Ginger and Ken drive to Alaska from Texas, through Wichita, Madison, Chicago, Corpus....

We decided to make a lifestyle change and move. Following are tales of our trips, packing mishaps, beautiful drives, visitations and more! This is Texas2Alaska2 because it is my second time to make the drive.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Night in Cody: Tips to Save Money on Camping and Internet

Another feature that seemed to have changed since my sister and I visited Thermopolis was the availability of camping. I could have sworn we camped in the park area outside the hot springs. There was ample open space and picnic tables, but there was also a small amphitheater so things may have changed. Or, my memory may need refreshing. At any rate, the only campsite we were told of nearby was an RV park on the edge of town so we decided to head on into Cody. (Our previous RV park experience in Casper having not been too exciting.) As we drove to Cody, we did pass a state park with tent camping sites along the Big Horn River. Which leads to another tip of road tripping: finding a place to sleep before it gets dark. Try as we might on this trip or my trip of 1999 (or numerous others in between) it is hard to stop driving when you still have daylight! We might have considered stopping in the state park on the river if we had known about it...but Cody also seemed like a good destination. 
I remember Cody being a good ol’ western town. There is the Buffalo Bill Museum, lots of tack and farm stores, many old buildings still in use from last turn of the century, and lots of open range and mountains. At night it kind of looks the same, with the addition of many more chain restaurants. Being dark and since its out of season, we were not going to spend time looking for a campground. When Ken and I departed for this trip, he asked that we sometimes stay in the parking lot of that big chain whose name shall not be spoken. The gianormous RVs do it so it should be ok. I agreed, only to save money and have a 24 hour toilet if we did not buy anything there. 

We drove trough town and found the spot, then went out to look for dining. We also wanted to contact our friends in Alaska to alert them of our status. I could have just called, but we wanted to Skype and check in on emails. Unfortunately, I had been talked out of a traveling internet service so we cruised the hotels for an open network. Some of the chain hotels did have available networks, but the range just wasn’t quite good enough. In the search we noticed a retail store network pop up. It was a business that was closed for the night so we did not feel bad parking right in front to gain connection. I won’t mention the name so they do not feel imposed upon, but I was glad to find a route to the internet superhighway. Hey, when you are on a fixed income moving you have to save money where ever possible. We talked to Jim and Lindsay for quite a while and found out the weather in Alaska was cold already. After the call it was back to the resting spot to bundle in for the night. The weather in Cody this night was cool, not quite cold, maybe 40s though they expected frost overnight. The elevation here is about 5,000 so the air is crystal clear. The town was fairly dark so we could see many stars. 
Preparing the trailer to sleep in was hard and easy. Easy in that the beds were already laid out. Hard in that we had packed a lot of stuff on top of the bed which had to be moved. We had a suitcase up there, the box of kitchen supplies (utensils and food), shoes, extra coats, and spare packing boxes. Most of the non-valuables we moved into the car, the valuables–computers, cameras and the like–we moved into the trailer with us. This would be our third night in the rig with the narrow sleeping space. Ken cracked open the rear fold-down door for ventilation and we closed the side door. He put the locks closed on the latches out side so no one could lock us in. It was a little uneasy getting to sleep thinking about this but we had no problems. 
With the two of us in the small space, we actually kept fairly warm. To liven the home-on-the-road up, Ken installed our battery operated LED twinkle lights. Those really made all the difference! Have to have fun on a trip like this! 

Thermopolis, World’s Largest Mineral Hot Springs, a Great Rest Stop on the Road

The scenic byway of the Wind River continues a little past Thermopolis, however, I was determined to stop for a soak in the mineral springs. There are three bath house opportunities for soaking, two are mini-theme parks garishly colored and filled with cooky rides and slides, the third middle house is the state park . I like to say its the one instance where the U.S. government kept its agreement with the Native Americans. The agreement with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Indian tribes when the U.S. absconded with their land, was that the hot springs remain free to the people in perpetuity. And today it is. 
In a theme that has been and will be with us throughout this trip, we got there in the nick of time. The free park closed at 5:30 and we arrived at 4:30. There is a limit on soak time of 15 minutes and we were stymied by the outdoor pool being closed for cleaning but had the backup opportunity for the indoor pool. With such beautiful weather out, it would have been nice to soak it all up outside. Regardless, the healthful benefits of a mineral soak were not to be missed. 

