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Sometimes Time Moves Too Fast…

As I begin this post – let me describe the weather outside – it’s blowing snow – 27 degrees with a “real feel” wind chill temp of 11!  Holy cow!  What are we thinking?  I can tell you that easily – kids!  Bill and I get to pick where we live – not where they live – so we have to occasionally deal with this crazy weather!  

We are warm and toasty in our home on wheels while all that is going on outside.  We have a full tank of fresh water – black and grey tanks were emptied yesterday morning, all is good!  

A few days ago, before all this weather started, we decided to go for a walk around the CG.   There are a lot of sites here, most of the place is shut down for the winter.  A lot of the park is seasonal sites, some of which have clearly been here a LONG time!  Scottyland was originally started for owners of Scotty trailers, and there are still a few around.  Sadly, all these older trailers makes the place look run down.  It’s a shame really, as the property is amazing and you can tell at one time it was a really great CG!  We are about an hour or so southeast of Pittsburgh, so perfect for weekend getaways.  

Bill explained to me how it is possible to do this – but no answer for why?

Nice views

Another one sticking out with no support – doesn’t look safe to me


We’ve had some busy days and some days we haven’t done a whole lot.   We’ve hung out at Michelle’s, finished the first season of Stranger Things, a Netflix series.  Another day, she came over here and visited us while I decorated for the upcoming holidays.  I didn’t get out any decorations last year, frankly b/c while working 50 hours at Amazon, I didn’t have the energy.  This is a new and different year!  


Another warmer day, Bill & I spent an afternoon at the Flight 93 National Memorial.  I couldn’t help but wonder aloud about how different the vibe in the country is now compared to then.  I realize a horrible thing occurred in our country back in 2001, and I hope I never have to watch our country endure another situation like that again, but the way the whole country bonded together and helped one another, proudly flying American flags was inspiring.  It’s disappointing how divided we are now.  I know why, and don’t want to minimize the reasons why.  I’m just observing that after some kind of mass tragedy, people will generally be kind and helpful – stick together despite differences – but that is not the atmosphere in the U.S.A today.   And that makes me sad.  

This black path is the flight path of Flight 93





I had mentioned in a previous post that we would be going back to Green Gables, the venue our daughter is getting married at next year, to ask some questions.   Six of us, the bride and groom to be and parents, all headed there Saturday morning.  It was a very productive meeting, we got to see samples of centerpieces, color choices for tablecloths and napkins, discuss menu options.  There was a wedding taking place there later that day, so we also got to see some of how it was being set-up.  I have to tell you – this is all quite exciting!   Derek’s older sister is married and so his Mom, Tracy, was able to share some insights and make some helpful suggestions.  


We all then came back to our place so Tracy & Pete could see the rig, while we snacked on shrimp cocktail and queso.  Odd combo, but yummy nonetheless.   

Next stop was Tracy & Petes house.  They are getting ready for a kitchen remodel, so lots of stuff is packed away.  It was nice to see where Derek grew up!  We also got a tour of what Michelle and Derek affectionately call the garagemajal.  It’s basically Derek’s Dads HUGE 3 car garage and workshop.  He has a car lift and a bunch of woodworking tools.  I think it’s safe to say Bill had a bit of garage envy.   Upstairs in the garage is a HUGE man cave.   Derek has a 5 year old nephew and 1 year old niece and Pete aka Pappy, will pop a tent and “camp” with them up there – how awesome is that?  


Next stop was the family cabin, which is adorable!  It’s close enough to town to be used as a guest house, yet far enough that you feel “away”.  There is a large grassy area surrounded by trees, so very private.  

The final stop of the day was Michelle & Dereks place.  We gathered for dinner and talked for hours, exchanging family stories, mostly about the “kids”.  

Was a wonderful day getting better acquainted!

 

Another week has gone by here in southwest PA.  A bit of snow fell and hung around for a few days, looking pretty, before melting and making the CG  a soupy mess!

We’ve done some shopping, cooked some meals, watched some movies, just chilling and spending time together.  

One of the things Bill and Michelle shopped for was a new mailbox.  Michelle didn’t like the one that was there and then the mailman actually broke it by hanging a package on it, so perfect excuse to get a new one.   Of course her Daddy said he would help her choose and install a new one!  I bet you can figure out who did which part!



Thanksgiving Day we were up and over to Michelle’s early to finish our piece of the holiday meal, sausage stuffed mushrooms and crab stuffed mushrooms.  The day before, Michelle had made her yummy pumpkin cheesecake pie and chocolate oreo pie.  

There were about 20 people having dinner at Derek’s Grandparents house.  Weird thing is that the grandparents aren’t even home – they snowbird to FL for the winter.  They live across the street from Derek’s parents and they have a larger area to accommodate 20 people.  Derek’s brother-in-law does a lot of the cooking and everyone that comes brings a side dish.  

We found this interesting item on the wall in the basement – it’s made from a piece of the Alaskan pipeline and was given to Derek’s Grandfather.  



It was a very nice day, we enjoyed meeting more of Derek’s family and stuffing ourselves silly with all the delicious foods!


Our last full day, “the kids” decided to get a Christmas tree and invited us to go along.  That sure made us happy!  After checking out a few places, we ended up at Lowes and Michelle picked out a cute little Fraser Fir.  


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Planning a Wedding!

We are here in southwestern PA to visit our daughter, Michelle (aka Maeve).  She and her fiancé, Derek, recently moved into their first home together in Berlin, PA, near Somerset.  It’s a beautiful home and they have an amazing back yard!  Their wedding will take place in October 2017!  Before our arrival, they have already chosen a venue, Green Gables, about 20 minutes away.  

