TAKING THE BACK ROAD TO LAS VEGAS (The Grand Circle Part 2)

By Barry Zander, edited by Monique Zander*, the Never-Bored RVers

The Grand Circle – one of the most interesting and dramatic circuits in America – and we were heading there for a second tour, only this time with a different perspective, through foreigners’ eyes. But before we set our GPS for this spectacular route, we encountered an adventure worth relating.

The Back Road to Las Vegas  © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

The Back Road to Las Vegas  © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

In my formative days in my hometown of New Orleans I didn’t have any concept of the grandeur of the Golden West, and, therefore, I didn’t care about what new vistas it held.  I traveled extensively around the Eastern U.S. by car, but when I had business on the West Coast, it was by air.

Well, Easterners, I’ll assure you, if you don’t point your RV westward at least once in your life, you’ll miss out on America at its grandest. What we saw on Day One of our journey was desert … expanses that flowed for miles left and right until abruptly careening against mountains crowned by jagged peaks and ridges.

As we drove onward, we were surrounded by desolate patches of land where few stalwart souls eke out existences, catering to the tourist trade or living off the unforgiving land. For more than five hours, we were never bored.

Our always-mischievous GPS was there to route us from Point A to Point B.  Instead, we turned to Google this time, where, as an exercise, I asked it how to get from our cabin in Southern California to Las Vegas.  It offered three routes, including one Camille (our GPS) would have never condoned. It was a scenic one on straight, narrow roads across the ever-changing desert.  Being adventurers, we allowed Google to map that route, and now we highly recommend it for a different view of the California desert.

We departed mountain cedars and detoured through Joshua Tree National Park on our way to our day’s destination, Las Vegas. I can’t talk about Joshua Tree without mentioning the way the cacti and succulents changed mile after mile. Why did the roadrunner cross the road? Why did the tumbleweeds cross the road? Why did the Cisco Kid and Poncho cross the road (I actually don’t remember seeing them on this trip.)?

The route took us onto Historic Route 66 for a few miles until we turned onto remote

Cholla Cactus

Cholla Cactus

Kelbaker Road, which is reminiscent the of wavy frost heaves on the way to Alaska.  We entered the Mojave National Preserve, where we saw a flashing yellow light advising us of tortoise crossings (desert tortoises are an endangered species).  For the entire stretch we never saw another RV (or tortoise), except at the Kelso Depot, a fancy train station in the middle of nowhere.  We noticed two dozen tourists getting what was probably an interesting guided history lesson about the gold and other precious mineral mining days in the Mojave’s past. Next time through we will stop for the history lesson.

Man vs. Environment: Environment Won This Time

Man vs. Environment: Environment Won This Time

Since we weren’t in a rush and can drive 250 miles on a tank of gas, this made the journey more important than our Las Vegas destination.   And even though we’re always amazed … no, make that “stunned” … at the new casinos and changes on The Strip, that day’s thrill was behind us when we arrived in the glitz after miles of sand, spiny vegetation, and blissful solitude.

Monique Spotted a Coyote Hunting for Prey

Monique Spotted a Coyote Hunting for Prey

The desert was almost lush:  green, healthy, gorgeous.  The cacti and succulents of the high desert were the healthiest we can remember.  The yellow and white wildflowers added to the spectacle.  Simply a path through desolation? Not even close. Had our trip ended there, we would have felt satiated, but it was just the beginning. The next day we were due at Las Vegas International Airport to pick up Monique’s brother and sister-in-law, who were arriving on a non-stop flight from Paris, France, to Las Vegas, Nevada – from the internationally renown City of Lights to the American City of Light.

The excitement builds!

Serrated Peaks and Ridges Change Tones as the Sun Sets

Serrated Peaks and Ridges Change Tones as the Sun Sets

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

This article was first published on AmeriGOrv.com.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Our Alaska Trip Part III Camaraderie

This entry is part 3 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 11, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 14 Comments

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

In yesterday’s article, I waxed prosaically about how Monique and I enjoyed the opportunity of stopping along our route to Canada to see sights that appealed to us, while staying within the guidelines set for us as a group.

Lots of folks told us we didn’t need to spend the money for an escorted caravan to Alaska.  They could be right.  Today, however, we began to really appreciate the investment we had made in our caravan.  All the members of our group climbed aboard a tour bus this morning for visits to two British Columbia, Canada, wineries.

Now, had we not taken in the wineries as we stopped in the Town of Oliver, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.  We’ve been to several others on the East and West Coasts of the U.S.  But it was another opportunity for enrichment, not to mention tasting some surprisingly good wines.

Vineyard 6684

We learned that the Portuguese vintners who ran many of the 27 local wineries in this, “the Wine Capital of Canada,” were aging, and settlers from India arrived to buy up their vineyards.  They have the advantage of large families that work together to make it a viable business.  But the rest are owned by native Canadians or corporate bottlers.

We also learned that the grass between the rows of grapevines keeps the soil moist, with IMG_6668the help of earthworms, irrigation and ever-improving viniculture practices.  We found out that the climatic warming trend is helping the grape crop, and that the longer days here (we have almost 16 hours of daylight now) mean better crops.  You couldn’t get out of there without realizing that owning a winery is a very risky business.

And most of all, we enjoyed the chance to taste wine with some fun people.  The camaraderie of our group was the best part, and we would have missed out on it had we whizzed past these wineries.  This amounted to attending two shows.  At the first, Walter Garinger of Garinger Brothers Estates Winery told us more than most of us could ever remember about the world of wine-growing, from its history in British Columbia and France to the uncertainties of the marketplace.

A few minutes later we were at Silver Sage Winery, where owner Anna served us tasteTasting Wine after taste of a wide variety of fruity wines, while entertaining us with witty observations, such as, “If you can’t find anything you want to watch on the 176 channels on TV, take a bottle of this wine out of the refrigerator and you won’t miss TV.”  The lesson here is without being part of the tour we wouldn’t have known which wineries to visit.

