Alaska, the Last Frontier - Summer 2012 travel blog


As the Yellowhead Highway took us east through British Columbia, the scenery changed from mountains, lakes, and forest to mountains, lakes and farms. Although there were still “watch for moose” signs on the road, when we saw big, brown animals, they were cows. Gold miners came through this area, but these days logging is the biggest industry. We passed through a number of quaint, small towns that looked like most small towns in the lower 48, rather than that scruffy “end of the road” look that was typical of the Yukon.

Prince George was the spot where we finally parted ways with friends Geoff and Ellyn, who have share our adventures in the Last Frontier all summer. They are headed south to Seattle and decent internet connections with their cell phones, while we still have lots of east in Canada to go. We’ve never traveled so far and so long with another couple and it feels like they have been part of our lives forever. With our two nearly identical motor homes, we attracted lots of attention as we moved down the road. Traveling this way gave us great flexibility. When our interests matched, we did things together; when they didn’t, we could do our own thing. It will feel weird to only have each other to talk to the next few weeks until we get home. Happy travels, Geoff and Ellyn!

Although it’s easy to figure out the best route home, that decision will be complicated by all the repairs we need to make. None of them were caused by the drive to Alaska per se. But when you are driving around with an eight year old house, things go wrong. At home it’s usually easy to find a repairman, when we can’t take care of things ourselves. But experience has taught us that many RV repair places don’t have the specialized knowledge required to fix our problems. It often makes more sense to return to the manufacturer and we are lucky to live near Elkhart IN where many RV’s are made, but we have a series of repairs that can’t be handled there. So we are planning the route home with an eye to what needs fixing and where that can be done.

#1. The shades over the front windows that function as visors started moving in opposite directions. If Ken can see out of the drivers’ window, my shade is down. We phoned the manufacturer in Texas and he talked us through resetting the electronics. So now, the shades work. No side trip to Texas.

#2. Ken’s phone has not worked as a phone since we got to Alaska. Theoretically, it can be reactivated whenever we get to a Verizon network. I’ll keep an eye on my phone as we drive to see where that issue can be resolved.

#3. When the satellite dish searches for satellites, it moves in a X,Y and Z direction. The motor for one of these directions stopped working. Every time we relocate, Ken climbs on the roof and does the final axis aiming by hand. The satellite dish is best repaired in Salt Lake City. It’s not exactly on the way home, but it could be on the route. Ken took the control mechanism apart and determined that he could order a new motor and install it himself. Should we order it to be delivered on our route or wait til we get home and keep doing the manual aim? To be determined, but now Salt Lake is off the itinerary.

#4. Early in the trip the washer/dryer stopped drying. The motor home had a perpetually festive look as wet laundry hung from every available hook. Now the washer has died as well. Should we get it repaired? The manufacturer is in Clackamus, Oregon, wherever that is. Not on the route at all. Does anyone else know how to repair them? No one we could find. It’s eight years old and never worked well. Perhaps it’s time for a new one. We can get a “deal” at Camping World with installation. On the route: Council Bluffs IA. A probable stop.

#5. Mid way through the trip, the jacks stopped working. We need them to keep us level in unlevel campsites. They also prevent us from rocking and rolling as we walk around inside. This seems trivial, but the frig works more efficiently when it is level and the satellite dish assumes we are level when it searches for a connection. We’ve had trouble with these jacks before. The repair people don’t know exactly what to do and have to keep phoning the manufacturer, who never calls them back. We were treated the same way when we called for help. And then you have to wait for parts. The jack manufacturer is located in Moscow IA, a god forsaken little burg that can easily be on the route home. That’s a for sure.

The line between when we’re on vacation and when we’re not is often a blurry one since we travel for such long periods of time. But the needle on the meter is moving in the “not on vacation” direction.

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