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FL/GA Vagabonds + Six

We are two retired Navy couples traveling in two RV's accompanied by 6 dogs. After a year of anticipation and planning, we left the south on May 12 and will travel to Alaska and back between now and September 30, 2016. Steve and Sarah (the blogger) Colt from Orange Park, FL travel with Corky, a Chesapeake Bay retriever and Precious, a one-eyed shih-tsu. David and Jackie Weis from Kingsland, GA are accompanied by their 4 dachshunds, Beans, Maggie, Peso, and Patches. Our travels so far have taken us to Hershey, PA, Niagara Falls, NY, across Ontario to Detroit and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, across Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and to Glacier National Park. Crossing into Canada, we will stop at Banff, and Lake Louise before picking up the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek. We plan to see as much of Canada and Alaska as possible before heading back to the USA through Washington state. We will then turn east, and stop for a S.M.A.R.T. (Special Military and Recreational Travelers) National Rally at Amana, IA before we head for home at the end of September.

Click on the points on the map to see what we did at each location.

Jun 24, 2016

Back to the USA--Top of the World and Taylor Highways

Today we reached Alaska at last! We joined the line of RV's waiting to board the George Black, the tiny, free ferry across the Yukon River at Dawson Creek. The ferry can only take 1 large RV and a couple of other vehicles at a time, so this 15 minute ride in a 40 ft. motorhome is quite an experience.

We both made it across and started up the Top of the World Highway, as the Canadian section is called. The weather was perfect, the scenery was spectacular, and the first few miles of the highway were paved which made for a pleasant drive. Then the fun began. The remainder of the highway to the border of Canada and the USA was sections of pavement interspersed with dirt and gravel, and it was full of dust, potholes, bumps, dips, and washboard sections.

The border crossing was the easiest and most pleasant that we have ever experienced, with both the Canadian and American agents being very pleasant and easy to work with.

The first 13.5 miles on the American side, now called the Taylor Highway, were paved! but after that, we had many more miles of dirt, gravel, etc. By the time we completed the 103 miles to the Goldpanner RV Park in Chicken (our destination for the night), both rigs and cars were covered in dust. We were all SO ready to stop for the night.

We had dinner at the 40 Mile Steakhouse at the campground, checked out the gift shop and some of the funny signs and chicken sculptures around the park, then gratefully settled in for the night.

Chicken, Alaska, is such a funny little place. It was originally supposed to be named Ptarmagen after a bird in the area, but no one could spell it so they called it Chicken instead. There are 3 commercial areas, each with an RV park, and a restaurant of sorts, and one has a saloon. Each has a gift shop carrying many "chicken" souvenirs. The RV sites have no water or sewer, and the electricity is iffy at best as it is run by generator and fluctuates with the number of RV's parked there. There are only 2 flush toilets in Chicken, and there is no phone, TV, or internet service. There is a post office, but mail is only received on Tuesday and Friday. However, no trip to Alaska would be complete without seeing Chicken.

Jun 29, 2016


What a beautiful day we had for a boat ride on the Chena River! We headed out for the boat fairly early because we knew there was a humongous gift shop there, and it did not disappoint. After good shopping and ice cream, we boarded the authentic stern wheeler, Discovery III, and started our awesome journey.

The first excitement of the trip came when a Piper Super Cub buzzed the boat then demonstrated a landing and take-off from the water right beside us.

Next we stopped at Susan Butcher's home and kennels, and her husband, David Monson, came out and talked to us. Susan and her lead dog, Granite, won the Iditarod 4 times, but unfortunately she died from leukemia in 2006. We saw a dog and her litter of puppies swimming in the river, and then David did a demonstration of how the dogs work a sled by having them pull an ATV around a gravel drive on the property. It was amazing to see how anxious the dogs were to pull and run, and how fast they could go.

The narrator gave us lots of info about the land, the animals that live here, and especially the natives who originally settled in this area. There were even teen aged kids of Athabaskan and other Indian and Eskimo descent aboard who told us about their heritage and served as guides at the authentic Native American village which was our next stop. The kids did a great job of explaining how their ancestors managed to live and prosper in this harsh land.

