The Ranch House

What can I say about the Ranch House.   Well, it’s a work in progress and Andy, the owner, is a workaholic.   I have never seem so much stuff accomplished in such a short time, ever!

Valdez trip to the Glacier

We arranged for a dog walker for Dusty as this would be a long day for him in the RV while we head out to the glacier. It was listed as about 11 hours on the boat. We boarded the boat a few minutes prior to them shoving off about 9am. The boat was about 70′ long with just one deck and was a catamaran style configuration.

There was fog on the way out and we kept going into and out of it most of the way in and out, luckily for us is was mostly clear out there.
We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife except Otters and Seals on the way.

 

 

We did come across an iceberg that looked like an ice sculpture and drove all around it. Pretty spectacular sight. I kept wondering how large it was underwater as the captain kept getting closer and closer to it.

 

 

 

We saw lots of fishing boats waiting their turn to throw there nets in the water.   We watched one on the way back that had a sea lion jump over the net into the catch area to probably find much easier fish hunting in there.

We went on our way to the glacier, as we got closer it kept getting colder and colder.   The glacier was majestic, much larger than the portage glacier we had seen over near Whittier.   And while we were there i happened to get a calving on video.  That was amazing to see and hear up close.

 

 

 

 

Valdez area

The road to Valdez was almost as rough as the road to Chicken, AK, but it was paved and it was probably a 20 times longer stretch of extremely rough road.    There were a couple major construction projects requiring pilot cars along the way.   One of them had you drive down into a deep gully where they were installing a huge pipe to channel a large amount of water from a melting glacier up on the mountain above us.

Prior to heading down the Richardson Highway, we had read a few horror stories from that construction area,  from broken trailer hitches to completely snapped off tow bars due to the steep incline.  Motor homes usually have a fairly long overhang in the back, so steep inclines either up or down and have the back dragging the ground.

We got to our campground and our site was just across from our friends Larry and Sue. We had briefly met them in Teslin Lake, and a couple days later we had drinks and dinner a couple times in Whitehorse.

Larry told us there was a parade here at 3pm and we walked over to watch the King and Queen of the north go by in their float.

We were informed by the campground when we checked in that our boat trip on the Lulu Bell was canceled due to a mechanical issue.   We made reservations with the Stan Stevens tour boat for the day after our canceled trip.

We drove over to the fish hatchery one evening and there was an amazing amount of fish trying to get thru the weir up the river to the hatchery and beyond.   In the parking lot were signs saying that there is a large dam above us on the mountainside and if there is an earthquake to “Run for your Lives.”  Comforting…

 

 

 

 

 

We drove out past the hatchery to the Alyeska Oil Terminal where the Alaska pipeline ends at Prince William Sound.   The pipeline is over 40 years old and it was only expected to last 20 years when built.   Currently it’s running at about 50% capacity.  Oh,  by the way,  they didn’t allow us to go into the terminal, but we did see one tanker at the docks.

Between the hatchery and the oil terminal are lots of campgrounds along the road right on the Prince William Sound.   I hadn’t seen them on any campground website.  They were packed when we drove by.

We went out to dinner a few times looking for good halibut here, but never really achieved that goal while here.   I will create another post for the trip to the Meares Glacier.

Heading toward Valdez Alaska

We drove from Seward to Anchorage and filled the tank with about a hundred gallons of diesel at Costco (it was $2.65 gal, cheapest price anywhere we have traveled this year)   We also stocked up on Costco groceries for the long trip home knowing there won’t be any more Costco stores till Washington state, which is many weeks away.  We will be traveling the Alcan all the way back to Watson Lake where we can turn onto and then travel on down the Cassier Highway till we are close to the town of Prince George BC.

After stocking up and filling the tank we headed on out the Glenn Highway in the direction of Valdez AK.  Our plan was to overnight at The Ranch House Lodge and RV in Tolsona AK (near GlennAllen) , about 150 miles north of Valdez. (everything is far away in Alaska)   We had stayed there on our way out to Isabel Pass a few weeks before.  Its a quirky place.   An old road house built back in the 40’s with the oddest folks we have ever met, who own and run the place.  That’s for a future post.

We got to the ranch house around 3 pm and setup the coach for the night.  They have chili cooking for travelers all day and we went into the Road House to the bar and  I had a bowl and a bottle of beer while Kathy had a glass of wine after our long drive.    The couple that own it orate its history around 6 pm each evening to the weary travelers that camp with them for the night.  Its a great story, and if you want to hear it you will need to stay there..  Its too long for me to write up.  They do have cabins for you to stay in if you go there without an RV.

