Saturday, July 24, 2010

Yellow Fever? Yellow Stone.

We spent last night driving through the park looking for wildlife. The air was cold, the moon was full and we were listening to comedy on satelite radio while flashing our spotlight out into the fields and rivers that we came across. Our first spotting was a bear! We couldn't tell if it was a grizzly since it was too dark, but it got us all excited. John was even a little scared, ushering us back into the car on occasions when we didn't spot anything, but were walking along a gulch wall or close to the forest. We had spotted loads of elk and deer and were just getting into Hayden Valley, which is one of the best spots in the park for viewing wildlife, when my brother screamed.."Oh my God is that a bear in front of us!" We had been searching the side of the road and nearly dropped the spotlight and pissed ourselves. It was a bison, not a bear, but it was right in the road in front of us and all we could see was the transluscent color of its eyes and its huge bulky body. We approached slowly and it seemed as if it would ram right into our car. Luckily we got away before that happened. Our plans were to round the Valley and head back on the road that passes Old Faithful. Unfortunately when we got to the turn off, we found the road is closed at night. There was a Ranger there in a cruiser who drove up to us and offered directions. I told him we had been spotting animals and he quickly informed us that it was illegal and considered harassment of wildlife.... oops. He didn't give us a ticket. It was a long drive back to the campsite, almost 2 hours, but we took turns driving and the section along the lake was incredible with the moon shining in the distance.

I woke up this morning with a wicked rash on the inside of my arms and behind my knees. Mom and John weren't feeling so hot either. We are just relaxing today. I took a ride 30 miles away to the nearest Wifi zone to share some more pics. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Great Pictures... funny words!

I have a big ass coffee.... a belly full of Pad Thai... some Willie Nelson strumming on the coffee house speakers and my silent farts smell so bad they are offending people all around me. I keep looking around with everyone and making the face like I can't believe somebody is doing that. I met a guy last night who is riding his bike down the continental divide from Canada to deep into Mexico and Central America. He's 75 years old and just started riding bikes at 71. It gave me an acute awareness of myself as being almost 31, and not so adventurous after all. I also have new knowledge of a woman who was gored by a bison in Yellowstone yesterday. I love when people get killed or hurt by animals! I know it is sick, but I you should see all of the idiots in yellowstone that park their cars in the middle of the road and rush after wildlife to take pictures. I'm told this woman provoked the buffalo by throwing something at it, which is even better as I replay the bison revenge in my mind. Haven't we done enough you dumb human fuckers! We have practically raped the whole planet of any wildlife as it is, now we chase after them with our Nikon's and wonder why they maul us! GOOOOO ANIMALS!!! Stay in your Lexus SUV with your Louis Vitton bag, take your picture and head back to Looooong Island. Anyway.... here's some pictures of me getting too close to animals and some other fantastic shots of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons... Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oh the tragedy of it all.....

We are safe and have arrived at our final Western destination.... the Flagg Ranch in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons...but not without incident.

Mom started out the morning a nervous wreck. She was on the phone with her mechanic, discussing mountain driving. "Keep it in low gear and not too much on the brakes. If you stall you will lose all power, including brakes and steering." She was in tears and shaking. We decided to go as far as we could and if the mountains were too much we would stop wherever we could closest to the park, park the RV and head into the park with our tents and the car. I offered to drive. "I don't want something to happen to you," she said..."but I don't want to die either!" More tears. I told her to relax and enjoy the ride; besides we had a good 150 miles to go before we would hit any serious mountain driving.

We cleaned up our campsite and said goodbye to our new friends from Colorado, the Vernon's. We met during a killer basketball dunk contest in the pool, myself and Adam, the father, hooking the kids up with ollie oop passes. They were super cool people. We exchanged info and promised to visit one another in the near future. We then packed up our vehicles and followed the dirt path out to the main highway.

