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 Mea 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.

Posted in RV Travel | 4 Comments

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 :)

Posted in Railroads, Trains | 3 Comments

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! :)

Posted in Aviation | 1 Comment

Flying from Phoenix to Whitehorse

On Friday, my long journey home from Arizona to the Yukon began with a 04:00 wakeup call, and a 04:30 shuttle to the airport with a particularly friendly driver.

By 05:45 when I shot this photo from the departure lounge at PHX, I was ready to get going, hoping for some great photo ops, though knowing that forest fire smoke and/or clouds could eliminate most or even all of them.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
By our scheduled 06:00 departure time, the Alaska Airlines 737 was just about to lift off the runway into the beautiful dawn sky.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
The earth soon started to vanish into the murk, and I went to sleep for a couple of hours…
Aerial view of Arizona on a smoky summer morning
…waking up as the smoke started to dissipate in eastern Washington, a few minutes before 08:00.
Aerial view of eastern Washington on a smoky summer morning
Looking up the Columbia River from Boardman.
Looking up the Columbia River from Boardman, WA
West of Yakima, the agricultural area meets the desert hills and then the pine forests.
Aerial view of Washington's dry belt
I thought that this location would really stand out on Google Earth but nope, I can’t find it – near Yakima somewhere.
Aerial view of Washington's dry belt
A much broader view taken just a minute after the photo above shows what has become a series of massive wildfires now called the Carlton Complex and Chiwaukum Creek fires, not long after they started.
Aerial view of the Carlton Complex and Chiwaukum Creek fires
A look at the different worlds on the opposite sides of the Cascade Mountains – cool, foggy valleys on the west while the east side goes up in flames.
Cascade Mountains, Washington
Looking through a hole in the clouds at Seattle Center. The Space Needle has always been special to me, as I won a trip to the 1962 World’s Fair, which it was built for, in a contest among Vancouver Province paperboys.
Seattle Center
I had a layover of just over 3 hours in Seattle, which was okay. I added quite a few new planes to my collection, plus this 1960s Volkswagen pickup that was driving across the service area.
1960s Volkswagen pickup
The best of the aircraft I added was this new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, JA827A, from ANA – All Nippon Airways.
Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner JA827A

It turned into a rather ugly morning at SEA, with lots of stressed out people because of weather delays (SFO was closed due to fog), mechanical problems and oversold flights. I only had a gate change, though, and at 11:40 was once again taxiing toward the active runway.

While taxiing, I saw this unique tool the Fire Rescue department at Sea-Tac uses – an aircraft mock-up designed for approach, entry and tactics training on the airfield.
Fire Rescue training aircraft mockup at Sea-Tac
Over the San Juan Islands, with Vashon Island on the left and Maury Island on the right.
Vashon Island and Maury Island
There are some impressive mountains on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
Impressive mountains on Washington's Olympic Peninsula
We climbed up over a cloud layer for a while, and the next place I could see through a break in the clouds was Wrangell, Alaska. Just north of Wrangell, the 21-mile-long LeConte Glacier flows into LeConte Bay.
LeConte Glacier flowing into LeConte Bay, Alaska
Nearing Juneau at 1:00 pm, this is Taku Arm, with the massive Taku Glacier on the left and the East Twin Glacier in the distance.
Taku Arm and Taku Glacier, Alaska
The captain announced that we were going to make a spectacular approach down Gastineau Channel, then rescinded that because of a medevac plane in our way, then said that the medevac had been expedited and we were back on for the Gastineau Channel approach. It was indeed impressive. Nicely played, Alaska Airlines!
Downtown Juneau from an Alaska Airlines jet
After a couple of days of desert heat, the air in Juneau was soooo refreshing!
Juneau airport
This was the busiest I’ve ever seen the Juneau airport.
Alaska Airlines counter at Juneau airport
I was pleased to see that we’d been assigned a 10-passenger Cessna Caravan for the next leg, Wings of Alaska to Skagway.
Wings of Alaska Cessna 208 Caravan N9481F
We took off at our scheduled 2:30, and 5 minutes later were looking down on the Herbert Glacier.
Herbert Glacier, Alaska
A close look at the Eagle Glacier.
Eagle Glacier, Alaska
I take a lot of photos on these flights, but no photo can really show you what this country is like – it’s something you have to experience. And year after year, I want to experience it over and over again :)
Glacier along Lynn Canal, Alaska
Spectacular peaks along Lynn Canal, Alaska
Berners Bay was in the news a lot a few years ago because of protests against a new gold mine, but it’s a name not heard much anymore.
Berners Bay, Alaska
The Kensington Mine that caused all the fuss started production in the summer of 2010, currently has 318 employees and in 2013 produced 114,821 ounces of gold. The gold belt that the mine is on has been mined off and on in small ways for almost 120 years now – the Kensington is by far the largest so far.
Kensington Mine, Alaska
I was surprised to see this small, long-abandoned mine high above and to the south of the Kensington – there’s a helicopter pad, a loader, and an adit going into the mountain has water flowing out of it.
Abandoned gold mine north of Berners Bay, Alaska
More ice, more granite, more waterfalls :)
Spectacular peaks along Lynn Canal, Alaska
All too soon, at 3:05, we were looking down on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway’s Shops at Skagway as we made the final tight turn to land.
White Pass & Yukon Route railway's Shops at Skagway
Within a few minutes, I had my bags packed into the Tracker and was headed home. As I drove north of Carcross, the weather changed dramatically. Nice welcome home – thanks loads, Mother Nature!
Rain on the South Klondike Highway

