East Coast Wanderings

East Coast Wanderings
People like to tell other people what to do because we all mistakenly believe we’re someone else’s expert. But what is true is regret. You don’t want to spend the rest of your years wishing you had a second chance at life.

Steve Alaniz &Francesco Marciuliano ( Sally Forth comics)

It is about time for another bike ride. Have barely ridden much in past months with variety of excuses. Hence we are off to ride the Erie Canal going between Buffalo, New York, then a week visiting friends and then to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. via the Allegheny trail and C & O Towpath.

The cheap, smart and easy way would be to fly with the bikes, but the idea hit me why not drive cross country. Jeanne, who is not very keen on road trips, was at first a definite no, but then warmed to the idea if we camped and rode our bikes at least an hour every day. Ok, sounds good, google shows 4200 miles (6750 kilometres), thus 300 miles a day should be allow plenty of time to bike explore, rest, and enjoy.

Departed Anchorage 4 September, a tuesday with Tok in our sites. alas a late start meant late into Tok and it was a bit of rain. Got a motel. Who wants to put up a tent in rain or take it down in rain, and cooking is another story. Motel and restaurant were in order. Morning was still a bit of rain, but OK. We enjoyed the morning reading news, getting mad at world, because it does not conform to us, going to breakfast and finally departing about 10-11 am.

Made it to Takhini Hot Springs near Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. It has become a mandatory stop since our first time in January of 1991 when at -20 degrees the ducks had found the only remaining open water, to be shared by us. It was raining again, hence to the hostel.

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Takhini Hot Springs water temp about 85-104 (29-40C)
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Yukon river at Whitehorse
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Watson Lake sign forest started about 1946 soon after the Alaska Highway was created
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Side pool landscape at liars Hot Spring water about 39 degrees C here
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Liard Hot Springs a provincial park of British Columbia-delightful
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Jeanne on boardwalk to Liard hot springs.
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Woodland Buffalo along the Alaska Highway
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Alberta Wheat fields and oil
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Edmonton, Alberta
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rest stop in Riding Mountain National Park an amazing park which includes 3 distinct areas, the rocky uplift of metamorphic rocks, the boreal forest of higher elevations and latitudes here, and the last preserved grasslands of the plains. (Apparently only 5% of the original plains remain and 3% are here.)
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rest day in our one camp
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Crossing the Continental Divide separating Atlantic and Arctic Oceans
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Fall Colors
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Lake Superior coastline (Ojibwa name is Gichi Gamiing) Pictographs on the walls. Lake Superior is an amazing place.
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Walking to the pictographs
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forest walk at picnic area. So many species of trees. Phenomenal to go from boreal forest to the temperate forests of mid latitudes.
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Inuksuk a rock cairn built by Inupiats in the arctic to guide one through the flatlands. There are numerous ones all along the roadways of Ontario. This one stood nearly two meters high.

It is now the finish of day 14, and we are but 3 hours from Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York where we begin riding. We have had the bikes off the car once, in Edmonton where we did not trust the security of the locks on the car and I rode them inside the motel. 30 meters. It has rained a little every day except today, even snowing for a few minutes over a pass. We did stop for a rest day at Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba and visited friends driving from Nova Scotia back to California, having been gone 6 months. It was a great day and we camped for 2 nights, although ate dinner out and I made us breakfasts.

The amazing thing is we have felt rushed. Google maps says it involves 2 days and 18 hours of driving. But what of the questions and feeling the area, talking with people along the way, We wanted to cross Canada and see Canada. But how much time is enough. We talked with a ranger at Riding Mountain who had worked all over Canada (a huge country) but seemed to always return to Manitoba, as “there is so much to explore”. One can spend a lifetime in a place and still not know it.

I had thought Saskatchewan and Manitoba would just be flat boring landscape. I was very wrong, they are exciting: the country is always changing- which fields are cut, which are piled with brush for what purpose – with geese always seeming to be flying about preparing for routes south, or blackbird flocks hopping out of the cattails, the Iskootuk landmarks along the granite cliffs of Ontario (Inupiaq rock cairns marking the way) . Sandhill Cranes. And as I have noted before in flat places there are no mountains blocking the view.

I realized I wanted to be on the bicycle. That way one can feel the hills, smells the fields, experience the vastness. But that will come in a few days. Being in a car one still sees that horizon and wonders what is over it, but on a bicycle one can feel it and one works to get there, although I must admit my gas pedal foot is tired.

We now begin our transfer from sitting and driving to bicycling. Still sightseeing, questioning, exploring and trying to figure out how we fit in this scheme.

and again for a different view check out Jeanne’s blog at jeannemolitor.wordpress.com

Sometimes Jeanne and I view things quite differently and seems to be interesting that her views are sometimes very different than mine.

Canada has been awesome. Not everything is perfect, but they do have a sense of taking care of themselves and others, very little trash, great roads, frequent rest areas, provincial parks and national parks galore. No wonder Canadians are proud of their country, they have every right to be proud.

I did notice that throughout Canada everyone has driven civilly with almost all going the speed limit which makes driving much easier, but as we near Toronto I notice there are those who maintain and then those which are in a hurry to get somewhere. Begin to ramble.

 

Denali National Park

Don’t listen to others listen to yourself 

 

A pleasant weekend driving to Denali National Park and camping, with some delightful bike rides.  Such a treat to get on the bike, despite it being cold and windy.  the first day out we opted to ride up Sable pass an 8% grade, which developed a head wind to boot.  Had thought of progressing on to Polychrome pass but somehow seemed daunting for our group that day.

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Exploring around the camp area. Teklanika Campground and River

But a pleasant evening sitting around the campfire musing.

Sunday another ride back towards park entrance and I was not feeling it as have had a cold flu past week and just under the weather so I saw them off and returned to the tent and warm sleeping bag.