When my mother made her move to pull out of the parking lot my brother and I witnessed something neither of us were prepared for. Out from under the RV came a tiny gray and white striped kitten not more than 6 weeks old. It sputtered and crawled for a about 5 feet in front of us before sprawling out on its back and crying to high heaven. It had holed itself up in the RV overnight and fell out and was partially run over by the rear tires. We jumped out of the car and ran to it. Mom had no idea that it had happened and drove straight into town a few miles before she pulled over to call us and see why we weren't following. The poor kitty had the throes of death in its eyes and was crying in immense pain trying to catch its breath. I picked it up, barely fitting in one hand, and considered just snapping its neck to put it out of its misery, but a group of young kids and a grandmother had witnessed it too and came running over. It was an awful scene. The grandmother wrapped it up in her shirt and took it away, which I was thankful for, because she seemed like she knew exactly what was happening. I thanked her graciously and got back in the car. When I caught up to my mom and relayed the story, we were all pretty much sick to our stomachs. "It can only get better from here!" I said as we mustered our heads back together and made for the highway. I tried to explained to my little brother that sometimes things just happen that way. He seemed to understand completely. We put the music on and got our brains focused on the road ahead.

50 miles down the road at a cruising speed of 65 or 70 mph, another kitten came whipping out from under the RV.... HOLY SHIT! We just missed hitting it, as it made its way to the side of the road. It had been spared the tires somehow and was alive. Thank God. I flagged my mom down and made her pull over. John and I scoured the under-carriage of the RV to look for more kittens. We didn't find any.... and luckily no more came out of the back while we were driving. I don't think we could have handled the carnage.

My mom did a great job in the mountains and we made it to the Flagg Ranch! It is so beautiful here and the ride was surreal. We have no internet or phone coverage in the park so it may be a few days or even a week before I post again. Right now I am sitting in a coffee shop with a bunch of yuppie white people and their Macs in Jackson Wyoming. The douchebag next to me is loudly over-explaining where he gets his "brain freeze" when he drinks cold drinks. His girlfriend who "just totally stepped out of an LL Bean catalogue", is doing the same. I think you know the type. I'm gonna get out of here before I start complaining about bio engineered food or some shit.... ha ha. Hope you are all well!

A story from a Real road warrior... Real Laplaine!

My dear friend and fellow explorer is a fantastic storyteller and the author of several books. He is a person who lives life to the fullest. A six pack and a few hours of time is all you need when you are with him. This is a short story about hitchhiking back in the early 70's. The photo is mine. I added it because it was taken in the vicinity he was exploring. Enjoy! And buy his books, they are great!

In 1973 my best friend and I struck out from Toronto and headed north. Our plan was to travel all summer, and get back in time for our final highschool year in September. He had about $300 in his pocket and I had closer to $400. We took a bus to Tobermorey up on the Huron, and after that 6 hour bus ride we got off, our teeth rattling and our noses filled with the stench of bodies in a closed-in space, and we decided there and then, no more buses. The next day we took a ferry across the Huron and landed by the highway, stuck out our thumbs and the adventure began. For two months we hitchhiked through blistering suns in the midwest where the only sound was that of the thousands of miles of wheat billowing in the wind. We survived rain and thunder and lightning storms in a small pup tent made for one, and in spite of all the reasons that the tent (and us) should have blown away, we woke up each morning to a sunny day and a new road. We hitchhiked through country in northern Canada, that even today I have yet to find a place on earth that could match the majesty, the beauty and the overwhelming sense of oneness with that land. One of the most memorable times on that trip was when we hitchhiked out of Dawson City in the Yukon, the home of the Klondike Gold Rush 1898 - only 500 miles from the Arctic Ocean. A truck the size of the Titanic pulled over and picked us up. He drove us towards the border of the Yukon and Alaska, then pulled over, said he had to leave us on this desolate stretch of highway at the top of a mountain and he disappeared down a mining road. We sat on that mountain top for nearly two days and counted the number of cars that passed us in that time, which as I recall was something on the order of 12 or 20, max. We had little to no food, and all we could see were mountain tops stretching as far as the eye could see to the Arctic ocean and southward and all around us was the hugest expanse of blue mountain flowers covering the mountain saids like a blanket and beyond that there was only the sound of whistling wind and countless thousands of bees which were working those flowers. Near the end of the 2nd day, we saw a dust cloud approaching us from that mining road and shortly the Titanic pulled up and the same driver looked down at us with a smile on his face and ordered us back into his rig. Some hours later we pulled into Dawson City Yukon, and logically you would think our first stop would be to find food - but instead we headed for the nearest saloon (yes they have real saloons still in Dawson City) and we ordered a drink. The best time of my life!

