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Alaska 1988

This was writting in July '88 and I present it pretty much as I sent it back then. Reading it over, YIKES - but it is what it is. It was a drive from San Antonio to Alaska in an old van. Trey and Tad were two teens from Brownsville, TX that I got to know from the parish. They were quite the adventurers.

July 1988

Dear All;

After such a really neat trip, a trip of a life-time, it is rather difficult to sit and write individually to each one of you about all the goings-on of that very extraordinary month.    The problem is furthered by the fact that so many of you have asked about the trip.    In order to satisfy your curiosity and for me to put it all together as cleary as I can, I am writing this here FORM LETTER.    I don't like them either, but it is the only real route open to me, so I hope you will bear with me.    As you read this,  please realize that these are MY recollections and impressions, I am sure that Tad and Trey (my travelling partners) would make revisions and changes.

Another point worth noting is that this is also a chance for me to learn this new computer that has been made available to me. There may be all sorts of mistakes as I am sort of a learn as you go type. Let's all hope it goes well...

Thanks, and I hope it is at least somewhat interesting for you (if not, throw it away). - Jef

DAY 1    JUNE 3. 1988

We left San Antonio at 6:10 a.m. Friday morning. We had planned this as a hard day of driving and it certainly was.    I had decided to give up both my massive Diet Coke addiction as well as cigarettes.    Well, half way thru the days driving, Tad and Trey both decided that I would be better giving up one or the other.    I suppose my nervous twitching, edginess and out-bursts had something to do with their decision, but I am not altogether certain.   Anyway, I decided to hang on to the greater evil and bought a pack of cigarettes as soon as I had their "permission''. The plan was that I would give up the one first and then move on to the second, this plan failed miserably as I am still smoking, but I am a much calmer person for it.   One other decision made during the day was that the "the fine art of conversation" was somewhat lacking in our little trio, and that would be one other thing that would be re-learned during the month; and actually, by the end of the trip we were quite proficient in it... just one more success of a highly successful trip.

At some point during the days drive, the guys decided that they would like to drive all the way to Alaska and just get
there.    By the time I realized what their plan was, I corrected them rather sternly, and so we decided to find a camping spot someplace in Colorado.   This was also the day when we would have our one encounter with the highway patrol   of this great land when Trey, during his driving shift was-stopped by an officer in Walsenberg, Colo. for speeding.    Luckily we were not presented with a speeding citation.

After looking around for it, we finally found a camping space at Lake Pueblo, Colo. outside of Pueblo at about 9:00p.m..
This first nite under the stars will not soon be forgotten by any of us I am sure.    The tent we were attempting to put together had a broken pole and that took us several hours, lots of tape, patience, re-stringing of wire, flashlights, lanterns, etc. before we finally decided that it could not be repaired and so we had best put it up the best we could... which we did.  

With a lot of frustration in our eyes, frayed nerves and travel weary butts, we then settled down to a very late dinner of peanut butter sandwiches.    The final thought in everyones head at the time we settled down to sleep was "Please God, don't let it all be like this the whole month". But, were were not yet att he end of our trials as we soon discovered that three people in an ill-erectred tent (probably intended for no more than 2 people anyway) was not extremely comfortable; add to this my and Trey's tendency to move a lot in our sleep... well, we finally got to sleep anyway.


DAY 2    SAT. JUNE 4

We were up and at 'em by 6:00 a.m. and after packing up, complaining about the knees that had planted themselves in our backs and the drop in temperature, we were on the road by 6:50. Everybody seemed to have gotten over the discouragements of the day before and spirits were fairly high.    Today we decided to be a bit more sensible and not drive as far or as hard, thus allowing us some hours in the evening to relax and enjoy ourselves.    Nothing real eventful about the drive.    We stopped at the Custer Battlefield National Monument on the Little Bighorn River near Hardin, Montana.    Quite an instructional visit, with a very interesting museum and description of the Campaign of 1876
against the Sioux and Cheyenne indians; and of course of the Battle of Little Bighorn where Custer and men met their fate.    We spent several hours there before heading into Hardin and that nights camp-spot at a KOA campground at about 7:00pm.

The campground was nice, though not quite what we wanted (we tried to find a place on the river, but were told it was illegal). Apparently a lot of the land along the river was owned by the local indians who held the fishing rights as well.    The compensation though, provided by the "civilized'' campground included showers, a pool and jacuzzi.

Trey and I went bike-riding in the area, down along the river and into the small town. One interesting sight we ran into
was a group of natives who were hand-building what looked like a sort of amphitheater from wood, with some interesting gardens that were in the shape of indian designs.