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Ready for a bit of a tour

 

 

Monday (today) jeanne and I departed early returning to Anchorage as departure tomorrow to ride the Erie Canal, allegheny Trail, and the C & O towpath.  All eastern United States, New York, Pennsylvania, and to Washington D. C.

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Denali Highway and Denali

And we are driving there, departing tomorrow the 4th September hoping to drive across Canada riding a bit every day, and enjoying the country.

Here we go again

 

 

 

 

Anchorage biking

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule.  Friedrich Nietzsche

Sometimes and more often is the case the best of all is your own little world.  Yesterday a group of us decided on a bike ride about the awesome trails of Anchorage.   Which ride to make of many dozens of choices, all of which we have done uncountable times.  Something different.  How about a brew pub ride?

Anchorage is noted for its plethora of brew pubs popping up about town.  I have never tried counting the numbers of different brew pubs, but we visited 5 yesterday and skipped over several more.

Began as usual from home riding the tour of Anchorage trail to meet friends at start of Campbell Creek trail and proceed that until bailing off the trail to ride the 2 blocks to Cynosure brewing.  I had told Jeanne in the beginning I was not sure I could drink all those beers coming up.  But she, being smarter than me, said one does not get one 16 ounce beer (325ML), but a sampler of the variety they offer.  Usually a sampler is 5-6 tasters of the maybe a dozen offered.  My memory does not go for 5 or 6 different tastes, as I can’t seem to remember each and require a larger quantity to instill my taste buds with the memory.

Ok one beer down and I realize I need food for the absortive qualities it offers.  Brewpubs like to make beer not food hence often do not serve food, but have rallied to have food trucks outside.  Cynosure did not have a food truck but double shovel was 3 blocks away.

Double shovel is a cider place and I went straight for the Filipino food truck, and had Joe order the drinks.  Great choices of food and the six of us had 2 sampler trays of various ciders.

On to the next site about a mile or so away, Turnagain brewery, which used to be King Street brewery before they moved down the street.  A barbecue food truck and I ordered a round of fried pickles to go with the beer.  This time again I had a full beer and others a sampler.  Sitting around with great conversation.

Back on the bike and we arrived at the new King Street Brewery with its brand new building.  Nice and big but very limited outdoor seating, the inside a nice decor of steel framework.  Unfortunately steel tends to bounce sound and not absorb, hence to place is loud, but another beer down.  Did not visit the food truck as slowing down quite a bit on the consumption.

Anchorage Brewing is around the corner with fire island bakery across the parking lot.  Unfortunately my drinking and eating abilities are not what they were in previous times, and we just looked.

But now time to return finding the bike path again and continuing westward to experience the new pavement laid down like smooth butter.  No potholes, cracks, frostheaves, and such.

A return to where we met and Jeanne and I returned home.  This was supposed to be an afternoon activity.  6 and 1/2 hours after depart we arrived home, after a delightful day.  27 miles of friends, beer, conversation, and I got to ride my bicycle. Life is good.

And holy mackerel, trying to find some sort of picture for this rambling, as I did not take any pictures, I found you can get tour companies to take you on this tour.  Wow $200 for a day tour.  Whew.  The world is crazy.IMG_3966

Denali Highway 2018

People like to tell other people what to do because we all mistakenly believe we’re someone else’s expert.  But what is true is regret. You don’t want to spend the rest of your years wishing you had a second chance at life.    Steve Alaniz & Francesco Marciuliano. (Sally Forth comics)

 

Denali Highway  three days biking the Denali Highway, one of my favorite roads in Alaska. I first drove it in 1974 after a successful trip climbing MountDrum, my first big mountain climb.  Since then I have driven it maybe a dozen times usually in the fall when the colors are in fulll glory.  Mountains rise up to 13000 feet above  the road paralleling the Alaska Range.  For those who have been to Alaska this is the road which goes into Denali National Park, although that is not the section we rode.  We road from near the entrance of Denali National Park east 134 miles (215 km)Denali-Highway-Map_1

Hence Jeanne and I, hopefully nicely, invited ourselves along with the Irving family bike ride across the Denali Highway.  The real problem is the shuttle.  That is why a invite with Irving was nice. Ken and JanLee  are our friends and head of the Irving family.  Their daughter Bonnie has two kids 9 months and 3 years hence would be driving the van with the boys.  Her husband Matt would ride along with Bonnie’s sister, Brita and her husband David.    They had a friend, Gary  who came along with his camper truck.  Thus the two vehicles to carry stuff.  They live in Fairbanks which is a 4 hour drive to either end of the start of Highway.  Our problem is we are in Anchorage and it is a 4 hour drive from Cantwell at  the western end of highway the highway at the old roadhouse of Paxson. It is a 6 hour drive to Paxson from Anchorage on the eastern end.  Whatever, we have wanted to do this ride on bicycles for years.  Here was a chance for a supported ride with friends.

Hence we drove each in our individual car for 250 miles (400 km) to Paxson, left her car in a gravel pit beside the road, and we drove the 4 hours  134 miles (215 km) to Cantwell, where we met the Irvings and camped  a few miles in beside Joe Lake.  Camping is awesome along the road with pullouts and creeks and lakes and views all along.

Thus we rode for three days and it was great riding, gravel a fair amount of up and down as the road parallels the mountains and lots of stream and river crossings, (all bridged).

Cars are interesting as some would stop or at least slow down so as we did not eat their dust, but several did not bother to slow and just flew by, us coughing in the dust.  People are weird.  But for the most part not much traffic, 3-4 hour maybe.

The heart I am not used to and it was clear and sunny hence the wondrous views.  But the second day we were stopping behind any little tree for shade, and drinking massive amounts of water.  The last day, on the last 20 miles (32 km) I just had to put my head down, and grind it out.  For me, it was ridiculously hot in the upper 80’s and lo 90’s (29 to 35 C)

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Denali Highway 
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Drinking lots of fluids was a requirement 
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Camp number 2 of 3
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Mount Deborah and Susitna River (rises 10,000 feet above river (3000 meters))
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Wildlife along the numerous lakes. 

