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Old 06-28-2005, 08:47 PM   #1
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ALCAN/ Alaska in 2010

Hi all,

I am new here and this is my first posting, so please forgive any naïveté on my part. I have considerable wilderness experience and limited RV camping experience (I have drug my brothers Jaco trailer across the Western US on several occasions). I have a well considered (read ill-conceived) plan that I would appreciate feedback on, especially if you have done something down this line yourself.

I plan on looking for a 22-27ft airstream for around 6k-ish with the expectation of putting another 4k in to refurbishing the unit (I got these numbers from reading forums here). Being (just) shy of 40, I want to have a trailer that won’t require constant turn-over but one I can keep for years. I anticipate having multiple opportunities for extended trips (4 week +) and in 2010 I am shooting for a three month journey to Alaska. In general I would appreciate feedback on what airstream models would be best suited, what features I should insist on (or avoid), and potential pit falls. Where possible I wish to “boondock” (if I understand the slang correctly to mean non-hookup camping). In addition, if you have suggestions of things to see along the way I would love to hear about them. Ah, a final note, I am particularly interested in history and photography (

http://www.pbase.com/professor_chaos for the gluttons). Thanks in advance.
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Old 06-28-2005, 09:06 PM   #2
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Old 11-05-2007, 10:17 AM   #3
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Time to bring this thread back from suspended animation! Wow, that first post seems like a long time ago. As you all know, I have the trailer and it is about 80% refurbished so far. I have a more than adequate tow vehicle, and now I’m looking for a canoe and bicycle to tote along.

Route wise I am thinking it would be fun to start either at the Gulf of Mexico or maybe Big Bend National Park and work my way north from there. Since I plan to work up and down the US Rockies quite a bit for the next couple summers, I anticipate a fairly rapid transit as far north as Glacier National Park and then a more deliberate pace from there.

How many of you who have done this trip have put auxiliary fuel tanks in your TV?

I am trying to get a general idea of itinerary, to frame out the trip. Ideally, I would like to follow spring north - Can anyone tell me when late spring hits Alaska? I am assuming that for the most part this trip can be done with day to day planning rather than a grand master plan with reservations for everything 6 months in advance. Is that a fair assumption?

Other than Milepost, can anyone suggest good resources?

For those of you who have done the trip, what were the surprises, things you wish you had known about before, things you would do differently? As you can see, I tend to be a long rang planning kind of guy- I suppose it is early to start planning but I just can’t restrain myself.
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Old 11-05-2007, 10:44 AM   #4
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I have enjoyed reading about this families camping trips.
Very well laid out web site too.

2006 they went to Alaska.

Gaidus Family Cross-Country RV Trip Year 2006
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Old 11-05-2007, 11:40 AM   #5
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Howdy,

Last summer wife, dog and I went to Alaska and back. We used the milepost and the lonely planet alaska guide. The two combined covered the trip well. While the ALCAN is "paved" there will be long stretches of repair with no repair. Get rock guards, windows and lower panels or do as I did (for the lower) and take a camping pad from wal-mart and tape it on the front. The Alcan beyond Dawson Creek is slow most of it will be 45 mph. You can go faster but the potholes, animals and subsistence in the road will convince you to slow down. Regarding and extra tank. I took 6 five gallon gas cans and tankered in across the border, across the yukon and when heading back into Canada from Alaska. In Alaska gas prices are pretty reasonable. Talk to people along the Alcan and find out where gas is cheap, everyone is happy to talk about there Alaska adventure and what they found along the way.

Budget time for the Icefields parkway in Canada, Banff to Jasper. Jasper is awesome. Banff is awesome but crowded. Once north of Dawson Creek there are numerous pull outs, noted in the milepost, these were where we slept. Some will recommend against this, we had no problems. The Canadian Provincial Park, Stone Mountain in Northern BC is worth spending time to see wildlife. I saw more in that park than anywhere else on the entire trip. Black and Grizzly bears, Caribou, Moose, and mtnstone sheep. All from the road. I regret not spending more time there, I just drove throught thinking this is only the beginning. We took roads up and wandered through SE on the ferry system.