Next, Monique waited patiently behind a long line of RVers ready to pay for produce at a fruit stand with the best variety of items.  How do you know where to stop if you don’t have someone to guide you?

If there is a negative, it’s that we won’t be around long enough to become oblivious to the constant pow, pow, pow of cannons going off to protect the valuable cherry crop across the road that is ripening now.  After the cherries are ready, pears, apricots and then apples are ready for harvesting. We understand the cannons continue from spring to early fall to keep birds from destroying crops that fill thousands of acres of rolling hills in the shadows of a jagged ridge paralleling the highway.  Incidentally, this is the northern tip of the Sonoma Desert, where the arid land has been turned into gold.

Cornucopia 67086In response to several comments, we have often heard about how you can plan to trade in your rig when you get back to the states because the roads in Alaska eat them up.  Yesterday we had two broken windshields reported in our group and both were acquired on paved, smooth roads on the U.S. side of the border.

Our Adventure Caravans Wagonmaster Ken Adams preaches that most of the damage comes from going too fast and following too close.

At this point I want to make a suggestion.   We travel at 55 to 65 mph, depending on the highway (I am considered a speed-demon by many of our fellow travelers, who maintain a 48-52 mph pace).  Our truck and trailer combination is about 50 feet long, not very easy for traffic to pass.  When I realize a vehicle has moved into the passing lane to come around, I assess the situation and slow down if I see any chance of danger ahead, like a hill or a curve.  I am particularly eager to help motorcyclists, who stand a greater chance for problems.

Tomorrow we have one of the longest drives of the 58-day trek.  That means less time for sightseeing, but we’ll keep looking for places of interest to write about.  (All this traveling can get in the way of telling the story.)

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

15 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Camaraderie Part III”

▪.  bbwolf on June 12th, 2010 4:44 pm  
Excellent log. Thanks again for today’s post.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 12th, 2010 5:03 pm  
Once you get farther north onto the Alaska Highway, your speed will drop down much slower. In many areas you will travel about 45 mph because of the condition of the road and because of the dust clouds. Anything faster is bound to do damage to your RVs. I don’t think I would want to be in a caravan on the Alaska Highway because of the dust.

▪.  John Ahrens on June 12th, 2010 5:50 pm  
Stan, I don’t know when you were last up there, but when we went to Alaska, as far as Whitehorse, in 2004, the road was paved with no dust all the way.
Barry, thanks for the travelogue. I am enjoying it. 
When we went to Alaska in 2004, we got one rock chip on our windshield when a van pulled in front of us and threw a rock as we were exiting I-5 in Bellingham WA.

▪.  Robin Potter on June 12th, 2010 6:25 pm  
Thank you so much for sharing your trip. Alaska is on my bucket list – not on hers yet but I’m working on it and your blog may well help!

▪.  Sheila Allison on June 12th, 2010 7:42 pm  
while sitting on the side of the road in a parking lot at Muck a Luk Annie’s, the foretravel bus was hit with a rock by an 18-wheeler breaking the windshield. This was on the road coming south out of White Horse. After we got home we really found out how to travel on their roads and how to protect the tow trucks and campers. If your travels take you to Portage for the train watch out how you load on the flat beds. We ended up with a 20 ft gash down the side of the RV. This was from a bar that was bent the wrong way. Instead of leaning out it was leaning in. It was a wonderful wild trip. Expensive but well worth the money.

▪.  Bob on June 12th, 2010 8:19 pm  
Thanks for the great report. We’ve been planning to take that trip for a few years now but family plans keep interfering. In 2 years it’s MY trip and the rest of the family can sit tight!!!!!

▪.  Gerald Kraft on June 12th, 2010 8:25 pm  
We are on our way back to the lower 48. 1 cracked windshield, 2 rock chips, and a lot of fun.

▪.  Dennis & Chris on June 13th, 2010 6:30 am  
In ‘07 we traveled the Alcan and found it to be great most of the way. Some construction and a section of some sort of gravel but overall we were pleasantly surprised. We were on a Harley by the way.

▪.  Frank & Terrie on June 13th, 2010 9:36 am  
We are loving your adventure. Could you also map out your journey so we can see where you are as you go along? This is also a trip we would like to make with a caravan if possible.
 [Note:  My response later.]

▪.  Garry Scott on June 13th, 2010 10:16 am  
HI There, I am following you from ENGLAND UK as i own a Monaco diplomat 36′ here in the UK and have always wanted to do the Trans Canadian highway from east to west coast then on to Alaska. Therefore am watching your blog with great interest, please put in all details as you can, be careful and have a great time, Best of luck Garry.

▪.  Harold on June 13th, 2010 11:28 am  
We’re on our 4th RV trip to Alaska, 2001, 06, 08, 10, ever year the roads get better. The dust clouds mentioned above are due to road repairs. Our trip in May found only 12 miles of road repairs. 8 miles on the Cassiar, and the rest after Beaver Creek before the Alaskan border. We’ve come alone every trip, and enjoy every mile. Don’t put it off too long.

▪.  Les on June 13th, 2010 11:34 am  
Hello, thanks for the updates. A couple of suggestions, if you could put in your title line “post 1, post 2, post 3, etc., it would be easier for people to keep track of your adventure. How are the people with cracked windshields getting them replaced? Does the caravan wait for you if you have mechanical problems?
 [more on this later, but the answer is it depends on the problem] Have a great time.

 

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 VI Banff & Lake Louise

This entry is part 7 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 15, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 4 Comments  

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

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

It’s been raining off and on all day, and speaking of off and on, we still managed to have an interesting day getting off and on a tour bus for about eight hours today as we toured the resort areas of Banff and Lake Louise in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Water at Lake Louise is Really That Blue

The Water at Lake Louise is Really That Blue

“Be aware!  Nothing’s for Free!” or as the locals abbreviate it, “B-a-n-f-f,” according to our tour bus driver.  Banff is your typical, quaint tourist town in the summer when the skiers have gone home.  We spent hours circling muat-see sights, including the hotel and falls, which were included in yesterday’s blog.  Today, most of the members of the caravan rode together on a field trip.

