Monday, June 26, 2006

We went Sailing!

We woke up Saturday morning, June 24, to cloudy skies and cool temperatures but it wasn’t raining as it had for many days. Raymond and Teresita invited us to go sailing with them. We enthusiastically answered, “Yes.” We drove the Glenn Highway through Anchorage, around the Cook Inlet to the tunnel which leads to Whittier.

You must reach the tunnel by the half hour or you need to wait an hour. It takes cars, RVs and pickups twelve to fifteen minutes to drive the three miles through the mountain tunnel. The traffic goes one way along the dark, narrow stone sides of the hole in the mountain. A sweeper vehicle drives through. Now trains take their turn to drive to or from Whittier. The town was a military installation but now is used by tourists. A fourteen-story cruise ship was anchored in the bay dwarfing the other boats and ships.

Raymond backed the van to hitch up the trailer holding the ship named the “Jolly Cork” and towed it to the ramp. After sliding into the water, and moving the van and trailer back into the parking lot, we were on our way. Prince William Sound’s turquoise water was calm so we used the motor to get underway. The boat’s interior is similar to a small RV. It sleeps four, has a galley with propane stove and sink and has it’s own toilet.

Do you remember that we were on Prince William Sound when we were in Valdez? Whittier is on the west side of the sound while Valdez is on the east side of the sound. The two towns are approximately 100 miles apart via water but over 300 miles apart via roads. Have I mentioned that Alaska is huge?

We rode with the shoreline visible on both sides of the boat. The trees are a lush dark green. Rocks are various shades of light brown to black. The mountains vary from the blue snow of glaciers to white capped peaks. We passed a rookery where the sea gulls were nesting. Thin bands of water trickled down the mountains where they met and formed larger waterfalls. We anchored in a cove where five waterfalls met to form one large white cascade of water flowing into the bay. The sound of the waterfall was music to accompany our lunch. Sometimes the sails caught a gentle breeze and we were able to navigate without the motor. An eagle soared over our heads. A seal dove into the water and bobbed up with a salmon in his mouth. Sea Gulls fluttered around the seal hoping for leftover seafood. After six hours of sailing, we returned the ship to dock and made the return trip through the mountain tunnel and along the highway home. It was a great day!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Living in Alaska

The state bird of Alaska is the ptarmigan. This one I photographed while on the trip to Denali. He seems to be in transition from the winter white feathers to the summer brown ones.

We planned to go to Flat Top Mountain and see the sun go around the mountain on the summer solstice on June 21. Teresita and Raymond have beautiful pictures of it taken in 2004. However it rained this year. It feels like it is always too early to go to bed at night since it never gets dark. Terry has fixed styrofoam in the windows so our bedroom gets dark. Once we get to sleep, it isn’t too bad.

One of the problems with RVing is that it is difficult to get dental appointments when you are only in an area for a maximum of six weeks. We have not stayed longer than that in one place since 1999. Since we are in Alaska for the next few months, I contacted a dentist named Dr. Yassick for an appointment. What could be a more appropriate name then “yes sick” for a Doctor?

The dental receptionist was surprised at the results of the four-page questionnaire that I filled out. The last time I went to a dentist was in Raleigh, North Carolina. My Dr. is in Iowa. My address is in Texas. My area code for my phone is in Oregon. I told her that I am an RVer.

He surprised me too. Where but in Alaska will your dentist be a bush pilot and his office be in a log cabin?

Another good thing about being in one place for several months is that I have my own library card. One thing a writer loves to do is read. Pardon me while I read awhile.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Lu-Lu Belle

In my book “ RV Chuckles and Chuckholes – the Confessions of Happy Campers”, I wrote about the RV lifestyle changes which include where you go to church.

On page 19 you can read, “Sometimes we do not meet in a building. In Valdez, Alaska, we were welcomed aboard a cruise ship called the Lu-Lu Belle and taken into Prince William Sound where we sang familiar songs including one about us all being in the family of God.”

