July 16, 2024

RV ALASKA - High Spirits (and Expectations!) on the Way to Valdez

I can’t say that I was sorry to see the K’seugi Ken Campground in Denali State Park in our rearview mirror.  Maybe with a different set of circumstances and different weather patterns our visit would have been more enjoyable. It was with no small amount of anticipation for a better experience in Valdez that we packed up and headed south on the Parks Highway.

Valdez was always a possibility in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t a line item on our itinerary.  Other destinations in Alaska held a higher priority, but we were hoping to squeeze in some time in this port city at some point during our weeks in Alaska.  In retrospect, swapping several days in Valdez for our now useless reservations in Denali National Park turned out to be an excellent idea; Valdez was the salve that healed our wounds.

July 12, 2024

RV ALASKA - Holiday Weekend Plans Toasted by the Riley Wildfire

The only reservations I had made for our entire multi-week stay in Alaska were three nights at the K’seugi Ken Campground in Denali State Park followed by four nights at the Riley Creek Campground in Denali National Park.  Those reservations guaranteed us a place to call home over the Fourth of July holiday and the weekend that followed.  The plan was to arrive at Denali State Park on July 3rd, then travel north a few days later to Denali National Park.  Beyond that, we planned a run south to the Kenai Peninsula.  All good, right?  No, not good.  Not good at all.

July 09, 2024

RV ALASKA - Traveling Highways in Alaska Leads to a Gem in Palmer

At 586,000 square miles of land, Alaska is, by far, the largest state in the union.  It’s more than twice the size of Texas, and larger than the next three biggest states combined (Texas, California and Montana).  Texas has 314,000 miles of public roads; Alaska has less than 18,000.  It doesn’t take long to become familiar with the major highways in Alaska simply because there aren’t that many of them.

July 07, 2024

RV ALASKA - Winner! Winner! "Chicken" Dinner!

There are fewer than 1,400 people living in Tok, Alaska, but there are seven private RV parks in town and several state recreation sites with campgrounds outside of it.  Tok is the first town you’ll find along the Alaska Highway after clearing Customs and entering the state of Alaska.  For many Rvers, Tok is just a quick one night stop on the way to the state’s more famous attractions.  Alan and I planned to stay two nights, then move on to Fairbanks to reprovision and catch up on laundry.  It was just after we arrived in Tok that the McDonald fire, burning just south of Fairbanks, became the second wildfire to derail our travel plans.

July 05, 2024

RV ALASKA - Battling Frost Heaves on the Alaska Highway

When planning our route to Alaksa, I had discounted the Top of the World Highway – even though I would have loved to visit Dawson City, Yukon, with its fascinating Gold Rush history.  I had read that the Highway wasn’t in the best of condition, and Alan and I were both concerned about damage to the truck and trailer.  Having already had two windshields replaced back home within the past year, we weren’t too anxious to go through that again.  Comments made by our friend, Bernie, convinced us to give the Top of the World a go.  He thought the road wasn’t that bad and better than some.  I shook off my reservations, and we decided we’d head north from Whitehorse on the Klondike Highway, travel through Dawson City and follow the Top of the World Highway on to Tok, Alaska.  If we did that on the way out, we could take the Alaska Highway on the way back, allowing us to cover new and different territory.  On the morning of our departure from Whitehorse, news that a wildfire burning to the north had closed the North Klondike Highway between Pelly and Stewart Crossing stopped us in our tracks.  The fire had effectively blocked our way to Dawson City.

July 03, 2024

RV ALASKA - The S.S. Klondike National Historic Site (& Other Adventures in Whitehorse, YT)

Alan and I had been steadily on the move, covering the distance from Jasper, Alberta, to Watson Lake, Yukon, over the course of three days.  We usually try to drive no more than two full days before taking an R&R day, but traffic was light and we had been unusually lucky in finding three campsites in a row that didn’t require us to unhitch.  Not that unhitching is difficult, but not having to do it saves a little bit of time and makes for a quick and easy getaway in the morning.  We had been looking ahead to a two-night layover in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, that would allow us a break from the road, time to reprovision and the opportunity to visit the S.S. Klondike – one of the last remaining steam-powered paddle wheelers that transported goods and passengers up and down the Yukon River between the 1860’s and 1950.  The Klondike exceeded our expectations by a longshot.

