Grand Junction Junkin’

Yesterday, Robert and I drove around Grand Junction, Colorado looking around at some of the many late autumn yard sales in town.  We’re really here to visit my older two kids, Katie and Josh and the grandbabies Bella and Bo, Katie’s children.  But while we’re here, we may as well see if we can find some goodies to pick up and sell on ebay.  Robert’s favorite!

One of the things I’d found is an old tea tin from England commemorating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II filled with old buttons.  Inside, there were a couple of tags from a farm in Farnborough, Hampshire, UK.  I’m still researching the tags and wrote an email to the farm, whose name they are stamped with, to see if they know what the tags were used for.  It is now a B&B and perhaps someday we’ll take a trip and stay there a night.

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“Farnborough House, Netley, Hound Rd.”

edit*  I have since found out that these tags were used as dogtags by British soldiers during WWI & II and are made of vulcanized asbestos fibers.  These two aren’t sporting the information normally required to be used by the military, however.  Perhaps they really are someone’s dog’s tags.  A dog named Winnie?image

Anyway, we’re at it again today, having a bit of fun driving around and seeing what treasures we can dig up locally.  Plus lunch with the babes and who knows what after that!

THE DIRT FARMER’S GUIDE TO SOIL GROWING

 

This informal guide is to help anyone who is interested in growing their cannabis, tomatoes or most any other plants in soil.  I will not be going into plant training techniques or lighting requirements, as I only have rudimentary experience with both.  I will be sharing what I have learned from growing vegetables, and that I have applied to growing cannabis.  I’ll also share a couple of recipes for a complete soil that (presumably) doesn’t need added fertilizer.  I am not an expert!

So!  I like to start with a bag of Fox Farms Ocean Forest potting soil.  It’s what I like, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.  It’s just what has worked for me, but any decent bag of soil will work.  My only advice is to not get your soil from the grocery store, but from an actual garden center or grow store.  This, because time after time I have gotten a bag of Black Gold from Freddy’s and wound up fighting fungus gnats.  They can be a bitch to get rid of!  They harbor fungus in their tiny guts and the larva eat the tender roots of your seedlings.  Nasty.  Now, I pick up FFOF at the grow store (Far North or Southside Garden Supply) and haven’t seen a gnat yet.  Knock on wood!

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Never fear, the babies in the front row recovered and are now in flower! The funny little bud-plant to the right is a beautiful plant vegging out in my greenhouse these days.

I germinate my seeds or plugs (clones) in smallish pots placed in rectangular trays, perhaps half gallon size, and then transplant into “big girl” sized pots which are at least 3 gallons.  When I do this depends on a couple of factors.  The first one being, “Do I have the space for these large pots?” which is a dance I have to deal with in our small house/museum.  The other is how tall the plant is in relation to the pot.  Ideally, I try to transplant when the plant is twice the height of the pot.  This might run the risk of the plant becoming root bound (roots compacted tightly in the pot) but I’ve not had too much of an issue.  Usually, the roots ARE wound up in the pot a bit, but this helps to keep dirt, etc. in an easy to manage package when pulling the plant out of the old pot and they quickly spread out in the new, roomier pot.

IMG_1432These are the amendments I use to give my plants a little boost of some of the nutrients (nutes) they need to stay healthy.  The Azomite is the most recent addition and has trace minerals, the bone meal was left over from planting peonies (for root growth…how could it hurt?), and the epsom salts and crushed eggshells are from growing tomatoes…magnesium and calcium.

I crush my own eggshells from my own hens, but store-bought eggs will work just fine!  After using the goodies inside the eggs, wash them out with water and place them, open side down, on a paper towel to let them dry for a day.  Then put them in a ziplock freezer bag and crush them with a rolling pin.  Voila!  Easily absorbed calcium for your plants.  I use the thicker freezer bags because otherwise, the shell fragments will cut holes in your bag and you’ll end up with a powdery mess on your counter and rolling pin.

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Crushed, dried eggshells

The pots I use for late vegetative and blooming stages are larger and are at least 3 gallons, made of hard, black plastic and sit on individual round trays to contain water overflow.  There are different grades of plastic, some leach more chemicals into the soil, but for the most part, grow stores all sell the best pots for growing.

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Wash your brand new pot with soap and water, and if you’re reusing old pots, do that PLUS bleach. Rinse well!

