Alaska travel tips

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Ned

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I thought it would be useful to compile in one place all the helpful information that people can use when they undertake a trip to Alaska.  I know many of us went on that journey this summer and found the past reports and suggestions of previous Alaskan travellers to be of considerable help in both planning and making the trip.  Add your tips and suggestions to this thread and when everybody has done their part, it can be compiled into a library article.

The next message has some of our thoughts.  I'm sure the rest of our experienced Alaskan travellers will have much more to add.
 

Ned

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Books

The Milepost has to be on the top of everyones list.  This is a detailed listing of every place of possible interest along every possible highway you may travel on your trip.  It tells you by mile or kilometer from the various junctions the location of everything from fuel stops to turnouts.  We found it to be quite accurate on road conditions and areas of road construction.  The new version usually is published in March.

Travellers Guide to Alaskan Camping - Mike and Terry Church have compiled a detailed guide to the campgrounds of Alaska organized by highway.  We used this book as much as the Milepost.

The Great Alaskan Tour Saver - This book cost $100 and has over 150 coupons for discounts, two for one fares on tours and even some free items (do get the free fudge in Tok).  It will pay for itself many times over.  Just the flight over Mount McKinley saved us $250.

Maps

A good set of paper maps.  We use AAA for our maps, and have completely worn out our Alaska and northwest Canada map this trip.  Maps make it much easier to put the distances into perspective and to see the relationships between the places you visit.

We have used a GPS and Street Atlas for navigation for many years.  Until the 2007 edition, Street Atlas did not have street detail in Canada but it does have the major highways, so we mostly used Streets and Trips while there and Street Atlas in Alaska.  Whatever your favorite mapping program, used with a GPS it will be a big help in navigating the roads in Canada and Alaska and in finding your way around the larger towns and cities.  We also use a Street Pilot and that can be used instead of, or in addition to, a mapping program.  A GPS that can be moved to the car (if you're travelling in a motorhome) is a big advantage here.

Hookups

You won't find too many campgrounds with 50A service.  Most have 30A and some have only 20A.  We were always able to find 30A electric and water, and full hookups are available in some campgrounds.  All have dump stations so lack of a sewer connection isn't a concern.  The Travellers Guide to Alaskan Camping will tell you all the details on each campground.

Fuel

We found diesel fuel easy to find.  As most everything up here, the prices are higher than we're used to, avaraging close to $4.00/gallon in Canada this summer.  If there is more than one fuel outlet do some comparison shopping, you may save a bit.  Some Canadian outlets will give a $.03-.05/liter credit for purchases of 100 liters or more.  We tried to drive on the top half of the tank as it can be a ways between fuel stops in some areas.

Miscellaneous items

Insect repellent.  We took four cans of Deep Woods Off with us and rarely used it.  The Alaska summer of 2006 was cool and wet and bugs were not a big problem.  However, if you do any hiking in the woods, as some of the tours include, you will find this helpful.  Get some with a high percentage of Deet for the most effective.

General comments

Keep a log.  We found the trip logs of those that went before us to be invaluable in planning our trip.  A public record of your trip is a very nice thing to do so your family and friends can follow along on your adventure.  Some post their experiences on our forum while others create a web site for the purpose.  We chose the latter so our non-RVing friends and family could read about our journey and see the numerous photos we've taken, all in one place.  A log can also be as simple as a series of emails you send to family and friends as you travel.  Do record your impressions of places and your expenses, these are very helpful as planning guides for others.

Be flexible and take your time, this is not a trip to take on a set schedule.  If you're enjoying an area, stay longer.  At Denali, you may have to wait several days for nice weather to take one of the bus tours or particularly a plane ride over Mount McKinley.  The latter is definitely worth the money if you can get a clear day.  We were fortunate to get such a day right after we arrived, and didn't see another one the rest of the week we spent there.  The same applies to the many boat tours that are available in Alaska.

