RVers that spend extended time on the road will understand the Jell-O reference in today’s blog title. For others, that means that “stuff” happens and you change travel plans. Having the ability and the time to be flexible is wonderful.
While in Alaska, there aren’t a lot of options on which roads you take to see this vast state. Our initial choice was to go “clockwise” since we were coming through Washington State and British Columbia. We chose to take the Cassiar Highway and to visit the lower coastal areas of Stewart/Hyder and Skagway before heading north Most of the organized RV caravan trips enter the region from further east and use the Dawson Creek, BC “Mile 0” landmark as their starting point. They typically travel north through BC and the Yukon Terratory via the Alaskan Highway 1 and tour “counter-clockwise”.
If you have been following this blog over the past couple of weeks, you have noticed that most of our photos show us bundled up and parked in nearly empty RV parks. DUH… maybe those other folks pay more attention to the weather and recommendations of others and go “counter-clockwise” for a good reason!!!
New Destination: Fairbanks
When we hit the highway after Skagway we headed for Whitehorse, YT. Frank and Gloria still needed to replace their spare tire and Whitehorse was a good location for all sorts of service and shopping needs. While the WalMart there was not a “Superstore,” we were able to stock up on a few basics.
We also used WalMart to replaced “Claudia” (our Garmin Nuvi 1490 GPS) whose battery would no longer hold a charge. We picked up the Garmin 465T, billed as their “trucker’s model”. I had read mixed reviews on truckers’ websites, but RVers like the weight and height measurements it allows for establishing your “truck” route. We won’t take what it says for granted and will still look at paper maps.
In Whitehorse we used the Pioneer RV Park that had been recommended by many. We paid for a site in the lower level which was “tight” but handy. While there is free dry-camping on the hill above the RV park, the Wi-Fi doesn’t reach there. I REALLY wanted the free Wi-Fi after three days without internet connectivity for emails and blog postings. Another plus for this campground was that they offered a 3-cents per litre off discount on their already low diesel price. That added up to a nice savings when you buy 238.46 litres (63 gallons) as we did.
Alaska Highway and Frost Heaves
Those tourists who had driven up from Dawson Creek had already experienced about 880 miles of the Alaska Highway and the infamous road conditions called “frost heaves”. The area’s permafrost condition was not addressed when the Alaska Highway was constructed during WWII. Today, the two-lane road that was gravel for so, so many years, is now paved – except for all the road construction zones trying to deal with the never-ending dips, potholes, and uneven surfaces.
Now it was our turn to head north on Alaska/Yukon Highway 1 and experience the &#@!! heaves ourselves. They certainly get your attention. Shake, rattle, and roll!
Frank noted that even the official Yukon highway map encourages drivers to drive in the “smoothest” portion of the road and that you should only stay in your own lane on curves and hills. Thankfully, there is very little traffic and Luke and Frank were intentionally all over the road in search of smooth surfaces. There were many times our speed was in the 15-25 kph range in signed 90 kph zones. We just lived with the noise inside the motorhome and we were thankful for our airbags that buffered some of the bumps. When we had stopped last night, the Kings discovered one of the cupboards in their 5th wheel had opened and spilled the contents across the floor. Luckily, their sugar and flour containers remained closed.
After seven hours on those roads, we were ready to stop for the night at this lovely campground near the White River, just before Beaver Creek, YT. We still had 30 miles of Yukon Highway 1 to go before hitting the Alaska state line, but those miles could wait another day.
While the guys had their eyes glued to the road, Gloria and I had a chance to take in the beautiful scenery we encountered along the road following the Kluane Mountain Range and around Kluane Lake and Kluane Horseshoe Bay. I’m sure the guys peeked as they could.
Alaska – Again
We have already had two stop-over visits to Alaska on this trip: Hyder and Skagway. Those were just “side trips”. Today we approached the US Customs Border and Inspection for the main section of Alaska. We passed through with flying colors (we didn’t try to bring in fruits this trip).
And, what did we find just beyond the checkpoint?
A beautifully paved road!
Well, for at least the first 12 miles. Frank said it “was a trick” and he was right! We encountered a variety of frost heaves, dips and potholes all the way to Tok, our destination for the day.
Luke and Dirty Vehicles
Luke is very proud of the way he maintains his vehicles. I am sure he has been dying every time he steps out of the motorhome and walks around the car we tow. Even with a Roadmaster Tow Defender netting system, the car has been a mess with the rains we have had and the dirt and gravel roads we have traveled. (So far, no windshield rock hits.)
Once we got a few errands run, like getting our free 1/4-lb of fudge with our Alaska TourSaver Coupon book, Luke pulled out his power washer and got to work.
During the last two days we have not seen much wildlife. I don’t think a couple of swans floating on a quiet pond count as wildlife.
A couple of readers questioned me about the “bear test” I wrote about in a previous blog. What I didn’t explain clearly was that the Park Service Ranger that gave a talk on bears the other night spent a lot of time discussing the differences between “black bears” and “brown bears” (grizzlies). Black bears have bigger ears, a longer face, no hump, and can be black OR brown in color. Grizzlies, on the other hand, have small ears, a shorter concave face, a distinguishing hump at the shoulders, and also come in various colors.. Throughout his presentation he “quizzed” the audience about the images we were looking at in his slide presentation: thus, our “test”. The last bear photo I posted was that of a brown black bear. Sorry for the confusion.
NEXT: Tok to Fairbanks