While we are here, we hope to help getting the planning going full steam ahead.  Michelle has been waiting for us to arrive, as she wanted us to be able to be involved in the whole process, and we are very happy about that! 

To that end, Michelle had set up a few appointments to look for wedding dress.  Our first one was at a shop in Greensburg, MC Bride.   We arrived for the appointment and we were given some information cards to fill out, with names, dates, etc.  Our consultant, Lisa,  introduced herself and we got started.  It is a fairly large shop with many, many dresses in lots of styles.  

Michelle looked amazing in every dress she tried on, some of them more “her” than others.  She had some definite ideas of what she did and didn’t want and most of the gowns she tried on fit within those ideas, but she also agreed to a few outside those parameters, just to rule them out, if nothing else.  

After about 6 or 7, she looked into the mirror and I knew she liked the one she had on.  It looked like it was made for her, had 90% of her wish list, the remaining 10% had already been ruled out, as that particular element didn’t fit her body type as well as she hoped.   

Just to be sure, she tried a few more we had already picked out, but “the one” kept coming back into conversation, comparing it to all others.  She put it back on and it was confirmed – of all we had seen and she tried on – this was by far the best one.  Our consultant left us alone to talk for a few minutes, which we both appreciated.   I reminded her of the other appointments and just wanted to give her an “out” if she wasn’t sure – but she was – so she officially said YES to the dress!  


Then it was my turn!  So many options!  Michelle, again, had some definite ideas and relayed them to Lisa.  It was a bit weird, my wardrobe being discussed by 2 people – neither was me!  To be fair, I had told Michelle I was willing to try on whatever she liked.  Her “wish list” for me was simple – nothing even close to frumpy, something simple – not too glitzy (if at all), and after a low plunge dress was brought out – no “sexy mama” styles either!  I tried on a total of, I think, 7 or 8, but “the one” fit perfectly – beautifully simple, classy; even the fit was great!  Only needed change was the color – the one I tried was navy blue and we wanted a red wine color.  After consulting the swatches, the actual perfect color is called cranberry.  

Whew – we were both exhausted!  It’s hard work getting the most and second most important dresses for a wedding! 

Later in the week, Michelle, Bill and I drove out to the venue.  It wasn’t a formal appointment, just a sunny day (the kind we are hoping for on the actual big day!) and we wanted to see the place.   

It isn’t too far from her home, about a 20 minute ride.  We pulled up and I could tell immediately it was very “her” – unassuming, older with mature trees and foliage all around – not a huge sterile hotel with huge ballrooms.  We walked around back where she hopes the ceromony will take place, it is next to a small lake – it is gorgeous!  We had to imagine it with the trees still having their leaves, which should be starting to turn.  


There is an outside patio, which is also available as the ceromony space, if the ground is soggy from recent rains, but the day of is sunny and clear.  Inside the reception space can also double as a ceremony space if the weather is completely uncooperative.   


For cocktail hour, there is another room attached to both the patio and reception room, which will be utilized when pictures are being taken after the ceremony and if the reception space needs to be switched over if used for the ceremony. 

We will probably have them take down the ceiling lights and instead wrap the tree trunks (yes they are real) with lights and some type of ivy

Huge fireplace that can be lit if it’s chilly


We just loved the whole feel of the place!  We made an appointment with Teresa, the on staff wedding consultant, to meet and talk about what type of decorations they offer, linen and napkin colors, centerpiece options, etc.  We also want to talk about the food choices, we were given an updated 2017 planner, and possibly set a spring appointment to have a food tasting for final decisions on that.  

Another productive day!  

Bill and I have been getting some chores done around the rig also.  He has ordered us water filters for our frig, he’s also changed the oil and fuel filters. I’ve been working my way through giving the place an overdue, much-needed scrubbing!  We also spent the better part of an afternoon at the Verizon store, finally getting new phones!  Well – mine is on order, as I didn’t want a black one!  I had received emails, back in mid-September, telling me about the promotion to trade-in our iPhone 6’s for the new iPhone 7’s.  I had called and explained our situation, that we would be traveling and not able to go into a store to get them, and they were supposed to have made a note in my account to extend the offer until we got here.  Well, much longer story short, it wasn’t quite that easy and multiple calls needed to be made in attempt to get the promotion I was told we could get.  Time will tell if it is actually finally going through.  I should have my new phone tomorrow – I’ll let you know.  

Taking a break from wedding planning and everyday chores – we headed to Ohiopyle State Park for a hike.  It was a gorgeous sunny day, and warmer than average temp for this time of year.  We got a little lost after getting off the trail – but it was easy to do since there are lots of leaves covering the trail.  We found our way back and celebrated with some ice cream!  



That’s all for today folks!  Have a great weekend and Thanksgiving!  We’ll chat again soon!  

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Hanging in PA

We arrived here at Scottyland CG on Friday Oct 28, one day behind the original planned date.  Sometimes stopping for a quick visit with friends is worth the delay.  This was one of those times!