As you may have guessed, I do go around to the different stores around town for the things I need.  I get organic soil amendments from Alaska Mill and Feed, soil is usually less expensive at Far North on Boniface, I like getting most pots from there as well but Southside now carries sturdier pots and trays and they’re right down the street from my house.  Plus, they have free compost tea when you bring your $1 jug in for refills.  Hydroponic Jack’s has a great variety of bottled nutes but you have to ask for the price as they don’t have the prices on the bottle/package.  Even Andy’s Ace Hardware has been carrying a limited array of grow supplies, but they’re expensive and can be had at a lower price across the street at Southside.

When you have your soils, amendments, pots and happy, growing plants ready for transplanting, pick a roomy table inside and cover with newspaper to minimize the dirty mess you’re about to create.  And it will be messy!  And you will feel like you just created something amazing when you’re done!  Or, if you’d rather, pick a pretty day outside.

 I start by filling up my pots about 1/3 of the way up.  Then I sprinkle the amendments I wish to use on the surface of the dirt, then mix it well into that dirt at the bottom of the pot.  I do each pot roughly the same way.  The reason I do it this way is so by the time the roots have grown into this enriched soil, the plant is at a point where it’ll require the extra boost of nutrients and minerals, late veg into flowering.

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A bit of soil on the bottom with Epsom salt located at 12 o’clock, eggshells at 3, Azomite at 6 and bone meal at 9 o’clock, roughly.

After everything is mixed in well, I fill the pot about 2/3 up with soil and water it just until the excess is running out of the bottom of the pot.  I don’t want all the goodness to get flushed out right away!

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Root ball

After you’ve got your pot readied with damp soil, use your hands to scoop and dig a hole big enough to set your plant down into.  Damp dirt is more easily packed to form the walls of your hole than dry dirt but try not to tamp it down so hard that the roots have trouble expanding.

When you’re good and ready, take your dirty hands and hold the stem of your plant in one hand while holding the pot in the other, and tip it at a 120 degree angle.  That is, to the side and slightly upside down.  Give the pot some good squeezes while pulling the plant out of the pot and the entire plant and root ball should come sliding out.  As it slides out, follow the momentum of the root ball with your wrist and gently let it swing free or the stem could be injured and be bent.  Or, as the plant starts to come free, tip it back upright and continue freeing the root ball from the pot that way.  As you become more adept at transplanting you’ll develop the technique that works for YOU.

After you have set the plant into the hole, press down on the root ball to give the roots good contact with the soil.  Sometimes you might feel little pops when doing this…it’s some of the roots breaking.  Some might disagree with me but I don’t think this is an issue.  I feel that it helps open up the mass of roots and encourages new growth.  But that’s me.

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Freshly potted pot plant.

Then, fill the pot the rest of the way with soil, pressing lightly so there’s not so much settling of dirt as you water and the plant grows.

As your plants go into the flowering stage and the weeks of bloom, you may wish to explore the many different brands of liquid and powdered fertilizers, nutes and additives that are out there.  There are so many different brands and types that it can be overwhelming, stepping into your friendly neighborhood grow store.  Don’t feel shy about asking the employees there for some direction, or Googling what you need but be sure to look at a few different search results.  I’ve had good results with Happy Frog tomato fertilizer and Iguana Juice along with (free!) compost tea.  And if you don’t want someone else’s compost tea, you can make your own…there are tutorials for that on youtube!  The world is full of different paths and options!

The guideline for fertilizers is NPK, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  During vegetative growth, you’ll want a fertilizer with more N for lush leaves.  During bloom, you’ll be looking for fertilizers with higher P and K numbers for roots, thick stems and fat flowers.

There are many different recipes for “hot” soil that people have developed so there’s no need to add additional nutes to it.  At all.

 

Andy’s Super Soil

“It a can be a hot mix so let it compost 4 weeks before using.

Mixed with 6-12 bags of dirt: worm castings, granular Azomite, ground oyster or crab shells, guano, fish bone meal, blood meal, dry humic acid, humus, epsom salts, dolomite, kelp, Great White or other beneficials like Robes from Alaska Jacks…it has 37 different beneficial microbes… mix it in the bottom for potted plants or amend your garden soil with it… and don’t use it to fill your potted plants only in the bottom your plants will grow into it without burning.  Add a diluted soil mix to fill the rest of your pot.  All these items should be OMRI listed and you will have a 100% organic garden…. only thing I’ll add all summer is some molasses and Carboload by Advanced nutrients to some waterings to feed the beneficial microbes.”

