Our Alaska Trip Part III Camaraderie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vineyard 6684

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

15 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Camaraderie Part III”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Our Alaska Trip Part IX Jumping to Conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stellar’s Jays Love Bijoux Falls

Stellar’s Jays Love Bijoux Falls

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

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

We're Back in the Rocky Mountains

We’re Back in the Rocky Mountains

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

A Buffalo Fighter -- Chainsaw Artwork in Chetwin

A Buffalo Fighter — Chainsaw Artwork in Chetwynd

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

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

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

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

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

Now, a few Alaska travel notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Busy day Sunday in Dawson Creek, B.C.

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

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Alaska Trip Part XVI Getting To Know Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Rivers of Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A spruce burl railing that caught our attention.

A spruce burl railing that caught our attention.

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

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

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

Caribou Land collage - 8170

 

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVI The Weather in Alaska

This entry is part 28 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 27, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 13 Comments

This is the 26th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Our caravan has arrived at its 23rd stop in 48 days.  We have seen an incredible amount of geography from Washington State through British Columbia and Alaska, with a glimpse of Alberta. This series has focused, not on the scenery, history or wildlife, but on our experiences as RVers taking part in a caravan.  There have been dozens of side trips, excursions, cultural talks and events that haven’t been included, but they have definitely contributed to this journey-of-a-lifetime.

Bad Road - 0238

We are still finding more RV-related topics to discuss as we enter the final 10 days of our caravan and probably after that, but we’re always interested in what else you want to know about the trip.   Please let us know in the Comments Section.

THE WEATHER – Can you image the shock if you sat down at a Blackjack table in Las Vegas and were dealt 10 Blackjacks in a row?  That’s the thrill that Monique and I have felt over the past six weeks.  While we have had dreary, chilly days along the way, rainy nights and travel days, it seems like clouds have parted and the sun came out for every tour and daylong cruise on our route.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, it may be that the Creator of all this beauty wanted us to see it at its best so we could convey our excitement to readers in words and pictures.  The weather has just been too awesome.

We aren’t experts on the weather, particularly as it relates to the territories we have covered, but we do know that you probably don’t want to be in Alaska or the Yukon between late September and early May.  If you’re very adventurous and think you can defy the odds, forget it.  Almost everything RVers need closes for those months.  The RV parks drain their systems and pour in a form of antifreeze, lock up their electric system, close the gates and head for more tolerable climates.  Most gas stations – and there aren’t many to begin with – do the same.  Inns, also.  Locals travel by dogsled, seriously, often over frozen roads and rivers; intercity travel is by floatplanes or planes that land on ice.  Mostly, though, folks up here don’t travel much at all.

Priscilla at an RV gift shop said that she doesn’t go from Valdez to Anchorage when there’s a winter storm.  Thompson Pass gets 350 inches of snow a year and up to 800 inches.  In Valdez on the south coast, winter temperatures don’t get all that cold, only to minus-20 usually, but there is a constant 25 mile-an-hour wind, gusting up to 80.  The school bus in Tok is still picking up kids when it’s minus-73.

When the mercury drops to those levels, car batteries explode and metal cracks.  Those were some of the circumstances faced by workers building the Alcan Highway and the TransAlaska Pipeline.  When you get up here and see films on those projects, you’ll begin to appreciate the enormity of those tasks.  Infrastructure isn’t big on our list of interests.  However, seeing the weather conditions they encountered and the faces of those who ”got ‘er dun,” you’ll understand our admiration.

Come to Yukon and Alaska in June, July and August and you should have no problem.  Our preparations for the trip included 1) leaving some unnecessary stuff at a son’s house; 2) having the truck and RV checked over by a professional, 3) buying a spare fuel filter, and 4) putting a screen over the front of the car to intercept rocks and bugs.  Nothing else.  It’s been t-shirt weather for most of our trip, augmented by sweats and jackets when appropriate, like in front of glaciers.

If on your trip to Alaska you find yourself without adequate clothing for an unexpected change in the weather, have no fear.  There is a gift shop nearby selling a wide variety of jackets and sweatshirts emblazoned with logos you will want to show off when you return home.

