Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cross Continent Superlatives

I've actually been off and on working on this for months, only never to finish. I figured that being snowed in is a good enough reason to complete my unfinished business.

These are the highlights and best of from my road trip to Alaska and back in July and August of 2009:

Best City:
Madison, WI- University of Wisconsin, bike friendly, nice weather, scenic. Very nice people, good food, tasty beer. What's not to like?
State Street Madison

Honorable Mention: Calgary, Saskatoon, Edmonton (below)
Skyline- North Saskatchewan River valley

Best Town: Jasper, Alberta- near perfect town nestled in the splendor of the Canadian Rockies. Every turn is a postcard. You have glorious peaks, glaciers, sparkling rivers and picturesque lakes. Moose, bear, marmot, dall sheep and elk. Can't go wrong with Jasper, unless you don't like pretty stuff in nature.
Canada Rail- Jasper

Honorable Mention- Mineral Point, Wisconsin; Sitka, Alaska (below); Haines, Alaska

Best Campground (Public owned):Wasagaming - located in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. Run by Parks Canada, it is large, but it has clean facilities, close to the town of Wasagaming and pretty Clear Lake.

Honorable Mention-
Gordon Howe Campground, Saskatoon is run by the city of Saskatoon and simple and nice. I stayed in overflow and was the nicest overflow camping that I have ever been pushed to. Plus, how can you not like a placed named after a Gordie Howe?

Juniper Campground,
Teddy Roosevelt National Park (North Unit). Isolated, quiet on the banks of the Missouri River with the bison.

Best Campground (Private owned):Robert Service- close to Whitehorse, it is clean, efficient and full of fun people. I stayed there twice. Most vagabonds that venture through Yukon end up at Robert Service sometime.

Honorable Mention- Garden City Campground, Skagway- Okay, it really wasn't that nice, but the owner was accomodating and pleasant, the showers hot. Plus, Emily made some friends the morning we started riding who fed us donuts and coffee.

Favorite Hostel: HI Edmonton- Great location, awesome staff, nice people staying there.

Honorable Mention- Maligne Canyon Wilderness Hostel, Jasper - No running water or electricity. And where else would you get awaken by the proprietor shouting, "There's a bear outside, don't panic if you hear a lot of noise!" Then he goes outside and starts banging pots together.

Favorite Quote:
"Everything sounds better with 'Photograph' ". -Jim Rome.
I was listening to "Rome is Burning" on an Edmonton sports radio station and Rome was talking about how if you put Def Leppard's "Photograph" in the background, everything instantly sounds better. He proceded to do that with some of the show's worst call ins. It worked. See for yourself, play something terrible and put this in the back:

Honorble Mention:
"North Carolina! Did you get lost?" - Random motorcyclists looking at my tag at a gas station in the middle of nowhere on the Alaska Highway.
"You didn't come all this way to sit at a redlight" - Emily's friend, Glenn (below, with Emma), as he sped through a red light in Juneau. Glenn picked us up on our ferry layover to take us to lunch and for a quick tour of Alaska's capital city.
216/365 - 4 Aug [Glenn]

Best Beer: Alaskan Amber - Juneau's best export. I snuck two cases home. The Smoked Porter is delicious.

Honorable Mention:
6060 Stout by Jasper Brewing Company. Tasty, especially after a day of hiking and golf. Plus, the bartender kept offering free drinks to us sitting at the bar.
Amber Ale at Brewery Creek in Mineral Point, WI. They brew good drinks but also serves up good food there too.

Favorite Road:Haines Highway from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines Alaska. It was the most scenic. You had Kluane National Park as your view. It wasn't bad.
We made it

Honorable Mention:
Stewart Highway from Stewart, BC to Yukon. Lonely and Isolated, which I deem perfect.
Cassiar Bridge
Canada HWY 16: one of the trans-Canada Highways. Between Winnipeg and Edmonton, it's tiny towns and seemingly never ending canola fields. Beyond the Rockies, it is isolated ranches and large expanses of space between scenic little towns.

