Peru Mission Trip – 2014

This mission trip was very challenging for me but also very rewarding. I have more of an awareness of what God is already doing in the lives of billions of people around the world. Here is a summary of our week in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machupicchu.

Cusco is a city of about half a million people, filling a valley high in the Andes mountains The people are friendly and open to strangers. They speak Spanish, and most speak the native Quechua (Inca) language as well. It is a city full of young children. Transportation options included taxi, public bus, and a lot of walking. Q: “What is the seating capacity of a Peruvian bus?” A: “at least one more!”

Air travel took about 18 hours each direction, with three flights, two layovers, and twice through customs and immigration in each direction.

Carrie Kleinschmidt is a missionary from the US who was the team’s main host. She has lived in Cusco for about seven years and leads the Corazon Kids Club. When it didn’t work out to worship with the Lutheran church for the first Sunday, she invited us along to a Peruvian megachurch called La Vid, where we all felt very welcome.

The Meeting Place is a non-profit cafe, giving all its proceeds to local missions. It is also a hub for the international missionary community, especially English-speakers, to volunteer and connect. Shortly after our arrival we joined Carrie to teach a group of kids there (their parents were selling arts and crafts in a nearby plaza). The next day we cleaned and repaired the building, then joined an evening discussion group and worship service.

Bible stories the team shared with the different children’s groups included the parables of the lost sheep and coin (Luke 15:1-10), the call of the disciples to “fish for people” (Luke 5:1-11 and Matthew 4:18-22) and the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20). For each story we had a skit, games, crafts, and a devotion. We tried to share the love of God through the stories and through our interactions during the activities. It felt a lot like cross-cultural Vacation Bible School most of the week.

Corazon is a holistic community ministry that arose from the vision of Pastor Americo Ramos. It is located on a mountainside south of the city of Cusco and serves the children of south-side neighborhoods. On Monday, the team joined Pastor Ramos and other members of the staff for a prayer-walk (which involved some climbing about 600 feet to the mountain’s summit and a panoramic view of the city). After that our team passed out fliers in the neighborhood about Corazon. On Tuesday morning we built and refurbished their playground equipment. On Tuesday through Thursday afternoons we joined the Kid Club’s 30 to 40 children doing the skits,crafts, and games.

Altitude for the week in Cusco was 11,000 feet plus. Thankfully no one got altitude sickness, but the thin air left the team huffing and puffing while hiking up and down Cusco’s hilly streets carrying craft supplies.

Huch’uy Runa is a private elementary school for about 130 at-risk children, located in the Old City of Cusco. Some children live with family members and commute daily, while others commute weekly and orphans live at the school full-time. For several years it has received funds through the ELCA World Hunger Appeal to which we are contributors. Our team got to spend Wednesday morning with the 1st-3rd graders and Thursday morning with the 4th-6th graders doing skits and crafts.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machupicchu – the team’s travel out of Cusco was on Friday and Saturday, by bus, train, and more walking. The Sacred Valley was the ancestral home of the Quechua/Inca people, founders of the empire. Cusco was their capital and Machupicchu a mountain retreat for their royalty. History was everywhere.

Talitha Kum is the name of the Lutheran congregation in Cusco. Communication ahead of time was difficult so they weren’t sure just when we were coming – we just showed up the first Sunday morning and met with the leaders. They are struggling without a pastor, but have a very warm fellowship and great connection to their neighborhood. We returned Wednesday evening to offer an adult Bible study and Sunday School for almost 30 children. On our last Sunday morning we shared worship and communion. We didn’t have to translate everything because everyone knew the same liturgy! After enjoying their hospitality it was time to begin packing to come home.

Thank you to all that prayed and contributed to my mission trip and made it possible for me to go. It was truly a gift from God and very inspirational to me and our whole team. Hope that you enjoyed reading this summary of the mission trip.

The photo album can be viewed here.

God’s Blessings,

December 6, 2013 – A recap of 2013

Holiday Greetings to all,

This has been a very exciting, but up and down year for Ned and Lorna. It all started almost a year ago when Ned mentioned to Lorna that he thought it was time to buy a house. We put our lot up for sale and decided to buy our neighbor’s house because we like the area and all our neighbors. The long and short of that story is our lot sold and we were down to the last week before leaving for the summer when the deal fell through. The people that bought our lot, who were friends from the RV Forum, came and offered to sell the lot back to us for what they paid for it. That was a most generous offer from good friends.

We left for Wisconsin and spent the entire summer putting together a deal with Clayton Homes to buy a manufactured home. We love those depreciating assets now that we own three of them. We left Milwaukee the middle of September with the understanding that the house would be delivered the second or third week in October. Well, so much for delivery dates because we arrived back at the lot the end of the third week of September and figured that we had at least three weeks to prepare the area for the house. At this point the fellow Ned had been working with at Clayton informed us the house would be delivered the middle of the first week of October.

Before it arrived we had about six cedars and a Live Oak to remove, a wood pile and rocks to move. Of course the weather was hot and humid. The day before the house came the company had four loads of rock delivered for the base and had it spread and leveled.

