Monday, May 30, 2016

The Uncle I Never Knew–In Remembrance of Uncle Jimmy

James Woodrow Cline
Uncle Jimmy was the only Uncle I never met…most of my cousins on my mom’s side never met him either.  We all KNEW Uncle Jimmy, we all heard stories, we all saw the few pictures there were of him.  Most of us remember the small memorial that Grandma Cline had in her living room with a picture of Uncle Jimmy, and if I recall correctly, the purple heart they gave Grandma (although the purple heart might have been in a drawer nearby).  We can probably remember reading the letter from the government about his service, about his death...and how grateful they were for his service, and his ultimate sacrifice.
Bunker Hill hit by Kamikaze

On this Memorial Day, we pause from our adventures in Alaska, and we remember the members of the military who gave their lives in the defense of their Country, I honor the uncle I never had a chance to meet, James Woodrow Cline.  This is a edited posting of one I did a few years ago…

Jimmy was born in 1920, the fifth of eleven children, Jimmy was 21 years old when Pearl Harbor took place.  His brother Harold was at Pearl Harbor that day, and we are so thankful that he was able to go back to Hawaii and be honored shortly before he passed away.  Jimmy was not as lucky as his brothers who all survived the war.  Jimmy died on May 11th, 1945, aboard the USS Bunker Hill, an Essex Class Aircraft Carrier which was hit by two Kamikaze Pilots on that day, taking the lives of 346 Sailors, including my Uncle Jimmy.

Purple Heart
I have vivid memories of visiting my mother’s mother, Grandma Cline, as a child.  She lived in San Jose, when San Jose was just a small city…long time before Silicon Valley was even thought of.  She had a picture of Uncle Jimmy in her living room, and I saw the purple heart, the letter from the United States Government, and I felt the loss that took place so many years earlier.  A family might “get over it”, but they never forget.  And as this great generation dies off, it is up to us to never forget either.
WW2 Memorial

I have been to Washington DC many times in my life, and as soon as the WW2 Memorial opened, I visited it on my next visit.  It is a wonderful memorial, and includes a registry of each and every member of the military who died in the war.  Jimmy is in the registry twice.

 WW2 Memorial Registry

My Uncle is one of so many who gave his life for this nation, for us who live here.  I only hope that this sacrifice is never forgotten, and always remembered from generation to generation.  God Bless this wonderful country, may his mercy continue to be with us, may our leaders NEVER forget, and NEVER EVER let these fine men and women who gave this ultimate sacrifice down.

Memorial Day - Remember those who served, all gave some, some gave all.        Memorial-Day

Road to Skagway – It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This

Summit Lake, B.C., Klondike Highway

I had heard that the drive to Skagway is one of the prettiest drives you can have.  I’ll second that!  It is very nice, and then you get up to Summit Lake, and there are clouds in the sky, but not even a hint of a breeze, the water is like glass…WOW, the most amazing experience.

Summit Lake, B.C., Klondike Highway

The lake has a north to south layout, with a slight tilt to the east.  This shot is to the north, running the length of the lake, while the first was a straight eastward shot.

Summit Lake, B.C., Klondike Highway

This is a panoramic shot, and really gives you a good feel for the lake.  Sometimes panoramic shots are distorted…but as soon as I took this shot and gave it a look  knew I had captured the view. 

Lake near Tagish, Tagish Road, Yukon

But let’s start from the beginning…  We left Six Mile River Resort in Tagish around 9:30 am.  The sun went down around 11 pm, and by midnight it was getting to be dark.  At 4 am it was just starting to be light outside, and by 4:30 the sun was out.  The sunsets and the sunrises are way different up here…they take a long time.  By the way, Six Mile River Resort is a Passport America park…$21 Canadian cash.  There is a restaurant/bar/trading post all-in-one as part of the park, and they can get about a dozen RVs in…we were the only ones there.  Only downside…mosquitoes large enough to carry one away, but no sight of the little no-see-ums.  Neither of us got bit, and when I hooked up the car this morning, it was too cold and there was no sight of them.   The Tagish Road connects Jake’s Corner and Carcross, and was built in 1942 due to the war as support of the oil pipeline running to Skagway.  As we headed to Carcross, we passed by a few lakes, and we could see the white tops of the mountains in the far distance.

