MEMORIAL DAY–THANK YOU TO ALL SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN
Chena Hot Springs
In the past, there were three options for Hot Spring in the Fairbanks area but things change. Circle Hot Springs is closed and Manely Hot Springs is really not operational. So we went to Chena Hot Springs Resort outside of Fairbanks. On the way, on the Chena Road, we were passed by a black Delorean sports car. By the time I got my camera out, the car was long gone so no picture. The Chena Hot Springs is completely wheel chair friendly, flat and it even has a ramp down into the hot springs. There is a slight sulfur smell to the water in the Hot Springs and shower, as you would expect. We paid $8.00/senior for a very nice soak. There are changing rooms, lockers, hot tubs, an indoor pool and hot showers as well as a campground and lodging. The restaurant is said to be good and the employees are helpful. They have a geo/thermal tour (free) and an ice sculpting show for $15.00 each. We were drained after the Hot Spring soak so we were done for the day. A moose wandered onto the resort grounds and I was able to get a picture of her.
On the way to and from Fairbanks, on the Chena Road, we saw a sign that read “dog team crossing”. Now that is a sign we won’t see often!
Tomorrow morning we’ll head for Coldfoot. Wednesday we will go to Deadhorse and on Thursday we’ll take our scheduled shuttle to the Artic Ocean. We will take the Lazy Daze RV and boondock along the way.We probably won’t be able to post again until we return to Fairbanks on the night of Saturday, June 2nd or on Sunday, June 3rd. When we return to Fairbanks, we will post about the trip up the Dalton Highway.
We spent the night in the Walmart parking lot (along with about ten other RVs) and woke to a temp. of 51 degrees F. It just doesn’t get dark at night so our schedule is way off. We always feel like we should be doing something when it is still daylight. For example, we really need to get the Lazy Daze clean. That Alaska dirt just doesn’t rinse off. It needs a good scrubbing. Also, having the store so close has caused me to use it as a pantry and just run in when I need something.
University of Alaska Museum Of The North. Fairbanks.
Spent a good part of the day touring the museum at the University of Alaska. The university campus is huge and beautiful and the museum building is tastefully done. It costs $9/senior admission and an additional $5 to see the films they show. We opted to see the films but when they put you in a warm room, in comfortable seats and it is the first time you have seen it turn dark as night in weeks…well, let’s just say it was all we could do to stay awake for the films. The films were actually very good and we did watch them, albeit with an occational nod off. The museum is well laid out with wonderful art and nature displays. The tour books say it is a “must see” in Fairbanks and we quite enjoyed it. They’re open daily and parking is free on the weekends. Also, they have RV parking. Very nice.
Robert G White Large Animal Research Station, University of Alaska.
Near the campus, and run by the university, is the Large Animal Research Station. They say you can see musk ox, caribou and reindeer from the parking area but we only saw some reindeer laying down near the fence. We think they would look much better in the wilderness. There are also guided tours at the research station Tuesday through Saturday. I’m told that they are just doing genetic testing and no animals suffer there. It’s good to know no one is hurting “Rudolf”!
Artic Ocean and Haul Road (Dalton Road) to Deadhorse–
We spent a good part of the morning planning the upcoming week because we want to go to the Artic Circle and the Artic Ocean. We have wanted to see the Artic Circle and go to the Artic Ocean since we first talked about going to Alaska but, we are told the rules, companies providing the shuttle and the costs change almort every year. Turns out, you need to make reservations at least 48 hours prior to taking a shuttle through the Prudhoe Bay Oil property to get to the Artic Ocean. The oil companies own the land that fronts the Artic Ocean and you must traverse this property with a tour. Security is the all encompassing oil company’s issue in this area thus the minimum 48 hours for security background checks. So, we called the Northern Alaska Tour Company (907 474 8600) and made reservations for Thursday May 31st at 3:00 pm. To make the reservation for the shuttle you need to give identifying information and pay via Visa $49.00 per person. We’ll drive to Deadhorse, Alaska and then take a 3 o’clock shuttle to the Artic Ocean. We think it will take us about two days to drive to Deadhorse and hopefully we won’t have “road issues”. After the drive to Eagle, Alaska we should have an idea of what a difficult road is like to drive. There is no communication on the Haul Road (Dalton Highway) after Coldfoot until Deadhorse so there will be no way to get help, certainly no Emergency Road Service. We’ll try to be ready to help ourselves if needed. We will leave Fairbanks, Alaska on May 29th and return to Fairbanks sometime on June 2nd (with any luck).
Pioneer Park Fairbanks, Alaska
Today was “free museum admission fee day” in Fairbanks, Alaska. There are numerous museums in Fairbanks’ Pioneer Park so we spent most of the day in and out of some of their museums. A lovely way to spend a Saturday.