You wouldn’t expect the weather to be the same in Chicago, New Orleans, Denver, Vermont and San Diego on any given day.  Alaska has its own variety of weather conditions, from Fairbanks to Skagway (the RV drive-able places).  It’s not all cold or pristine clear.  Variations in different areas of the coastal regions are caused by ocean currents, glaciers, mountains ranges, elevation and more.  As you head into the Interior, like Fairbanks, it’s colder, but in Juneau 800 miles away, things are totally different.  Ketchikan in the south enjoys 14 feet of precipitation a year.

Monday’s journey from Tok, Alaska, to Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, a distance of 225 miles, was among the worst stretches of highway we have ever faced – we were told it’s worse than the drive to Chaco Canyon, Arizona, which Monique and I have heard is the worst.  Frost heaves, construction, mud, gravel, moose, bears and only a couple of diesel fuel stops stood in our way, but we made it (on fumes).  Even the most experienced RVers in our group reported damage to their rigs.

 

Looking out over dwarfed spruce in a permafrost field &, at right, the Alaska Pipeline makes its way across 799 miles of terrain

Looking out over dwarfed spruce in a permafrost field &, at right, the Alaska Pipeline makes its way across 799 miles of terrain

The weather for the trip was drizzle, then beautiful, puffy clouds over the majestic peaks in the distance – and we arrived with the air conditioner on.

The message for today is that if you want to be comfortable during your visit, pick months that offer the best chance of warm weather.  Nothing you can do about the rain and low-lying clouds, so focus on temperatures.

Mama Moose and youngster & Mama Bear teaches three offspring the art of salmon fishing

Mama Moose and youngster & Mama Bear teaches three offspring the art of salmon fishing

Incidentally, as we get used to the “Land of the Midnight Sun” effect, it’s beginning to get dark for a few hours a night.  I guess we’ll get used to seeing stars again in a couple of weeks.

In Destruction Bay, population 30, we encountered "Loose Gravel," a professional-quality band with Loren, our campground host, on the drums

In Destruction Bay, population 30, we encountered “Loose Gravel,” a professional-quality band with Loren, our campground host, on the drums

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

Comments

13 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXVI The Weather in Alaska”

▪.  John A. Kerr on July 27th, 2010 5:28 pm  
In Oct 1973 my family and I were reassigned from Ft Carson, CO, to Ft Wainwright, Fairbanks, AK. We traded our 1969 Winnebago for a 1973 20-ft Winnebago Brave, hooked our Jeep on behind and headed off for the Alcan Highway. We encountered everything from rain to snow to beautiful conditions on our drive up on the dirt/rock road. We encountered no problems with either fuel or RV parking on the trip up. On arrival at Ft Wainwright I learned that my assignment had been changed and I was to report to Ft Richardson, Anchorage, AK, where we spent the next 3 years. We utilized our coach year round and learned quickly that you had to have an engine heater, a heated oil dipstick and a battery heater. We were limited to only a few campgrounds during the winter, but during the summer months we encountered no problems. You did learn to come around bends in the road slowly to ensure that moose, bear or caribou were not “lounging” on the warm asphalt pavement. We were never bothered by any animals in the camping areas during the summer or winter, though we did learn to look before we ventured out of the coach.
The weather is extremely unpredictable so you learn to have clothing for all seasons in the coach. A good folding snow shovel got us out of trouble on several occasions. If you are going to go in the winter make sure that you carry plenty of food, water, and I might suggest a set of chains as they may be needed for some of the roads. Also be prepared to encounter roads that are closed for periods of time due to snow.
Go to Alaska, whether by yourself or in a caravan, and experience the beauty of the state. Beauty that you cannot find anywhere else in the United States. The summer is of course the ideal time to visit, but I would not rule out fall, winter or spring. Just go prepared and be ready to encounter weather the likes of which you have never before seen.
Alaska is an adventure and one that I would recommend to anyone.