I got home about 6:00 pm, with a lot of catching up to do before my son and his family arrive for a visit in a few days, and a few days after they leave, I’ll be flying back to Phoenix again :)

Posted in Aviation, Travel | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Two Days in Phoenix, Arizona

Wednesday was planned to be a very exciting, very busy day – confirming purchase of the motorhome, getting a lot of export/import paperwork started, and perhaps even getting the rig packed for the trip back to the Yukon. It didn’t turn out that way, though.

The day started early, with this view from my room on the 3rd floor of the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel at 05:42.
Sunrise from the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel, Arizona
I really like the design of the hotel – both my room and the public spaces. The main entry door is to the left of the reception desk seen in this photo.
Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel, Arizona
The only downside to the hotel is that there is only one restaurant nearby, a Ruby Tuesday located right behind the hotel. It has excellent food and service, though. This pathway behind the hotel was very pleasant even in the heat of midday.
Walkway at the
Back at the hotel after breakfast, I went up to the 6th floor to see if the view was much better than from the 3rd. Maybe a bit, but not enough to change rooms. That’s Ruby Tuesday at the lower left. In the center is a Shell gas station that was very handy for fueling up my rental car.
View from the
The hotel’s pool area, though very nice, didn’t get much use.
Pool area at the
With daily high temperatures in the 105-110F range, I had expected Phoenix to be quite quiet, but that wasn’t the case. I hadn’t made a car reservation, and ended up taking a shuttle back to the airport when 2 off-airport locations I called didn’t have anything available. The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Rental Car Center is an extremely impressive facility, a bit intimidating at first because of the size, but extremely friendly and efficient.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Rental Car Center, Arizona
Once I got my car, a black Charger, I drove about 15 miles to La Mesa RV to see what I hoped would be my new motorhome. I was quite stunned by the size of the operation – it is massive! My first guess was that the Delivery Center would be the place to go. It wasn’t, but I was soon taken to the person who could show the rig to me.
La Mesa RV, Arizona
It didn’t take me very long to confirm that the motorhome that Cathy and I had found online was as described, and that we would finalize the deal as quickly as possible. It’s a 2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M, a 31-foot-long “baby Class A”. A lot like a smaller version of the tour buses I drove for so many years. It would take a couple of days to get the rig registered in my name, the export paperwork had to be faxed to the border crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana, 72 hours before my arrival there, and a mechanic was already at work doing some upgrades we had agreed on.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
After calling Cathy to get the payment wired, and getting all the paperwork started, I decided to do some tire-kicking while in the midst of such an amazing variety of RVs. The MSRP on this new Freightliner-powered Itasca Meridian is $394,868 – it’s quite nice inside :)
Itasca Meridian motorhome
With that stress out of the way, it was time to relax a bit. Before leaving home, I had contacted Shangri La Ranch, a little RV park/resort a half-hour north in New River, and that was my next stop. It turned out, though, that this is a very quiet place except on the weekends, and there was no place to get a drink or a snack. So, after about 3 hours of enjoying the sun and heat and pool, and chatting with some of the permanent residents of the property, I continued on my exploration of the country.
Shangri La Ranch, Arizona
When I was looking to buy a new car last year, the final 2 cars on the list were an AWD Charger and an AWD Cadillac CTS. I had never driven a Charger (or a CTS), though, so the rental was a great time to see if I’d made the right choice. I had, but the Charger is fun to drive. Driving the very aggressive-looking black Charger with Texas plates through the desert, though, I really felt like I should be “packing” :)
, Arizona
There’s not a lot of bird life – rather like the Yukon – but this White-winged Dove was a new one for me.
White-winged Dove in Arizona

