2006 America & Canada/Alaska

2006 and my first year of retirement. We flew to Las Vegas for a couple of days, then hired a car to tour the Canyon Country, then drove north to Denver & Mt Rushmore before heading east to Yellowstone and Seattle. From there we took a ferry to Vancouver where we joined a seven day coach trip which included a two day rail journey to Banff. From Vancouver we cruised to Juneau where we took a helicopter ride up onto the glacier and went dog sledding. Returning south we hired another car and drove down the coast road through San Francisco to Los Angeles to fly home. Three months in total.

Below is the map of Western America and the Canadian Rail & Bus Tour and Cruise.

Further down is the full log & photos of our most wonderful trip.

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USA and Canada 2006

Sunday 9th April

The flight from Merimbula to Sydney on the 4.20pm flight was followed by catching the train to the International Terminal for our 8pm flight to America with Hawaiian Airlines. The queue at Check-in took two hours of standing followed by more standing at the Departure Gate for our plane to be an hour late leaving.

Very uncomfortable seats with little room between rows and it was amazing to see how much hand luggage many travellers stuffed into the overhead bins as well as under seats. Following dinner, John managed to settle quickly and sleep well while I watched movies until breakfast service and pre-landing preparations. We landed at 10.30am on the same date we left Australia – but the body clock was thinking it was the middle of the night. On arrival in Hawaii we were delighted by the warm welcome – leis of bright frangipanis placed around our necks by women in colourful Hawaiian dress.

We caught the hotel bus from the airport to Waikiki Beach Hotel, a journey that took nearly an hour. Our room over looked the beach – beautiful white sand and crystal clear water. After unpacking we headed out for walk to have something to eat, but mainly looking for a cup of tea – this was just about impossible to find. Following a couple of hours rest, we had dinner in the hotel garden overlooking Waikiki Beach around to Diamond Head – rather a beautiful sight, bathed in bright sunlight. An early night was needed to try to adjust to local time.

Monday 10 April

The breakfast buffet was rather pleasant except for the tea – one teabag in a jug of hot water. Our room’s tea making was a coffee pot and a large selection of coffees plus one Early Grey teabag!

The afternoon was spent strolling along the beach toward Diamond Head, then back along the street, stopping occasionally to look at the myriad of items for sale along the footpaths; lots of people about but not too many carrying shopping parcels

The area between the hotels on the beach and Diamond Head was all grassed with lots of beautiful trees and shrubs as well as lots of park benches to sit a admire the view.

In the park there is a life-size bronze statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku who achieved medals in swimming at the Olympic Games and is revered as the father of surfing or the Big Kahuna.

Tuesday 11 April

Our flight to Las Vegas was not until 10pm and that left us the day for sight seeing. After packing and leaving our luggage at the hotel we walked from the hotel toward Honolulu to the Submarine for the tour of the artificial reef. Our trip took just on two hours – lots of brightly coloured, predominantly small fish, several large green sea turtles, several stingrays and small eels. The coral reef was in 120feet of crystal clear water but tended to be a dull grey colour with some patches of white rather than the colours seen on the Great Barrier Reef.

Atlantis Submarine

Later in the afternoon we walked back to the hotel through a shopping area that featured the high-end retailers: Dior, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany – not that we made any purchases.

A freshen-up and then time to catch the shuttle bus to the airport for our flight. Once again we were an hour late leaving on a crowded, cramped plane.

Wednesday 12 April

Arrived in Las Vegas at 7.30am and needed to walk to the other end of the airport to catch our shuttle-bus; a map or some directions would have been helpful.

On arrival at our hotel, instead of being able to access our room that we paid to have available, we had to wait for one to be cleaned! While waiting we tried unsuccessfully to find a cup of tea, so wandered around the hotel ground floor – all the gambling options available 24/7 and these were all well patronised – even at that hour.

Our Hotel, the entrance and the view from our room of constructions.

The afternoon was spent looking at tours we could take; late afternoon were headed out to walk to Treasure Island for the sinking the Pirate Ship show. Unfortunately the walk was much further than expected so the show was over by the time we arrived. Needless to say, we caught a bus back to the hotel.

Thursday 13 April

The morning was spent on a bus tour of Las Vegas – driving the entire length of “The Strip” as well as Downtown, the Elthel M Chocolate Shop and the Elvis Museum. The commentary that accompanied the tour was comprehensive; it would appear that of recent times, all of the Casinos have been either been lavishly rebuilt or extensively refurbished or are in the process.

After a restful afternoon, we were collected from our hotel to go on the “Night on the Town Tour”; once again we covered “The Strip” and Downtown but under lights it was a totally different view and by having a live guide, it was both entertaining and informative. We saw the floor show at the Rio, the light show on Fremont Street and finished with a ride to the top of the Stratosphere to view the vista of lights from a great height. The drop-off back to hotels to an hour and a half to the Monte Carlo and there were still lots more stops to be made.

