Sunday, September 18, 2016

Alaska Recap, Part I – Expenses

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Before we headed to Alaska, we did as much research as we possibly could to try and prepare ourselves and our vehicles for all that we might encounter. There is no better resource than the experience of those who have gone before us. It takes a lot of time and effort to summarize the many topics of interest for those who follow, but we found these summary blog posts so helpful, we decided early on we would make the time to recap our trip as well. Keep in mind this is OUR experience, yours WILL vary.

This post is organized into two parts, the second is forthcoming and will cover topics such as our travel dates, routes, resources, preparation, etc.

We traveled to Alaska in our 2002 Travel Supreme motorhome, Scoopy. She’s 38’ long with two slides on the driver’s side. Our tow vehicle is a 2013 Chevy Sonic named Toadie Hopper.

GENERAL TRIP STATS
For the purposes of accounting, we consider our trip to have begun and ended in Bellingham, WA. Before leaving Bellingham, we filled our fuel tanks and fridge, and those expenses are included in the line item costs listed below. Conversions from Canadian Dollars to USD have been made and actual costs included in these numbers.

Total Days: 108
Days in Canada: 24
Days in Alaska: 84
Total Miles Traveled: 10,400
Miles in Scoopy: 6,192
Miles in Toadie: 4,208
Total Trip Cost: $11,439.14

That's it in a nutshell. Let's break it down.


FUEL
I know how much money we spent total on diesel, gas and propane, but I can't tell you how many gallons we bought or what the average price was. I do know it was more expensive in Canada, and really expensive if you stopped to refuel at a touristy place. Otherwise, we found gas and diesel in the more populated areas of Alaska to be comparable to prices in Washington state.

Diesel: $2,221.54
Gasoline: $383.57
Propane: $91.98
Total Fuel: $2,701.09

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A typical gas station in Alaska (not really, we came across this one in the little town of Hope)

REPAIRS
Considering some of the roads we traveled over, it's amazing that we didn't incur more expenses in this category, We ended up in only two repair shops during our trip. Toadie required new front brake pads as well as a spendy new computer, which fortunately was covered under warranty. We had the driver's front windshield replaced on Scoopy, but it had been cracked for months before we even began our trip north. We made it worse with some questionable leveling techniques at Muncho Lake, BC. We probably could have made it back to the Lower 48 without having it replaced, but since we were going over the Top of the World Highway, I didn't want to chance having it fall out. :) Insurance covered the replacement and there was no actual cost to us.

TOTAL REPAIRS:  $ 295.75

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The crack in Scoopy’s front windshield steadily got worse while in Alaska.


WHERE WE STAYED
There are plenty of commercial campgrounds throughout Canada and Alaska, but we rarely stayed in them. First, they are really expensive and second, we did not want to have to adhere to a timetable based on campground reservations. We had only one advanced reservation for the Teklanika Campground at Denali National Park.

When we were traveling and mostly just overnighting, we boondocked (Free, no hook-ups) at Visitors Centers, Walmart, Fred Meyer and pullouts beside the road.

Our campgrounds of choice were city parks (Seward Waterfront!!) Alaska State Parks (Deep Creek!!) Provincial Parks in British Columbia (Muncho Lake!!) and Yukon Government Campgrounds in the Yukon (Dawson City!!). These are categorized as Paid Boondocking, as there were no hookups and few services. Some have pit toilets and a water faucet to pump by hand, which instructs you to boil before use. Prices ranged from $10 to $20 per night. All the ones we stayed in were fantastic.

As Elks members, we visited three lodges, Fairbanks, Kenai and Palmer/Wasilla. All offered electric, Kenai also had water at each site. None had an onsite dump station, but there was usually one nearby. Elks Lodges were a fairly economical choice with prices ranging from $13.57 to $18 per night. In Fairbanks and Palmer/Wasilla we paid the weekly rate. Elks Lodges and Rainey Creek, a city park in Stewart, BC make up the Partial Hookups category.

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Our fabulous waterfront campsite at Deep Creek.

