Week 167 - Alaska Review - 10-25-2009
The Final Word on Alaska,
Twenty-five weeks ago, our travelogue outlined our preparation and
expectations of our trip to Alaska. This week we reveal how the rubber
met the road. We have been wanting to do this recap ever since we left
Canada, but to our delight each week had so many new photos that we
needed to present. This week worked as we took few photos and are
heading home quickly (for us!). We did stop by Redding to see Donnalee
(Pete's sister) and her friend Don. That was a nice visit!
: This review is for those RVers that
would like to visit Alaska. We welcome any emails questions about a
trip you would like to take.]
Now for the review: In the last couple of years, we talked to everyone
we met about Alaska. We got great preparation and touring information
from RVers. In addition, from Dana, a friend our close friend Paul, we
got a list of must-see destinations. Dana has been to Alaska five
times before (six this year?). We went to many of his suggestions and
they were great. Thanks Dana.
Preparation for the Mothership included:
Our expectations and comments:
- New front tires (last January) Definitely
needed. Even one of our better rear tires blew out.
- Spare wiper blades. Didn't need
them. This year it rained very little. But we were told that
it rained most days in summer 2008 and in 2010.
- Spare serpentine belt. Didn't need
it, but a must have in case you do. You could sit for days
waiting for a new one. You would probably have to drive your toad just
to make a call for help.
- Spare fuel and fuel/water separator filters. Didn't them either, but driving in Alaska is dustier
than the lower 48. Not on the highways, but so many parking
lots and side roads are dirt or gravel.
- Purchase The Milepost, the official road guide to
Northwest Canada and Alaska. This is absolutely a must
have. It has way too much info, but you would miss a lot
- New tires for the scooter. A good choice even though didn't use the scooter very
much as we moved so often in the motorhome. Even in four months
you have to keep going to see all of Alaska, it's huge!
- Bear repellent spray and bug spray. Didn't need the bear repellent but the bug spray is a
must. However, we did not encounter the abnormal amount of
flying insects as most said we would.
- We predicted that we would cruise through Canada for four weeks,
2,200 miles. It took 3 1/2 weeks for 2,500
Predicted to be in Alaska for June and July and back through
Canada in August. We did stay in Alaska for June
and July but then sped through Canada back to the good ole USA.
Destinations and attractions: Here
is the list that our friend Dana gave us and our comments.
- Bears and lots of them. No! While
we saw a half dozen bears in Canada, we only saw four in Alaska. However, we did get to photograph a bear for 30 minutes from 30 to 100
feet and that made up for the lack of quantity.
- Beauty, endless beauty. We had been told that every
will be a "postcard". This is totally true
as you have witnessed from our travelogues.
- Lots of trees, greenery and lots of water.
Great kayaking. Lots of wildlife besides the bears. Trillions of trees, 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes.
These are real numbers, not an exaggeration. There really are 3,000
rivers and 3 millions lakes in Alaska. Enough lakes to give 2 and 1/2
to each citizen. We did not find many good river kayaking areas.
- Friendly folks along the way. Canadians, Alaskans and
travelers. As usual, you won't find nicer, more
accommodating RV hosts and travelers.
- Lots of remote and dry camping. Other campgrounds with
facilities. Not true! There are numerous RV parks and campgrounds that are spaced every 75 to
100 miles. In fact, we dry camped only 11 out of 105 days.
- Cool temperatures and many propane refills. Not true! Temperatures were moderate and we
topped off the propane only once.
- No Jack-in-the-Boxes, but all kinds of great fish meals. True. We tasted the fish throughout Canada and
Alaska. The best Halibut and Chips is from Klondike Rib and Salmon in
Whitehorse, Yukon. In fact, we detoured twice to get back to
Whitehorse just for the Halibut and Chips!
- Lunch or dinner at Muck Luck Annies and a big soak at Liard Hot Springs, BC. Muck Luck Annies was closed either permanently or
when we drove by. The soak at Liard hot springs
- High prices in Canada: campgrounds, food, fuel and wine. Yes, yes, yes and yes. Higher in Canada and
high in Alaska. We found only one burger (in Anchorage) in Canada or
Alaska that was less than $10.
- No suntans but lots of mosquitoes and other flying
pests. It is said that the mosquito is the state bird of Alaska. We
did encounter tons of mosquitoes during our SOWERs ministry in
Fairbanks. But neither Pete or Ellen got bit!
- While this was to be quite an adventure, it is nothing compared
who did this trek 10, 20 and 30 years ago. True.
The roads have been improved to a high quality.
- The main roads are all paved.
