(C)  2002-2014 J. Watson       All rights reserved  
Travel Letters
  RV Travel notes from
          the traveling gran'ma and gran'pa
Vol 15  No 3                                                                                                                                                                                            June, 2005
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Dear Gals… Your guys …
Our grandchildren… our sisters

CHULA VISTA, CA; 6/10/2005

Here we are in Southern California – what a relief
to have a cool climate.  It seldom hits 75ºF here,
just south of San Diego.  We’ve read that back
home it’s in the high 80s.  Before leaving  Tucson  
we re-visited Tombstone and Bisbee, AZ.  

Come to think of it, we didn’t mention the reason
for our rather long stay in Tucson.  Well, we had
an experience you couldn’t have with a car – our
awning blew off as we were leaving the Canyon de
Chelly National Monument.  What a jolt.  A sudden
gust, I guess it was wind sheer, took it off - this was
a 14 foot long metal tube with awning the full length
and about seven feet wide when extended.  It was
stowed properly but the wind ripped it off including
the struts that are the extending arms.  We hadn't
experienced it before though we understand It’s
not an uncommon problem.

Now about our travels.  Bisbee’s just a few miles
from the Mexican border in the southeastern
corner of Arizona.  It is rich in minerals and has
extensive mining.  We went into a former copper
mine, which also had produced silver and gold, by
riding a mining train that had taken the workers
into it.  You can see the narrow gauge tracks in the
photo.  There are miles and miles of tunnels that
had been excavated to reach the lode.  

But that’s only part of the Bisbee story.  More
recently the mining was done in an open pit mine
just out of town.  What a hole in the ground – it’s
about five miles long, a quarter mile deep and you
can see tiers on which trucks carted ore to the
surface.  Can you imagine the activity of this mine
during the WW2 years when they worked around
the clock to provide metal for the war?  

Next, on to the legendary Tombstone.  It’s now
quite ersatz with tourist traps lining the streets –
but it  still reflects a part of our history.  Boot Hill is
the first thing the visitor passes.  This cemetery
leaves the thought that few died of natural causes
in the late 1800s when the town was in its prime.  It
was a lawless era.  Shootouts predominated.  The
OK Corral is on the corner.  Bars lined the street.  

With the awning replaced we headed west through
the desert, Imperial Valley and over the
mountains.  Imperial Valley is in California near the
Mexican/Arizona border.  It was desert until they
irrigated it – now it is a vital part of our food supply
with massive green fields.  

A highlight of San Diego is it’s splendid Balboa
Park (above) with its dozen or so museums – all in
a delightful park setting that was created for the
1915-16 Panama California Exposition that
celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal.  It
was added to in the depression years for the 1935-
36 California Pacific International Exposition that
was held to generate business.  

We spent some time in a science museum, an art
gallery, a model railroad exhibit and the botanical
gardens.  With San Diego’s moderate year round
climate the variety of plantings is extraordinary and
they are meticulously maintained.
which I was more familiar, we had a luxurious
stateroom, not a rack; had tons of epicurean food
instead of tons of standard GI rations; but there
were other differences.  For one, we were not
permitted on the navigation bridge.  Also, the Navy
does not condone gambling or drinking aboard
ship – while the Volendam’s casino and lounges
did substantial business.  In other words, there is
no comparison.  It was a totally new experience for
both of us.  

After the Volendam diet it was tough going to the
South Beach diet.
CHULA  VISTA, CA; 7/1/2005

A couple of days ago we returned from a one-week
cruise through the Inside Passage along the
southern coast of Alaska.  What a wonderful trip.  
Gotta tell you about it.  

Since we’re staying in the San Diego area we flew
to Vancouver to board the ship – the ms Volendam,
a Holland America Line ship.  Flying along the coast
from San Diego to Vancouver we were able to
recognize areas we’ve traveled or plan to visit this
summer.  Enjoyed. Unlike the Navy ships, of
most part they are there to set the atmosphere for
tourists.  Older (pre-1900) totem poles are in
protected cultural displays but are allowed to decay,
to conform to the Indian custom.

Any history of Alaska has to include mention of
Russian ownership prior to the US purchase,
referred to at the time as “Seward’s folly”.  Russia
was active in the fur trade and they had reached the
point where it was not as profitable as it had been
so they were pleased to dump Alaska on the US.  It
was only after the US owned Alaska that gold was
discovered in 1880.  And, of course, now there’s oil.
Ports of Call

Tourists are important to the economy of these
coastal communities.  Consider the impact on a
community that has a population of less than a
thousand when more than a thousand tourists pour
off a ship.  Often there are three or four large cruise
ships in port at a time.  It is seasonal and workers
come from the lower forty-eight to meet the labor

Each place we visited showed the influence of the
Eskimo and Indian cultures as well as the gold
rushes at the end of the 19th century.  Painted
totem poles decorate some areas though for the

Cruises on the Inside Passage are seldom outside
the sight of land – and what scenery there is, often
on both sides of the ship.  Add to that the sight of
whales, eagles and other wildlife.  Even though ice
flows that broke off the glaciers drifted past the
ship we were often able to walk on deck with light
clothing.  It appears contradictory to see the snow
capped mountains with the glistening pool on the

To describe the beauty of the Inside Passage is
not possible and certainly photos do not do it
justice but we’ll show some photos hoping you get
the idea.  

