North to Alaska

 

  The Journey of Francis and Mary Archibald

 

June 22, 1997 - Day 1 Starting mileage on the Lincoln Town Car: 39,508. 

Started our journey on US highway 52 out of Hanahan, South Carolina to avoid the immediate blandness of the Interstate Highway system we have traveled so often. Saw some beautiful Mimosa trees between Darlington and Cheraw, SC. Went through North Carolina near Mt. Airy where there was a big open-air flea market on the border with Virginia. Thought we ought to return here one day with our pickup truck. Cut across the Western tip of Virginia into West Virginia and stayed overnight in Charleston, West Virginia. We went through two long mountain tunnels. Made 462 miles today. 

June 23, 1997 - Day 2 

Visited a glass factory in Fenton, West Virginia, and enjoyed seeing the working furnaces, glass blowing and production lines. We saw similar places in Ireland a couple of years ago but this one was larger than those.  Sent a small gift to Mom. Moved on to the National League Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and enjoyed our visit there. One of the most interesting aspects are the halls containing the busts, pictures and records of the men installed in the HoF. Later we drove to Cleveland and visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This is colorful and interesting from a curiosity view, but we did not relate to many of the performers. In one of the displays the sixth grade graduation certificate of the performer was in a prominent position on the wall. We drove out of Cleveland along the shore of Lake Erie and saw some of the most magnificent homes ever built. The power company in this are is called The Illuminating Company. Our overnight resting place was Lorraine, Ohio. Miles traveled: 299. 

June 24, 1997 - Day 3 

Going through Toledo we stopped to ask directions at the Fire Department maintenance facility. We were invited in and saw more fire trucks in one location than in all of Charleston. Some great pieces of equipment. One cost over $600,000. We went on to Detroit and visited the COBO business and convention center, named after a former mayor of Detroit. A giant bronze statue of Joe Louis is the centerpiece in the main lobby. We took the people mover overhead tram ride and saw several of the city’s sites. Drove North to Grosse Point Shores, Michigan, and toured the home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford. A fine example of how well the rich and powerful live (d) in America. It is on Lake Michigan. Many of the rooms were built from materials taken from English castles. It seems to me the Fords took more out of England than all the plunderers down through the ages. The Fords employed a staff of 35, including a cook to cook for the staff. In the four rooms devoted to food storage and preparation the counter tops and tables looked like stainless steel, but they are silver. The Fords’ butler supervised every plate before it was taken into the dining room. When the butler died the Ford family initiated a plan to care for his widow. On display in the Gate Lodge Garage is the 1952 Lincoln Town Car, custom-built, owned and used by Mrs. Edsel Ford from 1953 to 1970. Mrs. Ford’s criteria was “The car must be tall, plain, black and devoid of excess chrome. It must be practical and easy to enter and exit.” Of particular concern to Mrs. Ford was her ability to enter and exit the car without disturbing the many large hats which were the style for ladies of her stature. Only two such cars were made. The second car, we were told, was made for the Queen Mother in England. Edsel died of cancer early in life during World War II. He and Mrs. Ford were most generous with their wealth in endowing museums, hospitals, libraries, schools, the arts and the like. We remained overnight in Port Austin, Michigan, in some adequate but only second-rate quarters. A harbinger of things to come, although we did not know it at the time. Our motel keeper recommended dinner at The Farm, which was an excellent choice and we had a fine dinner preceded by the coldest beer imaginable and an great salad. Later I walked to the water front and out onto a long pier from where I observed an old lighthouse about five miles out in the lake. The lighthouse is no longer used. Better navigational tools are available. Drove about 300 miles today. 

