Making the decision

Somewhere in the Lower 48 States.

June, 2002

Well it's time to take the bull by the horns, sort to speak, and get down to talking about what it has been like on our fabulous trip to the wonderfully adventurous State of Alaska. In retrospect, the first thing I had to consider is exactly when did planning for the trip start? Hmmmm, well it started several years ago when our friends Tom and Dottie Barth dashed off to the 50th state for a summer of adventure and excitement for which I can still get them to talk about on fireside gatherings. Or, maybe it was when we made the commitment last year, only to find out we had not allotted sufficient time to get back safely before that white stuff started fluttering out of the northern skies. Then again it may have started in Florida, lounging around in a beach chair, looking over the newest arrival in the snail-mail, the latest copy of "Milepost" published by Morris, $24.95, 1-800-726-4707. Again the Barths turned us on to this publication. As I would proceed closer and closer to that "point of no return" I would hear this name over and over again. It is the accepted Bible of the Alaskan traveler. Confusing at first, this thick magazine-like book has all the information anyone would ever want or need. It did require a laborious dedication to a study of the first few pages until I had committed to memory, the symbolic notations used in both map and mile post entry. So impressed was I with this publication that I have decided to officially declare the beginning of our Alaska trip, as the point where we entered into the area described in "Milepost". Not to interfere with my ancestral practice of bragging, I needed a real catchy expression to describe my plans for the summer. So here it is "FROM FLORIDA TO FAIRBANKS  IN AN RV". Back to the Milepost, a simple description of this book is; it is a magazine that describes "mile by mile" everything you can expect to see, witness or will have to put up with on any particular major road, and I might add a good many minor dirt or gravel roads too, within the covered area. Now the area it covers, which I had expected to cover only Alaska, is actually much wider.
For those of you with computer mapping programs that computes longitude, "Milepost" covers all roads west of a line at 111 degrees, 19 minutes west, continuing to the Pacific Ocean and the Bays associated with it. Otherwise it is a box with a south boundary being a line between Great Falls, MT., and Seattle, WA., and a line north from Great Falls, MT., through Yellowknife, Northwest Territory, Canada to the Arctic Ocean. This is a huge area. Alaska actually takes up less then half of the book and far less then half of the overall map found on page 4. In all fairness, Laura picked up a copy of British Columbia's official 2002 travel guide and found that it had all the towns listed in much the same manner as "Milepost". Missing was that wonderful reconciliation with the road; that almighty mile marker and exactly what is happening precisely where I am at. So I have decided to do a fast backward, which is usually required when I find I'm once again behind. I will try to catch up with what has happened over the past week. At this point I feel compelled to mention a very personal element of this trip. FEAR ..... "Not you?" you say,  wellllllll yeah, kind of. Babe, our beautiful faithful old brilliant blue Dodge truck, just turned 100,000 miles. It still feels spunky and solid and will make it.... I think? Then there is that poor dilapidated trailer I have abused for the last 4 years. One magazine offered this opinion on trailers. "A RV trailer is built to last for at least 10 years based on the fact that they are only used two weeks out of each of those years. There is no recreational vehicle built for full time living." Another article proclaimed "Alaska is a desolate foreign land where only the basics are offered. For protection, carry many of your own vehicle parts with you, as you will not find them available in the boondocks." These were the thoughts I had as we arrived in Great Falls, Montana. With these thoughts I have to decided to simply list each of the stories in order of occurrence.  When strung together they will make a journal.
June 21st, 2002
We pulled into Great Falls without finalizing our trip plans. We often do this as we find that plans can sometimes be restrictive. However, this time we needed to make reservations for the ferry ride on the Inland Passage from Prince Rupert, BC, to Ketchikan. Laura called and made the arrangements. We had originally planned on taking the ferry all the way to Anchorage. At the end of that call, we made our first modification to the still not finalized plan. We were informed by the Alaska state ferry information center that there were actually two ferry routes; one that traveled from Vancouver, BC, to Skagway, and another that traveled from Skagway to Valdez, with a connection to Whittier from where it is a short drive to Anchorage. The ferry to Skagway still had plenty of opening and left on a daily timetable. The ferry from Skagway to Valdez was full and only runs once a month. We would not be taking the ferry to Valdez. Then they hit us with the cost, $1840.00, which included tax plus cabins on two of the three legs of the trip; starting at Prince Rupert, BC, ending at Haines, AK, and getting on and off at Ketchikan, Petersburg and Juneau. The charts in the "Milepost" indicated a price of $1380 for a 48 ft rig. Now when you add the cost of passengers at $136 apiece and the incidental federal, state and local taxes it all comes out pretty close to that. Anyway, we have our space on the ferry all the way to Haines where we will begin the driving part of the trip. We pulled out of Great Falls traveling north for 122 miles to the Canadian Border. We had done this many times before but not since 9/11 and didn't know what to expect. American customs officers who, questioned us as to who we were, what we were carrying and where we were going, were stopping, our only surprise. In the past we have been stopped only by customs of the country we are entering. The American officers didn't go in the trailer or ask for identification. We answered the questions and they waived us on for another 100 yards where we were stopped by the Canadian customs officers who went through the trailer. The check was quick as if they were looking only for additional people in the vehicle, not contraband or prohibited items. The whole thing took about 20 minutes and we were off and running north into Canada and heading for Calgary.

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