Our Alaska Trip Part IV En Route to Canyon Hot Springs

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

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

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

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

Lake Kalamalaka, “The Lake of Many Colors.”

Lake Kalamalaka, “The Lake of Many Colors.”

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

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

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

Beautiful Scenes Along the Road

Beautiful Scenes Along the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Alaska Trip Part VIII New Horizons

This entry is part 9 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 18, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 11 Comments

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

Wednesday our travels took us out of the Jasper National Forest of British Columbia, Canada, and into pastureland.  The absolutely stunning vistas we have been exposed to for the past few days have faded into memory, with the help of pictures, and now we’re on to new horizons.

The 185-mile drive wasn’t anything to yawn about.  It still held our interest, but the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies and Caribou Mountains that lined the left and right of the highway had much less snow and fewer precipitous faces than we had seen for the past week.

Mama & Cubs 7295What kept us scanning the roadsides today?  Well, Mama black bear and two cubs paused from their browsing to check us out.  An elk went springing across an open expanse, thrusting on its hind legs.

At an Ancient Cedar Forest we hiked into a recently found grove of Western RedCedar Hugging 7331 Cedars made up of tall trees believed to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old.  At the end of one part of the trail is a And it really is big:  16 feet in diameter.  Interpretive signs along the path answered questions we didn’t remember asking.  One of my favorite bits of information was that cedars grow in circles for unknown reasons, somewhat like “crop circles and fairy circles.”

The grove was thick with cedars and mosquitoes, because nature puts cedars in damp places, also the natural habitat of ‘skeeters.

Finishing touches are put on Chief O'Darda

Finishing touches are put on Chief O’Darda

And one more stop before we headed to our rendezvous campground for the evening.  Exiting the town of McBride, B.C., we crossed the highway to take a look at carvings by a local eccentric who displays his artwork at the highway intersection.  Monique found several characters she would have liked to adopt but settled on one, now called “Chief O’Darda,” named after the carver.

Since you’ll be driving through Canada on your way to Alaska, it’s a good idea to know conversions.  I was trying to buy bread for a shilling and six pence, but was corrected.  It costs five dollars.  How many liters of air do you put in your tyres?  Okay, that’s all nonsense, but it’s a good idea to become familiar with Canadian conversions before you enter our neighbor’s country.

Most important is knowing speed limits.  It’s probably on your speedometer, but it might be hard to find when you need it.  I taped the conversions to my steering wheel.  Distances are in kilometers, each of which equals 0.62 of a mile.  Each 3.78 litres of fuel equals a gallon.  It’s also convenient to have a chart for temperature and weights.

More about costs here.  It’s not all as bad as you might think.  Gas is about 83 to 97 cents a liter, but today we paid $2.00 a liter at the top of a mountain.  I only put in four liters or $8 for less than one gallon.  For reference, today we hit 1,000 miles on the trip at a total cost of $225 for diesel, which is about the same as regular, and we average 10.9 mpg.

One Less 'Skeeter in the Cedar Fores

One Less ‘Skeeter in the Cedar Fores

Several commenters to these blogs have suggested I add a map of our route.  Between the traveling, touring, blog-writing and trying to keep up with regular chores, it may take a few days to comply, but I will put together a map soon.

Incidentally, today our caravan grew to 18 rigs, with four couples joining us.  Our wagonmaster, tailgunner and their wives hosted a potluck get-acquainted dinner on the lawn of our campground.

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

Comments

11 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part VIII New Horizons”

