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Saturday, September 15, 2012

The NorCal Eight head home...

The NorCal Eight leave Prince George the morning after the banquet and drive without problem to Cache Creek BC; the next day we exit Canada and arrive at Bellingham WA. 

All are glad the trip has ended and want to get home and to other responsibilities.  You might think as we drive roads covered back in July the CB would be silent, but we are chattering about other long caravans we would like to take.  A good sign.  We confirmed our inner Chilcoot, the same sense of adventure that brought thousands of people to Alaska and the Yukon in the late 1890s.

Early the next morning we will split our separate ways as we return to our separate lives in Northern California.  We had a great time.

Front: Martha, Jane, Marcia and Larry;
Rear: Cam, Mike, Claudia, and Barry.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prince George BC – a bear of a banquet.

Prince George, a real city, and the final official city of the caravan.  

Roads with two-lanes each way, traffic lights, congestion, major retailers, and fast food joints.  

But there is still something of the mystery of the north: Marcia and I are driving to a Costco when we see a black bear climbing over the concrete Jersey barrier separating our lane from a woodsy area.  He won’t last, unfortunately.  Too much traffic.

The caravan final banquet is at a Ramada hotel and goes well, although one outspoken caravaner, disappointed at the lack of rare roast beef by her turn in line, informs the staff "this meat is shit".  

We have been together 63 days.  Although a couple dropped out earlier feeling caravanning just was not for them, the others have gotten along well, and in many cases great friendships have formed.  The leaders survived several insurrections and have our thanks for everything they contributed.  We had an outstanding time exploring this part of the world.

Assist Leaders Gary & Sharon
Leaders Sandy & JJ

(left to right) Tom, Hank, Vicki, Paul, Nanci, Jim, Gery, and Debbie.
Leslie, Bill, Tom, Patty, Kathy, and Tommy.
Steve, Lynne, Judy, Jim, Linda, Janine, Bob, and Reggie.
Mary, Jack, Pat, Ted, Donna, Randy, Karen, and Will.
Bev, Bob, Anna, David, Karen, Bob, and Fred (Bev hidden).
Felix, Jim, Joann, Shelley, David, Judy, Cal, and Barbara.
Others unfortunately not caught in group shots at dinner tables: Gary & Sharon, Bill & Barbara, George & Martha, Lloyd & Carol, Jim & Marge, Paul & Kathy, Nick & Alicia, Don & Inabelle, Bill & Joan, Ben & Marcia, Larry & Martha, Mike & Jane, Barry & Claudia, and Cam & Marcia.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Totems and urea.

Around 3 AM it starts to rain in Hyder and doesn’t let up until the afternoon.

It is a drive day but this is a campground with neither sewers nor a dump station.  We hook up our rigs and proceed around 8 AM to the cross-border town of Stewart in British Columbia, where there is a public dump station.  I guess I must be groggy because when the Canadian border official checks our passports I anticipate the usual questions and say we are crossing to use their dump station.  In retrospect I should have said something like "shopping" but he smiles, wishes me a good day, and we go dump and move on.

We drive north past a couple glaciers and a stretch where contractors are removing avalanche debris, and pass a place with  tents where people are collecting mushrooms.  For the next few miles we encounter more tents and permanent buildings, these with temporary signs identifying the occupants as traveling mushroom buyers.  We understand the locals don’t consider mushrooms much of a delicacy but they do grow abundantly here, and can be sold at a very nice price, frequently ending up overseas.

Heading east, we detour slightly to visit a native area known for a collection of historic totem poles.  The totems are very visible from the road.  We pull in to a dirt lot and Larry and I walk through the rain toward what looks like a visitor center or museum.  It is posted “closed” but a sign requests $5 for the privilege of photographing the totems.  We go back to the cars, dodge a wet and bedraggled dog, and continue east, to Smithers BC.  (For you Simpsons fans, Smithers is a few miles from Burns Lake.)

Smithers is, for us, civilization; our campground is actually at a golf course.  The caravan is ending in one more stop.  For some it is most welcome, for the rest, it is simply time.  Gary and Sharon have run into major problems with their 2004 GMC diesel.  Their truck and trailer had to be towed the last 15 miles and is now sitting at the Smithers GMC dealer awaiting evaluation, and it will be expensive.  Loud banging noise followed by total loss of power and no compression in half the cylinders.  [Later we hear he had to have a rebuilt engine installed.  The only consolation is that this happened on the next-to-last stop and in a comparatively urban area.]

Paul and Kathy, also GMC owners, rejoin us at Smithers after a two-day detour to a dealer because their urea sensor wasn’t working.   On modern diesels (fortunately, more modern than our 2005) urea – yes, urea – must be added to the engine periodically for pollution control reasons.  If you don’t do it the engine limits your speed and eventually shuts you down.  In Paul’s case nothing he did could convince the sensor it had enough urea so he had to get to a dealer before it stopped.  Within a few more days he also had an EGR problem.

David and Judy also have a GMC diesel requiring urea and had a check-engine light come on.  They are heading for the Smithers dealer in the morning just to be cautious.  [They, too, had to have work done, and I believe it was pollution and urea related.]

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Salmon Glacier doesn't disappoint.

We think we are glaciered-out but other caravaners come back with reports on the Salmon Glacier, above the Tongass National Forest Fish Creek bear viewing area.  Off we go.

The road is a mixture of compacted dirt and gravel with potholes and some washboard; it takes us over an hour to go the 21 miles and climb maybe 3500 feet.  Very soon after Fish Creek a sign welcomes us to British Columbia and to my knowledge we never leave BC until our return; in fact, there is not even a US or Alaska sign on the return trip. 

The drive up involves a few parts that a caravaner says had her literally sobbing with fright because she hadn’t taken her Zanyx.    We encounter a professional photographer that tells us he was up three weeks ago but turned back because the road was in such poor shape; we have to accept that it is now at least recently graded. 

Hard rock gold mining continues in this area and several spots are showing the impact.  The mining companies are likely responsible for some of the landslides.  A sign says that there is a tunnel under the glacier to transport the rough ore to a mill.

We stop at a spot to take photos and Mike and Jane appear.  We go the rest of the way together, linked in conversation by the CB.  The views are truly wonderful, and the bugs – a mixture of mosquitoes and biting flies with maybe some no-see-ums – are horrible.  At the summit we are instructed by signs not to proceed because of avalanche danger, a good excuse to turn back.

At camp we decide to explore Hyder and the “trestle” area, as well as the mouth of the Salmon River.  Tracing some smoke we find the dump, where three cubs and a mother bear are hard at work cleaning up the mess left by humans.

As someone in our group pointed out, we have seen more bears in wrong places (town) than in right places (Fish Creek Viewing Area).

Don and Inabelle from North Carolina, he a retired Methodist minister and she a retired teacher, left the caravan today to visit children and grandchildren in the Oregon area.  We are now down to 36 rigs from a starting strength of 38.  There are still people that I can’t quite identify by name, although Marcia seems to have everybody down pat.