Having dinner at 1.30am when we returned from the bus tour was not a problem, the hotel was fully operational day and night; lots of people about and the Casino area was in full swing – there were no windows and no clocks in the Casino, the gamblers just keep playing, probably with more losses than gains. I put a total of ten coins in a machine – my entire contribution and only because Jillian asked me to try to win her enough money to enable her early retirement (retirement fund not achieved).

Friday 14 April (Good Friday)

After a late night we had a slow start for our final one in Las Vegas. Some shopping and emails before leaving for our Helicopter Flight over the Grand Canyon booked for sunset. Unfortunately the wind was blowing like Buckajo in August, so our flight was cancelled, after rebooking for 6am the following day we went back to the hotel and a lovely dinner.

Saturday 15 April

An early breakfast and then out to the Heliport again; this time we were able to take the flight, heading southwest over the gated community where Andre Agassi and many others have one of their many homes. We flew over Lake Mead and over the Hoover Dam and landed inside the Grand Canyon National Park for refreshments before heading back to Las Vegas – disappointingly we did not fly any further into the Grand Canyon to view the more stunning scenery; that would have to wait for a few more days until we drove there.

Once back to the hotel it was time to checkout and catch a taxi to the car rental agency. It was not long before we were on the road out of Vegas on the slightly less busy roads, heading southwest again. It took slightly longer to drive back past Lake Mead to the Hoover Dam where stopped and had a walk along the wall as well as spent time browsing through their historical display, The Hoover Dam was an amazing structure to see, the dam wall is was constructed to capture the water from the Colorado River to end the water shortages that had plagued the south-west; it is 1,244 feet long, 726.1 feet high and 650 feet thick at the base and its surface area covers some 255 square miles. The dam’s construction was a mammoth task, given it was built 1933 – 1935 and the equipment available at that time.

We drove as far as Kingsman before stopping for the night. With the washing done we headed to Walmart and purchased supplies to take on the road – tea, milk, bread, butter, cereal, fruit, utensils and a toaster. A train line beside the motel afforded some nighttime noise.

Sunday 16 April

Our first stop today was back to Walmart to replace toaster that blew when we used it as well as John’s razor that had disappeared between Hawaii and Las Vegas.

As we drove along, we realised we were on Route 66, how exciting! The towns we drove through had varying memorabilia displayed to reflect where we were and made fascinating reading and reflection.

We spent the night in Flagstaff with the E40 beside the motel providing many and varied noises during the night.

Our rental vehicle was a Ford Taurus and what a piece of garbage that was proving to be – rigid suspension and a seat with no worthwhile springs all combining to make the trip a challenge.

Monday 17 April

From Flagstaff we drove to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon stopping at Grand Canyon Village and walked to the rim of the Canyon. I cannot describe the vista that opened up – such vastness, colours, sights, sounds, depth and sheer the magnitude of our time in this place. The mighty Colorado River appeared to be just a tiny stream when viewed from on high

We continued driving along the rim, stopping frequently to stop and view the Canyon with our last sighting from Desert View before driving on to Page. This turned into a fascinating 40mile drive beside Echo Cliffs – so many amazing formations, striations and colours and a totally fascinating journey to Page.

Tuesday 18 April

We spent time trying to find a car seat to make the car ride at least bearable, nothing suitable was available in Page.

The afternoon was spent taking the River Cruise on the dam. On the drive out to the marina we stopped at the Dam viewing area and Information Area, being surprised by armed police at the door who yelled out as we walked towards the building to leave our backpacks in the car, they were forbidden within the Dam Wall Area!

The cruise on Lake Powell took three hours, covering many miles meandering in and out of canyons; the usual water-line was clearly visible 100ft above the current level and they were hoping for at least 50ft to be added with this year’s Spring thaw.

Wednesday 19 April

“Day 2 in Page and Gae elected to have a rest day so I took the raft trip downstream from the dam wall. I was collected from the motel at 8.30 and to get down to the river we had to take the tunnel cut down the side of the river wall which is the one they used to start building the dam. The river walls a vertical and around 600 feet tall so the construction team had to cut this tunnel at 45 degree to get to the riverbed. Once down there we boarded the ten man raft with operator & guide. Fish in the river have reduced dramatically and the water released into the river is from the bottom of the dam and is so cold that fish cannot exist in the conditions. They are looking at a fix that will release water from the top of the dam and will be much warmer.

Further down the river we were shown a number of Indian paintings on the walls that can only be accessed via river craft. The river wall on both sides is vertical and it was not until we floated about twenty miles down the river that there was any chance to cross the river. It was at this crossing that the Morman community of Salt Lake City would travel south to attract a wife and return in their wagons and have to cross the sandy slopes of the river to get back up onto the planes.”

I spent the morning on the phone trying to by an Obus Forme car seat and eventually found a company who would accept my credit card over the phone and agree to have the car seat sent via Fedex to a motel address in Cedar City – that was after I had provided copies of my driver’s license, passport and credit card.

Thursday 20 April

After leaving Page the first stop was at the Navajo National Monument – dwellings built into the cliffs in 1300AD – a sight to gaze upon in wonder of life at the time. From there we drove to Monument Valley – once again something so vast, timeless, awe-inspiring and a landscape so different from any previous experience.