Réal Laplaine

Author -
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Réal Laplaine
Marketing Chief Nutrinacks AB
Datavagen 57 A
Askim 436 32 SWEDEN
Tel: (31) 0706-9595
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Hot Springs... Wyoming.... Hot and Cool!

I am sitting on the front porch of the office of the Fountain of Youth RV park in Thermopolis, Wyoming. I am being bit by little red ants and black bugs that look like aliens.... but I am getting a strong enough signal to write my blog, so I'm being a dutiful little dispenser of all things crazy, lucky, and life so that you may enjoy a cup of coffee and laugh at my stupid arse while I travel the roads of America! Here goes...

Wyoming... Awesome! Miles and miles of ranch land, flanked by big barren mountains, rivers that have carved out massive canyons, hot springs, dinosaur bones, wild life, history... and a sing a long church that you can sit in the hot spring at with your bathing suit on. Indeed this place has been interesting and a whole lot of fun. We have made so many friends everywhere we have gone and the Buffalo connection is running deep here too. Imagine 95 degree days that are hot and dry with a nice wind blowing through your hair and then 40 degree nights where you have to bundle up under big blankets and clothes.

We have ridden through tunnels and canyons that would make your mouth drop. When mom is at the wheel it is downright frightening since she spends more time looking at the scenery than the road. We found a beautiful beach at Boysen State Park and swam in water so cold it could cool a bonfire. We have had some excellent meals, some great sunny days and fun, fun, fun.

Today I rode my bike over the mountain next to RV park and into town. It was like the Tour De France. I was sweating and grunting and loving every minute of it. I met my mom and John at Star Plunge in the Hot Springs State Park for a long afternoon of swimming in hot pools, steaming in a Volcanic Cave, and jumping off of a high dive platform. I think I have heat exhaustion... I will post pics later. My neighbor June would loooooooove this place! It's HOT June... HOT HOT HOT!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Black Hills... my kinda place!

My mom and brother opted to stay back at the campsite for the day and relax. They would spend the day at the pool and playing board games in the RV. I grabbed the car keys and a map early in the morning and did not return until dark! I hopped back on 90 and went west and north into Sturgis where I was overwhelmed by the cheesy billboards that were begging bikers to buy every possible good or service on the planet. The infamous rally is coming up next month and it is the biggest money maker for this whole area of South Dakota with an average of 400,000 to 800,000 bikers participating. I like motorcycles, but I'm just not into the whole "Look at me... I'm a bad ass, because my mustache matches the handlebars on my Harley!" It seems so pretentious to me. I guess there was a time when being a biker meant something, but now every yuppie with an extra $30,000 has a Fatboy and a Peter Fonda starter kit.... and they are everywhere. Relax Easy Rider!! I can't deny that all the hub bub is good for Harley Davidson stock though.

From Sturgis I made my way to Deadwood. I like this town. It's a bit gritty still, despite the fact that they really play hard on the Old Wild West themes. I parked the car and roamed around Main St. which resembles what it looked like back in the 1880's. The gaming houses, some of them original, are impressive in architecture and quaintness and a few of them still have live poker rooms. I tried my luck on a $1 slot and came out $20 ahead. I turned around and spent it at the steakhouse in the casino on a beer and a nice meal. I was feeling fine.

