus they are going to raise batches of meat chickens and every year he fishes his salmon limit and kills  1 moose and 3 caribou as well as lots of other game to stock his 4 freezers. He and is wife are truly are pioneers and I have a lot of respect for what they are doing. Plus he gave us a nice piece of salmon and some moose meat.  He even explained to us how to cook it.  Really nice young man.

My absolute favorite part of the summer though has been all of the international guests.  Most of these encounters are brief, but I have had the opportunity to meet people from Canada, England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Amsterdam, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Israel, Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Brazil, Spain, Vietnam, and China.  I have been the most excited about meeting the people from China, because it is a dream of mine to go there one day, and they have all been extremely polite and very excited to be here.

So many wonderful people, but a few stick out.  There was the London couple who spend 6 months a year in the US and leave their rig in Louisiana when back home.  They are like our Canadian friends who snowbird except from England.  They have been doing it since 2003 and started when they were 42 and 43 years old.  Also, there was the family from China who had their 6 year old translate for them.  Her English was excellent (she attends English school every day) and she was polite, smart, and cute as a button.

Even Lee had a few moments, although he didn’t meet nearly as many people as I did, but one day while he was covering for my lunch he checked in Joachim and Christine Laute .  They were from Germany and had limited English, but Lee busted out his high school German and talked to them some.  Turns out they grew up in East Germany and were 20 when the wall was raised.  Their family wasn’t separated so they stayed where they were and lived their life in in East Germany.  She was a math teacher and he was a bus driver,  and they weren’t very political, so that was just their life.  Then the wall came down in the 80’s it took the 2 years (yes you read that right) for them to truly believe it.  They knew Reagan had come, but they didn’t even try to cross into West Germany, because they thought it was a trick.  Now in their late 60’s they are exploring Alaska and are very happy to do so.  What dramatic changes they have experienced in their lives.

I am not saying every person has been nice of course, but honestly the cranky ones were few and far between, and usually had good cause.  There were so many moments that I can’t possibly relay them all, so let me just leave you with one very special day.  Recently we had a caravan of 12 New Zealand couples who came through in rentals, and boy, were they fun. The rest of the park was filled with two RV’s from British Columbia, two couples from China, a solo Australian on a motorcycle, and a young couple who spoke very little English from Thailand.  There wasn’t one American in the park that particular day and I felt like I worked in the UN.   Showing those folks that Americans are welcoming and friendly and glad to have them here in the US was really fun, and made me feel great about how I spent my summer.  It was an unexpected bonus to working here in Glennallen this summer and I am very glad I got to experience it.


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First Time in Seward

First time in Seward.  First time having a sleepover in someone else’s rig,  First time for Lee having a birthday in Alaska.  First time on the Kenai peninsula.  There were many possible first times for this post but I decided to stick with my favorite part of the day, which happened in Seward, but that is at the very end. Oh, and grab a cup of something, because this is a long one!  Lee and I packed up the truck and got out pretty early on Saturday, his birthday.  We knew we had a couple of stops we wanted to make, and also new roads to explore, so we told Kelly and Bill we would absolutely make it to their place by dinner, but weren’t sure exactly what time.  Several weeks prior Kelly and Bill (or B/K for short) had offered to allow us to sleep over at their rig, so we wouldn’t have to pack ours up or pay for a place to stay in the Kenai.  It was an incredibly generous offer, and Lee for the first time ever agreed to stay at their place.

Lee has never been a huge fan of sleeping in other people’s houses, and I can probably count on less than two hands the amount of times he has done it since we have been married.  Staying over in a rig is even tougher, because you are cramming four people into a 400 sq ft foot space, but Kelly said she and Bill loved to have people stay with them and it’s one of the things she misses from living in her sticks and bricks house.  So we accepted with gratitude and off we went with a truck full of stuff to stay with them.  The day started out really great with our first ever baby moose sighting.  It was kind of sad since the mother was nowhere in sight, but I was really glad I got to see a juvenile somewhat close up.

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Our next stop was a sort-of “favor” for another friend of ours, Deb and Steve.  They had bought a Bigfoot trackable geocache item and it had made its way to pretty close to us in Alaska. Trackables have a unique number, and their own webpage, so the originator can watch them travel around the globe.  Cool concept, but sometimes they can get lost, or stuck in a place. This one hadn’t moved for a while so Deb told us about it, and thought it would be cool if we picked it up.  We do geocaching on occasion (Steve and Deb just broke 1,000 caches found) and Lee likes it, so I thought “sure, why not, quick side trip, we grab it and move it along”.  This is where the story gets funny.  I love Deb to pieces, and she is an incredibly low maintenance kind of friend, but every time  she really wants something (which is an extremely rare occurrence) I end up doing something incredibly physical. Because of her I have climbed to the top of a large hill in the Arizona desert and I have climbed to a glacier lake in Glacier National Park.  So really I should have known that no way would this simple request be so simple.

We found the road off HWY 1 and using the geocaching app navigated numerous side streets until the road hit a dead-end.  Let me show you what happened from here with pictures…

Dead end road

Dead end road

Do we take the left or right?

Do we take the left or right?

We went left

We went left.

After walking for some time (and reading the clues) we realized we had missed the path, so we went back up the road and saw an unmarked trail.

Following the unmarked trail

Following the unmarked trail

Saw this sign

Saw this sign

Cool mushrooms along the way I had never seen before

Cool mushrooms along the way I had never seen before

The grass got very high

The grass got very high

And became less and less of a path

And became less and less of a path

You really don't want to see this many berries when you are in tall grass in Alaska. At this point I was fondly thinking of my bear horn which was of course back in the truck

You really don’t want to see this many berries when you are in tall grass in Alaska. At this point I was fondly thinking of my bear horn which was of course back in the truck

We finally stopped at this beautiful visit

We finally stopped at this beautiful vista.

