OUR ALASKA TRIP Part I – North to Alaska

This entry is part 1 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 9, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 20 Comments

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.

Barry & Monique, left, meet Adventure Caravans' Wagonmasters Ken & Carole, right, and Tailgunners Spense & Madi

Barry & Monique, left, meet Adventure Caravans’ Wagonmasters Ken & Carole, right, and Tailgunners Spense & Madi

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.

Our first social -- getting to know each other

Our first social — getting to know each other

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.

Spence, right, guides me and fellow Caravan Member Larry, left, in putting protection on the front of our truck

Spence, right, guides me and fellow Caravan Member Larry, left, in putting protection on the front of our truck

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

Comments

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.]

Our Alaska Trip Part II Crossing into Canada

This entry is part 2 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 10, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 21 Comments

This is the second in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska.

Our caravan was ready for OUR GREAT ADVENTURE early this morning, and most of the dozen rigs got off in fine fashion.  Oh, our tailgunner awoke one couple telling them that one of the tires on their SUV toad was flat, but that was a minor inconvenience since we were in town rather than on the open road.

All went smoothly from there as we traveled scenic Washington roads for 135 miles when we arrived at the Canadian border crossing.   Several of the members were told to dispose of the onions that they declared, and one couple was asked to pull into a separate parking area and report to the officers inside the building.  That couple was us.

Entering the Customs Station Crossing into Canada from Washington State

Entering the Customs Station Crossing into Canada from Washington State

We think the brief, serious interrogation was triggered by our admission of having bear spray aboard, [a large canister is okay; a small canister is not] a natural defense for veteran hikers, but we answered their questions, stood by while they did a computer background check and then we were on the road again to reach our first Canadian campground.  Just in time for the evening social and update on the plans for Friday.

Let’s back up a few miles.  About 16 miles north of last night’s campground at the Town of Soap Lake is the immense, deep canyon called Dry Falls, featuring “plunge holes.”  I think every member of our crew stopped there for a few moments to appreciate the power of geological forces.

A Plunge Hole Below Dry Falls Visitors Center, Washington

A Plunge Hole Below Dry Falls Visitors Center, Washington

Our route then took us to the Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River.  We have been to several dams in our travels, and although this one was more interesting than most, it’s not a “wonder of the world” that stops most people in their tracks.  It did us, but then it got better.

And this is where the two types of travelers separate.  Many are destination-seekers, with planned stops.  The rest of us travel to enjoy the scenery along the way, particularly unexpected discoveries like this.

These may be cherished memories or forgotten until you look at photos or videos years later, but if you’re not ready to trade time for destination, you won’t have these moments in your memory bank.  Across the United States and Canada, there are treasurers hiding around every turn and down every side road.

Once we crossed the surging Columbia and entered the information plaza, we discovered a labyrinth, a place for silent contemplation and appreciation of the flowers and flowing water.  No big deal, but for us, it is an enrichment of life.  You might want to keep your eyes and, more importantly, your mind open to stop at unheralded spots along the road.

Monique Walking the Labyrinth by Chief Joseph Dam

Monique Walking the Labyrinth by Chief Joseph Dam

It’s Thursday afternoon, the sun is shining through menacing clouds.  We look for the blue.

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

21 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part II Crossing into Canada”

▪.  bbwolf on June 10th, 2010 10:05 pm   
Barry & Monique, just wanted to let you know that my co-pilot and I are following your posts with interest. Please don’t leave anything out, as you are helping a lot of us decide on making this trip ourselves one day soon. Thanks for posting your travel!

▪.  Jerry Criswell on June 11th, 2010 12:43 pm  
Wish you had told us what a “plunge hole” is.
JC

▪.  susan on June 11th, 2010 4:46 pm  
Barry and Monique…we find you travels very interesting…please keep posting, like bbwolf we are deciding whether or not to make the trip one day…as of now we are leaning toward it, and love reading about your travels..
Sue

▪.  G Finley on June 11th, 2010 5:02 pm  
Tell us more about this plunge hole. What are they and why did they happen? Thanks in advance for the posting. Sure is interesting. We have driven part of your trip in a car. Beautiful country !!!!.

