Monday, June 29, 2009

Fishing in Alaska with John and Molly

We were to do some fishing. Our son John and his wife Molly joined us for 5 days of marathon fishing. We fished the Russian River for Red Salmon and then the waters off Homer for Halibut. We clammed at the Clam Gulch. Great fun and 160 pounds of fish sent back to Decorah. It was a great time to be with John and Molly. Great memories. Now to Canada.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Day with the Bears - Denali Park

Alaska Adventure - Chapter 2. After the Arctic Circle ride Jeff and Joanne had to leave while the rest of us continued our excursion up to Denali Park. (No bikes for this portion.)

We took the camper bus back to Wonder Lake, a 5 hour ride. Along the way we saw a mother grizzly and her cub come running up toward us from afar. We all sat silently and motionless as we watched both bears walk right between 2 vehicles parked next to us and then cross the road. Wow! Can it get better than this????

We drove further down the very narrow, windy road up along the mountain. We stopped at Eilson Visitor's Center and witnessed Mt. McKinley unveil itself right before our eyes. 1 out of 5 days of the month the mountain can be seen. It makes its own weather.

After Wonder Lake (which is a mosquito haven) we jumped on a bus to take us back. The mountain no longer could be seen. However, we did see many moose, caribou, dahl sheep, and wolves. We also saw 5 more grizzlies. Two were from afar but the other 3 were 2 cubs and a mother. They were smack dab in the middle of the road. The mother was content on eating while the 2 cubs wrestled on and on. Yes, it did get better.

Along the way we would get off of the bus and do our own hikes.

It was a spectacular trip. Wow, we feel so lucky!

Alaska - Arctic Circle Ride

Its great to be back in the United States!
We always appreciated the United States but, after experiencing 47 countries, we feel extremely lucky to live here! We should all be proud.

we landed on American soil on June 7th. This was the start of quite a magnificant adventure...the ride to the Arctic C1rcle. Six cyclist friends from the midwest met us in Fairbanks. (cyclists: Paul and Kelsey Scanlon, Mark Pernitz, Frank Pollari, Joanne Snow and Jeff Freidhoff ) That day we started the adventure north with Jacky driving a 30ft motorhome.

We heard many horror stories about the Dalton Hwy...loose gravel, mud, many semis, grizzlies, mountain passes, an unbearable amount of mosquitos and black flies, etc. Much to our surprise, the gravel was not that bad, the semis were very curteous and slowed way down, we didn't have to use the revolver or shotgun and we didn't run into black flies (until we hit the way north). What they were dead right about was the extremely hilly terrain and the amount of mosquitos. Many of us had huge welts covering all parts of our bodies. We all learned the mosquito dance.

Ward's dream was reached when we hit the Arctic Circle on June 11th. From there we continued up to Coldfoot to visit the most northern bar in North America.

During this trip Ward caught 5 fish which made a fantastic supper one night, we went to a natural hot springs, told a ton of lies, watched the sun that never set, biked 356 miles and managed to all stay sane and get along. That is quite an accomplishment when you have 8 people living in a 30ft motorhome for 7 days.

Great trip!

Dodging missiles in South Korea

After our adventure in Mongolia, we re-entered China for another week before taking the ferry to South Korea. This was not without incident. Two days prior to departing China we were kicked out of our hotel by the police. They only allow foreigners to stay in certain hotels in certain cities. These hotels have to report their foreign guests each night to the police. This is how they keep track of where you are at all times. Luckily, the policeman made an exception and let us stay with a local that night because it was already late but he was at our door at 7:00am making sure we left the city immediately...he wanted money and wanted us to bribe him. (Please see our egroups on China for many, many more details on Communistic beauracracy. Email us if you cannot obtain them and we will send them to you.)

On May 29th we entered South Korea only to learn about the "testing of missiles" by the North Koreans. Oooh, is this bad timing? Luckily, nothing transpired but it was unnerving.

While in South Korea we did a 6 day loop. This gave us the opportunity to experience small villages in addition to the cities. We were pleasantly surprised by the kindness of the people and by how clean the country is. While we were there we did do a trip to the DMZ between North and South Korea. It was pretty neat but very strange.

Other than the prices being quite a bit higher than what we were used to, we loved everything about this country!

