Day 3: Grand Canyon to the Utah border

To tell you about Day 3 requires more than one post – after editing, I have 537 photos in the day’s file. So I’m cutting this one off at the Utah border, which I reached just after 3:00 pm.

This was the planned route – seems simple and short enough for an easy day. Having 2 Bucket List destinations and many other sights of interest made it much longer, and a very odd GPS routing even more so. If you click on the map below a new window opens with an interactive map of the route.

Route from Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon
Before I left the Grand Canyon Camper Village I did some poking around, and found this 3d map with some great information for my route out, on Hwy 64 (Desert View Drive) along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. In the background you can see the camp site and motorcoach of the French students I mentioned yesterday.
Grand Canyon Camper Village, Arizona
I pulled away from the RV park right at 07:00, and 20 minutes later my touring day got off to a spectacular start with this view from the side of the road between Mather Point and Yaki Point (see map).
Grand Canyon, Arizona
My first-ever cougar crossing sign! (a.k.a. puma or mountain lion) No cougars, though :(
Cougar crossing sign at Grand Canyon, Arizona
I hadn’t expected the road to be so incredible, and made a lot of stops.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Many of the views are available without any walking – this was the view out the side window of the motorhome.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The same view as above, from ground level.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
A few minutes after 08:00, there were still very few people around. Much better than yesterday afternoon at Mather Point.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
This view reinforced my feeling that a person could spend their entire life studying and exploring the Grand Canyon. At left center is Horseshoe Mesa, and the mostly-cleared oval at the bottom right is the site of the Last Chance Mine, where copper was mined starting in 1890. This view is from Grandview Point, from where a “steep and rugged” trail takes hikers 3 miles (4.8 km) to the mesa 2,500 feet below.
Horseshoe Mesa and Last Chance Mine at Grand Canyon, Arizona
Life at the Last Chance Mine was hard for both men and animals, but the mine operated until 1907 when copper prices crashed.
Last Chance Mine at Grand Canyon, Arizona
The patterns and colours change constantly – fascinating and captivating, and I soon resigned myself to this being a very long day :)
Grand Canyon, Arizona
I reached the Tusayan Museum and Ruin at 08:45, a few minutes before it opened, and had the large site pretty much to myself. Tusayan was a thriving Pueblo Indian community some 800 years ago, as illustrated by its pottery, arrowheads and other household artifacts (watch a 3-minute video).
Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Grand Canyon, Arizona
This is the foundation of the kiva, Tusayan’s ceremonial and spiritual center.
Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Grand Canyon, Arizona
This struck me as funny – the type of vegetation would tend to discourage the barefootin’ the sign warns against :)
Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago, people made these animal figures from split twigs of willow, cottonwood and rushes. They’ve all been found in remote, hard-to-access caves with no sign that they had been lived in, so they have a special meaning, though exactly what can only be guessed at.
Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The view from Lipan Point.
Lipan Point, Grand Canyon, Arizona
In the 1960s, archaeologists discovered that the Unkar Delta, seen in this photo, was the site of a thriving agricultural village 1,000 years ago. One of many such villages along the canyon’s bottom, the people here grew corn, beans, squash and cotton on terraced fields.
Unkar Delta, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Desert View Watchtower, 70 feet high and built in 1932, was designed by architect Mary Colter.
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The gift shop in the Watchtower must surely have the most incredible view of any gift shop in the world. No, that’s not a mural, that’s looking out the window!
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The interior walls of the Watchtower are covered in designs from the culture of the ancestral Puebloan people.
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona
A long-abandoned trail along the canyon rim took me to this view of the tower. I had to keep reminding myself of the elevation of the South Rim – at Desert View, it’s 2,267 meters (7,438 feet).
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Dropping down to the desert along the Little Colorado River, at 10:50. I was starting to feel like breakfast might be in order, but there seemed to be few options!
Desert along the Little Colorado River, Arizona
A sign pointing to a Scenic View, obviously of the dramatic canyon of the Little Colorado River, prompted a turn off the highway. As well as the trail to the viewpoint, there was a very large booth selling Navajo jewellery, the first of many along the highway. I was very surprised at how low the prices were (such as necklaces for $12.00).
Canyon of the Little Colorado River, Arizona
The trail and view of the gorge were definitely worth the stop, though the access road was very rough.
Canyon of the Little Colorado River, Arizona
As noon approached, food became the prime focus, and just in time, the large Cameron Trading Post appeared right after I turned north on Hwy 89. The restaurant is beautiful.
Cameron Trading Post, Arizona
And the Navajo taco was amazing – worth waiting for :)
Navajo taco at Cameron Trading Post, Arizona
The Cameron Suspension Bridge crosses the Little Colorado River beside the Trading Post. Built in 1911, its main span of 200 meters (660 feet) was the longest suspension span west of the Mississippi River when it was built.
Cameron Suspension Bridge, Arizona
One of the things I noticed early in the trip was the virtual absence of rest areas or even pulloffs, but every now and then I took advantage of a wide shoulder to get photos, in this case of a bridge from the old highway, and the colourful bluffs beyond.
Arizona desert
A detour to avoid construction took me onto Indian Route 20, now signed as 89T (Temporary), at 1:10 pm.
Indian Route 20 (Hwy 89T), Arizona
The Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River at Page prompted a couple of long stops and walks.
Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona
Lake Powell, formed by the Glen Canyon Dam, must be incredible to explore by boat. There seems to be almost no road access to it. A very large marina can be seen in the distance in this photo shot from the dam.
Lake Powell, Arizona
At 3:10 pm, I crossed into Utah on Hwy 89, my first time in the state. I’ll tell you about the rest of the day, getting to and exploring Bryce Canyon, tomorrow…
Grand Canyon, Arizona