Best Meal: Frosty Freeze, Haines Junction- I understand that leather would taste good after 101 miles on a bike, but the fries and shakes and Frosty Freeze were divine.

Honorable Mention:
33 Mile Restaurant, 33 miles out of Haines, Alaska- not really the best food, but a great meal because of circumstances (cold, wet, tired), company (Emma and Aaron) and timing.

Innisfree Cafe, Innisfree, Alberta- tried pyrogy for the first time and had great conversation with the owner, Grant (below).
199/365 - 18 July [Innisfree]

Favorite Cafe: Sticky Buns- near Carcross, Yukon. This alone is almost reason enough to come to Yukon.
Best Buns

Honorable Mention: Highliner Coffee, Sitka. Good coffee, the staff was nice and they had wireless for me.

Favorite Hike: Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park - 44 km (about 27 miles), most of it above treeline. Experience alpine meadows, glacier fed lakes and spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies. Hang out with marmot and goats. Get your ass kicked climbing up to the "Notch" (below).
204/365 - 23 July [The Notch]

Honorable Mention:
Verstovia, Sitka- lots of climbing to gorgeous views of Baranof Island and Mt. Edgecumbe. Plus, I had nice company on the walk.
212/365 - 31 July [Hiking Verstovia]

Favorite Structure: Trestle at Lethbridge, Alberta:

Honorable Mention:
High Bridge, Edmonton
Edmonton High Bridge

Spillway and Dam, Fort Peck Lake, Montana
Fort Peck Spillway

Provenchar Pedestrian Bridge, Winnipeg
Provenchar Bridge

Favorite Church: Christ Church, Whitehorse- nice sermon and the priest remembered my name after the service.

Honorable Mention- City Church, Edmonton

Things I miss: CBC- like Canadian NPR, the canola fields of central Canada, the freedom of being on the road.

Would I drive 4,000 miles to Alaska/Yukon through desolate roads and isolated communities again: In a heartbeat.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

34 in a 25

I went to court today. Was given a reduction on a speeding ticket that I picked up on November 11. Went from 43 to 34. I've been driving since 1994. Here are my violations:

1) I guess it was about 1999, busted for speeding in Burlington on the way to church. Ticket reduced.

2) 2003, pulled over going 73 in a 55 on Business 40 in Winston Salem while on my way to Eden for a preseason wrestling tournament. Got a prayer for judgement.

3) 2006, busted for speeding on Blythe St, near my house. 41 in a 25. I was on my way to church. Went to driving school.

4) This was my most recent speeding ticket. I was on my way from church.

Based on the above, the logical conclusion would be to no longer go to church. Apparently, I missed the part of the gospel where it says Jesus gives speeding tickets every three years if you take your cross and follow.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Yesterday, we wrestled my old high school and my old coach. It's one match that always excites me, but one that drives me crazy. Coach Smith is one of my heroes. Most of what I know as a coach and wrestler came from under his tutelage.

It was a close, tight match. We lost 33-40. I hate losing to West Henderson. Oh well, we'll get them next year.

Here is the preview article:
Rivals North, West ready to clash on the mat

Here is the postmatch article:
West wrestlers fight past North

Thursday, January 14, 2010

365 Days

In 2008, it was a photo a day.

In 2009, it was a portrait a day. I did miss one day, but I took a picture every other day in 2009. Below are some of my favorites.

No daily photo goal this year, but hopefully somewhere along the way I'll snap a few good ones...

15/365 - 15 Jan [Lumposaurus]
30/365 - 30 Jan [Coaching Legends]
34/365 - 3 Feb [Sprude]
46/365 - 15 Feb [Armstrong]
51/365 - 20 Feb [Shriner]
59/365 - 28 Feb [Garrett and Guitar]
63/365 - 4 Mar [Track Practice]
66/365 - 7 Mar [Player Wedding]
79/365 - 20 Mar [Main's Boil]
94/365 - 4 Apr [Jillian's eggs]
108/365 - 18 Apr [Opening]
131/365 - 11 May [Self]
154/365 - 3 Jun [Racing]
180/365 - 29 Jun [Sarah]
183/365 - 2 Jul [The Catch]
199/365 - 18 July [Innisfree]
207/365 - 26 July [Stencils]
219/365 - 7 Aug [Koko]
246/365 - 3 Sept [Joyce]
257/365 - 14 Sept [Sydney]
315/365 - 11 Nov [Colby Racing]
330/365 - 26 Nov [John Rock]
365/365 - 31 Dec [Friends!]

