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Old 08-17-2008, 05:05 PM   #11
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Fantastic trip report

Great job of the report and pictures.

Congratulations on the trip.

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Old 08-17-2008, 06:52 PM   #12
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Awesome report! Thanks for sharing and including so many details.
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Old 08-17-2008, 10:13 PM   #13
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Thanks for all of the reports you folks have put together as well... I learn something from every one of them.


Reply to Ed: The traffic was 'very low' in most of the places we visited. We purposely planned routes, days of the week, and even hours in the day where we could avoid quantities of people on purpose... so some of this solitude was expected. However, in the cases where there was not much choice, we still did not encounter hoards of people or RV traffic anywhere. In more than 8500 miles, the largest line-up of vehicles we had in front of us - was four (and that was just as we were about to exit the Dalton highway on our way back to Fairbanks). I am guessing that Teklanika campground in Denali Park was full or close to it one of the days we were there, as were the smallest parks in Haines & Skagway. Most of the other RV parks we stayed in or passed by were not even at 40% capacity and many looked more vacant than that. Potential boonedocking spots were everywhere (and very few were actually occupied).


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Old 08-17-2008, 10:26 PM   #14
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Date (day): July, 05 (Day 8)

Source: Tok Alaska (Tok RV Village, RV Park)

Destination: Anchorage Alaska (Mangy Moose B&B)

Travel Miles: 328 (turned out to be much more than that)

Bug Activity: Low.

Deviation from plan: We had originally planned to go from Tok to Anchorage (and not make any side trips). However, as we were getting closer and closer to Anchorage with plenty of time left in the day and we currently had good weather with us, we decided to include a few points of interest today that we had originally schedule for tomorrow. This had the added benefit of clearing our schedule for tomorrow as well. One of the advanced stops we made was in Palmer, AK to visit a private musk ox farm. After visiting the musk ox farm we drove the Hatchers Pass loop before we finally dropped south on the Parks Hwy (A3) and down into Anchorage. It was a lot to take in for one day... but weather was pretty good and we were determined to make the best of these clear conditions.

Moment(s): Other than several hundred snowshoe hares lining the roads, we had not seen or encountered much in the way of wildlife today - which was somewhat surprising based on the time of day and the terrain we were driving through. I would have to say that for our trip overall, we had seen much less wildlife then I had expected - certainly far less than when we came up here on motorcycles in 2006. One of the encounters that I wanted to have on this trip was to just sit and watch a moose for a while - just to see what it was up to. My moment came after we had checked into our B&B for the evening (which was located in a fairly high residential district in Anchorage). I heard crackling in the bushes outside of our second story room and I thought it was just someone walking around outside. The more I listened, the more this crunching noise did not make sense. I went out onto our deck and discovered that the source of the noise was a moose browsing on shrubs. I stood on the deck not more than 40 feet away and watched this moose for 20+ minutes. It was exactly what I wanted see... a moose living its life, figuring out how to survive in its current environment, and doing so totally oblivious to me... (I just never expected it to happen in a residential neighborhood while in the comfort of an upscale B&B).

Takeaway(s): I never saw more quads in all my life then just off of the A1 (Glenn Hwy) as well as parts of Hatchers Pass. Where I live in Washington State, there are nearly zero trails dedicated to the off-road quad user community and other than use on a farm, I don't even know what you would do with one. Where would you ride it? However, somewhere around Chikaloon (Glenn Hwy), we came across hundreds of quads out trail riding. We also found that in Alaska, there are quad trails seemingly everywhere. In fact, I would bet that you could navigate most of the state of Alaska (paralleling any main road) on a quad and never have to actually ride on the main road for more than 20% of your trip. Ha, I might just try this someday.

Sportsmobile Note(s): After driving over Hatchers Pass (which was all unpaved) and encountering sizable sections of road strewn with braking bumps I was getting pretty concerned with how the swing-outs on the rear bumper were holding up in their current impaired state. I stopped off at an auto parts store in Anchorage to see if I could find something to jam between the rear bumper and the swing-out arms in order to reduce the load at the hinges. What I found was a set of four rubber spring spacers that would normally be inserted between the coils of an automobile spring. One of them just happened to fit perfectly between the top of the bumper and the bottom of the rear tire swing-out arm (right at the centerline of the van). This all but prevented the weakest swing-out from drooping... potentially causing even more significant rear bumper damage. All I had to do was zip tie one of these rubber blocks in place so that it was fixed in position. Whole job took less than ten minutes and this one hack probably saved me from totally ruining the swing-outs on my rear bumper.