I wandered around the country north of Phoenix until almost sunset, then headed back to the hotel to get some work done on the computer and plan out the next day’s activities.

I got a call first thing Thursday morning that changed everything. La Mesa had discovered that one of the air conditioners on the motorhome was dead, and a new one had to be shipped from Indiana. That meant a delay of about 10 days, so I would have to fly back home, and return in a couple of weeks to get it. I was disappointed, but in some ways it took a lot of pressure off, as the trip in 2 weeks wouldn’t have to be done in a hurry as this one did due to family arriving in Whitehorse for a visit. I booked flights back home starting very early Friday morning.

Thursday was now to be simply a touring day. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright has been a hero of mine for as long as I can remember – I was already a fan when he died in 1959 at the age of 91. A desk clerk at the Aloft had reminded me that Taliesin West, his winter home and school from 1937 until 1959, was just north of Scottsdale, and that was a must-visit while I was in the area.
Taliesen West, Arizona
I booked a 90-minute tour of the property ($32 for seniors), and it ran a fair bit longer than that due to most people’s high level of interest. For an artist, it’s an exciting property to experience. It felt like a cathedral in the sense that you know that every aspect, from the grandest to the tiniest, has been designed or placed with a specific effect in mind.
Taliesen West, Arizona
This tiny space is one of many examples of Wright’s use of “compress and release” – taking you from a tight space (such as undersized doors) into a grander space. It’s also a perfect example of his “organic architecture” concept of integrating design and nature. I converted 3 photos into this HDR image to enhance the textures.
Taliesen West, Arizona

I spent almost 3 hours at Taliesin West, and would have liked to stay longer. Next time I’ll take the longer tour. I had planned on writing a separate post about Taliesin West, but there just aren’t enough hours in my days right now. There are a huge number of books about Frank Lloyd Wright, but, exercising a great deal of self-control, I left with only a small interpretive guide to the property that I bought to read while waiting for my tour to begin.

Just a short drive from Taliesin West, I stopped a couple of times to compare architectural styles being used in the red rocks that border Scottsdale to the north. The bottom house could be sitting anywhere, the top one is in a position of power, and the centre one is very much in keeping with Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas, beautifully blending in with the mountain.
Homes in the red cliffs north of Scottsdale, Arizona
This entire subdivision blends in nicely with the mountain, with no individual element really standing out.
Housing development in the red hills north of Scottsdale, Arizona

To keep Friday morning as easy as possible before a 06:00 flight to Seattle, I returned my car, took a shuttle bus back to the airport, and and called the hotel shuttle.

