MORE ABOUT THE MARITIMES – PART I

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

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

The Canadian Maritimes (a.k.a. the Atlantic Provinces) are special places.  While we still consider our Alaskan trip “The Trip of a Lifetime,” we will long cherish our seven weeks in the Maritimes.  It’s not simply that we visited so many interesting places on this trip … it was much more than that.  Yes, almost every view of the blue Atlantic and its inlets was spectacular, but even that could make one blasé after weeks of peering over stunning rocky cliffs and driving along winding seaside roadways.  No, our appreciation went much further than that to include memorable events; sampling Maritimes food; being where the earliest of American history actually happened; getting at least an introduction to and a brief understanding of the unique people who populate this far-north fishing and agricultural region; plus, we toured with people who bonded into a fun troupe of travelers.

I’ve written much about our tour in the 16 blogs posted during our 48-day caravan, but before mentioning a few places that stand out vividly in our minds, peppered with some of my opinions and editorializing, TIME OUT! After being on the road without a “bricks & mortar home” for much of the past seven years, we have returned to the little wooden mountain cabin bought a little over a year ago.  Honestly, this is our first time experiencing the rigors of moving all the necessities needed for six months on the road and having to find places in a 1,000-square-foot cabin built in 1937 without luxuries like adequate closet space.  But we know that when we head out again on our journeys through North America, it will be reversing the process.

I mention this as my excuse for taking so long to tell you more about the wonders of the Atlantic Provinces – and if you’re just tuning in, specifically we’re talking about New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the merged province of Newfoundland-and-Labrador.

Now, on with the show! Prince Edward Island, the smallest of the provinces, claims to have 90 lighthouses.  Larger Atlantic Provinces have at least that many, so you’d think we’d get bored with seeing another along the route.  Holding true to being “the Never-Bored RVers,” we snapped photo after photo of lighthouses (also called “lights” and “heads”) almost every day of the journey.  It’s not that each is different:  mostly, they are stalwart reminders of days when men went to sea in ships without guidance systems, many never to return to their wives awaiting familiar sails on the horizon.  And I want to add that we were still drawn to the lighthouses even after having seen dozens along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. in the spring.

LIGHTING THE WAY -- Clockwise from top left, St. John's Newfoundland; Peggy's Cove; Across from the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Nova Scotia; and Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

LIGHTING THE WAY — Clockwise from top left, St. John’s Newfoundland; Peggy’s Cove; Across from the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Nova Scotia; and Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

It took several weeks before the significance of the history of these far-away lands became an important element of our travels.  It was honestly confusing trying to sort out all the wars and skirmishes that, as our trip continued, fell into place.  For us, it brought history to life.  The war of 1812, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, planting of flags by the Norse, the French, the British, the Portuguese, the Scots, all on soil inhabited by native tribes for hundreds of years – I won’t say we have it all clearly in our minds, but as our travels continued, the torment inflicted on hard-laboring fishermen and farmers by one, then another, played out as a continuing drama from place to place.

Names of New World explorers whose deeds and dates we forgot as soon as our history exams were over (if not during) kept cropping up, again adding color to that thread of history.

Young John Cabot welcomes visitors to see the recreated Matthew's Legacy. More understandable history under one roof than a whole schoolhouse.

Young John Cabot welcomes visitors to see the recreated Matthew’s Legacy. More understandable history under one roof than a whole schoolhouse.

Monique, being from France, and me, a South Louisiana native, took special interest in the Acadians, the French settlers who sailed across the sea to make a new life for their families, only to have it taken away violently when the British wanted to establish a stronghold in the lucrative fishing grounds.  The French returned; they left; the Scots came … well, my abbreviated recall of all we learned (and the accuracy of it) can’t be appreciated as well by reading without walking the land.

I fear going off on a tangent – it’s all part of the Maritimes we found so special – so I’ll end this segment here, except, I have two messages to you.

1)  Now that I’m on solid ground with a comfortable working space, I will do as long-promised.  I will start posting all my past blogs from blog.RV.net, along with new writing on my website ontopoftheworld.bz.  As soon as time allows, Monique and I will begin sifting through photos from our seven years on the road to post our favorites on that site, beginning with the Maritimes.

And 2), I know that when most RVers hear the word “caravan,” they immediately think, “That’s not for me.”  Monique and I had that opinion before our Alaska trip, but the advantages made us realize we could do and see more in the Maritimes if we signed up for a second caravan.  I’ll have another blog soon to give you the plusses and minuses of going with a caravan.  I’ve never seen any articles about it, except for mine, so I think it’s worthwhile mentioning it again.

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

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 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 XVI Getting To Know Alaska

This entry is part 17 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 3, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 33 Comments

This is the 16th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

Maybe after today’s article, I can stop talking about the roads.  After what is known as the worse stretch of roads going to Alaska, The Top of the World Highway [see PART XV] we have arrived in Fairbanks, a fairly typical U.S. city of 33,000 and with 70,000 in the “interior” or non-coastal expanses of the state.

