More Fairbanks.

The rest of the week we played tourist around Fairbanks.

We read about a paddle wheeler that was just around the corner on the Chena River from our campground, so we drove over there to check it out.   It was a few minutes away from us and when we turned into their very long driveway, it was the  bumpiest driveway I have ever been on.   I started wondering if they did the maintenance on their boat like they did on the driveway.  When we got back to the boat it was just arriving from a tour.  It was packed side to side and top to bottom.   I decided that I would pass on that experience.   I think they cater to cruise tours as there were a gaggle of buses from different cruise lines in the parking lot.   And we had just done a smaller paddle wheeler on the mighty Yukon River.

We headed back out that same driveway from hell.   From there we drove over to the post office via a very circuitous route.   Because we took such an odd route there, we drove past an airplane graveyard off to the side of the Fairbanks Airport.  There were a lot of planes packed into a pretty small area.  Lots of them had their wings hacked off.  From the looks of them, they were being used as a parts warehouse.  Check out the missing nose cones on many of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we drove downtown to find the Moose Antler arch.  It was located in a nice park along the river right in the middle of the small downtown.

 

 

 

On the way back toward our campground, we came upon the back of Pioneer Park, so we drove around to the front and took a stroll thru there.   First thing we did was to drop by the information booth and asked about the fireworks situation for the 4th.  She explained there weren’t going to be fireworks for the 4th, which she said was normal due to the fire danger in the area.  At this time there was a very large fire burning just northwest of town.   She mentioned that in Fairbanks the normal fireworks occur on December 31st: lots of nighttime to actually see them and not much of a fire danger that time of year.

We then made our way around the park.  We found a large train car with a roof built over it.  Turns out it was Warren G. Harding’s train car used during his Alaska trip to dedicate the first railroad there.  It was well taken care of and the insides were very ornate,  being built back in the early 1920’s.  The park had a small train ride that went around the perimeter.  I think the fee was $1.  It seemed to me we went back in time as we walked into this place.   We walked into the train museum/train station building and found a couple of very cool hand cars for riding the rails, both of them made out of wood.  Somehow I lost the pictures of those.

There was also the Tanana Valley Steam Locomotive No. 1 , which had been fully restored, including a new boiler.   I was told it was going to be pulling the small rail cars around the park on the 4th.   They cannot use it all that much currently due to it not having a spark arrestor on its firebox.  It runs on coal and I guess sparks must come out of the chimney.

There was an area they called the gold rush town with lots of old cabins and buildings that had been donated and moved there.  Now they housed lots of shops selling knickknacks and food.

There was an old paddle wheeler in need of a lot of repairs and even a small aviation museum.  The most amazing thing about this park was it had no admission fee.   Some of the museums asked for donations but that was it.

It had several play areas for kids.  What a wonderful outing for a family to come out and enjoy while the weather is nice in the summer!

 

Chicken AK to Fairbanks Alaska.

We left early Friday morning from Chicken hoping that the road would be smoother than yesterday’s ordeal.  Fortunately, it was mostly pavement all the way down to the ALCAN.  A lot of dodging potholes and short new gravel sections, but it was like riding on glass to us after the “dirtway” the day before.  It was nice to reach the Alaska highway again.   It was very smooth over to Tok, AK.

We had called ahead from Dawson City to the Tok RV Village Campground, and they said we didn’t need reservations that day; so before we went to the campground, we stopped in the visitor center and got a few more maps and brochures for Alaska cities we would be going to.   Then I asked one of the docents where was a good place for breakfast,  one that the locals go to.  We drove the RV there for a late breakfast.  It’s called Fast Eddies, and it was a great breakfast!   And from what I can tell, it was the only restaurant in that little berg.

We checked into the campground after we ate.   It was a nice campground that had an RV wash right out front.  I think it was around $30 for the car and 40′ RV.  But that coach and car were so dirty it would have been worth it at almost any price.   We washed the car first.  Prior to driving it over there, I got my small brush and swept off about 5 lbs of rocks and dirt from the areas around all the doors, roof rack, hatch, and in the well the wipers are parked in.  Then we washed it, and my best guess was another 20 lbs of mud was on the pad when we were done.  It was a steady stream coming out of everywhere I pointed the pressure washer, and for much longer than I had experienced ever before.

After the car was washed, Kathy quit so it was up to me to wash the RV.   That seemed to take forever, there was so much muck everywhere.  That pressure washer sure did take the bugs off the front quickly.   I wonder if there is a very small version of one that I could mount under the coach to use every night we stop to get the hardened bugs off?   I must check Amazon for that when we get home.

