Our Alaska Trip Part XXX The Cost of Our Trip

This entry is part 33 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

12August 12, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 11 Comments

This is the 30th article in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

We have kept daily tabs on the cost of our 58-day caravan tour through western Canada into and around Alaska and back.  The tough part now is to find a way to make our spending relevant to everyone else.  But, let’s give it a try …

Tour Company:  Our only set expense was the money we sent to Adventure Caravans to participate.  You might want to take the same trip or a shorter one if you decide to caravan, and you may, after comparing features, decide on another tour company.  There are too many alternatives to cost it out in a logical way.  Add to that each year the cost of enrollment will probably be different.

If you break it down into cost-per-day to caravan, that also has variables, e.g., what events and meals are included.  If the trip you select offers the cheapest cost, you will probably be getting a less enjoyable tour.  And since the Alaska trip is not something you will be doing often, you want to get the most out of your visit.

On the cheapie side, you may decide to do it on your own [see Part XXIX].  Staying in Canadian provincial parks or on pullouts available almost everywhere will save you lots of money over the caravan’s full-hookup choices.

This isn’t meant to dodge the issue.  You need to look at the various tour companies’ routes and features, pare the choices down to the ones that make sense to you, and then compare cost.  [Wish I could find a quick resource on the net, but gotta get off this borrowed computer]  From our research, the caravan rates are very competitive, taking into account the different features.

Fuel:  The next biggest single expense for us was fuel.  We traveled 6,171 miles at a cost of $2,373 (we get 10.5 mpg in our diesel GMC pickup with a 22-gallon tank).   Price of fuel varied from about $3.56 a gallon to a high of $8 a gallon (twice in very remote areas, so we only got enough to get us to the next station).  Most of the time it was between $3.87 and $4.00 per gallon.

We pulled our 10,000-pound Bigfoot trailer, plus, the bed of our truck is our garage, which lowers our fuel mileage.  On several occasions, when going to local attractions, we rode with others.  The back seat of our truck is used for storage, so we couldn’t return the favor.

Oh, and for all these expenses except caravan enrollment fee keep in mind you would be paying for many of these costs of traveling anyway.  Our RV park camping fees and some meals were included in the upfront tour cost.  On your own you might pay less, but it would still cost you some money.

Groceries, excursions and incidentals:  These will vary greatly to fit your personal preferences.  Monique is an excellent frugal gourmet cook (who buys better quality meat, organic produce, etc.) so we ate at restaurants only 19 times in 57 days – probably the fewest times of anyone else on the tour.  Five of those were at fast-food places.  Most of the others were with other couples or all the members of the group.  Add to that stops for coffee, pastries and snacks, and our total was $600.  You’ll be spending money for those no matter where you are on the road.

There's so much to see, so much to do.  Try to take your time to be in the present.

There’s so much to see, so much to do. Try to take your time to be in the present.

Our most important advice for Canada/Alaska visitors is participate in as many of the organized side trips, excursions, cruises, flights, shows and cultural opportunities that fit into your finances and time budgets, especially the cruises.  The scenery and wildlife are worth the arduous visit, but it goes to another dimension on these.  You’ve come a long way – go for all the gusto you can.

Examples of costs if going on your own:  A day cruise at the Kenai Fjords (an absolute MUST! to see humpback whales, orcas, puffins, sea lions and much more) $155 per person.  A train ride to see a gold mine replica and pan for gold, about $139 p/p (but you’re guaranteed to find gold flakes and maybe a nugget).  The 184-mile round-trip tour-guided bus ride into Denali National Park, priceless!

Groceries are expensive in the Far Northwest but cheaper than eating out.  Our tab was just under $1,000 or about $18 per day.  That included shopping for a few potlucks and taking snacks to the socials occasionally, a voluntary part of being on the caravan.

Incidentals [NOTE to our grandchildren:  Don’t expect much!]  We are not shoppers.  We bought a few t-shirts, a cap and some pins and hiking stick medallions to help us remember our journey, but not much.  Also in this category is laundry, car washes, etc., and the biggest part of “incidentals,” side trips and excursions not included in the tour cost.

I whitewater rafted once (a thrill), we rode the gondola up a mountain in Banff, I played golf at Top of the World Golf Club, we paid for a cruise to Seldovia (a highlight), and we forked over a few bucks for museums.  We bought a handmade wooden table for $60.  Total cost of Incidentals & Excursions:  just over $1,000.  Some of the things we did not buy that our fellow travels did were: jewelry, expensive apparel, fishing license (although I bought and never used a rod & reel), extra tours including flights, and extra fishing trips.

You’d probably be spending some money on these things in Alaska, Arkansas or Arizona, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.  And, again, we – as full-time RVers without a house — are far more fiscally conservative than most of our travelmates.

Repairs:  An additional expense you can expect on a trip like this is repairs and damages.  A bottle of wine and a bottle of balsamic vinegar broke early in the trip on a road heave, and the remote control for a radio was crushed when a recliner landed on it, but that’s the extent of our damage.  At least half of our group is getting windshields replaced this week, but several of those dings happened before we left the Lower 48 and others were on good roads.  It happens!

There were several mechanical problems encountered by members of the group, many of which could have just as easily happened on interstates.  We’re talking here of well over 110,000 miles compiled by the caravan as a whole.  That’s lots of opportunities for problems.

Finally, there were pre-trip costs.  Everyone needed a CB radio for the caravan.  We all had to replace any “questionable” tires, as our mechanic phrased it, and most bought spare fuel filters.  Some of us paid to jerryrig protection on the front of our trucks, towed or coaches, which were cost-savings rather than expenses.   We invested in a very expensive lens for my camera, but there will be more about that in an upcoming article.

Was all this worth it?  Looking at it one way, it depends on how you value your money, what are your priorities in life.  For us — and remember we’re conservative with money — this trip was life at its best.  For us, the overwhelming answer is:  “Yes, it was worth it!”

From the “Never-Bored RVers.” We’ll see you on down the road.

NOTE:  We are staying at provincial parks, often far from towns, so WiFi is a rarity.  We’ll have more soon.


11 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXX The Cost of Our Trip”

▪.  Jerry X Shea on August 13th, 2010 6:46 pm  
Our costs. We took a trip for 4 months from the time we crossed into Alberta until we came out into Washington. Gas would have been the same if we did it in 30 days.
Between parking for free, State Parks for $10 a night and RV campgrounds, we had an average cost of about $22.50 a night. For 4 months that was $2,700 (one month would have only been $675). The one that caught us off guard was the cost of food. With the exception of buying a hot mocha in the a.m. and a Subway sandwich (which is not $5 but $7) whenever we could, we only went out to eat 6 times on the whole trip (oh come on now, it’s called a motorHOME trip, not a hotel resort trip). When you have to pay $22 for an uncooked chicken, $3.75 for one avocado and $6.50 for a dozen eggs you suddenly realize you have miscalculated your food cost “big time.” Oh yes, did I mention you can buy a 12-piece bucket of KFC for only $29.99? You get the idea. When you plan your trip, what you spend on food in the lower 48, just go times 4 and you will have your food costs.