We spent the night in a small town called Blanding – all rather old and tired.

Friday 21 April

Today we continued our journey through the Canyon Country – another part of the massive area with strange and wonderful rock formations, such as we have never seen before. The Arches National Park, such strange rock formations for miles – arches and bridges of rock, ranging from a few feet across to gigantic structures wrought by erosion of the rock over millennia.

By talking to the rangers in the Park, we saved ourselves a wasted journey to the ferry at Hall’s Creek – which was out of action. We had intended to use the ferry to cross the river instead of driving all the way around to Bullfrog. The marina at Bullfrog in Glen Canyon was immense, hard to comprehend that expanse of water in such a barren area. We eventually arrived in Bryce Canyon rather later than intended.

Saturday 22 April

Another bright day to explore Bryce Canyon; what a spectacular sight – hard to find the right words to describe the sheer magnitude and amazing colours; therefore I will leave it to the photos and your imagination.

Sunday 23 April

Up early for sunrise over the Canyon and then on to Zion Canyon via road tunnels that opened onto more spectacular scenes – so many different canyons, with such varied formations and colours; all linked but separate.

We had to leave the car at the Visitors Centre and take the shuttle bus into Zion Canyon – a round trip of an hour and a half; we also watched a film at the Museum about the history of the area. Once again the photos will need to describe the vistas before us.

 

Monday 24 April

After spending the night at the Zion Lodge, we left early to drive into Kolob Canyon where we spent quite some time walking to Timber Creek Overlook. The landscape gradually changed from stark canyon formations to verdant sights – early spring growth showing promise of what will follow.

Arrived in Cedar City at lunchtime; called at Visitors Centre for maps and then tried to track down car seat – hopefully soon to arrive.

When you look at the map, the drive from Las Vegas to Cedar City is 170miles – we took the long way and covered 1337miles.

Tuesday 25 April

The car seat arrived; we stocked up on supplies and were on the road by 11am, heading north and then east – avoiding major cities as much as possible, driving through countryside that remained arid, anything half decent was drought ravaged. Some areas under irrigation were dotted around, but not many. We drove through Devil’s Canyon before arriving in Green River where we spent quite some time in the Powell History Museum, watching film of Powell’s 1867 expeditions down the Green and Colorado Rivers.

Wednesday 26 April

Today was a drive from Green River to the Arches National Park – it is still amazing to continually see myriads of rock formations all so different from each other and yet all formed in similar ways – fascinating to ponder it all.

Driving alongside the Colorado River for miles was a beautiful, ever changing sight As we crossed the into the State of Colorado, we stopped at the Welcome Centre for information, maps and insights from locals – highly recommended were the “Ribs” that we just had to try! Let’s just leave this experience, as once is enough.

Thursday 27 April

As we drove toward Denver, the country gradually changed from Mesa, canyons and barren landscape to more fertile valleys; some acres under irrigation to drier areas – just like home really.

We were delayed on the highway for an hour by a, accident blocking the road. After lunch, were headed up into the Rockies – plenty of snow still around with some ski slopes still in action (1200ft elevation). Accommodation was hard to find as we drove up the Peak-to-Peak Road and eventually stopped at Nederland at a charming, small hotel and a lovely dinner by the fire.

 

Friday 28 April

Awoke to such a beautiful vista – everything covered by a few inches of snow that had fallen overnight. Snow on the ground for quite some time as we drove from Nederland, up to Estes Peak and down beside the Thompson River to Loveland, passing lots of people fly-fishing.

 

Once on the highway, it was no long before we reached Cheyenne, stopping for lunch and then a fascinating few hours in the Museum before driving on to Lusk for the night – having driven across most of Wyoming in the afternoon.

 

Saturday 29 April

On an overcast morning that looked like it was snowing on the higher peaks; as we drove through the Black Hills State Park toward Mt Rushmore the first glimpses were breathtaking and the remaining miles filled with wonder as well as dodging all the buffalos roaming freely. It was easy to spend time at the Mt Rushmore Memorial and Museum, reflecting on what can be achieved with a dream, money and people prepared to undertake such work.

After leaving Mt Rushmore the road took us through Deadwood, Calamity, Hickock and Sundance (although no Calamity Jane or Wild Bill to be seen, I half expected to hear Doris Day start singing).

Sunday 30 April

Today was spent covering miles to make time to spend at Yellowstone National Park. The road took us up into the Rockies again; lots of snow around as well as more spectacular scenery.

Monday 1 May

We spent the night at Cody ready to explore the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum. Hours passed swiftly in the Museum – amazing exhibitions staged to give realistic glimpses into that period of history. The paintings, photographs, films, DVDs, stuffed animals, insects and birds in realistic settings; mannequins, cottages and teepees set up with audio-visual equipment all combining to make it come to life.

The roads to Yellowstone from the east still blocked by snow, necessitating a detour up around through Columbus to approach the Park from the North Gate.

Tuesday 2 May

Our intention had been to stay in the Park, but we were too early in the season for any accommodation to be available. We spent a few hours driving to various part of the Park – Hot Springs followed by the Waterfalls. Buffalo roaming freely, many with calves afoot.

