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Old 05-27-2013, 08:23 PM   #1
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Alaska in a Nissan SMB

Hi everyone, We are 3 weeks into our trip of undermined time/distance through northwestern Canada and Alaska. Right now we are in Seward Municipal Park, AK, having spent the day waiting for the rain and clouds to give way to sun so we can see the calving glaciers. People in Canada and Alaska have told us spring was delayed 3 weeks, and they have never seen the lakes and rivers still frozen this late. We found a lot of government campgrounds were not opened/plowed and many privately campgrounds were permanently closed and for sale. For those who camp wherever they can, there was deep snow or standing water and mud over frozen ground. We always found a place to stay, no matter how primitive or questionable the circumstances. We were comfortable in our NV.
Our NV has averaged 17.96 mpg over 4,631 miles. When the speed limit was over 65, we kept it at 60 to 65. In Canada, it was mostly 50 to 55. On one occasion, the check tire pressure light came on and went off immediately. Checked the tire pressure and no issues. We got caught in a snow storm in Beaver Creek, Yukon. When the temperature dropped into the 20s, the slush froze to our NV. RCMP advised people to not attempt to get to the Alaskan border where the roads were plowed. The next day, the "multifunction indicator light" came on and stayed on. Went to the Nissan NV dealer in Fairbanks and the problem was diagnosed (vent control valve) and warning light reset. Probably due to all the ice in the underside and in the wheel wells. No problems since then.
The only SMB issue has been when hooked up to city water, which we had never used before other than fill up our tank quickly. When we tried using the city water instead of the tank, there is a leak near/behind the bottom of the gray water tank release handle. It should have been pressure tested by SMB, but who knows, as we had a flat plate added before we picked it up. It also may be that I don't have it connected properly and the water follows the inlet to its lowest point. Not a big deal, as we rarely use city water connections, but we may have SMB west check it out on our way home to Tucson.
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Old 05-28-2013, 02:41 AM   #2
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Re: Nissan SMB

We need picks please.
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Old 05-28-2013, 11:28 PM   #3
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Re: Nissan SMB

What works one time with a Mac doesn't always work the next time. Posted a few pics in my gallery.
Who knows when we next will have wifi.
Had a beautiful sunny day to see the glaciers near Seward, AK.
Tomorrow, we are off to the Matanuska Glacier to take a guided hike. 2 more days of sun, then rain. We will have to go north to the Artic Circle, via Demster Hwy, to get better weather depending on ice flows.
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Old 05-29-2013, 07:38 AM   #4
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Re: Nissan SMB

Quote:
When we tried using the city water instead of the tank, there is a leak near/behind the bottom of the gray water tank release handle.
I also had a small leak (Ford build) when the system was pressurized. Check the fitting where the city water inlet is attached. There should be a small access panel between the frame and the body. Make sure everything is tight. I suspect mine loosened up over time due to vibration.
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Old 05-29-2013, 11:54 PM   #5
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Re: Nissan SMB

hey before you head north, check out Homer at the end of the road (Sterling Highway), and camp on the spit. Weather was great last weekend. Check the road reports on the Dempster, it can have washouts from fast melting snow.

oops! this is a NV thread, why is that german thing in the picture
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Old 05-30-2013, 09:07 PM   #6
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Re: Nissan SMB

Tapatio, Thanks. Either I will check this leak source when we get home or stop by SMB if we return that way.

Spenard, No problem seeing "German" SMBs here. We have only seen a few sprinter camper vans with no visible conversion brand. They could have been Outside vans or SMB since it appears debadging is the thing to do. The other Sprinters have been the RV types. We seem to be surrounded by Chalet rentals.
An irony is the orange Ford E? Quigley conversion in the Seward promotional brochure. We haven't seen any Ford, Chevy or Dodge SMBs.
We opted not to go to Homer so we could do the Matanuska Glacier guided trek in sunny weather. We'll see how far we can get on the Dempster.
Enjoy your trip, or is that an Alaskan plate on you SMB?
I was interrupted by the arrival of pizza in the middle of this post, so I went back to edit it. If in the need of a place stay in this area, try Grand View Cafe and RV. Although it is a parking lot, it does have a great view of Bear Mountain as well as being very close to Matanuska Glacier. There also is an AK state resource campground nearby with 12 primitive sites. We stayed at both; GrandView tempted us with a shower and pizza in that order.
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Old 06-29-2013, 06:58 PM   #7
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Re: Nissan SMB