▪.  John Ahrens on June 11th, 2010 5:55 pm  
This link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_Falls, briefly speaks to the formation of the Dry Falls. It doesn’t mention plunge holes specifically, but the plunge holes are the area at the bottom of a falls where the falling water leaves a deep hole. Incidentally, at the height of the flood, the surface of the river probably varied a few inches as it went over that falls.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 11th, 2010 5:09 pm. 
Your Canadian crossing was better than ours. A guy with a chip on his shoulder made me turn my pockets inside-out, dumped my pill containers out on a dirty table, while his team rummaged around our travel trailer trying to prove that we were lying when we said that we had no booze, guns, tobacco, vegetables, etc. They found nothing. Didn’t make us feel too welcome to their country.

▪.  Jan on June 11th, 2010 7:06 pm  
Barry and Monique – Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. We’d love to make the trip to Alaska someday. We also travel with enjoying all the side adventures on the way. Wondering what kind of orchard or field we are passing, what is that smoke stack in the distance, where does that road in the middle of nowhere lead, what is a plunge hole (thank you John), walking a labyrinth someone took the time to build, etc. Not that we always have time to investigate each thing, but traveling with the explorers’ curiosity really opens the trip to memories, meeting the local people and an education for a lifetime and underlines the reason most of us crisscross North America in our RV’s. It’s like Lewis and Clark’s push to the ocean, the miner’s quest for gold; it must be in our blood? Looking forward to your next trip itinerary entry.
PS
Chief Joseph Dam is the second largest hydropower-producing dam in the United States.

▪.  Dick and Cindy on June 11th, 2010 7:12 pm  
We went a year ago. At our border crossing they got all the apples we had just stocked up on. They were offended and said “We have apples in Canada, ya know.” Will enjoy comparing experiences. Hope you get to Laird Hot Springs. We enjoyed that a lot – both directions.

▪.  Chris Clarke on June 11th, 2010 8:10 pm  
Regarding the border crossing incidents, just a few comments: When we head south and cross into the US we basically have taken to having nothing in our refrigerator, no fresh fruit, nor vegetables. This is because of having had it all confiscated one time or another by the US border officials on previous trips. So don’t feel too bad about losing a few apples and yes, we do grow them up here. We get the same line fed to us going south.
Our first stop on the US side is usually at a supermarket to stock up the fridge and the pantry. (Oh, and yes, I have had my 5th wheel turned inside out because the agricultural inspector wanted to look into “all of the hiding places” that he knew us RVers use to stash our contraband oranges, steaks and milk.
The bear spray is sort of a moot point. I carry mine all the time when I fish or hike in the mountains and I think that our border officials should cut some slack on that one in spite of the fact that it has become a weapon of choice in assaults and muggings. (We don’t carry firearms up here – we don’t seem to need them, or at least the risk of needing them is pretty low.)
Sorry if you ran into one of the more uncouth border officials – there are many good ones as there are heading south. Too bad some of these folks make our crossing experiences less than fun in either direction.
  Perhaps some of our folks are smarting over the heavy criticism that we Canadians have been getting regarding border security from some of your prominent politicians in spite of the fact that the 9/11 bad guys did not come through our country. Some of the critics have been down right rude. We are grateful for the fact that most of the 350 million of y’all are damn fine people.
I hope that you don’t let some boorish behavior spoil what should be a great adventure for you. Sometimes I guess that some people just get out on the wrong side of the bed. There are just too many beautiful places to see and experiences for you to have on either side of the 49th to allow a less than smooth crossing experience cause to sour.
Happy trails!
 [We immediately put the delay behind us.  Another part of the adventure.]

▪.  Frank Howard on June 11th, 2010 9:01 pm  
Being stopped by border officials could also simply be a random inspection, designed to catch violators who are aware of what characteristics the officials
are looking for. The officials may be inspecting, say, every 20th visitor who comes through.