All the major retailers are here, and for us, we see a chance for relaxation in the days ahead – but not yet.  After nine hours of playing tourist today and another full day tomorrow, we’re on our own for two days before departing.

Statistics about the number of people who brave the harsh winters here probably aren’t important to you as an Alaskan traveler or a prospective one, and besides that, we hear lots of statistics that change depending on the teller or brochure.  Alaska, with its 1.2 persons per square mile, also has 3,000 rivers (or maybe 4,000), many of which we have already crossed in our two days in the state.  I’m even more impressed with the estimate of 3 million lakes.  Where does that 1.2 person stand?  Probably in water.

4 Rivers of Alaska

Here are some other interesting observations.  Monique and I think that at this time of year there are at least three times as many RVs on the highways as cars.  The wildflowers along the Richardson and other highways make the long stretches of roadway enjoyable.  The state flower, the forget-me-not, competes with fireweed and other colorful wildflowers for attention all along the way.

We also believe that here are 2.4 gift shops per tourist here with no sign of any having trouble staying in business for four months a year.   We encountered several of them in one of the most orchestrated tours we’ve seen since Disneyland.  The Binkley family has put a day or more of historic and profitable information in front of us, from the Riverboat Discovery III ride, which passes a world-renowned sled-dog training facility, gives very interesting information about the river and its history, and then stops at the replica of a Chena-Athabascan Indian village.  Definitely a place to see while in Alaska.

In the Athabascan Indian Village, Panning for Gold & Watching Campion Sled Dogs

In the Athabascan Indian Village, Panning for Gold & Watching Campion Sled Dogs

As an added memory, we met Dave Monson, who runs the training facility and husband of the late Susan Butcher.  Susan was the first woman to win the prestigious Iditarod sled-dog race in 1986 and went on to repeat the feat in 1987, ’88 and ’90.  Hence the saying, “Alaska, where men or men and women win the Iditarod.”  And on our way back to the dock, Mary Binkley, who fashioned all these events, came out into her yard and waved as the riverboat passed.

After lunch we took the gold mine tour and then all 300 people aboard the tram de-boarded and panned for gold.  Each participant found gold in his or her pan – real gold from real panning.  Our cache was appraised on the spot for $52, not exactly the mother lode, but gratifying.

Oh, and you may have heard that you don’t have to worry about where to stay at night … you can just stop on the side of the road for the night.  We haven’t really seen RVs doing

Three and a half hours of night ... but can it be night when it's not dark?

Three and a half hours of night … but can it be night when it’s not dark?

that, but, of course, most of our driving has been from 9 to 5.  However, we have seen “No Camping” signs at all the large pullouts.  It could work out to sleep in roadside pullouts during the day and travel at night.   Since there is no real night, you won’t miss any sights, but the museums and attractions will be closed.  There are no RV spaces available in our campground in Fairbanks now.

If you feel confident enough to drive to Alaska on your old tires, you can take advantage of no sales tax, but that’s true in Oregon and Montana, also.

It rained today, which is a very unusual occurrence since Fairbanks averages about 11 inches of precipitation a year, almost qualifying it as desert.  Our tour bus driver told us that going outside when the temperature gets down to minus-40 is akin to getting hit by a baseball bat.  We don’t want to personally verify that.

Smoke from forest fires that can burn in the buried vegetation for 25 years can be a

A spruce burl railing that caught our attention.

A spruce burl railing that caught our attention.

problem.   That smoke comes from Siberia as well as Alaska.  One more road alert:  the dreaded frost heaves, dips and humps in the pavement or gravel, can sometimes be expected when you see “drunken” or leaning spruce trees on the side of the road.  Growth of the trees is stunted by permafrost.  They can’t get a strong footing, so they lean.  This isn’t foolproof, just another indication that there may be problems coming up on you quickly.

While the lion maybe king of the jungle, the “doyon” or chief of animals in Alaska is the wolverine.  Truly a nasty beast.

Now for a few more pictures from the past two days.  There is so much to see that the sprinkling of photos I’ve included in this and past articles doesn’t even come close to telling the story.  I just hope it whets your appetite enough to brave the Top of the World Highway and visit the Last Frontier.

Caribou Land collage - 8170

 

The Famous Alaskan Oil Pipeline at Fairbanks -- A Few Feet of the 800-Mile Project

The Famous Alaskan Oil Pipeline at Fairbanks — A Few Feet of the 800-Mile Project

The afternoon rain has turned into a very rare thunderstorm.  We are celebrating the dim light outside, and maybe it will clear the air for when we reach Denali in a few days.