I got back on the road after a bit and headed south on route 85 which skirts into Wyoming along the border of South Dakota. This is beautiful country... and full of the ghosts of the native people who made this place their home. The big valleys between mountains were the camping grounds of some of the greatest Sioux tribes that ever existed. Luther Standing Bear played in these parts as a youth, along with Black Elk and many other legendary native figures. There's was a life of enjoyment and off the land and following the game it provided. I stopped at an out cropping looking over a valley and imagined in my mind's eye the young scouts that would perch themselves on such rocks looking for animals below. It was quiet and serene.

I cut back into South Dakota via route 16 and snaked my way through the Black Hills National Forest. I stopped at Custer, Jewel Cavern, and finally at a small lake entrapped between granite peaks and pines where I blew up the raft and paddled out for a look. It was a beautiful little spring fed lake with a number of people fishing on the shore. I watched a little guy pull a big rainbow trout in, much to the delight of his grandfather. I would paddle to the windward side of the lake and then let the current drift me back while lying on my back and staring into the mountains. I did this for about 3 hours and got out of the water extremely relaxed and calm. I passed through Mt. Rushmore again and I swear those dead presidents were smiling at me!

On the way back to camp I stopped in Rapid City at a Border's book store. Anyone who knows anything about me at all will tell you.... I LOVE BORDERS. I practically live there in the winter when I'm home. I grabbed some books on the native history of the area and plopped my butt down for a few hours of quality reading time. It was about as perfect a day as one could have...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not all traveling is peachy! Bad, bad, Badlands.

After a night in Sahlem, South Dakota at a small RV campsite that had the dirtiest pool I've ever swam in, but bathrooms so clean you wouldn't mind eating cereal out of the toilet, we were off for Piedmont and the Black Hills. Everything started out ok, except that my mother was driving a steady 55 in the 75 mile per hour section of interstate 90. All of the sudden she's conscious of the wind, which is funny to me since I have watched the ass end of the 38 foot monster she's driving swing back and forth on the road like a southern woman's hips after she's had too many grits for a week straight. Even my brother, who is 8, and has never driven a vehicle (well, i did let him steer for a bit in Iowa) has been commenting on how erratic our mother's driving was. Either way... we are experiencing safe mode now, which is kind of worse for us because we are following her in the car and have to watch the traffic behind us come barreling down on us while we go 20 mph under the speed limit.

We make it to the Badlands exit and pull over to discuss logistics. Do we take the Winnebago? Maybe we park it and just take the car. The road is slightly out of the way, but puts us back on 90 a good 70 miles West, which is where we are going anyway. A guy we kept running into at rest stops sees us and tells us to go for it... it would be stupid to double back, and it won't be much more costly in gasoline than driving the highway. We mull it over shortly, look at the maps, and decide to do it.

I'm in the lead this time, since I'm barely two weeks removed from my last visit to the park with Sarah. We stop at a few hikes and scenic overlooks. Mom is a concerned with the hills and expresses to me that the RV feels like its stalling out while going down the steep hills because she's on the brakes hard and not giving it any gas. I tell her to drop it into a lower gear and let the engine do most of the braking, this way she'll have more power to the engine and most likely won't stall out. Everything seems fine. The Badlands of course, are incredible. We had to stop and let a small deer pass. There were big herds of cattle and bison in the distant plains. The weather was perfect. Soon we get to an elevation where there is a prairie dog field. The prairie dogs are out and dancing around on their hind legs. My little brother is oozing with excitement so we slow down to a creeping crawl during this section of the road. Unbeknownst to me, my mother is behind us cursing me out. She's stalling out and afraid of rolling backwards in the RV. I had no idea this was going on until she pulled off an exit a few miles away to close a window that I didn't completely secure that was flapping in the wind. There we were in a fireworks store parking lot in the middle of nowhere with her cursing like a sailor at me about the "fucking window you stupid fucking idiot!". Face red, hot as hell, and screaming she was. I rolled up the window and headed back to the highway.