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Lee realized that somehow we had gone to far

Lee realized that somehow we had gone too far

So we headed back following the GPS directions

So we headed back, following the GPS directions

Which led us climbing a hill in very thick brush

Which led us climbing a hill in very thick brush

Oh did I mention these giant sticker leaves can cause blisters on unprotected skin

Oh did I mention these giant sticker leaves can cause blisters on unprotected skin

About the time I had completely lost my sense of humor about the whole thing we found another path. As a side note scroll up to the pic right before the trail sign and see where Lee was standing. That is where this unmarked path started

About the time I had completely lost my sense of humor about the whole thing we found another path. As a side note scroll up to the pic right before the trail sign and see where Lee was standing. That is where this unmarked path started

Lee was victorious

Lee was victorious

And we retrieved the trackable

And we retrieved the trackable

Ok so Lee was happy, but I was still not over the wooded hill climb, and sorry Deb, I was not feeling very charitable towards you at that moment, but then as we wandered down the trail to return to the truck, the most amazing thing happened.  I should say that these adventures Deb gets me to do always end well.  I end up doing or seeing something very cool.  We met a young rock hound playing guitar on that hill in Arizona and in Glacier we went on a hike through dense brush singing ACDC at the tops of our voices to keep bears away.  This time was no different.  We turned a corner and there was a geocacher named Ken in the woods.  Turns out he just hit his 1300th cache and was a member of the Alaska geocaching group.  When we mentioned the bigfoot he laughed and pulled an identical one out of his bag.  I mean seriously, what are the odds?  Super nice guy, we had a great time talking to him, and he even gave us these cool pins that say AlaskaKen on them.  Loved it, and what a lovely birthday suprise for Lee.  So alright Deb, once again you were right, but that doesn’t mean I have to like these little adventures!

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Seriously what are the odds?

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Very cool pins

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This sign would been helpful at the beginning of the path!!

Needless to say, the quick detour took longer than we expected, so we were eating into our time pretty quickly.  We stopped in Palmer for some McDonald’s, and a quick stop at the grocery store (Kelly provided the meat for two dinners and we brought all the sides and dessert) and then it was onto Anchorage.  The drive through Anchorage was a bit tedious, but we made good time, and finally we were on a road we had never been on before.  I knew from some research that the road into Kenai wound through a bay, but was unprepared for how beautiful the landscape was.  The water in the bay was mostly out, and it was cloudy, but it was still stunning. We even stopped and did a quick geocache along the way.y698

 

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Water, mountains, and even a beautiful glacier

Water, mountains, and even a beautiful glacier

For scale see the tiny houses in the front

For scale see the tiny houses in the front

I do have to say that I have done a pretty good job of giving the names of glaciers as we run across them, but when we hit the Kenai we saw so many that this became difficult.  We saw between 8-10 in the weekend we were there and each glacier is unique and utterly beautiful in it’s own way.  I’ll do the best I can to match up the close up and wide shots of the same glaciers, but I cry uncle on naming them all.

We stopped several times long the way, but finally reached Kelly and Bill, well in time for dinner.  They are working at a really great park called Renfro’s Lakeside Retreat which has 8 VERY nice cabins and a small 8 space RV park.  Before dinner we took a quick tour, and it really is a special place.  The cabins are great and the bath house is outstanding with a beautiful shower with no timer and lots of hot water.  Seriously, we loved that shower. After the tour Kelly finished prepping dinner and we had some amazing ribs.  We also had a chance to eat with their boss Gary in the party house and had a really good time.

The party house and office

The party house and office

All guests have access to the full kitchen

All guests have access to the full kitchen

Kelly's view includes Mother Goose Glacier (which is on the top of the mountain covered by a cloud. What a view

Kelly’s view includes Mother Goose Glacier (which is on the top of the mountain covered by a cloud. What a view

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Kelly’s flowers are doing great

They can use any of the boats on the lakje

They can use any of the boats on the lake

One of the smaller cabins

One of the smaller cabins

Really nice inside

Really nice inside

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Did I mention we loved the shower. Look at the smile on Lee's face

Did I mention we loved the shower?

Dinner was fantastic

Dinner was fantastic

Lee, Gary, Kelly, and Bill

Lee, Gary, Kelly, and Bill

After cleaning up we weren’t done yet and finally we got to Seward.  One of the nice things about the sun not setting until 10:30pm is you can really get a lot out of a day, and we went down into town and took the whirlwind tour.  I absolutely loved Seward.  It is by far my favorite port town we have been to, and I can’t wait to go back and spend some more time there.

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Boatyards really lend themselves to black and white photos

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Cute guys cleaning fish

Cute guys cleaning fish

So much fish!!

So much fish!!

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One of the coolest things about the town was all the places to stop and take a picture and everyone got into the action, even Lee without needing prompting.

Loved this one!! Look what Kelly caught

Loved this one!! Look what Kelly caught

Lee carrying on the licking stuff tradition

Lee carrying on Greg’s “licking stuff” tradition

Lee loves these Before I die boards

Lee loves these Before I die boards

He wrote "Do All The Things"

He wrote “Do All The Things”

 

 

We saw where Seward landed

We saw where Seward landed

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Mile 0 of the Iderand race

Mile 0 of the Iditarod race

And this great campground with ocean views (all dry camping $20 a night

And this great campground with ocean views (all dry camping $20 a night

But the very best thing we saw was our first wild sea otter, eating a huge piece of halibut.  It hung out near the dock and ripped into the fish, periodically letting it drop, then taking a deep breath, and going down after it.  He was putting on quite a show and we loved every minute of it.  So we started the day off with a moose, and ended with an otter.  I’d say that’s a pretty good birthday for Lee.

The fish was as long as him

The fish was as long as him

Look at those teeth!!

Look at those teeth!!

Diving!

Diving!

He even played for us a bit between fish bites

He even played for us a bit between fish bites

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So so cool and you should definitely check out Lee’s video.  

And all that was only the first day of our three day weekend.  Next up: Whittier and Lee’s birthday train ride!