The bath spring water is maintained at 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Minerals found in the water include sulfur, calcium sulfate, magnesium, sodium, hydrogen carbonate, and many more. Very considerate of nature to put these ingredients all in a blend that is habitable to humans! 
As mentioned, Ken and I arrived in time to relax and enjoy a soak in the bath house. The building has a wonderful picture window view of the nearby mountains seen from the pool. I cannot fault the park service for putting a limit on the spring soak, 15 minutes was just about right. There were a few other folks soaking in the time we were there and everyone was calm and happy! Thank you to the geothermal processes!

After our soak, we took a nice stroll on the boardwalk over the mineral pools to the historic suspension bridge that crosses the Rocky Mountain Big Horn River (the Wind River changes names when leaving the canyon). 

The dissolved and deposited limestone in the form of calcium gives the overflow edge along the river the big cascade effect. Just the right temperature and mineral combination also makes the water home to numerous algae which decorate parts of the surface pools with vibrant colors. For a DOE technical analysis of the geographical formation, see this pdf site 

I am not a scientist, but I could not help thinking when looking at old photos, and even my own memory of 10 years ago, that there seemed to be less flow of spring water today than in the past. It could have just been the season, or day, or cycle. I hope these springs continue to flow for generations to enjoy. We did have a pleasant evening. 

Town of Thermopolis and Coffee Dissertation

Any move, road trip, or adventurous drive to Alaska must include coffee–lots of it. Ken and I are both coffee drinkers and medium-high connoisseurs. By that I mean, Ken has lived in Hawaii and knows the luxury of Kona. The medium-high term means we are not always able to afford such taste. I learned how make espresso properly by working in a cafe my first trip to Alaska. As such, I have no taste for standard drip coffee anymore. (Before that experience, I hardly drank coffee at all!) Our preferred method of coffee making at home is by french press. We would buy beans and grind to our liking. 
My goal in bean purchases for many years has been to buy shade grown, organic, or fair trade. This was learned from my education at The American Botanical Council (ABC) while working as Art Director for HerbalGram Magazine   ABC is a non-profit education and research organization producing information on the use of herbs as medicines. Coffee, chocolate, and tea were subjects covered in depth which included the importance of sustainable growth and harvest. For instance, coffee is naturally found growing under the protection of taller trees, hence the term ‘shade grown’–also not a monoculture. I will leave it there and let ABC or the web or your local Co-op help you with any other questions you may have. 
Back to our current issue, drinking and driving, coffee mind you. One of my fun activities to do while on road trips has been to find the local coffee stop, no matter what size of town or city. That could be a whole blog unto its own, I am sure someone else is working on. So I will concentrate on our trip at hand. When we were in Wichita, Ken and I enjoyed a great little shop near the downtown farmer’s market, Mead’s Corner . My sister enjoys Riverside Perk, I did not make it there but am sure it was good. We did not do the best we could in Denver due to so many outfitting commitments. Therefore we went to the chain that shall not be named because they already have enough business. 
Today, we have come upon The Crow Bar in the town of Thermopolis. It is located inside Nature’s Corner at 530 Broadway (sorry, they do not have their own website). Nature’s Corner is a wonderful health food store with a full line of products, even a little bit of produce, and “hippie gifts” like incense, wind chimes, candles, locally made art and the like. I was so impressed that this small town had such a nice selection of healthful foods, and it just makes sense since it is located near a huge healing mineral spring. 

The Crow Bar offered fair trade coffee selections as well as fresh made smoothies and juices. Ken and I ordered a coffee as it was time for our afternoon break. We also purchased some Dr. Bronner’s soap for all purpose washing while camping, and some snacks. Not only was the food selection fantastic, but the design and decor of the shop really well executed and artful. The owner’s had restored a corner shop in this town probably built in the late 1800‘s to early 1900‘s and left its integrity intact. High ceiling with pressed tin. Full front windows, wood floor, ceiling fans, and new refrigerators. The Crow Bar was located in the back of the store and displayed a beautiful stylized tree on the back wall, my photo above. The owner said she gave the gentleman license to do what he wanted when building out the cafe area. I think its gorgeous and the name is quite clever. 
As nice a find as it was, we had to be moving on in order to enjoy the hot springs before they closed. With out tummies warm, we headed around the bend to the state park.