When we got to Piedmont and settled in, she blew a gasket about the Badlands. "Stop at another fucking overlook you stupid ass! I was stalling out!" I swear I didn't know and how could I? We started arguing. I told her I would just leave. I didn't need the aggravation. "Go home! I don't care. It will be peaceful without you," she said. We were really getting annoyed with one another at this point. Some serious downtime was in much need for both of us. Luckily, mom and John didn't want to go anywhere today, so I took the car for the entire day and explored.... more to come on that!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Corn!...Oh... and a pond.

We pulled into Starved Rock State Park and had a chat with the lone ranger, and by lone I mean the only employee at the state park in Illinois. We discovered this when we tried to hook up to the power supply at our designated site and found it dead. The ranger moved us to the handicapped site across the way commenting, "he he he... I give them spaces away all the time." His tone was backwoods was Starved Rock State Park. It is basically the only patch of forest in a 500 mile radius surrounded by corn. There were maybe one hundred sites in 2 loops around the campground. No swimming, no amenities, just a little shade from the CORN! It was a place to eat, sleep and play cards. In fact, my little brother and I have played so many games of Rummy, Gin, Double Solitaire, and the like, that we are dreaming about cards at night!

Our next stop was in Lake Anita, Iowa. Hailing from the Great Lakes region and spending the majorities of my summers swimming, kayaking, surfing and just plain relaxing on the beaches of Lake Erie, this place was grossly misnamed. Lake Anita is a large pond in between a few hills in Iowa surrounded by CORN!!! We spent two nights there and I actually shouldn't complain, because we had a good time. I ate some corn, paddled out into the pond with my little brother, and enjoyed some great skies. We leaned back in our raft and watched the big white pillows rolling around in the sky looking for shapes, animals and faces. A nice thunderstorm passed by in the distance, but never came close enough to be any concern. John hopped out for a swim. Life was good.

We played a killer game of soccer with our neighbors, and then spent the rest of the night chatting with some people a few sites down about music. The people you meet in campgrounds are usually very friendly and from greatly varying backgrounds and walks of life. We did lose part of the Winnebago somewhere on our way to Lake Anita. It was the small panel that covers the propane tank, that is leaking....ha ha... this thing is the Beverly Hillbilly motor home as of late.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heading West... Again... The Cedar Point Experience.

“Head is 100 points, body 50, balls…. Game over! That’s a Ballseye! and if you hit my legs it is 5 points. Game is to 1000!” My cousin, clutching the ball and dripping wet with the cool water of Lake Erie, couldn’t stop laughing. I was holding John Isaac, my brother, in a spring-like stance twenty feet away, ready to launch him into the sky only to come splashing back down in the water. He wanted Steven to hit him with the ball while airborne and he was giving us his rules. This was the game invented by a brilliant 8 year old, along with the newest word in the English dictionary; Ballseye. I couldn’t do it on account of becoming weak with laughter. He was killing us! “John, Of course he’s going to aim for your balls silly! Who the hell purposely marks their balls as game over?” I pleaded. His voice got quiet, “He’ll never hit my balls. That’s why legs are only 5. He’ll go for my balls every time and miss, hitting my legs instead.” “Oooohhhh,” I said, realizing the master plan behind his madness. Up he went, over and over again with us trying to whip the ball at him. Neither of us was successful at hitting balls and winning the game. We got legs every time and quit from physical exhaustion well before reaching 1000 points. What a slick little bastard.