We had hoped that now that our daughter and her fiancé lived more out in the country, instead of in the city of Pittsburgh, we would be able to get a CG closer than 1/2 hour away, but this time of year, choices are limited.  There is one state park, Kooser, that is staying open later than usual, but they turned off water and closed the sewer hook-ups at individual sites, which is understandable b/c of how cold it can get.  They also do not allow stays of longer than 3 weeks, even though it is way past “season”.  So, instead we are at Scottyland Camping Resort, about 18 miles away, a 25 minute drive.  Most of the drive is on narrow, windy, county roads, which during the day is fine, but can be nerve-wrecking at night due to wildlife potentially coming into the road.  The CG is ok – there are a lot of seasonal RV’s that stay parked all year but get closed up for the winter.  This location is only an hour or so from Pittsburgh so they get a lot of weekenders coming on Fridays after work and heading back Sunday afternoons.   Only issue I have with the park is a lot of the RV’s (mostly travel trailers) are old and beat up looking, causing the place to look run down and unattractive.   The upside is the rate is affordable at $395 for the month (all inclusive – no metered electric).  The only other thing is the office has very limited hours now.  We’ve been trying to get a key to the gate for almost a week (the gate sometimes gets locked at night).

Having said all that, we have already made a reservation for a different CG for next fall for the month before the wedding.  It’s about 5 miles closer to Michelle’s house and much nicer, no ugly run-down trailers.  It’s a bit more money at $450 for the month, but doable.

We have been busy since our arrival.   We’ve been spending time hanging out with Michelle, talking about the wedding, getting some chores done, and having dinner together.  Michelle and Derek are both great cooks and they’ve been spoiling us with yummy dinners.

Derek made this fabulous Lobster Mac and Cheese one night!

We’ve already driven out to Lancaster to see our son and help him move.  He and his fiancé have broken up, so it is a difficult time for him.   In spite of that, it was good to see him, as it had been over a year – TOO LONG!

me and my boy

We (Bill, Michelle and I) spent a few days in NJ, with our friends (extended family really) the Yaegers, saying goodbye to Jim.  He passed away, leaving his wife (my BFF), Linda, and 2 kids, Jessilynn (our Goddaughter) and Jimmy.  It is a sad time for sure.  Jim was a good friend and he will be missed by all who knew him.  We’ve known them for over 25 years! Derek, thankfully, stopped in and checked on Callie for us while we were gone.

We also had a scare with our great-niece, 16 yr old Avianna.  She left her fathers house and didn’t come home for 3 nights.  Scared the s*** out of us!  We are grateful that she is now home and safe, but wow!  You want the phone to ring, but you don’t want the phone to ring – ya know what I mean?   I was starting to look at air schedules!  We all breathed a sigh of relief when she called her Mom to come pick her up!

On a happier note:  We finally got to meet Derek’s parents, Tracy and Pete!  Michelle and Derek arranged for us to all have dinner together at a local place called Out of the Fire.  It was a great evening getting to know them, and I’m sure we will spend more time together while we are in town.

me and my girl

highly recommended if you are ever in the Donegal, PA area

happy parents with the bride and groom to be!

So, as you can tell, its been a stressful week, some the good kind, some not, here in PA. We have lots going on while we are here, including dress shopping!  Michelle has set up 2 appointments so far, and I am very excited to get started!  We also want to go see the venue, and talk about what they want it to look like, etc.  It’s all so exciting!  I’m the Mother of the Bride!

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Getting Back East – Family Time!

What an adventure we had getting here!  I told all about it in the post Staying in Front of the Weather.  Let’s just say we were long overdue for some sun and warmer temps!

I was originally going to have this post be 2 posts – one about CO and the other about KS, but I got lazy and was busy visiting instead of typing, so now he is my combined post.  Having this family time has definitely made not being in AK anymore easier!

Our actual planned arrival date for the Boulder CO area was Thursday Oct 13, I had thought we’d spend 2 nights (instead of 1) in Edmonton and also 2 nights (instead of 1) with Helen & Pat.  Trying to outrun the snow put us ahead of schedule by 2 days – so we arrived instead Tues Oct 11!  We were exhausted but happy!

Our time in CO went so fast!  I’m going to keep this post simple – hope you don’t mind!

Quynns first visit to the rig


visiting Quynn at her job – Happy Hour at the St Julien

street performers on Pearl Street Mall


beautiful sunset sky


I think he had 5 going at this point!

“Buff’s” cheerleaders – Homecoming “Stampede”


CU Marching Band – they played the same stand music my kids played when they were in HS Marching Band


Bill bought himself a flight at Skeye AND a growler of his fav to go – $12 with a Groupon

 

going in for the tour of Celestial Seasonings Tea factory


how cool is this dress made from tea bags? Looks like something you’d see on Project Runway


Megan enjoying her SoCo Sour


Quynn relaxing for Happy Hour


Bill and I drove up to Estes Park to see the Elk in rut and listen to them bugle! They were pretty far off when we arrived


we sat and watched and graduallly they came closer


we could hear that large male bugling – tried to record it but all you could hear was the wind


our goodbye breakfast 😞 at Luciles in Longmont

We had a great time visiting with Quynn and getting to know Megan.  Quynn is my cousin (really more like an older sister) Cindy’s daughter and our eldest Goddaughter.  We don’t see each other nearly enough!  Gotta work on that!

Next up was more family time in KS; our niece, Angela and her 2 kiddos, Avianna and Will live in Manhattan.  We spent a night on the road on the way, was too far for a one day.  It was really perfect timing for a visit with them, as the kids had off school our whole visit!

I’m sure you can tell how hard it was for Bill to get parked b/c of the narrow road with no run off due to the ditch


we visited a farm stand that had some activites for kids – even Mom got on the jumping “pillow”


Angela jumped pretty high – and even did a flip!


our niece, Angela


feeding some farm animals


turkey was very hungry


shooting a potato gun


Will’s turn


Bill tried to get Angela’s dirt bike running, but it needs a good carburetor cleaning

#60 – he’s our man!


sleep over!


up and up he went!


Lucy – their cat


We enjoyed a short but awesome visit!  Time for continuing eastward!