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, Wyoming

It was kind of a good thing that the four-wheel drive folks wanted to get out of town. We could have hung out in their shop all day marveling at the AMC Eagles they had outfitted. Since we could not, it meant we were able to keep rolling along our trip to Alaska. We were leaving Casper early enough to drive through the Wind River Canyon in daylight, something I was really looking forward to. 

A stop at Thermopolis Hot Springs State Park had been planned early on in discussions of this long trip. One route to the hot springs was up Wyoming I-20 past the Boysen Reservoir and along the Wind River which has cut a spectacular canyon north between Shoshoni and Thermopolis . When my sister and I made this trip in 1999, we came upon the canyon at night. Even though it was dark, we could tell we were traveling through some place really spectacular. Only after our stop in Thermopolis did we learn about the Wind River Canyon. She and I had always hoped to see it again in daylight and now here I was. 

Over a billion years of geology can be seen by way of the layers of rock along the walls delineating the highway. The canyon rises up to 2,500 feet on either side in some spots. There are informative signs to tell the driver the age of the rock layer they are passing by, i.e. Precambrian 2.9 billion years. For geology buffs and rock climbers, this is sweet! Our drive today was enhanced once again by bright blue skies and light traffic enabling us to marvel slowly at nature.

At the north end of the canyon, you come upon some red sandstone, Triassic layers, due to ancient fault line movement and erosion of the above layers. It seems as if the canyon just vanishes. And once again we are in the Wyoming plains. Very interesting, this natural environment.

After my first drive through this magnificent formation, I purchased a book “Wind River Trails” by Finis Mitchell, originally published in 1975. This little book is a hiking and fishing guide to the many trails of the Wind River Range. Next time through, I will take a few side trips.
May you always camp where waters run clear
Within serene valleys of flowers and shade,
Where well trod trails of friendship meet
And your kindness and grace never fade.
-opening refrain from ‘Your Land and Mine’ by Finis Mitchell

Casper, Wyoming and the Metal Gas Can Enigma

Driving the Alaska Highway, its rumored that the traveler should be a self contained emergency rescue vehicle. The traveler should carry spare car parts: headlights, tires, gas cans, duct tape, etc. There should also be easily accessible: cold weather gear consisting of down coats or sleeping bags, extra boots, gloves, hats, etc. Food and water is a must in case you are really stranded. And of course real emergency gear: flares, flashlight, and tools. 
Thankfully, it is now the 21st century and automobiles are made to last longer, drive further on a tank of gas, and tires last longer. This is all well and good if one should be traveling in the summer. We, however, have pushed the limit of travel date and will be entering in the ‘off season’ for most stops. By towing a trailer, we had all the space we needed for spare and emergency gear. However, there was one item yet to purchase, a metal jerry can.
The are lodges and small towns spaced about 100 miles apart on the most remote parts of the Alaska highway and through the deep stretches of northern British Columbia and the Yukon. Usually the traveler can feel confident in finding gas when necessary. We did not plan on adequate openings and wanted to carry a metal jerry can with us just in case. As with trying to find an oil pan heater in Texas, finding a metal gas can seemed to be just as elusive. When looking for one in Kansas, people gave Ken that ‘I don’t know what you are talking about’ look. We determined that they just were not familiar with the term ‘jerry can.’ Odd, who isn’t? So, metal gas can it was. None-the-less, a metal can was proving hard to find until Casper. 
Ken and I were confounded. How, in this time of hyped-up, four-wheel drive Jeeps, Land Cruisers, trucks, Hemi’s, Range Rovers, etc. etc., could we not find a metal gas can with an external mount? That’s the key, with the mount. Ken wanted to mount the can externally on the trailer since we had been sleeping in it. Finding the mount for the can was a trick. Luck was on our side, as had been the weather. Having not found one thus far, we searched the internet for hardware stores and 4-wheel drive shops in the Casper area- and -eureka! We found both parts, but at different businesses. 
Ken talked to Mick at Evolution 4x4 in Casper Mick did know what Ken was looking for, but unfortunately, he was out of cans. He did, however, have the external can mount. Mick referred us to Murdoch’s Hardware for the can . Sure enough, they had one. And boy did they have everything else you could possibly need to outfit a rig or ranch! Murdoch’s was your local Ace or True Value on steroids. Most Americans living in big cities with capitalist, commercial, chain store options on every corner do not realize how limited a selection and generic the products are. Murdoch’s carried everything from chicken feed to clothing to car parts and many different brands than found at the larger stores. We are definitely tool-gear-outdoor nerdy and thusly had a fun time looking around the store. With our shiny new red jerry can-with the new regulation cap-in hand we were off to find Evolution 4 x 4.