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

Comments

15 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XVI Getting To Know Alaska”

▪.  Wayne Cunningham on July 4th, 2010 9:24 am  
Last year we made that trip with our Class C with another friend and their little travel trailer.
Having come from southwest Florida we spent 10 weeks in Alaska.
We are enjoying every post about your trip, comparing notes and laughing as we recall the same things. We drove about 22,000 miles and were gone 6 months.
The trip of a lifetime.
Stay safe and there are three places we suggest for eating experiences.
Itchiban in Fairbanks
The brewery in Fox (can’t recall the name) but it is a very small town. Probably the best meal in all of the 6 months gone.
The Fresh Catch Cafe in Homer.
When they say fresh they mean it. I watched the fisherman bring in the fish and scallops right off the boat and into the kitchen.

▪.  ft-rver on July 4th, 2010 10:11 am  
What happened to entry # 15? Yes, we are keeping up with you with great interest and enjoy the blogs very much. I am keeping a full pdf library of your Alaska trek. Thank you.

▪.  bob west on July 4th, 2010 12:24 pm  
Yes I too am reading and wanted to hear your take on the TOW Highway as you seem quite sensible. I chickened out last year and didn’t go to Chicken. The road around Destruction Bay was no treat but I think better than the TOW.

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on July 4th, 2010 5:17 pm  
Yes please post #15 for us either you were to disgusted with the road conditions “over the top” or ???

▪.  Jim & Glenna Penny on July 4th, 2010 5:21 pm  
We missed XV as well ! Look forward to your installment daily. Thank you 
!

▪.  Brian Morris on July 4th, 2010 5:33 pm  
Thought for a minute I had missed your post XV but it appears many others did also. Looking forward to saving and reading it along with all of the others. Brian

▪.  Norm Bakemann on July 4th, 2010 5:49 pm  
So how long should it take to drive our 40ft Motorhome with tow car from Whitehorse to Tok , be there in a week

▪.  Jane on July 4th, 2010 6:00 pm  
I also missed your XV post…went to blog.rv.net/author/barry-zander but it was not on there…Can you re-post it? I also look so forward to your adventures and hate to miss XV….sounds like that might have been rather exciting…

▪.  Old Gray on July 4th, 2010 7:18 pm  
I’m also hoping to find out about Chicken: Blog post XV! Loved XVI. Great writing, great pictures.

▪.  macsly on July 4th, 2010 11:50 pm  
I’m a new RVer who lives in Tok. It is 392 miles and in the car we make it easily in a day. Most of the road is pretty good except from the border to here. The Top of the World would take you several more days, first to Dawson then down to Tok. We are headed down the road in September for the first time in 36 years. I expect some changes!

▪.  macsly on July 4th, 2010 11:50 pm  
That is 392 miles from Whitehorse to Tok. And I wish that Barry and Monique had stayed here for our July 4 celebration.

▪.  Garry Scott on July 5th, 2010 1:43 am  
Keep it up, fascinating reading, from Garry scott England UK

▪.  Dick and Cindy on July 5th, 2010 3:58 am  
We were in Valdez last year on the 4th of July. The town put on a free hotdog lunch and everyone was invited, even we visitors. Then later, before the fireworks, they provided, free, a giant fire and s’mores. Then some fantastic fireworks. Nestled down there at the foot of the mountains, just off the ocean, it was quite a sight. Some friends we met there took pictures of the fireworks and I was surprised you could see the display since it was still daylight! Wonderful memory.

▪.  Chris Clarke on July 5th, 2010 10:34 am  
Hi Folks, I’m really enjoying your driving diary and am happy to say that I found part XV. It was fascinating. Here’s a suggestion, open up Google Earth and you can “drive” along the stretches of “road” that you adventurous sorts are following. There are photos taken along the way just like in the cities and some other picturesque one taken by others who have travelled it before. However, the pictures that Barry & Monique have included are great, diverse, and really add to the experience.
Thanks for all that you have given us so far.
Chris

▪.  Margie on July 5th, 2010 11:51 am  
Hi Barry and Monique,
I live in Anchorage and have been enjoying your posts about your trip up to Alaska, especially since I bought my first RV a couple of months ago, became a full-timer, and will be heading out later in the summer for a two year trip around N. America. I just realized today after reading his latest email that we have a mutual friend in Sam C. How ’bout that?
When do you guys get down here to Anchorage? It would be great to catch up. I’d love to see my first RV Caravan! Please feel free to email directly.
Cheers,
Margie

▪.  Jerry X Shea on July 5th, 2010 12:10 pm  
Also want to see XV – Make sure you go to Pioneer Park and go in the -40 degree room. You only go in for about 4-5 minutes, but you sure get what it is like to be in really cold weather. Also to the Air Museum – it will surprise you what they have in there. Keep posting.
Jerry X

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.