▪.  Sucie on June 11th, 2010 9:21 pm  
Mr. Clark,
You mentioned 9-11, as a proud yet humble American I want to take this moment and say Thank-you to the Canadian people for assisting the many people that landed that fateful day in Nova Scotia during that tragic time in our history. May the Canadian people be blessed many times over.

▪.  Shelia on June 11th, 2010 11:00 pm  
I would love to go to AK but my hubby has a fear of taking our 40ft motorhome across the border into Canada and than into AK/USA. Any motorhomes of great length taking the trip up north with you? Let me know how all fare on the travel across the roads. I hate to have only planned stops, I’m the type that wants to find the natural native places along the route. Those surprises are the ones you will remember. Have fun!

▪.  Chip on June 12th, 2010 7:06 am  
Barry and Monique – I just wonder how everyone in the caravan is keeping in contact on the road. Are you using the FRS radios with some kind of net control. Are there any Ham radio Operators among the caravan? 
BTW, what is the cost of diesel fuel in Canada?
have a great trip and keep the details coming – its awesome! 

[We communicate with each other via CB radio — more on all of this later]

▪.  Kay on June 12th, 2010 9:51 am  
A trip to Alaska that was to have started in late May has unavoidably been delayed. How late into July can we leave and still have enough time to make the trip in a somewhat leisurely way? How late in September can we return and not have to worry about now in the Rockies as we make our way East??

▪.  Thomas Becher on June 12th, 2010 10:00 am  
Too much hassle going across the border. I thought with NAFDA and being almost brother-sister things would be smoother. They treat you like a criminal. Too many things to see in the states to bother with Canada. Even with the exchange rate they rip you off, if you don’t have any Canadian money. No thanks. If I feel the need to go to Alaska, I’ll fly and then rent a camper.

▪.  Colleen on June 12th, 2010 12:58 pm  
This is an answer for Kay who wonders how late in July she can head north and how late in Sept. to return. I’ve driven out as late as Dec. 10 (leaving Anchorage), so it can be done. My parents were snowbirds for years and they made sure they were on the road by Sept. 10. Summers in Alaska are short and cool, but it can get downright hot in the interior (Fairbanks). June is the nicest month weather-wise, by mid-July the rains begin. By the third week in August there is often mild frost at night, even in Anchorage.
If you are looking for fish and going up late in the summer, you might try for Silver Salmon on the beach in Seward toward the end of August.
In ‘72, my first trip to Alaska, there were 1,500 miles of gravel roads. After 30 years living there and many trips driving in and out, the road is all paved now. 
And a note for Sheila, there are places where the roads are not as wide as you find in the lower 48, especially in the Yukon, so meeting an 18 wheeler on a curve or bridge can be a bit unnerving at times, you can certainly time those events by adjusting your speed. The last time I drove out was in a Class A 32ft Airstream. I live in the lower 48 now that I have retired. 
I’ve never gone with a caravan, preferring to make my own schedule, but for some people the peace of mind of “safety in numbers” thing should be worthwhile.
See ya down the road.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 12th, 2010 4:29 pm  
To answer the question about how late to go to Alaska, we went last year in August to get away from the crowds. Turns out August is the rainy month and we had rain every day. By late August, many of the campgrounds are almost deserted. We didn’t see hardly anyone heading north on our return trip. Many of the campgrounds said they were closed after September 1. The owners were headed for Florida, California or Arizona. Our next trip will be in June.

▪.  tom connor on June 13th, 2010 10:50 pm  
hi, Tom Becher.  Looks like you have had a bad experience, I hear all kinds of stories of the treatment Canadians get from USA border guards, then I read about there attitude toward the border guard what one gives expect to receive.
 My trailer is permanently in Washington State, so we go there quite often.  Never have I ever felt not wanted, but always welcomed.
There is nothing we can bring across the border — we always have to stock up our larder in Seattle and likewise coming north we know the rules and stick by them.
If you believe all the stories you hear you would eat all you see.
Camping is supposed to be a fun thing not conferential.
Enjoy life; it’s short.  [Note:  We never had a bad experience on this entire trip.  Missing out on Western Canada is missing out on the most beautiful part of the trip.]



