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Old 01-28-2013, 10:59 AM   #1
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Planning roadtrip from Texas to Alaska --- advice & tips needed

We're hoping to sell our house this Spring and go on a long road trip.
It's always been my dream to drive to Alaska. As we're currently living in Austin, TX, that's a long journey.
This is where we can use all the help we need!

Airstream: 1995 Sovereign 21 feet (with solar panel on the roof)
TV: Jeep Commander 5.7L HEMI 4x4 (avg. 12 mpg towing / 18 mpg not towing)

We have some experience with long road trips (up to 3 months), but now we're potentially shooting for 1 year!
In 2010, we drove from Austin to San Francisco, and in 2011 we made it all the way up to Canada (Banff/Jasper/Vancouver). (my previous employer allowed longer vacations, including unpaid)
Over the years, we've done many trips and have visited every state (many multiple times) in the western US (west of the rockies), from south to north. We love nature & wildlife and are not big fans of cities or tourists

We're both in our late thirties and feel that we're sick of living in Texas, have no children so now is the time to relocate to a (mountain or ocean) town/city ... but before we do so, take a long roadtrip with our dog and potentially 2 cats (who can join us or stay at my wife's parents house in San Antonio, TX).
My career is in IT (I'm currently IT director in a healthcare organisation) and my wife is a piano teacher. This basically means she can take vacation at will, where I'm limited by the 10 vacation days my company offers ... which doesn't leave much room for travel, which brought up the idea of taking a long vacation on our own!
Plus, as a 'semi-pro' photographer, I would love the opportunity to take pictures of the great places and have time to do so, as opposed to for example, flying to Yellowstone for 3 days and seeing the highlights under less than ideal lighting conditions...

So ... we're planning to list our house around Spring break, hopefully sell by April and start the journey.

Initial plan is to drive up through the rockies (denver -> jackson hole -> glacier) into Canada, through Banff -> Jasper, into Alaska.
We'll be on a limited budget so we plan on taking 3 to 4 months to get to Alaska, limiting the amount of fuel and hopefully being able to take advantage of long term discounts (week or month) at campgrounds.

1) We're looking for any advice regarding nice campgrounds along this route. We love national / state parks, especially if they allow us to stay for a week to longer.
Do parks allow to be a camp host for a few weeks, or do you have to sign up for the entire season?
Any other interesting ways to make some money (or at least a free stay) along the way? We're not interested in cleaning toilets ..

2) Boondocking is definitely an option; maybe for 3-4 days at a time in a nice mountain area. Any advice on locations is welcome.

3) Once we get to Fairbanks, Alaska; we're looking to go up the Dalton highway to the Gates of the Arctic for a few days. Can we take our Airstream or should we leave it behind in a Fairbanks RV park for a few days?

4) After Fairbanks, we're looking to head south to the Kenai peninsula and possibly Kodiak Island. Any experience/advice on taking the AS on the ferry to Kodiak Island? Better (cheaper?) to leave it behind and just sleep in a hotel for a few days on the island?

Once September comes around, we're planning on starting the journey south, by following the coastal route through Canada. Hopefully, by the time the freeze and the snow arrives in the north, we'll be in the coastal area of Washington, Oregon or northern California.

Lots of questions and undoubtedly many more to come ... thanks for any advice!

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Old 01-28-2013, 11:30 AM   #2
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My 21 ft Sovereign made that trip. You absolutely need a front window protector, front corner protectors, mud flaps....good ones, and new tires with a spare. Watch out for potholes because the low hanging plumbing behind the wheel is vulnerable.

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Old 01-28-2013, 11:49 AM   #3
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There is no "coastal route through Canada" from Alaska to Vancouver (unless you take a ferry which is extremely expensive). There are many great provincial campgrounds on the inland highway route. However, many of them close the first week of September.
Visiting Parks - BC Parks - Province of British Columbia

All the best as you embark upon this long journey.