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Day 2: Route 66 and the Grand Canyon

Back to the trip. I spent Friday night, my first night in the new motorhome, in the parking lot of the Walmart in Kingman, Arizona, and was up early Saturday, pumped to get to another shopping destination near Flagstaff and then to the Grand Canyon.

I couldn’t find any place that looked good for breakfast nearby, so backtracked a few miles to a large truck stop I’d seen. The truck stop across the road from it hadn’t fared so well.
Abandoned truck stop in Arizona
After a good, big breakfast, I wandered around the Kingman area for a bit, with no particular destination in mind. There’s some very interesting country in the mountains around there.
Highway 93 west of Kingman AZ
The historic Route 66 has drawn me for decades – how could it not for anyone of my era with an interest in cars? My wandering brought me to the Powerhouse Route 66 Museum, but I got there just after 07:00, 2 hours before it opened.
My little travelling buddy Nanook has so many new places to see! :)
Nanook on Route 66
Not quite finished with the area, I headed west on Hwy 68 for a look at Golden Valley.
By 09:00, though, I was far east of Kingman on Hwy 40, headed for a shop where I could get the equipment we need to tow our Chevy Tracker with the motorhome, as well as some general RV equipment and supplies.
Arizona Hwy 40 west of Seligman
A sign along the freeway that noted Seligman as the “Birth Place of Historic Route 66″ prompted a short detour that turned into a 40-minute look around the heart of the very colourful little community.
Welcome to Seligman, Arizona
The Route 66 marketing in Seligman is as tacky as it comes – it’s wonderful! :) There are old cars everywhere, the sound of 1950s music coming from some shops, a very good singer and guitar player performing outside another, and some really nice vintage signage amongst all the newer ones.
Route 66 shops in Seligman, Arizona
It took a lot of self-control to not buy anything. I really wanted something – even a coffee mug – but I need more “stuff” like I need a hole in my head (as my Mom used to say).
Route 66 shop in Seligman, Arizona

My shopping destination was Camping World at Bellemont, west of Flagstaff and a few miles past my turnoff to the Grand Canyon. It didn’t take long to have a couple of carts with over $1,000 worth of equipment stashed in the rig.

As I was taking photos of some flowers between the Camping World store and the tracks, this long BNSF train came along. BNSF Railway was created in 1995 when Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Pacific merged.
BNSF train at Bellemont, Arizona
This field of flowers was getting a lot of people to pull off the highway. I’d like to know what caused it – perhaps 100 acres in size, it was the only one I saw like this.
Arizona flowers

I turned north on Hwy 64 towards the Grand Canyon just after noon, with no solid plan as to how I was going to see the canyon. I had done minimal research on this trip, as I had no idea how it was going to go. All I really knew was that Route 66, the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon were all possibilities with fairly short detours from the most direct route home.

A sign pointing to the Grand Canyon Airport gave me an idea of how to get started, and a few minutes later I had a boarding pass for a 45-minute tour in N148SA, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter / Vistaliner.
N148SA, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter / Vistaliner
At 2:00 we took off, and I shot this video to show the approach to the Grand Canyon, then switched to stills.
One of the things that surprised me the most about the Grand Canyon was how it appears so suddenly. The early explorers were travelling through a fairly level open pine forest, when all of a sudden their world disappeared. It’s hard to imagine the thoughts that went through their minds – there can simply be no “Plan B” for a sight like that.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
The Colorado River snaking through a canyon that is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep. “Stunning” barely begins to describe the feeling – I was completely at a loss for words for days.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
After editing, I have 199 photos shot in the 27 minutes we spent over the canyon.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
The Twin Otters do the high views, the helicopters get down low. I don’t think that one would be better than the other, but they’d be very different.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
Having a few clouds added to the drama of some of the scenes below.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
The North Rim is some 1,500 feet higher than the South Rim, so has a very different climate, and a much thicker forest.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
We landed at 2:40, and 20 minutes later I was at the south entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Admission is $25 per vehicle regardless of how many people are in it, and the pass you get is good for 7 days.