▪.  BJ Moffett on June 22nd, 2010 10:47 am  
What can you take in to Canada in the line of food? We are thinking of going in 2013. Have a 35ft. 5th wheel

▪.  Rebecca on June 22nd, 2010 10:28 pm  
Have been wading through the customs site searching for what we can and can’t bring when crossing into Canada. Didn’t find much that was helpful. This site was exactly what I was looking for. Although we have taken our RV into Canada, it has been a while and I’m pretty sure there had been some changes. I guess the best bet is to leave the fresh stuff behind and get it after we cross. That’s fine. I am assuming that canned & frozen goods are okay. 
We have traveled in and out of Canada for 40 years and have never been treated badly by the border agents or anyone else except one surly waitress in Niagara Falls years ago that we still laugh about. 
Any other tips for travel into Quebec would be welcome. Thanks!

Lenore Slater on June 29th, 2010 10:23 am  
It saddens me to hear such disparaging remarks about Canadians. I was taught here in Canada that it is prejudice to paint a whole nation with one paintbrush because of the actions of one person. Whatever happened to the concept of ‘Hands across the Border?” We should remember this was one large land and the borders were put in much later, separating whole families, my family being one of them. My genealogical study of my family shows that people crossed back and forth many times, and my family is your family. I would like to see more Americans speaking up for their neighbours and a few thank you’s would not go amiss! The Canadians do not hesitate to jump in and help when the many disasters occur in America. The Canadians are probably the Americans’ best friend and it is a great puzzle that we do not hear a whole lot about that from the Americans. 
To the moderator of this site I ask, Did I wander onto the wrong site? Is this site intended for Americans only?  [Please don’t paint all the respondents to this site with the same paintbrush used by one person.]

Our Alaska Trip Part III Camaraderie

This entry is part 3 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 11, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 14 Comments

This is the third in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

In yesterday’s article, I waxed prosaically about how Monique and I enjoyed the opportunity of stopping along our route to Canada to see sights that appealed to us, while staying within the guidelines set for us as a group.

Lots of folks told us we didn’t need to spend the money for an escorted caravan to Alaska.  They could be right.  Today, however, we began to really appreciate the investment we had made in our caravan.  All the members of our group climbed aboard a tour bus this morning for visits to two British Columbia, Canada, wineries.

Now, had we not taken in the wineries as we stopped in the Town of Oliver, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.  We’ve been to several others on the East and West Coasts of the U.S.  But it was another opportunity for enrichment, not to mention tasting some surprisingly good wines.

Vineyard 6684

We learned that the Portuguese vintners who ran many of the 27 local wineries in this, “the Wine Capital of Canada,” were aging, and settlers from India arrived to buy up their vineyards.  They have the advantage of large families that work together to make it a viable business.  But the rest are owned by native Canadians or corporate bottlers.

We also learned that the grass between the rows of grapevines keeps the soil moist, with IMG_6668the help of earthworms, irrigation and ever-improving viniculture practices.  We found out that the climatic warming trend is helping the grape crop, and that the longer days here (we have almost 16 hours of daylight now) mean better crops.  You couldn’t get out of there without realizing that owning a winery is a very risky business.

And most of all, we enjoyed the chance to taste wine with some fun people.  The camaraderie of our group was the best part, and we would have missed out on it had we whizzed past these wineries.  This amounted to attending two shows.  At the first, Walter Garinger of Garinger Brothers Estates Winery told us more than most of us could ever remember about the world of wine-growing, from its history in British Columbia and France to the uncertainties of the marketplace.

A few minutes later we were at Silver Sage Winery, where owner Anna served us tasteTasting Wine after taste of a wide variety of fruity wines, while entertaining us with witty observations, such as, “If you can’t find anything you want to watch on the 176 channels on TV, take a bottle of this wine out of the refrigerator and you won’t miss TV.”  The lesson here is without being part of the tour we wouldn’t have known which wineries to visit.

