ENJOYING THE JOURNEY

This entry is part 11 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

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

“Turn around.  You could have turned around at that driveway,” demanded Monique.  “I’m going to go three more miles,” I answered.  If we don’t find a campground, I’ll turn around …”  “There’s a brown sign.  Float Camp Recreation Area.  But is there camping?” asked Monique.  I lucked out.  Despite no signs anywhere indicating that this was a campground in Mark Twain National Forest in Southern

The Current River by the Float Camp -- A National Scenic Waterway

The Current River by the Float Camp — A National Scenic Waterway

Missouri, I trusted my instincts (not very reliable, I might add) and proceeded to search for a place to stop for the night.  What made it more tenuous was that, earlier in the day, I had turned off a main highway to see “The World’s Biggest Wind Chime,” which we never found.  As compatible as we are, there was a bit of friction in the air – but that’s understandable after being on the road together exactly five months and having parked for at least one night in 85 different spots!

I left off our most recent entry on this blog site mentioning that there are other places from our caravan trip to the Canadian Maritimes that I want to write about.  That’s still true, but

You don't see this on Interstates. We share the road with Amish, who cling to their heritage

You don’t see this on Interstates. We share the road with Amish, who cling to their heritage

while on the road 7 to 9 hours a day since we left Niagara Falls, New York, we keep recalling additional places worth mentioning.  We are looking for a day of rest, when we can sit back in our recliners and list those places, so I can make sense out of it all.  I will say that we are still smiling when we talk about the Tattoo, the Screech In, the Ugly Stick concerts, Spillars Cove, the north end of Prince Edward Island … oh, so many places we were exposed to over the past two months.

We are now parked in Ozark RV Park and Cabins in Mountain View, Arkansas, one of the very few places we have visited three times.  We love this area so much, we had looked for land or a bungalow here years ago, but, realizing how far we’d be from family, we went on, eventually buying a cabin in the mountains of Southern California.

What’s so special about this place?  The Ozark scenery, for one.  The friendliness of the local folks, for another.  And mostly for the music in this, the Folk Music Capital of the World.  There is music everywhere around here, year-round, including in the “pickin’ sheds” and on the Courthouse Square.  In parks and on the porches of stores and in homespun theaters.

Are we having fun yet?  You betcha! at the Jimmy Driftwood Barn

Are we having fun yet? You betcha! at the Jimmy Driftwood Barn

Sunday night was quiet after a big weekend for bikers, who showed up from miles around, so we took in the by-donation Jimmy Driftwood Barn show.  “Jimmy Driftwood was a prolific folk singer-songwriter who wrote over 6,000 songs. He gained national fame in 1959 when Johnny Horton recorded Driftwood’s song, ‘The Battle of New Orleans’,” to quote the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

This is Americana at its best.  The cast of local musicians with varying degrees of polish sing folk songs and gospel, some from the fine grain of the past, some seemingly made up (with lots of humor) yesterday. The instrumentation makes it all the more enjoyable – for

Cloggin'

Cloggin’

Sunday’s two-hour performance, they strummed on guitars, steel guitars, mandolins, a bass fiddle, autoharps, a washtub bass and more.  Add in harmonicas and a lady who played the snare drum and washboard, and you get the gist of what we listened to.  A few times during the show, several of the musicians/singers entertained with clogging.

There’s lots of music in Mountain View, plus two other main attractions.  It’s the home of Blanchard Springs Caverns National Park, which in our opinion is the most beautiful cave of the dozen we’ve traversed.  Then there’s the Ozark Folk Center immediately next to our campground.  It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays so our timing is bad, but we’ve spent many hours there during past visits.

After hour-after-hour over the last week plying the concrete of interstate highways, where the ripening corn crop on both sides of the road becomes hypnotic, I was excited when Monique routed us back to Arkansas.  We are “journey” travelers as opposed to “destination” people, so I appreciated the chance to tackle the severely winding roads and steep hills of the Ozark Mountains, at least in few-hour intervals.  We are here for two nights, then it’s onward!

Kites a-flying

Kites a-flying somewhere over New York State

One more thing I want to mention.  The electric jack on our trailer that lifts the tongue off the hitch ball on our truck was clucking and chucking, ready to strand us.  We left Niagara Falls with the trepidation that we would have to stay hitched up for the next two weeks, when we spied a Camping World sign on a through-town highway in Hamburg, New York, just southeast of Buffalo.  An hour later we drove away with a new electric lift recommended over the six others by the parts manager (and strangely enough, it was the least expensive).  We give thanks to their efficiency and congenial spirit.

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

COMMENTS TO RECENT BLOGS

From Dan and Terry Meehan — First, we would like to compliment you on the quality and usefulness of your blog about your RV travels.  We look forward to it every day.  We should have been off to see the US in our RV by now, but a COPD diagnosis has slowed our plan.  As we get the final pieces in place, we have two topics that we have not been able to find discussed via any of the blogs we have found and are wondering if you can guide us to either:  Can you direct us to someone who is currently traveling with COPD?

BARRY’S RESPONSE – We’ve met people with this breathing problem but never gotten any names or discussed it at any length.  I open the line, via emails, to neverboredrvers@gmail.com , to anyone who can provide information.

Do you know of a mapping, suggested routes, type of site, where we could find some planned routes designed for long-timers who don’t want to deal with weather on any grand scale?

BARRY’S RESPONSE – There is usually plenty of warning before hurricanes arrive, so that shouldn’t be a problem (I lived in New Orleans most of my life, so I am practically an expert).  We’ve hit snow flurries in Austin, Texas, in September and huddled in brick bathrooms when tornados were imminent in the Plains States.  You never know.  Again, we welcome reader input.

Thanks and keep the travel commentaries coming, loved the Puffin pics from yesterday.

From David Palazzolo — I stumbled over your blog on rv.net.  I was wondering and hoping to see if you could give me any information on traveling to the Northeast, specifically Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  I am planning a two-week RV trip with my in-laws (both about 75 years of age).  Would like to see things that are simple but fun.

I have planned to visit Ben and Jerry’s factory, LL Bean, Norman Rockwell museum, and a train ride.  I am trying to make it a trip where my in-laws can roam and enjoy the sites.  I am interested in neat places to take them to eat (mostly Mom and Pop places, or dives that have the best food).