Nearly 5 million people visit the park each year, and most of them were there when I was. The parking lots were overflowing, the RV spots were full of cars, and I eventually parked in a hatched no-parking zone at the end of a row of cars for my introductory look.

Mather Point, the closest viewpoint to the main Visitor Center, is where most people go, As crowded as it was, though, it wasn’t overwhelming even to this country boy :)
Mather Point, Grand Canyon
This turkey vulture was hanging around Mather Point – looking for children, small dogs or people going over the fence for a better photo, no doubt :)
Turkey Vulture at the Grand Canyon
A more adventurous viewpoint off to the west of Mather Point.
Grand Canyon viewpoint
Not many people carry real cameras anymore, but when I saw a fellow with one, I asked him to take this shot for me. I often have people ask me to take photos of them, and am always happy to oblige.
Murray at the Grand Canyon
At about 4:30, I left the park and drove a few minutes to the Grand Canyon Camper Village where I got a site with water and 30 amp power in the nearly empty gravel lot for $46. My first RV park ever. Being a practical guy, I can’t help but think that I paid $46 for wi-fi, since I don’t need the water or power hookups except once every week or two. Oh well, I’ll get that figured out.
Grand Canyon Camper Village
Smoke from a forest fire off to the east a few miles moved in for a while, but after a couple of hours the wind shifted and it cleared again. Having elk wander through the RV park was pretty cool.
Elk in Grand Canyon Camper Village
Thunderstorms threatened but never did get us wet. There were 2 groups of tenters near me – one a group of 30 or so students from France, the other about a dozen young women travelling with G Adventures.
Storm at Grand Canyon Camper Village

It had been a very busy day, and I was exhausted. I had a bag of chips for dinner, a couple of beer, and was in bed early, with no plan for the next day except to continue north.


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Our RV / Motorhome Shopping Process

Some of you are wondering how Cathy and I ended up with the motorhome we did, and why we bought in Arizona. It was a very long process that saw us assessing every type of RV from tent trailer to diesel Class A over a period of months – here’s a short summary of it all.

Everyone who is shopping for an RV will have specific wants and don’t-wants in the outfit they eventually choose. Our 2 primary considerations both involved size. It had to be large enough to comfortably hold 2 people, 2 huskies and a cat, and it had to be able to navigate the rough roads and tight camping spots that are our favourite locations.

Some people want a “starter” RV, to test the theory. We knew from spending a month in a little campervan in New Zealand that RVing is a lifestyle that suits us well, so we felt no need to start off small for a possible move up later. We did, however, look at old campervans that we could buy cheaply (under $5,000) and pound into tough spots with no particular concern for scratches or dents.

We didn’t have a vehicle that was suitable for towing a trailer or 5th wheel (though Cathy’s Chevy Tracker might handle a tent trailer), so whatever we chose would entail adding another vehicle to the fleet. Although we came back to them every now and then during the months of shopping, trailers of any kind never made it very far because we wanted something completely self-contained – the fur-kids needed to be with us, and we didn’t want to have to park to get something out of a cupboard.

Budget will be a large part of most people’s decision. For us, the less money spent the better, but we set $45,000 as the high end for the perfect rig, though the total bill for the motorhome we bought will be a few thousand more than that.

The most complicated decision came in choosing a Class C, B or A, and we went back and forth on this for months. Basically, a Class B is a campervan, a Class C has a larger body over a van cab, and a Class A looks like a bus.

Class B is the most fuel efficient by far, largely because it has the smallest and most streamlined front, but the initial purchase price is much higher for a given year/mileage because they’re very popular. Our RV travel plans for the next few years involve relatively short distances and lengthy periods, making fuel economy less of an issue than it will be for some other people.

In the Yukon and Alaska, Class C motorhomes are the most commonly seen. They provide a good balance of features, come in virtually any size you want, and are available at pretty much any price you want to spend. The smaller Cs don’t have full-size beds, and since the fur-kids like to sleep with us, a 27-foot was the size that worked the best for us.

Throughout much of the shopping process, we would often look at the Class As and then decide that they are more than we need. Once we started looking more at a very long-term decision, though, a small A – under 32 feet – would offer the most flexibility. Whatever we decided to do, a small Class A could handle. Part of that, though, is because of my driving experience – a million miles or so driving highway buses gives me a comfort level with a rig that size that a casual user will never get. While that’s not an issue on the highway, it is when you’re in a situation like backing into a tight camping spot at night with no assistance as happened at Bryce Canyon on my 3rd night with it. The vast majority of used Class As for sale are 34 feet and longer – most much longer. There are very few smaller ones available.