▪.  Constance on July 27th, 2010 5:49 pm  
I lived all over the Northwest Territories and Alaska as a child, and I do not recommend travel in an RV on those roads in the winter. Perhaps a 4-wheel drive Pickup camper or even pulling a small trailer.
The last few years have been mild compared to the years I spend there. Visitors and newbies are often ignorant of conditions, which is how my eyeball fluid got frozen the first year we were there…caused permanent damage to my eye muscles.
Constance

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 27th, 2010 6:28 pm  
Alaska’s best season is winter. The Northern Lights and clear skies and mountains so clear. Quiet, peaceful. No bears. No mosquitoes or no-see-ums up your nose. Just peaceful contemplation.
Lynne

▪.  Bob Derivan on July 27th, 2010 6:54 pm  
Stumbled onto your blog and have enjoyed it immensely. We drove to Alaska from Arizona alone last summer. We did encounter vehicle problems in isolated areas such as The Yukon and it would have been nice to have a caravan to help but we wouldn’t trade the experience for any place we’ve been. We spent the whole summer in Moose Pass on the Kenai. You drove through it on the Seward Hwy from Anchorage to Seward. Your blogs have brought back many great memories. We hope to someday do it again. I do agree that anyone who gets the chance to do it, to take it. They won’t be disappointed. Our most exciting experience was on the way home. We were driving North on the George Parks Hwy between Anchorage and Fairbanks and we too had been told chances of seeing Denali were slim. But as we turned the curve at Willow, there she was standing high and proud. We were still 160 miles away but were able to take many gorgeous photos of the Great Mountain. Although we were hoping to visit Denali up close, we were delayed in Wasilla again because of vehicle problems and missed the park closing for the season by one day, that experience enough we will remember for a lifetime. Travel safe.

▪.  Ron Thill on July 27th, 2010 11:33 pm  
We’re thinking about driving to Alaska next summer. I’m surprised you’ve not said much about mosquitoes or no-see-ums. I assumed they’d be a constant harassment throughout much of Alaska. Also, is it necessary to make RV park reservations along the Alcan Highway if one departs early (say by 6 or 7 a.m.) and only travels for 5-7 hours? Are there lots of boondocking sites along the Alcan Highway that would be considered RV friendly – – i.e., reasonably level, plenty of room to get in and out, not too rocky, etc. We won’t be in a caravan, so large boondocking sites aren’t a concern. Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us.

▪.  Roger Garner on July 28th, 2010 5:03 am  
To Ron Thill’s questions, I would respond: forget about the mosquito stories. They’re no worse than a lot of places in the lower 48. Wind drives them away, so camp on a site that catches the wind. The ‘king of the road’ for this kind of trip is a pickup camper without a toad. The versatility of a truck rig will allow you to do many things you won’t get to do otherwise. Boondocking opportunities are everywhere in Canada and AK, but it takes the clearance of a pickup (preferably 4-wheel drive) to get to many of them. By planning to pitch camp before 4:00 I’ve never had trouble finding hookups. Long daylight hours cause people to drive later, thus waiting too late to find full-service vacancies. When you are in remote areas remember to fuel up when your tank is down to ½. Thanks Barry & Monique for a wonderful travelogue.

▪.  Kenneth Hospital on July 28th, 2010 7:21 am  
Thanks for telling us about your trip . We did this same trip a few years back with a tour and it was great. The only way to see Alaska is by RV . The road to Destruction Bay sounds the same as when we were there … bad . Thank for the great stories .

▪.  Bob Wiggs on July 28th, 2010 7:51 am  
I have really enjoyed reading your Blog. We drove the ALCAN last year to Alaska and had a BALL. This was our 1st time there and we could not get over all the beautiful scenery we saw. We’ve never been able to see Moose, Bears, Dall Rams on the road. We had such a good time, we’re planning a second trip in 2011 and plan to stay till about mid SEP in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. Happy Trails Bob.

▪.  Dale Kincaid on July 28th, 2010 10:59 am  
Was or is Dubie still making bowls out of Black Spruce Burls at Destruction Bay?
He had a workshop behind the RV office. He was making some beautiful bowls back in 2003 when we went through there with Adventure Caravans.

[Yes, he sold several to our group, and after we bought a beautiful folding table from him, others in the group followed suit.]

