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.

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 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 XXIX Plusses/Minuses of a Caravan

This entry is part 32 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 8, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 14 Comments

This is the 29th article in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

We have said our fond farewells to 58-day caravan buddies and returned to our lives as full-time solo RVers.  While members of our group continued eastward or southward from Smithers, British Columbia, Monique and I drove directly west to the nearest ocean, where we found a perfect dry camp site in Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park near the port city of Prince Rupert.

After a hectic trip, we squeezed into a rustic campsite in Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia

After a hectic trip, we squeezed into a rustic campsite in Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia

We have had an incredible adventure over the past two months.  Wish you could have been with us … but, many of you have said you felt like you were.  Now it’s time to get down to business.  In the next edition, we’ll talk about our expenses, but today let’s talk about whether signing up for a caravan is the right choice for you.

The trick here is that what one person/couple sets as a priority, another person/couple might shun.  Most obvious is regimentation.  Some caravans are very structured, doing things like assigning travel partners – “Rigs 7 and 12 will leave at 8:22 traveling together.”  Others give a range of times to depart and everyone makes his own arrangements, if they want any.

In our caravan, for instance, which was unstructured, there were friends from either earlier travels or from getting to know one-another on this trip, who chose to travel in tandem, staying together on the road, taking advantage of their common interests.  The other 11 rigs were on their own, appreciating the opportunity to stop when and where they wanted without consulting anyone.

Which is better?  It’s totally your call based on your own personality.

That said let’s list some of the plusses and minuses of caravanning, as we see it (and a disclaimer – when I say “he,” it means “he,” “she” or “the couple”):

Some of the Plusses:

1)      A safe way to travel.  The “Tailgunner” makes sure rigs are in good operating condition everyday.  His main duty is to be the last RV out of the campground and the last into the next one.  Along the way, he checks caravan-recommended attractions en route to insure everyone who has stopped there, if any, has gone on.  When things go wrong on the road, the Tailgunner shows up to help.

2)      In several cases in our caravan, other members stopped to render assistance before the Tailgunner arrived.  Remember, there are long stretches of uninhabited land between campgrounds.  On at least three occasions, members of the group took the time to help others repair difficult mechanical problems.

3)      The trip log.  A book handed out by the Wagonmaster with exact directions on how to get from Point A to Point B, including fuel and food availability, plus suggested interesting stops.  This supplements “Milepost.”

4)      Your trip is planned for you.  No worries about which direction to go next, where to stop at night, whether an excursion is worth doing.  No worry about finding room in a campground with no reservations to make.  The Wagonmaster, who is in charge of the entire tour, keeps things moving and can add extra events.

5)      Less chance of spending time and money on an attraction not worth it.   And as a bonus, we’ve gotten special seating at shows and on cruises, etc., adding to the experience.

6)      Excursions:  There were several bus and train rides, cruises, other excursions and shows that we would have passed on because of cost or because we thought we wouldn’t be interested.  Since they were included in the tour’s cost, we did them and were glad.  You know what the trip will cost and it’s paid in advance, so there are no unpleasant surprises (you still pay for fuel, groceries, eating out, souvenirs and rig maintenance).

7)      Any complaints about campgrounds, attractions or members of the group can be brought to the attention of the Wagonmaster for him to act on it, as appropriate.

8)      Since most travelers have limited time in which to see as much as possible, the caravan keeps things moving.  You may want to stay in a town longer, but it would be at the expense of something ahead that you’ll want to see or do.

9)      You can read about border crossing regulations and other need-to-know topics online or in “Milepost,” but the Wagonmaster reminds you and speaks from experience.

10)  Camaraderie:  We feel fortunate that the people in our caravan were compatible and congenial.   A tour like we took can be grueling, so the voluntary socials provided a good opportunity to relieve some stress.  We appreciated the times when we stopped for coffee or lunch on the road and were joined by others who chose the same café.   One member of our group said she wanted to caravan so she had people to talk with for two months other than her husband.

11)  If you’re traveling alone where most areas have no cellphone service or people nearby, so you’re incapable of contacting road service (or police), it’s an advantage to be part of a group.

And now some minuses:

1)      Costs.  Not only are there administrative costs and a profit that needs to be made by the tour company built into the fee, but you pay for items you might skip when traveling on your own, including full-hook-up campgrounds where available.  Take into consideration the number of meals and events included, which varies by company, affects the cost.

2)      Budget.  If you can’t afford the upfront cost, then it makes the decision easier.

3)      Having to leave and arrive by a certain time.  Not being able to stay long in places that you like is a negative.  When you have to leave even if you didn’t get a chance to see a place because of rain or fog can make a long drive a trip to nowhere.  A planned caravan doesn’t allow you to stay waiting for good weather.

4)      If you want to stay in a town longer to fish, shop or because you know someone there, it doesn’t work with the caravan’s schedule.  And since distances in the Northwest are so great, it’s not like you can drive longer hours to catch up.

5)      You probably won’t know your Wagonmaster until you talk with him.  Some are “The General,” commanding their troops.  Others are easy going with a less structured attitude (based on what we have heard from others who have been on several caravans).  Whether one extreme or the other is better or somewhere in between, it depends on your preferences.

6)      You won’t know the members of the group until you meet them, and then it takes a few days or longer to adjust to the different personalities.

7)      Some RVers eat out every meal; others want to fix their own.  Some opt for the best restaurants; others look for low-cost fare.  It takes guts to say that you’d rather not eat at their selection.

Don’t think that just because we took a caravan tour and that the number of plusses is greater than the minuses that we’re indicating what you should choose.  Neither is a reason to make a decision.  Each aspect listed must be weighed based on your likes and dislikes – and, of course, your budget — and add to that any special needs and preferences you have.   It’s your vacation!

If you decide to do it on your own, from what we have seen during our two months in these mostly uninhabited vast wilderness areas, we strongly recommend that you travel with one or more rigs in your party.  Something as simple as a flat tire could cost you days without help.

As mentioned at the beginning, we will address the issue of costs and budgeting your tour in the next article.

