Our Alaska Trip Part XIX-B Stalling for Time & Healthcare!

This entry is part 19 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

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

This is the 19th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska. 

[Oops, it’s actually the 20th entry in the series, but I guess a tinge of exhaustion overtook me and I lost count.  Because of information in the comments section, it’s one of the most important episodes.] 

“I’m wiping reindeer hair off my shoes,” Marvin Curb told me yesterday when I asked what he was doing at the door to his motorhome.  Now there’s something you don’t hear everyday, but in Alaska, well, a lot of unusual things happen.

On the serious side, one of the caravan members went to an Anchorage urgent care provider when an insect stung her.  She was refused treatment there and at a second clinic, because they don’t take Medicare or accept secondary health insurance.  I hope we hear more about this from others who have asked for medical care in the 49th state.

To be honest, this edition of Our Alaska Trip journal is stalling for time.  I have three items that I want to put together, but the photos that go with one story were fried in a laptop, so we’re trying to resurrect them, and a member of the group that I want to talk with hasn’t been available to tell his story.

So now for some random notes and just a tad of travel log:

RVers who travel to Alaska with their dogs and who plan to embark on a 12-hour tour, as we have, need to plan ahead for pet care while they are gone.  We’ve had a dog-walking service available at one private campground and I’m sure others offer it, also.

I mentioned before there are something like 2.5 gift shops per tourist in Alaska.  Still true.

Landing - 0286A more interesting statistic is that one of every 59 Alaskans has a pilot’s license.  Our tour yesterday stopped along a lake that is the busiest seaplane airport in the world, with an average of 250 takeoffs a day, according to our bus driver.  It goes up to 800-1,000 a day on occasion – I don’t recall Anchorage ever hosting the Superbowl.

In addition to the seaplanes parked on the lake, there’s a parking lot filled with seaplanes

On calm waters for the moment, but more challenges lie ahead

On calm waters for the moment, but more challenges lie ahead

on the tarmac or on trailers.  Since these little aircraft can’t make it to the Lower 48, I asked where they all go.  In addition to hunting, fishing and sightseeing excursions, lots of them make trips to the Interior to deliver supplies.

And that segues into the life of our whitewater rafting guide, Tim.  Tim shares an apartment with others and apparently survives on Chef Boyardee from the can.  Not only are food prices steep in Denali, but it’s over a hundred miles to the nearest supermarkets in Anchorage or Fairbanks.  They make the drive once or twice a month.

And that brings us to today’s outing.  We started the day at Costco for lunch and stopped at Walgreen’s on our way to the Alaskan Native Heritage Center.   Our knowledge of native life among the many clans (tribes) of Alaska was broadened greatly.  I found out that the Aleutian Island chain is “the birthplace of the winds.”  Winds there often top 100 miles per hour and get up to 200 miles per hour.  I suspect it’s not a good place for a high profile RV, even if there were roads there.

An Athabaskan youth shows his nimble abilities in the native warrior games

An Athabaskan youth shows his nimble abilities in the native warrior games

From Left, Natives' Relationship to the Sea Otter and Crafting a Totem Pole

From Left, Natives’ Relationship to the Sea Otter and Crafting a Totem Pole

We’re “goin’ coastal” tomorrow, heading to Seward, headquarters for the Kenai Fjords National Park.

 Thanks to Ada Beavers for the rafting photo.  Good thing she didn’t get a shot of me volunteering to take a dip in the 38-degree river — Monique would panic.  Well, you only live once (in theory).

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


13 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XIX Stalling for Time”

▪.  joe on July 13th, 2010 4:42 pm  
Is the lack of Medicare providers a problem in Alaska? I bet that would put a severe damper on their tourism trade with retirees. Did they try a hospital? I will not plan any trips to the state until I checked those things out for sure. OUCH!

▪.  Gary Altig on July 13th, 2010 5:09 pm  
No urgent care for Medicare or supplemental medical insurance in Anchorage? That’s disturbing. What was the final outcome?
 Are we expected to purchase a medical insurance rider for Alaska?/ga