The house arrived in two pieces, the front half and the back half. Now this was something to watch as they hooked this mini caterpillar tractor to the back half, controlled by a joy-stick on a belt around the boss’s waist. He brought it up the drive and maneuvered it into place on the rock pad. Then the tractor was attached to the front half and he brought it up the drive to place it in front of the back half, but before he could finish getting it into place the back half had to be pulled forward. Once the front half was in place he moved the back half back. At this point we had to make sure the house was 15 feet from the lot line which is required by the rules of the sub-division. The house arrived mid- morning and all of this was finished by mid-afternoon. Then the crew laid down a sheet of heavy plastic as a vapor barrier and then they leveled the back half before they could quit for the day.

The next day the crew arrived to finish putting the house together. This involved bringing the front half to meet the back half, leveling it and marrying the two halves. The whole house sits on many concrete block pillars. Because we were putting the house on our RV pad the water and sewer were already there which saved us some expense. They did have to bring 200 amp electric service from the shed but they could use the existing trench which meant that they didn’t have to bring a rock saw in which saved us some more expense. Before they finished for the day the house was completely together and they had finished skirting it and painting the skirt. Both ends of the house were sided too. It was dark by the time that everyone left and we could enter the house using a ladder.

The next crew that arrived was two fellows that finished some of the marriage line because the house is all sheetrock, tape and texture. Another crew came and spent three days building the 10′ by 40′ deck on the front of the house and the 4′ x 4′ deck and steps on the back of the house. All in all it took about a week to finish the house before a couple came in and cleaned it. The house came with all of the appliances except the dishwasher that we bought locally and Ned and our neighbor installed.

The timing of the arrival of the house couldn’t have been better because after the outside work was finished it rained for the next week or two. Besides that the RV was paying us back for moving into the house because the refrigerator quit working and was leaking ammonia so we had to move into the house sooner than planned. Of course we had to get furniture since we had sold everything when we went full-time RVing 16-1/2 years ago. We were able to buy some used furniture from friends and other friends had a couch and computer desk they were donating to Hope House and gave to us instead. We did buy new beds and moved the washer and dryer from the shed to the house.

The past week Lorna has been selecting pictures from our travels to put into frames she picked up at our church bazaar and a few that we purchased. We are still looking for a desk for Ned and a comfortable chair that we can use in the bedroom or the livingroom. All in all we are very pleased with the house, but have noticed that we put on many more steps than in the RV. It was quite a change to go from about 350 sq. ft. to 1200 sq. ft.

Photos of the house installation and interior can be found here.

February 2011 – Death Valley National Park, CA

After Quartzsite eight rigs from the RV Forum group traveled to Pahrump, NV for a couple of days and then up to Death Valley.  It was wonderful to be up there with friends that included Brewers, Dobrins, Johnsons, Lawrences, Millers, Ray & Liza, Reiters, L. Schneider, T. Seiler.  Lorna’s cousin and her husband, Lois & Dave, joined us for a couple of days, too.  It was great to have them be with us even if it wasn’t for the whole time.  Of course, we had happy hour every night.  During the day we did some sightseeing together and other days we went in different directions.  Some of us went on to ranger lead talks with were special.  One was into Golden Canyon and the other was at Furnace Creek Inn.  Furnace Creek Inn was built by the Borax Company and is very plush with great views.  It better be with rooms starting $350 per night.

Death Valley is a very unique area with Telescope Peak at 11,049 feet to Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level.  It became a National Monument in 1933 and a National Park in 1994. The Park is about twice the size of the state of Delaware so you will need some sort of transportation to see the Park.  There is a fault line that runs through the eastern side of the valley.    Death Valley is the hottest spot in North America because of the low elevation and the valley’s enclosing mountains which recirculates the hot air and keeps it from dissipating at night.  During the summer the temperatures often reach 120 degrees plus and the lows may not drop below 100 degrees at night.

There so much to see there that you could spend a whole winter there and not see everything.  There are canyons to discover, hiking, four-wheeling, horse-back riding, ranger talks, museums and lots of different terrain.  You will want to start your visit at the Visitor’s Center in Furnace Creek to find out about the park and the many things to do and see.

To name a few of the places to see and do here is a list: Badwater Basin, Dante’s View, the Devil’s Golf Course, Harmony Borax Works, Zabriskie Point, Scotty’s Castle, Racetrack Playa, Ubehebe Crater, Artist Point(Palette), Mesquite Flat Dunes, and the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns.  We have been there twice and have seen most of those but there is so much more to see and do that we will probably go back again.

Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the valley, several thousand years ago was the site of a 30 foot lake that evaporated and left a one to five foot layer of salt in its wake.  A briny pond which is four times saltier than the ocean still remains during the winter.  Tiny Badwater snails survive in the pond and lives under the salt crust and feeds on algae.

Dante’s View, which is above Badwater Basin, is more than 5,000 feet above the valley floor.  It offers a rather spectacular view across most of the 110-mile-long Death Valley.

Devil’s Golf Course consists of gnarled crystalline salt spires and looks like coral reef run amok.  The lumpy salt pinnacles are the residue of Death Valley’s last significant lake which evaporated over 2,000 years ago.  You can walk into it but have to be careful not hurt yourself or damage the crystals.  We did discover a hole that had been blasted into the crystals and there was water in it.

Harmony Borax Works is a mining operation that goes back more than 120 years.  Three tons of borax was produced daily and used the famed 20-mule teams to haul it 165 miles to the railroad town of Mojave.  It was only in operation for five years when Colman’s financial empire collapsed.

Zabriskie Point has an unforgettable view of Death Valley’s wildly eroded and vibrantly colored badlands.  There is a short hike through the area and is a great place for viewing sunrises and sunsets.

