Wednesday, June 4
We carried on bright and early this morning crossing the Canadian border with ease and carried on in to Thunder Bay, landmark we headed for was naturally the Walmart car park, where we replenished our supplies, try to get Canadian dollars from the ATM machine in the shop, but it did not want to know us, but the cash registers accepted our visa card with no hesitation. We try to get a Canadian Sim card while were at Walmart but I always been told you cannot expect in-depth help from this company and that factor was borne out.
On our way out of the city we saw a ATM advertised at a petrol station so we stopped there and with our two credit cards withdrew C$600 which should see us right for a few days. We stopped at McDonald’s to try to use their Wi-Fi and had no success so we went back into the city to a large shopping Mall where we found a phone company that would sell us a Sim card, we bought a data card which we put into our Samsung phone and use that as a hot spot. Hopefully it will work across Canada.
With our shopping completed we headed on towards Winnipeg taking Highway 17 driving through silver Birch forests and lots of water laying in miniature lakes on the side of the road.
Just passed a Raith we found a parking area set aside for picnics and with stopped here for the night.
Thursday, June 5th
We carried on our road across Canada going through Upsala, Ignace to Dyment and on to Dryden a thriving metropolis of 8000 people were we found our favourite store the Walmart and do some shopping, some of the smaller Walmarts don’t have vegetables which is interesting.
We then carried on in our direction towards Winnipeg passing through massive forests on each side of the road and just to make it interesting they mixed in some beautiful lakes in amongst all these trees and where ever we looked just off the road it looked pretty wet.
The scenery nature wise was absolutely beautiful, and it carries on I would guess like this all the way across Canada, a distance that would take us totally across Europe I would guess, and certainly the European Vista would be vastly different and would certainly require a larger range of photos.
Almost all of Canada we have crossed so far looks like an outdoor camping shooting fishing environment and when we stopped for petrol there was a pickup loaded with a canoe, off road vehicles, pulling a trailer with similar equipment on board +2 other similarly loaded cars or trucks, the attendant at the petrol station asked how long they were going away for in their reply was four days, he commented to me that is a lot of gear for just four days.
Most of the areas on the side of the road that are set up for stopping for brief periods of time, and most have no camping sign up, were beginning to get the feeling that Canada is not motorhome friendly, although goodness there are enough of the monsters on the road. Of course being fair there are lot of campgrounds on either side of the road so I guess they need the business but the fuel cost on an American RV is enough without having to add campgrounds into the equation every night.
We found a little road, not sealed, on the edge of the lake, with no signs of no camping, so here we are parked a couple of metres from the water like we could do in New Zealand.
However it was not to last, all of a sudden the house battery died on us and it showed zero voltage on the monitor board, so my thinking was if these batteries have gone I wonder what condition the car battery is!
So we packed up on the lake and drove on to Kenora a campground on the edge of the lake, where for $40 we were able to have a pitch for the night with electricity.
Friday, June 6th
I had expected the battery to be charged this morning, but it was still dead as a Dodo, so we made tracks for Winnipeg and the GPS told me there was a company called Happy Campers RV Service, so we set our GPS for that some 200+ kilometres away, the roads were extremely good again we drove through forests and lakes for the first three quarters of the travel and then it became flat farmland, totally in-interesting to anyone who is not a farmer.
By 11 a.m. were knocking on the Happy Camper’s door, he could not help as they had gone out of batteries, but he directed me to a company down the road they could help us so down there we went.
Went into the front desk and checked the motorhome in, they told us to drive it into zone three which we did, and before I went back into reception I thought I would have a look to see what size the batteries were and found that a nut had come undone and two wires had jumped off, so was no wonder we had no electricity and were unable to charge the battery.
They soon put another nut on the battery, and we had full electricity again, but I thought I should have the battery checked out, there were two house batteries and one was in perfect condition and the other was marginal! So having experienced no batteries I felt it was wise to upgrade the batteries to 2 in good working order.
I had checked the car battery and it was in good condition with no problems.
So an hour later everything was finished, the account coming to $270 which we paid and were on our way, we decided to go to a nearby Walmart to have lunch and replenish our larder. This also a good place to pick up DVDs of series that we’ve seen in New Zealand and as long as you’re not wanting the latest episode the whole season is only about $20.
That all being done was time to get on our way, and what we should have done was head for the ring road, but we followed the GPS which took on a fascinating voyage through the centre of downtown, a city of 700,000, but it was a wonderful tour which I personally would have preferred to do by bus and we certainly didn’t need the hassle of that sort of traffic to get on our way again.
After travelling for an hour to get to the edge of town, we saw another Walmart and as it was about 3:30 p.m. we did a sharp right turn into their car park where we will be staying for the night.
Saturday, June 7th
Carrying on across the flat prairie where they obviously grow a lot of grain with the grain elevators scattered across the landscape, usually of course beside a railway line, and the road seems to go on forever towards the distance horizon.
Our destination for day was Dauphin and that was chosen as it would take us through the Riding Mountain National Park where they had a herd of Bison on public display, what they don’t tell you is that it is on the end of a one Lane shingle road not built for any American RV, so will need to leave this viewing until we get to Montana or the Dakotas.