While I was cleaning the RV windshield, a small crack near the bottom of it we received on the Alcan from a truck speeding past us on a gravel section, spread all the way to the top.   I am sure glad I lowered my comprehensive deductible on the car and RV prior to leaving for “rocky” Alaska.  But now I have something else to get fixed when I can!   And later in the afternoon we noticed the car’s windshield also cracked, but I can see no reason why it did.  There was a divot from a rock on the passenger side that happened while we were at the beach last summer.   I think we will wait till we get home to have both fixed as I am sure there will be more rocks coming our way.

The campground roads were very narrow and they had planted trees between each site, so many so that it was a bit tricky to get a large RV around them and into the not-so-wide site from the way-too-narrow roadway.   We did it and settled in for a night or two.

Since we were now back in the US, I expected to be able to use my two unlimited hotspots that had no service in Canada for the last month; but my AT&T hotspot had so little bandwidth, it was barely usable and the Verizon hotspot had no service at all unless I turned on roaming.  I didn’t want to turn that on without knowing if they would be charging a buck a megabyte like they tried to do while we were in Washington state last summer.  We had latched on to a cell tower across the Juan De Fuca in Victoria, Canada.  We racked up $100 charge in a few minutes that day.   Lucky for me I got a text alert from Verizon letting me know what was happening.

And my Google Fi hotspot couldn’t connect to anything in Tok either.   It still cannot connect while in Fairbanks.  Google Fi support said it should be using T-Mobile or Sprint in Fairbanks, but that’s not what we are experiencing.

So the next morning instead of re-registering for another night, as had been my plan, we packed up and left for Fairbanks.  The evening before, realizing the internet was lacking and the town was also lacking any appeal, I had called the Fairbanks campground we made reservations to arrive on Monday and asked to start them on Sunday.   Luckily I called as they couldn’t find my reservation but could see they had sent a confirmation email to me.   The gal said she would fix it and that we had a spot for Sunday night too.   I should have known things would be messed up as the first woman I had made my reservation with for the 1st thru 5th of July, apologized, after confirming she had an opening for  the 1st-5th, and  said she was sorry she didn’t have any openings for the 4th of July.

The drive to Fairbanks was all decent roadway and uneventful.  Lots of lakes and rivers along the way.  We did get our first view of the pipeline.  I noticed a pretty large and shiny suspension bridge that was only holding up a large shiny pipe to cross a river that we were also crossing, but we were on an old highway bridge.

Somewhere along that road we got back into full cell/data service and a bunch of TV shows that had been sitting in my Dropbox waiting for bandwidth to download to the RV’s DVR for weeks was fully downloaded before we even set up at the River’s Edge Campground.   We had reserved this site till July 5th, thinking we would watch the fireworks in Fairbanks.   LOL.

 

 

The Journey to Chicken Alaska via the Top of the World Highway

Since we had seen some incredibly long lines for the ferry to the Top of the World Highway, we packed up the coach as much as possible the night before we were leaving so there was little to do in the morning.   The thought of waiting for 7 hours to board the ferry was not overly appealing to either of us.  In the morning we didn’t even attach the car so we could get there a few minutes earlier.   I planned on attaching while we waited on the line, or if a miracle happened, when we got to the other side of the Yukon River.

We got over to the ferry about 7:45 am and to our glee there was no one in front of us.  The ferry was on the other side of the river unloading, so we had a few minutes to wait.  I jumped out of the coach and motioned to Kathy to pull the car up so I could hook it up.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the ferry starting to pull away from the other embankment.  I stepped up the pace and got the car attached and ready to be towed in record time.   I ran up the side of the RV to turn off the propane as the cars from the other side were starting to unload; and by the time I got into the driver’s seat, they were waving at me to come on board.

The ramp was practically level with the dirt embankment, so that was perfect to get this long beast on the very short and narrow boat.   We made it without an issue and pulled up to where the car loader had us stop.  We were pretty close to the front and much closer at the back.  I was glad the car was off the short ramp and actually on the ferry proper.

We started taking pictures and short videos so they could be put on the blog easily with our extremely limited bandwidth.  (Turns out that didn’t matter as we had no bandwidth at all in Chicken)   Just think about that,  about  120 miles of mostly dirt and gravel road with absolutely no cell coverage at all.   Back prior to the 80’s, that was normal everywhere.  Can you remember only having a paper map and some dimes for a payphone, if needed?