Comments

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.
Lynne
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 XX Even Farther Northward

This entry is part 22 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 13, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 5 Comments

This is the 20th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

In case I didn’t mention it lately, the rumors are true. Alaska is a beautiful state.  Tuesday morning we left Anchorage in a light rain … destination:  Seward on the Kenai Peninsula (pronounced “Keen-Eye, equal stress on the syllables).

After leaving Alaska’s largest city, we found ourselves driving on another postcard-quality road, the Seward Highway South.  On our left were steep forested mountains featuring numerous glaciers at various elevations.  At one point, a glacier sat just above a lagoon, actually at sea level.

How do we know it was sea level?  Because on our right was a fjord, apparently in the Turnagain Arm of Prince William Sound.  Absolutely stunning, even in the dismal weather that followed us for our entire route today.  When we drove along the shore, the water was high, but the fjord is known for having the third largest “bore tide” in the world, a change of 28 feet.

Ivan Yurtin feels welcome in Barrow

Ivan Yurtin feels welcome in Barrow

And now to today’s theme (one of the three I mentioned in Part XIX:  Even Farther Northward).  A feature of our caravan provides opportunities to enjoy unscripted side trips, like the one that Ivan and Shirley Yurtin took to Port Barrow on the Arctic Ocean.  Since only a small percentage of Alaskan travelers have or will endure that journey, I’m excerpting parts of their journal for you.

 Ivan and Shirley’s Story

The Yurtins

The Yurtins

“As we approached Point Barrow from the air, we first noticed that the lakes were frozen. As we descended the next significant thing we noticed was that there were no trees or shrubs as far as you could see … it was only flat tundra.

An Airline Terminal that's definitely at the terminal

An Airline Terminal that’s definitely at the terminal

“The airport terminal is an old, blue metal commercial building that looks like a factory. The shuttle driver drove us to the Top of the World Hotel, a long two-story building that has simple rooms.

“We had dinner at Pepe’s Restaurant next door that is run by 81-year-old Fran, who has lived in Point Barrow for over 40 years.  She had a restaurant in her home for years but now manages Pepe’s.  She also leads tourists down to the ocean at 5:30 p.m. each day for a dunk in the Arctic.  In order to qualify you must submerge completely in the frigid Arctic.  For doing so, you must pay $10 and will receive a patch and certificate from the Polar Bear Club.  Fran has made the plunge many times and tried to get 80 of her friends to join her last year for her 80th birthday.  She was only able to convince 67 brave souls to do it with her.

Ready for a dip

Ready for a dip

“The Mexican meal of enchiladas was good.  Afterwards we roamed the immediate area for photos—including those along the ice buildup in the ocean. We noticed that parking spaces for workers at the bank, police department and other businesses had electrical cords in each space to plug in engine heaters.  None of the roads in town are paved—they

Downtown Barrow

Downtown Barrow

consist of powdered dust that billows every time a car passes.  Four-wheeler ATVs are also a common form of transportation.

“Our tour guide, Bana, is a native Inupiat Eskimo. He said that the population of the whole area is 4,500 and one-fourth of the population is under the age of 18 years.  The village hunts whale for food and harvests about 34 whales each year to feed the village.  The Inupiat are not allowed to harvest whales

to sell … only to feed the village. The whale harvest is in the early spring and late fall.  Whale meat is either eaten boiled or frozen raw.”

Ivan had a chance to eat some of the raw whale meat, reporting that it tasted a little fishy.
Air Force Radar Command

“They only get about 13 inches of snow and 8 inches of rain a year, but it is a very cold and dry environment.  It is very cloudy most of the summer with only five days of sunshine. The temperature during our visit ranged from 30 to 36 degrees F and it was cold and windy.  The Inupiat Eskimo Corporations control most of the utilities and government offices.

“The city has several gas wells that supply the heating for the village. The village has one fairly large grocery store and one gasoline station.  Gasoline is delivered to Barrow once a year in August.  In our visit to the grocery store the price for a gallon of milk was $10 and the price of a dozen eggs was $8.

“On our tour we saw a Snow Owl and the Tundra Swans. We got to visit the Inupiat Heritage Center where the local Eskimos performed their native dances for us.  We were then invited to join them in their local dances, which we did.  It was very enjoyable.

The Blanket Toss“There were enough people so we all joined in for the Blanket Toss.  A large blanket made of whale skin is woven with rope around the outer edge for handles. About 25-30 people hold the perimeter of the blanket while a person is in the middle of it.  The blanket is pulled outward and the person in the blanket is propelled upward and can reach heights of 20-30 feet.  This is used to be able to see whales and game at far distances, since there are no trees on the Tundra.

Shirley under the Whale Bone Arch -- St. Louie, eat your heart out!

Shirley under the Whale Bone Arch — St. Louie, eat your heart out!