And now back to our previous segment called, your GPS doesn’t know &*#%! We programmed in Evolution into the Magellan and it gave us an address which we promptly drove to. Nothing, just houses. A dreary street. We saw a couple of guys talking outside what looked like it could be a secret workshop and asked if they knew where our elusive business was. Neither were very sure, they thought it might have moved but did know know exactly where. So, we called Evolution again to get directions. Mick asked if we had used Mapsco or a GPS. He said his business had moved TWO YEARS ago and does not know why the old address is still found on mapping services. Our Magellan is barely one year old, hence our annoyance with it. 
Anyway, once we go to Evolution, we had a blast meeting Mick and the rest of the crew. All avid 4 x 4 guys and gals for real! These guys even weld and fabricate their own roll cages. (Take that you fake off-road clubs in Texas) Serious business these guys were, as much as they wanted to help us, they had a ride planned that afternoon and where hot to get out of town! Mick indeed had the mount for the metal jerry can which we gladly purchased, then contemplated where to attach, and then let the guys go have some fun! Thanks Evolution!

Friday, November 5, 2010

First and Only Attempt Sleeping in an RV Park

We arrived in Casper around dinner time after sunset making it difficult to find a campground or RV park. Sure they are listed on the map, but daylight really helps find them better. Many signs are not lighted, roads are harder to see, and campsites are not lighted. Ten years ago when my sister and I made this trip, it was May and we had an easier time finding campgrounds. We were tent camping then, at this time, Ken and I are trying to sleep in our trailer in order to save money. Searching for campgrounds on the GPS is difficult as RV parks tend to call themselves campgrounds. A misnomer if you ask me as the RVer has brought their whole home with them! RVing is NOT camping! Ken and I were prepared to sleep in the trailer or pitch a tent if we needed to. (Above, typical driving view in eastern Wyoming. Below, sunset approaching Casper)
Since Ken and I are now traveling in November, many of the RV parks/campgrounds are closed for the season. This is one thing the GPS cannot tell us. The GPS can in some cases provide a number. However, when I called at this time of evening, some places did not answer, or had answering machines. In those two cases, I could mark that location off the list. There was one place that answered the phone, a combination RV and tent camping site. There are a few that offer both spaces. 

And now another segment of, your GPS doesn’t know %$#&! With the address for the Casper East RV Park programmed in the Magellan, we sailed down the road. And sailed, and sailed. There was no obvious sign for the RV park yet the Magellan said we had arrived. We did not see the location so kept driving. Casper is not a big town, so soon we were way too far gone. We turned around heading back to Casper and again passed the location the GPS thought was our destination. No sign, no nothing. We took what we thought was the nearest exit and looped back on a side road. Sure enough, we finally saw a sign. It was on a road perpendicular to what might be considered a feeder to the freeway. Not very obvious. 
At this time of night, the office was closed and as such in a place like this, payment is self service. I filled out a form and tried to figure out their pricing for tent camping. I took advantage of Ken’s veteran status and dropped payment of $18.47 into the night box for a tent camping site. Though not a KOA (which was closed for the season believe it or not) it was very similar. There are many of these independent RV parks that accommodate RVs with and without hook ups, tent sites with or without electricity, and separate shower and toilet facilities for tenters. All-in-all, not too bad a deal for road trippers if the location is well maintained. 