At least GPS worked as I had previously downloaded the Google offline maps before leaving Dawson City.

We got off the ferry as easily as we had gotten on and pulled over in a wide spot to finish putting the rock screen on and turning on the propane and switching the fridge back on.

The first few miles of road on the Top of the World Highway (TOTWH) was paved but full of potholes that I skillfully dodged.  Then as we rounded a corner not long after getting on the highway, it abruptly ended.   I had read it was mostly paved on the Canadian side of the border.  That turned out to be totally wrong.   The next 60 miles was rough gravel/dirt roadway with almost no vehicles to be seen.

A couple hours later we made it to the US border.   The only questions we were asked was for our passport and whether we had any guns or citrus.    In a few minutes the officer came back out and handed me our passports and said for us to have fun.   I asked him if he lived up here.  He said he did for 5 months per year and loved it:  No supervisors, no cell phones,  guaranteed 4 hours overtime per day (They are open 12 hours per day) and a per diem.  There were two cabins a few feet from the border crossing.   My assumption was two officers must live in those.   As I drove away, I wondered where they get groceries.  By the next day I realized the closest grocery was a very long way away on extremely rough roads.

 

 

To my surprise as we arrived at the border, there was new beautifully smooth pavement.  I had researched this stretch of road via Google Streetview and the border was all dirt road.   I think that hadn’t been updated in about 10 years, if I remember correctly.   And when I checked, the TOTWH was mostly asphalt.  Today both are different.   Even more surprising was this pristine pavement went for at least 10 miles, all the way to the turnoff for Eagle, AK.  Then it turned to all dirt, became a lot of washboard and narrowed to the point where an RV or truck coming the other way was a tense time.   There were many miles of at least hundreds of feet tall dropoffs on our side.   There were also signs stating soft shoulders.   I never saw any shoulders.  The road was way too narrow for comfort, so getting close to the edge was not a fun experience.  Luckily Kathy was on that side most of the way.  🙂   I don’t really like heights much!

After what seemed like two days of twisty winding mountainous dirt road, we arrived in Chicken.  There is not much in Chicken, Alaska, two campgrounds and three small shacks that house the cafe, saloon, and a gift shop that Kathy said was too hot inside to shop.  (Must have been sweltering to prevent that!)

First we tried to park behind the little cafe, but it was pretty uneven back there and I could not level the coach enough to allow the fridge to run safely.   We maneuvered out of that small clearing to drive over to one of the campgrounds to see if they had a spot for us.  They did and we set up camp for the night.

We went back over to the shacks to look around and ended up buying two of the best root beer floats ever.   We talked to a motorcyclist that was riding a BMW Bumblebee, one of the original adventure bikes.  I used to ride with John Herman (King of the Alps, John) who had the first one of those machines I had ever seen.   Back then it was state of the art, having the first para-lever rear swing-arm and tubeless spoked wheels.

When we had first driven up, I had noticed he had a sticker on his front fender that said “Dust to Dawson”  (D2D)  He told me what it was and that he had been riding it for the last 20 years.   It was a wonderful story.  You can read about it by Googling its name if you care to.

We were dry-camping at Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost for $20 a night as they only had a few hookups and they were full when we got there.   We were going to dry-camp behind the cafe for free, so we were ready for dry-camping anyway.  (Fresh water full and dump tanks empty)

For anyone reading this with a smaller RV,  you should fit fine back there.

We drove around the little town,  that took all of 5 minutes.  Not much to see there at all.   Lots of mining equipment strewn about and even a gold dredge similar but smaller sized than the #4 dredge in Dawson City.

 

 

Dawson City Turistas, Part Deux

Dawson City is a place you should see if possible.   We signed up for 6 days at the Bonanza Gold campground.  And that was perfect to see the sights and do some of the adjustments needed for the RV and clean a bit, do laundry, etc.

We had been driving past Dome Road each time we went in to town, so one of the days I made the left to see where it took us.   It was a windy potholed paved road that led to the top of the mountain above the city.

Great views in all directions from up there.   After driving up in the car, it was difficult to imagine the townsfolk climbing all the way up there for a party.   They must have really wanted to attend those parties!

 

 

We tried the Jack London Grill for lunch one day.  If you like your burger mostly carbonized, then this is the place for you.  We won’t go back there again.   We had better luck with dinner at Klondike Kate’s.   The food was pretty good and the service was OK.   I got to try Poutine, a French Canadian staple, from what I read.   It’s french fries with cheese curds and brown gravy.   It’s actually pretty tasty as a side dish.

