Sunday, July 31, 2016

2016 - Alaska

Whew!  The next time we go to the store we better take a map. Here’s a summary of what happened on the way.

About Alaska
We had some impressions and expectations of Alaska when we started out on this journey. They came from many sources, current and dated. It’s safe to say nearly all were wrong.

We made intentional stops at Tok, Chicken, Fairbanks, Denali Park, Anchorage, Kenai, Homer, Ninilchik, Seward, Glacier View and Valdez. None were alike. They varied from old to new, small to large, mountainous to seacoast, remote to bustling.

The highways in Alaska are in very good condition. They rival some of the best highways we’ve seen in the lower 48. Highway construction and maintenance is well managed and on par with the rest of the country. The horror stories we heard about the highways must have been about the Alcan Highway in Canada ... it wasn’t as bad there as we heard, but close.

There’s so much to take in up here: the geography, terrain, wildlife, weather, Russian cultural influence, First Nation heritage, economy, extended daylight, and the lifestyle. I hope we observed with reverence and didn’t offend.

We went as far north as Fairbanks and as far west and south as possible by car.

Travel Trivia
We drove 12,036 miles (10,886 miles towing) and got 14.6 mpg on this trip.

The total for the past 9 years is 92,054 miles driven (76,445 miles of towing) and 360 trailer set-ups.

The Dodge Durango (V-6) got better gas mileage than on any trip with the Chevy Trailblazer (V-8) and had absolutely no problem with mountain towing.

Expectations
We experienced something quite unexpected when we came out of Canada … we call it WWS (Wilderness Withdrawal Syndrome). We felt like we were leaving a serene retreat and being jolted by a raucous world. Guess that means we really enjoyed our journey to the Last Frontier.

Special Sights & Experiences
* Driving through a snowstorm between Ft. St. John and Ft. Nelson, BC
* Crossing Summit Pass on the Alcan
Denali National Park
* Lake Hood float plane base in Anchorage
* Columbia Glacier and Wildlife cruise out of Valdez
* The hike to Montgomery Glacier
* The Cassiar Highway
* Seeing totem poles in Teslin, YT and Hazelton, BC
Fraser Canyon north of Hope, BC
* Etc., etc., etc.

Useful Things
The Milepost (it’s useful in AK, AB, BC, YT and NT)
Mosquito repellent (though we only used it a few times)

Useless Things
Bear spray
Northern Lights Coupon Book

Disappointments
* We missed the midnight baseball game in Fairbanks.
* We should have taken the 12 hour Kantishna Experience Tour at Denali.

Problems
* TPMS monitor stopped displaying trailer tire pressures.
* Fresh water tank developed a slow leak.
* Rear Fantastic Fan frame leaked during heavy rain.
* A/C ran, but wouldn’t cool.
* Replaced a few internal rivets.
* Replaced a fuse in the rear Fantastic Fan.
* A few small stone chips on the car hood

Our Next Trip
We may go somewhere later this year or early next. No decision yet.

Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 - Oregon

Well now ... this was a fun trip. It was also our 11th “long” trip and our 26th camping outing to-date.  

Travel Trivia
We drove 6,701 miles (6,195 miles towing) and got 12.3 mpg on this trip.

The total for the past 8 years is 80,018 miles driven (65,501 miles of towing) and 311 trailer set-ups.

This trip was different in that we did far fewer trailer-less excursions than in the past. The trailer was connected to the car 92.4% of the time ... which explains the drop in fuel economy.

Special Sights & Experiences
 * Smoke-filled valleys and ash fallout in Montana
 * A dust storm in western Washington
 * Surprise connection and lunch with Cheryl Patchet in Hood River, OR
 * Visiting with family in Oregon and Colorado
 * Discovering Lassen Volcanic National Park
 * Returning to the Arches National Park

Disappointments
 * Missing a connection with our friend Adele Amos

Problems
 * Trailer tire tread separation
 * Damaged driver-side mirror

Our Next Trip
Alaska keeps bubbling to the top in our discussions. Maybe.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

2014 - Canada

We’ve just finished our 10th “long” trip. It’s time to reflect on the experience.

Travel Trivia
In the past 7 years we’ve driven 62,162 miles (59,306 miles towing) and set-up the trailer 283 times.

Trip Summary

This year we’ve driven 14,143 miles (11,263 miles towing) during trips in Ohio and Canada.

This trip we drove 11,115 miles (9,092 miles towing) and got 13.2 mpg.

Special Sights & Experiences
In Canada - we visited 9 provinces.
   * Bay of Fundy tides in St. John, NB.
   * Hopewell Rocks near Hopewell Cape, NB
   * Prince Edward Island (our postcard province)
   * North Cape on PEI
   * Fortress of Louisbourg in Louisbourg, NS
   * Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, NS
   * Reissers Beach Provincial Campground near LaHave, NS
   * Lunenburg, NS
   * Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, ON
   * Parliament Hill in Ottawa, ON
   * Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, AB
   * We really enjoyed the scenery and the people we met

In the U.S. - we traveled through 15 states.
   * Ledge View RV Park in Lake George, NY
   * Ferry ride across Lake Champlain
   * Brother Dave’s hockey game
   * Festival of Fools in Burlington, VT
   * We chased goats, fed chickens and fixed electric fences 
            (at Kenny and Barb’s farm in Dundee, OR)
   * We visited Eric in Salem, OR
   * We enjoyed our Portland area families and got exhausted by grandchildren.
   * Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast in Salt Lake City, UT
   * Timberline Campground in Waukee, IA

Disappointments
We spent a lot of time driving in Canada ... wish we had spent more time sightseeing.