It was a kick seeing the hundreds of kettle lakes from old glaciers and riding the eskers from old glacier moraines.

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Riding the Esker
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Bald Eagle and view
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Mt. Hayes, Moffett, and Shand

Basically it was a treat to be back on the bike.  Sometimes I forget how awesome it can be just cruising along, good friends, camping, enjoying life.

We got to our car at Paxson, departed our friends to return drive the highway for the third time.  Had a most wonderful camp near McClaren Summit with a sunset making the kettle lakes brilliant orange.  Unfortunately, I could not get my lazy body out of sleeping bag at midnight for a decent photo.  IMG_3941.jpg

Of course the ride was eventful with a flat tire requiring a 20 mile return drive to repair as cannot trust the modern emergency donut tires, put in cars.  Only extended the drive home by 3.5 hours. Amazing trip.

Road Trip – Sag wagon for Günter

There’s a lot to learn for wasting time

Neil Young

My friend Günter from Germany is riding from Anchorage to San Francisco starting by heading north to Fairbanks, then over the Top of the World Highway to Dawson, Canada and on down south.  Originally he wanted to ride across North America west to east but several told him that was rather boring and better going north to south.  I met Günter when he joined the Andes Trail with bike dreams in 2014 for the last month into Ushuaia.  He now has another trip and I seem to live vicariously, so am helping him out.  He arrived Anchorage and departed a few days later after recovering from the jet lag.  He rode to Fairbanks, then was headed east. Here is my version, he tells his story in his blog, but it is in German.  http://guderley.com

Great fun. Talked with Günter last Saturday the 18 May, and he was a bit concerned about conditions on top of the world highway, as yet very early. I said I would check and call him back. Called the Dawson (Yukon Territory, Canada) visitor information whom I had talked to about a week ago. The incredibly pleasant ladies there said they would check and call me back. 15 minutes later I get the call and report in:  border crossing will open Monday, the gravel road is wet but good, and no established campground between Chicken and Dawson (about 200 kilometers). I called Günter and reported the results and offered if need be, I could drive up and offer help as need. Ok!  

Monday we talked again and he said it would be nice for me to come up, if for nothing  else than just to see each other again. I said I would meet him tomorrow in Tok, Tuesday afternoon. It would be I thought 6-7 hours drive to Tok, Alaska where we would meet and I would leave about 8 or 9 in the morning. I quickly threw some things in the car and had a delightful evening with Jeanne.  Oh boy a road trip.  It would be nice to go to the interior where supposedly weather is warm and sunny, unlike the coast.

Tuesday, I left about 9:10 after filling Volvo with petroleum and stopping at a bakery for treats for Günter. I arrived in Tok at about a quarter before 3 having basically set the speed control at the speed limit of either 55or 65 mph.  A wonderful drive although rain at Eureka summit crossing into the Copper River Valley, Mentasta Pass, crossing into the Tanana Valley which drains into the Yukon River, and the rain started again when I arrived in Tok. I am tired of clouds and rain. I am ready for some sunshine. It was been a wet chilly past month in Anchorage. Along the way were 4 big caribou, one grizzly bear, two big moose, plus maybe fifty swans.  

Günter was waiting in Fast Eddy’s  restaurant (the only place to eat in town) and we had some beer and a snack.  I needed some blood movement so went for a walk in the rain returning to our motel room soaked despite the rain jacket.  Dinner and to bed 

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Tok, Alaska

Wednesday, Morning found Günter departing about 8:30 and I about 10.   I caught him about noon in s heavy snow storm 50 kilometers up the road.  Temp about freezing but miserable biking conditions, he then joined me in the car to Chicken. Amazing as they asked if we had reservations and had no rooms to rent. 15 seconds later we have two of the more expensive motel rooms I have stayed at, but actually really nice, $89 each, no potable water, restrooms across the path to main building, heat is minimal and unfinished.  But we knew ahead of time that Chicken, Alaska was a remote site,  thus I brought 5 gallons of water and we could get all the bottle water we want (but store only open 8-4) 

As I remember it the day ended up rather inebriated. A wondrous evening, Günter and I went for a walk discovering all three cafes in Chicken were not yet serving food as too early in the season, so no food delivery until next week. But we have lots of cheese, bread, beer, and whiskey, thus no problem. The sun came out and we moved chairs to west side of building into the sunshine. Stacy from Austin Texas walks by our porch brings her bourbon which turned out to be rum, but all good, and we proceed from there. A fellow who grew up in Tok got a job here in Chicken for the summer joined us while he cooked his dinner in the back of his pickup truck.  We had a  great evening, just bullshitting, talking, laughing, drinking.   The only real discussion I remember was about Romania and watching the sun move across the horizon.  Life is good. 

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Evening sunshine

And the best part of day. I got to help unload the truck of summer supplies. A semi truck. Life is really good.

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Everything Chicken
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Chicken Alaska population 38 summer 8 winter

Day 2  of being with Günter started mostly sunny with birds singing their morning symphony and I said I would catch up fairly quickly as he left about 7:30. Catching him soon, was not to be, as it turns out breakfast came with the room, which I discovered when going over to gift shop for morning coffee.  A waffle and sausage patty.  Not bad!  Conversations with more travelers with Florida license plates then onward, but a mile up the road is a hike which reportedly is bike able but I decided to walk and the decision was quickly verified when numerous down trees and boggy conditions would have made walking a necessity anyway.  A good walk overlooking an old abandoned gold dredge.  Lots of history in this 40 mile region.