That night was spent in greater comfort, as we decided to use the tent that I had brought along.    Knees and shifting were still a problem, but at least the tent was a bit bigger and I believe that we all slept a little easier that night, or at least it looked that way in the morning.

MILES FOR THE DAY =  656      TOTAL MILES =  1526      ON THE ROAD 12 HRS.


 We were on the road by 6:30 this morning, we made a stop to buy groceries, crossed the Canadian border and camped at Cochrane, Alberta at about 7:00 pm.    We managed to get through Canadian customs without any problems.    Simply crossing the border was a rather big lift to morale and spirits (which really  had not been bad at all since making it through the first day and night); but somehow it all seemed more possible since leaving the U.S..    There was some very slow going in Calgary because of the amount of traffic.    Trey made the going a bit easier as he pointed out some of the sights that he had seen on a prior visit to Banff, including the direction of the Saddle-dome and the location of the Olympic events.    This led to a discussion between him and Tad on various sports topics, thus losing me.    Cochrane is about 20 miles west of Calgary and about 40 miles east of  Banff.    Near Cochrane is the Stoney Indian Reserve where several movies have been filmed, including one of my favorites - "Little Big Man".

Our campsite was a free one, located at the edge of the town near a lumber mill and overlooking the Ghost River.    After
setting up the tent, Trey and I went bicycling where we experienced what would be the first of many treks uphill, fortunately though the later trips would come easier than did this one as we slowly conditioned ourselves.

It was quite chilly that evening, and their was mist in the air which would eventually turn into rain during the night.    We
had our first hot camp food that night... generic stew.    You would have thought I was serving up a gourmet steak dinner the way the guys wolfed it down, but I suppose since we had been eating sandwiches up to this point, it is understandable.    Tad and Trey were then introduced to a skill at which they soon became rather proficient... dishwashing.    Roles were being established and it looked as though all would go smoothly.    We settled into our tent for the night, and during the course of the night we learned one other lesson.... leaning against the side of a tent that was being rained upon allows the water to enter and the sleeping bags make nice sponges... but we didn't notice until
we woke up anyway and so we had a good nights sleep.

MILES FOR THE DAY =   627      TOTAL MILES =  2153      ON THE ROAD 11 HRS

DAY 4        MON., JUNE 6
I woke up and explored our camp area a bit more as the other two slept.    Upon my tour of the toilets, I discovered to my great joy that although this was a free camp-ground and rather primitive... there were hot showers available.    After bathing and changing clothes, I woke up the others who also cleaned themselves (did I see a tear of joy clouding Tad's eye when I announced the existence of the shower ??) and we were on the road by 8:00.

 We arrived in Banff 45 minutes later.    We did a little touring of the town after discovering that the bank was not yet open (I had refused to change my watch and so we were 2-3 hours ahead of everyone else throughout the trip).    After changing the money, we decided that a little mountain climbing was in order. The target of our ascent was Mt. Rundle - 2,999 meters tall (about 9,896 feet).    Here, the guys learned another lesson... backpacks can be very heavy.    The ascent was made along an already established path, which towards the end became very very steep and we found ourselves stopping to catch our breath quite often.    Tad, at his insistence, was soon left behind to catch his breath and let his knees have a break while Trey and I continued to the top... which we got to.    It was really very nice, and at times the clouds opened up and we were granted some very beautiful sights of the area below.    We drank from waterfalls caused by springs and melting snow, and made a minor attempt at some rock climbing, but were too exhausted to do any real strenuous climbing.    After spotting some animals (badger?) we went down, caught up with Tad and found that going down such a steep incline can be as difficult as going up ... quite often we were running down due to gravity's gentle pull. We arrived back at the van in about 6 hours.    In fact when we made the mandatory check-in back at the ranger office, they were quite surprised to see us up and down so quickly, as the expected time was at least 8 hours.  I guess not many Texans make the trip.

We left the town of Banff and camped that night at Cline River, still within the National Forest.    It was such a nice
night, that we did not bother to put the top on the tent, a mistake we did not repeat throughout the rest of the trip, as the
rain that fell that night met no resistance in entering our tent. It was at this particular camp-site that we took the first of what would be many baths in freezing river/lake waters where we would jump in, get wet, jump out and soap down, jump out and dry off /thaw.   Loads of excitement there, and quite often a real wake-up type of experience.

MILES FOR THE DAY = 183      TOTAL MILES =  2336      ON THE ROAD 3 HRS.