We were uncomfortable in Quebec because of the language difference.

Problems
Engine check light on the Trailblazer

Our Next Trip
We’re planning to review our past travel blogs and identify places we said we’d like to visit again. We’ll include places we wanted to see, but missed for one reason or another. We’ll use some, most or all of the list to create a “2015 Do-Over” trip.

This approach may sound silly, but it gives us a good reason to get back on the road to somewhere.

Friday, May 16, 2014

2014 - Ohio State Campgrounds

The Plan

"Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

That's what we're doing this spring.  We're going to wander the state in an attempt to visit and rate every state campground.  The quest may seem like nonsense, but it's been a long, cold winter.  It's time to get outside.

Trip Summary

We left on April 21st and returned May 16th.

This trip was dramatically different from our earlier trips. For starters, we drove 2,988 miles and never left the state.

The basics
  • 21 days of travel
  • 2,988 miles of driving
  • 2,171 miles of towing
  • 13.0 mpg
  • We visited 52 state campgrounds and stayed in 9 of them
  • We bypassed 3 state campgrounds because they're on Lake Erie islands
Conclusions
  • We probably visited at the worst and the best times. It was the worst time because we saw them out of season; most camp offices were closed and much of the spring maintenance hadn't been done early in the trip. It was the best time because we could look around at our own pace without disturbing anyone and we could observe more and more camp offices opening as we continued through the trip.
  • In our opinion
             15 were exceptional
             21 were nice
             16 were not so nice
  • Our opinion isn't worth much to campers because we prefer traveling to camping. We don't use most campground amenities. We're happy with electricity, water, flush toilets and hot showers, and can do nicely with just electricity and water.
  • Ohio has made a huge investment in sharing its natural beauty. There are 73 state parks, 55 appear to be suitable for trailer camping. Unfortunately, the effect of current budget constraints is visible in some of the park system.
  • Each state campground seemed to have its own personality. That personality was strongly influenced by the campground staff. We were welcomed warmly by district office staff, camp office staff and maintenance workers alike. Most were committed to their work and pleased to be able to do it.
  • State campgrounds are generally well placed for campers, but are relatively inaccessible for travelers. Most required long drives on secondary roads.
  • Area attractions presented tempting distractions during the trip. They made it difficult to maintain focus on our campground investigations.
  • With one exception, we found each state campground by driving to the location of the related state park as shown on an Ohio road map. We couldn't find the Muskingum River State Campground that way.
  • This was a fun trip. Now we have to figure out what to do with all we learned.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 - West

The Plan

We're drawn to the beauty and mystique of the west.  This trip takes us into Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.  We plan to wander around and see places like Pike's Peak, Leadville, Chaco Canyon, Canyon De Chelly, Los Alamos, Ghost Ranch and Biosphere 2.

Trip Summary

We left on August 13th and returned October 15th.

Travel Trivia
In the past 6 years we've driven 59,174 miles (48,043 miles towing) and set-up the trailer 232 times.

This year we've driven 12,469 miles (9,334 miles towing) during trips to the South and West.

This trip we drove 9,165 miles (6,509 miles towing), got 13.8 mpg, and set-up the trailer 32 times.

Special Sights & Experiences
 
  • St Louis Arch - (Missouri)
  • Taos - (New Mexico)
  • Biosphere 2 - (Arizona)
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison - (Colorado)
  • Palo Duro Canyon - (Texas)
  • Galveston Island - (Texas)
  • Quachita Lake State Park campground - (Arkansas)
Disappointments 
  • Not seeing Bandelier National Monument (New Mexico) ... we'll try to return
  • Not staying in more state and national campgrounds ... we'll work on it
  • Duck tour in Hot Springs ... we'll make this our first and last Duck tour
Problems
  • Crazy ant infestation in Texas
  • More rain than in any previous trip
We're grateful for the opportunity to meet strangers, form new friendships, visit family and explore the country.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 - South

The Plan

We travel to the South this spring.  This will be our 7th "long trip".  We're headed down the Natchez Trace to New Orleans, along the Gulf Coast to Florida, to Disney World and then back home.

Trip Summary

We left on April 4th and returned April 24th.
  • 3,304 miles driven
  • 2,825 miles towing
  • 13.6 mpg
No car or trailer problems

We visited 11 states and traveled on some of the routes we'd used during previous trips.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2012 - Midwest

The Plan

We travel to the Midwest and beyond this fall.  This is our 6th "long trip".  There will be stops in IA, NE, KS, ID, and on to the west coast and NV ... all are states we haven't been to.

Trip Summary

We left on August 3rd and returned September 27th.

We were a bit sad to return from this trip sooner than planned.  Odd performance by the Chevy TrailBlazer made us uneasy.  Getting home seemed the prudent thing to do.

However ... we did get to experience many wonderful sights, do fun things, meet interesting people and finish our quest to visit all continental U.S. states.
  • 8,289 miles driven (13.9 mpg)
  • 6,738 miles towing
  • 16 states visited
Really Neat Places
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton Mountains
  • Mt. St. Helens
  • Crater Lake
  • Shakespeare Festival (Ashland, OR)
  • Tioga Pass (out of Lee Vining, CA)
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Giant Sequoia National Park
  • Death Valley
Next Time

We've been "sampling" all around the country for the past 5 years.  We've pretty much decided to "take a closer look" at areas in future trips.  The southwest has the most appeal.