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


14 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXIX Plusses/Minuses of a Caravan”

▪.  Gary on August 8th, 2010 4:34 pm  
You perfectly describe the major problem with caravans. SCHEDULES !! I don’t want to be tied to someone’s shirttails for any traveling. Didn’t grow up that way and as I/we got older, it has gotten even worse. Don’t like to have ant interference with our ideas of “seeing” what there is to see. I have enjoyed all of your reporting and what you have done. But now, we need the same thing about the, as you said, “lower 48″. You did hit upon the state of Washington and we need to keep that area a secret. Too many here now. Growing up there was plenty of room. Now, too much has been written and too many shows actually stating the fact that it doesn’t always rain. We get lots and most people then leave after a really WET winter. That happens all the time. Outta room. Thanks again. Have fun!!

▪.  Jane on August 8th, 2010 5:00 pm  
Thanks Barry and Monique….What a wonderful journey you guys have had…I tried to go to the web page you suggested to get the whole series of your adventures…but it did not come up…It came up with you and Monique profile, but nothing about your travels…we are traveling for four months and I wanted to print out the articles when we get home…any suggestions??  !!! Also to you, Gary….Do you have any friends? Sounds like you are very bitter and just into yourself….sorry for you…Jane

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on August 8th, 2010 6:06 pm  
That was a great summary of the good and the bad, as it pertains to caravans. I have followed your blog from the beginning and have picked up some of them already. Thank you for an excellent blog that answered many questions for me about both Alaska and caravanning. Enjoy the rest of your vacation.

▪.  Gene on August 8th, 2010 8:46 pm  
Thanks for the blog. I know it takes a lot of time & effort to put it together every day or so – particularly in such a readable & informative fashion. I’ve printed each chapter and have them all in a binder with the intention of shamelessly using them to sell the DW on a similar trip!
BTW – I have hyperlinks to all but the 1st 5 chapters and can forward them on to anyone that’s missed a chapter or two. Just send an email to: GBostwick@Hotmail.com
Thanks again.

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on August 8th, 2010 9:49 pm  
Traveled a number of times to the Yukon and Alaska and fortunately have not had any tire or mechanical issues, but in case, we are covered by the Good Sam plan. 
Barry and Monique. Did you when heading west to Prince Rupert from Smithers stop in Terrace either going through or coming back, and if so, what were your thoughts of this small town as I thoroughly like it there

▪.  Larry on August 9th, 2010 7:07 am  
How has your RV held up to this trip? I have a TT and not sure if it would withstand a trip such as that. 

[We had no problems, except we later realized that the housing for the heater had wriggled a bit, allowing a tiny aperture … that mice found worth exploring.  Any fairly durable rig should be able to survive the trip in good condition.]

▪.  Margaret on August 9th, 2010 7:48 am  
I looked forward every evening to read about your trip/events. (Of course, some evenings there were no accounts). Please continue to publish your activities anywhere you go. Right now I want to hear more on Prince Rupert; only because I’ve been there to catch the ferry north. Along the highway from Jasper, Alberta to Prince Rupert, BC there was a ‘Kingcaid’ moment along the highway. It was a pond with two white horses galloping into the darken lush woods. Thanks for all you write. Peace and Love.

▪.  Vulpine on August 9th, 2010 8:06 am  
I’ve been silently lurking at the side of the road, reading this series from the beginning. From my own (very) limited experience and the tales I have heard from others who have done the Alaska trip on their own, your list of advantages/disadvantages is extremely valid. 
Personally, probably the greatest advantage is the ‘Tailgunner’. The horror stories I have heard and read about the Alaska Highway point out that anything and everything can go wrong while you’re on that road, and unless you are well prepared and have at least some moderate mechanical skills, a breakdown could be critical. A blown tire may be the most common problem, but broken headlights, springs or other, even more severe damage is not out of the question. Considering the great distances between towns, it’s not like you can simply dial out on your cell phone for assistance.
I probably wouldn’t have tried the trip with a motorcoach or even conventional travel trailer, but I wouldn’t be afraid to try it with my Jeep and a trail-ready popup. Then again, I’m a paranoid type when it comes to RVing; I’ve done everything from Popups to Class A’s with my family and have seen both the positives and negatives of each one.
That said, the advantage of experienced guides also means that you get to see and do things you might never have considered had you tried the trip on your own. It’s a trip I want to make, but living effectively on the East Coast makes that adventure highly unlikely for me. I congratulate you on your successful Caravan and look forward to your final views on the trip.

▪.  henry wilgo on August 13th, 2010 4:20 pm  
Hey, reading and saving all your comments ,,, always wanted to go, got a 35 foot 5th wheel ,., but money is tight, and the biggest BUT, is that we the parents have to first deal with our son, 29yr old vet who is SUFFERING From THE BI-POLAR DESEASE ,,, a real bumpy road to say the very least.
it is just a joy to follow you, and your very well written and informative “hit the nail on the head” comments… thanks. henry and joanne,,,dad and mon (want to be ) full RV timers..

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVIII-B Useful Definitions Part B

This entry is part 31 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 7, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 13 Comments

This is the second installment in the 28th article in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

In yesterday’s edition, you learned that “Arctic Haze” is not a soul singer and “Chickaloon” is an insignificant village.  Here are some more definitions to guide you through your trip to the Canadian Northwest and Alaska:

Interior:  All of the center part of Alaska above and east of Fairbanks.  When you think of the remote, icy tundra and wilderness of Alaska, you are mostly thinking of the Interior.  In coastal and populated areas of the state (that is, not the Interior), you can buy bread and milk at affordable prices.

Lateral Moraine:  Rocks and debris pushed aside by glaciers during the many Ice Ages, which ran from about 11,000 to 3,000 years ago, and probably earlier.  There are also terminal moraines and others you’ll learn about as you travel the glacial regions.

Bear Glacier on the Glacier Highway. Moraines are the rocks & debris in front of and on the sides of glaciers.

Bear Glacier on the Glacier Highway. Moraines are the rocks & debris in front of and on the sides of glaciers.

Loony:  A $1 coin, and a “Tooney” is a $2 coin.  Folding money begins at $5.  Most other Canadian coins are easily confused with U.S. coins.

Lower 48:  The rest of the United States (except, of course, Hawaii)

Mukluks:  High boots designed and insulated for arctic wear, mostly made by natives from animal skins and fir.

Muskeg:  Mushy land through which the U.S. Army slogged to build the Alaskan (Alcan) Highway.

Muskox:    Very weird-looking creatures in the sheep family that are raised for their fine wool.  We have often seen bear, moose and Dall Sheep along the roads, but never a muskox.  Fact:  In book titles and references, muskox is spelled “musk ox” and “musk-ox.”