Our rough route

Bend Or
Whistler BC
Dawson Creek
Fairbanks
Atigun Pass, N. of the Artic circle (just took the Truck with no Airstream)
Denali
Talkeetna
Anchorage
Seward
Homer
Whittier
Haines
Skagway
Juneau
Ketchikan
Prince Rupert
Prince George
Jasper, Alberta
Nelson, BC
Sand Point, ID
Home

Happy to answer more questions.
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Old 11-06-2007, 02:55 PM   #6
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I also like to plan ahead, and have another Alaska Hwy run in the rough planning stages for either 2010 or 2011 (depending on my sister getting herself a rig by then for a joint trip). I have been over the Alaska Hwy several times over the years, both in a pickup truck with camper and in an 18-wheeler. I have not yet taken my Airstream there as I consider my V-6 Ford Ranger TV to be a little too "lite" for the Alcan Hwy. It would be ok on blacktop, but when you get off on a gravel section, get a little rain so you are cutting in 2 or 3 inches into the mud then you need more ponies than I have. What is the quote ... " there is no replacement for displacement"...

The 18-wheeler trips included during the dead of winter, 65 degrees below zero at Whitehorse, and that was just the thermometer reading, no wind chill included. If you should be “crazy” enough to go for a wintertime run I can give you a few specifics – like your propane quits flowing at about 20 below, diesel fuel turns into jelly about 30 below etc etc… But on the other hand it is really pretty in Jan / Feb, no tourists, beautiful Northern Lights - Aurora Beorealis (sp?) but beastly cold and about ½ the road houses are closed so sometimes a long, long way between stops.

But, presuming you are talking about a summertime run I can toss in a few comments about the longest route we took. Starting from Minnesota, we went up to Edmonton and then went straight north on the MacKenzie Hwy up to Yellowknife and Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories. It was really pretty in there and not well traveled so that might be worth a side trip from the normal Alaska route. Then we came back down to Grand Praire, Alberta and the main Alaska Hwy and up to Whitehorse in the Yukon. After Whitehorse we left the main Alaska Hwy again and went about straight north again towards Ft. McPherson and Inuvik (which is above the Artic Circle). We couldn’t get all the way there though because the road was closed due to construction so we only got to about 40 miles I think from the Artic Circle.

What we were roughly trying to do is to find parts of the old “Canol Hwy” which was a World War II project to get oil from Norman Wells in Canada down to refineries in Whitehorse. If you do a google search on “Canol Highway” you will find lots of info. We actually found many parts of the old pipeline, which was mostly only a 4 inch diameter. My dad even sawed off about a one-foot piece of the abandoned pipe and has it in his garage now. We also found a bunch of the old construction camps for the pipeline, all deserted, some old bunk bed frames and springs etc. Really neat stuff (I am also a History Major)…

One thing though is the last 200 miles or so of that stretch of road (up to Ft. McPherson) was made out of this very sharp-edged crushed glacier rock that just punctured our tires like crazy. We had 7 flat tires in 200 miles, including one stretch where we had 3 flats in just 19 miles…. We were pretty well self contained so we fixed our own tires (boots and tubes) along the side of the road. I have never seen rock that sharp used on a road before, Anyway, after we got back down to Dawson (not Dawson Creek but the Dawson that is in Yukon Territory) we bought a new set of Michelin steel belted radials and had no more problems. So I guess my point is to have really good tires (ie – new) to begin with, and either an extra spare, or the ability to put a plug into a puncture and a portable air compressor with you that is capable of inflating your truck and trailer tires. You can’t count on limping in to the next station – it might be 100 or more miles away…

So after Dawson, Yukon Terr, we crossed about straight west on Hwy #9 into Alaska and over to Fairbanks. Rand McNally shows it sort of “dotted” but it is a road, more or less. It makes a nice alternative to the main Alaska Hwy #1. Somewhere I have a picture of a hwy sign that says “Warning – do not leave your vehicle unless you have a 30.06 or larger rifle – Grizzly Bear country”…

After Fairbanks we went down to Anchorage and then came back down the Alaska Hwy back to Minn – ended up with nearly 11,000 miles on that trip. The final tally included a total of 10 flat tires on the trip and needing a new windshield – we got 7 cracks / rocks / big chips in it because of the 2,600 miles we did on gravel roads. So if you do much off the blacktop plan on a new windshield. Also have a spare headlight or two with you as you can also loose them due to rock hits.

best regards, Dave
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Old 11-13-2007, 08:37 AM   #7
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Rodney, if you start planning now, you'll probably find a way to be on the road sooner than 2010. I figure on the coast route in Labrador in 2010, but only waiting because they haven't built the road yet. We've been to Alaska twice without a TT. I can post more later, but I don't want to forget to tell you if you take your Airstream on the state ferry you may have to back up the ramp or through the ferry. There's only one way in or out of the ferry, so backing is frequent. There's nothing like being in your spot and a gigantic motorhome is backing alongside of you and very close. When we go back with our Airstream, if we take the ferry we'll leave the trailer in Haines and come back for it—maybe by that time I'll be a better backer, but we've seen much of SE Alaska already and mainly want to go to Sitka—we missed it last year.