We left the Park via the West Gate and headed south along the Teton Ranges to Jackson.

Wednesday 3 May

A day off in Jackson to catch up on washing, mail and shopping.

“I decided to drive north to view the lake and see if I could make it to the South entrance of Yellowstone National Park which is still closed until next week. The drive along Jackson Lake would be some of the best scenery I have seen anywhere with the lake now only half frozen and the Teton Mountain range to the west reflecting on the lake. It was so nice that I took a lunch break to admire the view for half an hour. Of course I took a photo to send home to family and friends.”

Thursday 4 May

Exploring Jackson began at the Information Centre – once again, lots of displays to animals and artifacts. All the Information Centres we have visited have been amazingly well set-up with marvelous displays – predominantly volunteers on duty who were enthusiastic as well as a wealth of information

Our next stop was the Museum of Wildlife and spent hours browsing all the displays and pausing at the large windows to view the plains stretching for miles with various animal herds passing through on their treks north for the summer. We sat and watched a DVD of Robert Bateman discussing a painting of buffalo he completed for the Museum, adding depth to our appreciation of their collection.

We finished the day strolling through the older part of town – a rather exclusive shopping precinct.

Friday 5 May

A long day’s drive from Jackson, Wyoming to Halfway, Oregon and driving right across Idaho on the I84 – sitting on 75+MPH and overtaken by just about everything – including a low-loader with a bulldozer onboard!

We travelled through open country, snow-covered mountains always in the distance; mile upon mile of newly turned soil ready for potatoes; a dearth of travelling irrigators being fed from an irrigation channel running alongside acres of lucerne crops.

Arrived in Halfway about 6.30pm (5.30 Central Time, after 10.5hrs on the road) to spend a couple of days with Lynette and George Hauptman. Spent the evening chatting with Lynette and George’s friends – their usual Friday evening.

Saturday 6 May

Brunch at Mimi’s – the usual Saturday activity for this group of friends; then browsed through the newly opened gift shop and then on to the Quilt and Antique Shop and spent ages just wandering and looking. I could have spent money on quilts, but too early in the trip for such purchases.

Saturday afternoon George took us for a drive down to Hell’s Canyon Dam – a spectacular gorge and the deepest in North America. George is a Tour / Adventure Guide and provided a vast array of information about the area, history and geology, adding greatly to our enjoyment of the trip.

We spent another pleasant evening over dinner with friends.

Sunday 7 May

Brunch today included John Logan, Lynette and George’s friend discussing travel and being supplied with endless tips on “musts” of sightseeing and accommodation from here to Seattle and then down to LA (not sure that we have the budget for some of the places John recommended.

A leisurely afternoon in the vegetable garden and then dinner spent chatting about life in the valley and travel; a very pleasant sojourn for the weekend.

Monday 8 May

From Halfway we set off again northwest towards Seattle and then Victoria (Canada) by the end of the week. Our first stop was at the Oregon Interpretive Centre at Bakers City – once again, American history brought to life in a fascinating display. From Bakers City we drove to Joseph to view the bronze statues in the street as well as at the Gallery and from Joseph to Clarkston through miles upon miles of fir trees, past the Joseph Canyon, down the Grande Ronde Gorge, over the river and up the other side and finally along the Snake River to Clarkston for the night.

Tuesday 9 May

Back on to Mountain Time as we crossed into Montana heading toward Glacier National Park. From Clarkston to Missoula, 180miles along the Clearwater River and up the mountain to Lola Pass Information Centre (only open Saturday and Sunday); lots of snow on the ground – we were pulled up by the police for doing 62 in a 50 zone; how John avoided a ticket is a real mystery, he didn’t give a straight answer to a direct question!

The mountains still covered in fir trees, with a greater variety of species in Montana; was delighted to see lilac growing wild and in great profusion – from shades of cream through to deep purple and all just beautiful.

Wednesday 10 May

After spending the night is Missoula, we called into the Information Centre to find out the Glacier National Park was not open until 24th May – a long detour to look at more fir trees.

From Missoula through fir trees to Coeur d’Alene, along the Clark Fort River and from there out into open country with acres of wheat, lucerne and canola – lots of water being used for irrigation.

We spent the night at Moses – a rather unpleasant night; we had to change rooms to next door because the toilet blocked only to find the stench permeated through to our room.

Thursday 11 May

From Moses Lake we headed north and then west, stopping at Leavenworth where we spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering and sitting. The town had been set up as a Bavarian Village – Tyrolean buildings, planter boxes, hanging baskets a profusion of colours from all the flowers being hung throughout the town and there was a Maypole ready for the weekend activities. It was a pleasure to sit in the open and drink in the scenery – made even more beautiful with dozens of dome-shaped Dogwood trees coming into bloom.

After leaving Leavenworth we drove over the Stevens Pass with lots of snow still around and stopped in Everett for the night. Went to the supermarket and bought meat and vegetables to cook for our dinner – most enjoyable.

The morning was taken up with a tour of the Boeing Factory 777 assembly plant from the observation deck as well as in the display area; then toured the Future of Flight Facility before returning to rationalise luggage ready for the next part of our trip.