One evening I surprised Kathy at the last minute to get ready to try Diamond Tooth Gertie’s for a show and maybe some dinner.   The place was a hoot!   But it’s not a place to go have dinner.  It seemed like it was their first day feeding people.   You had to go up to a counter to order from a very limited whiteboard menu.   They asked for your name and told you to come back in 5 minutes.   40 minutes later our burgers were ready and they weren’t half bad.    I had checked back at lest 6 times, so the order taker actually called me out when ours was ready.  No one else’s name had been called the whole time and lots of people kept coming back to the counter wondering where their food was.   Luckily we ordered something odd,  a salmon burger without a bun for Kathy, so our order stuck out against all the others.   They even stopped taking food orders from all the folks in line so they could get caught up.  Boy, did that change the mood fast for the folks waiting to order.   I thought there might be a rebellion about to occur.

 

 

The place is mostly a gambling hall that has 3 Can-Can shows per night.  I heard it was all for charity but wasn’t too convinced the charity there was for someone other than themselves.

Dawson city appears to be a destination for Holland America Cruise tours.   We saw a lot of their buses outside of town and talked to a lot of folks from the ships.   And the ships are all the way back in Skagway.  That is one long bus ride for those folks.  Luckily they got to fly to Fairbanks instead of driving the Top of the World Highway like we ended up doing.   But that’s another story.

 

 

We make it to Dawson City, Yukon Territory!

 

That first afternoon there we took a drive into town to get our bearings.   After driving down a few of the dirt streets looking at a lot of the homes and businesses we drove over to the ferry landing to see what that looked like.  When we leave Dawson we must traverse the Yukon River on the free ferry to get to the Top O the world highway toward Alaska.

 

 

 

There were two very long lines, one of cars and small trucks and the other was of RV’s.   We parked near the ferry and i walked over to the guy in the first RV in the line (next to get on) and asked when he had gotten there.   He said 9am.   it was after 4pm when i asked.  Ouch!

The ferry was VERY small.   Probably held 6-8 cars or a few cars and two RV’s.   I watched it load and go to the other side of the river and come back.  On the way back i was not sure the captain would be able to get back to the “ramp” as the river current is really fast there.   He was able to do it, but it looked like a thrilling ride for the folks on there.

When i say “ramp”, there is no ramp.  They pile up a dirt embankment with a large Cat Front loader that looks permanently parked there.   That’s it.  There is no dock whatsoever and from what i can tell on the other side of the river either.

i asked one of the ferry workers what the hours are, and was told it runs 24 hours a day when the river is not frozen which i guess means it runs just a few months a year.   The towns folks say that 40 below zero here is very normal.  That seems unimaginable to me… it never goes below 40 above zero at home.

While we were standing there by the river i saw off in the distance another larger vessel and wondered what it was.   Later that afternoon we saw it was a side paddle wheeler.   i think we should take a ride on that this week.   We also walk over to the visitor center and get some info about the area.   We find out the parks Canada has a guided walking tour a couple times each day.   Now that’s added to our list also.   This could be a fun place!

 

 

 

Heading to Dawson City, home of the Klondike Gold Rush

We left Whitehorse early Thursday morning and filled up with diesel.   I am sure glad I topped off in Ft. Nelson as I would have been shy about 10 gallons to make it all the way to Whitehorse.

We drove north on the Klondike Highway, hoping to get a campsite at the Pelly River Crossing Campground.   It was a day prior to a 4-day holiday weekend for Canada, so we were keeping our fingers crossed we’d find a site there.    There are very few campgrounds on the Klondike Highway, especially when you want to stop halfway to Dawson,  actually just the one.

We arrived at the campground around 2 pm that Thursday afternoon and it was empty, completely empty.  We found an ideal pull-thru site and made our camp facing the Pelly River, which is a fairly wide river moving pretty quickly.    By the evening about 6 more of the sites were occupied.

 

All the campgrounds near Dawson were booked for the Summer Solstice party, we were not able to reserve a spot until Saturday night; so we stayed two nights at the free campground on the river!   There were a lot of trees, so my solar struggled (I struggled) to charge the batteries.  I did have to run the generator a bit that first evening and less the next evening as I was able to gather a bit more sun by moving the solar suitcase quite often to keep it out of the shade.

I think the most amazing thing about Pelly Crossing was how good the cell coverage was.  I had 4 bars of LTE on both the Cricket phones and the Google Fi hotspot.   There had been no service most of the way there and a lot of the way to Dawson City too.