From Banff we traveled to the incredibly turquoise Lake Louise, where we spent almost two hours viewing the lake and chatting leisurely with people visiting the area.  Beautiful, of course, but since I still can’t find enough picturesque words to convey what we experienced, I’ll let a few pictures help and get on to other topics.  The photos are random shots, not the postcards you can see elsewhere.

First and related, as we trekked along Canada Hwy. 1, our driver explained that the entire length of the 4-lane is getting fencing on both sides.  This is because of how often migrating wildlife is killed on that stretch.  What they have done is build “wildlife underpasses,” which are favored by deer, elk and bighorn sheep wanting to cross the roadway, and “wildlife overpasses,” like bears and wolves.  Considering the investment, it had better work.

Juvenile Bighorn Sheep: Is "Sheep" Singular or Plural?  (Yes, it's a photo effect)

Juvenile Bighorn Sheep: Is “Sheep” Singular or Plural? (Yes, it’s a photo effect)

We find the construction underway amazing, and it brings up another point – VALUE.  Whether you embark on a trip to Alaska on your own or with a caravan, as we are doing, it’s expensive.  How expensive depends on your rig’s fuel consumption, your penchant for spending money for food and trinkets, what excursions including cruises that you want to take, where you plan to camp, etc.  You have to decide.  You’re still going to pay for fuel, food and shopping, but signing up with a caravan adds a hefty amount to your outlay.

With that in mind, I think your decision has to be made based on value.  Do research, including digesting what these blogs have to say, and then make up your mind.  We chose the group approach because it relieved Monique of the intricacies of planning each day including deciding what to do and where to go.  Today we found value in learning things that we found fascinating.

Despite the weather, this was another good day.  We did some touring we probably wouldn’t have wanted to do to conserve on diesel.  We hopped on the bus at 7:45 a.m., which was included in the cost of the trip, and that was it.

As I mentioned earlier, we are not a convoy; we have ample opportunity to do our own thing and don’t travel like ducks in row — there can be 10 miles or 50 between rigs.

Site of an Avalanche in the Making Above Lake Louise

Site of an Avalanche in the Making Above Lake Louise

In addition to explaining about the wildlife fencing, our driver told us that scientists predict that the glaciers, which are retracting, will begin expanding again in 10 years.  We are happy for any hopeful news along those lines.

If you come up through British Columbia, you might go through the Okanagan Corridor.  When we started the trip, we pronounced it “O-kanagan” until I changed to “o-KAN-nagan.”  I now think it is really “okan-NA-gan.”  If you’re not coming this way, don’t worry about it.

The Zanders in a Pergola at Banff

The Zanders in a Pergola at Banff

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

4 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part VI Banff & Lake Louise”

▪.  Sucie on June 15th, 2010 10:43 am  
To bad you missed the Valley of the 10 peaks (Moraine Lake), which is located to the Southeast of Lake Louise. It is absolutely breathtaking. Where you turned right to go to the Lake Louise Chateau, you turn left and take the Moraine Lake Road instead. It is about 10 miles or so. Next time you pass through, be sure to make the trip. You won’t be disappointed

▪.  hockeyguy on June 15th, 2010 9:34 pm  
I agree that Valley of the 10 peaks is spectacular with less development than elsewhere. I was there a long time ago and it still is vivid in my mind. It helps that the valley was the model for the back of the old $10 dollar bill at the time. 
I had a meal at the lodge that was there and it was very good by any standard. 
Everywhere else is still spectacular but the valley is unique. Another attraction to look at is the cliffs that are called Hoo-Doos. The best time to look at them is at night after the moon has risen. A little spooky but very striking. I hope to go again someday.

▪.  Bill Stanley on June 16th, 2010 3:43 pm  
Oh-ka-noggin

▪.  Old Grey on June 16th, 2010 8:27 pm  
I’m re-living parts of our travels in BC as you pass through. Wonderful mountains, lakes and waterfalls. Enjoy your travels!
We plan to head to the Yukon and Alaska in the near future. in our 13 ft. trailer. Alas! We will be unable to travel by caravan (great fun that is!) but we will enjoy our trip nearly as much as you are enjoying yours!

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 IX Jumping to Conclusions

This entry is part 10 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 20, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 18 Comments

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

“In every life there will be a bump in the road.” — Anonymous  Our bump in the road came 149.2 miles north of our last campground in Prince George, British Columbia.  And let this be a warning to all who travel these roads, when you see the three triangles on a yellow road sign, take it seriously.

Today we became acquainted with “frost heaves.”  It turns out it doesn’t have to be cold when you hit one; they are a bump or series of bumps in the asphalt caused by frost.  And when we hit one today, it probably sent our 10,000-pound trailer airborne.  The result was more than four hours of work getting red wine stains and balsamic vinegar out of the carpet and putting practically everything in the rear of the trailer back in place.  It’s typically the rear of the trailer that takes the brunt of these things.  This one snuck up on us – it won’t happen again (I hope), but it is impossible to control.  [We learned later that we had experienced a bump.  Frost heaves didn’t start until a few days later.]

On the pleasant side of the day’s travels, we drove along the Crooked River for miles and

Stellar’s Jays Love Bijoux Falls

Stellar’s Jays Love Bijoux Falls

saw lake after lake all glistening in the perfect sunny weather.  And speaking of glistening, we stopped briefly at Bijoux Falls, probably named that because “bijoux” translates as “jewels,” and the water sparkles as it careens down the mountainside.

The scenery changed from pastoral to mountainous as we once again found the Rocky Mountains.  At this point in the chain, the mountains are mostly green with trees and vegetation, not as steep and capped by very little snow.  There was enough variety, however, to keep the ride interesting.

