MoART '04

The Mother of All Road Trips

"The more you travel, the larger your horizons become."

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31-Jul-04: D+30 : We made it home! At 6:30pm EDT we pulled into our driveway after 31 days; 26 states/provinces; and 12,902 total miles of MoART (more than half the circumference of the Earth). We have seen much of our beautiful continent, and visited friends and family we haven't seen in years. It may be a while before Renee and the kids want to get in the car again. But we have learned a lot, bonded a lot, and had a wonderful time.

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30-Jul-04: D+29 : Our final leg of MoART, with a 4Runner that just logged its 163,000th mile (and over 12,000 on MoART). It was a gray and drizzly day through all of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. The "Severe Thunderstorm Warning" in Lexington, KY (just west of our intended campsite in the Daniel Boone National Forest) deterred us from camping for our final night on the road. So we pressed on to West Virginia, where we are now resting comfortably in a Ramada in Huntington, WV -- just 450 miles from home. The kids even discovered chocolates on the pillows (Shelby's measure of a suitable accommodation). We expect to end MoART '04 by early evening tomorrow, 31-Jul-04.

29-Jul-04: D+28 : We took the road to -- and through -- Abilene today, from Denver to Kansas City. No tornadoes. Shelby's first friend in Chesapeake, Renae, now lives in Kansas City with her little sister and soon-to-arrive baby brother. Tomorrow we begin the final leg of MoART: Kansas City to home, with a possible camping stop in Kentucky. Mileage log thus far is 11,700 in 29 days; Renee has not left me yet, and both kids are still healthy and happy.... :-)

28-Jul-04: D+27 : After an early afternoon picnic at the Denver Zoo (and an obligatory photo stop by the brass hippo), Renee's aunt Helen hosted a dinner for the family -- including cousins and second cousins Renee hasn't seen in decades. We learned more about the Onsager family roots from Helen and Renee's cousin Mark (who has been to the Onsager farm near Jevnaker, Norway, where he got the Onsager-label roof tile shown below) and shared "travel war stories". So far, MoART has logged 11,080 miles. Tomorrow we cross Kansas (which, according to Shelby, "...has tornadoes every day!") to see the Rogges -- former neighbors from Chesapeake.

27-Jul-04: D+26 : Today we began our trek back to Virginia with a marathon 1,040 mile drive from Murrieta, CA to Denver -- passing the 10,000 mile mark for MoART shortly after leaving the Miltons' house. But first, we had another touch-and-go: breakfast with Renee's cousin Lee in Las Vegas. Then we enjoyed the scenery of I-15 through Arizona's "Virgin River Gorge" (a surreal experience -- the highway seemed to disappear into the mountain as we neared the gorge) and I-70 through Utah and Colorado. The painted sedimentary formations in Utah are breathtaking; just be sure to gas up because services are about 90 miles apart. Then, as we entered Colorado, we saw a sunset rainbow -- our second of this trip. We'll spend two nights at Renee's cousin Jill's home (where the kids promptly crashed on the couch :-) before heading to Kansas City.

26-Jul-04: D+25 : We made a lightning pass through San Diego today, with several visits (and too much time in traffic!) and a side trip to the southwestern tip of the continental United States. Among the family and friends we were able to see were the kids' godmothers (Andra, our host; and Lynne, who has just launched a new company with her husband Jim:, plus Shane's aunt Pat and cousin Ryan ...

... as well as Shelby's godfather Chip and his wife Theresa (of the McAteer & McAteer law firm), and an abbreviated pool party with Richelle Hurst and her three boys.

25-Jul-04: D+24 : Improvisation and adaptation: we have gone off our intended path for a quick pass through San Diego. After our chance encounter with the Bloom family a week ago in Seattle, Renee thought this would not be The Mother of All Road Trips if we didn't stop in SoCal. So we left Alameda a day earlier than planned and headed for Murrieta, CA, home of Jarrett's godmother Andra and her family (Brad, Cody, Amber and another Shelby). Jarrett made a new friend -- the Miltons' kitten named "Tank".