The road out of Tok toward Anchorage was as smooth as glass (for 50 or so miles). It then degraded into a frost heaved mess that would test both the van as well as the passengers for more than a hundred miles. Here is what the smooth road looked like.





Musk Ox. Knowing next to zero about this animal, we stopped off at the Palmer Musk Ox Farm to learn more about what we might see up in the Arctic Circle. The tour was very informative and well worth the stop.





Hatchers Pass.






Are we having fun yet?



Hatchers Pass flowers




Anchorage B&B accommodations (we are really roughing it now).



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Old 08-17-2008, 11:51 PM   #15
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great stuff twolost, I love the two-tone dirt/paint job on that shot from the top of the Dome Road. Nice to see the Van doing what it was made to do.

Good idea on putting some recovery gear, at least one tow strap maybe, closer and more accessible to drivers seat.
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Old 08-17-2008, 11:52 PM   #16
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Date (day): July, 06 (Day 9)

Source: Anchorage Alaska (Mangy Moose B&B)

Destination: Same (layover day)

Travel Miles: 0

Bug Activity: None.

Deviation from plan: We freed up our day today by hitting all of our key points of interest the day before. Today was a day where we were going to re-stock our food supplies and clean up the van (inside and out).

Moment(s): We stopped at a Sportsmans Warehouse store in Anchorage in order to re-stock our Jerky supply as well as pick-up some bear spray. The total bill came to $100.00 or something close to it. I approved the $100.00 transaction. The teenage gal behind the counter rang us up... and then got a puzzled look on her face. She said that she had pushed a 7 instead of a 1 and that she needed a manager to help her fix the problem. We had no idea what she was talking about. The manager came over to assist and she was obviously a bit more concerned. After a few minutes of pushing this and clearing that, the manager said that the problem was resolved but it would take three to five business days to go through. What would take three to five business days, I asked? Well the clerk entered a 7 instead of a 1 (meaning I was charged $700.00 instead of $100.00). I still don't really understand how this could happen as I never approved $700.00 (and I triple check everything). In any case, as the transaction already went through and the money had been successfully deducted from my account, it was a little more complex to just 'put it back'. Realizing I was not going to get anything other than blank stares had I tried to negotiate a better fix... I thought to myself as we left the store in shock... uhmmm, ok?! So I don't grow money and I have a definite budget for this trip... which does not include having a random $600.00 buffer today. As long as nothing else came up, we were going to be ok but this was just one more thing in a long list of things we had to pay close attention to... and do so while our connectivity to the rest of the world was not guaranteed.

Takeaway(s): The above moment is just one more example of some random incident where the resources you think you have in a bank account may not be accessible when you really need it. Connectivity while on 'remote' trips complicates matters. I need to make sure that in the future where I 'require' access to funds I am not carrying on me... that I always give myself more than one way out. This goes double for those times when we travel to locations that are 'off the grid'.

Sportsmobile Note(s): While high pressure washing our van in Anchorage, we found that the van seemed to leak around three spots now where it did not leak before. The driver's door seal, the RV window above our gaucho seat, and around the double side doors. Now that the van is back home in my shop I can look into the door seal leaks a little more thoroughly. The RV window may need to be pulled out and re-sealed. Additionally, the shelf that goes inside of the fridge will no longer fit. It looks like the fridge came out of square (something I still have to really look into). In any case, the shelf is useless right now. To hack a temporary solution while on the road, we strategically placed pop cans on the base of the fridge to prop up the shelf.

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Old 08-18-2008, 12:44 AM   #17
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Date (day): July, 07 (Day 10)

Source: Anchorage Alaska (Mangy Moose B&B)

Destination: Homer Alaska (Alaskan Suites cabin)

Travel Miles: 222

Bug Activity:None.

Deviation from plan: None.