We walked over to the only establishment near the campground.  It was a gas station and small general store.  I think it might have been the post office too.  They had quite a bit of groceries and every type of supplies you could need for such a small place and being so far from anywhere.

The following day we just relaxed and watched the river slide by in silence.   The only thing breaking the silence was an occasional truck that went over the bridge on the Klondike Highway about a quarter mile from our campsite.   Well, I got to relax in between moving the solar suitcase back into the sun, that is.

Saturday morning we were in no hurry to leave as we had reservations for that night in Dawson.    We left around 11 am, way after all the others (maybe 7 campers) had left the campground.

The Klondike Hwy became a lot more rough and potholed right after we crossed the bridge.  There were lots of orange flags marking even rougher pavement the rest of the ride that day, and I spent most of the time scanning ahead for those flags and avoiding all the pot holes in the road, often having to drive on the other side of the road for long stretches to avoid the worst parts.   But, thankfully, there have been no gravel sections since the ride from Watson Lake to Teslin Lake last week.

We arrived in Dawson City, to the Bonanza Gold RV Park, early in the afternoon.   We drove around the area and looked at all the other campgrounds.  This one was much nicer than the rest of them.   The worst looking place was the campground in the middle of Dawson,  no trees and I have never seen RV’s so close together in the dirt lot.   I had thought the Downtown RV park in Watson Lake was pretty tight, but now I know better.  That place was spacious.    Don’t get me wrong, Bonanza is not large by any means, but we have some trees between us and the next RV,  I think our slides are about 10′ apart.   In Watson they were maybe 4′ apart.   But the Dawson sites had maybe a foot between RVs.  We drove by one that I wasn’t sure they could open their door to get out.  Now that is way too close!!

 

 

 

Whitehorse, the Wilderness City.

After I installed the rock screen and left Teslin Lake for Whitehorse, we didn’t encounter any more gravel on the roadway.   And just past the highway 8 turnoff, the roadway changed to a very smooth asphalt, something we hadn’t experienced since the Ice Fields Parkway.  That was an incredibly smooth roadway.

Once we checked in at the Hi Country Campground and deployed the coach, I had to unhook the car which required me detaching the rock screen.   With that done, I crawled under the car to figure out what I could do to make that an easier process.  I found a couple of holes that I could mount four inch- long eye bolts to hook the bungee cords to the front of the car to keep tension on the screen while we drove.

We happened to get a site at Hi Country practically next to Larry and Sue that we had met in Teslin Lake.   They had mentioned one of their favorite places to eat in Whitehorse while we were in Teslin Lake, so Kathy and I planned on having dinner there the night we arrived in Whitehorse.  To our surprise, they were also going that night, so we went together.   There was quite a line for Sunday evening after 7 pm, so we put in our names for the one-hour or so wait and the hostess mentioned a lounge a block or so down the street.  We headed there to be out of the cold.  It was a small hotel called the Westmark,  went inside and found four seats at the bar to chat while the wait passed.   After paying the bill, we walked back to the Yukon Rib and Salmon joint and had a really great dinner.   I had the Salmon and Ribs house special and it was delicious.   Afterward we went back to their coach to continue the conversation and libations.  Larry showed us how he had modified his kitchen pantry into a wine rack.  I had modified mine to carry more soup and taller bottles..   I bet if I liked wine, I would have done something similar to Larry and Sue’s pantry mod.  🙂

I was amazed how similar our coaches’ designs were, lots of incremental changes in the 5 years since ours was built,  but it still seemed so similar to my eye.  I think the last thing Kathy said that night as we left was she wants a new bus.  Apparently it’s time to start playing the lotto in earnest.

(I think he dreamed that last statement!)

Prior to dinner I drove into town to find a hardware store to gather the eye-bolts and required washers and nuts to hold them in place.  I also wanted to fill my growler with some Yukon Brewing ale.    If found the parts I needed, and as I pointed the car in the direction of the brewery, I realized I left my growler on the front seat of the RV.   Bummer.  Next time….   I got back and installed the eye bolts and now my rock screen is done!

The next day I had the growler in the car and stopped at the Yukon Brewery only to find out they didn’t have their signature brew on tap.  So I had to chose something similar, but in the end wasn’t anywhere near as good.  On the way back, I stopped at the only open Mexican takeout joint in town.   The Tacos and Burritos were very good.  Hard to imagine here,  thousands of miles from Mexico, someone can reproduce such good Mexican food.

