Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thoughts on traveling in Alaska

I'm sad to see my Alaska adventure come to a close.  There is so much to see and do, and I'm anxious to return someday but at a much slower pace.  There were many places I would have liked to stay longer, like the Keni Peninsula or Anchorage, but with so much to see and do it is hard to judge time.  I met one RVer who had taken two whole summers to see Alaska.  He traveled one summer in the Northern areas and when I met him in Anchorage he was exploring the south and south eastern areas.  This sounded like a good plan if one has the time. 

I’m really glad I had a smaller RV (26’), because many of the Provincial Parks and State Parks in Alaska easily accommodate 30’ or smaller.  Larger rigs (like Bill’s at 35 plus ) are a little more challenging.  When I return, I think I would like to have a truck with a camper slide.  There were many places I could have explored but didn’t.  

For the most part the roads were paved. Some parts were gravel and others  had terrible frost heaves, but these were rare.  All but one of the dirt/gravel roads we took as side trips were suitable for passenger cars.  There was only one road where I was glad I took the Jeep, and that was because there were stream crossings.  
Free dry camping gets a little more difficult in parts of BC.  There are few places to pull off and often rest areas are posted "no overnight camping".  The Yukon was a little easier at the beginning of my adventure, but towards the end I noted new signs posted with no over night camping at the rest areas.  
Many of the visitor centers in BC are only open week days, which I found odd since BC really pushes tourism.  
Cell coverage in the Yukon is terrible; I have AT&T which was really bad  in the Yukon but Verizon seemed to be just as bad.  BC was a little better for AT&T but not much.  Add the North American Plan when entering Canada.  Most providers charge a small fee and will prorate the subscription.  It is well worth the $8-$10 extra.  You can turn it off just before leaving Canada. 
Internet is sketchy.  I found free internet advertised, but it usually was dial up and extremely slow.  A few places I actually paid for internet.  Some libraries have free wifi but in the rural areas the library has internet but only on their computer and no wireless or wifi.  In BC, Safeway usually had free wifi.  Some of the visitor centers had wifi also. Air cards are expensive, usually $2.00 per MB in addition to the regular month fee.
Gas is very expensive, averaging more than $4.25 a gallon in Canada, and about $3.30 in Alaska.  
The Border crossings were uneventful, but if you have a pet be prepared to show current rabies vaccination paperwork.  The Canadian Border Patrol asked for Sadie's, but US Border Patrol so far haven’t asked so see the paperwork.  Although all of the information I read stated a health certificate would be required, I was never asked for it, even though I had one for Sadie. 
Liz and I had trouble getting cash out of some of the Canadian “ATM” machines.  Apparently some were private and not affiliated with a bank and would give cash based on a credit card with a PIN number...basically a cash advance.  Those ATMs affiliated with a bank were no problem.  Most establishments in BC and the Yukon took US dollars.  Some gave change back in US currency and some in Loonies.  Rarely did they bother with an exchange rate, mainly because it was so close.  Liz had trouble with debit cards in some of the stores  in the Yukon and ended up using credit cards. I carried very little Canadian currency and used a credit card with a good exchange rate most of the time. 
Traveling with a group can be challenging.  We were lucky in finding a congenial group of four to travel with even though our interests weren’t always on the same page.  But, the main thing was the size of the group.  Four is a good number and we were lucky because we had two smaller RVs (26’) ONE 29’ one 35’, and three toweds.  More rigs  and longer rigs  would not have worked as well, as it was it was sometimes tricky to find pull outs that would fit all of us, and turn arounds were not always available for the longer rigs. We were very lucky that when ever we needed a campground we were able to find four sites. In any event, less is more in this case.  

Finally, no trip to Alaska is complete without purchasing the Mile Post  .  It was invaluable.  I also purchased Camping in Alaska by the Church's which proved very valuable in finding camp sites when we needed them.  Another resource was the Escapee's Days End. Planning is important but I'm one not to over plan too much because then I over schedule myself.  Research enough to determine priorities and then be flexible..a very import word.

So as I posted before I'm off to a rural farm which will be a whole different type of adventure.  

August 31-September 4, The Yellowhead (16) and Moose Jaw

I left Prince George under rainy skis planning to go through Jasper and Banff.  It was still raining by the time I got to Jasper.  The weather report called for rain and lower temperatures at the higher elevations so I did not take the Ice Parkway  south through the park but continued  east on to Hinton east of Jasper for the night.  I didn’t want to encounter ice or snow conditions at the higher elevations. 
The drive along the Yellow Head in Alberta is beautiful with lots of places to stop.  There are many, many trail heads with short trails.   I stopped at several. The rest stops before the national park were small, but accommodate smaller RVs and the larger ones looked like overnight parking would not be a problem.  

This was one of the falls along the highway towards Jasper

Some rafters were getting ready to launch.  Looks like fun!

And off they go.

