Thursday, July 30, 2009

VALDEZ: Thu. 7/30 / Charlene

Sun, glorious sun!! We had sunshine and and could see blue skies for a few hours today. Hallelujah!!!

This morning, I set the alarm, go up at 7am, got the kids up, we were at the store by 8:30am. Between the cashier and myself, we figured out the poles well enough to go fishing. Drove through the coffee hut (a regular occurance for some reason), and headed out to our fishing spot. Jack loves to reel, so I would cast and he'd reel. I taught Taylor how to properly cast and keep the string tight when it wants to loosen. About an hour later, Taylor landed a big fish...all by herself!! She had cast and reeled and everything. Right when she had caught the fish a motorhome full of older men stopped and were telling me to get a picture. Do they not know I have about 18 jobs to do when it's just the kids and I fishing? Luckily I had the movie going and caught it on tape. I did snap one picture, but our track record seems to be that everytime I'm worried about pics, the fish get away. Jack suggested we pop the gills right away, I said no, we need to wait. The 5yo was right! Next time we'll bleed the fish right away. Anyway, the filleter at the dock guessed Taylor's fish was about 5lbs. We all caught more, but were only able to land one more. So, after 3 1/2 hours, we decided to go get our 2 fish filleted, vacuum packed and frozen. We'll eat Taylor's fish tomorrow when Nathan gets home. The sun was shining the whole time, it felt so good. I even got a sunburn on the back of my neck (the one day I have my hair in a ponytail)

After getting the fish filleted and frozen or vacuum packed, we came back to the motorhome for lunch. Taylor begs everyday to eat out, but it ranges fro $17-30+ for just the 3 of us for lunch! Jack is on a Golden Grahams kick. He eats it for every meal...normally that wouldn't be okay, but we're on vacation :)

We then grabbed our bikes (still sunny at this point) and rode through town and found 2 nice parks. The kids played at each park for a bit, then we found the natural foods store and picked up some soup the kids really like (organic version of Ramen noodles). Then, found a super cute shop with neat kitchen a couple of those and headed back to the RV. By now it's 5pm, the temp. has dropped a few degrees and it's cloudy!

Back at the RV, we finished our glacier/snow project. I had bought a kit where we could made glaciers and snow. Our 'glaciers' were frozen by now, so I made snow, then they got out their Ice Age animals, transformers, dinosaurs, etc. and played like the toys were in the Ice Age. Note: best to do that craft outside!!!

We ate supper (walnut burgers, ramen soup and Golden Grahams for Jack) and headed to the Civic Center for a movie about the Goldrush. (By now it's raining). Didn't know they never found any gold!! What a trek a lot of men did in search of 'happiness'. It was fascinating. Valdez is celebrating "Gold Rush Days" July 29-Aug.1, so there are lots of fun activities to do.

Stopped by the grocery store for milk and a cooler to store our fish. I learn something new everyday! Today I learned we need to 'bleed the fish' right after catching it and it's best to put it on ice in a cooler. I learned of 'bleeding the fish' a couple of days ago, but learned even more about the procedure today. I had been keeping the fish on a string in the water, but that's not cold enough, so tomorrow, we'll bring a cooler. Tomorrow will be our last chance for fishing. Can't wait!!!

Jack's favorite thing to say right now is.."Don't tell me (it's raining outside)" "Don't tell me (fill in the blank)" It's hilarious. He heard Taylor say it once, now he says it all the time.

LaWanna (Charlene's nanny) is on Facebook! I love facebook! She is in Indiana for a few days, but will go back to Haiti on Monday. She said Charlene is crawling by getting up on both hands and one knee and has been 'crawling' for about a month and a half. She says she is very active and is into everything, even eating..her hands are always trying to grab something. I certainly love news...maybe I'll get more now that LaWanna is on FB. She said she's going to bring a computer back to haiti with her to keep upstairs, because it's too hard to go downstairs to Barbara's computer. Hope it works.