Also, Pioneer Park has free potable water available for RVs plus there are several free RV dump sites in Fairbanks.
It stays almost full daylight well into the night now so you feel like you should and could be doing something when you usually would be settling down for the night. So last night, around 10:00pm we went to Northern Energy and used their free dump, the free hose to wash down the Lazy Daze and filled the tank with gas. The #1 pump works with a credit card after the station is closed and gas was $4.60 per gal. reg. and the dump plus car wash was free with fill-up. Next, we drove north of town and found a boondock site near a pond. Though just off the Alaska Highway, the road is very lightly traveled and we slept well. The GPS location N 63.36375 degrees W 143.41366 degrees. We found it by just reading the MilePost book for that stretch of road. It was 45 degrees and overcast when we woke this morning. Driving along the road from Tok to Delta Junction we saw black bear and moose just grazing along side the road. Got our moose sightings in but have yet to see grizzlies or eagles.
Delta Junction, Alaska
This is the end point of the Alaska Highway and at the visitors center there’s a milepost for that. We had lunch at the visitor center in our RV though there’s a grassy area and picnic tables next to the visitors center. Just up the road is the Historical Rika’s Roadhouse. It is a very interesting museum and period buildings to tour. We spent a few hours poking around and stopped to have a piece of their freshly made strawberry/rhubarb pie that we heard so much about. Oh, yes, it was good. Heard their soup was also good but we had just finished lunch. As soon as we were leaving, in drove a whole tour bus full of people. Glad we missed them.
Arrived in Fairbanks this evening and spent a few hours touring the visitor center and talking with the knowledgeable staff there. Planned the next few days of touring with the visitor center’s help. Will need to get gas here but it looks like it is running around $4.30 per gal. reg. Not too bad after what we paid in Canada.
This will be Memorial Day Weekend, so if any readers served in the military…THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.
Left Eagle this morning early in an effort to dodge any traffic on the Taylor Highway. Temp. this morning was 54 degrees F. at our boondock site of the past two nights right next to the public library in town. The tire is holding air and is at a good pressure so should be fine. The Taylor Highway did not improve while we were in Eagle. If anything the highway got worse. About 25 miles south of Eagle the highway signs said “road narrows” “one lane”. Ok, so we didn’t think this road was wide enough to call it two lanes in the first place and now they are saying it is going to be down to one lane? Yikes!!! Good news, we didn’t meet anyone coming toward us on the narrow parts of the road. Bad news, when we were nearing Chicken, Alaska we noticed our tire was again loosing air. Tried adding air and it must have helped because we made it to Tok, Ak. without any problems where we had it fixed (again).
Stopped to see Chicken, Alaska. Touring Chicken took about five minutes but we did spend time talking to the gift shop owner and I bought a little knit jacket. Of course, I didn’t need it but got it at a good sale price and I will use it as I am amost always cold. Got gas in Chicken and paid $4.89 per gal. reg. We stopped for lunch at a picnic area just under two miles south of Chicken in a very nice spot overlooking The Mosquito Creek at the Mosquito Fork Bridge Wayside. There are picnic tables here and a barbecue. There are rough areas on the road from Chicken to Tok, Alaska but they are tame compared to the last 40 miles of the Taylor Highway into the town of Eagle.
Arrived in Tok and went directly to Northern Energy (the tire fix-it place). They took us in immediately, took off the tire and tested it carefully for leaks. The valve stem extender had loosened again and they just refilled it with air and tightened the extender. They think the rough road just shook the extender loose until it started leaking. So, for now, all is right with the world. The visitor center is in a beautiful building and they are quite helpful. We spent some time looking at their displays and chatting with the women who works there. The mean temp. in Tok is -19 degrees F. in January so you won’t find us here then!!! The average high in July in Tok is 72 degrees F. so good summer temps. if you don’t like it too hot. Next–Fairbanks!
So where do you go for small town living, far from most of the outside world, nice and helpful people, and well socialized/friendly kids. Eagle, Alaska would meet all these requirements. The “outdoors” is outside your door and everyone knows everyone. We’re here in late May when everything is green, lush, and warm enough for short sleeves but the mosquitoes aren’t too bad yet. The temperature ranges from a high of about 90 degrees F. in the summer to a low of about -60 degrees F. in the winter.
Unless home schooled, the kids of all ages attend the same school The local library has free Wi-fi for all to use and there’s a lot of history in this neck of the woods Historic Fort Egbert is adjacent to Eagle campground and is interesting. The town used to have a fairly good tourist industry to add to the town coffers but fires, floods and a washed out access road put an end to that for now.