Mesquite Flat Dunes should not be missed.  We have gone there twice to see them but have not done any hiking in them.  The dunes are at least 150 feet and surrounded by mountains on all sides.  The sand is made up of quartz and feldspar that began as much larger rocks that became sand through erosion.  The dunes are especially spectacular at sunset so be sure to take your camera along.  Unfortunately, we have never been there at sunset.

Scotty’s Castle is really remarkable and exotic edifice that rises from the dust like a desert mirage.  It was built by Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson.  It takes its name from Walter Scott, better known as “Death Valley Scotty”, who became a friend of Albert.  It is a must see when you are there.

Ubehebe Crater is a 770-foot steam-explosion crater ejecting a cloud of debris at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.  The crater is 3,000 years old.  Hiking into the crater will strike awe into those who clamber down its slopes, but it is a grueling hike back out so take plenty of water.

Our next visit will certainly include the famed Racetrack Playa where rocks seem to move by themselves.  Some of them weigh up to 700 pounds and no one really knows why or how they move despite decades of research.  No one has actually seen them move.

Artists Palette is located on Artist Drive and is made up of many different colored layers of volcanic deposits that have been colored by various mineral pigments such as iron salts, manganese, and decomposing mica.  It is a beautiful drive to Artists Palette.

While we were there we did drive out to Beatty for a fuel stop and to go to a store that has a very large assortment of candy.  WOW.  Our group bought lots of candy and then made the mistake of eating it, definitely not good for the diet.  On the way to Titus Canyon we stopped at Rhyolite, which is a ghost town that boasted nearly 10,000 people during its peak between 1905-1911.  Many ruins remain today, including the Bottle House, the train depot, the remains of a three story bank building and the jail.  Goldwell Open Air Museum is at Rhyolite and has some very unusual items.  The Ghost Rider and the Last Supper were constructed out of plaster-infused burlap over a live figure.  The Last Supper is modern day representation of Christ’s Last Supper.

Titus Canyon was a four-wheel trip through a very scenic canyon.  The group had their lunch in the canyon with a great view.  You would not want to be in this canyon when it is raining or had rained recently.  It certainly was a fun drive.

Golden Canyon is a two-mile hike some of our group did which included a ranger talk.  We were hiking through twisting narrows and colorful rock formations.  Another canyon that is a must is Mosaic Canyon, which is considered to be a geologic wonder and is a moderate one- to four-mile hike.  There is some really beautiful marble formations in this canyon.

The animals and plants that survive in this desert is unbelievable.  To name a few are the kangaroo rat, a Chuckwalla (the parks largest lizard), the Badwater snails, the Kit Fox and in the higher elevations-Desert Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, and Mule Deer.  The plants that come to life after a little rain include the Desert Five Spot, Desert Gold and Desert Holly.  It is amazing that anything can survive in such high heat and less than two inches of rain per year.  It is truly and amazing place and worth going back many times.  To find out more about Death Valley go on the Internet and Google Death Valley.

Christmas and New Year 2010

Jayne has been our guest here while she continues the work on her trailer and she celebrated Christmas with us.  Christmas Eve we had a non-traditional dinner of Texas barbecue with lots of trimmings, followed by cookies and candies from a neighbor.  The weather was sunny and cool, and Christmas day was sunny and cold.  The low in the morning was 30°F but no pipes or hoses froze.  Quite a change from Friday when we had 1″ of rain.

Dec. 26, another RV Forum couple came over to spend the afternoon with us.  They arrived at Potters Creek Park on Christmas Day.
Joe and Lynn came to visit us and we had a second Christmas dinner.  Joe is a lurker on the Forum.  We met them last spring when they came to our rally.  We had a really nice visit with them.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all.  New Year’s Eve was celebrated with Jayne and some good steaks.  We managed to stay up for a New York midnight celebration and I managed to stay awake to usher in the New Year in Texas.  The next day we started storing our yard things in the shed so we will be ready to leave for Arizona sometime this next week, hopefully on Tuesday.  We will be in Arizona for about three months.  Sure hope it is warmer there.

December 21, 2010 – The fall trip from WI to TX

This is to fill you in on our trip back to our lot in Texas this past fall.  The first stop was in Galena, Illinois to tour the Ulysses S. Grant home.  A group of Galena citizens presented the Grants with this completely furnished home when he returned there after the Civil War in 1865. The Grants lived there until he was elected president in 1868 and they continued to visit there through the years but never came back there to live full-time.  It was a very interesting tour and highly recommend the tour if you are in the area.

The second stop was in Springfield, Illinois to see the capitol, new Lincoln Museum and other Lincoln sites.  On my goal to see all of the capitols in the U.S. this was the last one east of the Mississippi River.  This was the sixth capitol building of Illinois and was started in 1868 and work continued on it for the next twenty years.  However, the General Assembly moved into the building in 1876.  The House of Representatives, consisting of 118 members, is located in the south wing of the third floor.  The Senate, comprised of 59 members, is located in the north wing of the third floor. For more information about the capitol go to State of Illinois Capitol on the internet.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum recounts the life of Lincoln from his Illinois childhood through his years as President during the Civil War to his assassination at Ford’s Theater.  Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic is a hands-on area for children.  The museum is very well laid out and interesting.  The Lincoln Library is across the street and is mainly for research.  The Lincoln home is open to the public by appointment with a guide which is available at the Visitor’s Center near the home.  It is the only home that the Lincolns owned.  The Lincoln Herndon Law Office is located near the Old Capitol and can be toured with a guide.  The Old Capitol is a museum and open to the public. The Lincoln Tomb and New Salem Village were also very interesting.  The Village is about 30 miles from Springfield and includes many old buildings that were there when Lincoln worked there before moving to Springfield.  Another interesting home in Springfield is the Dana-Thomas House which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  It was one of Wright’s first major Prairie-style houses and one of the most elaborate in terms of size, detailing, art glass and furnishings.