Saturday 13 May

A short drove from Everett to Seattle with increasing volumes of traffic – pleased it was Saturday morning rather than a weekday.

The remainder of the day was spent walking to the Space Needle and going up to the Observation Deck to view out over the city and waterways – a wonderful sight on a lovely clear day. From the Space Needle we walked along the Waterfront, took a Harbour Cruise, ate fish and chips for dinner on the wharf before walking back up to the hotel.

Sunday 14 May

The morning was spent strolling through the Pike Place Markets – lots of fish, flowers, honey, cheese and all sorts of fresh produce – plenty of shoppers with full baskets. We found the “Crumpet Shop” and had crumpets with the most beautiful Raspberry Jam. From the Markets we walked to the shopping centre and had a lovely browsed through Macys and Nordstrom making the odd purchase; John was pleased to find himself two pairs of trousers with the zippered legs.

John decided to clean the car ready to return it in the morning – we were not using it and it was a waste paying for parking at the hotel.

Monday 15 May

Car returned safely to Hertz – staff amazed at the miles covered, but really unhelpful at making next booking for our return from the Canada / Alaska trip; this turned into a job for Joanne (our travel agent).

The morning was taken up with The Underground Tour of Seattle with our guide providing an entertaining insight to early history and development of the city.

During the afternoon we sorted luggage into what was traveling with us and what was being stored at the hotel until we retuned.

Tuesday 16 May

We left Seattle by ferry in the early morning on a beautiful clear day; the trip took three hours to reach Victoria travelling around lots of islands of varying sizes. From the ferry terminal it was a reasonable walk to the Pacific Bus Terminal for the bus that took us to Vancouver, included another ferry ride. Canadian Border processing was less than welcoming and took rather a long time to complete. After another long walk, we finally arrived at our hotel late afternoon and after a brief rest, it was time to attend the “APT Tour Meet and Greet” at 7pm. Tour Guide did not inspire a lot of confidence – hopefully she was just nervous and will improve.

Wednesday 17 May

John and I were out early walking and then joined the Group for a Bus Tour of Vancouver; including Gas Town, Stanley Park and the Markets, accompanied by a commentary from our Tour Guide – she is still not very impressive.

Emailing from the hotel proved an expensive activity so used our US toggle instead.

Thursday 18 May

Today began with an early bus trip to the station and boarding the Gold Leaf Train, pulling out at 8am. What an amazing day of travel from Vancouver to Kamloops, following the river along the hinterland and then climbing over and through the Rockies. The silver service and delightful food prepared especially for us in the lower-level dining room as well as the superb viewing from the upper-level glass domed reclining seats all helped the day pass very pleasantly.

After we left the mountain range we travelled through fertile river flats before coming to almost barren mesa type country all the while being given fascinating commentary by all the staff.

The train arrived in Kamloops at 6, transferred to the hotel by bus before dinner and the Lumberjack Show – very entertaining.

Friday 19 May

Back to the train at 6.30 to depart at 7am; today we travelled through pine-covered mountains and open areas, past lakes and alongside swiftly flowing rivers.

A washout as Revelstoke caused a two-hour delay; this set a compounding pattern for the remainder of the day. It was fortuitous or perhaps usual that there were plenty of provisions aboard the train and the staff should be commended for their excellent food as well as customer service under challenging conditions. We finally arrived at our Banff Springs hotel at 12mn, everyone rather the worse for the experience.

Saturday 20 May

A slower start to the day after yesterday’s mammoth journey; at 11am we caught the bus to Sulphur Mountain Gondola Ride and was treated to superb 3600 views of snow-capped mountains at the top and continuing spectacular scenery as we descended –rivers that were swiftly flowing bank-to-bank and the hotel looking like a fairytale castle sitting in a sea of pine trees.

Sunday 21 May

We set off mid-morning, on a cooler, crisper day to travel to Lake Louise; the first stop was at Bow Falls and then a tour of Banff, Surprise Corner, Lake Minnewanka then Trans Canada Highway to Lake Mouraine before arriving at Lake Louise and walking tour on lake edge. The Lake was still predominantly frozen and the view from our window was breathtaking – mountains all around and a glacier directly across the Lake.

Monday 22 May

Watching the sunrise over the snow-covered mountain peaks and the frozen Lake provided even more astounding views than last night.

The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper was interspersed with continuing magical scenery of tree-covered mountains, amazing canyons and included stops at waterfalls as well as Icefield Glacier Park for a giant snowmobile ride to the Glacier face where a group photo was taken.

Tuesday 23 May

A slower start today and fewer stops at waterfalls and canyons to cover the miles to Sun Peaks. A charming ski village, predominantly high-end hotels accommodating thousands of tourists all year.

Wednesday 24 May

Another early start for the trip to Whistler driving through more spectacular scenery – it might eventually become wearing, but not yet! The vistas for the day included steep, snow covered mountains, swiftly flowing rivers as well as beautiful lakes; on one particularly steep section, we passed an RV that had tipped over the safety wall. There were other vehicles that had stopped to assist and it looked as though the occupants were all right and we were waved past.

