Thursday, June 22, 2017

Home Again.

We left Moab, UT on Sunday morning heading north on I-70 toward Denver. The plan was to hitch up with I-76 and then I-80 east bound to home. No major touristy stops in our near future.

The ride was spectacular. The scenery changed from desert to Rocky Mountain forest with some snow actually below the road as we passed through Vail. Surprisingly heavy traffic east of Vail to Denver for an early Sunday afternoon (it was just 1 o'clock), I guess everyone who had been spending the weekend in the resorts decided to beat the traffic and only created more.

The only real problems encountered were a couple of accidents that closed one lane of the highway and created backups from rubber-neckers. Those bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-gos managed to add 30-45 minutes each to our travel time.

We stopped at Sidney, NE late Sunday afternoon and did some shopping at Cabela's.Then set out Monday morning heading east on I-80.

Except for a few construction zones where the speed limit was reduced due to one lane being closed and workers being present, things went smoothly until lunch.

Then there was the keys-locked-in-the-truck incident in York, NE. Luckily, it was in York, a fairly large town and AAA sent a locksmith who was prompt and knowledgeable enough so we lost only half an hour. (Terry will now carry a spare key at all times and I will lock the doors using the key fob instead of the on-the-door button.)

After that little bit of excitement, the rest of the ride was pretty dull. Stopped at Williamsburg, Iowa for the night and then drove all the way home on Tuesday (just about 900 miles and 16+ hours).

All in all a very enjoyable two weeks on the road.

The new Tundra behaved superbly. It averaged 18-19 mpg on the highway at speeds up to 80 mph. (Yeah, there are places out west where that is the speed limit.) And the large gas tank (38 gallons!) meant I didn't have to stop nearly as frequently as I would have with the 2007 Tundra with its 25 gallon tank and 16-17 mpgs. I LIKE that! Now I have to see how it handles the travel trailer.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Arches National Park

After a brief respite to refuel and refresh, Terry and I headed back out this afternoon to visit Arches National Park.

Again, we did as little walking as possible but still got suckered in to doing some as the view was "just a short distance around the bend." They didn't mention the very loose, dry sand that made walking very difficult. Or the three--very steep--flights of stone steps. *sigh* And it reached 100 degrees to top it off.

Still, it was worth it.

Like Canyonlands, there are massive rock formations in Arches. 

Three Gossips

Eroded butte

Delicate Arch.

Broken Arch

Skyline Arch

Skyline Arch from a little closer.

The Windows Arches (North and South)

South Window with small Turret Window just to the right.

Balancing Rock. Don't be fooled, that rock on the top on the left is 45+ feet from top to bottom.

A panorama I stitched together to show the Marching Elephants. (hope it works!)
We visited every overlook and read every explanation they had out there. Took lots of pictures and gathered some wonderful memories. Then we returned to the Hampton Inn, cleaned up and went out to dinner.

Tomorrow morning we start heading east again. First stop will be Sidney, NE and the Cabela's complex just off I-80.

Canyonlands National Park

Saturday morning was spent in the Island In the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park.

We traveled the short distance from Moab to the Route 313 entrance to the park and then spent the better part of the morning going from one view point to another. We did do a little walking early on, but both Terry and I agreed that as the day got hotter and our knees got sorer, we would do as little as possible.

Even so, we managed to get some great views of the immense canyon structure, stone buttes and mesas and just about everything we could from the comfort of a paved road and a Tundra's cushioned (and air conditioned) seat. (The temperature would reach over 100 degrees later in the afternoon while we were at Arches NP.)

If you're not going "Wow!" before you get to the entrance to the park, you are not paying attention.

At the turnoff for Route 313 from US 191.

Buttes just inside the park proper.

Upheaved dome of salt. Caused either by a salt dome swelling and popping the rocks above or a meteor impact. Their leaning toward the meteor. The color doesn't do it justice. The jagged rocks are actually a bright turquoise.


View of the Green River from the Green River Overlook.

Dosen't this belong in Yosemite? Actually, no. This is formed from sandstone. Half Dome in Yosemite is granite.

Terry at the Grandview Overlook.

View of some canyons from the Grandview Overlook.
 We spent the morning exploring and then returned to Moab to have lunch. In the afternoon, we headed to Arches National Park.

On the road: Lincoln City, OR to Moab, UT.

So Terry and I arrived in Lincoln City, OR mid-day on Monday and spent three and a half days with our son, Rick, his wife, Sandy, the two grandkids, Chelsea and Justin, and Sandy's parents, John and Cindy. We went crabbing (caught three in an hour but they were a shade too small to keep), ate some clams that Rick dug, cleaned and cooked, played with both grandkids a lot, and generally had a very good time.

