Our Alaska Trip Part XVII Going It Alone With the Group

This entry is part 20 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 5, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 12 Comments

This is the 17th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

Monday and Tuesday are free days for members of the caravan, a chance to drive or fly to the Arctic Circle or some other desolate spots, return to North Pole, Alaska, for a missed opportunity of hard-core shopping, or just resting.  We’re not doing any of the above.  Today we are catching up on routine RVing tasks, including laundry, rehabilitating our trailer and, of course, sitting at the computer.  As the weather clears, we will head to town to see what’s left.

We took off on our own for a few hours on a excursion that included a round of golf.

We took off on our own for a few hours on a excursion that included a round of golf.

At left is a photo of me holding two caps, the top one (appropriately) from the “highest golf course in the world” in Fairbanks, and from the “southernmost golf course in America,” in Key West.  I had already played the Top of the World course across the Yukon River from Dawson City a week earlier. As my golfing buddies can attest, I’m in the hacker class. [NOTE:  After this trip, we stopped by Death Valley, where I placed third in the 49ers Encampment tourney, played on the lowest golf course in America — all four in 2010!]

I’ll have some photos from a very busy day yesterday at the end of this article, but I want to digress in this issue to talk about caravanning as an unaccompanied driver.

Without a doubt the bravest of our tribe of RVers is Karen, who is driving with her bird Bobby at her side.  Karen drives a Winnebago View, a 23.5-foot motorhome without a “toad.”  From my conversation with her, she seems to have five obstacles not faced by most of us, but all of these would apply whether she were in the Lower 48, Canada or Alaska:

1)   She is single so she has to do everything herself, unless others volunteer to help

2)   She is not retired – the rest of us are

3)   She doesn’t have a separate vehicle to use on the road, like all but one other member of the group

4)   She is slightly disabled, a situation which got much worse when she injured the sciatic nerve in her back, and

5)   She takes care of Bobby.

Again, being on a trip to Alaska doesn’t pose many unique problems, except that our schedule is tiring.  We drive, we see, we meet, we socialize, we sleep, we drive …  Other than driving and sleeping, most of it is optional, but why spend the money for a caravan if you’re not going to participate with your fellow travelers?

Karen left Jacksonville, Florida, and drove 3,300 miles to Dawson Creek, British Columbia, stopping for a tire repair, then again when Bobby’s entry into Canada at Grand Forks, North Dakota, required the approval of an agent, who was on vacation for three days.  Bobby has a real passport declaring that he is legal and a protected species.

“I think I chose the right way to do it,” she said, referring to signing on with the caravan.  “I don’t regret my choice.  The idea of being in Alaska or on the Top of the World Highway with no phones and very limited gas scared me.”  She explained that she really joined for the safety of having the tailgunner following the RVers to make sure everything was okay.

Asked about the need to look at the Alaska Caravan Travel Log while driving, which outlines what’s on the road ahead, supplementing “Milepost,” she said she can glance down to see what’s ahead without a problem, and most of the roads and attractions are marked well enough.

Wildlife on the side of the road isn’t considerate enough to stand where there are places to stop for photos, so that’s a problem.  She has stopped in the middle of a lonely stretch once (as have we all) to get a shot of Dall Sheep.

The decision to make this long trip started when she and her husband began to talk about it.  Her husband passed away, but she continued to think about experiencing it.  Asked why go in an RV, she said that she doesn’t like the process of traveling – the packing and unpacking, eating out, etc. – but she did want to go to Alaska and see Denali.

As I said, she is the bravest of us all.  She actually started her Alaska trip with an earlier Adventure Caravan group, but the sciatica stopped her long enough to miss the next stops, so she waited for our team.  Having joined us late, she was concerned about being accepted.  Some offer to help, ask her to sit with them at restaurants or offer her rides.  But since some travel with others and others don’t have space in their cars, she may have to ask.

As for the Winnebago View, she likes the comfort of traveling in her own house.  “I’m an urban person.  I want to go to cities, but I want to see Denali.”   Since she is uncomfortable with the idea of towing a car, she’s considering other means of RVing.  These include getting over that phobia; buying a toy-hauler in which to carry a SmartCar; getting a stable-lift truck camper that makes leveling easier; or buying a small Class B van conversion.

Now for some sights from yesterday … and believe me, the pictures I publish and the places I write about are only a sampling of what we are actually doing and seeing. 

A Collage of our visit to the U. of Alaska Museum and the Ice Museum. In between, we went to the U of A Large Animal Research Station and had a buffet lunch.

A Collage of our visit to the U. of Alaska Museum and the Ice Museum. In between, we went to the U of A Large Animal Research Station and had a buffet lunch.