Lots more to tell. I see you know about the Milepost. Get some good maps of Canada and Alaska. AAA will do; not a lot of detail, but not a lot of roads. Start reading travel books and novels about the North Country. Contact the provinces and territories about maps and travel information. Canadians are better at providing free info than the states most of the time. And save your money! First time we went, the Canadian dollar was 66¢ US—gas and booze and tobacco are very expensive in Canada, but a cheap Canadian dollar made gas reasonable. Now the Canadian dollar is $1.05. You have to go through a lot of Canada to see Alaska and much of it is wonderful to see too. Canadians are very friendly and good to get to know. More later.

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Old 11-13-2007, 09:20 AM   #8
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The BC unit of the WBCCI did that trip just this year. Perhaps you could contact them for some information?

BC Unit Web-site - WBCCI Airstream Club BC Unit Web-site

http://www.airstreambc.com/download/...antoalaska.pdf
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Old 11-14-2007, 12:48 PM   #9
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Rodney,

A lot of the roads in Canada are in excellent condition. When we first went to Alaska I half expected to drive on a highway from WWII. Mud 5 feet deep, washouts, etc. Instead, most of the Alaska Hwy. (just called "The Highway" now) was a wide 2 lane well paved road with trees cleared at least 100 feet each side with wonderful views of the wilderness. As you go north to colder regions and then to permafrost, the road has frost heaves where the road buckles and pavement breaks up for short distances. Red flags are used at those points with warning signs so you slow up. No one has come up with an particularly good way to insulate the highway from the permafrost. Some places the road is narrow and windy. There will be construction projects with gravel because the road doesn't wear well in the North Country. Alaskan roads aren't as good, but good enough.

Some areas are only gravel—the Dalton Hwy to the North Slope or the Dempster from Dawson City, Yukon, to Inuvik, NWT, are major ones, but there are many others. They are generally well maintained, but watch for rain and speeding trucks coming the other way. When you see them, slow down to a crawl, pull as far over as you can and hope they will do the same. They usually do if you do. Two vehicles at 50 mph means gravel coming at you at 100 mph. You will probably have a cracked windshield anyway when you get home, but it's part of the expense of going there. Years ago people had massive screens mounted on the front of the their vehicles because of the gravel, but that's very rare now. The screen costs more than a windshield and touch up paint and if you have one, you look silly. Mud will collect behind the front of the wheels. A lot of it is clay and turns to cement and it feels like you are way out of alignment. Washing it off is necessary, but you'll never get it all out until you scrape it out with a screwdriver. Those flashy aluminum wheels are a real pain because they have a lot of hollow spaces in back that fill with mud and harden. I'm still getting Canadian mud off the bottom of my 4Runner from 2006.

Our first trip from Colorado was 11,222 miles and took 6 weeks. It was grueling. Towing will take more time unless you are made of steel. Even with a new truck, after about 4 weeks we were literally butt weary. Good seat cushions a must. We drove to Fairbanks (3,500 miles from home) in a week, though it was really 9 days because we took a side trip to Haines, Alaska to rest (didn't rest much because we took the fast ferry to Skagway). Fairbanks isn't much of a town—large by Alaska standards, but more a market center. Whitehorse, Yukon, is a good place to stop. There are some really good restaurants there and a much more cosmopolitan town. A few miles east of Teslin, Yukon, is the Dawson Peaks Resort. Not really a resort, the term is thrown around rather loosly there. There's a small campground (we stayed at a cabin in 2002).

We drove north to the Brooks Range and the North Slope, but never made it to Prudhoe Bay. Too tired. Spectacular place and one of the most memorable parts of our trip. Also very expensive up there for any services. Limited gas, so bring gas cans. A shower in Coldfoot in 2002 was $10 each and kinda scuzzy. There's a very nice BLM campground north of Coldfoot—maybe 10 miles. No hookups though. If I go there again, I might leave the trailer at the campground, and drive to the North Slope with a tent or there's a few hotels at Deadhorse. Last I heard, to go into Prudhoe Bay you need a security check at Wiseman, somewhat north of Coldfoot, before they let you in. The oil companies seem to think a terrorist would drive 500+ miles north of Fairbanks and bring a bomb.

Distances in northern Canada and Alaska are deceiving. On a map they don't look so big, but they are enormous. Gas up when you can. In the Yukon, people used to camp at the highway dept gravel pits, but they've chained them off there as is done elsewhere. There are plenty of turnoffs along all the highways, but not necessarily level. Bring lots of leveling blocks or 2x8.