VALDEZ: Wed. 7/29

Woke up late again today (8:30am). Ate b'fst and made banana-oatmeal muffins. Kids were playing well, so we just hung out at the motorhome in the morning. We started our glacier project this morning, froze some 'glaciers'. We'll make snow later. We went into town, chose a different shop to get our 2 poles re-strung (again!), ate lunch at a bakery, picked up our poles and headed out of town. We took Kenai with us again today.

1. Drove about 62 miles to view Pump Station No. 12 of the Alyeska pipeline. (pic.1) Jack was so excited to see the 'real, actual pipeline'. It was so worth it to see the pipeline video the other day! We found an off-road and got to get a little closer to it.

2. Stopped by Worthington Glacier. (pic. 2) We could've walked up to the glacier, at our own risk. When it's just the kids and I, I usually don't do the we walked around for awhile and got back on the road.

3. Checked out Blueberry Lake on the way home...nice, clear lake. The kids could've stayed all day, once again, but fishing was calling, so we got back on the road.

4. After about 4 hours, we made it back to our fishing spot. We ate a picnic supper and found a good spot. Yet another disappointment, only this time, our poles didn't work!! BOTH POLES. I was so stinkin' mad!!! The bigger pole wouldn't reel right, it was stiff and just plain wouldn't reel most of the time. We even had a fish on the line and I had to just grab the line and pull it in that way. The fish ended up getting away. The other pole, I'd turn the crank and it wasn't doing anything, the string wasn't moving at all. Ooohhh, I was ticked!!! I went back to the store and of course, everyone who knows anything about poles/strings/fishing left at 4pm. And none of them are working tomorrow, but they said to see the manager at 8am. You better believe it. I'm about ready to just buy 2 new poles, but I don't want to give either of these 2 businesses my business!!

5. Headed home, kids took showers and we're all headed to bed. I think we're all exhausted.

There seems to be so much to do and so little time. I just don't think we're going to have time for the glacier's all day, 11am-7:30pm, but Valdez has their Gold Rush Days going on now with some fun activities. Plus, they are showing a movie about the Gold Rush that I'd like to see, and the kids to see. The pipeline documentary and the earthquake documentary really made an impression on the kids. There is so much history in this town, it's fun to at least hit on each one briefly (earthquake, pipeline, gold rush, etc.)

Time for bed. The high tide is starting to get later in the evening, but later in the morning too, so the goal for tomorrow, is get to the store early (8am??), then go fishing, otherwise we won't be able to go until 9pm tomorrow. Quite frankly, I run out of steam about 8pm :)

Heard from nathan today. He thought the Captain might come back today, but he didn't, which means nathan didn't. They are going to stay at the lodge out by the cove where they are. he had another fantastic experience today. When I talked to him, he broke up alot on the cell phone, but I think he said he was on snorkel and was surrounded (3?) and had an in-your-face encounter. He was so excited. Can't wait to hear more details. Of course, he's fine and never had a problem. I asked if he was scared, he said no, just excited.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

VALDEZ: Tue. 7/28

Woke up to no rain...although it's still extrememly cloudy, so it probably will rain. Yesterday the clouds were so thick and low, we couldn't even see the mountains and they are right across the street! Nathan headed out about 8am to take the boat back to the "shark" cove. His pole cam he made from scratch has been a huge success. Hopefully he can get some more great shots!

We ate (MO) blueberry pancakes with (AK) birch syrup for b'fst. Which gives me an idea, we need to go pick more salmonberries and put those in our pancakes!

We didn't get going til about noon today. Stopped by the fishing shop, had the poles re- strung with 30lb line this time (12lb line snapped almost every time yesterday). Stopped by for coffee and headed out on a road trip.

1. Stopped by a salmon spawning place, learned about the fish life cycle.
2. Then stopped by the Valdez glacier. Saw kayakers head out toward the glacier. Kids had fun climbing on the rocks on the shore.
3. Then we went down Dayville Rd. where we go fishing. We were told a bear usually shows up between 2:30-3:30pm, so we headed there during that time. We saw a salmon hatchery, tons of salmon and walked the beaches since the tide was out. Never saw the bear.

