Our next stop was Benson, in the Southern Arizona desert, not too far from Tucson and also near lots of great places to explore. We stayed in the Saguaro SKP park, an Escapee Co-op, where we stayed a couple of years ago. It’s a very nice park, and as a bonus our friends Paul and Nina were staying there as well.
The park has a first-come first-served policy, but it has an overflow area where RVers can stay while they wait for a full hookup site. We lucked out and got the one spot in the overflow area that had full hookup. Which was great since it was starting to get hot and we needed to run the A/C. Continue reading →
After our fabulous time in Homer, we prepared to drive towards Denali National Park & Preserve. The plan was to resupply in Anchorage and then spend a day in funky Talkeetna along the way. But we almost did not get going as planned, because I had a horrible night with what I believe must have been food poisoning. Hector and I both ate pork chops, and he did not get sick, so I am not sure what did me in.
In any case, I was exhausted by morning, not having slept much. But we decided that I would sleep and Hector would get everything ready and drive to Anchorage. It was the first time that I did not help with setting up for a travel day and I felt terrible about it. But I had stowed a lot of the inside stuff the previous night so it was not too bad for Hector.
So, indeed, I slept while Hector drove. By the late afternoon, I was feeling much better and was able to help out with a couple of chores in Anchorage. We dry camped at Cabelas once again; easy in easy out.
The next day we got a bit of a late start as both of us were pretty tired. But we made it to Talkeetna in the late afternoon. This time we just dry camped in a gravel pullout on the side road that leads to Talkeetna (yes, we are so glamorous sometimes).
Alaska Day driving days 6 and 7 recap:
Homer to Anchorage
Road Name: Sterling Highway to Seward Highway
Road Type: 2-lane
Driving Time: 5:00
Anchorage to Talkeetna
Road Name: Glenn Highway to Parks Highway
Road Type: Mostly 2-lane with some 4-lane sections near Wasilla
Road Conditions: Very good throughout, some construction. This is a very heavily travelled road connecting Anchorage to Fairbanks so it is kept up as far as we have travelled.
After having a lovely break from driving in during our long stay in Valdez, we set out on our second driving day in Alaska, headed to Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
We were aware of some issues with our car, the Coquí, and were planning to take him to a mechanic in Anchorage, the next stop after Wrangell St. Elias. We had taken the Coquí in to see two different Subaru dealers in two different states prior to crossing the border into Canada. This was prompted by some noises that the car started to make, which got progressively worse. But the mechanics were not able to definitively diagnose the problem, although they and we suspected that it was related to the clutch or transmission bearings.
Now leaving Valdez, we hooked up the Coquí and left for Chitina, the town that we planned to camp in while visiting Wrangell St. Elias National Park. It was cloudy and rainy but was still another beautiful drive, through waterfalls, mountains and wetlands.
We arrived at a BLM campground just past the Copper River and unhooked the Coquí. The campground was really full of mostly locals who were there to fish, as this area is very popular for fishing. There was one site available that could fit Island Girl, and it was a bit tricky to get her into the spot.
One of the guys staying there began to help guide Hector into the site, while I parked the car out of the way and got out. Once Island Girl was in, I returned to the Coquí but was unable to shift into any gear. Oh, oh.
Hector was able to gently nudge the stick shift and park somewhat close to Island Girl, but we had to get help to push the Coquí into the appropriate parking spot.
The next day, we had planned to drive 60 miles on a gravel road to the Kennecott Mines. So we were quite fortunate that the car broke down in the campground and not on the remote gravel road.
This day we had a really short drive into Whitehorse, Yukon so we took it pretty easy in the morning. We really liked the Marsh Lake Yukon Government Campground, although there were quite a few mosquitoes there. Fortunately, we were able to get by with some natural mosquito repellent, and the campfire helped. We have several levels of repellent, from natural to frighteningly chemical.