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Old Gold dredge on mosquito fork of 40 mile river

Finally caught Günter after 3 hours as he was starting up the second big climb of day.  I drove to the top,  changed into biking gear and had a delightful downhill ride for  4 1/2 kilometer (3 miles) then climbing the 220 meter elevation gain back (700 feet)to car. Nice to ride again.  A stop for lunch at the top in the car when it started raining, then began to thunder and lightning.  After  a few minutes I said I had no interest in camping up here on ridge of “top of the world highway” in this weather, and he agreed.  We had hoped to get just beyond the U. S. Canadian border and camp, but glad we decided to head into Dawson.   Whew, snowing, cold temperature at freezing, driving  somewhat slow due to visibility, slush, and generally just not good especially for camping.  

We descended into Dawson taking the ferry over the Yukon river which gave us time to read texts which began arriving  just before the ferry as we got close to town and cell reception.  Somehow we survived 38 hours without WiFi internet access.  The clocks changed on phones with time zone, but  zero bars or reception. Amazing world when one can survive 38 hours without communication with the outside world. 

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Dawson, Yukon Territory

Found a hotel and moved in, having to change rooms once due to leaking ceiling from all the rain continuing to come down.  A dinner celebration, then on to “ Diamond Tooth Gertie”, a saloon, with can can show of the 1890,s. We noted that we were probably the oldest ones in there, but a very pleasant time.  

Friday, with great sadness I departed to return home.  Depressing, and I was wondering what the heck am doing.  Reached the ridge where conditions yesterday were bad, now starting to dry out, but I was  still feeling down, so changed clothes and went for a nice bike ride 10k down the road and returning to car feeling much improved.  Back on the road again, spirits lifted, and opted to take the “take at your own risk” road to the abandoned town of Clinton and the bridge over the forty mile river which we have floated several times.  This road had even less traffic and when you came across someone you stopped and talked.  One fellow (of the two cars I came across. turns out is the owner of the entire town of Clinton,  then returned to top of world highway. This road being somewhat busy with a car every 30 minutes you only wave when you pass someone.  

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Clinton Bridge over 40 mile river

And easy going through border.  Farthest north U. S. border and not sure why they put it on the highest most remote section of the road.   Someone smarter than me, figures these things out.  

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U.S. Canada border crossing

Now camping at our lunch spot where yesterday it was storming so bad.  Dinner and into tent before the rain started again, although did note a right rear tire on car a bit low so checked pressure and yes leaking.  Pumped it with the bicycle pump taking almost 15 minutes but exercise is good.  

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Evening at camp

In the morning tire looked ok but pressure down so pump again and drive to chicken where no tire repair, but a compressor.  I was told to be brave and get to Tok.  Stopped to pump the tire with bicycle pump 2 times in the hour and half drive (78 miles). I do have one of the doughnut lightweight spare tires, but have had very bad luck with them, and best if one can avoid it.  

Along the way looking for two women riding to Ushuaia, whom Günter had met along the way, but I did not see them. Did stop and talk with a couple of Germans heading to Las Vegas, and a couple from Utah heading to Utah. Nice to see people out and about exploring.

Made it back to Tok repaired tire for $25 pulling the rock which had punctured the tire.  A nice walk between rains and now back to Anchorage.  I think it is time to quit living vicariously.

Monuments and Memorials

The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much, but whether we provide enough to those who have little

Franklin Roosevelt

Has been a great first day in Washington D.C., but we arrived last pm. Found a restaurant about 6 blocks away but proved great with a waiter who filled us with lots of local info. The walk home and unlocking the apartment I dropped the keys., when trying to unlock inner door. Did not hear them hit, but knew they fell. We could not find them in the dark but hooray for cell phone flashlights, which also refused to show the keys. Then we noticed the cover off the 3″ storm drain. At first did not see them but it was water about 2 feet down. Then I saw the green nylon cord they were on.

Suffice it to say it was a bit of a worry. Took us an hour an half to finally retrieve them. Difficulty finding a stick but then it just pushed whatever down further and I knew there was a drain somewhere down there. The owner was in Philadelphia and could not help. Jeanne went in search of a coat hanger and after 25 minutes returned having paid $20 to 4 month pregnant homeless lady to help find one. Still no luck, and now Jeanne called a locksmith but as he was explaining the difficulties the coat hanger managed to return the keys. An hour a a half.

The entry way with covered (now) drain

On to today though and started a Washington D. C. Walking tour of the monuments and memorials. I thought of my friend Zak who said everyone should visit there nations capital at least once. The history of the United States is amazing and it shows. I was impressed by the history of l,enfante who designed the mall at the direction of George Washington. He wanted a large space which over time one could show the monuments to our history. Wow. Impressive. The Washington monument is impressive from every angle and lighting. When built it was the tallest building in the world 550 feet. It is closed now for repairs of the elevators, but outside was blocked off, perhaps making a memorial of where I threw up in 1965.

Then the World War II memorial and on to Vietnam memorial. I never went to Vietnam but it had a huge affect on me, and the memorial brought me to tears. I tried to remember the names of the people I knew who were lost there, but my memory failed me.

There were two things which struck me today, the number of people who were willing to give their lives for their beliefs, throughout history, and the eloquence of some of our leaders.

vietnam memorialKorean war memorialKorean war memorial

We moved on and diverged for the self guided tour and walking to Arlington cemetery viewing the women’s war memorial and Kennedy gravesite.

Lincoln memorial not only with his statue but the Gettysburg address and his second inaugural address engraved on the side walls. Very powerful

As a newspaper reported recorded several years after Lincoln’s death:

“Washington taught the world to know us

Lincoln taught us to know ourselves”

Then to World War I and Martin Luther king jr.

School class with MLK

Then franklin Roosevelt and it was not the tiny little memorial but had been moved to cover 6 acres. There was the small memorial but much more covering his 4terms in office and how he raised the standards and pulled us through another world war.