4. On the road back to the Richardson Hwy. we saw 2 bald eagles!

5. Headed farther up the highway and stopped by Robe River and saw float planes!

6. Went further, entered Keystone Canyon and saw 2 beautiful falls, stopped in front of Bridal Veil Falls and ate a picnic lunch (although the kids sat in back of the jeep and froze)

7. Last stop for today was an old RR tunnel hand carved out. Kids loved it. We then walked across the giant parking lot to see a raging Lowe River and another beautiful waterfall. The kids found 'dirt' although I'm wondering if it's silt or something. anyhow, give my kids (especially Jack) any amount of dirt and they're occupied for hours! I finally had to tell them it was time to go fishing (the only thing that was going to pry them away from their 'dirt')

8. Headed back to Allison Point and got to fishin'. It was a beautiful afternoon (still no sun, but no rain either!). We saw Sea Otters today, as well as the Sea Lions. Taylor was positive she saw a brown bear walk across the road not too far from us, too, but by the time we walked down there, we didn't see it.
We had been fishing for awhile with no luck. The salmon started running right on the shore, so Taylor just stuck her net in and caught one!! She let it go b/c it looked small, but that was our only catch today. Way to go, Taylor!! The water was murkey against the shore, plus it wasn't raining. Maybe the fish bite better when it's raining? Also, the fish shop did a terrible job re-stringing the poles! I spent more time untangling fishing line than actually fishing. We gave up after a couple of hours. After getting back to Valdez, we took the poles to another shop to get re-strung, but nobody was there to do it (it was 8:45pm), so maybe tomorrow.

The plan was to take a day trip and go about 65-72miles outside of town and see all the sites. But, everytime we stopped, the kids just wanted to stay and play, so we'll have to take another day and finish our road trip. We really want to see Worthington Glacier and the Pipeline. Jack is fascinated with the pipeline!

It was a good, exhausting day. There is still so much I want to do, and only 3 days to do it because Nathan gets back Friday night, and his captain is letting us borrow is sciff (?) for the weekend, so we'll be doing that Sat. and Sun., then we leave on Monday. I don't want to leave!!


VALDEZ: Mon. 7/27

Kids and I ate eggs/sausage, went to the grocery store, the quilt shop and the natural foods store. Then we stopped by and watched a documentary about the 1964 earthquake and a documentary on how the pipeline was built. The kids were fascinated even though the earthquake movie was in black and white and the pipeline movie was several years old. They know the pipeline ends in Valdez and they really want to see it, but since 9/11, they are not offering tours anymore. We then ate lunch in the motorhome, made apple muffins and went fishing again in the afternoon. It rained all day, so no bike riding, but it wasn't going to stop us from fishing.

The kids and I found the perfect spot this time. I got the 2 poles all ready, found us a flat rock close to the water, cast, gave the pole to Jack and he got a salmon right away! We reeled it in, I got his picture (see above) and in the excitement of it all, the fish slipped out of his hands and got away. Back to fishing. The fish were biting like crazy. Long story short....we landed several fish, but my line would snap once I went to grab it, so we lost a lot, but were able to keep 3!! We finally had a system down where I'd reel it in and Taylor would try and get it in the net before the line snapped. Jack was ready with the fish beater. I, once again, am no fisherwoman (yet), so all I knew to do was give it a couple of wacks (like the halibut fisherman did), and try and get the hook out (didnt' have a tool) and string a string through the gills to keep the fish in the water to keep them fresh. We lost all 4 lures again today otherwise we would've stayed out longer and caught more for sure! The Sea Lions were everywhere again and were so fun to watch. We even saw one catch a salmon and have it in it's mouth. And the noises they make are so interesting. I love it that the kids are getting to experience all of this!

