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 XXXII-B Some Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alaska Trip Sampler

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

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

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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