We did see plenty of signs warning us of bison on the road and Moose and the only Moose we saw was a very large stuffed one on the side of the road as we passed through one of the country towns. It might have been a different story had we driven at night then perhaps we may have got up close and personal.
Every day as we cross Canada we are been seeing lots of Canadian geese, surprise surprise! Often they had their own little bit of water with for five around what is a little bit more than a puddle but occasionally we see them in a good size lake which is where one expects to see these birds. However we did see plenty of the geese flying north from our various locations, I certainly hope the weather they are flying into is what they expect.
The state of Manitoba has what we would call state-controlled alcohol, we can only buy any alcohol from a state controlled shop, quite different to what we have been used to seeing in the Walmart’s as with done our journey to date. This certainly limits the spontaneous purchase of alcohol, certainly for us as we don’t know where to go!
After the prairies and going through the State Park, we are back to forests and small lakes or a little bit more than a marsh, I can’t imagine crossing this country with all of the lake’s and wetlands before the roads.
Monday, June 9th
When we had the house batteries replaced the mechanic that drove the motorhome hundred yards told me how bad he thought the brakes were, when I bought the motorhome the brakes were spongy and I had the garage check them out in Tucson and they replaced every thing to do with the brakes except the master cylinder and when I left Tucson the brakes felt good. After about 1000 miles they started getting spongy again so I made allowances for them, but with the mechanic commenting on it I thought I should do something about it.
This morning we went to a brake specialist and we checked out the system and everything checked out okay, there were no leaks or anything, so this was it down to the only thing that wasn’t replaced, the master cylinder, so one was ordered from Calgary and will be here at 4:30 p.m. today and will be fitted tomorrow.
Tuesday, June 10th
We are at the workshop good in early, he started on motorhome removing the master cylinder, of course when he got out the one that arrived was the wrong one.
So was on the telephone again and finally he found one in Winnipeg in a photograph was sent to make sure it was the correct one and it will arrive today at 4:30 p.m. and will be fitted today.
So we have the rest of the day to fill in, in town that the main Street is dead of shops, and when I walked down this morning it was so bitterly cold I’m glad I wasn’t here in the winter. There are several shops for sale and I can’t imagine anyone even accepting the shop as a gift because should still have the rates etc to pay and there was certainly nothing to attract people to the downtown area.
Fortunately we had a good supply of DVDs so we spent the rest of the morning catching up on films we had not seen on the box at home, I had found out there was a Rotary meeting in town at 12 noon today, so 11:30 a.m. out into the cold, found the shop it was meant to be in, the staff pointed to the stairs to get upstairs to the meeting, so caught up with a little bit of the activity in the town and had a filled bun for lunch, and it was back to the motorhome and more films.
There is a very strong Ukrainian presence in Canada, no not as strong as the French by any means but the Orthodox churches and the Ukrainian Catholic churches do stand out and it appears that immigration started in the late 1800s, and talking to some descendants at Rotary it appears that Canada made a very good offer of land (160 acres for $10) to possible immigrants and that appears to be the reason that the Ukrainian’s came all this distance. Another factor was possibly the problems with their church at this time due to changes in the Austrian Hungary Empire.
The parcel with the master cylinder arrived at 4:30 p.m. it was the correct part, a couple of hours later we were driving away after paying the C$600 for the work and parts.
Wednesday, June 11th
We set off this morning for Yorkton where we had the wheel nuts retightened on the wheel that had to be removed yesterday and then it was on to Regina giving us a total of 360 km for the day. Again we are driving over prairie, and most of the land either side of the road had been or is in the process of being ploughed or prepared, there were large patches of water everywhere and often there would be a small lake in the middle of a paddock but more often the be a fairly large piece of wetland/ peatbog running from the road, is certainly looked like water was a major problem and I had a feeling perhaps they should have some of the Dutch here to learn how to get rid of the water.
We stopped several times to photograph some Orthodox Churches many of which looked like they had been transplanted out of Russia or the Ukraine, others were showing the sign of the extremely hard winters that they have here.
Except when we were close to a reasonably sized city we had the road much to ourselves today, which must be an indication of just how small a population there is in the centre portion of Canada, most of it being on the east of the West Coast.
Thursday, June 12th
Today it was on and on across the prairie with very, very’s long straight roads and flat for as far as the eye could see, after 70 km we arrived at a city I’ve always wanted to visit purely because of its name, Moose Jaw, its claim to fame was one of the Canadian cities that took advantage of the prohibition time in the states manufacturing an incredible amounts of alcohol. For awhile it was known as Little Chicago, but my desire to visit was not for any of this, just its unique name.
There was an advert for a tour guide company called Tunnels, as we entered the city, that in itself should be sufficient warning as to the type of tour they presented but questions asked and answered indicated something else, so we passed over our money and were taken on a pantomime performance with us as some of the stars, with script that may have excited a 12-year-old. We later saw in a distance a small bus – tram doing a tour of the city but by this time it was too late.