Most used motorhomes, though not all, can be bought cheaper in the United States than in Canada, and our experience has been that Arizona and Texas offer the best deals in the western US. As long as you’re very careful about following every step, exporting a used motorhome from the US and importing it into Canada is an easy process – the Registrar of Imported Vehicles at RIV.ca is the place to go for all the information you need about that. The process takes about 15 minutes on the American side of the border crossing you use (I crossed at Sweetgrass, Montana / Coutts, Alberta), an hour on the Canadian side, and then a couple of weeks to get all the paperwork done to license the rig in Canada. The cost is $195 for a federal inspection plus GST on the price you paid for the motorhome. Buying from a dealer who does a lot of sales to Canadians can make the process even easier.

We eventually found a 2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M, a 31-foot-long Class A with 2 slideouts (more about slideouts below). It was at La Mesa RV in Tucson, but we had been talking to a salesman at their West Phoenix operation, and they moved it for me once we came to an agreement on the price. The purchase was much more complicated than it should have been, but still worked out well in the long run. In the middle of July, I flew to Phoenix to confirm the purchase and drive it home. The rig had many more cosmetic flaws than the single small ding on a luggage door that had been described, but it was still a good deal at about $11,000 off the original $54,500 list price. It only has 30,000 miles on the chassis, but the generator has almost 1,000 hours on it (4-5 times what you would usually expect to see on a rig of this age), so it’s been used a lot in places without electricity.

The motorhome also, however, had a dead air conditioner, and it would take 2-3 weeks to get it shipped from back East, so I flew home to await a call that it was ready to go.

So, finally, here’s what we now have:

Sitting in the driveway this morning, with a 24-foot Class C belonging to friends from BC who camped there for the night.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The driver’s position is very comfortable. In particular, the Flexsteel seat still felt great even at the end of a 7-day, 3,400-mile drive. It’s powered by an 8.1-liter Chevy Workhorse gas engine, with an Allison automatic transmission with overdrive.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
Looking back from the front of the rig, as it looks while driving (with the slide in). A slideout is a section of the motorhome that extends out at the push of a button, typically 20 inches or so. Some motorhomes don’t have any, most now have 1, 2 or 3 of them. Ours has 2, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. This is a view that shoppers need to see, as some motorhomes are almost unusable with the slides in. While new Class As are, I think, all 102 inches wide, if you’re looking for an older one, many are only 96 inches wide, and that can make a big difference.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
With the living room slide out, it feels like you could throw a party! There’s certainly plenty of room for 2 huskies to stretch out.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
Looking to the front from the kitchen, with the slide out.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The kitchen has several features we like – while the microwave is almost standard now, the oven and the window are not. The extendable shelves add a fair bit of useful counter space at meal prep time. A toaster oven can stay on the counter, but the coffee maker has to be stored in a cabinet when we hit the road.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
This photo shows an unusual feature that kept us coming back to this floor plan over and over – a hallway on the side instead of down the center as is the norm. The huge windows are wonderful for opening the rig up visually. What looks like cabinets to the right is the fridge and freezer.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The side hallway also allows for a huge bathroom, with 2 doors, one into the hall and one into the bedroom. Having a spot for the cat’s litter box was important to us, and it fits nicely beside the toilet for humans.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The bedroom, with the slide out. This is a queen bed that you can walk around. When the slide is in, the end of the bed slips under the wardrobe to the right.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The other end of the bedroom, with the slide out.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
Above the bedroom slide, you can see a little awning that keeps leaves and other debris from getting into the slide mechanism – although they are very common, not all motorhomes have them.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M

That’s a quick look at what has brought us to this point. In about a week we’ll be getting a form from RIV telling us what modifications, if any, need to be made to get it licensed in Canada. Daytime running lights and a metric speedometer are the usual ones, but this rig already has both.

To get the dogs and cat used to it, we’re camping in the driveway for a few days. So far, it’s working out great – they’ll all very comfortable in it. Tomorrow we’ll take them for a short drive in it.

I hope that you’ve found this to be of some interest. If you have any questions about our buying process or yours, I’d be happy to chat with you.


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Taking Delivery of the New Motorhome

Friday was the big day, starting a whole new direction in our lives. No more international travel, no more leaving the 3 furry members of our family home, and a whole lot of exploring the North slowly, in great detail.

I took a few photos from my 6th-floor room at the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel starting at 05:35, but the light had gotten really nice when I took this one at 06:45.
The view from the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel
I had really hoped for a big sit-down breakfast, but the only restaurant within walking distance was closed, so an egg sandwich from the snack bar in the hotel lobby had to suffice. That’s the only negative about the Aloft, though – in every other way it’s been perfect for my purposes.
Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel
Any hotel that greets its guests this way gets top marks from me, of course :)
Dog bowls at the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel
I had the desk call for a cab at 07:30, and for a $40 bill was at La Mesa RV for the scheduled 08:00 delivery. La Mesa is a huge company, which has its good and its bad aspects. The bad that I keep running into is that every little part of a sale is handled by a different person – on the phone in particular, it’s like dealing with the federal government, trying to find the right person. The good includes infrastructure like this air-conditioned Delivery Center…
…where my rig was shined up and ready to go. It’s a 2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M, a 31-foot-long Class A motorhome. Another of the good parts of La Mesa is that everyone is very good at their little part of the deal. After Lauren helped me get a stack of company and state and federal government paperwork signed, Ken spent almost 2 hours showing me the rig and how everything works
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
La Mesa has obviously done a lot of sales to Canadians, and has the process down pat. By doing the actual delivery of the rig 2 hours away via Highway 10 in Blythe, California, no Arizona taxes have to be paid by out-of-state buyers, saving a couple of thousand dollars. While Steve drove the motorhome, Bruce and I followed in a pickup, and we had a great chat along the way.
Welcome to California. Neither the motorhome nor the pickup fit whatever profile the Agriculture Inspectors were looking for, and we both got waved through the inspection station.
California Agriculture Inspection Station

