Alaska - Epilog
(May 28, 2006 to September 5, 2006)


This epilog is intended to provide a summary of our journey to Alaska that may be of use to anyone planning such a trip. Diane and I enjoyed the trip very much, even though we were told it was one of the coolest summers in recent years. And wet in August. It is nearly impossible to say what were the favorite places as there were so many beautiful vistas along the way. However, we have listed below some highlights and disappointments, as well as a summary of RV and travel related expenses.


Following are some of the highlights of our trip (in no particular order):

* Float plane trip to view bears
* Snow capped mountains
* Denali National Park
* Homer
* Nina at the Samovar Cafe
* Glacier cruises in Whittier and Valdez
* Snow City Cafe and Galway Days Irish Music Festival in Anchorage
* Frantic Follies in Whitehorse
* Riverboat Discovery in Fairbanks
* The museums
* Meeting all the nice folks we encountered along the way and then seeing them again and again over the summer
* Sourdough pancake toss in Tok


*  not traveling with close friends for the entire journey
*  we never got to see Denali (Mt. McKinley)
*  we didn't see as much wildlife as we expected
*  five days of rain in Seward
*  five days of rain in Valdez
*  four days of rain in Skagway
*  Diane not going to Arctic Circle


*  go counterclockwise, that is, go to Valdez first. If the Tok Cutoff is bad then go via Delta Junction and then to Valdez
*  visit Talkeetna
*  visit Ninilchik
*  we would not do Dawson City again unless we were with friends who haven't been there
*  stay a bit longer in Soldotna and Kenai
*  talk Diane into going to the Arctic Circle
*  think about going to Chena Hot Springs
*  drive some of the Denali Highway with the car
*  return via the Cassiar Highway to Hyder if we don't visit Hyder before a return trip to Alaska
*  take a bear viewing trip to Katmai


Everyone talks about the roads going to and from Alaska, and the roads in Alaska. They talk about the Alaska Highway, the Top of the World Highway, and the Tok Cutoff. People hear so much about the roads from third parties and from RV forums, and many are discouraged from ever making the journey. It is true that there are some bad roads on a trip to Alaska, maybe even some very bad roads. We encountered roads with lots of potholes, roads with washboard surfaces that rattled the motorhome regardless of how slow you drove, roads that were narrow, and roads with frost heaves. Personally, I came to hate driving over frost heaves. I hated the feeling of the coach bouncing up and then down. But the length of the bad roads was minor when compared to the total number of miles we drove and is not a reason to not make the trip.


Here are some statistics about our journey to Alaska. Along with discussions about the roads, the other big discussion about a trip to Alaska is the cost. Listed below are RV and travel related expenses, as well as touring costs. Other expenses, such as dining out, groceries, movies, souvenirs, gifts, etc, are not listed because they are discretionary and everyone spends money differently based on their interests and available funds.

Number of nights:  101

Campground costs:  $1979.14 for an average of $19.60 per night

Number of nights with hookups:  70

Number of nights boondocking:  31 (19 were free and 12 were fee)

Miles driven starting from Great Falls, MT and ending in Edmonton, Alberta:  5,607

Gallons of diesel fuel (Dutch Star):  946.28

Cost of diesel fuel:  $3224.85 (we ran the generator a lot so you can't do the mpg average from these numbers) - $25.53/day

Average cost per gallon for diesel fuel:  $3.408

Cost of gasoline (Honda CR-V):  $208.72

Touring costs (glacier cruise, bear viewing, museums, etc):  $1596.82

A comparison of our normal average costs against the Alaska costs yielded the following:

1. Cost of expenses for Alaska trip =  $7,009.53

2. Cost of expenses based on 12 month averages prior to Alaska trip =  $2,614.89

3. The net is that our Alaska trip cost us somewhere around $4,394.64, give or take a few dollars.

It's obvious the major cost of a trip to Alaska is the fuel required to get there. Touring costs are totally discretionary depending on how much money people have to spend. Our costs were quite modest considering the things we could have done, but didn't, such as multi-day bear viewing trips, train trips, tours to Prudhoe Bay, etc. Considering that the majority of people who visit Alaska do so via a land/sea vacation package for 10-14 days, and probably spend at least what we spent, if not more, we got a lot of bang for the buck given that we spent three months in Alaska.


As we did when we toured the Maritimes, I would have to say that we traveled more like tourists than as fulltime RVers. We knew going in that it was a long way up to Alaska and we would also cover a lot of ground while in the state. We were on the road for 101 days from the time we left Great Falls, Montana on May 28 until we left Edmonton, Alberta on September 5 to end our journey. Over the 101 days we stopped for one night on fourteen occasions. Other than the one nighters, we spent at least two nights when we stopped, and we did stay still for seven days on six occasions. So we never felt tired or rushed. For the record for anyone using this site in their research for a similar journey to Alaska, the following was our itinerary as it ended up. We started with a loose plan that changed several times as we went along.


To borrow an old advertising phrase, "the Dutch Star took a licking and kept on ticking". I continue to be impressed with the quality of our 2000 Dutch Star. It has held up well for us for the more than six years we have been on the road. We hope it continues to hold up as it ages. Just the thought of the expense of repairing a major engine, chassis, or transmission problem gives me the shivers.