“Bana, our tour guide, drove us to the airport and we bid him farewell.  It was a packed full day of facts and adventure trying to understand how these people survive under extreme conditions.  We sure were glad to be back to our RV with all the modern conveniences.”

Thanks, Ivan and Shirley.  Sorry we missed that trip.

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

 

Comments

5 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XX Even Farther Northward”

▪.  alpenliter on July 14th, 2010 5:25 pm  
Thank you for another interesting chapter in your adventure blog! I particularly liked the blanket toss info. I always thought they did it out of boredom. Not too many carnivals pass their way!

▪.  Bill Forrest on July 14th, 2010 8:43 pm  
I have really enjoyed this series of your Alaska trip. I have been there a few times by boat, air, and cruise but never to these many places you write about.
Thanks for sharing. For me and my motorhome I will just stay down here and read your articles. 
Bebop Bill

▪.  Virgil Owen on July 15th, 2010 12:22 am  
I have also enjoyed your articles. I live in Kenai and this is the year to come and visit. It is not as busy as it usually is. The people are amazing. The view is unbelievable. The fishing is beyond your imagine.

▪.  Gary on July 15th, 2010 2:03 pm  
 Wanted to do the same trip, but finances have dictated otherwise. But I do believe it is pronounced “key nigh” But I could be mistaken. Naw, I’m right.

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 13th, 2010 11:23 pm  
What a great post! I’ve never been to Barrow, but I have been to some pretty “out there” places. Alaska is so amazing, and the people of Alaska more amazing still.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXIV Before & After

This entry is part 26 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 21, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 4 Comments

This is the 24th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Pat Sajak often announces the category “Before & After” on “Wheel of Fortune,” a puzzle where two expressions overlap.  I decided “Deadliest Catch 22” would fit in that puzzle, with “Deadliest Catch” referring to the TV show about the hardships crabbing in Alaska and “Catch 22” describing a good-bad situation.

Our trip through western Canada and into Alaska has been absolutely spectacular from the standpoint of scenery, wildlife and opportunities to learn about the rich cultures of this vast, somewhat forbidding land.  Since you’re reading these blogs, you probably have either been here or you want to take the trip.  We hope all you “want-tos” are able to get here – it’s an adventure of a lifetime.

The native tribes and clans of Alaska apparently had a very pleasant lifestyle for up to 6,000 years.  Then along came the Russians, who settled in the territory for fishing and trapping.  They enslaved natives and decimated the population with disease.  As bad as that was, their main impact was on coastal areas and less in the interior.

Tribal logo represents the traditional animals, fish and birds that are significant in sustaining life in Seldovia

Tribal logo represents the traditional animals, fish and birds that are significant in sustaining life in Seldovia

Then came the gold rush and discovery of coal and other valuable minerals, which caused a cataclysmic change.  Whether all that was good or bad is in the eye of the beholder, but as Walter Cronkite used to say, “That’s the way it is.”

CATCH 22 – The Alaska we, as tourists, have seen over the past five weeks has been the tourism segment of the economy, now the state’s second biggest industry.  Our caravan is included in the 1,100,000 tourists who arrive here every year, and the number is said to be growing.  [http://www.questconnect.org/ak_alaska.htm]

People like Christopher McCandless [whose story is told in the book and movie “Into the Wild”] and other survivalists may absolutely loathe this gift-shop, museum and charter boat economy, but in its defense, so many people from around the world would never get a chance to be among the splendor we have seen.

Alaska would be a wilderness inhabited by the natives, but their lives would still be disrupted by the major industries, beginning with oil transportation and refining, and including fishing, forestry and fur-trapping.  As the “questconnect” website states, “All sectors of Alaska’s economy are natural resource-based,” which does include tourism.

Tuesday Monique and I were in one of the few retail outlets without a gift shop or a moose head on the wall – McDonald’s in Homer – where we met a local, who has been in Alaska Antlers - 9693seven years since his wife took a job as a traveling nurse.  He wants to leave, he said, but she wants to stay.  He said he found Alaska no different from Florida, which thrives on its tourism economy by turning every natural area into a mecca for travelers.  Asked what he thought of tourism in Alaska, he acknowledged that it is a must for the survival of the towns, but he worries that there doesn’t seem to be any concern about the industry fading in years to come.  He doesn’t see any effort being made to look for additional avenues of revenue.

As a recreational vehicle enthusiast, you may hope to see Alaska on the wild side, but without gas stations, RV parks, restaurants and chain grocery stores, and all the other businesses that support the tourist trade, you would never be able to come up into this territory, where you can be wrapped in the grandeur.  Just fifty years ago there were very few roads, practically no repair shops or medical facilities.  Without the steady line of RVs plying the highways each summer, it would probably revert to wilderness, unseen by all but a few laborers.

 Catch 22.