▪.  Chris Clarke on June 18th, 2010 12:17 pm  
It looks like you’re headed along the Yellowhead Highway (16) and will be going through Prince George (PG – probably already there). At that point you have two options to get to Alaska – heading north up to Dawson Creek (Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway) or continuing west to a place called Kitwanga where you can head up the Stewart-Cassiar highway that ties in to the Alaska highway about 20 Kms west of Watson Lake north of the 60th Parallel. 
The Stewart-Cassiar highway (#37) is very scenic but the road is rougher than the one out of Dawson Creek, but many RVers have taken it both ways. If you’re going the Stewart-Cassiar route and drive a diesel there’s a few things to know. From McBride to PG there is no place really to get diesel and the price of gasoline along that route is outrageous. At PG things and prices get a lot more civilized (it’s just the odor from the local pulp mills that you may have to deal with) Should you go west from PG the next place for fuel would be Vanderhoof and no problem on to Burns Lake, but past Burns Lake it gets a bit dicey for diesel so planning ahead is important.
Houston (BC) may be your next planned stop for diesel but there is only one location for it (the UFA Co-op) and they are not open on weekends. It’s a card access location but the attendant will help you to fill up and pay via credit card or cash. For some reason, Shell & Husky both shut down service stations in Houston and Shell closed down in Smithers as well.
If you are in this area you have reached some more glorious scenery and one of the prime steelhead fishing areas in the Pacific Northwest. I have made an annual pilgrimage to the Bulkley and some of the other rivers around there for the past twenty 5 years and will be back there at the end of September again.
If you go north out of Prince George enjoy the Alaska Highway that the troops built back in wartime as a strategic need.
Happy to hear that you enjoy our part of “God’s Country”.
PS: Google Earth can give a good overview of the routings.

▪.  Chris Clarke on June 18th, 2010 12:22 pm  
Sorry for the lousy spelling – I will make a better effort to proofread if I post again. Age and rapidly disappearing grey cells might be my only defense.

▪.  Mary Dale Underwood on June 18th, 2010 8:58 pm  
I lived in Alaska for 12 years and have driven the Alcan twice. Reading your blog makes me want to hitch-up my travel trailer and join you. Thank you for your wonderful blog, I look forward reading everyone several times. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll have a truck and join a group heading north.
Have a safe one ….. mare

▪.  Nancy on June 19th, 2010 3:53 pm  
Have enjoyed your travels and am revisiting our journey to Canada/Alaska last year. It was all absolutely incredible. 
I’m interested in what camera you are using. There are some amazing pictures.
Enjoy

▪.  Dick and Cindy on June 20th, 2010 8:06 am  
On our trip up the Al-Can to Alaska in early 2009 we happened through a town that looked like it was having a festival and it had all these wonderful wood carvings everywhere as we drove through. I looked it up in our travel book and saw that this was the annual wood carving festival in McBride. Unfortunately, Dick didn’t like all the crowds and vehicles and so we didn’t get to stop! I think it should be one of the many things/events to consider in planning a trip up there!

▪.  robert on June 20th, 2010 8:40 pm  
Barry and Monique,
I wouldn’t lay it on so thick with the conversions. You are travelling through Canada, your largest trading partner and the largest importer or your oil and gas. I own two cars, each showing kilometers per hour in large font and miles per hour in smaller font. Conversely, my class A motorhome, purchased in the USA has miles per hour in large font than the kilometers per hour which are also shown. If you find it necessary to tape the conversions to your steering wheel you are probably challenged, and for those unfortunates who actually are, I won’t detail how. Enjoy your travels through the second largest country in the world, after Russia, and try not to obsess over the fact that you are not in the USA. You will enjoy the experience much more, and not sound like the stereotypical, obnoxiou American tourist that has been portrayed in so many of your movies.

▪.  robert on June 20th, 2010 8:43 pm  
Correction, I said we are the largest importer of your oil and gas, we are the LARGEST SUPPLIER OF YOUR OIL AND GAS. Unfortunately, it does cost a little more up here:)

▪.  jim on June 26th, 2010 10:59 am  
like your story. makes me want to pack 5th wheel and head to Alaska again. Very nice scenery all the way.

▪.  Lennie on June 26th, 2010 11:05 am  
Sirius radio is the only radio that will work in the mountains – LOL just don’t let your subscription run out half way thru the Pine Pass like I did. Makes for a boring solo trip with no music when it’s raining! Lucky guys we loved our trip to Alaska and you make us want to pack up and head there again.

▪.  boat rentals in orange county on August 16th, 2012 11:59 am  
Fortunately for me, I have done this trip with my family and I. It was amazing and yes there is no radio reception in the mountains once you get out in the wilderness. Alaska is the last frontier in America and I hope it intends to stay that way. Thank you for the article.

Our Alaska Trip Part XI The Alaska Highway

This entry is part 12 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 24, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 22 Comments

This is the 11th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

“Those people who turned back are more focused on the destination than the journey.”  Monique Zander

WiFi – FINALLY!  We haven’t had WiFi available for a few days, including Thursday morning when all power was out in the metropolis of Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.  It’s part of the journey.  To celebrate being connected again, this edition of Our Alaska Trip blog is divided into two parts:  1) Notes on our travels and 2) Impressions of RVing to Alaska.