July 01, 2024

RV ALASKA - Watson Lake's World Famous Sign Post Forest

Alan and I spent a full day traveling from Summit Lake in British Columbia to the town of Watson Lake in southern Yukon Territory.  We had been anticipating our stop at the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake since the beginning of the trip.  Since 1942, people from all over the world have been posting a sign to signify their passing through this small town.  Names, streets, towns, states, countries, special occasions and even memorials - all of these and more have been commemorated in the Sign Post Forest.  Of course, we had to add our own.

June 29, 2024

RV ALASKA - Mile 0 - We Made It to the Alaska Highway!

I am officially out of my comfort zone.  Our stay at Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park marked the last place we had reservations anywhere until we reach Denali State Park in Alaska.  For an overly zealous planner like me, this situation is causing an undue amount of stress.

Alan and I had made a conscious decision to keep our calendar as wide open as possible for the weeks we would be spending in Canada and Alaska.  (Our friend Bernie would be proud of us.)  That would allow plenty of flexibility in our itinerary so that we could stay a bit longer in any town or campground that caught and held our attention.  Despite the angst, I do still think that was the right choice for this kind of trip, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  And for the record, I don’t.

June 26, 2024

RV ALASKA - Yeah, We're Lovin' Jasper!

The weather continues to be “iffy” with big dark clouds appearing daily in the late afternoon, often accompanied by intermittent showers here in Jasper.  We’re still making the most of every day – we just toss our rain jackets in the truck and go on with our plans.  My efforts to not fall behind in posts are failing, so this one will cover everything we did during the four days we were in Jasper.

On one of the four days, we took a leisurely drive down Maligne Lake Road to see the lake.  On another, we retraced our steps along the Icefields Parkway as far as Peyto Lake (which was the first stop we missed).  The remaining two days were spent exploring the town of Jasper, bicycling around the campground and catching up on camp and household chores.  We really had a great time in Jasper, and I’d go back there in a heartbeat.

June 21, 2024

RV ALASKA - Traveling the Icefields Parkway

The first thing Alan and I did on the morning of our departure from the Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court in Banff was peek out the window as soon as we woke up.  Ah, no snow on the ground.  What a relief!  Once we were on the road, we did take note of the gray and gloomy skies ahead.

In the “Road Trips” section in the Summer 2024 issue of “Where: Canadian Rockies,” the tourist guide describes the Icefields Parkway like this: “Touted as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, this 230 km/143 mile route between Lake Louise and Jasper traces the Continental Divide.  See glaciers, rugged peaks and frequent wildlife.”  “Frequent” wildlife was not our experience – “entertaining” wildlife was.  But Alan and I agreed the Icefields Parkway was the most spectacular road we’ve ever driven during our entire relationship spanning nearly five decades.  We hadn’t even reached Jasper before we had vowed to make the drive again.

June 19, 2024

RV ALASKA - Touring Yoho, Glacier, Mt. Revelstoke and Kootenay National Parks

Aside from the nine elk dining outside our window, we had yet to see any of the other wildlife for which this area of Canada is known.  Disappointed, yes, but that didn’t deter us from keeping an eye out anywhere and everywhere we went.  Our luck was about to change.

June 17, 2024

RV ALASKA - Lake Louise & Moraine Lake (Banff National Park)

As we transition into sightseeing mode, I’ll take a moment to set the stage for this great adventure.  Alan and I are traveling in a 2024 GMC Sierra 2500HD 4x4 pickup truck and towing a 2017 32’ Outdoors RV Creek Side travel trailer, affectionately known as “The Lodge.”   We left our kayaks at home, but brought our bikes – two Diamondback hybrids that work well on pavement and adequately on dirt or gravel trails.  We lock ‘em up everywhere we go because we love them and don’t want to lose them.  We’re also traveling with a small Honda EU2000i generator, a bunch of tools, two spare trailer tires, one spare truck tire, 10 extra gallons of gas, a marine radio with weather alerts and, believe it or not, a porta-potty for day-long expeditions in the outback.  Combine camping with boating (or boating with camping, depending on your perspective) and you come up with the oddest selection of gear.