So we carried on the road to our destination which was a city called Swift Current which evidently got its name during Indian days because of this fast flowing creek.
The landscape on our second part of the travel for the day became a little bit more interesting with slight rises in the Hills of perhaps 100 m which meant the horizon was a lot closer but apart from that the road remained as deserted as it has been for the last couple of days.
We passed by, what I do have to called a village, called Chaplin, and there was a massive salt mining operation, it looked like all of the land was one large block of salt and all they had to do was harvest it, but that is just an observation as we passed.
Friday, June 13th
Yes black Friday, and to celebrate that it rained all day, first lot of rain we have had, during the day, since were been in Canada!
We carried across the prairies, only now the road was not flat but had many contours to it, nothing really high on the horizon, were driving towards Alberta and we are already seeing oil well pumps, pumping away!
We stopped at a rest stop near Gull lake, there was a large noticeboard there and it was talking about the renewable energy power system they have installed in the form of wind generators, we could see one or two dozen of them on the horizon, not quite enough to warrant the large notice they had but then perhaps they are becoming commonplace to us
We were sold on the description of Maple Creek, which is described as a real frontier town from the 20s and 30s with a lot of original buildings, so we did a 8 km side trip to see this “frontier town” and we found it no different to many of the other little towns that are slowly going or have gone out of business that we pass through on this trip.
At least got us off the forever continuing transcontinental highway we are traversing across Canada. Yes we are pleased that we are doing it, but please don’t ask us to do it again.
Our destination today was an interesting town by the name of Medicine Hat, again obviously an Indian name, they had a large casino as you entered the town, from what I understand the Indian people have the right to open a casino on their land.
We drove around the town a little trying to find an entrance to the casino and found that they have had quite a modern housing development like one sees anywhere in the western world, with the main difference being the American-style malthoid roofs.
The GPS took us to the old Walmart shopping site which is a good reminder that all GPSs need to be regularly updated.
We stopping overnight in the city in the hope that it will be fine tomorrow and we can drive back to a State Park that looks very interesting, but looking at the sky at the moment I think this weather is in for two or three days and hopefully it will stay here and we will outrun it.
Saturday, June 14th
This morning we drove back 5 km along our route to a small RV Park where we filled up with water at a cost of $10, then it was back on the road, in wet weather, across the never ending plains, with roads that seemed to go on forever in a straight line, through wheat fields, that have yet to be planted, and cattle farms with cattle either side of the road doing their best to eat all the grass in front of them.
As we travel North we see a lot of the large American motorhomes, as large as a 50 seater bus, most of them are pulling a car, and then there are the American versions of the New Zealand and European motorhome except they are usually three times heavier and of course have a large American motor and subsequently require three times as much fuel to cover the same distance.
The other form of holiday transport – accommodation that we seeing are a lot of fifth wheelers and again some of these are monstrous with three sets of wheels, and then there are the campers which fit on the back of a pickup in some of these are quite tiny, but again there are the larger ones…..
Finally we came to Strathmore the last city before Calgary and a Walmart store, which unbeknown to us was the last one for a considerable time as from here on the population is very sparse.
Sunday, 16 June
We completed our 40 km drive to Calgary and drove into the centre of the city and found a car park in front of some business premises that the security guard said would be fine as its Sunday.
It was just a short walk then to the Calgary Tower that had a observation deck some 190 m above the ground the gave a wonderful birds eye view of all of Calgary. From there it was a short drive to the Heritage Park where there was a lot of old buildings from the 1800s forward showing what life was like in Calgary when these buildings were occupied.
Today has been mainly fine and towards this evening clouds have gathered and as I write this we have spits of rain.
We found a Walmart but it was in the city with heavy traffic in all directions so we decided to drive on North and after about 30 km we found a petrol station with large parking where we have parked up for the night.
Monday, June 16th
We woke to a wet overcast day with clouds in every direction, and now direction was into perhaps the most scenic part of the Canadian trip, the drive from Calgary into the Banff National Park. We could sense the high mountains around us everywhere, but all we could see were trees and where the trees finished the clouds began.
On our drive through the Park, entrance the cost us $20, we saw a signpost pointing towards Johnson Canyon in the guidebook spoke quite highly of that so we stopped and walked in 1.5k to see a marvellous waterfall with all the people busy photographing the waterfall.
From there we went on to our destination of the day, Lake Louise village, and whilst we are parked in the car park a guy from Warkworth came up seeing the Kiwi sign on our motorhome and had a chat, he was on a tour through Canada and going on to a cruise up through Alaska, he made the comment there were two Kiwis on the bus and 20 Aussies.
We drove up the mountain to Lake Louise, again it was still cloudy and had moved on to rain, but photographs of a sort were still taken and then it was back on down the Hill to look for a place to stay for the night. We saw a signpost to Lake Moran and looked at going there but a signpost with a truck and 75% slope persuades us to give it a miss, we drove back a little bit along the route we had come and found a camping spot that were able to stay the night.