We returned to the Lu-Lu Belle last weekend. We were not disappointed in the one-hour church service with message given under a beautiful waterfall. On the Saturday cruise, we saw Orca whales which seemed to know when we were photographing them because they splashed into the water as the photo was being taken. Raymond had the fastest camera and took some good pictures. The Dall porpoises dove into the wake of the stern of the ship and played peek-a-boo with us. Everyone could get close enough to take pictures of the sea lions and otters. We saw the regal eagles as they flew and landed in the trees beside us. The puffins were busy sitting on their nests. The icebergs were close as you can see in the photo.

Sometimes you meet someone who has a vast knowledge of his or her work and is able to articulate it well. Occasionally you will meet a person who loves his work and is able and willing to go the extra mile. Captain Fred Rodolf is such a person. The cruise was over 7 hours instead of the 5 and ½ hours because Captain Fred Rodolf wanted to show us the whales. The ship is immaculately clean. The patina of the teak and mahogany wood showed the care given the ship. I have never before been on a ship that has oriental rugs on the floor. The cruise was everything we dreamed it would be. Thank you, Captain Rodolf. You made the trip extraordinary!


We celebrated Raymond’s birthday with a four-day trip to Mc Carthy, Kennicott, and Valdez, Alaska. We traveled past glaciers and along 60 miles of gravel road to reach Alaska’s largest ghost town – Kennicott. When we arrived close to the town, we had to park Raymond’s van and walk across the footbridge over the Copper River. We called the Kennicott Glacier Lodge who drove a car to the bridge to transport us the final five miles to the ghost town. In 1908, when the copper mine was in it’s height of productivity, the road was a railroad bed. Today you can see about 40 buildings in various states of disrepair. A few have been restored and many are in the process of stabilization since it is a National Historic Landmark in the Wrangell-Elias National Park. The Chugach Mountains are in the background with the Root Glacier and it’s murrains in the foreground of the town. In the background of the picture is the 14-story mill building. In front are Raymond, Teresita and myself. Terry is taking the picture.

Friday, June 02, 2006

New John Deere Machine

The “new” John Deere machine was delivered on June 1. Actually the machine is pretty old. The driver who brought it to Raymond’s house said that it is older than he is. Terry and Raymond will use it to do grading for Raymond’s new house. Raymond is in the red shirt moving a huge rock in the picture. Terry is in the brown shirt.

The best way to describe the lot is that it is like a chair. The back of the chair is the steep mountain. The seat is where the log cabin will go after the basement and driveway are dug out. The legs of the chair are Upper Fish Lake.

Denali National Park

We went to the Denali National Park over the weekend for a wonderful family time. The weather was perfect to see Mt. McKinley. (Only ten percent of tourists get to see Mt. McKinley because it is usually hidden by clouds.) We stopped at a pull off to see the mountain from a distance. Raymond took this picture of the sign with the mountain in the background. By placing the camera on a tripod and using a timer, he was able to be part of the picture. Left to right is Teresita, Darlene, Raymond and Terry Miller. This trip was the 4th tour through the park for Terry and myself. We saw more wolves, caribou, and dall sheep than we ever saw before. Snowshoe rabbits were everywhere. Most of the animals were close up as well as far away so we got several excellent pictures.

On the way home, we had problems with Raymond's van. The transmission did not work properly. We parked at a parking place off the highway by the Little Susitna River. I grabbed a map to look for markers to tell the tow company. Where the river crossed the Parks Hwy. was a symbol for a boat landing. You will never guess what it was called. Okay, I’ll tell you. It is “Miller’s Landing.” (I thought that it was ironic since all four of us are Millers.) Raymond called a friend to drive us home. We arrived home (Raymond and Teresita's house and our RV) late on Monday evening. Shortly after we stopped, we heard sirens and emergency vehicles rushing past us. I thought, “Thank God, it could have been much worse. We could have been in an accident.” The car is now in a repair shop.