We went directly to the dock in Valdez, had all 3 filleted and learned we had 2 males and 1 female. The males had been the in streams for a bit. He could tell b/c of the color. The female had good color, so her meat was brighter. I had the 2 males frozen and had the female for supper!! The female was also loaded with eggs, so the filleter told us how to cook the eggs. I fried them in butter with s/p and garlic, the kids really wanted to try them. Taylor didn't like it at all, Jack took quite a few bites, liking it at first, then deciding he didn't like it. There was no way Nathan or I were trying that!!

Nathan called while we were at the 'freezer' for the fish and was on his way in. So, he was able to eat our freshly caught salmon with us...what a treat!

Nathan has had a good experience so far. He has some good shots of these salmon sharks! They are difficult to photograph and don't act like the typical shark. They are completely uninterested in the chum or any kind of bait, which makes it impossible to bring them close to the boat to photograph. So, Nathan happily gets in the water, snorkels to get close, then at one point, he starts to get tired, heads to shore for a break and as he is approaching the rocky beach, he looks up and a big black bear is looking right at him. He still gets out of the water and the bear wanders away...probably wondering what in the world he was looking at.

We had a good few hours listening to Nathan's adventures before it was time for bed. I stayed up til 11pm making more chocolate chip cookies for the guys. I had sent some on Saturday and they were already gone and asking for more. Happy to oblige.


This video is super short, wish I had more, but it's hard to take movies/pics and make sure Jack doesn't end up swimming with the salmon and sea lions. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

VALDEZ: Sun 7/26

It rained all night (harder than normal), so I woke up 'thinking'. Thinking about how I need to move the bikes under an awning, how I need to find our fishing poles and how I need to get our rain gear out of the Jeep and into the RV (it didn't rain yesterday!!) and how Kenai probably really needs to go out this morning....always something to do!

So, I got up, accomplished all tasks, came back in the motorhome and the kids had gotten up, made and put up their hide-a-bed, made, ate and put away their breakfast and are now playing nicely together with their dinosaurs! They are so awesome.

We went to the local tackle shop and got all geared up for fishing. They strung 2 of our poles for salmon fishing, I purchased the lures, a license and a string to string all of catches! We headed out to Allison Point. First thing I noticed were all of the signs warning people of bears!

I got the first pole strung and it didn't work! (I have done very little fishing in my life and when I have, someone else has always done the work up until actually casting. So, to be out here with 2 kids trying this myself is an accomplishment!) A really nice couple stopped by and he helped me figure out my problem. After that we were good, although the lines on each pole kept getting all tangled. Once I'd get one pole cast and given to jack, I'd go over to Taylor to get her started. Then, jack's pole would be tangled or caught in a rock, then Taylor's pole would do the same. Plus, I had lost 2 lures to rocks and dropped a 3rd in between the boulders we had to climb to get to the water. I had one lure left. The kids ended up playing on the boulders and with the net and I fished. I had one on the line! but I got away. Lots of bites. It's amazing we didn't catch any fish, they were absolutely everywhere. They were jumping and swimming right at our feet. We'll try again another day. Surely we can catch one. We did have fun watching the Sea Lions frolicking nearby in the water. It was a good experience. Still a rainy, dreary day, but we're used to it now.

We're back in the motorhome, the kids have changed out of their wet clothes (didn't heed mama's advice to wear rain gear) and changed into warm PJ's and stood in front of the heaters!

Haven't heard from Nathan. he thought he might have limited cell sevice out where he's at, but doesn't look like it. I don't see how in the world he'd have service in the middle of Prince William Sound! He may be back for a visit tomorrow or Tuesday.


VALDEZ: Sat. 7/25

Today's the day Nathan leaves for his diving expedition! They put the finishing touches on the shark cage last night and got everything loaded on the boat today, left about noon. We didn't see him off b/c a) we were Salmonberry picking and b) the kids had a total meltdown last night over him leaving, so we purposly stayed busy.