September is usually great weather wise in B.C., especially in the Vancouver area.
easily distracted by shiny objects
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:22 PM   #4
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You definitely have some homework to do. Pick up a MilePost as a start and read the sections on access routes as well as the Alaska Highway portion for route info. You don't want to be in northern Canada much before May 1, we had snow the first week of May that would have held you up for a few days if you were not used to towing in those conditions.

As to what you do when you get here, also check out the Milepost and pay attention to the highway descriptions. For example don't take your trailer on the Dalton or the Denali Highways as you will probably beat the h out of it. Also check out the areas you want to visit. For example the Gates of Arctic NP has NO ROADS and you can't get into it via land vehicle unless you come in the winter and snowmachine in. It is fly-in only.

I live in Fairbanks so can help with local info you have specific questions, just send me PM.
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:00 PM   #5
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Just sent you a PM with a link to my blog from last year's trip up there and back. You will have a ball - it's a long drive, but worth it!
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Old 01-28-2013, 03:18 PM   #6
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We live in Grand Lake Colorado in the summer. There are lower cost forest service campgrounds nearby and free dispersed camping in the nearby national forest.
Stay is limited to 14 days in one location either in a developed forest service campground or in free dispersed campground. When your time expires, you move to a new place.
Your small trailer is ideal for camping in the forest. There are developed campgrounds and free dispersed camping in all of the western states. There is BLM land in all the western states. The policy on BLM lands is generally free camping. Generally, the free camping is away from larger cities and towns. Stop by forest service and BLM offices to find out the policies on camping.
Best way to find out where to camp is too stay in a developed campground for a few days and drive around or ask around until you find a place you like.
If you are willing to paint and/or do heavy manual labor for $10-15 per hour there are lots of odd jobs available. Best way to get them is to print a brochure with your cell phone number and qualifications and post where ever there is a bulletin board.
Good luck, you won't regret taking some time off for your trip.
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Old 01-28-2013, 04:31 PM   #7
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My wife and I had seasonal jobs for five years in the tourist industry in Alaska. I would think in your field of IT there would be many jobs available in Anchorage. I mention this as people fall in love with Alaska and want to make it their home., You could apply for a job in Anchorage, get hired, quit your present job, and then head out with your trailer and spend three weeks or so getting there. Anchorage has many nice apartment buildings fully furnished. You can store your trailer for the winter there and take trips on weekends and vacations to explore Alaska in the summer time.

Just an alternative. Pat
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Old 01-28-2013, 04:48 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jornvango View Post
We're hoping to sell our house this Spring and go on a long road trip.
It's always been my dream to drive to Alaska.

Lots of questions and undoubtedly many more to come ... thanks for any advice!
You guys are my heroes! I'll be interested to watch this thread.
The Slowsky's
2008 Airstream 27FB International Ocean Breeze
2014 Ford F250 King Ranch 4X4 w/6.7L Diesel, Hensley Hitch
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Old 01-28-2013, 05:35 PM   #9
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We, too, are headed to Alaska this summer, planning to leave from just a little north of you, around the middle of May. We have previously been there but flew to Anchorage and rented an SUV and spent 15 days just looking. We didn't look it all up. It's still there! As someone has already mentioned, you should get the Milepost. Also look at Church's Guide to Alaskan Camping. You should look at the forums at rv.net as they have a section on Alaska and Canada. Another thread here alerted me to that site and it has a lot of information that you would be interested in. Good luck and enjoy yourselves.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:54 AM   #10
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I just did a Mapquest route search for you, and it looks like some good side-trips would be:

1. Denver area. Windish RV has an Airstream mechanic should you need one. You are not too far from Rocky Mountain National Park. Denver traffic can be quite the mess, however, so you might look for highways to bypass it if you don't need to drive through the Denver area for any particular purpose.

2. Up through Wyoming and southern Montana, you could visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

3. In northern Montana/southern Alberta, visit Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks. Unless you have a particular reason to visit Calgary, think about bypassing it, as well, as the traffic can get really congested. We can't speak to Edmonton.

