Monday, July 25, 2011

On Pause

My recount of our trip is on pause. We are traveling and our hotel internet will NOT let me upload pictures. As soon as we are back in Fairbanks I will write the last two installments of our trip.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Moving To Alaska: Day 9

Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada to Northern Rockies Lodge, Muncho Lake, British Columbia, Canada
Miles traveled: 384
Total miles traveled: 1546

Leaving Fort St. John we had two choices: drive 384 miles, an 8 hour drive, and stay at the Northern Rockies Lodge on Muncho Lake or drive 555 miles, a 12 hour drive, to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada and find a place to stay there. Obviously an 8 hour drive, plus stops, was much preferred than a 12 hour drive, plus stops, so we opted for staying at Muncho Lake. Of course all this was dependent on the Northern Rockies Lodge having a room or rooms available. If they had nothing then we would have no choice but to press on to Watson Lake.

Thankfully when when we called the Northern Rockies Lodge had a room available. One room, two full beds, one twin and a private bathroom. Good enough for the five of us. And so we set off toward Muncho Lake.

Between Fort St. John and Muncho Lake there was Fort Nelson and that's about all. Honestly other than beautiful views, scenic vistas, wildlife, and road construction there is nothing between the point A and point B. So we drove and drove and drove some more. We stopped in Fort Nelson for lunch, not necessary because we were hungry but more because there was a Subway there and we had NO idea if there would be any food again. Fortunately we were smart and had a cooler of meat, cheese and condiments as well as bread, chips and some desserts stowed in the car. As it turned out that would be our dinner that night because upon arriving at our destination we discovered food was outlandishly expensive and it would have cost a fortune to feed a family of five!

Scenic vista some where between Fort St. John and Muncho Lake.

Two things about his picture. First of all we followed the same car from Pullman to Fairbanks. What are the odds of that? ;-) Second see those trailers in front of Dan's car. They are hauling some sort of pre-fabricated building and we played leap frog with them almost all day. We would pass them, get ahead and then when we stopped to stretch they would pass us again we the would start all over again.

There was another guy in a red pick up that we must have seen four or five times. Same deal, we pass him, we pull off, he passes us and then we pass him again when we get back on the road. He actually pulled into Muncho Lake to get gas just moments after we got in line to check into our room. Needless to say mom and I had a good laugh about that one. And I bet you can't guess who we saw when we got to Tok. :-) We still chuckle about that every now and then!

Crossing a bride over some river some where. Real descriptive, right?

We had the cars packed in such a way that the boys could either ride together in Dan's car or we could separate them if need be. Dan was listening to the Eragon series on CD and Jonathan got really into the story so he never moved cars because that meant missing part of the story. Jason on the other hand was passed back and forth several times over the course of the journey. Somewhere between Fort St. John and Muncho Lake mom and I realized that Jason had been awfully quite, too quite, suspiciously quiet. I turned around and found this scene.

Jason has in his hands the entirety of a box of tissues that he must have pulled out one by one. He has also picked up a second box and was trying to figure out how to get it open. Oh what a laugh we had!

The Northern Rockies Lodge.

The hotel and the lake were super nice. Our room had a sliding back door that was on a trail leading down to the shore of Muncho Lake. The lake was beautiful. It had that same jade green color that most of the lakes and rivers in Canada had. The water was cold but the boys had a great time skipping rocks and throwing rocks into the water. It was a great place for them to have a little freedom after a long day in the car.

Jonathan skipping/throwing a rock into the lake.

Jason after throwing a rock into the lake.

Super cute pontoon plane that is used at the Northern Rockies Lodge. Jonathan said it looked like a little rat. He was pretty enamored of that plane. He wanted to take a ride but believe me that was WAY too expensive!

Exhausted we crawled into bed, went to sleep and we dreamed of Fairbanks.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Moving to Alaska: Day 8

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada
Miles traveled: 412
Total miles traveled: 1162

Leaving Edmonton signaled the beginning of the second half of our trip. The trip from Pullman to Edmonton had been a sightseeing trip. We took it slow, took in the sights, enjoyed the drive, and basically treated it like a driving vacation. We covered 710 miles in 7 days and it was, by comparison, a pleasure cruise.

The second half of our trip, Edmonton to Fairbanks, was where the rubber hit the road. The necessity of getting to Fairbanks in a timely manner coupled with the sparse places to stay the night meant we had to cover some serious miles every day. We had just 4 days to cover 1,826 miles. Vacation was over, it was time to get to work. We filled up on a good breakfast and hit the road.

Somewhere just outside of Edmonton we stopped at a little roadside market. They had fresh produce as well as souvenirs and ice cream. There was also a tipi that was open to explore. Of course the kids thought it was pretty neat to go inside and look around. Jonathan had a hard time understanding just how someone could live in something like this, especially in a place with cold and snow.
A semi-decent family picture.