 

Here is another, from this informative thread: https://www.icmag.com/ic/showthread.php?t=258168

 

3 gal dirt / earth / topsoil / nursery soil (unfertilized)

1.5 gal coir

2.5 gal peat

3 gal aeration (chunky perlite, lava rock, permatil, etc.)

1 gal EWC (earthworm castings)

 

Basic Amendment Recipe:

 

1/2c alfalfa meal

1/2c dry molasses

1c kelp meal

1c blood meal

1c bone meal

1/2c seabird guano

2tbsp Sul-Po-Mg

1/2c azomite

1/3c dolomite

1/3c gypsum

2/3c oyster shell flour

 

1/4 tbsp BioVam

1/4 tbsp BioAg Vam   * I am not familiar with these last two products but I’m sure Google is.

 

I hope this helps in some way if you plan on or are curious about growing in soil.  I enjoy it, it’s very forgiving and I love the therapy of getting my hands dirty.  Good luck!

Thinking the Unthinkable

Right now we have a problem, and I’m trying to stay positive despite it, but losing ground fast.  We had set out on this journey to have an epic adventure, which if you’ve been following us, know we’ve been getting it in spades.  What we have not gotten so much of is that stuff you need to have to buy fuel, food and electricity….money, which we had planned on making by buying fun little things that we could pick up for cheap and sell on ebay and also fit into a flat rate box.  If it fits, it ships, right?  Unfortunately we’ve been finding very large things for cheap, like $50 antique console radios and $40 vintage gas stoves, etc.  Really great stuff that some elbow grease would make beautiful and useful again but would have to be carted around with us for weeks or months until we could bring them to a more marketable city or even bring back with us to Alaska.

I think we’ve done a pretty good job of not being overly extravagant with our eating habits but it continues to be our greatest expense.  I had been careful to pack as much as our fridge and freezer could hold but since coming back into the lower 48, I haven’t been as diligent about keeping the larder stocked.  I find myself in a cycle of running low on supplies, then not replenishing our stocks due to financial concern, to then not having any prime pantry items and winding up going out to eat, resulting in spending twice as much (at least).  So, having identified the issue, I know what I need to do to correct it.  The wolf isn’t at the door but I’ve heard him around 3 am, howling in the neighboring pasture we’re camped out by.

So with these factors weighing down on us, we’re starting to consider selling our abode either before we leave Grand Junction in a couple of weeks or after we get down to Houston where my in-laws live.  I’m confident that our fortunes will change for the better after we get down to Texas, so the question now is, Will it make better sense to keep it to live in even though we can’t get it to the farms and into neighborhoods where our bread and butter lies?  (See Robert’s post all about this very subject here:  http://www.novioljourneys.com/?p=293)  Or should we cut our losses and get a couple thousand dollars from the sale of it and start anew with something smaller?  We truly love and feel comfortable in the Electric Igloo but perhaps we should downsize even further to something more maneuverable and economical to tow.  I think we’ll begin to have a clearer picture of what we ought to do in a few days.

On a happier note, we’ve been spending precious time making memories with our grandchildren, Bella who is 3 1/2, and Bo who is 2.  They are busy and fun, but Grandma and Grandpa know that their own child rearing days are over.  We are exhausted.  But so, so happy.  Relieved to be able to have our own peace and quite afterwards certainly, but happy.  See?  I feel hopeful again already.

 

Skinning Teeth on Half Bridge Road

This has been a pleasant journey so far, filled with gorgeous scenery, meeting friends and family along the way, we even visited my cousin Maura over breakfast yesterday in Springfield, Illinois.  But as you know from past posts, we’ve had an adventure or two, barely escaping by the skin of our teeth.  Not mere scrapes to get out of, but possibly catastophic trip-ending-take-what-we-can-put-in-the-truck-and-abandon-the-trailer kind of event.  And let me tell you, what happened last night could have been the end.  Again.  Thankfully, I’m sitting here this morning, parked by a lake and drinking hot coffee in our little home on wheels, and the tires aren’t flat (that I know of!).

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Country lane in sublime daylight with wind turbine construction. Since it’s being used for heavy commercial equipment, this road is in much better condition!

In the emergency of the moment, I wasn’t thinking of snapping any pictures on my phone for later documentation, so I’ll have to try to paint a picture for you and let your imagination take it from there.  Chances are, you’ve watched The Wizard of Oz and there’s The Haunted Forest Dorothy and her friends have to walk through to get to the witch’s castle.  Good.  I just had to set the mood, plus it’s almost Halloween.  Actually, it was just like that, except dark and getting darker.

