Our time in Alaska is finished and I’d say we made the most of it. Before I post about our Canadian capers, I thought I’d recap our Summer in The Last Frontier.
By The Numbers
For fun, I tallied up a few things to summarize the summer.
- 22 campsites in Alaska (we’re at 75 and counting since leaving “home”)
- 36 – dollars paid for a box of Mucinex in Tok. Let me tell you. If you feel bad enough, money is really no object.
- 50 – dollars paid for one night in Delta Junction and the hands down worst campground. Picture a field full of huge rocks and nothing else. at all.
- 70 days in the Last Frontier.
- 3,684 – dollars paid for RV fuel to date (8/23)
- 9,429 – miles from DeLand, FL to our current location in Tumbler Ridge, BC. Doesn’t count Bitsy miles.
- Lost count of itinerary changes, but I count these as all good. We’re flexible and can change our minds at a moment’s notice. And we did, over and over again.
Roads. Many are fine. Many or not. We read all about frost heaves and yes, you just have to go slow. At some point though, going 35 or less for long stretches is just tiresome and still rough. And you break things. Only small things if you are lucky. The dog really doesn’t like it since he can’t do his normal driving snooze, and I’m listening to all the dishes clash in the cabinets. In all fairness, the road crews work extremely hard, but the climate in the permafrost areas just doesn’t make for easy traditional road maintenance. They’ve tried many experiments and are still looking for that magical road surface.
People. Very friendly and helpful. They want you to love Alaska as much as they do. I’ve said before, deliberate in speech and pretty courteous drivers. You can tell a native by their additional happy lights on the fronts of their vehicles. This is because as much as we disliked eternal daylight, eternal night is coming! I’ve never been a truck person, but I saw just what I’d have the other day. Full extended cab diesel truck with two sets of happy lights and a winch in front. Because no doubt someone would need pulling out of a ditch and that someone would likely be me.
Midnight Sun. Yes, we found this extremely disturbing and it was hard to sleep. Blocking out all sources of light from the bedroom and declaring “night” at 9pm helped. Curtains were then drawn and we tried to ignore the bright sun at 11pm.
Dirt. I’m not sure when we’ll get all the dirt and grime out of and off of everything. We found two kinds of Alaska RV travelers. Those who washed their rigs as if a military inspection was forthcoming, and those like us who gave up and just cleaned the windshields so we could see to drive. We saw one guy washing at a rest stop. Honestly.
Campgrounds. Expensive, usually a gravel parking lot, and very little elbow room. But if you want electricity, that’s what you get. We ended up dry camping way more than I ever thought we would and were much happier that way in the state parks.
Restaurants. Ditto on the expensive and usually mediocre at best. I did a lot more cooking once we gave up finding good food places. There were some standouts and most of them were in Homer. One place was great and we went more than once even though a mouse ran past our table as we dined. I am sworn to secrecy on the place since it was great food. I think the mouse wasn’t an indication of their cleanliness. Apparently they were to the point of getting a cat. They need to name mousy and proclaim him a pet.
Junk Drawer. We felt like our lengthy travel in the state gave us a unique behind-the-scenes look at everything. And everything away from the manicured areas that you visit on cruises is like looking in your junk drawer. Jumbled up and maybe you’ll organize it someday. All things mechanical just left where they likely breathed their last, no matter if that was the front yard or side of the road. Piles of stuff and I mean anything and everything. It was like this everywhere, so we figured they just didn’t expend energy on keeping up appearances.
Wildness & Beauty. With all that junk drawer stuff being said, it is like no other place we’ve ever been, and likely ever will be, for vast wild spaces and beauty. Alaska certainly doesn’t have all the most beautiful places, but so many are truly stunning. And the flowers. So many colors all Summer long.
I thought this would be easy. I always ask people about their favorite place, outing, etc. Most people can answer readily, but it’s very hard in this case. Every place had its appeal. Well other than the field full of rocks in Delta Junction.