▪.  roland lajoie on July 29th, 2010 10:01 am  
Of most interest is the toll that the roads are doing to the RV’s, i.e. tow trailer, 5th wheels , and particular to the motorhomes . You have talked of losing windshields, etc. ; what other damages have occurred to vehicles and how about toads?, are toads being taken along on this trip . We are trying to plan this trip to Alaska and most interested at this point of potential damage to vehicles; as the writings seem to indicate, roads over/all are not very good . Any information you can give would be appreciated. Trying to decide what vehicle to tow / leave somewhere else in storage and how to prepare for what appears to be a bumpy but toll / taking trip. 
Thanks for any help you may be .
Roland

▪.  Jimmie McElrea on July 29th, 2010 5:59 pm  
I am missing Part XVI of Our Alaska Trip and would like you to email or repost the blog. I am enjoying your blog tremendously. Thank you

▪.  Cathy on April 7th, 2011 8:41 pm  
Thanks for this blog. We are planning an RV trip to AK and these personal accounts are priceless! I had to comment on this Part since we have driven the Chaco Canyon entrance road. The rough part is only about 13 miles long, not 225! 
I wonder just how slow you had to go and how long it took you. We have a short Class A and had to go less than 10 mph into Chaco or it sounded like the whole thing would rattle apart. It was worth it. If you are towing a trailer, maybe you don’t hear or heed all that rattling?

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVII Responding to You

This entry is part 29 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 30, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments

This is the 27th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Wednesday we arrived in Skagway, Alaska, after a long drive from Destruction Bay, Yukon.  The trip took us into two provinces (Yukon Territory and British Columbia) and one state (Alaska) and included two surprises.

Surprise 1 – The road out of Destruction Bay began as another of those horrid blacktops with jarring frost heaves that caused members of the caravan to be ready to stomp on the brakes at all times for about a hundred miles.  The tough part was that the highway was fine for a mile or two until we began bouncing unexpectedly.  Some spots were marked with signs or flags but most weren’t.  Caution, caution, caution! 

Surprise 2 – The second surprise was that this was one of the most awe-inspiring segments of the trip that we have encountered.  Monique called it “outrageous” because of the beauty.  Not only are the lakes, mountain, rivers and terrain gorgeous, but there are a variety of attractions along the way that slowed down our progress.  A “glacial desert” among the mountains, the historic village of Carcross, two interesting bridges and other unexpected sights begged us to make roadside stops.

"Outrageous," "Awe-Inspiring," Call it what you will, the drive to Skagway (top right) is worth taking the bumps in the road

“Outrageous,” “Awe-Inspiring,” Call it what you will, the drive to Skagway (top right) is worth taking the bumps in the road

Skagway is a major port of call for cruise ships, many of which carry more passengers and crew than the town’s population where it docks.  The ocean tourists tear down the ramp at the harbor and immediately rush into town to soak up a few minutes of history before or after visiting the dozens of jewelry stores and other shops selling things they didn’t know they needed.  A few hours later, they’re back on deck comparing the bargains they think they got.

We spent last winter in Key West, Florida, which is another cruise ship port, but it has held much of its characters, probably because of the characters who live there.  Skagway, on the other hand, according to locals, has changed in the past six or so years to accommodate those passengers sprinting through town.  Some do get to take the ride up the fantastic road on which we arrived, but probably most stay within sight of the massive bows of the ships at the end of Broadway.

Monique is out today, Friday, on a National Park Service-led walking tour of the town, and later we’ll head for the hills to visit sites important during Klondike gold rush days.

An Orca ("Killer Whale") comes alongside as we cruised to Juneau

An Orca (“Killer Whale”) comes alongside as we cruised to Juneau

Now for some responses to your comments:

Traveling in Truck Campers:  To the response about truck campers being the best way to see the Far North, that does seem to be a very practical way to visit Yukon and Alaska, but it’s not necessary.  We are of the opinion that you’re better off choosing an RV to fit your lifestyle, not just for a long trip.  We see every type of RV on the roads and in parks.  No one seems to have any special problems.  Age of the rig shouldn’t matter, but it’s strongly recommended that it be in good condition for the trip.  It will get a workout.