Northern Lights:  Also called the “aurora borealis.”  A phenomenon of nature that is said to be glorious, but since it happens when it is dark and therefore too cold for comfortable RVing, it would probably be wise to fly up to Alaska and stay in a B&B or hotel to see it.  And that brings up the concept of “The Land of the Midnight Sun.”  It takes a while to get used to walking outside at 1 a.m. on June 21 and seeing your shadow, but it’s part of the wonder of this land.  South of the Equator, there is the “borealis australis.”

Oosik:  Look it up!

Peduncle Slap:  When a whale comes out of the sea, as the last third of the whale hits the water, it makes a loud “peduncle slap.”  A very useless bit of information we learned from a boat skipper

Permafrost:  Under the surface of much of the earth is frozen organic material that has been there since the Ice Age.  At Destruction Bay, Yukon, it goes down about 160 feet.  Tough to build and maintain an RV park in those conditions.

Pigeon Guillemot:  One of many strange-named birds that we saw on our cruises.  Another was the kittiwake.  And speaking of birds, Bald Eagles are everywhere and always impressive.

Pigs:  Internally powered cylinders that are inserted into the Alaska Pipeline at pumping stations to clean out the insides of the 799-mile-long engineering marvel.

’64 Earthquake: On Good Friday 1964, an earthquake measuring 9.2 changed the geology of Alaska, compounded by three tsunamis.  The waterfront of many cities disappeared into the fjords and bays.  Towns were leveled and roads disappeared.  First Nation People were rescued by military and police forces, bringing about major changes in their cultures.  Films showing the devastation are horrifying.

Ulu:  How have you lived all your life without one of these native-perfected knives?  It slices, it dices, it fillets fish, it makes an excellent gift for folks back home, who have lived their whole lives without one.  I have mentioned in the past that there are 2.5 gift shops per tourist in these remote lands.  All of them have “ulus” for sale, and don’t forget the handcrafted bowl that goes with it.

A final note:  During the next few days and maybe weeks, our internet access will suffer greatly.  We are leaving the caravan a day early to head west to the Pacific Ocean while our group finishes up by traveling east for one last stop.  We plan to find quiet B.C. Provincial parks in which to recuperate from 57 days of intense ecstasy, but will stay in touch, continuing to write about what we experienced over the past two months, adding notes from what we learn before returning to the U.S.

Wednesday we bid farewell to Alaska ... but, we'll be back!!

Wednesday we bid farewell to Alaska … but, we’ll be back!!

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


13 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXVIII-B Useful Definitions Part B”

▪.  Full Timer Normie on August 7th, 2010 4:50 pm  
OMG…such a trip you have had…we have devoured every word of every post. Alas, someday it will be our turn. 
We thank you for your diligent, informative, funny, sad, beautiful, looney and tooney posts. Stay safe and warm and we hope to meet up with y’all one of these days in an RV park somewhere on this wondrous planet.

▪.  charles cox on August 7th, 2010 5:52 pm  
I’m curious – how do you plan to return to the lower 48? along the same route in reverse? very enjoying reading all your blogs and seeing the beautiful photos.

▪.  George Wharton on August 7th, 2010 6:06 pm  
In your definitions, you should say that loony and toonies are designations for Canadian money. 
Have enjoyed all your adventures so far.

▪.  Tom Funkhouser on August 7th, 2010 8:40 pm  
I have been following your trip since the beginning. I really enjoyed reliving many of the sights we saw on our 2006 Alaska trip. Your blog has really given us a reason to get our plans ready for another trip to “The North”.
One question I have – I think your caravan was going to end up in Stewart/Hyder. The highlight of our trip was the three days we spent watching grizzly bears catch salmon on Fish Creek. Do you have a report on what it was like this year?
Have a great trip back to the lower 48.

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on August 7th, 2010 8:51 pm  
Fact: In book titles and references, muskox is spelled musk ox and musk-ox. 
I’m sorry but I just couldn’t resist. The hair on the outside of an animal is sometimes spelled “FUR” and not Fir.
I absolutely loved your account of your trip and appreciate the effort put into writing it down for us.

▪.  Suzanne McWhirter on August 7th, 2010 9:53 pm  
Thank you for sharing your trip. Your information made up my mind about taking this trip. My husband and I are definitely going to do this.
Safe travels to you.

▪.  Jerry X Shea on August 7th, 2010 10:45 pm  
Great going, you guys. Take your time heading back and enjoy BC. We did the trip last year for 4 months and had a great time. Hope to run into you sometime.
For those of you that have not made the trip, stop putting it off and just go. Nothing will happen to you.

▪.  Peggy Dado on August 8th, 2010 1:10 am  
I have followed your trip and enjoyed it so much. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope one day we will be able to do it too.

▪.  Barbara Mull on August 8th, 2010 7:46 am  
Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. Reading your posts has been thoroughly enjoyable and brought back many wonderful memories of my time living there.

▪.  Bob in Florida on August 8th, 2010 8:27 am  
It appears Kurt noticed your spelling of Fir also.  Have followed your trip since Day One and have enjoyed each and every segment. Hope to make similar trip next year, but failing health may dictate. Keep up the good work and have a super safe trip back home.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on August 8th, 2010 10:46 am  
When we took our trip to Alaska, we crossed into Canada on our way up through North Dakota and on the way down we came through Seattle, Washington. We found central Canada to be rather boring; mostly flatlands and trees; whereas, British Columbia was beautiful. So if you have a choice of routes, take a western route through BC. It’s much more scenic.

▪.  ft-rver on August 8th, 2010 5:51 pm  
I’ve read them all and enjoyed your trip right along with you.
I did note however the reference to the Muskox being a member of the sheep family.(?)
Wikipedia defines it thus:
“The muskox (Ovibos moschatus) is an Arctic mammal of the Bovidae family, noted for its thick coat and for the strong odor emitted by males, from which its name derives. This musky odor is used to attract females during mating season.”

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVIII-A Useful Definitions Part A

This entry is part 30 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 3, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · Comments Off (Hoping this gets repaired soon)

This is the first installment of the 28th article in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to AlaskaT

Another adventure.  On our first night in Canada June 10, the caravan stayed in Oliver, British Columbia.  A few days after departing, an avalanche closed the road for a brief time behind us.  Not long after that we wrestled with the Top of the World Highway and won.  Weeks later the roadway was washed out and closed briefly.  Sunday the caravan left the Northern Beaver Post, Yukon Territory, convoy-style for the first time.  We drove about a quarter-mile where we waited for over an hour until we got clearance to travel narrow Hwy. 37 through a forest fire.  The road closed behind us.