As for outings, Pat really enjoyed the bicycle ride on the coastal trail in Anchorage. I honestly have to say that my biggest thrill was halibut fishing. Such a surprise since we don’t fish, and only decided to go on the charter after talking with some random people at a completely unplanned stop. Go figure.
Our favorite drives, in order, were the approaches to Valdez, Hyder, and Skagway. Least favorite due to road conditions was the Tok Cutoff, followed by some stretches in the Yukon. We are pretty tired of gravel.
And favorite campgrounds? Williwaw Campground in the Chugach National Forest since it was in our favorite place, Portage Valley. I have to give an extremely close second to K’esugi Ken Campground in Denali State Park. You can’t beat a brand new campground in the shadow of such an impressive mountain.
I have three grinning-like-an-idiot moments that I can recall –
- flight to Barrow and looking out over the Brooks Mountain Range
- holding up that 40 pound halibut, blood and all
- on the back deck of the boat, speeding along in open water near the Kenai Fjords National Park.
Then there were the awestruck moments –
- Riding out into the clearing on horseback on Resurrection Bay and seeing all the bald eagles atop the driftwood
- Finally hiking out of the trees at the mountain overlook in Haines
- The moment the clouds parted at the state park to reveal magnificent Denali
And Jackson? I think these moments made his favorites list….
The Sick, The Injured & The Broken
We all took a turn being sick. Pat and I with the flu for a week after Skagway and Jackson with kennel cough after his sleepover in Fairbanks. I also got my hand slammed in the door and managed to punch the pantry shelf with the same hand. I’m also concerned if Pat ever goes missing. He took a chunk out of his head on the corner of one of the bay doors and now has blood smeared all over the insides. That could be hard to explain to CSI. Grateful that there was nothing more serious.
As for the broken, let me count the ways. There’s the windshield chip before we even left the lower 48. In Idaho on the interstate for goodness sake! Of course we have since been showered with rocks several times resulting in one more windshield chip that will require repair. Also two gouges in Lucy’s front grill. Badges of honor let’s say.
You remember the dear departed convection oven? I still pine for that contraption, although the microwave with grill feature is a pretty good substitute. And we now know how to use our gas oven.
My replacement cell phone is performing nicely, although somehow it imprinted on Fairbanks like a little duckling and still says Alaska time is my “home” time. If anyone knows how to fix that, I’m all ears.
There’s also the awning that never made it out of Florida, one of Bitsy’s tires with a slow leak that we’ve been babying since Florida, the broken tire monitor for Bitsy, and that replacement part in the shower that truly made all the difference. I don’t take a hot shower for granted ever! Oh, and we can’t forget that wi-fi booster that blew off the roof in Arkansas. And the rest of the stuff….
- 3 broken drawer latches
- On again, off again cable for Bitsy’s auxilliary brake
- Completely gone strain relief cable for the lights on Bitsy when in tow – not sure when that left
- Both fog lights broken out on Bitsy and handfulls of gravel where the bulbs used to be. The smart crowd would have covered the remaining one after the first casualty.
- A nice dent in the refrigerator door where it swung open during a particularly uneven lunch stop.
- The automatic stairs that technically are still working, but truly sound like they are eating themselves.
- The screw for the vent crank in the bathroom that fell right out and into the toilet.
- Oh and poor Bitsy’s scraped rear bumper compliments of the 5th wheel in Talkeetna.
Again, we are grateful for nothing more at this point, although there is a disturbing clunking noise when we take sharp turns one way or the other. Pat thinks he has this figured out and we can hopefully get it addressed in the next major town.
What’s Next You Ask?
We’re currently in part 4 of the Epic Journey and that includes the Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Our time in Canada continues until the end of September. Loving Northern British Columbia very much, and it has its own wildness and beauty. We have a few places on the hit list like Jasper & Banff National Parks, Writing on Stone Provincial Park and wherever else we find we must go. I’m hoping to see a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman on horseback.
I still owe you posts on the Yukon and one of the prettiest places we’ve been so far – Atlin, BC. See you on the way.