Gerry Keeting of Palmer, Alaska, daughter of 1935 homesteaders under FDR's recovery plan, sits before a 115-year-old piano that was brought to Alaska filled with belongings of the relocating family. There was no road to Palmer in those days.

Gerry Keeting of Palmer, Alaska, daughter of 1935 homesteaders under FDR’s recovery plan, sits before a 115-year-old piano that was brought to Alaska filled with belongings of the relocating family. There was no road to Palmer in those days.

Another update on the Top of the World (Taylor) Highway from reader Dave Stoeffler:  “We are now in Dawson City.  The road was OK. We had to follow a pilot car for a few miles, but, people who came through today said there was no pilot car. There are only the normal repairs going on on both sides of the border. The Taylor Highway to Eagle is still closed, as far as I know.”

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

Comments

4 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXIV Before & After”

▪.  Roger Garner on July 21st, 2010 4:44 pm  
Barry, your ‘Catch 22′ comments condensed a great deal of insight into very few words. The dollars that tourism brings to AK allows most of the locals to be locals. The infrastructure supported by tourism creates everything from grocery stores to hospitals to schools to cell phone service, ad infinitum. Those smug and elite ‘locals’ who don’t have the presence of mind to see this should put down their comic books and be thankful for those of us who leave a considerable amount of money to recirculate in their unique state.

▪.  Jerry X Shea on July 21st, 2010 11:14 pm  
Let us not forget the guy with the 1968 pickup with a camper shell who talks about how great the salmon fishing was (in the good ol’days) when only 3 guys stood in the river and then they went to the one bar in town for a drink. Today, 500 guys are fishing within a one-mile strip of that same river (called combat fishing) and the town has 5 bars, hotels, restaurants, gift stores and this guy hates it all.
Alaska and its natives are not in “bad shape” because of tourists.

▪.  David Kocher on July 21st, 2010 11:21 pm  
Jeez Roger, who pissed you off? I have lived here 31 years, and the only smug and elite people I have met since I have been here, are the ones visiting that are decked out in their expensive Orvis waders and fly rods who want to keep this state as a national park or zoo! I do not know anyone that lives here, or any business, that does not appreciate tourism, and I disagree with your contention that tourism brought about all the changes you list. Senator Stevens was instrumental in making most of these changes and the improved infrastructure, which changed our status from a “foreign country” or territory to an actual member of the United States. When I moved here in ‘79, a three-minute call Outside would cost a roll or quarters. Mailing anything larger than an envelope used to cost a fortune. Now I pay eight cents a minute for my cell phone plan, and mailing a package here does not cost much more than a package to Seattle. Sure we might get a bit frustrated with the slow traffic along the Seward Highway in the summer, but I do not like driving it the winter either. I am sorry you apparently had a bad experience, but it sounds like, as usual, one bad experience tainted your opinion. Please do not judge us on this one bad experience. I came to visit a friend long ago, and forgot to leave! Take care.

▪.  Virgil Owen on July 22nd, 2010 12:50 pm  
I have lived here for a little over a year and I love it. The people are sometimes a little odd but they are good people. I have seen locals help our guests learn how to fish here in Kenai on more than one occasion. Like anywhere else I have ever lived there are good people and there are those who are just not very happy campers. I also lived in Homer for a short period of time and found the people, well, weird. Maybe that is why you see bumper stickers there that say “keep Homer weird.” Homer is a great place to visit, but I did not find it to my liking for living there. I love Kenai and Soldotna.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-B Some Final Thoughts

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

August 18, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 18 Comments

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

CB Radio – Since caravans require having a CB radio to communicate with the staff and other rigs while on the road, on my son’s advice we got a powerful CB radio with a faceplate loaded with knobs and toggles.  That gave us more opportunities to accidentally hit or turn the wrong feature, … opportunities we took!  Suggestion 1) Get a good CB radio, but if you’re not familiar with them, don’t go overboard with features. And 2) ask advice on which antenna to buy and where to put it on your truck or rig.  It makes a difference in reception, particularly, for us, when you’re trying to talk with a caravan member located behind the trailer.

Speed Limits – I mentioned earlier that I taped a chart on my steering wheel to convert mph to kph.  We’re still in Canada and I’m still referring to it often.  An inconvenience is that most Canadian roads don’t have “Resume Speed” signs, so it’s not obvious when you can legally get back to 90 or 100 kph.  And it gets tricky in towns posted at 40, which have a stretch of unpopulated areas, and then you realize you’re still in town where 90 could get you a hefty ticket.  Also, when a road sign before a curve says “SLOW,” it’s a good idea to slow down.

Sales Tax – The merchants often explain, “The ministry wants its share” when adding the sales tax.  In Alaska, there is no sales tax – except in a few towns.  It’s a good idea to ask before buying.  By the way, the State of Alaska has about eight “boroughs,” comparable to counties, and the rest of the state in the Interior is mainly U.S. Government lands.