Ken wasn’t too impressed. The first thing that turned him (and me) off was the location right by the railroad track. Cargo trains run at night folks. So any of you out there planning on the same money saving situation, be warned. And the memories all came back to me. On many a road trip in my past, in many different states, I have found the same thing. I guess people who operated RV/campgrounds find cheap land-located near utilities, railroad tracks and the like that no one else wants. The next morning we went to the showers to clean up as it had been a few days. They were so-so. Ken might have rather had a motel shower, but at this price, it would do. We cleaned up, packed up the trailer and headed into Casper to see if we could find a metal gas can. On the drive in, we enjoyed our delicious danishes we had purchased the day before at the Bread Basket Bakery, yum!

Sierra Trading Post, not Gearing us for Alaska This Time

One would not think geology reads a map. However, I find that in crossing the border from Colorado to Wyoming, the geology and atmosphere change just enough to differentiate the two. Most of Wyoming is prairie, flat to rolling. My sister has pointed out the relentless wind in Kansas, yet I think Wyoming's is just as much of a constant. This will be my third time to drive this road into Wyoming, and the wind was the same as it ever was. The good thing about the wind, the skies are brilliantly blue. Eastern Wyoming really has its own beauty. And true to its western persona, the road greets travelers with buffalo. Above, one is fashioned to disguise a cell phone tower. But along the roadway, there was the real thing. The large power lines are carrying electricity from a wind farm in the far distance.

We arrived in Cheyenne bright, and I mean bright as there still is a crystal blue sky, and early. We had planned on Sierra Trading Post as destination since agreeing to a drive to Alaska. In 1999, my sister had turned me on to this place when she and I drove to Alaska from Big Bend, Texas. Back then, she and I had scored some fantastic deals on clothes and gear for our summer in Alaska. She worked for a rafting company that and three other summers so knew she needed all kinds of protective clothing. She was good to instruct me in the types of clothes I would need. I had already purchased my number 1 staple at REI, a down jacket with windproof shell that I still wear to this day. It is awesome! The tag is worn out or I would give the model name. However, I needed more layers of fleece and non-cotton clothing. This year, Ken is in the same position. After living in Texas and Hawaii so many years, he needed some poly-pro and fleece. Actually both of us needed more winter gear as we had only been to Alaska previously during more temperate times. 

Sad to say, Sierra Trading Post has grown out of the good deals they once were. There is still a lot to find, especially smaller items like hats, gloves, and scarves. But the good gear items I was expecting to find were few and far between. Sierra Trading Post has expanded into selling a lot of fashion clothing and these items seemed to take up a lot of floor space. The store is divided into several large groups. First the main discount retail products. Second, the discounted discount retail. Third, the bargain super discount space. And fourth the super bargain basement. I found that in the second space, most of the items were the fashion selections, not much of the outdoor gear I needed. And the super bargain basement had a lot of return merchandise and decorative home items. I don’t know who the target audience is for this section. Additionally, there were less of the common outdoor gear brands I am used to and more names I was unfamiliar with. Don’t get me totally wrong, we did not leave empty handed, I was just a little disappointed. If you are not looking for something specific, they still may have some deals for you. One nice feature is their mini-cafe. Since the Cheyenne store is so large, you could plan on browsing for a few hours. The mini-cafe is provides nice snacks and full service espresso bar. This is handy as there is not much to eat in the close vicinity. Overall, it was worth the stop, but I did over-hype it to Ken.
As we left Cheyenne we stopped for late lunch/dinner break. There is another mark in the plus column for our Magellen GPS. I entered a search criteria for delis in the area and we picked the one that ‘sounded’ the best. Cheyenne is a small enough town and easy to navigate so it was a quick drive to The Bread Basket Bakery and Sandwich Shop. This little locally owned bakery/sandwich shop is located on a corner in what was probably a grocery or hardware since Cheyenne was founded. A classic 19th century, high-ceiling, tall glass doors, worn wood floor, pressed tin details, and warm feeling building.