Would you have any info that could help me or guide me in planning this type of travel.  We like to know some things to avoid because it would be a waste of time.  Not so much in a rush, but wanted to make this a trip of a lifetime with my in-laws.  Hope to find a nice fishing spot where my and my father in law could spend a few hours.  Any input will do.  We are coming from the Cincinnati area up to Niagara Falls and then heading east.

BARRY’S REPONSE — Thanks for you note.  I like your planning.  The last blog I wrote before going into Canada was at http://blog.rv.net/2013/06/downeast-mid-coast-and-the-bold-coast/ and I wrote several before then about the areas where you are traveling.  My Internet connection is less than optimal; doing further research at this time is annoying.

We stop at state travel centers when we get there during their open hours.  Monique picks up brochures and asks questions of the staff members.  Often they have interesting suggestions that we take.

We’re currently in Mentor, Ohio, heading west, having spent the past two days at Niagara Falls (the Canadian side is much better than the American side — take the Lewiston Bridge to save time – passports required).  All the places you are planning to visit are good, although L.L.Bean was only an hour attraction.  We mostly avoid the places set up for tourists, opting for some of the less renowned places along the way.  Some are good; for some, we are ready to move on.  You never know, and then again, your interests and the interests of your in-laws may be totally different from ours.  While near Niagara, we stayed at 4-Mile Creek State Park and visited Old Fort Niagara, where we found the confusing history of the colonial era history interesting.  Take the back-road scenic byways.  The scenery is unforgettable.

I wish I could fish during our travels, but paying for a fishing license in every state gets very expensive.  I bought a rod & reel when we went to Canada — the price tag is still on it.

One specific suggestion — Campobello Island near Eastport, Maine, will certainly be of interest to you and your in-laws.  You get there through Lubec, but you need your passports to get there, since it’s in New Brunswick.  (turn off your phone — international rates apply).

Thanks for you note — we’re rushing to get through dinner and into bed for the evening.  It’s been another long day.day.

Our Alaska Trip Part II Crossing into Canada

This entry is part 2 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 10, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 21 Comments

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

Our caravan was ready for OUR GREAT ADVENTURE early this morning, and most of the dozen rigs got off in fine fashion.  Oh, our tailgunner awoke one couple telling them that one of the tires on their SUV toad was flat, but that was a minor inconvenience since we were in town rather than on the open road.

All went smoothly from there as we traveled scenic Washington roads for 135 miles when we arrived at the Canadian border crossing.   Several of the members were told to dispose of the onions that they declared, and one couple was asked to pull into a separate parking area and report to the officers inside the building.  That couple was us.

Entering the Customs Station Crossing into Canada from Washington State

Entering the Customs Station Crossing into Canada from Washington State

We think the brief, serious interrogation was triggered by our admission of having bear spray aboard, [a large canister is okay; a small canister is not] a natural defense for veteran hikers, but we answered their questions, stood by while they did a computer background check and then we were on the road again to reach our first Canadian campground.  Just in time for the evening social and update on the plans for Friday.

Let’s back up a few miles.  About 16 miles north of last night’s campground at the Town of Soap Lake is the immense, deep canyon called Dry Falls, featuring “plunge holes.”  I think every member of our crew stopped there for a few moments to appreciate the power of geological forces.

A Plunge Hole Below Dry Falls Visitors Center, Washington

A Plunge Hole Below Dry Falls Visitors Center, Washington

Our route then took us to the Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River.  We have been to several dams in our travels, and although this one was more interesting than most, it’s not a “wonder of the world” that stops most people in their tracks.  It did us, but then it got better.

And this is where the two types of travelers separate.  Many are destination-seekers, with planned stops.  The rest of us travel to enjoy the scenery along the way, particularly unexpected discoveries like this.

These may be cherished memories or forgotten until you look at photos or videos years later, but if you’re not ready to trade time for destination, you won’t have these moments in your memory bank.  Across the United States and Canada, there are treasurers hiding around every turn and down every side road.

Once we crossed the surging Columbia and entered the information plaza, we discovered a labyrinth, a place for silent contemplation and appreciation of the flowers and flowing water.  No big deal, but for us, it is an enrichment of life.  You might want to keep your eyes and, more importantly, your mind open to stop at unheralded spots along the road.

Monique Walking the Labyrinth by Chief Joseph Dam

Monique Walking the Labyrinth by Chief Joseph Dam

It’s Thursday afternoon, the sun is shining through menacing clouds.  We look for the blue.

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

21 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part II Crossing into Canada”

▪.  bbwolf on June 10th, 2010 10:05 pm   
Barry & Monique, just wanted to let you know that my co-pilot and I are following your posts with interest. Please don’t leave anything out, as you are helping a lot of us decide on making this trip ourselves one day soon. Thanks for posting your travel!

▪.  Jerry Criswell on June 11th, 2010 12:43 pm  
Wish you had told us what a “plunge hole” is.
JC

▪.  susan on June 11th, 2010 4:46 pm  
Barry and Monique…we find you travels very interesting…please keep posting, like bbwolf we are deciding whether or not to make the trip one day…as of now we are leaning toward it, and love reading about your travels..
Sue

▪.  G Finley on June 11th, 2010 5:02 pm  
Tell us more about this plunge hole. What are they and why did they happen? Thanks in advance for the posting. Sure is interesting. We have driven part of your trip in a car. Beautiful country !!!!.

▪.  John Ahrens on June 11th, 2010 5:55 pm  
This link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_Falls, briefly speaks to the formation of the Dry Falls. It doesn’t mention plunge holes specifically, but the plunge holes are the area at the bottom of a falls where the falling water leaves a deep hole. Incidentally, at the height of the flood, the surface of the river probably varied a few inches as it went over that falls.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 11th, 2010 5:09 pm. 
Your Canadian crossing was better than ours. A guy with a chip on his shoulder made me turn my pockets inside-out, dumped my pill containers out on a dirty table, while his team rummaged around our travel trailer trying to prove that we were lying when we said that we had no booze, guns, tobacco, vegetables, etc. They found nothing. Didn’t make us feel too welcome to their country.