 Tagish Road, Yukon

At Carcross we connect with Yukon Highway 2, the Klondike Highway, which leads us to Skagway.  Once in the U.S. the highway becomes Alaska Highway 98, as in 1898 (Klondike Gold Rush started in 1898), and the highway’s nickname is the Klondike Highway from Skagway to Whitehorse.

Carcross Wooden Bridge, Yukon, Klondike Highway

In Carcross we cross over this wooden bridge…not the first wooden bridge we have crossed over…always fun in a heavy motorhome.

Bove Island, Windy Arm of Tagish Lake, Klondike Highway, Yukon

Soon we come to the Bove Island lookout for the large Tagish Lake.   The lake is over 60 miles in length, and has two major arms, the Taku Arm in the east which is very long, and Windy Arm in the west.  We saw the western portion.

Bove Island, Windy Arm of Tagish Lake, Klondike Highway, Yukon

A panoramic of Lake Tagish’s “Windy Arm”.

Klondike Highway, Yukon

Marcia loves the looks of these twisted tree trunks…

 North American Porcupine along Klondike Highway, Yukon

…I like the looks of our first North American Porcupine which, for some reason, decided to cross the road.  No bears today…but I had never seen a Porcupine in the wild that I can remember.

Abandoned Mine along Klondike Highway, Yukon

And this reminder that over a hundred of years ago, this area was ripe in gold mines.  It is estimated that 100,000 people came to the Klondike region of the Yukon…many through the port of Skagway.  Four years later gold was discovered in Nome, and the Klondike rush was over.

Tutshi Lake, Klondike Highway, Yukon

Above Tagish Lake is another large lake that the road follows along, Tutshi Lake.  There are lots and lots of small bodies of water, some might be considered “ponds”, others are small lakes. 

Klondike Highway, Yukon

The region is fed by many melting snow capped mountains, and what seems to be an endless number of glaciers. 

Construction Zone, Klondike Highway, BC

Then the reality of where we were sets in…another construction sign, dusty area ahead sign.  As I am still in awe looking all around, Marcia warns me as the break in the asphalt is upon us…I slow down even more.  This oncoming tour bus shows you how dusty it can be…I don’t dare show pictures of the car or motorhome as they are so dusty and dirty.

Summit Lake, B.C., Klondike Highway

And then we come to the Summit Lake area, where we started this story today.  It is well worth another look…to stand there looking out at the lake, it is hard for the mind to tell where the water ends, and the land begins.  I stood there soaking it in…and darn, we have to pass by it again on our way out of Skagway.  Let’s just hope it is as nice of a morning as this one was.

White Pass, Fraser B.C., Klondike Highway

This is the train stop at White Pass, B.C..  Many of its riders are Cruise Ship passengers…and this is their only opportunity to see the area.

Looking into Alaska, Klondike Highway, near boarder

But Skagway Alaska is that a ways…on the other side of those mountains.  We have already passed back into British Columbia, which surprised me…our trip has really followed the borders of B.C. and the Yukon these past two days.

Looking back to B.C. and Yukon, Klondike Highway, near boarder

And here is a look back from where we came.

Willow Ptarmigan, Klondike Highway, near boarder

And as we reach the top of the summit, I see some Willow Ptarmigan playing out on the rocks…this is the State Bird of Alaska…has to be a good sign.

Welcome to Alaska, Klondike Highway

But this is the sign we have been looking for.  Alaska…we made it!  After to facing the loss of our motorhome to a storage fire back in 2014, just weeks before we were to take off on a trip to Alaska.  And last year when mechanical issues and the “still getting to know” our current motorhome kept us from getting here.  Yes, we have now made it…but we also know that even at this stage, we have a long ways to go, lots of things to see, many miles to cover still.  But thank you Lord, we made it to Alaska…and we have loved the journey!

