We 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.
Our next stop was Benson, in the Southern Arizona desert, not too far from Tucson and also near lots of great places to explore. We stayed in the Saguaro SKP park, an Escapee Co-op, where we stayed a couple of years ago. It’s a very nice park, and as a bonus our friends Paul and Nina were staying there as well.
The park has a first-come first-served policy, but it has an overflow area where RVers can stay while they wait for a full hookup site. We lucked out and got the one spot in the overflow area that had full hookup. Which was great since it was starting to get hot and we needed to run the A/C. Continue reading →
Although I made a quick stop in San Juan a few years ago on the way to a cruise, it has been many more years since I have spent more than a few days in Puerto Rico. Let me state up front that since my little camera died just before my trip the photos taken by this island girl in Puerto Rico were taken from my phone (there are a few from my niece’s phone) and should not be compared to the fabulous photographs that Hector normally includes in our posts. But on to my trip.
Just as I was thinking that I needed to plan a visit to my family, my friend Katherine from Atlanta called me to tell me that her daughter, Kirstin, was going to get married in San Juan and invited us to the wedding.
We knew that we would be in the Southwest at that time of year, so I purchased a ticket from the Phoenix airport and we made our way to that city before my flight. Unfortunately, Hector had to stay behind to take care of Angel.
The wedding was to take place in Old San Juan, my favorite part of the city, so I booked an Airbnb apartment a couple of blocks from the wedding venues. Upon arrival, I took a taxi to Old San Juan thus avoiding driving or parking, which can be quite a hassle there due to the narrow streets.
After leaving San Diego, we headed to the Arizona desert where we planned to make several stops before landing in Tucson in March. For the next month or so, we moved to six different locations, met friends, had a medical scare (everything turned out ok), had maintenance issues, met more friends and enjoyed the desert. At times we felt like desert tumbleweeds. Oh, and I flew to Puerto Rico for ten days during that time – more on that in a later post.
Our first stop was Quartzsite, our third visit in three years during their annual RV show. This year we arrived only a few days before the end of the show, since our main purpose in going was to meet friends.
During our drive to Quartzsite I received a call regarding mammogram results from my medical exam in San Diego. Something showed up in the first mammogram, and the doctor wanted me to have a second one and maybe an ultrasound. Medical issues while RVing are always a challenge, but we continued on while we thought about next steps.
We boondocked in the Dome Rock area of Quartzsite, the area where we stay every year. During a quick walk through the show we met our friends Jack and Karen and made plans to meet a few days later.
Meanwhile, we had to figure out a way for me to get a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound. And, for various mostly insurance related reasons, we decided that it would be best to return to San Diego for the additional tests. Hector had the idea to double back to Anza Borrego State Park, not too far from Quartzite. This would put us day trip distance from San Diego, so we could drive our car to my appointment, thus avoiding crossing the mountains again in Island Girl.
We had a couple of days to socialize so we spent part of our time hanging out with our friend Vince who was staying at “our” regular campsite nearby. And we watched some beautiful sunsets. Continue reading →
San Diego Holidays and the weeks after were more about friends than about the place. Although the place is great, and we loved our location right on Mission Bay. Yes, we are now officially a month behind in our blogs – at least we are consistent!
We had a happy hour gathering shortly after our arrival. Our good friend Paul brought over his mom and his dad and stepmother, and friends Ian and Kate (Tales from the Scenic Route) brought over their friends Shannon and Dave (2Wander Away). Instant party!
Another friend, Patricia, was in town briefly. She is Gloria and my “hermana” from a beautiful program that we participated in years ago and the three of us had a wonderful dinner together.
Hector and I spent a lovely Christmas Eve at our friends Gloria and Michael’s home. They took care of Angel last year while we traveled to Miami, so Angel considers their home her “spa”. She was jumping up and down and running all around the house. It is so wonderful to see her so happy.