The notary that usually does the paperwork in California was off sick and it took a while to find another one, but we got it all done, the 3 of us went for a fast-food late lunch, and just after 3:00 p.m., I was off on my Adventure :)

I didn’t have a firm destination in mind for that night, but went back to Quartzsite on Hwy 10, then north on 95 towards Kingman.
If I come back as a desert rat (the human kind!) in my next life, I’ll be okay with it – I really like this stark world. Reading some of the writings of Edward Abbey a few decades ago no doubt enhanced my appreciation for the beauty.
I had a long list of things to buy to set up house properly, and as evening came, I pulled up the Kingman Walmart on the GPS. By the time I made 3 trips through the store and back to the rig, it was nearing 8:00 p.m., and I decided to just camp there. Easy, stress-free, and free – all good for a short stop when I didn’t need any campground services.

The very basic plan for Saturday was to go to the Camping World store near Flagstaff to buy a bunch more stuff, then stop at the Grand Canyon.


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Flying from Whitehorse Back to Phoenix

I’m in a campground at Idaho Falls, Idaho, as I write this, halfway through an Adventure that truly has me overwhelmed. There will probably not be an update until I get home, as I’m speed-touring a 3,200-mile route home with my new motorhome. I’m dying to tell you about flightseeing over the Grand Canyon, and hiking into Bryce Canyon, but first, Day 1, the drive and flights to Phoenix on Thursday. I enjoyed the last trip through Skagway so much that I decided to take that route again.

The Venus mill along Windy Arm is a great site to say “goodbye” to the Yukon with.
Venus silver mine, Yukon
At 09:50 a.m. (10 minutes early), the Wings of Alaska Cessna 207 was airborne from Skagway and within a few minutes we were over the most dramatic part of Taiya Inlet.
Dramatic coastline along Taiya Inlet, Alaska
I’d sure like to have a closer look at this shipwreck I spotted north of Haines in Taiyasanka Harbor – but it’s boat access only.
Shipwreck in Taiyasanka Harbor, Alaska
Fort William H. Seward at Haines is a great photo subject from the air or the ground.
Fort William H. Seward, Alaska
The Davidson Glacier. I sat on the opposite side of the plane to what I had that last trip, offering quite a different view.
Davidson Glacier, Alaska
The people on the large Allen Marine whalewatching boat at center left got very lucky just a second before I took this shot, when a humpback whale surfaced right beside the boat.
Whale watching boats at Juneau, Alaska
Landing at Juneau at 10:30.
Landing at the Juneau airport
The 3 hour stop in Juneau really dragged – I wanted to get to Phoenix! But I killed time by looking more closely at some of the aviation history displays…
… and, of course, watching airplanes. I hadn’t seen a Boeing 737 combi in a very long time. Carrying freight forward and passengers aft, this one had arrived from Petersburg and was now headed for Wrangell.
Boeing 737 combi
We were over a cloud layer for most of the flight to Seattle, and this shot along Vancouver Island was one of the few I got.
A look at the coast of BC from 37,000 feet
The Olympic Peninsula, with the sandbars of Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge at the lower right.
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge from 37,000 feet
A lot of frozen fish came off our flight in Seattle – great souvenirs for some lucky tourists.
Frozen fish coming off an Alaska Airlines flight in Seattle
We started taxiing for the flight to Phoenix just before 6:00 pm. I love the Alaska Airlines regionals that have been painted in college football colours.
Mount St. Helens.
Mount St. Helens
We flew directly over the incredibly destructive wildfires burning in eastern Washington.
At 10:00, I got to my room at the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel. I went to the lounge for one beer, and then crashed, pumped to get the real adventure started. I had an appointment at 08:00 Friday to get the keys to my new rig :)
Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel


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The Alaska Highway by Motorcycle

Explore BC has just posted another of my articles, this one about one of BC’s top riding routes, the Alaska Highway. To really enjoy the trip simply requires the right gear, the right attitude and sufficient time – though a bit of luck with weather helps, too. To read it, just click the screenshot below.


