Noteworthy Stops & Scenery: I suspect that if we had made this trip in the opposite order (Up the Cassiar, and Down the Alaska highway) where this had been one of our early stops, we probably would have taken more pains to explore Hyder and the surrounding area. (I also suspect that if we had done the trip in the reverse order we may have never gotten to Alaska - northern BC is beautiful beautiful beautiful.) However, the bad night sleep and the "southern pull" were playing against us. We got up and out of Hyder early (8:00). We gassed up at a Chevron station in Stewart - the people in this town are great! The girl in the gas station was very interested in what we had seen and where we were going. We enjoyed driving back past the Bear Glacier - we stopped again and just let that color soak in to our brains. That glacier blue is just indescribable! We picked up the Stewart Cassiar Highway again at Mezadine junction and headed south. It is only about 98 miles from here to the junction with the Yellowhead Highway which is the main east-west thoroughfare through central British Columbia. It starts in the west at Prince Rupert, goes through Prince George, continues into the Rockies and on to Edmonton, Alberta and points east. We picked it up at Kitwanga, but not before stopping for breakfast at a forgettable little road house. The wait staff must have been relatives because anyone seriously wishing to remain in business would have fired this crew years ago. We finally got everything we ordered, paid the bill and got the hell out of there! We stopped to take pictures of a collection of authentic totem poles that stand in this region. These were not the brightly painted totems of the tourist brochures, but carved, natural wood, beautiful old totems. We were amazed at how Polynesian the faces on the figures seemed to us. Turning on to the Yellowhead is like coming out of a dream. After days and days of rough, rutted, nearly vacant roads, the presence of other automobiles was startling to say the least! This is a major four lane highway heavily traveled by trucks, local traffic and tourists, all driving about 60 miles per hour. Dick had to make some major attitude adjustments real fast. The highway follows the Skeena River for many miles through beautiful country. It is different, once again - more towns and farms - the orderly existence of farming communities and well tended fields against the backdrop of rugged mountains, still bearing snow at the end of August as the locals harvest their grains in the valleys below. The road takes a southern turn at "The Hazeltons" - a little group of towns (Hazelton, New Hazelton, South Hazelton) and begins following the Buckley River. These are the towns from which the youth are yearning to escape, the towns the older generation take for granted, and the towns that make tourists like me consider renouncing US citizenship and moving to Canada. There is water everywhere - lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, every possible form one can imagine. We passed through Smithers, a picturesque little hamlet with a mountain backdrop. (I think this is where the guy from the Clinton campground with the Kareoke machine was headed - we decided the safest thing to do was keep driving!) At about 4 p.m. we decided we'd had enough driving for today and pulled into a scenic little KOA conveniently located between the highway and the rail road tracks at Burns Lake. This questionable sounding location was beautifully dressed in forest garb, hiding both the cars (good thing) and the trains (bad thing) from view (although not from hearing!). We enjoyed being nearly alone in the tent sites up on the hill, looking down on a little lake. It looked like it was going to "weather up" so we decided to pack up after dinner and be ready to hit the road early and pick up breakfast on the run.
Noteworthy Stops & Scenery: Left Burns Lake at about 8:00 a.m. The countryside continued to be spectacular as we made our way through Fraser Lake, Fort Fraser and Vanderhoof. We stopped for breakfast at a little road-side cafe which was crowded with locals enjoying Sunday morning breakfast. The old adage about picking cafes with lots of trucks in the parking lot seems to work pretty consistently. We are now in a major "get on down the road" mode... once we reached Prince George at about 11:30 a.m., we were back on roads we've seen before, but that did not take away from the lovely scenery one bit! We hit Williams Lake at about 2:00 p.m., then continued on down highway 97 for a couple more hours. We arrived at Clinton at about 4:00 p.m. and decided to stay at Lakeview Campsite again, just for old time sake. The difference in the weather was astounding - 26 days later and we're in a different season! The campground was nearly deserted. We picked a spot right on the lake this time around. Toward evening a few trailers pulled in, but compared to our first time here, it is nearly empty. Thinking back to the first time through (with the guy and his kareoke machine) we made a joke that made us laugh ourselves silly -- Don Ho vs. Perry Como -- comparing the tropical weather of early August to the "Christmas Special" feel to the air tonight. (I guess you had to be there.) We packed up everything but the sleeping gear before we went to bed - another early "out" tomorrow.