June 15, 2024

RV ALASKA - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

After Alan and I left the Bonner County Fairgrounds in Sandpoint, Idaho, and were heading north toward the Canadian border, we agreed that we finally felt like the RV ALASKA trip had begun.  Although we had been on the road for just over three weeks, our days had been full of camping with family and friends and dealing with routine chores and the infamous truck/trailer issue.   With all of the angst behind us, our spirits were lighter and our sense of adventure had rejoined the trip.

June 13, 2024

RV ALASKA - #%&*! - Or How We Spent National Go RVing Day

We came to La Grande, Oregon, to have our trailer brakes and bearings replaced by an RV repair shop in town, run by a couple of guys with long histories in the RV industry.  Just routine maintenance – or so we thought.  After all, this travel trailer has over 40,000 miles on it.  While we were in La Grande, we were trying to resolve the “check trailer wiring” and “service trailer brake system” messages we were getting on the new truck.  Luckily, the GMC dealer in Baker City squeezed us in to take a look.  They said it was the plug where the trailer connects to the truck, but they didn’t have one in stock.  They were kind enough to call around for us, and found a shop along our route in Spokane, Washington, that had the plug and said they would be able to fit us in on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m.  With a four-hour drive and at least one gas stop ahead of us, we left La Grande a little after 6:00 a.m. on Saturday.  Until that day, the alerts we had been getting were intermittent, and the trailer brakes always came back on.  Not so on Saturday.  We had no trouble at all during the entire drive to Spokane, and we believed that replacing the trailer brakes had fixed a problem we didn’t realize we had.  But when we were about a mile from the dealership, our trailer brakes went out completely – and didn’t come back.

June 09, 2024

RV ALASKA - Life on the Road Ain't Always Glamorous

Traveling by RV is often romanticized in movies, books and, of course, on social media.  Every new day is full of adventure and perfection.  Well, in real life, that’s not always true.  As Alan likes to say, “No bad days,” but that’s more about our attitude toward the day and less about what the day, itself, contains.

June 07, 2024

RV ALASKA - Severe Stress Over Severe Weather

There’s a reason we don’t usually travel through the Midwest during the spring and early summer.  It looks like this:

We often pack our handheld marine radio on our travels for access to NOAA weather radio alerts.  Crossing the Midwest at this time of year made the radio more of a necessity than a luxury.  When we left Shady Creek Recreation Area in Iowa, Alan and I were planning to spend one night at the Buffalo Country Fairgrounds in Kearney, Nebraska, and the next at Cabela’s campground in Sidney, also in Nebraska.  After checking the weather forecast on the morning of our departure from Shady Creek, we realized we might need a Plan B.

June 04, 2024

RV ALASKA - Working Our Way West, One Mile at a Time

Life on the road.  I don’t want to say that you love it or hate it.  I think it’s more that you take to it – or you don’t.  Alan and I must be kindred spirits; we’ve been roadtripping together forever.  There’s a certain rhythm to life on the road, with responsibilities and routines falling into place.  Because we don’t camp at all from late fall until spring, the first outing of the year always involves a little bit of discombobulation – for me, anyway.  Inevitably, I make rookie mistakes – turning the water heater on LP gas when we’re plugged into electric.  Failing to get the black tank chemicals and two gallons of water we add to it after we dump prepped before we need them – nothing serious, just annoying.  Then, we fall into the rhythm of the road, and all is well.  I love life on the road.

June 02, 2024

RV ALASKA - The Journey Begins!

Our family camped at Northampton Beach Campground on Great Lake Sacandaga for the first time in the summer of 2009, and we immediately fell in love with “the lake.”  Located on a beautiful piece of property in the foothills of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, the state-run park also offers a boat launch and a day use area with a beach and picnic tables. This year would mark our 16th year of family vacations there, and we didn’t want to break our consecutive streak.  So, even before knowing our exact travel dates for Alaska, we booked two waterfront sites at the lake for opening weekend in mid-May through Memorial Day.