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First Time in Fairbanks

After the North Pole we were both pretty tired, but I got some exciting news from my Mom.  My Grandfather had decided to give all of his grandchildren a cash gift. First off, this is incredibly cool.  As the oldest of many grandchildren I know that as much as it means to me, it means even more to the younger grand kids and since he and my grandmother were full timers for 3 years (and in no small part why I had the courage to do this) it made it very special.  About a year ago he had done something similar and since I wasn’t working at the time I put the money directly into our general fund.  I thought they would appreciate helping fund the lifestyle.  This time though I decided to treat myself a little, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

For those of you who have been following along for a while you know how much I love wood, and in our travels I have seen many pieces done by the The Great Alaskan Bowl Company. When I discovered the workshop was in Fairbanks, I knew I had to visit it, but thought this would be another trip, like many others, to wood stores where I browsed, admired, but couldn’t afford to purchase.  Really good wood pieces are expensive, but since I consider them functional art  I totally think they are worth it.  They just weren’t in my budget.  So here we were less than an hour away and I got the news.  OK, things just got serious! So we went inside and ooohed and aaahed over the wood.  The staff was great and they allowed me to buy a packaged salad bowl set but I got to hand select whatever bowls I wanted.  Lee and I spent a significant amount of time mixing and matching (Lee cares because he makes a mean Caesar salad) and finally found our set!

The woodshop from the outisde

The workshop from the outside

They sells the remaining peices of birch as planters after the bowls come out. Love that

They sells the remaining pieces of birch as planters after the bowls come out. Love that

So cool and only $10 each or two for %15

So cool and only $10 each or two for %15

Loved the heart shaped bowls but Lee said he couldn't toss a salad in them

Loved the heart shaped bowls but Lee said he couldn’t make a salad in them

This $4300 set was so amazing. All cut from one piece of burl

This $4300 set was so amazing. All cut from one piece of burl

Wonderful customer service!

Wonderful customer service!

See how red my face was. I was excited and not used to splurging like this even in my old life

See how red my face was. I was excited and not used to splurging like this even in my old life

Voila!! Can't really see how cool they are, but I absolutely love them

Voila!! Can’t really see how cool they are from a picture but I absolutely love them.  Thanks Grandpa!!

Afterwards we decided to complete the splurge day and eat at a Chinese Buffet and see a movie.  In the lower 48 this would not be considered a splurge but at $16.50 each for the buffet and then $19.50 each for the movie it definitely was.  The Star Trek movie was great and the 3D IMAX theater was awesome, but really, $19.50 for a movie?? Because Alaska.

Afterwards we went back to our hotel room, Hampton Suites, and just relaxed.  I used the very last of my hotel points for the room and I have to say I felt a little sad.  I spent a ton of my time in hotel rooms over the last 10 years and as much as work travel can be a pain in the butt, having a hotel room all to yourself isn’t that awful.  I kind of miss someone else making my bed and I know I miss the bathtub.  Oh yes, I made sure I had a room with a tub, and for the first time in almost a year I took a long hot bath.  It was really nice.  Not worth giving the lifestyle up for, but really nice. And sure, I remembered how stressful it could all be, and tiring, but as the mother of three teenage daughters some of those weeks away were a godsend.  Just being honest and I am sure they appreciated the breaks as much as I did.

It also brought home the fact that from an employment standpoint my life had definitely changed.  These moments of nostalgia do happen from time to time and rather than fight against them I just own it.  Despite the difficulties I have been having getting used to a different type of employment, I have not regretted my decision to leave my former company at all.  I do miss certain things associated with the work though and apparently staying in hotels is one of them.  Go figure.

Pretty nice Hampton Inn

Pretty nice Hampton Inn

The next morning we slept in a bit because after researching how long the trip to the Arctic Circle would be (13 hours roundtrip from Fairbanks, and then another 5 back to Glennallen), Lee decided that was just too much.  I agree, because although we are willing to do 12 hour days in the car, an 18 hour day is just too much for us.  Instead we decided to go see the Museum of the North in Fairbanks which I had heard wonderful things about so we packed up and headed that way.  When we were almost there though we smelled a strange burning smell like brake pads, and saw white smoke coming from the right side-wheel well. We pulled over right away and Lee checked things out. A very nice Alaskan also stopped to check on us, but we just weren’t sure what had caused it.  As soon as we stopped the smoke and the smell were gone. I found some green liquid inside the wheel well, Lee was concerned that the caliper on the brakes might be sticking, and of course thoughts of engine failure were going through my head.  We decided to forgo the museum and drive towards the Ford dealership. I will say that this really shows how much we have changed with this lifestyle.  There was a time when we would have done what we wanted and damn the consequences, but that isn’t us anymore.

To be fair we have also had some pretty horrible examples to learn from this year.  We are right off the Tok cutoff and have seen multiple rigs coming through with major, catastrophic mechanical issues that end up staying with us.  The Class A’s seem to be getting the worst of it with two TOAD hitches breaking on the road (in both cases the tow vehicles went into ditches and didn’t harm anyone),  a blown radiator (the part took a week to get in), and in one case a Class A where the toad caught on fire and ended up burning the entire rig to the ground.  Thank God no one was hurt in that one.  Trailers have had their share of issues too, and we have seen many with busted springs or broken under carriages.  There is a reason a town of under 1,000 people have more than one full-time welder living here.  In every case the person with the incident universally said, thank heavens I was close to somewhere I could get help, because we all know there are stretches of highway where there are no services or cell phone coverage, and a breakdown in one of these areas could be much more serious.

With those incidences in mind we drove the 13 miles to the dealer, which was indeed closed, and then decided to drive to the next Ford dealership in Wasilla which was sort of in the wrong direction.  Even though it would add two hours to our overall drive we knew the road was heavily traveled (relatively) and if there was an issue, that Ford dealership was open until 8pm.  This route was actually taking us on the other side of Denali and we knew those roads were in better conditions and in general had better cell coverage as well.

