Friday, August 19, 2016

Would I Do It Again...

The short answer is Yes. Absolutely! The whole trip was an awesome experience. The places, the people, all so worth it!

Maybe the more accurate question is "How would you do it again?" That requires a little longer answer.

I can start with things we learned along the way. I've had several people ask about any lessons we learned. We have more than a few, so here goes.

1. You can totally do it on your own. You don't need to pay anyone thousands of dollars to take you there. You just need to do a little preparation like...

2. Make sure you are taking a well maintained vehicle. Whether you are towing or not, make sure the maintenance is up to date. The roads are sometimes as bad as you've heard, so have that chariot ready. Craig had that covered for us. We all took a spare tire, and no one needed one, thankfully. But probably still a good idea, since there were long stretches with no services. And lastly, bring your car washing supplies. The roads are every bit as dusty as you've heard. Your windshields will be coated in road grime and dead bugs. At times, it appeared that everyone we met was driving a brown RV. Along the Cassiar Highway, we could tell which way an RV was traveling just based on how dirty it was. Be warned!

3. Have an overall plan. How will you get there and back? That is as much an adventure as traveling in Alaska. And decide what's important to see while you are there. The travel season is limited, and most people can't stay away from work or home for 4 months, so you may need to narrow your focus. Some like to fish, some want to see glaciers, etc. And take holidays into account, both US and Canada. We landed in Seward for the 4th of July and had a ball. But coming back, we ran up against August 1st, a national holiday for Canadians. Oops. Just be ready to be flexible.

4. Plan, but don't plan. Huh? One thing we tried to do was keep a general direction in mind, but allow for side trips or extra days spent in beautiful surroundings. We made no reservations until we were on the road. We called ahead as we went along, and even as a group of 5 motorhomes we were rarely turned away. The RV parks get progressively more full as you go through the summer, but there are plenty of them, and you can stay in the occasional pullout. 

4a. Don't miss out on the Canadian Provincial Parks. These were some of the most beautiful places we stayed, and always the cheapest. Just do a little research. We used the Travelers Guide to Alaskan Camping by Mike & Terri Church. The book was very thorough and almost always accurate. They can't account for changes in the trees and road conditions, which were the only things that prevented us from going in. Since we traveled with larger motorhomes, we recommend that you unhook your toad and drive through to check them out. That saved a few headaches. The parks are dry camping so that leads me to...

5. Know you power needs. We have solar panels and giant batteries, so we were okay, but several of us did not dry camp that often. Everyone found out quickly how much power they used just to survive. I'm talking about residential refrigerators mostly. It was cool, so we didn't need air conditioners but we often needed some heat. And if you want to watch TV you'll need even more power. Since we are self contained units, with our generators, we were usually okay. But several of the nicer provincial campgrounds had very restrictive generator hours, only 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. That made it hard for some to survive sometimes. Just know that in order to stay at the parks, and we recommend it highly, you'll need to be ready.

6. Heed the advice and keep your gas tank mostly full. There are stations along the way, but the prices vary a lot. Do a little research and you can save some money by buying gas where it's cheaper. 

7. Keep your tank full of water and dump every time you can. This will allow you to stay at a pullout or drop into the provincial parks. They don't always have potable water and dump stations like we are used to. This will allow for the most options when it's time to pull over and enjoy a happy hour with friends.

8. Wait till spring to buy your Milepost. I bought it one year ahead and that meant the info was 2 years old. Just wait till it comes out, then plan your route and start becoming familiar with the book. I found it was easiest to plan the route and maybe a stop or two, no more, then read the route in the Milepost. There is so much information you just need to be familiar with one days driving at a time. I also used several colors of highlighter (anal retentive) to note rest areas/pullouts, points of interest and photo ops. 

9. Don't try to find a bunch of information about the various stops ahead of time. We found that almost every town along the way had a visitor center. They were staffed and had information about the area and surrounding areas, even gas stations and dump stations. Just plan to stop along the way and pick up some information. Since this is a huge tourist destination, books and pamphlets are literally everywhere.

10. Get ready to be out of touch with friends and family. Your phone probably won't work, or if it does, it will probably only be able to make a call. There were days at a time where we had no internet or phone, so you do want to have information about things to see and places to stay. We did see pay phones, so a phone card with a few minutes on it might have been helpful. Some RV parks had WiFi, but it was usually slow and often unusable. If you have internet needs, you may have to spend time in some of the visitor centers or coffee shops to get a fix. Writing this Blog quickly became less fun and more work, just trying to find enough signal to post. 

So all that to say, GO! Go as soon as you can, stay for a short time, or until the snow comes. It will be worth it. Craig and I are already planning another trip for the somewhat distant future. 

But for now, I won't say "over and out", Craig and I are "10-10 on the side". 

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