Our next stop was St Louis MO – we wanted to check out the Gateway Arch!  We were supposed to have seen it back in 2010 but we had to hurry back due to a death in the family.  Now was our chance!

We spent the night at a Hollywood Casino, and took advantage of their BOGO Buffet dinner on Monday nights!  Delish meal for $21!


The next morning, we found our way into downtown St Louis.

was surprised I was not freaking out in the little car to the top – thankfully the ride is short


tiny little viewing windows


view of the Old Courthouse

Our last stop (well second to the last but the last was a boring Walmart sleepover) was a quick visit with the The Restless Youngs, our friends Cori & Greg and their adorable pup, Hobie.   We had been chatting and realized our paths were almost exactly going to cross – so a bit of clever re-rerouting and – BAM! – an overnight stopover in Indianapolis was arranged!   We made our best attempt to fully catch up on ALL the things we have seen and done in the last 8 months since we’ve seen each other last, but honestly, I’m not sure we scratched the surface!  That is sadly how it can be, in person visits are few and far between but so worth the effort!  Thanks guys for dinner and breakfast!  It was great seeing you!

Well, there you have it – a quick summary of our trip “back east”.  We are now in Southwestern PA, where we are seeing our daughter and her fiance.  We have a day trip or two planned to see our son until we drive the rig to Lancaster after Thanksgiving.

Thanks to all my loyal readers for following along.  I appreciate each and every one of you – and look forward to all your comments and questions.

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Recap Alaska!

I think mine is the last 2016 AK recap to get posted!  We were the last ones out!  We were a bit concerned leaving so late – hit some snow – but all is well!

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Everyone travels to AK and does their recap and summary of that trip differently – here are some links to friends of ours that came this summer: Steve & Linda – (who we traveled up with – they didn’t work, did a lot of boondocking, drive a Class A with a small toad) The Chouters part 1 and  The Chouters part 2; Tracy & Lee – (they also Workamped like Bill & I, travel in a 40′ 5th Wheel, didn’t boondock a whole lot)  Camper Chronicles; Les & Sue – (travel in a 40’ish’ 5th wheel towed by a medium-duty truck, didn’t work, traveled with another couple, did some boondocking)  Rambling RV Rat AK recap and Rambling RV Rat – AK retrospect; and Jim & Barb – (put their 5er in storage and purchased a truck camper for this trip, didn’t work, boondocked and fished a lot, travel with their dog, Daisy Jim and Barb Great Adventure AK recap).   I am including these links b/c to show there is many ways to see AK, many ways to divide your budget to suit your lifestyle, I believe it’s important to see as many perspectives as possible before heading up.

Let’s dig in on OUR way!   We travel with our 40′ 2014 Heartland Landmark 5th Wheel, which weighs in at +/- 16,500lbs.  We tow it with our 2011 Ford F-350 DRW 4×4 pick-up.  I am reminding you of our set-up so when I report our mileage and other rig related items, you are aware of what I am referring to.

We crossed into Canada on May 4 at Sumas, WA, with no issues at all, easy peezy. We arrived at our Seward workamping destination, Renfros Lakeside Retreat, on May 25. You can read the details of our drive up here:   Getting to AK

from our trip on the way up - taken in Haines

from our trip on the way up – taken in Haines

Our stayed at our home base (minus 4 side trips) through 9/27 – a total of 127 days.  Our side trips took us away 18 days – 3 nights to Homer, 6 nights to Denali, 5 nights to Glennallen/Valdez, and back to Homer for 4 nights.  Let’s break those down to see what the costs were.

First Homer trip:  miles from Renfros (towing) –  309 (round trip), miles exploring – 50, 3 nights at Fishing Hole CG –  @$15 (dry camping) per night = $45.  Entertainment this trip – $43.50 (dining out) $25 (brewery). You can read all about it here:  Home in Homer

Homer Small Boat Harbor

Homer Small Boat Harbor

Denali trip:  miles from Renfros – 706 (round trip), miles exploring – 182, nights at Trapper Creek CG – 2 @ $34.65 (FHU, Good Sam discount) per night = $69.30, 3 nights at Riley Creek CG – @ $28 (dry camping) per night = $84, 1 night at Wasilla Elks Club – @ $15 (charged us the member rate) per night = $15 ; $137 (dining out and shuttle bus trip into Denali) entertainment.  Details of this trip: Trapper Creek and Talkeetna and  Denali

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Valdez trip:  miles from Renfros – 826, miles exploring – 77, nights at Northern Nights CG (Glennallen) – 1 (on the way there) , 1 (on the way home) @ $37.80 (FHU w/Good Sam) per night = $75.60, 3 nights at Valdez Glacier CG @ $30 (dry camping) per night = $90; $232 (glacier cruise, museum, dining out) entertainement.  All you need to know is here: Valdez

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Second Homer trip: miles from Renfros – 309, miles exploring – 132, 4 nights at Mariner CG @ $15 (dry camping) per night = $60, $332 (fishing trip, fishing license, Seldovia trip, dining out, drinks out) entertainment.   Want to know more?  Here it is:  Second time in Homer

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It may also be of interest that we put 2,542 miles on the truck doing day trips from Renfros to Anchorage, Whittier, Kenai/Soldotna, Palmer and also back/forth to Seward.  The miles listed above with each side trip are not included here.