We were very wet by 4:00 am and scrambled into the van where we tried to make ourselves comfortable and get the rest of our sleep - but this wa not to be.   After about 30 minutes of that foolishness, we decided to pack up and get on the road... sleep was not coming anyway.

We were on the road by 4:45 with wet tent and soaked sleeping bags sprawled throughout the van.    Another lesson that was learned during the Canadian part of our trip was that gasoline is expensive there ... although we did not yet know the worst of it.    We drove on into British Columbia, going through Jasper National Park and on into Burns Lake, B.C. where we camped at Ethel F. Wilson Memorial Provincial Park (who Ethel is is anybodies' guess).   It is located on the shores of Decker Lake, and all the firewood was wet.   One nice thing about the Canadian campgrounds is that they provide already cut wood for the campers' use... but today the wood was wet and after half a bottle of lighter fluid, lots of paper, plenty of huffing and puffing, and finally a woodstarter type of paraffin that I carried we did get a fire started.    We explored the local river, saw plenty of fish, but caught nothing.    Included in the campground were some things that we would soon become very familiar with... mosquitoes.

Because we were all so damp, and the fight for fire, I decided that a treat was in order - for supper we had spaghetti
and meat sauce.    Luckily we ate early enough so that when it started raining again, we had only to wash the dishes.    Bellies full, tent sort of dried out thanks to the gas lanterns we had, we settled down to sleep, but again, three people in the tent made it hard NOT to lean against the side, tho we did not get as soaked as before.



DAY 6     WED., JUNE 8    

We woke up this day to find ourselves still somewhat damp, tho not too disturbed by it... I think we were getting used to _ the fact or idea that we would be wet quite often.    We left the camp with the intention of driving as far as Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.

The rain remained with us throughout the day, and what a day it was.    It was this part of the trip that we encountered theinfamous unpaved portion of the Alcan Hwy.    The highway itself was built in 1942 in a mere 9 months as a wartime measure by the U.S. Army engineers.    After the war, the Canadian Army took over the Canadian portion of the hwy., until they started paving it, it was known as one of the world's finest gravel highways.    The paving of the entire hwy. is about 85% completed, but that remaining 15% is really hell.

It is about a 275 mile stretch of winding, hilly, pot-holed dirt road.    Although quite drivable, in order to avoid hitting the holes too hard, there was no way to go more than 45-50 miles an hr. - which makes it a very long 275 miles.    We were slowed even further by the fact that it was raining, and the mud that was kicked up at times blocked our vision completely. Drivers are required to have their headlights on and for good reason.. if not for the lights I am sure there would be hourly headons and back-ending.    We seemed to be doing all right, and really the major problem was again the price of gas.    Of course, I needed to re-fuel in the middle of this stretch of muddy hell, and it was there that I learned a deep lesson about supply and demand as I forked over about 90 Canadian dollars for a single 30 gallon tank of gas (even at the exchange rate of 1.20 to 1.00, this was still astronomical in my books).

We did finally make it over that stretch and I am sure that the three of us were anxiously looking forward to a good nights sleep, I know the tension in my back and arms from the drive were killing me, and we were anticipating a nice hot meal, talking about it as tho we hadn't eaten in weeks.    Well, by the time we got to the Watson Lake cut-off, the rain had become more intense, and none of us really felt like setting up a tent in the rain, or even stopping in it... so we pulled off the hwy., made sandwiches, and decided "what the heck, let's go to Alaska"... off we went, the guys getting as much sleep as they could to relieve one another in the drivers' seat... and so we went on.


Our drive continued.... and continued .... and continued. We made it to the Alaskan border, gave our litany of ''no's" to the authorities in response to their questions about fire-arms, knives, weapons, explosives, etc.    Each of these border stops became sort of a mini-adventure for Tad who had forgotten his proof of citizenship, last year when he and I had gone into Canada we had troubles about the same thing and so at each border we became concerned as to whether Tad would go on with us or take a bus back... luckily, we never had to make that decision.

One of the oddities that we soon became rather at-horne with was that we never quite had night.    We were now far enough North to be experiencing the Mid-nite sun.    It would get to be like dusk, but never fully without sunlight.

I pulled over into the first campsite that we carne upon, a little place alongside a lake.  Tad and I looked it over, started to get comfortable  (Trey was asleep having just completed his stint at the wheel) and then naively decided there were too many mosquitoes and so we would find another.

Since the next campsite was only 15-20 minutes from Delta Jet., we decided to go there first and see what the information center had to offer us.    It was a very nice Info. Center and Trey and I bought some souvenirs as well as a camping permit.    We then went to a campground called Camp Clearwater.    We explored a bit, Trey and I put about 26 miles on our bicycles (felt so good to stretch those muscles), we ate and retired rather early, with full sun at 11:00 p.m.