The kids and I participated in a program through the Valdez Museum where we went Salmonberry Picking, then went back to the museum to make it in to jam. It was a great time. And it was great to get our minds off of Nathan leaving for a few days. The kids had fun and we came away with 3 jars of jam! We then ate lunch at a restaurant (again, very expensive to eat out!!), toured the Valdez Museum, checked out the library, went to a couple of shops looking for rain boots for Taylor, and went to the dock and watched the dock guys cut up (fillet?) a bunch of Pink Salmon that had been caught today. The kids were fascinated. One really nice lady let Jack hold one of her Salmon (got a picture!), then the kids watched it get filleted. They were most interested in the part when all the leftover fish parts got pushed down the chute by a powerful surge of water to where the seagulls were patiently waiting.

We spend the rest of the evening in the motorhome and just played.


Friday, July 24, 2009

VALDEZ: 7/24/09

Today was a good day. As we were leaving to get groceries for N8's epic trip, we saw a Grizzly Bear trot across the marsh in front of our motorhome (maybe 1/4 mile away). Of course, we took off looking for it. We bought some bear spray and headed down a trail where we thought it might be. We never did find it, but Nathan took another way and found tracks. It was definitely a Grizzly (he's practically a bear expert!).

We did make it to the grocery store and Nathan is now off with the other divers and boat captain looking at the shark cage. It's time for the kids and I to go for a walk. They are having a blast together, but are having a 'pillow fight' with nathan's scrunched up sleeping bags. Kind of a rough game in such a small space. Can't believe neither one has gotten hurt yet.

It's still rainy...a constant drizzle actually and about 52 degrees. Nice and chilly.


Thursday, July 23, 2009


Today is Thursday 7/23, but here's a recap since Monday (since we haven't had internet)

Mon. 7/20: Pink Mountain, BC - North of Watson Lake, Yukon. 479miles/12hour day.
AlCan was good to Fort Nelson, then it got rough. Went through some horrible contruction (extremely dusTy/dangerous), but made it through okay. Ft. Nelson - Watson Lake was PRIME wildlife viewing (thanks for the heads-up, Sandra!) We saw: black bear, caribou, Stone sheep, moose, beaver, beaver dams, buffalo, fox and grouse.

Tue. 7/21: Watson Lake, Yukon - Haines Junction. 356miles/9hour day
We didn't cover as many miles, but stopped for a bit at the Continental Divide and stopped at a fantastic museum in Whitehorse. It was about Beringia and the ice age...we learned a lot! We took a walk in Haines Junction on a paved road into town and found a bakery/cafe/coffee shop/ice cream shop/store. T and J got ice cream (even though they were cold) and N8 and I got coffees. It was a nice walk and a cute town. Stays light til 11p-12a, so we don't even notice how late it is!

Wed. 7/22: Haines Junction, Yukon - VALDEZ, ALASKA. 547miles/12.5 hour day
This was a l-o-n-g day, but so worth it. 547 miles is a good day, but SUPER impressive when driven on the AlCan, over frost heaves going 40miles/hour, in a big RV. It was cool (chilly!), cloudy and rainy most of the way from Tok. We planned on staying in Tok, even fueled up and got coffee at a little coffee shack, but noticed the Salmon Bake was closed, so we decided to move on. What's another 256 miles (Tok-Valdez) when you've already driven 3700?? We arrived at our campground in Valdez at 10:15pm (Alaska time).

We never had to unhook the Jeep!! And we only ate out once, something we wish we didn't even's so much more pleasant (and fast, and cheaper) to just snack in the RV and keep going.

TOTAL MILES: 4016.9 (taking 8 full days)

Today, Thu. 7/23, it is cold (high 40's) and raining. We are right next to the marina which is handy in case Nathan does get to come back during his 7 days on the water, he can just walk 'home'. We have a beautiful view of the mountains and the water. We've already taken a walk into town and eaten breakfast. Our choices were bacon or ham, cheese, and egg sandwich or wrap. We all had a sandwich, the kids each got a drink, N8 got a coffee and I got a water. $38.oo. Whoa. We won't being doing much of that!


Sunday, July 19, 2009


Sun. 7/19: Whitecourt, Alberta - Pink Mountain, BC: 400 miles (2635.5 TOT)

We made it onto the AlCan today!! It has been good roads so far. It rained most of today and was chilly! Completely opposite of 95 and humid that we're used to.