The Bread Basket Bakery was one of the rare finds with the GPS that was a blockbuster! It truly was a good sandwich shop, fresh made sandwiches on a huge selection of real made from scratch bread. Not ‘fresh’ bread as some of the chains claim. The bakery also included some real bakery items: cookies, quickbreads, danishes, and granola. They also offered local made jams and collected honey. Ken and I were totally pleased with the sandwich and purchased a lemon and cherry danish for the next morning’s breakfast. (we already had a loaf of bread or I would have gotten some of that too!) Highly recommended if you are going through Cheyenne, Wyoming. 
On our way out of town, we saw our twin sister. Neither Ken or I could believe it. The photo below is of another Lexus using the exact same trailer style-in Cheyenne, Wyoming! How crazy is that?! Could not resist the comparison. Wish I knew how they used their rig!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Leaving Denver for Wyoming

We did not even spend a night in Denver. Since we met the early morning appointment for the tires, we got the sheep skins in the early afternoon and got out of Denver before rush hour traffic. Back up I-25 toward Broomfield and parts north. We had another possible stop. 
The stop was supposed to be for a road worthy item we researched, the Airtab. These are devices attached to to the rear outline of any kind of trailer or RV to increase aerodynamics The Airtabs create a vortex of air behind the vehicle in order to reduce wind resistance. We were really sold on these until we started the drive to Alaska. With the trailer fully loaded, our speed was so diminished that we could not believe anything would improve our gas mileage (except a truck that could carry us the whole way!) Through the Airtab website, we found a dealer in the Denver area and had contacted him for a meeting. Unfortunately for the distributor, we did not follow through with that meeting. Due to our laden trailer, our speed was much reduced in order to attempt to maintain reasonable gas mileage. The Airtabs would have taken several trips of our magnitude to pay themselves off, the expense was not one we felt we could make at the time. We were destined to drive slow. 
In the phone conversation with the distributor, when he heard we would be in the area, he recommended a stop at Johnson’s Corner for their world famous cinnamon rolls. As a nice treat for the beginning of our next leg of driving, we could not pass up the prospect of delicious cinnamon rolls. We stopped at Johnson’s Corner just before sunset . This is definitely a world famous truck stop. It was opened by an insightful entrepreneur who knew the impending highway development destined him to be highly successful. As for the cinnamon rolls, I would not exactly say they were worth the stop. This review is for my culinary friends and foodies. Saying these were good cinnamon rolls is like saying Taco Bell has good Mexican food. Yes, the rolls were as big as a plate, but size will not make up for lack of taste, texture, or satisfaction. Johnson’s Corner is a must stop for historical measures and classic comfort food dining spot once you are out of Denver. A big plus is the business is open 24/7, a luxury for road-trippers. But for the cinnamon rolls, I think not. 

With our bellies full, we were then off to Cheyenne. Being evening, we did not want to try to find a place to stay too late at night. We stopped in Fort Collins which would enable us to hit the city early in the morning. Ken had luck in the past with Motel 6’s being affordable and decent. Our fist few choices of them were rather lackluster. Motel 6 has been renovating their motels in the past few years and we did find a nice one last month on our trip to Corpus Christi. However, the selection in Fort Collins was disappointing. The first clue was the night clerk being behind bullet proof glass. Then the room, omg it was nasty and still not worth the low price. We checked the GPS for others in the area and found a La Quinta close by running a special. It was well worth it, a few dollars more but much nicer room. Usually on road trips, I would stop at every motel to ask prices. Here we learned to call ahead, and in the case of Motel 6, to ask if the rooms had been renovated. One point in the Magellan plus column-still not outweighing the closed businesses it took me to in Wichita (which had been closed well over two years).

Heading into Denver

Our fist stop was planned for Denver, Colorado where we could purchase snow tires for the rig. I purchased the car in Austin, Texas and fat chance trying to find foul weather tires in central Texas. The original plan was to try and find them in Wichita, Kansas–being a state that experiences extremes in weather. Well, tires are expensive as we all know. Tires that have to be ordered are usually a bit more expensive. We were unable to find the tire of our choice without ordering it in Wichita. So, we looked ahead to the next possible source. 
We approached Denver as the sun was rising, it was a beautiful morning. I-70 turns in due west giving us a clear vista of the Colorado plains flowing up to the Rocky Mountains. The mountains had the first dusting of snow on the ridges which appeared close enough to touch due to the sparkling clear sky. The atmosphere was beautiful rich pink gradating to blue higher in the sky due to the low morning sun. It looked like a reverse sunset with the color to the west as opposed to east for sunrise. Seeing a sharp change in elevation was such a treat for us after living in the flatness of Kansas for our interim period. 