▪.  Jan on June 11th, 2010 7:06 pm  
Barry and Monique – Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. We’d love to make the trip to Alaska someday. We also travel with enjoying all the side adventures on the way. Wondering what kind of orchard or field we are passing, what is that smoke stack in the distance, where does that road in the middle of nowhere lead, what is a plunge hole (thank you John), walking a labyrinth someone took the time to build, etc. Not that we always have time to investigate each thing, but traveling with the explorers’ curiosity really opens the trip to memories, meeting the local people and an education for a lifetime and underlines the reason most of us crisscross North America in our RV’s. It’s like Lewis and Clark’s push to the ocean, the miner’s quest for gold; it must be in our blood? Looking forward to your next trip itinerary entry.
PS
Chief Joseph Dam is the second largest hydropower-producing dam in the United States.

▪.  Dick and Cindy on June 11th, 2010 7:12 pm  
We went a year ago. At our border crossing they got all the apples we had just stocked up on. They were offended and said “We have apples in Canada, ya know.” Will enjoy comparing experiences. Hope you get to Laird Hot Springs. We enjoyed that a lot – both directions.

▪.  Chris Clarke on June 11th, 2010 8:10 pm  
Regarding the border crossing incidents, just a few comments: When we head south and cross into the US we basically have taken to having nothing in our refrigerator, no fresh fruit, nor vegetables. This is because of having had it all confiscated one time or another by the US border officials on previous trips. So don’t feel too bad about losing a few apples and yes, we do grow them up here. We get the same line fed to us going south.
Our first stop on the US side is usually at a supermarket to stock up the fridge and the pantry. (Oh, and yes, I have had my 5th wheel turned inside out because the agricultural inspector wanted to look into “all of the hiding places” that he knew us RVers use to stash our contraband oranges, steaks and milk.
The bear spray is sort of a moot point. I carry mine all the time when I fish or hike in the mountains and I think that our border officials should cut some slack on that one in spite of the fact that it has become a weapon of choice in assaults and muggings. (We don’t carry firearms up here – we don’t seem to need them, or at least the risk of needing them is pretty low.)
Sorry if you ran into one of the more uncouth border officials – there are many good ones as there are heading south. Too bad some of these folks make our crossing experiences less than fun in either direction.
  Perhaps some of our folks are smarting over the heavy criticism that we Canadians have been getting regarding border security from some of your prominent politicians in spite of the fact that the 9/11 bad guys did not come through our country. Some of the critics have been down right rude. We are grateful for the fact that most of the 350 million of y’all are damn fine people.
I hope that you don’t let some boorish behavior spoil what should be a great adventure for you. Sometimes I guess that some people just get out on the wrong side of the bed. There are just too many beautiful places to see and experiences for you to have on either side of the 49th to allow a less than smooth crossing experience cause to sour.
Happy trails!
 [We immediately put the delay behind us.  Another part of the adventure.]

▪.  Frank Howard on June 11th, 2010 9:01 pm  
Being stopped by border officials could also simply be a random inspection, designed to catch violators who are aware of what characteristics the officials
are looking for. The officials may be inspecting, say, every 20th visitor who comes through.

▪.  Sucie on June 11th, 2010 9:21 pm  
Mr. Clark,
You mentioned 9-11, as a proud yet humble American I want to take this moment and say Thank-you to the Canadian people for assisting the many people that landed that fateful day in Nova Scotia during that tragic time in our history. May the Canadian people be blessed many times over.

▪.  Shelia on June 11th, 2010 11:00 pm  
I would love to go to AK but my hubby has a fear of taking our 40ft motorhome across the border into Canada and than into AK/USA. Any motorhomes of great length taking the trip up north with you? Let me know how all fare on the travel across the roads. I hate to have only planned stops, I’m the type that wants to find the natural native places along the route. Those surprises are the ones you will remember. Have fun!

▪.  Chip on June 12th, 2010 7:06 am  
Barry and Monique – I just wonder how everyone in the caravan is keeping in contact on the road. Are you using the FRS radios with some kind of net control. Are there any Ham radio Operators among the caravan? 
BTW, what is the cost of diesel fuel in Canada?
have a great trip and keep the details coming – its awesome! 

[We communicate with each other via CB radio — more on all of this later]

▪.  Kay on June 12th, 2010 9:51 am  
A trip to Alaska that was to have started in late May has unavoidably been delayed. How late into July can we leave and still have enough time to make the trip in a somewhat leisurely way? How late in September can we return and not have to worry about now in the Rockies as we make our way East??

▪.  Thomas Becher on June 12th, 2010 10:00 am  
Too much hassle going across the border. I thought with NAFDA and being almost brother-sister things would be smoother. They treat you like a criminal. Too many things to see in the states to bother with Canada. Even with the exchange rate they rip you off, if you don’t have any Canadian money. No thanks. If I feel the need to go to Alaska, I’ll fly and then rent a camper.

▪.  Colleen on June 12th, 2010 12:58 pm  
This is an answer for Kay who wonders how late in July she can head north and how late in Sept. to return. I’ve driven out as late as Dec. 10 (leaving Anchorage), so it can be done. My parents were snowbirds for years and they made sure they were on the road by Sept. 10. Summers in Alaska are short and cool, but it can get downright hot in the interior (Fairbanks). June is the nicest month weather-wise, by mid-July the rains begin. By the third week in August there is often mild frost at night, even in Anchorage.
If you are looking for fish and going up late in the summer, you might try for Silver Salmon on the beach in Seward toward the end of August.
In ‘72, my first trip to Alaska, there were 1,500 miles of gravel roads. After 30 years living there and many trips driving in and out, the road is all paved now. 
And a note for Sheila, there are places where the roads are not as wide as you find in the lower 48, especially in the Yukon, so meeting an 18 wheeler on a curve or bridge can be a bit unnerving at times, you can certainly time those events by adjusting your speed. The last time I drove out was in a Class A 32ft Airstream. I live in the lower 48 now that I have retired. 
I’ve never gone with a caravan, preferring to make my own schedule, but for some people the peace of mind of “safety in numbers” thing should be worthwhile.
See ya down the road.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 12th, 2010 4:29 pm  
To answer the question about how late to go to Alaska, we went last year in August to get away from the crowds. Turns out August is the rainy month and we had rain every day. By late August, many of the campgrounds are almost deserted. We didn’t see hardly anyone heading north on our return trip. Many of the campgrounds said they were closed after September 1. The owners were headed for Florida, California or Arizona. Our next trip will be in June.