CHAPTER 1 – THE LONG, BORING ALASKA HIGHWAY

 This Is the Scene Before Us for Many of 1,500 Miles of the Alaska Highway

This Is the Scene Before Us for Many of 1,500 Miles of the Alaska Highway

When we left off on our blog two days ago, we were excited about the prospect of feeling the rubber on our 10-ply tires rolling onto the famous Alcan Highway, which is officially the “Alaska Highway” because it was built by the U.S. Army in 1942 to get materiel to Alaska needed to head off a Japanese invasion.  It was originally called the Pioneer Highway and the Military Highway … now is officially Hwy. 97.

At about 9:50 a.m. we were on the road headed toward Fort Nelson, B.C., and then the fun began … and faded.    During the intervening 283 miles, we saw a Walmart/Sam’s Club truck, the carcass of an animal that had died of boredom, and a bicyclist pumping up his tire on the side of the road at Mile 235.  If this was a tough ride for us, we couldn’t imagine what he was going through.

A promised highlight of the drive was the Honey Place, billed as the world’s largest glass beehive.  Like many other attraction along the way, it had a CLOSED sign on the side of the building.  [We did see a swarm of bees circling the place, probably waiting for it to reopen.]

Earlier in the day we flew past fuel pumps at Pink Mountain, electing to fill up at Sasquatch Crossing since we live in Sasquatch’s cousin, a Bigfoot trailer, but there was no fuel there, so we went about 100 yards to the Husky station, which was closed.  It was back to Pink Mountain to fill up at $1.19 per liter.  And this is a good time to mention that we now appreciate the advice of filling up the tank whenever you can.  We have passed numerous service stations that are closed.

When we entered a patch of farming country after about 200 miles of this monotony, I suggested we might consider agriculture since we were already growing weary [Moan from Monique].  This, the longest leg of the journey so far, could be characterized as a journey between monster trucks carrying large cargo, and, on the good side, the ^^^ signs along the way indicating bumps weren’t as devastating as the previous day’s drive.

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  We have been on other beautiful, but monotonous highways in America, and the prospect here of seeing incredible vistas in a day or two keeps us ready for more driving.

Muncho Lake, B.C. -- Surreal Beauty

Muncho Lake, B.C. — Surreal Beauty

We saw no muskeg mires (the name for the deep muck that the Army contended with in 1942) or permafrost, which, as it melts takes the road away with it.  As mentioned previously, while in Dawson Creek we watched an outstanding PBS movie about the building of what the American Society of Civil Engineers labeled, “a Historical Civil Engineering Marvel.”  Seeing all the pain and pride that went into its construction made us eager start at Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway.

 In the eclectic Fort Nelson Museum there is a mini-theater that features another version of the history of the road, this one much different than the PBS production.  This less-polished film filled us in on improvements made after the road officially opened in August 1942.

For a big finish on the day, we walked through Marl Brown’s auto museum.  Our

Marl Brown -- Still Chuggin' Along

Marl Brown — Still Chuggin’ Along

tailgunner’s wife, Madeline, asked Marl if he’d been here all his life.  “Not yet,” he told her.  Two years ago this month, Marl drove a 100-year-old Buick from Fort Nelson to Whitehorse and back.  He has a wonderful display of antique cars in operating condition.

Monique and I have seen a few animals on the way, but not nearly as many as our fellow travelers report.  Common sightings are black bears, bison, stone sheep and moose.  We may be the only one’s to see (and photograph) a

Our Red Fox

Our Red Fox

beautiful red fox, and today a wolf watched us go by from the side of the road.

Just to clarify, a “stone sheep” or “stone bear,” etc., is a beautiful animal seen from a distance, but as you get closer, you realize it’s a boulder with an sort of animal shape.

There hasn’t been as much delay as we expected from bad roads or road repairs.  There have been a few incidents of damage to caravan vehicles; however, all of them seem to be typical when you consider we are a group of 20 rigs, and the distractions are many.  We’ve been lucky.

IMG_7741

And for me, Wednesday was one of the most important days of the trip:  we crossed into Yukon Territory.  Lots of people have been to Canada and the number who have traveled to Alaska is incredible.   To me, the Yukon has always held a special fascination.  It symbolizes wilderness and hardship.  After all, it was the patrolling grounds of Sgt. Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with his heroic dog, Yukon King.  No change in scenery since British Columbia, but I’m still excited.