Carrying Cash – There was a question in the last Comments section about having enough cash with you for the trip.  First, Visa & MasterCard credit cards are accepted just about everywhere, but we did run into a couple of times when the local electricity wasn’t working – a minor inconvenience that can be overcome with cash.  Another reason to get cash at banks or money exchanges along the way is that when you’re in Canada, you do better using Canadian currency.  When in Alaska, you’re better off with Uncle Sam’s greenbacks.  It’s a good idea to check with your bank about extra charges for using your plastic in Canada.

Brochures – Monique is an avid brochure reader, which often results in our finding places and attractions that are off the beaten path or that explain why a place we wouldn’t consider visiting could be the highlight of our week. There are lots of free brochures and tourist books everywhere, so it’s advantageous to take some time to skim through them.

We had our photo taken at Mile 0 of U.S. Hwy. 1 in Key West and Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway in Dawson Creek.  I asked two Park Service rangers where Mile 0 is in Skagway, which is the end of the road.  Neither knew, but one mentioned there is the Mile 0 B&B in town.  When I replied that that’s closer to Mile 1 than the end of the road, he opined that Skagway is a town of hoaxes, trickery and a take-advantage-of-you attitudes, which could be why they named the B&B Mile 0.  Good answer!

We found an Inukshuk just our size -- but we couldn't lift it to load it into the travel trailer

We found an Inukshuk just our size — but we couldn’t lift it to load it into the travel trailer

Inukshuks – In my article listing handy definition you should know, one important omission was the “Inukshuk” (another spelling might be “inuksuk”).  Monique adopted a couple of them for our trailer and we had pictures taken with others.  The First People’s “Inukshuk” is a statue built of stones that, depending on the person giving you its history, is either, 1) to point the way from one place to another by: A) looking in the direction of its arms or B) by looking between the legs, or 2) a marker of a spot, like where to find the best caribou, or 3) since it is in the form of a man, it was to scare away critters.  Take your pick.

We crossed over from British Columbia to Washington, camping in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, enjoying an aqua-water riverside campsite just down the road from Mt. Baker with views of several of the most scenic mountains in the U.S.

And with that I wind up the series on “Our Trip to Alaska.”  BUT, one final thought about visiting Alaska by RV.  For only a very few independent spirits, Alaska is not a destination, but rather a journey.  The absolutely unforgettable adventures encountered while driving through Western Canada with all the wonders of nature surrounding you and of wrapping yourself in the widely varied experiences of Alaska is what it was all about, at least for us.  In our opinion, this is the ultimate RVing experience of North America.

Alaska Trip Sampler

I have more articles in mind relevant to RVing, including memorable travel experiences, past and future, so stay tuned.

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

Comments

18 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-B Some Final Thoughts”

▪.  GK on August 18th, 2010 10:54 pm  
On speed limits in Canada: instead of using a “Resume Speed” sign, most Canadian provinces put a speed limit sign at the point where the speed limit changes back, since the speed limit prior to a section may different than the one after it. This is true for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia. There are times where the speed limit sign is pretty far away from where you might expect it to be. Each province, county/MD, city and town has different rules on where/how they do it, and sometimes they don’t seem very well thought out. But there always is one as far as I can remember in the past 30 years of driving (yup, I’m still a “youngster”).
I have to admit that I don’t recall seeing very many “Resume Speed” signs in the US, but I’ve only driven in about half of the the lower 48. I do generally remember seeing speed limit signs at the point where the limit would change back, though.
I had the “benefit” of learning to drive a few years after we switched to metric, so my first beaters had mph. I’ve memorized the most common conversions (50km/h=30mph, 60km/h=35mph, 90km/h=55mph, 160km/h=a chat with a judge  ), and can do the rest in my head if need be. The coolest solution in a car was a Chevy Malibu I rented once to drive from Calgary down through the US: there was a setting to make everything metric or imperial (speedo, odometer, temperature). It was cool to watch the speedo needle move on its own when you switched it while driving. The mph or km/h would illuminate on the instrument panel to let you know which units you were in. Brilliant idea. No need to squint and make out the (sometimes incorrect) smaller markings of the alternate system.

▪.  Gary on August 19th, 2010 4:56 pm 
Thanks for all your efforts to keeping us inform about the fun and the hardships of travel beyond the normal. Well written and good pix too. Thanks again. G&R Case

▪.  Gary on August 19th, 2010 4:58 pm  
Sorry about the typo. Clicked just as I read my response. Hand was quicker than the eye.