All I can say the place is a work in progress!   Andy, the husband appears to work 20 hours a day.  And he made a lot of progress in the few weeks since we stopped there on the way to Isabel Pass.

The next morning we were on our way to Valdez!

Turns out the road to Valdez was as rough as the road from Eagle to Chicken AK, but it was paved, but it was probably 20 times longer.  That was a stretch of extremely rough road and the whole time I was driving it I was thinking it was the only way out of Valdez when we leave.    There were a couple major construction projects requiring pilot cars along the way.   One of them had you drive down into a deep gully where they were installing a huge pipe to channel a large amount of water from a melting glacier up on the mountain above us.  Prior to heading down the Richardson Highway we had read a few horror stories from that construction area.  From broken trailer hitches to completely snapped off tow bars due to the steep incline.  Motorhomes usually have a fairly long overhang in the back so steep inclines either up or down and have the back dragging the ground.

Seward Alaska

Scored a great site right on Resurrection Bay for our time in Seward.   Kathy says it’s the prettiest view ever.   We got here around 2 pm and there were plenty of open waterfront spaces.  We picked one and pulled in, set up shop and put our chairs out in front by the large metal fire pit.

Later in the afternoon I noticed the batteries were discharging more than I would have expected with the amount of sun then.   I checked out the solar and saw it wasn’t really charging.   I made a note of that so I could run the genny later.   Of course I didn’t remember to start the genny till 5 minutes before quiet time, so the next morning our batteries were lower than I had gotten them before.  Nothing drastic, but we were down about 240 AH; so it was going to be interesting to see if we could get them back to 100% that day.

In the morning I immediately deployed the solar suitcase to supplement the charge, which worked out well as we were at 100% by 5pm.   Solar is awesome!  Having to run the genny… not so much.

Wednesday we got to sit out on the waterfront and drink our coffee on a glorious morning and did so each morning afterward.

We drove over to Lowell Point, which was just a bit further south from town along a narrow gravel road along the bay.  As we drove out of Seward, there was a waterfall with a lot of water coming down right beside the road.  It looked like it was coming off a concrete spillway.   They probably had to do that to prevent the road from getting washed out all the time.   Once we got to the Point, there were lots of homes and what looked to be vacation rentals and a campground of sorts.   Definitely not as nice as our waterfront spot.

Then

 

 

 

The next morning we drove out to the Exit Glacier along a smooth paved road.  (I only mention that as most roads in Alaska are pretty rough)  There were signs along the road marking where the glacier’s toe was over the years.  It has receded, like all the others, quite a lot.   In the not to distant future the fresh water situation may become a problem to a lot of folks.  I’m sure that’s further away in Alaska, but it made me think of all the people that live near Glacier NP.   Those glaciers will be gone next summer.   Water might become an expensive commodity around there sooner than we might think.

Prior to heading over the Exit Glacier, we searched and found what we thought was a fish hatchery, but what we found was not as expected.  It was an odd little place sort of sandwiched in the corner of a lot on the way into a small wooded residential area.    It almost looked abandoned, especially due to a sign near the door that it wasn’t opening till July,  and we were there the last day of July.

Being in a huge fishing community, I wanted some halibut fish & chips. Ray’s on the Waterfront had reasonable reviews so we headed over.  It was a nice place right on a boat marina, but my fish were very dry and way overcooked.  Luckily for me a buddy called about our visit to Valdez and reminded me of the Bucket ‘O Butt at Thorn’s.  The next evening we went there.  Very good halibut fish and chips!

We had been seeing buildings across the bay the whole time at the campground, so one afternoon we decided to find a way over there.   It turns out it really wasn’t very far.  We have found that sometimes here in Alaska somewhere that looks really close is a very long drive due to the lack of roads.

We got over there in just a few minutes and it was mainly shipyards.  I had seen a coast guard cutter on the bay a couple days prior, and now I saw it up on land being worked on.   Just past that was a guy remotely driving a huge mobile boat lift.   I had seen much smaller ones in the past, but this one looked like it had picked up that very large coast guard cutter and placed it where it was.   He was driving it from a joystick mounted on a harness he was wearing.  I was surprised it was wireless.