May 31, 2024

RV ALASKA - North to Alaska - Finally!

Five years ago, in celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary, Alan and I planned a trip to Alaska, just the two of us.  Our airline, car rental and hotel reservations for a week were in place, plus we had booked a sweet little balcony cabin on a cruise ship for a one-week trip down the Inside Passage.  Then, we had to cancel for business-related reasons.  SO disappointing!  COVID followed, and we ended up canceling an extended trip to the Oregon coast, too, leaving our travel calendar in even worse shape.  Here we are, five years later, with the 49th state back on the schedule and our 45th anniversary just ahead.

May 15, 2024

Back to the Coast after a Disappointing Visit to Crater Lake National Park (National Parks Trip #3)

This post represents another installment in the series documenting our West Coast National Parks trip in the summer of 2017.  Alan and I, along with our 18 year old daughter, Kyra, logged a total of 8,513 memorable miles of adventure over the course of five and a half weeks during the months of July and August.

Whenever we visit a National Park, our preference is to camp within the park itself – assuming there’s a campground that will accommodate our 32’ travel trailer.  On this trip, though, we had planned a one day visit to Crater Lake, and it seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth to haul the trailer all the way east to the National Park for just two nights.  So, I decided to look for a campground west of Crater Lake, trading a longer drive on the actual day of our visit for a shorter one during which we’d be towing the trailer.  It wasn’t ideal but, as with any trip of this magnitude, concessions were inevitable.  As it turned out, this particular concession proved to be beneficial.

May 05, 2024

A Day Full of Alliteration - Bandon, Bakery & Bullards Beach! (National Parks Trip #3)

This post represents another installment in the series documenting our West Coast National Parks trip in the summer of 2017.  Alan and I, along with our 18 year old daughter, Kyra, logged a total of 8,513 memorable miles of adventure over the course of five and a half weeks during the months of July and August.

The next stop on our West Coast National Parks trip was Crater Lake National Park.  Our destination on this Day #22 was Griffin Park, a county park about 14 miles west of Grants Pass, Oregon, that would be our base camp for a visit to Crater Lake.  Trip planning for this expedition was like working a jigsaw puzzle.  There were quite a few irregularly shaped pieces that needed to be fit together to successfully complete the picture.  From Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park campground, it was a straight shot to Grants Pass which was about an hour and a half to the northeast.  But we had no intention of missing anything along the Oregon coast that had made the trip’s bucket list.  So, back to Highway 101 it was for another jaunt up the coast on a circuitous route that would, eventually, deposit us at the campground in Griffin Park.

April 15, 2024

Falling in Love with the Oregon Coast (National Parks Trip #3)

This post represents another installment in the series documenting our West Coast National Parks trip in the summer of 2017.  Alan and I, along with our 18 year old daughter, Kyra, logged a total of 8,513 memorable miles of adventure over the course of five and a half weeks during the months of July and August.

Day #21 of our expedition dawned clear and sunny.  Alan, Kyra and I were looking forward to crossing into Oregon and exploring along the coast.  We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather.  Looking back on our photos of the trip, I realized that we were extremely fortunate weather-wise.  With a tight schedule to keep, we wouldn’t have let bad weather derail our plans; still, it was such a pleasure to be out and about on so many gorgeous days.

Before we headed up the coast for the day, we had planned on a short and easy hike over to Stout Grove – accessible directly from our campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  Kyra decided to sleep in and skip the hike.  Whether she was well and truly tired or simply needing a break from being with her parents 24/7, we’ll never know.  You can’t always tell what lurks in the minds of teenagers.   On to Stout Grove!