Jefferson was the final visit of the day and it capped the wonders of the day taking us back to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.

now we were hungry, breakfast having worn off hours ago. We agreed to head home and try and find a restaurant along the way. Several restaurants, all closed. Finally found a Korean restaurant near home. Someone told us this is a business town and restaurants here do not cater to tourists. Not sure where they eat.

And we looked for my bike path I rode in on over 50years ago but could not find anything resembling my memory. If it was there it is a highway now.

Spring time travels

The more you travel, the more you discover that the world is beautiful everywhere.

Eric Ripert

Off yet again being a tourist, just looking around, poking about and seeing new and old things. This time to visit the United States capital – Washington D.C. As a friend said, everyone should visit their capital at least once just to see the physical place in which our nation’s primary workings are determined. Maybe not the primary working, that would be out with the results, people working and the land in which government rules. But government being a necessary entity with which our species survives, has to have a place for people to meet and determine how they will get along. In the United States that is Washington D. C.

Hence back in October my wife Jeanne, got us tickets to go to Washington. The average spring cherry blossoms peak apparently 2 March and that seemed perfect. (Originally I wrote April but corrected it.now). She has never been to Washington and I have been there only once, in 1965, riding my bike for a month about the area starting in Philadelphia and ending in Washington. It was an amazing trip, 10 kids ages 15-17 and our 21 year old leader. I became hooked on bicycling.

My memories of Washington D.C. consist of riding my bike along a delightful gravel paths alongside the Potomac river. I believe it was the B & O towpath. It was designed apparently as a horse path to tow the barges along the river in the 17 and 1800’s. This section was a great ride as we went from hostel to hostel. As I was riding through the lush forest one of the others in my group yelled out to stop as we were to exit here. I mentioned we were heading to the city, and this was still forest. They said we should climb the stairs and exit here, which we did. Wow, at the top of the climb out of the river valley, we exited the forest and there stood the Washington monument, instantly recognized. My ideas of the east coast being totally developed were being erased, as I realized the forest behind us, easily hid the city. We arrived at our hotel and prepared for 3 days of walking and sightseeing, within the city.

The next morning we first hit the local White Castle hamburger place for breakfast, downing as I remember 5 burgers. (Which in those days were much smaller being about 2-4 bites, and costing usually a nickel). Then on to the Washington monument where we all ran up the stairs, to enjoy the view about the city. Back down and my stomach was not happy and proceeded to vomit a large quantity all over the sidewalk at the base of the monument. Somewhere along the line I had gotten a bug and spent the next days resting in the hotel, while the others explored without me. I did venture out to do a bit of walking, seeing the Roosevelt memorial, which always impressed me. It was not a big thing , just a small life size statue of him, his dog, in the wheelchair. Then on to the natural history museum and wondrous dioramas. And somewhere in there I got a tour of the capital building. That is my memory of the city.

The surrounding area did impress me, with its historical sites.Harpers ferry, Gettysburg, Shenandoah National Park and a day hike along the Appalachian trail climbing Mt. Hawksbill – the highest point in the area, all of about 4700 feet (1400 meters). Back to Washington where I boarded the train for the 2-3 day trip back to Utah. (Trains in the U.S. aren’t much faster today)

Fast forward to 2018 and I am returning. Alas even with the best laid plans things change. Neither Jeanne or I like to have everything perfectly laid out with every stop and moment choreographed to fill ones time with all one wants to see and do. But to me that is just sightseeing and one does not get the feel. I tend to forego the reviews, and much prefer to “wing it”. Yes it is nice to have recommendations, but to feel a place one has to slow down and let it come into you. Talk to the people, experience what they do. Yes one cannot see all there is and you will miss stuff, but one can see what the place is about. I believe it was Anthony Bourdain, the food critic, who told the story of going into a foreign restaurant, not having a clue about the language, and just pointing to the meal someone else had ordered, which looked good.

And so it is with this trip. When we told people where we were going, those who had been there all said we had to go see (insert museum, memorial, home or whatever). In the 7 days we are there we have a list of things which would occupy years. I suspect those that live there have not seen it all. I have told people my goal is to sit on the steps of Lincoln memorial and just soak it in, watching the world go by, and I would like to see the air & space museum. But whatever comes along will be great. I suspect a few more people than 1965 when one just walked up and enjoyed. We shall see.

It was mentioned am I going to try and give a piece of my mind to those who like to set the rules of government. I do write numerous letters to our illustrious representatives and always seem to receive a letter back thanking me for my letter and proceeding to ramble on about something only vaguely resembling what I write about, never answering the questions I ask. Why should I waste my time visiting someone who is going to dismiss me categorically. I will continue to vote trying to get them out of office and replaced with someone whobelieves it is for more than just a well paying job of which they have to accomplish nothing. And I will continue to write letters stating my ideas, fully expecting them to write back with their drivel. Several said a tour of the White House, where the president lives is awesome. I do not want to even be associated with the current residents there. There is a tiny remote chance they might be present. There philosophies are not my vision of the world.

One thing we wanted to do was participate in the “gun march on Washington”. Certainly was not scheduled when we made arrangements for the trip but stuff happens. As noted above our illustrious representatives refuse to listen to the masses and prefer the big organizations, which represent the big organizations. Thus after yet another shooting in the United States and the representatives giving their thoughts and prayers and moving on, finally the youth are speaking. We want to show our support, plus I have never been in a protest with 500,000 people. It must be something.

Alas, travel is a risky proposition. We departed Tuesday planning on staying a short night in Seattle. I am finding I do not do as well as I used to, and flying all day and night arriving exhausted has better options. One can fly cross country in a day but why. Thus I convinced Jeanne to spend a night in Seattle and then fly during the day arriving at a reasonable hour, still tired, but not totally out of it, requiring several days to recover. Sometimes that is unavoidable but I find it much nicer if one can to take a bit more time.