Really neat cloud formation

Really neat cloud formation, just had to stop and take a picture

Since we were driving right by it, we decided to go ahead and stop at the Denali Visitors Center, which we missed last time.  Lee liked it, but I was pretty disappointed.  I have definitely seen better and the gift shop was really disappointing, probably for the best since I had already spent so much in Fairbanks and the North Pole.   We also stopped at a couple of the local gift stores in town and I picked up a 30% club (for seeing Mt. Denali) T-Shirt.  But it was a pretty brief stop and then we continued the long ride towards home.

Gift SHop

Gift Shop

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After we left Denali it started raining and didn’t stop until we got home.  Lee got pretty tired after we hit Wasilla (still no truck issue so we kept going) and I took over in Palmer.  We believe the issue is related to the AC since the air conditioner is now not working.  Perhaps a coolant leak of some kind in the compressor.  We didn’t have the AC on when the incident occured and I didn’t catch the fact it wasn’t working until a couple of days later.  AC is not needed much up here – Lee

I had never driven that section, and in the rain (and sometimes fog) it was pretty tough.  Lots of curves, wet pavement, I really had to pay attention.  We did have lots of time to listen to Podcasts though, and since I am newly a fan I wanted to take a moment to explain them. Podcasts are internet audio programs that you can download, and there are tons to choose from.  They are way less heavy on data use than streaming a TV show or movie and are fun to listen to in the car.  Lee started by downloading many of them of NPR, but there are other shows that famous people do via their websites.  You can subscribe to them and they will automatically download to your phone when there’s a new episode, or you can choose to manually download them instead. There are thousands out there, and truly something for everyone. My recommendation is to just do a search on your phone on your computer for top 100 podcasts, and start browsing. My favorite’s are: More Perfect, Dear Frank and John, Still Untitled, Invisibilia, Freakonomics Radio, Hardcore History, Radio Lab, The Moth, This American Life, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me- Lee  t

The only good thing about the drive and me being hyper aware is I saw a beautiful female moose.  She was on the other side of the road and I was VERY tempted to get out and take some closer pics, but really that is not a good idea.  Still, any day that includes a moose sighting is a decent one, and despite the many hours in the car, I was glad we took the cautious approach and for once took the road more traveled!

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First Time at North Pole

Ok we didn’t go to THE North Pole, but we did go to North Pole, Alaska, and since that is probably the closest I will ever get to the real thing  I am using it for this blog post title.    It’s been a busy week here at the Glennallen campground so let me catch you up a bit before we move on to our North Pole adventure.

We were tired when we got back from Denali, and of course we were jammed pack on Monday our first day back. We are starting to get both traffic leaving Alaska and people coming in at the same time, which has definitely boosted our occupation numbers and we also got our annual visit from Good Sam.  These rating visits are unscheduled, so they really do see you for what you are and I am happy to see we got a big jump in the scoring.  Last year the campground rated 5.5/9.5/9 and this year we jumped to 7/9.5/9.  This jump is in no small part to this summer’s efforts  and I was particularly pleased to see the Site Attractiveness category raise from a .5 to a 1, which is the highest score. They specifically mentioned the new paint and new signs and this made both of us very happy. Also they specifically mentioned the Lend a Book and Lend a Movie programs which helped raise our entertainment score from a .5 to a 1. It really is a very nice little campground, and it’s been fun being a part of improving it.

We also had a visit from Les and Sue (Big Boomer on the RV-Dreams forum) who have been touring Alaska all summer and finally got to us on their way home.  I offered to cook dinner, but Sue wouldn’t have any of that and brought us a complete meal including amazing halibut Les caught, vegetables, and a salad.  She even brought utensils, plates, silverware, everything so I wouldn’t have to do a thing.  So amazing and we had a wonderful visit with them and I really enjoyed getting to know them better.  We last saw them in Quartzsite in the desert and here we were sharing halibut in Alaska.  The RV-Dreams family is really a wonderful thing.

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Sue and Lee are totally agreeing with each other

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Les cooking up some amazing halibut

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They were huge pieces and so yummy

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The rice and veggies were great also. Did I mention I didn’t have to do one thing 🙂

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Well I did contribute dessert. Huckleberry Tilamook ice cream with hand-picked raspberries and blueberries

 

I also spent some time this week trying to figure out the best way to create an Ebook and publish it.  One of my goals for this summer was to try to write a recipe book for full-time RVers and before I started formatting I wanted to make sure I knew what was needed.   People talk about publishing books like it’s easy, but I have to say the technical aspects are pretty intimidating.  I finally found a website called  Blurb and downloaded their free tool.  Have no idea how this is going to work out yet, but at least I found a starting place.  I realized his week we are half way through our stint here and I had better get started.

And I signed up for our absentee ballot.  This was so very easy and that makes me super happy.  When we setup our mail service in Green Cove Springs, Florida we also went to the voter registrars office and registered to vote.  I received a voting card in the mail this week that had a phone number on it to call for an absentee ballot.  I just assumed I would have some sort of issue, but it was super easy.  I called and the very nice lady at the registrar’s office took Lee and I’s information over the phone and they are sending me the ballot.  How cool is that.  I have never missed a major election cycle since I came of age, so I was not looking forward to the prospect of missing my opportunity to vote.  Especially not in this election.  It was a very positive and easy experience so I thought I should mention that.

This week we also got some much-needed rain to help fight several fires that were started by lightning last week. I have been incredibly  impressed by how capably the Forest service is handling multiple fires spread across a huge territory.  I have been following their progress closely through a wonderful blog the forest service writes called  AK Fire Info.  The forest service gives daily updates on all the fires and more frequent updates on the fires that are threatening property.  They  also conduct public meetings when the fires get to a certain point to keep the public notified.  Most impressively they move crews and equipment around as needed and their efficient use of limited resources based on necessity is extremely impressive.   I also think it’s important that in some cases they let fires run their course.  AS we have learned on the road fires are an important part of the ecological process and overzealous fire fighting can cause significant damage to the natural habitat and wildlife.  We have been very lucky to have several pilots and other members of the team stay with us in our cabins the last few weeks and I am a huge fan of them both as people and for what they do.

