Sunday, July 3, 2011

Would You Take Your RV to Alaska?

There’s been a controversy in a couple of other blogs lately discussing whether people want to drive their RVs to Alaska. So I’m departing from my usual style of blogging, reporting what we’ve done and seen, to add to this discussion.

Rick & Paulette first posed the question “Any Places You Just Don’t Want To Visit In An RV?” a couple of days ago. Rick pointed to my blog as a way to read about a trip to Alaska, but not have to make the trip themselves. (Thanks, Rick!) His position is not so much that it’s a long distance or the roads might be bad (they’re not as bad as most folks think), it’s mostly that he and Paulette don’t like to boondock and he can’t see how you can travel to Alaska without boondocking. And they have plenty of beautiful scenery and the great outdoors where they live in British Columbia.

I have to agree, they have a great life with summers in B.C. at their beautiful home with friends and family nearby, and winters in the Palm Springs/Desert Hot Springs, CA area.

While it is possible to do the Alaska trip with hookups, at least electricity, every night, some of the most beautiful places we’ve stayed have been in rest areas and turnouts. In these spots you usually don’t have another RV with its awning or slideout so close to your rig that you can hear each other snore or smell each other’s breakfast. (Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but several RV parks have pretty tight spaces.) We’ve chosen to boondock several times, usually to see scenery, and it also helps the budget.

The scenic sites are numerous for places to park free or inexpensively without hookups. For instance, I wouldn’t trade the experience of parking in Ninilchik and seeing hundreds of bald eagles on Cook Inlet, or on the Homer Spit and watching a barge being repaired, or on the beach in Seward watching sea otters from our windshield and seeing all kinds of boats come and go. And I could name other boondocking sites where the experience is unmatched in RV parks. Still, with careful planning most RVers can find places they like, with or without hookups.

Several commenters on Rick & Paulette’s blog expressed different views, some saying they would take a cruise here but not drive, others saying you can’t see the interior of Alaska from a cruise ship. Some complain about the cost of gasoline/diesel and/or RV parks and/or eating out. Still others claim the roads tear up your rig (they’re probably driving too fast). One even said “Everyone comes back and trades off the rig they took up there.” WRONG! Read the comments and see what you think.

We've met people on some of our excursions here in Alaska who were on a cruise for 7 to 10 days, and they all said they wished they had more time to see more. And comparing the expense of a 7-day cruise to a 90-day RV trip is like comparing apples and guacamole. They're both food, but oh, how different!

Thanks for bringing up the topic, Rick. It’s great to see the different opinions people have! And for those who don’t come, it makes it easier for us to find space in RV parks and boondock sites here!

Today, Nick Russell was more straightforward with his blog titled “Alaska Is Not For Us” and referred to Rick & Paulette’s blog as well. Nick and his wife Terry publish a bi-monthly newspaper for RVers, Gypsy Journal, (an excellent publication) and therefore need access to the Internet all the time and proximity to publishers that can handle printing and post offices that can handle and large mailings. They are working full-timers running a business while traveling in their motorhome, not retired like many of us who can take the time required to explore the vast distances involved in touring Alaska.

Nick also pointed to my blog (Thanks, Nick!) and that of Dennis & Carol Hill, and Judy & Luke Rinehimer. Larry & Marilyn Forbes, traveling with us, also have a blog, as do others we’ve linked up with on the road. Be sure to read the comments on Nick’s blog, too.

As for long distances, in fact we’re only seeing a small part of the huge state of Alaska. Some places are inaccessible by roads, such as Juneau and Sitka, although you can reach them by ferry but that’s expensive for a big rig. And, of course, you can fly there or take a cruise ship. Other places are only accessible by air, such as Barrow and Nome (or dogsled if you’re into that mode of travel).

But the part that we are seeing is unmatched by any scenery I’ve seen anywhere else, including the Lower 48 (I’ve been to them all) plus Hawaii and several parts of Canada (I’ve been to 5 of the 10 provinces and 1 of the 3 territories). I’ve also seen parts of Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands (including the British ones), Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland and Italy. Most of those visits were for business reasons, so I didn’t have much time to play tourist, but I still saw parts of them, and I appreciate the unique scenery, culture and customs each has to offer to visitors.

By ‘unmatched’ I mean different and unusual. I’m not making a judgment call on which is more beautiful or interesting. For me, it’s all about the adventure in seeing new places and having new experiences.

Regarding bringing a big rig here versus a smaller one, there are lots of differing opinions. Our 36’ diesel pusher is also our full-time home, so it’s literally ‘all the comforts of home.’ We tow a Honda CR-V for running around town and for day trips. Pat and Jim, traveling with us, decided to leave their big rigs in storage and instead travel in Jim’s truck with a slide-in camper. They are more flexible in where they can park it, but they have to unhook from campground utilities to drive anywhere. The other four rigs in our group are two 43-foot and two 40-foot diesel pushers towing cars. One of them had only been on the road about 4 months before starting this trip. It still looks brand new.

So the bottom line is, Alaska isn’t for everyone! And isn’t it great that we’re all entitled to our own opinions, likes and dislikes, preferences and tolerance levels? It’s what makes us unique and interesting, sometimes also different and unusual, just like the places we’re touring!


  1. We would love to take a caravan to Alaska, but the problems we had with our rig on the last caravan has kind of scared us off. At least where we were there was lots of repair places but not so sure about Alaska. You might be many, many miles from anything and that just scares the bejibbers our of us.