We're Back in the Rocky Mountains

We’re Back in the Rocky Mountains

A couple of touring notes. As we entered the town of Chetwynd, we were treated to a mile-

A Buffalo Fighter -- Chainsaw Artwork in Chetwin

A Buffalo Fighter — Chainsaw Artwork in Chetwynd

long display along Hwy. 97 of incredible statuary, the work of chainsaw artists.  If you’ve seen chainsaw figures, you probably remember them as sortta crude and often playful.  These statues are truly works of art.

And the other note, in Prince George is the Exploration Place, a museum with something to interest just about everyone.  What caught and held our attention was a little movie room.  I selected the sixth film first.  It is called, “The Log Rollers Waltz.”  What a kick!

So we went up the list of six short films to “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” and then “The Cat Came Back” and on to the next three.   It was 37 minutes of delightful Canadian animated entertainment, featuring the delightful poetry of Robert Service.

Two Memories from the Exploration Place: Freckles the Leopard Gecko and a scene from "The Cremation of Sam McGee"

Two Memories from the Exploration Place: Freckles the Leopard Gecko and a scene from “The Cremation of Sam McGee”

Now, a few Alaska travel notes:

If you see a sign for bumps, slow down.  I mentioned that before, but it’s serious.

A requirement of our caravan is having a CB radio so we can communicate with the staff.  We bought a very good Cobra, which, unfortunately has lots of dials and switches.  I think for a trip like this, simple is better. With the help of Tailgunner Spence last night we finally got it adjusted, while everyone else had probably just turned theirs on and talked.

If you’re going to be in these parts in late summer, we hear that you’d better have reservations if you’re going to stay in private campgrounds.  They are already crowded and will get worse.

Our XM radio reception is getting interrupted more often as we head north, which I attribute to the position of the satellite over the horizon.  Mountains and trees seem to cause more interference.

And to end on a learning-curve note, yesterday we went into a supermarket.  Very impressive.  I walked up to the meat counter and asked for a half-pound of rare roast beef.  The young man behind the counter just stared at me blankly.  Well, I know that as a U.S. citizen, I’m supposed to ask the same question louder so he understands me, but I didn’t do that … luckily.  He turned to his co-worked and asked, “How much is a half-pound?”  She said something like 250 grams.  Oh.

But there’s more.  We had parked our truck in a section of the supermarket’s parking lot across a traffic lane.  The shopping cart cost us 25 cents, returnable when you take the cart back.  So we just went merrily along toward our truck.  When we got to that traffic lane, a brake clicked into place so we couldn’t move the cart forward or backward.  A passing shopper yelled from his car to let us know that we couldn’t take the cart out of the grocery’s parking lot.

And finally, back to the map issue.  It’s been done for us.  Go to http://www.adventurecaravans.com/alaska/avc_alaska_map.asp?TCC=58AK2011870.   That is the ultimate source.

Busy day Sunday in Dawson Creek, B.C.

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

Comments

18 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part IX Frost Heaves”

▪.  Wayne Cunningham on June 20th, 2010 4:38 pm  
You might want to watch for subtle markers like a coffee can, small flag, etc. They could all be warning signs. It is better to slow down and be wrong than to blow it off and learn how to fly.
Been there, done that!
Love following your trip. Be safe and enjoy!

▪.  Allen on June 20th, 2010 4:44 pm  
The Canadians are rapidly going to the metric system. Just have to get used to it ourselves. That shopping cart brake sounds like a great idea – probably saves them from chasing carts all over town like they do here in Connecticut.
Watch for frost and heat heaves in all areas. We get the heat heaves during very hot weather.
You found the one problem that Sirius radio has with tunnels and trees, if you can’t see the satellite, you can’t get the program.
Otherwise, enjoy the travel.

▪.  Lynda Begg on June 20th, 2010 4:56 pm  
We too, had the grocery cart experience in Morgan Hill, California. Parked our rig in the Lowe’s parking lot where our 50 feet fit, only to have to swap carts to a drug store cart when the Safeway cart brake came on. I understand, but Safeway did not have RV parking!!!

▪.  Jere on June 20th, 2010 5:00 pm  
Your pictures of the beautiful countryside brings to mind Romans 1: 20 “…since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Deity” and for that beauty we must give thanks and glorify Him. Keep the pictures coming. 

[He looked down on us smiling, as you will learn in future editions.]

▪.  Chris Clarke on June 20th, 2010 5:47 pm  
The map of the tour looks like a good idea with some interesting descriptions. Of course you folks went north up the centre of Washington and followed the Okanagan route to get to Prince George. The map strays a bit because Dawson Creek is actually in BC, just west of the Alberta BC border.
About the metric system, we converted to the metric system in 1976 but some clueless clot chose kilopascals as the unit of pressure!! What the heck is a kilopascal (kpa)? So if you want to put air in your tires and the meter is in metric it’s a pain. Even OnStar reports my tire pressure in kpa.
Here’s a web page that might help you:
http://www.csgnetwork.com/presskpapsicvt.html
My rig carries 80 psi in the rear tires which is as near as “damn it” is to swearing as 550 kpa. If it’s any consolation, I worked in the oil and gas industry here for 40 years and kilopascals still don’t register with me. see my previous comment re the lost grey matter.
Take care folks and “stay between the rhubarb”.

▪.  Full Timer Normie on June 20th, 2010 5:52 pm  
You are having a great trip, notwithstanding the ‘bumps’ in the road. We had the same rear of the trailer problem traveling across Louisiana on I-10…actually broke all my Corning Ware…which was packed between layers of paper towels…so it doesn’t take much to bounce that rear end. Sorry you had the experience…even sorrier for the loss of the red wine…LOL
Your pix are great, your commentary is spot on…makes us feel like we are right there with you…Thanks for the work you are putting into this.

▪.  Mike on June 20th, 2010 6:43 pm  
A minor problem with you map, minor if you live in Washington because you just annexed northern Idaho and a good portion on western Montana.

▪.  RolandG on June 20th, 2010 7:17 pm  
Enjoying your travels. We did the trip by other means 2 years ago. Wait till you get to big Chicken Alaska and North Pole Alaska. BTW, Dawson City is in the Yukon Territory. Safe travels!