As far as fuel cost and mileage is concerned – while in AK we paid an average of $2.55 per gallon.  Prices for fuel were much more reasonable in larger towns, like Anchorage vs Seward, Seward prices were better than Homer or Valdez.  The most we paid was $2.91 in Glennallen; the lowest was $2.27 in Anchorage. Believe it or not, those were both on the same day!  We averaged 9.6 mpg towing – which Bill was happy about considering the terrain (I also might mention he uses an additive in the fuel  Ford Motorcraft Cetane Booser $8.50 per bottle at the Ford Dealer – Bill says it adds $.07 a gallon but he believes he gets all that back and more with increased fuel mileage, plus the added lubricity – which prolongs the life of the injection pump and fuel injectors) and 17 mpg not towing (the 2542 miles mentioned above).

Most people, in their recaps, also talk about grocery costs and entertainment costs, since these items can be a good bit higher than “usual” on a trip to AK.

Groceries:  we generally spend about $423 on groceries (average – not including alcohol) per month – here in AK that amount was $469 .  The way we arrived at these amounts is we took 6 months prior to arriving in Washington State as our pre-AK baseline – once we arrived in Washington State, we stocked up on some items, such as coffee, paper products, etc. and things that were on sale in anticipation of these things being more expensive.  I’d like to mention here that there were times we got food items as “tips” (things guests left in the cabins) – I don’t think it added up to too much, but as a few examples we got eggs several times, ketchup, milk a few times, sugar, bacon 3 different times (once 2 lbs!), the biggest thing was 3 lbs of Alaskan sausage, which we saw for sale in Safeway for $18!  We only took unopened items and we did share some with our co-workers and put some in the lodge (how much ketchup can we use?). Actually I misspoke – the largest food tip was fresh caught halibut and salmon a guest left in the lodge freezer.  There were several large bags, some of which was used for AK family dinners and 2 times we shared it with friends.

Entertainement:  one of the first things we did after arriving in Seward was purchase a TourSaver app, which could also have been purchased as a hard copy book.  It is basically a BOGO FREE coupon book, and it saved us a bunch of money.  The cost to purchase the TourSaver app $85.

Summary of things we did using TourSaver: $9 Reindeer Farm, $77 Alaska Railroad Whistlestop train ride, $130 Glacier Cruise from Valdez, $14 Valdez Museum, $24 Seward SeaLife Center, $210 Halibut Fishing trip (this is actually half of one ticket b/c we split the coupon with Ben), $32.50 Ferry to Seldovia from Homer (also half of one ticket b/c we split it with Jo), $12.50 Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – for a grand total of $495 spent/saved – $85 we spent on the app = $410.  The question is would we have done all these things without having the app?  I’d like to say yes, but honestly can’t be 100% sure.

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Things we did not using the TourSaver: $142 ferry to Skagway from Haines, $42 Soapy Smith Show in Skagway,  $69 Seavey Dog Sled Tour, $68 Denali National Park Shuttle Bus tour.  The grand total for these items is $321.

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Neither of the above lists include our “gift” from our boss, Gary – a Kenai Fjords National Park Wildlife and Glacier Tour.

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Our total for dining out while traveling in Canada and in AK was $928.  This number does not include Bill stopping in a brewery and having a beer or two – he puts that under the “booze” line item.

Another frequent topic for an Alaskan summary is the writers fav place or fav thing about their trip.

Our fav place was Renfros – by far!  Loved the location, loved the beauty of the property, surrounding mountains and lake, love, love, love the owner/host/boss Gary.  He, along with Bob & Marna, will forever be our AK family!

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the view out our front door when we first arrived at Renfros back in late May

the view out our front door when we first arrived at Renfros back in late May

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Considering that might be too obvious – our fav location aside from Renfros would have to be Haines.  So much so that the 5 nights we spent on the way up were not enough, so we went back on the way out and stayed 3 more nights!  We loved the drive down, one of the best roads on the whole trip, it is just spectacular!  The views from Oceanside RV Park can’t be beat!  We really liked the whole vibe of the town – some touristy stuff without being annoying, a few restaurants, a brewery for Bill and THE VIEWS!  Also of note is we saw lots of bald eagles there – A LOT!  And – on our second trip – bears and the Aurora Borealis!

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We also really loved the town of Seward.  It was a great place to live for the summer.  It’s large enough to have 90% of what you need, yet small enough that it doesn’t have a Walmart or Home Depot.  Plenty of restaurants, some touristy stuff, amazing views and also some community events to take advantage of (remember 4th of July?).

Seward

Seward

There will not be a least fav or not liked category in this post!

Workamping related info:

We arrived at Renfros on May 25, but our first day of work was May 28.  For June (including the 4 days in May), July and August we worked every other week for a total of 7 weeks, we also did 6 extra days for a total of  54 days.  In Sept we worked a 5 days on/2 days off schedule for a total of 18 days.   Total hours worked (for the 2 of us) is: 988.50.  Our average hours per day we worked was 6.86.  Our pay rate was $10 per hour. The first 25 hours per month each paid for our site, $500 per month total, total for season $2000.  We were paid a total of $7,885.00 gross after paying for our site.

We also received cash bonuses and tips.  Over the course of the summer we were given $500 each in cash as performance bonuses.  We were also given $300 each in cash as an end of season completion bonus. We also had a tip jar that all tips, from weeks we worked plus the weeks of our co-workers, went into and were divided by 4 and distributed – we earned $196.50 each in cash.  Total in cash for the season (for both if us) $1993.00!   Not too shabby!

I believe it is fair to say if we had not worked that we definitely would have spent more money.  More money on campground fees for sure – maybe or maybe not on fuel.  I say that b/c most people make a big loop when they come to AK, while we did our exploring going in/out from Seward.  I’m not sure if that saved us or cost us miles/fuel.  I’d also assume we would have spent more on groceries and dining out.  Probably would have spent more on entertainment, although there’s no way to be sure.