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 13th, 2010 9:26 pm  
Alaska has a very severe Medicare problem. There are no doctors who take Medicare here. Some have tried, but the government doesn’t pay them enough so they refuse new patients.
The only option for most Medicare patients are Alaska Regional Hospital, Providence Hospital, and the Matanuska Hospital.
 Channel 2, our NBC station, did a special on Medicare in Alaska and found not even one doctor that would take a Medicare patient.
Alaska also stopped the longevity bonus, which used to be $250.00 to retirees. Both of these things sent retirees out of the state in droves.
Alaska has the highest concentration of veterans in the U.S., but if they cannot get Medicare help, they may leave as well.
The only thing left is the property tax exemption for up to $150,000 of your house value.
I have talked to many, many retirees who cannot stay. There’s just nothing to stay for.
If you have anyone coming here who needs emergency or any kind of Medicare assistance, the hospitals are ‘It.”
Thanks for a great travel log.
P.S. Hope Whittier is one of your stops. I am so in love with Prince William Sound and its beauty. And hope you get to take the 26-glacier cruise. What a beautiful 1/2 trip to visit all the glaciers of the Sound.
You will LOVE Seward, too…love that town. It is so beautiful and has made such an amazing recovery from the ‘64 earthquake.

▪.  truman on July 14th, 2010 8:37 am  
Count me out for a long visit to the great state of Alaska NO Medicare No second insurance!  Guess you have to bring a ton of money when you visit? And someone from that state was running for vice president! WOW!! Just count me in for a brief excursion to that wonderful state. Thanks

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on July 14th, 2010 8:52 am  
We didn’t have any health problems in Alaska, but coming back through British Columbia, my wife had a serious finger cut and had to go to an emergency room. I’m pleased to say that the Canadian health care system had no problems with our Medicare coverage.

▪.  Kellie on July 14th, 2010 10:46 am  
Truman – surely you aren’t suggesting that the government can FORCE docs to accept Medicare are you? What exactly does Sarah Palin have to do with this problem? I’m quite certain it is the FEDERAL govt which sets the reimbursement level for Medicare and she was not elected to a federal position. Perhaps this would have been something she could have helped to resolve.

▪.  clkek on July 14th, 2010 11:40 am  
The refusal to see Medicare patients is as big a problem in the lower 48 as well. My our GP is reimbursed $11 for a Medicare office visit- that does not even cover the costs of her office help and utilities for the time of the office visit, not to mention her professional liability insurance and medical school student loan payment. The Federal Gov reduces the costs of Medicare by cutting provider reimbursement!!! That in turn has raised private pay costs as some how the bills have to get paid.

▪.  Mike on July 14th, 2010 4:12 pm 
What about Tricare that us retired Military have as our medical provider.. Do the doctors in the 49th take that?

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 14th, 2010 8:09 pm  
Yes, some providers take Tricare here, as this is a big military state. You can also go to the Elmendorf hospital, which is very good.

▪.  Jane on July 14th, 2010 10:12 pm  
WOW!! Is this blogsite starting to get politcal?….Lynne, I LOVE all of your info…you are certainly well informed! clkek is right on! As well as Kellie…Truman…u need to take a hike!!! Barry and Monique…We wait every day to hear your blog…we have actually signed up for next year for the June 9th 42-day caravan…..We appreciate your info on dog sitting while on an extended tour…Happy travels…

▪.  macsly on July 16th, 2010 5:14 pm  
My husband is on Medicare. We live in Alaska and have secondary insurance. We have had no difficulty getting emergency treatment and he is in emergency fairly often (COPD and bowel blockages) Perhaps Anchorage is that way, but Fairbanks doctors and hospital have treated us great. (So has Providence). I did have difficulty getting a friend on Medicare into a neurologist (4-month wait) and other friends have had difficulty getting into a dermatologist, but those are pretty specialized.

▪.  jim on July 20th, 2010 8:04 am  
on Medicare coverage in Canada, i suggest u go to the Medicare web site. There are rules and each case is evaluated on its own merit. It isn’t automatic.
I was told by one that had traveled in Canada that to be sure u needed to purchase their insurance. he was spending time in Canada so he wasn’t ” traveling the most direct route without delay.”

Our Alaska Trip Part XXI Two Days of Snapshots

This entry is part 23 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 16, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 4 Comments (see note at end)

 This is the 21st in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

There are all kinds of ways of to enjoy your trip through Canada and into Alaska, much of it governed by finances and time constraints.  By being part of a caravan that includes excursions of all sorts, we have seen things we would have never signed up for if we thought about cost.  Those excursions were paid for as part of the charge to join the group.

And, when there’s nothing scheduled, like today, we see other sights of wonder.  Yesterday at Seward, we first visited the Alaska SeaLife Center and then we boarded the Star of the Northwest tour boat for a cruise around Resurrection Bay.  Here are a few photos from those two caravan-scheduled trips.

