Friday, May 31, 2013

Take Your Dad to Work Day - Barrow, AK

It was "Take Your Dad To Work" day in Anchorage. The son had an out & back schedule and seats were available so I got to experience a unique aircraft headed to the Arctic community of Barrow. His employer modified several Boeing 737-400 aircraft to a combi configuration.

The plane handles 4 containers in the forward section of the main cabin and seats up to 72 passengers in the rear of the now separated cabin.

The flight was to Barrow via Fairbanks from Anchorage and return. We even had a cute little four legged passenger on the flight who came out for a look around while we were on the ground in Fairbanks.

The weather cooperated so that we could get a view of mountains that we'd never see from the Scamp.

The village of Barrow pushes right up against the airport fence

with the frozen ocean just steps away. Barrow is the northern most community in the U.S. with a population of around 4,500 people.  Barrow is home to the nation's northern-most accredited community college.

I was only on the ground in Barrow for about half an hour, but it was an opportunity I wouldn't have had otherwise. On the way back we flew over a section of the Haul Road north of Fairbanks. I'm looking forward to driving that while we're here this summer.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

There's Hope!

Who could miss a chance to check out Hope? It's located on the south shore of Turnagain Arm.

While its history predates Anchorage, it's never been big. For a short time it was home to about 3000 and now claims nearly 200 residents, with a number of log homes over a century old.

Downtown seems to consist of a cafe, bar, and RV park featuring $15 dry, $20 per night with electric. "Water is available on the porch." We can't vouch for any of the local establishments, but the view from the RV park is pretty nice. There is a library and a museum in town as well.

Some of the more recent mining(?) efforts became fodder for the regular "rust" feature of this blog.

Hope is located about 16 miles west of Alaska 1 on the north shore of the Kenai peninsula.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


While our daughter and her fiance were in town she wanted to see some of the Kenai so we departed this morning on a day trip to Seward. It was another day of blue skies as we traveled east along Turnagain Arm. The snow is rapidly melting and the seasonal waterfalls were running strong.

There were people dipnetting for hooligan (candle fish) along the north shore, working the last days of the season for this fish. Some were pretty serious about it - there were trailers loaded with four or more large ice chests parked along the road.

The tourism folk want to make sure you know when you've arrived on the pennisula! The moose we spotted just before then didn't seem to care one way or another.

The road to Seward follows the shores of several lakes. Most still had some ice remaining and nearly all were mirror smooth.

Seward had a variety of shops in the downtown core (including a quilting shop with nice chairs for spouses to wait) and restarants. They have a very nice outdoor gear and clothing store in a former bank.

Several locals suggested Chinook's on the north end of town for lunch. The fish and chips were excellent!

The city has an RV park right on the shore of the harbor - dry spaces were $15, water & electric sites were $30 per night. They fill up once the salmon are running. RV parking in the town could be challenging in the middle of the summer.

On our way out of town we were happy to yield to the Keta as it trundled down the street apparently looking for a $10/day parking space.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Northbound Summation

We've had a wonderful trip thus far and I thought I would take a moment to sum it up, especially for friends who will be leaving shortly, headed the same direction.

We've traveled 5,348 miles on an intentionally circuitous routing from Mesa, AZ to Eagle River, AK. We've averaging 13.58 miles to the US Gallon - would have done better but the canoe costs us nearly 1 mpg. Our average cost of fuel has been $4.45 US per US gallon (converting the liters and Canadian dollars). The lowest cost was $3.57 in Parker, AZ and the most expensive was $7.19 (converted) at Muncho Lake, BC. Gas in Eagle River today was $3.96. A tug with 350+ mile range could reduce the fuel costs by bypassing the roadhouses.

We boondocked 5 nights, stayed in business parking lots 10 nights, leveraged friends and families driveways 12 nights so far, and stayed in public or commercial parks 15 nights including the five nights at Champoeg State Park for the Northern Oregon Gathering of fiberglass trailer aficionados.

Our route north was different than initially planned - we shifted east to pick up Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway, and we deleted the northern route through Dawson & Top of the World since the customs station wasn't open yet due to the late spring.

It's nice to have all the family in one place for a couple days. We have a few day trips planned from our base here and then I think we'll be moving to the Kenai for a while.

This Google map uses different symbols depending on the type of overnight accommodations. The pink paw print is for boondocking locations, the "P" is for business parking lots, the picnic table signifies public or commercial parks, and the yellow house signifies driveway surfing. The solitary yellow heart is for a museum stop that rated its own post. Each of the locations links to a blog post.

Still enjoying blue skies! Our outside thermometer is reading 82 degrees although I suspect it's a little optimistic.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Driveway Surfing - 5/27/2013

Once again, the mountains were out with blue sky to frame them - in this case with the Matanuska Glacier in the foreground.

There was one stretch of narrower, windy road that warned about not holding up traffic, but at 9 a.m. we saw very little traffic either direction.

There are several advantages to driveway surfing, not the least of which was the pressure washer to get the trailer looking a little cleaner than it has been.

With shirtsleeve weather, we sat out in the driveway with neighbors and watched the sheep on the hill behind the house. Two adults and two little ones. While it was easy to watch them move around with the spotting scope, it was tougher trying to get a picture.

Barbecued salmon for dinner. It's tough duty but someone has to do it!

Tomorrow will see some serious calendar penciling to work in the places we want to see with appropriate family time as well.

We spotted fuel prices as low as $3.92 a gallon as we came into town this morning.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Grand View - 5/26/2013

We had anticipated dumping the tanks after our overnight next to the burn barrel in the back lot at the Chevron station in Tok but the dump “hadn’t thawed yet.” That left us doing some quick calculating that resulted in a choice to BJ’s benefit.