Moment(s): We were rolling down the Seward Highway just south of Anchorage and we had just passed a sign indicating that we were passing a bird sanctuary, when... I saw this little guy out of the corner of my eye, flying kind of low and slow as he approached the van perpendicular to our direction of travel. He crossed from right to left just in front of the van and disappeared out in front of the hood. I had a bad feeling about it but there was no instantaneous moment of flying feathers or loud thud, so I started to think that he made it. A few seconds later, this poor little guy comes rolling up over the hood, right over the passenger wiper blade, and flopped over and over right up the windshield in semi-slow motion. Now, since the trip began, my wife had been complaining about all of the big gross bugs that seem to collide on her side of the window... and she would jump every time a large bug made windshield impact (scared me to death every time). Well, this time there was no jump. I looked over at my wife as the bird disappeared over the top of the cab to see if she had just seen what had happened. My wife was frozen solid and white as a bleached sheet. No matter how big the bugs got, this incident took the grand prize for shock value. Thankfully, this was the only van/wildlife impact we had the whole trip. FYI - the bird did not make it.

Takeaway(s): We both had wished that we had opted to stay more than one day in Homer. It was not so much because of the town or the spit... it was more because we had such great accommodations with the cabin on the bluff.

Sportsmobile Note(s): As had happened once before... the alarm we had installed in our van had stopped working. Pushing the remote button that locks the van and enables the alarm failed to actually set the alarm. The doors all auto lock fine, but after attempting to set the alarm the van chirps back a minute later with four short beeps. The key fob also beeps four times and shows that the vehicle is 'unlocked'. Physically, all of the doors are locked. What seems to happen is that the door locks get out of sequence with the alarm. This can happen when using a key to unlock a door or pulling up on the lock from inside the van, etc. I was able to narrow the scope of permutations before and we were able to set everything back so that it worked. This time, however, I was unable to find the right combination. Without a solution, we just locked the van manually (no alarm set) throughout the remainder of our trip.



Heading south on Seward Hwy (A1) looking out over Turnagain Arm and Cook Inlet.



Goat feeding near the roadside, Chugach State Park.



Chugach National Forest.



Just some of the animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.






Homer Alaska.



Here is the rental cabin we stayed at while in Homer (excellent accommodations and spectacular views).




View from cabin deck overlooking Kachemak Bay.


View of Augustine Volcano (from cabin).


View of Iliamna Volcano (from cabin).


Homer Spit in the distance.


Down on Homer Spit itself (comprising of fishing tours, restaurants, gift shops, and vessel storage/maintenance facilities).




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Old 08-19-2008, 11:35 PM   #18
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Date (day): July, 08 (Day 11)

Source: Homer Alaska (Alaskan Suites cabin)

Destination: Seward Alaska (Stoney Creek RV Park)

Travel Miles: 170

Bug Activity: None.

Deviation from plan: None.

Moment(s): Pulling into Seward, we just happened to run across PJPVI and family in their Sportsmobile. They were just pulling out of the road to Exit Glacier and appeared to be heading the opposite direction and out of town. Their SMB was only the second SMB we had come across up to this point on our trip.

Takeaway(s): The Stoney Creek RV Park advertised itself as Seward's only luxury RV park. The truth was that it was more of a (luxury RV) park than luxury (RV park). This RV park is located outside of town and is accessed via a residential neighborhood. For SMB owners, a far more scenic place to stay - in town and right on the water - would be at the Resurrection Bay Campground - run through the city of Seward. We now know better for next time.

Sportsmobile Note(s): One of the options we added to our Sportsmobile build was to get removable bug screens for the side doors. The screens attach to the van around the door seals via Velcro tape and these screens would (in theory) allow us to have both side doors open while still offering some indoor protection from invading insects. We had not used these screens up to this point and we very rarely open both side doors at the same time. Unfortunately, at this stage of the trip the Velcro tape that was fixed to the van had started to peel off at the edges and was now more than 50% unstuck along the top edge and about 10% unstuck at the bottom of the door pillars. We opted not to try out this screen feature at this time - at least, until I could get more surface area to fix the screens to.



Kenai Lake


Along the Seward Hwy (AK-9)


Seward


Luxury RV Park = (Luxury RV), park


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Old 08-19-2008, 11:41 PM   #19
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Date (day): July, 09 (Day 12)

Source: Seward Alaska (Stoney Creek RV Park)

Destination: Just outside of Whittier Alaska (Wittiwaw Campground)

Travel Miles: 90

Bug Activity: High (Wittiwaw Campground).

Deviation from plan: None.

Moment(s): Today was a day full of great moments. The walk up to Exit Glacier in the early morning. Seeing the blue ice from Portage Glacier up close and personal. Going through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel to get to the town of Whittier. Exploring portions of the inside of the Buckner Building. Wow, this was one of those days were it was hard for me to keep up.