▪.  Lee Ensminger on August 13th, 2010 8:03 pm  
We made an extensive trip in the summer of 2007, driving from Ohio to Montana, then up to the beginning of the Alaskan Highway, driving the entire length, going through the interior to Fairbanks, then to Denali, Anchorage, Homer, Seward, the Kenai Peninsula, other places I won’t mention, put the motorhome aboard the Alaskan Ferry System in Whittier, going ashore in Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Ketchikan before being put ashore in Bellingham, WA.
Camping costs: $;
Food: $$
Fuel: $$$;
Whale watching and glacier exploring tours various places: $$$$;
Ferry: $8,000.00+;
Seeing the beauty and majesty that is Alaska: PRICELESS!!!
We’re currently planning our next trip there. And we can’t wait to go back!

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on August 14th, 2010 4:29 am  
First would like to say thanks so much for your triplog. For those who want an experience they will never ever forget and who love to ride in the front of every rollercoaster (like me), there is another way to experience the beautiful North. Travel up through Wyoming and Montana and cross the border at Lethbridge during the last two weeks of February. The border guards are friendly and not stressed. Stop all along the way and stay in hotels in places like Dawson Creek, Lake Watson, Fort Nelson (call ahead here because oil workers swarm there in winter). Stop and talk to everyone. They are relaxed and friendly and so many great stories you’ll hear. The wildlife you see in the winter is so much more plentiful and the mountain views would make a grown man cry. Spend the last week of February at the Fur Rendezvous (Let’s Rondy!) watching the world championship dog races right downtown 4th street. Ride a Ferris wheel in the dead of winter. See huge dogs in the world championship dog weight pull. See the start of the Iditarod in the first week of March right downtown. Drive north through the jaw-dropping Denali National Park with guaranteed views of Denali. Thought it was great during summer? It pales in comparison. See the Ice Castle carving championship in Fairbanks, the outhouse races in Chatanika. Drive north to Circle late at night to see Northern lights few ever see. Then drive back down the Alaska Highway, knowing you’ve shared in the lives of Alaskans in a way few people in RVs ever get to see. It cost us about $1,100 to drive one way, eat, and stay in hotels. It is something that will remain with me for a lifetime.

We did it in a Dodge Durango 4wd. Any 4wd will do. Studded snow tires not necessary but would be even better. Canadians know how to keep the roads plowed.

▪.  Dan Kapa on August 14th, 2010 7:09 am  
i just bought a used “Alaskan” truck camper (circa 1965) and am fantasizing about a road trip. this info is great and I would like some more ideas about joining a caravan. i am 63 y.o. and would appreciate the company since I am a newbie. Chime in about anything you think i should know or learn.
sincerely, Dan

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on August 14th, 2010 10:29 am  
Your expenses were quite similar to ours. We also ate most meals in our trailer and didn’t buy a lot of gifts for the grandkids. We took the Denali tour and the Kenai Fjords cruise (both priceless).
Here is a rundown of our expenses for a somewhat shorter stay (includes Alaska and Canada).
Fuel $2,720 (10.5 mpg);
Campgrounds $540 (19 nights, $25.00 – $41.41);
Dining out $218;
Food $396;
Gifts $165;
Admissions/tours $743;
Misc $252.
Hope this helps others with their planning/budgeting.

▪.  Rebecca on August 14th, 2010 7:06 pm  
I have a 41′ diesel pusher. Is this too big for travel through Alaska? I need a driver!!
I might have to do it by cruise but I would rather do it by RV.

▪.  Dr. Yaroslaw Sereda on October 26th, 2010 9:30 pm  
We recently purchased a 1979 Dodge camper van, and Alaska is our destination in mid-June 2011 for 2 months. There have been many comments in touring Alaska via Alberta, we live in Saskatchewan. My question and not mentioned by anyone is: what about gas stations? Close or far apart. We were told to have several full gas containers on hand. Comments appreciated.
Thanks [Actually, it was mentioned often in the blogs and in the comments.  While I think it’s a good idea to have enough spare fuel for maybe 50 miles, we never needed it.  This is a good reason to purchase “Mileposts,” which will keep you aware of what to expect on the road ahead.]

Our Alaska Trip Part XXXI Since You Asked

This entry is part 34 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 12, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 13 Comments

This is the 31st article in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

NOTE:  We’re staying in remote areas of British Columbia – plenty of bears but internet opportunities are elusive.

Time to reply to comments from recent blogs,

Let’s start out with an imperative:  There is too much to see and do and too many miles of highway between disparate communities to make a two-week tour worth the effort.

Our trip was to Alaska, but it’s important to understand that the journey getting there and visiting different towns and attractions is as memorable as the places.  Memories of the abundant fireweed are just as vivid as the puffin sightings and seeing Mount McKinley under the sun (we can’t say enough about the fireweed and other wildflowers in June and July) and teal blue lakes along the highways.  Riding alongside the Canadian Rockies was as breathtaking as seeing a bit of the gorgeous mountains of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  And if you don’t see the film in the Dawson Creek Visitors Center or spend time in the Native Heritage Cultural Center in Anchorage, you’re only seeing the surface of these incredible North American wonders.

We know that our lifestyle as full-time RVers gives us a skewed perspective, but we strongly recommend visiting when you can spend at least two months in the North.  From the sampler we got as members of a caravan, we know we want to come back to color in the spaces between the lines.

Before responding to your comments, we’d like to say thanks for joining us on this fabulous adventure via blog.rv.net.  Writing this at midnight or 5 a.m. or while others in the caravan were partying has been gratifying, knowing that someone was interested in reading it.  It isn’t meant to be a travel blog, but rather a supplement to the materials you have available when traveling to “The Last Frontier.”  We love so many places in the Lower 48; it’s just that this vast area is definitely different.  There’s so much to know, even for experienced RVers, including those who have been up there in the past.

Now to respond to some of your comments.

1 –  Thanks fer pointing out that fir and fur are not synonyms.  In our ferther articles we look ferward to doing better … did I mention ‘midnight” and “5 a.m.”?

2 — We are in British Columbia, planning to stay until the end of August.  As we write this, we are in Tyhee Provincial Park, which is like camping in an aviary featuring an interesting variety of very chirpy birds.  When we arrived, we immediately saw a huge 7-foot-tall black bear — we’ve seen him twice since then competing with us to harvest tasty Saskatoon berries.

3 — We came up through Oliver, above eastern Washington State in June, wandered eastward into Alberta, and then headed for Whitehorse.  On our way back down, we are staying on the west side of British Columbia, planning to be in Tacoma in early September.

4 — Asked about Prince Rupert, I would describe it as a cruise ship port-of-call lacking enough dockings to support the tourist-section businesses.  It’s an interesting town, but it seems to be missing the energy it prepared for when expecting more ocean liners.  We didn’t get a chance to visit what is touted as a good museum in town.  The drive to Prince Rupert along the Skeena River is beautiful, although many miles of similar vistas.  We heard that the tour of the cannery in neighboring Prince Edward is interesting, but we tackled that narrow road after 5 p.m. Saturday, so it was closed.

5 — Terrace appears to be a thriving town with big chain stores (including Wal-Mart and the multi-faceted Canadian Tire) plus supermarkets and American-born fast food outlets.  We only stopped there for lunch and didn’t look any further.

6 — The Towns of Stewart, B.C., and Hyder, AK, are like two sisters from different parents:  quaint, rustic, off the beaten path, very representative of frontier communities.  In response to the question about the bears feeding on salmon nearby on Fish Creek, we went by three times but missed the excitement of seeing the star attractions who don’t have a set schedule.  The salmons’ schedule should be more dependable, but we were told they were running late, stalled at upstream locations.  Others in our group saw several bears, including Old Monica, a grizzly in her dotage, who couldn’t catch any of the spawning salmon, so she settled for the fish whose life-cycle ended with a leap onto the banks, where they awaited the scavengers to remove their corpses.

