Jul 11th

        The people we have met along the way have been telling us that the Cassiar Highway (our next road to travel) is a very difficult drive. Scenic but rough – over 100 of the 400 miles is gravel. We broke the drive up into two 200 mile stretches by spending one night along the way. I hope it works out. We plan to spend the day by getting groceries, working on the toilet and relaxing for the drive. Having breakfast at the little restaurant in the campground was in our plan but we goofed off around the camper and didn’t get there until 1:00PM – they had stopped serving breakfast. I ordered the ‘special’, a philly cheese steak, while Rita had a burger. In the turmoil of customers and being newly in business they managed to loose our order and we did not get served for an hour. Good thing we weren’t planning to do much any way. After lunch we headed to the grocery and hardware in Watson Lake. We had a list of thing we would like but having the hardware not open on Sundays put a crimp in the plan. The grocery was certainly the best (only) one in Watson Lake but not all that great. No diet soda, no brand name chips, and a limited selection of TV dinners but at least we got some driving carrots and some lettuce. Driving carrots – if I munch on carrots while I drive I don’t get tired, with no carrots I am yawning in less than 45 minutes. Sorry, can’t explain why. Back at the camper I grabbed up the laptop and headed to the laundromat to use the phone line for the internet. Nothing important in the email today. I stopped by the office to get two "toonies" to use in the RV wash. They call their one dollar coin a "‘loonie" because of the Loon pictured on the reverse. The two dollar coin is called the "‘toonie" for what ever reason and that is what the RV wash wanted. The Jeep was clean after just one coin so I now have a spare. The toilet was returned to normal operation through the use of a stiff wire to dig out some impacted toilet paper. To complete the relaxation we decided to watch a couple of the movies we had brought along – particularly since the TV was once again all sports and crap. The movies "Lost in Translation" and "Shanghai Knights" were selected. After all the hype I have to admit to being severely disappointed in "Lost in Translation" – very slow moving and boring. We broke for supper before continuing and then forged ahead. The second movie was certainly much lighter and more action filled – catch it on the pay channels. I updated the diary before packing the PC away. Tomorrow we challenge the Cassiar Highway!!

Jul 12th

        Well we didn’t leave as early as some of the people in the park but we did manage to get on the road by a little after 9AM. We stopped first to dump the tanks since our site had been a water/electric only site. Next stop was to pick up fuel. I chatted briefly with a guy that had been in the same campground last night – he was headed down the Cassiar as well. The first 25 miles was all up, down, left, right and uneven road. The remainder was not as bad as long as you don’t count the 15 mile gravel section, the various other gravel sections, the narrow roads and all the potholes. We managed to average between 35 and 40 mph for the trip and arrive in one piece. The campground was not much and only offered 15amp service. The sites were muddy and soft. The leveling jacks did not raise the camper at all but they did make some dandy holes in the ground. We decided to leave the camper as it was – off level. The guy from the gas station this morning pulled in to the right of us and the camper that had been next to us at the Baby Nugget pulled in on the other side. Very limited campground selection on the Cassiar. There was a restaurant in the park and I have to admit they make a great hamburger. If you go there have the Tatogga burger. There were no towns nearby and nothing to do so we closed the curtains on the camper and selected some DVDs to watch. We had brought along the Matrix trilogy, two of which we had not seen, and thought this was an excellent time for a movie marathon. By midnight Neo had saved Zion and we were ready for bed. The remainder of the Cassiar was waiting for us and we needed some sleep.

