Archive for the ‘Ranger Doug Roadtrips’ Category

Our winter respite–Eastbound

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Saxman Totem Park

Well, after the outdoor kitchen project, I’m ready for a break so Martina and I jump on the Alaska ferry and our first stop is Saxman Village just south of Ketchikan.  It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  We walked around for a couple hours while our ferry took on fuel for the non-stop trip to Bellingham.

Train Station

In Bellingham, we bus down to Seattle, then hop on this Amtrak to……Oxnard, home of the world famous Seabee Museum!   Yes, I was a Navy Seabee there 45 years ago so it’s time to revisit.  Actually, we stored our FJ Cruiser there over the summer so it’s time to trek back across America the old fashion way.


The nice thing about traveling by train is you can drink champagne enroute.  It’s a relaxing way to travel–we rent a small overnight cabin and relax–no hassles about baggage weight or taking off your belt and shoes to board.  It’s a two day, one night trip–we get off at many train stops and admire the restored stations along the way.  Amtrak also offers travel points like airlines.


After picking up our car, we drive up to Nevada City and pick up our new (old–1948) Airstream which had a new frame and polish completed.  We’ll now tow it up to Missoula where the interior work begins.

AC Cover

Here, the guys at Blue Moon Caravans help me fashion a template for an aluminum cover to fit over the air conditioner.  We’ll need one traveling in the SW parks and I’m not going to put an ugly A/C on top of this beauty–well, actually I am;  but it will be disguised under this Flash Gordon cover complete with it’s own headlight and side vents–very cool!


Oh boy, do we love driving the backroads–you see all sorts of stuff–here a tractor collection near Salmon Idaho.  I learned to drive a Farmall Cub which I was 14 working on a horse farm–my preferred vehicle even today.

Paradise Valley

This drive up the Paradise Valley is one of my favorites.  Immigrant Peak is beyond with the Yellowstone River gently winding it’s way down into it’s confluence with the Missouri.


So off we go to Yellowstone to enjoy the animals and fall colors—but one minority wing of one House of Congress, which is only 1/3 of our government decides to shut down government which includes all National Parks for two weeks–OUR TWO WEEKS!


We develop Plan B and divert to Chico Hotsprings.

Chico  Pool

For those of you who have been here, this a no-brainer.  When Ranger Doug asks for a ‘key’ he gets the one to the Hamburg Steinway in the lobby.  With an Olympic sized naturally fed hotspring, a five star wild game restaurant, funky rooms and a wine-cellar that will make a Frenchman drool, we set up our basecamp.

Welcome to JH

Plan C then comes to fruition and we find ourselves later in the week driving back through Jackson’s Hole.  The “….’s” was removed from Jackson for the phone company, by the way.  This is the place where land is so valuable (highest per capita income in the US of A), that neighbors will steal from each other.  Read more here, here, and here.

Cabin 2

Here I ponder the internet and plan some furniture for our house.  I bought two acres 43 years ago and built two cabins out of log–the first with a horse and a chainsaw.

Cabin 3

Cindy warms her back on the fireplace stone which has the same recirculation features as our Alaskan home.  Called a ‘contra-flow’ system, the flue gases circulate until they’re nearly cold expending most heat into the house.   Cozy!


Here’s one of our evening fires with friends.  The fireplace door has all the brands of the nearby ranches including the A Lazy D….(read on).


Out for a walk.

A Lazy D

The A Lazy D.  In the 1930s my uncle David Abercrombie owned a 2000 acre dude ranch.  He’s the middle one sitting on the fence.  We visit the ranch again–it’s now five ranchettes valued in the millions.  Here it is today:

A Lazy D Now

Most of the land has been donated back to Grand Teton Park and the adjacent Elk Refuge.

Gros Ventre

We continue up the Gros Ventre (pronounced Grovont) River where there is still some color left.  This is near the “Shane” ranch which was one of the many movies filmed here.  Here is a list.


Martina snaps a pic of Cindy and me–Cindy worked with us in Alaska and hadn’t been up to Jackson Hole, so here she is.  The Teton Range is behind us reaching to 13,775′.  I was a Jenny Lake Ranger here for seven season and worked principally in mountain rescue–perhaps the best times of my life. I was sorely tempted to become a permanent ranger–my boss offered me ‘carte blanche’ if I would sign up as a permanent–but I felt the call of dentistry instead…..  (yes, this is a bad pun).


But I still am a ranger at heart–here is the symbol of the NPS–which is now $12 Billion in arrears in maintenance.  These bruisers now number about 800 with another 4600 in the Yellowstone herd, up from only 23 in 1902.  Yellowstone was initially formed to protect these herds (also elk) after they were nearly decimated a century ago.   Well it’s off to the East Coast and Europe–stay tuned!