That came to an end on Thursday and while everybody else headed to Portland, Terry and I headed southeast to go to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in southeast Utah. In our many trips west, we had never stopped at either of these places and figured why not.

It took us two days of hard driving to get to Moab, Utah but the scenery through southeastern Oregon, along US-50 in Nevada, and finally along I-70 in Utah as we approached Moab was worth the trouble.

We had called ahead for a motel room (a good decision!) and pulled up to the Hampton Inn aroun 8:30 Friday evening.

Twas no time to take pictures along the way.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

On the Road West
with the Obligatory Stop At
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Terry and I left the Aerie on Wednesday morning heading west to the Pacific coast. We clocked over 700 miles a day and found ourselves in Brigham City, Utah Friday afternoon. Across the highway (I-84/I-15) from Brigham City is one of the premier birding sites in the lower 48: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Every time we head west (or east depending on how we got to the coast in the first place) we stop here to do some birding.

This time we were in for a bit of a shock. All kinds of fancy races were planed for Saturday; walking, running, and bicycling were on the menu. Some of those races would be going down the 12-mile long paved road leading to the actual refuge auto tour loop. We didn't think any of the races would actually go along the gravel loop road but you never know! So we planned to get up and out as soon as possible and then stay on the auto loop for much of the day.

Turns out we beat the racers by a good bit. They didn't leave the city until after we had reached the auto loop and begun our first circuit. (That first took 4 hours by which time the racers had come in to the check point and gone on their way back toward the city.)

It was a beautiful day at the refuge with the water barely being riffled by a light breeze. (In contrast, the evening before had produced 40+ mph gusts and some severe blowing dust.) The birds were pretty cooperative too. Many of the waterfowl species had their youngsters on display. There were Avocets and Killdeer chicks on the road that tested ones patience. There were ducklings of a number of varieties swimming along with their mothers, Baby Western Grebes hitched rides on their parents' backs. Tiny little baby Coots got gobbled up by mean old Herring Gulls. (Yeah, Mother Nature can be harsh at times.)

And we played hide-and-seek with a Black-tailed Weasel along the side of the road. It would hop forward about four lengths of its body then dive into the grass. I would creep slowly forward and it would pop out of the grass and hop four lengths of its body then dive into the grass, over and over again. We played this game for about 50 yards before the weasel did not reappear and we drove on.

Here's some pictures I captured of our morning.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-headed Blackbird


White Pelicans fishing
White Pelicans posing
White-faced Ibis. It would not stop preening itself! This shot seems to capture it saying, "See the white face!"

Brown-headed Cowbirds


Great Blue Heron

American Avocet

Snowy Egret

Double-crested Cormorant drying out.

Double-crested Cormorant questioning my presence

Double-crested Cormorant in silhouette

Cinnamon Teal small, but colorful!

Black-necked Stilt
We left Brigham City Sunday morning and drove west through Ontario, Oregon and on to Bend, OR before stopping. Tomorrow we continue to the coast and the town of Lincoln City.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Composite of all blog posts of our Alaskan Cruise Adventure

For those who are late to the party, I've compiled all the links to my blog posts here. 

To view any one post, click the link in the name. (The pictures won't get you there.)

Day 1--The Beginning
Newark, NJ to Vancouver, BC, Canada
Newark Airport, Newark, NJ

Day 2--Sailing, sailing, sailing 
Departing Vancouver, BC

Day 3--Misty Fjords and Ketchikan
Waterfall in Misty Fjords

Day 4--On to Sitka
St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral

Day 5--Haines

Hammer Museum in Haines
Day 6--Skagway

White Pass & Yukon RR out of Skagway
Day 7--Juneau

Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau
Day 8--Icy Strait Point

Icy Strait Point
Day 9--Glacier Bay and Cruising

Hubbard Glacier
Day 10--Seward to Anchorage

One view from the Grandview Train between Seward and Anchorage
Day 11--Homeward Bound

Sun rising somewhere over Indiana.

Alaskan Cruise: Day 11—Homeward Bound

Brian, Vicky and George took an early morning flight to Minneapolis and then on home to Milwaukee. Terry and I took our time getting breakfast and then having the desk call us a cab to take us to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

The cabby turned out to be from Buffalo, NY. He came to Anchorage for a three month job six years ago and hasn’t left. He flies back east to see family, but they won’t come to Anchorage because they say it’s too cold. They’re from Buffalo for crying out loud!