I saw this sign on the shuttle bus between the car rental center and the airport. No, I’m definitely not in Canada anymore. A forgotten weapon???
'A forgotten weapon', Arizona
Right across the street from the hotel is the Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park, the perfect destination to finish off my touring day.
Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park, Arizona
Pueblo Grande is a 1,500-year-old Hohokam village site with a partially excavated platform mound, a ballcourt, and several replicated houses. The Aloft hotel is at the upper right of this photo – very convenient. The 2/3-mile trail closed at 4:30, so my visit would be much shorter than I’d like, but much better than not seeing it at all. There are many interpretive signs along the trail, explaining about Hohokam culture in general, and the specific parts of the site being seen at that point.
Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park, Arizona
I took a shortcut off the trail at 4:30, and then had 15 minutes to see the excellent displays inside the museum. Again, not enough time, but better than nothing.
Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park, Arizona
I would have liked to take a ride on the light rail system that runs in front of the hotel, but I found the Web site to be very confusing. Now that I’m home, I see that they have a trip planner that makes it very easy to figure out, though. Maybe next time.
Phoenix light rail system, Arizona

With a 04:00 wakeup call Friday morning, I was in bed early, ready for another long day of travel.

Posted in RV Travel, Travel | 8 Comments

Flying from Whitehorse to Phoenix

I returned yesterday evening from a marathon 4-day trip to Phoenix and back. This was the final step in starting a new stage in our lives, buying a motorhome and focussing on slowing down and seeing the North in great detail instead of travelling abroad. The plan for this trip was to fly down, confirm the purchase of a rig we hadn’t seen, and drive it home. That didn’t quite work out, but more about that later – it was an amazing trip. Yesterday morning it was 96°F, this morning I’m wearing fleece.

I had decided to go down a more interesting way than what I’d usually do, which is flying from Whitehorse to Vancouver, and then on to wherever, all in jets. This time I’d drive to Skagway, take a tiny plane to Juneau, and then switch to jets on routes I don’t often see.