The following day we played full-on tourist.  We visited the the Yukon Paddle Wheeler.   They explained that the predecessor to the one we toured was put in service in 1929 and ran into a rock and sank in 1936.  They had salvaged all but the hull from the previous sunken ship to create the new paddle wheeler in less than a year.   No small feat I would imagine.  Without it running the river, the town was probably dead in the water for any supplies so they had to get it done quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we finished touring the ship, we headed over to the fish ladder.   The longest one in the world we were told.  It was pretty long, mostly made out of wood planks.  And it was leaking pretty good from the bottom just past the small building that housed the windows you can watch the fish thru.  But we never saw any fish as the salmon wouldn’t be up to that part of the river for another month or so.  Currently they were just entering the mouth of the Yukon River some 2,500 miles away in the Bering Sea.

After that we went to lunch at the only other Mexican place,  Sanchez Cantina.  The meal was really good.  If you ever get to Whitehorse YT and you like Mexican food, I highly recommend the Cantina.  That evening we joined Larry and Sue for another meal at the Klondike Rib and Salmon restaurant.  This time I had the Halibut Fish and Chips.  Wow is all I can say about that.  Best fish and chips I have ever had.  The halibut was exceptional!

The next day Larry and Sue were heading west toward Destruction Bay and the following morning we were heading north toward Dawson City and after that the Top O the World highway.    Lucky for us they shared their great itinerary written out in a spread sheet and I was able to use their choices for campgrounds to flesh out my itinerary as the cities were listed on mine, but I had not researched the actual best campgrounds in those cities yet.  I was doing it as needed.   Larry saved me a lot of time fleshing out what are probably the better choices in each of the cities as they had been to most of them already.    They planned their whole trip in advance of leaving.  It probably makes it a lot easier to do that when it’s not your first time there,  but at least now I know where I want to stay.  And if we are lucky, we will be able to get sites at those same campgrounds.   It looks like we will be a couple weeks behind them most of the time, so it looks unlikely we will run into them again on this trip, but you never know when traveling 🙂

That afternoon we headed out to find the suspension walking bridge over Miles Canyon.   It was a really cool place that the Yukon River gets channeled thru a very narrow canyon.   That must have been one thrilling ride in that old steamboat.

The bridge itself looked really sturdily built, but once you walked on it, that thought disappeared from your mind as it bounced and swayed around you.

That was a really beautiful afternoon.   Afterward we drove around and checked out easy in and out fueling stations for the RV to use Thursday morning on the way north toward Dawson City!

Entering the Yukon, Watson Lake and on to Teslin Lake.

We took off in the early morning from Muncho Lake to head for Watson Lake.   It was a very bumpy ride again.  The gravel sections are very long now and extremely dusty with my favorite washboard surface.   These guys really need to figure out why most highways are made from asphalt.   I know it must cost a lot more than dirt and gravel do, but it’s got to be way less labor and it would yield a nice, smooth driving surface immediately.

We arrived in Watson Lake around 1 pm and got a spot at the Downtown RV park, a basic gravel lot with water and 30 amp service, very closely spaced.  I think someone mentioned it looked like an RV sales lot in the webcam.

I am starting to understand that WiFi in campgrounds, even if advertised, isn’t useful at all, except for maybe a pop mailer.  Using web mail would be an exercise in futility.   And up here in the wilds, they use systems that give you 1/2 hour of internet (and they barely work, if at all).   Something I gleaned last night from folks we went to dinner with is all the Canadian Visitor Centers have free WiFi and they considered it fast.   I will have to check that out when I run out of high speed data again.  Thankfully my monthly allotment refreshed the morning we left Watson Lake.

Now on to the better stuff.   Watson Lake is known for the Sign Forest.   Prior to being here and walking thru it, I thought it would be some kitchy tourist place, but was in awe when I got there.   Pictures don’t really show the scope of it.  It’s really large and the visitor guide says there are 76,000 signs in it.  I believe it.   It is, for lack of a better term, overwhelming.    I never thought I wanted to put up a sign, but while we are traveling, we will be looking for the right material to make one.  It turns out that our route home from Alaska is the Cassiar Highway, and its junction with the Alcan is 14 km from Watson Lake.

BTW,  if you make a sign, it needs to have at least the town you are from and the mileage to it from Watson Lake.   Also, you MUST bring a tall ladder as all the open spots on the poles to hang them are at least 10 feet off the ground.   Screws will probably hold better than nails.  If you make it from wood, cover it with paint and polyurethane to make it last.   The older wooden ones that are just bare wood are getting difficult to read.

