HEADED TO ALASKA

It’s been awhile since I’ve embarked on an “adventure” but since I do not have the power to stop time or my inexorable march towards the afterlife (should one even exist) I thought it best to get crackin’.

Back in July of 2010 I decided it would be fun to head for the biggest state of the Union, a former stomping ground back in 1973-1975. It will be a long trip. Not a cheap trip given the price of gasoline. I also decided it was time to upgrade one of my vehicles, trading in my Toyota for a minivan.

Spent some time figuring out how to set it up for camping, worked out the details, bought the MilePost Guide and a book on camping in Alaska.

I wanted to post pictures along with this journal but size constraints limit that. Therefore, please click on the “Photo” link to the right labeled “Alaska” at any time to see most recent photos. Or here, right now.
 

24 APRIL 2011

 
Not much to report as it was mostly a travel day, trying to get as many miles in as possible.

Got bored and started taking pictures of odd billboards.

Kept the cruise control set at 60 to test gas mileage at that speed (yeah, just like me to do something like that!) and witnessed the “swarming” phenomena, oftentimes called “pack behavior” on the road. For some reason people like to drive in groups (we are “social animals,” after all.) If you go 5 or 10 miles under the speed limit, people will pass you in in swarms, or packs or hordes. Then all of a sudden, no traffic behind you….for about half a mile. Then they swarm again.

Very weird.

Used the GPS and found a Wal-Mart in Murfreesboro and crashed. It’s a confirmed redneck area as until about midnight all I heard were guys hot-rodding their cars, burning rubber.
 

25 APRIL 2011

 
Up at 4:30 to the melodious sounds of weed wackers and blowers. Got the hell out of there and hit the road. Pulled in for coffee at McD’s and used their wi-fi. Coffee’s better than Starbucks’.

Checked weather for points north and things are fugly. Snow everywhere. So much for global warming.

A bit cooler this morning than Florida and the day got progressively worse as the morning wore on. Clouds, drizzle and then full-blown downpours. Turns out I was on the periphery of that nasty crap that’s been nailing much of the southeast and middle America. I saw standing/flooding waters from southeast of Murfreesboro to St Louis.

The leaves on the trees here are decidedly brighter in color indicating they’re just done budding and are fleshing out. Various shades of green depending on the variety. Very pretty. Of course, in Central Florida everything’s been greened out for over a month now.

Interesting news on the gas economy. The Kia Sedona is rated at 17/23 by the EPA (a thuggish arm of the Obama Regime!) Just heard those bastards are causing Shell to dump a $4 billion investment in Alaska. Turns out they’re also killing development in Texas (or some such place) over some stupid lizard. Bastards!

Speaking of which (and, yes, I will interject politics into this) our gas prices are not helped by the Mongrel-in-Chief demonizing oil companies for getting $4 billion in subsidies and tax breaks. They get those because Congress allows it. If the Congress (when controlled by Democrats in both houses, by the way) didn’t deem it necessary to cut those subsidies back then, EXACTLY HOW is doing it now going to lower gas prices? Sure, the tax payers will not be spending that $4B on oil companies but those vultures in Congress won’t lower the budget by that amount, either. And WE are the ones who will pay even HIGHER gas prices because oil companies are beholden to shareholders and profits must continue or share prices plummet and shareholders (a majority of which are average Americans with money in their 401Ks) will lose.

But Obama has no problem giving $4 billion of taxpayer money to countries like Brazil and China to develop in the Gulf. Frakkin’ hypocrite! And the media doesn’t bring any of this up. DAMN! I get so mad at this!!

Anyway, I thought it was a fluke on the first tank and got 28 MPG at a fairly steady 60MPH. So I filled again (topped the tank on all occasions for those interested) and got 30MPG!! Not one to trust THAT number I did it again and got 28.25. I attributed the fluctuations to road conditions, rain, terrain, etc.)

So tomorrow I try it again but this time at 70MPH to see what I get.

Another interesting note on the state of the economy: it is amazing how many billboards are empty. Took some pix of them. Hope everyone is storing food and other goods.

Some notes about this mini-van:

1. these things are great for anonymity. NOBODY cares or looks over to see who they are passing or who’s passing them. In my other cars I noticed people would look over quite a bit, whether it was the Camry or the Vette or my old pickup truck. I do it all the time, look over to see who I am passing, looking for pretty gals, people picking their noses, yelling at one another, etc.

In this thing I could probably drive with my middle finger up to the window and no one would notice.

