Thunderbirds in Tucson

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F-16 Flying Falcon

Thunder-19We arrived in Tucson to spend the month of March, our third visit in three winters. Shortly after our arrival, we heard that the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s demonstration squadron, were performing at an Air Show at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. So we went to see the Thunderbirds in Tucson.

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A still flying B-25 Mitchell

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We have seen the Blue Angels (the Navy’s demonstration squadron) perform twice, including one time in Key West in the early part of our walkabout, but we had never seen the Thunderbirds.

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KC-10 Extender

C-130 Super Hercules

C-130 Super Hercules

KC-10 Extender

KC-10 Extender

There were two air shows on the weekend and both days featured plenty of activities at the base with many military aircraft on static display, including some that were open for inside viewing.

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EC-130H Compass Call used for electronic warfare

E-3 Sentry

E-3 Sentry

Not only were there military planes, but other government vehicles were on display, including police and border patrol vehicles, a bomb squad truck, and a mobile SWAT team command center.

The show seemed particularly focused on kids, with fun activities and Air Force personnel spending quality time with them.

And, of course, there were lots of food booths. The base is massive so it took hours to see everything there was to see aside from the air show. It was quite an event.

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From Oregon and Down the Length of California

We have been on a pretty long break from blogging, so here is our very late post about our adventures and misadventures during our drive from Oregon and down the length of California.

Cali 2015-9ycogqd4ziWe usually don’t drive Island Girl in the rain, but when it rains every day it is impossible to avoid. Since the rain seemed endless, we decided to drive out of Oregon during very wet weather.floods_2023625

We knew some roads were flooded to the north of us but happily no flooding was reported on our route going south. As we continued however, we passed by areas where the waters were rising and with the continuing rain were likely to flood the roads. We also drove by a small flooded farmhouse, hoping that everyone was safe.

best-sunscreenWinchester Bay-6Next we spotted some official vehicles with their lights flashing as we drove by a bridge, Police officers scanned the waters below. But we got through safely and it was good to know that roads were being monitored this closely. We are thankful to all of those who serve to protect us.

Our destination was the Lucky Seven Casino for a quick overnight stop. We stopped for a pizza and I ran out in the rain to pick it up. Then we settled in for the night in the back parking lot of the casino. Hector ran out for a quick walk with Angel, fortunately there was a covered walkway with a grassy patch, so they had a bit or protection from the rain.

il_570xN.521909692_o359Though we usually like to patronize the places where we overnight for free, we never even entered the casino, it was just raining too hard to venture out. Check out my review of the casino here.

The following morning it was still raining quite hard, but as we drove south the rain abated. We reached Crescent City during a lull in the rain and decided to go for a long walk along the shore.

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To the Arctic Circle and Back in 2015

What a year!  We travelled to the Arctic Circle and back in 2015.

cartoon529-2Be warned, this is a looooong post.  But we hope you enjoy a quick tour back through this most wonderful year with some of Hector’s favorite images.

Island Girl traveled a total of 12,345 miles.

We stayed in 88 campsites (29 of them were overnights and 61 were dry camping).

Visited 10 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and 1 Canadian Territory. And 6 veterinarians in 5 states and 1 Canadian Territory.

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A Day Trip to Juneau

Juneau 2While in Haines, one of our neighbors mentioned that they saw lots of whales on the ferry to Juneau. We were pretty happy with our whale watching this summer, but we never have enough of the whales, and thought it would be fun to take a day trip to Juneau.

Juneau 11An added bonus was that Juneau has drugstores and we could take care of filling Angel’s prescription. In fact, a lot of people in Haines take the regular ferry to Juneau to buy supplies especially since there are both a Costco and a Walmart there.

Juneau 3We were able to get a pet sitter for Angel and made our reservations for the day with the best weather forecast. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated. And, after having had great luck the rest of the summer, we were off on a ferry on a completely cloudy, kind of dreary windy day. And the sea was quite choppy, in fact the day before they had to turn back once already underway and cancelled the trip, something that has happened only about twenty times over a several year period.