June 25, 1997 - Day 4 

We wanted to go to Green Bay, home of the 1997 World Champion Green Bay Packers, and Mary suggested cutting across Michigan to take the ferry from Luddington to Manitowic and save hundreds of miles. We incorrectly assumed the ferry would run on a frequent schedule. We were wrong. The morning ferry had left when we arrived in mid-morning and we did not want to wait nine hours for the next ferry. We drove through central Michigan and crossed to the Upper Michigan peninsula via the Mackinaw City Bridge. This is the longest suspension bridge in the world. Across the Straits of Mackinac we visited the Father Marquette National Memorial, a soothingly quiet, in-the-woods, site with a magnificent view of the bridge and Lake Michigan. It is a tribute to this Jesuit who worked so long and hard with the Indians and early pioneers. We were able to use our Senior Citizens National Park pass for admission. Then it was on to Green Bay. We entered the city on Lombardi Avenue and my pulse began to quicken. Soon we saw Lambeau Field, the home of today’s champions and the site of so many great memories provided by Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jimmy Taylor, Jerry Kraemer and other legendary Packers. A Rodestar Motel is in the shadow of the Field and we booked in there for two nights, getting a very large room for $40 a night. We went into town to eat at the “Glory Years” bar and grill. The Glory Years coincided with the reign of Vince Lombardi who coached the Packers from 1958 to 1967. The Packers never finished lower than second, won five NFL championships (1961 and 1962, and three straight championships from 1965 through 1967) and won the first two Super Bowls). The building housing the Glory Years was built in 1914, and from 1949 to 1963 the south one-half of the Glory Years was the location of the corporate offices of the Packers, and Vince Lombardi’s office. The food was so-so, but the atmosphere, the pictures and all the Packer paraphernalia were great.

After eating we went on to Fuzzy Thurston’s bar. Fuzzy was one of the pulling guards who, along with Jerry Kraemer, used to lead Paul Hornung and Jimmy Taylor on the Packer sweep. It was not a terribly sophisticated play; just a ground gainer that other teams knew was coming and couldn’t stop. In talking with the bar girl we got a lead on tickets to some upcoming Packer games. We drove 702 miles today. 

June 26, 1997 - Day 5 

Today we toured Lambeau Field and the Packer Hall of Fame. Our guide was a freshly scrubbed, ebullient, outgoing young lady raised on Packer lore from her days in the cradle. She was an outstanding guide and a pure pleasure to meet and be with. She pointed to where her grandparents sat during the famous Ice Bowl game against Dallas in 1967. I correctly responded to her questions about the South end zone and she was impressed. She told us tales about John Madden and his prodigious appetite when he comes to Green Bay. Madden parks the Madden-mobile outside the stadium and makes the rounds of the tailgate parties. Then he goes into the park and “eats six brats before the game.” The Packer Hall of Fame is a house of joy for a Packer fan. Nearby is the Don Hutson training facility which we could not enter. It houses two indoor football fields and is more than ninety feet tall so the team can work on their kick and pass game as well as other aspects. Today it was announced that Don Hutson, the legendary Packer pass receiver, had died. Late in the afternoon we went back to Fuzzy’s and connected with another bar girl who had the leads on the tickets. I bought four packages (game tickets, hotel room, dinner, and breakfast, and transportation to the game) for the Packers - Buffalo Bills game on Saturday, December 20. I plan to take the boys.  I was glad Mary was with me. I would have hated to try and explain writing a check to a bar girl for $960. No road driving today. 

June 27, 1997 - Day 6 

On the way to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to visit the Mall of America we stopped at a Swedish family restaurant where the food was a major disappointment. The mall is actually at Bloomington, south of Minneapolis and is obviously more for children than adults. In short, it read better than the actual experience. They have a roller coaster and Ferris wheel inside the mall and many other carnival type amusements. We stayed overnight at the Coates Hotel in Virginia, MN and we fortunate to get the room. Motels in the area were packed. The summer vacation season is in full swing.  Miles today: 587. 

June 28, 1997 - Day 7 

Crossed in Canada at International Falls. There was a short line of traffic going into Canada but the line to the United States was more than a mile and half long. It was here that we designated a special category of obnoxious, road-hogging, no courtesy, mobile home traveler: Asshole, and met A1. Little did we know our list would reach A14 by the end of out trip. We spent the night in Winnipeg, Manitoba and enjoyed some sights in that city. We went to Mass at St. Mary’s church. No one could understand the priest who mumbled his way through the service. He complained that something had been stolen from the church and on the way out Mary asked a local," What did he said.” The lady raised her eyes to heaven, shrugged and said, “Who knows.”  On the street I watched as a man parked his beautiful old car, an Excalibur. I think it dates back to the thirties. Mary took my picture beside it. Drove 391 miles today. 