The Alaska Highway by Motorcycle
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Wandering along the Alaska Highway on the Motorcycle

Summer has finally returned to the Yukon, and yesterday I was dying to get back on my motorcycle. Checking out the recently-reopened Johnson’s Crossing Lodge, 110 km down the Alaska Highway, was as good an excuse as any :)

What a superb day to be on 2 wheels. There were a lot of bikes out yesterday, making up nearly half of all the vehicles I saw on the highway. That’s White Mountain ahead, from about Km 1343, just north of Jake’s Corner.
White Mountain, Alaska Highway
A bit early for lunch, I rode past Johnson’s Crossing to get a few shots of the Teslin River Bridge. The roof of the lodge can be seen on the far side of the bridge.
Teslin River Bridge, Alaska Highway
As I pulled into the Canol Road rest area a few hundred yards from the spot where I shot the photo above, the bike’s odometer clicked over to 26,000 km. Given our very short seasons, that’s not too bad for 2 full seasons and 2 part seasons of riding (I bought it in late July of 2010).
2009 Vstar 1100 Classic
A general view of the rest area at the junction of the Alaska Highway and the gravel and little-used South Canol Road. Very few people stop here – perhaps because it’s not visible from the main highway.
Canol Road Rest Area, Alaska Highway
A photo of the Teslin River Bridge (Bridge No. 416) under construction in 1944, on one of the interpretive signs at the rest area. The bridge is 37 meters high (121 feet) and 450 meters long (1,476 feet).
Teslin River Bridge under construction
Looking north on the Canol Road – the next services are in the little village of Ross River, 226 km (140 miles) ahead.
One of the 7 old trucks at the rest area – an FWD, I think. Hmmm – I could pick up running gear cheap at the salvage yard… :)
Adding some RV stock to my photo collection on the way back to the lodge.
RV on the Teslin River Bridge, Yukon
I was pleased to see lots of action at the Johnson’s Crossing Lodge. Having regular gas at $1.399 per liter is a great way to get people to stop, to start – that’s the same as the average price in Whitehorse.
Johnson's Crossing Lodge
The small dining room has great character.
Johnson's Crossing Lodge
The menu is basic but has some interesting options such as bison and elk smokies, and prices are good. I ordered the loaded Crossing burger.
Menu at Johnson's Crossing Lodge, Alaska Highway
While I waited for my burger, I looked around, and was pleased to see several photos of the historic lodge that sat at this site, mounted in window frames from that large structure. Ellen Davignon, seen in this photo with school bus driver Ross Regan, wrote a wonderful book about her life there, The Cinnamon Mine: An Alaska Highway Childhood.
Johnson's Crossing Lodge
The very good Crossing burger with potato salad. Good grub at good prices is the number one thing that gets me coming back to a place over and over. Both servers I chatted with were very friendly locals and seemed to genuinely like working at the lodge.
A loaded Crossing burger at Johnson's Crossing Lodge, Yukon
Even the gift shop was unique, both in layout and many of the articles stocked.
Gift shop Johnson's Crossing Lodge, Alaska Highway
Thoroughly pleased with my visit, I started the ride home, but quickly decided to pop down to the river for a look, to at least get some photos of the bridge from that angle. This is a popular spot to launch boats (canoes, mostly) to go to Dawson City.
Teslin River and bridge at Johnson's Crossing, Yukon
I find bird identification to be very frustrating. This little guy I saw at the boat launch under the bridge is a sandpiper, but even with the dark legs limiting the options considerably I’m not certain which one. My guess, though, is that it’s a juvenile Semipalmated sandpiper (Calidris pusilla).
Sandpiper along the Teslin River
I had decided not to fuel up at Johnson’s Crossing, but instead to go back to Jake’s Corner, a former fairly regular stop for me. The restaurant closed in April 2013, however, and I haven’t stopped since (late Spring seems like a very odd time to close a business whose boom days are in the summer). The bike only took $13 worth of gas at $1.388/liter.
Jake's Corner Lodge, Yukon
The restaurant is available for lease, and I hope that someone picks it up, because I can’t imagine that fuel will keep the business open much longer. I’d really hate to see the sign at Jake’s be the next one to go dark.
Jake's Corner, Alaska Highway


Posted in Alaska Highway, Highway Lodges & Roadhouses, Motorcycles | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Hiking the Summit Peak Trail on the Alaska Highway

As I neared home on a trip to Kelowna and back the first week of July, I spent a few hours hiking the Summit Peak Trail in Stone Mountain Park, which starts at Summit Lake, Km 597.6 of the Alaska Highway (Historic Mile 392), about 140 km (87 mi.) west of Fort Nelson. I’ve just posted a fairly lengthy article about it, with 18 photos, at ExploreBC. Click on the screenshot below to go to that page.



The spectacular view from Summit Peak, BC

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Watching and Riding Trains Around the World

Living in the Yukon, I don’t get many opportunities to see trains other than those of the White Pass & Yukon Route, but they’re one of my favourite subjects when I travel, and I never pass up an opportunity to ride on a new railway. When I started looking for images for this post, I was actually surprised how many I have – here’s a small sampling.