Day 8 driving recap:
Road Name (s): Yukon Highway 1
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Excellent as this was mostly in “suburban” Whitehorse
Miles Today: 31
Miles driven from Canadian border: 1624
Miles on the Alaska Highway: 887.4
Driving Time: :50
Whitehorse is the largest town in these parts. It is both the capital of the Yukon and home to over two thirds of Yukon’s 35k human residents. In the Yukon Territory there are significantly more moose than there are people!
It is a great place to refuel and restock. On the way in, we stopped at Integra Tire, which provides free sani-dump service with a fill-up. We got gas, dumped, got a water fill, a propane fill and a free bag of ice. All in one place, very convenient. But they are a very busy operation so it took quite a while.
Then we headed to Walmart, where we were clearly not the first to think about overnighting. It was pretty jam packed with RV’s. I honestly have never seen so many in one parking lot.
But we found a good spot and settled in. It is a great location right in town and once again, they had WiFi and it was working pretty well when we arrived in the middle of the afternoon. This Walmart actually has a sign outside indicating where RVs are allowed to park overnight – amazing.
Next stop was the Visitor Center, a beautifully decorated building with lots of great information. There are quite a few museums and other activities in town, and this is the place to get the details on all of them. They also have really good WiFi.
We returned to the Rancheria Restaurant for breakfast. When we arrived, we heard that “we had gotten up too late and missed two moose in the pond”. Shucks. But we had a good breakfast and used their WiFi again. We had an ambitious plan on driving day 7 on the Alaska Highway, with a couple of town and museum stops along the way.
We took a quick walk over to the pond behind the restaurant after breakfast and after a few minutes, a cow moose came out on the opposite shore. She was a bit far but we got a nice long look at her as she walked around feeding by the shore. A great start to our morning.
Next, we did more doubling back in the car to take one last look at the road we saw just before reaching Rancheria as it was quite pretty.
This led us to a detour and across an old wooden bridge, but the road was impassable after that point.Continue reading →
Yesterday was another driving day, day 2 on the Alaska Highway and our third in a row. We are moving through at a slightly faster pace than we originally planned at this point. It is great to have that flexibility.
Last evening, before we stopped at the rest stop for the night, we noticed a sign about construction work down the road. Since our motor home has a rear radiator, we read that it is possible for rocks to get propelled into it causing damage. Hector planned to install a rock screen to shield the radiator and had already purchased mesh wire for the job. So this morning he installed it. And, while he was installing it, it began to rain lightly. But he perservered.
Tip of the day: Attach wire mesh as a rock screen for rear radiators.
Cut the wire mesh to appropriate size, attach it to chassis or other hard metal brackets using zip ties.
Today’s driving recap:
Road Name: BC Hwy 97, Alaska Highway
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Relatively smooth. Occasional gravel breaks or rough patches.
Miles Today: 271
Miles driven from Canadian border: 1068
Miles on the Alaska Highway: 343
Driving Time: 5:30
The scenery changed slightly with more forested areas with lots of pine trees and hillier terrain with mountains in the distance. There are some steep grades in this part of the drive, reducing our average speed. We spotted our first bears today, all three were black bears, and black in color as well.
The first gave us our closest look, he crossed the road and then walked along the side of the road for quite a while. He had quite a thick, wet, shiny coat, and no doubt had taken a dip in the nearby river. And now he was munching away at some greens.
The others went back into the forest when they saw Island Girl approach.
The morning rain shifted to cloudy conditions with some very pretty clouds, then to a sunny, warm afternoon. I was not expecting it to be this warm, so it was a nice surprise.
We stopped at the Trapper’s Den Wildlife Emporium just before Fort Nelson. The shop sells native crafts, moccasins, mukluks, fur hats, and lots of other stuff.
They even had camo lingerie (Wilderness Dreams!). It is a small but cute store with a very nice proprietor. She was talking to a couple of other locals in the store, and their accents were very Fargo-esque.
Next we noticed a Tim Hortons next to the gas station where we filled our tank, so we stopped to eat lunch and use their Wi-Fi.