Tuesday, June 17th
We decided to go back into the village to see if there was a way of going to Lake Moran and the girl in the information office convinced us that the road was not that bad so in we drove 17 km, it was still overcast but when we got to the lake there was still clouds everywhere and as we are driving up the mountain we ran into patches of fog, there was plenty of parking for cars and buses and one narrow patch for motorhomes, which on a busy day would have been chocker.
I let Luda wander around the lake and spite of the cloudy day she still managed to get lots of photographs, and then it was on down the Hill, which was not quite as bad as I expected in our American motorhome, however I still prefer the European one.
We went out on the motorway in the direction of Field and photographed the railway spiral and then it was back on the trans-Canadian highway again heading towards Jasper.
We stopped on the side of the road to do some photographs of a glacier, what was more impressive to me was the snow in the mountains, there was a particular shelf of snow that looks like it would fall and create a tremendous avalanche….
We went through a small roadblock where they were checking on our Park pass and we were told we had to 4 p.m. to clear the Park, the girl on the checkpoint was from Napier.
We then drove on a little bit further to look at Peyto lake which is a glacier fed lake with an incredible blue water and spite of being and overcast day. Whilst in the car park a couple came up, attracted by the Kiwi sign, to tell us they were originally from Hokitika now Wellington. Luda has spoken to a few people from Moscow so it appears you get memories of home no matter where you go.
We had several other stops to look at lakes before finding a parking spot surrounded by the mountains where we are stopping for the night.
Wednesday, June 18th
This morning we woke up to brilliant sunshine which stayed with us for the rest of the day as we drove in towards Jasper.
So finally we saw the magnificence of the mountains on this drive through the national Park, the beautiful lakes all sparkling with the sunshine, we had stopped beside a lake to photograph it a little further up the road we saw a brown bear crossing the road, this of course brought all the traffic to a standstill as cameras came out from all directions, however from where we were the only thing we could get was the tail end of it going back into the bush. So we drove on and finally as we stopped to photograph to unusual looking goats we saw a brown bear come out of the forest and looked down at the goats being photographed, standing on the edge of the bank, so this was one occasion when I brought my camera out as Luda was away photographing the goats, after having a good look at the goats that bear when back into the forest and started walking in my direction, I shouted out to Luda as to where the bear was and I carried on taking photographs along with about 20 other people had piled out of cars and motorhomes and walking is close they could to the bear, this was and spite of all the signs posted up everywhere to not go near the bear, to walk in groups of four people, all this was forgotten in the excitement of getting a photograph of one of these elusive creatures.
Eventually we got tired of this so drove on leaving the bear to cope with all of its admirers. We went to Jasper and a walk around this tourist city, found a laundromat and whilst we were there some New Zealanders poke their nose in from the Stanmore Bay area in the Auckland region, they were on a drive yourself tour starting off in San Diego and Jasper was as far north as they were going.
On our way out of Jasper heading towards Prince George we saw two deer on the side of the road busy eating grass and spite of the tour three motorhomes that it stopped beside them taking lots of photographs.
We drove on and found a parking spot on the side of the road that permitted overnight parking and here we are amongst the trees beside a large lake.
Thursday may 19th
Today got off to a good start, animal wise, as we’re having breakfast and looked out the window at our beautiful parking spot beside the lake, we saw a fox dart in and out of the bushes. Luda went for a walk down to the lake got a beautiful photo with reflections, We waited a while and nothing else happened so was time to get on the road.
One of the first rivers we crossed was the Fraser river, the notice at the Bridge claimed it was the best salmon river in the world. Every Bridge over every stream we passed today had a sign announcing it was as salmon habitat.
We were driving through normal Canadian scenery with forests either side of the road in behind them the high mountains and between the forest and the road a narrow part of grass with sort of a large ditch, ahead of us I saw a large moose grazing on the side of the road, its horns were in velvet and are mostly young moose as it only had one branch of its horns. We naturally slowed down and Luda started taking lots of photos, the moose did not really like being photographed as he was swerving backwards and forwards, coming up to the road looking as if he would cross the road, then back down to the dirt on up the other side, repeating this a few times until he got tired of it all and the disappeared into the bush.
So the signs were been seeing all the time about moose on the side of the road are correct.
Little bit further on we saw a car parked on the side of the road with a photographer with his body through the sunroof pointing a decent size lens that would looked like a moose on the edge of the forest, we thought we leave that one to him. Little bit further on Luda saw a small black bear wandering on the side of the road, but by the time we turned around and went back and had disappeared.
We found a beautiful rest area beside a fast flowing river that would have been ideal to spend the night but we wanted to get on towards Prince George so we drove the extra hundred kilometres and found a Walmart in the city where we have spent the night.
Friday, June 20th
We left the Walmart parking lot and carried on our way North towards Dawson Creek some 400 km to the north,
As we travel North we meet a lot of logging trucks fully laden heading towards Prince George and the timber processing factories of that town, there are also a lot of the 18 wheeler large trucks heading in both directions, they move at the speed limit or slightly above so I take the wise precaution of letting them passed whenever I can.