  CHAPTER  2– THE RV EXPERIENCE

Tuesday while enjoying the heat in the natural spas of Liard Hot Springs, we met some folks heading back to Manitoba after having a boat excursion cancelled and because two of them were afraid of driving on the high roads.  Asked about enduring the boredom ahead going down that same highway, one gentleman replied, “No problem.  At our age we can’t remember what we saw yesterday anyway.”

Monique and I have no problem being together for these long hours.  Yet, the opportunity to run into other members of our crew at roadside cafes and in the campgrounds makes the trip more enjoyable for us.  Another plus for group travel.

Even with fairly manicured roads, this is not a trip for the timid.  We met a lady who was begging her husband to turn back because she didn’t like conditions of the private campgrounds.  They are overflowing with RVs and tent campers, and although the owners appear to be trying to do everything they can to accommodate their guests, it can get to be a zoo.

Remember, they can’t exactly run down to the hardware store to buy items to make repairs.  What we’re seeing mostly is trees, with a few rivers and lakes, and every now and then a service station/restaurant without a closed sign, but mainly trees.

If you have a car or RV problem along the way, be prepared for inconvenience.  We heard a report of a truck that needed service, and at three repair shops the travelers were invited to make an appointment for the next day or beyond.  And, despite the advice of the local mechanics, the repair wasn’t needed.

Lower back pain from being in the vehicle everyday for long hours can creep up on you.  Mine was allayed by a dip in the sulfur-rich Liard Hot Springs.  I wanted to stay there for two weeks, but our travel schedule wouldn’t allow the break.

And speaking of that, the nature of the planned caravan is that we have little free time, time to rest or do minor changes and repairs to our RVs.  Is that good or bad?  Well, if we traveled on our own and wanted to stay two weeks in Liard Hot Springs or three days in Dawson Creek to rest up a bit, it would mean that our trip would take longer, and it would play havoc with any reservations for side-trips ahead.

Prices of diesel and gas vary according to the remoteness of the service station from $0.83 up to $2.00 a liter (a liter is just a little over four to a gallon).  Food prices also rise as you get further into nowhere, but, in the defense of the owners, their cost of electricity and other services does too.  We’ve indulged in very good cinnamon rolls two days in a row.

The weather has been beautiful, warm and party cloudy for most of our journey.  I personally welcome the low-hanging clouds as a variation on the theme of abundant trees with beautiful dark green rivers and the Northern Canadian Rockies in the distance.

Enough for today.  According to the clock, its sunset, but someone forgot to tell the sun.

70,000 signs in Watson Lake and 7,500 Hats at Toad River Lodge

70,000 signs in Watson Lake and 7,500 Hats at Toad River Lodge

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

Comments

22 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XI The Alaska Highway”

▪.  jim on June 24th, 2010 10:18 pm  
sounds like ur having a great time.
i would think the benefit of riding with a caravan would be warning of the upcoming permafrost.
a litre is greater than a quart. i think there are 0.948 liters/qt. ur doing a little better on fuel prices than u think. although, $2/litre is high no matter how ur convert it.
my wife and i are really enjoying ur trip. we look forward to ur post.

▪.  Bob West on June 25th, 2010 8:05 am  
I assume you either got the wifi after power returned or in Whitehorse. The scenery will be lovely along the way and you will have some frost heaves but overall the journey is the key. Always interested in the perspective of those enjoying the trip. I especially enjoy your reflections on a guided caravan. We considered that and then decided to go it alone but the folks running together seemed to be having a lot of fun as well.

▪.  Jeff Glazer on June 25th, 2010 9:22 am  
Having been both a Trekmaster and a Tailgunner on Alaska treks I agree with many of the things you say. The biggest down side to a caravan in my opinion is the fixed schedule and the inability to stay a day or 2 longer someplace. I think the security and camaraderie more than make up for it.