24-Jul-04: D+23 : ˇFiesta! The sometimes-annual Deichman Summer Party was hosted this afternoon in Alameda. Neighbors, family and friends came to celebrate summer and a gaggle of Leo birthdays (Shane, his dad's, his dad-in-law's, his brother-in-law's, his uncles, etc.). Steak fajitas, pollo asado and Shane's favorite Carnitas de la Madre were featured alongside salsa cruda and black beans. This visit has been a cornucopia of outstanding Mexican food (including, earlier in the week, super burritos from Ramiro y Sons Taqueria in Alameda and from an unnamed taqueria in San Francisco's Mission District after midnight on Friday). Of course, this will make returning to Tidewater Virginia all the more difficult.... Tomorrow we will adjust our travel plans to swing through San Diego and see the kids' other godparents.

22-Jul-04: D+21 : After running some errands (like getting the 4Runner's third oil change of the trip) we all visited the Oakland Zoo -- which has a great lion exhibit ("Simba Pori", which literally translates to "Lion Country") and a brand-new bat exhibit. These bats were quite active in the daylight exhibit -- unlike any other we've seen before. When not imitating the various animals in the exhibits, Jarrett played "Casanova" with any girls near his age -- like Madelaine (a precocious 3-1/2 year old he met by the elephant exhibit) and Sylvia (who shared his car on the auto-carousel).

21-Jul-04: D+20 : We took the ferry to San Francisco today, enjoying the perfect weather in the Bay Area -- cloudless skies with temperatures in the mid-70s. Playing the role of dutiful tourists, we let the kids have the run of Pier 39 (including carousel riding and "bungee-trampoline" jumping). At the Aquarium by the Bay the kids got to "pet" young leopard sharks, skates and bat rays; Grandpa Bill risked a finger with the Dungeness Crab exhibit.

20-Jul-04: D+19 : Today is the 25th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's and Buzz Aldrin's first moonwalk. The USS HORNET (CVS-12, berthed as a naval museum at the former Naval Air Station-Alameda, which is now home to the Wachowski Bros.' film studio of MATRIX fame) is featuring an exhibition on the APOLLO missions that it recovered at sea. But today was for baseball and sundaes -- the Oakland Athletics hosted the Toronto Blue Jays in a noontime game (as if we didn't already get our Canada fix... :-) and we made homemade hot fudge sundaes with Denali Moose Tracks ice cream. Tomorrow we'll go into San Francisco to visit the Pier 39 Aquarium and maybe the San Francisco Zoo (which has a new savannah exhibit with a great giraffe house).

19-Jul-04: D+18 : After a noontime departure from A Way Back (and a final photo of Shelby and "Skeeter"), we headed south from Blue River to discover a ten-mile backup on Interstate 5 due to an accident. After weaving through Eugene, Oregon, without finding an end to the jam, we spent nearly an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic before picking up the pace on our trek to Alameda. Though we arrived in Alameda at 11:00pm PDT (shortly after turning 160,000 miles on the 4Runner's odometer -- over 9,200 miles so far on MoART), "Grandmama" and "Grandpa Bill" were ready with cookies for the kids (and me). We'll stay put for a few days now....

18-Jul-04: D+17 : We're relaxing at A Way Back near Oregon's McKenzie River, halfway between Eugene and the Three Sisters. We took a short stroll along Horse Creek (which runs through Chaplain "D-Cubed"s property) and fed some carrots to a neighbor's wild mustang named Marty. Some of you may recall Chaplain Don "D-Cubed" den Dulk from the 'Wedding of the Century' or from Jarrett's christening (our first visit to A Way Back). We took a short drive to Proxy Falls, where the kids got to show off their new walking sticks.

17-Jul-04: D+16 : Today was a day of reunions -- one planned, one unexpected. In the lobby of the Seattle Waterfront Marriott we ran into friends from our church in San Diego (of nearly a decade ago). Jeff and Terri Bloom and their two daughters were in Seattle to have a family reunion aboard the Diamond Princess in the Inner Passage to Alaska; Shelby and their youngest daughter Leah became fast friends (even sharing each others' Lucky Charms cereal at breakfast). Later in the day we had lunch with Steve Prado, a high school classmate and football teammate of Shane's who now lives near Salem, Oregon. Shane is holding a Boon's Treasury "Hammerhead Ale" while Steve is toasting with a "Terminator Stout". By sunset we were nestled among Oregon's Three Sisters mountains at A Way Back.