▪.  GaryM on June 20th, 2010 8:04 pm  
You’re lucky. I met a guy several years ago who said he had to replace both axles and all his tires and rims; all from hitting a frost heave to fast. Sounds like your having a good trip so far. Please keep the articles coming.

▪.  Stan C. on June 20th, 2010 10:02 pm  
Good stories. Travelled to Alaska last year, spent 45 days & intend on going back. Feels like we are travelling together. We also towed a 5th wh., luckily, nothing major happened, after the first frost heave, I had my foot ready for the brakes to slow down; & that is the trick, you are retired, so slow down & enjoy the beauty that surrounds you, there is a lot of it wherever you go.

▪.  George on June 20th, 2010 10:05 pm  
Roland mentions Chicken, Alaska. A true story is how it got its name: The locals wanted to name it Ptarmigan but there was not a consensus on how to spell Ptarmigan so Chicken was selected instead.

▪.  Garry Scott on June 21st, 2010 8:54 am  
Well done, map is great, now we can follow you with great interest thanks Regards Garry (UK)

Our Alaska Trip Part X The Story of the Highway

This entry is part 11 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 21, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 9 Comments

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

Busy day, both as members of the caravan and on our own.  The day began with a paradeMile 0 - 7474 of our cars to the downtown section of the Town of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, where we took advantage of the Sunday morning peacefulness to gather under the sign at the start of the Alaska Highway.  Once the last camera clicked, we dispersed into the quaint, quiet town or down the road to take in historic sites.  Free time.  We enjoyed our walk around town, particularly seeing the historical murals on the sides of many buildings.  Then Monique’s innate talent for finding European delis took over and led us to one of the very few businesses open on Sunday, a deli with good coffee and good ham and cheese croissants.  I know that sounds a little too “bloggy,” but it’s included as a suggestion that if you roam just about any town for a few minutes, no telling was surprises you’ll discover.

Murals throughout Downtown Show the Town's History

Murals throughout Downtown Show the Town’s History

Here is my most important advice of the day:  in addition to keeping mosquito repellant handy, if you’re heading for Alaska don’t start your trip up the Alaska Highway without stopping by the Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce to watch the PBS film on how the Army did the impossible task of building the highway ahead of schedule.  Once you see the film, you’ll better understand why this road has been named a Historical Civil Engineering Marvel by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  After seeing the movie, in addition to driving the road, you will be ready to feel the pain and pride that built it.

The Curved Bridge, Built with the Highway in 1942, Has Been Bypassed

The Curved Bridge, Built with the Highway in 1942, Has Been Bypassed

Monique and I returned to our trailer in time to do a little more cleaning up from the disastrous bumps we hit the day before – which, Wagonmaster Ken Adams clarified as being just bumps, not frost heaves as other travelers had told me.  Those will come later, when we do reach colder weather.  Incidentally, today was in the 70s with mostly clear skies.

Before writing about the final stop of the day, since this is not only about the trip to Alaska, but also about traveling as part of a caravan, I should give you a little more information about the roles of the Wagonmaster, Tailgunner and their wives.  Some time before each travel day, Ken gives us a briefing on what’s ahead.  While he’s doing that, we’re following along making notes in our Travel Log, which was given to us on Day 1.

The comb-bound guidebook tells us distances between the RV park we are in and stops along the way, including sights we might want to check out, fuel and eating spots, steep downgrades, curves and bad sections of road, and how to get into the next night’s campground.  It includes maps of towns and campgrounds.

Then Carole Adams, Tailgunner Spence Schaaf and wife Madeline add to the briefing, as needed.  Now, much of this information and more is in “Mileposts,” which we are encouraged to use to supplement their information.  I assume that Adventure Caravans isn’t the only company that provides this type of information to its “guests.”  One of the primary reasons we decided to sign up with the caravan is that we expected them to reduce the amount of planning and stress for us.  It is working out that way.

No need to mention other functions of our staff now.  I’ll just assure you they have many duties, including things like preparing and serving us breakfast a couple of days ago.

The Caravan Took a Hayride into a Bison Pasture

The Caravan Took a Hayride into a Bison Pasture

Our final stop of the day began with a bus ride to a wild animal farm.  After a buffet dinner of bison, venison and wild boar, we took a walk along a row of

pens and then climbed aboard a wagon for an old fashioned hayride into the fields.  Bison,Mtn Goat 7604 elk, musk ox, reindeer, mountain goats and a host of other interesting beasts milled around watching us as we invaded their pastures and habitats.  Monique and I found the wildlife interesting, but we mostly enjoyed the camaraderie at the dinner and during the hayride.

 

Two Bad Signs: Pub for Sale and Bumps Ahead!

Two Bad Signs: Pub for Sale and Bumps Ahead!

Tomorrow is a long ride from Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson, B.C.  The days continue to get longer.  I awoke at 4:10 this morning to find the skies hazy bright.  It’s10:30 p.m. now and dusk seems to be setting in.  We continue to climb northward.

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

Comments

9 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part X The Story of the Highway”

▪.  susan on June 21st, 2010 4:46 pm  
Still reading your every post, even if I don’t respond.
Enjoying them immensely..Keep up the good work!
Enjoy and safe travels…Sue

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 21st, 2010 6:42 pm  
I concur. The film on building the Alaska Highway is a must. Don’t miss it.

▪.  Billk on June 21st, 2010 7:32 pm  
Wait till you find the Huge Honey Buns, as BIG as your HEAD.
Your Blog brings back a lot of great memories.

▪.  MikeA on June 21st, 2010 9:47 pm  
Thank you so very much for doing your travelog. I so want to take the trip-but haven’t due to a number of reasons. Some day! But living vicariously-thanks to you.

▪.  Bill on June 22nd, 2010 8:28 am  
I haven’t actually made it to Alaska but I have seen a show on TV dedicated to the building of the Alaska Highway. I believe it was one of the Modern Marvels shows on the History Channel but it might have been a show on National Geographic.
Anyhow it was very interesting and pretty amazing how the road was built and what the people who built it had to go through.
Thought I’d put this in for people (like me) who have never been there but want to know more about it. That stuff repeats so the show will be on again sometime. You might also be able to view it on the internet if you know how to find and view that kind of stuff on line.

