Monthly Archives: September 2014

11-12 September (End of Journey)

11 September – Remembering 9/11 today and praying for all those families affected. We drove 300 miles today to St. Charles, MO (Sundmeier RV Park) for the night.
12 September – Driving 320 miles to the Berrys’ home (Elizabethtown, KY). This is a 4-state day: MO, IL, IN, and KY. We can’t believe our trip is coming to an end (10 weeks and 13,500 miles). It has been fabulous, a trip of a life-time.
We thought it would be nice of us to make a comprehensive list of helpful hints for those of you who might be planning a similar journey.
1. Pulling a 32’ fifth wheel camper is ideal. Anything larger or a motor home would not be a good choice of transportation to drive the Alaska Hwy or for getting into those tight spots. You will always have your home, food and restroom with you. This is crucial in the many areas of the wilderness where no facilities, hotels, or rest stops are available.
2. Travel with someone who you love, get along with, have similar interests and can help with the driving, vehicle maintenance/repair/duct taping, and tire changes.
3. Take along two large envelopes (labeled with names) in which to stash expense receipts each time you or your traveling companions purchase something for the trip. The Berrys purchased the diesel. The Dunhams purchased food and propane for the camper, and paid for the campsites. Periodically, we recorded the individual expenses into an Excel spreadsheet to see how we were doing. At the end of the trip, we will tally up the remaining receipts to see who owes the other. Then, stand back and marvel at how much money you have saved by splitting costs down the middle. Another advantage of camping over staying in hotels is that an average campsite costs $38 vs hotel room at $150 minimum. So, that’s an average of $19/night per couple for lodging. Not bad! (Update, 9/20/14: Our final costs ended up being even! No one owed the other anything. Amazing!)
4. The month of June is the ideal time to start your trip. July is pushing it a little. We were able to spend the month of August in Alaska, but knew it was time to move on out of there before the winter weather set in.
5. Take your time and do not hurry. Have somewhat of a pre-planned route, but work in flexibility and make camping reservations as you go along. There were many times we decided to make side trips which we’d never thought of during the planning process. These trips proved to be the most memorable. Also, work in some down days for re-charging and sleeping-in/resting.
6. Pack light, but be sure to bring rain jackets and boots. You won’t need that enclosed canopy room and all those clothes and shoes! Forget the dress clothes—shorts, jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts are all you need. (This is not a cruise!)
7. It would be ideal to have all new tires on both the truck and camper to start out with. Then, carry 2 new spare tires (mounted on rims) for both. We had 6 tire changes (5 tires) on the camper. Be prepared to do oil changes in the truck every 5,000 miles. That will take pre-planning and calling ahead for appointments down the road in your travel (in Ron’s case, with Ford dealers).
8. Take lots of Gorilla and Duct tape with you for quick fixes. The rough roads take a toll! There are parts of our truck and camper being held together by said tape.
9. Carry THE MILEPOST with you in the truck for mile-by-mile information in Canada and AK. It’s like having your own personal tour guide.
10. Keep your passport on your person at all times. You can drive into Hyder, AK without one, but you have to have one to get back into Canada (where your campground will be). You will find yourself crossing over borders many times during your journey.
11. Your food selections in Canada and AK are limited and costly. Fresh fruits and veggies are practically non-existent due to the high cost of shipping into those areas where they can’t grow their own produce. You will find breads on the shelf that are damp, defrosting from frozen shipping to the store and thus molding quickly.
12. Do not waste your money on purchasing international cell phone service. Phones do not work in Canada anyway. In some areas, you may go a week without cell phone or WiFi services. Canada does not accept Discover cards, only Visa or Master Card.
13. Do not compare AK and Canada campgrounds and RV parks with the ones in the lower 48. They have different standards, but are really quite adequate. Also, always be aware of the presence of bears at the campgrounds where they like to pillage for any food items you may have around.
14. Road conditions: Alaska roads were good! The bad roads are in Canada (the Alaska Hwy), the worst due to their never-ending road construction/improvements(?). At times we couldn’t travel over 30 mph on these muddy, bumpy roads (being led by pilot cars) under construction. Once we crossed over into AK, the roads were just fine.
15. Laundry tip: Take along a jar of quarters ($30 is good) for doing laundry. In Canada, you will need to exchange your American $ to Canadian $ coins for their machines. Sometimes you will be doing laundry after office hours and find you need quarters which the office cannot provide. Connie discovered (through an ‘ol observant fellow camper sitting nearby) that if you put a dollar bill into a Coke machine and push the coin return, you will receive 4 quarters from the machine. After about $10 worth of dollar bills making the cha-ching sound, he said she definitely needed to go to Vegas or buy a lottery ticket.
16. Communication: Don’t overlook public libraries for free WiFi and Skyping.
17. Journal and/or blog each day! Seeing and experiencing so much daily, we found ourselves forgetting what we did the day before.
18. Have a devotion and prayer time each morning to start your day. Pray for protection and safe travel (among other things). On this trip, we didn’t believe in coincidences, but God-incidences. We give praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for watching over and protecting us through this fantastic journey to see His wondrous works.
Oh, and some folks might be interested in our route to and from Alaska:
Going: KY, IN, IL, IA, SD, WY, MT, Canada (Alberta (AB), British Columbia (BC) and Yukon), AK.
Return: AK, Yukon, BC, AK (Skagway), BC, Yukon, BC, AK (Hyder), BC, WA, OR, ID, UT, WY, CO, KS, MO, IL, IN, KY.
NOTE: In working some statistics on past/joint travels that the Berrys and Dunhams have done: Together, we have done 27 states and driven from coast to coast of the US. We tallied up the states remaining for us to have visited all 50 states. Only one remains for Irv (North Dakota). Connie: ND, NM, OK, NB. Laura: ND, NB, RI. Ron: ND, RI. Don’t know of any other reason to do so, but looks like a trip to ND may be in our future? It may just be a fly-in to the airport there. 🙂 We’re already planning a trip up north for a family reunion next year.


