It is March 29th, 2021 and we are taking a day trip up Mt Lemmon to Summerhaven, AZ. Only about 30 miles by highway one way from our home in Tucson but over a mile up. Mt Lemmon features many different climate zones from Sonoran desert to Canadian forest with micro-climates for variety.
We are less than 1,000 feet up here looking back over Tucson. This is still desert vegetation here. What an awesome view! There are many pull-outs viewpoints and waysides along this scenic route which is variously known as Catalina Highway, Mt Lemmon highway, and General Hitchcock Highway (in honor of Postmaster General Frank Harris Hitchcock).
It is begining to feel cooler as we climb up the mountain and I no longer see mesquite trees
A stop at the General Hitchcock Wayside provided arresting mountain and canyon views with lots of interesting formations and yet more changes in vegetation. Juniper, Arizona Oak, AZ Rosewood, and ScrubPine predominated. On up the mountain we saw snow by the roadside and the forest changed to Aspen and Pine.
Almost all Pine forest here at our destination. We bought a decal at the general store which was the only business that was open. It was late march so too late for skiers and too early for summer tourists. We consider this drive a must do when you come to Tucson. We simply did a little sight seeing, but this area is a meca for hiking, biking, birdwatching, climbing and of course snow sports in the winter. In the summer it will provide a respite from the Arizona heat.
This has been a short Hobbit’s holiday, but we will be leaving on an extended trip to the pacific northwest in May. Bertha and R2 are ready and so are we.
Travel safely and enjoy life everyday, your RandomRovers
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Why Gila Bend you ask? The town itself appears to be dying. The last grocery store closed more than a year ago. All that is left that might be of interest to a traveler are 2 truck stops, a couple of gas stations, a store that specializes in southwest yard art, a Family Dollar store and a Dollar General store. I should note that one of the gas stations also has some yard art. Just outside of town is the Sonoran Desert RV Park where we stayed 3 nights. The park and all of its facilities are sparkling clean. The sites are big enough for any RV and have full hookups including cable if you should desire it. Cell service is excellent. For a quiet relaxing respite with outstanding hosts this is the place whenever you find yourself between Phoenix and Tucson. We came because we wanted to check out our new (to us) tow rig with sliding hitch and every other bell and whistle you can find on a pickup. The truck, which we christened “R2”, performed flawlessly and I am sure will make our future RV traveling much more pleasurable. The second reason we went was to do a we bit of shopping in Phoenix without the stress of the long drive from our home. And, the final reason: We needed to have a safe outing with a change of scenery during this Covid pandemic.
A lot of sunshine a little rain. Mostly pleasant weather for our short but very nice outing. We can’t wait to get out on a real trip. Vaccines and summer will get here!
Trying to keep the shiny side up. Your Random Rover, Gordon
We have our remodeling project about 80% complete. We haven’t done much of anything with the landscaping but we will. We have been working inside almost continuously because with the Covid-19 crisis and the summer heat it has provided our only viable outlet. But now we have decided that we need to take a break. So, with Bertha loaded and checked we are going camping for a few days.
231 miles from the Sonoran desert to the Coconino National Forest at 7,000 feet above sea level. Much cooler here and pine trees instead of saguaros.
We plan to do some sightseeing and relaxing. Though this resort is lacking in amenities, it is very pleasant and the scenery is beautiful.
One of the many wildflowers we saw.
Mostly we relaxed and enjoyed the mountains.
We found out that the little road in front of the campground was the prime location for landing the aid chopper to transfer patients for the ride to larger medical facilities. We are out in the country here. We had two visits during our stay. That is as exciting as things got which was fine with us.
On the way home we decided to stop for the night at the KOA Journey in Gila Bend so we could do most of the clean-up and dump duties in cool of the morning and then do the easy 2 1/2 hour drive home. Our first surprise was that it was no longer a KOA campground, but no fear folks, the same great people are running it. We did have a disappointment however. Just down the road a bit from the campground we had planned to shop for yard art at Holt’s Shell as they always had great prices and a good selection. Unfortunately, Holt’s has closed and is being replaced with a Pilot truck stop. We headed on homeward in the morning arriving safely and in fine shape to start planning our next escapade.
Wow, can’t believe I did not write and post this a year ago when we got home. Anyhow, I am writing it now and posting it for the record.
