OUR ALASKA TRIP Part I – North to Alaska

This entry is part 1 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 9, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 20 Comments

This is the first in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska.  As the hundreds of commenters to these blogs will attest along the way, each of the 36 entries has value, not only to travelers and future travelers, but for those who just enjoy learning about RVing to Alaska.

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

We’re hitching up and leaving tomorrow for Alaska.  It’ll be our first trip there and our first time traveling as part of a caravan.

This escapade all started four years ago at Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina.  We asked a camper about the Alaska sticker on his map on the side of his motorhome.  We were pretty new to camping, and Alaska seemed so remote.

Barry & Monique, left, meet Adventure Caravans' Wagonmasters Ken & Carole, right, and Tailgunners Spense & Madi

Barry & Monique, left, meet Adventure Caravans’ Wagonmasters Ken & Carole, right, and Tailgunners Spense & Madi

Since then we have gotten into conversations with maybe 250 or 300 RVers about their trips to Alaska.  All but one thought it was about the greatest thing they had done with the RV, but none – zero – had signed up to be part of a caravan going there, with the exception of a Good Sam Club “wagonmaster” in Key West, Florida.

We had planned to head north from Key West this spring to visit the Maritime Provinces of Canada, but Monique suggested that we should veer left at Tampa and set our compass for “The Last Frontier,” Alaska.  That was at the end of 2009,

We bought “Milepost,” the bible of RV travel to Alaska, and Monique started poring over its 800 pages to map out our route and stops along the way.  During the process, a neighbor mentioned that there was a wagonmaster in the camp, so we sought him out and spent an hour hearing about the benefits of caravanning.

Over the next two months, we continued to gather information from the Internet and kept asking RVers about their Alaskan adventures.  All of them said, “Go!” and none of them had any problem doing it on their own.

Week after week we waivered, until I finally said, “Let’s just do it.”  With the caravan, we don’t have to worry where we will camp, we’ll have advice each day on what’s worth seeing and what to skip while on the road, and we won’t have to hassle with getting tickets to boat excursions along the way.  And since all the extra attractions are pricey by our standards, this would eliminate the decisions of whether to spend the money for a boat trip, a show or other offering that would heighten the experience.

What we didn’t want was to be one of a line of ducklings following mother duck 7,000 miles.  That’s not what a caravan is.  Each day we can go on our own or join one or more other members of the group.  It’s very flexible.

I’ll write about the company we signed up with, Adventure Caravans, once we get on the road.  We didn’t really eliminate any company in our research.  Our decision was made based on the length of the trip (58 days) and the stops along the way.

Our first social -- getting to know each other

Our first social — getting to know each other

Sunday we met Ken & Carole, our wagonmasters, and Spence and Madi, our tailgunners (they follow the caravan to help anyone having problems).  For the past three days, we’ve been getting ready for the long journey and spending time getting to know the other members of the caravan.  When we link up with a few more RVs, we will have 18 rigs, plus the two staff motorhomes.

Spence, right, guides me and fellow Caravan Member Larry, left, in putting protection on the front of our truck

Spence, right, guides me and fellow Caravan Member Larry, left, in putting protection on the front of our truck

Thursday we depart from Soap Lake, Washington, heading for our first stop, Oliver, British Columbia.

In the days ahead, when internet service is available, I hope to share our experiences with you so that you’ll join us in our excitement without being so detailed that we take away the discovery that lies ahead when you make the long trek north yourself.

I just ask that you wish us fair weather and paved roads …

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

20 Responses to “North to Alaska Part I”

▪.  Jerry X Shea on June 9th, 2010 4:42 pm 
Have fun. We went for 4 months last year. So much to see, we still did not get to see everything. Homer and Seward are a must. Keep your camera handy. The animals do not “pose” for pictures – you have to be quick to ge the shot.
Check out our trip at http://www.jerryandmarynorthtoalaska.blogspot.com

▪.  Carol & Wayne on June 9th, 2010 5:09 pm 
What an adventure. I will watch for your posts! We are travelling across Canada later next month (July) and then end of August head up to Alaska, so am interested in what you encounter. Not sure I like the pic with putting up guards on your truck, sounds like there could be damage to truck and trailer, so keep us informed on that…. Have a safe trip, and awesome weather……

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on June 9th, 2010 5:10 pm 
What I’d like to know is what the total cost at the end of the trip was including fuel and everything. I recognize that number would be different for different people but a ball park number would be nice so I could decide if it was even feasible for someone like me that lives on a fixed income.
Kurt

