Saturday, June 30, 2012

Going down the River

Our plans for today are to take the boat cruise on the Riverboat Discovery. the stern wheeler travels down the Chena River to the Tanana River. it was cloudy when we left the campground and we wondered if we were going to get more rain. however, once we got there, got our tickets and were on board, the sun was out and we actually lucked out with a very nice day. it got warm enough to shed our coats.


The cruise was three hours long and very enjoyable. One of the first things we saw was a bush pilot demonstrate a take off and landing. Bush pilots and their planes play an important part in transportation in Alaska to make deliveries to many of the remote areas of this large state.


We floated by the houses dotted along the shores.


    The picture above is a boat that was built but was unfortunately too heavy and couldn't float. The owner then turned it into a house.
Our next stop was the home and kennels of the late Susan Butcher, a four time winner of the Iditarod Sled dog races. Her husband, Dave Monson, a champion of the Yukon Quest, still trains the dogs and came out on the lawn and gave a talk on how the dogs were trained from puppy hood to be able to join the team and  become champion racers. The dogs were out in force and  we saw them give a demo pulling an ATV. They even have older dogs that have been retired from racing but still are valuable in helping train the future racers.

        Another stop was at an Athabascan fish camp where one of the guides gave a demo on cutting the fish and how it prepared or dried on racks. Chum salmon, or as the Native Americans call it, dog salmon is only used for dogs. The sled dogs each get a salmon a day. Other higher grades of salmon caught for human consumption.


We did see some wildlife, caribou along the banks of the river.


One of the highlights of the trip was a stop at the Chena Indian Village where we all got off the boat and took a tour of the village. The guides we saw were two young Athabascan Indian women who were students at the University of Alaska and work as guides to proudly impart information on what life was like in the villages in Alaska. One of the guides modeled a parka with what is called a sunshine ruff that circles her face. When they slaughter the animals they use every bit of the animal so they is no waste.

       We then walked over and checked out the garden. The cabbage below will be around 60 pounds later this season. Vegetables are hugh due to the long days this time of the year. We then visited a fenced in area where some of Susan Butchers Kennel keeps some of the sled dogs so visitors can get up close and personal with the dog. More information was given there on the dogs'  life.  Some of their dog houses were there. They stay outside even in the cold Alaskan winters but there dog houses are very warm and comfortable for them.

We then headed back just enjoying the day. We also got samples of some smoked salmon appetizers which were very good.

        What a very interesting tour and another great day in Alaska. This is our last day and Saturday we finally head to Chena Hot Springs.                                                                                                        

Friday, June 29, 2012

Deja Vu All Over Again

Well, a change in plans came unexpectedly as we left Wednesday morning on the way to Chena Hot Springs. We only got a few miles from our Chena Lakes campground when Joe noticed the monitor was showing overheating. Within minutes it was so high that we got the stop engine message We pulled over and waited a few minutes, tried again and only got under another mile and the same thing. Oh joy. We have had overheating problems since last year and have had a number of suppose solutions and here we go again. This is the worse though as before it was only when we were going up hill and we could go very slow and it stayed under the 200 degrees. This time we were stopped dead at the side of the highway. Joe found the phone number of the one and only Detroit Diesel repair shop in Fairbanks and they said they would be out After several hours and another phone call they showed up. They thought it was probably a sensor. We were about 10 miles from their shop and so we slowly followed them to the shop with several stops along the way. It was after their closing time and so we spent the night there so they could fix it the first thing in the morning. Next morning came and they checked it out still thinking it was the sensor and not really an overheating problem. Once installed we did a test run and no go. We should have known the fact that it was in stock was too easy. With further testing and getting more people involved,including Freightliner,  it was determined to be the fan that was not working. Of course that was NOT in stock and had to be overnighted. Another night at the lovely repair shop. Well at least we can stay in the motorhome and not have to find a place to stay which we have had to do a number of times over the last year. The part came in the next afternoon and installed and hurrah, this seem to do the trick. Our extended warranty agreed to cover part of the cost. However, we just had the fan replaced last September and don't feel it should have stopped working after this short of time. Joe will be following up on this next week. Anyway, late Friday afternoon we went in search of a place to stay We decided to try River's Edge Resort. We were ready for a full hook up site after being without for awhile. They only had one site left and didn't think it would work as it long enough but narrow. We decided to check it out anyway and it was fine. Not a lot of room but no problems getting out slides out and there are bushes on both sides and so we are not looking right into our neighbors windows on either side.


