This is the first in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska. As the hundreds of commenters to these blogs will attest along the way, each of the 36 entries has value, not only to travelers and future travelers, but for those who just enjoy learning about RVing to Alaska.
By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers
We’re hitching up and leaving tomorrow for Alaska. It’ll be our first trip there and our first time traveling as part of a caravan.
This escapade all started four years ago at Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina. We asked a camper about the Alaska sticker on his map on the side of his motorhome. We were pretty new to camping, and Alaska seemed so remote.
Since then we have gotten into conversations with maybe 250 or 300 RVers about their trips to Alaska. All but one thought it was about the greatest thing they had done with the RV, but none – zero – had signed up to be part of a caravan going there, with the exception of a Good Sam Club “wagonmaster” in Key West, Florida.
We had planned to head north from Key West this spring to visit the Maritime Provinces of Canada, but Monique suggested that we should veer left at Tampa and set our compass for “The Last Frontier,” Alaska. That was at the end of 2009,
We bought “Milepost,” the bible of RV travel to Alaska, and Monique started poring over its 800 pages to map out our route and stops along the way. During the process, a neighbor mentioned that there was a wagonmaster in the camp, so we sought him out and spent an hour hearing about the benefits of caravanning.
Over the next two months, we continued to gather information from the Internet and kept asking RVers about their Alaskan adventures. All of them said, “Go!” and none of them had any problem doing it on their own.
Week after week we waivered, until I finally said, “Let’s just do it.” With the caravan, we don’t have to worry where we will camp, we’ll have advice each day on what’s worth seeing and what to skip while on the road, and we won’t have to hassle with getting tickets to boat excursions along the way. And since all the extra attractions are pricey by our standards, this would eliminate the decisions of whether to spend the money for a boat trip, a show or other offering that would heighten the experience.
What we didn’t want was to be one of a line of ducklings following mother duck 7,000 miles. That’s not what a caravan is. Each day we can go on our own or join one or more other members of the group. It’s very flexible.
I’ll write about the company we signed up with, Adventure Caravans, once we get on the road. We didn’t really eliminate any company in our research. Our decision was made based on the length of the trip (58 days) and the stops along the way.
Sunday we met Ken & Carole, our wagonmasters, and Spence and Madi, our tailgunners (they follow the caravan to help anyone having problems). For the past three days, we’ve been getting ready for the long journey and spending time getting to know the other members of the caravan. When we link up with a few more RVs, we will have 18 rigs, plus the two staff motorhomes.
Thursday we depart from Soap Lake, Washington, heading for our first stop, Oliver, British Columbia.
In the days ahead, when internet service is available, I hope to share our experiences with you so that you’ll join us in our excitement without being so detailed that we take away the discovery that lies ahead when you make the long trek north yourself.
I just ask that you wish us fair weather and paved roads …
From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.
© All photos by Barry Zander. All rights reserved
20 Responses to “North to Alaska Part I”
▪. Jerry X Shea on June 9th, 2010 4:42 pm Have fun. We went for 4 months last year. So much to see, we still did not get to see everything. Homer and Seward are a must. Keep your camera handy. The animals do not “pose” for pictures – you have to be quick to ge the shot. Check out our trip at http://www.jerryandmarynorthtoalaska.blogspot.com
▪. Carol & Wayne on June 9th, 2010 5:09 pm What an adventure. I will watch for your posts! We are travelling across Canada later next month (July) and then end of August head up to Alaska, so am interested in what you encounter. Not sure I like the pic with putting up guards on your truck, sounds like there could be damage to truck and trailer, so keep us informed on that…. Have a safe trip, and awesome weather……
▪. Kurt Hammerschmidt on June 9th, 2010 5:10 pm What I’d like to know is what the total cost at the end of the trip was including fuel and everything. I recognize that number would be different for different people but a ball park number would be nice so I could decide if it was even feasible for someone like me that lives on a fixed income. Kurt
▪. susan on June 9th, 2010 5:42 pm Wow…this is something we are thinking about in a year or two. Will look for your posts. Enjoy your adventure!! Sue
▪. Leah Vercellono on June 9th, 2010 5:46 pm Have a WONDERFUL trip–am turning green with envy! We have “done” Alaska four times and would go back in a heartbeat (medical issues prohibit travel now). Our last trip was in the motorhome and we were gone three months–what a wonderful experience. We saw different areas each trip and still didn’t see everything, but met some great people along the way. That trip was in 1993 and gas up there at that time was $2.67—boy now we would jump for joy to see that on our pumps down here! Every town, no matter what size has a museum and you can find great souvenirs at many of them. I collect ornaments from where ever we go and got some really unique ones. If you are in Fairbanks during the Eskimo-Indian Olympics (July)–don’t miss them. Their contests are completely different from what we have and so interesting. Couldn’t get over how many of the contestants were from Barrow. And yes, one trip we flew up to Barrow–what an experience. Did a tour of the Pribloff Islands on our first trip (out in the Bering Sea)–quite interesting, but wouldn’t want to live there. Eat LOTS of salmon—there is nothing like Alaskan salmon. The Discovery RiverBoad cruise is a must see–you learn a lot about Alaska there. And the museum at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks–don’t miss the gold exhibit!! This is one of the best museums ever. If you are in Homer–lots of artists there. I got a watercolor of a baby otter–just love watching those little clowns. Will be looking forward to your posts about your trip–oh and take your bathing suits incase they stop at the Hot Springs in BC!! Such a fascinating world we live in and so fortunate to get out and see beyond our own boundaries. Hugs, Leah PS–the next year we did the Maritime Provinces and loved that trip also–were gone almost three months.