16-Jul-04: D+15 : Finally, a short travel day! We awoke in the shadow of Mount Baker in northern Washington and spent a leisurely morning cooking "Joe's Special" on the camp stove in Larrabee State Park. We took the short hike down to the beach, where tidepools and gentle waves met the redwoods of the park. After a short drive into Seattle and the Waterfront Marriott, we walked through the Pike Place Market and the first Starbucks storefront (opened in 1971). We walked to the Space Needle for a beautiful view of Mount Ranier (which the locals say is only visible 90 days each year). At the hip Belltown restaurant Flying Fish, Jarrett dug into the Thai crabcake and grilled fish tacos. Tomorrow we'll head to Blue River, Oregon and A Way Back, Chaplain Don "D-Cubed" den Dulk's retreat on the McKenzie River.

15-Jul-04: D+14 : After braving the Cassiar Highway at dusk yesterday (with no shoulders, center lines, guardrails nor streetlights), we caught a couple hours' worth of ZZZs at a rest area (next to several other late-night drivers with the same idea) and pressed on to Vancouver today -- over 1,200 miles in the past 24 hours! The kids deserved a break from the drive-camp-drive monotony, so we took them to Vancouver's Stanley Park -- where we all modeled as our totems. We decided to drive the final 20 miles and crossed into Washington at the Blaine, WA customs checkpoint -- very appropriate since Renee was a long-time resident of Blaine, Minnesota. Note the "battle scar" in the middle of our windshield below left -- a half-dollar-sized ding from one of the gravel stretches of the ALCAN.

14-Jul-04: D+13 : We camped on the shore of Kluane Lake in Yukon, with a beautiful sunset behind Mt. Logan's St. Elias Mountains (the highest mountains in Canada) and a sunrise over the hazy lake. The wildfires in the north have ironically created such spectacular views. This was our first sunset in several days since it never got dark in Alaska....

Due to the high fire risk, open fires have been banned at all campsites in Alaska and Yukon -- so s'mores were made over a propane camp stove. In order to avoid possible declaration issues when returning to the U.S., I made every effort possible to deplete our supply of Labatts Blue cans during the Canadian portion of our trip.

13-Jul-04: D+12 : We began our last day in Alaska at the Change of Command Ceremony for the 172d Stryker Brigade Combat Team (where MAJ Rich Greene is a battalion executive officer and MAJ Michelle Ryan is the Staff Judge Advocate). An old friend from J9, COL Dave Wood (Chief of Staff for U.S. Army Alaska), was also at Ft Wainwright for the ceremony.

Shelby and Jarrett got to check out the new Stryker Vehicles (part of the Army's new Future Combat System); once he got his hands on the Mk-19 40mm automatic grenade launcher, Jarrett said, "I want to shoot something!" (no joke).

Before leaving Fairbanks we stopped by the City Center and the Innuit family statue. The wildfires in Alaska forced us to abort our planned trek up the Taylor Hwy to the "Top o' the World Highway" and Dawson City (the first capitol of the Yukon). So we endured the construction between Tok, AK and Whitehorse once again....

12-Jul-04: D+11 : Today we braved the daunting "Dalton Highway" and paralleled the Alyeska Pipeline into the Arctic Circle -- latitude 66 deg. 33 min. north. Our Toyota 4Runner is now perhaps one of the best travelled ones in the world (note the Hawaii inspection sticker on the bumper -- from the tropics to the Arctic!). After more than 150 miles of gravel roads one really appreciates pavement.... We rewarded Jarrett and Shelby with a train ride at the El Dorado Gold Mine. They even got to pan for gold -- Shelby got almost a gram in less than ten minutes! Tomorrow we begin our trek back to the "Lower 48" via Canada's "Top of the World Highway" and "Klondike Loop". We expect to spend the next three night camping en route to the Somas, WA border crossing, so please check back later this week!