June 29, 1997 - Day 8 Sunday 

We traveled on the Yellowhead Highway (#16) to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It is so-named in honor of an early explorer who had fair hair and was dubbed Yellowhead by the Indians. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are called the Prairie Provinces and crossing them is like driving through Kansas except you don’t get to visit the Eisenhower museum. The fields are full of mustard and canola crops. They are beautiful to see. The roads are good, quite like the Interstate roads in the States. We have tried to remember the song which mentions Saskatoon but cannot come up with it. We spent the night in Saskatoon after traveling 499 miles today. 

June 30, 1997 - Day 9 

We continued on our way and passed into Alberta Province. The terrain is becoming more rugged and more beautiful. Mountains, streams, greenery are now a regular feature. We stopped and took some pictures of a moose who obliged by coming close to the edge of the road and scratching the space between his horns on a rather large bush for several minutes. Many cars stopped to take this in. We wanted to spend the night in Jasper but all the inns were full (one drawback to not making reservations) so we drove a bit further and stayed in a Chalet on the Fraser River run by a German woman. The scenery here is really beautiful. Miles today: 658. 

July 1, 1997 - Day 10 Canada Day 

Canada’s national holiday today. We crossed into British Columbia early in the morning. More beautiful mountains, streams and country side. The roads are narrower, no more divided highways. One lane. I imagine road construction here is more difficult and thus more expensive than in the Prairie Provinces. Arrived in Prince Rupert at 6:30 p.m. and went to “scope out” the waterfront. Wound up booking our reservation for Alaska. We got our car on and even managed an inside cabin. We were very lucky. This was the last accommodation available before July 6 or 7 (after the holiday). We found a hotel close to the ferry terminal and the operator even let Mary do a wash in the hotel’s laundry room. We tipped the operator well for this extra accommodation. The public laundry down the road was closed. We had a pizza supper and a few beers, we are quite tired today. We sail at 10 a.m. and have to be on line at the ferry by seven in the morning. Robert Mitchum died today. We shall miss his performances. Today we did 616 miles.  

July 2, 1997 - Day 11 

Up at 5:30 a.m. Light breakfast of coffee, and some bread, jam and fruit we bought last night in a store. At the ferry shortly before seven. Loading of vehicles of all kinds, shapes and sizes quite complex but done in good time. Although we were on line early we didn’t load until second to last. We passed the time waiting talking to other people, most notably a couple from the University of Wisconsin and their children. I wore my Green Bay Packers cap (gift from Patrick last Birthday) and it is a conversation starter everywhere we go. Americans love a winner. The ship sailed at 10:05. I took a nap in the cabin and awoke about 2 p.m. Mary also rested. I used my binoculars (gift from Frankie last Christmas) to good advantage as we moved through the Inland Passage. Today is Wednesday. We are due in Skagway, Alaska, at 11 p.m. Thursday night. It is about a thirty-eight hour journey. Our ship is the TAKU, built in 1963, modified for the State of Alaska in 1981. We got off in Wrangell for a short walk to Totem Pole Park. A small Alaskan town which can only be reached by water or air. No roads to or from British Columbia or anywhere else. It was good to have a day off from driving. 
 

                                                                                           

July 3, 1997 - Day 12 

Slept fairly well in the lower bunk of our cabin. The ship is noisy. I thought our cabin must be close to the engines or the screws. But we were fortunate to get these accommodations with no advance reservation.  The cabin has toilet, sink and shower. Up about 8:30. Scenery like yesterday - lots of water, small islands, and snow-capped mountains in the distance. Ship is really not crowded, although it is ferrying its maximum load of trucks, buses, mobile homes, autos, motorcycles. Have met some nice people on board. In Juneau during a ninety minute stopover we took a bus tour of the city and went to Mendenhall Glacier, which is some 12 miles long.  Some people and vehicles left the ship in Juneau and the captain took on others. At least two new vehicles could not be handled and they had to stay behind in Juneau. When we were at dinner the Captain came through and I suggested quietly to him the ship’s American flag be replaced before the 4th of July since it was pretty dirty and ragged. I thought he could do this at the next stop. To my amazement, a brand new, sparkling stars and stripes were flying from the mast in less than thirty minutes. I was impressed. We landed in Skagway, population approximately 750, at about 11:30 p.m. Of course it is still daylight in the land of the Midnight sun, as it has been for several days now. We managed a decent room at Sgt. Preston’s Lodge and I went out and walked about. There are wooden sidewalks on the one main street in Skagway, which is about ten blocks long. The buildings are quite old and like what Hollywood has shown us as the frontier life. I went into a micro-brewery pub without realizing it was not yet open for business and ordered a local beer. Turns out I was the first paying customer, the other men there were workers putting some finishing touches on the place. A nice little town.  