MILES FOR THE DAY(S) = 1419    TOT. MILES = 4275    ON THE ROAD 30.5 HRS.  


We spent the day resting up and not doing too much.    We explore the lake area, threw rocks at various things, skipped   stones, etc.    I had gotten up earlier than the others and so I took my bike out for a 30 mile stretch.    The day ended with dinner and shooting the bull, and we settled down to a very good sleep without incident.    By this time I had become fed up with the complaints about my sleep habits, so I began sleeping in the other tent, really very comfortable... for veryone, and a lot less complaints.


We broke camp and left Clearwater at about 8:30 in the morning.    We drove only 72 miles in about 2.5 hrs.    We were able to see parts of the Alaskan pipe-line.    We chose campsites on the basis of the nearest phone (Trey had promised to call his parents) and so we ended up at Harding Lake at about 11:00 that morning.    It is 40 miles east of Fairbanks.    Quite a nice campground.    Trey and I biked some more, and basically we just sort of chilled out, built a fire and enjoyed one another.

This entire route, once we entered Alaska was filled with trees and wildlife.    Trees were thick on either side of the road, with occasional side dirt roads going here and there (quite a few of them logging roads).    On our various bike rides, Trey and I would try to find exciting I challenging routes, which was really not too difficult.


We remained at Harding Lake for the day, and did some more exploring.    There was a "beach" of sorts at one end of the camp­ ground.    It was rather ugly and reed filled, and at the end of the public land there were posted more "keep-off'' and "no trespassing" signs than I have ever seen before.    Being the law­ abiding citizens that we are, we obeyed (besides, there really wasn't much beyond the signs to be attracted to anyway.

Tad needed some sleep and did not like walking through the rather wet and weedy tundra that lay at the shore of the lake (no ( snakes in Alaska, thank God), and so Trey and I took off on a hike across the Tundra to the woods.    I managed to completely turn him around a bit and we continued our hike as far as we could until we ran into a cabin in the middle of nowhere and parked beside it was an old paddle-wheel boat that was in great need of many repairs.    It was a sight worth seeing.

Back at camp we sat around and started to entertain ourselves.    We did this by throwing stones at a sign, the first
one hitting it so many times was declared winner, we then tried to see who could get their rocks in a certain drain-pipe, after that we decided to throw (I mean toss) them at one another.    One of us would sit on a designated stump, the first one to hit our living target 5 times, the other thrower would take his place as target.    This went on until my third or fourth turn as target, then we decided that we had had enough.

After dinner, the guys went off for a walk, I did some biking.    The guys got involved with Baptist group who were
playing baseball, and they seemed to have really enjoyed themselves.     After we were together again, we decided to go play horseshoes.  I taught them the basic rules as well as I could remember them and the guys soundly trounced me.    A full day for all.


DAY 11     MONDAY, JUNE 13

We left Harding Lake at 8:30 am (remember all times are in Texan =   3 hours ahead of Alaskan time), and headed to Fairbanks where we planned on doing laundry, shopping, sightseeing, and I had to get two new back tires.

We arrived in Fairbanks an hour later, and nothing was yet open.    While waiting for the laundromat to open Trey and I decided it would be a good day for a warm breakfast.    Tad, all through the trip did an awful lot of sleeping, it was not unusual for me to wake the two up at camp and then watch Tad stumble from the tent, sleeping bag in hand, throw himself on the back seat of the van and fall soundly to sleep for the duration of the drive... leaving Trey and I to break camp, get our things together and do the driving.    We often kidded Tad that we had stopped here or there for a hamburger, for donuts, what ever. Well, this time we were not kidding.    We made a feeble attempt at waking him up, and then went into the restaurant where we ate sweet rolls and potatoes.    I kept looking out at the van, figuring Tad would eventually wake up and join us ... he never did.    We paid our tab, got a receipt as proof of the stop and went to the laundromat.    Tad was none too pleased when we finally convinced him of what had happened.    We did our laundry, stuffing the machines beyond decent reason, fought about whose sox were whose and then took the van to get tires put on. While that was happening we decided to walk through the city.

Our first stop was the tourist center, where Trey accused me of moving in on the pretty tour guide who he was sure was making a move on him.

Fairbanks is not a huge city (pop. 22,600) and is located near the geographical center of Alaska.    We decided to take part of the walking tour of the city.    We ended the walking tour in Alaskaland - a pioneer theme park (no rides, unless you count the swings that we amused ourselves on).    The park is filled with turn-of-the-century  structures, as well as the railroad car used by President Harding, the sternwheeler "Nenana'', a pioneer museum, a replica indian village as well as a replica gold mining operation.    Most all the buildings served as tourist shops of one sort or another and it was here that we did quite a bit of shopping.