11-Jul-04: D+10 : After breaking camp in Denali, Shelby and Renee visited the Denali National Park's sled dog kennels -- where they gave demonstrations of sled dog techniques and training. After the demonstration, Shelby got to try a little sledding for herself. We then took the kids to the North Pole for a mid-summer visit with Santa.

10-Jul-04: D+9 : We entered Denali National Park for a spectacular day of wildlife viewing and camping. Though private vehicles can't travel past mile post 15 in the park, we took a tour bus to mile post 66 -- the Eielson Visitor Center. On the first half of the trip, we saw very little wildlife; then the Grizzly Bears were out in force -- 16 total sightings, 11 of them cubs.

See the wild Jarrbear! (23MB video)

We also saw several caribou, a gyrfalcon on a distant ridge, and a ptarmigan (the state bird of Alaska) with her brood of chicks.

The ladies set up tents while the the guys grilled some beer brats.

We were able to sleep in style and comfort under the Alaskan twilight.

09-Jul-04: D+8 : We had a relaxing day in Fairbanks today, with a fantastic dinner at Two Rivers Lodge. Excellent grilled halibut with sweet pepper relish! We passed through a spruce forest with stunted trees, showing that they were growing into permafrost -- the icy layer just below the topsoil that never melts, even with 23 hours of sunlight each day in the summer. Tomorrow we head into Denali National Park where we'll camp overnight at Riley Creek.

08-Jul-04: D+7 : Success! We crossed into "The Final Frontier" at 3:30pm Alaska Daylight Time (the U.S. Border Station is shown at left) and arrived in Fairbanks about five hours later. Though we had virtually no delays nor construction the first week of our trip, we encountered numerous contruction delays and bumpy, whoop-de-do roads once we passed Whitehorse, capitol of the Yukon. Ranger Rich was ready for our arrival with a fresh bottle of Dalwhinnie Highland Scotch, which made the drive worthwhile. (The photo above was taken in the Greenes' driveway just before 9pm ADT; the photo to the right shows that at midnight the sky was still bright!) ...

Wildlife observations on the ALCAN:

Mama moose and calf; Caribou; Jarribou; and Stone Sheep

07-Jul-04: D+6 : After logging in to the 'Net from a restaurant at Mile 72 on the ALCAN, we dove into the cell-phone-less wild and saw some spectacular scenery -- like Muncho Lake with its turquoise sheen from the copper oxide leeching into the water (above) and the Continental Divide. The road itself wasn't nearly as mountainous as I expected.... The wooden "A" shown at right showed up about every mile on the trip, reminding us that we were indeed still on the correct two-lane road.

We also made a quick stop at the Liard Hot Springs, where we were able to soak away some of the road fatique in their 110-degree-Fahrenheit-plus waters.

Shelby got to try out a trampoline at a restaurant in the Yukon that featured buffalo burgers (their herd of bison are in the background behind Shelby). We were often the only vehicle visible on the ALCAN, so it looks like we missed "rush hour"....

06-Jul-04: D+5 (third entry): We reached Dawsons Creek ("Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway") at 9:30pm PDT. Not impressed with the campsites in town, we began the "ALCAN" for Kiskatinaw Provincial Park (on the Old Alaska Highway near the curved wooden Kiskatinaw River Bridge shown here). After nearly hitting our first deer of the trip, we discovered this park was closed.... So we pressed on to Peace Island Park Campground near Taylor, BC, where we found a nearly deserted campsite on a natural island. Pitched tent, expanded queen-sized Aerobed, and we are done for the night. Tomorrow we hope to cover half the distance to Fairbanks.

06-Jul-04: D+5 (second entry): After a leisurely breakfast at the Banff Springs Hotel and a quick stop by Lake Louise (shown below), we continued into the Jasper National Park -- home of the Columbia Glacier Field (at left) and spectacular vistas. We made a tactical decision to not turn left in Jasper toward Prince George, BC, but to instead brave the Bighorn Route (Alberta Highway 40) -- 207 miles of wilderness and logging roads that runs north from Hinton to Grande Prairie. Though truly lonesome (just one service stop in all 200+ miles), it cut nearly 200 miles off of our trip. In Grande Prairie, we even found a drive-thru Starbucks! An hour later and we entered British Columbia -- and Dawson Creek shortly after that.