2. Another thing I like is the USB port. I have an 8 gig thumb drive unto which I can put about 100 CD’s worth of music. Of course, that’s probably old hat to many of you but since I am usually 3 years behind any technology curve I think it’s cool. Plus the Sirius radio is a bonus until I hit their rotation point and stuff is repeated. Or I go to the Fox, CNN, etc. news channels and it seems they are nothing but commercials. So then it’s time for the USB drive again.

3. a big downer is the road noise. Having tinnitus can be a very troublesome thing for certain frequency ranges and when I couple that with road noise from 60 MPH, road conditions other than smooth tar, and pelting rain, the only remedy is to turn the music/radio off.. Oh well, can’t have everything.

Turned out that I had rain well into the evening. Stopped for the night in Iowa someplace.
 

26 APRIL 2011

 
BRRRRR!!!!! Cold all of a sudden. Had to ditch the shorts and t-shirts.

The trees are just beginning to bud and by the time I hit Sioux Falls, SD nothing was in bloom.

This does not bode well and was commented on by a park volunteer at a Lewis and Clark exhibit (details of location forgotten) who said the weather is one month behind. He built some of the flat boats for the exhibit and the ones built to scale are indoors while one built slightly out of scale for use by the public on a lake is slightly wider. The guy is a buff on Lewis and Clark and could talk your ear off about them. Told me a new book is out that proves Lewis, who suffered from bouts of depression, did not die of suicide but was murdered. I have their journals at home and will re-read them to see if I can pick out the episodes of his depression.

It was about 40 degrees this morning.

Tried to do the 70 MPH gas mileage test but could not maintain the speed due to traffic. Average between 65 and 70 and gas mileage plummeted to 24. Strange to me as proportionally I was going about 12% faster but the RPMs were about 10% greater. To me that would indicate te engine was working less to go faster so even if I could not get better gas mileage I should not have strayed that far from the 60 MPH readings.

Gave up on the 70 MPH test and returned to 60 to check something.

And, yep! Gas mileage was way down for that, too. 24 MPG at 60. The only thing I can think of is the temperature affecting density or something.

Interesting note, Iowa’s rest stops have Wi-Fi! Nice! So does Texas, by the way.

Iowa also has snow skiing?!?!?! It was too late to whip out the camera to take a picture but there was a road sign for a ski resort!!!!

All day it was cloudy and dreary up until about the turnoff for Winner, SD. Saw a patch of blue.

Became hopeful.

Several years ago I was through here and went to Badlands National Park. It was cloudy and windy and the photos weren’t that great. The weather forecast for this area indicated rain but the blue patch gave me hope. So I pulled into Wall (home of Wall Drug) and got gas. Then headed into the park. The skies brightened a bit and then the sun came out. With dark clouds as a background I got some stunning shots as I was in the “magic hour” window for photography.

Be sure to visit the photo album.

Headed into Rapid and checked into a hotel.

Tomorrow and Thursday I visit with my son, Dan, and my grandkids.

See you in a couple of days.
 

29 APRIL 2011

 
What a day! Left Rapid and it was really windy promising to get colder. Had checked weather in Yellowstone, Dubois and Grand Tetons. FUGLY!! FUGLY!! FUGLY!!

Found an inverter to keep all the electronics powered up and this way I don’t have to worry about the phone or camera batteries going dead. Already had a cable for the laptop so I am good to go.

Just as I hit the Wyoming border it began to snow. Not what I was expecting. Headed to Devil’s Tower and it got worse. Got to the base of it (the entrance to the park) and couldn’t see a damned thing. Except snow.

Stopped in at the Office Depot in Gillette and found me a small digital recorder so I can make notes to myself without crashing the car as I try writing them down.

Cold, windy, nasty most of the day. It’s amazing what slushy, rainy, windy conditions do to gas mileage. Only got 21 MPG on the last tank.

The scenery is getting very pretty as I approach the Rockies. Wyoming is the 9th largest state in the union with the lowest population, I believe. Today proved it. Miles and miles and miles of roads. Little traffic. No cows, no sheep. No people. Roads that lead to God knows where as I can’t see a house or a farm. Just scrub brush. But beautiful as hell.

Went through Buffalo, WY. Pretty, small town America. The road to Wind River Canyon and Dubois is Highway 16 and it goes through Powder River Pass at 9600 feet. The road was clear with no snow but that’s because the salt trucks were out. Alongside the road snow was about 5 feet high in places. Got pictures of it almost covering stop signs and other signs.