Description of photos (not necessarily in this order):
- jumping rope tournament (Sunday family festivities are valued)
- manicured landscape, beautiful flowers
- DMZ, Ward and I are trying to help rejoin North and South Korea
- a typical Korean dining experience. The hot coals are in the center of the table
and the silver vent hanging from the ceiling helps to suck air and expediate the
heat and coals
- they place a high value on health. Many parks had free exercise equipment and
people were using them

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jeep Adventure in Mongolia

Since we could not move north until Jacky had her passport in hand, we were behind schedule which placed a concern with our visa expiration date. So, to rectify this problem we decided to head up to Mongolia. Why not, it is so close and when else would we go to Mongolia?! This way we could re-enter China for another 60 days if we chose to. We had to go by train because it was still quite far away. In fact, it was a 30 hour train ride one-way.

We had planned on biking but soon found out that the only roads that existed were in the cities. We had to take a jeep tour to be able to see anything. 4 of us (plus driver) traveled through pastures with pathways that resembled cow paths. Most drivers picked their own path... weaving around boulders, driving through rivers, etc. We had wild horses, sheep, and yaks that we constantly had to watch out for. I thought I was on a National Geographic program.

We stayed in gers which is the type of housing style that the nomadic people live in. They provided us supper, a nice place to sleep and breakfast for $3/each. We ate alot of mutton and cultural foods. Fantastic! Much better than the Hilton! We also went horse back riding along with the nomads. We had such a fantastic time.

Description of pictures (not necessarily in the right order):
- the only road sign we saw in the pastures after leaving the city
- Ward getting ready to bathe in the ice cold river (actually we all did).
- crossing the water in the jeep
- the type of housing (gers) that we stayed in.
- our friends horse back riding (we also did it).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pictures of the Great Wall

Here are some pictures of the Great Wall.

Beijing, the beautiful Capitol city.

We spent a week or so in Beijing touring the capitol city. We saw the Olympic Stadium, Forbidden city, Tiananmen Square, Llama Temple, and of course...the Great Wall. All the sites were magnificant but the Great Wall was unbelievable. The remote, unbuilt portion that we hiked only brought about 20 tourists our way over the course of 4 hours.

Beijing is a crowded, vibrant city that not only has its tourist restaurants but also its back streets food stands. We frequented our favorite stands daily which normally included some sort of dumpling.

Many of the Beijing roads were very wide or had bike lanes so biking, in that sense, was easy. However, the challenging part came with the traffic laws. Do you obey them....or not, like the rest of the drivers, bikers, walkers, etc.? We quickly learned that you had to bike like "no one sees you"!

Pictures from Hangzhou and Suzhou

These are pictures from Hangzhou and Suzhou. Some of them were taken by a friend of ours that took better pictures than us. The bikers were from China and they were the only bikers that we have met since Vietnam, 2 months ago.

Onward to Shanghai

After hiking in the Yellow Mountains (which Ward forgot to mention that we were chased down the hiking path by a bunch of hissing, lunging baboons), we headed into Shanghai. Shanghai's economic development was fascinating. Its amazing how within 10 years they have changed the Bund region from rice paddies to a magnificant show of high rise buildings that put on quite a light show at night. Their vision is to be the world's financial center by 2020.

We were told it would take 2 weeks for my (Jacky's) new passport to get processed (the other one fell apart). During this time we did a loop to Hangzhou and Suzhou, both are Chinese tourist spots with the latter being called, "China's Venice". We returned to Shanghai, toured the city and stayed at the Captan's Hostel.

The Captain's Hostel was a great place to hang out. It had its transient travelers but also its longtermers. Many people stayed there while they taught English or just tried to figure out what direction to go next in their life. It was a magical place and one where we met many long time friends. We've often said that we should start a sitcom, "Captain's Hostel" where only 50% of what you say has to be true. After being away for 2 years it was a welcoming experience.

Notice Ward and our friend Jonathon singing karaoke. My harmonica playing on the street corners wasn't bringing in any money so Ward decided to try his hand at singing. Some call it Chinese torture. We're still eating Ramen noodles.

After seeing the Chinese fellow hauling a refrigerator on his bike, Ward has come up with some new "go green" business ideas. I'm scared to find out what they are.

Now off to Beijing!