The rain not only helped the fires but also helped our business as many people decided to hunker down for a few days and we are a nice place to do that.  We even were completely full for the first time we have been working and it was a very busy week.  So we were both a little tired on Saturday, and we got a later start than we normally do.  We were heading up to Fairbanks for an overnight, but had several stops planned along the way.  Although it was supposed to rain all weekend in Glennallen, the Fairbanks forecast was a little better and we were hoping we could get some nice pictures. It started out great too as we took a wonderful shot of Mt. Drum from a different angle than we normally see it.

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Mt. Drum

Next we stopped at the Meiers Lake Roadhouse to drop off some fliers. The campgrounds here often reciprocate having flyers in each other’s locations, but I like to visit the sites when possible and judge for myself.  The owners used to hunt in the area and bought the business in “retirement” (if you can call 14 hour days retirement) and are running it with their daughter, son, and son-in-law.  It really is in a great spot on a cool lake, but it needs a ton of work still.  One of my favorite parts though that is absolutely worth seeing is the on site Alaska Museum which was a private collection of a local and was donated to the roadhouse years ago as a museum.  It had some incredibly cool stuff and I really enjoyed looking at it.

Meiers Roadhouse

Meiers Roadhouse

Meiers Lake

Meiers Lake

Her husband shot this grizzly close by and always loved the area

Her husband shot this grizzly close by and always loved the area.  I found out that the “meat was blue when they ate it and delicious”…way better than bears who eat fish apparently those taste nasty.  Yes these are the kind of conversations you find yourself having in Alaska.  Truly surreal.

The museum

The museum

The first picture I have seen of Sarah Palin anywherfe

The first picture I have seen of Sarah Palin anywherfe

This was really neat and antigue papoose

This was really neat a metal baby carrier

Loved, loved these

Loved, loved these

Not sure how the gold miners could fit in this tub. They all most have been really skinny

Not sure how the gold miners could fit in this tub. They all most have been really skinny

After Paxton, the next section of the drive was really pretty.  We saw the most amazing views at Summit Lake and Lee went on a side road between MM 197 and 198 and we saw the most amazing campgrounds and the Gulkana Glacier. Apparently the Arctic Man snowmobile race takes place there every spring, which is probably why the road is in such great shape. That being said Lee kept going further and further in and the road kept getting worse and worse until we were finally driving on what I thought was creek bed.  At that point I made him turn around.  Yes I know I am no fun.

Right after the turn off onto the back road

A little rig porn 🙂

Monument for road builder. See lots of those here which makes sense when you know what these folks had to go through to get the roads built

Monument for road builder. See lots of those here which makes sense when you know what these folks had to go through to get the roads built

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The views were spectacular

The 360 degree views were spectacular

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The road when it was pretty good

The road when it was pretty good

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Close-up of the Gulkana Glacier

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The colors were amazing

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What’s left when they recede is pretty interesting to me

 

And we finally got a close up view of the pipeline.  There is a nice pull-over spot where you can walk right up to it and Lee got pretty excited and actually asked to have his picture taken.  That’s a rarity.

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It’s pretty tall

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With big bolts lol

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I loved the sign…was tempted but this is not something you want to mess around with

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We were definitely on a roll and when we went through DElta Junction we saw they had a farmer’s market going on so we stopped there as well.  I got a present for my nephew and bought some beautiful home-made rolls.  That town reminded me quite a bit of Vermont.

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So it was a fun drive with relatively good weather and we hadn’t even gotten to the best part yet.  I got an email from a reader Carole who is both a full-time rver and fellow Ohian.  She grew up in Westerville, Ohio, (which is where Lee’s dad lives) and we were all in Columbus area high schools during the same time period. Carole and her husband (retired police officer Scott) have been fulltiming for the past year in a conversion van.  Yep, a conversion van and although I had read about folks doing this I had never actually met one.  They wintered last year by house sitting in Seattle and this summer flew to Alaska (to save miles on their vehicle) and are camphosting at Birch Lake Recreation Park.  The receive a free dry (no water) cabin, a small subsidy, and access to a state vehicle for local errands, and amazing lake views including a resident moose who comes and hangs out in the water when it’s quiet.

Really cute cabin

Really cute cabin

Propane fridge and wood stove

Propane fridge and wood stove

The back porch

The back porch

and a few steps away is this amazing view

and a few steps away is this amazing view

Ever meet people and feel you have known them forever?  Well that’s how it was with Carole and Scott.  Maybe it’s because we are from the same place and roughly the same age, but we jumped right into conversation as if we were lifetime friends.  I really really enjoyed talking to them and will enjoy following their travels on Facebook since we are friends now!

A Midwestern spread. I don't even know where she found the sausage and grapes but it was yummy

A Midwestern spread. I don’t  know where she found the sausage and grapes but it was yummy

Scott and Carole

Scott and Carole

After leaving we finally reached North Pole, Alaska which is where I started this post lol.  What can I say other than I totally loved it.  I also went a little crazy, spending more money there than anywhere else we had been, but I just had to buy my kids, brother, and sister a North Pole Christmas ornament!  It was a ton of fun and I absolutely recommend a stop.

All the street names are Santa related and the lightpoles are striped or have candy canes on them

All the street names are Santa related and the lightpoles are striped or have candy canes on them

Giant Santa Statue

Giant Santa Statue

Lee thought the Santa Statue had creepy eyes :)

Lee thought the Santa Statue had creepy eyes 🙂

WE didn't go in the Reindeer farm because we just saw reindeer.

We didn’t go in the Reindeer farm because we just saw reindeer. There was an RV park back there as well, and ample RV parking near the workshop

Santa's House

Santa’s House

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Amazing inside.