Found deer just hanging around the middle of the road and realized they were there for the salt.

Very cool.

At the top of the pass the sky got blue so I stopped for pictures and my door was frozen shut! Got out after wacking it. (The door, you pervs!) On the way down to Thermopolis (where I spent a very chilly evening) it got cloudy and nasty again.

Tried to stay at Hot Srpings State Park, thinking I could camp there, but all they had were two expensive hotels at $80 plus.

So I went searching for a campground. The GPS found me one and when I drove in it was self serve, $25 per night and NO hook-ups. I cried foul, said “screw this” and left looking for the next one, Eagle RV.

I told the guy what I needed and he charged $10. Plus they had wi-fi!!

Pays to shop around.
 

30 APRIL 2011

 
Woke up to 37 degrees in the van. Just a wee bit colder than I like!!! The wind roared most of the night and morning found the area dusted with snow.

Also didn’t help that I caught some kind of cold and have a wicked sore throat.

A bunch of small kids showed up from Manchester on some camping adventure and stayed in cabins last night. This morning, in the cool of 30 degrees outside a woman in charge of the kids was outside setting up breakfast. Talk about hardcore!

Drove through Wind River Canyon. Kinda crappy weather but very pretty. I also realized I have to re-learn/remember all my winter driving skills as there were lots of slippery spots especially on curves. Lots of slush and bridges freeze over before roads.

Out of Wind River on way to Dubois the weather cleared up a bit. I feel lucky. It was sunny and pretty.

Climbed from 4300 feet at Thermoplis, approaching Dubois it is 6900 and Togwotee Pass at 9600 feet.

Usually when it’s clear on one side it’s cloudy on the other but today was different/

On way to Dubois, I looked off to the left and down into a valley about 200 yards away laterally AND down and saw what looked like a wolf. Turned the car around to make sure what I was seeing and it heard me. It looked up, tucked tail and ran into the trees. Beautiful creature. Didn’t look hungry, either.

On the road I experienced a strange phenomena where it appears we are headed downwards on a road but are actually climbing. I’d take my foot off the gas and the van would slow down. It also used to happen on bike trip and I hated it!!!

At the top of the pass it looked cloudy with lots of blowing snow. Turns out it was generated by the wind and not clouds so it cleared once off the pass.

It also looks like the tree line is at 7500-8000 feet. Saw a few deciduous trees mixed with the conifers and they appear to be getting ravaged by some insect as lots are dying.

On the road to Jackson, WY, I experienced another societal phenomena of how people are pack creatures. Saw an electronic sign indicating moose and other critters on road. Driving along I saw a beautiful spot to take pictures and someone saw me turn around in the road so they stopped. Then 4 other cars stopped all looking for animals and I told them there were none. A couple appeared sheepish but I told them that the pictures were beautiful of the rivers, snow and Tetons. It was a good consolation prize.

And for those who don’t know, the name “Grand Tetons” is French for Big Tits. Really.

I feel like absolute crap. Must have sneezed about 150 times. Running a fever have chills, nose stuffed and ears stuffed. Can’t hear hardly anything in the van. I felt like I was in one of those soundproof rooms where you get hearing tests.

Out of Jackson I went over Teton Pass which had 10% grades. Both Togwotee and Teton Pass signs were buried in snow so I could not see the altitude signs for pictures.

Decided to hotel it and stayed at Super 8 in Rexburg, Idaho because the Yellowstone South entrance still closed. Had no desire to camp out.

The town is heavily Mormon as the church built a University there. Used to be a watering hole kind of town and now 15,000 students are there and the church has plans to raise it to 30,000. needless to say the town is booming.

Got caught up on pictures and journalizing and then hit the sack early.

1 MAY 2011

Rexburg trees still not blooming but it’s probably due to its latitude.

A tidbit of trivia: hotel maids are white!!! Usually everywhere I’ve been they are Hispanic or black. Goes to show the demographics.

Being sick sucks. But it’s a great way to lose weight. Ate almost nothing yesterday and today looks little better. Still going through symptoms but throat not so bad. Nose running to beat the band, though.

So far the weather’s been great. A few cloudy periods and some sleet/snow/rain but only lasts a few minutes and is very localized.

Tripped over the 3,000 mile marker today and fully expect to be in Canada tomorrow.

Not much exciting today as it is basically a travel day: going from point A to point B. Most exciting road news was that I coasted down a long section of highway letting the van run in neutral all the way down. Got it up to 85 MPH. Steady as a rock.

CONTINUE READING HERE

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