Takeaway(s): While researching places to go (way back when we started planning for this trip), Whittier was added to our list because it sounded like an interesting place to experience and explore. Overall, it was well beyond my expectations and a little below my wife's expectations. My wife was a little creeped out by the Buckner Building and I was fascinated by it. I only wish I had more time to go through more of it.

Sportsmobile Note(s): We did not add any bathroom facilities to our Sportsmobile build. We did get one of the portable potti's added for vehicle insurance reasons... but I left that at home on the shop floor because I just did not want this kind of waste in the same tightly enclosed space as we where living. We almost always found bathroom related facilities everywhere on our route and a little pre-planning went a long way. Some of these public facilities - at some campgrounds and some roadside stops were... well, a bit smelly. The facilities at the Wittiwaw Campground were no exception. These facilities really tested our ability to hold our breath for long periods of time. Getting to the bathroom was also a challenge as the mosquitoes were thick and thirsty. Using public facilities was uncomfortable at most 20% of the time. For me, this trade off was still much better than the alternative. My wife was a real trooper and put up with it as well.




Exit Glacier (a short walk will take you right up to the edge)






Blue ice from Portage Glacier



Alaska Railroad passenger train, just before it entered the 2.5 mile long Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.



Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel (entrance from the Whittier side). This is the longest combined rail and highway use tunnel in North America.




The town of Whittier.





Hodge Building (now called the Begich Towers). This was once an Army building built in the late 40's / ealry 50's. This building is now a condominium and is home to nearly all of Whittier's current residence.



This restaurant is now out of business... but the sign on the side of the building creatively shows just how long they were able to make a go of it.



This large grey building is the abandoned Buckner Building (once the largest building in Alaska). Construction of this Army building was completed in 1953. After the earthquake of 1964, this building was not repaired and remains unoccupied to this day.



View(s) from the top floor of the Buckner Building.







Random off-shoot along Portage Glacier Road



Wittiwaw Campground. Bug activity was extreme.


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Old 08-20-2008, 12:39 AM   #20
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Date (day): July, 10 (Day 13)

Source: Just outside of Whittier Alaska (Wittiwaw Campground)

Destination: Valdez, Alaska (Best Western, Valdez Harbor Inn)

Travel Miles: 360 (driving)

Bug Activity: None.

Deviation from plan: None.

Moment(s): I vote for the amazing scenery up and over Thompson Pass. There were glaciers that looked like they came down and touched the road, there were fields of Arctic Lupine among dense green vegetation, there were 200 foot waterfalls, there was geology that looked as if it had been thrust up from middle earth just last night, etc... it was all amazing.

Takeaway(s): This was another place that both my wife and I had wished that we spent more time (at least two more days). I would have loved to have boonedocked in and around the area and spent some time doing full day hikes there too. The town was nice enough... but it was the surroundings that really captured me. Speaking of the town of Valdez itself, we found a common theme at both of the restaurants we tried (exceptionally expensive, low quality food, miniscule portions). The service was fine but the price of a simple meal was at least 3 x fold over the top ($24.00 per plate for simple fish and chips as an example - and there was not enough fish to feed an anemic sparrow sporting a fully cinched Lap-Band). Really, it was beyond insulting. So much so, that at both places we ate there were numerous people (more than three distinct groups) complaining about price vrs portion size. One lady even took the time to go across the street to argue the bill with the restaurant owner (who was in the bar of his second restaurant). In both cases we just paid our bill and left... so maybe this small warning is our retribution. Truthfully, our recommendation would be to save your hard earned $$ for a Stan Stephens glacier tour instead (more on that amazing tour next) and skip the culinary rip-off artists.

Sportsmobile Note(s): As noted above, we stayed in a hotel for the evening. At various times during the day the hotel parking lot would fill up. In our specific case, with all of the extra stuff hanging off of the van, we are longer than a typical parking space by about four feet. What we ended up doing was parking in the center of the parking lot - fully taking up one space as well as partially taking up the space directly behind us. Neither of us is the type of person to willingly impinge on other people space so this obvious overflow was a worry. I looked all over for suitable alternatives and did not find any (at least none that did not raise other concerns). However, things turned out differently. During our two day stay, we had at least four different cars park directly behind us and all of the people we met were very friendly. They were more interested in talking about what the van actually was as opposed to being stressed out about not getting a 'full' parking space. I think that we were pretty lucky here and I would just like to say special thanks to all of those who accommodated for oversize vehicle.



Construction on the Glenn Hwy.


Glaciers along Thompson Pass



Thompson Pass





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