We stopped for dinner in Grand Prairie. It was beautiful there but definitely a prairie, it was as flat as flat could be for miles around. The wind in Grand Prairie was intense. It was almost a challenge to walk straight. It looked like there was some pretty interesting things to do and see in and around Grand Prairie but we were on a schedule so stopping to explore was not going to happen. Maybe next time (HA HA HA!)

Sign showing the directions out of Grand Prairie. I think heading west sound like a good idea! :)

Our drive to Fort St. John also took us past Beaverlodge, Alberta, Canada. Beaverlodge has the distinction of being home to a giant beaver statue. The novelty of the whole thing necessitated a stop for a family picture.

Our family with the giant beaver. Wouldn't that have been a great Christmas card!

The most momentous part of the days journey was reaching Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada. Dawson Creek, not to be confused with Dawson City, marks the official beginning of the AlCan. From here it was a mere 1523 miles to Fairbanks.

Our family with the famous Mile 0 sign post in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada.

The road to this point was so much better than I had expected. We had four lane, divided highway for quite a while out of Edmonton and when the road did go down to two lanes it was still a very well maintained road. And so far we had not yet found any of the infamous Alaska Highway frost heaves. That would change!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Moving To Alaska: Day 7

Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

I'm not one for thrill rides. I'd even go so far as to say I hate roller coasters. They scare the heck out of me. I don't even really like watching them. I get this knot in my stomach just thinking about them. That said I LOVE water parks. They are super fun. Twisting, turning and splashing is my idea of a really fun thrill ride. Needless to say from the moment we decided we were going to Edmonton the water park at the mall was on the agenda.

We had a blast! Mom doesn't really do water but she went with us and took some pictures, read and relaxed. The kids splash area had a really great slide that kids could do alone or with a parent. Both boys had so much fun. There were knobs to twist and valves to open and close that all changed the direction the water was going.

Jason and Dan after doing one of the big slides together.

Jonathan was having a blast!

Playing with one of the foot water controls. Very fun for small kids.

Jason just splashing around.

Dan at the bottom of one of the body slides. I believe he told me this one was bumpy and the red one was scary. It takes a lot to scare my husband. I'm glad I didn't go on the red one!

Mom took this one of me coming out of one of the slides.

It was a great day and the perfect way to wrap up our time in Edmonton before hitting the road to Alaska.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Moving To Alaska: Day 6

Location Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The West Edmonton Mall has a huge amusement park. They have several roller coasters, some thrill rides, kids rides, and a train that goes through the whole park. Since we were spending several days at the mall we decided to spend part of one day at the amusement park having fun with the boys. Jason wasn't able to do a lot of the rides because he was too small but he had fun one the ones he did get to go on. The ride operator of the hot air balloon ride even let all 4 of us on for the price of 1. It was pretty cool. I'm sure if they had been super busy that wouldn't have happened.

Jason and Dan on the hot air balloon ride. Getting Jason to look at the camera is challenging!

Jonathan and me on the hot air balloons.

Jonathan on the airplane ride.

Jason ridding the purple zebra... or something!

All of us on the train ride.

The mall also has a huge pirate ship and a sea lion show. Of course to get into the arena to watch the sea lion show costs an arm and a leg but you can watch for free from the mall concourse above the arena. The boys were thrilled to get to watch the show, even they didn't have front row seats.

The pirate ship.

The sea lions doing one of their tricks.

We also ran into Cosmo, the mall mascot. Jason wanted NO part of him!

After dinner we drove into downtown Edmonton and did some adventuring and looking around. The downtown area of Edmonton was really nice and I wish that we had more time to take some tours of downtown. Perhaps we will have to revisit Edmonton!

Downtown skyline at night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Moving to Alaska - Day 5

Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Since we were in Canada we couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend sometime in Edmonton and visit the West Edmonton Mall. As it turns out choosing to spend an extended time in Edmonton was a really good decision.

One evening after eating dinner we went out to Dan's car and it wouldn't start. It had been working just fine up to that point but all of a sudden it woudn't start. As Jonathan put it "the car just got dead." Mom was traveling with us and is a member of AAA so she called the AAA number to see what we needed to do to get help in Canada. After a few troubles with her member number things got straightened out and we were able to get a CAA representative to help us. We told them the problem and said they would get one of their diagnostic trucks out to us ASAP.

And so we waited. Of course its late in the evening so the mall that was near the restaurant has closed so the five of us are sitting there with nothing to do. The kids were getting twitchy so I took them to a nearby McDonalds to play for a little bit. In the meantime mom called our trusted mechanic here in Fairbanks and told him the problem, let him listen to what the car was doing and got a diagnosis of a bad alternator from him.