We spent Christmas Day with old and new friends. Ian and Kate rented the campground’s clubhouse, and we had a delicious potluck dinner there. Kate did a wonderful job coordinating everything and several ladies decorated the plain clubhouse and turned it into a festive and welcoming place. Continue reading →
Our arrival in Portland was the start of a flurry of activity: cleaning out Island Girl inside and out, vet visits, shopping, visits and outings with friends and a flight to Miami and back. So here comes a tale of two cities.
On our way to Portland, we stopped by the Blue Beacon to have Island Girl and the Coquí washed. Though we were planning to do further cleaning, this initial wash was a way of getting some of the excess Canadian and Alaskan grime off both vehicles.
We also replaced a damaged wheel cover on Island Girl and while we were at it removed the valve extenders on our back tires as a precaution (we have heard of many problems with these). We went with some simpler valve extenders, a little harder to use but more durable.
And we stopped at the auto glass repair place to get the windshield and sunroof on the car replaced. We finally had a clear windshield, after months of staring at a bullseye! And the tarp and duct tape sunroof is gone!
Our friends Tim and Becky generously allowed us to park Island Girl on their property near Portland. We spent the next several days emptying out Island Girl’s basement compartments and generally cleaning out all the nooks and crannies inside and outside, removing much of the dust that had accumulated there from driving on all of those gravel roads in Alaska and Canada. What a summer!
Best of all this gave us the chance to hang out with Tim and Becky. We enjoyed several get togethers to catch up on our lives since we saw each other last winter in San Diego.
Yes, we are back! Back in the lower 48 and back to blogging. I must admit that we needed a break after our Alaskan adventure. Time to rest, a break from driving and visiting places, and a break from blogging. In fact, this is the longest gap we have had from blogging since we began doing it three years ago.
We also needed some time to reflect. In September we marked our three-year anniversary of being “on walkabout”. What an amazing adventure we are having. This was to be the end of the journey as we had planned it but we are extending for a year. So this will be a transition year as we decide on the place to begin our next chapter, and yes, there is another sticks and bricks home in our future. And there will be more adventures as well.
Upon reaching the lower 48 there was lots to do. Every inch of Island Girl was dirty inside and out, and she had a couple of service issues. The Coquí was also filthy, as were our bikes and kayaks and there was the matter of our broken windshield and sunroof.
We have now made it to Portland and taken care of most of Island Girl and the Coqui’s issues, rested, and (loosely) planned our drive south for the winter. We also flew across the country to visit family and friends in Miami, while Island Girl and Angel remained with friends in Portland. Not exactly restful but it was wonderful. But more on all that later.
So where have we been since leaving Canada? We crossed the border from Osoyoos, British Columbia, to Oroville, Washington. Our plan was to drive the Cascades Loop and visit the North Cascades National Park on route to Seattle.
We scouted several National Forest sites searching for a campsite. And saw firsthand the after effect of the Okanogan fire, the largest in Washington state’s history. One campground had lots of trees down, some on the campsites. At times we could still smell the fire in the air. But now that and the other wildfires have been eradicated, thanks to those who risked their lives (and some who lost their lives) to contain the wildfires.
“Mommy there’s a whale spouting rainbows”! Overheard from a little girl on a Rainbow Tours boat cruise to Seldovia last week.
We set out on the Rainbow Connection, one of two vessels owned by Rainbow Tours, little did we know these names were an omen for something astounding that would happen later. Our research on weather paid off again, and it was another glorious morning, quite warm even, although at times it got quite breezy on the water.
We heard about this tour from some folks on our last boat tour out of Seward. It is part wildlife tour and part ferry transportation to Seldovia, a town that is across the water from Homer on Kachemak Bay and accessible only by boat or plane. We had heard about Seldovia from our friend Dan.
But the clincher was that both this tour and the ferry to Seldovia accepts dogs. So Angel could come along.
As it turned out, both our friends Karen and Jack had reserved this same date for the tour, and Dan and Amanda joined the boat tour with us as well.
The boat’s first stop was Gull Island, a seabird rookery owned by Seldovia Native Corporation. There we spotted pigeon guillemots, common murres and more horned puffins.
We had great views of Mount Redoubt, an active volcano, and at 10,197 feet, the highest peak in the Aleutian range.