▪.  William Stanley on June 22nd, 2010 12:38 pm  
It’s from the PBS series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. “Building the Alaska Highway”
It’s a great production!

▪.  Rob Hughes on June 23rd, 2010 6:25 pm  
Interesting blog. Hope to make that trip in about 5 years. Am following your comments intently. Thanks!

▪.  Mike Stoneham on June 23rd, 2010 7:01 pm  
Great blog. Very interesting. My wife and I plan to head out Spring 2012. Trying to decide whether or not to caravan.

▪.  Gerald Hennings on March 18th, 2012 2:53 pm  
My wife and myself and another couple are planning our trip to Alaska starting June 1st, 2012. We are from the interior of British Columbia and are looking for a couple of more rigs to come along, maybe 7 rigs max. trying to keep it small and simple for camping etc. There is no extra costs attached but just come with your ideas etc.

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 XIII The “Fireweed” Highway

This entry is part 14 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 28, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 11 Comments

This is the 13th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Good news!  If you’re looking forward to driving across vast expanses where you can still find opportunities for adventure, the Yukon is the place.  And obviously if you plan to drive to Alaska, you will see the Yukon.

Fireweed Aside the Yukon River

Fireweed Aside the Yukon River

While previous travelers say the road has improved over the past 10 years, it’s nowhere near as easy to drive as even rural state highways in the U.S.  Is that good or bad?  I’m in agreement with those who want the Yukon to be unrefined forever, a territory where the frontier spirit lives on.

Where we were Sunday was remote.  There was a cabin down a dirt road every 20 or 30 miles.  Few settlements, gas stations or restaurants on today’s route and other than the Five Fingers rock formation on the Yukon River, very few photo op stops.

Five Fingers rock formation on the Yukon River

Five Fingers rock formation on the Yukon River

This was our caravan’s longest travel day of the 58-day tour in miles:  339 miles from Whitehorse to Dawson City.  The road we followed is the Klondike Highway, a.k.a. Hwy. 2, but at this time of year it could also be called “The Fireweed Road.”

Fireweed All Along the Klondike Highway

Fireweed All Along the Klondike Highway

Fireweed, the magenta and pink official flower of the Yukon, grows profusely along the miles of two-lane highway, intermixed with white, yellow and blue wildflowers.

Historically, this road was built in the Tintina Trench, a natural geological canyon caused by shifts in fault lines.  When the route was first being considered, running it in the trench was the easy choice.

Arctic Ground Squirrel

Arctic Ground Squirrel

It was another slow day for wildlife.  Several members of the group, including us, saw only perky little Arctic Ground Squirrels scurrying across the pavement in our 8-hour drive.

The most important observation I can pass along to future Alaska-bound trekkers is stay alert for bumps.  A few are marked with signs but most aren’t.  After an hour or two of blacktop observation, dips, potholes and gravel are easier to see, but I doubt that anyone won’t get jolted unexpectedly a few times along the way.  It didn’t seem like we had any bad bumps; yet, our radio/TV /DVD player combo remote in the trailer fell and was shattered under the weight of a recliner that obviously jumped.  It could have been while we were on the 15.6 miles of gravel we encounter halfway along the trail.

Enough about the trip for the moment.  Time for a vocabulary lesson:

You must get used to “loonies” and “toonies.”  In Canada there are not dollar bills, but rather, copper-colored $1 coins called “loonies” because there is a loon on the back.  A small loonie inside a larger silver ring is a “toonie” because it is two coins equal to $2.

If you go into a restroom in a store, do you rest?  Probably not.  Or if you ask for the public bathroom, are you planning to take a bath?  Probably not.  Up here they are called “washrooms,” which makes sense, since calling it by what you really plan to do isn’t polite.

RVers see signs along the road saying RV parks have “full service.”  Translation: “Full-Hookups.”

We arrived at our Dawson City RV resort in the rain this afternoon, happy to be able to squeeze into a parking spot.  As mentioned before, every campground up here is full or close to it every night.  For us, the caravan staff has made the arrangements; for the independent traveler, it seems like a good idea to make advanced reservations or just hope for the best.  There are alternatives, including dry camping in provincial parks and off-road pullouts, but we haven’t experienced them.

Weed 1-8013And finally, did Einstein visit the Yukon?

“… escape from everyday life, with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness from the fetters from one’s own shifting desires.  A finely tempered nature longs to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of the high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.”

1918 speech by Albert Einstein    [Contributed by Brent Puniwai]

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

Comments

11 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XIII The “Fireweed” Highway” (+ several spam comments)

▪.  Jim Sathe on June 28th, 2010 4:49 pm  
The next phase of your trip is the ferry crossing of the Yukon River followed by the Top of the World Highway to the Alaska Border. There the road turns from asphalt to gravel and it is about 60 miles to Chicken, Alaska. A great drive.

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on June 28th, 2010 5:27 pm  
You think the roads were rough in the Yukon? Wait until you drive the potholes and loose gravel of the Top of the World Highway, then the washboard dirt and gravel roads to Chicken. We make that trip every year from Anchorage to the Taylor Highway and on to Dawson City. We love it, but it is a kidney puncher. We chuckle at the Chicken General Store when we hear other RVers say it was the worst drive of their life.

▪.  David Rohwer on June 28th, 2010 6:13 pm  
I just rode up to Dawson City and back from Fairbanks. Your next leg after crossing the Yukon on the ferry is 65 miles to the US/Canadian Border on a mix of gravel and chip seal. It is then 43 miles from the border to Chicken on gravel/dirt road that can be slick when wet. Be cautious and watch the edge carefully. We saw lots of RV’s on the road. The Top of the World Highway is a visual treat! From Chicken to the ALCAN is 66 miles of reasonably good chip seal and asphalt. Chicken is a cool town and I recommend stopping at the Chicken Creek Cafe/Saloon/Mercantile Emporium, a very short drive on the right just past the main lodge on the road. And there is a dredge there too to see.