We spent a couple of days near Hannibal, Missouri so we could tour the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.  This included his home, Huckleberry Finn House, Interpretive Center, Justice of the Peace Office, Grant’s Drug Store/Pilaster House, Becky Thatcher House and Mark Twain Museum Gallery.  All of this was very interesting and the Gallery included many paintings done by Norman Rockwell.  We took a tour of the Big River Train Town Museum which had many different scales of model trains which were displayed on a model train layout.  Other things to do if you are in the area is to do the trolley tour and a tour of the Rockcliff Mansion.  The present owners of the Mansion are restoring it to its original splendor.

The next stop was St. Louis, Missouri where we spent a week touring the many sites that are located in the area.  Of course, the first stop was at the Gateway Arch which is a national park (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) and includes the Old Courthouse.  For those of us with a Golden Age Pass you get to take the tram to the top, a documentary movie of the building of the Arch and the Lewis and Clark Exploration for a fee of $15.  The tram to the top is very interesting and the view is awesome.  Other sightseeing that we did was the Museum of Science, the Transportation Museum, Missouri Botanical Gardens, Forest Park, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.  Many of the museums in St. Louis are free but you may have to pay for parking.

We spent a day in Little Rock, Arkansas to tour the Clinton Presidential Library which is very well done.  Since I had already toured the state capitol at another time I decided to tour the Old State House Museum.  Before leaving for Hot Springs on Sunday morning I decided to attend church services and had my first experience of attending a Baptist church which was very inspiring experience.

We spent a couple of days in Hot Springs, Arkansas taking a scenic drive through the park which is a very different national park.  The biggest attraction in Hot Springs is Bathhouse Row.  There are a number of old bathhouses there that have been restored.  The Visitor’s Center was originally a bathhouse that you can tour.  Hot Springs National Park protects 47 hot springs as its primary resource.  Established in 1832, this historic federal area also preserves grand bathhouses, hiking trails, and scenic drives as part of an “American Spa”.

Our only other stop on the way to the lot was to visit friends, Susie and Jack Kreienbrink, in Temple, Texas.  We had a wonderful visit and got to see their new home.

June, 2010 – Lorna’s Alaska Tour by Boat

When we arrived at the ship in Seward John introduced us to Colleen who would be our tour guide aboard the ship.  She was there to answer any questions we had and to sign us up for any of the land tours we would be interested in taking.  All our luggage was delivered to our state room after we boarded the ship.  Karen and I were on deck eight toward the bow of the ship.  Our first night out and the next day we had some very rough seas with 90 MPH surface winds and 10 to 15 foot swells.  For some of the passengers it was not a pleasant time but Karen and I did okay.

Our first point of interest was Hubbard Glacier where we spent about an hour.  Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier on the North American continent.  It has been thickening and advancing towards the Gulf of Alaska since it was first mapped in 1895.  This is unusual because most glaciers are thinning, so if it continues to advance it will close the seaward entrance of the Russell Fjord and create the largest glacier-dammed lake on the North American continent. Hubbard Glacier is the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska extending 76 miles from its source on Mt. Logan in the Yukon. The cliff face that we sailed along is over six miles wide, 300 to 400 feet from the top to sea level and 300 feet from sea level to the bottom. As Hubbard is advancing, it creaks and groans as it moves and is a very actively calving glacier. Since we were sailing in glacial water it was very cold.

After sailing through the night we arrived in Juneau, the capitol city of Alaska, which is located in the Gastineau Channel.  When leaving the ship Karen and I bought tickets for a tour of Juneau, Douglas Island and the Mendenhall Glacier.  The Mendenhall Glacier is about 12 miles long and located in the Mendenhall Valley.  There is a very informative visitor center there that includes a video of the history of the glacier and the area.  After returning to downtown Juneau we had lunch at the Red Dog Saloon which was founded during the mining days of Juneau.  After spending some time shopping we took a scenic trip to the top of Mt. Roberts on the aerial tram.  This gave us a beautiful view of Juneau and the harbor.  There was a museum that we spent some time in and the usual gift shop.  They had a bald eagle in captivity because it had been injured when it was shot with a 22 rifle.  Even though it was raining part of the time we were there it was a very interesting and enjoyable day.

Leaving Juneau the ship sailed to Skagway during the night arriving there in the morning.  Skagway is known as the “Gateway City to the Klondike Gold Rush!” This historic community still has the feel of an 1898 boom town.  Our first stop was at the Klondike Gold National Park Visitor Center that gave us a history of the Gold Rush days.  They had a video that we watched called “Days of Adventure/Dream of Gold.”  Karen and I spent the rest of the day walking along the Boardwalk of Main Street checking out many of the stores.  One of the most interesting museums was Corrington’s Museum of Alaskan History which was free.  Of course, there was a gift shop as you were leaving the museum.  We toured the Moore Homestead (1887-1897) which was built by Captain William Moore, the founder of Skagway.  It had been restored to its 1904 appearance including many of the original family possessions.  We didn’t take the White Pass and Yukon Railroad ride to the top of the pass and back because of time. However, we did stop to see the snow removal engine for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  It is characterized by the large circular set of blades on its front end that rotate as a unit to cut through the snow on the track ahead of it.  These are used when the snow is to deep for a regular plow.