▪.  tom connor on June 13th, 2010 10:50 pm  
hi, Tom Becher.  Looks like you have had a bad experience, I hear all kinds of stories of the treatment Canadians get from USA border guards, then I read about there attitude toward the border guard what one gives expect to receive.
 My trailer is permanently in Washington State, so we go there quite often.  Never have I ever felt not wanted, but always welcomed.
There is nothing we can bring across the border — we always have to stock up our larder in Seattle and likewise coming north we know the rules and stick by them.
If you believe all the stories you hear you would eat all you see.
Camping is supposed to be a fun thing not conferential.
Enjoy life; it’s short.  [Note:  We never had a bad experience on this entire trip.  Missing out on Western Canada is missing out on the most beautiful part of the trip.]



▪.  BJ Moffett on June 22nd, 2010 10:47 am  
What can you take in to Canada in the line of food? We are thinking of going in 2013. Have a 35ft. 5th wheel

▪.  Rebecca on June 22nd, 2010 10:28 pm  
Have been wading through the customs site searching for what we can and can’t bring when crossing into Canada. Didn’t find much that was helpful. This site was exactly what I was looking for. Although we have taken our RV into Canada, it has been a while and I’m pretty sure there had been some changes. I guess the best bet is to leave the fresh stuff behind and get it after we cross. That’s fine. I am assuming that canned & frozen goods are okay. 
We have traveled in and out of Canada for 40 years and have never been treated badly by the border agents or anyone else except one surly waitress in Niagara Falls years ago that we still laugh about. 
Any other tips for travel into Quebec would be welcome. Thanks!

Lenore Slater on June 29th, 2010 10:23 am  
It saddens me to hear such disparaging remarks about Canadians. I was taught here in Canada that it is prejudice to paint a whole nation with one paintbrush because of the actions of one person. Whatever happened to the concept of ‘Hands across the Border?” We should remember this was one large land and the borders were put in much later, separating whole families, my family being one of them. My genealogical study of my family shows that people crossed back and forth many times, and my family is your family. I would like to see more Americans speaking up for their neighbours and a few thank you’s would not go amiss! The Canadians do not hesitate to jump in and help when the many disasters occur in America. The Canadians are probably the Americans’ best friend and it is a great puzzle that we do not hear a whole lot about that from the Americans. 
To the moderator of this site I ask, Did I wander onto the wrong site? Is this site intended for Americans only?  [Please don’t paint all the respondents to this site with the same paintbrush used by one person.]

Our Alaska Trip Part XV White-Knuckle Driving

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

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

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

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

Time Change sm - 8121

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pedro

Pedro

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

 

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Alaska Trip Part XVI Getting To Know Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Rivers of Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A spruce burl railing that caught our attention.

A spruce burl railing that caught our attention.

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

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

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

Caribou Land collage - 8170

 

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Alaska Trip Part XVIII Audience Participation

This entry is part 18 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 8, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 17 Comments

This is the 18th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

First, a couple of observations.  1)  Don’t bother packing fancy outside lights for your summer trip to The Land of the Midnight Sun.  Nobody does that here, and 2) When we see the vast expanses of wild land surrounding us on the highways of Alaska and northern Canada, we appreciate being here.

In the Old World of Europe and in at least some of Asia, cities, towns and villages have dotted the landscape for centuries.  But here, there are lots of huge expanses of trees and sagebrush fading into the distance for miles until they reach a ridge of highlands.

Before focusing briefly on Fairbanks’ Pioneer Park, I want to ask the readers of these articles two questions:

One commenter asked about the best RV for the trip.  We see every kind, even some we’ve never seen before, and it’s our guess that whatever fits your lifestyle in the Lower 48 will be the same here.  While diesel pushers do have larger windshields to view roadside wildlife, they are also a larger target for getting dinged by rocks., but don’t make your decision based on windshields.  I think it’s still true that most of those cracks for our caravan came before crossing into Canada.

Now for the question, which I’d like experienced Alaskan RVers to give their opinions below to the question:   “Is one type of RV more suited (or less suited) to the Alaskan terrain than others?

And for this one I’m really interested in the comments of both previous and prospective travelers to Alaska.    Why spend the time and money, take the risk and endure long hours of driving to make the trip? We know what motivated us and we’ve talked to many others about their expectations, etc. What do you think?

To that I’ll add a reciprocal question:  Why would anyone want to leave Alaska?  Lots of people we have met came and decided to stay.

This afternoon the caravan arrived in a private campground outside Denali National Park, with Mt. McKinley hiding behind a highest-mountain-wannabe.  Tomorrow we have a 14-hour-day tour into the park.  I’ve heard that the mountain is visible today, Wednesday (or as the locals say, “the mountain is out”).  We hope that holds out through tomorrow.

Our truck managed to be in a group of cars, trucks and RVs led by an escort vehicle as it went around a construction area and followed the truck spraying water on the road. Our clean truck and trailer are now caked with mud.

(Clockwise from Top Left: An invitation to “chill;” a Steamshovel that helped dig the Panama Canal; A Fetish on sale in the museum; and Fairbank’s first artifact, the Wheel from the ill-fated Lavelle Young.)

(Clockwise from Top Left: An invitation to “chill;” a Steamshovel that helped dig the Panama Canal; A Fetish on sale in the museum; and Fairbank’s first artifact, the Wheel from the ill-fated Lavelle Young.)

Having heard many good things from you, our readers, about Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, yesterday we headed that way.  It is a delight, with numerous interesting gold-rush days cabins converted into shops and a museum that we wish we could have spent more time in, plus many other attractions.  In addition to the things to see and do there, we also enjoyed talking with fun, interesting shopkeepers.

Dioramas on the lower deck of the Nenana steamship were Monique’s favorite.  Intricate displays depict the turn-of-the-century villages in the Alaska interior, both native, forts and mining.  I was most taken with the unique high quality artwork and crafts in the shops.  We decided against going into the establishment that would allow us — for $8 each — to experience -40o temperatures.  Since our bus driver described that as like getting hit with a baseball bat, we didn’t see the point.

Our Wagonmasters, Ken and Carole Adams, invited the entertainers from the Bonanza Gold Mine train to play for us in the RV park Wednesday evening. Not long after they started, our own Jeff Totten tuned up his banjo and joined in the music-making, and then caravan member Ira Miller was handed the bass guitar by the visiting musician and joined in, caressing the instrument as he strummed it like a long-lost friend.