Final Thoughts

People say that a journey to Alaska is an adventure. Having completed that journey I would have to agree with them. Adventure is defined as "a risky undertaking" or "a remarkable or exciting experience". Risk implies some kind of peril. Certainly the gold rush stampeders who came to Alaska and the Klondike in search of riches were adventurers, and their route was fraught with all kinds of perils, some of which were life threatening. Are there perils on the journey to Alaska? Sure, but none that are life threatening. Today, adventurers who journey to Alaska are faced with modern day perils, such as some very bad roads, and some of them were very very bad, where a vehicle or RV could sustain damage. We saw some of that damage and heard of others with damage. We were lucky. We returned to the Outside with just two cracked windshields that happened on this journey. I believe most people make the journey with no problems or damage to their RVs. There are also some narrow roads, none of which were white knuckle driving, but narrow still the same. However, I don't see these perils as being what defines the Alaska journey as an adventure. Rather, I see it as the second definition of adventure, that it is a "remarkable or exciting experience", and I think that is what people are thinking when they say their journey was an adventure.

Alaska was one of Diane's dream trips and I'm very glad that we finally made it. It was me that kept putting it off summer after summer because I always wanted to wait to do the trip until we could do it with close friends. The time had come to make the decision to do the trip even if it were only the two of us. So plans were made and preparations completed and we hit the road for Alaska.

Just about everyone I have spoken to about Alaska raved about it and the beauty. I wasn't really sure what my expectations were, but I tried to keep them low so as to avoid disappointment. Thanks to the opportunity I had during the last few years that I worked, I was able to see a lot of places that I would never have been able to see. So my frame of reference, necessarily, had to also include the places I got to visit during my working days, as well as the beautiful places I have seen during the past six years on the road. With that in mind, I still find the Swiss Alps and Bavaria to be two of the most beautiful places I have visited. As we were touring Alaska I kept having the feeling that it was okay and that I was having a good time, but I wasn't being knocked off my feet by any of it. However, the twinge of sadness I felt as we climbed out of Skagway indicated that was not the case.

We had a long drive from Skagway to Watson Lake and, as I reflected on the summer, I remembered the beauty of the mountains, and lakes, and rivers, and waterfalls. I remembered our first Alaska attraction, the Riverboat Discovery, in Fairbanks. I remembered seeing Dave Monson and listening to him talk to us from the shore at his kennel about the dogs, and the Iditarod, and about how his wife, Susan Butcher, the four time Iditarod champion, was doing with her battle against cancer. And I remembered the sadness that I'm sure many Alaskans felt when she lost that battle over the summer. I remembered the awesome beauty and power of the glaciers we saw. I remembered standing right up to the face of glacier and touching it and wondering how old the ice was that I was touching. I remembered the excitement of our first flight on a float plane to see bears. I remembered Homer, and Nina, and great halibut and salmon meals. I remembered the fun we had at the Snow City Cafe and Galway Days Irish Music Festival. And right up there near the top I definitely remembered all of the nice folks we met along the way, both new friends and old friends, some of whom we met over and over during the summer. As I remembered these things and reflected on them, and felt the sadness about ending the trip, I came to realize and understand the effect Alaska has on people and the lure to go there and to return again and again. It struck me that I did, indeed, have a "remarkable and exciting experience" over the summer. I had an adventure.

I won't go so far as to say this summer was the best one I've had since hitting the road more than six years ago. The number one position is still reserved for the summer we toured the Maritimes. But Alaska is definitely in the number two position. Will we ever return to Alaska? Diane's response is a resounding "in a heartbeat". As for me, yes, I would return to Alaska, but it will probably be a long time before that happens. The only thing that would change my mind and get me to go sooner would be to have the opportunity to make the trip with close friends. Whether we'll meet any folks with whom we become close friends, and with whom we are compatible travelers, and who have a desire to go to Alaska, remains to be seen.

There are lots of reasons people choose not to not journey to Alaska. For some, the expense with today's fuel prices make it an expensive trip. It was an expensive trip for us. I'm quite sure there were people with all kinds of "pockets" traveling in Alaska. Folks with very deep pockets can do anything they want, do more trips, see more things. Others have shallow pockets and still go to Alaska and enjoy its beauty and seek out the free and inexpensive activities. We don't have deep pockets. We had to pick and choose the things we wanted to do and see. For example, rather than a full day bear viewing trip we took a four hour trip for half the price, and that was the only really big ticket item we did all summer. We did many less expensive tours and attractions rather than blow it all on one or two big ticket items.

Another reason folks give for not going to Alaska is the roads. That was never a factor in our decision process for going to Alaska. We always knew that we would do it one summer. Even though some of the roads are very bad, Diane and I would say that should not be enough to dissuade anyone from making the trip. There may be some additional risk to vehicles, but one can also have problems on some of the roads in the lower 48. For people who choose not to go to Alaska because of a fear of the roads, or because of all the mud and dirt, it is clearly their loss. They will never know what they are missing.

That wraps up our summer of 2006 in Alaska. We hope you have enjoyed the trip via the travelogs. If you find our website and plan a trip to Alaska, we hope the travelogs will be of some use to you.

Until next time, safe travels.....

Copyright © 2006, Roaming America with Rich & Diane Emond - All Rights Reserved

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