We had found a nice park through the app we use and had punched the Navigate button to show us where to find it, and Siri was telling us where to go.  Now, Siri has been a good and faithful servant, if you will, but for some reason, tonight?  Siri LIED.  We had been traveling west down US 36 towards Seneca, Kansas en route to our next overnight stop until our supposed turnoff, Highway 63.  We take our turn and travel a little ways and go past the point Siri indicated our destination should be.  We began to understand there may be a problem when we were further instructed to get out of the truck and start walking to our destination.  Er, yeah.  Since Robert was driving I looked on my phone for an actual physical address and found that all we needed to do is turn around and get back on US 36 a little more and we’d find the campground.  Problem was, there weren’t any places to turn around, so we just kept driving a little more, then a little more, and soon there was nothing but little side roads and I was getting worried.  Being the navigator, I found a way to use three right turns on these country roads so we would find ourselves pointed in the right direction on this highway, mainly, back towards town.

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Lies! This road does not go through. First right turn onto 128th Rd, then second turn onto Half Bridge Lane (our name for it).

All three roads were connected on the Maps app that Apple has so generously provided on the smartphone I have, so we turned onto a well graveled lane.  We passed by a well kept farm and continued down to the first corner as dusk settled in.  Turned the corner, despite some concerns Robert was beginning to have due to the deteriorating condition of the not so graveled lane we found ourselves on, but it was a nice, wide corner and we had no problem going around it.  The ruts were deepening at the bottom of the hill but smoothed out somewhat as we ascended into rattling fields of dried corn and soybeans waiting for harvesting.  We passed by another trail that had trailers and farm equipment staged by it, which made sense because of the obvious harvest season.  It should have told us that this was probably the only place with a chance to turn around easily but we were following directions; the map said it was possible to keep going so we did.  As we crested the hill we were confronted by a darkening tunnel of bare trees steeply ending in a dark hole at the bottom.  Robert backed the trailer up a little, hit the parking brake and got out to walk down and see what the trail looked like at the bottom.  I leashed Moonlight and followed.  The lane had turned into a trail, narrow and rutted with a sharp turn to the left at the bottom of the hill.  There was half a bridge spanning a creek so no way to cross it.  There may be a way for a Jeep or smaller SUV to ford the creek and not get stuck in mud down in that holler, but not the Excursion pulling a large trailer, even if we could successfully get through the tree tunnel and steep hill decent.

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When the farmer shows up…

Robert walks fast and had started up the hill before me, so I was slightly alone with Moonlight sniffing and snorting back and forth in front of me.  It had gotten dark and the wind was making all those bare-ish trees creak and moan around us, and the dried up cornstalks snapping and rattling made me think of the ghosts of old farmers stopping by on their nightly errands and whether they would soon have a ghost of a trailer to enjoy for eternity.  Thankfully it was slightly less dark on top of the hill and we made a plan to back up as far as we could and hopefully not get stuck.  After a couple of tries to avoid massive clods of tractor-dirt, we very gingerly backed the trailer up over the crest of the hill and then I saw a possible way to get turned back around.  Robert looked it over and we decided to back up past it and pull into this field of freshly harvested corn stalks, then back the trailer up so that the nose of the truck would be pointed back towards were we wanted to go…OUT.  Which we did, with minimal damage except to our rear jacks, which got hung up on ruts as the trailer was pushed out into the lane.  You know, because only tractors are meant to be there.  Anyway!  Right after we got turned around the farmer showed up and Robert got out to talk to him and you KNOW the words, “You’re not from around here, are you?” were uttered this night.  No.  No, we are not.  Because anyone who was from around here would have known that the bridge was washed out and that you can’t even take a tractor over that creek or if you go up the road another mile you’ll be able to turn around at the state park there.

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Pointed the right way and heading out!

But again, we are here at a nice RV park, able to take a shower and post a blog entry and drink coffee.  There was a terrific storm last night and I’m glad we didn’t give up and try to stay put until morning because if we had, we would be stuck on that tractor trail until the mud dried next summer.

I don’t feel as foolish about trusting Siri as that person who drove off the end of a dock, but pretty close.  So, no more country road side trips for us, not with this rig.

Michigan

So, this is titled Michigan, at least until I think of something else more appropriate or fun.  Not that Michigan hasn’t been fun because it has been.  We especially enjoyed being in the Upper Peninsula or Yooper.  How could you not have a fun time in a place called Yooper?  Of course, the majority of our time was spent at Mom’s in Midland, eating home cooked meals and getting hugs and not too much advice.  Who could ask for more?

