ACTIVE AND PASSIVE SIDES OF NEWFOUNDLAND

This entry is part 5 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

The stone lighthouse bathed in a misty cloud was worth the climb

The stone lighthouse bathed in a misty cloud was worth the climb

We were “C.F.A.”s — now we are “Newfies.”  We are in Newfoundland [pronounced New’finLAND], which, along with its sister Labrador, is one of the places I was most interested in visiting on this six-month journey.

Okay, before getting to the topics of this blog, I’ll explain that a “C.F.A.” means to Newfoundlanders that we “Come From Away,” local jargon for tourist.    We qualify as “Newfies” because we have been “screeched-in,” meaning that we participated in and survived a ceremony that tested our mettle in this rugged area in the North Atlantic.

OUR ACTIVE ENDEAVORS

We continue our travels through the Maritime Provinces of Canada, staying busy with

Like Moby Dick, the giant white ferry swallowed up dozens of RVs, cars and trucks

Like Moby Dick, the giant white ferry swallowed up dozens of RVs, cars and trucks

exploration, discovery, history and culture, thanks to the itinerary of our Fantasy RV Tours caravan.  Two days ago we boarded a monster ferry boat for a 5½-hour passage across the Gulf of Cabot from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland.  After passing a lighthouse perched on a jetty, for the remainder of the trip we were enveloped in fog.  That may sound like a downer, but the ferry is practically luxurious, with very comfortable seats and features like TVs, Internet, a café, a restaurant, a gift shop and more.

Can you imagine a giant parking garage on the high seas?  Our 50-foot-long truck-trailer rig was swallowed up in the immense parking area on Level 3, along with cars, motorhomes and commercial 18-wheelers.

It was pitch dark when we disembarked at Port Aux Basques.  We followed instructions for about 25 miles to our campground, where we were greeted by owner Dennis Keepings, who instructed us how to reach our designated campsite.

A very few hours later, we were up again boarding a bus for a tour of the southwestern part of the immense island of Newfoundland.  An astounding fact:  the province (without Labrador) is larger than Japan.  And another one:  There are 1,000 communities in the province, some of which consist of just a few houses in the wilds.

The tour took us many miles along isolated two-lane roads.  Predominant scenery was the dark blue and green-blue ocean on one side, with very green rolling hills on the other, and stunning glistening ponds of all sizes and shapes in between.  Presenting our lesson in Newfie culture on the tour bus was Alice, wife of Dennis, a multi-talented hostess and six-generation (at least) local.

After the tour, the fun began!  Alice and Dennis teamed up to conduct the Screech-In.  Rather than regale you with the details, I’ll save that for your visit.  What I will say is that it was a hoot!  Even the most complacent in our group were roaring with laughter and enjoying the passage from C.F.A. to Newfie.

Part of the rigorous induction ceremony at the solemn Screen In involved exertion and careful stepping.

Part of the rigorous induction ceremony at the solemn Screen In involved exertion and careful stepping.

Yesterday we discovered another North American time zone.  In addition to the four in continental U.S., and another in Alaska, we went through Atlantic time and have now set our clocks/watches ahead another half-hour for Newfoundland time.  Yes, there is a Newfoundland Time Zone, so when it’s 8:30 here, it’s 7:00 in New York.  No one seems to know why.

POUTINE … IT RHYMES WITH CUISINE

Tonight’s dinner for caravan members was moose stew.  It tasted exactly like beef stew.  But not “everyting” (that’s how they talk up here) … not everyting to eat is what you’re used to.

We haven’t tried “poutine,” nor are we eager to.  Poutine is an indigenous concoction of the Maritimes that starts with French fries covered with melted curds (or cottage cheese).  Over that is poured gravy, and then other things are added to individualize it.  I found out that poutine probably is derived from the Middle English “pudding,” to which it has no resemblance.

Dulse.  UGH!  This is not only an acquired taste, but even handling the smell is a challenge.  Dulse is seaweed, specially prepared as a snack.  It is even used in tea, but it’s certainly not my cup of …  and we have yet to see a “fiddlehead,” but it has been described to me as a sort of asparagus with a top that is in the shape of a fiddle.

I’ve mentioned lobster rolls in an earlier blog, found throughout Coastal New England, which is primarily lobster with a bit of mayo on a bun. Today we had our first “McLobster Roll” under the Golden Arches, “From the waters of Atlantic Canada, succulent lobster meat combined with celery, green onions, and light mayonnaise-style sauce with a hint of lemon, on top of a bed of shredded lettuce.”  We like Monique’s version better.