The backdrop for the game of Ballseye was the greatest theme park ever invented, Cedar Point. It was our second scorching day, and the three of us were plopped in the lake on the back side of the park trying to find some relief from the 95 degree plus temperatures. We had enjoyed the first day immensely and had ridden rides in the morning, but the heat was just way too much in the mid day hours to be standing in lines for hours trying to ride the coasters. The EMT’s were very busy the three days we were there, rushing people around to local hospitals that had passed out from heat exhaustion or severe dehydration. We found out our air conditioner in the front of the RV wasn’t working, then we lost power completely trying to figure out how to get it back on. Mom called a technician, but he was unable to fix the AC. We did restore power however, which was a good thing for all of us since my mom was trying to figure out who she would give all the food to if we couldn’t keep it cold. Ahhhh….. family road trips! Don’t they all start out with problems?

The rides at the park were incredible, but you really do need three days to get on all of them. We got rained out at the Millenium coaster, a 310 foot brain bender, three times before being able to ride it with my mom. When we got on we went right for the front seat. It was late in the evening, and the drop was so hard and the ride so fast that we were covered in splattered insects by the time we reached the end. It was a real thrill, as were all of the rides, and my brother, with much coersion and begging, rode almost every single one with us. A few times he tried to back out by saying he had to go to the bathroom, but he was all smiles after every new challenge. It was a great start to our 6-week adventure.

My cousin Steven was supposed to make the whole trip with us across the country, but he bowed out after Cedar Point, heading home with Christina, who had joined us for the three days in the park. It seems he missed his new girlfriend and summer job. He barely looked up from his phone all weekend, texting like a mad man. Oh, to be young and full of dumb love again… ha ha. It’s just the three of us now.

We said goodbye and got on the road, heading for Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. This would be our stop-over for the night.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 11 July 2, 2010 We make it to Kenai!

We got on the road fairly early in the morning. and started the drive towards Anchorage, then on to Kenai. By now, we were so used to the wildlife we didn't even stop to photograph the moose walking through the busy gas station parking lot. Sarah was like, "oh.... yeah..... another moose." We'd say it a few more times over the next few days. We stopped in Anchorage, which is a city, but doesn't much look like a city and had the biggest fatty tuna melts ever. They were so well seasoned, they barely tasted like tuna. I almost couldn't finish mine if you can believe that! I got online with my 3G card for the first time on the trip and was bummed to be getting such a weak signal in the center of the city. It took forever to book my airline ticket home. After this important task was accomplished, we started the drive to Kenai, another 187 miles West. We passed glacier lakes, hippies living in vans, glaciers, mountains, more mountains, and rivers full of vacationers and locals enjoying the fishing, rafting and kayaking. It really is as beautiful as they say.

We stopped to grab a six pack of beer on the way to Sarah's aunt's house to celebrate our final arrival. 5,525.6 miles! Wow! We had done it! Not a single break down or issue with the car.... except that it was filthy and had a few cracks in the windshield from the long stretches of gravel highway. We cracked a beer and looked for the key to get in.... no luck. Being that Sarah's aunt and uncle are in the southern islands of the state for the summer, we were left directions on where the key would be... it wasn't there. We called our contact, the daughter and son who live on the same lake. She came with the kids and we finally found the key. We got in the house and collapsed into big comfy chairs and watched movies and tv for two days straight only leaving for a few hours to get food and look around town. We were exhausted. We stole each other's music collections and did laundry and cooked food to divert ourselves from being total bums, but mostly we walked around in PJ's and chilled out. Yesterday, in a fit of boredom, we checked out some local beaches and spots for recreation. I told Sarah "You will be very good at outdoor activities when you are done with your three years here! Maybe you can shred on the guitar and hone any other skills that take lots of practice..." Yeah, there isn't much to do in Kenai. We ended up at Walmart for two hours, just checking out all the fishing and boating gear.... I wonder what the alcoholism rate is like! Ha ha. Either way it has been a beautiful ride, a great adventure, and I would recommend this part of the country to anyone looking for Mother Nature. She lives right here... in the North Western haunts of the North American Continent. I fly home tonight to hop on the road again with my mom, brother and cousin. Many more adventures to come! Stay tuned and thanks for all of your comments and warm wishes! I really appreciate it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 10 July 1, 2010 Whitehorse to Glenallen Alaska!