It rained all the way to Hinton and I found a nice place to park near a great interpretive trail, which also serves as a cross country ski area in the winter.  I’m in logging country now.  I was also in for a pleasant surprise.  Gas was down to 88 cents a liter! That’s almost US prices!  
Wednesday morning, I headed towards Lloydminister, which has one leg in Alberta and one leg in Saskatchewan.  I figured I could overnight at the Moose Lodge in town.  When I got there it was “Bingo Night” and RV parking would not be available until after 9:00 that evening, so I continued on, negotiating through traffic and the big city of Edmonton.  The rain finally stopped. 
I’m in Saskatchewan now, and it is obvious that this is an area that is just now beckoning tourists.  The map showed various rest stops that weren’t rest stops but very primitive private fee campgrounds.  The road was flat and straight and definitely prairie country .  There are lots of grain fields and farming equipment on the road. I saw a sign for a truck stop and then another sign “free RV parking at the truck stop” near Paynton, so I pulled in to check it out.  It turned out to be a good overnight stop.  I was treated to a fantastic sunset, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. 
This was a truck stop in the truest since, one I haven’t seen since childhood.  Remember the old saying, the best food is where the trucker stop?  This place had the best cinnamon buns ever (better than any in Alaska or BC)and the cheapest food...Steak for $10.00.  I worried about truck noise, but most were grain trucks and those that needed to run all night parked off in one area.  It was obvious it was also the local coffee gathering by the number of pickup trucks parked in front of the restaurant in the morning.  
I decided to continue on and check out Saskatoon, a large city of over 200,000.  The lady at the visitor center was very helpful at Saskatoon, but warned the down town area was not RV friendly.  I unhooked my Jeep and explored downtown and the river front.  Walked as much of the parkway as I dogs allowed..even on leash.  The downtown area is definitely not for RVs.  I had a hard time just finding a parking place for the Jeep. 
I decided, this would be a city needing more  time for investigating  on a non-holiday weekend. Streets were being blocked off for the Labor Day weekend fireworks extravaganza.  Checked out a few RV parks and they were either full or very expensive.  The provincial parks charge an entrance fee of $7.00 per vehicle (RV and towed) per day plus $17.00 per day for dry camping.  That's $35.00 including tax. Seems like a lot of money, if I was only going to sleep there, so I headed for Moose Jaw a smaller town.

There are lots of little farming communities right off the highway.  I stopped at Davidson, SK and saw this giant coffee pot.  I'm not sure what the significance is of the coffee pot, put they sure went to a lot of work. 
This nice bronze sculpture was adjacent to the giant coffee pot.  

I arrived and got settled at good old Wal-Mart and headed to the the VC which was closed. Apparently the VC in Saskatchewan like British Columbia do not keep extended hours during the summer.  When I returned the next day I found out they were closed on weekend.  This is Labor Day weekend for the Canadians so I figured most things would be open.  There is a Trolly that tours the old town area but   the tours quit running the last day of August.  Apparently a lot of the Provincial Parks and other tourist attractions close the day after Labor Day and it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is.  

This is Mac the Moose.  He greets you just as you turn off the highway to Moose Jaw

Moose Jaw has about 50 murals scattered through out town depicting historical events.  The biggest attraction seems to be the Tunnels of Moose Jaw.  Tours go underground and the days of Al Capone are acted out on one tour.    Another tour depicts the hardships the Chinese immigrants went through during the gold rush.  Pictures are not allowed.  
Moose Jaw also has lots of parks and trails along the river.  A great place to ride a bike or kayak. 

This guy was lounging on one of the trails along the Moose Jaw river.  The shell is made of of tiles local school children designed.  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

August 29-31, Smithers to Prince George

On Sunday we left Prince Rupert and headed on to Smithers with only a few stops along the way.  We could have stopped in “the Hazeltons” as the three small cities of Hazelton are called, but our research determined the sites to be more of the same First Nations Heritage Culture. .  
We arrived in Smithers at the campground that Liz had arranged to meet her car driver and determined her car and driver had not arrived yet.  I decided that If I was going to dry camp for the night I would prefer dry camping in a parking lot rather than pay fee for a quick overnight.  
Nancy and I left Liz at Smithers and headed for Prince George the next morning.   There are lots of cute little towns along the way, but very few pull outs, and not much to see.  

One little town (I don't remember the name) claim to fame was the largest fly fishing rod:

I did note Burns Lake had a flower Volkswagen parked by the city sign, but there was no place to stop or turn around. The road to Prince George is a good one, but the traffic has increased substantially from the rural roads I had been driving on.  
Nancy and I arrived at Prince George, a decision point for continue east towards Saskatchewan and visit friends or go south and return to the states? It was raining and the forecast looked like rain towards the south so I decided to head east.  I really could use some some sun.  
So.. Prince George is the last stop on my Alaska adventure.  Someone said the best part of the adventure is getting there, and I will concur.  British Columbia and the Yukon Territory deserve a lot more exploration, and I feel I only scratched the surface in seeing a Alaska.  Its been a good adventure and I know I will return someday.  

Prince George also had "flower cars" but this one was a flower truck.  Some of the flowers had started to fade..signs that summer is almost over.