PASSIVE NEWFOUNDLAND

Ponds and hills form the beautiful serene countryside of Newfoundland

Ponds and hills form the beautiful serene countryside of Newfoundland

We walk through museums (several on this trip), viewing paintings and sculptures contemplating what the more interesting ones mean to us.  Sometimes the name of the work indicates the artist’s intention, but not always, and often it’s something like “Woman in Thought.”  No help.

Caravan travel like ours includes tours of cities and rural areas, where we get to visit places of local importance or beauty.  We could do that on our own, of course, and it would provide a conceptual memory for us, but like having explanations with artwork, we find greater value in knowing what’s around us through facts and yarns.  In most cases, we would not have embarked on multiple tours on our own; yet, when the group boards a tour bus to sightsee, we almost always learn a lot from the guide’s narration.

Traveling the winding roads through Southwestern Newfoundland, we had a sampling of what the area is all about.  We walked up to a stone lighthouse; saw a countryside that is beautiful and fascinating.  We constantly passed small dark blue freshwater lakes and ponds with a backdrop of hillsides and even mountains with patches of snow still evident in mid-July.  A few waterfalls, a few rushing brooks.

Alice, our guide, assured us that the people are the friendliest here, always willing to help their brethren.  I saw five fishermen sitting atop tables along a dock and ventured forward to chat with them.  After my initial introduction of “Hi, I’m a tourist” (which causes Monique to cringe), I was surprised to find them very congenial, answering my questions and asking about me.  Alice was proven right.

DOZENS OF OPPORTUNITIES

One point I want to emphasize is that although we are with a group following schedules made up far in advance, we still get to venture out on our own, such as today’s side trip to see The Arches, a dramatic rock formation at the seashore.  There aren’t that many towns along the way, but we are able to stop as we please, shop as we please, or just move on to the evening’s destination.

Quietly enjoying the grassy hillside along the Gulf of Cabot was a lone caribou.

Quietly enjoying the grassy hillside along the Gulf of Cabot was a lone caribou.

We continue to develop friendships with our fellow travelers, still having to overcome not remembering all the names, but we seem to know who is interested in what and even most of the dogs by their masters.  We enjoy the companionship, while still taking advantage of chances to often be on our own.

A final note.  I really enjoyed reading the book “Shipping News” (made into a movie) about a family that moved to Newfoundland.  According to Alice, it could have been set anywhere in the province, but probably was totally made up.  A disappointment, but at least we got to see Jesse Stone’s bridge in Nova Scotia.

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

NOTE: As we prepare to board a ferry to Labrador, I have had a few minutes to prepare this article AND Internet connection.  At each stop, we grapple with the question of whether we will have WiFi and cellphone service.  In at least half, we’ve had both.

COMMENTS to previous blogs:

[Excepted] FROM MARY HANSEN — “As of today, Saturday, we have been to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland-Labrador, with Prince Edwards Island scheduled for two weeks from now.

And thanks to CHARLIE WEBBER for his advice to travelers:  “We also work at the Halifax West KOA and know that their reservations for the summer are going heavy at present, so that might be an indicator for other campgrounds in that part of Nova Scotia. Having in mind your planned travel to the Canadian Maritimes you might want to consider reservations.”

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 VII Inspirational Moments

This entry is part 8 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 16, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments

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

“Sit awhile and relax, enjoy the beauty that surrounds you:  Towering mountains, soaring birds, whispering pines and awe-inspiring waterfalls.  I am here in the essence of nature. So until we meet again, live life to its fullest for we are here but for a little while.”                                                     From a plaque honoring the accidental death of Barry George Wall at Lower Sunwapta Falls.

Parked by the Athabasca Glacier, an Arm of the Columbia Icefield

Parked by the Athabasca Glacier, an Arm of the Columbia Icefield

Okay, I’ve got to agree with Monique – “It’s all soooo gorgeous!”   I’ve been trying to focus in these blogs on what you might find helpful if you decide to make the trip to Alaska, but while you’re reading all that, we are here reveling in the scenery.

We spent last night in a parking lot; no hook-ups, listing to the left, snow flurries coming at us, NO INTERNET.  But don’t spend too much time pitying us.  The view from the left side of the trailer was spectacular, as the photo above proves.   Outside our window was a glacier only about 80 meters away – oops, we’ve been here five days and I already sound like a Canuck – 250 feet from us.

