Tuesday, March 19, 2013

3000 miles later

I set the trip odometer near Birch Lake in Alaska which is 50 miles into the trip.  It read 2966 when I got arrived at Miki's driveway the evening of March 9th.  So literally, I drove 3000 miles and boy are my arms tired (oops, that is for flying).  But I was both physically and mentally tired the following week.  I feel mostly recovered and had a full day yesterday (Monday).  I suspect it was not just from the drive but the last year or 5 of my life that I was recovering from.  I am not putting large goals on my list for this week either, just steps in those directions.  In fact, that is working really well;  I made a short list: doing something called a "source list", checking space news (which includes email), working on the blog, the OpenLuna website, plus a couple really big items and I check them off as I do them.  So I didn't get the blog done yesterday.  But this gives me a sense of accomplishment even when I don't get as much done on a subject as I would like.  And these first 3 small things will then transition into habits.

Thorns stuck in the soles of my running shoes.
For the tender footed Alaskans, they are called Goat Heads.
Anyway, last week was pretty light duty.  I could have done more if I pushed myself but I chose not to.  My sister's house is in a small subdivision that used to be farmland has some farmland left around it.  The main drag has almost all the stores on it so finding my way around has been easy and it is just a few miles away.  The weather is nice, cool but comfortable and it is nice to get outside after spending most of the winter in Alaska.  One day I took a walk in the subdivision and strolled through an undeveloped lot and when I got to the street on the other side it felt like I had rocks stuck in my shoes; but not rocks, goat-head thorns.  All of those thorns in the photo came out of my shoes from crossing about 80 ft of un-landscaped ground.

My sister and I are enjoying having some time together and getting re-united.  We haven't had a lot of time together as adults and have not generally kept up, just a bad habit among the Wilkinson siblings.  She is older than me so she was already here when I arrived and she was the first friend I ever had and we were very close when we were young.  She is working for the postal service 5 days a week and long days so there is plenty of time for getting moved in, organized and making my new start.  I have integrated into the household (Miki and her husband James) fairly smoothly.  I feel comfortable here and I am only frustrated to be started moving on my goals so slowly but the rest I am taking is both reasonable and wise.  I am actually going to lay down for a bit when I am done here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 8 - Last day driving

The Interstate highways stayed good but continued through the mountains, high on valleys mostly.  I will get some pictures.  So loading the car was nice to have the temperature above freezing and not have to run the car to warm it up.  But it wasn't until Idaho Falls that I finally got out of the snow.  I arrived about 8:30 at my sister's house and we had a nice visit in the evening.  She delivers mail so Sunday is her day off.  The room is nice sized with a dresser and footon sofa.  Getting the blogs up to date was the first priority and now I will get things out of the car.  I have a few pictures from the drive that I will upload a bit later.....later than I expected but better late than never.  Click here for the latest album.

I am happy to be at my new home!

Day 7 - Leaving Canada

Canada in my rear view mirror
I am glad that I stopped where I did last night, 100 miles south of Edmonton even though it was earlier than I wanted.  This morning the low pressure system still had a lot of fog and smog, especially around Calgary down at ground level.  Normally the prairie has clean air.  The highways into and just out of Edmonton were also bumpy; I would say worse than the Alcan plus at highway speeds so the constant bumps were tiring.  But from there to the border the road surface was really good; have cruise control, will travel.  At the border, the US customs had a line of a dozen cars but it moved pretty quickly and I was through it is about 20 minutes.  I15 through Montana was pretty good going so I kept on past Great Falls and stopped in Helena late.  I had dinner in Great Falls so it was night as I wound through some mountain passes that would have been a great view.  I could see out the drivers window the constellations Orion and Cains Major (not just Sirius but the main stars of the constellation) almost all the way.  I stopped at a scenic view pull out that had no street lights and was awestruck by the clear sky and number of faint stars.  I could see all the stars of the little dipper and more stars than I usually see in Alaska with its arctic haze.  I did plan to write at least the paragraph but by the time I got into my room it was late and I was getting easily frustrated.  I have about 500 more miles to go, yippee!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 6 -- too much city for me

The Province of Alberta is hills, forest and farms.
 The farther I go, the flatter it is.
Highway speeds are 100 or 110km/hr.
Thursday morning starting from Grande Prairie, Alberta it seemed like forever to get to Edmonton.  And then I took the long way around, pooh!  I finally got going South again but I am still 300 miles from the US border.  Will take off early tomorrow and make a long day of it.  So don't worry if there is no post.  Alberta is prairie country with farms and rolling hills.  It isn't much to take a picture of.  Last weekend a snow storm came through and so I am still in snow and below freezing (but above zero F) temperatures.  The record is still 33 F back between Whitehorse and Watson Lake.  The forecast is for warming this weekend but I will be in Idaho by hopefully Saturday night.