We stayed in Watson Lake for one night.   There is not much else to see there.  Watson Lake itself was not easy to get to.  Seems everything around it was privately owned so we never got to see the actual lake.  There are two other lakes closer to town called Wye Lake #1 and #2.  They weren’t much to look at.

As you drive thru Canada, you will notice the pretty yellow flowers along the roadside in most areas.   What you might not notice unless you stop and look is they are dandelions.   Very long-stemmed ones,  not like what grows in my backyard.  I am starting to wonder if they are the state\national flower.  It sort of looks like they were planted there.   They remind me of the poppies alongside the mountain roads in San Diego.

The following morning we drove off to reach our next stopping point,  Teslin Lake.   The road was even rougher and dustier than the drive to Watson Lake.   We camped at the Yukon Restaurant and Motel.   The RV sites are right on the lake behind the buildings and just next to that very long metal-grate bridge you can see in the pictures.  The only real noise there were the vehicles going over the metal grates on the long bridge.  Kathy likened it to the sound of a swarm of bees.  That was exactly what it sounded like to me too! 

We met some great folks at that campground and Dusty met his new best friend named Camper.  She was rarely on leash and she scampered over to see Dusty whenever he was out and about.  We had done a few single night stops, so we decided to stay here for two nights.  Glad we did as that gave me time to finish my rock screen.   Unfortunately I seem to have left a crucial part on my desk at home, so I had to purchase a few Christmas-colored bungee cords at the general store in Teslin.   I should be able to cut those bungees so I can use their hook ends on my bulk bungee cord so the whole screen is black.

We drove off with the new screen in place and after about 50 miles took this picture while parked in a turnout to see if it had self-destructed or blown off.  Looked good.  Now to go find that gravel and give it a real test.

 

 

The Alcan to Muncho Lake

We got up early Wednesday morning so we might have a chance at getting a lakefront spot in Muncho Lake’s MacDonald Campground.  It’s a first-come, first-served provincial park on the lake and it will be another night of boondocking. We ate a quick breakfast and packed up the coach for travel. Then we headed over to the fueling station I had scoped out the day prior to top off the tank for the way back yonder stretch of the trip.
That done and the car attached, we set out for Muncho Lake. The first hour was just beautiful scenery and a few cars and other RV’s, but after that we started climbing back into the mountains. The Northern Rockies is what the map called them.
The road got very narrow and bumpy. A lot of dodging small potholes was on the menu for the day. Then we came up on “loose gravel” signs, and right after, the loose gravel. We slowed down to below 30 mph in an attempt to kick up fewer of those rocks, but a truck came barreling down the other way and sprayed us with them. Three direct hits on the windshield. Luckily no cracks so far, but that experience suggested that pulling way over to the right when they were coming was not going to help, as I had done that.

A little further up the “gravel” road I saw 6 fast-moving trucks coming down the grade about a 1/2 mile away. Then I spotted a few-hundred meter stretch of the road without gravel and stopped the RV on that to let them barrel on past. That worked! Not a rock hit the RV. Luckily for me there was no one behind me so stopping in the middle of the highway was ok this time.
Once they went by, we proceeded and in less than a mile we saw the line of trucks, cars and RV’s just getting started behind a pilot car to lead us thru the ongoing construction. That was a dusty few miles! But the crazy part was what it appeared they were paving the highway with. It literally looked like brown dirt with gravel mixed in. And they were laying it directly on the old asphalt, no liquid asphalt was sprayed on first to “glue” it to the roadway.

It took a good hour to get thru this construction zone and then back up to the 80 Kph speeds again. Lots more windy, bumpy mountain road to go! As we approached Muncho Lake, we came across a dozen or so Stone Sheep on the sides and in the middle of the roadway. After a bit, they let us pass and we arrived at the MacDonald Campground and turned down its dirt roadway. Since we had got on the road early that morning, we found there were many open campsites. We chose one and I pulled straight in so we could look out the windshield at the lake. It’s too bad there is absolutely no connectivity here so the windshield camera is not online for this as it’s gorgeous!  It is a beautiful and level lakefront spot with a big picnic table. This is a little bit O heaven. Really quiet and peaceful place. And only 14 other campsites here and a boat launch. We saw a couple kayakers and a few small fishing boats on the pretty, light blue lake with all the tall mountains ringing it.
I wanted to clean off the bugs and maybe wash off some of the dust, so I went in search of a water spigot to see if I could get away with not using the water we brought with us and I found an old hand crank well pump. It worked, and it was a workout to get a pail of water out of it. I pumped 3 more bucketfuls that evening and vowed to bring my WD40 with me if I needed to go back again. I didn’t have any grease, which is what it needed, but I figure the WD would work for a few days…
I am writing this the morning we are leaving for Watson Lake in a text editor as we have no cell or internet service here and will paste it into a post when we get somewhere with service.   Waking up this morning with the beautiful lake out the windshield was an awe-inspiring moment.