July 4, 1997 - Day 13 America’s Birthday 

Skagway put on a parade. People lined the streets. I saw a lot of children coming down the street from the North. They were in costume. Some were in wagons pulled by their parents. Some could hardly walk. They had balloons and everyone watching laughed and applauded. I thought, well that’s a nice parade. When it was over no one moved. The real parade was coming from the South end of town.  It was a thoughtful touch to have one parade for the small children and then the adults. It was an old-fashioned, small town America, Fourth of July parade complete with bands, vehicles, servicemen, police, firemen, civic groups, judges and awards, in short, the whole lot. Every a couple of cross-dressers (who did not get a warm reception nor win an award). We moved on to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. A few miles out of Skagway we stopped for some delicious cinnamon buns on the recommendation of our hostess at Sgt. Preston’s lodge. They really were good. Large commercial bakeries are only in major cities and everywhere we have stopped through Canada and here in Skagway we find local bakeries in hotels, motels, and on the streets. There is some great baking going on, as our waistlines attest. In Whitehorse I had the oil changed in the Lincoln. We changed some American dollars for Canadian at the rate of US $1 for CN $1.35. This evening we had an excellent salmon supper in a seasonal restaurant Mary spotted early in the evening and later walked along the river through Rotary Peace Park. We saw an old riverboat and enjoyed the cool evening. It is hard to go to bed when it is still light, but we are tired. We only drove 117 miles today. It has been a pleasant day. 

July 5, 1997 - Day 14 

I think we are getting tired. Mary especially. It is a lot of riding. I must be considerate of her slow nature, which is getting slower. Three tour buses arrived at our hotel (Westmark) during the night. This morning all the passengers were standing on line to eat in the hotel dining room. I ate an old cinnamon that was left in the car. We headed north to Dawson per yesterday’s plan. About 30 miles up the highway Mary balked. “There’s nothing I want to see in Dawson.” We turned about and drove to Fairbanks.  We stopped at a reindeer farm. Passed the town of North Pole south of Fairbanks. Stayed at the Bridgewater Hotel. Nice. Miles today 654. 

July 6, 1997 - Day 15 Sunday 

Hotel not as nice as I thought. Mary displeased. We changed. Got nice place. I had a slow leak in one tire that had previously been plugged. Since it was Sunday it was difficult to find a place to get it fixed. Finally found out about the local “Sam’s”, a warehouse shopping club we belong to at home. They opened at noon and I was second in line for emergency tire work. Got it fixed and bought a few things in the store.  We visited North Pole, and a burl shop. At the North Pole, a typical tourist attraction, Santa Claus was a young boy was a young boy with braces on his teeth in an ill fitting costume. Not much show being put on for the kids. We visited a nearby dam and flood revetment on the Chena River. Flood here in 1967 caused much damage and the revetment was built to preclude a recurrence of the damage. In the evening we flew with a bush pilot to Fort Yukon, north of the Arctic Circle. My second crossing. The first was in 1956 when I was sent to Sondestrom Air Force Base, Greenland. It was Mary’s first time. The pilot gave us certificates to commemorate the crossing. The original fort built by the Hudson’s Bay Company (in 1847) was not for protection from the Gwich’in Indians; but as protection from the Russians. Fort Yukon is the largest Athabascan Indian Village and one of the oldest settlements in Alaska. It is accessible, year-round, only by airplane. Practically all the Eskimos live off jobs and assistance from one of four levels of government: national, state, local and tribal. The town is poor; some government housing has been built at three times the cost of similar housing in the Lower 48.  Alcoholism is a major problem in the town. There is one four-way stop intersection and no traffic lights. As our ground-driver escort put it, “I don’t even have a license.” We had some great views of the Alaskan pipeline which runs 789 miles from Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic Ocean south to Valdez in Prince William Sound, crossing three mountain ranges and seventy rivers or streams. It took three years to build and where the pipe is buried it is also cooled so to not melt the permafrost on which it sets. Two million barrels of crude oil a day can be pumped through the line.  I am eating too much. We are both eating too much and not exercising. Miles driven today: 98. 