Toads:  I checked with Wagonmaster Ken and Tailgunner Spence about damage to towed vehicles.  They both said it’s not an issue.  The damages done could have happened anywhere on North American roads.  Yes, there is rough riding up here, but you quickly learn to take it slow and watch for problem areas.  If you’re worried, take it even slower – nobody behind you will get mad.

Pull-outs:  Earlier we reported that many pullouts have “No Camping” signs.  That was probably in just a few places.  We have since seen lots of pullouts with RVs apparently staying for a few hours, a day or longer with no restrictions.

Mosquitoes: They have only bothered us a couple of times.  We’ve gotten bitten by insects much more often in the lower 48 (but we’ve been bitten hard by the bug to return to Alaska, maybe even in winter when the Northern Lights are visible).

Reservations:  We don’t know for sure because our caravan planners took care of that for us.  Getting into private campgrounds early is probably a safe bet, like around 4 p.m.  Most of the campground owners seem to try hard to accommodate everyone, even if it means providing dry-camping spaces.  There are lots of public campgrounds in most places, and, again, the roadside stops seem like good “resting” places.  Don’t expect to find back roads to snuggle into – most off-the-highways roads aren’t suitable for rigs.

As RVers, we think of night as dark.  In Skagway in late July, which is in the southwest, we have about 16 hours of light, 5 hours of dusk and 3 hours of night.  In mid-summer in mid-Alaska, it turns to dusk for about three hours per day.  It’s not the type of darkness that makes the night scary.

Wooden Bowls:  Dubie still makes the bowls of black spruce burls and hiking sticks of diamond willow.  We and several others in our group bought beautiful folding tables in Destruction Bay made of laminated birch, aspen, cedar and oak with spruce legs, and some had a strip of purple heart embedded.  Those are handcrafted by Evalt Miller of Burns Lake.

This century-old "Thunderbird House" panel of the Shangookeidi Clan, Yakutal Tlinglit welcomes visitors to the Alaska State Museum near the State Capitol in Juneau

This century-old “Thunderbird House” panel of the Shangookeidi Clan, Yakutal Tlinglit welcomes visitors to the Alaska State Museum near the State Capitol in Juneau

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

Comments

6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXVII Responding to You”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 30th, 2010 4:56 pm  
What Alaskans do get a little angry about is RVers from the Lower 48 who ignore the signs that say it is illegal to delay 5 vehicles behind you. This means “PULL OVER” when you start to see them stack up behind you.
 It is a law in Alaska. That’s why there are so many turnouts. But don’t hurt yourself trying to pull over where there are no turnouts. We’ll wait for you to get to one.
 And yes almost all of them allow camping as much as you like. A week even. Most don’t say “no overnight camping.”
We’re known to just pull over anyplace we get tired.

And come back the last week of February and the first week of March. Fur Rondy, Iditarod, Ice Castles in Fairbanks, Northern Lights.

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on July 30th, 2010 5:21 pm  
Please don’t forget to give us a tally of the total fuel costs for your trip. It would be appreciated.

▪.  Peggy from Texas on July 30th, 2010 8:57 pm  
Thanks again for your write up of your travels and passing on what you have seen… I’ve said this before that we rode to Alaska twice, two-up on a 1998 Harley 1200 Sportster then a 2009 Harley TriGlide…
Believe it was riding through British Columbia then into Yukon Territory where there were many pullouts where there was a warning ‘not to pull in and/or park’ as there were gas pipes above ground and very dangerous per the signs…
You mention your ride into Skagway and pictures… On August 3, 2009 we rode on our TriGlide from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Skagway, Alaska, USA via Klondike Hwy 2 – through town of Carcross, over the wooden-planked bridge, etc – absolutely awesome…
If you click on our site http://triglide.multiply.com – photos – page 3 – album named 2009-08-03 Whitehorse to Skagway, click on first picture then click on slideshow – 171 pictures… View from the Rear as I took pictures all along the roads we traveled… Then click on album named 2009-08-03 Skagway – click on first picture then slideshow – 45 pictures of Skagway…
What I liked being in Skagway, Alaska, USA was I could use my cell phone to call family in lower 48 and not as an International call which would have been from Canada…
We never worried about the price of gas – always used high test for any of the Harleys – but the gas was a necessity for our travels throughout the country, we didn’t let it stop us from riding…
By the way, I just bought a 32′ Jayco, Class C as I’ll be a full-time RV’r…
Peggy (cubbear)