Leaving Skagway on the Taiya Inlet, a deep water fjord, the ship took us to our next stop at Icy Straight Point located down the road from Alaska’s largest Tlingit village, Hoonah, Alaska.  It is 22 miles southeast of Glacier Bay National Park and is the only wilderness port in Alaska.  It has been the home of the Huna Tlingit Natives for thousands of years.  We arrived there the next morning about 7am and left about 4pm.  Because the harbor was too shallow to dock the ship we were taken to shore on several of their enclosed shuttle boats.  Some of our group went on a whale-watching tour, some did the longest ZipRide in the world, and some of us walked through the Hoonah Cannery buildings which some are now gift shops.  All in all it was a very relaxing day.

Our next port of call was Ketchikan, known as the “Salmon Capitol of Alaska”.  Ketchikan has 360 days of rain and maybe five days of sunshine.  The day we were there it was overcast but no rain.  Karen and I chose to take a sightseeing tour out to Saxman Village and Totem Bight Park.  On the way we saw a bald eagle nest. When we arrived at the village there was a guide to take us into a small area of the rain forest and the Totem Bight Park.  There were eighteen totem poles and a Clan House built by Alaska Native artists in the 1920’s. In 1938 the U.S. Forest Service began a project to salvage, reconstruct, and create totem poles, a tradition which was dying out. They hired carvers from among the older Natives to restore old abandoned totem poles.  These craftsmen who, in the process of this work, were able to pass on their skills to people of the younger generation.  It was very interesting to hear about the history of the different totems in the park.

When we returned from Saxman Village we left the bus at Creek Street where we toured Dolly’s House.  Dolly Arthur was Ketchikan’s most famous madam in the hayday of Creek Street.  The house is preserved much as she left it.  We checked out a few of the gift stores along the walkway and found a polo shirt with a pocket for Ned.  This was a big deal because they just don’t put pockets on polo shirts and Ned wants a pocket.  We spotted a bald eagle sitting on one of the shops but unfortunately it flew away after I had turned to walk away.  Leaving Creek Street we stopped at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.  It opened in 1995 and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, is one of four Alaska Public Land Information Centers.  This was the second time on this trip that it paid to have my Golden Age Pass along.  The center had many displays of life in southeast Alaska.

We sailed for two nights and one day down through the Inner Passage into Vancouver.  Unfortunately, Karen and I never got to see any whales or other marine life on the way down and that certainly was disappointing.  However, on our last night out several of us were able to catch a beautiful sunset.  Our arrival in Vancouver took some time to go through customs and get on the bus back to Seattle.  Going through customs at the border went extremely fast.  The border person came on the bus and checked all of our passports and said have a good day.  Once we arrived at the airport we had a three hour wait to check in and the plane for Minneapolis left an hour late.  The worst part for me was that I came down with a cold that morning and flying with a cold isn’t fun.  I lost most of my hearing for a week but the good news is that I didn’t rupture an eardrum.  It was a wonderful trip and great to be able to spend time with Karen.

June, 2010 – Lorna’s Alaska Tour

After three years Karen Larson and I were finally able to do our Alaska Tour and Inner Passage Cruise.  We were former roommates and have known each other for over 50 years so this was a chance to spend some quality time together and celebrate our 70th birthdays.  It was a wonderful trip with many interesting stops, both on land and on the cruise.  This was done through John Hall – – with an office located in Lake City, MN.  He and his company run a number of tours of Alaska and the Yukon, British Columbia, and Alberta.  If you are interested in touring Alaska check them out because they run an excellent land tour. Our tour was the 15 day Grand Slam Alaska which included eight days on land and seven days on the Inner Passage.  While on land we had three meals per day all included in the price of the tour.  He only allows 44 people total on each tour which is a nice number.  The bus we were on for the land portion was owned by John Hall and there were 38 people in our group.  Our driver was John Gailey, who has lived in Alaska for over 30 years.  He was a great tour guide and gave us lots of information about all the areas we went to along with funny stories and a little BS thrown in.  We loved having him as our driver/tour guide.

Karen flew from Florida to Anchorage and I flew in from Minneapolis with others from our group meeting her at our hotel on June 4th.  That afternoon we took a shuttle to downtown Anchorage to do some sightseeing which included the Anchorage Museum.  The museum has a very informative display of Alaska Natives which I hadn’t seen when Ned and I were there in 2006.  In the evening we enjoyed a very tasty meal at the Juno Restaurant in the Crown Plaza Hotel where we were staying.  Three meals per day were included in our tour price.

The second day after breakfast we had a tour of Anchorage before boarding the Alaska Railroad for a scenic ride along the Turnagain Arm into Whittier.  There we boarded the Stan Stephen boat for a six hour wildlife and glacier cruise across Prince William Sound visiting Columbia Glacier.  The weather was rainy and it became very rough about half way through the Sound but we were still able to see Blacklegged Kittiwakes, sea lions, sea otters,  icebergs and other wildlife.  However, once we arrived at the Columbia Glacier the waters calmed down and it was a very calm ride into Valdez.  At Columbia Glacier there are so many icebergs that the boat can only get within ten miles of the glacier.  In Valdez we stayed at the Best Western and also had dinner and breakfast there.

