Monthly Archives: April 2013

Good times, good friends

Friday, April 26, 2013

Julie and I were invited to join our good friends, Helen and Karl, at their place for drinks and dinner on Friday night.  Julie and Helen attended lab school together from 1976 to 1979 at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, ON.  We’ve remained friends all these years even though we didn’t see them for long periods of time.  It was a really nice break for Julie after many long hours caring for her ailing parents in the hospital.

Karl made us all a Caesar to savour while we enjoyed a few rays of spring sunshine.


Helen and Karl and their new pup, an Australian cattle dog – a red heeler.


They have a beautiful place near Harrowsmith, ON.  Helen and Karl raise many animals for food and enjoyment on their acreage. Karl is a retired horticulturist and has an amazing garden each year.






The 2 college buddies.


After a great steak BBQ we all visited with some wine in their family room around a nice warm wood stove.  Ah, the good life!  A great night with good friends.

…take care, the muleskinner

For my amigos

This one is for my amigos, Frank, Duncan, Kelly, and Nathan.  It represents a typical day in Bucerias, Mexico during our 2 week trip earlier this year. 🙂


…the muleskinner


Who Loves Sushi?

Jim and Vera had a lot of visitors today.  Susan (Julie’s sister) was in early, as is her usual routine.  Mark and Randi (Julie’s niece), and Kristin followed in the morning.  Julie, Emily, and her brother Quentin were next.  Jaime and I went in later on in the afternoon.  It’s OK if you didn’t quite follow all of that.  I was there, and I couldn’t keep up.

Susan left for home while Mark, Randi, and our 3 girls went out for an early supper after visiting Grandma and Grandpa.   Once they returned, Julie, Quentin, and I went for some sushi, sashimi, and maki to the Trip Advisor #3 rated restaurant in downtown Kingston – SIMA Sushi.

SIMA Sushi, 66 Princess Street, Kingston, ON, 1 (613).542.8040





Quentin is a well known sushi lover in the family.  That love of sushi has carried over to his soon to be 5 year old son.  Isaac, when asked by his mom what he wanted for his birthday supper on Saturday, replied sushi! 🙂

Sushi-boy, Quentin, ready to enjoy.


The food and service was great.  It was a good break from the hospital visiting and a bit of a rejuvenation for us.

….take care all, the muleskinner

Say “Cheese” Steak!

We are in Kingston, ON visiting with Julie’s parents, Jim & Vera Holmes.  Both are very ill and side by side in Kingston General Hospital (KGH).  We are anticipating a possible transfer, for them, to Napanee Hospital in the near future.  Jim & Vera will be able to get a shared room there in the palliative care unit.

In the meantime, we travel back and forth from their home in Moscow to KGH.  Today, we stopped at the famous “Hoagie House” with our girls.  Julie and I both had distant but fond memories of our college days and getting a cheese steak hoagie.  The girls, Jaime, Kristin, and Emily had a few good laughs at my excitement to visit the old haunt some 35, or so, years later.

It was just as I remembered!  There is only 1 Hoagie House left of the 3 originals –

The Hoagie House, 384 Division St, Kingston, ON Phone: 613-542-5971


It’s got to be the cheese steak!  Don’t be fooled into ordering anything else off the menu.


Steak and onions on the flat top.


The girls saying “cheese” steak.  I’m sure that’s what they said while laughing at their dad’s excitement.


THE Hoagie.  Steak, grilled onions, cheese, with ketchup, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes. Classic!


…take care, the muleskinner and his sidekicks


Day 13 – Grande Prairie, AB Home sweet home!

 Day 13 – Monday, April 8, 2013

Today we drove about 840 kilometres from Muncho Lake, BC to our home in Grande Prairie, AB.  We wanted to get home today so that Julie could catch a flight to Toronto on Tuesday to see her mom and dad, both of whom are in the Kingston General Hospital.

Today was another good wildlife sighting day.  First we spotted two elk alongside the highway.  They were moving into the bush so it was tough to get a good photo.  They always seem to be mooning us.  We’re starting to think it’s us?


The illusive elk moons!

We travelled through Stone Mountain Provincial Park across the Summit Pass.  There is a lonely Summit Cafe sitting near the top of the pass waiting for summer, I guess.


Hibernating ’til summer

As we approached Fort Nelson, BC we spotted two moose along the highway munching on tender willow branches.  They soon scooted into the bush as well.


The two moose scoot


Moose on the loose!