As we reached the Eldredge Passage, we spotted otters. We are always excited to see them. There were quite a few otters, a group of them is called a “raft” of otters.
Camera & Bloody Mary … heaven
Next we spotted some bald eagles and also an eaglet in a nest. Kachemak Bay is not as well known as the Gulf of Alaska for wildlife viewing but this was turning out to be a great wildlife cruise.
One interesting fact we learned from one of the naturalists on board was that the eaglets’ wingspan will be as large as or larger than the adults when they leave the nest at between 9 and 13 weeks old.
As we continued we spotted some more otters, these were mamas with babies. We did not stop so it was tough to capture photos, but we could see that one had a baby that she was carrying face down – usually the babies are face up on top of the mama’s belly. But we could see the pup’s furry back and at one point he turned his head to look at us. The otters are really enchanting.
Next we saw some humpbacks. They were feeding from the nutrient rich top layer of these waters, and so were not diving, simply surfacing for air. I had not expected to see whales on this cruise, so was pretty excited.
Unfortunately, we also found the remains of a dead whale. There have been several dead whales found in the general area around Alaska and scientists are still puzzled as to the cause.
Then we reached our destination, Seldovia, one of the oldest settlements of the Cook Inlet area. Seldovia’s first residents were the Alutiiq about 2,000 years ago then in 1800 Russian settlers arrived and named it “Zaliv Seldevoy” – Herring Bay.
These first settlers came to mine coal, but the town later became a center for fur hunting and trading, and later yet for processing salmon, crab and herring.
Before roads provided better access within Alaska, Seldovia became an important first stop for ships from Seward and other areas in the Cook Inlet. The town built a wooden boardwalk along the waterfront and businesses whose structures were built on stilts grew around the boardwalk. In its heyday, it became known throughout South central Alaska as the boardwalk town.
The Good Friday earthquake of 1964 caused the town to sink four feet, and subsequent floods destroyed most of the boardwalk and structures around it. But its “new old boardwalk” is still a prominent feature in town, after being rebuilt along with new structures on stilts for businesses and residences alongside it.
People come for the day as we did, or to stay at one of its hotels or bed & breakfasts. You can hike, enjoy its beach, shop and eat at one of its shops and restaurants, fish, or kayak.
A popular stop is The Russian Orthodox Church, St. Nicholas, built in 1891. It is still “an active religious facility in the community”, with a visiting priest offering Sunday services and performing baptisms, weddings and funerals.
We had a leisurely lunch by the water – made more leisurely by the restaurant’s being understaffed. But what we enjoyed most was the boardwalk and the colorful structures alongside of it. There are lots of flowers everywhere, and many artsy touches.
Our almost three hours in the town flew by and it was time to return.
And there they were; the otters, one was sleepy and holding a seashell from a recent meal.
As we crossed the bay back towards Homer we spotted several humpback whales, they were on both sides of the boat. Most were not diving nor showing their flukes, but apparently feeding as the ones we had spotted earlier. But one of them, apparently a calf, breached – Amanda I think was the only one who saw it.
And then an amazing thing happened. As we were following along behind a humpback, because of the sun’s position relative to the boat, a rainbow appeared in the whale’s blow! Not once but three times! Something we had never seen before, and frankly I missed it because I was behind others. Hector saw it and captured two of the three.
Nature is so awesome.
This boat trip could not have been any better. The rocking boat lulled Angel to sleep, thankfully. But she also got to walk around the boat a bit and “socialize” and several people commented on what a nice dog she is. In fact, one couple let her sleep under their feet for a while.
One last whale sighting, this one dove and showed its fluke, “waving” good-bye.
Because of all of the wildlife sightings, the tour took more than its scheduled seven hours, but noone complained.
When we arrived back in Homer, we were all happy campers.
We said our good-byes to Jack and Karen, who were leaving that evening, we hope to catch up with them again in Alaska. And we have plans to see Dan and Amanda again down in Seattle.
Our stay in Homer exceeded all expectations, a campsite on a great beach, some rest and relaxation, good friends and socializing, and a beautiful cruise on the water.
Homer 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.
We 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.