Next, Monique waited patiently behind a long line of RVers ready to pay for produce at a fruit stand with the best variety of items.  How do you know where to stop if you don’t have someone to guide you?

If there is a negative, it’s that we won’t be around long enough to become oblivious to the constant pow, pow, pow of cannons going off to protect the valuable cherry crop across the road that is ripening now.  After the cherries are ready, pears, apricots and then apples are ready for harvesting. We understand the cannons continue from spring to early fall to keep birds from destroying crops that fill thousands of acres of rolling hills in the shadows of a jagged ridge paralleling the highway.  Incidentally, this is the northern tip of the Sonoma Desert, where the arid land has been turned into gold.

Cornucopia 67086In response to several comments, we have often heard about how you can plan to trade in your rig when you get back to the states because the roads in Alaska eat them up.  Yesterday we had two broken windshields reported in our group and both were acquired on paved, smooth roads on the U.S. side of the border.

Our Adventure Caravans Wagonmaster Ken Adams preaches that most of the damage comes from going too fast and following too close.

At this point I want to make a suggestion.   We travel at 55 to 65 mph, depending on the highway (I am considered a speed-demon by many of our fellow travelers, who maintain a 48-52 mph pace).  Our truck and trailer combination is about 50 feet long, not very easy for traffic to pass.  When I realize a vehicle has moved into the passing lane to come around, I assess the situation and slow down if I see any chance of danger ahead, like a hill or a curve.  I am particularly eager to help motorcyclists, who stand a greater chance for problems.

Tomorrow we have one of the longest drives of the 58-day trek.  That means less time for sightseeing, but we’ll keep looking for places of interest to write about.  (All this traveling can get in the way of telling the story.)

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

15 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Camaraderie Part III”

▪.  bbwolf on June 12th, 2010 4:44 pm  
Excellent log. Thanks again for today’s post.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 12th, 2010 5:03 pm  
Once you get farther north onto the Alaska Highway, your speed will drop down much slower. In many areas you will travel about 45 mph because of the condition of the road and because of the dust clouds. Anything faster is bound to do damage to your RVs. I don’t think I would want to be in a caravan on the Alaska Highway because of the dust.

▪.  John Ahrens on June 12th, 2010 5:50 pm  
Stan, I don’t know when you were last up there, but when we went to Alaska, as far as Whitehorse, in 2004, the road was paved with no dust all the way.
Barry, thanks for the travelogue. I am enjoying it. 
When we went to Alaska in 2004, we got one rock chip on our windshield when a van pulled in front of us and threw a rock as we were exiting I-5 in Bellingham WA.

▪.  Robin Potter on June 12th, 2010 6:25 pm  
Thank you so much for sharing your trip. Alaska is on my bucket list – not on hers yet but I’m working on it and your blog may well help!

▪.  Sheila Allison on June 12th, 2010 7:42 pm  
while sitting on the side of the road in a parking lot at Muck a Luk Annie’s, the foretravel bus was hit with a rock by an 18-wheeler breaking the windshield. This was on the road coming south out of White Horse. After we got home we really found out how to travel on their roads and how to protect the tow trucks and campers. If your travels take you to Portage for the train watch out how you load on the flat beds. We ended up with a 20 ft gash down the side of the RV. This was from a bar that was bent the wrong way. Instead of leaning out it was leaning in. It was a wonderful wild trip. Expensive but well worth the money.

▪.  Bob on June 12th, 2010 8:19 pm  
Thanks for the great report. We’ve been planning to take that trip for a few years now but family plans keep interfering. In 2 years it’s MY trip and the rest of the family can sit tight!!!!!

▪.  Gerald Kraft on June 12th, 2010 8:25 pm  
We are on our way back to the lower 48. 1 cracked windshield, 2 rock chips, and a lot of fun.

▪.  Dennis & Chris on June 13th, 2010 6:30 am  
In ‘07 we traveled the Alcan and found it to be great most of the way. Some construction and a section of some sort of gravel but overall we were pleasantly surprised. We were on a Harley by the way.