▪.  susan on June 9th, 2010 5:42 pm 
Wow…this is something we are thinking about in a year or two.
Will look for your posts.
Enjoy your adventure!!
Sue

▪.  Leah Vercellono on June 9th, 2010 5:46 pm 
Have a WONDERFUL trip–am turning green with envy! We have “done” Alaska four times and would go back in a heartbeat (medical issues prohibit travel now). Our last trip was in the motorhome and we were gone three months–what a wonderful experience. We saw different areas each trip and still didn’t see everything, but met some great people along the way. That trip was in 1993 and gas up there at that time was $2.67—boy now we would jump for joy to see that on our pumps down here! Every town, no matter what size has a museum and you can find great souvenirs at many of them. I collect ornaments from where ever we go and got some really unique ones. If you are in Fairbanks during the Eskimo-Indian Olympics (July)–don’t miss them. Their contests are completely different from what we have and so interesting. Couldn’t get over how many of the contestants were from Barrow. And yes, one trip we flew up to Barrow–what an experience. Did a tour of the Pribloff Islands on our first trip (out in the Bering Sea)–quite interesting, but wouldn’t want to live there. Eat LOTS of salmon—there is nothing like Alaskan salmon. The Discovery RiverBoad cruise is a must see–you learn a lot about Alaska there. And the museum at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks–don’t miss the gold exhibit!! This is one of the best museums ever. If you are in Homer–lots of artists there. I got a watercolor of a baby otter–just love watching those little clowns. Will be looking forward to your posts about your trip–oh and take your bathing suits incase they stop at the Hot Springs in BC!! Such a fascinating world we live in and so fortunate to get out and see beyond our own boundaries. Hugs,
Leah
PS–the next year we did the Maritime Provinces and loved that trip also–were gone almost three months.

▪.  Dennis L. LEE on June 9th, 2010 6:09 pm 
Think all of you will have a great time. We do camp, but haven’t taken on quite a large experiment yet. Yea for you all and God Bless
Dennis

▪.  julie rea on June 9th, 2010 6:34 pm 
Oh, looking forward to reading of your travels. Want to attempt it next summer. Are you taking any pets? Want to know how they do. Mine have travelled to Mexico with no problems. Will your caravan be on any ferries?

▪.  rrrick08 on June 9th, 2010 6:40 pm 
You will love Alaska. We RV’d w/ a caravan 2 years ago. Glad we did the caravan as we had no idea what to see or do by ourselves in such a huge state. The caravan was worth it to us as we saw a lot and had quite a bit of free time to explore on our own as well. Always figured we could go back again some day and see the areas that we want to see more of. Have fun, you will also enjoy 24 hours of daylight. Quite different.

▪.  Gary Underwood on June 9th, 2010 7:05 pm 
Looking forward to your posts. We went thru the same thought process – i.e. go it along or do the caravan or put together a mini caravan of our own. We have tried the latter for three years and just can’t get it going so we too put down the bucks and leave from Dawson Creek, BC on June 30. Good luck to you folks and have fun!.

▪.  Peggy on June 9th, 2010 8:01 pm 
You’ll love your trip but a caravan…? We did it twice on a motorcycle, by ourselves…
So many folks think you need so much ’stuff’ – there are so many places/businesses to stop along the way if you need something (food, automotive) or whatever…
August, 2009 we rode from Whitehorse, YT to Skagway, Alaska, USA – awesome, beautiful…
Fairbanks area, look for the pipe lines – I thought they were all underground but that’s not the case…
Pictures and stories (blogs) are on our website… Have fun and enjoy all that you can – don’t put it off… 
Three months ago my husband passed away so I’m going to become ‘one of you,’ an RVer…

▪.  Peggy on June 9th, 2010 8:07 pm 
I’m new here but love reading what you all have written… See where my website wasn’t posted – it’s: http:/triglide.multiply.com
Again, enjoy and have a wonderful time…

▪.  Jim Hammack on June 9th, 2010 8:33 pm 
I will be looking forward to your post. My wife and I have made two cruse/land tours and have talked about going back at a slower pace with the RV.
I too would like to know the difference (cost wise) between doing it on your on or with a caravan. With the initial layout of ~$5000, I’m wondering just how much of this is the (included) cost of the campgrounds and tours. It seems like the campground across from the McKinley chalet (abt a mile from the entrance to Denali park) runs abt $35/night.
from what i saw of fuel prices, in Fairbanks this last fall, they ran abt $1/gal more there than Louisiana.
What I would like to find out, from someone that has done it both with and without a guide, is was the guided tour worth the cost?
I am really interested in finding out what your experiences are.