We invited every other visitor in the RV Park to come by and listen in.  That really worked!

The Caravan Gets an Unexpected Musical Treat

The Caravan Gets an Unexpected Musical Treat

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

Comments

17 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XVIII Audience Participation”

▪    Jeff Glazer on July 8th, 2010 1:41 pm  
There are two kinds of RVers, and we have been both. There are those who set up for months at a time and live in their RV. We are doing that this year workamping in Pennsylvania.
The other kind has a constant itch to see what is around the next corner. For this kind of RVer Alaska is an absolute must. You have to have a sense of adventure and be willing to take things in stride. You have to LOVE to drive. (The round trip from our home in South Carolina is 12,000+ miles.) But it is an adventure you will remember and talk about for the rest of your life.
I have only once met a person who was not happy that they made the trip. After talking to her for a while I realized that she is the type of person who is never happy about anything.
Why leave Alaska? There are two major reasons: the weather and the economy. There is often not a supermarket on the next block (or within 100 miles!). Jobs can be hard to find and low-paying. But there are several places in Alaska where I think I could be happy living. I think Fairbanks is a great town, and I am partial to both Seward and Homer down on the Kenai Peninsula. Just give me a good Internet connection!
What’s the best rig for an Alaska trek? The one you are comfortable in down south. We drive a 33′ Class A with a toad and were very happy. I have been in groups with everything from a small Class B to a very large 5er (full-timers) and no one seemed to have any more problems than anyone else. The trailers and 5ers did seem a bit more prone to tire problems and I would recommend carrying an extra spare. Those who drove a motorhome without a toad were almost always sorry.

▪    GK on July 8th, 2010 2:36 pm  
Good start on info about rigs suited to the trip. The only reason I was asking is because there are times when some types of issues appear on some types of RV’s in some areas. For example, I was reading about desert boondocking, and one point that came up in forums and blog posts was the issue of air filters on pushers: because the engine is at the back, and the dust kicked up goes to the back, you might have an issue with clogged air filters if you drive far enough into the desert (and back). Units where the engine is at the front had fewer issues, and some pusher owners had made mods to their unit to have the air intake further forward, or higher up with a second set of “prefilters”. Admittedly, this is a pretty specialized case, but knowing in advance can make it easier for others to avoid problems. Even just knowing “business as usual” is instructive.
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know  .

▪    Jeff Becker on July 8th, 2010 6:56 pm  
We traveled more than 60 days last May from Cape Coral, Fl. to Alaska…..about 15,000 miles. I’m a changed man as a result of this trip! We did it in a Class C with NO toad…..27′…..and it was perfect. We also brought along our 3 dogs; 2 Shar-Pei and a terrific Bull Terrier.
Had very few problems. Biggest was a double blowout in the Yukon. Now THAT was a trick to get resolved, but we got it done.
Greatest scenery! Greatest trip ever! I’m ready to do it again!
Here’s a problem that no one thought about: After returning to Florida, the idea of heading to Orlando or Tampa or ANYWHERE in the RV just seemed like it couldn’t measure up. There’s NO sequel. Result? We SOLD our RV! Give it a breather!

▪    David Campbell on July 8th, 2010 7:06 pm  
I think Jeff is right – whatever one is comfortable with anywhere else. Three years ago we traveled to Alaska in a 30 ft class C with a toad. That was the first time driving, but certainly not the first time to be in Alaska. Having a pilot’s license I flew up and around there both for sightseeing and as an occupation taking commercial aerial photography. That too, was enjoyable, but not as enjoyable as driving and being able to stop at many more places. 
Dings and cracks are inevitable wherever one travels. We had two windshield dings on the Top of the World Highway, but have had many more on roads all over the lower states. At least the smaller windshields on a ‘C’ are little cheaper to replace!

▪    Tom Funkhouser on July 8th, 2010 7:55 pm  
We made the 9,400-mile round-trip from Southern California in a 35′ Class A towing a Honda CRV. As others have said, it was the trip of a lifetime. We did not have any problems with the coach and it was very handy having the toad along. Two of the most memorable side tours we did were a Denali sightseeing flight out of Talkeetna – landing on a glacier – and the Kenai Fjords boat trip out of Stewart. We could not see the mountain from the valley when we were there but the flight took us over the clouds for a spectacular view. The boat trip featured glaciers, humpback whales, hundreds of dolphins, killer whales, puffins, and otters. Unforgettable. These side tours are very expensive so we bought a Great Alaska TourSaver booklet for $99. These tours as well as fishing trips and many other attractions were all 2 for 1 discounts so we saved our money many times over.
Our new RV is a 25 foot class C Sprinter. I think we would enjoy the trip to Alaska even more with this set up as we do not need a toad and it gets double the fuel mileage. We burned 1,300 gallons on our trip with the Class A and I figure we would use less than half of that with our Class C diesel. As others have said before me, whatever works for you in the lower 48 will work for you in Alaska.

▪    Peggy on July 8th, 2010 7:56 pm  
‘…Our truck managed to be in a group of cars, trucks and RVs led by an escort vehicle as it went around a construction area and followed the truck spraying water on the road. Our clean truck and trailer are now caked with mud…’
Want to say have thoroughly enjoyed your articles – has brought back many memories of which I’ll never forget…
The first paragraph is from your latest article – I have to comment on it:
We were 2 up on a Harley Sportster – we’d be in line waiting for the escort vehicle when the flag person would motion us to the front of the line… We were told that was so we wouldn’t get all the dust from the bigger vehicles… Then there was the ‘water truck’ – to this day I still don’t want to be near one…
As you said, the water truck would start out to water down all the dirt to keep down the dust – we were in the front so just imagine all the MUD we were covered with – yes, have the pictures…
After that, we’d shake our head no, and let everyone go before us and my hubby would just take his old, sweet time – most likely irked the other folks waiting to come from the other direction… Still was great fun and a wonderful experience…
Oh, that’s when I saw a guy standing on a ladder, with a long stick (squeegee) in his hand cleaning off his windows (an RV) – I said ‘wow’….
Sometimes what we rode over was not even a road, then maybe there would be a little red-flag sticking out of the ground on the edge of the highway – no guardrails and it was a long way down in many areas… So interesting…
Again, thank you for all your work…