April 05, 2024

I Digress: Another Rant About Customer Service

I just couldn’t contain myself, so I’m jumping up on my customer service soapbox.  Please note that I am not receiving compensation of any kind from the companies mentioned favorably below; I’m simply sharing my opinions and observations.  The photos accompanying this post were taken at the Missouri Route 66 Welcome Center Rest Area located at milepost 111 (eastbound and westbound) on Interstate 44 in Conway, Missouri.  The picnic table shelters are all miniature versions of Route 66 buildings, and they are ADORABLE!  In case you’re interested, we enjoyed our picnic lunch in the Texaco gas station.

Customer service has been a frequent topic “around the campfire” here lately.  Regular readers might remember that Alan and I are sticklers for good customer service.  Over the course of the past several weeks, we’ve had an exceptional run of bad customer service experiences, mitigated by a couple of shining stars.  It boggles our minds that management at so many companies does not stress the importance of good customer service with their staff.  Alan and I are favoring two main reasons for this inattentiveness to customer service and satisfaction.

March 12, 2024

Adventures in Redwood National and State Parks (National Parks Trip #3)

This post represents another installment in the series documenting our West Coast National Parks trip in the summer of 2017.  Alan and I, along with our 18 year old daughter, Kyra, logged a total of 8,513 memorable miles of adventure over the course of five and a half weeks during the months of July and August.

As I’ve noted in the past, this National Parks trip was intended to be a “sampler” trip – as were our two previous cross-country National Parks trips.  When vacations were constrained by work and school schedules, we squeezed as much sightseeing and as many experiences into our travels as possible.  The theory was that when we stumbled on a place we really enjoyed, we could always return in the future.  Our schedule allowed just two days to explore Redwood National and State Parks and the coast of southern Oregon, so we planned to pack those two days with as much adventure as we could.

February 25, 2024

A Whirlwind Tour of San Francisco (National Parks Trip #3)

Jump aboard for a little bit of time and space travel from our New England adventures of 2023 back to 2017 and the National Parks of the West Coast.  This post marks a return to the series documenting our West Coast National Parks trip in the summer of 2017.  Alan and I, along with our 18 year old daughter, Kyra, logged a total of 8,513 memorable miles of adventure over the course of five and a half weeks during the months of July and August.  Although we had a brand new Outdoors RV travel trailer at home, we had decided to take our older Jayco on this trip because it had bunk space for Kyra.  That would preclude having to make up the bed in the ORV every night we were on the road.  Plus, with our son, Ryan, having aged out of traveling with us, his empty bunk provided a bit more space for Kyra’s clothes and gear on this extended trip.  Truth be told, this mama’s heart would have been much happier if it had been Ryan in that bunk instead of extra camping paraphernalia.  I absolutely loved traveling with our kids, and I still miss having them along.

The last time I posted about our third cross-country National Parks trip, the three of us had just finished up a three-night stay at Yosemite National Park.  From there, it was a quick (really quick!) one-day tour of San Francisco and Point Reyes National Seashore, then on to Redwood National and State Park in northern California.  Let’s pick up the story on the morning we left the Hodgdon Meadow Campground in Yosemite and headed for Lake Solano County Park in Winters, California.  This would be Day #17 in the five and a half week trip. 

February 10, 2024

The "Lunch in Maine" Trip - Five Stars for Five Islands Lobster Company!

When Alan and I spent a week in Maine last May, my only major disappointment was arriving at Five Islands Lobster Company in Georgetown to find it closed.  We stopped by on a Friday afternoon and the quintessential lobster shack wasn’t open on weekdays until June.  Unfortunately, we were heading back home early the next morning.  I was so dejected that Alan immediately starting working on making it right, and we returned to Maine “for lunch” on a long weekend that just so happened to include my birthday.  Was our Five Islands experience worth the return trip?  Come along and find out . . .

January 15, 2024

Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport Museum – An Extraordinary Lesson in Maritime History

The final stop on our Little States trip of June 2023 was Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Connecticut.  Alan and I had been looking forward to fitting in a camping expedition to this park since we had discovered it a year or two ago while in Connecticut on personal business.  The park is located directly on Long Island Sound and the campground is huge and well-maintained.  There were a lot of things we liked about Hammonasset Beach – and one thing we didn’t.