Visiting Sea Lions at the Alaska SeaLife Center

Visiting Sea Lions at the Alaska SeaLife Center

Sea LionKing, left, and Eaglet on the Rocks

Sea LionKing, left, and Eaglet on the Rocks

According to the skipper of our boat, the sighting of the whale was fortunate, but the performance put on by the humpback whale was a first for him.  At the beginning, the whale showed his back above the bay and then went under for a few minutes.

The Amazing Performing Whale

The Amazing Performing Whale

Suddenly, he came up out of the water (breaching) and fell back.  One pectoral fin above the waves, then another, back and forth, waving to us.  Then another few breaches, a few shows of his tail (flukes), and he was gone.  But wait … he resurfaced and bid us goodbye with a wave of his fin.  Monique, who has been to Hawaii several times, where seeing whales is a normal daily event, has never seen antics like this.

Today we were on our own, and despite being in the throes of a cold that has me coughing and sniffling and despite our being engulfed in gloomy weather, we headed out for a relatively easy hike up to Exit Glacier.  Somehow the Sun knew we would appreciate seeing the glacier in bright light, so the clouds parted for a few minutes.


Resurrection Bay

Resurrection Bay


Rather than take the Ranger-tour of the glacier, we opted to just explore on our own.  Along the way, I asked a teenage boy if I could take a photo of his “The Last Frontier” T-shirt, which I feel says a lot about Alaska.  He consented, and it turned into a story in itself.

Marco Moriarity was visiting Exit Glacier with parents Tom and Monica from Minnesota.



Marco, whose Siberia Yupak name is Esla, was born in Nome and adopted by the Moriaritys five years ago.  They have returned so he can stay in touch with his native land.

Tom said Marco has adapted well to his life in Minnesota, where he plays hockey, is a Boy Scout and on the school archery team.  More photos from today:


The Exit Glacier has Receded Miles in the Past 100 Years.  As awe-inspiring as this photo is, it's not the same as being there!

The Exit Glacier has Receded Miles in the Past 100 Years. As awe-inspiring as this photo is, it’s not the same as being there!

A blue glow emanates from holes in the ice.  It's a color I wish we could take with us on our travels.

A blue glow emanates from holes in the ice. It’s a color I wish we could take with us on our travels.

Monique and I often get into conversations with locals and tourists we meet in our travels.  We consider it to be a real enrichment of our lives on the road.  My advice on doing this is to ask and listen.  Sometimes the talk is about RV rigs and places to visit, but every now and then we strike gold by hearing great stories about why the people are there.  No long-term relationships, just interesting stories.

Before closing this edition, I want to give a special “thank you.”  I, Barry, am a writer and photographer.  So many of these articles are in the first person singular.  But please understand, much of the quality of these blogs can be attributed to Monique, a wise editor, who often asks, “Why did you put that in the article.  It doesn’t belong there.”  She wins approximately 93 percent of the time.  So, on behalf of the readers of this series, “Thank you, Monique.”

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

P.S.  If the lack of Medicare doctors in Alaska is of concern to you, I strongly suggest you read the comments to the article that ran previously.  Lynne has covered the subject well and others have added to the discussion.


4 Responses* to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXI 2 Days of Snapshots”

▪.  Michael Belock on July 16th, 2010 4:38 pm  
Did you make it to Fox Island?

▪.  Jerry X Shea on July 16th, 2010 4:48 pm  
You guys are having the time of your life up there. Good for you. It was just last year that we did our 4-month trip. We loved Seward. It was one of our first stops and we went back 3 months later before we headed out via the inland passage.

▪.  Ralph Thomas on October 22nd, 2011 8:45 pm  
My wife and I and our Boston Terrier have made two trips to Alaska , one in a motorhome and one with our 24RBSL Kodiak towed with my F 250 SD 7.3 4×4 , either way is great. We have also traveled most of western and eastern Canada including Newfoundland. We always travel independent stopping when, where and for how long we want to, I never felt like I was cut out for the caravan thing but I’m sure it’s great for some. Anyway you go about it (as long as you prepare) RVing is just a great way to see the country and of course Canada.

▪.  * The system says “4 responses.”  Not that you probably noticed or care, but often the numbers don’t gibe.  I’ve deleted some comments that are commercials for make-up, insurance, etc., which only ruin it for readers.  In the hundreds of comments to this series, I can only remember about one or two that I would consider negative or unfair – you folks are wonderful – and I’ve left those in rather than only show the positive opinions.  As for this blog, I don’t know what happened to the 4th one.