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


12 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XVII Going It Alone With the Group”

▪.  GK on July 5th, 2010 10:22 pm  
A question I had: I’m assuming you have several types of RV’s in your caravan. Has any one type been better, or more of a challenge, given some of the road conditions and such? Are people with a motohome+toad having an easier time of it, or are people with travel trailers or fifth-wheels having fewer issues? Not looking to start a “this is better than that”, just wanted to see what people’s experiences were given what sounds to be a somewhat challenging journey.
If some kind of summary is possible at the end of your trip (don’t worry about it now, you have more important things to do, like enjoy the trip  ) that might be interesting to those of us who are about to be new to RV’ing, like me  .
Reading about Karen’s trip has got me thinking about what could be done to make using some of the supplementary material that’s been provided easier to use while underway. No solutions yet, but something involving Velcro is starting to come to mind. I’m only thinking about this because sometimes its a matter of someone travelling solo, and at other times it may be when the co-pilot/navigator might be incapacitated and the healthy driver still has to carry on. Being able to secure a map or other material in easy view but without obstructing it could be handy.

▪.  Jeff Glazer on July 6th, 2010 6:26 am  
I hope you were in Fairbanks on July 4 and went to their celebration in Pioneer Park. It was easily the best Fourth of July celebration we have ever attended. It was right out of an Andy Hardy movie. Military bands playing from the paddle-wheeler. A parade with marching bands and “Uncle Sams.” Lots of families having a good time. Crazy tubers in the ice-cold Chena River. And, of course, lots of good food. Just a magnificent day!
On a different note, my hat’s off to Karen. We had a single (male) on our last Alaska trek. It was a lot more work for him, and he, too, did not bring a toad. But he made friends with everyone, and he fit right in with the group. He was always invited to tag along with someone who had a car, and he had a great time.
I always admire people who overcome some adversity to follow their dream. We could all learn a lot from them. Tell Karen I said, “You go, girl!”

▪.  Jeff Glazer on July 6th, 2010 6:44 am  
One more quick note on Fairbanks on the Fourth of July. We were trying to find someplace where we could see fireworks. Duh! It doesn’t get dark on July 4th.

▪.  Full Timer Normie on July 6th, 2010 5:33 pm  
I am so loving every one of your posts…and I am so jealous…we are hoping to be able to do the Alaska trip in ‘11 or ‘12…depending on finances…so we are devouring your every word and picture…
You are doing a great job, but please enjoy your trip first, think about us second!

▪.  Melanie on July 6th, 2010 5:36 pm  
Way to go Karen! I admire you for braving the long haul to Alaska and back. Like you, I’m a widow, driving a Winnebago View, without a toad, with my dog for a companion. Soon I’ll be joining a caravan around the Great Lakes, which will be my first experience with a caravan. At least I can count on good roads!
I’ve been on the school bus traveling the road in Denali and two buses can’t pass on the curves. There were no guard rails. Hopefully there has been improvement since then,

▪.  Jeff on July 6th, 2010 8:55 pm  
Great posts and I am really enjoying your travel log. Having lived in the Northwest Territories for 10 years and having also visited the Yukon, I plan to return one of these days. I live in Manitoba now, so it will be a considerable drive but not insurmountable. You never mentioned if you went to Diamond Tooth Gerties or if you tried the Sour Toe Cocktail! 
Not to quibble about little things, but Grand Forks ND is about 80 miles from the border and she would have crossed at Emerson, Manitoba (across from Pembina, ND).

▪.  Steve & Mary Margaret on July 7th, 2010 6:37 am  
You blog has been great. I log on every day looking for it. I’m making a map to track your route for OUR future trip!
Quick question: Have you caught any salmon with your new rod ?
Enjoy the trip and thank you for sharing your experiences

▪.  GORDON MILLER on July 7th, 2010 1:55 pm  
I am truly enjoying your Travels. My dream is for my wife and I to make this trip ourselves in a few years. We took a land and cruise trip last year and that embedded my need to travel Alaska with out 5th wheel. Keep up the great work. By the way what was the web site for you travel map?

▪.  James Bennett on July 7th, 2010 3:19 pm  
How is the trip with animals such as dogs? Are there many who are traveling with their dogs? And what do they do with them when on tours?

▪.  Marie on July 7th, 2010 8:22 pm  
I am thoroughly enjoying your posts. I can totally relate to Karen as I am also widowed, live in Florida, go RVing myself, and have traveled to Alaska on my own (not via RV, however), and abroad. As a ‘loner’, one has to join in and enjoy the group setting. Sounds like she is doing her best in this regard.
I considered a caravan and obviously, as a single person, there are additional supports and safeguards. Downers for me include: the price and not being able to stay for a while when enjoying a place. I’ve been to Alaska by myself (airline, ship, train, and rental car). My next trip there will be by myself or perhaps via a small caravan within an RV group for singles (Loners on Wheels). There is more opportunity to alter the plan with group agreement and it is far less costly.

▪.  marianj on July 12th, 2010 1:28 pm  
Great blog. We live in Alaska and have driven the Highway many times in our 5th Wheel and love it every time. Marian

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