Amazing inside.

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They had some very neat toys

They had some very neat toys

And Santa even came out and talked to everyone for awhile

And Santa even came out and talked to everyone for a while

Some things in life are exactly what you think they will be, and Santa’s House was definitely like that!!  Next up…First Time in Fairbanks.


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First Time in Valdez

I covered the first 3/4 of the road to Valdez in my previous post First Time Walking on a Glacier so I won’t cover the first part of the journey again, but I will say that every drive is different depending on the light and the clouds and how much water has melted.  The last 40 miles of the trip which was all new territory was absolutely amazing and definitely proved that this Highway deserves its designation as one of the most beautiful in America.  It was cloudy going down and over Thompson Pass, but it was clear that the views on a clear day would be spectacular.  Along with just seeing Valdez we also had a mission, to visit the campgrounds in the area and see which one would be best to stay at for my birthday.  Kellie, Bill, Jo, and Ben will all be here and since we have booked a Glacier cruise in Valdez for one of the four days we are taking off, we all thought it would be best to stay close to Valdez.  Plus I figure by that point I will want a change of scenery, so I had a list of campgrounds to check out along the way.  

The first one is called Blueberry Lake and is a first come, first serve dry campground that costs $15 a night.  The sits were well spaced and the views would be spectacular, but they only had a few sites that would fit our and Bill/Kelly’s rig.  Since it was first-come, first-serve we regretfully had to pass but I would absolutely recommend staying here if you are passing through the area and it has space.  It is buggy though because of the dense foliage so definitely come prepared. 

The views from Thompson Pass

The views from Thompson Pass

Blueberry lake campsite

Blueberry lake campsite

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Blueberry Lake

Next up was Keystone Pass which I was really looking forward to.  I had been told that two major waterfalls were right off the road, but no description prepared me for the sheer majesty of these falls.  I absolutely loved both of them and particularly enjoyed that there was plenty of parking and unlike most major falls you could walk right up to them.  Phenomenal!!

The Keystone Canyon was beautiful even without the falls

The Keystone Canyon was beautiful even without the falls.  See the water running alongside on the left

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Bridal Veil stood over 300 feet tall

Bridal Veil stood over 300 feet tall and was stunning

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You can see why it's got its name

You can see why it’s got its name

Then right down the road was Horsetail Falls.  It was hard to pick a favorite, but I think I liked Horsetail better because you could climb the rocks and get “inside” the falls.

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It was hard to tear ourselves away, but I knew we had to drive back through the pass to get home so next stop was Allison’s Point. To get to the campground we turned onto Dayville Road prior to reaching Valdez.  Whether or not you are going to the campground I definitely recommend the drive as this is a major fish hatchery area and wildlife abounds.  We didn’t see any bears but saw an eagle with it’s nest in a tree and two eagles down on a log in the bay.  We spent lots of time getting pictures and Lee walked down on the bay and got VERY close to the two eagles getting some amazing shots.

My shot of the eagle flying to its nest

My shot of the eagle flying to its nest

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The nest ...couldn't see any babies but could hear them

The nest …couldn’t see any babies but could hear them

The eagle stayed on watch and was not happy we were down below

Lee’s shot of the eagle on watch.

The bay

The bay

My shot from the road was ok

My shot from the road was ok

Lee's from the ground was better

Lee’s from the ground was better

But Lee's was amaing

And this one was fantastic!!

The bay even without the eagles was beautiful and it’s a shame the campground is little more a pull off on the road.  The views from the campground weren’t that great either although you could walk down to the water and see some amazing views.

Allison's Point

Allison’s Point “campground”

The walk to the bay

The walk to the bay

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If the sites would have been on the ocean proper I couldn’t have resisted, but we still thought we could do better.  I was getting hungry though so we went straight to Valdez and ate at a local place called the Alaska Halibut House. It has been around for some time and at $21 for a full halibut basket (4 pieces of fish and some fries) the prices were pretty steep.  The fish was local, and tasted ok plus my half order price of $11.75 was way more reasonable, still I certainly wasn’t blown away.

Alaska Halibut House

Alaska Halibut House

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This was the $21 dollar portion size

The dock was pretty though and we went to a fantastic gift shop called Orca Bay Gifts.  The place was crammed full of native alaskan made items and Lee was very patient as I went and looked at every single thing.  They also had a small army surplus section in the back which kept Lee entertained and we ended up buying a couple of things for the beet harvest.

The view from the docks

The view from the docks

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Amphiteater

Amphitheater at the docks

Civic Center

Civic Center

Marmots living in the rocks by the dock were very cool

Marmots living in the rocks by the dock were very cool

The babies

The babies

Lee's pic

Lee’s pic

Ferry Station

Ferry Station

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Orca Bay

Orca Bay

The town was so beautiful with mountains and or water on all sides but unfortunately we didn’t much care for the town itself.  I was really looking forward to visiting the Safeway and found it to be dirty and cramped with some empty shelves (they were out of milk) and rude staff.  Plus the prices were no better than the small IGA we have in our town so definitely grocery runs to Valdez are off the table.  The folks at the Halibut House weren’t that nice, the in town campgrounds were cramped little parking lots and really the whole town (except for that one gift shop) was a serious disappointment.  So we headed back out of town and stopped out our last campground on the way, Glacier Campground. Glacier Campground is a military campground that is also open to the public and they had some sites with electric ($30 for 30 amp and $50 for 50 amp) and some older well wooded dry sites.  It wasn’t bad by any stretch and was out of town so we thought this might be a good choice.

Safeway in Valdez

Safeway in Valdez

One of the group camping sites was really cool

One of the day use areas was really cool and had a little waterfall.