July 7, 1997 - Day 16 

We left Fairbanks and headed south on Alaska Highway 3. It was raining when we arrived at Denali Park. Mt. McKinley is obscured by heavy fog. It is most days we were informed. To get around the park one has to ride a bus. Private vehicles are not allowed beyond the main parking lot and visitor center. Bus trips take about eight hours. Given the weather and our desire to not spend eight hours on a bus, we headed for Anchorage. We did see some beautiful scenery along the way which parallels the edge of the park. We had to book in at a second rate hotel because all the major ones were booked, but it worked out fine. We are downtown and had one of the best meals of our trip in Phyllis’ Baked Salmon restaurant. Actually had a salmon and a flounder for our entrees and the chef divided each between the two plates. We saw some beautiful flowers growing in a city park and enjoyed our walkabout. We learned of the 1964 earthquake and saw a short film on how fast it came and went but the extensive damage it left behind. Anchorage is easily the most beautiful place we have visited in Alaska. Miles today: 366. 

July 8, 1997 - Day 17 

We had a nice early morning drive to Portage. We saw some goats on the side of a mountain and were amazed at their footing. At Portage we waited only a short time for the train to Whittier. This is the only way to get to Whittier. We sat in our own car on the shuttle and enjoyed passing through two mountain tunnels. One was about a mile long and the second, Maynard Mountain, is three miles long. These tunnels were built by the Army Corps of Engineers 50 years ago. It was bright and sunny when we left Portage. On the Whittier side of the mountains we had passed through it was damp, chilly and rather bleak. Whittier is a town built by the American Army during World War II and has become a fishing village and tourist attraction. It is a dirty place and long overdue for some real civilization. The people here, however, do not want a road to anywhere and asked Mary to sign a petition protesting such plans. She declined. We did have a nice pancake breakfast in the Anchor Inn, sort of a combination bar, grocery and restaurant. It is from here we will sail on a ferry and take the seven hour trip across Prince William Sound to Valdez, Alaska, from where we can drive back to the Yukon Territory and the Alcan Highway which we intend to take homeward. Because we arrived so early in the morning we are first on the “standby list” and have good hopes to get on the boat, although we will not be sure until sailing time. A second car came in behind us as we waited. We made the boat; the second “standby” did not. The trip was an exciting time. We saw some glaciers and ice floes and the weather was what we had expected Alaska to be - cold. Had to wear a jacket most of the time while crossing the Sound. One glacier was described over the loudspeaker as being eight miles long and a half-mile wide. At about 6:50 p.m. we passed Columbia Glacier in a sea of ice floes and truly enjoyed that experience. A lot of picture taking was going on among the passengers. We saw a marker designating where the Exxon Valdez had its major spill several years ago. As we approached Valdez we saw some seals on a buoy. There were five seals and you would almost think they are trained. Locally a postcard is sold depicting this same scene and there are five seals on the buoy on the postcard. We got off the boat and because it was still light decided not to stay in Valdez but to go instead to Glen Cannon. The trip through the mountains as the night came on was a bit hectic. It was foggy and the road very steep and narrow. I was glad when we passed over the top and headed down. We stayed at the Caribou Motel “Annex” which is a barracks style building with several rooms for pipeline and other construction workers in the area. A general bath down the hall. Price was good, quarters were clean and comfortable. Miles today (via vehicle) 177. 

July 9, 1997 - Day 18 

Gas near the motel was $1.70 a gallon. We did not top off. Drove to Tok and then took the road South to Whitehorse. We were on this road on July 5, when we drove to Fairbanks. The area around Lake Kulane is very beautiful. We took some pictures en route. We stayed in Whitehorse at the Best Western Hotel which is very nice. We could not get back into the Westmark which we had used and enjoyed earlier. There was a bachelor party in the bar of the hotel, and it was pretty risqué. It involved an inflatable woman and a lot of conduct best left observed but not recorded. We saw a log church built in 1900 and used for sixty years. Today it serves as a local social service site. We had some nice food and drinks here, including a grainy hot breakfast cereal called “Red River.” Today we drove 530 miles. 