Our entire trip was 108 days. Here's the breakdown: 

Free Boondocking - 20 nights: $0.00
Paid Boondocking - 51 nights: $881.20 (Avg. $17.28)
FHU Campgrounds – 14 nights: $482.00 (Avg. $34.43)
Partial Hookups – 23 nights: $364.00 (Avg. $15.83)
Total Campground Expenses: $1,727.20

Our overall average camping cost was $16.00 per night. We were very happy that we were able to keep our camping expenses low by using our solar and, when needed, our generator. Yes, there are costs associated with running the genny, but I didn't keep track of how often we ran it. With the long, long days in Alaska, our batteries were typically at 100 percent very late into the night, so we often went days without using the generator, even with a big residential fridge!

ENTERTAINMENT
There are unlimited opportunities for entertainment in Alaska, particularly of the outdoor variety. We were somewhat selective, but enjoyed two glacier/wildlife cruises, kayaking, river rafting, museums and so on. We didn't go overboard and mostly stayed away from the big tourist traps. We saved a few of the tours and water activities for the week when our son was visiting, so some of our expenses in this category are for three people, not just the two of us. Also, we purchased a Tour Saver booklet which saved us some money. More on the Tour Saver in Part II.

Total Entertainment:  $1,189.98

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We went on a tour of Columbia Glacier while we were staying in Valdez.


FISHING
I think some folks put fishing in their entertainment category and if we did that, well, our entertainment costs would be a lot higher. Thing is, Steven would NEVER consider fishing to be entertainment. He wanted to put it in the "Food" category, but that didn't seem to work either. So I finally created a whole new category for fishing! The total includes our fishing licenses, the day trip out of Deep Creek, tips for the crew and processing & freezing our halibut catch (which we actually got for free due to Steven's lack of enjoyment of our trip...) as well as the salmon we purchased. We came home with 23 lbs. of halibut. and 9 lbs. of salmon. The Tour Saver has several coupons for fishing trips, but we just couldn't make it work for us.

Halibut Fishing: $479.10
Salmon Purchasing: $138.80
TOTAL FISHING: $635.90

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Our halibut catch of the day out of Deep Creek.

GROCERIES/RESTAURANTS/ALCOHOL
This category is a complete budget-killer, our number one expense! Without question food in Alaska is more expensive than in the Lower 48, as is dining out. But one thing I didn't do is separate out expenditures that had nothing to do with food. For example, I went on a mini-shopping spree at Fred Meyer, buying new jammies and a few cute bowls, but I didn't subtract those from the receipts. In other words, almost anything purchased at Walmart or Fred Meyer went into the grocery category. So our expenses here are probably not as high as it seems at first glance, but trust me, they were high enough!

Dining out in restaurants and booze, well, I can't give any excuses for those expenditures, they are what they are! Except, I will say that alcohol is prohibitively expensive in Canada. Like, double or more what we pay in the US. So there's that. :)

Groceries: $2,128.52
Dining Out: $1,290.60
Alcohol: $561.93
TOTAL SPENT: $3,981.05

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The vodka we picked up at Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines.


MISCELLANEOUS
We're not the best bookkeepers when it comes to tracking our expenses, so a few things went into this category just because we didn't know where else to put them. Probably half or more of these expenses have nothing to do with Alaska directly, for example, haircuts, a visit to a Chiropractor, etc. Just life stuff. But the other half pertains to our trip. Bear spray, gifts and souvenirs, yoga mats for Toadie's windshield, etc.

TOTAL MISC.:  $ 908.17


So there you have it. We did have purchases not included here, for example, we both got new computers. Yeah, that wasn't planned at all, but both our laptops were old, so it was time, no matter where we were traveling. Steven bought his at Costco and I got mine at Best Buy. The purchase price was the same in Alaska as in these stores in the Lower 48, but we made sure to buy them in Anchorage, where we paid zero sales tax. That means we actually saved about $170 over buying them in Seattle or even from Amazon. (More money for the booze category!)