Juneau 1Juneau 8The good news was that the boat we were scheduled to go out on, the Fjordland, is a catamaran that sails pretty smoothly over rough waters. And when we set off the waters were quite still because we were at the mountainous end of the protected Lynn Canal.

Juneau 6Juneau 5Shortly after departing, we stopped to look at stellar sea lions on the rocks. There were several groups, all males.  This is the end of the mating season when they don’t eat.  Amazingly, these big fellows are usually much bigger than this! Continue reading

Funky Talkeetna

talkeetna 12After our fabulous time in Homer, we prepared to drive towards Denali National Park & Preserve.  The plan was to resupply in Anchorage and then spend a day in funky Talkeetna along the way. But we almost did not get going as planned, because I had a horrible night with what I believe must have been food poisoning. Hector and I both ate pork chops, and he did not get sick, so I am not sure what did me in.

Stomach-PainIn any case, I was exhausted by morning, not having slept much. But we decided that I would sleep and Hector would get everything ready and drive to Anchorage. It was the first time that I did not help with setting up for a travel day and I felt terrible about it. But I had stowed a lot of the inside stuff the previous night so it was not too bad for Hector.

So, indeed, I slept while Hector drove. By the late afternoon, I was feeling much better and was able to help out with a couple of chores in Anchorage. We dry camped at Cabelas once again; easy in easy out.

The next day we got a bit of a late start as both of us were pretty tired. But we made it to Talkeetna in the late afternoon. This time we just dry camped in a gravel pullout on the side road that leads to Talkeetna (yes, we are so glamorous sometimes).talkeetna 1

talkeetna 49Alaska Day driving days 6 and 7 recap:

Homer to Anchorage

Road Name: Sterling Highway to Seward Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Miles: 221

Driving Time: 5:00

Anchorage to Talkeetna

Road Name: Glenn Highway to Parks Highway

talkeetna 47Road Type: Mostly 2-lane with some 4-lane sections near Wasilla

Road Conditions: Very good throughout, some construction. This is a very heavily travelled road connecting Anchorage to Fairbanks so it is kept up as far as we have travelled.

Miles: 134

Driving Time: 2:30

Total Miles in Alaska: 1583

Total Miles since entering Canada: 3577

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On the Homer Spit

Homer 4Homer is a popular spot on the Kenai Peninsula, and we had heard very good things about it. But frankly we did not know very much and had no specific plans prior to arriving there. But we did know we wanted to try to stay on the Homer spit.  A long skinny peninsula where the town’s boat harbor and many tourist activities are centered.Homer 53

Homer 1Homer 2Homer 3Homer 42We drove over to Homer on the Sterling Highway, a beautiful road that we had driven earlier in our travels. The Kenai River, super popular for fishing, runs alongside part of the road. There are a number of towns along the way, including Ninilchik, where we made a brief stop at the Transfiguration of our Lord Church, a Russian Orthodox church founded in 1846. The church and its cemetery are quite picturesque and are one of many examples of Russia’s historical influence on Alaska.

Alaska Day driving day 5 recap:

Road Name: Seward Highway (a short section) to Sterling Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Seward Highway is generally good, Sterling Highway is good but quite narrow for a bit after Cooper Landing, including a mercifully not too long windy section with no shoulder and a guardrail on both sides where a motorhome like ours barely fit with another large vehicle on the oncoming lane.

Miles Today: 173

Driving Time: 4:15

Total Miles in Alaska: 1228

Total Miles since entering Canada: 3222

The road ends at Homer.  Beyond Homer lies more of the roadless Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Archipelago.  Alaska is both our westernmost and easternmost state.  How can that be?  The end of the Aleutian chain lies over the international dateline.  And just north of Homer on the Sterling Highway is the westernmost section of paved road in the entire USA.