After the van was ready we then went to the University of Alaska, went to a reindeer & musk-ox wildlife preserve.     We
camped that night at Chena River some 26 miles east of Fairbanks.

MILES FOR THE DAY =  112    TOT. MILES =  4459


This campground had more mosquitoes than we had yet experienced.    We decided that today would be a good day for a hike and for some rope work if everything went well.    The trail we chose was called the Granite Tors trail (a tor is a rock out­ cropping from a mountain).    It was a 3,000 foot climb that included a goodly portion of the trail made up of a wooden walkway over most of the wet tundra that was a result of the many springs along the way as well as the melting of the snow.    We made it to the top where we did some rock climbing.    One of the thrills of this particular hike was to have several jets pass right over us, close enough to see the pilot in the cockpit. I chose a particular out-cropping, about 50 foot tall, tied off my ropes and proceeded to show the guys the basics of rapelling.    It was a real adventure for the both of them, Trey showed himself to be quickly adept at it, Tad lacked some strength and so I was too scared to let him try more than once. I now know what the guy must have felt like who taught me to do this, as Trey went up and down the rock, soon becoming quite capable of fixing his own harness and brakes.    It is really an incredible feeling to watch the faces light up at a skill learned, of overcoming the initial fears and find it replaced only by excitement and joy.    I think I enjoyed it as much as either one of them tho I only went down twice (they wouldn't give me a turn).    Finally, I got Trey to give up the rope, we packed up and walked back down, trying to remember as many military cadence songs as we could, but not doing terribly well with them. We returned to our campsite, the fire burning in the eyes of the other guys, they would want to do this again, but unfortunately, we never did.

DAY 13  WED., JUNE 15

We left Chena River at 9:10 am heading for Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park.    The park itself covers 9,375 square miles of forest, lakes, snowcapped peaks and vari-colored tundra.    It is really a beautiful sight.    Camping was expensive, since it was not a state park it cost us 10.00 per night.    We had hoped to climb up some of the way of McKinley, but we were told that too many people had died this year already (I guess they had reached this years quota).  One interesting tid-bit of conversation overheard between two rangers included "that grizzly followed the girl from here to here <pointing at map>" "maybe it was the same one that followed the woman yesterday".

The day was misty and cloudy, but luckily, before the clouds set in we were granted one very spectacular view of the peak of McKinley.    The Athapaskan indians called the mountain "Denali"<the high one>, and it has two peaks, the highest one being the South Peak (20,320 ft.) and the North Peak which is only 19,470 feet. Well, we would not be allowed to climb it, but at least we could be near it.

On the way to our campground we saw quite a bit of wildlife, including big-horn (Dall) sheep, moose,elk, and Trey had a face to face encounter with a couple of Caribou.    We had seen the one caribou off the road and so I pulled over a bit further up the road so Trey could get out and photograph it.    He was busily focusing in on the one, when to his surprise another made its way out of the trees and steadily approached him.    He silently walked away from it and then sprinted to the van, I hope he got good pictures for his efforts.    After settling on a campsite, Trey and I did some bike riding, all of it uphill, although we felt as tho we might, it did not kill us, another challenge conquered.

It was Tad's birthday the next day, and in order to celebrate the event we had bought hamburger meat.    Just as we
decided it was time to start cooking, the skies decided to drizzle. Showing a great deal of ingenuity, Trey cooked the burgers via a tin-foil cover over the meat as I tried to fry potatoes.    A great meal, followed by a pint of blackberry brandy.    We sat and sipped on the bottle in the van (having moved the bikes outside... deciding to sleep inside that night) not going to bed until about l AM.    A good day, and a happy birthday for Tad.

 •   MILES FOR THE DAY =  194     TOT. MILES =  4680


To complete the birthday celebration, we left camp at 9 am and went to a local restaurant where we had sourdough pancakes and reindeer sausage.      Very good, and with an all-you-can-eat deal, I'm afraid I over did it a bit on the pancakes.  After breakfast we headed toward the Alaskan coast and the city of Anchorage.      The city is rather compact and really pretty neat. It has a population of about 173,000 and is as far west as the Hawaiian Islands and as far north as Helsinki, Finland.      It is home to more than half of the states entire population (this includes the suburbs) of 400,500 people.

We did a lot of souvenir shopping and looking around, the guys called home and we ate at a Chinese restaurant in town.