  2. Great post, Sharon, from the horse's mouth, so to speak! I have been following along on your trip since Laurie told me about your blog and have learned soooo much. Thanks We are now 3 days and counting to our Alaska journey!

  3. I was one who comented on Rick's blog and said the roads were horrible... and they were both in Canada and Alaska. We did not travel fast, as a matter of fact a lot of places we only went about 15 - 20 MPR. I loved it there and we were there for 8 weeks... we stayed in nice RV Parks and some not great but ok... we boondocked alot. I still would not take our rig back there but would go back in a smaller rig or just rent one. As they say to each their own... right? But I think it is still the most beautiful views and the wildlife was spectacular. I am following your trip and love your post... It brings back a lot of great moments & memories. Did we break down ~ no, does our coach still look like new ~ yes, did we get some damage ~ yes. A broken windshield from a rig going to fast and my washer floor broke loose. That could have happened anywhere. Was it the trip of a lifetime YES!
    Have fun & Travel safe!!!

  4. Excellent post, Sharon. I never say never, but at this point in our lives, we'll pass on the Alaska trip. But we sure are enjoying your blog posts and pictures. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!

  5. Great informative post Sharon and very well explained. I have all the admiration in the world for RV'ers who take on a big trip (i.e. Alaska) as you have and I've enjoyed every bit of it traveling along with you on your blog.

    As you say, however, all RV'ers don't think, or act, alike. Our preferences for RV'ing just seem to put Alaska off the radar for us. Who knows, it could even be a lack of adventurous spirit, I don't know.

    Thanks for your thoughtful mention.

  6. Sharon. This blog is quite well written explaining that an RV trip to Alaska is not for everyone, but I am glad that we have been able to do it together. Yes the budget can be stretched, but none of us are getting younger, and we may not be able to do this tomorrow.

  7. Here it is, almost 1:00 a.m. in Anchorage, Alaska and it is still light outside. One of the most amazing part of our trip to Alaska has been experiencing "the land of the midnight sun" and how friendly and caring the Alaskans have been to us when we have told them we were RVing Alaska. Your blog hit it on the spot...

    When we first started "extended" RVing (8-9 months a year), Alaska was not on our radar scope. Then we kept hearing everyone's experiences until we said okay. We have friends leading the WIT Alaska Caravan but decided that was way too structured for us. (They are just now arriving in Dawson Creek and have a very fixed schedule.) We are traveling with just one other couple (plus meeting other Escapees like your gang on the road). We have already changed our very tentative schedule and can't wait to leave the CITY of Anchorage and get onto the Kenai Peninsula. We all have things we want to see and experience and this trip keeps building our confidence to keep traveling. Seeing a black bear outside our rig yesterday or a bald eagle's nest are memories I could get in other places, but I'm getting them here and now in Alaska. (Thanks for the link to my blog.) - CoolJudy

  8. Everyone has their own reasons for visiting, or NOT visiting, Alaska. Nick has a job to do, including the need for Internet, printing, mailing, etc. Rick has it off his radar for his reasons -- I doubt that he has a lack of adventurous spirit -- he finds adventures other places. Some are afraid of the roads, some are afraid of not being close to repair service. Whatever, we certainly enjoyed our caravan in 2005, and if we were ever to go again, we'd want to travel with friends as you are doing, finding the out-of-the-way spots we didn't get to see the first time.

  9. Very informative blog, Sharon. I really enjoy your perspective and concur with your thoughts. I feel that RVing to Alaska is in our future. I just don't know when. For the time being, British Columbia summers keep us busy - with family and friends.

    Continued success with your northern adventure.

  10. Well said. We did Alaska in 2001 with then 16 yr old daughter. Had a great time. Drove a sorta big rig, 35 ft GM Bus, without any road caused problems. We were 13K miles total on the trip. Yeah, expensive. Worth every minute. When you get to Fairbanks go north to see Circle and Central. Enjoy

  11. Alaska is wonderful. Thanks to Nick I have been following your blogs and they are great. My husband and I took our 30' Class A with a Saturn car in tow to Alaska in 2004. We went by ourselves and boondocked all over the place. I am re-living our trip through your blogs. We left PA on May 17 and returned to PA on Sept 19. We hit Haines,AK on June 4 and were in Alaska the whole summer, leaving Wasilia on Aug 29 reluctantly heading home. We are hoping to be able to go back and take the Ferry system in a truck camper to see the areas we couldn't drive to. 2004 was their worst fire year and we were very glad we were on our own with no reservations. We moved where the fires weren't and drove on every road that was driveable without 4-wheel drive. Did alot of fishing and relaxing. The roads were not bad at all. In 2010 we traded our 30' Class A with 86,000 miles on it for a 32' with 38,000 miles on it. So our Class A that went to AK served us 6 more years after that trip. Thanks for all the memories. Thelma and Dave Middleton

  12. I have to agree. Although I’m not sure about Alaska, I’m quite aware that not all the places are RV-friendly. But yeah, that still depends on the traveler’s likes, dislikes, and tolerances. If you’re the type of person who would venture on anything you deem exciting, then it probably wouldn’t matter what vehicle and places you’ll camp yourself in. Cheers!

    Liza Pilon @ Prairie City RV


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