Back Home after Alaska – Saying “goodbye” to Coda

I think I got a little homesick after having been south for four months for the winter, then arriving home for only one month, and then leaving for our Alaska adventure for another four months. So getting back home, of course, meant lots of maintenance, cleaning and projects.

Coda loved playing in the water
Coda at home with his way-too-big ball

And there was something else. Our dog loved traveling with us. All the new smells, new places, and people fussing over how handsome he was. And he was! But at home, he was definitely in HIS kingdom. He was able to go outside off leash and check out our large yard, chase bunnies and squirrels, and relax. He also protected us from any service workers and deliveries that came to the house. He loved being near us. He loved the spaciousness and freedom of his home. It was a good place for him to be.

But after two months at home, sadly, it was time to say good bye to each other. We found him in the kitchen one morning, unable to move except for his head. We rushed him to the emergency animal hospital but things were not looking good. He was nearly 14 and had mobility, vision, and hearing problems for some time. But this complication did not look fixable. We had to let him go. It was so very difficult to say good bye. But I know that we gave him the most wonderful life a dog could ever have. I mill miss him dearly! He was my constant companion for 6 1/2 years, sometimes wonderful, other times a challenge, but always my protector and friend. I believe that my rescue dog rescued me!

We were able to have two wonderful holidays with the family at our house. And that gave me great pleasure. And then it became time to run from the crazy Wisconsin winters. And plan more traveling. And in my heart, I can’t wait to have another beautiful dog to spoil in the future. Although, I know that another dog will never ever really be able to replace Coda.

A Few More Notes from our Alaska Trip

Oma provided her reflections in the last post, but I thought I would add a few notes on other topics.

Most of the roads were fine. This section of road is, if you’ll excuse me, a “middle of the road” road. Okay shoulder and fairly smooth surface despite the patches. Some sections of road were awesome with nice shoulders and new pavement. Others had no shoulder or some potholes. I found the roads overall to be better than many two-lane roads in the midwest.

Roads

The roads were not nearly as bad as I expected. Most sections were as good or better than many of the two-lane highways we drive in the lower 48. Some sections required slowing down by 10-15 mph, although traffic was usually light and through sections that had potholes, it was often possible to use both lanes, weave between them and maintain our speed.

Frost heaves (really frost depressions) happen. These are among the worst we experienced, but just required slowing to around 35 mph for a couple of miles..

The worst paved roads I remember were a short (several mile) stretch of the Tok cut-off in Alaska that required us to slow to around 35 mph for frost heaves and a portion of the Icefields Parkway in southern Canada that had many huge heaves that were more like 5 mph speed bumps.

The Canadian portion of the dirt/gravel Top of the World Highway wasn’t bad, but the US side was awful.

Gravel/dirt roads are a whole other thing. We mostly avoided them this trip, with the exception of our Dawson Creek to Tok drive (stopping at Chicken) via the Top of the World and Taylor Highways. The Canada portion wasn’t bad, but once we were in Alaska and past the beautiful pavement that runs about ten miles after customs, our average speed was perhaps 25 mph on very rough road. Non-paved roads in northern Canada and Alaska can be highly variable depending on recent weather and recent road work (or lack there-of).

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Reflections of our Alaska Adventure – May through September 2018

I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

We spent 4 months in a Winnebago View class C motorhome driving from Wisconsin to Fairbanks, Alaska and back with our 80+ lb. dog, and 16 lb. cat. We specifically bought this motorhome to ensure easier travel and yet be roomy enough and comfortable for our large senior dog. He was very unsure in the beginning, but we kept making little changes to make him comfortable and he was so happy to be with us.

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Reflections of our Winter 2017 – 2018 Adventure

Going south was cold this year! But it was still much warmer than being home. Many of the campgrounds had frozen water pipes (even close to the Mexican border) and we had to be careful to have our water tank full and keep the 5th wheel well heated. Things didn’t get nice and warm until we got to Tucson. And then cooled off again when we headed north to Meteor Crater, where we got snowed on. We did find warmth again as we returned to Texas, however, where we ended our trip with lots of sand, water and sunshine.

We were able to discover so many wonderful places on this adventure, which was fantastic for me because I suffer from wanderlust. But in retrospect, we traveled too many miles in too little time which eventually became exhausting. In the future, I hope to go slower and explore areas even more thoroughly.

It was awesome, however, to meet up with so much family and so many friends! I hope that continues for the duration of our traveling years. I love this lifestyle!

 

Reflections on Annabelle After Our Shakedown Trip

Five days isn’t enough to make definitive assessments about our truck camper replacement, but we definitely did learn and confirm some things. Some are obvious and inherent to the nature of the vehicle. Yes, Oma appreciates being able to use the bathroom without needing to find someplace to stop. And yes, you hear the motorhome and cargo creak and rattle as you drive down the road (especially if the road is bumpy). But I’ll focus on things that were more notable to us.

Noise

Besides the noises from inside the motorhome, wind noise is far louder than in the truck. On a positive note, the truck camper occasionally causes a very loud and annoying whistle on our truck. (It’s caused when there is a crosswind at just the right angle to resonate between the truck and camper.) It’s not a huge problem, as it usually doesn’t last too long nor happen that often, but it’s nice to not have that in the motorhome.

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Annie’s Little Sister

Apparently one camper is not enough.

Last year in the Sierras and Cascades, and especially around the National Parks, we found ourselves reflecting fondly on our twenty years of van camping, where we could go and camp nearly anywhere with a decent road. National Park campgrounds, National Forest campgrounds … whatever. We had also passed by some places that looked interesting but required heading down unknown roads that might not have parking or even turning space for our fifth wheel. Some people are more adventurous than us, but we’re reluctant to head down roads with the fifth-wheel that we might have to back out of for miles. Throughout the last two-thirds of the trip, we discussed the possibility of adding a truck camper to our rv stable, but did not seriously pursue it.

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Reflections of Snowbirding 2016

We wanted to get out of the bitter cold of Wisconsin for awhile. Why not? We have the means to do so. We also tried to make our escape work between two of the grandchildren’s birthdays. That meant to leave late in January and arrive back home in late March or early April. That also meant that we were traveling in cold weather and dodging snow both ways. We did plan and watch the weather carefully and luckily avoided driving in bad weather.

It just took two days of driving south to get into warm and wonderful weather. We had a great time in Hot Springs, Arkansas and all of Texas. We met with lots of friends and family in Texas and had a great time.

We moved on to New Mexico where we learned a big lesson on choosing campsites. If it’s too much trouble to get into the site, just leave. Even if the campground appears to be full with just that one site left, leave the campground!  Never try to get into a site unless it’s easy. No second guessing.

Then we moved on to beautiful Tucson, where everyday was beautiful and we stayed in my cousin’s beautiful landscaped yard. It was fun sharing time and meals with them and exploring wonderful Tucson. Even after Opa got sick, it was nice to recover in a beautiful warm and sunny environment.

And then it was time to head towards home. Every day that we moved further north, it got colder. It even snowed a little. And now I’m sitting at home and it’s grey and cold outside. We have to come up with another plan to leave earlier, come home later and fly home for birthday parties. But what about the animals?

Opa’s reflections halfway through the trip

We’ve left California and are just short of the half-way point of our trip, so it seems like an appropriate time to look back a bit. This is now a longer trip than I’ve ever taken, and twice as long as Oma and I have ever managed together.

I’m happy being on the road. Annie is very comfortable, and really seems like home. This isn’t really surprising me – in many ways this is just a longer version of all of the traveling that Oma and I have done in the past.

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