A number of sections of the road today were very nice, but there was a nine mile stretch (according to the sign) that was in the running for being worse than yesterday. This picture doesn’t do it justice!

Along the way, my travel companion commented on a pile of black on the shoulder of the road as we passed. “I thought it was going to be bear poop but it’s just a chunk of tire.” Clearly, she’s acclimating.

An occasional roadhouse would appear well cared for. This one was open but wasn’t attracting much business.

The apparently well regarded café next door doesn’t open until sometime in June.

Other buildings along the road seemed to need more help.

The Copper River was flowing but there were still lots of blocks of ice that were hung up in the shallows.

Even the trucks are big in this state. This one was sitting at the station at the Glenallen intersection where gas was $4.42 a gallon.

It was a four bear day today – a sow and cub on one side of the road and two more cubs on the other side. We hoped for a picture but oncoming traffic (yes, there was traffic today!) scared them all into the woods before we could get a picture.

Home for the night is the Grand View RV Park & Café. They just opened for the season and they had full hook-up sites available with a Good Sam discount. We settled in and we’ll dump the tanks in the morning before we leave. Verizon 1x is available on site and they have Wi-Fi but we had to go to the café to get adequate signal strength for it.

The second reason we're here is that the café is supposed to have excellent wood-fired pizza and BJ has been suffering from pizza withdrawal. Is it polite to post a blog while eating pizza?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Alaska! - 5/25/2013

It was a one bear day today, apparently one that had been asked to take a sobriety test. Yes, that very faint yellow is the center line!

I kept looking for an opportunity to document the use of orange flags to mark road hazards, but there were lots more hazards than flags, especially in the Beaver Creek Highway maintenance area. We couldn't decide if someone forgot to order flags, they couldn't afford them, or that tourists were taking them for souvenirs. This is by far the roughest paved road I've driven. Keep the speed down and use whichever section looks the smoothest.

In spite of the rough road, it was very beautiful country that we were putting in the rear view mirrors.

You actually get to the border, change from kilometers to miles, and change time zones before you get to the customs checkpoint. If anything, customs was even easier than it was when we entered Canada. He did ask about rabies vaccination for the dog but didn't want to see the paperwork.

This is where the road from Dawson and Chicken meets up with the Alaska highway, east of Tok. The road and customs at Top of the World are still closed so it looks like we made the right, (but painful) decision.

Home for the night is the back lot at Young's Chevron in Tok. Free parking and dump with a fill-up (but the dump station is still frozen...). We're back in the land of Verizon, posting this directly from our Millenicom hotspot.

Whitehorse to Beyond Burwash – 5/24/2013

We were quite impressed with Whitehorse. They’ve developed a nice walking path along the river, and an electric trolley that runs nearly the same route.

They have a weekly farmer’s market that we managed to catch and lots of museums including the Transportation Museum near the airport, complete with a DC-3 “windsock.” 

Speaking of airports, they had a Nippon Cargo Airlines 747 sitting on the ramp – local word was an emergency landing on a flight from New York to Anchorage on their way to Japan.

We walked around the Klondike – a paddlewheel steamer that used to operate on the river here – but didn’t visit any of the several museums. We’ve already decided that a return is required. We stopped by the Visitor’s Centre but their Wi-Fi was time limited and much slower than Mickey D’s.

East of Haines Junction we stopped by Canyon Creek to see the restored bridge. It’s not used for traffic, but was used as part of the original alignment of the Alaska Highway.

Even though there was still snow under the bridge, the flowers were blooming. In Haines Junction, gas was selling for $1.59 a liter.

The plywood police were sitting by the roadside approaching Destruction Bay where fuel was priced at $1.60 per liter. They say it was named for the results of a storm, but if you drive too fast on the frost heaves, it could apply to your vehicle as well. It will be slower going from here to the border.

We stopped by Burwash Landing long enough to take a picture of the world’s largest gold pan but didn’t check their prices.

Home for the night was a turnout 1094 miles from Dawson Creek with a beautiful view of the St. Elias range from our back porch (even with a full moon at 4:30 a.m.) The day was a two bear, two moose day.

This was posted from Tok, AK using our Millenicom Hotspot on Verizon 3G.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just for Gene, Sort Of – 5/23/2013

A few days ago, Gene in Ohio asked for pictures of the road. Since we had a lot of variety on the section between Watson Lake and Teslin, I thought I’d share a few – but there’s more info for travelers at the end of the post. We were pleased to have shirt sleeve weather and blue sky for the day. Most of the road looked like this – no center markings in portions, and posted at 100 km/hr although we never ran quite that fast.

There were a couple short sections of construction, the first resulting in very smooth gravel.

The second, longer section on approach into Teslin started as smooth hard pack, posted at 70 and comfortable approaching that speed,

but the speed limit dropped and so did our speed when they started watering and grading.

It did give us a real life test of the full width mudflap that I installed before trip. Clearly, it doesn’t do a lot of good when the water goes over the mud flap! At least we’re starting to look like we’ve been somewhere interesting.

We stopped for fuel at the Yukon Hotel & Restaurant, just across the Teslin bridge. Gas here was $1.39 per liter with a 4 cent discount available if you asked before you pump. Sure beats $1.90 a couple days ago. They also have a full service RV park on the lake for $30 and I suspect the Good Sam discount comes off of that. They also had a wonderful wildlife museum (free) inside their gift shop that was a must see.

There was a nice collection of rust about 100 meters up the Canol road from the intersection. This road was another that was built in 1942 and there are bits and pieces of trucks left behind. It runs 226 km to Ross River and there are no services along the way.

Home for the night is the Walmart parking lot in Whitehorse, YT where they appear to have a very liberal policy. There are a lot of trailers parked every which direction with slides out and no tug in sight. 

Posting is compliments of the Golden Arches' WiFi in Walmart.