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Interesting tree formation by my Mom’s mailbox

We met some of Mom’s friends and picked up a few things at a rummage sale, went to an Amish hardware store..what a place!…had ice cream, walked it off, ate, put it on again, told stories, made arrangements to haul some furniture out with us to Colorado, picked through bins of books, and generally had a good time.  Oh, and we helped clean Mom’s ceiling tiles…still a good time.

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Little trailer in the big woods.

We left to go down into Ohio this morning since Robert had put out a heads up on one of his neon sign groups that he’s a member of on facebook, that we would be traveling around.  The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati had let him know that he should come in and have a look around and maybe have a go in the neon shop they have on site for demonstrations for visitors.  We had found out that the museum is actually closed Monday and Tuesday but he called and they’ll be opening up just for us tomorrow, which is Monday, so here we are in Cincinnati.  I checked the app and found another nice little campground on the banks of Winton Lake just outside of the city.  Hopefully there won’t be hordes of commuters, but you know there probably will be.  I mean, it’ll be Monday morning after all.  On a similar note, driving with the trailer down the interstate with a stiff wind blowing was an exercise in determination and intense concentration.  The venturi effect from the tractor trailers passing us while the wind pushed against the trailer took a light-firm hand to keep things under control.  I drove for a couple of hours and then turned it over to Robert, as it was pretty exhausting, but offered to swap again if he needed to rest.  Even now as I sit typing at the table, the wind is rocking the trailer as the gusts hit.

While in Michigan, I reconnected with an old Army buddy, my friend Donald Shannon whom I hadn’t seen since 1990 while stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado.  It was so good to see him and meet his girlfriend, Lisa.  We met up at Bronner’s in Frankenmuth and did a little shopping for the grandkids and then had a delicious German dinner at the Bavarian Inn before saying goodbye.  There’s a sobering that comes with seeing someone you haven’t since you were young and crazy, that can smack you into a state of agedness.  I hope it won’t be the last time we meet.

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Elizabeth and Don, aka SPC Han and SPC Shannon

The Northwoods

 

We are comfortable and resting at my mom’s home in Midland, Michigan, enjoying a second helping of the autumn season we just left a couple of weeks ago in Alaska, this one’s colors much more flamboyant.

After the adventures of Pink Mountain, we had less travail as we eased down into the plains of Alberta and our outlook improved at pace with our gas mileage.  We no longer had as many issues with the water lines wanting to freeze up at night, driving became more enjoyable under better conditions and we settled back into our daily routines.

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Morning on the shores of Oldman River.

 

We spent our last night in Canada at a pretty little RV park outside of Fort MacLeod named the Daisy May Campground, where we easily backed into two spots next to the Oldman River.  We did have a bit of hassle getting gas at the Costco in Calgary the previous day, with none of our cards working at the gas pump and a couple of trips in and out of the store to get cash and then to buy a store card to use.  But none of the other people waiting to buy gas honked at us, so it was all good.

We passed back into the States without any issues and continued on into Shelby, Montana.  We said our farewells to Sue, who would be continuing on to Great Falls that afternoon and then to her home and husband in Arizona.  I don’t think that we would have had such a good trip through the wilds of Canadia without her and we were sad to part ways.

While in Shelby we visited with our friend Sandra and had a nice lunch with her and were also joined by her daughter and granddaughter, who brought a large bag of clothes for us to bring for Erabella.  After lunch we stopped by O’Haire Manor, where Robert had taken photos of the neon room lights several years earlier when our daughter Katie had her wedding in Shelby, and had become friends with the proprietress, Angela.

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Geographical Center of North America In Rugby, ND Not something we were looking for, but we’re glad we found it. Half way there?

Off we went, heading east.  By the time we hit the far eastern side of North Dakota, we could see the landscape becoming more forested.  Most of the leaves had fallen but colors were still evident as we traveled.  We spent one night in Bemidji, Minnesota in a sweet little campground nestled in the trees appropriately named Royal Oaks RV Park.  Very pleasant.  I think we could be enticed to relocate to this part of the country, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as well.  We weren’t as impressed with Wisconsin as much for some reason.  Maybe just because it’s Wisconsin.

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Tree used for example purposes only. Actual tree color may have been much more amazing than tree shown.