Just before lunchtime we saw a small black bear moving from the grass towards the railway line which ran parallel with the road but with two cars behind me who is just not possible to stop for a photo, the bear was slightly larger than the one Luda saw yesterday. Little bit further on, on the other side of the road we saw the animal that all the signs warn us about, it was another moose, this time a female moose, and as I pulled over to the right for the photographs the tyres went over the rough concrete place there to warn you you’re going off the road, that noise of course got the moose heading back into the forest, fortunately the noise stopped as the motorhome stopped in the moose turned round to look at us making for some nice photos.
As we are passing McLeod lake, we pulled in there to have a look at the lake and to use their facilities, it is a tremendously large establishment, at this time of the year almost deserted, but come July I guess it will be hard to find an empty space.
Little bit further on we stopped for lunch in a public parking area which was beside a large waterfall, this was quite a change has often the waterfalls are several kilometres from the parking area. We considered stopping at this location for the night but I wanted another hundred kilometres off the distance to Dawson Creek so we drove on finally stopping at Chetwynd in a very large car park that said RVs and trucks welcome!
It is a very interesting frontier town with an incredible amount of wooden carved figures standing in prominent places throughout the town they were all rather beautiful and quite unexpected in such a town.
Saturday, June 21st
Was 150 km to Dawson Creek and we started out facing very little traffic which started building up the closer we got to the city.
In the city we went to the information Centre, photographed the signpost telling us that this was the start of the Alaskan highway, and this spot was mile 0. We had been told by everybody to buy the Alaska milepost travel guide so at the information Centre I bought the 750 page book for $36, this so much information in the book I’m beginning to wonder if it is not overkill.
As we are pulling out just ahead of us pulling in was what I call a serious motor home, this one was built on a MAN chassis, a large four-wheel-drive go anywhere truck with the living quarters on the back. We pulled into look at it as the owners disappeared into the shops and discovered that they had been almost everywhere we had been and then we drove on to fill up with petrol and carry on our way North.
Early this afternoon we saw the remains on the side of the road the deer that had been hit by vehicle and many signs warning us of Moose, but they obviously don’t want to be photographed so we saw none but we did see a grey fox heading off down a side road.
We pulled into a rest area to rest for a few minutes and the serious motorhome pulled in behind us, they were a Dutch couple who had shipped their truck to Halifax and we are spending six months wandering the states, so we had a great time comparing notes and were shown some photos of how even a serious motorhome like there’s can be trapped in mud up to the axles.
We drove on for another 50 to 100 km and saw a caravan and car and a parking spot on the side of the road which looked good enough for us for the night so here we are just south of Sikanni in British Columbia.
Sunday, June 22nd
Today we carried on our drive towards Fort Nelson and wild animal wise it was an incredible day as in total we saw six black bears and photographed five of them extensively then we saw two long legged birds that were Sandhill Cranes they were light brown in colour with an interesting coloured face showing patches of red.
Traffic wise was a quiet day today which was just as well when we pulled to the side of the road to do our various photographs of the black bears chewing away at grass without a care in the world.
We stopped for lunch at Fort Nelson, a town involved in the oil industry, I’m afraid to say that when a settlement has the word Fort in the name I'm inclined to think of Hollywood's version of a Fort but again I was disappointed.
We drove on some 80 km towards Muncho Lake to an incredible viewpoint showing the Rocky Mountains in the distance and a beautiful valley with one of the many rivers in this area flowing through it. The parking spot does carry a warning of bears so will have to wait and see if any join us for a meal.
Monday, June 23rd
When we sat down for breakfast this morning, we had two black bears outside having their breakfast of grass. They were properly only about 20 m away and one hardly needed a telephoto lens to get good close up pictures of them. I did invite them and have breakfast with us but somehow rather I did not have the right language and they kept on eating grass moving further and further away from us.
After that excitement was time to get back on the road back on the route north, we were told to expect to see “Stone Sheep” on the road and the first from we saw was a real miserable specimen, by that time was time to enter the Tesla River Services area with a beautiful building built out of logs, all sorts of gifts inside more important were the cinnamon rolls that we had been told about, interesting, but I’m not sure I’ll be telling anybody else about them.
So we carried on still looking for the elusive moose, who were not to be found, but it was made up later when we came to a group of six “Stone Sheep” milling on the side of the road with a baby, again the lack of traffic permitted us to get some good photographs, and then we came to Summit Lake a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains.
You do get some interesting names as you passed through this remote part of Canada and one of them is Toad River which has a little settlement gathered round it, the Toad River Lodge has been a fixture on the highway since the 1940s.
We stopped briefly at Muncho Lake settlement, a very picturesque lake like most lakes are, then at the top of the Hill we came to a rest area where we are parked up for the night.
There almost always is the problem, when you’re travelling like we do, with communication. Is always a certain point with a Sim card where it stopped working, where there is no Wi-Fi, and of course no Internet cafes. I had these problems 20 years ago when I first started travelling and I wrongly assumed that time would cure these problems, well it had in China where we had Internet almost everywhere, but we had problems in America, greater problems in Canada, and now were almost in Alaska you can forget about it.