Late yesterday, Jerry noticed that one of our inside dualies on the Lazy Daze was flat. He thought it was the valve stem leaking air. This tire has been checked and worked on repeatedly but the leaky valve stem apparently didn’t go away. Jerry worked on it last night and today and it was looking good. One more turn to tighten the valve stem so it didn’t leak and pshhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! The valve stem broke off. The folks in the town suggested we go to Eagle Trading Co. to have the tire dealt with and get a new valve stem. It was necessary to take the outside and inside dualies off to get to the inside dualy’s valve stem. About an hour later…done! That was very nice of them to fit us in and work on the problem immediately. This was money well spent. There’s no emergency road service in Eagle, Alaska. We’ll stay the night here and make sure we have a functioning tire before we brave the Taylor Highway. The thought of changing a flat on that narrow mountain road sounds most unappealing.
Border Crossing from Canada to USA–
Arrived at the US border this afternoon. The Top of The World Highway essentially ends at the US border and we are thrilled to be in Alaska. The border crossing was uneventful. Asked us about what fruit we had on board, if we are armed, etc. No problem with this crossing. Took about two minutes.
We have read that the Taylor Highway is a trip of beautiful views so decided to head north to Eagle, Alaska. The blurb about the Taylor Highway in the Mile Marker doesn’t begin to describe how scary this ride is. The road is dirt and gravel starts out fine but it becomes quite narrow and the drop-offs seem to be right next to your wheels. Yes the views are wonderful but the fear factor should be considered. I was wishing we were in a VW!!! We did meet another car coming the other way but it was in one of the few wider spots on the road. Lucky for him because we just could not move over most of the way. OK, I’ll stop whining now.
After a nerve-racking ride we arrived in Eagle in the late afternoon. A tiny town set in an incredibly beautiful area. We were told that the Taylor Highway frequently washes out and falls away and that they have been cut off from traveling the road, sometimes for up to a month. Have visited Fort Egbert and have met a few of the locals so got a chance to hear some of the town stories. We will overnight here and start back over the Taylor Highway in the morning after a fortifying breakfast.
Boondocking / Leaving Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
Last night we decided to boondock across the Yukon River from Dawson City. The only way to get to the Top of The World Highway into Alaska is to cross the Yukon River. There’s no bridge across. Only the free ferry service is available from Dawson City to get to the Top of The World Highway. Our RV fit on the ferry easily and took the entrance and exit from the ferry well but there are some warnings if your RV is quite big. If you come to Dawson City with a very large rig you might want to check the ferry restrictions in advanced. We took the ferry across and boondocked on the other side in an unmarked pull-off. We were not bothered during the night and woke to a temp, of 44 degrees F.
Top of The World Hwy. Adventure # 1
We started up the Top of The World road and immediately you can see why it got its’ name. The views were fabulous. Soon into the drive we came to a detour due to a huge avalanche that probably won’t be cleared for a week or more. We were the only ones on the road at the time. Followed the detour sign down a rather rough, dirt road that was a bit scary. It was a leap of faith to even take such a road but it was OK and it, too, had wonderful views. Of course, we went down this dirt road very slowly and were quite surprised to be passed by a car that was going very fast. Even though the car was gone quickly, we were reassured that the detour we were taking must be OK because (we reasoned) no one would drive a road like that so fast if they didn’t know where they were going. Sure enough, the detour came back up the mountain and rejoined the Top of The World road.
Top of The World Hwy. Adventure # 2
After our detour that returned us to Top of The World Hwy., we drove along enjoying the fantastic views. Then, another road closure. But there was a dirt road right next to the “Road Closed” sign. We followed a truck camper with Canadian plates down an adjacent dirt road. About ten cars had passed us so since the road was closed and we didn’t see anyone that had turned around and come back we figured they must have gone down the dirt road too. Uh, Oh, back up the dirt road detour came the camper. They (Mike and Janet from New Brunswick) asked us why we were going down the dirt road. Uh, we were following you folks on the detour road. Actually, there was no “detour” sign, they pointed out, and were concerned enough to turn around ask us. OK, well the last dirt road worked, so we all continued down this second dirt road. A bumpy ride was had by all but when we crossed that little wooden bridge (see picture) all bets were off. Luckily, there was a local there to ask (he was the only one we had seen and we were glad he was there). “Yes the dirt road we were on does lead up to The Top of The World Highway but there’s 12 feet of snow on it just up the way!” So back up the dirt road we went retracing our trip and by the time we got back to The Top of The World Highway it was opened. They had cleared the second, smaller avalanche. Well that was an interesting adventure. Don’t want to repeat it but we’re glad we had that experience. Yep! I know! We are nuts! But that’s part of the fun.