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on June 28th, 2010 6:15 pm  
Oh! the Top of the World/Taylor Highway. Spectacular drive, we have traveled it both directions from Dawson to Chicken and Tok and the reverse. Definitely not for the faint of heart and those that are not good judges of where the right side of their RV is in relation to the edge of the road.
Yes potholes are a fact of life on many northern roads part of what makes the adventure. There`s been thousands before you and there will be thousands after you have left.
Guaranteed many will repeat the trip but likely on their own rather than a caravan. The Yukon and Alaska are very safe places to have the travel and adventure like this unlike the crime that seems so much a part of the lower 48.
When you are in Chicken be sure to take a few minutes to see the “post office” and the big dredge if you missed the dredge #4 at Dawson.
Not sure of your return route but it could be by highway 37 south from Watson Lake heading back into British Columbia. Another venture in itself. Please enjoy and come back.

▪.  Merrily on June 28th, 2010 6:56 pm  
When I drove up to Alaska, we stayed mostly in provincial parks and boondocked and had NO problems getting sites. We did book for our stay in Denali (way ahead of time) & in Anchorage at a RV park w/hook ups!
Love hearing about your adventure!!

▪.  Old Gray on June 28th, 2010 8:08 pm  
I love hearing about Canadianisms! As a Canadian traveling along the east coast of the U.S. somewhere in the Carolinas, I once asked directions to a marina’s “washroom”. I ended up in the laundry. 
Things like that make a trip more memorable.

▪.  Brian Morris on June 29th, 2010 6:59 am  
Reading about your trip brings back some great memories. Although I have not read all of your “travel logs” what I have read reinforces our decision to travel with the benefit of another trailer or two along with us but not to be a part of a “caravan”. 
The trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City passes by so many interesting places to “wile away” a little time here and there, while learning about some of the fabulous places and people we met and how they landed up in the Yukon. I am not sure if your writings are representative of the things you are seeing and doing along the way, and of necessity when you are making such a long trip as part of a caravan I am sure there is not much time to “dally” along the way. I have learned from my travels however, that it is often in the “dallying” when you have some of your most memorable experiences. Also for those who have never travelled to/in the Yukon you are missing one of the great adventure of your lives, and every Canadian should make the effort to see this part of their country and it’s people. Although in peak season some of the campgrounds can be very busy, there are many, many opportunities to safely boondock and spend time with the wonderful pioneer spirited people you will meet along the way. While I don’t always recall without some prompting from my sons the names of every place we visited in the Yukon, I sure do remember the people I met and the interesting conversations we had and the places we saw in the “back of the beyond”.
Although you mentioned the profusion of Fireweed all along the road, what was not mentioned was the origin of the name “Fireweed”. This name comes from this plant being in the forefront of new vegetation that appears shortly after a forest fire, of which there would have been plentiful sites in various stages of regrowth along the road to Dawson City.
The only other thing I can say is I wish I were making the trip but without the caravan. Have a safe, enjoyable journey.           

[Thanks for your input (every comment is appreciated).  I am not working for the caravan companies, just enjoying the trip and the opportunity to share it with so many readers.  Go with a group or alone, it’s up to you, but Monique and I are really enjoying meeting the locals – even some natives – and seeing some of the offbeat places not seen by most travelers.  We enjoy “dayllying,” also.]

▪.  Ali Shumate on June 29th, 2010 7:52 am  
I have a great fear of heights, especially on the edges of any. Would you advise me not to take the ” Top of the World/Taylor highway”?

 .

[I think the risk is worth the reward.  You’ll be talking about that road for years.]

▪.  levonne on June 29th, 2010 4:07 pm  
I would love to campground host in Alaska. You’re having a great time! If you have a minute, come visit my blog: A Camp Host Housewife’s Meanderings.

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on June 29th, 2010 6:24 pm  
Nervous of Heights?? This is to Ali Shumate the trip in reverse from TOK up through the Taylor Highway is a lot easier to take if fear of heights is a factor. Been both ways.
Going up Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing to Tok you are on the inside for the most part heading over the top and down to Dawson City. It is so memorable you just got to grin and bear it. It’s driven every day … no reason really not to go. It’s an adventure you will cherish forever.

▪.  marianj on July 25th, 2010 5:41 pm  
Just read of your trip to Dawson, YK. Great pictures of Fireweed. We live in Alaska so find it interesting to hear a newcomer take on the Alcan. Hope you have a great time. Come back soon. Marianj

Our Alaska Trip Part XV White-Knuckle Driving

This entry is part 16 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 4, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 9 Comments

This is the 15th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

NOTE:  For whatever reason, Part XV didn’t get posted, and since the Top of the World Highway is one of the real adventures of the trip, I want to make sure it is available.  By way of a weak excuse, we’ve had long days of travel and touring.  My energy level is eroded by the need to be alert for hours on the road, and these days with only three hours of daylight are confusing.  I think the problem was probably my fatigue.

Time Change sm - 8121

Did you even know there is Alaska Daylight Time?  Wednesday we set our clocks back an hour as we waited to cross the border from Canada back into the United States.  We entered Alaska.

Getting through the border checkpoint at Poker Creek was the easy part.  Getting to this remote outpost at the border and from there to the next town, Chicken, Alaska, was the part that many travelers dread.  The ride took us four-and-a-quarter hours from Dawson City to Chicken, a distance of 108 miles.  Some of you who have already made that trip are probably wondering how we made it so fast.  Well, road conditions were good, except for slow-going through the clouds.

