Written by: Ron Jones special guest contributor from AboutRVing.com
03/08/2013 2:33 PM
This is the second article in a three part series that CampingRoadTrip.com asked me to write. RVing to Alaska has always been a dream trip for us, and as we embarked on this adventure we quickly learned many valuable hints and tips - enough to fill an entire book! So here are a few nuggets of information that we wished someone told us before we left for our road trip to Alaska.
If you're thinking about an RV trip to Alaska this will help a lot!
During the planning and while we were on our 84-day Alaskan trip, I learned lots of unusual RVing information that simply did not apply to the "Lower 48". This trip is different-nothing bad but just different. When you plan to go, the first thing to remember is... it's a long, long trip!
You need a couple of months to do a minimal Alaskan trip with or without a caravan. I recommend three months. The commercial caravans often start from Dawson Creek, British Columbia so you have to get to there first. We started from Dallas. Dawson Creek was 2,500+ miles one way from Dallas. So, this adds 5,000 miles to the overall trip! We traveled alone and didn't have any major problems. I would do it again. I am going to do it again. It is a wonderful, delightful, spectacular, and inspirational trip. I absolutely recommend it.
Useful Alaska Driving Information
1. Highway Names
Alaskans use names for the various routes/highways. For example, AK-1 is called the Sterling Highway and AK-3 is the Parks Highway. Even in Canada, Route 97 through British Columbia and continuing Route 1 through the Yukon Territory are called the Alaskan Highway (the old ALCAN Highway). Guidebooks, brochures, websites, and local people will refer to these routes by name. If you ask a local about how to get to AK-3, they may not know what you are talking about. You will have to learn the names. Official maps will show route numbers but may not show the names.
2. Mile Markers
You can use mile markers to locate anything along the major highways through Canada and Alaska. Canada changed to kilometer markers when they converted to the metric system in the 1970s. There are new mile markers, historic mile markers, and kilometer markers now. The Milepost 2013
lists them all. It may seem confusing but it will be helpful-hang in there.
Mile markers were ingrained in the history of the highways. Some may actually be addresses such as... "866 Alaskan Highway." That's likely an original (historic) mile marker. Although historic markers are still used, the number may not match with the location today. After about 60 years of road construction to straighten and fix the Alaska Highway, nearly 150 miles have been eliminated. An historic mile-marker-address is like a badge of honor-never to be taken away or messed with.
3. Road Works
The highways are all paved. The summer "construction/repair" season is short and intense. During repair, they often scrape up the entire road surface and get down to the gravel base. We saw a sign that said... "Extreme Dust, Gravel Areas for Next 60 km" (about 37 miles). It was a lengthy highway-repair project. The gravel was smooth but dusty. You will have to slow down. It will help. Fire up your generator and run all of your roof ACs while driving over dusty roads. This establishes blowing air inside the coach and helps keep the dust out.
If you drive a motorhome and tow a vehicle, you will need protection for the tow vehicle. Otherwise, there is an excellent chance that the rocks and small stones will beat it to death-paint chipped and windshields broken. I learned this from experience.
4. Highway Pull Offs
The official rest area usually has trash containers, rest rooms, a visitor center building, and information (sign/plaque) about that location, geographical area, or historical note. Generally, they are large enough to hold numerous vehicles of any size.
A "pull-off" is a designated place large enough to pull off the highway. Some will hold dozens of vehicles and some are tiny and only hold a couple of cars. Don't pull in unless you can see two ways in and out. Many are "double-ended", that is, have an entrance/exit at each end-important for the big RV. The Milepost 2013
will identify these.
Armed with this information, you are well on your way to planning and getting the most from your road trip, as well as avoiding challenges often faced on a trip up to the wonderfully wild frontier of Alaska. To help you plan your trip, you can also find Alaskan campgrounds and RV parks using CampingRoadTrip.com's Smart Search. We have details of all 224 Alaskan campgrounds and RV parks, including ones that have dump stations and propane.
Ron Jones is a fulltime RVer and well-known writer and speaker in the RV world and owner of AboutRVing.com. He has written feature articles for all the major RV magazines, been a columnist, and author/co-author/collaborator on four RV books his latest latest book, "RVing to Alaska" (©2010) which is available from his website. The book ontains over 150 pages of details on how to plan and do this trip on your own, what to see, suggested routes, tips for Canada (money, highways, fuel, kilometers, etc.), schedules, what to expect and more. Ron will also be sharing some of this information in the next two issues of CampingRoadTrip.com Outdoor Living newsletter. Both the book and his personal commentary will be helpful for you to plan and make your dream RV trip to Alaska. Ron can be contacted at email@example.com
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