Avalanches and Washouts Behind Us; Bears and Moose Crossing in Front of Us; Construction and Frost Heaves Under Us … What else could we contend with? Oh, yes, a forest fire.

Avalanches and Washouts Behind Us; Bears and Moose Crossing in Front of Us; Construction and Frost Heaves Under Us … What else could we contend with? Oh, yes, a forest fire.

Saturday night it rained – on the forest fire; Sunday and Monday were beautiful, short-sleeve weather.

As we bound into the final two days of our trip, we think about the chance to just relax for a few days in a quiet, oceanside park in British Columbia.  At the same time, we think about ending what has been an exciting adventure of a lifetime with three dozen people who have become close friends over the past two months.

We have tried to use these articles to give you some guidance on what to expect on your trip to western Canada and Alaska.  Rest assured, what you may have learned in these articles is only a smattering of information, and none of this does justice to the incredible world we have toured over the past weeks and which hopefully lies ahead for you.

Now, we are going to try to add to your knowledge with some definitions:

Fact:  A “fact” is what the tour guide tells you.  Another fact is that every tour guide and every information sign has a different number or name for the same fact.  The more we learn about the returning herds of caribou (also called “reindeer” if they are domesticated), the more confused we get as to the thousand that are roaming around.

Alaska Time Zone:  One hour earlier than Pacific Time.  Confusing at first, but it works.

Arctic Haze:  The North’s version of smog, mostly from industrial pollution and forest fires imported from Russia by prevailing winds.

Athabaskan:   The collective name for the Indians of Interior Alaska and Northwestern Canada and their language.  Athabaskans are closely related to the Navajos.  Of the roughly 19 native people languages still spoken in Alaska today, 11 are Athabaskan, so you hear that term often, particularly in the Alaskan Interior.  In Arctic regions, the people are Inupiaq.  Along the lower coast are the Yupik people.  Then there are the Aleuts (pronounced “Al-e-oots) around the Aleutian Islands.  The natives refer to themselves as the “First Nation People.”

Languages - 0622

Bore Tide:  A huge tide.  The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia is the world leader at over 50 feet.  “Turnagain Bay” in Alaska is either the second or third highest bore tide in the world at 23 or 28 feet.  And Wikipedia and local books disagree on who named Turnagain Bay and why and when.

Bush:  Areas in the Interior accessible only by air or intrepid dogsledding.  We met an artist who said he lived in “the Bush,” but by his garb, we think he meant “a bush.”

Centre:  The Canadian spelling of “center,” and there are “metres” here, but they have no problem with “otter.”  They also misspell “labour” and “humour” by U.S. standards.

Chickaloon:  A small town, river and loop road.  You don’t really need to know that, but it is indicative of the unique names in Alaska.  Tok (pronounced Tōk), Chicken, etc.

Drunken Spruce:  Undernourished spruce trees that lean in sundry directions.  They are part of miles of undernourished spruce forests with trees hundreds of years old but looking like new plantings because they try to survive on “permafrost.”

$8-a-gallon diesel:  When an outpost 180 miles from everywhere pays $1,000 a day for electricity, they have to make it up some way.  We were just glad they were there.

Fireweed:  Vibrant magenta wildflowers that line the roads throughout Yukon and Alaska in the summer.  It is the provincial flower of the Yukon, and locals know it as the harbinger of autumn.  Blossoms move up the stem as the summer draws to an end.

Fireweed in Its Glory and As the Summer Fades – Not a Sure Sign of the Seasons Because the Beautiful and Spent Are Only a Few Miles Apart

Fireweed in Its Glory and As the Summer Fades – Not a Sure Sign of the Seasons Because the Beautiful and Spent Are Only a Few Miles Apart

Frost Heaves:  If you don’t know this by now, you haven’t been reading these articles closely enough.  Roads and towns are built on permafrost, which melts and refreezes, creating havoc for engineers and keeping lots of summer workers busy.  Frost heaves cause RVs traveling down highways at 55 mph to leave the pavement suddenly.  Beware of frost heaves.

Glacial Flour:  Silt carried by millions of waterfalls throughout the area cascades down mountains and into rivers, lakes and fjords.  All emerald and aqua green waters get their enchanting, picturesque coloring from glacial flour.  On the other hand, the Nenana River on which I whitewater rafted was an ugly grey but carried soft silt down to the Yukon River.  I know – I took a voluntary dip overboard.

Tune in tomorrow for 15 more definitions you should know if you’re RVing to Alaska … things like a “peduncle slap” and “muskeg.”

Oh, by the way, we missed a turn-off today, when another black bear ambled across the road in front of us.

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

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVII Responding to You

This entry is part 29 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 30, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments

This is the 27th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Wednesday we arrived in Skagway, Alaska, after a long drive from Destruction Bay, Yukon.  The trip took us into two provinces (Yukon Territory and British Columbia) and one state (Alaska) and included two surprises.

Surprise 1 – The road out of Destruction Bay began as another of those horrid blacktops with jarring frost heaves that caused members of the caravan to be ready to stomp on the brakes at all times for about a hundred miles.  The tough part was that the highway was fine for a mile or two until we began bouncing unexpectedly.  Some spots were marked with signs or flags but most weren’t.  Caution, caution, caution! 

Surprise 2 – The second surprise was that this was one of the most awe-inspiring segments of the trip that we have encountered.  Monique called it “outrageous” because of the beauty.  Not only are the lakes, mountain, rivers and terrain gorgeous, but there are a variety of attractions along the way that slowed down our progress.  A “glacial desert” among the mountains, the historic village of Carcross, two interesting bridges and other unexpected sights begged us to make roadside stops.

"Outrageous," "Awe-Inspiring," Call it what you will, the drive to Skagway (top right) is worth taking the bumps in the road

“Outrageous,” “Awe-Inspiring,” Call it what you will, the drive to Skagway (top right) is worth taking the bumps in the road

Skagway is a major port of call for cruise ships, many of which carry more passengers and crew than the town’s population where it docks.  The ocean tourists tear down the ramp at the harbor and immediately rush into town to soak up a few minutes of history before or after visiting the dozens of jewelry stores and other shops selling things they didn’t know they needed.  A few hours later, they’re back on deck comparing the bargains they think they got.