The Columbia Icefield in Alberta, Canada, is vast, the culmination of many glaciers that

Ice Explorers All in a Row

Ice Explorers All in a Row

produce the only triple continental divide in the world.  The run-off feeds the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans.  Ice 1,000 feet deep, but far less than in centuries past, slowly melts away as the climate warms.  You need to get here in the next 300 years to really appreciate its grandeur.  And throwing facts, figures and descriptions at you isn’t quite the same as seeing the pale blue ice from the “glacial flour” under your feet.  It’s another WOW!

And here’s a defense of signing up for a caravan going to Alaska.  The cost of the bus in

The Blue of Glacial Flour

The Blue of Glacial Flour

2010 and the Brewster Ice Explorer is $49.00 per person.  “Well, should we go?  We can see the glacier from the visitors’ center anyway.”   Had we been on our own, we would have hesitated before pulling out the plastic that would have enabled us to walk on the ice.  Had we saved the $$$, we would have missed a very memorable experience.  For us, we didn’t have to decide because it was included in our registration, along with the $16.90 for entering the National Park.

Oh, and a caveat:  We were up there on the glacier with a bunch of mostly juvenile retirees, many of whom seemed to have lost some inhibitions at high altitude.  And, from our bus/explorer drivers we gleaned some very interesting knowledge.

 

A member of our group takes an unplanned slide down the snowbank ... and enjoyed it.

A member of our group takes an unplanned slide down the snowbank … and enjoyed it.

 

It can only be another "Bear Jam"

It can only be another “Bear Jam”

“Bear Jams.” We were part of ‘em.  A bear jam is where a traveler sees a bear (could also be for a moose, bighorn sheep, anything wild) and everybody stops.  We see a parked car with its engine running, and so we stop.  In 30 seconds, there are dozens of cars and RVs strewn along the side of the road, interspersed with tourists’ cameras and binoculars trained at a moving bush.  Tuesday we saw two black bears and a cinnamon. Bigggg guys.

Grizzlies are best when far away

Grizzlies are best when far away

Then Monique and I stopped for lunch beside Bridal Veil Falls watching it jump, jive and wail down the side of a 10,000-foot Canadian Rockies peak.  Just another spectacular spot along our route.

We turned our RV in at stunning falls recommended by our wagonmaster.  While there, I chanced upon a couple from the U.K. coming off what looked like a no-big-deal trail, who told me, “You’ve got to go there.” Since there was so much enthusiasm in their voices, I ran over the pedestrian bridge crossing the river and grabbed Monique, telling her that we had to go.  “It’s only 2 km each way,” I told her.  I was thinking we were going two-thirds of a mile round-trip, but she corrected me – “It’s almost two and a half miles.”

It led to one of the most inspirational places we have visited in our 11 years of hiking

The Bear that Took Our Picture Said He Wasn't Used to Being on that Side of the Camera

The Bear that Took Our Picture Said He Wasn’t Used to Being on that Side of the Camera

together.  The power of the falls filled our bodies and souls with the richness of nature.  Being in this spot alone, surrounded by raging water and lush green trees and under blue skies and snow-capped mountains, cast a blanket of calm over us.  The plaque (transcribed above and shown below) caused us to give thanks for the opportunity of finding that sacred place.

No more writing for tonight, just some photos.

We Were Where Dorothy Wanted to Be

We Were Where Dorothy Wanted to Be

Young Elk - 7267

Lake Scene 7017

Falls-Plaque 7217

And when, as I look at the 360o panorama and say, “Oh, my God,” it’s just me giving thanks to the Creator for all the beauty around us and that we have the privilege to see.

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

Comments

6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part VII Inspirational Moments”

▪.  Carol & Wayne on June 17th, 2010 8:17 am  
Thanks to the comments on your daily blogs, and thank you for taking the time to do that… We have decided not to go to Alaska this summer as one of your followers said that August is the rainy season and it rained everyday and that a lot of campgrounds close 1 Sep. Since we are travelling across Canada to go to Kelowna, BC, for 14 Aug for our Granddaughter’s Ponyclub Nationals… . it would be too late.  I would think to continue on to Alaska so we appreciate reading your daily blogs. We have decided that BC is a spot that we need to explore more and Alberta.  We have been to both but just to really visit our daughter and have never taken our 5th wheel there, so the West Coast of Canada is going to be our stay for a month or more.  We will then hopefully venture down to Arizona for a month and home in time for Christmas.  I look in anticipation for your daily blogs and again, thanks for sharing!!!!!! Carol

▪.  Pam on June 18th, 2010 6:10 am  
I’m really enjoying your blog. Keep at it. What was the name of that spectacular falls? And what highway is it off of?