We are going to stay for the weekend and tomorrow we'll go to the Riverboat Discovery, which we hadn't gotten around to seeing yet. We had stopped at Safeway when at the repair shop and purchased the Alaska tourbook It is a great deal You pay $99 and there are a bunch of coupons for boat trips, rafting and kayaking tours, air fleights, fishing trips, and other smaller items. It will only take a trip or two to more than pay for the book. Riverboat Discovery is one of the buy one get one free and so we will be using it right away.
This resort, besides the rv park also has a number of cabins for rent, They also have a restaurant named Chena's Alaskan Grill, and we walked over for dinner. After all the rain and cloudy weather the afternoon had turned nice with some sunshine. We were able to sit outside on their large deck. They also have a large wraparound porch as well as inside seating. It is right on the Chena River. So great weather, great ambiance and the food was great as well. Our best meal so far in Alaska. I had wild salmon with a blackberry salsa and Joe had a seafood pasta with wild salmon, wild cod, and shrimp in a cream sauce. Even Joe's salad with a maple vinagrette and mine,  chicken and mushroom with wild rice soup, were good. And we finished up with a yummy blueberry cobbler which we both thought was the best cobbler we ever had. That and a few drinks and we were feeling much better. A couple of stressful days but the weekend is certainly off to a good start..  I didn't have my camera at the restaurant but here are a few shots from the web site. the whole resort is nicely landscaped with flowers everywhere.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We're at North Pole

No, not that one. We are staying at a small town just south of Fairbanks called North Pole With that name, you can image it having a Santa Claus theme and it does. There is a Santa Claus House and a near by rv park decorated with a Santa Claus statue. There are streets named St Nicholas Drive and Mistletoe Rd. We, however stayed at a non Santa Claus campground called Chena Lakes Recreation Area. There are actually two campgrounds, one is River Park and the other, which we stayed at, is Lake Park Neither campground is actually right on the water but fairly close The sites are big with great separation by trees and natural vegetation. When we got there Friday, it was almost full but we don't see anybody from our site. There is a large sitting area and you just see trees out of all the windows. A lovely spot. No hookups but it is our kind of place. Saturday we checked out the river and lake and then just spent the day enjoying the sun and warm weather, reading our kindles outside.

We were running low on supplies and so went into Fairbanks to Walmart to stock up. $200 later. Pricing has been high in Canada and here in Alaska. We knew that would be the case. Camping where we are now is only $12 a night. We try to stay at government campgrounds rather than commercial ones. Pricing is usually four times as much at commercial campgrounds and normally not as nice. We do like them once in awhile for wifi or laundry when needed or to get a tv fix. Our direct tv no longer works anywhere up here in Alaska. Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska with a population around 32,000 though the Fairbanks metropolitan area is around 92,000.
Sunday we went to Fairbanks Midnight Sun Festival held from 12 noon to 12 midnight. The sun was not very cooperative and didn't show itself much.  There were three streets closed off to traffic. There were lots of booths selling things, clothing, arts and crafts, food and music. Lots of things for kids to do. The crowd was mostly young families and teenagers. We walked through the three streets to check things out but didn't stay that long.

We had a few nice days of sun but by Monday it was starting to get  more cloudy and a little cooler. We went to check out a few campgrounds in Fairbanks, one which looked pretty nice. We went to Pioneer Park, which is a historical theme park. They have the stern wheel riverboat Nenana, an old train car, which was used by  Former President Harding, a few museums and a number of historical houses from around the area, some of which are used as souvenir shops.


Today it has been raining on and off most of the day. We can't seem to get away from the rain. I knew we weren't going to have our typical warm summer but didn't expect this much rain. We want to take some boat cruises, kayak and maybe some rafting and so hope we get a little some days without rain. We can only stay at this campground 5 days. We were hoping to stay longer. The weekend crowd was all Alaskans except us and almost everyone was gone by Sunday or Monday morning. We would have thought they would have let us as we are almost the only ones here but it is not to be. We are leaving tomorrow and are headed to Chena Hot Spring Resort which is about an hour northeast of Fairbanks.  We are undecided on what to do next week with the holiday and all. We might stay at one of the campgrounds in Fairbanks and then go on to Denali National Park area. We'll decide by tomorrow.