Thus arrived Seattle, checked into motel across the street from airport, and hopped on train for trip to visit our nephew and his girlfriend. It was a delightful visit, not having seen them in about a year. And along the way stopped at some fabric stores which are unavailable in anchorage, for supplies for ski jumping suit repair, which Jeanne performs for the anchorage ski jumping club. A great use of time, and got to see Seattle from the train , rapidly going from airport to downtown Seattle in minutes without a hassle.

Back to motel and up early for 8am plane departure, keeping an eye on weather back east. The 4th big snowstorm in a couple weeks was expected to hit on Wednesday, our flight day.

Off for the day

Off for the day in Seattle U of W quad cherry trees. Cherry Blossoms at U of W quad.

I nearly had my hand on door to walk out of motel and Jeanne says flight is cancelled. Ok stay in motel, call airline and find options are a flight that afternoon to San Francisco and an all night flight arriving in Washington DC at 5:30 am. That is what we were trying to avoid. Or a flight on Saturday. At first we decided to cancel whole thing, get a refund on air tickets, but we would give up our B & B without refund of $750. We needed coffee and called another friend taking the train to her place where we drove to a delightful breakfast place and caffeinated ourselves. Thus we decided to wait for Saturday and spend 3 of our 7 days in Seattle. We have numerous friends and relatives and there are multitudes of things to do.

Seattle is a delightful city although it has grown way too big way too fast. Like many things the time to do things is before they need to be done, because when they are necessary it is often much harder to do. We borrowed a friends car and experienced the traffic nightmares of Seattle. That was only one day, and from then on we took the train to our motel back at the airport, walked, took the bus, and Uber. (Uber drivers are awesome to converse with as they live and feel the city)

The homeless problem is ongoing in Seattle with tents and camps scattered about sometimes just out on sidewalk. Apparently Seattle is trying but because it is so expensive to live there, the homeless population is increasing faster than solutions can be created.

But we visited friends on a one to one basis, caught up, reminisced, planned new ideas, and conversed.

And we visited the zoo which for a zoo is very good, seeing animals I would never get to see, and when I have seen them in their natural wild environment, lamenting how awful it is for an animal to be in a zoo.

Laughing kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra Komodo dragon

young Komodo dragon searching out food (maybe 4 feet long)gorillaWe visited the aquarium which has always been one of the best. The information presented is prodigious and would take a long time to process and absorb it all. Continue reading

New Orleans 

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. John F. Kennedy 

In the 1970’s Jeanne worked in Yosemite park as a nurse.  It was a life altering event in that it opened up her views of the world.  Her coworkers were amazing and bonded with each other.  They have kept in close contact and attempt to get together every year for a reunion of some sort.  Last year they came to Alaska and visited Jeanne and I. This year we came to visit Judy who resides in New Orleans.  She has shown us an amazing taste of New Orleans.  

New Orleans definitely is a town with atmosphere. Most cities are just cities, which can be interesting, but New Orleans seems alive, vibrant with multiple activities some time specific, some ongoing and localized.  From evening one when Judys sister and husband had made us jumbalaya, which goes over New Orleans style potato salad, to restaurants ,to the crawfish boil. The food is incredible.  

One Uber driver was worried if we had been getting a food taste of New Orleans.  He said hurricane Katrina made him realize how good the food was.  During the hurricane local food was not available and when it returned folks began to realize what they had.  

Day one we started at the World War II museum. We spent 3 1/2 hours and were overwhelmed with well presented information .  And we only saw a portion skipping the movie, and numerous exhibits.  It was intense.  I came away with the feeling of the millions of stories created and often untold.  As one historian said he found the closer to combat the participants were the less they talked.  It was only in the last years of my dad and his cousins did I discover the things they had been through.  It was the same for Jeanne’s dad.  Once again the museum reiterated the human nature of thinking I am far better than you.  

Day two we went on a swamp tour.  Oh my.  Very different than Alaska wilderness.  Alligators, wild boar, birds, trees living in water, snakes.  The tour guide was great and the more questions we asked the more interesting he became.  A good old boy who grew up locally.  He claimed he had only been a guide for a week and learned his information from u-tube videos, information which seemed to require years of accumulation including how to drive a boat through those trees, roots, and currents.   He had gotten up early to hunt for the elusive hot dogs which alligators like and marsh mellows which pigs like.  I have never seen those trees, marshmallow or hot dog trees.

Local resident alligator
Eastern diamondback water snake
Wild boar
Swamp
Slidell turtles
Cypress and knees
Great blue heron – nobody messes with them as they will poke out an eye
Feeding time – wild hot dogs caught that morning

Day three was the purpose of visiting this time of year; the French quarter jazz festival – billed as the largest free show of Louisiana music.  Judy dropped us off as since she lived here she did not feel the urge to visit, and parking is a pain.  She offered to stay back with Jeanne who was increasingly sick with cough and sinus congestion.  We had gone to a doc in the box that morning and she received  a shot.  

We had schedules of bands, venues, times and activities of which by the end of day we ended up just wandering about for 7 hours trying and failing to fit it all in.  At one point I texted my sister saying I was sitting in front of police station with beer in one hand, a mint julep in the other just watching people and it was only 11 am.  (One can wander the streets with booze here, very nice as not corraled off as most places.  You just cannot have glass bottles)

Street music
Delivery
Street mime
Extemporaneous poems typed out for you
Street musician -great music
New Orleans lunch
Lunch menu
Music venues everywhere and activities were to be found everywhere, but I was feeling tired as also was succumbing to the tiredness dogging Jeanne.  I decided to call Uber for an early ride home.  Judy would pick up the rest after rush hour at 6:30.  I had never used Uber but it was amazing.  The driver was a wealth of information and wanted to make sure I was enjoying New Orleans as it was his city.  And it was about half as expensive as a taxi and easier to get, knowing before hand where he was and who he was.   No wonder it has taken off.  