▪.  Jerry Vitale on June 10th, 2010 12:40 am 
Taken off from Mesa AZ on the 16th of June. If you come across a 1995 Vectra give a “say hey”! We’ll be crossing at Sweet Grass Montana. Plan on making all of 300 miles a day.

▪.  Steve & Mary Margaret on June 10th, 2010 5:05 am 
We plan to retire in 3 years, looking at Motorhomes for the last 3 years and can’t wait to get on the road. In the US, (and I include Alaska!), there is so much to see. I have read books and followed RV.net every day. I feel that all I need to do is to buy the RV and off we go. OK, I do know there is still a lot to learn by experience, but I will start off will a lot of knowledge. I plan to follow your travels to Alaska. Enjoy, be safe and hope to meet you on the road.
Do you have a Blog to follow ?

▪.  Peter and Terry on June 10th, 2010 5:21 am 
Have fun!
We met Ken and Carole on an Adventure Caravans Twin Piggy Backs tour of Mexico in ‘07, which unfortunately isn’t available anymore.
Ken showed us the rings of Saturn on his telescope at Playa Santispac.
Ask them about the campfire and the outhouse that night!

▪.  Robert & Nina Windle on June 10th, 2010 8:25 am 
I’m sure you will have a great time on your Alaska trip. We went there on our own in 1995, the year I retired. We have talked about going again. The rate of exchange in Canada is not as good as it use to be.
I noticed You are touring with Adventure Caravans. We have taken 4 trips with them. (Maritime, Sunshine Coast, Rose Bowl, and Cabo San Lucas), our favorite was the Maritime trip, but they all were great adventures.
Hope you have a safe & fun filled trip.

▪.  Chuck & Marci on June 10th, 2010 6:05 pm 
We are looking forward to doing some long RV trips in the near future, and after taking a cruise to Alaska, couldn’t wait to travel up there in the RV. We ran into a gentleman at the Flying J Truckstop, and while just “visiting” over the pumps, got into a conversation about Alaska (we had noticed Alaska plates on his vehicle). He made a comment to only take an RV to Alaska if you’re preparing to trade it in soon after the trip as “the roads up there will tear it up.” Does anyone have experience with this?

▪.  Dennis & Chris on June 10th, 2010 7:46 pm 
We rode our Harley from Michigan to Alaska in 07 and had the trip of a lifetime. It’s beyond anything you would expect. Watch for animals large and small everywhere. Enjoy yourselves. I look forward to reading your blog.

▪.  rich on June 10th, 2010 8:05 pm 
we plan to travel to Alaska from pa next year. Taken a southern route to Alaska then a northern route back home We plan to spend six months on the trip trying to see all we can on the way out We are also planning a land and sea cruise.

BARRY’S NOTE:  every question and lots more will be answered along the way, if not by us, then by readers who commented.  Stuff you won’t find anywhere else about traveling to and in Alaska.  You’ll read about good roads, bad roads, rigs, adventures, scenery, pets, medical care, facilities, gas/diesel, RV parks, First Nation natives and much, much more.  So, don’t touch that “dial” – plenty of fun, fascinating information coming your way in this series.]

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.

Alaska Trip Part V — Heading for Banff

This entry is part 5 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 13, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander

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

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

Scenery that gets us excited.  Grand views everywhere.

Scenery that gets us excited. Grand views everywhere.

All day long it felt like we were driving into a postcard.  Had there been more places to pull out of traffic, the 168-mile trip could have taken two days or more.  We envy the bicyclists chugging up mountains on their overloaded bikes.  They got to be in the moment for hours.

Visiting Luxury at Banff Springs Hotel

Visiting Luxury at Banff Springs Hotel

Monique called our route though the top of the Okanagan Corridor and into Canada’s Glacier National Park (not connected to the U.S. version) “Waterfall Alley.”  The melting snow streaming and tumbling down steep mountainsides fed into jade-green shallow rivers.  It seemed endless.

Gondolas - 6849Add to that the picture-perfect blue skies and you couldn’t find more beautiful scenery.  Last night as Monique and I sat around a campfire with four young travelers from Switzerland, we asked, “Why would you come here?  It looks like Switzerland.”  The response was, “There’s more of it here!”

Enough terrain-talk.  Now for a few comments.  I’m sure there are several readers who would like to have a map of our route included with these articles.  That was my original intention, but there hasn’t been enough time to work on one … and then it occurred to me that a map isn’t a good idea.  Going to Alaska is about exploring, and plotting a course based on our travels would diminish the adventure.