I’ll start at home, with WP&YR’s locomotive #96 crossing the bridge over the Nares River at Carcross. This engine was built by General Electric (construction number GE 34593) at their Erie, PA plant in March 1963.
WP&YR train at Carcross, Yukon
The snow in the White Pass is still deep in late May. This is the view to the south at about Mile 19.
WP&YR train in deep snow near the White Pass Summit
It’s easy to miss the train shed at the Dawson City Museum – it’s not mentioned on the museum’s Web site, and is only opened for a couple of hours a day. It houses 3 locomotives from the Klondike Mines Railway, including this 2-8-0 Baldwin that was built in 1885.
A 2-8-0 Baldwin steam locomotive from the Klondike Mines Railway
The other railroad that’s fairly close by is the Alaska Railroad, but I’ve only ridden it 3 times because when I was anywhere along the line I was usually driving a tour bus. This is the view looking south along the Nenana River as the train nears Denali National Park.
The view from an Alaska Railroad train along the Nenana River
An Alaska Railroad train arriving at Denali with one of my tour groups.
Alaska Railroad tarin arrives at Denali Park
The most dramatic section of the Alaska Railroad by far is the one from Seward to Anchorage, run as the “Coastal Classic” and by special cruise ship charters, which is what we were on when I shot this photo at the most famous section historically, called “The Loops”.
The view from an Alaska Railroad train in The Loop
In the Alaska Railroad station at Fairbanks, you can see a large model railroad layout built by members of the Tanana Valley Model Railroad Club. Members fire it up for southbound train passengers every morning during the summer from 07:00 to 08:00.
Model railroad at Fairbanks, Alaska
Northern Alberta Railway Park is located at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, BC. the 4-acre park features this coach-caboose rail car also known as a “comboose,” which had been owned by the NAR (Northern Alberta Railway) and became known as the “Blue Goose Caboose”.
Northern Alberta Railway Park, Dawson Creek
In the old train station at Dawson Creek (part of Northern Alberta Railway Park) is a small railway museum. The last of the classic grain elevators is now a very good public art gallery.
Northern Alberta Railway Park, Dawson Creek
One of the classic train-spotting locations in the world is certainly Morant’s Curve on the Canadian Pacific Railway line just outside Lake Louise, seen from the Bow Valley Parkway. There is no sign marking this spot – you just have to recognize it driving north, and there’s a parking lot on the opposite side of the highway from the railway.
Morant's Curve on the CPR
An extremely long Canadian Pacific Railway train nears a field of ginseng along the Thompson River near Walachin, BC.
Canadian Pacific Railway train nears a field of ginseng along the Thompson River near Walachin, BC
A Canadian National Railway train roars past the 1915 Canadian Northern Railway station at Fort Langley, BC. I was a member of the Langley Heritage Society’s management team that directed the restoration of the station in the early 1980s.
1915 Canadian Northern Railway station at Fort Langley, BC
The railway station at Calgary’s Heritage Park Historical Village is a re-creation of the station the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) built in downtown Calgary in 1893. There are many other train-related exhibits at the park – even an operating steam train that you can ride.
Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary
The railway station at Glencoe, Ontario, is the sixth to be built at that location. It was constructed by the Wabash-Grand Trunk Railway in the summer of 1904 in a Queen Anne style. It was closed and boarded up in October 1993 but was bought by the community for $1 and restored.
Railway station at Glencoe, Ontario
A large trestle at St.Thomas, The Railway Capital of Canada.
A large trestle at St.Thomas, The Railway Capital of Canada
The tourist-oriented trains of the Port Stanley Terminal Rail travel over the tracks and roadbed of one of Ontario’s oldest railways, the London and Port Stanley Railway, which was built between 1853 and 1856 to run the 23 miles between Port Stanley and London.
Port Stanley Terminal Rail
This passenger car was one of the early displays in the Toronto Railway Museum in downtown Toronto is a grand scheme that is building steam nicely (pun intended :) ).
Toronto Railway Museum
The Niagara Falls Incline Railway carries up to 1,600 passengers per hour between the hotel area high above the falls and Queen Victoria Park, on the edge of the falls.
Niagara Falls Incline Railway
This bridge across the Dungeness River near Sequim, Washington, was built in 1915 by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway (later The Milwaukee Road). They used it until going out of business in 1980, and a successor, the Seattle and North Coast Railroad, ran across it until 1985 when the last train rolled across it. Its center span, consisting of 2 Howe trusses, is 150 feet long. It was opened to the public as part of a walking trail in 1992.
Old railway bridge across the Dungeness River near Sequim, Washington
Even sand-castle trains can be fun, like these ones at Port Angeles, Washington :)
Sand-castle trains
The sugar mill in La Romana, Dominican Republic, is the largest in the Caribbean, and is served by the Central Romana Railroad, which was established in 1911 and now has 757 km (470 mi) of rail line. This photo was shot from the deck of the cruise ship Costa Mediterranea as we arrived from Catalina Island.
Central Romana Railroad, Dominican Republic
Getting around Basel, Switzerland, is made very easy by BVB’s rail and bus system, and we rode many of the trains while there. This photo was shot at the main Basel SBB railway station.
Local trains in Basel, Switzerland
There are about 2,000 arrivals and departures each day at the Basel SBB railway station, but I caught a few quiet seconds for this shot.
Tracks at the Basel SBB railway station
We made a day trip to Lucerne, and took this train, a Bombardier ICN Tilting Train, which can hit 200 kmh. This photo was shot at Lucerne.
Bombardier ICN Tilting Train
The train we caught for the trip from Lucerne back to Basel was much older than the Bombardier ICN, but still very comfortable.
Train car in Switzerland
The main railway (the Rechte Rheinstrecke), and a little tourist “train” that we rode in Rudesheim, Germany.
Trains in Rudesheim, Germany
This maintenance and cleaning facility at Boppard, Germany, is owned by Rhenus Veniro, operator of the Hunsrück railway since 2009. This view is from the chairlift that takes people to a viewpoint and restaurant high above the Rhine River.
The Rhenus Veniro train maintenance building at Boppard, Germany
A modern train and ancient fortifications in downtown Luxembourg City.
Luxembourg City
Arriving at the Hauptbahnhof in Cologne, Germany, this train is on the Hohenzollern Bridge across the Rhine River. The bridge is most famous for the tens of thousands of “love locks” that have been placed on it.
Train on the Hohenzollern Bridge across the Rhine River
The railway system in New Zealand, operated by KiwiRail, has some very good scenic routes, though we didn’t ride any, and in fact saw very trains running during our month on the North Island. Some of the trestles are very impressive – this one is along the highway (SH1) from Waitarere to Taupo.
Railway trestle on New Zealand's North Island
At Waihi, New Zealand, we took an hour-long ride on the very scenic Goldfields Railway. This is the Price 0-4-0 diesel locomotive, built in 1944, that we rode behind, but they also operate several other locomotives, both diesel and steam.
Price 0-4-0 diesel locomotive on the Goldfields Railway, New Zealand
The Goldfields Railway takes passengers on a slow wander though very pretty country
Goldfields Railway, New Zealand
The most unique railway I’ve ever ridden on is certainly the Driving Creek Railway on New Zealand’s Coromandel peninsula. The whole Driving Creek facility kept us shaking our heads in amazement that one man could accomplish this. While we usually think of railways as industrial projects, this one is more of a whimsical work of art that you truly have to see to believe.
Driving Creek Railway, New Zealand
To climb the mountain, the Driving Creek Railway requires 2 spirals, 3 short tunnels, 5 reversing points and several large viaducts. There are small artworks are everywhere you look – incorporated into walls, hanging from trestle beams and set in the forest. The view over the Hauraki Gulf from the No. 5 reversing point on the railway (seen below), and at the Eyefull Tower at the end of the line, is wonderful. From the point on that trestle where the train stops, though, it’s a long way down!
Driving Creek Railway, New Zealand