▪.  Peggy on August 19th, 2010 5:07 pm  
Thank you for all the work you’ve done in keeping everyone posted as to your travels; what you’ve seen; etc, etc… I, for one, really appreciated it as I know the work involved and the joy of riding throughout Canada into Alaska…
Yes, I agree, it’s a must see – it certainly is a journey almost into another world but still an important part of the USA…
Again, thank you…
cubbear

▪.  bbwolfe on August 19th, 2010 5:23 pm  
Barry, Monique, we are just down from you in Maple Valley, Washington. If your looking for a place to rest up while in town, drop me a line: abwolfe06@yahoo.com

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on August 19th, 2010 5:34 pm  
Thanks, once again, for making Alaska known to the rest of the U.S. So many times we are told, when trying to talk to someone from the Lower 48 on the phone, that “our services/products are not available to foreign countries.” We smile and remind them politely that we are a part of the U.S. – the 49th state and proud of it. And we are very different. The people are different and tough and I respect them very much for what they tolerate and how strong they are. Thanks again for showing us how fantastic Canada really is, as well… Eh?

▪.  Ron Olsen on August 19th, 2010 7:54 pm  
The end of the AlCan is not in Skagway if that is what you were looking for. The End is in Delta Junction. Before you reach Fairbanks. Ron

▪.  Old Gray on August 19th, 2010 8:06 pm  
I agree with GK, above, who suggests that he has the same problem in the lower 48 that you had in parts of Canada or the north – no signs to inform drivers when they can resume the higher speed. Our trip from the Grand Canyon this spring had us driving more slowly than most of the traffic after nearly every town since we had no idea whether or not the higher limit had resumed – or a speed trap was awaiting us. On Ontario highways, wherever the speed limit changes, a “Begins” sign is fastened to the bottom of the speed limit sign so we know when we can resume.
All this when I could just have said, “Thanks for the wonderful tale of discovery you have shared with us. We have enjoyed every bit of it along with you. We are looking forward to reading more of your writing as you continue your travels.”

▪.  robert on August 19th, 2010 8:27 pm  
Thank you Barry and Monique for sharing your experiences with us; you have givien us one more place to visit. We have travelled from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Tofino on Vancouver Island and from Labrador to Virginia. Unfortunately we have been limited to trips of 3 or 4 weeks because of our careers and are looking forward to the time we can really cut the ties – about three years. We are happy that you have enjoyed our country and hope that you can visit again. From the most easterly point of our continent (Cape Spear in Newfoundland) to Tofino there is a lot to see. If you enjoyed British Columbia you will really enjoy the rugged terrain and extremely hospitable folks in Newfoundland. It is great that our countries are such good neighbors. See you on the road and we look forward to your future posts.

▪.  butterbean carpenter on August 19th, 2010 8:43 pm  
Howdy yall,
THANK YOU, FOR THE WONDERFUL TRIP!!!! I’ll never have that opportunity so
I’ very glad yall took me along with you… I’m a 75 year old crippled up rancher,but
I love to go on trips, such as this.. I have a high school buddy who lives in Alaska
and has asked me many times to come up there… I just never could make it until I went with yall… Thanx
butterbean carpenter
RunningStar Ranch
Coleman county
Texas

▪.  Sucie on August 19th, 2010 8:56 pm  
What kind of trailer do you have and do you fulltime in it?

▪.  jim on August 19th, 2010 9:21 pm  
enjoyed ur trip and the way u discribed it. 
on the CB, a DC grounded antenna will give u less noise.

▪.  Chuck Sanford on August 20th, 2010 12:41 am  
Do you have a link that has the first 10 entries of your trip experience?
My wife and I have greatly enjoyed three 3 week vacations in Alaska. Next summer we will be drive our motor home & Outback to Alaska. We are looking forward to the journey through B.C. and the Yukon. Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

▪.  Frank on August 20th, 2010 6:49 am  
Thank you for this wonderful series on your adventure! I looked forward to reading each article.
Now, if I ONLY had enough vacation & money to take a trip like yours myself……………………..:(

▪.  Richard Gregorie on August 20th, 2010 8:22 am  
Wow! We have just started rving and your series was terrific. It will be a while before we will make such a venture, but you have given us something to look forward to. Thanks so much for taking the time to bring your great adventure into the homes of others who may not be able to go to Alaska but live through your experiences.
God Bless and safe travel…………..Richard

▪.  Dean Riley on August 20th, 2010 8:49 am  
We missed nearly all your Alaska posts. Is there a way this can be obtained in toto?

▪.  Jim & Lyne’ Ward on August 21st, 2010 5:57 pm  
Jim and I have been following your travels.. Great information.. He so much wants to go maybe next year or the year after that..
We loved being able to travel with you..
Thank you so much,
Jim and Lyne’ Ward

▪.  Delos Cloud on August 24th, 2010 5:18 am  
Thanks for a great series. I probably missed it but was diesel available throughout Alaska and Canada on your trip? We are several years away from an opportunity to spend this much time on the road but greatly looking forward to seeing Alaska and everything in between from our RV.
Thanks,
Delos Cloud
Alexandria, VA