Light rain and fewer stops helped us arrive at our hotel earlier today. After some laundry and emails we had a walk around the shopping area followed by a lovely dinner.

Thursday 25 May

The final day of the bus trip was predominantly covering the miles in wet conditions punctuated by delays at road works, protestor blockades, a ferry-ride across to Victoria Island and into our hotel early evening.

Friday 26 May

The overnight stay at the Marriott was not up to the usual standard and resulted in our group being less than impressed.

The day improved immeasurably with the morning spent is a horse and carriage ride around the park, browsing the delightful shopping precinct and then spending the afternoon at the Butchart Gardens. What a wondrous place! An old quarry that had been planned and planted over the years into the magnificent displays we wandered through – such a magnificent profusion of colours in the flowers, shrubs and trees; it was just too early for the roses, but I could imagine the scene. The Garden Shoppe held so many beautiful items I could have purchased, but managed to restrict myself to just a few.

Our dinner served for our farewell dinner was not particularly pleasant, however the company made it an enjoyable evening.

Saturday 27 May

After checking out of the hotel, we took a scenic drive from Victoria to Sidney for the ferry to Vancouver and arriving at the docks at 2pm to board the Zuiderdam for our cruise to Alaska via the Inside Passage. We finally finished the boarding process at 4pm and sailed at 5.30, watching it all from our balcony and remaining to take it in until too cold to stay.

For dinner we were seated at a table was in a bay window overlooking the wake from the ship as we sailed into the night.

Sunday 28 May

Awoke to a misty morning at sea, breakfast was followed by exploring the ship – could take quite some time to become oriented; whatever you could need or want appeared to be available and the food abundant, fresh and enjoyable.

We had an afternoon tea gathering with the group from the bus tour, many of whom were dressed in their finery to attend the Captain’s Cocktail Party and Formal Dinner – we opted for a quiet drink in the “Crows Nest” where we watched a whale blowing and breaching followed by a lovely dinner upstairs.

Monday 29 May

Today we awoke to a narrow waterway, fir trees, snow and glaciers with icebergs floating past – this was what we came to see! Low cloud covered the higher peaks earlier in the day but cleared before we docked at Juneau.

Once ashore we boarded the Mount Roberts Tramway where the steep ride up the mountain afforded the most spectacular views over the mountains and harbour with the cruise liners appearing almost toy-like. The afternoon was filled with a helicopter flight to the top of the glacier and then a dogsled ride. Finding appropriate words to describe the scenery and experiences not flowing, therefore I leave it to photos and postcards to give glimpses of our time at Juneau.

We had a late dinner when we returned to the ship followed by crawling into bed.

Tuesday 30 May

We had anchored in Skagway during the night and spent another great day taking the train up to Fraser – the commentary provided information on life and times of the area when settled in late 1800’ led to the construction of the railway up and over the mountain. Considering the equipment available, the terrain and the weather – what an achievement!

We saw three bears, mother with two cubs standing on a rocking outcrop as well as fir trees from tiny seedlings through to tall ones in the most amazing tiny cracks and crevasses; the commentary explained that the trees have about a month each year to grow, managing up to half and inch if it was a good season.

Detrained at the top and then travelled back down to the Skagway by coach stopping at the Liarsville (you have to love the name) theatre and gold panning exhibition. We roamed the rustic township before returning to the ship. It is probably euphemistic to call this a town; more a dozen wooden structures built for tourist souvenirs and it probably dies when the ships and buses are not able to gain access.

Wednesday 31 May

We had left the curtains open to ensure we were awake as we sailed into Glacier Bay. Early low cloud cleared to give perfect views as we sailed into Margerie and then Pacific Bay Glaciers. We sat at anchor for ages watching the Glaciers “calving”, whales breaching and blowing as well as two sea lions swimming lazily beside the ship – another momentous day.

Dinner was a pleasant few hours of good food and lovely company in one of the many dinning rooms.

Thursday 1 June

Another cloudy morning spent gliding quietly along the wooded coastline before arriving in Ketchican in the early afternoon. Ashore we had intended to go the Totem Museum, but this proved to be too much of a challenge – no bus or taxi service available, horse-drawn carriage ride did not stop there and directions just about impossible to find – even at the Tourist Information Office. We decided to try to walk to the Museum, but when we eventually found out how far it was, it turned out we didn’t have time to make the trip as well as make it back to the ship in time to sail.

Dinner featured the Holland America Bombe Alaska Spectacular – it certainly was spectacular; quite an achievement in a ship’s galley.

Friday 2 June

A day at sea punctuated with a computer photo-shop workshop in the morning and in the afternoon, being an eBay user for John while I attended the disembarkation briefing – didn’t gain any more information than was in the notes. We both attended the APT briefing, which was less than impressive.

Following drinks in the Crows Nest with our bus crew our dinner overlooking the stern as well as from our room was filled with sights that defy description; a complete palette of grey – ocean, land, mountains and sky of every possible hue from almost ethereal through to thunderous. I cannot adequately convey the breathtaking scenery we witnessed and I doubt any photos could do it justice.