From the other side of the bay I could just see a green roofed building that turned out to be a lot of 40′ containers stacked up in a U shape with a large metal green roof spanning the opening containers, making a huge building open on the south side.  That was something I had not seen prior to now.

 

On the way back we tried to drive into a so-called campground that was probably the ugliest place I had ever seen.  It was so potholed, we turned around only a few feet into it.  And it was more expensive than the beautiful spot we had!   Instead of going there, I would just camp in a turnout somewhere.

We stopped along the route back and snapped a few pics of the town and our campground along the water.  It was pretty far away, but one of the cruise ships at the dock is easy to see.   Our campground was  about 1,000 yards to the left of that ship.

 

 

We heard about this gadget that sounds perfect for being off grid in Canada and Alaska.  The Spot Gen 3 GPS satellite notifier, so I have one being shipped to our campground in Tolsona to pick up when we leave Valdez next week.

The Homer Spit

It was about a 5-mile drive out to the campground on the spit.   The spit is pretty long and you can’t help but notice the many Tsunami zone warning signs.   It would not be a good spot to be after a large earthquake.  We kept our fingers crossed while we were there.

After deploying we, drove the rest of the way out the spit.  We passed lots of boats, tourist traps, restaurants, and businesses that cater to the fishing industry.

While all the way at the end of the spit, there was a small parking area and just offshore on the inside of the spit were thousands of birds making quite a ruckus.   We couldn’t see what was going on in the water, but we guessed there were a lot of fish near the surface that we could not see due to the angle and short distance to them.

Our site at Heritage RV Park was very nice.  50 amp FHU.  You do not find 50 amp that often once you pass the border into Canada and into Alaska.   Most places are 30 amp maximum, and some only had 20 amp service.   They all work for us as long as we don’t need a lot of air-conditioning.  But the best part about this park was the sites along the water were pull-in, not back-in sites,  so our windshield looked directly out onto the Kachemak Bay.  It was a delightful place to camp for a couple nights and the weather was gorgeous.

The first morning we headed out fairly early to do some shopping in the tourist traps, and after spending a while there we headed further on down the spit to the next touristy area, but by then all the parking was taken.  We drove around there for a bit, but there were plenty of other cars hovering to also find a spot if someone was leaving, and after a while we drove off.

Then we headed back up off the spit into old town and found Bishop Beach where they allow you to drive your car onto the beach, but not very far.  They keep you to a small area with large boulders.  We walked around there for a few minutes as it was a lot windier there, making it very blustery!!

We did have the water pump lights in the kitchen go out while in Homer, so I called around to see if I could find a replacement.  There was a “Gear Shed” that said they had some, but when I got there it was not one that would fit my unit.   Called some other marine supply places, but I was not successful.  I moved the working light from the bedroom sink area into the kitchen so we could tell if the pump was left latched.   I’m wondering if the water pump control unit is going bad as if we leave the pump latched on, it uses 10 amps most of the time, even when it’s not pumping water.   So we have been keeping it turned off till it’s needed when not connected to city water.

Moseying on down to Homer for a few days.

We drove out of Williwaw during a pretty good rain and the first thing we came upon once we turned onto the Seward Highway was road construction and lots of dirt and gravel.   The coach is back to incredibly dirty again.

Something I have noticed in Alaska is the highway names will usually change numbers along the way.   From Anchorage down to the turnoff for Seward Highway 1 is the Seward Highway, but at that turnoff, Seward Highway 1’s name changes to the Sterling Highway and the Seward Highway continues on down to Seward on Highway No. 9.   If you go north from Anchorage on Highway 1, it’s called the Glenn Highway.   After talking to some locals about the highways here, it seems they only know the names of the highways and don’t pay attention to the numbers much.

After the Seward Highway turned off and we were on the Sterling Highway, the next town we came to was Cooper Landing.   It was a pretty little town with the Kenai River running along the road.  The water was that pretty color we had been seeing in a lot of Alaska where the glaciers feeding the river was fairly close.  It is the glacier flour that makes it the beautiful turquoise color.

As we passed the town, the road started getting a lot narrower and much more windy.   And something that gave me pause was the Armco (metal guard rail)  moved in right up to the white lines on the roadway.  Even more disturbing was that the Armco had been flattened by many, many vehicles rubbing along it for incredibly long stretches in the tighter curves.   Driving an 8′ 6″ bus thru there was a bit of a white knuckle experience as there were lots of RV’s, cars and trucks coming in the other direction.