▪.  Frank & Terrie on June 13th, 2010 9:36 am  
We are loving your adventure. Could you also map out your journey so we can see where you are as you go along? This is also a trip we would like to make with a caravan if possible.
 [Note:  My response later.]

▪.  Garry Scott on June 13th, 2010 10:16 am  
HI There, I am following you from ENGLAND UK as i own a Monaco diplomat 36′ here in the UK and have always wanted to do the Trans Canadian highway from east to west coast then on to Alaska. Therefore am watching your blog with great interest, please put in all details as you can, be careful and have a great time, Best of luck Garry.

▪.  Harold on June 13th, 2010 11:28 am  
We’re on our 4th RV trip to Alaska, 2001, 06, 08, 10, ever year the roads get better. The dust clouds mentioned above are due to road repairs. Our trip in May found only 12 miles of road repairs. 8 miles on the Cassiar, and the rest after Beaver Creek before the Alaskan border. We’ve come alone every trip, and enjoy every mile. Don’t put it off too long.

▪.  Les on June 13th, 2010 11:34 am  
Hello, thanks for the updates. A couple of suggestions, if you could put in your title line “post 1, post 2, post 3, etc., it would be easier for people to keep track of your adventure. How are the people with cracked windshields getting them replaced? Does the caravan wait for you if you have mechanical problems?
 [more on this later, but the answer is it depends on the problem] Have a great time.

 

Our Alaska Trip Part IV En Route to Canyon Hot Springs

This entry is part 4 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

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

This is the fourth in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Saturday’s leg of the trip north to “Seward’s Folly” was another eight hours of being swaddled in beauty.  The entire route from Oliver to Canyon Hot Springs borders lakes, including Lake Kalamalaka, “The Lake of Many Colors.”  Above us for most of the way were 8,000-foot snow-capped mountains, and along the road were a myriad of different colors of green, in an endless variety of textures.

Lake Kalamalaka, “The Lake of Many Colors.”

Lake Kalamalaka, “The Lake of Many Colors.”

Did we enjoy the ride?  You bet-cha!  Except for a nightmare of trailer maneuvering driving around the City of Vernon, British Columbia, when we werer trying to find a sporting goods store with someone competent enough to sell me the right rod and reel for future attempts at landing salmon.  More on that in a later chapter.

Monique and I traveled alone today, playing leapfrog with many other members of the caravan, as we each chose different stops on the route.  We could all go where we wanted as long as we arrived at the night’s campground by 4:30 p.m.

Members of the group reported seeing eagles landing in their nest, deer, a bear next to the highway, and not-too-wild life at attractions en route.

Beautiful Scenes Along the Road

Beautiful Scenes Along the Road

I’ll take this opportunity to respond to a few questions.  First of all, our own question before signing up:  Did we really want to be part of a group for 58 days? Our answer is that there is no one in the caravan with whom we wouldn’t enjoy having dinner.  It’s a fun-loving, adventurous group.  We consider ourselves lucky to be on this trip.

How do we communicate on the road? Each night Ken Adams, our Wagonmaster, previews the next day’s trip, supplemented by our tailgunner, Spence Schaaf’s input, so we hit the road with a good idea of what to do and how to get there.  We each have a CB radio to let Spence’s wife Madi know that we are leaving.  Throughout the day, we can, but don’t have to let Spence know of delays on the road, but we try to tell him if we will be in camp late.  In these mountains and curvy roads, the CB transmission rarely works, so we do the best we can.

We all have cellphones, but Monique and I have ours turned off.  As we understand it, every time it searches for the network, it runs up the bill.  We called AT&T, our provider, and paid for a reduced per-minute rate when we use the phone in Canada, but it’s still expensive since we are paying a roaming charge.  Several other members of the crew I talked with aren’t sure what their arrangement is.

In addition, Monique and I bought 100 minutes per month of air time through OnStar in our truck.  It apparently picks up signals from any cell tower around, not from a satellite as I was expecting.  There are no additional fees for calls in Canada.  And once we get into Alaska, we’re back on our regular plan, same as in the lower 48.