The weather forecasts showed a bit of everything for the route on Tuesday, not surprising on a route of some 3,540 km (2,200 miles). It was certainly beautiful when I passed through Carcross at 09:10.
Carcross, Yukon
The South Klondike Highway had been closed by landslides a couple of weeks ago, and crews are still hard at work clearing the incredible amount of gravel that came down at Tutshi Lake.
Clearing a landslide at Tutshi Lake, BC
Clouds formed and got thicker as I drove south. I don’t know what caused this lengthy lineup at Canada Customs at Fraser. Through the White Pass, visibility dropped to 20-30 feet for a couple of miles, and although I knew logically that the visibility would be okay at sea level, I did get a bit anxious that my flight may not be able to get away from Skagway.
Misty morning at Fraser, BC
I love little airports! Okay, I love any airport, but especially little ones.
Skagway airport
My first flight of the day was to be 45 minutes to Juneau in Wings of Alaska’s 1984 Cessna 207A Skywagon N62AK.
Wings of Alaska's 1984 Cessna 207A Skywagon N62AK
At 09:50 Alaska time, off we went. I would be a very busy day in Skagway with 4 large cruise ships in.
Cruise ships at Skagway, Alaska
The Katzehin River, which flows into Chilkoot Inlet from the Meade Glacier, 27 km (17 miles) south of Skagway.
Katzehin River, Alaska
The historic Eldred Rock Lighthouse in Lynn Canal was first lit in 1906.
Eldred Rock Lighthouse, Alaska
We skirted a rain shower as we arrived at Juneau. That’s the Mendenhall Glacier in the background.
Mendenhall Glacier and the Juneau airport
I had 3 hours to kill in Juneau, and had planned on having a good brunch, but the cafe has been closed and a new restaurant is still under construction, so all that was available was a snack bar. Oh well, there are always more planes to add to my collection, many of which I post at Airport-data.com. :)
Small planes at Juneau airport
There are artifacts and photos from Alaska’s aviation past all over the airport – this wall is in the departure lounge.
Artifacts and photos from Alaska's aviation past
The next leg, from Juneau to Seattle, was in a beautiful new 181-passenger Boeing 737-900ER, N413AS. It was delivered to Alaska Airlines last May. The Recaro seats in this aircraft are extremely comfortable.
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900 ER, N413AS
While there was some cloud south of Juneau, there were lots of breaks, too. This photo shows the Baird Glacier, and the smaller North Baird Glacier, flowing into Thomas Bay north of Petersburg.
Baird Glacier and the smaller North Baird Glacier, Alaska
Even from 37,000 feet, the cliffs in the Misty Fiords National Monument area east of Ketchikan are unmistakable. My 2 flights into Misty Fiords in a de Havilland Beaver rank very high among my best flights ever – you can see the 2012 flight here.
Misty Fiords National Monument from 37,000 feet
Looking up the Skeena River to Terrace, BC.
Aerial view of Terrace, BC
This was the first of many forest fires we saw on Tuesday – the closer one was near Eutsuk Lake, south of Terrace, the further one was at the Chelaslie River.
Forest fires in northern BC, from 37,000 feet
This is one of the very few places in BC that I haven’t really seen yet – Bella Coola. My first attempt to drive in, in about 1970, was blocked by a landslide, and when I flew in in about 1985 all I saw was the airport. Bella Coola, of course, is very high of the list of places I must see up close :)
Bella Coola, BC
I look down on scenes like this one immediately south of Bella Coola and see incredible hiking destinations.
Spectacular peaks south of Bella Coola, BC
At the lower right is the head of Knight Inlet, one of the longest fjords in BC at about 125 km (78 miles). At the head of the Dais Glacier feeding it (the smaller of 2) is the highest peak in BC’s Coast Mountains, Mount Waddington, at 4,019 meters (13,186 feet).
Knight Inlet and Mount Waddington
The longest arm in the next photo is Toba Inlet, just north of Powell River, BC.
Toba Inlet, just north of Powell River, BC
At 4:30 pm, we passed by Vancouver while descending to Seattle. That’s an angle that I don’t think I’ever ever seen Vancouver from before. Downtown Vancouver is centre left, the green peninsula below it is home to the University of British Columbia, and the muddy water is from the Fraser River.
Vancouver from 30,000 feet
Downtown Seattle.
Arial view of downtown Seattle
The industrial Port of Tacoma, located where the Puyallup River flows into Commencement Bay.
Port of Tacoma,  Washington
I had an hour and 50 minutes to connect at Seattle, but a last-minute change in departure gates meant that a lot of us had to take a train to another terminal, so there wasn’t a lot of time to spare.
Train between terminals at Seattle airport
For the flight to Phoenix, we were assigned N569AS, one of Alaska Airlines’ Boeing 737-890 ETOPS 75th anniversary aircraft, “Starliner 75″. The ETOPS designation on this aircraft is interesting (well, it is to plane geeks :) ) – ETOPS is an acronym for Extended Range Twin Operations, an FAA rule that allows twin-engined airliners to fly long-distance routes – in Alaska Airlines’ case, to Hawaii.
In the cabin of N569AS, you could read many factoids from Alaska Airlines history along the luggage compartments.
At 7:10 pm, we were looking down on Mount Rainier, the most impressive peak along the coast at 4,392 meters (14,411 feet). It’s also considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the large glaciers on it, and the fairly densely populated valleys below.
Mount Rainier, Washington
At 7:30, we were beside the forest fires that would soon blot out any views of the ground for the rest of the flight.
Aerial view of forest fires in Oregon
Ten minutes after passing the fires seen in the photo above, the smoke from all the fires along the west coast seemed to join, and within minutes the ground was all but invisible.
At 10:40, we were just a minute or so from landing in Phoenix. The last time I was in Phoenix about a dozen years ago, I was just passing quickly through on the way to Quartzsite to help man a Tourism Yukon booth at the annual RV show, and hadn’t paid any attention to how large it is. Knowing I was going to have to drive around in it this time, I sure noticed now!
Landing at Phoenix at night
I had hotel reservations at the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel, and about 10 minutes after I called them, their shuttle arrived.
Hotel shuttle call board in Phoenix
I’d been intrigued by Aloft ever since Starwood Hotels launched the brand a few years ago, and it was a great choice for this trip. Fairly new, and wonderfully functional without any glitz.

I went down to the bar, had a beer and was soon in bed. Tomorrow was going to be a very busy day.

Posted in Aviation, Travel | 4 Comments