Oh!  In Bemidji we found some of the most delicious mocha we’ve had on the trip.  It was soooo good we decided to track down more of it while we were in Duluth, since it’s a small chain, Dunn Bros Coffee.  Well, it wasn’t quite as good at the second location but I guess it’s only going to be as good as the barista makes it.  (Male or female, they are a barista.  It’s Italian, not Spanish.  Just found this out.)

In the Northwoods, there are trees, trees, trees.  So beautiful, dark and deep, I would look out the window as Robert drove and my eyes would try to wander down the many dirt paths we passed as we rushed by.  The green pines interrupted by flashes of color from oak, larch and maple, with poplar and birch chiming in, especially as we neared Lake Michigan.

The atv we had been carrying in the back of the trailer was finally delivered in Iron Mountain, which is so close to the Wisconsin/Michigan border, I had to look up exactly which state it’s actually in (Michigan).  We spent an uncomfortably short night in the Walmart parking lot there, woke up to the low battery alarm a couple times, truckers pulling in for a snooze, and when lightning and thunder woke up Moonlight with a start, we wearily packed up and left at the next series of low power beeps.  Sans coffee, even.

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Pre-dawn Post storm Lake Michigan shoreline.

 

We drove for a few hours and found a rest stop on the shoreline of the Lake.  We took Moonlight out for a run-around on the beach then took a nap for a couple of hours, and so freshened up we started out once more.

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Big Mac

When we got to the Mackinac Bridge, it was pretty well socked in with fog but I took a couple pictures as we went over anyway, and the fog dissipated as we made our way inland towards Midland.  The foliage was stunning.  We were exhausted.  But we made it to my mom’s house, who had dinner waiting for us….and it was still hot.

Escape From Pink Mountain

Settling into a routine seemed to be going well as we traveled.  We would awaken around 7:30 and get dressed, take Moonlight for a walk, drink coffee, eat an English muffin and maybe some cereal or eggs and then pack and secure items inside the trailer for the day’s drive.  This past Saturday began no differently and we started out from where we’d spent the night at Muncho Lake.  Heading towards Fort Nelson, we kept seeing cars and trucks coated with what looked like frozen, brown slush.  We knew what it meant deep down inside but successfully ignored it until after we fueled up in Fort Nelson.  The coatings were becoming thicker and covered a little bit more of the surface of the vehicles.

As we climbed into the hills, we started rolling through patches of wet gravel that froze, quickly covering both truck and trailer with the same brown, icy mess.  We started to relax a little since we’d figured out the mystery.  We stopped for more fuel in Buckinghorse River, which had a cozy-looking cafe.  Sue said she wished we could stop and park the RV’s and have a hot meal but the Milepost indicated that there was an RV park at Pink Mountain only 30 miles away.  Why not just keep driving and stay the night there instead, says I.  I mean…what’s another 30 miles?  Plus, it’s not very late in the afternoon.  So, onward we went.

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I snapped this as dusk was falling near the Royal Lodge, for Veronica.

We had been warned about Steamboat Pass and how rotten the weather is this time of year and well into the spring, so when we successfully traversed that one we thought we were golden.  Not true.  We hit snow well about the time we got to the Royal Lodge and asked about staying the night but they had no room at the Inn, so we continued on up the mountain headed to the next available shelter, Pink Mountain Campsite.  As we toiled up the last hill approaching the campground, we lost traction but grabbed hold momentarily and crawled up a few feet before squirreling all over the road as tires found ice under the snow.  Sue, who had been behind us holding her own, was in danger of being knocked into a slide if we lost it and hit her on the way down, so I radioed her to go around us.  Robert was driving and told her not to since he was afraid he would hit her from the way the rig was skittering over the highway trying to find a tire-hold.  This moment of conflicting direction was enough to halt Sue’s forward advancement and she lost traction and stopped.  We did as well but also began to slide backwards down this freaking mountain.  Backwards.  I thought we were going to die.  There was a sudden stop as we bumped into Sue’s rig.  I’m convinced, even if Robert is not, that that is what saved us from dying in a mangled, steaming heap at the bottom of that hill.

Robert and Sue both had their feet planted on their brake pedals, any jolt could dislodge us all from where gravity and maybe a pebble had us.  We were in the middle of the highway, blocking traffic.  Not for long, though.  Cars, many pickups and semi trucks began to weave their way around us.  Most of them were oilfield workers and it was Thankgiving weekend for the Canadians, so everyone was in a hurry and we were in the way, dammit!  Finally, one guy pulled up by us and asked if we needed help and Robert explained the situation.  This man, who’s name was Adam, had a dually flatbed which he positioned in front of us and proceeded to put his chains on, slipping and sliding as he moved around his truck and back and forth to check on us and Sue.  I was terrified that we were going to get slid into by his truck as he backed up towards us to hook a chain up to us and send us back down the mountain, but nothing happened.  I prayed and kept my eyes shut tight as he pulled us about 750 feet up to the top of the hill and into the campground parking lot.  That’s how close we were to the top!  Adam was going back down to get Sue when we heard her on the radio saying she had just been hit by a semi.  Thank god she hadn’t been sent crashing down but she had been sideswiped and had damage.