Our questions to you:  Did you go beyond the viewing platform to see the glaciers and other magnificent scenery up the rocky road?  We went about 23 more miles to

A flow of ice manages to squeeze its way from a abandoned tunnel sealed with doors of steel

A flow of ice manages to squeeze its way from a abandoned tunnel sealed with doors of steel

Salmon Glacier and beyond taking in both ends of the abandoned tunnel, where we saw glacial ice pushing against the steel barricaded door.   And did you take the walking tour to Dyea, the jumping off point for the Chllkoot Trail during Gold Rush Days?  It’s an important, fascinating episode in the epic Gold Rush story.

7 — We think “musk-oxen” should fall into a category of their own.  We remember being told at Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks they are in the sheep family, but the comment about them being in the cow/ox/bison family is probably right.  See “Fact” under Definitions Part XXIX-A.

8 — To Stan, who mentioned that central Canada is rather boring, we haven’t been there yet, but since it’s the northern extreme of the U.S. Great Plains, your assessment is probably valid.  Add to that, we talked to a family from eastern Alberta in line to be escorted behind a pilot truck through the Highway 37 forest fires, who said they were in B.C. because it is boring back home.

9 — For those who are looking for early articles in this series and earlier submissions on other topics, all our past blogs should be accessible on this site.

10 – To the question, “Will my RV hold up to the poor road conditions?”   We have seen lots of prehistoric and homemade rigs of all kinds of the road.  We don’t know how some of them made it to the U.S./Canada border, but they seem to endure.  I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

A quick story – When we first started RVing on August 11, 2006, (Happy Anniversary to us), one of our first stops was in a state campground in Cedar City, Utah.  I was still churning from all my years of working, so staying in one place with little to do was a foreign concept to me.  When we told the camp host we had to go, he said in a slow, deep drawl, “Wellll, whaaa-cha hurrree?”  That has been my credo every since.  My point:  On the roads to and into Alaska, you might ask yourself that often as you slow down in permafrost and construction zones.

11 and 11-A — And finally, to Gary, who doesn’t like the idea of caravan schedules and doesn’t want more people in Washington State.  As for schedules, that is a prejudice that we share, but it is just one of the factors to consider when deciding on a caravan.  Don’t let your old “I’m set in my ways” attitude cloud your ability to make a decision.

And from what we’ve seen of Washington State, there’s still plenty of room for visitors, and thankfully there is a spot for our daughter to attend college there.  What if the Yukon or Alaskan natives put up signs at the border, “Lower 48ers, Turn Back Now”?  You’d wish there was room for you, too.

Believe it or not, we still have more information to impart about Our Alaska Trip.

From the “Never-Bored RVers.” We’ll see you on down the road.


13 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXXI Since You Asked”

▪.  Barbara on August 12th, 2010 4:30 pm  
While you are in western Washington, if you have time to get together with other RVers, send us a note a bakntep@gmail.com. We are currently in our condo in Mill Creek WA, north of Seattle, but spend most of our time traveling in our 37′ Newmar Dutch Star.

▪.  Margaret on August 12th, 2010 5:25 pm  
Nothing boring about crossing the central plains of Canada. Loved every moment, Also another favorite area was Fort Macleod, AB. Happy Trails.

▪.  Old Gray on August 12th, 2010 6:21 pm  
When we’re travelling (Canadian spelling!), we always seem to enjoy every part of both countries – mountains, plains, woodlands, and seashores. Yes, some of the flatlands are a bit tedious, as are long stretches of marshland – but every now and then we come upon a sight that impresses, amuses, or fascinates us. We have had some tedious moments in the mountains, too, tiring after hours of twisting and turning. But we still love it! What great countries we live in!

▪.  Chris Clarke on August 12th, 2010 6:52 pm  
Hi Barry,
If you’re in the Tyhee Provincial Park you are in one of the best areas to fish for steelhead that there is. Granted, the optimum time for the “summer run” is mid-September to mid-October (and I’ll be up there again this year), but the Bulkley River is a great place to at least wet your line. The only drawback may be the outrageous prices that BC charge for licenses.
Here in Alberta I have the luxury of not having to buy a license as I am now over 65, but when I go steelheading in BC it will cost me over $115 for the license and steelhead tag ($140 for you who they classify as a “non-resident alien”). Then it costs another $20 per day for the Bulkley. However, the $20 per day (Classified Waters #2) is only in effect from September 1 through October 31. But if you want to fish for trout for only a day it would cost you (or me) $20; or for an 8-day license it would be $50 . 
BC is trout country and you will pass by some beautiful trout streams as you travel through the province. I hope that you get a chance to wet a line and enjoy the ambience.
I know it’s an old saw, but “a bad day fishing is still better than a good day’s work”.
Tight lines,
PS: I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I’ve made a point of looking for it as soon as my email box opens. Safe journey on your way home.

▪.  Gary on August 12th, 2010 6:58 pm  
WOW !! You do read the response letters. How flattering to know that. Yeah, I would like to keep some open space around everyone, but it seems that the Sierra Club feels they know the best for everyone. I only chose them as they are the ones in the news. There are a lot of “tree huggers” that do so much good and some that do so much harm. I feel the open lands should be left open. Certain restrictions are required. My wife and I, just today, went into the backwoods and found such a mess with trash it really hurts. Bottles, cans, busted boats, paper and … well, you get the idea. Growing up there was NO MESS. Everything was clean and picked up. Population and stupidity. No excuse. As was said ” you can’t fix stupid” Thanks for the trip. Loved it all!!

▪.  Bill Murray on August 12th, 2010 7:08 pm  
We have enjoyed your descriptions of your trip. As an Alaskan RVer I welcome all who want to make the effort to explore our state. We just completed a quick trip up from Seattle where we picked up our new Gulfstream. We did not have as much time but we have been over the “trail” several times. Nonetheless, we enjoy the experience each time. 
Safe journeys….

▪.  William Robinson, Jr. on August 12th, 2010 7:45 pm  
I started out saying, “ahh, I’ll never go to Alaska, so who cares.” Well, I ended up caring!! Great series, kinda sad it’s over. Well done. Robbie

▪.  Terrie Stamey on August 13th, 2010 9:29 am  
I echo the statement from Robbie. Well Done! I have followed along and just loved every minute of your trip. I might never get the chance to go so I went with you. We have a Holiday Rambler Endeavor 08 and the farthest we have gone so far is Yellowstone National Park, where we worked for five months last year at the general store at Lake Yellowstone. What an experience! Thanks again for another wonderful experience! Terrie

▪.  D. Ellis on August 13th, 2010 9:40 am  
I have really enjoyed following your adventure. It would be interesting (at least to me) to learn more about the RV Parks you used along the way. Thanks.

▪.  wayne coggins on August 13th, 2010 4:41 pm  
I`ve enjoyed all your post. looking to making the trip up to Alaska and Canada someday.