William Moore Bridge, Klondike Highway

The William Moore Bridge, an asymmetrical cable-stayed suspension bridge, crosses a very active earthquake fault, and is only firmly anchored on the downhill side so that it can move freely with the earth!  Thank goodness we did not know this before we crossed over the bridge, Marcia might have made me turn back.  She is now looking for airplane travel out of Skagway, but has found that a 12 seat plane is not to her liking either.  Winking smile  

Klondike Highway, near U.S. Customs

This might just become our new blog header image!  From here we continued downhill, zipped through customs without a problem, found our way into Skagway and right to the Garden City RV Park.  Good Sam, $38 per night for full hookups, except there in no cable or Internet…but we are getting a strong aircard signal, and we have the use of our phones again after two full weeks without them.  Went to dinner after resting up from the drive…not today's drive, the entire drive from Dawson Creek. nearly 1,500 miles long. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fort Nelson B.C. to Tagish Yukon


Stone Sheep, Alaska Highway

Just driving along and there they were, two Stone Sheep standing alongside the road shortly after we left the Muncho Lake area.  They are a different spieces than the Big Horn Sheep that we have seen in the past, and are found in northwest British Columbia and southwest Yukon.

Black Bear, Alaska Highway

Had a question via email about just how far away are we from the bears we see.  The answer is, it varies.  Along the Alaska Highway, there are many stretches were the trees and underbrush is cut away from the road by 20 yards on each side.  All of our bear sighting along the highway look like this to the left.  Marcia caught herself on camera along with the bear.

Black Bear, Alaska Highway

Between the zoom on the camera, and enlarging using Photoshop, the bears can look very close.  Above is the same bear as the previous one…we are both sitting in the motorhome still, safe and sound (as we have with all bear pictures, unless we are safe and sound in the car of course).

Black Bear, Alaska Highway

This is one that Marcia took later in the day.  This bear walked along the tree line for about a tenth of a mile before it cut into the woods.  The zoom makes it look like we are right near it.  The third bear I saw too late.  One thing about towing a car with all four wheels down is that you cannot backup…not even a few feet because it can bind and break the tow bar.  Now we are not going very fast…what cars we do come upon are from our behind, and they race on by as soon as they can find a place to pass, which is not very long considering that many just pass even if they have solid double lines.  I think we passed one small van yesterday, otherwise everyone has passed us by.  We are enjoying this long drive the most we can.  Anyway, going about 48 mph in a 62 mph zone (62 mph = 90 kph) and I look off the left of the road and see the head of a bear in the culvert just off the roadway.  This would have been the closest we had been to a bear while on the Alaska Highway…but by the time I stopped we would be too far away, or if I stopped too fast then everything we own would be sitting in the front seat with…so I just kept going.

Black Bear, Alaska Highway

Today we were driving along and saw that a car going the other way had stopped…so I slowed way down and sure enough, this black bear was on my side of the road over by the trees.  I must have taken a half dozen shots or more, and put the camera away and just started to give it gas…looked in my mirror and glanced over at the bear again AND…

Black Bears, Alaska Highway

It was not alone!!!  A brown bear was there too…and by the time I got the camera again and focused in and shot, the black bear was shooing the smaller brown bear away…you can see him showing the brown bear his teeth.  A swat with his left front leg and the brown bear disappeared before I could get another shot of it.  We stuck around for another 30 seconds and the black bear was headed for the cover of the trees too…so we drove on.

Buffalo, Alaska Highway     Buffalo, Alaska Highway

Saw Buffalo a few times, never in large numbers as you do in Yellowstone.

Moose, Alaska HighwayThis one is hard, I know…but we had just gone over a bridge and around a corner in a snow/rain fall, and there she was, our first Moose.  Marcia had the camera in her hands having just taken pictures of the river the best she could, but she could not get the camera to focus on anything other than the drops on the windshield.  I have had this happen to me before, and sometimes you just have to turn it off and back on.  But Moose are shy.  Even though I kept my distance, she looked at us, and ran off into the trees.

Yesterday’s Scenery

Bubba in Snow, Alaska Highway

It did not take long before we hit some snow yesterday, and the wildlife that travels with us needed to take care of business.  Normally we take care of business before we leave…but the trees put sap on the ground, which got into their paw pads, and then everything starts sticking to this gooey mess.  Besides, a little snow is good for us…but never fun to drive in.  Nothing stuck to the roadway, thank goodness.

Alaska Highway Views      Alaska Highway Views

Eventually the surrounding mountains started to show.  This was around the Stone Mountain / Toad River area.