We spent last winter in Key West, Florida, which is another cruise ship port, but it has held much of its characters, probably because of the characters who live there.  Skagway, on the other hand, according to locals, has changed in the past six or so years to accommodate those passengers sprinting through town.  Some do get to take the ride up the fantastic road on which we arrived, but probably most stay within sight of the massive bows of the ships at the end of Broadway.

Monique is out today, Friday, on a National Park Service-led walking tour of the town, and later we’ll head for the hills to visit sites important during Klondike gold rush days.

An Orca ("Killer Whale") comes alongside as we cruised to Juneau

An Orca (“Killer Whale”) comes alongside as we cruised to Juneau

Now for some responses to your comments:

Traveling in Truck Campers:  To the response about truck campers being the best way to see the Far North, that does seem to be a very practical way to visit Yukon and Alaska, but it’s not necessary.  We are of the opinion that you’re better off choosing an RV to fit your lifestyle, not just for a long trip.  We see every type of RV on the roads and in parks.  No one seems to have any special problems.  Age of the rig shouldn’t matter, but it’s strongly recommended that it be in good condition for the trip.  It will get a workout.

Toads:  I checked with Wagonmaster Ken and Tailgunner Spence about damage to towed vehicles.  They both said it’s not an issue.  The damages done could have happened anywhere on North American roads.  Yes, there is rough riding up here, but you quickly learn to take it slow and watch for problem areas.  If you’re worried, take it even slower – nobody behind you will get mad.

Pull-outs:  Earlier we reported that many pullouts have “No Camping” signs.  That was probably in just a few places.  We have since seen lots of pullouts with RVs apparently staying for a few hours, a day or longer with no restrictions.

Mosquitoes: They have only bothered us a couple of times.  We’ve gotten bitten by insects much more often in the lower 48 (but we’ve been bitten hard by the bug to return to Alaska, maybe even in winter when the Northern Lights are visible).

Reservations:  We don’t know for sure because our caravan planners took care of that for us.  Getting into private campgrounds early is probably a safe bet, like around 4 p.m.  Most of the campground owners seem to try hard to accommodate everyone, even if it means providing dry-camping spaces.  There are lots of public campgrounds in most places, and, again, the roadside stops seem like good “resting” places.  Don’t expect to find back roads to snuggle into – most off-the-highways roads aren’t suitable for rigs.

As RVers, we think of night as dark.  In Skagway in late July, which is in the southwest, we have about 16 hours of light, 5 hours of dusk and 3 hours of night.  In mid-summer in mid-Alaska, it turns to dusk for about three hours per day.  It’s not the type of darkness that makes the night scary.

Wooden Bowls:  Dubie still makes the bowls of black spruce burls and hiking sticks of diamond willow.  We and several others in our group bought beautiful folding tables in Destruction Bay made of laminated birch, aspen, cedar and oak with spruce legs, and some had a strip of purple heart embedded.  Those are handcrafted by Evalt Miller of Burns Lake.

This century-old "Thunderbird House" panel of the Shangookeidi Clan, Yakutal Tlinglit welcomes visitors to the Alaska State Museum near the State Capitol in Juneau

This century-old “Thunderbird House” panel of the Shangookeidi Clan, Yakutal Tlinglit welcomes visitors to the Alaska State Museum near the State Capitol in Juneau

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


6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXVII Responding to You”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 30th, 2010 4:56 pm  
What Alaskans do get a little angry about is RVers from the Lower 48 who ignore the signs that say it is illegal to delay 5 vehicles behind you. This means “PULL OVER” when you start to see them stack up behind you.
 It is a law in Alaska. That’s why there are so many turnouts. But don’t hurt yourself trying to pull over where there are no turnouts. We’ll wait for you to get to one.
 And yes almost all of them allow camping as much as you like. A week even. Most don’t say “no overnight camping.”
We’re known to just pull over anyplace we get tired.

And come back the last week of February and the first week of March. Fur Rondy, Iditarod, Ice Castles in Fairbanks, Northern Lights.

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on July 30th, 2010 5:21 pm  
Please don’t forget to give us a tally of the total fuel costs for your trip. It would be appreciated.

▪.  Peggy from Texas on July 30th, 2010 8:57 pm  
Thanks again for your write up of your travels and passing on what you have seen… I’ve said this before that we rode to Alaska twice, two-up on a 1998 Harley 1200 Sportster then a 2009 Harley TriGlide…
Believe it was riding through British Columbia then into Yukon Territory where there were many pullouts where there was a warning ‘not to pull in and/or park’ as there were gas pipes above ground and very dangerous per the signs…
You mention your ride into Skagway and pictures… On August 3, 2009 we rode on our TriGlide from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Skagway, Alaska, USA via Klondike Hwy 2 – through town of Carcross, over the wooden-planked bridge, etc – absolutely awesome…
If you click on our site http://triglide.multiply.com – photos – page 3 – album named 2009-08-03 Whitehorse to Skagway, click on first picture then click on slideshow – 171 pictures… View from the Rear as I took pictures all along the roads we traveled… Then click on album named 2009-08-03 Skagway – click on first picture then slideshow – 45 pictures of Skagway…
What I liked being in Skagway, Alaska, USA was I could use my cell phone to call family in lower 48 and not as an International call which would have been from Canada…
We never worried about the price of gas – always used high test for any of the Harleys – but the gas was a necessity for our travels throughout the country, we didn’t let it stop us from riding…
By the way, I just bought a 32′ Jayco, Class C as I’ll be a full-time RV’r…
Peggy (cubbear)

▪.  Barbara Mull on July 31st, 2010 7:53 am  
I’d like to echo Lynne’s suggestions about timing of a winter trip to Alaska – late Feb, early March. Fur Rendezvous (Rondy) is a 2-week time of carnival in Anchorage. By that time in the winter you usually need some diversion so the events are kind of wacky – like the outhouse race, snowshoe softball, etc. You can see more about Rondy at http://www.furrondy.net/. You can also view the World Championship Dog Sled Race during Rondy – amazing to see how those dogs love running. And Fairbanks is a great place to see the Northern Lights – less city light there. You might try the Aurora Borealis Lodge http://www.auroracabin.com/ or Chena Hot Springs Resort if you’d like a warm soak as well http://www.chenahotsprings.com/ You might also see ice fog (sometimes with a mirage) or sundogs. Just be prepared with lots of warm clothing, including boots. Winter in Alaska is a fine time. Since I moved back to North Carolina I’ve been impressed with how much darker country roads are here at night than they are in Alaska where there’s lots of white, bright snow cover from Oct to April/May.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVI The Weather in Alaska

This entry is part 28 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 27, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 13 Comments

This is the 26th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Our caravan has arrived at its 23rd stop in 48 days.  We have seen an incredible amount of geography from Washington State through British Columbia and Alaska, with a glimpse of Alberta. This series has focused, not on the scenery, history or wildlife, but on our experiences as RVers taking part in a caravan.  There have been dozens of side trips, excursions, cultural talks and events that haven’t been included, but they have definitely contributed to this journey-of-a-lifetime.