▪.  Dennis Rudolph on August 13th, 2010 10:34 pm  
Have enjoyed reading about your trip. As someone who has lived 35 years in one of the towns along your trip and camped extensively in central BC, it seems to me the this website would be a good place to help others plan such a trip. I could have recommended a few stops in this area that your research may not have found. For instance, you could have detoured slightly to Tumbler Ridge and I think you would have been delighted by this unique ‘instant town’. The surrounding area has beautiful scenery, dinosaur traces, two Provincial Parks, one of them at a breathtaking falls, etc. You could have then continued on north to Dawson Creek.
With readers along your planned route, your trip could have been even more amazing. BTW, when my wife and I toured Prince Rupert 25 years ago, the museum had its own archeologist who gave tours in the summer months on the native water taxi school bus all around the surrounding islands and taught us all about the history of the native peoples of the area. Fascinating and inexpensive. Don’t know if they still do that, but a reader in PR might.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-A Some Final Thoughts

This entry is part 6 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 16, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 17 Comments

This is the first part of a two-part article, No. 32 in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Until you actually get on the road and enter the Canadian Northwest and Alaska, you can’t appreciate the distances involved — or the grandeur.  We made this trip knowing there was a lot to see, but maybe just as important to us was to check “Alaska” off our list of states we’ve visited as RVers.  Boy, what an eye-opening experience!  It’s a long way up there with lots of rough driving, but we now know we have to return.

As I drove over the past two-and-a-half months, Monique jotted down a few thoughts to include in our articles.  Here are some that we haven’t mentioned or didn’t emphasize enough.

Taking Pictures — I wrote an article about photography for RV.net earlier this year called “Keeping a Visual Record of Your Travels.”  [http://blog.rv.net/2010/05/keeping-a-visual-record-of-your-travels/]  In it I asked, “Why take pictures?  Are you looking to keep memories alive?   Are you planning to give a talk to the Kiwanis Club when you get home?  Or is there a big bodacious dream of having your pictures published in a tabletop book or in magazines?  These are all good reasons to keep a camera with you and snap pictures.”

During our Alaskan trip, I took about 10,000 pictures, which I downloaded into my laptop.  Then I deleted about a third.  Then I looked again and deleted about a third of those.  The remainder is the collection we want to keep as memories of the adventure.

A year ago, I bought a good camera that uses interchangeable lenses, having been spoiled from my days of using my company’s camera before I retired.  A few weeks before this trip I “invested” in a real lens to capture what I expected to be exciting wildlife, scenery and cultural experiences.  It undoubtedly has been worth the cash outlay.

Last week we met what locals called the biggest black bear they had ever seen.

He's a monster

He’s a monster

We estimate he’s seven feet tall, and we found tree scrapings 8’4” off the ground.  This is not a fellow you want to get close to, but you also don’t want to miss the shot.  With a 300-power zoom, I stood 75 metres (we are in Canada) away and we now have a clear digital memory to look at when I’m too old to hitch up the ol’ Bigfoot trailer.

We still use our little camera, especially when the “big lens” monster is too much for a situation; however, Monique won’t let me forget that one of my favorite, most scenic shots of the two-months in Alaska was taken with that little camera.   Additionally, I took one shot with my cellphone camera so it would look very touristy.  Unfortunately, it also came out looking professional.

I need to mention one more important thing concerning photography.  An external hard-drive is not expensive.  It plugs into any USB port and allows you to copy files, including pictures, onto a hard drive to keep separate from your computer.  I backup everything twice onto external hard-drives: one for the trailer; the other to keep in our truck.  It does take resolve on my part to spend a few minutes copying everything, compensated by the peace of mind it brings.

Cash — Visa, MasterCard and cash are the most accepted forms of payment throughout British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.  Even many of the U.S.-based chains don’t take American Express and Discover Card.  Banks with ATM machines are easy to find and eager to dispense Canadian currency from your American account.

One disadvantage (or advantage) of relying on plastic in Western Canada is that the businesses don’t always have electricity, so when you find an ulu you just have to buy, maybe you’ll have to try to find it in the gift shop in the next village … that gives you extra time to think about your purchase. At cafes you might not have that option, so if eating is important to you, it’s a good idea to have cash available.  The exchange rate is close enough now that it’s not worth the time thinking about it.

In the past week we have stayed at two B.C. provincial parks that did not have a host/facilities operator.  We didn’t see anything about writing a check, so we ended up putting cash in the envelope – all Canadian $ except a $10 U.S.  Plus, $4-$5 for the “sani-dump” charge (in loonies and toonies)

When we arrived at outposts that put a higher than usual price tag on everything, I gladly paid the tab and told them “Thank you.”  After all, we were happy it was them living 200 miles away from everywhere and not us.  Having services available where and when you need them is worth a few extra dollars.

Music – Having music available is important to us, particularly on those 200-mile treks through the wilderness.  We have XM in our truck, giving us a great variety of music, news, comedy and talk programs.  However, as you get further north and the mountains tower higher and higher, the XM/Sirius satellite is left behind over the horizon.  There’s programming for 20 seconds and then lost signal for a minute, and it gets worse until there is no signal at all.

Local stations are sparse except in major cities, and even then music choices were not to our liking when we did get reception.  My preference is classical, which I never found on our trip, even on public radio, but we’re open to just about any music.  We mainly kept the radio off and didn’t want to play a recorded book that would distract us from the scenery.

If you want music, we suggest having your MP3 or I-Pod by your side, or if you have room for CDs, stock up for the duration.

Fishing – I haven’t had a chance to try out my new rod & reel; thus, I’m not the person to write about fishing.  I can say that our caravan group went out three times on charters, of which two were duds.  The other time they maxed out.

While in a First People community in B.C., we were nearby when we saw a well-appointed fisherman buying salmon from the local natives.  “I got a flat tire on my truck, broke my rod, got a cracked windshield and didn’t get a bite.  At least I can take something home,” he explained.

Scenes from a Hike In British Columbia

Scenes from a Hike In British Columbia

We’ll have more of these random thoughts when we have internet again.

From the “Never-Bored RVers.” We’ll see you on down the road.


17 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-A Some Final Thoughts”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on August 16th, 2010 10:19 pm  
We like to use debit cards instead of credit, and unfortunately the Canadian banks gouge you with a fee for using them. We experienced this in both the Yukon and B.C.

And there’s no XM or Sirius in Alaska, either.

▪.  GK on August 17th, 2010 7:34 am  
Lynne: when I use my debit card in the US, Europe or Asia, banks there gouge me with fees too. This isn’t unique to Canada, it’s pretty normal anywhere in the world.

▪.  GK on August 17th, 2010 7:35 am  
This has been a fantastic series. Very informative and very entertaining. Up until this, I didn’t really know what to expect going North, and this has piqued my interest. Thank you for having along on your adventure!

▪.  Bryan on August 17th, 2010 4:47 pm  
We like to use debit also but the US banks gouge you with a fee every time you use it. We have experienced it in almost every state in the USA.
We have enjoyed your blog on Alaska and our country. We Thank You for taking us along and being so informative.

▪.  Tom Smith on August 17th, 2010 4:48 pm  
Gouge…gouge….gouge…. Was what they did illegal? No it was the cost of doing business. We have become a society of whiners. 
If you don’t like the charges from banks…start your own
As pointed out in the article, when they came to a place that was expensive, they paid the bill, said thank you, and moved on.