Keep your camera ready, you never know when a moose or bear will appear.  If you see several vehicles stopped on the road, it's probably for some wildlife photos.
 

Tom

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Great topic Ned, thanks! I know a number of folks, ourselves included, who really want to make that trip. Knowing how to prepare would take some of the pre-trip apprehension out of the equation.

When the replies/additions are in, this will make a great article for the library.
 

Ned

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Roads

We found the roads to be much better than we expected.  There are still stretches of frost heaves, potholes, and dusty or muddy dirt, but in general they were in very good condition.  I'm sure others will have a different impression :)
 

Betty Brewer

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At the end of our journey, I intend to make such summaries as well.  I want to include a city by city guide to restaurants we recommend! I am also going to show a day by day of places we stayed so folks have a visual of how many days we chose to stay in a certain spot.  This will be a quicker summarry than reading through all my journal pages. But our trip is not close to being over yet so I am holding off until we cross back into the Continental USA.

Betty
 

Ned

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A restaurant list will be great.  I'll see if I can put one together from our choices as well.  Once we get out of Canada, I'll consider the trip complete and will compile a log of all the campgrounds we stayed at and a complete cost summary of the summer.  I know Terry will be doing that as well :)
 

Wendy

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I really like this idea. I hope to get to Alaska some day and all the info I've seen here is of great use in planning. I especially find the cost summaries you guys have sent useful. Restaurants and campgrounds recommended is good info as are 'not to be missed' touristy sites. Oh, and roads to avoid and why !!
 

Just Lou

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Ned covered most of the items that I would list, but I would like to emphasize the need to provide adequate protection for your toad.  This was my most expensive oversight.  As Ned stated, the roads are better, in general, than most folks would expect, but on rainy days the mud and gravel in unpaved and/or construction areas can be fierce.  Even if one doesn't sustain any physical damage from unprotected towing, it makes clean up easier if the mud and gravel is not embedded six inches into every opening on the front of the toad.

Also, like some food items, if there are specific maintenance items that you feel you just have to have, (i.e. name brand filters, oil, etc...) take it with you.

One can't emphasize enough, the value of the MILEPOST....

lou
 

Betty Brewer

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wendycoke said:
I really like this idea.  Oh, and roads to avoid and why !!

Wendy,
It would be next to impossible to give you an accurate road rating as the roads seem to vary every couple of weeks or so.  Roads Russ traveled 4  years ago that he ranked high were a POS today . :'(    A better piece of advice would be to ask the locals about their recent times on the road.
Betty
 

Ned

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Lou,

We used Transit Shield on the toad and just removed it yesterday.  Also put it over the headlamps on the motorhome, we have a full mask for the front end too.  Good point on the maintenance items, we have a set of fuel filters and an air filter.  Oil filters are easier to come by so we didn't carry that but it would be wise to do so if in doubt.

Nearly every town we've been in both in AK and Canada, has a NAPA store.  That was a bit surprising, but would make getting many parts much easier than I thought it would be.

As Betty states, the road conditions change regularly as the maintenance is a continous process up here.  We too asked the locals about any roads that we had doubts about.
 

Terry A. Brewer

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Wendy

>>Oh, and roads to avoid and why<<

Don't worry about the roads....You are going to get some good & some bad, just adjust your speed & cuss them out under your breath or LOUDLY as I do.<G>

I will tell you I prefer dusty gravel roads to wet muddy ones...My Expertise??? Over 900 miles on the gravel Dempster Hwy, half in the dry & half in the wet. I have spent hrs removing that concrete like mud off the car only to have it rain the next day & cover it again.
 

Wendy

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Terry A. Brewer said:
Don't worry about the roads....You are going to get some good & some bad, just adjust your speed & cuss them out under your breath or LOUDLY as I do.<G>

I will tell you I prefer dusty gravel roads to wet muddy ones...My Expertise??? Over 900 miles on the gravel Dempster Hwy, half in the dry & half in the wet. I have spent hrs removing that concrete like mud off the car only to have it rain the next day & cover it again.