10,790 miles in 54 days from Tucson to Alaska and back; returned on 6/27. Went north via Calgary and returned via the west coast. Every night was spent in sleeping bags in the PH, as we let the dogs have the couch, plus it is easier not having to move things. We tried to take as little as possible, but ultimately with everything in the NV, the total vehicle weight was around 7,950 pounds . (GVRW is 9100. The NV weighs 5,996 and the SMB conversion brings this to 6,917, based on the sticker on the under sink cabinet door.) We added over 1000 pounds in people, dogs and stuff. This included lots of water. We used our 16 or 17 gallon tank for "campground" water to wash etc. and carried 10 gallons in store bought water to drink. Very ofter there was no potable water available (frozen, had to be boiled 2-10 minutes or had a peculiar smell or color). Except for a leak when city water was hooked up for more than filling the tank, there were no issues with the conversion. (One odd thing I noticed when I went to the back of the van while my wife was driving on I-10, it felt the same as being in a plane in slightly turbulent weather. The dogs didn't seem to mind this as they never got car sick.)
Except for 2 check engine light warnings due to extreme weather/road conditions with no resulting consequences, the NV worked great for the reason we bought it: sticking to "Blue Highways" as much as possible. It is cargo/truck based camper van, or as the say in Canada, it's "camperized." We didn't buy it with any plans to modify it, as we never modified our '83 VW. We adapted to the VW and now to the NV.
Best parking place was 1/4 mile from the Matanuska Glacier, prior to starting a guided trek.
Strangest campground was a 49 site park with 36 mail boxes in Cloverdale, CA.
Funniest sight was being the first to pull into a rest area in the Yukon after a 4" snowstorm on 5/19 just before an older AK Ford Explorer pulls up at speed in front of the pit toilet. The driver, wearing shorts and flip flops, jumps out and starts kicking off the ice in the wheel wells. Never noticed who went to pit toilet. The temp was in the 20s.
Bought window screens and made a side door screen before we left in expectation of mosquitos. Only the males were out in Canada and AK, and they didn't bite. You, however could feel them bump into you. Used the screens for the first time around SLO, CA. Worked great. (That was always the problem with the VW, not enough ventilation.)
Saw only 5 other SMBs, all Fords. Saw a 2x2 at Humbug Mtn SP, Oregon, and 4x4s near Cape Disappointment SP, Washington, Cape Lookout SP, Oregon, Route 101 driving toward Solvang, and 1 parked near Faria, CA. (We passed on staying at that beach county park.) Didn't see any low roof/PH Sprinters, and don't know if any high tops were SMBs.
Would we repeat this trip. No, but it was worth doing once. We would not go farther north than central BC. There are places we would like to return to, but we would have a specific trip plan that included hiking and cycling. There was too much cold weather and snow to hike, plus it is a mechanized world in Alaska and Canada. In the Fairbanks visitor center there was a sign telling how you knew it was spring. You "put your snowmobile away and get out your ATV." Another was after the first truck fell through the ice.
I took over 850 photos, and created an album, but...
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Old 06-29-2013, 10:12 PM   #8
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Alaska in a Nissan SMB

Glad it all worked out for you guys. Maybe you can do a little trip report. I'd like to get that way one of these days.
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Old 06-30-2013, 11:45 AM   #9
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Re: Nissan SMB

er, I'm enjoying these reports and also learning about the NV, er, but, um, it would be much easier to read with some paragraph breaks...
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Old 06-30-2013, 03:35 PM   #10
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Re: Nissan SMB

I can do a trip report, installment style, with paragraph breaks.

I'll start with "The Mile Post." Ultimately, it is most useful providing info regarding the next town and descriptions of the various routes you can take. Following or trying to find mile/kilometer posts is frustrating and a waste of time for the most part. Nevertheless, having The Mile Post is important because there is no cell phone/data service most of the time. "Rogers" cell phone service, when available, in Canada costs $1 a minute. AT&T is widely available in Alaska and the lower 48, but there also are plenty of no service areas. Nissan navigation worked fine, but it doesn't show an overview of the route to be taken. Plus, you get tired of being told to take the next right etc., when you know where you are going. So, take plenty of maps or a better, current navigation system.

Finding diesel and "regular" gas was not a problem, but "drive the top part of your tank." Twice, I thought gas would be available and it wasn't; it was a stressful drive to the next pump. In both instances, it led to an interesting day. More on that later. You will see pumps not seen here since the '70s. No such thing then as a $100 fill up. In most of Canada, we paid around $5.30 a gallon, $6.40 a gallon in the Yukon. Same pricing for diesel, although diesel in lower BC was cheaper than gas.

Finding food was not a problem. In Alberta and BC, there is Sav-On Foods, which is a more like Whole Foods than the name implies. There also are Safeway stores. In the Yukon, there is Extra Foods with "no name" yellow sticker products. Try them, you'll like them. They also sell organic food. Also, a lot of places sell Western Family products. Also good.

Finding campgrounds sometimes was a problem due to not being open and unexpected winter weather. We were not picky and stayed in state, federal, provincial, municipal and mom and pop RV parks. The latter were expensive, but good for electric hookups, showers and laundry. Some private parks were up for sale and not going to open any time soon. The word was they couldn't make a go of it.

The trip started on 5/5 by taking the "east route" through Great Falls. We drove up I-15, but left it to find state parks. The most interesting one was Bannack State Park near Dillon, Montana. Bannack is a mining ghost town and former territorial capital. It has a small primitive campground; we thought it was the picnic area. We were the only ones there; you can walk around the town and it was ok to go in many of the buildings. We reached the border on 5/9. To be continued.
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