With our stint as campground hosts at Hawley’s Landing completed, we hitched up Bertha and went back to Colbert, WA to spend a few more days with the kids and grandkids before heading home. I replaced the main AC unit as planned and the starter motor on the truck which wasn’t planned. John was a big help with both projects and all went well. We did a little travel preparation shopping and then simply enjoyed time with family.
It is September 17th and since all good things must end someday: We’ve said our good-byes and we are headed south, back to our remodeling project and our Tucson friends.
Our first day took us back to Indian Creek RV in Deer Lodge Montana where we spent the night. The next morning found us on the road again heading across Montana to Billings where we stayed at the very first KOA campground. Ok, nothing really exciting, but a decent enough place and certainly a landmark in RV history.
Off we go again, now on to Kaycee, Wy. Home of rodeo bareback champion and country music star Chris Ledoux. While here we visited the Chris LeDoux Park and a very fine museum of early Wyoming ranching.
The last of the consecutive days of driving. We are driving on to Cheyenne, WY where we will spend a day sightseeing and resting.
We found Cheyenne to be a charming modern city that is very proud of it’s roots. Unfortunately, the Bison Ranch was a disgustingly filthy and overpriced tourist trap. If we were to come this way again we would find other accommodations.
276 Miles from Cheyenne Took us to Rock Springs, Wyoming where we spent the night at the Sweetwater Events Complex. Though not by any means pretentious we would recommend this a great stop. The staff was friendly, the sites level and clean and we shared happy-hour with some great neighbors. We couldn’t wish for more.
We have planned a day of site seeing so will spend a second night here.
We took a driving tour Northeast of Provo, gaining about 3,500 feet in elevation, where we had beautiful mountain views and bought some really good apples from a roadside market.
With 2 nights in St George (our last R&R stop) We headed to the Red Reef Area near Leeds, Utah for an easy day hike.
Sad to say just a two more nights and we will be back in reality.
Will I still be able to deal that?
Our last 2 nights on the road for this long journey. It September 31st and we are home safe and sound. This has been an awesome trip. I wonder where our hearts will lead us next. Your Random Rovers
Our cruise was over, we went through Canadian customs at Vancouver, took the cruise bus back to the airport, took airport train out to the long term parking, found the truck, crammed all of our stuff in and buckled up headed out. It is nearly 3 and 1/2 hours from our stateroom to this point so our first stop was the airport shopping mall for a ‘necessary’ break. OK, now off to Blaine Washington where we went through US Customs to get back state-side. Since it was much later than we’d hoped for, there was an hour plus back up at the border. Exhausted, we stopped for the night in Wenatchee Washington after a beautiful drive through the Cascade mountains. Then on the road again for an easy drive to Spokane where we house sat for son John, did laundry, and stocked up on fresh food for our next destination, Hawley’s Landing. I think we are getting too old for this reality stuff, taking a cruise was much easier.
Our Host Site
When we arrived for our planned 5 weeks of camp hosting we set up in an area reserved for seasonal employees and other personnel that do not need to be in the main campground. This was a pleasant surprise as we did not need to assume our duties for another week. I am sure that this is as close to a sinecure as I will ever get. Our first week of camp hosting with no responsibilities, and no scheduled activities! This was heaven!!!
This was our site while we hosted. Hosting here involved keeping the reservation cards up to date, campsite cleanup, and answering questions.
This was a very nice place to be for the week we rested, and the 4 weeks that we hosted. We headed off to son John’s for a little more time with them. After that, it will be time to set our sights for home.
We are now on the last leg of our Alaska-Yukon adventure aboard the Holland America Westerdam. We sailed out of Seward Alaska in the evening and by morning we were entering Glacier Bay.
Cruising at a reduced speed we enjoyed the marvelous views all day long.
After leaving Glacier Bay we continued our journey to Haines Alaska in the night.
After breakfast, we debarked and took an all-day walking tour of this small picturesque town. Ambling along we visited most of the stores and other attractions. Regrettably, the hammer museum was closed. Yes, that was on my list of “gotta see its”. Fort Seward, the Sheldon Museum & Cultural Center, and the American Bald Eagle Foundation were interesting stops.
Back onboard we are headed south on the inside passage to Juneau Alaska.
In addition to shopping Juneau’s tourist district, we rode the Mt. Roberts Tramway for an exhilarating view of the harbor.
By the time we arrived back at the ship, the drizzling rain that had plagued us most of the day ended. We are warm, dry and with a nights rest will be ready for our last port of call Ketchikan Alaska.