So when we get Internet there is a mad rush to get everything done and normally before I send out the newsletter I edit it, to correct the mistakes that are made when DragonDictate thinks I have said something different.
My last Internet dispatch was done from a motel café where I had to buy a pancake, as a meal, to get access to the Internet. It was of course Wi-Fi and nothing really seem to work, I tried setting my newsletter out under three different email addresses and each time it seemed to bounce, but I have a feeling some of it went through. If you’re one of the ones that did not get newsletter number five just drop me a line.
Tuesday, June 24th
Today has been a very interesting day, it was not unusual in Europe to go across several borders and one day, but today we crossed the State line in British Columbia and the Yukon seven times, okay it is still in Canada but those states are much larger than most of the European countries.
Of course the real reason is that when the Americans built the Alaskan highway after Pearl Harbor they wanted the quickest route from Dawson Creek to Anchorage and most times that proved to be beside some of the major rivers, and of course the rivers had no respect for the lines that man had drawn on a map.
Today was also very interesting seeing three different sorts of wild animals, we lost count of the black bears we saw on the side of the road, bison were extremely numerous, they appeared to be mostly male, and they were often having dust bath’s on the small pits that they had built.
We also saw some marvellous specimens of wild goats, again a lot of males with very impressive set of horns curling around the eyes, we saw them walking down an almost vertical cliff.
As we passed through Watson Lake we stopped to take some photographs of a signpost forest which was started in approximately 1942 by an army soldier in the company of engineers I assume with one or two signs and now currently it has over 75,000 signs, we didn’t have anything we could put up as a sign so will have to leave that for next time.
Whilst I was in the cafe using their Internet a couple who been having a meal came over and chatted, they were from Blenheim in the South island on their way to Alaska, the hard way, sleeping in the back of a pickup, I made the comment that that was for teenagers, and they said that’s what we are, I did not comment!
It’s always interesting to see foreign numberplates when you’re in a country, yesterday we saw a smaller four-wheel-drive motorhome again from Holland, and parked in front of us tonight on a large parking lot that has been used for the last few nights by a road construction gang is a small motorhome from Germany, which bears out my comment almost where ever you go you see a number plate with the D for Deutschland.
Wednesday, June 25th
Another fine day and we carried on our drive north, today we saw no animals and we passed by Teslin, an extremely long lake that we saw from the road, and we had on the left-hand side of us are extremely deep large volume of water river, at almost all the parking spots we stopped at a had large prominent signs saying no overnight parking, however we came to a crossroad for Route number 6 at Johnson’s crossing, and it indicated a rest area’s around the corner we went and it was a quiet parking spot with no limitations.
About an hour later in American motorhome and olderish Winnebago pulled in and stayed for the night and then a German plated Advantage on a Fiat chassis also pulled in for the night, we had a long chat with them and they had shipped their motorhome from Hamburg to Halifax and are in the country for six months, heading for Alaska the, driving up to 500 km a day and they have their mountain bikes with them and thinking nothing of doing a 30 km ride once of reached their destination. Like most Germans we have met on our travels they got off to an early start in the morning and were gone before we had breakfast.
Thursday, June 26th
Today we drove on to Whitehorse, and the town was almost packed with motorhomes, fifth wheelers and campers. Coming into town we passed a ’99 Trek and had a long chat with the couple from North Carolina, they almost always stay in a motor camp and were towing a small smartcar to get around with at their destinations.
We then carried on our drive into town passing another Trek in a parking lot, this time it is unoccupied, and we went on to the Walmart car park, and there were so many RVs of all descriptions parked there were not sure what sort of reception we would get if we look looked to stay, so we sorted things out to get on the road again.
Just before we were set to go the other Trek arrived and I had a brief conversation with them, there were from Vancouver Island again heading North.
There was also an extremely large six wheel drive motorhome built for what looked like the worst roads in Africa, we gave each other a wave as I hurried into the store, was gone when I came out and I guess they’ll be taking the direct route North and will not necessarily know or worry about the roads!
As we are heading out of town we met a German tour bus, that has little honeycomb like cubicles at the rear of the bus for people to sleep in the must been room for at least 26 people, it had German numberplates on so obviously at had been shipped in from Germany, I’m not sure what precautions they take to make sure the person that is in the middle of the honeycomb doesn’t eat beans!
About 30 to 40 km out of Whitehorse we found a parking spot beside the lake and whilst it was not very level the jacks did help a little bit so we have a little bit of the scenic overnight spot for tonight.
Friday, June 27th
Today we drove on North driving through Carmacks and we found a parking spot just North of Stuarts Crossing where we camped for the night. Today has been uneventful with no animals whatsoever, just driving through forests that looked like no one’s ever been here before, of course if you ignore the tar sealed road which we drive through this pristine environment.
In other countries if we can drive through as much forest we would see villages scattered every 50-100 km, here we can occasionally find a spot for the tourists on the road with a shop selling refreshments or a motel or a RV parking spot, often they are closed as I don’t think the season has started yet, some are for sale, so somebody wants a good business and you want to get away from it everywhere here would be the ideal spot.