Alaska Highway Views

We then enter Muncho Lake Provincial Park, and I so much wanted a break in the clouds…

Alaska Highway Views   Alaska Highway Views

…but the cloud cover is ruthless…enough to let us know we are in a pretty spectacular place, but not enough to let us fully enjoy it in its entirety.

Muncho Lake, Alaska Highway

Even so, Muncho Lake is a beautiful place…that turquoise colored water with the cloud draped mountains surrounding her.  For those who can put up without having anything…no Internet, no electricity, just solitude and beauty, there are some amazing RV sites where you can put your nose right up to the water and just enjoy.  Not for us today, we push on…it is still early, just hitting 10 am when we arrive.  But we stick around for awhile to enjoy, and to rest up for the rest of the days journey.

Muncho Lake, Alaska Highway

One last look back at Muncho Lake, from the pullout on the north side of the lake.

Alaska Highway Views

Although the lake is behind us, the Muncho Lake Provincial Park continues on.  The lake is in the middle of the nearly 60 miles that the Alaska Highway goes through the park. 

Alaska Highway Views

Now the Trout River hugs the side of the roadway, replacing the Toad River which hugging the road as we entered the park.

Liard River, Alaska Highway

The Trout River empties into the mighty Liard River, which will flow for hundreds and hundreds of miles before it reached Fort Simpson and empties into the Mackenzie River, which is the largest river in Canada, and exceeded only by the Mississippi in North America, and finally empties into the Arctic Ocean far to the north.   Above we are crossing the Liard River, which will now run on my side of the road.

Liard River, Alaska Highway   Alaska Highway Views

Except for when we run across an old Forest Fire, everything is a luscious green.  It did not take long after we passed this mountain on the right before we had one of our bear sightings yesterday.

Yukon Sign, Alaska Highway
Finally we have reached the Yukon…kind of.  After entering Canada from Idaho back on May 15th into British Columbia, we have spent all of our time in either B.C. or in Alberta.  Most of our travels have been in B.C. until yesterday when we finally, after 555 miles on the Alaska Highway, we enter the Yukon.  But just a mile later we are back in B.C., and less than 2 miles later we are back in the Yukon. Yukon Sign, Alaska Highway For some 50 miles we cross back and forth, finally crossing for good for the day and we head for Watson Lake…just to awake today, start driving and re-enter B.C. again on last time before entering back into the Yukon.  It is that entrance before Watson Lake that we see an official sing welcoming up to the Yukon.  Unlike Alberta and British Columbia, the Yukon is not a Province, it is a Federal Territory.  The major difference between a Canadian province and a territory is that provinces receive their power and authority from the Constitution Act, 1867, whereas territorial governments have powers delegated to them by the federal government.   That’s your history lesson for the day.

Tourist Landmark

Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Alaska Highway

Let me take a break from the scenic and tell you about Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake.  It was started by a homesick GI back in 1942 when the Alaska Pioneer Road was being built.  The story of how started is this:
In February 1943, Private Carl K. Lindley, of company "D", was sent to the Liard River area to build a sawmill to cut trees for logs needed to repair bridges. Then the squad moved to the border of the Yukon and BC, near Lower Post. One day they were building a loading platform for gravel trucks. There was an accident and Lindley's feet were run over by a truck. He was taken to a regimental aid station at the intersection of the new Alaska Highway and the existing road leading to the Watson Lake airport.

Though not badly hurt, he couldn’t walk very well and was unable to work on heavy construction. So his company commander put him to work painting roadside signs and regimental numbers on various pieces of equipment. One day in February 1943, Carl was ordered to repaint a sign on the road which had been damaged by a bulldozer.

When he finished that little job, he decided to paint the name of his hometown on a board and nail it to the same post. Carl Lindley painted the words "Danville, Illinois, 2835 miles" Thus began the tradition of painting place names along the Alaska Highway which continues to this day as the world- famous Watson Lake signpost forest.

In August of 1943, Carl Lindley, and other members of his company D of the US Corp. of Engineers, was a sent back to the United States for further infantry training. Then they sailed to England in October 1943 and took part in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944, and the infamous Battle of the Bulge.

Carl Lindley passed away in 2002 at the age of 83. But his role in the history of the Alaska Highway is forever etched in that single board attached to a makeshift pole at Mile 635 of the Alcan Road in February 1943.