A trip on the Discovery is a "must do" for anyone visiting Fairbanks.

Jun 30, 2016

Fred Meyer, Salmon Bake, and The Palace Theater

So far we are having a great time in Fairbanks! We started the day by shopping in the huge Fred Meyer store. Believe me, this store has EVERYTHING. Clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, hardware, a Starbucks, and a HUGE grocery store are just a few of the items that are found there.

In the evening, we went to Pioneer Park to have dinner at the Salmon Bake, and what a dinner it was! All you can eat salmon, beer battered cod, and prime rib with sides, desserts, and (non-alcoholic) drinks! Steve, David, and I are not fond of salmon, but Jackie said it was delicious. The rest of us feasted mostly on the excellent cod and ate 'til we could eat no more.

After dinner we had plenty of time to wander around the park and shop at some of the quaint little stores that are housed in old cabins transported there from the old downtown Fairbanks of the early 1900's. I was fortunate to stop in at Charms by CJ where i found a pretty martini glass that was hand decorated by the shop owner, Jessica Curik. She and I had a lovely talk about how she and her husband make the items in the shop. She was a delight to talk to and the things in her shop were both beautiful and reasonably priced.

Next it was showtime at the Palace Theater where we saw the Golden Heart Revue performed by 5 very talented and extremely funny actors. The show tells the story of Fairbanks from its earliest beginning to modern times in song, dance and very funny comedy routines. We all laughed until our stomachs hurt. This is another "must do" for visitors to Fairbanks in my opinion.

Jul 06, 2016

Antique Cars and Santa Claus

The girls and guys went their separate ways this morning. The guys went into Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, and they were very impressed. Most of the cars on display are from the late 19th and early 20th century and most are functional. The museum prides itself in historically authentic vehicle restoration, and several are winners of the Concors d'Elegance competition.

Of special interest was the car pictured here. It is the first car built in Alaska, a 1905 Sheldon runabout, built by Bobby Sheldon in Skagway. Sheldon had never seen an automobile but improvised one capable of going 15 mph to impress a lady. In 1913 Sheldon was the first motorist to drive the 370-mile trail between Fairbanks and Valdez.

Meanwhile, the girls visited Santa and his reindeer in North Pole. The Santa Claus house has a gift shop with the most Christmas decorations I have ever seen, and Jackie and I tried to give it the attention it deserves.

We also visited with Santa himself and assured him that we have both been very good girls this year.

We ended the evening by dining at a great restaurant, the Pump House in Fairbanks, which is a National Historic Monument. It uses many parts of the Chena Pump House that serviced the Fairbanks Exploration Company as it furnished water to the gold dredges in the Cripple Creek Valley. It was reconstructed in 1978 and contains many authentic relics from the gold rush and Victorian era.
The food was excellent and as we enjoyed the lovely weather on the deck we saw the Discovery III returning from its tour.

Jul 24, 2016

Flight Seeing

It is always a good day when you can cross something off of your bucket list, and today was one of those days for me! I got to take off and land in a float plane! In between the take off and landing, we got to do a lot of sightseeing!

Our pilot, Wes Head , of Beluga Air, LLC, in Homer, called about 8 a,m. and said he could take us out about 10:30 so off we went.It was cloudy outside, but Wes said the blue colors of the glaciers are enhanced by cloudy weather, so no worries. We boarded the DeHavilland Beaver at the pier and taxied out into Beluga Lake. We were soon headed out over the Homer Spit and Cook Inlet with Wes as our excellent guide, pointing out landmarks and relating interesting stories about what we were seeing.

Although the day was cloudy and spritzing rain, the takeoff was very smooth and very exciting as well! We flew past our campground on the Cook Inlet side, then curved back to fly over Homer Spit where it was easy to pick out all the landmarks. We flew over Kachemak Bay where , laced between the mountain peaks, rivers of ice flow from the Harding Ice Field forming Alpine glaciers. These are unique in that they form in mountain valleys creating their own moraine lake instead of calving into salt water. We got up close and personal with Grewingk, Portlock and Dixon glaciers which can be seen from Homer, then examined Wosnesenski and Doroshin which are only partly visible from Homer. We saw two large herds of mountain goats, small native villages, remote cabins, and a privately owned island in Halibut Bay that features a gourmet restaurant (the Saltry) and an art gallery. Wes kept us entertained with facts about the area, local lore, and bush pilot stories. For all 4 of us it was a thrilling experience.