Having said all that – we most probably would not have stayed 4 months if it weren’t for the jobs.  We would probably have headed out a month or more ago, like everyone else, so that would have been less time to spend up here.  There isn’t any way to know how it it would have played out.

Bottom line:  we enjoyed an awesome summer – we do not feel as though we didn’t have enough “play” time, the week on/week off schedule was perfect.  We didn’t see all there is to see – didn’t get near Fairbanks or Delta Junction area at all.  If visiting those areas had been of huge importance I may have asked Gary about combining 2 of our weeks off and gone up there, but we decided it wasn’t that big a deal.  I would have loved to have seen Denali in its full glory, but it was not to be!  We spent time working – as long as it doesn’t get in the way too much – that isn’t a bad thing!  We spent plenty of time with friends and seeing new sights and doing new things!

licking a piece of glacier ice!

licking a piece of glacier ice!


tasting reindeer sausage

tasting reindeer sausage for the first time


Happy Hour overlooking the water in Haines!

Happy Hour overlooking the water in Haines!


kayaking on Muncho Lake

kayaking on Muncho Lake


lunch at Trail Lake Lodge

lunch at Trail Lake Lodge, Moose Pass, during the Summer Solstice Festival


4th of July in Seward

4th of July in Seward


Reindeer Farm in Palmer

Reindeer Farm in Palmer


dinner in the lodge at Renfros

dinner in the lodge at Renfros


puppy love at Seaveys Ididaride, Seward

puppy love at Seaveys Ididaride, Seward


lunch in Talkeetna

lunch in Talkeetna

 

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moose cow in Denali


where else but in Alaska would you see this sign?

where else but in Alaska would you see this sign?


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otter enjoying a halibut carcass in Seward Small Boat Harbor


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Lee – wishing he had some ice cream of his own


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Spencer Glacier with Tracy & Lee


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Blueberry picking on Victor Creek Trail


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in front of Bridal Veil Falls on the way to Valdez


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on glacier cruise


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Exit Glacier


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Kenai Lake at sunset


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at Salty Dawg, Homer Spit


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Peyton


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strawberry shortcake


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last day at Renfros


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newly fallen snow on the mountain

SUMMARY HEADING OUT:

We began our trip out on Tues 9/27 and 2,863 miles and 12 days later, we pulled into Great Falls, MT.

On the way out we stopped at the following places:  Eagle River Fred Meyer – one night cost $0, Tok Chevron – one night – cost $0, Oceanside RV Park, Haines AK – 3 nights @ $36 ((FHU, Good Sam rate) per night = $108, Whitehorse Walmart – 1 night – cost $0, Watson Lake gravel lot – 1 night – cost $0, Fort Nelson gravel lot – 1 night – cost $0, Dawson Creek – Walmart – 1 night – cost $0, Whitecourt – Walmart – 1 night – cost $0, Edmonton – Glowing Embers CG – 1 night – cost $36, Calgary – Helen & Pats house – 1 night – cost $0.  Total nights: 12 nights – cost – $144

Fuel on the way out:   9.9 mpg on the way out – all towing.  Bill is actually pretty happy about this considering the grades and wind conditions we drove in, and that he used 4 wheel drive for awhile.  Highest cost per gallon $3.45 in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada ; lowest price $2.59 in Eagle River, Alaska.  I already converted liters to gallons and Canadian to USD.

I also wanted to talk about propane use.  Out of the 12 night we took to get from Seward AK to Great Falls, MT, we boondocked 8 of them.  Because we decided to boondock so much instead of use CG’s more, we used a lot of propane for heating, as well as cooking. Bill figured out that we used an average of 8.5 pounds per night.  We didn’t have the heat on while driving, but once we arrived for the night, the rig was around 40 degrees inside, compared to outside temps in the 30’s during the day and in the 20’s at night. The thermostat was set to 65 degrees while we were awake and turned down to 60 while sleeping. We also use propane for heating our water for showers and dishes.  The cost of the 68 pounds of propane was about $5 per day.  Bill paid an average of $0.60 per pound.

We also used some gasoline for the generator, which had to be run daily since there was little to no sun most days.  Only one day had enough sun to make enough solar, but the gennie still had to be run in the morning, since heavy cloud cover had returned.  We used a total of 4 gallons.  Our one Honda EU2000i runs about 3.5 hours per gallon under high load and 8 hours on quarter load.  He was generally running it about 2 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the evenings.  The average we burned was half a gallon of gas per day for a cost of $1.25.

Using the above numbers, it cost us about $6.25 per day to boondock in the colder temps we had to deal with.  We had checked CG prices, most were at least $40 per night, so we figure we saved about $270 by not staying in CG’s.

The only thing we really did (other than drive) on the way out was our time in Haines, going to the mall in Edmonton, and meeting Helen & Pat.  You can see more pics and get a detailed accounting of the driving out here:  Going OUT!Back in the Lower 48!  For the record, I do not recommend driving out the way we did.  It was just crazy, but we did what we felt to.

So there you have it – our trip to AK in a nutshell.  It is my sincere hope at least some of you found this info useful and maybe even a bit entertaining!  Hope you continue to follow along with us!

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Staying Ahead of the Weather

Ok – so I already typed out half this post – then I have no idea how but I deleted it.  Seriously, no idea how I did it.  May have had something to do with the fact that I was typing on my phone at 4:12am when I couldn’t sleep – maybe.  What do you all think?  I’ll try to reconstruct it as best I can.