Day four Judy dropped us off at the trolley stop, where we boarded the longest continually operated city trolley in the world.  Apparently started around 1800. Great to travel the neighborhoods and university districts.  Tulane and Loyola universities are both here along with numerous others.  It 

Arrived again at French quarter and much more crowded being a Saturday.  More venues and fewer plain street musicians.  Very good but crowded.  We ate at a different restaurant again I had delicious oysters just different.  Still lots of garlic and excellent.  After Jeanne and I wandered a bit to show her the jazz fest then back to trolley and an Uber ride back to Judys.  

Day five. Drove across Lake Pontchartrain which I understand is the longest bridge in the world, being 24 miles long. (38.5 kilometer)

Lake pontchartrain bridge

We rented bikes to ride the rails to trail ride to Anita and the brewery there.  Delightful ride although I do not understand where comfort bike term comes from.  Sit straight up not allowing any power into the legs.  The big wide soft tractor seat with big springs was very uncomfortable.  After 20 miles I wanted my arrow saddle bent over bike.  Everyone was sore.  

Then on to judy’s family and a crawfish boil.  Oh my oh my.  They know how to put on a feed.  I envisioned a few crawfish on a plate, but we went through 2 20 gallon tubs.  Oh my.  They showed us the whole process – cleaning, takes 4-5 rinses getting out the detritus from the mud (which can include snakes and such) putting the vegetables (corn, garlic, potatoes, hot dogs, etc. and spices in pot. Boil and pour out on table, covering the table covered with newspaper.  Plates are about 50 cm  (20 inches) across and you fill them up.  To eat you break the crawfish in half then suck the head to get the spices, then pinch the tail for the meat.  

Being new to the process we timidly filled our plates and sat at counter .  Laura took my plate to demonstrate the proper way and filled my plate.  Apparently no one else in our group cared to follow suite.  We were actually astounded when a second boil (pot) was put on.  When he came ready Judy’s family had helped us finish our serving and went into the second.  They did not waste time on sitting and plates, just stood around table and feasted. They could go through 4-6 crawfish to my one.  And the conversation flowed.  Delightful!

Crawfish feed. Remainders on right with still to go on left
Second boil serving
Beginning of second boil
First boil neophytes
Crawfish boil table setting
Pouring the boil
Cooking
Cleaned crawfish ready for pot
Ready for biking
Worlds most uncomfortable bike
Biking Louisiana

Day six and off to hike about Jean Lafitte national historical park.  The visitor center was closed due to funding cuts, but trails great.  Hike about 3 miles along mostly boardwalks.  Viewing numerous snakes, garter snakes, bull snakes?, copperheads, frogs, birds, and 3 alligators.  What a different world.

Alligator hiding estimated a 6-8 footer they barely move if at all difficult to see
Egret (they move very slow, unless striking)
Copperhead or water moccasin
Today “just a walk in the park “near home.  Delightful just walking watching birds, trees, the creek.  A three mile running track, a dog park, carousel merry go round.  At last some people who were not overly happy, but they were runners with headphones on.  

People here have been super friendly.  In the Avita bar a lady came up to us saying she had been easedropping on us and realized we were not fro here.  (Probably because we were only ones to not have an accent in the room). She wanted to wish us a delightful visit.  

It has been a wondrous visit and I now understand why people love coming here.  We should return.  

Springtime in Alaska

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time

T.S. Elliot

Since returning from Steamboat Springs in Colorado, the streak of sunshine here in Alaska has continued.  Awesome feeling to see and feel the sun returning.  In a few days we will again have more daylight than darkness.  The winter has been one of the better ones in many years due to the return of snow and cold.  As I have said winter consists of three things, snow, cold, and darkness.  If only 1 of three it can be”what’s the point”.  This finishing season we have had an abundance of all three.

Hence after the great trip to Steamboat Springs we returned and I got a email wondering about the Knik Glacier.  It is a glacier about 45 miles away (72 kilometer) and one can ride bicycle or snow machine to the face of it, if the conditions are right.  The past years it has been too warm and the river and lake were a bit dicey to cross.  I have wanted to do it for years but only tried once having to turn around after 10 kilometer because of thin ice and open water.

I would just as soon not break through ice into a large flowing river.  (Discharge normally is about 5000 to 6000 ft3/s in the summer (140 to 170 m3/s), with floods of 60,000cfs or more not uncommon.[2]  )  Currently it is flowing at 560 CFS, still enough to cause problem if you break through.  Still gets me when I see flowing water when the temperature is 10 degrees F (-12C)

But the traveling is awesome, especially when traveling with companions who know how to deal with the cold and are great bicyclers, and are as excited as I am to be there.  I will let the pictures speak.

Enroute from road to river
Riding the lake, must be deep judging by iceberg sizes

 

Where the glacier meets the wall

 

Dennis, Mark, J. R. bikes and glacier front

 

glacier face

 

Mark
Knik Glacier
Dennis

 

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Dennis’s photo of Mark, J. R. departing back to vehicle

As for the cold one just learns to work with it.  Gloves and mittens are a necessity and sometimes a challenge if there are small things to work with (like a camera).  One learns and it is awesome.

While there we discussed how if this area were down south it would be mobbed with people as it is spectacular.  When I got home and looked at some of the pictures on the phone which gives location it said they were taken at the Lake George National Natural landmark.  Wow who knew, I had never heard of it but having flown over it, I knew it was spectacular.