FINANCIAL RECAP

FUEL: $2,701.09
REPAIRS: $295.75
CAMPING: $1,727.20
ENTERTAINMENT: $1,189.98
FISHING: $635.90
FOOD/BOOZE: $3,981.05
MISCELLANEOUS: $908.17
GRAND TOTAL: $11,439.14

For two completely different perspectives on expenses, take a look at the blogs of our friends Rambling RV Rat and Jim and Barb’s Adventures. The Rat gang went full tilt staying in commercial campgrounds and kicked it up a notch in the entertainment category with their awesome trip to Dick Proenneke’s “Alone in the Wilderness” cabin. Jim & Barb left their big rig 5th wheel in Salt Lake City and purchased a camper for their truck. They were super nimble and their camping fees show it!

NEXT UP:  Alaska Recap, Part II – The Details

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Great News from the Repair Shop!

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In the last post I talked about our issues with Scoopy's back slide and all that entailed; getting her repaired and road worthy. Carrier RV Service had blocked off a full week, 40 hours, just for the slide work. Since there were other issues on our repair list as well, we knew the whole thing would have Scoopy in the shop for a long while. Luckily, our friends Glenn and Kris live in nearby Portland so we made plans to stay at their place for a few days and see our friends Dan and Sherrie on Whidbey Island. We also made an appointment for Scoopy to have her annual service at Cummins Northwest in Coburg on the Tuesday after Labor Day. We had our fingers crossed that the timing would work out and that we'd be back on the road on Wednesday, 9/7. 

After visiting our son Zac in Bellingham, catching up with our Sammamish friends and spending a couple of nights at the Elks in Kelso, we arrived at Carrier RV in Eugene on Sunday evening, 8/28. We were just in time to spend happy hour with fellow travelers Bill and Diane, who were also at Carrier for some repair work. Traffic around Portland had been a nightmare so we were ready for a refreshing beverage and a catch-up convo. After Scoopy was checked in on Monday morning we loaded up our stuff in Toadie and headed back to the Portland area.

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What better way to pass the time than a good old pedicure!

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We cooked some halibut and salmon for our friends Rich and Emma while in Carnation.

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Some funky power issues and a bad decision to not use our EMS at Tolt-MacDonald RV Park fried our transfer switch and left us without shore power for our three-day stay. 

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Boondocking in the Elks Lodge parking lot in Kelso.

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While in Kelso, Steven managed to lock both keys in Toadie so we had to get someone out to retrieve them!

Less than 48 hours after leaving Scoopy in Eugene, we got the call from Carrier saying she was done! Whaaaa???????????????? What do you mean done? Turns out all the issues with Scoopy's back slide were fixed in one day! Seven hours, to be exact! Everyone at Carrier was as shocked as we were that the slide had sustained NO water damage and did not need to be rebuilt! I guess, in their experience, extensive damage was expected, and therefore they had planned for the worst. That's what they based their estimate of both time and cost to us. But, wow, we got lucky! How awesome is that?

We asked Carrier to go ahead and fix a few more things (including our fried transfer switch) and to also do Scoopy's oil change and generator and chassis service. Then we cancelled her appointment at Cummins Northwest. We could hardly contain our excitement when we were back in Eugene and back in Scoopy on Thursday! So all-in-all, three nights away from home instead of seven or more. By 10 o'clock Friday morning, we were on the road heading for the Teton Valley! Oh, happy days!!

There is one downside to this good news. We did not make our planned trip to Whidbey Island to spend time with dear friends Dan and Sherrie. We did see them in April on our way north, but it’s a favorite stop with two of our favorite people, so cancelling a visit was disappointing.

In the days before getting back on the road, selecting our route to Idaho was a constant conversation. For the most part, I'm fairly decisive about which way to go but sometimes the choices just don't seem that great. We've driven Highway 20 across eastern Oregon before (twice!) and found it to be quite boring. Plus, I wanted to avoid Bend. I know a lot of people love Bend, but I am not really a fan. For me, it's too populated, congested and hot! To avoid it, I was considering driving through Portland and adding 100 miles to our journey traveling on I-84 before coming to my senses. LOL, Portland traffic. No.

We didn't fully commit to a route until departure day, but somehow, our choice felt right. Highway 20 to Sisters, then Highway 126/26 to Prineville, John Day and finally I-84 into Boise and on to the Teton Valley. It was along this route that we settled into five different Elks Lodges in two days. That story next.

Friday, August 26, 2016

What’s Next?