This was our first sighting of an ice flow.  Note the
pronounced blue color
JUNEAU.  The first port of call was Juneau, Alaska.  
This is the capitol of Alaska and is only reached by
air or sea – no road to the mainland.  Of all things,
we had not known that there were rain forests in
Alaska until planning the trip.  Juneau has rain about
three days out of four – about fourteen feet a year!  
Surprisingly the sun was bright to welcome us.  The
city is surrounded by mountains or water so the city
has a skyline with high-rise buildings, as there is
little available land for expansion.  The population is
around 25,000.  They capitalize on the surrounding
mountain with a tram to the peak for a wonderful
view of the area (photo with the Volendam on lower
Juneau is a focal point for the Eskimo communities
in the area.  We chatted with a retired teacher who
had taught in an Eskimo community school and was
proud to say some of his former students are
lawyers, teachers, etc. – suggesting that they took
advantage of the educational opportunities that
were available.  At home the students speak one of
the dozen Eskimo languages so the schools take
the first three grades to teach English in bi-lingual
classes. Then beginning in fourth grade classes are
in English.  US government programs provided
tuition and other assistance.  On the downside the
knowledge of their heritage is diminished.  Probably
as a result of this concern and to reduce costs, K-12
has recently become available in each community
replacing the former system that had high school
students going to consolidated schools in larger
SKAGWAY.  With less than a thousand year-round
residents, Skagway doesn’t amount to much – but
tourists.  That’s a far cry from their past when the
community was a major stepping off point for the
Yukon gold rush in the last days of the 1800s.  At
that time the major industry may have been crime,
according to local lore.  One gang of over a
hundred concentrated on getting the miners’ gold
by robbing them on their way to town or by getting
them to patronize the illicit businesses that they
operated in town.  Sounds like today’s mafia with
multiple businesses.  
KETCHIKAN.  This is another pleasant waterfront
community with such pressure on development that
areas have been built over the water.  Here, there
is stress on the importance of totem poles to the
heritage of the natives.   These honor people or
events that are related to the oral history that is
passed on by the elders of the tribes.  Some are
displayed in climate-controlled cases.  The intricate
carvings often relate lineage and social standing of
the people.  We learned that they have no religious
significance.  Owners would often raise them at
events that were so extravagant that families would
spend all their assets and be forced to live in
An unusual feature of Skagway is the boardwalks
that line the streets.  The saloons, casinos, etc. of
the 1800s have been replaced with tourist shops
that close for the winter leaving little business

Even though the Volendam is a large ship it cruises
close to shore

People line the rail as we approach the glacier

Margerie Glacier has a jagged top surface.  Note
the blue face breaks off ice chunks, called calving

This lake had the vivid colors we associate with
the Florida Keys

We’re told this is the world’s smallest desert

This trestle suggests the difficult terrain followed by
the railroad

Vancouver as viewed from our veranda
From Skagway we took a bus tour up the Klondike
Highway through the tip of British Columbia to
Carcross, a small community in Yukon Territory.  

This bear was nonchalant and wasn’t concerned
that we came alongside
The bus followed the general path followed by the
prospectors in the gold rush.  There was a
Canadian government requirement that the miners
had to carry with them supplies that would enable
them to stay a year.  That meant that each man had
to have about a ton of food, mining supplies, and
survival equipment.  Just think of what they needed
– food, blankets, first aid supplies, pans, clothing,
etc.  And to carry this over mountains with no
vehicle or carts meant about forty trips (fifty pounds
each) for each leg of the journey by foot.  The
conditions were harsh and many turned back.  
Thousands of horses perished.  Few miners got
enough gold to even pay their expenses.  Many
could not afford the trip back to their home.  Most
were ill equipped and had no experience living
under adverse conditions.  Our return trip was by a
narrow gauge railroad and we saw the route.

Imagine lugging a ton of supplies along this narrow
path, while others were walking back to get their
other loads
A boat tour took us up Misty Fjords.  A fjord is a very
deep inlet from the ocean bordered by steep
mountains.  At the end of this fjord there was a
waterfalls (photo) caused by the melting snow from a
nearby mountain.  

During WW2 the Germans were able to hide subs
and other large ships in the Norwegian fjords from
the US and British.

The entrance to this fjord shows the steep sides.  We
were 600 feet above the bottom
You all have a good summer, you hear