From Anchorage we went to Chugachi State Park near the Portage glacier and the town of Eklunta.    We camped near a
glacier lake that was absolutely beautiful, mountains all around and the glacier peaks quite visible.    There was a youth group there who were playing in the icy waters of a run-off river, throwing water at each other.    At some point one of the adult leaders must have taken a fall, as his head was covered in blood, others were giving him mouth-to-mouth and the children were being herded away from the scene.    We arrived about 8:30p.m., made camp, ate, looked around and went to bed.



MILES FOR THE DAY =   259    TOT. MILES =  5005


We left the camp at 10:45 in the morning. We made a stop at Thunderbird Falls.    A very beautiful waterfall, unfortunately Tad decided to sleep through this.    He also slept through our small visit to Eklutna where we visited the Russian Orthodox Church there and the grave yard containing the Indian Spirit Houses. These colorful houses are part of the Athabascan Indian tradition and culture in this region.    According to custom when an Orthodox Indian is buried, the family places a new blanket over the grave, which is given instead of flowers.    A cross is immediately placed at the foot of the grave signifying his being an Orthodox Christian.    On the 40th day the family erects a ''spirit house" atop the grave; painting it in traditional colors unique to each family.    The shape and design of each house is at the discretion of the family.    Normally it was the custom of family members to visit the grave on various anniversaries and bring a bowl of rice mixed with honey and raisins.    The church itself was built about 100 years ago and is a log structure.

On the road to Tok, we also stopped and saw the Matanuska Glacier, where we got some very nice photographs.    We camped that night at Porcupine Creek some 70 miles from Tok.


We left Porcupine Creek at 10:45 am.    We passed through Tok for the second time (the first time being on our way into Alaska).    It is a very small village located some 54 miles from the border and is a trade center for the natives.    Some claim that the name of the town derives from a native word meaning "peace crossing''; others insist that the village was originally called Tokyo and shortened to Tok during World War II.

We arrived at Deadman Lake at 2:30 that afternoon.. The trip was made quite long by the amount of road construction that we encountered along the way.    After establishing camp, Trey and I did some more bike riding and I nearly had a face to face with a rather large brown bear.    He and I were bicycling along and making small talk when all of a sudden he put on the speed and yelled "bear".    I thought he was kidding and so when I turned my head and saw that it was true, I exclaimed "for real" and for whatever reason turned my bike towards it.    After yelling at me another time or two, Trey convinced me to turn around, but all I could think of was where was my camera.    On the route back to camp I wa chased by a vicious horsefly, with my swatting at it and trying to keep my balance on the bike, I'm sure it was a
rather comical scene.

It was our last nite in Alaska, and I had planned a nice meal and all, but the rain that started decided to thwart those
plans.    So, we put the bikes outside, tried to make space for sleeping and then settled back with a half-pint of blackberry brandy.       I was tired and tried to go to sleep, the guys decided to check out a party in the next campsite and returned several hours later, drenched.    I guess I must have worried Tad a bit, because as he tried to move me over to make room for his sleeping bag, I apparently swatted at him with my arm, but they settled me down and we all got some sleep.

MILES FOR THE DAY =  128    TOT. MILES =  5391


DAY 17  SUN. JUNE 19

We left the camp at 6:45 am.   We were stopped at the border and had the van searched.    I couldn't blame the officers too much.     We looked rather seedy with our three week growth of facial hair, the van was a mess, and it was about 4 am their time.    Trey had fallen asleep on the back seat wearing only the bottom half of his rather colorful long-johns and the officers would not permit him to get dressed before disembarking.    So, we stood out in the 50 degree cool air as they searched through our bags    (including... yeech.. dirty clothes bags and decided that we could continue on our way.
We drove to Watson Lake again, but could not find the campground we had intended to go to, so after an hours search we decided it was time for another marathon of driving and go back to Burns Lake.

This meant travelling the un paved portion of hi-way again. This time there was no rain, but the dust was just as bad as the mud. I might mention at this point that never, in my life have I seen as many mobile homes as I did on this trip both in and out of Alaska.      Apparently it has really become one of THE places for the owners of these vehicles to travel to.      I don't know how all them elderly people put up with the rigors of such a trip, but they seemed to fare rather well.      This drive, like the entirety of the trip was filled by my constant search for a clear radio station.      I am a great fan of talk radio, and introduced the other two to the joys of the same.      We caught several radio dramas, learned about different kinds of corn, about the economic summit, so on and so on.      The only problem was that with all the hills and valleys, radio reception was rather poor and on this unpaved portion, there was nothing at all, but this did not discourage me from looking for a station every 15 or 20 minutes. When the guys got tired of my news/talk shows, they slipped on their walkmens and listened to tapes.

