Day 342: Red Salmon on the Kenai River

This morning I removed the hub and found that the brake arm mounted on the hub backing is sticking.  This is probably what caused the wheel to shear off – once the brakes were applied, the brakes on that wheel did not turn off, causing continuous stress on that wheel.  I disabled the brake arm on the defective hub backing so we could continue driving.

We drove the RV into Soldotna and purchased a new hub backing.  We then visited the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge just out of town.  We went for a nice hike though the boreal forest to a lake:

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Back at the visitor center, they had on display the skulls of two moose that had become entangled during fighting and died.  This is at least the third visitor center I’ve visited that has such a display, which makes me wonder how common of a problem this is:

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The kids received their Junior Ranger patches after completing the workbook.

We next visited the Kenai River, which flows through Soldotna.  A fellow was prepping fillets from some Red Salmon his family had caught:

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Next we drove over to Fred Meyer where we will be overnighting.  I removed the wheel and hub, removed the faulty hub backing, installed the new hub backing, and reinstalled the hub:

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The annual run of Red Salmon up the Kenai, peaking at over 200,000 fish per day, makes this the fishing capital of the world, at least for a week or so.  Obviously we’re not the only ones who know about it; I feel sorry for Fred Meyer shoppers:

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I bought a one-day fishing license that I’ll be using tomorrow.  Look out salmon!

See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 341: The Tire Toss

This morning we left Anchorage and drove along the Turnagain Arm.  The views were stunning:

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We arrived at Portage Lake and took in the view from the parking lot of the visitor center:

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The kids got to work on their Junior Ranger workbooks:

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The visitor center had a solarium from which the lake could be viewed:

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Having completed their workbooks, we stepped outside to view icebergs that had calved off of Portage Glacier on the far side of the the lake and floated down to this end:

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This area has several hanging glaciers:

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A tourist ferry (lower left) is dwarfed by the massive glacier in the background:

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Another hanging glacier:

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We stopped at a viewing area for salmon swimming upstream to spawn, but we’re a few weeks early, so there was nothing to see:

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Continuing South around the South side of Turnagain Arm, we passed a dead forest of trees whose roots were drowned by salt water when this area dropped 10 feet during the great Alaska earthquake:

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Amazing roadside views:

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After exiting the Seward Highway and getting onto the Sterling Highway, we drove for a few miles below I heard a small explosion sound.  Pulling over, we discovered that our wheel had sheared off the lug nuts and rolled away:

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A wheel can’t be lost at 55MPH without doing some body damage on its way out:

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While I called around to find a replacement hub, Trish went back up the road a ways and eventually found our lost wheel:

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The tire had been cut by the frame of the RV when it departed, and the lug holes were no longer round, so I drove the truck the hour or so to Soldotna to buy a new hub and wheel and tire:

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Returning to the RV a few hours later, I mounted the new hub on the axle spindle, and mounted the new wheel to the hub:

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The wheel wasn’t spinning very well, but at least we were rolling!  We drove up the road a couple miles to the first turnout we found to overnight there.  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 336: Tour de Fairbanks

The mosquitoes continue their onslaught against us.  M’s eyelid was stung overnight and is swelling nicely:

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We stopped at TDS to replace the tire that was chewed up in the axle incident near Chicken and the tire that flatted on the Dalton Highway on the way back from Prudhoe Bay.  Both tires had little tread left, so it was time for them to go anyway:

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On our way out of town, we stopped at Pioneer Park, where a classic car show happened to be underway in the parking lot:

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Our first stop was the aviation museum.  The museum was mostly wreckage of planes that had crashed in Alaska, but some whole planes were there, like this beauty that happens to be the same type of plane that Glenn Miller was in when he was lost over the English Channel:

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This is a Rutan kit plane.  I suspected and confirmed that this plane is very similar to the one in which John Denver was killed:

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They had a Huey on display that we were able to go into and sit down:

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Next we went to the railroad depot where Engine No. 1 was on display:

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The Pioneer Museum had a variety of interesting displays:

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I especially enjoyed the dioramas, like this cutaway view of a gold dredge in operation:

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One of the first electric cars:

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Next we visited the SS Nenana, a Klondike gold rush-era sternwheeler like the SS Klondike we visited in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  The Nenana had in it’s hold a variety of dioramas depicting the settlements it served back in the day:

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Gotta love steam propulsion:

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Our last stop in the park was the train car president Harding used to tour Alaska.  I’m seriously considering redoing the RV’s interior in this style:

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The park closed at 8pm, so we drove South to overnight at a pullout just a few miles North of tomorrow’s destination, Denali National Park.  The sun is about to go down just a bit before midnight:

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See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 335: Back to Fairbanks

We stopped at the gas station in Coldfoot before driving back down the Dalton Highway to Fairbanks.  The Post Office here is only open 3 days a week for four and a half hours:

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We stopped by the interagency visitor center in Coldfoot, the largest building here.  The kids received their Junior Ranger badges for Gates of the Arctic National Park which we passed yesterday on our drive up to Deadhorse:

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On the way back to Fairbanks we had a flat tire.  I changed it at Gobbler’s Knob.  The nice thing about dual axle RVs is that the good tire can be driven up onto a ramp which lifts the flat tire off the ground.  I did still have to use the jack to finish the job:

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We stopped again at the artic circle wayside for a photo:

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Looking North towards Coldfoot:

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Crossing the Yukon River:

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We arrived back at the Lowe’s in Fairbanks a little bit after midnight. See the trip map for driving details and our current location.

Day 329: Tok to the Chicken

This morning I got to work remounting the axle.  With two sturdy jacks and the necessary replacement parts, the repair only took a couple hours:

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B did her homeschool outside:

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Once the spring bolt was installed, I cut it to length with my angle grinder:

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The next step was to jack the axle up under the springs and secure it with the axle bolts:

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Since the tire had been badly chewed up when the axle failed, I swapped in the spare:

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All done! I also fixed the trim piece right behind the wheel.  All that’s left now is bending the stairs back and fixing the trim that was crushed by the stairs being pushed back.

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We hitched up and drove West on the Taylor Highway, a barely two-lane gravel and dirt road with thousand-foot drop offs in places and no guard rails.  After about 30 miles, we reached the “town” of Chicken, Alaska:

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In addition to its seven residents, Chicken is also the final resting place of the Pedro Dredge, a smaller version of Dredge #4 in Dawson City:

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More Chicken-themed kitsch:

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Duck Dynasty? I’ve Never seen it.

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The Taylor Highway is paved after Chicken, and we arrived in Tok without incident.  One of the local motels has an enclosure with Husky Puppies as well as dog mushing paraphernalia:

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While Trish did the laundry at a local campground, I straightened out the stairs and trim panel bent by the axle failure:

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Tonight we’re overnighting behind the local Chevron station, pulling WiFi from the Tok Library.  See the trip map for driving details and our current location.