▪.  Sucie on June 18th, 2010 8:23 pm  
Hi, You Two,
We are enjoying your posts. I like the picture of your rig in front of Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Ice Fields. I can remember 37 years ago when we were there you could see the toe of the glacier from the road. We parked our car
about 100 yard from the toe and walked up to it and stood under a shelf to have our pictures taken. Now you can’t even see the toe.
 Happy Trails and Safe Travel,
Susie

▪.  Fred on June 18th, 2010 8:54 pm  
Pam, I would say the falls pictured would have to be crashing through the Maligne Canyon. I have been there many times, since I only live 4 hrs from them.
It truly is a beautiful site to see, both in summer and in winter when most of it
is frozen solid. If you get the time, visit them both seasons. My favorite, of course, is the summer months.
Carry on camping. btw, I love the updates on the trip to Alaska. That is a trip that I must do, but that will be in the next few years. / This year we are travelling to BC. to Christina Lake. Next year my wife and I will have a lot more time on our hands to travel. (We both retire June 2011) Woo hoo……… there is a light at
the end of the tunnel !!

▪.  susan on June 20th, 2010 8:15 am  
Great post, commentary and pictures! Thank you for taking the time.  You are creating quite a journal for yourselves.

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 XII Whitehorse, YT

This entry is part 13 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 26, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 23 Comments

This is the 12th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory, is the big city, providing residents and visitors with all the food, hardware and souvenir shopping opportunities available in the more traditional areas of North America. It doesn’t offer the selection of items that we’re used to down below — and maybe seeing the limp parsley made us realize how spoiled we are, but what is there was enough to satisfy our needs.

Friday was for us caravan members a “free day,” meaning we could rest, tend to our RV needs, shop, play tourist or socialize as we wished.

 

The Yukon Between Whitehorse and Our RV Park

The Yukon Between Whitehorse and Our RV Park

Eddies & Undertows in Miles Canyon Have Taken the Lives of Many, According to Tlingit First Nation People We Met

Eddies & Undertows in Miles Canyon Have Taken the Lives of Many, According to Tlingit First Nation People We Met

Monique and I hiked a bit, chatted with the Yukon locals in museums and stores, learned about the danger of the Yukon River from local Tlingit [pronounced “Klingit”] First People, and bought food at reasonable prices. Here, as all through Canada, we have met only friendly, helpful people.

I again hesitate to show scenes from the area, since even the best photography can’t get across the splendor of the region. Mainly, I don’t want to make you think you’ve seen the Yukon Territory or any other scenic land just because you saw photos online or in a book. Many of the views range from incredibly beautiful to breathtaking. Since Miles Canyon carved out by the Yukon River is off the beaten path, I decided I would allow myself to drop in a few pictures of the scenery there.

A Tour Boat Crosses Under the Yukon River Suspension Bridge

A Tour Boat Crosses Under the Yukon River Suspension Bridge

Most interesting, you wouldn’t know if the photos were taken at noon, 3:30 a.m. or 11:00 p.m. That’s the phenomenon of being in “The Land of the Midnight Sun.” Last night as we hiked around and above the RV park at 10:45 p.m. we watched the sun setting behind layers of clouds.

I hope the readers of these articles are learning from those who have experienced the trip in the past and added their own observations in the Comments Section. I urge others to contribute comments to help those considering whether to embark on the trip alone, with one or two friends or with a group.  And if you have questions for the “experts,” as you have seen, you can get them answered by experienced travelers.

A few more random thoughts.  First, it was suggested that putting the miles-per-hour/kilometers-per hour numbers on my steering column wasn’t needed. While my eyes are good enough to read those little metric numbers on my speedometer, I have to take off my sunglasses to see them. It’s a case of whatever works.

Did I call the ride boring?  It isn’t … only, hundreds of miles on a fairly straight road with manicured open spaces on each side does get monotonous. We are able to stay alert looking for wildlife, admiring the beauty, watching out for gravel areas and bumps on the road, and every now and then having infrequent conversations with fellow caravan members via CB radio.  We enjoy the profusion of wildflowers – including fireweed, which is the Yukon provincial flower

I mentioned in an earlier article that XM radio was fading. We do get it loud and clear most of the time even now, but when I turn to Laugh USA, the clean comedy channel, it always seems to go out during the joke but comes back when the audience is roaring with laughter and applauding. Our OnStar telephone service is sporadic in the hinterlands.

Take the advice of the experts: Don’t go to the Yukon without a copy of Robert Service’s poems or at least seeing the animated films at The Exploration Place in Prince George, B.C.

Time to Don a Sleep Mask -- Sunset is After 11 p.m. at the Start of Summer

Time to Don a Sleep Mask — Sunset is After 11 p.m. at the Start of Summer

Not a day has gone by when we weren’t glad that we made our decision to take this trip.