▪. Dennis L. LEE on June 9th, 2010 6:09 pm Think all of you will have a great time. We do camp, but haven’t taken on quite a large experiment yet. Yea for you all and God Bless Dennis
▪. julie rea on June 9th, 2010 6:34 pm Oh, looking forward to reading of your travels. Want to attempt it next summer. Are you taking any pets? Want to know how they do. Mine have travelled to Mexico with no problems. Will your caravan be on any ferries?
▪. rrrick08 on June 9th, 2010 6:40 pm You will love Alaska. We RV’d w/ a caravan 2 years ago. Glad we did the caravan as we had no idea what to see or do by ourselves in such a huge state. The caravan was worth it to us as we saw a lot and had quite a bit of free time to explore on our own as well. Always figured we could go back again some day and see the areas that we want to see more of. Have fun, you will also enjoy 24 hours of daylight. Quite different.
▪. Gary Underwood on June 9th, 2010 7:05 pm Looking forward to your posts. We went thru the same thought process – i.e. go it along or do the caravan or put together a mini caravan of our own. We have tried the latter for three years and just can’t get it going so we too put down the bucks and leave from Dawson Creek, BC on June 30. Good luck to you folks and have fun!.
▪. Peggy on June 9th, 2010 8:01 pm You’ll love your trip but a caravan…? We did it twice on a motorcycle, by ourselves… So many folks think you need so much ’stuff’ – there are so many places/businesses to stop along the way if you need something (food, automotive) or whatever… August, 2009 we rode from Whitehorse, YT to Skagway, Alaska, USA – awesome, beautiful… Fairbanks area, look for the pipe lines – I thought they were all underground but that’s not the case… Pictures and stories (blogs) are on our website… Have fun and enjoy all that you can – don’t put it off… Three months ago my husband passed away so I’m going to become ‘one of you,’ an RVer…
▪. Peggy on June 9th, 2010 8:07 pm I’m new here but love reading what you all have written… See where my website wasn’t posted – it’s: http:/triglide.multiply.com Again, enjoy and have a wonderful time…
▪. Jim Hammack on June 9th, 2010 8:33 pm I will be looking forward to your post. My wife and I have made two cruse/land tours and have talked about going back at a slower pace with the RV. I too would like to know the difference (cost wise) between doing it on your on or with a caravan. With the initial layout of ~$5000, I’m wondering just how much of this is the (included) cost of the campgrounds and tours. It seems like the campground across from the McKinley chalet (abt a mile from the entrance to Denali park) runs abt $35/night. from what i saw of fuel prices, in Fairbanks this last fall, they ran abt $1/gal more there than Louisiana. What I would like to find out, from someone that has done it both with and without a guide, is was the guided tour worth the cost? I am really interested in finding out what your experiences are.
▪. Jerry Vitale on June 10th, 2010 12:40 am Taken off from Mesa AZ on the 16th of June. If you come across a 1995 Vectra give a “say hey”! We’ll be crossing at Sweet Grass Montana. Plan on making all of 300 miles a day.
▪. Steve & Mary Margaret on June 10th, 2010 5:05 am We plan to retire in 3 years, looking at Motorhomes for the last 3 years and can’t wait to get on the road. In the US, (and I include Alaska!), there is so much to see. I have read books and followed RV.net every day. I feel that all I need to do is to buy the RV and off we go. OK, I do know there is still a lot to learn by experience, but I will start off will a lot of knowledge. I plan to follow your travels to Alaska. Enjoy, be safe and hope to meet you on the road. Do you have a Blog to follow ?
▪. Peter and Terry on June 10th, 2010 5:21 am Have fun! We met Ken and Carole on an Adventure Caravans Twin Piggy Backs tour of Mexico in ‘07, which unfortunately isn’t available anymore. Ken showed us the rings of Saturn on his telescope at Playa Santispac. Ask them about the campfire and the outhouse that night!
▪. Robert & Nina Windle on June 10th, 2010 8:25 am I’m sure you will have a great time on your Alaska trip. We went there on our own in 1995, the year I retired. We have talked about going again. The rate of exchange in Canada is not as good as it use to be. I noticed You are touring with Adventure Caravans. We have taken 4 trips with them. (Maritime, Sunshine Coast, Rose Bowl, and Cabo San Lucas), our favorite was the Maritime trip, but they all were great adventures. Hope you have a safe & fun filled trip.
▪. Chuck & Marci on June 10th, 2010 6:05 pm We are looking forward to doing some long RV trips in the near future, and after taking a cruise to Alaska, couldn’t wait to travel up there in the RV. We ran into a gentleman at the Flying J Truckstop, and while just “visiting” over the pumps, got into a conversation about Alaska (we had noticed Alaska plates on his vehicle). He made a comment to only take an RV to Alaska if you’re preparing to trade it in soon after the trip as “the roads up there will tear it up.” Does anyone have experience with this?
▪. Dennis & Chris on June 10th, 2010 7:46 pm We rode our Harley from Michigan to Alaska in 07 and had the trip of a lifetime. It’s beyond anything you would expect. Watch for animals large and small everywhere. Enjoy yourselves. I look forward to reading your blog.
▪. rich on June 10th, 2010 8:05 pm we plan to travel to Alaska from pa next year. Taken a southern route to Alaska then a northern route back home We plan to spend six months on the trip trying to see all we can on the way out We are also planning a land and sea cruise.
BARRY’S NOTE: every question and lots more will be answered along the way, if not by us, then by readers who commented. Stuff you won’t find anywhere else about traveling to and in Alaska. You’ll read about good roads, bad roads, rigs, adventures, scenery, pets, medical care, facilities, gas/diesel, RV parks, First Nation natives and much, much more. So, don’t touch that “dial” – plenty of fun, fascinating information coming your way in this series.]