Jul 13th

        No septic again last night but since it had only been one night we left the park without stopping at the dump station. The first part of the Cassiar had been bad but it didn’t begin to prepare us for the second part. Gravel, potholes, narrow winding roads you name it and we had it. There even was a large part where we waited 20 minutes for a pilot car to lead us through the construction. The scenery was good but the road was awful until we got to the Bell II Lodge area. The signs indicated that we were entering a construction zone but it appeared they had completed their work. The road from here on was great. We made the turn at Meziadin Junction and headed for Hyder. This last section of the journey was one of the most scenic of the whole Alaska trip so far. Beautiful snow capped mountains, numerous waterfalls and multiple glaciers. If you are going to brave the Cassiar you have to reward yourself with a trip to Hyder. We passed though the small town of Stewart, across the Canadian border and into the even smaller town of Hyder - dirt roads and all. We found the campground without problem and got parked. Our site had water, septic and 30amps – the best we had had for a while. They also had free wireless internet access - everyone shared one dial-up line so it was very slow. The campground in Steward had cable TV so this campground advertised their FREE TV RECEPTION. Yes, you could put your antenna up and get one channel. We selected a seafood place called Seafood Express or just “The Bus” – the two other restaurants in town served breakfast only or were closed on Tuesdays. Great fish and very reasonable. From there we drove out to Salmon Glacier. An 18 mile dirt road led to the top of the glacier. The road was even worse than the Cassiar but we were in the Jeep so we didn’t mind. After taking several picture we returned to town and stopped at a bear viewing area. The salmon come to spawn in this one area and the bears stop by to scoop them out. It seemed like it would be fun to watch if only the bears had shown up while we were there. After a short break at the camper for supper we headed out to see the town bars. The Glacier Bar is famous for it’s "get Hyderized" tradition. The bartender pours you a shoot of some unknown liquor, you drink it down in one gulp and you are "Hyderized". That was what they told us anyway. Since I don’t do shoots I did not participate. A guy came in a little later and went through the process. The bartender poured way more that a shot into a glass – more like about 3 or 4 ounces. She explained he had to drink it all down without stopping, he could not smell it first and if it came back up he had to buy a round for the bar. Down it went – no problem. She turns the glass upside down on the bar and what little was left formed a small ring. She then struck a match and set the ring on fire while explaining that the "shoot" was grain alcohol and that he had been "Hyderized". He was awarded a small card for his efforts. I was very glad it was him and not me. Since the bar was also a liquor store we picked up an 18 pack of Bud Lite for $17. This was the best price we had seen on beer in some time. The other bar was called the Sealaska. We had a couple of beers there as well before returning to the camper for one final beer before bed. The Cassiar had taken a lot out of me and I slept like a log.

Jul 14th

        We slept late and then goofed off most of the morning. I worked on PC projects while Rita did laundry. The Pizza Factory in Stewart BC was our choice for lunch. Very good pizza! From there we went to the grocery store and visited a couple of craft stores before we decided we might have reached the limit on the number of craft stores that should be visited in one trip. Rita had bought a card she wanted to prepare and mail so we returned to the camper. I did some preliminary leave things while Rita prepared the card. It was a short trip the Hyder Post Office. The postmaster was out watering the bushes but was happy to go inside and sell us a stamp. Two gift shops later we returned to the camper. I took a nap while Rita worked on her campground notes. For supper we returned to Stewart and a neat little place called Bitter Creek Cafe. The place was filled with antiques and their Mexican food was fantastic. After a brief camper stop we once again made the trip to the bear viewing / salmon spawning area. This time after about 10 minutes a bear actually appeared. He walked around, ate a fish and generally impressed the crowd. I got lots of video before the 10PM closing caused us to leave the area. As we were leaving a small black bear crossed the road in front of us on his way to the stream. I think he knew it would get quieter after 10PM. A brief tour around town completed our adventures for the day. A little Jay Leno and off to bed.

Jul 15th

        Up at 6:30 today. We had about 300 miles to drive this day and thought we should get an early start. I messed everything up by suggesting we go to the place that only serves breakfast before we left town. A group of over 10 people had sat down just before we got there so our orders took a while. The toast was excellent!! The hash browns were great and the omelet was delicious. The only problem was that they had ran out of Diet Coke. By the time we left, there was a line of people waiting to get in. I highly recommend the Wildflower Cafe for breakfast if you ever get to Hyder. They are only open from 6:30 to noon so get up early. We finally got on the road about 10:30. After a short stop for fuel about 50 miles out we drove the rest of the way without stopping. The road from Hyder out to the Cassiar was just a beautiful as it had been on the way in. The road south was in pretty good shape but we did encounter two areas of construction where we had to wait for and then follow a pilot car. In an area that was being prepped for resurfacing a passing pickup truck threw a stone up and smashed the passenger side windshield on the camper. It started as a star about the size of a half dollar but had grown to a two foot crack by the time we got to the campground. We were assigned an uphill stall and could not level the camper without taking the rear wheels off the ground. Since the parking brake uses the rear wheels this would not be a good thing to do. The satellite dish almost had enough signal to work but not quite. We had to resort to the antenna as usual. Of the four channels that we could get one was educational, one was just weird, one came in crappy and the last was doing a Will & Grace marathon. Such fun. A supper of leftovers led to a couple beers. Tomorrow I will be looking for a place to patch the windshield.