Then the next day wanted to ski some valleys which are often good in the spring.  Natasha (ski jumping coach) and I went out to see what we could find.  Alas, it has not snowed in weeks and the wind has been blowing over the gully we wanted to ski and it was a bit bare.  Could have skied but the breakable crust and scattered rocks did not entice us further.  We opted to return a different way making it a delightful tour.  It is difficult to go wrong when the sun is shining, and the tracks are good. (or it is just plain crusty snow and you can go anywhere)

Natasha at top of “ballfields” with Mt. Williwaw behind

 

 

top of first pass
Overlooking Anchorage with Mt Susitna (sleeping lady) and Mt Spurr in distance. distance. (Mt Spurr last erupted in 1992, wreaking havoc in Anchorage)

 

On day three Jeanne and I drove down Turnagain Arm just to see it as we never get tired of this drive.  Turnagain arm was named by Captain Cook on his third voyage supposedly while looking for the northwest passage and he had to turn his vessel again..  (it was actually his first mate Bligh (of later fame elsewhere) who explored up the valley and had to turn again).  Or a second version is the waters reverse course with the tide every 6 hours forcing one to turn again as the current reverses.  When in full flow the waters, and ice flow at 9 knots)  Either way Australia and New Zealand do not have a lock on Captain Cook history.

Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet
Turnagain arm

Video of moving ice in Turnagain arm.  It is not bike able or boatable.

I have been trying all winter to get a video of the incoming bore tide with the ice as it is incredibly dramatic.  Timing is difficult and it must be at full or new moon for maximum tide and I have not succeeded but will hopefully try again later this week.  If I succeed I will try and post.

Sometimes the best travel is in one’s own backyard.  Often that is the best of all.

 

 

Delightful

I would like for them to learn naturally, effortlessly, almost without knowing it, that the love of beautiful, things, critical thinking and intellectual honesty. Are the three essential virtues. This way they will learn things for themselves, this way they will be real men. As there used to be. They won’t be fooled by intellectual snobs and political scoundrels. They will know how to live and outside of a century which is only getting deeper into infamy, lies, and stupidity

Jacques Monod August 5 1939
Again writing from plane, this time departing for home.

Eight great kids,  mostly new to ski jumping anywhere from 2 1/2 months to three years of jumping.  Jeanne, coach Natasha, and myself as guidance and directors.  4 kids had one parent along and two brothers had both parents.  But parents were generally not allowed with us as we travel as a team.  Parents stayed with friends or motels saying hello and watching during the day at the hill.  We wanted a team spirit and comeraderie.

The western region Alaska crew 2017

 


Interesting to watch interactions of parents and kids; which are as varied as there are personalities.  But this age group (10-13 years) is starting to step out into the world on their own, and parents are letting go or not.  It is the age of exploration and excitement at discovering the world.  Hopefully this is  not limited to this age group and exploration and excitement continues through life, but I have seen it this week, being immersed in this age group.  Activity is near constant and not focused but it can be directed with channeling.

Learning experiences and encouragement, wow.  For example we had set a quiet time of 9 pm and lights out by 10 o’clock.  Mostly followed, but Thursday was a rest day of only xc skiing, jumping practice, a 4 hour trip to hot springs (with climbing wall, water slides (requiring of me, more than 15 slides to find a winner)). Thus Thursday night folks were not quite ready to wind down.  But the jumping competition  is on Friday.  Natasha reminded me this is part of the learning curve, they cannot always be told something, they must learn it themselves.    OK, I went into  one of two boys rooms and two are standing on the bed saying “we are getting ready for bed”. I reminded them it is now 10:15 and it is a competition night.  Yeah, yeah, yeah. As I was going up the stairs to next boys room the two previous run past me. (I guess they assumed I cannot see). 10 minutes later I go into girls room to find all eight watching a movie on the computer. Competition night!  Whatever, we were all up at 7.

Alaska Crew with parents

 

Top of 45 meter jump competition

 


And teaching them of altitude (Steamboat is at 1950 meters, 6400 feet ), I told them to notice the stairs here versus the stairs at home.  One kiddo as we climbed the stairs said he was not noticing the altitude, but he admitted the stairs were harder.

As for the competition we are a new program just getting going again.  I had not necessarily expected great results and kept reminding the kids it was how they did, not how others did.  On the first day one kid noticed kids from Calgary and park city.  Our kids response (some of them) was “they are going to cream us”. I again reminded them it was not how well Calgary or park city or Illinois or steamboat springs clubs do, it is how well one does oneself.

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Alaska medal winners jumping and nordic combined      (the 4 without actual neck jewelry are not included)

 
That night in the competition we won, we lost, we got scared, we cheered, we beat our own records, we fell, we crashed, we got up, And the tears flowed.  Some from beating personal goals, some from not achieving them.  Tears from all myself included.  Parents, helpers, watchers, and the kids, all requiring varying degrees and varieties of answers.  (OK I admit I get choked up when I see whoever, whatever doing their absolute best) Breaks ones heart when a 10 year old is bawling their eyes out because they did not do their absolute best and felt they could do better.
Basically the adventure of kids.  A real adventure.  But will shortly tag the parents and say “tag you are it, your turn”

And I mentioned in last blog how they were excited about seeing cows, well they also saw for many, their first candy store.  (Sorry parents, had to give them the experience of new experiences, kids choice). But it goes both ways.  One morning tuned the radio to a modern station and all the kids were singing along to Beyoncé whom I had to ask who the artist was.  Even us oldersters can still learn.

And great to see how other programs work.  And one comment by the director of the steamboat club was he does not care about making olympians (and their have been numerous from the area) but he cares about making good citizens.

 

It was a great week of which I thoroughly enjoyed it and am thoroughly exhausted.  For those without kids it is far harder than it looks and  can be extremely rewarding.  I am quite happy with loaner kids.  My hat is off to parents.  Hopefully I had a bit of good influence and they learned a few things (like candy is not necessarily the best thing)

Top of 30 meter jump (photo by Jessie Ann Menkens)
75 meter jumper competion (jumper landed at 52.5 meters