After getting some information to take back to the group (it’s first come, first serve), we continued down the road because there was a sign that said Valdez Glacier.  Wow amd I glad we did, because stumbled across an amazing site.  There is a lake that you can kayak on and pieces of glacier in the water that you can walk right up to. So, so cool and completely unexpected.  Plus there is a large parking lot back there and no signs that say no overnight camping so we may try some boondocking back there if the group is up for it.

What we saw at the end of the road!

What we saw at the end of the road!

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This piece had a huge rock in hit. For scale it was about the size of a car tire

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Lee was fascinated by how the pieces of crystallized ice fit together like a puzzle

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I wanted to walk on it

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Success!!

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You could see the water flowing under the ice

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Can’t wait to do some kayaking

The professional outfit that was there had our exact same Sea Eagle

The professional outfit that was there had our exact same Sea Eagle

They even had a huge firepit. This spot was awesome

They even had a huge fire pit. This spot was awesome

Then we stopped in Old Valdez which is where the town stood prior to being completely destroyed by the Good Friday Tsunami of 1964.  It was amazing how the land was taken over in such a short period of time.  They had signs showing where the old buildings were and the views were once again spectacular.

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Feeling excited we got to drive through Keystone Canyon again and this time we stopped at a tunnel in the rocks that was never finished because of a gun battle.  Lee was very excited, but I refused to go all the way in.  Instead I wandered down to another great waterfall and we sat on a rock chair overlooking to river and did some smooching.  It was a great way to end a wonderful day and whatever you do if you visit Alaska, I definitely recommend the road to Valdez if not Valdez itself.

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the “little” waterfall that didn’t even have a name

The "little" waterfall that didn't even have a name

Lee was fascinated by the US Geological Survey camera

Cool rock chair someone built

Cool rock chair someone built

The river view

The river view.

 

 


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What Does my Alaska Work Kamping Day Look Like?

I thought I would take a few minutes to walk you through my average day, since many people who are contemplating work kamping may wonder about that.

I get up around 7:30am and take about an hour in the morning to drink my coffee and relax with some computer games or Facebook.  During this time Lee (who works 8-5 generally) is getting his shower and finishing up his morning so I tend to just hang out on the couch until he leaves.  After he is gone, I make some toast (occasionally I will throw in some bacon for a protein kick) and then take a shower and get dressed.  This whole routine is complete by 9am and then I have a decision on how to spend my free 1-1/2 hours until I start to prep to go to work.

Some days I blog, other days I clean the house, and I try to get out as much as I can.  1-1/2 hours isn’t a lot of time to work with so the activities need to be short in duration.  I have done a couple of cool things though.  One day I planted some herbs and a tomato plant in a Topsy Turvy that I found at the local “everything” store.  Tomatoes don’t grow well in this soil so I bought the hanging kind to plant and then, bonus, saw it had additional holes for herbs.  I have always wanted a fresh herb garden, so I thought let’s give it a try and when Lee was in Anchorage getting the brakes done he bought me some herbs.

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The only two topsy turvy’s in the store, but the price was good at $9 each

The finished product

The finished product.  Looks great…let’s see how it grows!

Another day when I was feeling particularly antsy I drove down to the Tazlina “mall”. Now don’t get too excited.  It’s called a mall because it actually has multiple stores in the same building.  There is a liquor store, hardware store, hair/nail place, and Casa de la Arte which was my real destination.  I met the owner at the Chamber of Commerce meeting and really liked her, and since she has products made by local artisans I wanted to check it out.  It’s a cool little store filled with Alaskan made products, and I enjoyed my chat with the owner Naomi.  She is in the process of moving up to Glenallen (which I think is a great choice) and since she lives here year round is also working on offering classes in the winter to the locals.  It was a nice little side trip and the Tazlina Mall is right off Hwy 4 so it only took me 15 minutes to get there.

The Tazlina "mall"

The Tazlina “mall”

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Feed Supply, liquor store, and hardware/fishing supplies. Everything an Alaska needs 🙂

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Have to check out the hair place when my next cut is due

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Casa de la Arte

Loved these antler coat and door hangers

Loved these antler coat and door hangers

Local beadwork

Local beadwork

So so cute

So so cute

Made by a local Athanascan

Made by a local Athanascan

I really like these too. Regular head bands hurt my head

I really like these too. Regular head bands hurt my head

The magnet I decided to purchase was hand painted, but the owner gave it to me as a gift to welcome me to Alaska. So sweet

The magnet I decided to purchase was hand painted, but since Naomi made it she  gave it to me as a gift to welcome me to Alaska. So sweet

The other thing I really want to work into my routine is to drive down and check out the Copper River where we saw the eagles.  Once the fish are fully running I hope to get some more great shots and this is something I can get up early and do.  As a side note, I have been wanting to mention how many abandoned US Army vehicles are up here.  The military built these roads during WWII, and you find old ambulances, Jeeps, and trucks everywhere.  Many have been restored and are being used by locals, but it’s always interesting when you run across them.  Since Copper Center was a military supply town for a while it has several of them, sort of strewn around in various stages of decay.

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At 10:30am I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I tried holding off eating until my lunch break at 3:30, but I just can’t wait that long so a small sandwich tides me over until then.  Since most of my physical activity is during the start of my shift (mosquitoes are much less prevalent in the mornings) I need the extra energy.  I walk over to the office and get a quick hand off from whoever started the day, then I check the emails for any reservations.  Confirmed reservations are printed and put in our reservation book, and if they are for the same day I make sure I assign them a spot, and place a pink slip on the board to reserve the spot.  Then I take the cordless phone (it works all throughout the campground) and walk the sites looking for trash in the fire pits.  I am amazed by what people throw in there, and since a dirty fire pit is a pet peeve of mine I make that walk every morning.  Next I grab the weed eater and start working on a section.  I try to keep an eye on the office, but there’s a sign on the door letting people know that if there’s nobody in the office they can pick any open spot.  I’ll walk up to them at that point and take them up to the office and check them in.  Luckily there is usually someone near the office at this time and since we only get a few check-ins before 2pm it usually isn’t a big deal.  After I weed whack it’s back in the office and another check of the emails for reservations. As a side note, I would normally be cleaning bathrooms and cabins during this time, but Darlene hired a local retired person to take care of that.  I am certainly not complaining, as I would much rather do yard work and working in the office than clean restrooms.  I didn’t ask her to hire someone, but I certainly appreciate it.