All too soon we returned to Beluga Lake for the smoothest landing I have ever experienced in a plane. We all thoroughly enjoyed our trip and our pilot, Wes. It was truly a trip worthy of a bucket list!

Aug 07, 2016

The Columbia Glacier

Rain, rain, go away! What a messy day to have reservations for a 7 hour boat ride to the Columbia Glacier! However, our vessel, the Valdez Spirit, and our seat companions made the trip more enjoyable. Gail (from New Zealand), and her companion, David (from England) are world travelers and very interesting folks to share stories with for 7 hours.

Although the trip was long, rainy, and cold (outside) we did see lots of interesting sights. There were eagles in the trees and cute sea otters in the water. We saw sea lions resting on buoys and some of the bluest glacier ice I have ever seen.

We had lots of hot coffee and tea to drink, and a lunch of soup, bagels, and cookies was served. The pilot house was large and warm and the captain let the passengers come in to chat and ask questions.

But the big event of this trip was seeing the glacier itself. Heaven knows we have seen a lot of glaciers on this trip and learned a lot about them. However, I have never seen so much ice floating from a glacier, and I have never seen one shaped like this one. It was truly awesome! Columbia is one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, and has been retreating since the 1980's. We were able to get within 1/4 mile of the face of the glacier, and the iceburgs kept banging against the side of the boat. It was very exciting.

On the way back, we went through some rough weather, but dodged behind some islands which made the passage easier.

After enjoying a lovely dinner at Roma Restaurant on the dock, we settled into our warm rigs and enjoyed the view of the mountains and the salt marsh from our front windows.

Aug 08, 2016

Catching salmon!

Jackie and I both had a burning desire to catch a salmon, and today was to be the day We put on our boots and rain gear, got our fishing licenses, got our treble hooks, checked all the rules for fishing for salmon, and headed for Dayville Road with our cheering squad, David and Steve. Imagine our surprise and disappointment when we arrived at our chosen fishing spot to find that the tide was out...way out. There was no way any fishing could go on in that muck! OK. Back to the rigs we went to wait for the tide to come in.

About 4 P.M., we headed back to the fishing spot to find the salmon running thick right up to the rocks. After a quick lesson on casting from the guys, we climbed down the rocks and began our salmon quest. We both found that we could snag the fish but we could not get them onto the rocks before they shook themselves free. It was a lot of fun, but also very frustrating.

Finally I got one onto the rocks and the darn thing wiggled away and took my treble hook with it. Jackie also lost her treble hook, so the guys began improvising with other hooks from David's tackle box. I decided it wasn't worth the climb back down the rocks, so I just walked down a way to where some folks from Tennessee were fishing.

To my mortification, two little girls about 8 and 12 years old were pulling in salmon like crazy. After talking with their dad, and getting some tips on what to do, I decided to give it another try. The grandfather loaned me his treble, and within 5 minutes I had landed a fish! He was big, but not a good specimen, so I threw him back. Within another 5 minutes, I had my prize!! It was so much fun! I was so excited and proud of myself! You would have thought I had won the lottery!

Meanwhile, Jackie had joined me and was also having luck catching but the fish all slithered away.
Finally she landed a good one, grabbed it, and clutched it to her chest before it could get away. After holding it up for pictures, she started up the rocks holding the fish like a baby in her arms, but oops, her boot was caught in the rocks. Rather than risk losing her fish, she took off the boots and climbed over the rocks in her socks! It was hysterical! (David retrieved the boots).

We had the time of our lives catching those fish, and we are very proud of ourselves. We also thank our husbands for cheering us on and giving help when needed. We went to the docks and paid a guy $1.00 each to fillet the fish. Mine will go to my daughter, Vanessa, (ironically, I don't like salmon) and Jackie's daughter will cook hers for her. We both just wish we had started fishing sooner! Next time we will check the tide table first!