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

Comments

23 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XII Whitehorse, YT”

▪.  Bob West on June 26th, 2010 10:08 am  
Enjoy your reflections. Did you stay at Hi Country in Whitehorse or I should say on the edge? Always interested in observations about the places to stay and dine as well as scenery. As you point out the scenery can be found in books to some degree but nothing like a personal reflection from someone standing there and taking a picture and then returning to the comfort of their RV in preparation for the next adventure. From here you will find some real frost heaves and I am sure your guides will tell you slow and easy. I even got out of the vehicle a few times to plot my course through on the bigger ones. Save your Appetite for Fast Eddy’s in Tok. Good food and huge portions. Safe travels.

▪.  Robert Russell on June 26th, 2010 11:02 am  
Brings back memories. My dad was stationed in Whitehorse during WW2, we lived at “Station E” (Military) in ‘45-’47 timeframe. Thanks for pix.

▪.  John on June 26th, 2010 2:43 pm  
Absolutely amazing scenery. I have wanted to go camping in Alaska for a while now and this just make me want it more.
I think your photos do show the splendor of the area.
Thanks for sharing.

▪.  Don Thompson on June 26th, 2010 4:27 pm  
Have been reading your Blog as you go along. We are a little behind you. In Montana now and plan to go in to Calgary on 29 June and head up your way. We did travel this route in 2008 with another RVer, however this trip we are by ourselves. Looking forward to getting up there. Really enjoy your Blog. Thanks for sharing. 
Don..

▪.  Bill on June 26th, 2010 4:49 pm  
You don’t mention the insects much. I’ve heard that in the winter it is really cold and snowy and in the summer the mosquitoes eat you alive. How much of a problem has that been for you when you are outside?

  [We haven’t had any problem with mosquitos … yet!]

▪.  Bea Kay on June 26th, 2010 5:05 pm  
Our first trip to Alaska was in a 24′ Winnebago in 1974. We had 3 daughters with us-20, 17 & 14.
At that time all the roads in Yukon Terr. were gravel but we didn’t hit that until later.
We took the shakedown cruise of the Alaska Ferry Columbia up & at that time we got off at Haines as there was no road from Skagway to Whitehorse.
The road from Haines to Alaska was gravel & sort of elevated. I thought the cabinets were going to fall off the walls the road was so bad.

▪.  John on June 26th, 2010 6:08 pm  
Yes, there are mosquitos in the Wal-Mart area there since it is right beside the Yukon River. Whitehorse has a wonderful transportation museum, old interesting vehicles, story of the lady who graduated from college in NY and answered an ad in a newspaper for a pilot in California who wanted someone to share expenses for him to fly a plane to Alaska. It crashed not too far away and it is quite a story. An old movie was made of it after she returned and wrote a book. They did not die in the crash but of course suffered some broken bones. Their survival until rescued is quite a story. We camped at the Wal-Mart parking lot right near the Honda dealer while they examined our tow. We had a ball visiting with the huge amount of campers on the Wal-Mart parking lot. I did not count the rigs but the parking lot was loaded with all types of RVs, motorhomes, travel trailer, 5th wheels, etc. We enjoyed the canyon area, too, but the most interesting was the museum. Also the Pizza there was superb. I believe it was a Boston Pizza outlet.

▪.  John on June 26th, 2010 6:18 pm  
On our trip in 2006 to Alaska, I only remember mosquitos at Munchin Lake area where we camped overnight (it was moist, misty area, and inside Artic Circle). In the Circle, they will try to eat you alive, but I bought my wife a pullover mosquito net while at the Cabellas in Mitchell, SD, that worked beautifully. Although, they were thick inside the Circle, I did not get one bite as a result of the trip. Nor did we get a bite in Whitehorse, although we saw a number of mosquitos, especially on the side of the parking lot closest to the Yukon River. We were in Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Seward, Eagle River, Homer, and Valdez and did not have a problem with the mosquitos where we parked.

▪.  Tisha on June 26th, 2010 6:22 pm  
We have been enjoying your postings for some time as my husband will be starting a tour of Alaska with Tracks to Adventure on June 30th. When I spoke with him today, I reminded him to check out your latest posting as this will be one of the stops on his tour.
Thanks for sharing … I feel as though I am there when I read your posts!

▪.  Bill Mann on June 26th, 2010 7:15 pm  
Do you use a shield to keep gravel from destroying your toad headlights and paint? What about gravel problems on your rig itself from either following vehicles or those passing or approaching you?