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You may recall a post we made last February where we laid out our plans for 2016. At that time we were still months away from the start of our Alaska trip. In that post I wrote about how RVers like to say plans are made in Jell-O. Yeah, so, there's a reason for that. Let me bring you up-to-date on our wiggly, jiggly travel plans.

In early April, we arrived at Carrier RV Service in Eugene for a day or so of maintenance on Scoopy. Tom, the owner, also did a "We're Going To Alaska" inspection to make sure all systems were a go for our big adventure. It was during that inspection that he discovered a big problem with our back slide. We've had issues with it since our late-December stay in Tucson, but we had no idea it was barely hanging on and needed some serious attention. Still, with a little duct tape here and there, Tom thought we'd be okay on our trip to Alaska, but advised we get it fixed as soon as possible upon our return.

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Scoopy during her service at Carrier back in April 2016.

So that's where we're headed. Eugene. Not, according to our original plans, to the Teton Valley. Sad! Tom needs a week for the slide repair, so we are moving out of Scoopy while the guys at Carrier remove and overhaul her back slide. (Srsly, couldn't we all use a little work back there?)

There is no worse feeling than being completely displaced from your home while it is being repaired. That said, we do get to spend the time with dear friends. We'll say goodbye to Scoopy and head north to Portland and spend a few days with Glenn and Kris before we drive even further northward to Whidbey Island to stay with our friends Dan and Sherrie. Honestly, we are so blessed and grateful to have these people in our lives. And funny, we've seen more of them since we have been fulltiming than we did before! They can't get rid of us!

Another thing we weren't expecting prior to going to Alaska was my trip to the ER in Bellingham. Though peace of mind is "priceless", somehow the hospital and doctors managed to put a hefty price on it anyway. Between the upcoming expensive slide fix and the spendy ER trip, our Alaska budget was blown before we even took off! But you know what they say, "Alaska is a once in a lifetime trip!" And it is, so after lots of consideration we figured out a way to make it work and went to Alaska in spite of the busted budget! (We will write a blog about our Alaska expenses in the not too distant future, btw, so future travelers can get an idea of the expenses of an Alaska trip.)

Also in our 2016 plans was a trip to Ireland and Norway in November/December. Clearly, something had to give, so we reluctantly postponed our Europe trip until we could replenish our travel fund.

There are loads of ways RVers make money to support their travel habit. Our friends Clarke and Elaine have tackled some interesting jobs during their years on the road, so we took a page from their playbook and applied to work at Amazon during Peak Season, otherwise known as CamperForce. I know, sounds exciting, right?

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In four of their fulfillment warehouses around the country, Amazon hires thousands of RVers to work the busy holiday season, starting as early as August for some, through the must-anticipated dismissal date of December 23rd. We applied to the warehouse in Hazlet, TX, which would have been perfect, as it was only 180 miles from my parent's ranch! OMG, how awesome! But Hazlet was fully staffed by the time we applied. So we moved our application to Campbellsville, Kentucky. HIRED! OMG, we're going to Kentucky!! Our start date is October 15, which means we'll be working 10 weeks before we head back to the ranch in Texas.

It's hard work. Not mentally hard work, but physically. We will be on our feet walking miles and miles for four 10-hour days per week. When things get busy, there is mandatory overtime, usually an additional 10-hour day. Then, there is Voluntary Overtime, which is yet another 10-hour day. I'm not sure we're up to working a 60-hour work week, no matter how good the pay, but we'll probably try to do it at least once. In addition, Amazon pays for our campsite. Pretty sweet deal, right? In any case, the end result should be a fairly significant boost to our travel fund. YAY! I hope it all works out as planned, because in anticipation of that budget boost, we booked our tickets to Ireland for January 25-February 25, 2017! We ditched Norway to stay longer in Ireland and I am looking forward to seeing Steven's family - it's been a long time.

As soon as Scoopy is ready, we will head out to the Teton Valley. We won't get to spend as much time there as we wanted, but at least we will get there. On October 1st, we will begin our trek to Campbellsville in anticipation of our start at Amazon. Once released by December 23rd, we will make a beeline back to the ranch in west Texas, where my family and one or more of our kids will be waiting to celebrate Christmas.