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Back to the City

Anchorage 16Anchorage 6We went back to the city of Anchorage for a few days. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with almost half of its population concentrated there. And like all cities, it has its problems; including a high crime rate and homelessness. And Alaskans like to joke that Alaska is thirty minutes from Anchorage.Anchorage 2

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We settled in at the Golden Nugget RV Park, read my review here.

The city of Anchorage has a lot to offer, and we were intent on discovering some of its positive aspects. Starting with a visit to the Anchorage Market & Festival a fun weekend downtown market with lots of crafts and prepared food and a very diverse crowd. Next up was a stroll around the compact downtown and a visit to the sod roofed Anchorage Visitor Information Center, a beautiful log cabin structure.

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Paddling in Valdez

Paddle Valdez 6Paddle Valdez 1There are lots of great opportunities for paddling in Valdez, both on your own and as part of guided tour groups. We chose two lakes on two different days: the Valdez Glacier Lake and Robe Lake.

 

Paddle Valdez 27The Valdez Glacier was the main trail for prospectors headed into gold fields in the interior of Alaska, this trail was named the All-American route due to the fact that prospectors did not have to cross Canada into Alaska.

Paddle Valdez 3Due to Valdez being the northern most ice free port, this was as close as you could get to the interior during the spring months when travel was possible over the glaciers of the Chugach range.Paddle Valdez 13

Our new rubber boots

Our new rubber boots for the COLD water

Over many years, the Valdez glacier has retreated, mostly due to surface melt and thinning.Paddle Valdez 9

Paddle Valdez 12Paddle Valdez 16We drove over to check out the Valdez Glacier Lake, where the glacier located, and briefly spoke with one of the tour guides that was just heading out. The lake seemed like a fairly easy and very interesting paddle.

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Whitehorse, Yukon

Whitehorse001Whitehorse020This day we had a really short drive into Whitehorse, Yukon so we took it pretty easy in the morning. We really liked the Marsh Lake Yukon Government Campground, although there were quite a few mosquitoes there. Fortunately, we were able to get by with some natural mosquito repellent, and the campfire helped. We have several levels of repellent, from natural to frighteningly chemical.

Whitehorse002Whitehorse003Day 8 driving recap:

Road Name (s): Yukon Highway 1

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Excellent as this was mostly in “suburban” Whitehorse

Miles Today: 31

Miles driven from Canadian border: 1624

Miles on the Alaska Highway: 887.4Whitehorse060Whitehorse088Whitehorse087

Driving Time: :50

Whitehorse is the largest town in these parts. It is both the capital of the Yukon and home to over two thirds of Yukon’s 35k human residents. In the Yukon Territory there are significantly more moose than there are people!

It is a great place to refuel and restock. On the way in, we stopped at Integra Tire, which provides free sani-dump service with a fill-up. We got gas, dumped, got a water fill, a propane fill and a free bag of ice. All in one place, very convenient. But they are a very busy operation so it took quite a while.

Then we headed to Walmart, where we were clearly not the first to think about overnighting.   It was pretty jam packed with RV’s. I honestly have never seen so many in one parking lot.

But we found a good spot and settled in. It is a great location right in town and once again, they had WiFi and it was working pretty well when we arrived in the middle of the afternoon. This Walmart actually has a sign outside indicating where RVs are allowed to park overnight – amazing.

Next stop was the Visitor Center, a beautifully decorated building with lots of great information. There are quite a few museums and other activities in town, and this is the place to get the details on all of them. They also have really good WiFi.

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The Signpost Forest

Signposts010Our campground in Watson Lake had an area to wash cars and RVs so we washed the car in the morning. Then we blogged some more and headed to the visitor center museum and the signpost forest.Signposts013

Signposts012The signpost forest is pretty amazing. Thousands of signs from all over the United States, Canada and many other countries on countless posts. Continue reading