9-10 September (Goodland, KS)

9 September – Drove 300 miles through Denver to Goodland, KS (Goodland KOA Campground). Found that one trailer tire’s valve stem was bad and had lost ½ of its air pressure. Took the tire off (5th tire change) and will wait until the tire store opens in the morning.
10 September – Connie and Irv got up early and took the tire to get it fixed at 7:00, letting the Berrys sleep in. Well, due to their cell phone time being messed up, they got up at 6:45 instead of 7:45 in order to take advantage of the campground breakfast (which was great). This would be an hour earlier than normal for them. They were not happy campers when they were told it was only 7:30 and they had lost yet another hour of sleep. Plus, today we went to CST (God’s time)! Yay! They are going to be so messed up when returning to EST. We drove 300 miles to Paxico, KS (Mill Creek Campground). We passed through more KS farmland, windmills, and oil wells. While stopping 20 miles out, we checked the tires (as we do every time we stop), and lo and behold, another tire issue (this is the last of the old tires we started with). We decided to limp into the campground and change the tire (the 6th tire change, 5th tire). We now have brand new tires all way around the camper! We’re thinking Irv and Ron now qualify for a NASCAR pit crew (if they ever start racing campers).
This campground is very nice except for the fact it sits right next to a railroad track–4 trains in less than 3 hours. It may be a l-o-n-n-g night!

8 September (Cheyenne, WY)

8 September – Camped another day at Laramie and took a side trip to Cheyenne, WY. We passed by some interesting rock formations.
We took a trolley ride tour of the town, visiting the WY state capitol, Cheyenne’s Big Boy 4004 steam engine, old mansions, jails, etc. Then, we ate lunch at the Rib and Chop House. Great meal!

7 September (Laramie, WY)

7 September – We haven’t said much about our co-habitation effort in the camper. It has really worked out very well, with both sides giving and taking in order to make it a harmonious experience. The Dunhams are early risers (usually around 6:30). The Berrys would sleep all day if allowed to do so. So, the Dunhams get dressed, work on the computer, make noise, etc. and wait patiently on their bed, hoping that the Berrys get up at a decent hour. Ron took this picture of the Dunhams waiting for 8:00. Seriously, though, we’re usually on the road by 9:45 each day.
Today, we drove 250 miles to Laramie, WY (Laramie KOA RV Park). We had our 4th tire change on the camper, but feel blessed on every count that we were in good places to change tires. The rest stop was good, but signs told us that rattlesnakes reside there also. Not a warm, fuzzy feeling on that! The landscape is so that you can see forever!
In Arlington, we drove past the largest windmill farm in the U.S. According to Google (we use this all day long), there are 1,000 in this one area. Connie coerced Ron to take pictures of the windmills, because they were on his side of the road. He said far too many pictures have already been taken of windmills, but he yielded and snapped a few pics.
You find yourself thinking about these open ranges, cowboys and Indians (coming over the rise), horses and ranches. Irv took this pic of what appeared to be Indian smoke signals (hey, it could happen).
Antelope live within cow herds and are really plentiful.