The next hour is spent on administrative tasks, and then I have my lunch. It’s been an adjustment but I enjoy my 3pm lunch time.  I eat heavy or light depending on whether Lee is cooking that night, and have enough time to watch a television show.  Then it’s back to the office, and that’s when things start to get really busy. How busy we are and how early the “rush” starts depends totally on the weather.  On cloudy/rainy days people stop driving earlier, and we start getting check-ins as early as 3pm.  On sunny days people drive longer and we will get very busy between 7pm-8pm.  Check-ins are my favorite things I do here.  Lots of our guests are from other countries and have varying levels of English.  I love helping those folks, and the less English they know the greater the challenge, which I enjoy.  So far I have met people from England, Australia, Germany, Holland, Finland, France, and Belgium and Switzerland.  Germans are by far the most common and since I have some German ancestry in my background I feel I am particularly good with them.  I am friendly and helpful, yet as efficient as possible, and really think I am pretty good at this.  As I have learned more about the area I love giving first-hand accounts of places I have seen or eaten at, but I also know when people are extremely road weary and just want to be checked in with minimal fuss.

The reservations process is multiple steps, and really only one person at a time can be checked in.  Oddly, people usually come in batches, and the couple of times I had multiple groups waiting Darlene or Marc (the owners) would come over and chat with them while they waited.  They fill out a form while I look at their rig and determine which spot is best.  We try to put them in a slightly larger spot than they need but save the really big ones for people with big rigs who might come later.  Then I process their payment (usually a credit card, which I have gotten pretty good at) and while doing that I draw on our map their location and explain how to get to their site.  I give them the Wifi password, and their faces usually light up when I say we have strong Wifi, and it is throughout the campground.  Then if they want more information I will make a recommendation on a place to eat or see in the area.  The check in takes around 5-6 minutes, but information can take a while longer and those conversations are really fun.

There is downtime in between guest check-ins though, and if  I have time I love to listen to Caribou Clatter.  This is absolutely the coolest thing because many people are in the bush with no cell coverage, and the local radio station allows people to communicate with their loved ones via the airwaves.  Four times a day they read off emails from folks, and they range from “Love you Papa, will see you soon,” to long messages about what’s going on at home.  It’s absolutely charming and is available on streaming, so if you have a few minutes around 12:20pm or 5:20pm Alaska time (4 hours earlier than eastern time) take a listen.  It reminds me of another time, and is really, really neat that the local station offers this service. I also read the local paper, the Copper River Record.  At 75 cents per week it’s a bargain and everything a small town paper should be.  This week one of the headline stories was about a rainbow that occurred at 9:30 pm! Breaking news. They are also ran an article on how the town was formed ( building the highway through what was then swamp sounds horrendous) and there is lots of local information on happenings in the region. Listening to the local radio station and reading the local paper make me feel more connected with the town and what is happening.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we have dessert nights.  I premake the evening’s desert after lunch, and then put it in the oven at the appropriate time.  I am cooking for 10-50 people, depending on reservations, and have never made such large desserts before.  I do have a full kitchen and nice oven to work with in the owner’s cabin though, which is great.  I don’t think I could make such big batches in the RV oven.  Then at 7pm we ring the triangle, yes there really is one, and I serve desserts and chat with people.  The second person makes the bonfire and keeps an eye on the front desk, and depending on how long service takes I stay and then pull the remaining desert and wash the dishes.  I like to cook , but I never was much of a baker so this should be interesting for me.  I am looking for easy and good in the recipe department and the ones I think fit the bill I will add to the recipes here.  

My first dessert night was Rhubarb and Apple Crisp and folks said they really liked it.  The vanilla Tillamook ice cream certainly didn’t hurt, and the rhubarb itself was local and very, very good.  It has a nice tartness, but not overwhelming.  There were some women from Texas and I told them to be honest, and they said rhubarb reminded them of their childhood, so that is nice. On the second dessert night I made Swedish Applesauce cake, and we still had leftover rhubarb and some watermelon.  We were almost full that night, so we got quite a crowd.  After serving all the desserts I wander around and chat a bit.  It was nice seeing a couple of very young french hikers meet a much older Swiss couple, and they all happily chatted in French for awhile.  Meeting folks is fun, and watching them meet each other is even more rewarding  Finally, at the end of the night I close out the drawer.  Occasionally people are coming in late, and closing gets delayed a bit, but usually I can finish in around 15 minutes. Then I go home and have dinner with Lee at around 8:30. Lee’s cooking most of the dinners, because he’s done at 5pm. It’s nice to be fed, but I don’t think I will ever get used to eating dinner so late.  It doesn’t bother Lee in the slightest though. 

So that’s my day. My favorite part is definitely helping the guests and there is enough variety in every day I am not bored. The combination of some physical activity and office work is good for me and definitely keeps things interesting.

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My little dessert station

Recipe

Rhubarb and Apple Crisp

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 TBL cornstarch
  • 3 cups “small bite-sized” sliced fresh rhubarb
  • 2 cups “small bite-sized” cut apples (blueberries or strawberries can be substituted)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 real butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Vanilla ice cream, optional but recommended
  1. In a large bowl combine sugar and cornstarch, mix well.
  2. Add chopped rhubarb and apples; toss to coat
  3. Spoon into an 8 inch square baking dish
  4. In a separate small bowl combine oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Mix well
  5. Add melted butter and mix until resembles coarse crumbs
  6. Sprinkler crumbs over fruit
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly and fruit is tender
  8. Let sit for at least 15 minutes
  9. Serve warm with half a scoop of vanilla ice cream or by itself.

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