Just before Fort Nelson, BC we spotted two caribou.   We stopped for brunch in Fort Nelson at the hotel we had stayed in on the way north.  However, it was closed so we found Grandma Lee’s bakery.   While we were looking for a place to eat we drove by the Super 8. Check out the photo! You can’t make this stuff up!


Who could resist this deal?

When we got home, one of the first things we witnessed were 2 small mule deer in our front yard nibbling on the Saskatoon bushes.


Home deer home!

Well folks, that is the end of this phase of our Tuktoyaktuk to Ushuaia adventure.  We plan on leaving around the first of July for the rest of the North, Central, and South America excursion.

All of the pictures have now been uploaded to the photo gallery.

We will be making some further posts between now and then but maybe not as frequently.  Stay tuned for more adventures from the muleskinner and his sidekick.  Adios amigos.

Day 12 – Muncho Lake, BC

Day 12 – Sunday, April 7, 2013

We left our beautiful hotel in Whitehorse pretty early, for us.  I had gotten a really good deal the day before at the nicest hotel in Whitehorse, the Coast High Country Inn.  Our timing was perfect.  When we arrived at the hotel we met the controller who happened to also be Renate from the Northern Lights Resort & Spa.  I used my charms (not that I can help it – it comes naturally)  and got a 30% discount and an upgrade to a Jacuzzi suite.  WooHoo!


The view from our window and the jacuzzi.

We headed to the nearest Tim Horton’s.  This would be our first Timmies in nearly two weeks.  Can you say W-I-T-H-D-R-A-W-A-L? But as luck would have it, they screwed up Julie’s “high maintenance” tea order so after a few other stops in Whitehorse we found another Tim Horton’s where she got it sorted out.

Our first stop for the day was Swan Haven on Marsh Lake, part of the Yukon River system, about 40 km from Whitehorse.  This is a critical stopover for swans (trumpeter and tundra) on their long migration north to their summer nesting grounds.  We were able to spot quite a few swans out on the open water however, they were a long ways from the shore and viewing area.  Binoculars were required.


Almost spotting a few swans at Swan Haven on Marsh Lake, part of the Yukon River system. Who forgot to pack the binoculars?



And then there was this odd looking wildlife nearby…


The service was a bit squirrely!



We spotted some more swans at a different crossing of the Yukon River.

We carried on to Teslin where we stopped for coffee.  The Teslin bridge is quite an impressive structure.


The Teslin bridge is quite an impressive structure.



We spotted more bison along this stretch of road.  They seem plentiful and are a common sighting along the highway.

We made it to Watson Lake in time for a late lunch.  We had already eaten at Kathy’s Kitchen on the way through on Day 2 and wanted to try some of the other fine cuisine Watson Lake had to offer.  According to trip advisor, we should try BeeJay’s Cafe.  The reviews said don’t be afraid of the outside.  So we tried not to be.  Actually pretty cute and clean in there.  And we were hungry.  The food was so-so.  We wouldn’t recommend it but there are not that many choices in Watson Lake.


Don’t be afraid they said.

The highlight of the day, and a much rarer sighting than the bison was to follow.  We spotted a Canada Lynx sitting in the snow on the side of the highway.  He stayed put even when we coasted right up beside him.  We have never seen one in the wild before, so this was a real treat.  The paws are huge and he was able to stay on top of the snow.  An amazing sighting for us!


Exciting lynx siting!


The fabled lynx moon shot

We crossed back into beautiful British Columbia.  Actually, you cross back and forth between BC and the Yukon quite a few times as the Alaska Highway straddles the border for quite a distance.


Beautiful BC!

It was then on to our stop for the night at Muncho Lake.  A beautiful provincial park in the Rockies.  We were booked in for the night at the Northern Rockies Lodge.  A famous stop on the Alaska Highway.


Muncho Lake


Northern Rockies Lodge a famous stop on the Alaskan Highway

…on to our home in Grande Prairie tomorrow.

…take care all, the muleskinner and his sidekick.  The sidekick was unable to make her usual snarky remarks in this post, er – I mean humorous anecdotes.  She apologizes to all.


Quick update from Fort Nelson

Sorry for not posting yesterday.  Unfortunately, we lost our internet connection in Muncho Lake, BC after receiving some tragic news regarding Julie’s father, James David Holmes.

Jim is terminally ill with an incurable/inoperable perforated bowel in ICU at Kingston General Hospital with only a few days to a week left with us.  Jim is being kept comfortable but the infection will take over his systems.  All of Julie’s family are doing what they can to be with Jim and we appreciate all that they have done in caring for both Jim and Vera.