Well, I got a bit carried away with that, but that’s just a tiny look through the collection :)


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A Small Herd of Mustangs (P-51, that is) at Whitehorse

Having three P-51 Mustangs overnight at Whitehorse brought a lot of people out to the airport for a look. They are from the Bremont Horsemen Aerobatic Team, which first took off over a decade ago as the world’s only P-51 Mustang formation aerobatic team, though they fly several other vintage aircraft now as well.The Bremont Horsemen for 2014 are Steve Hinton flying lead, with Dan Friedkin and Ed Shipley sticking tight to his wings. The aircraft that came through YXY on their way to the Arctic Thunder air show at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage this weekend were:

North American P-51K Mustang 412016, registered as NL98CF and with the nickname “Fragile but Agile”, has a confusing history, a bit of which can be seen here.
P-51K Mustang at Whitehorse, Yukon
North American P-51D-25NA Mustang 463684, serial #44-73856, registered as N7TF and with the nickname “Double Trouble Two”, was built in 1944 and restored from 2005-2007. See more history here.
P-51D Mustang at Whitehorse, Yukon
North American P-51D-30NA Mustang 463684, serial #44-74391, registered as N351MX and with the nickname “February”, entered service with the USAAF on May 23, 1945 and was restored from 2001-2003. See more history here.
P-51D Mustang at Whitehorse, Yukon
Almost unnoticed among all the Mustangs, this beautiful and rare 2007 Eclipse EA500.
2007 Eclipse EA500 at Whitehorse, Yukon
And this Pilatus PC-12/47E in the background is no slouch, either :)
 Pilatus PC-12/47E at Whitehorse, Yukon

Whenever unique aircraft show up in Whitehorse, word gets around quickly. So if you have one and like to chat, come on up! :)


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