One would never guess, based on my last few posts, that I actually posted in my first year end summary back in Aug 2015, that Bill and I actually prefer to stay in a place 2 weeks, up to a month.  We’ve traveled over 3,300 miles in 2 weeks!  We left Seward AK on Tues 9/27 and arrived in Boulder County, CO yesterday, Tues 10/11.  How completely crazy is that?  Well, the first 2 installments about this trip talk about getting out of AK and through Canada and back into the USA, this one will tell you about getting from our first USA stop in Great Falls, MT to here.  Hang on tight – it was a rough ride!

We arrived in Great Falls, MT with the intent of staying at the Walmart, but we spied a Sam’s Club as we were on our way, and decided to stop there instead.  The store was already closed and there were 2 other rigs parked and clearly settled in for the night.

The impending snow wasn’t supposed to start (based on checking 3 different apps/sites) til noon’ish – we were up about 7:30 and flurries had started already!  Checked my 3 sources again and now was going to be in full force in about an hour.   UGH!  Bill set up the gennie and went to get fuel and propane.  We needed to charge the batteries b/c we hadn’t had any sun for the solar.  We emptied one 40lb tank of propane running the furnace; no electric heaters running while boondocking.
Bill returned and hitched back up and we talked about our options.  There was a CG nearby we could wait it out, but it would be at least 2 days, as it was getting worse before it got better.  It was supposed to be much better where we were going.  We checked the MT DOT website, which said the roads were wet but no ice.  So, we decided to push on before it got worse and we would drive out of it.

We did eventually drive out of it, but not before finding out that even though the MT DOT website said it was recently updated – they lie!  About half hour into our ride – the roads started to become snow covered.  Bill didn’t notice any slipperiness but I was not liking it at all.  Bill put the truck in 4 wheel drive, just in case.


Thankfully, we made it to Billings without incident and filled up with fuel.  Since the predictions for that area had deteriorated over the course of the day, we decided to head further south to Sheridan WY, where hopefully we could stay in front of the worst of it.



That plan did pay off, as there were only a few flurries in the morning, and predictions were still saying it would be ok til later that afternoon.  Bill decided we didn’t even need to fuel up – we would wait til Casper where prices were lower.  Our final destination for the day: Cheyenne!


We fueled up in Casper and the ride was actually good.  No snow, not even rain.  We listened to some Bruce and were actually enjoying the ride.  Then, not too far from Cheyenne, maybe 40 miles or so, it started clouding up – or I should say the existing clouds were getting darker, and filling in the spots of blue that were peaking out.  Next thing you know – Bill sees lightening off to the west!  Then rain was coming down in buckets!  Like barely can see kind of rain!  Oh!  Can’t forget – there was also some hail mixed in!   Couldn’t believe it!   We couldn’t seem to catch a break!


As we approached the exit in Cheyenne for the Walmart (where we were planning to stay), Bill asked how far til we got to Quynn?  I quickly used GoogleMaps to answer – 79 miles!  YAY!  Let’s keep going! It was still early – barely 4pm!  We had driven out of the storm, but it was right behind us!   We didn’t feel like hanging around for a second dose of it!
I texted Quynn to let her know we would be arriving a day early!  She was very excited, as was I!  She was working, but we would see her in the morning!

you can see in the mirror what we were leaving behind us!


So, here we are – set up for a WEEK! at Boulder County Fairgrounds CG!  Callie will be so happy to not be in her crate!   She doesn’t even know yet that she is free for a week!

Stay tuned for details on our time in the Boulder CO area.

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Back in the Lower 48!

My last post had us parked in Whitehorse at the Walmart, along with a bunch of other RVers.  We watched some TV and got some sleep.   Since there wasn’t a lot of sun, Bill ran the gennie for awhile before we took off in the morning.  


It was an easy drive to Watson Lake.  Road conditions were better and we made good time.  We arrived at the familiar gravel lot where we stayed with Linda & Steven on the way up by about 4:30pm – not too bad at all.  We thought we might go check out the Visitor Center but it was closed, as was the Northern Lights Center.  So – after a short walk through Sign Post Forest (found our friend PoPo’s sign!), I worked on my blog and Bill took a walk to check gas prices since GasBuddy wasn’t registering any recent updates.  We made dinner of left over beef stew and settled in for a mini Merlin marathon.  




At some point, I think while waiting for the stew to get hot, Bill said he thought he would like to make a sign.  He remembered that he had a long skinny piece of cedar we could use.  Ok – let’s make a sign!  

We were up by 7:30am and Bill went out to start the gennie.  Between the lack of sun and us being so far north, we aren’t making a lot of solar.  

He found the piece of wood fairly easily and I wrote (lightly) with a pen what we decided to put on it.  He then took the sharpie and wrote over it – making it permanent.  He then got the ladder and screws and the cordless drill and went to hang the sign.  




So – we have left our mark in the World Famous Sign Post Forest!  Joining (literally) thousands of others leaving evidence of their passing through!  

We headed out toward Fort Nelson – it was going to be a long day!

We weren’t far outside town when we had our first wildlife sighting!  Bison!  



As we got nearer to our planned lunch stop at Muncho Lake (one of our fav places!) we spotted some caribou!






We started seeing snow shortly after lunch.  At first it was just on the closer mountains (you see on further away distant mountains all summer), but soon was getting closer to the road.  It sure was pretty!  Then we saw a second herd of caribou!   





Just a little while later – around the Summit Lake area – a grizzly was moosying along the side of the road!  He/she even posed for me!