I have to strongly disagree, however, with your characterization of the ride as boring. We never got tired of the beautiful scenery, and there were always interesting animal and sights around the next bend. Yes, some stretches were longer than others, but we always looked forward to new sights and new adventures.
Your descriptions of the gas stations was right-on as was that of the campgrounds. Those campgrounds are what our family refers to as a “dancing bear.” The amazing thing about a dancing bear is not how well it dances but that it dances at all. Some of these campgrounds barely eke out a living in the middle of nowhere. I always appreciate that they are there at all. And with rare exceptions the people are always terrific to work with.
The one most important things to bring on an Alaska trek is a sense of humor. Things will go wrong. Roll with the punches. It makes for a great story when you get home. Like the time I left a campground on the Cassiar Highway with the parking brake on in my toad. 300 miles to the nearest new tires in my size. How we made it I will never know.
If you like to drive and are willing to take things as they happen the Alaska Highway is an absolute must for an RVer.

▪.  Bert Smith on June 25th, 2010 5:05 pm  
I have made the trip 6 times and it was never boring I enjoyed ever minute of the trips. The first trip was 1964 and the last trip was 2006. O what a bunch of changes were made. I hope to make the trip again in 2012

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on June 25th, 2010 5:51 pm  
Something to look for when you are in Alaska is a book of poems by Robert Service.
They all speak of the life of a miner during the gold rush days of Alaska and most Alaskans are very proud of his poems. Many bars in Fairbanks have recital contests.
Or at least they did when I lived there in 1964.

[Barry’s note:  I bought the book]

▪.  Jim Sathe on June 25th, 2010 7:01 pm  
I am following this closely because we made the same trip in 2008. This brings back many memories. We loved the whole experience except the last 60 miles before the Alaskan Border.
Anyone wanting to read my blog on our trip can go to http://www.jimrosietravels.blogspot.com
Eagerly waiting to hear of your future adventures.
Jim

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on June 25th, 2010 8:00 pm  
We have made this trip nearly every year for the past 10 years or so as we live in Northern BC (Terrace) it makes the journey easier for us. We have gone both ways often going up Hwy 37 out of Kitwanga and returning down the Alaska highway and twice taking the Alaska ferry from Skagway to Prince Rupert BC only 1 1/2 hrs away from our home. That is a journey fondly remembered but somewhat costly.
We often go up into Alaska as well as the North no matter whereis such an experience. The Yukon once had a slogan “the majic & the mystery” We also always go it alone as it is truly the journey not the destination.
Memories last for a lifetime and I hope you capture all the north has to offer. You will likely return.

▪.  Peggy on June 25th, 2010 8:18 pm  
You labeled Chapter 1 as: ‘…CHAPTER 1 – THE LONG, BORING ALASKA HIGHWAY…’
I love reading your updates and how it is traveling in an RV…
As I said in an earlier post, I have travelled this same route with my husband via motorcycle… 
I was the passenger; we were together 24/7; only a 3.2 gallon gas tank on our first ride to Alaska; remember Pink Mountain; a couple of the areas where we were lucky to get gas and who had those HUGE cinnamon buns… I remember two of those places we stopped at I had used one of our debit cards and didn’t look at the amount until we were at our next destination… I was so disheartened that they were so dishonest…!!! I keep saying “..I will trust people…” and then something like the large-overcharging occurs…
Believe the Alcan Highway is the Alaskan/Canadian Highway…
Abundant trees – I’m not sure but think they are ‘fir’ trees that can be seen throughout the mountain ranges, etc, especially from Yukon Territory towards Whitehorse and Alaska…
We found many of the gas stations were closed on Sundays but the owners said “…just knock on our door and we’ll get you some gas…” Some of the little stations/cafes were set back off the road where we had to turn around and go back… Once we stopped then so many others saw us (motorcycles; RV’s; campers, etc.) and stopped too…
Watson Lake and the ‘Sign Forest’ – I have a sister and brother-in-law who nailed their sign from Oakdale, Connecticut in one of those areas… We stayed in the area of Watson Lake twice in 2009 (once up and once back)… Personally, it was hot; dirty and nothing available for the traveler… Very little air in the motel room, etc… We had decided in the future we would bypass that area even if it meant riding further…
Love the picture of you on the ‘open road’ with all the trees, bush etc on the side of the road… I was happy to see the trees/bush cut back at least 20/30′ along each side of the highway… Certainly helped in seeing the animals alongside the road – moose are really huge animals along with the buffalo…
It was so interesting and love what you are passing onto others… Thank you…