WiFi is available most places:  however, my connection last night faded away, so this is being posted 12 hours later.

This is the view from the back of our trailer in Canyon Hot Springs

This is the view from the back of our trailer in Canyon Hot Springs

Should you make the trip on your own or with a group? We’re enjoying the experience, but I suggest that you keep asking others about their trip to Alaska and continue reading about our experiences.

Can you get fuel and services in Canada and Alaska? From what we hear, a drop in tourism has taken a toll on service stations along the way, but we don’t expect to have any real problems filling up or getting repairs.

Bad roads destroy RVs. Many of the people we talked with had some kind of damage, usually nothing more than a rock in the windshield, but nobody had any real, lasting problems.  There are bad roads and hazards, but most of the roads are fine in spring and summer. [More on this as the trip proceeds]

And as for specific questions about things we’ve seen, in order to keep these blogs to a minimum, I leave out much of the detail.  You are invited to search the web for more information.

And, as I intimated in the previous article, we spend lots of hours on the road, then have a travel briefing followed by a social get-together.  That doesn’t leave lots of time for writing and processing photos, but I appreciate the opportunity to share the trip with people of like minds.

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

12 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip En Route to Canyon Hot Springs Part IV”

▪.  Shaine on June 13th, 2010 4:18 pm  
Its seems that we’re just a few days ahead of you. But we turned east at Golden, not north…

▪.  Din Milem on June 13th, 2010 4:44 pm  
Am enjoying your trip with you. Actually I’m reliving the trip we took two years ago. We were three small B plus RVs wandering with no real time restraint or schedule. I think a caravan is great for most folks but would have never worked for us.

▪.  Jane on June 13th, 2010 5:15 pm  
Enjoy hearing all your adventures on your trip to Alaska…Look forward everyday to reading your blog…We are planning a caravan trip to Alaska next year, but not sure which company to use…am researching them all…we travel 4 months a year in our RV…Do you unhook your truck for your side trips and then meet back at the campsite at 4:30PM? Have fun!!! Keep writing!!! We will probably do a 34 or 45-day trip…we have a long way to travel just to get to Dawson Creek…

▪.  Steve & Mary Margaret on June 13th, 2010 6:07 pm  
Thank you for the time you take posting your pictures and travels. I look forward every evening reading your adventures. Good Luck with the Salmon

▪.  Jim & Glenna Penny on June 13th, 2010 6:54 pm  
My wife and I are new to all of this but we plan on Alaska next summer. We very much appreciate your posts and look forward every day to read what you have to say. Again, thank-you for your efforts.

▪.  Dave in MN on June 13th, 2010 7:10 pm  
Appreciate the pics as we may never make the trip but enjoy your points of interest and above all keep the pics coming. We love hearing the day-by-day trip log.

▪.  Ronald Schneider on June 14th, 2010 5:18 am  
Thanks for writing, look forward to the next one every day. Been wanting to make the same trip for years maybe this will get us going, Thank you again

▪.  Ken on June 14th, 2010 9:33 am  
We are following your trip with envy. We would like to go next year. Can you send us some info such as itinerary, and with what caravan you are traveling with?
Thanks,
Ken

▪.  Bill on June 15th, 2010 4:00 pm  
This is a trip I wouldn’t mind taking some day. I would be bringing my dog with me since we are joined at the hip. Do you know anything about what is required to enter Canada with your pet and then to enter the United States again and return home with your buddy?

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 20th, 2010 3:50 pm  
Good luck with OnStar. Last summer we weren’t able to connect in Canada very often after we reached the Alaska Highway. In Alaska, we seldom had coverage. The satellites just don’t reach that far north. In the mountainous areas, in the southern parts of Canada, OnStar was hit-or-miss. We really didn’t have reliable coverage until we got back to the lower 48. We ended up with a lot of unused minutes.

 On our trip, we had no problem with fuel, but once when I needed a quart of oil, there was none to be found for 200 miles. So you might want to carry some with you or check your oil levels at stops that do have oil. One or two of the out-of-the-way gas stations only accept cash, so be prepared for that.