At the airport we discovered we were too early to check our bags. Told so by a young attendant who asked if I was related to someone Faber—her father, I presume. She was from Milwaukee but no relative. We chatted a bit about how Faber is Dutch (her mother said it was German) and meant smith or worker. Then we went to sit for a bit until we could check our bags.

Bull Moose in the lobby of the airport.

Wood carving in the lobby of the airport.
As per usual, Terry pulled out some stitching to do while we waited. This project happens to be some smocking for a Christmas stocking for Justin.

Getting through the TSA check, we stopped Norton Sound restaurant for a bite to eat and then wandered down to our gate to await our Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. That flight took off right on time and arrived in Seattle as scheduled.

The transfer in Seattle was almost too easy. We arrived at gate 15 and were to take off at gate 16. Shortest airport walk. Ever!

We grabbed a sandwich and some iced tea and sat down to await our boarding call. While we waited, they made an announcement that they had several first class seats available for $100 apiece. Terry looked at me, I looked at her and we both stood up go up to the desk.

First class! Nice way to end a great vacation. 

The sun began to appear somewhere over Indiana.

I believe this is the West Branch of the Susquehanna River north of Lock Haven, PA.

Well, almost end. The flight to Newark was uneventful and on time. Then I had to drive back to the Aerie. On Sunday morning. Of Memorial Day weekend. Piece of cake! Everyone who was going anywhere was already there. The rest were in church or recovering from Saturday night. Made the trip home in just about 4 hours. 

The only eventful things to happen on I-80 were having some clown from Ohio zoom up to my rear bumper—twice! (He must have stopped for gas between.) And seeing an unmarked trooper’s car pull him over after the second occurrence. Karma!

Then, at the first west-bound rest area in PA, we found the local Voyager Scouts handing out coffee and Dunkin Donuts for a donation. I put a five in the till and Terry and I were caffeinated and our stomachs satisfied enough to get home where Chester tried to trip us, Julie nipped at Terry, Shadow demanded food, and Miss Kitteh hid for two hours before figuring we were safe.

I’d do go to Alaska again in a minute. Whether by cruise ship or RV. Doesn’t matter. Around every bend there’s beautiful scenery and friendly people.

Alaskan Cruise: Day 10--Seward to Anchorage

This was the end of our time aboard the Radiance of the Seas. When she docked in Seward all passengers would be going ashore. While some on board were going on their final excursions of the trip, or hopping buses to go to Anchorage, or checking into hotels for the night before reboarding to head south again, we boarded the Grandview Train (an apt name) to take a very scenic ride up the Kenai Penninsula and around Turnagain Arm to the Anchorage airport. 

It was around 30 degrees when the train departed and had snowed a little over night. There was fresh snow at some of the higher elevations. As we gained altitude, that snow would come down to the track level.

View from the train out of Seward.

Clear indication of the snowline.

Every turn and bend exposed more breath taking scenes.

Could that be a glacier in the distance?

View from the train.

Waterfalls were numerous.

A little closer to the waterfall.

Snow capped and cloud covered.

Finally reached Turnagain Arm at the head of Cook Inlet.

Tide was out exposing the mud flats.

View across Turnagain Arm nearing Girdwood.

Also known as Potter's Marsh, this is the outskirts of Anchorage. Good birding but all I could ID were Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks and Ring-billed Gulls.

Somewhere between the wildlife refuge and the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the train engineer had to toot his horn to get a moose away from the tracks. Then we spotted a dozen or more Dall Sheep up on the rocks along Turnagain Arm.

The train delivered all passengers to the airport where our luggage awaited us. Once at the airport, Brian rented a car (a Denali as it so happens) and Vicky drove us all to our hotel, the Sheraton on the east end of Anchorage--on 6th and Denali.

Not too shabby a view east toward Merrill Field Airport (not the one we had arrived at nor the one we would depart from).

You could see the Knik Arm from the hotel.

Terry and I met with fellow blogger and Facebook friend Paul Gleason, once of the Way Up North/Moose In the Yard blog which he has since shuttered. We met on line back in 2008-2009 and then in Anchorage in 2010 when we RVed through Alaska.(Sorry Paul, forgot to get a photo!)

Vicky, Brian and George went to the Anchorage Museum a short walk from the hotel but returned early because someone got a little cranky. I think George missed the ship. Or, maybe, he sensed this great adventure was nearly over.

We ate dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant within walking distance of the hotel before retiring for the night.