During our walks last night, I saw what must have been the original design of a speed bump. I had never really thought where the idea came from, but this one was a round log set into the roadway. I’m guessing someone thought of this when cars were first introduced to slow them down a bit. I guess it would have had the same effect on wagons too. I remember reading about the Civil War and corderoying the roadway with logs to pull the cannons thru muddy roads. That must have been some ride if you were in a wagon.

Anyway, we are pushing on to Watson Lake this morning and plan on walking thru the Signpost Forest. I am assuming there is a lake there but have not seen anything written about that. I am guessing we will be staying in what will look like a gravel parking lot there. The opposite of today’s campsite.

The starting point of the ALCAN highway to Fort Nelson

We got out of the campground before 9 am to fill the fuel tank with  $109.9 per liter diesel, which translates to about $3.15 US.  I believe the cheapest fuel we found in the States on the way was $3.12, so Costco Canada has its act together.

We stopped and took a few pics in Dawson Creek, as we didn’t have anything listed to see there, so we got on the ALCAN and headed toward Alaska!   We thought we would stay at Charlie Lake Provincial Park just north of Fort St. John,  if there was availability when we arrived.  There was,  so that evening we enjoyed a very wooded British Columbia Provincial park.   There were no hookups in the campground.  We did see a few strategically placed water spigots on the park road so you would be able to fill your tanks if needed, and there was a dump-station there too.

 

 

It was a no-hookup site and heavily forested so the solar wasn’t going to do much for us.   It was going to be a live off the batteries and charge them as we drove the next morning to Fort Nelson, about a 220-mile drive.

I had a little time after the rain stopped to get my rock guard front bar mounted on the receiver on the back of the coach that evening.

We shoved off the next morning with the hopes of staying in Fort Nelson that night.   The road was real smooth, similar to all the other roads we had been on in Canada till we hit Kilometer Marker (KM) 170.   After that the road jostled us the rest of the way to Fort Nelson.   Also, not long after KM 170, we saw a bear run across the road way in front of us.  The next couple hundred miles had us see 4 more bears alongside the road.  Other than that there wasn’t anything else to see except the scenery.   We made it into Fort Nelson a little after 1 pm.  Turns out we were back in Pacific Time when we entered BC, so it was earlier than expected.

I had called Triple G Hideaway Campground from Charlie Lake that morning and they said they would fit us in, no problem.   When we arrived, the place was almost empty.  By 9 pm it was almost full.  Nice little park right on the Alcan.  Luckily we were placed 3 rows from the rear and couldn’t hear any road noise that night.   When we walked over to the town’s small museum, the front rows of sites had plenty of road noise.  But I bet traffic isn’t probably much of an issue once it gets dark.   Sunrise it 4:01 am and sunset is 10:20, over 18 hours of sunlight.  Less than 6 hours of night time here.

We stayed at the 3 G for a couple of nights.  Finding these campgrounds with good WiFi in what is essentially the wilderness is pretty nice.  Living on 256 Kbps is more like dial-up than you think.  Even though the fastest dial-up I remember was 56 Kbps, the websites you looked at had a minuscule amount of graphics back then and practically no one had a digital camera .  If they did, the photos were 100 kilobytes,  not 4 megabytes each.   And no one pulled down 1 Gigabyte video files so their significant other could watch her soap opera.

I checked out the 4 local fuel stations to determine the easiest egress to top off before we really get into the back yonder and fuel gets close to double the cost till you get to Whitehorse in the Yukon.   We might be able to make it to Whitehorse with the fuel we have but that would be cutting it really close on range.  And I heard from a local that used to truck fuel to Whitehorse, there are 7 large grades between here and Whitehorse and about 600 miles of road to get there.

Yesterday afternoon we walked over to the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum.   Quite a bit of stuff to look at, from old cars and machinery to huge generators that used to power the town.   It was quite a collection, even old communication equipment.  I really like what appeared to be a telephone test rig that looked like a piece of furniture.   I think it was $7 C.  It was a blast from the past!   Glad we walked over there.  If you are ever in Fort Nelson looking for something to do,  you could spend hours looking at things.