▪.  Barbara Mull on July 31st, 2010 7:53 am  
I’d like to echo Lynne’s suggestions about timing of a winter trip to Alaska – late Feb, early March. Fur Rendezvous (Rondy) is a 2-week time of carnival in Anchorage. By that time in the winter you usually need some diversion so the events are kind of wacky – like the outhouse race, snowshoe softball, etc. You can see more about Rondy at http://www.furrondy.net/. You can also view the World Championship Dog Sled Race during Rondy – amazing to see how those dogs love running. And Fairbanks is a great place to see the Northern Lights – less city light there. You might try the Aurora Borealis Lodge http://www.auroracabin.com/ or Chena Hot Springs Resort if you’d like a warm soak as well http://www.chenahotsprings.com/ You might also see ice fog (sometimes with a mirage) or sundogs. Just be prepared with lots of warm clothing, including boots. Winter in Alaska is a fine time. Since I moved back to North Carolina I’ve been impressed with how much darker country roads are here at night than they are in Alaska where there’s lots of white, bright snow cover from Oct to April/May.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXX The Cost of Our Trip

This entry is part 33 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

12August 12, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 11 Comments

This is the 30th article in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

We have kept daily tabs on the cost of our 58-day caravan tour through western Canada into and around Alaska and back.  The tough part now is to find a way to make our spending relevant to everyone else.  But, let’s give it a try …

Tour Company:  Our only set expense was the money we sent to Adventure Caravans to participate.  You might want to take the same trip or a shorter one if you decide to caravan, and you may, after comparing features, decide on another tour company.  There are too many alternatives to cost it out in a logical way.  Add to that each year the cost of enrollment will probably be different.

If you break it down into cost-per-day to caravan, that also has variables, e.g., what events and meals are included.  If the trip you select offers the cheapest cost, you will probably be getting a less enjoyable tour.  And since the Alaska trip is not something you will be doing often, you want to get the most out of your visit.

On the cheapie side, you may decide to do it on your own [see Part XXIX].  Staying in Canadian provincial parks or on pullouts available almost everywhere will save you lots of money over the caravan’s full-hookup choices.

This isn’t meant to dodge the issue.  You need to look at the various tour companies’ routes and features, pare the choices down to the ones that make sense to you, and then compare cost.  [Wish I could find a quick resource on the net, but gotta get off this borrowed computer]  From our research, the caravan rates are very competitive, taking into account the different features.

Fuel:  The next biggest single expense for us was fuel.  We traveled 6,171 miles at a cost of $2,373 (we get 10.5 mpg in our diesel GMC pickup with a 22-gallon tank).   Price of fuel varied from about $3.56 a gallon to a high of $8 a gallon (twice in very remote areas, so we only got enough to get us to the next station).  Most of the time it was between $3.87 and $4.00 per gallon.

We pulled our 10,000-pound Bigfoot trailer, plus, the bed of our truck is our garage, which lowers our fuel mileage.  On several occasions, when going to local attractions, we rode with others.  The back seat of our truck is used for storage, so we couldn’t return the favor.

Oh, and for all these expenses except caravan enrollment fee keep in mind you would be paying for many of these costs of traveling anyway.  Our RV park camping fees and some meals were included in the upfront tour cost.  On your own you might pay less, but it would still cost you some money.

Groceries, excursions and incidentals:  These will vary greatly to fit your personal preferences.  Monique is an excellent frugal gourmet cook (who buys better quality meat, organic produce, etc.) so we ate at restaurants only 19 times in 57 days – probably the fewest times of anyone else on the tour.  Five of those were at fast-food places.  Most of the others were with other couples or all the members of the group.  Add to that stops for coffee, pastries and snacks, and our total was $600.  You’ll be spending money for those no matter where you are on the road.

There's so much to see, so much to do.  Try to take your time to be in the present.

There’s so much to see, so much to do. Try to take your time to be in the present.