We are at a campground now enjoying a campfire and some campers' choice music. We went for a bike ride, then Nathan went for a bike ride for a few miles on the AlCan! We are now sitting amongst a million little bugs...they are everywhere. But we're covered in bug spray and sitting next to a lit can of OFF (it doesn't help).

Our goal tomorrow will be Watson Lake (well over 400 miles), but we'll see what kind of roads we encounter tomorrow.

The kids are having fun! They play well together (for the most part) and travel extrememly well.

We got two new pics of Charlene today...bittersweet. I haven't had internet working on my Blackberry for about 2 days, but we get out here in the middle of nowhere Canada and it worked! Glad for that, so I could see pics of our girl.


Saturday, July 18, 2009


We are headed to Alaska (driving the RV) so Nathan can dive with Salmon sharks.

We left the night of July 14th and drove 2 1/2 hours to Peculiar, MO, just to get out of town. From there...

Wed. 7/15: Peculiar, MO - Kennebec, SD: 563 miles
Thu. 7/16: Kennebec, SD - Billings, MT: 553 miles
Fri. 7/17: Billings, MT - Shelby, MT: 421 miles (stopped at WM and a museum)
Sat. 7/18: Shelby, MT - Whitecourt, Alberta: 531 miles
(2235 miles so far)

Valdez is approx. 3600 miles, so only about 1435 miles to go...over half way there!

We haven't stopped much, we eat in the RV and keep driving. Kids are doing AWESOME. They play most of the time and only watch a cartoon in the afternoons.

I'll post more as internet allows. Getting up into remote territory tomorrow and beyond...


Trip to Haiti

I should've been updating while in Haiti but internet was scarce. I'll try and recap quickly..although i could write a book on everything I saw/experienced.

Key people to note:

Charlene: our daughter!
Vera: gal who helps run orphanage/paperwork (American)
Barbara: gal who started/runs orphanage (American)
Milan: haitian gal who helps with paperwork/translations
Zack: we stayed at his apt., rented 2 rooms

"Village": where Charlene stays
"Creche": orphanage down the road affiliated with the Village

Day 1: Dad and I arrived in Port-au-Prince (PAP) in afternoon. Met by Vera and Charlene!! and a nanny. Such a sweet experience getting to see/hold Charlene for the first time. She was with us the whole time after that point. Went to Zack's apt. to unload.

Day 2: Vera and Barbara picked up Dad, Charlene and I around 9:30am or so. They took us to the one and only tourist shop we would visit, then we ran errands in PAP all day, checking on adoption paperwork. We picked up Milan also, so there were always 4 of us in the back of a toyota p/u in 95 degree muggy heat with no a/c. Went to 2 grocery stores, got supplies for the orphanage, dropped them off at the Village and went back to Zack's. Vera made us dinner (spicy spaghetti). Zack's apt is not air conditioned, so it was hard to eat hot, spicy spaghetti in such a hot kitchen.

Day 3: Vera and Barbara picked us up around 11am or so. Ran errands all day again.

Day 4: Vera and Barbara and Milan picked us up and we went up the mountainside to feel the cooler weather.

Day 5: Vera and Barbara picked us up and we all went to the beach.

Day 6: We got dropped off at the airport about 9am at which point I had to give Charlene back.

There's TONS more to write about, but that's it in a nutshell. Charlene did AWESOME the entire time being in the truck carted all over everywhere. We all sweated buckets! Charlene was so sweet, loved to play and roll on the floor and play with my camera strap and Zack's keys. She slept so good, never fussed about 2 white people coming and taking over her care in a new environment for a few days! I was able to feed her cereal for the first time and take her in the ocean for the first time. Dad fed her mango juice too!

I absolutely can't wait to bring her home. The desperation really set in while I was there, but there is nothing I can do but PRAY!. So, I/We pray for her, her caregivers and for the paperwork to go through all channels quickly, smoothly and without problems.