We read in the guidebooks that the forests here get burnt every hundred years and the trees that are in the forest rely on this, to me they just looked like ordinary pines or something similar and often we see a notice when the forest was last burnt down, years that come to mind a 1953, 1958, 1975, 1998 and of course there are many others.
Saturday, June 28th
Today we are heading towards Dawson and the Klondike, and on the way we met to interesting animals, one was a Horny Marmont and it scuttled across the road in front of us, evidently there hibernate for seven months and burrow into Alpine slopes.
The other was more interesting in so much that it was a Lynx, which is the wild cat that is native to Alaska and they are usually extremely hard to find, or to see, so to see one on the left hand side of the road as we passed and crossing over behind us after we had stopped which allowed Luda to get some good photographs was most exciting.
Coming into Dawson city about 20 km out we started seeing large piles of tailings from the gold dredges that were introduced in 1910 they certainly leave a mess.
We drove on into the city that appears to have about 2000 inhabitants and walked through the interesting buildings that is in this town that is called a living Museum. There was certainly a lot of tourists in town and a lot of RVs of all sorts, along with many tour buses and the main one appears to be the Holland America Experience tour buses and we see a lot of people in the town wearing labels as to who they are.
We stopped by the Jack London Museum, that is situated in a very old very small house that he is reputed to have lived in, there was an older woman caring for it and collecting the five dollars from people to enter the building and look at an old computer with parts of his history. The cabin was interesting and probably typical of its time anywhere in the back blocks.
The only way out of town going north is across the Yukon River by a free ferry, and I’m glad I’m not at the end of a RV tour going north, because the ferry takes one of these 40 foot RVs and a few cars so waiting for 15 RVs to cross would be something that I’m glad I have missed.
Once across the river we carried on up the Hill heading North and shortly we will be crossing the border but at the moment were travelling on a highway called “Top of the World’ and driving along the shingle road after you have gone up a little bit, you certainly looking down to the valleys down on all the trees in the river flowing right at the bottom is certainly do have the feeling that you are on top of the world.
We usually have at least two GPSs with us, one that is running on the computer keeping a trail of where we’ve been and on this occasion a Rand McNally GPS that has all the camping sites in the all the other things you need to know with an RV. We first of all keyed in Fairbanks and we got an answer over 1500 km, then we keyed in Tok which we knew was less than 300 km away and again we got some at over 1000 km, it wanted us to go through Dawson city and off on a another road to get there, with the Microsoft streets programme for America we confirmed were on the right road so is can be interesting how long will take the Rand McNally to accept that we are going the right way.
As we pull into the rest areas we are still seeing No Camping Signs so we looked for a unofficial parking spot, and these are not that hard to find, so about 30 km from the ferry crossing we found one and here we are for the night.
Sunday, June 29th
We carried on our drive over The Top of the World highway, driving towards the border with the USA, the road was rough, winding, and hilly, and appeared to me as I drove it, to be one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven! Of course there have been many bad roads over the last 10 to 12 years, and the good thing about memory is that in 12 months time this road will have faded in my memory and who knows it may be replaced by a bad road in South America or Africa!
We eventually reached the American border and passed through that with no hassles, and immediately this bad road all of a sudden got worse. The Canadian side was relatively smooth but rough, the American side was rough and fall of large broken rocks forming the surface of the road which made it many times worse. If you can measure countries by their roads the Canadians have won hands down.
The scenery along the whole road was magnificent with the magnificent views of the mountains and the valleys an absolute nature lovers delight.
We are pleased to see that the gold rush has not ended as in several places were seen people on the side of the road digging into the side of the Hill by the river and then panning the results at the edge of the river, we wish them the best of luck!
Alaska is trying to do its bit to make up for the lack of money to rectify their roads produced for us a fully grown male Moose with a magnificent set of antlers about 100 m in front of us he started galloping in the same direction as we were going, I speeded up a little and we got quite a few good photos of him running at full speed and then of course he took off into the bush and we carried on our way.
We passed the turn off to Eagle an interesting old town about 75 miles up a windy rough road and we are pleased to keep driving and the next town was named after a Hill which was called “Lost Chicken Hill ”and the town has the delightful name of Chicken, they have an RV Park there which a lot of the RV tours spend the night at as a relief I think from the road.
Eventually we had had enough of the road and when we found a nice parking spot on the right-hand side of the road with an incredible view of the valleys to the distant mountains we stopped there for the night.
Monday, June 30th
We woke to an overcast day which slowly turned into rain as we drove towards Tok, the didn’t stop a fox from crossing the road in front of us, or a female Moose galloping along beside us at full speed before it took off into the bush.
We had little bit of a look around Tok, checked out a motor camp in this remote part of the world to find that an electrical hook up would cost $35-$40 for the night, goodness knows what would cost and more popular parts.
So we decided to drive on towards Fairbanks, in the rain, and when we found a good parking spot little bit after Delta Junction we pulled in for the night.