Mike does all the driving but I can handle the cussing. Bet Quartzsite is looking pretty good, huh....just dust, no mud :)
 

chrpennings

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Terry A. Brewer said:
Wendy

>>Oh, and roads to avoid and why<<

Don't worry about the roads....You are going to get some good & some bad, just adjust your speed & cuss them out under your breath or LOUDLY as I do.<G>

I will tell you I prefer dusty gravel roads to wet muddy ones...My Expertise??? Over 900 miles on the gravel Dempster Hwy, half in the dry & half in the wet. I have spent hrs removing that concrete like mud off the car only to have it rain the next day & cover it again.

Hi Terry,

Don't remove the concrete from underneath the rig, it's the best undercoating you can get and it's free. However clean the forward facing side of the c.c. mudflap because you'll never get it off. :)
chris
 

Terry A. Brewer

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Chris

>>However clean the forward facing side of the c.c. mudflap because you'll never get it off<<

Don't have to worry about that as I removed it before this trip.<G>

 

Tom

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Terry A. Brewer said:
.... I removed it before this trip.

Terry, are you saying you removed all the mud flaps, or just the large one with the CC name across the rear of the coach?
 

rhmahoney

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I dispute the usefullness of the Milepost. As a solo RVer, I have no chance to read the pertinent paragraph as I drive along. Rarely, Betty will tell me a bit over the CB radio. I found the Church book on CGs to be much more useful.
 

Terry A. Brewer

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Tom

>>or just the large one with the CC name across the rear of the coach?<<

Just that one....Left the ones behind the tires.
 

Ned

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Russ,

You need to get the Milepost on an audio book :)
 

John Canfield

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Hey Ned - looks like you guys are almost back in the lower 48  8)

We will soon have about three month's worth of experience up here and two comments I will add to Ned's excellent compendium of wisdom concern toad/coach protection and the Milepost.

We have the Roadmaster tow shield and while it clearly works, it doesn't provide the level of protection necessary to prevent all damage.  One problem that it causes is rocks kicked up by the coach's mud flap and tires hit the plastic tow shield and are ricocheted to the rear cap of the coach.  We must have a dozen dings on the cap due to this.  Also, the tow shield will not prevent all windshield damage - we now have an "L" shaped crack about 2" x2" in the very bottom of the driver's side windshield which is a nice mate to its brother on the top of the windshield  :mad:  If we ever come up here again, I will use the "skirt" between the coach and the car instead of the tow shield.  The leading edge of the Jeep's fenders  and the air dam under the front look like they were shot with a "gravel shotgun" - they are so pitted they would need to be replaced if the appearance is a concern.

Ned's use of the transport film is a good idea; I'm not sure it would prevent damage from all flying rocks but it would sure help.  It *will* prevent the mud/tar/other road goop from damaging the finish.  We have 3M film on the front of the coach and we still have a couple of pits from supersonic rocks.  One use of the transport film for me would be to apply it to the basement doors all along the sides of the coach.  We now have a coating of chip seal (tar) over extensive areas of the sides of the coach (and car) and it is extremely difficult to remove.  If you rub your hand over the areas, it literally feels just like non-skid or sandpaper.

Rant mode -on-
Another favorite topic of mine is the Milepost.  While it is an invaluable digest of information and factoids, Jane and I found it extremely difficult to use and very user-unfriendly.  So much so that Jane won't even look in it any more.  The authors/editors have developed a reference system for roads that must be studied and analyzed to figure out where they are talking about (importantly, there are relatively few Km/mile markers in Canada on the Alaska Highway which somewhat dilutes the value of the Milepost.)  If other Milepost users don't have this problem, maybe they are smarter than we are.

My feeleing about this book is its mission is now one of primarlly selling advertising instead of informing.  The Milepost would be about 70% of its current size if all irrelevant information was eliminated (like the very informative notation about the "No Littering" sign at mile so-and-so.)
Rant mode -off-
 
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