When you’re planning your trip, the first place to start is the book “Milepost,” which is an incredible source of information about every road and every stop along the way, plus lots more.  Canadian and Alaska tourism offices are glad to provide information, and, of course, there’s the web.  You can browse for hours finding out about what to see while moseying on up to Alaska and back.

And besides, traipsing along behind a caravan isn’t really fair to Adventure Caravans, is it?

Forget what I said yesterday about cellphone charges.  There are apparently more options I didn’t know about until this afternoon.  Check with your service for the right information.

Today we learned that the cost of a 7-day national park pass is $57.00 (Canadian) for seniors … and that’s per person.  Then, there are provincial parks that have different fees.  If no officers are around to put a ticket on your vehicle if you don’t have a pass, you can take a chance on stopping at some of the breathtaking sights.  Otherwise, you need to pay.

Rushing Jade Waters

Rushing Jade Waters

Speaking of cost, we’re still learning the conversions.  I stuck a speedometer sheet on my steering wheel, e.g., 100 Km/H equals about 60 mph in the states.  And, of course, all the distance signs are in kilometers, and everything has the French translation attached.  We have a pocketful of $2 coins and some pretty paper bills.  We’re using our ATM card when it’s more than $20 for fuel, food or a fishing rod & reel.

Our route today was dotted with massive construction projects, with heavy equipment operating even though it is Sunday.  The road-widening work is impressive and didn’t cause us any delays.

Enjoying Our Trip With a Circle of Friends

Enjoying Our Trip With a Circle of Friends

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

COMMENTS OPTION IN ORIGINAL BLOG WAS TURNED OFF FOR THIS ENTRY

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 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.]

Our Alaska Trip Part XVI Getting To Know Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Rivers of Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A spruce burl railing that caught our attention.

A spruce burl railing that caught our attention.

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

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

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

Caribou Land collage - 8170

 

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Alaska Trip Part XXII News from the Homer-front

This entry is part 24 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 18, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 10 Comments

This is the 22nd in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

NEWS FLASH!!!   The Top of the World Hwy., Alaska Hwy 9, is closed for an undetermined time due to a washout.  You may know more about this than we do since the news didn’t reach us until Saturday while we were at an overlook in Homer, Alaska, when we got into a conversation with a couple planning to take the notorious route home.

The official Alaskan road conditions website [http://www.511yukon.ca/#advisories] Saturday night stated:  Highway 9, the Top of the World Highway, motorists are advised that the Taylor Highway in Alaska is closed from the Yukon/Alaska border through to Chicken due to washouts. Re-opening of the highway has not been determined, as water levels have not started to recede.

View from TOW 2 - 8120

Our caravan crew hasn’t been able to find out anything more current.  We took that road June 30 without incidents, although we were warned that it is hazardous driving.  A few days earlier, we talked with a two-RV group that had decided to turn back rather than risk driving that road.

Now for some random observations by Monique and me, jotted down before finding out about the Top of the World situation:

We are in mid-July.  The short-sleeve weather here is perfect almost everyday, with intermittent overcast skies.  Our travels for the past week or more have taken us down highways lined with wildflowers of every color, highlighted by the magenta fireweed, blue-purple lupines and white cow parsnip.  You may not be into appreciating weeds, but the colors are overwhelming.

En route to Homer: Mt. Redoubt in Lake Clark National Park & Deacon Andre in Ninilchik

En route to Homer: Mt. Redoubt in Lake Clark National Park & Deacon Andre in Ninilchik

We continue to see endless lines of RVs on the roads, many of which are rental C-Class rigs, apparently picked up by tourists from the Lower 48 and foreign countries who flew into Alaska or Canada.  Unfortunately, it seems that the high traveling population is

Carved Creature Hiding at the Sterling Saw Fest

Carved Creature Hiding at the Sterling Saw Fest

reducing the number of moose to be ogled.  In Fairbanks a sign states that vehicles there have killed 225 moose this year with another 170 hit in the small City of Sterling.

The Alaskan roads are really much better than we expected, even in the Interior.  There is construction and it causes problems, but it’s not something that stops people from loving the adventure.  There are no Interstate Highways in Alaska for an obvious reason.

Mosquitoes – no big problem this season.  We had to go looking for them Saturday in the bog area of the Carl Wynn Nature Center in the hills above Homer.   Matter-of-fact, all the mosquitoes in Alaska may be in those few acres of marsh … but not something that should stop you from hiking the nature center.

IGarden Mts - 0334

Each day since June 20 we have lost 3½ to 4 minutes of daylight.  Doesn’t sound like much, but multiply that by a seven-day week and you can tell the days are getting shorter from their 19-hour maximum.