July 10, 1997 - Day 19 

Drove east toward Watson Lake on the Alaskan Highway. The Continental Divide gave us some beautiful scenery. At Watson Lake we saw the sign-post capital of the world. The first sign was erected by Carl Lindley, a lonesome American GI in 1942 (it showed the distance to his home in Danville, Illinois). Others followed and tourists still add to the collection. Today there are thousands of signs from all over the world identifying cities and towns and other places. Also thousands of license plates and personal signs marking the visit of people from the four corners of the world. We saw several placed there by South Carolinians. Mary met an Elvis impersonator and he was a strange one. A Northern Lights show nearby was touristy and not all that good. We are encountering more road work. We stayed the night at Trapper Ray’s lodge at Laird Hot Springs, 137 miles East of Watson Lake. The food and services here were poor. The hot springs were not appealing to me, mainly because of the mosquitoes we had to fight our way through to get to them on foot. Several people were, however, enjoying the waters. Miles today: 409. 

July 11, 1997 - Day 20 

Bad night last night. Hit my head hard on the ceiling overhang breaking the skin, and had some bad dreams to boot. Cause and effect? Awoke at 2:30 a.m. On the road at 4:30 a.m.  Lots of road construction. Some reindeer seen along the road. Day got more beautiful as we went along. It was treacherous coming down some mountains but also exhilarating. We spent some time in Dawson Creek, mile “O” for the Alcan Highway. The success in building that highway more than 50 years ago was, for the time and conditions, a spectacular event. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and were threatening the Aleutians and Alaska. Canada and the West Coast of America were at peril. There had to be some way to get troops, guns, and supplies to Alaska. I recall seeing Movietone News reports of the event at the time but only now can fully appreciate what was done.  The road was 1,532 miles long and went through some of the most formidable territory even encountered. There were 11,000 soldiers and 16,000 civilians engaged in the work. It was built in eight months and twelve days. Men died from the cold and the heat, from floods and disease. We spent the night in Grand Prairie in Alberta Province. The roads are better in Alberta. We are seeing the yellow fields again; more canola and mustard. Miles today 565. 

July 12, 1997 - Day 21 

We are west of Whitecourt on Highway 43 in Alberta Province and some rocks have been kicked back at us and chipped my windshield. The offending vehicle was a Black Jeep, License SSC863, Alberta. We stopped in Cardston, Alberta, and saw the Fay Wray fountain. Her career as a Hollywood movie actress spanned thirty-three years but she is known best as the female lead in King Kong. Not many people can name another picture she was in. At the fountain KK is memorialized along with Cardston’s most famous citizen. We crossed into Montana at 6:30 in the evening. It was sixty miles to a decent motel. We did the laundry and washed the car. We stayed overnight in Cut Bank. Slept poorly, ate in McDonalds. Mileage: about 550. 

July 13, 1997 - Day 22 Sunday 

Went to Mass in Shelby, Montana. The speed limit here is “reasonable and prudent”. We visited the Little Big Horn battlefield, which is now also the site of a National Cemetery for veterans. A Park Ranger gave a good talk about the events leading up to the battle and the actual fight itself in June 1876. Obviously, the story is different from that given to us by the writers a hundred years ago and the image projected by Hollywood. One thing which seems to be overlooked now in this era of political correctness is that at the time the Indians were a murdering bunch of savages. I noted in the museum that General Custer kept a small diary in a shirt pocket size notebook, much like the one I have been using on this trip. Miles today 576.  

July 14, 1997 - Day 23 

Changed oil in Sheridan, Wyoming. Had a delicious cinnamon bun. Stopped for lunch in Rapid City, South Dakota. Interesting afternoon. Visited a trout and salmon hatchery, Thunderhead Falls (600 feet inside a mountain) and Bear Country, USA, where we saw a grand collection of animals, including a large herd of brown bears and other wildlife. Miles today 541.  