Now, license plates are the number one “sign”, followed by road signs and homemade signs.  However, there are other type of signs too…and I added a unique little sign of our own.  Back in September 2014 we visited the Little A'Le'Inn, in Rachel, Nevada.   Arkansas UFO License, now part of Sign Post Forest, Alaska HighwayMy brother Roger and his wife Rochelle do sideline work there…Rochelle more than Roger since he has a full time job in Sacramento.  While visiting, Roger gave me an official Area 51 Arkansas U.F.O. License.  Marcia got a Florida one…but hers slipped into the confines of a dark hole inside the RV and we have not been able to retrieve it.

Arkansas UFO License, now part of Sign Post Forest, Alaska Highway

Now the Area 51 Arkansas U.F.O. License sits as a part of this monument in Watson Lake…I am sure there is nothing like it there.

Sign Post Forest, Alaska Highway     Sign Post Forest, Alaska Highway

Sign Post Forest takes up a couple of acres…I couldn’t begin to show the vast amount of signs that are here.  Thank you Private Lindley for your service to our country.   On this Memorial Day weekend, we must all remember this saying, “All gave some and some gave all…”

Today’s Scenery

I know this post is getting long…so is the drive along the Alaska Highway.  Smile  

Alaska Highway Views

We both went to bed early, and everyone, us and the dogs, had a good nights sleep.  But again, with the sun still up when we went to bed, and up when we awoke, we decided to leave shortly after 6 am.  The sky was overcast again, as we passed over the Little Rancheria River, which runs into the Rancheria River which we travel next to for many miles.

Alaska Highway Views

There are many lakes and the river along the route…wish it also brought blue skies.

Alaska Highway Views

Civilization is rarely seen along the highway.  Down in the states you have troubles finding stretches of highway that don’t have any services within 50-60 miles away…here it is the norm.

Alaska Highway Views

Although we saw snow on the mountains, we did not face any snow today.

Alaska Highway Views     Alaska Highway Views

Alaska Highway Views

And then the clouds started to dissipate…and we saw blue Yukon skies for the first time…or were we back in the B.C.?   Who cares, it is blue sky!

Alaska Highway Views

Even the sun tries to pop out!

Alaska Highway Views

Before long we are coming into Teslin, part of the Nisutlin River Delta. 

Alaska Highway Views

I was impressed with the information displays they had at this pullout overlooking the area.  This is just a small portion of one which shows the journey of the Chinook Salmon from when they enter the Yukon until they reach Teslin.

Alaska Highway Views

At the top of Teslin Lake we cross the Teslin River near Johnsons Crossing.  Tesline Lake is about 70 miles long, and we only have about 40 miles left to get to today's destination, Tagish.  Shortly after passing through Johnsons Crossing, we turn off the Alaska Highway and head to Tagish…which is 90 miles from Skagway.  We will meet up with the Alaska Highway again in Whitehorse after we leave Skagway in a few days.

Road Conditions

Alaska Highway ViewsOverall, the Alaska Highway has been a fairly well maintained road.  However, there are stretches which are bad.  The occasional frost heaves areas are not bad, and well marked…you slow down, avoid or go over them, and that’s it.  But when they decide to fix stretches of roads, they take off the layer of Asphalt, then run a grader over it, then you just drive on it.  They seem to do miles at a time…and it is hard to drive on, rattles the heck out of you, and you wonder how long it will go.  Case in point…yesterday we see a sign, “Construction Zone”, and then a sign, “Work being done by Cobalt Construction”.  We drive on, see no workers, and the road looks like this above.

Alaska Highway Views

Then we finally see this guy on this scraper, chewing up the road.  I tell Marcia, “I think we just found Mr. Cobalt…it looks like it is a one man company.”  And the road continues, all torn up, all bumpy and shaky.

Alaska Highway Views
Finally we come to an area where the rest of the Cobalt Construction is working, and now they have a pilot car which has to take you along.  The escorted drive is a few miles, and it is hard and bumpy…and I am not driving as fast as the leader.

Today we had numerous stretches along Lake Teslin where the road was totally chewed up, down to gravel, and we never saw any work being done, no signs of equipment, just signs warning you to slow down, it is dusty, and you never knew how long it would last.  Now that is something we have never experienced before…although stretches of Highway 99 in California have been almost this bumpy.  Smile