When the CAA guy showed up he was just as nice as could be. He ran all his tests and confirmed that the alternator was indeed bad. Then he called a tow truck to come and get Dan's car. But we were still left with the problem of how to get back to the hotel and get my car. Plus my car was packed full which meant unpacking the car and loading all the stuff into Dan's car so my car could be used as a family car while his was in the shop. Fortunately the diagnostic guy offered to drive Dan back to our hotel to retrieve my car. I can't tell y'all enough how absolutely wonderful the CAA guy was to work with. He was so polite and helpful and genuinely concerned that we got where we needed to go.

After Dan got back with my car we transferred every thing from my car to his and waited for the tow truck. As luck would have it they were taking the car to a place that was less than a mile from our hotel. When the tow truck showed up he was just as wonderful to work with as the guy from CAA. He commented that it was a good thing it happened in Edmonton instead of in the middle of nowhere, something that we had been reminding each other of all evening. This may be a bummer but it could have been way worse!
Watching the car getting hooked up to the tow truck.

What Jason was doing while the rest of us moved stuff from one car to the other. Lucky bum!

Our "dead" car getting ready to go.

When all was said and done we were without the car for just a little less than a day. Not bad when you consider how much worse it could have been. And that would be our only major excitement for the whole trip. Pretty good if ya ask me!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moving To Alaska: Day 4

Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Miles traveled: 187
Total miles traveled: 750

We stopped in Calgary for two reasons. First it was a convenient on our way to Edmonton and second I wanted to see the Saddle Dome. My very first memories of the Olympics are of the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. As a young figure skater I vividly remember watching Debi Thomas and Katrina Witt skating for Gold. I also remember the aerial shots of Calgary and thinking how cool the Saddle Dome looked. So since I was close I just had to see the Saddle Dome.

We started off our day with a trip to Tim Hortons for breakfast. While we were there Jonathan looked up and said "Look mom there are two police officers in this doughnut shop!" He he had no idea how ironic his statement was he was just in awe of the police officers!

After breakfast we headed off to the Canada Olympic Park. This was the sight for many of the events during the 1988 Olympics including luge, bobsled, and ski jumping. We got to sit in a bobsled, take a look at the luge and bobsled track, and see the ski jumping towers. Those things are tall! I can't imagine standing at the top and actually going down on skis! The boys also got the opportunity to stand on and official medal podium and to their best victory face. It was a pretty neat experience.

Hanging out in a bobsled and once again finding it impossible to get a decent family picture! :)

One of the curves in the luge/bobsled track.

The tallest of the ski jump towers.

The view of Calgary from the base of the ski jump towers.

Jason wins the gold!

Jonathan takes the gold!

Then we headed off to the Saddle Dome. The Calgary Stampede had just ended so traffic heading into downtown Calgary was a little crazy. We wound our way around, got lost a few times but finally found the Saddle Dome and I got my picture. Oh the things we will do for a picture!

The Saddle Dome! Bet ya can't guess why its named the Saddle Dome ;)

The drive between Calgary and Edmonton reminded me of driving in Idaho and Washington. Lots of farm land with wheat and canola. The views were beautiful. We drove through Red Deer and Medicine Hat before arriving in Edmonton. Edmonton was where we were going to take a little vacation before making our final long haul push to Fairbanks. Turns out that was a great decision! (to be continued)

Somewhere between Calgary and Edmonton.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Moving To Alaska: Day 3

Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada to Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Miles traveled: 253
Total miles traveled: 563

Cranbrook was a beautiful little town. The views of the Canadian Rockies from the town were incredible. Unfortunately because we were on a timeline we didn't really spend much time in the town. There was a rail museum that would have been really interesting to visit but we just didn't have time to take a real sightseeing trip. We didn't even make it off of the main strip of town.

While in Cranbrook we discovered two things: Tim Hortons and The Real Canadian Superstore. I'd heard of Tim Hortons and knew immediately we would be stopping there for breakfast the next morning. They did not disappoint. Oh my goodness the doughnuts were delicious! I think we ate most every breakfast in Canada at Tim Hortons.

The Real Canadian Superstore was a find out of necessity. We had forgotten our night light back in our hotel in Spokane. Going back for it wasn't an option so we went out in search of a store that may have one. Imagine Walmart mixed with Fred Meyer and you have something similar to The Real Canadian Superstore. They had everything, including things I'd never heard of like Bologna with Macaroni and Cheese in it. Sounds terrible to me but Jonathan LOVED it. He's super bummed that we can't find it anywhere in the states.