Ketchikan has a massive tourist district. So, of course, we shopped. Knowing that this was our last chance, we spent the morning hunting bargains.
In the afternoon we took an exceptional city and totem tour.
I will leave you a couple of views of Ketchikan’s most famous area, Creek Street. Up until 1953 all of the buildings on this street were bordellos. It has since been converted into an upscale arts and crafts shopping mall.
Tomorrow, we will spend our last day and night at sea.
During our cruise, we enjoyed a couple of Vegas-style shows in the main theater, a couple of America’s Test Kitchen classes, some breathtaking scenery from our balcony and the ubiquitous, daily, cruise ship towel animals.
Now heading back to reality,
Your Random Rover, Gordon
An all-day bus tour of Denali National Park was in our schedule today. On it, we saw lots of flowers, wildlife, and of course some awesome scenery. Unfortunately Mt Denali, previously Mt McKinley, spent the entire day hiding in the clouds. The weather was misty, cloudy, and damp but we felt lucky as some people come here and all they get is pouring rain.
How did that mushroom sneak into the flower gallery?
In addition to the caribou, grizzly bear, and grouse above we also saw moose, deer (sorry no pictures) and lots of other small animals.
Although the day was less than photogenic we had a good time and would highly recommend the Denali tour. After the tour, we took in the visitor center and returned to the hotel for dinner. For the last 2 days of our land tour, we will be traveling by train to Anchorage and then on to Seward where we will board the Westerdam for a 7-day cruise back to Vancouver.
Some of the Scenery Heading to Anchorage
In Anchorage, we stayed at the Captain Cook Hotel. In the evening we decided to go find some fish & chips for dinner which we did and then returned to our room to rest up for the next day. Since we did not have to leave until after 11 AM we went out to breakfast rather than trying one of the hotel restaurants. After that, we sauntered off to the nearby Saturday craft market which we enjoyed. Then it was time to head to the train for Seward.
The ride to Seward was highlighted by many glaciers and mountain scenes. We saw a number of Dall sheep but I was unable to get any pictures.
Overall the land portion of our trip was something that we will always remember. It was both exhausting and worthwhile. Our Alaska trip would never have felt complete had we simply done the cruise and seen some of the port cities. We will be stopping in numerous port cities on the way back.
Looking forward to some shipboard relaxation,
Your Random Rover, Gordon
This morning we boarded a chartered jet to fly from Dawson, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska. You guessed it! Once again through customs as we are heading back into the USA. From the airport we took a bus into town and got a short narrated tour of Fairbanks and a stop in downtown for a lunch break where we had ice cream and enjoyed the park.
Then off to our hotel and on our own for the afternoon. We shopped the town a little and went to the heritage center.
Over 100 moose and cariboo antlers form this arch leading into the Morris Thompson Heritage Center. The arch is meant to evoke memories of adventures and times spent together. We spent quite a while touring the excellent exhibits here. Wandered the town a little more, found some local craft beer, and went back to our hotel for dinner.
The next morning it was back on the bus for more adventures.
We stopped and learned a little about the famous Alyeska Pipeline.
Hopped aboard a train of the amusement park variety to go see a gold dredge and then…
Panned for gold! As you can see we did pretty well. (Those little specks add up to about $40 dollars worth!) Back on the bus and on to Anchorage.
This was a nice stop with lots of nice jewelry but didn’t buy any. Back aboard and off to Denali where we will spend 2 nights, our chance to see one of the many wonders of Alaska. We can’t wait to get off the bus and relax but don’t want to miss anything.
This is the view from our hotel room just outside of Denali National Park. We shopped some of the tourist stuff, found some dinner, crashed and got ready for our park tour tomorrow.
Today was one more great thread in our tapestry of adventure, with more to come,
July 13th: We left the Volendam to start our land tour of The Yukon and Alaska. We spent the afternoon and night here in Skagway.
I took these pictures in the very early morning. In season, Skagway is a very busy tourist destination. We shopped and visited various interesting stores and museums here at the start of the gold rush trail.
Steam Engine and Plow
On The WhitePass & Yukon Route
In the morning we rode this narrow gauge railroad up the Chilcoot trail to Fraser crossing into the Yukon Territory.
Steep, Treacherous, And Beautiful
It was much easier for us than it was for the prospectors who carried all their supplies up the trail. It took the earlier travelers up to a week to get this far as they had to move their necessities in stages going up the steep grade. (One ton of equipment, food, and other needs was required by law to head up the trail.) At Fraser, which is near the summit (2,885ft), we cleared Canadian customs and left the train to proceed via tour bus to Carcross, YT.