Our most important advice for Canada/Alaska visitors is participate in as many of the organized side trips, excursions, cruises, flights, shows and cultural opportunities that fit into your finances and time budgets, especially the cruises.  The scenery and wildlife are worth the arduous visit, but it goes to another dimension on these.  You’ve come a long way – go for all the gusto you can.

Examples of costs if going on your own:  A day cruise at the Kenai Fjords (an absolute MUST! to see humpback whales, orcas, puffins, sea lions and much more) $155 per person.  A train ride to see a gold mine replica and pan for gold, about $139 p/p (but you’re guaranteed to find gold flakes and maybe a nugget).  The 184-mile round-trip tour-guided bus ride into Denali National Park, priceless!

Groceries are expensive in the Far Northwest but cheaper than eating out.  Our tab was just under $1,000 or about $18 per day.  That included shopping for a few potlucks and taking snacks to the socials occasionally, a voluntary part of being on the caravan.

Incidentals [NOTE to our grandchildren:  Don’t expect much!]  We are not shoppers.  We bought a few t-shirts, a cap and some pins and hiking stick medallions to help us remember our journey, but not much.  Also in this category is laundry, car washes, etc., and the biggest part of “incidentals,” side trips and excursions not included in the tour cost.

I whitewater rafted once (a thrill), we rode the gondola up a mountain in Banff, I played golf at Top of the World Golf Club, we paid for a cruise to Seldovia (a highlight), and we forked over a few bucks for museums.  We bought a handmade wooden table for $60.  Total cost of Incidentals & Excursions:  just over $1,000.  Some of the things we did not buy that our fellow travels did were: jewelry, expensive apparel, fishing license (although I bought and never used a rod & reel), extra tours including flights, and extra fishing trips.

You’d probably be spending some money on these things in Alaska, Arkansas or Arizona, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.  And, again, we – as full-time RVers without a house — are far more fiscally conservative than most of our travelmates.

Repairs:  An additional expense you can expect on a trip like this is repairs and damages.  A bottle of wine and a bottle of balsamic vinegar broke early in the trip on a road heave, and the remote control for a radio was crushed when a recliner landed on it, but that’s the extent of our damage.  At least half of our group is getting windshields replaced this week, but several of those dings happened before we left the Lower 48 and others were on good roads.  It happens!

There were several mechanical problems encountered by members of the group, many of which could have just as easily happened on interstates.  We’re talking here of well over 110,000 miles compiled by the caravan as a whole.  That’s lots of opportunities for problems.

Finally, there were pre-trip costs.  Everyone needed a CB radio for the caravan.  We all had to replace any “questionable” tires, as our mechanic phrased it, and most bought spare fuel filters.  Some of us paid to jerryrig protection on the front of our trucks, towed or coaches, which were cost-savings rather than expenses.   We invested in a very expensive lens for my camera, but there will be more about that in an upcoming article.

Was all this worth it?  Looking at it one way, it depends on how you value your money, what are your priorities in life.  For us — and remember we’re conservative with money — this trip was life at its best.  For us, the overwhelming answer is:  “Yes, it was worth it!”

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

NOTE:  We are staying at provincial parks, often far from towns, so WiFi is a rarity.  We’ll have more soon.

Comments

11 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXX The Cost of Our Trip”

▪.  Jerry X Shea on August 13th, 2010 6:46 pm  
Our costs. We took a trip for 4 months from the time we crossed into Alberta until we came out into Washington. Gas would have been the same if we did it in 30 days.
Between parking for free, State Parks for $10 a night and RV campgrounds, we had an average cost of about $22.50 a night. For 4 months that was $2,700 (one month would have only been $675). The one that caught us off guard was the cost of food. With the exception of buying a hot mocha in the a.m. and a Subway sandwich (which is not $5 but $7) whenever we could, we only went out to eat 6 times on the whole trip (oh come on now, it’s called a motorHOME trip, not a hotel resort trip). When you have to pay $22 for an uncooked chicken, $3.75 for one avocado and $6.50 for a dozen eggs you suddenly realize you have miscalculated your food cost “big time.” Oh yes, did I mention you can buy a 12-piece bucket of KFC for only $29.99? You get the idea. When you plan your trip, what you spend on food in the lower 48, just go times 4 and you will have your food costs.