Day 5

Rush Hour on The Alcan: 4 cars ahead of me, 3 oncoming and more behind me.
The morning weather in Fort Nelson was overcast and steady flurries which continued for the rest of the drive on the Alcan (Alaska Highway) which ends at Dawson Creek.  The road continues to be steep hills and a few tight turns but mostly the challenge is the steepness of the hills.  The traction on the road was still good despite the flurries.  The traffic was definitely picking up after Fort St. John which is the next to the last stop.  Still 3 oncoming cars, 4 ahead and I think 4 behind me is more than I would see in a day in the Yukon outside of established communities (sometimes including).  Click here for a few more pictures for Wed and 2 for Thurs.

Dawson Creek (not to be confused with Dawson City or Beaver Creek) is Mile 0 but it is still 1000 miles from the US/Canadian boarder.  Given the low pressure system coming up from Vancouver into the southern British Columbia Mountains, I opted for the slightly longer and more familiar route of going through Alberta.  The route into Seattle is all mountains and with new snow could be a stressful drive.  Turned out the system blew itself out pretty quickly and it would probably have been okay.  From Dawson I drove East toward Edmonton, Alberta.  Crossing into Alberta I lost another hour moving into the equivalent of US Mountain time.  I found myself in the first major city, Grande Prairie at 8pm and started looking for a hotel to find they were pretty full already (2 hours short of my goal).  Turns out the oil companies have employees living in the hotels and there was a conference.  I almost went on to the next town but the Motel 6 clerk said they were full too.  I finally found a place and turned in early to get an early start on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Day 4

Bison Herd strolling down the road, the couldn't even be
rushed by the truck.
Another clear day of good driving and fairly clear roads.  Leaving Watson Lake they had signs up about 16 caribou had been killed recently on the road and the bison were hanging out all the way to the hotsprings.  Just a short distance down the road was a caribou licking the road.  It took off quickly.  The bison are mostly off the road, they nuzzle down through the snow to the dry grass under the snow along the road.  However, if they are on the road, they are very reluctant to move.

I reached my target of Fort Nelson and allowed myself an hour and a half at the Liard Hot Springs.  This is my 4th trip down the Alacan and 3 coming back. All the other times I felt too rushed to stop so I was dedicated to do it this time and I am glad I did.  It is a bit of a walk back to the pools but it is a nice boardwalk, a changing room (unheated) and stairs into the water.  The real roller coaster roads were from just after Liard through to 50 miles from Fort Nelson. British Columbia contains the Rocky Mountains and I had to drive through them to get here. (more pictures). Click here for the Hot Spring Album.

Fort Nelson is the decision point of whether to go straight south to Seattle and then to Idaho, or stay on the Alcan and head over into Alberta, down through Montana and then turn back towards Boise.  I found the weather channel here and it looks like I better stick with Alberta as I had planned.  There is a pressure system coming up from Vancouver into BC and even carry over the mountains into Alberta by Thursday night but much lower accumulations east of the mountains.  My target for tomorrow is Whitecourt, just this side of Edmonton.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day 3

Bubbly shaped Mountain out of Whitehorse.
Was pretty uneventful between Whitehorse and Watson Lake.  The roads were mostly clear and much of it gentle slopes.  From here British Columbia will be a roller coaster.  I got into Watson Lake pretty early so making Fort Nelson tomorrow 400 miles instead of 300 will be easy and maybe there will be time to stop at the Liard Hot Springs.  I learned last time I came this way to stop here, there is nothing else between here and the hotsprings and they are expensive and usually filled up.  I ended up very late getting into Toad River and luckily there was a room open so being winter, I surely didn't want to go farther.  So this is also part of the reason I am only getting 300 miles a day,.  Once I didn't make it much past the border I was committed to 3 days this far up.  But now the blog is up to date!!!!!

Day 2

I finally got my ass out of Alaska crossing into Canada.  The border crossing was uneventful and took 10 minutes or less.  This is a good thing.  The civilized stops are a little farther apart in Canada so they keep some of their rest stops with outhouses open.  I stopped at one between the border and Destruction Bay and found the door didn't close so that made for a breezy experience but it worked out since I selected the one where the door faces the scenery instead of the road. See Album. I got a nice shot of the Yukon Flats which are just that, flat areas between mountains.  The forest grows and decays slowly so the forest fires are an inherent part of the forest cycle, leaving burnt standing trees which you can see on the right.  And of course the camera takes nice mountains on the horizon and squashes them.