▪.  Bill Amick on August 17th, 2010 4:56 pm  
I want to go too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

▪.  Dick Boak on August 17th, 2010 5:26 pm  
I too have enjoyed your blog very much, I have travelled extensively in BC as I am a resident and want to make one small clarification in this part and that concerns your comment about “Western Canada communities not always having electricity” I think you mean Far North-western communities, as I have yet to come across a BC or Alberta community without electricity, they may not take plastic but that is because of the expense to the business in small communities.
I think the best way to describe a Canadian experience is to say that you won’t notice a big difference from an American experience of which we have had many.
Cheers and many happy travels.

▪.  Lynda Begg on August 17th, 2010 6:13 pm  
Thank you for sharing your trip experience with the rest of us. As Canadians, we love to have you here, even if you are passing through. We, in turn, like to frequent your country in the fall and winter to get away from rain (here on the Coast) where I live or snow (in the other parts of BC). It would be great to follow you on another trip, so keep us in mind as you travel! Good health and safe driving.

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on August 17th, 2010 6:27 pm  
@GK: We live in Alaska, and I’ve never seen these fees here, but when we travel across the border, we start getting charged for them.
@TomSmith: Not whining. Just letting people know they might see some extra fees if they use a debit card in Canada. Illegal? I have no idea.

▪.  Tom Smythe on August 18th, 2010 7:55 am  
We enjoyed reliving our experience last year, as well. Also, the part where you said you would be going back is exactly how we feel  
Fees from the banks has been a sticky issue with me for a VERY long time. If you think about it, ATM’s save banks money since you’re not talking to a teller and the machines are available 24 hours a day (some locations). Yes, the machines cost $. But, it’s the price of remaining competitive. Even so, they find it in their hearts to charge us extra to use them. Still, there are still a few banks that don’t gouge their customers. 
Likewise, spending US dollars via credit card in a foreign country should be a plus for the banks since they make money on the exchange. Still, they find a way to charge us again – for the ’service’. Cost of doing business? Maybe. From our experience, we’ll go elsewhere to do money exchanges (since our BoA exchange carried a pretty steep fee for the service) and carry local cash whenever possible. It requires planning ahead – something we’ve gotten better at.  
All-in-all, Alaska was the best trip we’ve ever taken. We loved every minute of it!

▪.  William Robinson, Jr. on August 18th, 2010 9:02 am  
How does one, in these days, carry 5K in cash. I now worry when I carry more than a hundred bucks !! I’m serious, how do you do it? There are RV fires, thieves, and general paranoia on my part. Robbie

▪.  Duane Mattocks on August 18th, 2010 9:27 am  
I have enjoyed your experience. My wife and I made a similar trip in 2004. We did not go with a caravan, we soloed. It was a trip of a lifetime. I too had recently retired and spent 2 years planning our trip. We pulled a 19′ travel trailer with a 2002 F250 Truck. We had only small problems, a tire to replace, and a valve handle that broke on our black tank. Helpful people along the way helped us when needed. I would like to go back again; however, doubt if that will happen as each year we get older our strength decreases. I had a small digital camera, but have several beautiful photos, I found that taking pictures of wildlife with this camera was a waste of time as only you can tell where the animal is in the photo. We were gone for 3 months with a whole month in Alaska, the rest was in Canada and the lower 48. We live in PA with family scattered in Wisconsin, Kansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

▪.  Suzanne McWhirter on August 19th, 2010 3:54 pm  
What about bringing your dog with you on a trip like this? Would it be a problem?

Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-B Some Final Thoughts

This entry is part 36 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 18, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 18 Comments

 This is the second part of a two-part article, No. 32 in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

CB Radio – Since caravans require having a CB radio to communicate with the staff and other rigs while on the road, on my son’s advice we got a powerful CB radio with a faceplate loaded with knobs and toggles.  That gave us more opportunities to accidentally hit or turn the wrong feature, … opportunities we took!  Suggestion 1) Get a good CB radio, but if you’re not familiar with them, don’t go overboard with features. And 2) ask advice on which antenna to buy and where to put it on your truck or rig.  It makes a difference in reception, particularly, for us, when you’re trying to talk with a caravan member located behind the trailer.

Speed Limits – I mentioned earlier that I taped a chart on my steering wheel to convert mph to kph.  We’re still in Canada and I’m still referring to it often.  An inconvenience is that most Canadian roads don’t have “Resume Speed” signs, so it’s not obvious when you can legally get back to 90 or 100 kph.  And it gets tricky in towns posted at 40, which have a stretch of unpopulated areas, and then you realize you’re still in town where 90 could get you a hefty ticket.  Also, when a road sign before a curve says “SLOW,” it’s a good idea to slow down.

Sales Tax – The merchants often explain, “The ministry wants its share” when adding the sales tax.  In Alaska, there is no sales tax – except in a few towns.  It’s a good idea to ask before buying.  By the way, the State of Alaska has about eight “boroughs,” comparable to counties, and the rest of the state in the Interior is mainly U.S. Government lands.

Carrying Cash – There was a question in the last Comments section about having enough cash with you for the trip.  First, Visa & MasterCard credit cards are accepted just about everywhere, but we did run into a couple of times when the local electricity wasn’t working – a minor inconvenience that can be overcome with cash.  Another reason to get cash at banks or money exchanges along the way is that when you’re in Canada, you do better using Canadian currency.  When in Alaska, you’re better off with Uncle Sam’s greenbacks.  It’s a good idea to check with your bank about extra charges for using your plastic in Canada.

Brochures – Monique is an avid brochure reader, which often results in our finding places and attractions that are off the beaten path or that explain why a place we wouldn’t consider visiting could be the highlight of our week. There are lots of free brochures and tourist books everywhere, so it’s advantageous to take some time to skim through them.

We had our photo taken at Mile 0 of U.S. Hwy. 1 in Key West and Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway in Dawson Creek.  I asked two Park Service rangers where Mile 0 is in Skagway, which is the end of the road.  Neither knew, but one mentioned there is the Mile 0 B&B in town.  When I replied that that’s closer to Mile 1 than the end of the road, he opined that Skagway is a town of hoaxes, trickery and a take-advantage-of-you attitudes, which could be why they named the B&B Mile 0.  Good answer!

We found an Inukshuk just our size -- but we couldn't lift it to load it into the travel trailer

We found an Inukshuk just our size — but we couldn’t lift it to load it into the travel trailer

Inukshuks – In my article listing handy definition you should know, one important omission was the “Inukshuk” (another spelling might be “inuksuk”).  Monique adopted a couple of them for our trailer and we had pictures taken with others.  The First People’s “Inukshuk” is a statue built of stones that, depending on the person giving you its history, is either, 1) to point the way from one place to another by: A) looking in the direction of its arms or B) by looking between the legs, or 2) a marker of a spot, like where to find the best caribou, or 3) since it is in the form of a man, it was to scare away critters.  Take your pick.

We crossed over from British Columbia to Washington, camping in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, enjoying an aqua-water riverside campsite just down the road from Mt. Baker with views of several of the most scenic mountains in the U.S.

And with that I wind up the series on “Our Trip to Alaska.”  BUT, one final thought about visiting Alaska by RV.  For only a very few independent spirits, Alaska is not a destination, but rather a journey.  The absolutely unforgettable adventures encountered while driving through Western Canada with all the wonders of nature surrounding you and of wrapping yourself in the widely varied experiences of Alaska is what it was all about, at least for us.  In our opinion, this is the ultimate RVing experience of North America.

Alaska Trip Sampler

I have more articles in mind relevant to RVing, including memorable travel experiences, past and future, so stay tuned.