We are trying to get back to Grande Prairie tonight and get Julie on a flight to Ontario as soon as possible to see her dad.

We will update the blog with our last few days of travel when we have a chance.

…julie & brad


Day 11 – Whitehorse, YT- Day 5 in reverse.

Day 11 – Saturday, April 6, 2013

We woke up in the Aurora Inn in Dawson City to temperatures of -26C. After some coffee, yogurt and berries we headed out.  Julie notes “Not that I’m complaining BUT someone ate the last of the yogurt. I’ll let you guess who.”  I tried airing up the dually but at those temperatures I was freezing my fingers before getting much air in the inside dually.  Julie notes “He kept mumbling through frozen lips something about needing an extender on his valve. My brother suggested via email it could be a shrinkage issue due to cold. It all sounded too personal so I ignored him, even when he was wrangling the retractable air hose, fiddling with freezing extenders and very noisily (and rather annoyingly I might add) pounding on the side of the truck for me to turn off the engine  Why do I always have to do everything?  And did I mention I didn’t even get any yogurt for breakfast!”  We headed out for Whitehorse the way we were air/tire wise. But first we stopped by the post office so Julie could mail a couple of items.


Dawson City post office


One of the many old historic buildings in Dawson on the banks of the Yukon river.

We made a stop at the convenience store in Stewart Crossing and Julie celebrated with a Stewart Root Beer.  Julie notes “Just want to thank our good friend Denise and her forebearers for discovering this great river, building the bridge, starting this settlement and inventing this root beer. Denise says all the Stewarts are related so I figure she can pass on the gratitude.”


Toasting our friend Denise Stewart and her potential forebears with a Stewart Root Beer at Stewart Crossing

Todays drive was about 550 kilometres. We drove by the very picturesque Fox Lake not far from Whitehorse. Julie notes “Prior to this we drove along at least 25 kms of the remains of the 1987 Fox Lake forest fire. I’m sure there was new growth hiding under the snow but a reminder of nature’s force.  Also yesterday we forgot to mention the crazy ptarmigans that seemed to be racing along side and in front of our truck.  Or they were playing chicken, which is maybe how they got their nickname Arctic chicken.  Snow buntings and grouse were plentiful too.  A bald eagle rose up beside us and I got to watch it through the sunroof, zoom over the truck at very close range.  Not to be confused with the slightly balding eagle scout at very close range beside me IN the truck.”


We drove by the very picturesque Fox Lake not far from Whitehorse.


Ever since our first day on the road when we met the guy living his dream, I’ve been on the lookout for a new rig.  This one needs a bit of work but the price is right. But it’s hard to keep up with the neighbours,  Julie  notes “This is what happens when you gamble for pink slips at the casino.”


Julie notes “Pretend I’m Ellen and tell us your caption for this picture below. Just add a comment. Winner gets a free subscription to this blog!”

After so many days on the road eating at diners and out of our cooler we decided to treat ourselves to a ‘”nice” dinner out.  Antoinette’s was featured on the Canadian Food TV show “You Gotta Eat Here” and was rated #3 on trip advisor.  The food and service was outstanding and we got to meet the owner and chef herself, Antoinette.  A great evening out!


 Antoinette’s was featured on the Canadian Food TV show “You Gotta Eat Here” and was rated #3 on trip advisor.





Antoinette GreenOliph of Antoinette’s Restaurant standing with some travelling giants

…carry on, the muleskinner and his sidekick

One last note from Julie “The iTunes spoke to me today with some shout outs to my family. “Golden Years” by Holly Dunn started us down the road as we think of our parents and soon us growing old together. Soon followed by Bill Withers “Lean on me.” and the Hollies “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” for all you folks out there propping up your loved ones as needed. Your sacrifices don’t go unnoticed. Thank you!”

Day 10 – Back in Dawson City, YT

Day 10 – Friday, April 5, 2013 

Today we drove the southern half of the Dempster highway from Eagle Plains to Dawson, YT.  This was Day 6 in reverse. Julie  notes “Just to clarify, we aren’t actually driving in reverse. Although that would add to the excitement around those bends!”  Julie was catching up with her family this morning from the hotel so we got a late start.  She had to use the phone in the hotel room as it is the only viable communications method from that location.   It was -26C with some serious wind chill.  I got really cold standing on the roof holding a coat hanger up in the air for an antennae. 😉  Julie notes  “We also talked him into wearing a tinfoil hat and standing on one leg.  Reception was great both on the phone and from the few passing motorists.”  It warmed up to a pleasant -4C by the time we arrived in Dawson.