Monday, January 11, 2010

College Football

Quick thoughts on college football now that the season is over:

- Alabama is really good. Could be better next year. But there will always be the "what if" Colt McCoy did not get hurt.

- Georgia Tech laid another egg in the bowl. Last year, LSU just ran off lots of points and forced them into a different gameplan. This year, Iowa did a wonderful job on defense avoiding the cut blocks and staying on their feet. Iowa with a healthy Ricky Stanzi plays in the Rose Bowl.

- Losing their top receiver (Demaryius Thomas), best running back (Jonathan Dwyer), best defensive player (Derrick Morgan) and best defensive back (Morgan Burnett) as juniors to the NFL really hurts Tech. We'll see what kind of coach Paul Johnson is.

- I want Tim Tebow to be successful in the NFL. His throwing motion is horribly inefficient, but the knock on Phillip Rivers when he came out of NC State is that he had terrible form too. Now he is an All-Pro.

- Lots of people thought that Boise State vs TCU was boring. I did not watch the game, but if the uniforms said Florida and Alabama instead of Boise State and TCU, everyone would be raving about what a great SEC defensive struggle it was.

- If you are against a playoff in college football, please do not ever say that the regular season is the playoff or that a playoff diminishes the regular season. If every game mattered, then undefeated TCU, Boise State or Cincinnati would have had a shot. Tell me strength of schedule matters and common opponents matter, but every game does not matter. Otherwise, a team that wins every game would get a chance to compete for a national championship.

Can't wait until next season. Go Jackets!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

30 Years

Last weekend, I made the drive with my brother and nieces (detoured because of the I-40 rockslide) to Knoxville to visit my family's "sponsors". Lloyd and Patricia Smith brought my family to the United States from Cambodia back in 1979. I've always loved them and been thankful for their role in our lives, but now that I am an adult I have a new appreciation for them.
Mr. Smith was a dairy farmer in Maryville, Tennessee. In addition to cows, he and Mrs. Smith were also raising 4 children. In the middle of their lives-- trying to operate a farm and raise a family-- they took a social and financial risk on a refugee family whom they had never met, which they had no idea how to communicate and who were oblivious to the customs and traditions of this new country that would become our home.
Mr Smith
Recently, I have been trying to wrap my mind around what sort of leap of faith it required to be willing to welcome total strangers into your comfort zone. Not just welcome them for a weekend or long vacation, but for the rest of your life. And it was not just one or two people, but an entire family that included a teenager, two younger children and a cranky infant (and that's not including my little brother who was on the way). The Smiths were not wealthy people, but what they had an abundance of was love and faith.

This family, with lots of love and patience, taught us about corn, how to speak English, to feed cows, how to drive and took us to church. They sold out to us; providing us with every opportunity to be successful in our new land. Not once have they ever asked for anything in return. I have seen lots of grace in my life, few so great as the grace that was shown to my family some 30 years ago.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


On the iphone, you can set the weather application to give you current temperatures and forecasts for whichever cities you program. At 9:09 this morning, here were the current temperatures:

Asheville, NC - 12F
Hendersonville, NC - 12
Atlanta, GA - 21
Anchorage, AK - 12
Homer, AK - 24
Bend, OR - 32
London, United Kingdom - 36

We are as cold as Anchorage, ALASKA! Even more impressive is that the sun is up here. It is still dark and 5:09AM local time in Alaska.

The weather guys predict that our cold snap may last up to two weeks. There is a good chance highs won't be above freezing for the next week. Normal if you are from Fargo or Buffalo, but not for the deep south.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day

My resolutions/goals:

- Read more books.
- Write more letters. Not email, actual letters... so if you want one and you don't think I have your address, send me a message.