Tuesday, July 1st
it was very wet this morning as we drove towards Fairbanks, our motorhome had an old analogue TV aerial that you wind up from the inside above the drivers seat, I’m not sure when it was last used, but we certainly have not used it. We notice it was leaking when we had a brief shower of rain, but today was real serious rain that looked like was going to be with us for at least a week, the rain was also spreading moisture throughout the cloth in the ceiling so something needed to be done about this fairly quickly.
The town just outside Fairbanks was christened the North Pole by property developer hoping to get lots of businesses associated with Christmas and I’m not sure it was terribly successful. We stopped off their at Santa Claus house, it was a very small imitation of the one in Finland which was definitely worthwhile visiting, had we missed this one we would have not missed much.
So we drove on in the rain to Fairbanks, went to a farm that had been converted into a park with the hope of seeing wildlife, all we saw was a wet field and plenty of rain, so we decided to look for somewhere for the night and by chance we found a Walmart in town which was not listed on my GPS, which is a good lesson to update GPSs before you travel. We also discovered a Lowes hardware shop that we know has very good Wi-Fi and caught up with our emails etc in their parking area and we drove across the road to Walmart for the evening.
Wednesday, July 2nd
Today it was still raining and we decided we had to do some the about the leak and the widening patch of dampness on the roof so we went off to an RV repair shop 11 km from town, and yes they could repair it now, so we drove into their workshop and about couple of hours later the analogue TV aerial was removed and the base plate left in its location, and then they sealed with all with a fast drying resin, they also found a couple of other cracks on the roof which they repaired at the same time, and after using our visa card were on our way.
It was not worthwhile heading south with half the day gone so we went back to Walmart in the rain, with no drips coming through the roof, repacked my suitcases and found that the left hand side of the vehicle storage units were wet and so with a suitcases, so I moved those around, lifted them up out of the water sloshing round in the bottom, and about this time Luda told me we had no water, coming out of the taps that is!
So I tested all the normal situations, electricity, fuses etc, still no pump switching on, so that’s another job tomorrow before we leave, very good of it to fail in a large city and not a country town.
Another peaceful night at Walmart!
Thursday, July 3rd
Today the project was to get the water pump working, and with their fourth of July holiday weekend coming up I was not too hopeful of finding a repair shop, this is borne out on the first one that I’ve visited, they referred me to a second, yes they could do the job.
The pump on this motorhome is in a ridiculous place behind a panel which contains all of the switches or valves for the water handling, and then the pump is behind that! After about two hours they had the pump out, did a bench test on it and it worked well, put it back in, replaced another connection wire, removed all the air from the line, and we had working water and the only conclusion we had as to what the problem was is that perhaps a wire had come off the pump, and that wire we replaced, so we left the front panel off in a pessimistic attitude of future problems and again thanks to the visa were on our way.
Again the day was lost so we decided to go on a boat cruise, along with the occupants of about 8 tour buses, was an old paddle steamer and we went down the river to a sledge dog farm and then to an Indian village returning to our starting point about three hours later. Thanks to the water pump keeping us here, and thanks to the rain disappearing, we had a brilliantly fine sunny day which was the ideal day for the boat cruise.
That over and done with back to Walmart…..
At the moment we have about 22-23 hours of daylight which is interesting
Friday, July 4th
Today we left on the trail towards Anchorage, beautiful fine day all the way with magnificent scenery, we stopped off at Nenana and watched the locals organising children’s games in the streets, had a look at the old river tug that was exhibited high and dry and then carried on our way.
We came upon a lot of traffic stopped with people on the left-hand side of the road blazing away with cameras, that was too good a sign to miss so we stopped and watched a young male Moose on the edge of the small lake busy munching away at the grass, we got lots of photographs and then carried on leaving the rest of the people to finish photographing the Moose….
Around about the area of Cantwell we came across a beautiful parking spot by a river with incredible views of the mountains, it was quite a large parking space with room for dozens of motorhomes, however only two joined us for the evening and as so much running water close by, Luda started cleaning the windscreen so she could get good photographs the following day and then carried on finishing the whole motorhome so was sparkling clean by the time she had finished, I of course was supervising from the inside and did complement her on the wonderful job she had done.
We did discover that the water pump should have been replaced and I assumed that while the pump bench tested okay there was a broken wire inside which during travel made the pump inoperable, I however did get operating again, so was good for the evening.
Saturday, July 5th
This morning the pump again was not working so we got on the road and I stopped in a parking area and played around with the pump, it looks pretty certain it is an internal wire and in hindsight I should have thrown the thing away when it was pulled out, and I must have had an inkling because I did not have the front panel put back on which is progress saved a couple of hours work this time around.
We have invitation to stay overnight with David O’Malley- Keyes, he has a house on the edge of big Bear lake just west of Wasilla, the town in Alaska that Sarah Palen has made famous, or infamous.
Dave is a Trek owner and he has an almost mint 1999 diesel Trek with about 9000 miles on the clock. His done all sorts of interesting minor modifications to it and is looking forward to giving it some serious use shortly.