▪    Barbara Mull on July 8th, 2010 7:58 pm  
I lived in Alaska for 18 years and traveled in a 20′ Minnie Winnie first and then a 27′ Jayco – both Class Cs. Though small, the tough old Minnie was just right for some of the roads we traveled. We told ourselves each year that this year could be the last one in Alaska and so what did we want to see before we left. The best of all trips was 3 weeks traveling the Top of the World, then to Inuvik (as far north as the road goes) in NW Territories, Yellowknife, Calgary, Banff and back home to Anchorage. What a trip! One road was built up across the tundra with gravel resulting in a barely 2-lane road with no turnoffs. We stopped on our side of the road after not seeing any other traffic for two hours, put the kettle on and set out the coffee cups. An 18-wheeler traveling the opposite direction stopped beside us on their side of the road and the couple driving it shared a cup of coffee with us for about an hour. Then we both went on our way, still seeing no other traffic for several hours. BTW, it took two ferry crossings to get to Inuvik.
Why leave Alaska? Only health issues forced us to move back to the Lower 48 near family. This southern gal loved the winters, Northern Lights, sundogs, ice fog, beautiful snow and I’m still homesick at times. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading about your adventures. Thanks for sharing.

▪    GaryM on July 8th, 2010 7:59 pm  
We pulled our 29.5 foot 5er to Alaska in 2006 – with our new (at the time) 3/4 ton Ford Power Stroke. The only problem we really had was getting in and out of some of the small out-of-the-way camp sites that we picked. It was probably just a fluke but we never got a ding of any kind although we did put some protection on the truck. We could park the trailer and take side trips. 4×4 was beneficial once in a while. We only had a month and would do it again if we had 2 or even 3 months. We had room for the cat and everything we ever needed. We were very comfortable once we figured out how to get it dark enough to sleep at night. Even the road from DC to Chicken was good.
We took the time and money needed to drive up because we just wanted to see it all. We enjoyed every moment and have most of the pictures as a slide show on the computer. We loved it.
Not sure why we came back except that the thought of the long dark winter day is a bit of a turn off. We like the sun and since we live in Montana, we love it here too.
It is fun to travel along with you on this trip. Enjoy every moment…

▪    Stan Zawrotny on July 8th, 2010 8:04 pm  
We drove up last year with a truck and 29 ft. travel trailer. When we got back, we immediately traded it in for a 31 ft Class C. We discovered that on the long drives, it would have been better if the passenger could have been able to get up and go back into the rig to get a snack, drink, take a nap, etc. We drove through all 49 states and 9 Canadian provinces with the travel trailer, but we find the Class C to be much more flexible. Yes, we do have a toad.
As for why anyone would want to leave Alaska, it’s too expensive for one thing. For another, Alaska is beautiful, but we have some other beautiful states in the lower 48. And you can enjoy them for more than just a few months out of the year. Most of the people that I met there live there for a few months in the summer then spend the rest of the year in Florida, California or Arizona.

▪    Tom on July 8th, 2010 8:20 pm  
Alaska will spoil you for any other trips. I remember the pullout with a sign that said you should see every place else you wish to visit before coming to Alaska. If not, you’ll never wish to go anywhere else. It’s true for us.
We spent the entire summer of ‘09 roaming throughout Alaska from Seward to Dead Horse back down to Denali and Homer and everywhere in between – even spending a week at Teklanika where we were blessed with 3 clear days. 
We came back because my wife doesn’t favor the thought of endless nights, the price of everything is very high, and my job called me into an office. 
We traveled in a 38′ class A pulling a Yukon XL (our garage) with our son (who wishes we could go back every day).

▪    Virgil Owen on July 8th, 2010 9:27 pm  
After several vacations and cruises to Alaska, my wife and I decided we wanted to move to Alaska. We bought a 34 foot Class A motorhome. It is a 96 Southwind so we decided to remodel it before we left. We spent a few months using it on weekends in southern California so we could get used to it. We sold everything we could before we left and put the rest in storage. We leased our house to friends for two years while economy recovers a little. We loaded up our four cats and headed north. It was the trip of a lifetime. We rented a house in Homer for almost a year and discovered that some places that are great to visit are not great to live. We ended up in Kenai where I now work at WalMart. I love it. We towed a Jeep Liberty here and I later went back and drove my car up to Seattle where I got on the Alaska Highway ferry for a four-day ride. I have not regretted for one minute the move. The cost of living is much higher and the wages are not high but it’s a small price to pay for world-class fishing. Our RV trips are short thanks to great fishing everywhere. The only thing I miss about Southern California is the fast internet. Alaska internet is not fast. The only thing that we have had problems with as far as the RV is concerned is Direct TV. Because we are close to the horizon, you have to have a much larger dish to use it. It works great in the house but not at all in the RV. The caravan may work for some people but we loved the freedom of being able to stay where we wanted for as long as we wanted. It was the trip of a lifetime. I hope to fulltime when I retire.

▪    Jim Taglianetti on July 8th, 2010 11:26 pm  
I have only been to Alaska once. Spent 3 days in Juneau and 1 day in Anchorage on business. I got hooked on returning to Alaska again. This time I want to take my wife. I could not get over the country, the pine tree covered mountains, the glaciers, and the eagles. It is truly inspiring. The reason for leaving is easy for me; I live in Hawaii. Can’t handle the cold weather. 
I read these articles each night and I am very curious about the caravan approach to traveling. We are novice RVers. Mostly renting now but plan to buy a 5th wheel. I’m also quite interested in the informal survey about the best type of RV.
Aloha
Jim

▪    Alpenliter on July 9th, 2010 7:40 am  
Barry & Monique, when you started this blog, you probably thought you were only going to share your adventures with the rest of us. While you have succeeded in doing just that, the comments section have grown to proportions that rival many forums. Thank you for starting this discussion and thank you all for your comments. We are caravanning with a few other couples in 2011 and your comments and suggestions are all being noted for future use.