▪.  Lee Ensminger on August 13th, 2010 8:03 pm  
We made an extensive trip in the summer of 2007, driving from Ohio to Montana, then up to the beginning of the Alaskan Highway, driving the entire length, going through the interior to Fairbanks, then to Denali, Anchorage, Homer, Seward, the Kenai Peninsula, other places I won’t mention, put the motorhome aboard the Alaskan Ferry System in Whittier, going ashore in Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Ketchikan before being put ashore in Bellingham, WA.
Camping costs: $;
Food: $$
Fuel: $$$;
Whale watching and glacier exploring tours various places: $$$$;
Ferry: $8,000.00+;
Seeing the beauty and majesty that is Alaska: PRICELESS!!!
We’re currently planning our next trip there. And we can’t wait to go back!

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on August 14th, 2010 4:29 am  
First would like to say thanks so much for your triplog. For those who want an experience they will never ever forget and who love to ride in the front of every rollercoaster (like me), there is another way to experience the beautiful North. Travel up through Wyoming and Montana and cross the border at Lethbridge during the last two weeks of February. The border guards are friendly and not stressed. Stop all along the way and stay in hotels in places like Dawson Creek, Lake Watson, Fort Nelson (call ahead here because oil workers swarm there in winter). Stop and talk to everyone. They are relaxed and friendly and so many great stories you’ll hear. The wildlife you see in the winter is so much more plentiful and the mountain views would make a grown man cry. Spend the last week of February at the Fur Rendezvous (Let’s Rondy!) watching the world championship dog races right downtown 4th street. Ride a Ferris wheel in the dead of winter. See huge dogs in the world championship dog weight pull. See the start of the Iditarod in the first week of March right downtown. Drive north through the jaw-dropping Denali National Park with guaranteed views of Denali. Thought it was great during summer? It pales in comparison. See the Ice Castle carving championship in Fairbanks, the outhouse races in Chatanika. Drive north to Circle late at night to see Northern lights few ever see. Then drive back down the Alaska Highway, knowing you’ve shared in the lives of Alaskans in a way few people in RVs ever get to see. It cost us about $1,100 to drive one way, eat, and stay in hotels. It is something that will remain with me for a lifetime.

We did it in a Dodge Durango 4wd. Any 4wd will do. Studded snow tires not necessary but would be even better. Canadians know how to keep the roads plowed.

▪.  Dan Kapa on August 14th, 2010 7:09 am  
i just bought a used “Alaskan” truck camper (circa 1965) and am fantasizing about a road trip. this info is great and I would like some more ideas about joining a caravan. i am 63 y.o. and would appreciate the company since I am a newbie. Chime in about anything you think i should know or learn.
sincerely, Dan

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on August 14th, 2010 10:29 am  
Your expenses were quite similar to ours. We also ate most meals in our trailer and didn’t buy a lot of gifts for the grandkids. We took the Denali tour and the Kenai Fjords cruise (both priceless).
Here is a rundown of our expenses for a somewhat shorter stay (includes Alaska and Canada).
Fuel $2,720 (10.5 mpg);
Campgrounds $540 (19 nights, $25.00 – $41.41);
Dining out $218;
Food $396;
Gifts $165;
Admissions/tours $743;
Misc $252.
Hope this helps others with their planning/budgeting.

▪.  Rebecca on August 14th, 2010 7:06 pm  
I have a 41′ diesel pusher. Is this too big for travel through Alaska? I need a driver!!
I might have to do it by cruise but I would rather do it by RV.

▪.  Dr. Yaroslaw Sereda on October 26th, 2010 9:30 pm  
We recently purchased a 1979 Dodge camper van, and Alaska is our destination in mid-June 2011 for 2 months. There have been many comments in touring Alaska via Alberta, we live in Saskatchewan. My question and not mentioned by anyone is: what about gas stations? Close or far apart. We were told to have several full gas containers on hand. Comments appreciated.
Thanks [Actually, it was mentioned often in the blogs and in the comments.  While I think it’s a good idea to have enough spare fuel for maybe 50 miles, we never needed it.  This is a good reason to purchase “Mileposts,” which will keep you aware of what to expect on the road ahead.]