And then continued to the Fort Nelson Visitor Center. Just across the way is the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. The theme of the museum is transportation, and just in front of the entrance there is a monument commemorating the workers who helped build the Alaska Highway.
Then you enter the first building and oh boy, there is almost too much stuff at this museum. Pioneer artifacts, taxidermy displays, including an albino moose cow.
A display of artifacts from the Alaska Highway construction, antique telephones, a small general store display, antique signs, old radios, maps, an antique jukebox and more.
Outside there are all kinds of antique trucks and antique heavy equipment used in the building of the Alaska Highway as well as some fabulous vintage cars in a large garage on the property. And lots of license plates and tools.
Last, but not least, there are several buildings from the era of the Alaskan Highway, mostly there to display more artifacts – a typical house, a church, a log cabin.
Several young men were around to open the buildings and provide information about the artifacts inside. All for CA$5.
I think it must be tough to be a place “on the way to something else”. And so the people here make a heartfelt effort to provide visitors with the opportunity to connect with some of their history. Good for them.
We left Fort Nelson planning to spend the night at a rest stop about 50 miles away. Everyone we spoke with and everything we read said that this next part of the drive was the prettiest on the Alaska Highway, and there would be lots of wildlife.
As we left, we encountered some steep climbs and the mountains grew nearer. We climbed to the summit of Steamboat Mountain at 3,500 feet with beautiful views.
The first rest area we reached had a motor home sitting in the one spot with a view so we continued to the next one. There was a fifth wheel in the next overview but it had a wide area open with views so we stayed there. A beautiful spot.
We settled in and watched a bright red sun setting in the sky. We know the best is yet to come.
Leaving Nevada we still had miles of really lonely highway ahead before finally reaching Delta, Utah and the real end of the Loneliest Highway.
After having the car and the motorhome covered inside and out with dust from the desert, and the outside turning to mud while driving in the rain, it was time for a stop to do some Spring cleaning or de-deserting as Hector calls it.Continue reading →
Our route north was originally going to include stays in Lake Mead, Death Valley National Park and Zion National Park. But since we had to spend an extra month in San Diego due to Angel’s surgery, our time to get to the Canadian border was cut short so our friend Nina suggested we drive up U.S. 395, towards Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills.
As we considered that, an early spring and rising temperatures ruled out a stay in Death Valley. And we had planned to get on 395 once we left Death Valley anyway, so we opted to change our route yet again and drive on this scenic highway from its southern point.
We had to veer south for a bit for a dental appointment in Los Algodones, Mexico. It was a perfect opportunity to stop and visit our friends Jeanette and Dennis, who were camped at her dad’s property near Dulzura, California, which was (kind of) on the way.
Last year, Jeanette and Dennis helped us with a WordPress migration and development of some variations of our photography logo. Their business, Motorhome Office of Design and Technology, offers graphics, illustration and web development at a reasonable cost. So we also planned to get some help from them on some technical issues.
We arrived at Jeanette’s dad’s lovely hilltop property where their vintage 1978 Wanderlodge bus, the Cheddar Yeti2, is currently camped on a very nice pad with a patio and rose garden. The property has a lovely pool and jacuzzi and a great deck. Unfortunately, it was too cold for the pool.
The home also has a great bar room with the largest collection of beer taps we have ever seen. Literally thousands of them. Very cool.
We had a working session with Dennis and Jeanette all day the next day and hung out together in the evening. Our plan was to leave for Yuma the following day, but they offered us an alternative: leave Island Girl there, drive to our appointment and back, and they would take care of Angel. We couldn’t pass that up, and decided to forego Yuma stay and drive to the border in our car.
One day as we drove out of our campground to visit Angel at the veterinary hospital, we watched as a line of really cool cars drove by in front of us to the parking lot across the way. And Hector the photographer followed them.
It was a group from the Viejitos (old guys) Car Club. And clearly knowing that people would be gawking at their cars, the group parked them all together in one row. Then all of the families poured out of the cars along with their stuff, obviously planning a picnic and barbecue on the beach.Continue reading →