Noteworthy Stops & Scenery: When we awoke, the thermometer in the tent said 30 degrees (Fahrenheit). It takes a great deal of courage to haul one's butt out of a nice warm sleeping bag when it is damp & very cold with no apparent source of warmth in the offing. We learned way back in this trip to store our clothing between the sleeping bag and the bed cushion pad on the cots to keep them from absorbing the moisture in the tent during the night. We end up looking nicely wrinkled, but it is a vast improvement over pulling on damp jeans! We whizzed through breaking up camp and got on the road (the car, after all, has a heater...). We proceeded to Cache Creek where we stopped for gas and breakfast. On the way up, we had taken the recommended route through Yale, Boston Bar, etc. to connect to Cache Creek. The map shows a major freeway (for Canada) connecting Kamloops to Hope. We decided that we would try this alternate route. This required journeying east (the wrong direction) for about 25 miles to get from Cache Creek to Kamloops, but we figured we would probably make up the time on the superhighway, and we wanted to see a different road. This ended up being a very rewarding experience - cutting about an hour off the trip distance, and allowing us to see another facet of British Columbia. The area around Kamloops is fairly arid, considering this is one of the gateways to the Rocky Mountains. We were quite surprised by the lack of trees in this landscape. The trip was fast and we arrived in Hope at about 11:00 a.m. Now that we're back near the US Border, we aren't ready to go home (go figure!). We decided that we'd make today a short driving day, have one last look around the Hope area, then launch our assault on the lower 48 with a great exuberance tomorrow morning. We continued last night's nostalgia and went back to the Wild Rose campground where we were promptly adopted by an orange "Morris" cat. We drove around town, did a little shopping, and ended up at the Silver Chalice Pub which boasts a huge collection of Winchester rifles. We were impressed with this very interesting collection. Dick was particularly interested since the gun we bought to take along on this trip is a Winchester 30/30. After lunch, we went to the air port and watched the planes take off and land (we're transportation junkies, in case that hasn't become obvious!), then proceeded back to the campground for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. It is a lot warmer down here! Tomorrow, onward as the road home unrolls before us.
Noteworthy Stops & Scenery: Today we put the miles behind us. We broke camp and left Hope at about 8 a.m. This put us in the commute traffic heading for Vancouver, but it wasn't too bad, mainly because we left the freeway at Abbottsford to head for the border at Sumas / Huntingdon. We crossed the border without incident, and drove through the farm country of northern Washington, headed for the dreaded I-5. We hit the Seattle area about 11:45 a.m. and were delighted to learn that their "express lanes" truly are! We refueled in Tacoma (SeaTac Texaco!) and had fast food for lunch. Being back in the USA (lower 48) is quite a jolt. Things move much quicker down here and are considerably more crowded than anything we've experienced in the last month. The whole southward experience from this point forward seems like a blur - we sat still and the world rolled by underneath us! Through Washington, over the bridge - into Oregon - on and on - and on and on... The weather was very hot for Oregon (for any place, actually, but particularly for Oregon!). About 4:00 p.m. we started looking for a place to stop. We didn't want to get too far from the freeway, and we wanted to make sure there was food AND lodging wherever we picked - so I started looking through the AAA book on accommodations in Oregon. We decided to find the Best Western Village Inn in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Best Westerns are always a gamble - some are very nice, and some are real dives! We were pleasantly surprised to find this one to be absolutely charming. It was an older ranch-style sprawling one-story affair with drive up carports outside the room entrances on the driveway side, and beautiful little patios on a shaded garden on the other side. We rested up before dinner in the restaurant, then back to the room to collapse. It is amazing how just sitting in a car can wear you out! We watched TV and fell asleep - another long haul tomorrow. This is the point in the vacation where you wish you had a Star Trek transporter to just beam you back home!
Noteworthy Stops & Scenery: We left Cottage Grove at 7:00 a.m., and hit the California border at about 9:30. We stopped for lunch in Redding at Jeff's California Cattle Company. We were entertained through the Redding area by some red neck woman, teasing the truckers on her CB. Goodness - the FCC must not be monitoring this very closely these days! It was hot again - but one expects it to be hot on September first in Redding! Down the valley, we began considering whether we wanted to try to make it all the way home (which would have made this a VERY long day, and put us in the Bay Area right at rush hour), or if we wanted to just find a nice little motel with a pool and wait it out. At about 2:00 p.m., the pool concept won out, and we stopped in Williams California at the Comfort Inn. We gassed up, bought some beer, and headed for the pool. There, we met a marshal from Arizona who was in California to extradite a prisoner. He was going to meet a local law enforcement agent the next day and fly back to Arizona with the prisoner. We enjoyed visiting with him about various aspects of law enforcement, Arizona, California, Alaska, and just life in general. Amazing how conversations get started in a situation such as this! We also learned that the motel was full of hunters, getting ready to head up into the hills for the first day of dove hunting season (hmmm...). In the evening, we put on respectable clothing and headed in to town for dinner at Granzella's Delicatessen. This is a fun place! They have good food, and a great gourmet shop, full of all sorts of wine, cheese, breads, sauces, tubes of tomato paste, pasta, pickled this and that -- a paradise for people like us! We strolled around and bought a few things, then headed back to the motel to rest up for the final leg of our trip home.
Noteworthy Stops & Scenery: We left Williams at 7:00 a.m. and headed on down the road. All of our efforts to avoid the bay area during rush hour - only to hit it anyway - we figured that after 8, everyone should BE at work - but they weren't - they were all out driving on the freeway. It seems that the east bay freeways have always been and will always be under construction. I think if they ever actually finish up there, I'll die of shock. This was routine stuff - we stopped for gas in Gilroy - and headed for home. We watched the odometer on the car turn over to 20,000 miles in the vineyards just north of San Lucas, and decided we couldn't quite make it clear home, so we stopped for a potty break at the rest stop just north of San Miguel. We rolled in to our own driveway at high noon. It was good to be back, but take it from me - when it comes to traveling to Alaska, you never come all the way home.
If you'd like to see other travelogues from Jim and his friends...