Saturday 3 June

Today we awoke to houses rather than trees as we sailed under Lion’s Gate Bridge into Vancouver Harbour, docking while at breakfast.

Following disembarkation and Customs we joined the coach tour to Grouse Mountain via the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We took the cable car to the top of the mountain to witness a Raptor Display, listen to a ranger talking about bears in the wild and efforts to reverse the negative impacts of human habitation, we watched another Lumberjack Show and finished with an Imax film on the early development of Grouse Mountain. James, our coach driver, was also a wealth of information during the trip.

Sunday 4 June

Raining as we awoke to the final morning of being with our tour group before we all headed off in varying directions.

This afternoon we wandered the shops, bought an iPod for Jil as well as parenting magazines requested by Sharon, do some laundry and buy some supplies.

Monday 5 June

Up early to catch the bus to return to Seattle, leaving Vancouver at 8.30, through US Boarder processing at 11am and arrived SeaTac at 1.30pm. From there we collected car and returned to the hotel we had stayed in before our Canada / Alaska Trip. Following a trip to the market for supplies for our impending car trip we headed to McCormack’s Pub again for another delicious dinner.

Tuesday 6 June

On the road again with the first stop at the Museum of Flight – lack of signage made it difficult to find, but eventually achieved success. John spent a few pleasurable hours browsing the exhibits that included an Air Force One plane and Concorde.

The remainder of the day was spent covering mileage, finishing at Bremerton.

Wednesday 7 June

We began by driving around the Olympia Peninsular, out to Port Townsend for a browse around the village and then on to Port Angeles. Most of the day’s drive was through pine forests that had regrown after clear felling with occasional glimpses of coastline, not an inspiring day.

By the time we reached Aberdeen we had travelled far enough for the day.

Thursday 8 June

Headed out early to Raymond and then Astoria for a stop at the Maritime Museum and then on toward Portland, along the Columbia River. The river remains quite majestic – even though it has been dammed, it flows strongly on its journey, at times smoothly, appearing gentle, while at other times it is almost ferocious as it makes its way to the ocean. We have now see the mighty Columbia River which is sourced near Glacier National Park in Canada and the feed in Snake River which sourced from Jackson Lake in Wyoming empty into the Pacific Ocean west of Portland. At the Interpretive Centre we were fascinated by the story of damming the Columbia River. We then spent the night at Hood River.

Friday 9 June

From Hood River to the Cascade Locks and Power Station where the Interpretive Centre contained a wealth of historical information as well as a viewing platform to watch fascinated at the fish swimming up the cascades via the fish ladder.

We finished the day on the outskirts of Portland at Wilsonville on the Hood River.

Saturday 10 June

A day spent driving as close as possible along the coast, stopping numerous times to just look at the view as well as watch the water as well as some sea lions frolicking in the breaking waves – very rarely seeing people along the coast. Finally stopped at Florence for the night.

Sunday 11 June

We spent the day out of the car in Florence.

“I took a drive around the local area searching for a covered bridge. I followed the Siuslaw River upstream to the village of Mapleton and located a covered bridge and the story behind them. The reason they were covered was to stop the horse and wagon slipping on the icy timbers of the bridge, the coverage prevented the icing and allowed safe passage.

I also spotted a log truck driver and had a conversation on the logging industry. They harvest Oregon (Douglas Fir) and get a regrowth within 30 years by feeding each new tree with fertilizer in the early stages. They still have difficulties with the green parties even though they are a regrowth industry.

In the afternoon I headed south to have a look at the famous Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This is where hugh sand hills have been created by the winds along the shoreline. An area has been set aside for three wheel bikes with balloon tyres to run up and down the sand hills. I have never seen tyres of this type so spent some time enjoying the fun.”

Monday 12 June

It was raining as we left Florence and travelled through lots of for / pine forests with intermittent glimpses of rather grey, flat ocean.

Had lunch overlooking the coast and spent the time watching more sea lions having a lovely time in the waves.

The dash in the Ford kept blinking saying it was time service; we eventually gave up on that as no information could be found either on the phone to Hertz or in the local Ford Agency.

The Crescent City Ranger Station provided a wealth of information on the Redwood Trails ready for the following day.

Tuesday 13 June

From Crescent City we kept travelling south on the 101 to the Trees of Mystery where we took the gondola ride to the top of the ridge, walking back through the majestic redwoods as well as “Paul Bunyan” carvings to the gift shop and Museum.

Our next stop was the “Tour Thru Tree”, a giant redwood with a tunnel cut through to allow cars to drive through – a tight fit for the Lincoln. From there we drove through the Redwood national Park followed by the Humboldt Redwood State Park and the Avenue of Giants.

Night at Garberville

Wednesday 14 June

From Garberville down the 101 then at Leggett we turned onto Highway 1 to Fort Bragg on the coast and spent the remainder of the day wandering down the coastline – lots of erosion with roads as well as houses falling into the ocean.

Closer to San Francisco we had to leave the coast as it was now covered by massive gated houses right to the water’s edge with no vehicular access except via a few walkways through to the water.