▪.  Lee Ensminger on June 26th, 2010 8:27 pm  
If you haven’t left the area yet, tour the paddlewheel riverboat and take a drive out to the airport. They have the world’s most interesting weathervane: A DC-3, mounted on a swivel and balanced so well it swings around and always points into the wind. Very cool. I can’t wait to go back there.

▪.  Garry Scott on June 27th, 2010 12:13 am  
Thanks very much for the blog so far, just fantastic, feels like I am almost there with you, keep on trucking, regards Garry Scott England UK

▪.  Ralph Delgado on June 27th, 2010 8:47 am  
Great blog; we’re planning on going next year. I saw that the caravan charge is over $7,000 per couple, even including campground fees and the occasional outing. It seems pricey. Do you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth?

  [Yes, we do.  We’re given info about what’s ahead, which cuts down on the stress of where to get diesel and what to see; we go on excursions, etc., that we wouldn’t have wanted to pay for but have enjoyed; we travel with others but are by ourselves 90% of the awake time; we are fortunate to be with people whose company we enjoy.  It ain’t cheap, but, yes, we feel we are getting our money’s worth.]

▪.  Gary Altig on June 27th, 2010 10:45 am  
I’m curious as to activities; events; and venue aspects for limited walking
people? Would Electric or Gas carts be necessary or even practical?/ga  

[There is one member of our group who uses an electric cart.  He misses out on a few of the sights but not many.  Not always easy, but he seems to make the best of it.]

▪.  Merrily on June 27th, 2010 11:54 am  
My dad was working on the AlCan during the ‘war” as a civilian in ‘43. He, too, was stationed at military camp ‘E’ in Whitehorse just near your campsite. I have been up your way twice and will be returning. We went without a caravan! Great memories!!!
I want to get to Inuvik before there is a Walmart there!!

▪.  Merrily on June 27th, 2010 11:56 am  
I forgot to mention….I am REALLY enjoying your blog!
THANKS!

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 27th, 2010 3:35 pm  
Someone earlier mentioned staying at the Hi-Country. I whole-heartedly recommend it. Just down the road is the Pioneer. They are both rated “7″. The Pioneer is a parking lot. The Hi-Country is wooded and friendly. There are 7’s and then there are 7’s.

▪.  Old Gray on June 27th, 2010 5:58 pm  
I’d love to see more photos but I understand your concern about spoiling things for those folks who will follow you. However, many of us who are reading your blog will never get where you are going so don’t worry too much about it. If you have a great photo, publish it! 
I’m making do with Google Earth’s photos in Panoramio – and in Whitehorse, I’ve been walking the streets with Street View.
Many thanks for your dedication to publishing daily. I’ve tried that and it’s an enormous task.

▪.  Jeff Glazer on June 27th, 2010 9:37 pm  
Right on! We found Whitehorse to be an absolute jewel.
But you didn’t mention our favorite feature – restaurants. Whitehorse has some really good restaurants. Our favorite is the Klondike Restaurant right in town.

▪.  rswelborn on June 28th, 2010 9:13 am  
Our family RV’d Alaska in 2003. Your blog really evokes refreshing memories of our trip. Great job! Please go SLOW from here on; those frost heaves can be ENORMOUS in places. You are truly on an amazing adventure. The most beautiful scenery our family ever saw!

▪.  oregon coast cabin rentals on June 30th, 2010 7:58 am  
I am really enjoying your post and the stuff regarding to your trip. It would be great if you post some pictures too. Looking forward to see more such stuff.

▪.  Nancy Giammusso on July 1st, 2010 1:50 pm  
Loving your blog. Look forward to the same kind of trip when I retire in 29 months. Thank you for such great information, you are just making me more determined to take the trip to Alaska.

 

Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-A Some Final Thoughts

This entry is part 6 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 16, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 17 Comments

This is the first part of a two-part article, No. 32 in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Until you actually get on the road and enter the Canadian Northwest and Alaska, you can’t appreciate the distances involved — or the grandeur.  We made this trip knowing there was a lot to see, but maybe just as important to us was to check “Alaska” off our list of states we’ve visited as RVers.  Boy, what an eye-opening experience!  It’s a long way up there with lots of rough driving, but we now know we have to return.

As I drove over the past two-and-a-half months, Monique jotted down a few thoughts to include in our articles.  Here are some that we haven’t mentioned or didn’t emphasize enough.