Dusty, dirty, a wee bit dangerous at times... we had endured the Canadian portion of the Alaskan Highway for two long days of driving and we were ready to hit our home soil again. This stretch of highway was the prettiest yet. The passage through Destruction Bay in the Yukon was like driving through another world. There were low hanging clouds and rugged grey mountains that were covered in glaciers. The road was gravel through much of the ride and was hugging the glacier lake, a lake that was more like a mirror than a body of water. I just wanted to pull over and sit down right on the shore of the lake and watch the clouds go by. It was cold, clean and remote. I could barely keep my eyes on the road. In all my travels I have never seen anything so raw and powerful.

The final 100 miles or so to the border were a wild and bumpy ride that we will never forget. Imagine going 70 or more miles an hour and all of the sudden turning a corner where half of the road is missing and there is just an orange flag letting you know. There were potholes that could swallow a tire whole! We got lucky and worked our way behind a motorcyclist that seemed to know the road like the back of his hand. This was not the place to break down or lose a tire. We were surrounded by mountains and had no cell coverage whatsoever. There were people pulled over and sleeping on the side of the road, probably beat from the experience. It seemed like the road would go forever, and it almost did, until we finally saw the "Welcome To Alaska" sign and the line backed up for the US customs. Back on our soil, we gripped the curvy road into the heartland of the final frontier. When we stopped in Tok, about 60 miles over the border, the first thing I did was call my grandmother and tell her she was right about the trip! She reminisced and shared stories with me about the ride she made 25 years ago. It was a great feeling. Sarah and I stopped at a great restaurant called Fast Eddy's and ate a big meal with voracious appetites! We would drive another two hours and make a stop in Glenallen for the night; it was too far to Anchorage and we were road weary and beyond tired at that point. We found the only motel in town, the "Caribou Hotel" for a solid night of sleep.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 9 June 30, 2010 Fort Nelson BC to Whitehorse, capitol of the Yukon!

All I can say is WOW on all accounts! The drive got prettier, crazier, more mountainous, more remote, and more wild the further we went. Surrounded by wilderness on all sides, we drove through the most awesome terrain we've seen yet...and the best I've ever seen. My grandmother told me I would see lots of great wildlife on this trip. She and my grandfather had done it 25 years ago with my uncle Anthony and aunt Annette. I just wanted to see a moose... just one... and I would be happy! We made our first stop on a mountain top under minor emergency circumstances. Sarah got a slight bout of food poisoning from the Super 8 continental breakfast in the morning. She thinks it was the apple juice that was bad since she only had a sip and knew something was wrong right away. We stopped at a rest stop overlooking a huge valley in between the mountain range we were on and one a few miles away. It was breath-taking, and a wee bit chilly too! She felt instantly better and we continued.

Our next stop was in a remote piece of country at a log cabin gas station where we learned a second lesson of supply and demand in these remotest of lands.... they have supply.... they demand high price! After paying an arm, two legs and a first born son for a half tank of gas we went inside to square up with the proprietor. He was a real mountain man. Jovial, big, and he had a bunch of dead shit mounted on his walls inside. It was like a museum in there. He told us he got every one of them himself, and that he hunts for food all the time. He's lived this way most of his life. His manly-hunter coolness made up for his lack of economic sympathy and he did have a credit card machine, so he wasn't fooling anyone!!! I bet he winters in Las Vegas! ha ha.