From the “Never-Bored RVers.” We’ll see you on down the road


18 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-B Some Final Thoughts”

▪.  GK on August 18th, 2010 10:54 pm  
On speed limits in Canada: instead of using a “Resume Speed” sign, most Canadian provinces put a speed limit sign at the point where the speed limit changes back, since the speed limit prior to a section may different than the one after it. This is true for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia. There are times where the speed limit sign is pretty far away from where you might expect it to be. Each province, county/MD, city and town has different rules on where/how they do it, and sometimes they don’t seem very well thought out. But there always is one as far as I can remember in the past 30 years of driving (yup, I’m still a “youngster”).
I have to admit that I don’t recall seeing very many “Resume Speed” signs in the US, but I’ve only driven in about half of the the lower 48. I do generally remember seeing speed limit signs at the point where the limit would change back, though.
I had the “benefit” of learning to drive a few years after we switched to metric, so my first beaters had mph. I’ve memorized the most common conversions (50km/h=30mph, 60km/h=35mph, 90km/h=55mph, 160km/h=a chat with a judge  ), and can do the rest in my head if need be. The coolest solution in a car was a Chevy Malibu I rented once to drive from Calgary down through the US: there was a setting to make everything metric or imperial (speedo, odometer, temperature). It was cool to watch the speedo needle move on its own when you switched it while driving. The mph or km/h would illuminate on the instrument panel to let you know which units you were in. Brilliant idea. No need to squint and make out the (sometimes incorrect) smaller markings of the alternate system.

▪.  Gary on August 19th, 2010 4:56 pm 
Thanks for all your efforts to keeping us inform about the fun and the hardships of travel beyond the normal. Well written and good pix too. Thanks again. G&R Case

▪.  Gary on August 19th, 2010 4:58 pm  
Sorry about the typo. Clicked just as I read my response. Hand was quicker than the eye.

▪.  Peggy on August 19th, 2010 5:07 pm  
Thank you for all the work you’ve done in keeping everyone posted as to your travels; what you’ve seen; etc, etc… I, for one, really appreciated it as I know the work involved and the joy of riding throughout Canada into Alaska…
Yes, I agree, it’s a must see – it certainly is a journey almost into another world but still an important part of the USA…
Again, thank you…

▪.  bbwolfe on August 19th, 2010 5:23 pm  
Barry, Monique, we are just down from you in Maple Valley, Washington. If your looking for a place to rest up while in town, drop me a line: abwolfe06@yahoo.com

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on August 19th, 2010 5:34 pm  
Thanks, once again, for making Alaska known to the rest of the U.S. So many times we are told, when trying to talk to someone from the Lower 48 on the phone, that “our services/products are not available to foreign countries.” We smile and remind them politely that we are a part of the U.S. – the 49th state and proud of it. And we are very different. The people are different and tough and I respect them very much for what they tolerate and how strong they are. Thanks again for showing us how fantastic Canada really is, as well… Eh?

▪.  Ron Olsen on August 19th, 2010 7:54 pm  
The end of the AlCan is not in Skagway if that is what you were looking for. The End is in Delta Junction. Before you reach Fairbanks. Ron

▪.  Old Gray on August 19th, 2010 8:06 pm  
I agree with GK, above, who suggests that he has the same problem in the lower 48 that you had in parts of Canada or the north – no signs to inform drivers when they can resume the higher speed. Our trip from the Grand Canyon this spring had us driving more slowly than most of the traffic after nearly every town since we had no idea whether or not the higher limit had resumed – or a speed trap was awaiting us. On Ontario highways, wherever the speed limit changes, a “Begins” sign is fastened to the bottom of the speed limit sign so we know when we can resume.
All this when I could just have said, “Thanks for the wonderful tale of discovery you have shared with us. We have enjoyed every bit of it along with you. We are looking forward to reading more of your writing as you continue your travels.”

▪.  robert on August 19th, 2010 8:27 pm  
Thank you Barry and Monique for sharing your experiences with us; you have givien us one more place to visit. We have travelled from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Tofino on Vancouver Island and from Labrador to Virginia. Unfortunately we have been limited to trips of 3 or 4 weeks because of our careers and are looking forward to the time we can really cut the ties – about three years. We are happy that you have enjoyed our country and hope that you can visit again. From the most easterly point of our continent (Cape Spear in Newfoundland) to Tofino there is a lot to see. If you enjoyed British Columbia you will really enjoy the rugged terrain and extremely hospitable folks in Newfoundland. It is great that our countries are such good neighbors. See you on the road and we look forward to your future posts.

▪.  butterbean carpenter on August 19th, 2010 8:43 pm  
Howdy yall,
THANK YOU, FOR THE WONDERFUL TRIP!!!! I’ll never have that opportunity so
I’ very glad yall took me along with you… I’m a 75 year old crippled up rancher,but
I love to go on trips, such as this.. I have a high school buddy who lives in Alaska
and has asked me many times to come up there… I just never could make it until I went with yall… Thanx
butterbean carpenter
RunningStar Ranch
Coleman county

▪.  Sucie on August 19th, 2010 8:56 pm  
What kind of trailer do you have and do you fulltime in it?

▪.  jim on August 19th, 2010 9:21 pm  
enjoyed ur trip and the way u discribed it. 
on the CB, a DC grounded antenna will give u less noise.

▪.  Chuck Sanford on August 20th, 2010 12:41 am  
Do you have a link that has the first 10 entries of your trip experience?
My wife and I have greatly enjoyed three 3 week vacations in Alaska. Next summer we will be drive our motor home & Outback to Alaska. We are looking forward to the journey through B.C. and the Yukon. Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

▪.  Frank on August 20th, 2010 6:49 am  
Thank you for this wonderful series on your adventure! I looked forward to reading each article.
Now, if I ONLY had enough vacation & money to take a trip like yours myself……………………..:(

▪.  Richard Gregorie on August 20th, 2010 8:22 am  
Wow! We have just started rving and your series was terrific. It will be a while before we will make such a venture, but you have given us something to look forward to. Thanks so much for taking the time to bring your great adventure into the homes of others who may not be able to go to Alaska but live through your experiences.
God Bless and safe travel…………..Richard

▪.  Dean Riley on August 20th, 2010 8:49 am  
We missed nearly all your Alaska posts. Is there a way this can be obtained in toto?

▪.  Jim & Lyne’ Ward on August 21st, 2010 5:57 pm  
Jim and I have been following your travels.. Great information.. He so much wants to go maybe next year or the year after that..
We loved being able to travel with you..
Thank you so much,
Jim and Lyne’ Ward

▪.  Delos Cloud on August 24th, 2010 5:18 am  
Thanks for a great series. I probably missed it but was diesel available throughout Alaska and Canada on your trip? We are several years away from an opportunity to spend this much time on the road but greatly looking forward to seeing Alaska and everything in between from our RV.
Delos Cloud
Alexandria, VA

Our Alaska Trip Part XXXIII Epilogue

This entry is part 35 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 21, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 21 Comments

We decided to add a brief concluding chapter to this series, mainly to answer a few questions that have come up several times in the comments section

THE RIGHT RIG:  The trip into Alaska via western Canada takes you through vast, gorgeous expanses.  We really don’t think the size of your rig matters.  On our 58-day trek, we pulled our 28-foot Bigfoot trailer with a GMC 2500 diesel and had no problems, other than one of the first unexpected bumps in the road, which cost us a bottle of blueberry wine and a bottle of balsamic vinegar.  Also on our caravan were 12 motorhomes with towed vehicles, two Class Cs, a Winnebago View, two fifth wheels and a Class B van conversion.. That’s a pretty representative group and each handled the trip without any special problems, suffering only the same types of inconveniences that can happen in the Lower 48.