We did run into some snow showers at the highest elevation, causing me a bit of worry.  Bill slowed down and we had no issues at all.  He assured me if it started to stick to the road and/or he felt like it was getting slippery at all, he would find a place to pull over, but we had been watching the weather and we knew we would drive right back out – which we did.  While the snow did make me nervous, it sure was pretty to see!  First time we’ve seen it since winter 2014!  


That same section of road was where we had some of the best animal sightings on the way up and this trip didn’t disappoint either!

In Fort Nelson, the first order of business was to use their free community dump/water station. Next up – fuel!  As we pulled into the station and up to the pump – the little alarm sounded we were low on fuel – perfect timing!  (We had been monitoring and have the 10 gallons of “peace of mind” in the back of the truck!).  The gas attendant told us about parking across the street in the parking lot – truckers do it all the time!  Ok – where to park – box checked!  

In the morning after running the gennie for awhile, we were on our way to the next stop – Dawson Creek – the beginning – or end for us going out – of the Alaska Highway.  I was hoping it would be a better weather day – silly me!




We found our way to the Whitehorse Walmart easily and got parked.  We got Callie inside and got the heat on and headed in for a few things and to stretch our legs!  Too cold to walk around outside!  Last time we were here we stayed 2 nights – this time we will only be here one.  We still have a minimum of 3 more nights before getting to Montana, could be as many as 5.  Not sure yet!  

Here a couple of cute pics of Callie to make you smile!



Ok – just one more – couldn’t narrow it down to 2!


When we left Dawson Creek – we were heading for new territory!  We had come up through British Columbia from WA State, but are leaving through Alberta and Montana.  We had originally hoped to head down the Icefields Parkway (through the Canadian Rockies) but ultimately decided a quick exit was a better idea.  Considering how much snow we’ve already seen – I think that’s the best plan.  

Thankfully our drive to Whitecourt, Alberta Walmart was a piece of cake compared to the 2 previous days.  Sun shining and fairly flat – no massive mountain climbs or descents!  There were some bumps, but again, nothing compared to the previous days.   Lots and lots of farm land, a complete switch from the snow capped mountains we had gotten used to and love to see!  



This is what we woke to:


In case it’s hard to tell – it is only frost not snow – it had gotten down to 23 degrees!  Maybe we should have had the Heartland “Yeti” package added!


  
Our drive to Edmonton was a short one.  We had decided – ok mostly I had decided – to stay at a real FHU CG!  We were parked and set up by noon!  Ah!  I had originally wanted to stay 2 night, then one or two in the Calgary area before crossing back into the good ‘ole US of A.  The weather, however will not quit so instead we will be one night here and one night near Calgary.  

My friend, Tracy, had blogged about stopping at Glowing Embers CG and visiting West Edmonton Mall.  I haven’t been to a mall in – I’m not fully sure – over a year – too long!  West Esmonton Malls claim to fame is its North Americas largest mall.  Couldn’t pass that by could I?  What kind of woman could do that?  Not this one! 

It did not disappoint! 

I took these first 2 pics b/c this company “Garage Clothes” did a photo shoot right on Kenai Lake on Jan’s (Gary’s neighbor) property.  While we were there!  Our co-workers Beagle was in some of the pics!  The background in the photo is Kenai Lake – how cool is that?  



This mall has an indoor amusement park, an ice skating rink, a water park and so many places to eat I lost count.  There’s a HUGE food court with those “quick food” type places and also BRBN St with pub style, sports bar and comedy club type places.  Best mall ever! Oh! And a sea lion show!  I’m not a huge fan of captive wild animal shows – but when we went by – the audience full of kids with their parents were loving it!





Our last stop in the mall was dinner at Sherlock Holmes Pub in the BRBN St section.  It’s a local Edmonton eatery that has pub fare.  Was very yummy!  



Look what we saw as we exited the mall!


And back at the CG – wise decision to only stay one night!  


We enjoyed a leisurely morning, baked ziti is ready for the oven, black tank got rinsed, and there was no rushing around. We were hitched and leaving out around 1pm.  Our destination: Calgary.  3 1/2 hours – not too bad!


Unfortunately we hit some bumper to bumper traffic.  Took 45 mins to go 5 miles – this is why:


Our boondock site for the night was the driveway of a loyal blog followers and fellow RV Dreamers, Helen & Pat.  When they learned we would be going through their area – they generously extended an invitation to us, which we gratefully accepted.  We love meeting up with future full-timers.  

Helen & Pat have a beautiful home!  We enjoyed Happy Hour and dinner and talked way into the night!  We also met their daughter and son-in-law-to-be, Charlotte & Alex and their dog, a German Shepherd pup, Luna.  

We woke in the morning to a new dusting of snow. 

We chatted again while having our morning coffee – tea for Helen & Pat.  Check out this great view from their dining room


 Too soon it was time to lift our jacks and bid them farewell – til we meet again!  Thank you Helen & Pat for opening your home and hearts to us!  

This was a BIG day!  Crossing back into the lower 48!  Good ‘ole USA!  While we still have a lot of miles in front of us – it is a huge milestone!  We crossed into British Columbia, leaving the lower 48, on May 4 – over 5 months ago!  

last pic in Alberta, Canada


Thankfully the crossing went well – no glitches – for a total of 8!  I do feel the need to mention that the Border Patrol Customs Agent was pretty grumpy!  “Are you SURE you don’t have any fire arms?”  He also wanted to know about my produce – romaine lettuce, carrots and radishes.  No fruit – oops – strawberries!  

first pic in Montana!

 


I will get this posted and pick up next time leaving the Sam’s Club here in Great Falls, MT

I’ll leave you with this cool pic of a swam of some type of small birds.  Chat soon!