The rest of the drive was uneventful all the way down to the Homer Elks Club.  When we got there, the rain was still coming down, so we thought it lucky to be in a motorhome instead of a trailer.  If you are pulling a trailer, you have to go out in the rain to get to your house.   Not so with the motorhome as you are already in there!

Later on we headed into the lodge to pay for the night and have a cocktail and maybe some dinner.   Unfortunately, they only serve dinner on Fridays and we arrived on Saturday ,so we asked for recommendations.  The Homer Elks Club is in the Old Town section of Homer, so there was a lot of places within waking distance.   The barkeep told us about three places close by that he said were really good:   AJ’s, Fat Olives, and Two Sisters Bakery.   We opted for Fat Olives, but ended up driving there as it was raining pretty good when we got back outside.

We would recommend it!    I had a small pizza and Kathy had a seafood plate on a bed of forbidden rice.   I had never seen black rice before.   My pizza was excellent and she raved about her dinner.

The next morning we packed up and headed down to the spit to camp for a couple of nights.

Whittier Ak

We headed out to get in line for the Whittier Tunnel to make it thru on the half hour when it’s open for the eastbound ride into Whittier.

The lines to go thru are in parallel numbered rows.  Trucks are all the way to the right and they get to go thru first.  Then it’s back to Row 1 and they count up.

The tunnel is a one-lane affair that has you straddling the railroad track that it was built for and it seems a lot longer than its 2.5 miles length.  It is the longest tunnel in North America!

Kathy took a few short videos while I was driving thru.

Whittier is a very secluded town with mountains surrounding it and a large water port for large ships.   It was drizzly and fairly windy the day we were there.  We stopped for lunch at Swiftwater Cafe at the end of the main road near the ferry building.

 

While walking around that little spit of land with shops on it, I noticed a patio on a restaurant that looked a bit precarious to me.   Stacked 2x scrap holding the deck up.

We then drove out a gravel road that went a few miles and ended at a large viewpoint.

On the way back, we stopped at a small park where I saw a bunch of seagulls milling about near a creek.   I went over to see what was going on and I was shocked to see the small creek was chock full of salmon.  So many it was like they were packed in nose to tail!  The creek was almost too shallow for them to move, but it didn’t stop them from trying to get upstream.

I was tempted to just walk over and grab a few for dinner, but decided that was a bad plan.  I later heard it would have been illegal to do it without a rod and lures specifically for that water.  I also don’t have a fishing license.

We snapped a few pics and even a short video and headed back toward the tunnel that goes west on the hour.   We had to cross the railroad tracks at the end of the rail yard, and of course there was a long freight train blocking the only way out.   It was going forward and backing up to add more and more cars; and as it turned out, when we finally got to cross the track, the train was given the right-of-way to enter the tunnel while we waited in line.

I took a video of it, but its probably 5 minutes long, so I will post it on YouTube so it can be watched.

There is a decrepit building at the extreme west end of town that looks like a Soviet era barracks, and it turned out to be an old army building.  Very creepy looking with all the windows missing.   Hopefully it’s not considered an historical landmark so they can tear it down someday.

Here is the link to the video:  Whittier Train heading into the Tunnel.

 

2006 Allegro Bus Brochure

 

Allegro-Bus-Brochure-2006

 

Here is the brochure to our Bus.   Ours is the exact model shown with the exceptions that we removed the front TV and modified that cabinet to make the bottom of it go straight across and we replaced the couch on the right with a couple of euro recliners.   They will soon be replaced with flexsteels theater seating as the current recliners look good but are extremely uncomfortable.  And something very funny that I just noticed, we even have the dog bed where they show one.   I never noticed that till this morning.

 

Portage Glacier trip.

We drove over to check out the tour boat that takes you to the portage glacier.   Turns out there were tix available for the 3pm tour and we purchased them.   We headed back to Williwaw to leave Dusty in the RV while we went out on  it.

We got there and waited a bit till they allowed us on. It was a really beautiful day, so we took seats on the top deck.   So far the Kenai has been all sun for us!

They get to within a couple hundred feet of the glacier wall and unfortunately we didn’t get to see it calve off.   We did hear what sounded like a gunshot, which we were told was the ice moving, but never saw any movement.

The tour was a little over an hour and we were sure glad we had gone right away as that evening it started raining and it continued to rain the next two days we were there.

 

 

 

Off to Whittier in the morning.