Taking Pictures — I wrote an article about photography for RV.net earlier this year called “Keeping a Visual Record of Your Travels.”  [http://blog.rv.net/2010/05/keeping-a-visual-record-of-your-travels/]  In it I asked, “Why take pictures?  Are you looking to keep memories alive?   Are you planning to give a talk to the Kiwanis Club when you get home?  Or is there a big bodacious dream of having your pictures published in a tabletop book or in magazines?  These are all good reasons to keep a camera with you and snap pictures.”

During our Alaskan trip, I took about 10,000 pictures, which I downloaded into my laptop.  Then I deleted about a third.  Then I looked again and deleted about a third of those.  The remainder is the collection we want to keep as memories of the adventure.

A year ago, I bought a good camera that uses interchangeable lenses, having been spoiled from my days of using my company’s camera before I retired.  A few weeks before this trip I “invested” in a real lens to capture what I expected to be exciting wildlife, scenery and cultural experiences.  It undoubtedly has been worth the cash outlay.

Last week we met what locals called the biggest black bear they had ever seen.

He's a monster

He’s a monster

We estimate he’s seven feet tall, and we found tree scrapings 8’4” off the ground.  This is not a fellow you want to get close to, but you also don’t want to miss the shot.  With a 300-power zoom, I stood 75 metres (we are in Canada) away and we now have a clear digital memory to look at when I’m too old to hitch up the ol’ Bigfoot trailer.

We still use our little camera, especially when the “big lens” monster is too much for a situation; however, Monique won’t let me forget that one of my favorite, most scenic shots of the two-months in Alaska was taken with that little camera.   Additionally, I took one shot with my cellphone camera so it would look very touristy.  Unfortunately, it also came out looking professional.

I need to mention one more important thing concerning photography.  An external hard-drive is not expensive.  It plugs into any USB port and allows you to copy files, including pictures, onto a hard drive to keep separate from your computer.  I backup everything twice onto external hard-drives: one for the trailer; the other to keep in our truck.  It does take resolve on my part to spend a few minutes copying everything, compensated by the peace of mind it brings.

Cash — Visa, MasterCard and cash are the most accepted forms of payment throughout British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.  Even many of the U.S.-based chains don’t take American Express and Discover Card.  Banks with ATM machines are easy to find and eager to dispense Canadian currency from your American account.

One disadvantage (or advantage) of relying on plastic in Western Canada is that the businesses don’t always have electricity, so when you find an ulu you just have to buy, maybe you’ll have to try to find it in the gift shop in the next village … that gives you extra time to think about your purchase. At cafes you might not have that option, so if eating is important to you, it’s a good idea to have cash available.  The exchange rate is close enough now that it’s not worth the time thinking about it.

In the past week we have stayed at two B.C. provincial parks that did not have a host/facilities operator.  We didn’t see anything about writing a check, so we ended up putting cash in the envelope – all Canadian $ except a $10 U.S.  Plus, $4-$5 for the “sani-dump” charge (in loonies and toonies)

When we arrived at outposts that put a higher than usual price tag on everything, I gladly paid the tab and told them “Thank you.”  After all, we were happy it was them living 200 miles away from everywhere and not us.  Having services available where and when you need them is worth a few extra dollars.

Music – Having music available is important to us, particularly on those 200-mile treks through the wilderness.  We have XM in our truck, giving us a great variety of music, news, comedy and talk programs.  However, as you get further north and the mountains tower higher and higher, the XM/Sirius satellite is left behind over the horizon.  There’s programming for 20 seconds and then lost signal for a minute, and it gets worse until there is no signal at all.

Local stations are sparse except in major cities, and even then music choices were not to our liking when we did get reception.  My preference is classical, which I never found on our trip, even on public radio, but we’re open to just about any music.  We mainly kept the radio off and didn’t want to play a recorded book that would distract us from the scenery.

If you want music, we suggest having your MP3 or I-Pod by your side, or if you have room for CDs, stock up for the duration.

Fishing – I haven’t had a chance to try out my new rod & reel; thus, I’m not the person to write about fishing.  I can say that our caravan group went out three times on charters, of which two were duds.  The other time they maxed out.

While in a First People community in B.C., we were nearby when we saw a well-appointed fisherman buying salmon from the local natives.  “I got a flat tire on my truck, broke my rod, got a cracked windshield and didn’t get a bite.  At least I can take something home,” he explained.

Scenes from a Hike In British Columbia

Scenes from a Hike In British Columbia

We’ll have more of these random thoughts when we have internet again.

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

Comments

17 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-A Some Final Thoughts”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on August 16th, 2010 10:19 pm  
We like to use debit cards instead of credit, and unfortunately the Canadian banks gouge you with a fee for using them. We experienced this in both the Yukon and B.C.