Bad Road - 0238

We are still finding more RV-related topics to discuss as we enter the final 10 days of our caravan and probably after that, but we’re always interested in what else you want to know about the trip.   Please let us know in the Comments Section.

THE WEATHER – Can you image the shock if you sat down at a Blackjack table in Las Vegas and were dealt 10 Blackjacks in a row?  That’s the thrill that Monique and I have felt over the past six weeks.  While we have had dreary, chilly days along the way, rainy nights and travel days, it seems like clouds have parted and the sun came out for every tour and daylong cruise on our route.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, it may be that the Creator of all this beauty wanted us to see it at its best so we could convey our excitement to readers in words and pictures.  The weather has just been too awesome.

We aren’t experts on the weather, particularly as it relates to the territories we have covered, but we do know that you probably don’t want to be in Alaska or the Yukon between late September and early May.  If you’re very adventurous and think you can defy the odds, forget it.  Almost everything RVers need closes for those months.  The RV parks drain their systems and pour in a form of antifreeze, lock up their electric system, close the gates and head for more tolerable climates.  Most gas stations – and there aren’t many to begin with – do the same.  Inns, also.  Locals travel by dogsled, seriously, often over frozen roads and rivers; intercity travel is by floatplanes or planes that land on ice.  Mostly, though, folks up here don’t travel much at all.

Priscilla at an RV gift shop said that she doesn’t go from Valdez to Anchorage when there’s a winter storm.  Thompson Pass gets 350 inches of snow a year and up to 800 inches.  In Valdez on the south coast, winter temperatures don’t get all that cold, only to minus-20 usually, but there is a constant 25 mile-an-hour wind, gusting up to 80.  The school bus in Tok is still picking up kids when it’s minus-73.

When the mercury drops to those levels, car batteries explode and metal cracks.  Those were some of the circumstances faced by workers building the Alcan Highway and the TransAlaska Pipeline.  When you get up here and see films on those projects, you’ll begin to appreciate the enormity of those tasks.  Infrastructure isn’t big on our list of interests.  However, seeing the weather conditions they encountered and the faces of those who ”got ‘er dun,” you’ll understand our admiration.

Come to Yukon and Alaska in June, July and August and you should have no problem.  Our preparations for the trip included 1) leaving some unnecessary stuff at a son’s house; 2) having the truck and RV checked over by a professional, 3) buying a spare fuel filter, and 4) putting a screen over the front of the car to intercept rocks and bugs.  Nothing else.  It’s been t-shirt weather for most of our trip, augmented by sweats and jackets when appropriate, like in front of glaciers.

If on your trip to Alaska you find yourself without adequate clothing for an unexpected change in the weather, have no fear.  There is a gift shop nearby selling a wide variety of jackets and sweatshirts emblazoned with logos you will want to show off when you return home.

You wouldn’t expect the weather to be the same in Chicago, New Orleans, Denver, Vermont and San Diego on any given day.  Alaska has its own variety of weather conditions, from Fairbanks to Skagway (the RV drive-able places).  It’s not all cold or pristine clear.  Variations in different areas of the coastal regions are caused by ocean currents, glaciers, mountains ranges, elevation and more.  As you head into the Interior, like Fairbanks, it’s colder, but in Juneau 800 miles away, things are totally different.  Ketchikan in the south enjoys 14 feet of precipitation a year.

Monday’s journey from Tok, Alaska, to Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, a distance of 225 miles, was among the worst stretches of highway we have ever faced – we were told it’s worse than the drive to Chaco Canyon, Arizona, which Monique and I have heard is the worst.  Frost heaves, construction, mud, gravel, moose, bears and only a couple of diesel fuel stops stood in our way, but we made it (on fumes).  Even the most experienced RVers in our group reported damage to their rigs.


Looking out over dwarfed spruce in a permafrost field &, at right, the Alaska Pipeline makes its way across 799 miles of terrain

Looking out over dwarfed spruce in a permafrost field &, at right, the Alaska Pipeline makes its way across 799 miles of terrain

The weather for the trip was drizzle, then beautiful, puffy clouds over the majestic peaks in the distance – and we arrived with the air conditioner on.

The message for today is that if you want to be comfortable during your visit, pick months that offer the best chance of warm weather.  Nothing you can do about the rain and low-lying clouds, so focus on temperatures.

Mama Moose and youngster & Mama Bear teaches three offspring the art of salmon fishing

Mama Moose and youngster & Mama Bear teaches three offspring the art of salmon fishing

Incidentally, as we get used to the “Land of the Midnight Sun” effect, it’s beginning to get dark for a few hours a night.  I guess we’ll get used to seeing stars again in a couple of weeks.

In Destruction Bay, population 30, we encountered "Loose Gravel," a professional-quality band with Loren, our campground host, on the drums

In Destruction Bay, population 30, we encountered “Loose Gravel,” a professional-quality band with Loren, our campground host, on the drums

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


13 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXVI The Weather in Alaska”

▪.  John A. Kerr on July 27th, 2010 5:28 pm  
In Oct 1973 my family and I were reassigned from Ft Carson, CO, to Ft Wainwright, Fairbanks, AK. We traded our 1969 Winnebago for a 1973 20-ft Winnebago Brave, hooked our Jeep on behind and headed off for the Alcan Highway. We encountered everything from rain to snow to beautiful conditions on our drive up on the dirt/rock road. We encountered no problems with either fuel or RV parking on the trip up. On arrival at Ft Wainwright I learned that my assignment had been changed and I was to report to Ft Richardson, Anchorage, AK, where we spent the next 3 years. We utilized our coach year round and learned quickly that you had to have an engine heater, a heated oil dipstick and a battery heater. We were limited to only a few campgrounds during the winter, but during the summer months we encountered no problems. You did learn to come around bends in the road slowly to ensure that moose, bear or caribou were not “lounging” on the warm asphalt pavement. We were never bothered by any animals in the camping areas during the summer or winter, though we did learn to look before we ventured out of the coach.
The weather is extremely unpredictable so you learn to have clothing for all seasons in the coach. A good folding snow shovel got us out of trouble on several occasions. If you are going to go in the winter make sure that you carry plenty of food, water, and I might suggest a set of chains as they may be needed for some of the roads. Also be prepared to encounter roads that are closed for periods of time due to snow.
Go to Alaska, whether by yourself or in a caravan, and experience the beauty of the state. Beauty that you cannot find anywhere else in the United States. The summer is of course the ideal time to visit, but I would not rule out fall, winter or spring. Just go prepared and be ready to encounter weather the likes of which you have never before seen.
Alaska is an adventure and one that I would recommend to anyone.