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Eugene to Campbellsville to Live Oak Ranch.

Then, we chill for an entire month before taking off to Europe. Upon our return, the travels begin anew. Keeping in mind the whole Jell-O thing, 2017 should find us heading east. Clarke and Elaine will be waiting for us in Florida, and maybe Michael and Lizzy will be there, too. Together we will meander up the east coast and see what trouble we can get into. We are soooooo looking forward to our travels, even if the route changes again and again. We love this life!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Detour from the Cassiar to Stewart/Hyder

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When we left our boondocking spot at Lower Gnat lake, we were headed for the Meziadin Lake Provincial Park. This, we thought, would be our return trip-equivalent of Muncho Lake, where we spent four beautiful days on our trip north in May. It was a place we could slow down, rest and enjoy the gorgeous views. Lake Meziadin would also be our basecamp for visiting Bear Glacier, Stewart, Hyder and the Salmon Glacier.

But as we drove ever closer, I began to have second thoughts. We had anticipated multiple trips into Stewart/Hyder, but after three long days of driving, the reality of a 120 km round-trip drive each time started to set in and it didn't sound at all relaxing! When I mentioned to Steven that I thought we would enjoy the area more if we were staying closer, he agreed! That's when I mentioned how great it would be to have FHUs. (You're on to my game now, right?) We'd been boondocking for quite a few days and I was more than ready. And he agreed! Yipee!

But then we did a little research. Sure, having full hook-ups close to all the sites is a fantastic idea, until you consider the price for what you actually get. Ugh. I've mentioned before how averse we've become to paying exorbitant prices for camping spots. The more we boondock, the less inclined we are to fork over the money for something mediocre. And that's pretty much what we found in Stewart and Hyder.

Plan B was a Stewart city park, the Rainey Creek Campground. It was reasonably priced, but it offered only electric. No water, no sewer. The other issue with this little place is that it is located in a primordial forest, right in town! So while it was a great location for sightseeing in Stewart & Hyder, nothing depresses me more than being in a campground so dark and damp that I need lights on in the daytime. Double ugh.

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Our primordial campsite at Rainey Creek. It was fairly sketchy getting in there, too.

Sometimes you just have to give in and let go and that's what I did. I found what I thought was the sunniest spot in all of Rainey Creek Campground and by sunny I mean dark and depressing. But never mind that, we had glaciers and bears and a ton of quirky stuff to see. Then we had two days of rain. Have y'all ever seen the movie Insomnia with Al Pacino? It was partially filmed in Stewart/Hyder and Pacino's character went crazy here. So, yeah.

In spite of all that, we really did enjoy visiting the area. The drive from the Cassiar Highway to the small communities of Stewart, B.C and Hyder, AK is among the prettiest we'd seen all summer. The scenery is reminiscent of that on the way from Glennallen to Valdez, towering, lush mountains with multiple waterfalls spilling hundreds of feet over the edge. And then we saw Bear Glacier. Wow!

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Bear Glacier, the first of the epic views on Highway 37A to Stewart.

From all that I had read about Stewart and Hyder, they were described as dying little communities. I totally disagree. We rolled into Stewart to find well cared-for homes with lush, green lawns, beautiful flowers, clean streets, friendly folks and all the amenities one might need while visiting. Hyder is a little more on the dilapidated side, but their population has grown to include enough kids that the high school reopened. Prior to this, the kids went to school in Stewart.

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Early morning fog in Stewart.

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Downtown Stewart

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Did we mention that Hyder has a distinctly Twin Peaks vibe?

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The border crossing between Hyder (the friendliest ghost town in Alaska) and Stewart, BC.

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Hyder’s post office! How cute is this place?

It's an odd arrangement with these two towns, one being in Canada, the other in Alaska. There is no border check going into Alaska (Hyder), but passports are required to re-enter Canada (Stewart). Recently, The New York Times wrote a fun article about these two communities and it is well-worth a read.