Our Bigfoot nestled into a provincial park in British Columbia

We’re now parked at Silver Fir Forest Service Campground in Washington State

One commenter to the series weighed in that the best way to take this trip is in a truck camper.  It might have its advantages, but we think you can make the trip without concern in whatever RV you have now.  When you take the trip, do it in what makes you comfortable.  We saw very few pop-ups on the 5,700-mile journey.

That said, we’ll pass along the advice of just about every expert on making this trip:  Make sure your rig is in good condition, particularly the tires.  Getting service on the remote highways can cost you days and diminish your financial resources significantly.

OUR CARAVAN:  We signed on with Adventure Caravans after getting an effective sales pitch about caravanning from a different tour company’s wagonmaster.  Monique continued to plan our solo trip and, meanwhile, compared routes, costs and features of several companies.  We made our decision to caravan based on having a tailgunner to insure our safety on the road and so we could enjoy the trip without worrying about what’s ahead.  In article XXIX we compared what we think are the main reasons to choose to caravan or go it on your own or with another rig or two.

AWESOME:  Blog.RV.net has been our first blogging experience.  The two things that surprised us in doing this series were:  1) That there was enough relevant information to write about for more than two months on one trip, and 2) that we would receive so many responses.  We greatly appreciated all those comments that included the personal experiences and advice from others who have taken the trip once or more, plus those of you who live in the areas we visited, experts on the subject.

ABOUT US:  We sold our home four years ago, bought a 22-foot travel trailer, which we over-packed with clothes, and set out from Southern California to see if this was the life we wanted.  We pared down our wardrobe, and from Day One and never-ending, we have learned new things about RVing practically every day.  One important thing we learned was that our inexpensive “learner” trailer wasn’t up to the rigors of full-timing.  It was small, especially since it didn’t have a slide-out, and the insulation left lots to be desired in 113-degree heat and 16-degree snow. But even more problematic was that I ended up doing repairs just about once a week.  Kinda takes away from our mission of enjoying life to its fullest.  After a year, we moved up to a solid 28-foot travel trailer with one slide.

Incidentally, both Monique and I brought to this adventure years of tent-camping experience with our children from long before we met.

As we neared the end of our first year of constant traveling, we realized that we were not ready to give up the excitement of “having a different backyard almost every night.”  As this is being written, we are in our 334 camping spot (that includes two wintering stops and a couple of dozen parking lot overnighters).  We continue on our quest to visit and experience all 50 states and all the Canadian provinces.  If we happen upon the perfect place to buy a cabin, we might do it and use that as a base, but it probably won’t happen for a few years.

Meanwhile, we have our next three years planned – always subject to change – with the Grand Circle (Zion, Bryce, etc.) on the schedule for next year followed by an extended visit to the Maritimes of Canada.

Turquoise Lake near Lilooet, B.C. [Photo at top: We're now parked at Silver Fir Forest Service Campground in Washington State

Turquoise Lake near Lilooet, B.C.

Let’s wrap this up with a quote mentioned in our very first blog

“To be happy you must be free; to be free you must be brave.”

 From the “Never-Bored RVers.” We’ll see you on down the road.


21 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Epilogue”

▪.  GK on August 21st, 2010 1:36 pm  
An excellent series. I would recommend this to anyone looking at getting into RV’ing, not just a trip to Alaska. Thank you for sharing your adventure with all of us.

▪.  Bob West on August 21st, 2010 4:20 pm  
I enjoyed your trip very much. We made the same trip but on our own last year. I think a caravan would be fun and the security would be nice. Not sure I could exist for that long in a structure. It would be fun to travel with a small group. I think. You will enjoy the Maritimes. We would like to go as far as we can up the St. Lawrence and then bring the Ferry across the mouth. We brought the Marine Highway from Haines to Bellingham Washington with numerous stops of several days and that was great. We want to do that again and spend more time. We have a 31 ft motorhome towing a smart car and are in the process of training our nine-week old male and female cockappoos so we are a year from that kind of traveling. They will get their first trip through the UP of Michigan and down to Traverse City of a couple of weeks next month. Safe travels.

▪.  Full Timer Normie on August 21st, 2010 4:35 pm  
We so enjoyed every word of the adventures along your trip. You definitely have a gift for the written word that makes it fun to read.  I’m kinda sorry to see its over, but I bet you are glad it is! 
This is our dream trip, and maybe in about 3 years we will be able to accomplish it. We saved all your chapters so that we can go back and review your trip once we get ready.
Thanks again…great job. 
Normie & The Boys (Clint, Rusty & Coco)

▪.  bob calhoun on August 21st, 2010 4:39 pm  
I linked into the blog at mid-point and have been able to find all the pieces. Thanks for posting, I am retiring next May and was considering similar travel in future with our 40′ rig. Your words will be a beneficial guide, thanks again and save travels.

▪.  Dick Calton on August 21st, 2010 5:07 pm  
May 31 til July 14, 2010 we took this same trip with a group of nine disabled Vietnam veterans. view the pics at facebook page

▪.  Pat on August 21st, 2010 5:11 pm  
Merci beaucoup/thank you so much…it was great fun following your adventures. We are planning to full-time as soon as our house sells. We are looking forward meeting new people on the road and around North America.
And we heartily recommend a trip to the Canadian Maritimes and the US East Coast…it is beautiful area, with wonderful friendly folk and the folks in Nova Scotia make the best pies in the world! 
We’re hoping to head back late next spring and spend more time in NS/Cape Breton, NB and PEI and New England! Would be fun to hook up with others! 
Again thanks for the great blogs and the RVing insights!

▪.  Gary Altig on August 21st, 2010 5:31 pm  
Tires: Your Caravan experience with tire problems seems to be mild as
compared to what I hear from others. Would you happen to have noticed
what kind of tires failed vs what kind of tires that did not fail?/ga

▪.  Jon on August 21st, 2010 6:48 pm  
Thanks for all the articles. Don’t know if I would have traveled in such a large caravan. But would not travel alone. It was a great series. Went to Bryce Canyon years ago and loved that area. Hope to see more articles from more travelers to give us all ideas. Hope someone will be going through the Great Smokey Mountains to give us some ideas of what to see.

▪.  Gary on August 21st, 2010 7:05 pm  
Well, now you’re back in Washington. Glad you were here. Mt Baker area has a lot to offer, but we will keep that our secret. Do enjoy the rest of your travels and a cabin is just right. (If you can actually find the right one. Been looking for three years, not yet…..).. Full-timing should also be tried in Europe. Did so for 10 years. An absolutely astonishing time.. Good people there too. Continue to bring us reports. Does a heart good !!!! Thanks again.