5-6 September (Eden, ID)

5 September – Drove 300 miles through Oregon into Eden, Idaho (Anderson Camp RV). We didn’t have any exciting scenery today. We did cross the 45th Parallel (1/2 between the equator and North Pole). All we saw were brown hills, sage brush, trains, cows, sheep and more windmills. After setting up camp, we drove to Twin Falls, ate at a Mexican restaurant (it’s Friday), then grocery shopped at Fred Meyer. Fred Meyer has become our one-stop store of choice for groceries, discount diesel, pharmacy, etc. We can use our Kroger card there. Much better than Walmart!
6 September – Drove through 3 states today from Idaho, through Utah past Salt Lake City to Lyman, WY (Lyman KOA RV Park). We saw interesting terrain with farmland, windmills (sound familiar?), beautiful blue sky with white fluffy clouds, rock formations and long straight roads that go uphill (elevations of 5,000 ft).
Connie loves the windmills and takes too many pictures of them. Ron likes to take pictures of roads signs. Today, the one we liked most was the one to slow down from 80mph to 75mph on the curves and not to stop for dust storms. 🙂
We stopped along the roadside to photograph Devil’s Slide rock formation.
We set up camp, ate dinner and laundered clothes for hours. Coming out of the laundry, we saw quite a nice sunset. Goodnight everyone!

3-4 September (LaGrande, OR)

3 September – Took a little side trip to Silverton, OR (but, still moving on east) to visit the Dunhams’ friends they met in Germany 30 years ago (the Branstetters). We had a wonderful time seeing their two daughters and their children, and exploring their beautiful estate and vineyard. From their home, on a clear day, you can see Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. The saying is true that with good friends you pick up right where you left off when you saw them last. We reminisced, laughed, told stories and ate at the Oregon Garden (wonderful meal). What a great, fun day! Thanks for your hospitality, Marcia and Mason–we loved the farmlands, your town of Silverton and the campground (Silver Spur RV). Would love to stay here longer, but we do need to be moving on.
4 September – Drove 300 miles to La Grande, OR (Eagles Hot Lake RV) along the Columbia River and Dalles. We passed windmills and lush greenery; then everything turned to brown hills.

1-2 September (Tillamook, OR)

1 September – A driving day (with us losing a third tire on the trailer) to Tillamook, OR (Pleasant Valley Campground). It’s a very nice campground with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of rabbits running around on the grounds. Each site has at least 3 rabbits and the fields are loaded with them. So much fun to watch them and the other animals (alpaca, goats, pony, etc.)
This is Dairyland. Irv and Connie visited the huge Tillamook Cheese Factory and bought cheese curds (Irv loves those things). Brought home a Papa Murphy’s pizza and baked it for dinner.
2 September – We drove the Hwy 101 loop along the Oregon Pacific coast, first going to Cape Meares.
Next, we went out a narrow one-way bumpy road to Munson Falls. We felt like we were in the Rain Forest.
Then, on down to the Haystack Rock Beach where we ate lunch (at the Pelican) and watched the surfers. Walked up on top of the sand dune and looked down on the cave that the waves were crashing down into.
This is the first time for 3 of us to visit Oregon. After this trip, Irv will have visited 49 of the 50 states.

31 August (Deception Pass State Park, WA)

31 August – The last day of August and it was a beautiful sunny day! Today, we drove to Deception Pass State Park and watched the sailboats, speed boats, fishing boats and those fishing from the shore. We hiked up to the top (Connie first saw the non-poisonous snake—didn’t matter, it was a snake. Connie doesn’t like snakes!) and walked across the bridge (Ron spotted a seal which appeared to be performing for us).
There were huge trees which you really can’t see the tops looking straight up at them. Does anyone know what they are? We don’t think they are redwoods?
We ate outside at the Shrimp Shack. It was wonderful!
Moving on down past Whidbey Island and Ft. Casey, we stopped to tour the Admiralty Head Lighthouse at Coupeville.
We picked up the ferry at Clinton and came back to Everett. Tomorrow, we head down the Oregon coast.