Day three because of the long drive to Fairbanks we weren’t able to do any of the museums in Valdez.  Our first stops were at Horsetall Falls and Bridal Vail Falls for pictures. After leaving there we continued over Thompson Pass going pass the Worthington Glacier and many other scenic areas on our way to our next stop.  That was at Wrangell-St Elias Visitor Center where we spent about a half hour.  When we left there we traveled to our lunch stop at the Paxson Lodge Cafe where we had a very good lunch of grilled hamburgers, etc.  We were able to spend about an hour there which was a nice break in a very long day.  Leaving there we crossed over the Richardson Memorial Summit with two separate stops at the Alaska Pipeline which had very interesting descriptions of the pipeline.  The pipeline doesn’t run in a straight line because of earthquakes and to slow the flow of oil down.  The heat exchangers were put in where the pipeline went underground to exhaust the heat off the pipeline to keep the tundra from thawing.  Our next stop was at Delta Junction Visitor Center at the end of the Alaska Highway so that when we left there John drove on a very short part of the Alaska Highway.  Where the Alaska Pipeline crosses the Tanana River it is supported by the longest suspension bridge in Alaska which was our next stop.  Our final leg was into Fairbanks our home for the next two nights at the Alpine Lodge where we had dinner upon our arrival.

Day four started with breakfast at the Alpine Lodge followed by a ride aboard the riverboat Discovery, traveling down the Chena River.   During this ride we saw a float plane take off and land for our benefit, a stop at Sue Butcher’s Dog Kennels, a winner of several Iditarods, who passed away in 2006.  The final destination was Chena Village which is a mock up of a native Alaskan village.  We also saw many different homes along the river.  At the village there were different areas and young native Alaskans to explain about their clothes, furs, the catching of salmon, cleaning, drying and smoking them.  Sue Butcher’s husband, Dave had some of his dogs there and someone to explain about raising and training them.

After returning from the riverboat ride we went to Sue Butcher’s Dog Kennels for lunch, a demonstration of how a musher dresses for an Iditarod race, and the raising and training of the dogs.  The dogs are bred for endurance, speed and strength and none of them are purebreds.  The river ride and our time at the kennel was a great experience.  After that we went to the Alaska History Museum on the University of Alaska campus.  This museum is a must see if you are in Fairbanks because their displays and information about each display is very well done.  Our final destination of the day was Pioneer Village after a short tour of Fairbanks.  At the Village our first stop was at the Salmon Bake for dinner which was very good.  All the buildings in the park were moved there from around Fairbanks because they were original buildings from the early years.  We were also treated to some Irish dancers at the gazebo in the park.  To top off the evening all of the group attended a performance at the Palace Theater and Saloon.

Day five was another early start with breakfast at the Alpine Lodge and a bus ride down to the railroad station where we boarded the Alaska Railroad’s first class “Goldstar” service to Denali National Park.  Lunch was served on board while we had the opportunity to see wildlife and very beautiful scenery.  It absolutely was first class service.  Upon arriving at the station in Denali National Park we had our own private bus for the 95 mile ride out to Kantishna and the Denali Backcountry Lodge which was our home for the next two nights.  On the way we saw grizzlies, Dall Sheep, caribou and awesome scenery.  However, the “Great one” wasn’t visible today even though it wasn’t raining.  Our accommodations at the lodge were first class and dinner was served as soon as we arrived.  It was a very long day but very enjoyable.

Day six started with breakfast at the lodge and then there were a number of activities we could do.  Fishing, panning for gold, go back to Wonder Lake to do some hiking, or just relax and enjoy the wilderness setting.  Karen and I decided to go to Wonder Lake to do a little hiking.  Karen decided to pan for gold after we returned to the lodge and several of us walked over to see the Fannie & Joe Quigley cabin.  They lived there during the 1905-1906 gold rush and continued to work the mine, doing trapping and gardening.  They certainly were an interesting couple, especially Fannie who was a good prospector, miner, an excellent shot, usually going hunting by herself.  Later in the afternoon several of the couples took the flight over McKinley because the mountain had cleared.  Unfortunately, if we wanted to see it from the ground we had to be driven back to Wonder Lake.  We spent the rest of the day walking around the grounds and enjoying another fantastic meal.

Day seven started out with a heavy rainfall which continued until we were past Wonder Lake and the streams were overflowing.  As we headed back to the main road the weather cleared and we got to see moose, grizzlies, Dall sheep, caribou but no wolves or foxes.  However, we did get to see Mt. McKinley in all her glory. It is amazing that when she is clear that she makes all those 14,000 ft. mountains look like foothills.  In 2006 Ned and I got to see McKinley from the air but never from the ground so this was very thrilling for me.  After arriving back at our regular bus south of Denali we had lunch and then proceeded to Alaska Veterans Memorial which was a very moving experience.  Our accommodations for the night were at the McKinley Princess Lodge which were superb.  We had a very limited view of McKinley again but not as clear as what we saw in the park.