▪.  Constance on July 27th, 2010 5:49 pm  
I lived all over the Northwest Territories and Alaska as a child, and I do not recommend travel in an RV on those roads in the winter. Perhaps a 4-wheel drive Pickup camper or even pulling a small trailer.
The last few years have been mild compared to the years I spend there. Visitors and newbies are often ignorant of conditions, which is how my eyeball fluid got frozen the first year we were there…caused permanent damage to my eye muscles.

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 27th, 2010 6:28 pm  
Alaska’s best season is winter. The Northern Lights and clear skies and mountains so clear. Quiet, peaceful. No bears. No mosquitoes or no-see-ums up your nose. Just peaceful contemplation.

▪.  Bob Derivan on July 27th, 2010 6:54 pm  
Stumbled onto your blog and have enjoyed it immensely. We drove to Alaska from Arizona alone last summer. We did encounter vehicle problems in isolated areas such as The Yukon and it would have been nice to have a caravan to help but we wouldn’t trade the experience for any place we’ve been. We spent the whole summer in Moose Pass on the Kenai. You drove through it on the Seward Hwy from Anchorage to Seward. Your blogs have brought back many great memories. We hope to someday do it again. I do agree that anyone who gets the chance to do it, to take it. They won’t be disappointed. Our most exciting experience was on the way home. We were driving North on the George Parks Hwy between Anchorage and Fairbanks and we too had been told chances of seeing Denali were slim. But as we turned the curve at Willow, there she was standing high and proud. We were still 160 miles away but were able to take many gorgeous photos of the Great Mountain. Although we were hoping to visit Denali up close, we were delayed in Wasilla again because of vehicle problems and missed the park closing for the season by one day, that experience enough we will remember for a lifetime. Travel safe.

▪.  Ron Thill on July 27th, 2010 11:33 pm  
We’re thinking about driving to Alaska next summer. I’m surprised you’ve not said much about mosquitoes or no-see-ums. I assumed they’d be a constant harassment throughout much of Alaska. Also, is it necessary to make RV park reservations along the Alcan Highway if one departs early (say by 6 or 7 a.m.) and only travels for 5-7 hours? Are there lots of boondocking sites along the Alcan Highway that would be considered RV friendly – – i.e., reasonably level, plenty of room to get in and out, not too rocky, etc. We won’t be in a caravan, so large boondocking sites aren’t a concern. Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us.

▪.  Roger Garner on July 28th, 2010 5:03 am  
To Ron Thill’s questions, I would respond: forget about the mosquito stories. They’re no worse than a lot of places in the lower 48. Wind drives them away, so camp on a site that catches the wind. The ‘king of the road’ for this kind of trip is a pickup camper without a toad. The versatility of a truck rig will allow you to do many things you won’t get to do otherwise. Boondocking opportunities are everywhere in Canada and AK, but it takes the clearance of a pickup (preferably 4-wheel drive) to get to many of them. By planning to pitch camp before 4:00 I’ve never had trouble finding hookups. Long daylight hours cause people to drive later, thus waiting too late to find full-service vacancies. When you are in remote areas remember to fuel up when your tank is down to ½. Thanks Barry & Monique for a wonderful travelogue.

▪.  Kenneth Hospital on July 28th, 2010 7:21 am  
Thanks for telling us about your trip . We did this same trip a few years back with a tour and it was great. The only way to see Alaska is by RV . The road to Destruction Bay sounds the same as when we were there … bad . Thank for the great stories .

▪.  Bob Wiggs on July 28th, 2010 7:51 am  
I have really enjoyed reading your Blog. We drove the ALCAN last year to Alaska and had a BALL. This was our 1st time there and we could not get over all the beautiful scenery we saw. We’ve never been able to see Moose, Bears, Dall Rams on the road. We had such a good time, we’re planning a second trip in 2011 and plan to stay till about mid SEP in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. Happy Trails Bob.

▪.  Dale Kincaid on July 28th, 2010 10:59 am  
Was or is Dubie still making bowls out of Black Spruce Burls at Destruction Bay?
He had a workshop behind the RV office. He was making some beautiful bowls back in 2003 when we went through there with Adventure Caravans.

[Yes, he sold several to our group, and after we bought a beautiful folding table from him, others in the group followed suit.]

▪.  roland lajoie on July 29th, 2010 10:01 am  
Of most interest is the toll that the roads are doing to the RV’s, i.e. tow trailer, 5th wheels , and particular to the motorhomes . You have talked of losing windshields, etc. ; what other damages have occurred to vehicles and how about toads?, are toads being taken along on this trip . We are trying to plan this trip to Alaska and most interested at this point of potential damage to vehicles; as the writings seem to indicate, roads over/all are not very good . Any information you can give would be appreciated. Trying to decide what vehicle to tow / leave somewhere else in storage and how to prepare for what appears to be a bumpy but toll / taking trip. 
Thanks for any help you may be .

▪.  Jimmie McElrea on July 29th, 2010 5:59 pm  
I am missing Part XVI of Our Alaska Trip and would like you to email or repost the blog. I am enjoying your blog tremendously. Thank you

▪.  Cathy on April 7th, 2011 8:41 pm  
Thanks for this blog. We are planning an RV trip to AK and these personal accounts are priceless! I had to comment on this Part since we have driven the Chaco Canyon entrance road. The rough part is only about 13 miles long, not 225! 
I wonder just how slow you had to go and how long it took you. We have a short Class A and had to go less than 10 mph into Chaco or it sounded like the whole thing would rattle apart. It was worth it. If you are towing a trailer, maybe you don’t hear or heed all that rattling?