Aside from the general quirkiness of the two communities, most people come here for two reasons: bears and glaciers. More specifically, Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site and the Salmon Glacier. I think people come to Fish Creek expecting to see the quintessential Alaskan scene with bears standing their ground in the middle of the rushing creek, swiping at the feisty salmon as they make their way upstream to spawn. No, this isn't like that. You're likely to see a bear if you have loads of patience and are prepared to sit around at the crack of dawn or late evening and wait, maybe for hours. Personally, I think it's the same three or four bears that show up on occasion, as the regulars out on the boardwalk have names for them all. For my money, you have a better chance of seeing a bear while driving there than at the site. That said, if you've never seen a creek full of spawning, dead and dying salmon, it's worth the trip just to see that spectacle.

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Watching for bears early one morning (spoiler: we didn’t see any).

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When there are no bears to be seen, there’s always a beautiful landscape…(as seen from the creek).

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More morning gorgeousness at Fish Creek…

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Dead and dying salmon along Fish Creek.

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Although relatively consistent, actual bear sightings require a big commitment and lots of patience.

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Rules are pretty strict about staying within fenced-off areas for obvious reasons.

And you might as well stop there, because it's on the way to the Salmon Glacier, which is quite frankly the most spectacular glacier we saw during our entire trip. It is one of the few glaciers you can drive right up to, get out of your car and see it spread out before you in all it's magnificent glory. Simply stunning!

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The first day we attempted to see Salmon Glacier was a no-go. We had zero visibility.

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Even though we didn’t get to see the glacier on that day, the scenery was beautiful, nonetheless.

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Steven went on a solo visit to the glacier on the first clear day.

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We both went on the last day to get our new banner shot. Here we are waiting for the rising sun to light us up!

There is one more "must-do" stop in Hyder and that is The Bus, a fabulous little eatery run by Diana and her family. We sat outside with a couple from Germany and enjoyed their company and a glass of wine while waiting for our halibut fish & chips. If you've come this far and have somehow not managed to fill your freezer with freshly caught halibut, Diana sells what her husband catches (and that she doesn't use at The Bus) filleted, cryo-packed and frozen for a mere $18 per pound (as of this writing). That, my friends, is a hell of a deal!

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The Bus in Hyder. Well worth a visit!

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We had a fun time chatting with Diana, the owner.

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The food was delicious!

We spent four days in Stewart/Hyder waiting out the rain so we could see the Salmon Glacier. But if the weather is cooperating, I'd say you can do it all in three. So even though I really did enjoy myself, when Departure Day rolled around I was more than ready to hit the road!

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Nanaimo bars, Linda’s favorite! We found a pretty good batch at the local grocery store in Stewart.

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We must’ve dragged in some little biting gnats while at Rainey Creek. Linda got over 60 bites!

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We thought we would avoid any damage to our rig but not so. Just outside Prince George a little red corvette flew by us and kicked up a rock. We thought it would be an easy fix, but sadly, it is not even fixable. Drat!

We knew at this point our inner lemmings had taken over, that is, go until we fall off a cliff or reach Bellingham, whichever comes first. While plans called for a slow meander back to the border, we knew in our hearts we were about to make a beeline for Washington, and that's exactly what we did. After a quick overnight in the Safeway parking lot in Smithers, and another at the Williams Lake Visitor's Center, we crossed back into the U.S. with no problems and enjoyed dinner with Zac that evening in Bellingham. It was great to be home!

NEXT UP: Fall plans!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Cassiar Highway

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The title of this post is somewhat misleading. Rolling out of Dawson City, we still had many miles to cover before we would reach the Cassiar Highway, 601 miles to be exact. Our plan was to do one overnight on the way to Whitehorse and then spend a couple of days exploring there before moving on to the Cassiar. It didn't work out that way at all, to our surprise.

As we drove south, the small communities where we had considered overnighting just weren't all that appealing. We kept going until we finally reached a small Yukon Government campground at Twin Lakes, a couple of hours north of Whitehorse and seemingly out in the boonies. What a great little place! It has a total of 19 spaces, a few of which have views of the lake. Those spots were taken when we arrived, so we took a nice long and level spot facing the opposite direction. We had no neighbors and it was so peaceful, we decided to stay for two nights. The next morning everyone left and we could have moved to a lakefront spot, but we were happy where we were so we stayed put.

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Two views of our little hideaway at Twin Lakes Campground.