▪    Dick and Cindy on July 9th, 2010 8:38 am  
We drove up last year with a ¾ ton van and 29 ft. travel trailer. We liked that setup because we could easily drop the trailer and take side trips. (For example, we dropped the trailer at Tok and went to Chicken and back. It was a little rough, but we heard the other side was a lot worse than what we had come through. And the uninhabited views are awesome.) Some new friends we met pulled a Casita (a VERY compact trailer) and by the time they got to Valdez they were ready to kill each other, even though they had been married for many years! So we don’t recommend that. We also met a couple who had an older trailer and their slide out broke from the frost heaves and washboard roads. So probably newer is better.
Why go? It was a life long dream of my husband’s, so when he was laid off, we went. We had heard too many “we were going to go when he retired, but then…” (Fill in the blank.) We went on our own and stopped and went as we pleased. The long drive is made so enjoyable when your driver has eagle eyes and points out all the fauna along the way. One highlight was a large mound in a large pond that moved and then raised its head as we drove past and we realized it was a huge moose that had been feeding underwater! And we were blessed with perfect weather. Mt. McKinley put on a fantastic display the day we were there. The tour bus driver said 2008 was a year when it was rarely seen, so we took a million pictures and realized how lucky we were. But someone mentioned a double blowout in the Yukon? We had a triple blow out. Are there tacks on the road??
Why leave? We talked to people who had moved there for work and found they couldn’t take the winter darkness. Seems that can really get to you. And then there’s family down south who would rarely be seen (but that could be a plus OR a minus  
It was the trip of a lifetime, and if you have an adventurous soul, go!

▪    Jim Sathe on July 9th, 2010 8:53 am  
We took 7 weeks in 2008 in a 26′ travel trailer pulled by a 3/4 ton Duramax Diesel truck. Round trip from Idaho was about 8,500 miles. It was the best RV experience of our lives. We now have a 34′ 5th wheel and are considering another trip. Our highlights were Denali, Homer, Seward and Chicken. We don’t travel far in a day so we spent 3 weeks in Canada going and returning. Canada is very expensive, much more so than Alaska, particularly fuel and alcoholic beverages. Another brief highlight was the ferry ride across the Yukon at Dawson City. I also wrote a daily blog of our trip. You can see it at
http://www.jimrosietravels.blogspot.com.

▪    Lynne Schlumpf on July 8th, 2010 11:07 pm http://blog.rv.net/wp-admin/comment.php?action=editcomment&c=96066 
What kind of RV is best suited to Alaska?
We first bought a Class C in 2006. We loved it, but we had a lot of problems camping with it in Alaska.
There are very, very few places to get fresh water out of the ground. This is because you have to dig a trench 15 feet deep to lay a water line in Alaska to keep it from freezing and busting up. (we know because we had to hire an excavator to dig such a trench in 2005 to lay a water line from our house to our garage).
We love to RV into very remote areas. We kept filling up our grey and black water, and we kept running out of fresh water.
                                                                                                                                                              Another problem: Though we had a Ford F450 as a cab, it just did not do well on the many mountain roads we travel. We also kept running out of gas in the most inopportune places. Our gas generator gulped it, and we would keep having to find places to empty our septic or grey, and to fill up our tank.
We bought a 40 -foot diesel pusher the following year. It has 90 gallons of diesel capacity, a much quieter generator that barely sips, and we never have problems filling up our tanks. We also have a 90 gallon fresh water tank that we usually fill up at home from our artesian well and never hook up to anyone’s fresh water hookup.
The 300 HP Cummins does the trick on mountains roads and once saved our life in Hatcher Pass with its air brakes and air shocks. We were so glad to have our “Hog” on that day.
We drove the Alaska Highway in 2003 to escape layoffs and a life that just did not seem to make sense. My husband found a great job here with a big telecommunications company. We fell in love with Alaska then.
There were almost no murders here, the weather suited us just fine here in south-central (about 20 miles north of Anchorage).                                                                                                                                          We fell in love with our neighbors.
Things began to change.
The mayor of Anchorage started threatening rolling natural gas outages. We started hearing stories of people in the bush so desperate for fuel that they were stealing from each other.
The natural gas costs here are UNBELIEVABLE. The cost for heating oil for other places that don’t have access to natural gas are 6 dollars a gallon and up. Milk is 9 bucks a gallon in the bush.
We fell in love with an Alaska that was changing rapidly. We were sitting in a state that has an overabundance of gas and oil and minerals, but we were paying more for our vehicle’s gas and diesel than any other state in the U.S.
To ship a package is also outrageous. Recently, I tested the cost to ship something from camping world. The cost was $456.00 to ship this particular item that cost 500.00. Just to see, I tried putting in an address in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The cost to ship was 16.00. I am not kidding.
We rarely get good fresh fruit and vegetables here. Our bananas are often spoiled before they get here – bruised.
There are currently almost no doctors here who accept Medicare. We have a group insurance policy, and it cost us $1,500.00 out of pocket just to get a colonoscopy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I recently took my little dog to have an x-ray and get some medicine for a urinary tract infection: $450.00 bill.
Doctors and veterinarians often charge unreal prices here.
Although that is not true of all of them, there are many who do.
People who are getting ready to retire often leave Alaska because they just cannot afford everyday things. (unless they have saved a boatload of cash in their lifetimes).
I have seen many, many people leave because of the cost of food and gas and just living here.
We are leaving after almost 9 years because my husband is retiring and because he needs to get better medical care somewhere else. We often wait months to see a specialist and many weeks to get test results.
If you think it is like that where you live, this place is very, very, very different. I have lived in many places in the U.S. Alaskans are the last to get anything as far as transportation. We have only one route to get from the Valley to Anchorage. If there is a traffic accident, people are often held up for hours and are late to work. This is not what you would call normal, because we get 80 to 140 inches of snow every year, and every
time it snows – there are hundreds of accidents and no one can get to work. There are no alternate routes here. We only have a few highways. You cannot travel to very much of Alaska by road.
And the winters are brutal – more so in some places than others of course.
                                                                                                                                                                                                         We once visited Fairbanks in March to see the Ice Castles and Lordy Lordy it was COLD! It was a blast driving there, but to do everyday things with dogs in the car was a challenge. Had to plug in everywhere. (we don’t normally plug in all the time in south-central)
If you love to RV, you can only do so from April to September. If you don’t winterize your RV properly, temperatures of -40 happen. This causes batteries to explode.
You only have a very limited amount of time to travel to the Lower 48 on the Alaska Highway because driving an RV in the winter out there is pretty tricky. 
So, we fell in love with this place, but it truly is changing a lot. There has been a lot more crime, and the transportation challenges are making it really tough.
Alaskans are typically very tough people, but many people do leave after awhile. The darkness is truly a challenge also, though you do seem to get it back in the summer. 
I don’t mean to sound negative in any way here. I love Alaskans and what they stand for, and how tough they are. But, if a place is starting to get to you – it is time to go. And it is tough to survive here on a retiree’s pension. It is also tough to earn a salary that enables you to live an equivalent life compared to other places. Housing is very high, and electric is also high because it is normally generated by natural gas. So wintertime utility bills can be anywhere from $400.00 a month to up to $1,000.00 a month for larger homes. 
Hope this helps.
Lynn.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXII News from the Homer-front