Denver, being a large city and in another state known for snow, had the tires we wanted. Ken researched the model most recommended and even referred to the testing of tires in Consumer Reports. Great resource for testing! Ken is an avid fan. He arranged for purchase of the selected all weather Michelin tires from Costco. We scheduled installation for Friday the 4th and arrived when the store opened. Thanks dad for financing this purchase!
I know a lot of you are thinking one of two things: 1) wow, they are driving a Lexus, is it four wheel drive? or 2) wow, they are driving a Lexus, built-in GPS and seat heaters? The answer to 1 is, no, it is not four wheel drive and it is not necessary. Actually, the front wheel drive is better for our condition. As for number 2, no built in GPS, we are using a Magellen which does not always have the right answers, best route, and leads us to closed down businesses. Now on to my next winter purchase, sheep skin seat covers since no, my Lexus does not have heated seats. 
I figured that Colorado being a cold state and Denver being a big city, there should be a great selection of sheep skin seat covers. I had searched the internet and around Wichita of course. Again, this is an item that could have been ordered, however, we did not know how long we were going to stay in Wichita. No problem, I figured the more we drove north, the more opportunities I would have to find sheep skin. How lucky is this that in the first city we stop, there is a great custom sheep skin store that crafts seat covers, shoes, pelts, baby items and more. The Sheep Skin Factory was a wonderful find Not only did they have covers to fit my seats, but the Factory would custom install them too, WHILE I WAITED! How awesome this was. Installation in my car was not the easiest due to the electric seats but the task was done while Ken and I walked across the street to have lunch. I was so pleased with the fit and color and really great price. The covers where considerably less than prices online. With the additional complication of install, I was very happy! Before these, I was sitting on a beach towel because to me the leather seats are hot in the summer and cold in winter. Now my behind will be happy in the Alaska hinterlands!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Departure Day, out of Transition, into Transport

Actual date: November 3, 2010

With no more reasons to delay our move to Alaska, other than that cute baby boy, Ken and I decided November 3 was the day to leave. We had ruled out looking for any more gear in Wichita, we had exhausted all resources. We had shipped, and shipped, and shipped boxes even up to the day before. We had packed and repacked boxes and belongings to leave in the basement. I had been careful to put plastic boxes or as much on the tops of shelves as possible that could handle a water line break if something should occur. I also positioned plastic boxes on the floor should the basement leak due to heavy rain. It was not all perfect, but the best I could do. 
The paperwork we purged was burned with the brush burn pile on non-windy days (few and far between in Kansas). The car and trailer had been driven around town, tested, leveled, weighed, and retested. It needed the long trip for real testing now. 
It was a hard decision to leave my sister’s home in Wichita. I love my sister and her family, but Wichita is not where Ken and I want to settle right now. (Besides, we hope they will move to Alaska in the future too!) Deciding on which day of the week to leave was even hard. We had made several deadlines in the past to leave, but three or four came and went and we remained stuck. So my sister had become jaded to our really leaving. I said goodbye to her every day as if it were real. Tonight it would be. She works the second shift, going in at 3pm. We should have been on the road in the morning, and ideally that is what any smart road tripper would do. But sometimes you just have to leave when you are ready. Today that meant tonight. 
Curtis was so nice and fatherly. He approved of our massive equalizing hitch for a 3,000 pound load. He gave us an extra set of tire chains he was not using since they did not fit any of his vehicles. They were brand new too!!! Thanks Curtis. And best of all he made us dinner, he said he could not let us go on an empty stomach. Yum! Baby Andrew ate with us, oh he is a cutie pie! Can you tell I love this baby! We really tried to stash him in the trailer, or leave on a day both parents were gone, but I know my sister would have hunted us down and hurt us. wha! 

After dinner, we cleaned up and started up the car. It was dusk, but we figured we had 4 or 5 good hours in us. On the way out of town, one more stop at a truck stop to weigh the final load. We came in about 500 pounds under the total limit the car gave us. We could definitely feel the trailer was heavier than on previous trips. So far, though, flat road ahead. 

Above, I tried to get a photo of Cessna as we left. My sister and her husband both work there in really cool jobs. We are so excited to be moving to Alaska where the Cessna 150, 172, and 182 are standard transport in the bush! Airplane aficionados, check out the current planes and Cessna history here