Carcross, home of the Tagish/Carcross First Nation, was known as Caribou Crossing, YT until 1904 when it was renamed because the Canadian postal system started having miss-delivery problems with Caribou Crossing, BC. We spent a pleasurable hour or so here shopping and stretching our legs before heading on to Whitehorse, YT.
About 10 minutes from Whitehorse we stopped to view Miles Canyon, a basaltic canyon carved by the Yukon river, that when combined with the Whitehorse rapids was a major impediment to travel on the way to the gold fields. I should note that though Whitehorse, the capitol city of the Yukon, has many attractions worth visiting we simply took a short walk through town, did a little shopping, and went out to dinner as I was not feeling well and we were both tired. Tomorrow we are off to the historic town of Dawson, the miner’s gold rush destination.
Our first stop, the remnants of one of the road houses along the Whitehorse/Dawson Overland Trail. The roadhouses and their companion buildings served as shelters, restaurants, and stables for the arduous 6 to 10 day trip. We will make the entire one day in a modern coach. We took a rest stop at the village of Carmacs where we checked out a combination hardware store, gas station, and gift shop. The coffee was ok and we did get to stretch our legs.
We took another break here at the only difficult stretch of water for the miners headed to Dawson. Named Five Fingers because four islands break the river into five channels, four of which can be deadly. Though it looks peaceful in the photo, the currents are powerful and run in multiple directions around the basalt islands.
We had a nice buffet style lunch at a pleasant RV campground on the bank of the river and then headed on toward Dawson City.
This is Moose Creek Lodge, our last place to stretch and relax today.
We finally made it! This was the longest day of the gold rush tour but we will spend 2 nights here and hopefully get a little rest while we do some sightseeing tomorrow. They are still actively mining in this area and there is much history to explore. By the way the highway is the only paved street in town.
The cabins of Robert Service and Jack London
Of course, we shopped the town, and visited some of the museums and visitor centers. Dawson was home to Jack London, famous novelist, short story writer, and chronicler of the gold rush era and also to Robert Service the most famous bard of the period.
Some Sights Of Dawson, YT
Tomorrow we fly to Fairbanks, AK so we get to go through customs again, Yipee!
May all your travels lead to happiness, your Random Rover
We left the USA and entered Canada around 8 AM and drove to Vancouver International Airport where we parked the truck for the duration of our cruise at the long term lot and took the free train ride in to the international terminal. That all sounds good right? Well I forgot to mention that when Elaine stepped onto the train the doors shut behind her. I caught the next train a few minutes later, so we were reunited. Next we found someone to direct us to Holland America check-in where we were able to sign in and get rid of most of our luggage. We then boarded a shuttle bus to take us to our ship at the cruise terminal. Off on our adventure? Well sort of. At the cruise terminal we got our pictures taken and received our ship ID cards. Then we go through US customs. (We are now in Canada and the next time we will be on land it will be in Juneau or Skagway). Now we get in line to board the ship. It is now after 2 PM but we have boarded the Holland America Volendam and are relaxing in our state room. We have traveled less than 50 miles. It took about 6 hours but all is well, just a lot of shuffling which we had expected.
A Pinot Grigio on our private balcony while we watch the activity
It is really amazing the amount of work and coordination required. The Volendam carries over 1400 passengers. She docked the previous night and her passengers debarked this morning. Today she loaded up with another set and will leave this evening. That’s a lot people and baggage to move, countless cabins to clean and set up, plus all drinks, snacks, and meals to get ready.
We are sailing!
This is the first cruise leg of our 3 part Alaska adventure. We will be going up the inside passage, much of it at night unfortunately. When we head back it will be mostly daylight so all is good.
The Crows Nest Bar and the promenade deck
We had a full day at sea so we explored the ship, watched a cooking demonstration, and took a tour of the galley.
Some Pretty Fancy Baking
A nice relaxing day. The next day we transferred to a catamaran for a close up tour of the Tracy Arm Fjord while our ship sailed on to Juneau, AK.
Icebergs and Seals
A ‘Magic’ Cove
Wow! What a day. We rejoined our ship in Juneau for one last night. As we were tired we stayed on ship since we would have another chance to see Juneau on our trip back. Tomorrow we will debark at Skagway and begin our land tour.
Enjoying what life brings us, Your Random Rover, Gordon