▪.  Jane on August 21st, 2010 8:29 pm  
AND to be brave….u must be nuts…just kidding…we are actually going on that trip next year and picked Adventure Caravans due to your blog…We have already made reservations…I have read every single episode, but my husband has not…when we get home, I will print everything out and make him read it!! There is soooooo much info that you provided…can’t thank you enough!! Happy travels ahead for you and Monique…Jane

▪.  Peggy (cubbear) on August 21st, 2010 8:36 pm  
Thank you again for all of what was passed on to all of us… There are still some folks who are skeptical about being ‘brave’ and just doing it… What a thrill they’d be missing…
I’ve said this before, we rode to Alaska, twice, on a motorcycle… Just awesome and what memories… In less than 10 years we rode over 230,000 miles – many said it couldn’t be done but we did it…
Five months ago my husband passed away – I only wanted to be a passenger on a motorcycle and just have the travel bug – therefore, I’ve made the decision, I should be picking up my RV this week and once on the road, I’ll be RVing fulltime…
Hope to see many of you on the road and learn from your experiences…
Be happy, enjoy what you have and be safe…
Peggy, cubbear

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on August 21st, 2010 11:12 pm  
@cubbear: So so sorry to hear about your husband. 
Hope to see you on the road somewhere, as we are going to start our full-timing adventures as soon as our house here in Chugiak, Alaska sells. Many things to Barry and Monique. You will always have a friend in us.
Take care and see you somewhere “out there.”

▪.  Madolyn on August 22nd, 2010 12:17 am  
Barry & Monique,
Thanks so much for your Blog. My husband and I are planning to go to Alaska in the next couple of years and have wondered whether to do it alone or go with a group. Your information is very valuable!
We are traveling across Canada now and also to an online trip journal (MyTripJournal.com/2010race2finish. We have spent time in the Maritime Provinces-so check it out.
I am wondering about keeping up our Blog when going North to Alaska as we are having a hard time keeping it up this year. We have an aircard-but with the limit of 100 MBs and the cost – it is not enough time. How do you handle it? We do use campground WiFi when we can, but we like to stay in the Provincial Parks which do not have it. I don’t recall any discussion in your Blog on phone or WiFi availability. Any suggestions?
Thanks again!

▪.  Dan & Cylinda DeLaughter on August 22nd, 2010 8:36 pm  
My Wife Cylinda and I just made a decision a few months ago that we are going to kicking common sense out the door. We plan to sell everything and hit the road full time for how ever long. Six months ago Cylinda was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer. Its one of the most deadly breast cancers you can get. Only 20% of breast cancers are of this type. because of this we are going to live like there is no tomorrow. I can not tell you how this journey into the storm we are now traveling has changed what is important to us. We lost our old life; we know it will never be the same. We now live in our new normal of Dr’s, Chemo drugs, sticks, pricks good days, bad days, ups and downs. Your world stops when someone finds out they have cancer. The days start to swirl around that person like they are the center of a Hurricane. Your life, gone. Schedules, gone. Plans, gone. With faith and hope you make it through each day. Cylinda will be finished with her Herceptin treatments in Jan and shortly after that we plan to hit the road. We hope by May. RVing looks like a perfect new life for us…no plans…No Scheduals Just living to enjoy each day. We found your blog and decided Alaska would be our first destination. Your info on cost on the road was a reality check for me… we have been so busy looking for an RV and truck hadn’t given that much thought. (Silly me). Well just wanted to say thanks for all of the great info. D & C

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on August 23rd, 2010 7:41 am  
I’d be interested in knowing how you plan to get that 28-foot trailer over to Hawaii to get your 50th state! We have 49 states plus 9 Canadian provinces and are still waiting for them to build that bridge. We have visited Hawaii by air, but we don’t count that because we didn’t RV while there. I guess we would have to rent an RV, but that still is a problem with all the different islands that one would like to visit.

[We do plan to rent a small one and do a bit of RVing in Hawaii – first, to re-visit Paradise over there, and second, to say we did it.  We haven’t see all of any state, so if we miss an island or two, we’ve still been there.]

▪.  KHart on August 23rd, 2010 8:16 am  
Have followed your blog and have found the information invaluable. Many thanks. We’ll be making the trip next summer – alone, so we’re crossing our fingers that we don’t run into any major problems. Everything sounds great about a caravan except for the structure. We’ve been to the Canadian Maritimes as well as throughout the lower 48 and have found that people are wonderful and helpful wherever we’ve been, but no where more so than in Nova Scotia. At some point, we will go back.

▪.  Scott Alexander on August 23rd, 2010 1:09 pm  
Thank you for the entertaining and informative blog entries on your Alaska adventure. My wife and I have enjoyed following your trip and have been pleasantly reminded of our own trip last year.
We spent a long time planning our trip, and for us it was obvious that a caravan was not suited to our style of travel. Although there are many benefits to a caravan, we preferred the added time and travel freedom that was only possible going it alone. We also felt that our money was better spent on those things that really interested us. However, we might consider a caravan in case we decide to take a future trip to Copper Canyon in Mexico.
Your diligence and discipline in regularly posting comments and pictures is to be commended. We kept journals, but found it especially difficult when we were extra tired after long and busy days. My wife put our words and pictures together AFTER getting back home, although she did load and label pictures on the laptop from time to time on the road.
For the record, we towed our 2004 28’ Potomac RES276 over 10,000 miles with our 2007 Chevy 2500HD diesel truck. Before starting our trip, we had the bearings repacked and installed new Goodyear Marathon tires on the trailer. Our biggest problem was dealing with the mud and dust. We even had dust settle in our oven. The washboard and frost heave sections of bad road tended to move things around in the trailer. 
We recommend a LOT of preplanning before attempting a trip of this magnitude. There are many online resources, and the Milepost is a MUST. High quality new tires and careful maintenance before, during and after are recommended. We had the oil and filter changed on our truck before leaving home, again in Fairbanks, and after returning home. A good quality digital camera (with zoom) for each person is a good idea. We also enjoyed using our little Flip video for capturing movement of animals and water features.
We consider Alaska the trip of a lifetime, and would LOVE to return for the adventure, the scenery and the wildlife. You have to go to appreciate it. 
Please continue blogging on your future travels. For those who are hesitating or putting off travel, please don’t wait too long. We are both retired and realize that the clock is ticking …

▪.  Julie Rea on September 1st, 2010 9:30 pm  
Oh, the blogs you have put on have been wonderful. Travelling by RV to Alaska is my dream. Hopefully in 2012 that is where I will be headed.
Peggy (cubbear) – my husband died 2 yrs. ago, but he made sure I knew how to drive, and operate the RV “just in case”. I am so thankful. I have now travelled to Mexico (caravanning with my aunt & uncle) twice, thru Arizona, the Midwest, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and all points to home in Washington state.
Good luck on your RV, and enjoy!!!!! I bought a sticker – “LIFE IS GOOD” and have it on my window to keep reminding me. Oh, yes, it is! Some days it is nice to have the reminder.
Thank you so much for the Alaska blogs from Barry & Monique. They were very helpful and informative.

▪.  mr-whit on September 16th, 2010 11:04 pm  
thank you, we are now planning to go to Alaska

▪.  ft-rver on January 7th, 2011 8:46 am  
Our experiences in RVing begin and continue very close to yours, except we did the Utah National Parks this past summer and have not done the Alaska tour yet. We enjoyed your blog and saved every one as a pdf.
 Others we have spoken to report much more damage and travail on Alaska treks, making us a bit leery of trying that trek. Maybe a cruise style will be our choice.
We kept up a blog report too, but kept it private for ourselves, family, & friends.
More power to you and we’ll be watching for you along the way.