Leaving Cranbrook we had several options as to which direction we wanted to go. There was the direct route or the route that would take us through Banff. Since we were trying to see some of the sights we took the longer route that took us through Banff. We were not disappointed, the sights were AMAZING!

Not too far outside Cranbrook is the Kootenay River. The river is a beautiful blue-green color because of copper deposits in the water. I've never seen water so beautiful in my life.

We stopped along the Kootenay River and skipped stones and threw rocks in the water for quite a while. It was a nice opportunity for Jonathan and Jason to be boys and play, especially since we still had a lot of driving a head of us.

The next cool thing we found was Columbia Lake. Living in the Pacific North West we were very familiar with the Columbia River. Dan grew up in Portland with the Columbia at his doorstep. Half of the drive from Pullman to Portland is through the Columbia River Gorge and right along the Columbia River. On our honeymoon we visited Astoria, Oregon and saw where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. We had no idea that this trip would take us by the headwaters of the Columbia River. It was really neat to stop and see the headwaters of such a major waterway.

The road to Calgary also took us through Kootenay National Park. Since we were driving though on our way to Calgary we didn't have to pay the park use fee and were able to enjoy most of the sights free of charge. The views were amazing: stunning vistas, beautiful bodies of water and impressive mountians. It was seriously more than one can take in on a drive through. I can certainly see why people pay to stay in the park. One thing that mom remembered from her drive to Alaska was Lake Louise and she wanted to show that to us. Unfortunately because we hadn't paid we couldn't go up to the lake, plus it would have added over an hour to an already long drive. So, sadly, we had to miss that but we saw lots of other great views along the way.

The road into the park was cut through the mountain side so we were actually driving between a mountain. It was really neat. The boys, especially Jonathan, thought it was super cool.

There were also many beautiful wildflowers throughout the park.

And you can't forget the mountains. The peaks were so close it felt like I could touch them from the car. So impressive. I don't know what the bird in the photo is. I'm sure I knew then but its been a year.

Somewhere in Kootenay Park we crossed into Alberta. Clearly I had no idea that was coming or I might have been more prepared for the picture. Oh well!

Just outside Banff, where we stopped to play tourist and eat, we saw these wild mountain goats. Both boys were really excited to see wild animals crossing the road.

Banff was beautiful. There we shops and restaurants everywhere. And of course since its a major tourist destination there were also people everywhere. I didn't get any pictures because I was so busy trying to keep track of the kids. I do remember downstairs in the mall there was a display showing how skis have changed over the years. I found that very interesting.

I did get one picture of the Banff area on our way out of town. What a beautiful place! The rest of our drive to Calgary was equivalently beautiful. I spent most of the trip in absolute awe of the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.What a beautiful country!


My blog has been suffering from neglect for quite sometime. I am noticing now that some of the links don't work and my profile description is way out of date. I'll work on getting that updated and all working soon. In the mean time Part 3 of our trip will post in the morning.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Repost - Moving to Alaska: Day 2

One year ago today

Spokane, Washington to Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada
Miles traveled: 188
Total miles traveled: 310

The hotel that we finally found only had king rooms available. So Jason slept on one side of the bed on the floor and Jonathan slept under the desk. It was the perfect little cave for him to sleep in. He felt so special.
Sometime around 7am Jonathan woke up to go to the bathroom. We had forgotten to do the chain lock on our door and he was tired and dazed and ended up going out the room door into the hall. I woke up shortly there after and noticed he wasn't in his cave. Then I heard someone pounding on a door. It took me a second but I finally put the two pieces together and realized that he was out in the hall. He knew my mom was next door so he knocked on her door. Scary moment to think about what all could have happened.Before heading off to Canada we stopped in Coeur D' Alene to have lunch with my BFF Meghan. We had a wonderful lunch at Red Robin. Then we said our good byes and headed to Canada.

Prior to this trip I had never been out of the United States. When I was a kid we always flew out when we traveled in the summer and my car was shipped to us and the other car had never been to Alaska. I was pretty excited to take my first trip out of the United States even if it was just to Canada.

Of course as we approached the border the battery in my camera went completely dead. Fortunately my mom is a picture crazy as I am and took the picture of the international border that I would have taken anyway.
Remember this post about taking a family picture at Christmas?
Once again we took probably 10 outtakes and still didn't really get a decent picture of our family in front of the Welcome to British Columbia sign. That was pretty much the case anytime on this trip that we tried to take a family picture. Perhaps later I'll post all the outtakes. Some of them are pretty funny! But anyway here we are, for better or for worse cause we certainly aren't going back for a better picture now, in front of the Welcome to British Columbia sign.

And believe me there is a reason they refer to the province as Beautiful British Columbia. The whole place was just beautiful. The green lakes, the trees, the Canadian Rockies, all of it was just amazing.