When Adam towed her to where Robert and I were at the top, we saw that her awning had been broken and was half hanging down towards the ground, she had a busted window and the aluminum rain gutter crimped over the top of her side door rendering the door useless, among various other damage.  Robert secured spots for us to spend the night at the campground and I walked Moonlight around to where I guessed we would be parking.  The snow was deep, I was having a little trouble walking it but this wasn’t registering.  So when we drove along to find our spots, we got stuck in the snow, ice and mud that made up this campground driveway.  Robert went to find a manager or maintenance person and came back with good news and bad news:  the good news was that they weren’t going to charge us for the night’s stay, bad news was that the maintenance guy wouldn’t be in until morning.  We had power cords snaked out to where we had become mired by the camp worker, and we were just glad to be alive and warm for the night.

Truck stuck in muck.
Truck stuck in muck.

In the morning we had a visit from Wade and Joey, who were up for the challenge of trying to pull us out.  Wade is the tall, thin Head of Maintenance for Pink Mountain Campsites and Joey was a not so tall and not so thin oilfield water truck operator.  After a few tries and a huge bump, Babe and The Electric Igloo were free!  We had gotten our hindquarter hung up on a stack of logs, which made it pretty much impossible to get ourselves clear of.  They towed us up to the high point of the park and we eased our way down to the front parking lot, where we had mustered the night before.  Soon, Sue joined us, and we set to the task of making her rig roadworthy again mostly by removing parts and stopping up the airflow through her window.  Also, Robert and I were starting to think our pipes may have frozen during the course of the cold night.

Robert with Joey and Wade, two awesome Canadians.
Robert with Joey and Wade, two awesome Canadians.

We got underway and were very happy to find the road no longer slick with ice, but had warmed to wet slush once more.  Not wanting to tax ourselves or the RV’s we had a short day and I called ahead to see if the Northern Lights RV Park was open, which they were not, but since they lived there and had had their Thanksgiving dinner the day before, they would keep an eye open for us after we found dinner.  We stopped for pizza and went to find the park, and what a park!  So clean, not too big and not too small but just right…Goldilocks style.  The one rule that was most strictly admonished was no outside shoes allowed in the washroom area.  Because it is clean.  The cleanest public style restroom and laundry I have ever seen, ever.  It was worth every penny and the plentiful hot water helped to sooth our feelings about the previous night’s adventures so much that we stayed to recuperate for two nights.  The roads were fully dry and safe today.  There is heat, there is food, Robert fixed our water, we are okay once more.

Now, that's a NICE bathroom!
Now, that’s a NICE bathroom!

 

Babe and The Electric Igloo

It has been my tradition to name my vehicles, and this history goes back to the first truck I ever bought which was a 1973 Chevy Blazer I named Stoopid.  He was lifted.  He was primer gray.  He was a beater but had power, he sounded great but you had to start him with a screwdriver.  Next was a maroon 1993 Ford Escort who I named Cula.  I really learned to love driving a stick with that one, she got me out of lots of ditches.  She got me into them too, but mostly out of.  Then there was Suby Sage, my Outback who got me all around Alabama and up to New Jersey to visit family and finally all the way across the United States and up the AlCan to Alaska.  That was the best car ever and when she started getting tired and her transmission was going, I got a brand new Subaru, Tesseract.  In the book, A Wrinkle in Time, the tesseract was described as being the shortest distance between two points….actually, no distance.  That’s how zippy this car is.

To be totally honest, they usually name themselves and so I’ve been waiting for the right incidence or characteristic to make itself known in regards to the truck and trailer we now live in.  The trailer is a pretty damn long one and it is heavy, especially with an extra large atv in the back that we’re transporting for someone.  So you know the truck that has to pull it is a beast.  And it’s blue.  So I named him Babe the blue ox…of course.  The trailer took just a little while longer to name, but finally a couple of days into our trip it came to me.  The Electric Igloo.  Because, it’s snug, warm and from Alaska.  And white.  With the Christmas lights.  Hells yeah.