▪.  Alice on June 25th, 2010 9:31 pm  
I’m loving your blog. I have too many fond memories to ever be bored of the trip but it is an endurance drive to be sure.
I’ve driven the Alcan 9 times, plus took the ferry once. Each time is an adventure. The first time I drove it was in 1964 in a brand new Karman Ghia. I’ve driven it twice alone and in every season. One of my favorite spots is Liard Hot Springs. Well worth a two-week stay! And Winter in Liard, wonderful!
Expensive fuel, closed businesses–it’s always been that way. Although even more closures October thru May. The roughest time on the road is Spring, very messy and rough.
Watch out for rocks. They take out a windshield in nothing flat. When you get into Alaska, make sure everything is battened down and take her easy, usually lots of ^^^ though they never used to give you those lovely warnings.
 All that said, I’m feeling the need to do it again, and go for number 10.
Happy trails! Oh yes, I was one of those crazy people reciting Robert Service and doing the Can-Can in Fairbanks, entertaining the tourists! When my kids and I get together, we turn off all electricity and fire up the kerosene lanterns and recite him still…”The Northern Lights have seen queer sights..”

▪.  Bill on June 25th, 2010 11:01 pm 
We took the same trip last year with another tour company. You are pretty much following the same route we did. We loved the trip and made it in our Cameo 5er with only a few defective tire problems. We enjoyed the museum at Fort Nelson and met Marl. What a great guy. He started the old Buick and drove it around the yard. Isn’t the scenery amazing? We couldn’t get over the Canadian Rockies. I look forward to reading your blog and hope continue to have a safe trip.

▪.  Jerry X Shea on June 25th, 2010 11:13  Just did this trip last year. Driving I-5 in California can be boring, driving the Alcan, no way. Just take a look at the photo you posted above tell me what road in the lower 48 you drive all day long and see that beauty? I guess everyone has their own definition of what is “boring” but I have to go with Jeff Glazer above. Sounds like this trip will give you a good perspective of what “full timing” is like. Works for some and not for others.
Still enjoy reading about your travels and remember every place well.

▪.  Frank on June 26th, 201Thanks for your Blog, it is VERY interesting! I made the trip in 1981 on our honeymoon, and still remember all the sites you are talking about. Man….I gotta make time to do it again!!!!!
Thanks again for writing about your trip!

▪.  Barry S on June 26th, 2010 7:45 am  Thanks for such a great write. As for Sergeant Preston and Yukon King, all I can say is, ” ON King…..ON you Huskies.”

▪.  Ken C on June 26th, 2010 10:59 am  
Boring can be good. I drove to Whitehorse in the early 60s in an old jeep as a scout car ahead of my sister’s 50′ x 12′ trailer home that they had overloaded with all their worldly possessions – blew 6 tires on the trip. Road mostly gravel/mud then. Couldn’t get above 25mph without blowing tires! I had a horrible toothache the whole way. Boring would have been nice.

▪.  Jim Hutt on June 26th, 2010 8:34 pm  
Thanks so much for your wonderful travel log. The wife and I were scheduled to make the trip to Alaska this summer. But due to my medical problems, surgery and chemo, we are having to postpone the trip until next year, Lord willing. We are enjoying your experiences and pictures as you are able to share them along the way. I know that your travel log and pictures take some time to generate and share. Those of us that are currently unable to make this trip can at least get a glimpse of the nature’s beauty of the U.S. and Canada. I look forward to reading your experiences along the way, great job! Many thanks from South Texas. Hope to see with my own eyes what you and Monique are now experiencing and enjoying along the way.

▪.  oregon coast cabin rentals on June 30th, 2010 8:01 am  
This post has remind me some of the great memories which I spend with my friends in Alaska. It seems that you guys are having quite great fun.

▪.  property management las vegas on January 3rd, 2012 12:18 am  
Recently He was started the old Buick and drove it around the yard. Isn’t the scenery amazing. We couldn’t get over the Canadian Rockies. I look forward to reading your blog and hope continue to have a safe trip.

▪.  home owners association management on January 6th, 2012 11:48 pm  
”When we entered a patch of farming country after about 200 miles of this monotony, I suggested we might consider agriculture since we were already growing weary.”

▪.  Barry Zander – I think that by saying it was boring I was setting you up for a couple of one-liners; e.g., an animal that died of boredom.  Neither of us would ever opt for the destination over the journey.  We soaked up beauty, serenity, grandeur and the excitement of being there.

 

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.

Comments

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.]