Day eight started out with a very beautiful view of McKinley, while we were having breakfast, that lasted until we left for Anchorage.  Before arriving in Anchorage John stopped at his home to meet his wife and granddaughters.  They had lemonade and homemade goodies waiting for us and this is where we took our group picture.  This was really a very special treat for all of us.  When we arrived in Anchorage we stopped for lunch before continuing on to the very scenic Kenai Peninsula and to Seward where we would board Radiance of the Seas cruise ship for our seven day cruise.  We bid John Gailey farewell and thanked him for a wonderful and informative eight days.  He really did spoil all of us.  The cruise part of the trip will be continued in the next few days.

October and November, 2009

Since returning to the lot it has been a very busy time for us.  There was lots of yard work to catch up on since it started to rain at the end of August.  Texas prairie grass, which is what I call it, had to be cut, then there were more cedars to cut and several wood piles that had to be moved.  As of now there are no more cedars to be removed from the lot, yeah.  All the wood has been cut up and piled in the new location.  The reason for moving the wood piles is that Ned promised to get us a screened gazebo next winter and wanted to put where the wood had been piled.  Since there is no burn ban on right now all the brush and stumps have been burned.  We had someone in the neighborhood come and remove most of the stumps several weeks ago.  Since we now have our friend, Karl’s, old wash tub from his washer/dryer we have been burning some of the wood.  The lot is looking really great, but we still have lots of rocks.  So if you need any rocks just come and get them!!!!

We have had lots of company during October and November.  Our friends from Milwaukee, Vic and Moe Wexler were here in the middle of October.  They spent about a week with us which was very enjoyable.  Jackson and Liz Pearce were here the end of October for a couple of weeks, which was wonderful.  Jackson helped me cut down a couple of very big cedars and burn the brush from that.  He also helped me move a couple of rows of the wood pile.  We had plenty of visiting time with them too.  Ned was able to help Liz with their computers.  At the beginning of November Frank and Barb Weimert were here for almost a week.  During their visit Frank was able to help Ned install a motion detector light on the shed.  They also installed an exhaust vent for my dryer which took care of all the dust and lint in the shed.  It is always great to see Frank and Barb and this was their second visit.  We will try not to make them work the next time they visit us.  Last year when they were here Frank was able to help Ned install electric in the shed for lighting and the washer and dryer.  It keeps the guys out of trouble!!!!  Last week Jeff and Sue Cousins were here over night on their way to Happy Trails in Arizona.  That was much to short of a visit, but they did promise to come back again.

During November, Ned was able to have cataract surgery done on his left eye.  The surgery was very successful and he choose to have close vision correction.  He is very pleased with the results and can’t wait to get the right eye done.  That will happen the end of February after we return from Arizona.  He doesn’t have to wear glasses for reading or working on the computer.  He will have to wear them outside and for driving.  Next week when he goes in for his three week post-op checkup he will order glasses and have them sent to Arizona.

We had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving with our neighbors, John and Kay Hasty.  Since they now have a real house it was nice to have dinner at their new home.  Christmas will be in Arizona.  We will leave next Tuesday, December 15, and spend part of the holidays at Mission View in Tucson.  New Years will be at Catalina State Park, north of Tucson, with friends from the RV Forum.  We are really looking forward to seeing all our long time friends from the RV Forum and other friends and family.  We haven’t been to southern Arizona in almost two years and it will be good to go back.  Sure hope it is warmer there, because it has been a little chilly here, but no snow thank you.

A recap of our September month of travel

Ned and I are back at the lot for a couple of months. There is much to be done on the lot, especially the drive which has washed out some with all the rain we have had during the month of Sept. and the beginning of Oct. Also, the rain has turned everything green including the weeds and the Texas prairie grass which grows tall over night. Because of all the stones the grass has to be cut with a weed eater. Thankfully it doesn’t cover the whole lot. On the other hand, the rain was and still is needed. Canyon Lake is still down 17 feet and may never catch up since so much of the water is needed down stream. The lake was down 20 feet before the rain started the end of August.

The month of September was a very busy one while we were traveling back to the lot. Our first visit stop after leaving Ham Lake was in Lewistown, MT to spend a day or two with friends from the RV Forum, Ron and Sam Ruward. Ron had a stroke the beginning of June and is in a nursing home, hopefully, temporarily. His progress is very slow with complications of eating and a hematoma in the groin area. He is able to speak but the short term memory has been affected. We were so glad that we had the time to visit with them. Sam really needed to have friends to visit with.

Next was our weekend in Bozeman, MT for Ned’s fraternity brothers reunion which was planned by Neil and Nan, who live in Belgrade. They did a wonderful job of planning some great trips for us. A big thanks to Neil and Nan for planning the whole weekend. The couple that came the farthest was from Australia. There was a pizza party on Friday for everyone to renew friendships.

Saturday was a trip to Virginia City, MT which is an old gold panning area. It also served as the territorial capitol from 1865 to 1875. There is an opera house where we attended a play. The group went on a tour of the town in an old fire engine that came from Waukesha, WI. This was a surprise to all of us since that is where the brothers and some of their spouses went to Carroll College which is located in Waukesha.

On Sunday there was a trip planned to the southern loop of Yellowstone NP. We met at 7am and drove to West Yellowstone where we boarded a tour bus for the drive along the southern loop. It was a beautiful day and we saw many bison but very little other wildlife. We stopped at several geyser basins including Old Faithful. Our stop at Old Faithful had an extra bonus because Beehive Geyser also went off while we were there. That geyser was more spectacular than Old Faithful. Our last stop was Artist Point which is so beautiful. At this point we had to turn around because there are two bridges out for rebuilding along the cross over. So because of this it made for a very long but enjoyable day. We had made arrangements with the owner of the campground to let Sasha out which was good since we didn’t get back to the park until 10pm.