We arrived in South Hazelton, B.C. about 5:30 in the morning about 50 miles beyond empty on our gas tank.     No gas stations were yet open, so we pulled into the parking lot of one and slept about 2 1/2 hrs.   We got to Burns Lake about 12:30 that afternoon and the guys immediately headed for the river where they nearly caught some fish the last time we were there.   About an hour later, they returned to the camp with 5 grayling fish that they had caught.     I gave them a fish cleaning lesson, and they proceeded to work on the animals without a whole lot of relish. That chore finished, I then cooked the fish for them and they settled down to a fish feast.   they told me they were good, but I don't eat fish so I took them at their word.

We swam very BRIEFLY in the lake, bathed and then got some sleep.    

MILES FOR THE DAY(S) = 1332    TOT. MILES =   6722    ON THE ROAD 30 HRS

DAY 19    TUES., JUNE 21

Left camp about 6:15 in the a.m..   We stopped in the town of Hope, B.C.    We looked around the town a bit, found very little of interest and had dinner at a German restaurant.   We camped that nite at Skagit Valley Provincial Park.    Trey spent a bit more than he had originally thought, and after quite a time convincing him that he did know where his money was spent, we went bike riding.    As usual, there were quite a few hills and inclines to be tackled, which we did for a while and then returned to camp to eat and sleep.   We also changed a front tire that was getting flat.


DAY 20    WED., JUNE 22
We left Skagit Valley at 8:30 that morning.    When we crossed the border, the officers asked my name, I told them, they claimed that they "had been expecting me" and let us pass through, no further questions asked.    We made a brief stop in Bellingham, Wash. in order to get a new front tire.    While we were having the tire put on we took a small walking tour of the city.

After getting the tire we then continued driving until we stopped at Wanatchee Nat'l Forest in Washington about 4:00 pm. This is an area filled with gold mines.    I biked about 20 miles and went thru a small mining town that was filled with mining equipment, much of it made of wood and at least 75 years old.

There were huge trees at our campsite, and it was here that we had the GRAND NATIONAL SPRITE BOTTLE "HANG TIME" CONTEST , in which Trey walked away as world champion.   It started out as a counting of "hang time" for a sprite bottle that we would toss in the air.   we soon discovered that if we tossed it into the trees, the branches would prevent it from hitting the ground too soon and the time would be increased.   Trey eventually won the contest and the trophy (the game bottle mounted on a stick, which he later burned in the campfire).    After establishing his abilities with the soda bottle, we settled down to a hot meal of instant oatmeal, took a bath and went to bed.

I tried to make several calls to my aunt Louise in Idaho with hopes of being invite to her house for a day or so, but calling every 2 hours got no answer, tried to devise alternative plans in case I never reached her.



MILES FOR THE DAY = 312      TOT. MILES = 7619


We left Wanatachee at 8:30 in the morning, stopping every two hours or so to try to contact my aunt.    We finally arrived at the crossroads where we would either go see my aunt or the alternative plan - Yellowstone Park.    Well, our luck was good, my aunt had just stepped in the house as the phone was ringing and she insisted that we come and be fed.     My aunt had been unreachable because she and my uncle had been out camping for the first part of the week... trying out their new mobile camper.

We drove into Sandpoint, Idaho, arriving at my aunts' at about 2:30 p.m.    She invited us to spend the night, and would
have thought God himself had spoken as visions of a hot meal, hot shower, warm bed, and television danced before the minds eye of Tad and Trey.    All expectations were met.

Sandpoint is a tourist - ski town with a beautiful lake and beach.  We did a walking tour of the city (after downing a glass of home-made rhubarb wine the walk became mandatory to clear our senses) our big stop being at the mall located on the bridge crossing the river in town.    There was, much too my delight and surprise a GREAT Norwegian store in that mall, and I promptly set about spending way too much money on cook-books, pewter images, tee-shirts, caps, joke books, bumper stickers, preserves, etc. It was wonderful and the guys thought I had really lost my senses, which I had but that was alright too.

After the mall we took in the sights along the beach, especially the softer sights.    The guys thought it necessary to
remind me of my priestly vocation, I reminded them that window­ shopping wasn't bad... only the purchasing.