And there’s no XM or Sirius in Alaska, either.

▪.  GK on August 17th, 2010 7:34 am  
Lynne: when I use my debit card in the US, Europe or Asia, banks there gouge me with fees too. This isn’t unique to Canada, it’s pretty normal anywhere in the world.

▪.  GK on August 17th, 2010 7:35 am  
This has been a fantastic series. Very informative and very entertaining. Up until this, I didn’t really know what to expect going North, and this has piqued my interest. Thank you for having along on your adventure!

▪.  Bryan on August 17th, 2010 4:47 pm  
We like to use debit also but the US banks gouge you with a fee every time you use it. We have experienced it in almost every state in the USA.
We have enjoyed your blog on Alaska and our country. We Thank You for taking us along and being so informative.

▪.  Tom Smith on August 17th, 2010 4:48 pm  
Gouge…gouge….gouge…. Was what they did illegal? No it was the cost of doing business. We have become a society of whiners. 
If you don’t like the charges from banks…start your own
As pointed out in the article, when they came to a place that was expensive, they paid the bill, said thank you, and moved on.

▪.  Bill Amick on August 17th, 2010 4:56 pm  
I want to go too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

▪.  Dick Boak on August 17th, 2010 5:26 pm  
I too have enjoyed your blog very much, I have travelled extensively in BC as I am a resident and want to make one small clarification in this part and that concerns your comment about “Western Canada communities not always having electricity” I think you mean Far North-western communities, as I have yet to come across a BC or Alberta community without electricity, they may not take plastic but that is because of the expense to the business in small communities.
I think the best way to describe a Canadian experience is to say that you won’t notice a big difference from an American experience of which we have had many.
Cheers and many happy travels.

▪.  Lynda Begg on August 17th, 2010 6:13 pm  
Thank you for sharing your trip experience with the rest of us. As Canadians, we love to have you here, even if you are passing through. We, in turn, like to frequent your country in the fall and winter to get away from rain (here on the Coast) where I live or snow (in the other parts of BC). It would be great to follow you on another trip, so keep us in mind as you travel! Good health and safe driving.

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on August 17th, 2010 6:27 pm  
@GK: We live in Alaska, and I’ve never seen these fees here, but when we travel across the border, we start getting charged for them.
@TomSmith: Not whining. Just letting people know they might see some extra fees if they use a debit card in Canada. Illegal? I have no idea.

▪.  Tom Smythe on August 18th, 2010 7:55 am  
We enjoyed reliving our experience last year, as well. Also, the part where you said you would be going back is exactly how we feel  
Fees from the banks has been a sticky issue with me for a VERY long time. If you think about it, ATM’s save banks money since you’re not talking to a teller and the machines are available 24 hours a day (some locations). Yes, the machines cost $. But, it’s the price of remaining competitive. Even so, they find it in their hearts to charge us extra to use them. Still, there are still a few banks that don’t gouge their customers. 
Likewise, spending US dollars via credit card in a foreign country should be a plus for the banks since they make money on the exchange. Still, they find a way to charge us again – for the ’service’. Cost of doing business? Maybe. From our experience, we’ll go elsewhere to do money exchanges (since our BoA exchange carried a pretty steep fee for the service) and carry local cash whenever possible. It requires planning ahead – something we’ve gotten better at.  
All-in-all, Alaska was the best trip we’ve ever taken. We loved every minute of it!
tom

▪.  William Robinson, Jr. on August 18th, 2010 9:02 am  
How does one, in these days, carry 5K in cash. I now worry when I carry more than a hundred bucks !! I’m serious, how do you do it? There are RV fires, thieves, and general paranoia on my part. Robbie

▪.  Duane Mattocks on August 18th, 2010 9:27 am  
I have enjoyed your experience. My wife and I made a similar trip in 2004. We did not go with a caravan, we soloed. It was a trip of a lifetime. I too had recently retired and spent 2 years planning our trip. We pulled a 19′ travel trailer with a 2002 F250 Truck. We had only small problems, a tire to replace, and a valve handle that broke on our black tank. Helpful people along the way helped us when needed. I would like to go back again; however, doubt if that will happen as each year we get older our strength decreases. I had a small digital camera, but have several beautiful photos, I found that taking pictures of wildlife with this camera was a waste of time as only you can tell where the animal is in the photo. We were gone for 3 months with a whole month in Alaska, the rest was in Canada and the lower 48. We live in PA with family scattered in Wisconsin, Kansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

▪.  Suzanne McWhirter on August 19th, 2010 3:54 pm  
What about bringing your dog with you on a trip like this? Would it be a problem?