July 15, 1997 - Day 24 

Up early. Breakfast in Winner, SD Twenty-two old women, members of an exercise club, were gathered in the restaurant for a birthday breakfast of a member. Happy Birthday was sung. The honoree looked about 85-90 years old. We toured Fort Randall dam on the Missouri River. It was a very interesting trip. I always like to visit dams and go down under the water and see the turbines and the equipment. This one has ten spillways, six are used for power generation and four others for flood control. We also stopped at a sheep auction and one time the auctioneer thought he had a bid but his helper said, “It’s just a lady with a camera.” He was referring to Mary. At Elk Point, SD we enjoyed a milk shake at Edgar’s “the finest soda fountain in the state” (built in 1906). Now the drug store housing it is also a flower shop. We went by the Gateway 2000 computer factory in North Sioux city and were amazed at the growth of the plant since we last visited in 1993. We are on the road to Omaha where we expect to visit the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Museum and take in the history of the Air Force. We had a difficult time finding the place but made it eventually and got in a motel across from Offutt AFB. We had a nice suite of rooms at a very reasonable price ($73). We learned only today that Jimmy Stewart had died sometime during the past week. Another film great gone.  Miles today: 486. 

July 16, 1997 - Day 25 

Visited Offutt AFB, but they would not let us go on the base. We went to the SAC museum and found it in transition. It is being re-located to another site about forty miles away. While we saw some exhibits, it was not up to expected (or normal Air Force) standards and we were disappointed. Perhaps after it is relocated and opened anew we can try it again. We went on to Kansas City to visit the stockyards. They closed two years ago. We had lunch in the Golden Ox located in the old stockyard headquarters building, a restaurant we would have passed on judging by the outside appearance. We went in on the recommendation of a man selling papers, gum and cigarettes in the lobby of the building. It was great. Fine ambiance, drinks and food. Really upscale. Professional waitresses and service. Had the famous KC strip and baked potato, salad, etc. We drove across Missouri to St. Louis, the Gateway to the West. Parked near the Barnes Jewish Hospital on Kings Highway. Rode the Metro-link to Lached’s Station. Walked to the Golden Arch which commemorates the Gateway to the West. We rode to the top of the Arch, some 630 feet. We saw a beautiful sight, St. Louis all lit up and sparking like a crown of jewels. We could look down on Busch Stadium where the Cardinals were playing a night baseball game. We were thrilled at the experience. We drove on I-64 across the line to Illinois and stayed the night. Miles today 490. 

July 17, 1997 - Day 26 

Went through Marion, Illinois. Tried to visit the federal penitentiary there but were turned away at the gate. We were not even allowed to look upon the outside of the buildings. Advance clearance for visits has to be obtained from Washington. Understandable. We are heading in the direction of Nashville. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel outside of Knoxville for dinner. Took I-640 around Knoxville. We are tired. About 65 miles west of Asheville we were diverted. We did not know it but a major rock slide on the Thursday before the Fourth of July had closed the Interstate here. At Hot Springs, Tenn., people were sitting in a BP gas station on folding lawn chairs and watching three lanes of traffic converge on a “T” intersection. Kids were across the road cheering the truckers on and sticking their fists and arms in the air and moving them up and \down trying to get the drivers to blow their air horns. Many cooperated with the kids and the local were just enjoying themselves. There hasn’t been this much excitement in town since the paint dried on the Post Office forty years ago. The alternate route was a single lane road for about 55-60 miles through the mountains. These old roads are very narrow and not intended for the large number of vehicles now using them as a temporary measure. Trailer trucks were burning brakes coming down the hills in the area, camper vehicles were trying to get around each other and altogether it was a tough ninety minutes of driving. We were told later the rock slide had been cleared but the road base could not be stabilized and it may be several more weeks before the road is passable again. We stayed overnight south of Asheville. We are almost home. Miles today: 637. 

July 18, 1997 - Day 27 Friday 

Home. Drove 260 miles today. Ending mileage: 50,521. Total trip mileage: 11, 013 road miles (miles covered by ferries and trains not included.) Our butts are sore. We are tired. It will take us several days to recuperate. All in all a grand time. We went on our own, made no reservations and generally came out okay. Only one or two difficult moments, but even they worked out. The Lincoln performed well. No complaints. A good vacation. We are looking forward to Frankie’s visit in a few days and Patrick’s birthday coming up next week. 

The End  

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