4. Another side-trip might be to the Sandpoint/Coeur d'Alene, Idaho area. A number of lakes, nice restaurants and shops, and not too urban. There is another Airstream dealer not far away in Spokane, should you need a mechanic.

5. For a really big side trip you might visit the national parks of southern Utah: Arches and Canyonlands wouldn't be too far off your most direct route. Ditto for Deadhorse Point State Park, with a brilliant panorama. If you enjoy roughing it, the BLM has a number of primitive campgrounds in this area (check out the BLM Moab district office website for info.) You could also rejoin I-15 easily from I-70 via highway 6 just east of Green River, Utah. Salt Lake City traffic is also something we don't relish, although many people like to tour the Mormon temple grounds and see the Salt Lake.

The only thing I would recommend about the western parks if you travel during the high tourist season is that they can fill up. Some of the campgrounds (let alone nearby RV parks) take reservations, so if you want to ensure an overnight stay at a particular park, I would suggest reserving several months in advance.

On the other hand, if you travel in the spring, you can expect snow in the high country, such that some of the campgrounds and scenic highways (like Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier) may not be open yet.

Our general strategy for overnights that are not in high-volume tourist areas is to look at our Woodall's guide for RV parks in small towns or rural areas. They tend to be cheaper and more relaxed, vs. the urban ones that are usually in not-so-nice areas.

Happy Trails.
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Old 01-30-2013, 06:27 AM   #11
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Boring, but necessary is where to re-stock the TT. If WALMART is always acceptable then this is easy. If one wants more/different/better, then some side-trip big metro shopping should be factored in early.

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Old 02-03-2013, 09:04 PM   #12
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Eagle River , Alaska
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Glad to hear you're coming to visit us in Alaska! ... a trip of a lifetime! "Crisen" of Fairbanks nailed it on the Alaska advice, and other posts also covered great advice! Definitely get the MILEPOST, the bible for traveling the state and the AlCan. I'm a professional photographer in Alaska (50-year resident), and my advice is to not miss Denali National Park. Taking your Airstream on the ferry to Kodiak will be expensive and the weather stormy. If it's bears you're after, I would recommend flying to Katmai NP, bring your tents and rough it for a few days ... you'll be amazed!! Send whatever additional questions you have.
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:04 PM   #13
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We live in Petersburg Alaska and also Jackson Hole and own a 61 Bambi. Check us out at On the Road for all our roadtrips and associated adventures (Barrow to South Pole). Too many questions to answer here--but sign up for Couch Surfing, plan on leaving your trailer in home ports when you travel on ferries and enjoy the scenery. Shoot us an email when you get closer to your adventure.
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Old 02-14-2013, 01:10 PM   #14
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Pre-trip update: we've been busy fixing things around the house (painting, etc.) to get it ready for sale by Spring break.

The Airstream also received some updates:
yesterday, we installed a new fridge (Dometic RM2620) to replace our old Dometic fridge which broke down (ammonia smell!);
we fixed the TV antenna;
and we replaced both faucets (the kitchen one leaked & the bathroom one was not very practical).
We also added some organizers to add some shelving in our closets and cases to organize the trunk contents.
A few weeks ago, we finished the work on the new flooring in the AS (vynil wood plank, looks great so far); had 2 new tires installed and replaced both AS batteries.
The AS is hopefully getting close to being ready for the trip!

The Jeep received some mudflaps, to prevent rocks flying up towards the AS.
The AS 'should' be able to handle them (it has the front window sunglasses and corner protectors), but better safe than sorry.

Yesterday, we also received "The MilePost" guide book: from the few pages I read, it seems to contain a wealth of information!

A question that we have regarding travel on dirt roads towards and in Alaska: we currently have 1 spare tire for the AS and 1 spare tire for the car. Does it make sense to purchase and carry an additional spare (including rim) on top of the car roof rack?

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