Alaska, the Last Frontier - Summer 2012 travel blog

After a relaxed six weeks at home, we are ready to head out on another great adventure. The time went fast. We came through routine doctor & dentist appointments with flying colors. We even convinced the friendly folks at our drug insurance company that they can give us six months of medication up front and we won’t OD on drugs for high cholesterol. But the motor home check up was more challenging. We paused at Coach Care in Normal IL on our way home from wintering in the Gulf of Mexico and discovered there was much more to do than the simple oil and filter change we hoped for. We don’t want to have any mechanical issues while we are in Alaska and asked the technicians to check the rig carefully. They discovered a small fuel leak that generated 3” puddles that we would never have discovered parked on gravel or dirt. The repair involved removing the tank and sending it out to be welded by another company. The dashboard A/C also wasn’t working properly so a new compressor was installed. But the coolant still leaked. It took two weeks to locate new fittings for the A/C lines. All in all the motor home took a month long vacation apart from us in Normal. We’re glad to have it home again, ready for loading. But our pockets are feeling a bit empty.

We RV’ed in Alaska before in 1989. That was the year that the Exxon Valdez came aground in Prince William Sound spewing raw crude on the fragile coastal line and generating a frenzy of recriminations and cleaning. We had a tough time finding a spot to camp in some places because they were full of clean up volunteers. And now we are reading that the western coast of Alaska is being buried in piles of Japanese refuse from the tsunami a year ago. Will the clean up volunteers gather once again?

In 1989 we didn’t know quite what to expect from such a remote location and we packed as if we were going to the moon. It literally took us years to consume all the canned chicken we bought for the trip and did not eat. Now we should know from personal experience that we can buy whatever we need to eat along the way. But there’s something about looking at the map and tallying up all the miles that we will drive, that has us in “preparing the bomb shelter” mode once again. We emptied everything out of the motor home, gave it a good cleaning and only put back the things we will use on this trip. The beach toys and umbrellas will be left behind. We also found an amazing number of items we used in previous RV’s and never touched again. Those are in the trash. So now there’s tons of extra room to put extra provisions, just as we did in 1989. We’re telling ourselves that groceries will be much more expensive in the Yukon and Alaska. So much for learning one’s lessons!

Our memories of that first visit to Alaska are still vivid and powerful. Looking at old slides from that trip to see what we had forgotten, made us even more excited. The photos of gas selling for $1.29/gallon gave us a laugh. We know those pictures were taken because those prices were shockingly high. We will be expecting far, far higher this time, although it's gratifying that the alarmed warnings we heard about $5/gallon gas this spring have not come to pass.

We’ve been reading lots of blogs other RV’ers have written as they made this trip and taken notes about places to camp and things to see that we didn’t have time for as we raced back to work in 1989. Hopefully these blogs have given us an accurate impression of the best time to begin (and end) the trip. We’ve read some that began in April and snow was still a concern. We’ll try to see it all before the flurries start again. Even we if we allow four full months for this trip, it’s likely that we will learn about other interesting things to do along the way and still run out of time as we always do. Can’t wait to hit the road!

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