The Top of the World Highway -- A Memorable Adventure of Our Trip

The Top of the World Highway — A Memorable Adventure of Our Trip

This fabled Top of the World Highway is torturous to vehicles — not more difficult than IMG_8130some other roads we have traveled, just a lot more of it.   Because of careful preparation, we and apparently all other 20 rigs in the caravan made it with no major damage.  When we weren’t socked in, we could see for at least a hundred miles.  What we saw were trees and more trees, creeks and rivers, and beyond it all were the mountains dressed in blue, grey, purple and emerald.  We were told that you can see Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) from the road, but we didn’t take the time to stop at the overlooks except to get snacks from our trailer.

One other thing that helped speed us along was that Monique and I left Dawson Tuesday afternoon, catching the Yukon River ferry after only a three-minute wait, and driving six miles of washboard to the Top of the World Golf Course.  This 9-hole course carved out of the forest is rustic, particularly the greens.  I suspect that the same guy who made the roads around here also did the greens.

 

Having played in Key West, Florida, at the Southernmost Golf Course in America just six months ago, I had to play at the Top of the World in the Yukon.  Two other members of our group and their wives had a very enjoyable time, particularly since we didn’t keep score.  The tradition is to play at midnight, but since that’s a bit past our bedtimes, I proposed that we tee off at 8:30 and just tell our friends we played in the bright daylight of midnight.  Please don’t tell anyone we cheated.

Main Street Chicken.  An outpost in the middle of nowhere that's a welcome sight.

Main Street Chicken. An outpost in the middle of nowhere that’s a welcome sight.

The bustling city of Chicken is a hoot.  In addition to the no-hook-ups RV park with a restaurant, office/gift shop, gold-panning opportunity and the Pedro Dredge, there is the town.  It consists of one building about 100 feet long separated into another gift shop, a liquor store with reasonable prices, and a saloon.  We passed another RV park nearby.  After the drive up here, it is an oasis.

The reward for reaching Chicken was a chicken dinner prepared by the caravan staff.  Afterward we sauntered over to the restaurant for homemade dessert and to hear owner Mike’s talk about Chicken’s history and ability to survive despite minus-80-degree weather.  There are only four year-round residents; the rest (146) begin to disperse for less harsh conditions in the fall.

Two days before arriving in Chicken, I didn’t know what a gold-mining dredge is.   Now I’ve toured two of them, one in Dawson, the other in Chicken, which is probably my lifetime quota.

Pedro

Pedro

This morning I joined an expedition to find a mama moose that Larry had photographed standing in a pond just up the road from the camp.  By the time we made another excursion, she was gone, but the scenery made the hike a complete success.  So now it’s on to Tok, another rustic spot, before reaching Fairbanks for a five-day recovery stretch and rehabilitation of our RVs.

 

I called out to ask this bicyclist how his trip was going: "FANTASTIC!!!"

I called out to ask this bicyclist how his trip was going: “FANTASTIC!!!”

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

Comments

9 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XV White-Knuckle Driving”

▪.  Mike Busby on July 5th, 2010 12:06 am  
Sounds like you enjoyed your stay in Chicken at our park, http://chickengold.com. Even though you had no hookups, we do provide hookups in the lower park and soon will in the caravan park. Hope your travels are great. Nice blog! You will find more info on our Chicken life in our blog: http://chickengold-blog.com.
Mike

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 5th, 2010 4:19 pm  
Glad you made it ok!
Lynne,
Chugiak, Alaska

▪.  Alex Gendron on July 5th, 2010 4:22 pm  
It is quite interesting to get other views on the Alaska Trip as we just returned from a one month visit to the North via Dawson Creek, BC to Whitehorse, Dawson City, Top of the World, Fairbanks, Wasilia, Tok, and down HW 37 to Stewart and 16 to Prince George and South again. It was truly a wonderful experience in contrasting scenery. All I can say is the North is especially beautiful and its beck-and-call will take me back to some special spots in the next few years. Atlin, Dawson City, Dease Lake area to name a few that I thought were special.
I look forward to another RV venture up there.

▪.  Sharon Brandt on July 5th, 2010 7:37 pm  
We went over the Top of the World Highway to Chicken on the day the road opened. It was so very quiet at Poker Creek that we saw a hoary marmot taking a sunbath in the middle of the road. Though Top of the World was slow going (we stopped a lot to take in the scenery — no clouds), it was a much smoother ride than we had on our return through Destruction Bay.

▪.  Jerry X Shea on July 6th, 2010 4:52 pm  
It took us about the same time last year, going from Chicken to D.C. We made the trip on our way out of Alaska. Two days before our trip over the Top of the World Hwy it was all fogged in and raining. The day we made the trip it was between two storms and it was sunny and clear. One of the best and most beautiful drives we made in Alaska – the road however was the worst we ever drove on or ever will again. The next day in D.C. it rained.
My advice to those of you following this trip and planning your trip – check the weather. If it is raining or foggy, just pass, as you will see nothing. Go when it is sunny and it is beautiful – but bumpy.

▪.  Gordon and Martha Wagoner on July 7th, 2010 1:20 pm  
My what memories that picture of Chicken brought back. We went thru there in 2000–IT HASNT CHANGED A BIT! Ha.
Was the bearded lady[?] still working there running the place?
We traveled on a tour bus however, and when we left to start our trip up the Highway, it was a misty rain…by the time we got to Chicken is was completely raining. We were told then, that we were the last persons allowed to travel on the road as parts of it had washed away. We drove thru little rivers made in the gullies of the missing road and slid on the muddy road. Fortunately we had a truck spotter who traveled ahead of us to warn us of oncoming vehicles since there were very few places to pull over. Can’t say I got a lot of pictures as we were all holding on for dear life as the bus slipped and slid along … and our driver [who looked all of 17 yrs old] kept assuring us that she had it under control and had driven that road many times. Oh, yes what memories we had of our Alaskan trip, but that ‘highway’ was one experience we often relate to others. Enjoy your trip!!

▪.  marianj on August 12th, 2010 5:57 pm  
Boy you had a nice trip on the Top of The Highway. It has since been closed most of the due to washouts and rain part of the road is no longer there, it will take months to fix it.

 [It reopened in a couple of weeks, reportedly with a constant flow of traffic.]