I got lunch at Destruction Bay and kept on to Haines Junction and then to Whitehorse for the night.

Alaska Critters

Caribou herd in the Road coming into Northway.

As Jan was taking the picture of me and my car load at Barb and Bev's a Raven flew over which is considered a blessing by Alaska Natives.  Other wise, most of the trip was free of critters which is basically a good thing, while I like to see them, clear sailing is the primary.  

videoTypical is for them to come out in the evening and indeed a cow moose was on the side of the road about half way from Tok to Northway. She got off into the bushes before I could get a picture.   Farther on I rounded the corner to find this herd in the road and they weren't in quite the rush to get out of road.  Only a few miles farther this caribou didn't want to get out of the road. When I finally got close enough that it moved, it ran down the road to catch up with a few more of its herd.  I have never noticed how the hooves fling from side to side as they run.  I got not just pictures but in the second group a couple videos but they don't show the silly hoof movement I was trying to catch. See the Album.  Though this guy in the video below when he looked straight on looked more like a goat.

Day 1

Frosty trees - nice, frosty road - not.
The bridge ahead is the Black Veterans Memorial Bridge
between Delta Junction and Tok Junction.

So finally on the road after breakfast and a stop at the Dunkle Residence, the feeling was mostly a relief mixed with a bit of emotional moments on both ends of the scale. Soon after passing Eielson AFB the clouds started collecting. Most of the trip into Delta was low clouds and a bit of snow as you can see from the picture to the right.. This produces a more slippery condition so it required a bit more concentration  The frosty trees from the fresh snow were lovely.   After Delta Junction the day was clear and sunny so that was nice and the spaces of clear road and the regions still icy were not so slick and was easier going. It was nicer all the through Tok and Border City where I stopped just as the sun was setting. 

So I only got 300 miles and still in Alaska, barely. It was after six and I was feeling pretty taxed already (my endurance for long drives improves as I go along) and I loose an hour crossing the border plus it would take an hour to get to the next stop. The internet wasn't working properly so was a bummer with an early stop to get going on the blog. But I prepared the text and the photos so I could do it all quickly in the morning. The next target is Whitehorse which is another 300 miles.


Day 0

Loaded for the Road (Move to Idaho) March 2013
Didn't quite get me out of town (Fairbanks, AK) but I turned the house over to a contractor who will undoubtedly enjoy it as much as most people who lived there. It was a great home for many folks (I tend to rent rooms) and for several critters as well. It took a bit longer than expected and at 4pm while I am trying to get the tarp over the load after filling the spare fuel cans and it led to me asking if they had a sofa or floor space for me to crash for the night and Helena had wanted to meet me for dinner so that worked out well. In the morning the weather was much better, clear and sunny vs light snow and low cloud deck.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Goodbye Fairbanks


Have ice scraper will travel.

Dear friends, please do not take my eagerness to depart incorrectly.  As most of you know, I have for some time now been seeking opportunities in the New-Space Industry and have been promoting the OpenLuna Foundation as part of that.  The industry is evolving rapidly just as I projected awhile back.  It is time for me to join the fray and help bring to fruition all the things that I have talked and especially the more recent efforts to promote OpenLuna and the return of humanity to the surface of the moon.  While I am excited about the prospects of the future it is not easy to leave such wonderful friends, marked most recently by Suzanne Fenner and Liz Greig helping me cleaning the house while I packed the last items.  Another thank you to Matt Moore who helped me load the car on Wed.  I have lived most of my adult life in Alaska and identify myself as an Alaskan, but every fiber of my being is calling me on this quest.  I made a dedicated effort to say goodbye and managed to get with most of you, though not all.  I am not leaving to fade off into the night but to make history and with the internet you can follow my journeys and accomplishments.  As I was leaving Barb and Bev this morning, I passed my the Dunkle residence for whom I had not seen in some time.  They remarked that they brag about me (i.e. show off my letter from the South Pole) and I told them that my goal was to give them more to brag about.  For those of you that get around, we will meet in the future and a return visit to Fairbanks is totally plausible.  I am moved at the many of you who understand me well enough to salute my journey rather than ask me to stay or declare that I will return as many who leave the state do.  And for those of you in the Avatar program like Barb and Bev, I will see you on course at some time or another.  To all, stay tuned ....

p.s. if you are on facebook I am making posts as I go and you can follow me there as well.