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.
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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.

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