06-Jul-04: D+5: Today we enter the wild -- so there may be a delay in our "daily updates" while we brave the Alaska Highway to Fairbanks. We have spent this morning enjoying the Banff Springs Hotel with a leisurely breakfast and a dip in their heated saltwater pool. Tonight we will begin our trek on the "ALCAN" at Dawson Creek.

05-Jul-04: D+4: We began our drive into Canada with some stops in Montana. First, a rainy terrain walk of the Little Bighorn Battlefield (where Brevet Major General George Custer and his 7th Cavalry Division met their doom a week before our nation's first centennial against several combined tribes of Lakota and Cheyenne Native Americans). Then a far less melancholy stop in the town of Shelby, Montana, before crossing the 49th Parallel into Alberta, Canada.

04-Jul-04: D+3: Happy Independence Day! We set out from Blaine, MN for Mount Rushmore and the wild west early this morning. I-90 was almost empty (which was surreal in the morning fog in south Minnesota). By the time we crossed the South Dakota border (and their posted speed limit of 75MPH) the skies were clear. (Memo to self: South Dakota is a LOT bigger than it appears on the map....) Five hours later we got to Mount Rushmore as the rain began to fall; Shelby and Jarrett both enjoyed the Presidential Trail (a 0.6 mile loop that goes directly beneath the Faces and by the "Sculptor's Studio"). Jarrett with Shelby got to see some of South Dakota's finest cultural offerings, like the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, and the "1880 Town" near Wall, SD (no, we didn't go to Wall Drug -- South Dakota's very own "South of the Border").

After a surprisingly good dinner in Deadwood, SD, we drove on to Gillette, Wyoming, through a running display of private fireworks in almost every community along the highway. Next stop: Banff, Alberta and the Banff Springs Hotel!

03-Jul-04: D+2: No traveling today -- instead we went to the 4th of July Parade (er, "3rd of July") in Forest Lake, MN. Renee's cousin Michele and her family hosted a day at their home on Forest Lake, including a cruise on their pontoon boat. Lots of Renee's aunts, uncles and cousins joined us for the cookout, and Renee's brother Kirk deep-fried a turkey. The "BroILs" (Brothers-in-Law, i.e. Shane & Kirk) made final preparations for our camping excursions en route to Alaska.

Jarrett got to hang out with Godfather Kirk, and both kids with their Gramme. But for the most part, Shelby spent the entire day with her cousins Caitlyn and Breanna.

02-Jul-04: D+1: We met Dan Moore and his wife Barb for lunch in Chicago. Dan commands the Naval ROTC units in greater Chicagoland, and has a great apartnment near the historic Water Tower (and The American Girl Place, where Shelby took Samantha, her AmGirl doll, to get a new outfit). As of 2258 CDT we've just crossed the St. Croix river into Minnesota, destined for Renee's mother's house in the Twin Cities (where we'll spend two nights before departing for Mt Rushmore on the 4th of July).

01-Jul-04: D-DAY! With three sleepy family members, we departed the Greater Hampton Roads at 0450 EDT for Michigan. 900+ miles, 14+ hours, seven DVDs, four gas stops, six bathroom breaks and two meal stops later, and we arrived in Lawton, MI, where my grandmother (the Marine) and several aunts and uncles greeted us with food and drink. The longest single leg of our journey is now complete. (whew!)

29-Jun-04: T-minus 30 hours -- packing has begun, and the roof rack and hitch platform have been installed. We'll have more storage space than a minivan, thanks to the Naylors for the loaned roof rack (and the tip on where to find low-cost hitch platforms). Some at work tell me I must not be important if I can take a month off; I reply that I've never been accused of being important. :-)

24-Jun-04: T-minus-seven days -- one week to departure. Stay tuned to this blog for status of our trip as we pass through Michigan, Minnesota, Mt. Rushmore, Montana, Banff, the Alaska Highway and the Yukon en route to Fairbanks. On our return we will take the West Access Route into Washington, Oregon, the San Francisco Bay Area, then to Salt Lake City, Denver, Kansas City, Nashville and home.

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