Spent the night at Petaluma

Thursday 15 June

Along Highway1 and then the 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco and our hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco Tour for the afternoon and that took us all over the city with numerous stops for photos while being regaled with lots of facts and probably some fiction about the city.

Friday 16 June

Our day began with a ride on the Cable Car followed by a Trolley Car – both of which were staffed by men who spent the entire journey up, down and around the city entertaining the passengers with stories of their industry, history and folklore, making sure they encouraged everyone to contribute handsomely to their “Tip Jar”. Our journey ended back at the famous Fisherman’s Wharf ready to sample seafood bisque, fish chowder or any seafood pie you could image.

A Bay Cruise that took us out under the Golden Gate Bridge, around the Bay and then to “The Rock” – Alcatraz, followed lunch; again the tour was accompanied by continuing commentary of San Francisco history and folklore, particularly “The Rock” facts and figures.

Saturday 17 June

Today began with another ride on the Cable Car as far as the St Peter and Paul Cathedral where we waited while a Christening was conducted and then toured the church and viewed a statue of La Pieta – this was “adorned” by potted trailing ivy, why, I could not understand!

John then went to explore the Cable Car Museum while I had a quiet stroll back to the hotel.

“I enjoyed my visit to the Cable Car Museum which is located on the hill between San Francisco City and the Fisherman’s Wharf on the Bay. The wire rope cables run each way from the Museum and are located in a covered ditch between the tracks. The cable cars have an arm which grabs the cable and hangs on to be dragged to the next stop where it is released until the passengers are aboard and grabbed again to move to the next stop. These cable cars have been operating for around 100 years and are very popular with the locals & tourists.

Many pictures were on display at the Museum showing the near total destruction of the city caused by the 1906 Earthquake and resulting fire.”

We had planned on taking the Alcatraz Tour but decided we had seen enough on the Bay Cruise and the local area was more interesting.

Sunday 18 June

From San Francisco we continued our journey south – pleased to be leaving on Sunday rather than coping with weekday traffic and the seven-lane road systems.

The scenery after the built-up areas and heading east toward Yosemite Park was flat with dry grasses the only scenery for miles until we came across a wind farm before reaching the Sierra-Nevada Range. From a distance, the Range appeared to have snow on the peaks, which was at odds with such a hot day and the arid landscape; it turned out to be limestone rock formations.

A landslide blocked the road from Mariposa to Yosemite so we detoured to Oakhurst to access the Park.

Monday 19 June

We were up early to spend the day in Yosemite Park; the first stop was at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias; it was surprising how much the carpark had filled while we were there and then the crowds during the day kept building – this was purported to be the quiet season – the lull before the summer influx.

Once again I am not sure I can adequately describe our day spent in this Park; driving up and down through tunnels and across bridges, stopping at all the vantage points to gaze on what unfolded around us. We stopped in Yosemite village for lunch and at the Interpretive Centre to see the display and watch “Spirit of Yosemite”.

Perhaps the most spectacular scenery in the Park was from Glacier Point Lookout; a vista of waterfalls, sheer cliffs, snow and rock worn smooth by glacier action eons previously; the village thousands of feet below looked almost toy-like, a long but truly remarkable day.

Tuesday 20 June

It was a pleasure to leave this accommodation – they took the cake on just about every aspect of hospitality and customer service.

As we headed back toward the coast to continue southward, we crossed the San Joaquin Valley where the landscape opened out into fertile river flats through to the gentle slopes of the hills; we travelled for many miles through laden fruit trees as well as crops of lettuce, tomatoes, chives, peas and corn – to name just some. There were lots of workers among the crops – men, women and children, picking the produce, packing it into boxes and stacking it all onto rather the what appeared to be worse for wear vehicles.

Back on Highway1 we rejoined the coastline but the view today was clouded by sea mist that restricted our view considerably. However, when visible we saw and heard stormy seas crashing onto the rocks and cliffs, lots of seaweed in the waves and spent quite sometime watching a pod of elephant seals resting and playing on the beach just north of San Simeon.

Today we were treated to a stunning sunset that compensated for any perceived lack of scenery during the day – all that you could wish for or imagine an amazing sunset should be.

Wednesday 21 June

Our accommodation overlooked the beach and we awoke to a bright morning with sea mist sitting on gentle little waves right up to the sand. The mist gradually crept in and eventually had encroached up to the hotel – where it stopped and remained all day. No sunset today, just faded from white to grey to black – a novel experience.

I drove back up Highway No. 1 and turned right and up the hill to visit the National Historic Landmark of Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst became a newspaper magnate around the WWI and in 1919 commissioned Architect Julia Morgan to build a grand castle that would rival the great castles of Europe. It was completed in 1947 and William Hearst died in 1951. In 1954 it became a California State Park and was opened to visitors in 1958.

It was built in the Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture style and was very lavish for its time. I found it hard to compare with European Castles that have been around for three & four hundred years but it was an American take on them. It commanded a 360 degree view from its location and a view to the Pacific Ocean.

After dinner we walked down to the water’s edge – not a lot could been seen through the mist except for three board riders – talk about hardy souls.

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