There was some drifting snow in places because of the wind but otherwise the highway was in good driving condition.  Julie notes “iTunes shuffled out ‘North to Alaska’ when we headed out on the Dempster yesterday. Even though we were headed ‘south’ to the Alaskan highway, we sang along boisterously.”


Some more scenery along the Dempster. 


And more splendid scenery along the Dempster. 


Stunning Dempster views – Tombstone Territorial Park


Tombstone Territorial Park

We checked into our hotel, the Aurora Inn, and had a good Skype visit with granddaughter Melodie and her parents.  We then headed out for supper to the #1 Trip Advisor rated restaurant, The Drunken Goat.  I just know Julie will have something to say at this point in the story.  Just a hunch. Julie notes “I think everyone who knows the drunken goat (also known as the old goat, among other things) will be saying the same thing.”



No show tonight?? Julie notes ‘Luckily I travel with my own personal comedy show. And if I want a really good laugh I just need a mirror. What is with my hair in this picture?”

After a good Greek meal, we got kicked out of there to make room for the young crowd and went in search of the white beard crowd. We headed over to Diamond Tooth Gerties to see a comedian.  Wrong.  No show tonight.  Comedian was only on stage tomorrow. 


Diamond Tooth Gerties – but no show tonight sorry!

So instead, I lost $20 in 5 minutes on the roulette wheel and Julie was up a whole dollar on the one armed bandit.  Julie notes ” I learned my gambling savvy from Kenny Rogers who told me via the iTunes “You gotta know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away…”this was also my laundry day anthem.”


Up a dollar! Quit while you’re ahead they say!

…take care, the muleskinner and his sidekick






Day 9 – Eagle Plains, YT – revisited

Day 9 – Thursday, April 4, 2013

This is really Day 7 in reverse.  We have started our trek towards home. We left Inuvik at -23C and snowing but it cleared up as we drove south.  It had warmed up to -16C by the time we arrived in Eagle Plains. It was a great drive of about 370 kilometres.  The Dempster is in very good driving condition.  It is mostly smooth high grade frozen gravel and ice with varied and spectacular scenery and a couple of ice bridge crossings. Today we crossed both the Mackenzie and Peel river ice bridges.


The Mackenzie river near Tsiigehtchic

We made a stop in Fort McPherson for coffee at the Northern store and also visited the local Fort McPherson Tent & Canvas Shop. They don’t carry too much stock but we got a brochure. We also made a stop at Margaret’s Handi-Craft Shop and ordered a small handmade gift for our granddaughter. Julie notes “pssst Don’t tell Melodie! It’s a birthday surprise.”


Margaret in her home work space crafting her beautiful creations

Margaret, a retired teacher, was busily making many more native crafts.  Julie notes “She was excitedly working on a tiny pair of moccasins for a baby to be. Her work is beautiful and highly sought after.”


Scenery along the Dempster


We crossed back into the Yukon and set the clocks back an hour.   It was cold with a wind chill at the top of this pass where the boundary is located.  


Chilly Yukon boundary, Julie notes “Luckily we didn’t freeze in these positions.  As classy as we look, it might be time to get some professional help.  With the jazzy poses that is.”


From this high pass you can see the road for miles in the distance.  Julie notes “Does anyone see a washroom along that long Canadian highway. No me neither.”

Julie was reading a brochure along the way about bear safety. They recommend you climb at least 4m up a tree to escape a grizzly. The unfortunate truth about that strategy, however, is that the trees are all 3 metres or less. Also, if the bear follows you up the tree, you will know it wasn’t a grizzly. haha  Julie wanted to stop and practice.  


I asked Julie to check out the trees to see if they would save her from a bear. Julie notes “Nice trick Brad! Luckily I’m pretty fast for an old gal and caught up with the truck before you got too far.”


I couldn’t resist picking her up, even if she was wrong. 😉

Driving these long Canadian highways gives us plenty of time to have numerous ‘discussions’ on all matters related to the north. Is the Arctic circle a line or an area? Can you be in the Arctic circle or are you above or below the Arctic circle? How do you pronounce Inuvik? Who was the mad trapper of rat river?  After one such ‘discussion’ Julie got out and decided to hitchhike.  Julie notes “Well Brad said ‘it’s my way or the highway’ and since his way was wrong the highway was my only option.”

That’s it for today from Eagle Plains, YT.  Off to Dawson City tomorrow after some family phone calls.