However, there is constant maintenance, so there will be lots
of gravel. We only drove over about 10 miles of gravel
(out of 6,200 miles) except for the Top of the World highway.
- Trucks fly by and spray you with gravel until the Moho
looks like a teenager with acne. Not true for us. We did buy and apply "transit wrap". This plastic wrap sticks to your vehicle and protects it from flying rocks. We covered the front and
driver's side but only for the 450 mile Cassiar highway. This highway
had 100 miles of gravel in May but only 6 miles in August when we went
through. Each year it is repaired. We suggest returning on this road
so that the majority is paved.
- Frost heaves constantly break up the road and if hit
hard, you can break things. Not true. While it
made for some wild roller coaster rides, we did not run into breaks,
only waves. Fun, if you slow down your speed.
- A broken windshield to break up the monotony of endless bug guts. We did break our windshield but not as expected. We broke ours
through incorrect leveling when parked; this could have happened
anywhere. Oh yeah, it did in Paso Robles where we broke out first
one! Can we say "slow learners"?
- More paint chips to add to the dozens we already have. True. But with a 8 x 41 foot side panel, you
will never avoid chips. You won't notice our Alaskan chips anymore
than our lower 48 chips.
- Sakani Chief is historic: did not
- Mucho Lake: Very scenic. You can't miss this one, you must drive along side it for miles.
- Watson Lake Sign Post Forest: Thousands
and thousands of signs from
people around the world. If you go, bring a sign or materials
one and hang it.
- Whitehorse Yukon Brewing Co: We visited the tasting room
and got an fantastic presentation of
- Braeburn Lodge buy a cinnamon bun: We stopped and
purchased an enormous bun.
But ours was in the evening and we think it was baked in the morning :-(
- Dawson City is like Skagway was 15 years ago: True. Skagway is a tourist
trap, but we enjoyed. Dawson City is a working town with
great history and old-time activities. Your experience in this town is like taking a
step back in history, very fun.
- Take ferry across Yukon, drive to Poker Creek and back to
We took the Mothership on the ferry and drove the Top of the World
highway. Not worth the time and fuel. While you travel on the ridge
of many mountains at 5,500 feet, you cannot see far. The is because
your mountains are surrounded by other mountains at the same level.
- Cassiar Hwy Junction Sally's restaurant: We had just eaten as we come to Sallys so we
- Jade City, Jade Cutting: This store had tens of thousands
of jade products, beautiful and very expensive.
- Skagway ride the train: We
did not ride, but Dana and others we spoke with recommend it.
- Haines, could take ferry back to Skagway: We took
the ferry from Skagway to Haines with the Mothership. Beautiful trip, not too pricey.
- Chena Hot Springs: This was great. The hot springs are nice and taking the tours are so interesting. Free
tours include the geothermal power plant and greenhouses. The paid for Ice
Museum tour is awesome.
- Fairbanks, Discovery Boat Tour: Very
interesting history and great views of houses along the Chena
- Girdwood resort called Alyeska, tram to mountain top:
Sounds great, but ran out of time to take
- Anchorage: Sourdough Mining Co Show: No
time for this either.
- Seward, Kenai Fjords Dinner Cruise, Rays restaurant,
Holgate Glacier: This cruise was wonderful:
Glacier, food and marine life.
- Homer: stay on spit, Lands End restaurant: Could not
stay on the spit due to MH problem, but visited Lands
End Restaurant: Very nice.
- See Denali Mountain from Talkeetna: We
did see it from Talkeetna. But we were fortunate enough to see
it up close while on the tour bus from within Denali National Park.
- Matanuska Glacier, Long Rifle Restaurant: You can drive
right up to this glacier (for a fee). We chose
to see it from the Long Rifle Restaurant. The Long Rifle
doesn't look like much from the outside. But the inside is great, full
of animals and a fantastic view of the glacier. And Pete voted their
Bleu Cheese Burger, the best burger in Alaska!
- Valdez: Columbia Glacier/Ice Fields Cruise: Did not take this cruise.
- Hyder AK: Salmon Creek bears: We
did see the bears at 6 pm when they came down for dinner.
A final note:
9 out of 10 people we spoke with said "take your beautiful class A
motorhome to Alaska". All we can say to the 1 in 10 who said we would
ruin our motorhome is "shame on you".
Shame on you for scaring people from enjoying their motorhome and
renting or buying an old junker to take. Either they went years ago or
have been scared by talking to those who went years ago. Using common
sense (like skipping the Top of the World highway), your motorhome will
return in fine condition. And you will enjoy
this trip as much as any in North America.
North to Alaska,
love Pete and Ellen
This special edition travelogue was brought to you as there is nothing new in our travel.
Photos from Oct 2009