That evening, back at my aunts house we sat down to a feast of home-made rigatoni, garlic bread and for desert my personal favorite - rhubarb pie.    Heaven will serve food like that.    My aunt served all this up and all the while apologizing because she had not had a chance to do any grocery shopping.    After dinner we did some laundry and learned to play cribbage.    The laundry was not completed until way after mid-nite, and the guys enjoyed
their bed... off to sleep with the assurance of a good breakfast in the morning.

MILES FOR THE DAY = 358    TOT. MILES = 7977

DAY 22     FRIDAY, JUNE 24

Breakfast was served at the requested hour of 6:30 in the a.m.    My aunt made fresh huckleberry pancakes, hot chocolate and offered us rhubarb jam to go with the hot-cakes.    We chowed down pretty heavy, (I concluded breakfast with another piece of rhubarb pie), said our thank-yous and left Sandpoint at about 8:30.

We drove until about 6:00 that evening when we stopped to camp at Reedpoint, Montana.    The campsite was near a rather wide river with a very strong current.    Given who we are, we decided to swim across the river... a venture I shall not soon forget.  We all started out at a pretty good pace, and then we hit the current.    Our Mr. Swimmer- Trey had very little problem navigating his way to the opposite shore.    I, on the other hand had taken in some water when I decided to breath at the wrong time.    I guess I panicked somewhat and for some dumb reason decided to swim back to the other shore (I was apparently very close to the one, and turning back was the worst thing I could have done).    Well, I was exhausted and the current was pretty much in control of where I was going, but I plodded on trying to get to shore.    In the meantime, Tad, with the coaching of Trey made his way safely to shore and then decided he would walk down
river and cross back at the bridge... smart guy.    Trey decided to see if he could be of help to me.    I arrived at the shore gasping for breath and completely exhausted, not to mention very angry that the river had ''beaten me", and somewhat scared by it all ( I do have good sense sometimes).    Trey came to make sure I was all right.    We then took the van and picked Tad up from his walk.

Not being satisfied with the whole thing, I rested up a bit and decided it was time to beat the river... determined to swim to the other shore and back.    Trey felt he should go with me, gave me some pointers about the water, and told me the assistance plan if it was needed.    So, being young and foolish we headed out... there was a great deal of comfort in knowing Trey was there watching over me, and this time instead of panicKing we both made it across (though, not in the most graceful of styles on my part), we rested and then headed back to the shore of origin.    I guess i wasn't rested enough, as my swimming looked more like I was wrestling with the water, but I was determined to complete this venture.    I could see I was going to make it, very, very sloppily, but make it I would; when I felt Trey tapping my leg, I thought he was going to put me in some sort of rescue position, but I didn't want that... I knew I was going to make it.    It turned out he was merely trying to tell me that the water was shallow enough to stand up in.    WE HAD DONE IT!
That night was pleasant, no rain in the air and we settled down to a rather exhausted sleep.

MILES FOR THE DAY = 502    TOT. MILES = 8479

DAY 23  SAT. JUNE 25    
We left Reedpoint at 7:20 a.m.    The gas gauge had never worked in the van, and we had been keeping track of the mileage on a Kleenex box sitting on the dashboard.    Initially we were filling up every 250 miles, but I had discovered later in the trip that we were pretty safe to push it all the way to 300 miles.   . What I didn't take into account was the fact that we had been doing 300 without benefit of air conditioning which we really had not needed once we were outside of Montana.   With 35 miles yet to go before we did 300, and a gas station only 10 or 15 miles up the road, and with the heat bearing down upon us, I thought it would be nice to have some cool air... my mistake.   We ran out of gas just as we got to the exit, and the gas station was still about 2.5 miles away.   Well, we pushed the van over to the side of the road and I got out the bicycle, left the guys with the van and peddled to the gas station.   It took almost an hour because the attendants made me wait before they would look  for a container, and they offered me that only when I left a 10 dollar deposit for the gas can.   We put half the gas in the tank, spilt half the gas on ourselves and made it to the gas station.

We really had no destination in mind for the day, first we spoke of the Colo. border, and then the New Mexico border, and sometime in the nite, we decided the heck with it all... let's go home... and so we drove straight through to San Antonio.    We each made a guess at an approximate time of arrival in the city, the winner receiving the change that we had accumulated in the ashtray.     Trey would eventually win the pot.


We arrived in San Antonio at 11:20 in the morning.    During the course of the nite we had passed through two very heavy, violent and beautiful storms.    After disembarking form the van, we immediately went to work putting things away, cleaning and washing the van, organizing and just generally trying to get all the work out of the way.

 That evening we gathered together for mass in order to thank the good Lord for our trip, our safety and the friendship we shared.   We then had a Mexican dinner, rented some movies, and late in the night started making plans for future trips.