Right after I named them and said it out loud, we hit an extreme patch of frost heaves and rotten dips, causing a bolt to rip out of the wood attaching the body of the trailer to the frame.  This caused the body to lift up and spew wood chips at every successive dip and lift in the road, which also caused Robert to determine our trip was over the more debris fell onto the road.  Thankfully, we did some mindful breathing exercises (Breathe in slowly, then on the exhale say fuuuuuuuck iiiiit. It’s very Zen.) and stopped to assess the damage, which wasn’t a show stopper thank goddess, then continued on.

Muncho Lake, British Columbia
Muncho Lake, British Columbia

I think that we have gotten past the worst of the frost heaves and can now relax a little, except for the many hills we still need to navigate, but even they will give way to more moderate terrain in the next day or two.  Today we spent some time at Liard Hot Springs and if you ever have the chance, I recommend it.  Although, we were so relaxed afterwards, it was all we could do to get to Muncho Lake and get a spot to park at the lodge here.  It’s been a few days since we’d taken showers and even though we enjoyed the steaming waters of the hot springs, it’s even nicer not smelling like sulfur after taking a shower.  5 minutes for only a dollar (Canadian Loonie)!  And they have wifi and ice cream, all served by people with lovely French accents.  I might even dream about today, it was that good.

Tok-in

We two. Thank you to Yael Hickok for being our photographer!
We two. Thank you to Yael Hickok for being our photographer!



We got a little bit of a late start leaving this morning and it’s not my fault, not this time. I’ll blame it on the blanket I bought yesterday. Yeah.

Okay, so several nights ago we had woken up chilled after running our propane out during the night. (Because when you run out of propane it’s going to be in the middle of the night, right?!) The vents were blowing frigid air from about 2am when we groggily got up and just shut off the system, then until about 5:30 we tossed and turned and shivered but were too sleepy to actually get up and DO anything about it. I woke up with an amazing title for this choice piece of fun, “The Wool is Not Enough”, but I got too ferociously busy in preparation for the start of this trip to write it.

But really, wool is what we have on the bed, along with flannel sheets. Talk about cozy. The only thing is, is that the bed is about a queen size and the blankets are twin so I laid them across the bed sideways. The only thing about THAT is, when you’re huddling under the blankets and drawing the top edge within comfort range of your chin, your feet are simultaneously exposed. No. Thank you.  I made it a part of my to do list to buy a real, full/queen sized blanket, which I did. Whew! One thing!

We were so warm and so comfortable this morning that we stayed put for at least an hour longer than we planned to, but we still managed to NOT forget the rice, silverware, oatmeal, a load of laundry, dog treats, dog leash or my shoes. Seriously, I almost forgot all that stuff. I made sure I had that blanket though, by god.

Robert and I had sad goodbyes with Veronica, Gabe and puppy Hugo, then our next door neighbor, Glen, stopped by with a farewell packet of his smoked salmon as we settled into the Excursion. We waved. Robert pulled us out of the driveway; Moonlight standing midway into the front seat and I still waving at my daughter. So grown up. A few minutes out of town, we stopped to say hi-bye to Yael in Chugiak on our way out, and she met us with fresh squeezed apple juice and big smiles. I had made her a little winged horse and gave it to her but forgot to give her a box of rocks we had intended for her son so now they’re coming on the trip with us. I hope they’re good traveling companions.

Somewhere on the Glenn Highway between Sutton and Glenallen
Somewhere on the Glenn Highway between Sutton and Glenallen

After a day of driving we bought fuel in Glenallen and again here in Tok, then had ourselves excellent burgers and fries at a place called Fast Eddie’s. Fun fact: I have a cousin who goes by the same name. No shit! He’s a DJ. We drove around for a while trying to find an open campground and after trying a couple of possibilities with no luck, we were directed to the Sourdough Campground. Hurray! We backtracked down the road a little and found that no one was home, but the light was on. Robert went to see what the sign on the locked door said and found a stack of site maps and an envelope in which to fill out some info and put cash money in. We picked out a spot, which was the very best spot in the the place since we were the only patrons….so far. We’re expecting our friend from the rock club (Chugach Gem and Mineral Society) to meet up with us tonight and we’ll all continue on together in the morning. We two and our doggy Moonlight and Sue with her three cats.

There was a burger here.
There was a burger here.

In the meantime, we’re in Tok, Alaska. And I’m not going to spend the evening in Tok, Alaska without doing just that. 😉