We pressed on, stopping frequently to take pictures and comment at the incredible, picturesque Rocky wilderness. It was intense. Our next stop was for food at another log cabin 100 miles or so down the road. We were not disappointed at this place. As soon as we walked in I smelled fresh bread baking in the oven. The happy little mountain woman working behind the counter was serving soup, sandwiches and smiles to some hungry motorcyclists and bouncing back and forth from the kitchen to the register to help people with gas or other items. It was like meeting your entrepreneurial aunt for the first time. She would crack jokes and make you feel right at home. Everything was "on your honor" and the grilled ham and cheese sandwiches we ordered came out on the biggest slices of home made bread you ever saw. We were stuffed for the rest of the day! I grabbed a peanut butter cookie and put myself into food heaven. We thought it couldn't get any better than this...

Then we saw a car pulled over on the side of the road. Sarah said, "Moooose!" so I swung it over and walked back to the overlook where a female was drinking out of the pond below. She was so beautiful, and it was so quiet outside with barely a vehicle passing. I was thrilled. It wasn't two minutes later when we saw another one right next to us on the road. We slowed down and it passed 5 feet in front of us to the other side of the highway. I was fumbling to get my camera out and snap some pictures. It was almost like the moose knew to stop and pose for me! I was so happy to finally see one, especially so close.

Later in the drive we saw a few herds of Wood Buffalo right on the highway and a small grizzly that was so hungry he didn't even look up when I was calling to him. Sarah didn't think this was too wise of me, but it wasn't phasing the bear at all. He was 10 feet away munching whatever he could find in the fields. They are just waking up from hibernation so they are a bit skinny and hungry as hell right now. He'll be a big fat boy by the end of the season, especially after he gets some salmon in him!

We crossed into the Yukon and it was one glacier lake after another on both sides of the road. There were little pockets of camps where you could see people tented in the woods, also some signs for native lands. This is wild country up here, and very beautiful. We ended up finally making it to the capitol, Whitehorse, an important mining town and the heart of this wild province that carries the moniker "Larger than Life" on all of its license plates and signs. It was an exciting, but exhausting drive.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 8 June 29, 2010 Great Prairie to Fort Nelson BC

We struck out in the morning passing through some serious country roads and heading north and west towards the link up to the famed Al-Can or Alaskan Highway. We got to mile zero after crossing some great rolling hills, farms, rivers and the like. Everything is in bloom up here, so it feels like spring all over again. Flowering fields of marigolds and buttercup are everywhere. We high-fived as we negotiated the little traffic circle in Dawson Creek and officially onto the Alaskan Highway. This stretch of road would be our humble home (or battleground) for the next couple of days and we were looking forward to the adventure. Sarah was ever conscious about gas and mileage, as you must be on these remote, sparsely populated roads. If you miss a gas stop, or worse, it is closed, you could really jeopardize your trip. We drove with the mountains looming ten miles or so to the west, the peaks glistening with white snow and glaciers. The closer we got to them, the farther the civilized world was fading behind us. Cell phones and internet were not an option. We made sure the truck was ship shape before embarking and kept a good weather eye towards which towns we would be staying in.

We decided we could make it to Fort Nelson, which seemed to be the next biggest stop en route. It was a good 600 or more miles away and we were still skirting along just east of the Rockies. It was awesome seeing them in the distance all the time and the road became wild and surrounded by nothing but pine trees and logging roads. This is the sticks. We had to laugh at the amount of insect carnage slapping into our windshield. It was a messy situation. We stopped to clean it as often as possible, which wasn't often enough. We noticed that Sarah had the ill fortune of always having a huge streak of guts right in her field of vision almost every time she was at the helm. She kept saying, "Look at this! They know I'm behind the wheel! Every time.... the same spot!" It was funny. We saw our very first Moose Crossing sign, but didn't see any moose. We did however see a bear briefly on the side of the road. The scenery was great and we were making great time, pushing 80mph on the straight stretches.

When we pulled into Ft. Nelson we found out that the room rates were definitely in tune with "supply and demand" theory. Sarah couldn't believe the rate for a Super 8, but we had to take it, there weren't many better options. We grabbed a bottle of rum from the liquor store/ restaurant across the street after having a nice pizza and sipped away until passing out much later that night.