Our Alaska Trip Part XXV Time Is Precious

This entry is part 27 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 24, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments

This is the 25th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Let’s start with a question:  “What is Wrangell-St. Elias?”  [answer below]

Our caravan is designed to give us a sampler of what Alaska has to offer.  It’s like trying to see all of Colorado or North Carolina in two days.  It makes us want to come back to spend more time here.  The biggest difference is the time factor.  We drive 180-300 miles between destinations, and there are numerous things to see along the way.

Thursday, we stopped for glaciers and waterfalls, sped by moose and looked at towering, snow-covered mountains.  When we arrived at our campground, our fellow caravaners asked if we stopped at the railroad tunnel, site of a shoot-out, and other notable places. Others said they had just gotten back from the other side of the bay, where Mama Bear was showing her three cubs how to catch fish.  The dozens of people salmon fishing had to scurry out of the way while they ate. Too much!

Our strong suggestion is that you try to spend as much time in Alaska as your resources allow.   Around every corner are more wonders to behold.

Whether you are into just passively enjoying the splendor of the scenery or are interested in more active pursuits – like fishing and hunting; photography and bird-watching; whitewater rafting and kayaking; native culture, homesteaders’ living conditions; mining history; geology and the northern lights (in the winter); hiking and biking, or the many more things that have filled us with excitement – you’ll need time to see it all.  And since Alaska is a long drive from the Lower 48, it’s not a trip most people will make more than once (I hope we will be back in a few years).

We have delved into most of those pursuits and know there is much more we haven’t seen or done that would we like to experience.  We know that can be said of everywhere in America and Canada, but in Alaska it’s all so immense.  Unfortunately, the distances between most spots are great, so what takes a few hours to get to elsewhere takes a day of driving here.

Our Catamaran, The Valdez Spirit, Plows Through Ice to Reach the Glacier

Our Catamaran, The Valdez Spirit, Plows Through Ice to Reach the Glacier

Another reason to have more time is the weather.  We have been extremely lucky on our tour.  The rain has passed and the sun has greeted us on just about every scenic and history tour we have taken.  But cruise boats don’t go out in heavy fog, Mt. McKinley hides from Denali visitors most days, and a walking tour of Dawson City with dirt streets could be miserable in the rain.

A Close-Up View of the Imposing Meares Glacier

A Close-Up View of the Imposing Meares Glacier

While our visit has been fantastic, the one thing we have missed the most is having the opportunity to get to know locals, which mostly means people who have been here 7 to 35 years.  By the very nature of wanting to live in Alaska, they are interesting, usually different, and probably fun to talk with.  Those we have met fall into those categories, so we wish we could spend more time getting to know them.

Rafts of Sea Otters Were Comic Relief on our 10-hour Cruise

Rafts of Sea Otters Were Comic Relief on our 10-hour Cruise

One of our caravan buddies, who has been the butt of many jokes about sleeping through lots of the best nature tours and cruises, startled me Thursday when he said he would love to move here.  Alaska is that kind of place … people come for a visit and then, like our boat skipper Friday, go back home, pack up what they need and make this their permanent home.  It happens all the time.  Think about it.


And now for the answer to the question at the beginning of tonight’s blog:  Wrangell-St. Elias is America’s largest National Park.  At 13.2 million acres, it’s six times the size of Yellowstone. The park contains the entire Wrangell Mountain Range and most or parts of three other ranges.  Nine of America’s 16 highest mountains are here. There are two roads going into it and 9.6 million acres is wilderness, which means no motorized vehicles equipment allowed.  So how is it that you never heard of Wrangell-St. Elias?  We have visited 39 of the 56 national parks plus lots of national memorials (like Mount Rushmore), etc., and we never heard of it either.  And, oh yeah, what we’ve seen – albeit a very small area – was an unexpected, spectacular treat as we drove along miles of its border.


Peaks Peek Through at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Peaks Peek Through at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park


We considered taking one of those remote roads into the park from Valdez, where we are staying until we computed that it would be a 350-mile round trip, plus a hike and a $50 fee to tour a 14-story mill.

Maybe next time …

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


6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXV Time Is Precious”

▪.  Karla and George Gallagher on July 24th, 2010 8:40 pm  
Hi Barry and Monique,
My husband and I have been following your Alaska trip with a great deal of interest. We have lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for 40 years and just retired to become full-time RV’ers this fall. We are both retired as of July 1 of this year and are looking forward to adventures on the road.
Many visitors do not realize the vastness of our state and that you cannot see everything in one visit. We hope that if you are in Anchorage or the surrounding area that you would contact us and we would love to meet up with you and others in your caravan.
 I do not know if this message will give you my email because I a new at this forum. I am on Facebook – Karla Gallagher, Anchorage, Alaska.

▪.  Tim Millington on July 24th, 2010 10:32 pm  
Next time take the tour to see the copper processing building at McCarty. We did in 2007 and it was one of the best trips of our 10 weeks in Alaska. We got to meet the locals and had a wonderful experience in the park. I have enjoyed your blog and thank you for posting your travels.

▪.  Dick Tracy on July 25th, 2010 1:07 am  
My wife and I are here in Alaska on our 2nd RV trip to this wonderful land. First time was in ‘05 right after I retired and we made it a 125-day trip. Back again this year for nearly the same. 
I have enjoyed reading your blog but think you shorted yourself this time by not at least going into the Wrangell St. Elias visitors center just off the highway below Glennallen. [We did visit the center.]  We drove our Saturn SL toad into the park over the McCarthy Road on both trips. This year was far easier as the road in has been greatly improved to a good gravel route and only 59½ miles each way. We even took an unanticipated 90+ minute flightseeing this year from McCarthy out over the Bagley Icefield and the mountains. A trip that started at 7 PM and the light cast great shadows that allowed the contour of all the snow shapes to stand out brilliantly. You can tour the mine facilities on your own, too. It is well worth the trip so be sure to include it on any future opportunities.

▪.  Jim Mahan on July 26th, 2010 6:13 am  
What special equipment do you recommend for your RV, i.e. Arctic package, etc.?

▪.  Craig on July 26th, 2010 7:53 am  
How do I find this whole series ? We too are heading North next summer and would love to take advantage/ be aware of your adventure. Thanks, Craig