Saturday, December 1st, 2012

In Europe the best way to get around is by train–and we take the ICE train from Frankfurt to Paris.  This train reaches peak speeds of 315 k/h!  And wait til you pass on oncoming ICE train–wow!  We’re in Paris in about 5 hours.

Paris was overwhelming–we spent a total of two days there–and were mainly sick with the flu.  Mr. Eiffel must have owned an erector set when he was a little boy–we’re awed by the amount of steel here (and the long lines).  What a massive structure.  Our favorite time was walking around Montmartre.

Here we stumble across a street musician; aka “organ grinder.”   I spent last winter rebuilding an Estey portable pump organ and love this music.  We tipped him generously and continued to walk up the hill.

Our next stop was Lyon where we became couchsurfers hosted by a very nice chap named Nick.  Martina found him on the website and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening with him–he is an expert climber/extreme skier and loves climbing in Yosemite.  We will certainly invite him to Alaska!   You rock, Nick!

Being a country boy-camper type, it’s time to move on south to Provence!

It was here that we fell in love with France and most of all our French hosts.  Le Degoutaud is a 100 acre B&B run by the parents of our last summer’s guest, Tibo (see previous post).  We were really in for a treat.  Besides a well deserved mention in Rick Steve’s guidebook, they spoil their guests with home-made apricot nectar, preserves, tree ripe olives, & figs, and of course, locally produced wines.  Le Degoutaud is run by Veronique and Pierre and Pierre’s parents, Hubert and Josefine and we adopt them into our family immediately.  What hospitality!!

How can you top this?  Tibo takes us on a personal tour, through the vineyards around Suzette, and the villages NE of Avignon and Orange.  We drive up Mont Ventoux and see the tip of Mt. Blanc.  I acquire a strong French accent,  and a desire to sample the local wines.

Some of the 100 acres.

Meet Jean David and….

….Chateau Jean David

Martina and Tibo take an afternoon catnap by the pool ala Maxfield Parrish.

Last summer, Tibo and I began an outdoor kitchen here in Kupreanof.  Here he explains the finer points of French country cuisine.    A traditional Provencal dinner is planned this evening.

The outdoor kitchen is fired up, wine arrives along with the best that Provence can offer in culinary treats.  A night never to forget;  and such wonderful hosts!

What else can you wish for…. but a drive to the French Riviera and the southern Mediterranean coastline. Tibo, ever our faithful guide, takes us south to Marseilles and then eastward along the French coast towards Italy. Simply beautiful!

We drive up the tortuous roads above Cassis to the limestone cliffs where climbers prepare to descend.  In the old days, we climbed up, not down but it’s a new world.  Amazing exposure.

Well, I’m dizzy so we drive down to sea level and have lunch in a Mediterranean seacoast town (there are too many to count or remember). Can you imaging rowboats kept this nice in Seattle?  Never.  These Mediterranean French are perhaps the happiest ever.  Next stop–Languedoc-Lunas where we pick mushrooms and enjoy perfect French hospitality!  Stay tuned.



Sunday, November 25th, 2012

In mid September Martina and I decide to revisit Bavaria and to partake in the local customs there–namely Octoberfest.  If you haven’t been to Octoberfest in Munich, you haven’t enjoyed beer.  Off we go via Iceland–pictured here is Reykjavik’s huge church built in the center of the city on the highest hill–very unique architecture and with a huge pipe organ in place.

This is a great way to visit Europe.  We flew from Toronto to Reykjavik and spend three days getting rid of jet lag and checking out the local customs.  Reykjavik is a beautiful town with friendly people–we’ll go back.  Icelandic Air offers non-penalty airfare stops for up to a week’s stay, and cuts the airtime in two shorter flights.  You can’t lose.

Octoberfest is simply two weeks of madness.  Grab your lederhosen and let’s go!

People from all over the world congregate in ten huge tents.  Each tent is about the size of two football fields and houses about 7000 beer drinkers with outdoor seating for another 2500.

Believe it or not, we run into people we know–and the beer isn’t bad either.  Wow!  I want to come back the next night and we do.  I haven’t seen this much cleavage since I studied the San Andreas Fault as a geology student 40 years ago!

Oh boy–time to work off all that beer drinking so off we go on a hike in the very south of Bavaria on the Austrian border near the town of Brannenburg.  I expect to see Julie Andrews waltz out behind the next tree with her kids in tow.  Beautiful countryside–the clouds clear from the valleys below about the time our heads clear from Octoberfest.

We work up an appetite and stop at the Viktualienmarkt right next to Marienplatz in downtown Munich.  Every grape here has it’s place at this display.  In fact, everything has it’s place here; every lawn is mowed, every house painted–not a gutter or shingle out of place.  This is Bavaria.

After 10 days in Munich, it’s off to Paris via the ICE high speed trains!  Stay tuned….