We've always gone with new tires and gotten no flats. Dave had an awful time on the Dempster with 7 flats, but problems stopped once he bought Michelins. I am a big Michelin fan, but I don't know if they make trailer tires. There are some notorius shale sections on a few roads—the Dempster and the highway north of Chicken to Eagle Alaska. In 2006 we saw no bad shale on the Dempster, so since Dave went in 2004 (I think that's when he went) I think they solved that problem. We saw a motorhome get hung up on the back bumper getting onto one of the ferries on the Dempster, so the angle of departure may be a problem with a long trailer. I understand there are small wheels that can be mounted on the bumper to solve that problem, but haven't researched it. When it rains (and it can snow in June and Sept.) mud problems make towing a serious anmd dangerous challenge. It rained when we went north on the Dempster and it was very stressful. Wait it out; they'll fix the road fast.

If you go early—we went late May and were north throughout June—prepare to have strange sleep experiences. Once you get north of the Yukon/BC border, the sun sets, but not by very much and it's twilight rather than dark at night. Even with blackout curtains in motels, we sensed the sunlight and would wake up at 3 or 4, look outside and it was morning. We were so energized we'd get up and go another 20 or more hours, driving and being excited. After a few days of that, we'd collapse. We never caught up. It happens to everyone. Our new Safari has thin curtains and a fan in the roof and will have to be adapted to be darker. By late June the mosquitos are out—some days bad, some none. You pray for wind, but sometimes it's not enough. Last year we went north at the end of August and spend September up there. No no-see-ums fortunately, but we hear they're worse than mosquitos. We went then to see the Aurora Borealis—also spectacular, although you never know exactly when it'll be out. There are websites with predictions. Good places to see it are outside of Yellowknife, NWT, and along the Dempster.

There's a lot to see and one trip means there'll be another. Because we stayed in motels, we met a lot of memorable people. We also flew from Inuvik to an Inuit village on the Arctic Ocean (Tuktoyatuk) and met a village elder who was a fine man concerned with helping his people. Another special place. If you choose to take the Alaska state ferry make reservations as early as you can—I think late winter is when you can, but you'll have to meet their schedule and may be rushed to do so. Also become an expert backer! The ferry is also a memorable way to see SE Alaska and spend a few days in several towns along the way. Juneau is also a cosmopolitan town with very good restaurants. A lot of research is necessary to make such a trip rewarding and avoid some pitfalls. Good that you're starting early as we did. It's really different place.

Gene
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Old 11-14-2007, 01:35 PM   #10
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I drove that road in 1971. It was gravel then -we had to rig hardware cloth screens for the winsheild and all the lights. If you didn't you were about guarranteed a broken windshield of light. I remember camping along the road waiting for a washout to be repaired. It was a great trip, my first of several to AK.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:10 AM   #11
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Great report Crawford
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Old 11-15-2007, 06:59 AM   #12
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Alaska is on our agenda too

This is a great thread to wake up General. We are also planning this trip for 2010 or 2011 depending on when we can get the family caravan together. Florida to Alaska, a big diagonal across one North America and back. A epic trip.

In one post here it was mentioned gas cans. I have two friends who made the trip, one in a cab over motor home and the other in a Ford Escape. Neither took gas cans, but said you should never pass a gas station. What's the current thought on taking extra gas?

Also, today's Airstreams have big rock guards and lexan stone guards over the windows. I was thinking of adding mud flaps to the truck. Is there still a need to do more wrapping of the trailer, like using a Wal*Mart camping pad as was mentioned in one post?

Randy
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Old 11-15-2007, 08:21 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverCabin
What's the current thought on taking extra gas?
I cant speak from experience, but my thinking right now on the matter of extra fuel is to add an auxiliary tank in the bed of the TV.

And BIG thanks to Gene, Dave, and Mikey for the insights!
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Old 11-15-2007, 09:42 AM   #14
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There's a thread on adding a tank in the truck bed somewhere—hopefully easy to find. It would weigh a lot to carry an extra 20 or more gallons of fuel and might cut mileage a bit. My solution is one or two plastic gas cans—not so much weight and a lot cheaper. My truck gets 11.5 mpg towing, so my range is 300 miles. I don't think I was anywhere where a gas station was more than 220 miles, but side trips, getting lost, and getting stuck—you can use a lot of fuel getting unstuck—can change everything. I don't know about availability of diesel, but I expect all remote stations have it.

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