The Top of The World Highway is not too difficult to drive in good weather conditions like we had today. A sunny day, no rain, and a dry gravel/dirt road. The views are too wonderful to really capture in a photograph though we tried.
Diamond Tooth Gertie’s—
Went to the 8:30 pm show last night. A good show for the $10 and you can stay for all three shows for that price. The showgirls come down off the stage during the show and “flirt” with some of the male customers. The men loved it, of course, but better than that was that the men’s wives had just as much or more fun watching their husbands have a good time. Jerry was chosen to learn the Can-can and was a good sport about trying to do as asked. We had a great time but only stayed for the first show. Guess we’re really getting old!
Boondocking on the Dempster–
Last night we drove to the Dempster Hwy. turn-off. Needed some gas before taking that road so stopped off at the Dempster/Klondike Hwy. corner gas station. $6.50 a gal. reg. later we were in shock so only got a minimal amount. Started down the Dempster as the sun was getting low in the sky and what a “far north color show!”. The road is paved for the first five miles then it is a dirt/gravel road, not terrible. Found a large pull-out and spent the night. Woke to a temp of 45 degrees F. but I don’t think it ever really got dark last night. Because the weather is warming, the mosquitoes are out big time. They’re huge but slow yet so easier to kill them. When the smaller, faster mosquitoes arrive…Watch Out! Jerry always wants me to stand next to him as the mosquitoes perfer me to him if they have the choice.
Traveling the Dempster–
The Dempster Hwy. was very quiet today. No trucks, few cars. Reasons? Well this is a lightly traveled road anyway, this is a three day Canadian holiday weekend, and the Dempster is closed in the north through to Inuvik due to “break up” and the ferry not being able to cross the Peel River. Thus, we were alone on the road most of the time. The views on the Dempster are incredible. We’d heard that it was beautiful but it is even better than we thought. The road is rough in places. Had we had our previous rig, a 36 ‘ Rexal Airbus with two large slide-outs, we would not have taken it on this road. A car would be fine or a smaller, very well built RV such as our Lazy Daze. Turn arounds can be tight and the washboard effect would shake some rigs to death. This is a side trip well worth taking to view the grandure. We would like to come here some year in early Fall (for the Fall colors) and travel the whole length into Inuvik. We did stop at the Tombstone Territory Park Visitor Center which was very nice. Saw few animals. Had hoped to see moose and grizzly but no such luck.
Price of Gas–
After paying $6.50/gal. reg. near the Dempster we asked at the Dawson City Visitor Center where we could pay a more reasonable price for gas. They sent us AFD cardlock station. It accepts only Visa or Master Card, was fairly easy to use and charged us $5.50 per gal. reg. Not a wonderful price but a lot better than $6.50 a gal. reg. The visitor center said “Where to buy gas?” is the most common question they get so they always have a list of the gas stations here and the amount they are charging.
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
Arrived in Dawson City area last night and decided to take the “view” turn off to Dome Road. The road takes you up a steep mountain on a good two lane road. At the top there is a loop that turns you around to head down hill (not for big rigs though we saw a big tour bus up there). The views are incredible and the climb for us was well worth the gas.
There are “tailings” along both sides of the road into Dawson City. The tailings (piles of gravel and sand) are the remnants of the tremendous amount of dredging of the rivers and streams for gold. Late last night we found an area outside of town to boondock and went to sleep with the sun still lighting the area. At 10:00pm we still had to wear sunglasses. During the night the temp. dropped to 34 degrees F. and when we awoke around 6:00 am, the sun was shinning like it was already noon.
Visitor Center and tour of the town–
Chatted with the visitor center staff about the Dempster and Top of The World roads. The Dempster is closed due to flooding during “break up”. We can go only part way on the Dempster and that we will do tomorrow. The plowing of the Top of The World road was completed yesterday and the ferry is running but the American border station isn’t opened until Tuesday. That works for us since Tuesday is when we are going (hopefully). The visitor center staff advised us to check with them Tuesday morning before attempting the Top of The World road. Spent most of the day today wandering around this interesting little town.
The Jack London Museum–
Fans of Jack London since childhood, we had to visit the Jack London Museum and see the cabin Jack London lived in while he was mining for gold in the Klondike. The presentation was excellent and the pictures at the museum of the struggle that people in the time of the gold rush went through (including Jack London) is amazing. His restored cabin is on the museum premises and is set up so you can see how they lived.
Diamond Tooth Gerties–
There’s a show at 8:30pm tonight at Diamond Tooth Gerties and we will attend. Should be lots of cancan dancing and great fun.