After two days in the boonies, we arrived at Walmart in Whitehorse to find a chaotic parking lot that was nearly impossible to navigate. We got in okay, but several times trucks or RVs would park in such a way that we would get blocked in. I had read about how busy it was, but I guess it just didn't register. The energy of the place was not very enjoyable, so we decided to get our stuff done and get out while we still could! We were there fairly early in the day, so I can only imagine that, as the day wore on, it would only get busier. We spent the next couple of hours grocery shopping (at the Canadian Superstore just a few of blocks away, which is awesome!) and running some errands, then came back home to Scoopy in the Walmart parking lot, ate lunch, took showers and bugged out!

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Eh, no thanks. The busy Walmart parking lot was not an option to stay overnight.

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Speaking of Walmart… I swear the GPS said “Turn Right!!!” Ooops!

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We saw a group of people on a bridge with cameras and discovered this Caribou was causing all the fuss!

A couple of hours later we were set up in yet another Yukon Government campground just outside Teslin. You cannot beat Yukon Government campgrounds. They are so well-kept and clean, offer free firewood and cost a whopping $12 CAN ($9.60 US) per night. There are no hookups, of course, but there is usually a beautiful lake or river nearby, so they offer great views. Most do have water you can pump by hand, but you are advised to boil it before use. We didn't avail of the water, but it's there if you need it. All in all, we have stayed at four of these campgrounds and enjoyed every single one!

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Campsite at Teslin Lake Campground. Teslin Lake is just through those trees.

The next morning we drove the final leg of the Alaska Highway to the turnoff where the Cassiar Highway begins, just outside Watson Lake. Within minutes, we were back in British Columbia! Goodbye, Yukon!

We had a long day of driving about 335 miles in nine hours. I guess we could have stopped sooner, but honestly, there wasn't much to stop for, or much to see. It was raining at times and while there were some terrific sections of highway (and I use that term VERY loosely), there were also several long sections of gravel breaks and construction. It was tedious and not a very enjoyable day of driving overall.

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Despite the inconsistency of the Cassiar Highway, it still had much to offer in the way of natural beauty.

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Hints of fall colors.

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This stretch of the highway was newly resurfaced due to two fairly recent fires and smooth as butter.

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We had to deal with a couple of waits in construction zones. Those electrical towers stretch nearly the whole way.

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Here’s the thing, you just get a nice speed going and, all of a sudden, you gotta slow down again…Argh!

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More beautiful colors along the drive!

When we did finally stop for the night, we chose one of the more gorgeous places we've ever stayed, a pullout overlooking the Lower Gnat Lake. Wow, it was so pretty! But (you knew that was coming, right?) the pullout was next to the highway, right on a curve and it was tiny. We were facing opposing traffic, and when they came toward us, it looked like they were going to drive right into our living room! But that view . . . we stuck it out for the view. I actually slept pretty well, but Steven, not so much. We were up and back on the road at 7:30 the next morning.

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Our fabulous boondocking stop at Lower Gnat Lake on the Cassiar Highway.

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Poor Toadie Hopper got an involuntary mud bath! She’s wearing her yoga mats over her windshield!

It was a three-black bear day! I love British Columbia. It is such a gorgeous place, and when it comes to black bears, it reigns supreme. I don't think we even saw a bear in the Yukon, and only saw one in all of Alaska (with the exception of Denali NP). But in BC, we've seen 15! If you want to see bears, come to British Columbia, they are right on the roads practically waving at you!

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BC Black bears!!

We still have a bit of the Cassiar to go, but I have to be honest and tell you, I am not impressed. I supposed as a "Bucket List" item it's good to get it checked off but, if not for visiting Stewart/Hyder and all the offerings there, I can't see any reason why we would take this route again. For me, the Cassiar has much less to offer than the Alaska Highway and the road certainly not a better one. And, while it may be a shorter route, it isn't a quicker one. Fuel is also less available and more expensive than on the Alcan. So, yeah. It has been my least favorite part of our otherwise epic trip.

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Bear Glacier - a sneak peak at some of the amazing landscape in Stewart and Hyder.

NEXT UP: Steward/Hyder - Back to Alaska!