In the Lower 48 we hear all-too-often, “If you don’t like the weather here right now, just wait five minutes.”  We laugh politely and groan to ourselves.

Hundreds of RVs Park on the Homer Spi

Hundreds of RVs Park on the Homer Spit

When you’re in Northwest Canada and Alaska, try to limit yourself to only making a joke once about “we’ll do that when it gets dark,” being cute about the fact that it doesn’t get dark in mid-summer.  Also, everyone here knows it gets cold in the winter.  In the play and movie “The Music Man,” it was explained that you won’t get accepted in the community if you joke about winter there.  Comments about winter get a cold reception here, too.

One caravanning note since that’s the focus of these blogs.  We had a wonderful day Thursday going to Exit Glacier and going into town for a halibut dinner.  Others did the same on their own.  Still more went on a fishing trip and a few couples ventured out for another cruise.  Except for the dismal day fishing, everyone seemed to enjoy the course they set for themselves.  While we enjoy the community, we also enjoy the chance to get away from the entourage to do our own thing.

We are in Homer, a town that borders on the beautiful Kachemak Bay on Cook Inlet.  If that weren’t spectacular enough, everywhere we look we see the incredible Aleutian Range with its snowy mountains, volcanoes and glaciers.  On this rainy Sunday morning, we’re heading out across the bay.

[A NOTE WRITTEN TWO YEARS LATER:  Re-reading these blogs is rekindling my memories of this fantastic trip.  It’s easy for the splendor, the grandeur, the majesty, the beauty to fade over the years.  I hope you’re enjoying this trip as much as I am.]

Homer Spit Scenes: the Boneyard & the Huge Marina

Homer Spit Scenes: the Boneyard & the Huge Marina

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

Comments

10 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXII News from the Homer-front”

▪.  D.Branch on July 18th, 2010 4:52 pm  
Can you tell us what caravan your on? We hope to make the journey in 2011.
Thanks

  [Adventure Caravans’ 58-day trip.]

▪.  Dave on July 18th, 2010 5:29 pm  
We have been in Chicken for four days waiting for the Top Of The World Highway to open, and have been told the inspector is up there right now. If he okays it, it will be open tomorrow. Wish us luck!

▪.  Jack Harris on July 18th, 2010 6:16 pm  
We took the trip up to Fairbanks from Fort Worth, TX, and back about this time of the year in 2008. Are you on the way back home (i.e. I guess you have already been to Fairbanks) and where is home?
Happy trails, 
Jack Harris 
PS: Our trip is on the following web site:
http://www.drivingtoalaska.com

▪.  Deepwoods on July 18th, 2010 6:44 pm  
We remember Homer when we traveled in Alaska in 2001. We still have the bumper sticker we bought there,
“HOMER ALASKA, A QUAINT DRINKING VILLAGE WITH A FISHING PROBLEM”

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on July 18th, 2010 7:22 pm  
I love Homer. We spend at least 2 weeks there every summer at the Heritage RV Park. A little pricey, but it is worth it with satellite TV, internet, and full services. They have someone 24 hours to help you with literally everything. They have a great coffee shop, a gift shop, great showers, and a laundry. Our all-time favorite place to RV in Alaska because it is so “modern” and is right on Kachemak Bay. It is also right next door to the fishing hole, where you can catch silvers as long as you can keep them away from a crafty seal that steals fish off your line often. It is also walking distance or taxi distance from town.
Hope you have a great time in Homer. (the end of the road the man who does the Motel 6 commercials talks about a lot)

▪.  Bill Claypool on July 18th, 2010 8:01 pm  
Barry,
If you want to see moose just walk down the road to the Platt museum from where you are staying. I took a walk on their interpretive trail today and saw a cow, her calf an another moose on the trail.

▪.  Jerry on July 18th, 2010 10:02 pm  
I hope you got a chance to check out the Salty Dog Saloon They make a good drink there and have some interesting wall paper

▪.  Dave on July 18th, 2010 10:27 pm  
The Taylor and Top Of The World Highways are now open, with a pilot car escort through the bad sections. Come to Chicken and Eagle Alaska. They need the business!

▪.  Don & Marlene Blackburn on July 19th, 2010 6:32 pm  
Hi.
We are currently in Anchorage and the skies have been very gray so we are trying to figure out where you are that the pictures are so sunny … Anyway we did know that the road was washed out when we got to Tok they told us because we were planning to go home that way. Oh well I guess we will just go back the way we came up through Haines Junction. Have really enjoyed your blog.