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

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

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

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

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

View from TOW 2 - 8120

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carved Creature Hiding at the Sterling Saw Fest

Carved Creature Hiding at the Sterling Saw Fest

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

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

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

IGarden Mts - 0334

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

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

Hundreds of RVs Park on the Homer Spi

Hundreds of RVs Park on the Homer Spit

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

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

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

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

Homer Spit Scenes: the Boneyard & the Huge Marina

Homer Spit Scenes: the Boneyard & the Huge Marina

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

Comments

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

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

  [Adventure Caravans’ 58-day trip.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 XXVIII-A Useful Definitions Part A

This entry is part 30 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 3, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · Comments Off (Hoping this gets repaired soon)

This is the first installment of the 28th article in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to AlaskaT

Another adventure.  On our first night in Canada June 10, the caravan stayed in Oliver, British Columbia.  A few days after departing, an avalanche closed the road for a brief time behind us.  Not long after that we wrestled with the Top of the World Highway and won.  Weeks later the roadway was washed out and closed briefly.  Sunday the caravan left the Northern Beaver Post, Yukon Territory, convoy-style for the first time.  We drove about a quarter-mile where we waited for over an hour until we got clearance to travel narrow Hwy. 37 through a forest fire.  The road closed behind us.

Avalanches and Washouts Behind Us; Bears and Moose Crossing in Front of Us; Construction and Frost Heaves Under Us … What else could we contend with? Oh, yes, a forest fire.

Avalanches and Washouts Behind Us; Bears and Moose Crossing in Front of Us; Construction and Frost Heaves Under Us … What else could we contend with? Oh, yes, a forest fire.

Saturday night it rained – on the forest fire; Sunday and Monday were beautiful, short-sleeve weather.

As we bound into the final two days of our trip, we think about the chance to just relax for a few days in a quiet, oceanside park in British Columbia.  At the same time, we think about ending what has been an exciting adventure of a lifetime with three dozen people who have become close friends over the past two months.

We have tried to use these articles to give you some guidance on what to expect on your trip to western Canada and Alaska.  Rest assured, what you may have learned in these articles is only a smattering of information, and none of this does justice to the incredible world we have toured over the past weeks and which hopefully lies ahead for you.

Now, we are going to try to add to your knowledge with some definitions:

Fact:  A “fact” is what the tour guide tells you.  Another fact is that every tour guide and every information sign has a different number or name for the same fact.  The more we learn about the returning herds of caribou (also called “reindeer” if they are domesticated), the more confused we get as to the thousand that are roaming around.

Alaska Time Zone:  One hour earlier than Pacific Time.  Confusing at first, but it works.

Arctic Haze:  The North’s version of smog, mostly from industrial pollution and forest fires imported from Russia by prevailing winds.

Athabaskan:   The collective name for the Indians of Interior Alaska and Northwestern Canada and their language.  Athabaskans are closely related to the Navajos.  Of the roughly 19 native people languages still spoken in Alaska today, 11 are Athabaskan, so you hear that term often, particularly in the Alaskan Interior.  In Arctic regions, the people are Inupiaq.  Along the lower coast are the Yupik people.  Then there are the Aleuts (pronounced “Al-e-oots) around the Aleutian Islands.  The natives refer to themselves as the “First Nation People.”

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Bore Tide:  A huge tide.  The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia is the world leader at over 50 feet.  “Turnagain Bay” in Alaska is either the second or third highest bore tide in the world at 23 or 28 feet.  And Wikipedia and local books disagree on who named Turnagain Bay and why and when.

Bush:  Areas in the Interior accessible only by air or intrepid dogsledding.  We met an artist who said he lived in “the Bush,” but by his garb, we think he meant “a bush.”

Centre:  The Canadian spelling of “center,” and there are “metres” here, but they have no problem with “otter.”  They also misspell “labour” and “humour” by U.S. standards.

Chickaloon:  A small town, river and loop road.  You don’t really need to know that, but it is indicative of the unique names in Alaska.  Tok (pronounced Tōk), Chicken, etc.

Drunken Spruce:  Undernourished spruce trees that lean in sundry directions.  They are part of miles of undernourished spruce forests with trees hundreds of years old but looking like new plantings because they try to survive on “permafrost.”

$8-a-gallon diesel:  When an outpost 180 miles from everywhere pays $1,000 a day for electricity, they have to make it up some way.  We were just glad they were there.

Fireweed:  Vibrant magenta wildflowers that line the roads throughout Yukon and Alaska in the summer.  It is the provincial flower of the Yukon, and locals know it as the harbinger of autumn.  Blossoms move up the stem as the summer draws to an end.

Fireweed in Its Glory and As the Summer Fades – Not a Sure Sign of the Seasons Because the Beautiful and Spent Are Only a Few Miles Apart

Fireweed in Its Glory and As the Summer Fades – Not a Sure Sign of the Seasons Because the Beautiful and Spent Are Only a Few Miles Apart

Frost Heaves:  If you don’t know this by now, you haven’t been reading these articles closely enough.  Roads and towns are built on permafrost, which melts and refreezes, creating havoc for engineers and keeping lots of summer workers busy.  Frost heaves cause RVs traveling down highways at 55 mph to leave the pavement suddenly.  Beware of frost heaves.

Glacial Flour:  Silt carried by millions of waterfalls throughout the area cascades down mountains and into rivers, lakes and fjords.  All emerald and aqua green waters get their enchanting, picturesque coloring from glacial flour.  On the other hand, the Nenana River on which I whitewater rafted was an ugly grey but carried soft silt down to the Yukon River.  I know – I took a voluntary dip overboard.

Tune in tomorrow for 15 more definitions you should know if you’re RVing to Alaska … things like a “peduncle slap” and “muskeg.”

Oh, by the way, we missed a turn-off today, when another black bear ambled across the road in front of us.

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