On Monday there were no plans until late afternoon so some of the group came to check out our “Nana’s Wheelhouse”. Some went to museums in the area. The last get-together was at Neil and Nan’s house for more visiting time and then all of us walked across the street to the community center for a catered dinner. After dinner there was a special treat for us done by Neil and Nan with the release of a flock of white doves, very nice. Then it was back to the center for a song fest because this group was known for their singing group, lots of fun. All in all it was a wonderful weekend and Ned’s comment was “We picked up right where we left off 45 years ago”.

While we were in Bozeman we had a chance to get together with our neighbors, Jim and Judy from the lot, for lunch. We got together with Jim and Pat Godward, friends from the RV Forum, several times for lunch or breakfast.

When we left Bozeman we drove to Tetonia, Idaho on the west side of the Grand Tetons. I have been trying to see them for forty some years and was thrilled to be able to see them and spend time on both sides of the Tetons this year. The west side has less tourists but there isn’t as much to do there either. While there we back-tracked about 50 miles to see Mesa Falls State Park which was worth the trip.

After spending two nights at Tetonia we drove over Teton Pass to the east side to meet up with RV Forum friends, Don and Mary Ann Nesbett. We spent several days with them. They took us on a driving tour of the park the first afternoon. The next day Don, Mary Ann and I did a 5+ mile hike at Jenny Lake up to Inspiration Point which started at about 6000 ft. in elevation and the high point was between 6500 and 7000 ft. Great views from up there and we even had a chipmunk who tried to steal our lunch at Inspiration Point. Hidden Falls was awesome and worth the hike to get there.

The next day we hiked another 5+ mile hike to Taggert Lake, a very peaceful place with not too many tourists. Considering that I haven’t done any hiking in three years I did very well on both of these hikes. We had a great time with Don and Mary Ann and hated to see them leave the day before we left. They were heading for Glacier NP and we were going on to Denver. While we were there we did get to see elk, moose, bald eagles and other wildlife. However, considering I had waited so many years to see the Tetons I was disappointed even though they are very majestic and the area is beautiful. Maybe if I had never been to the Icefield’s Parkway and the Canadian Rockies I might have been more impressed.

We spent a very enjoyable weekend in Denver visiting with my nephews David and Joel and their families. David and Kristen took us downtown Denver to a pizza place that had very tasty pizza on Saturday evening and then back to the coach for visiting. On Sunday they had a cookout for us that Joel and family and friend Mark were able to join us. It was really wonderful to be able to visit with everyone. It has been some time since we saw all of them. Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to spend time with us.

We spent several days south of Albuquerque with friends from the Rv Forum, Jackson and Liz Pearce, also, Bob Maxwell and some of his family. It was a very sad time for us because Bob had lost his wife that Monday after several years of fighting cancer. We arrived there on Wednesday and were able to spend Thursday afternoon with Bob and his family. On a happier note, on Saturday we drove over to Pie Town in western New Mexico to visit RV Forum friends, Jim and Ann Dorough. They live out in the middle of ranch land and really love the area. It was great to see them again and hopefully they will make it to Quartzsite in January. We were glad to be able to visit with all of these friends even if it was a sad time.

Our second last stop on the way back to the lot was up in the panhandle of Texas at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. It is an amazing canyon since all the land in the panhandle is flat, flat, flat!!!! We did several drives through the canyon to get pictures at sunset and sunrise. It was much to hot to do any hiking and probably wouldn’t have done any since there are rattlesnakes in the canyon and I don’t do any kind of snakes.

The last stop was at Buckhorn Lake RV Park in Kerrville, TX for some work to be done on the coach. We love this park because it is very well laid out with concrete pads to park on. The work was finished that afternoon so we could leave for the lot the next morning. RV Forum friends, John and Jane Canfield drove in from their mini-ranch west of the park to visit with us and go out to dinner. It was great to see them again since we hadn’t seen them since last spring at the Hill Country Rally.

During all this traveling and visiting with family and friends Ned did find time to do work for his client. They have been keeping him very busy during the summer and this fall. Of course, he will find time to start the weed-eater and the chain saw so I can catch up with work on the lot.

December 8-16, 2008 – Snow in Texas

Yes we had snow last week but only a dusting. The day before it was 75 and the next morning there was snow on the ground and trees. Two days later it was back in the 70’s again. The temperature changes are really varied here.

We had three loads of gravel brought in to make some parking spots and to level the pad for the coach. The fellow came to spread the gravel and remove a couple of huge cedar stumps. He has a minimum of four hours and we were able to find enough to do to take care of those hours. It was fun to watch him work with his Bobcat.

The pile of brush to burn has gotten way to big to burn all at once when the burn ban is lifted. We found a place that sells 55 gal. drums and will try to burn some of the brush in that. Another reason we can’t burn the brush where it is right now is that part of the pile is over the water pipe that is buried about two feet down in a rock trench and would probably melt the plastic pipe, not good!!! Other than picking stones and lining the drive with them not much else is happening.

We have a pair of cardinals in the area and the male tries to sit on the coach mirror and look at himself. The morning that we had snow he was really trying to see himself in the mirrow. Unfortunately, he was to fast for Lorna to get a picture, but she was able to get a couple of him on the ground.