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  1. Default Western NY to Anchorage/Fairbanks, AK

    This next summer I'll be buying a truck in Buffalo, NY and driving back home to Alaska with a couple friends. It'll take about 14 days total. I know the drive times look long but this is about how we did it on our last trip (cross country and back) and it worked out well, really didn't mind the long drives. I'm not really familiar with this route or these towns so I'm looking for suggestions for amendments to the itinerary. I'm mainly looking to stay in small friendly towns with cheap, clean, safe campgrounds (hopefully with some nice scenery too).

    Here is a beginning list of places we might spend the night:
    Madison, Wisconsin (11hr drive)
    Jamestown, ND (10hr)
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (10hr)
    Edmonton, Alberta (6.5hr)
    Dawson Creek, BC (7hr)
    Fort Nelson, BC (6hr)
    Whitehorse, YT (13hr)
    Anchorage, AK (13hr) (spend 2 nights)
    Fairbanks, AK (6.5hr) (spend 5 days)


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default things you should know

    Considering that you've been a part of this forum for some time, there are a few things I'm really puzzled in your planning.

    First, you're clearly using Google/mapquest for your time estimates, which I'd hope you know at this point are incredibly optimistic - often to the point of being a fantasy. For example, There is no place in New York that is just 11 hours from Madison. Having relatives near Syracuse, I've made that drive many times, and if you can get from Buffalo to Madison in under 12 hours, you'd have to be driving well over 85 mph for most of your trip and magically avoid any traffic at all in the Chicago area. Even traveling at near 80 mph with few stops and little traffic, I've never been able to do it under that time.

    I throw that one out just because I have experience with it, but I'd say the much bigger red flags look to be in the Alaska Highway portion of your trip. Planning to drive 600 miles (Ft Nelson to Whitehorse) and then 700 miles! (Whitehorse to Anchorage) on a remote 2 lane highway where the speed limit is often 45 mph or less and you think you'll be able to make both of those drives in 13 hours?

    If you know your limits I'm not going to harp on you for trying to do an extremely strenuous amount of driving day after day, but I will say I don't think your estimates look all that realistic, and in those specific cases I think they are so far off its going to become a major problem, but I'll leave it at that.

    I will also say that you should know that we just don't have the population on this forum to offer much in the way of specifics in the way of accomidation recommendations, because there are just far too many options. What I can tell you is that if I were doing the trip I'd be looking at two things - the State/Provincial Park systems where you think you'll be stopping, and of course the Milepost for the AK Highway portion of the trip. Using that model, I can tell you that Lake Kegonsa is a nice state park close to the Interstate just south of Madison - and though I've never stayed in that campground, I've never had a bad experience at any other WI state park, although most of them do fill up on most every summer weekend.

  3. Default


    I've gotta say I'm puzzled as to why you are puzzled.

    First off, my experience with Google Maps has been the opposite of yours. I've found it to be quite accurate, and often a little over the actual time it will take to get there.

    We recorded the times it took us to get place to place on our last trip, and compared them to the Google times: Here's a few examples (that are representative of the whole)

    (Format: Place-Place / Google / Actual)

    Columbus-St.Louis / 7h / 7h
    St. Louis-Amarillo / 12.5h / 12.5h (and we stopped for lunch)
    Amarillo-Holbrook / 8h / 10.5h (and we stopped at the store, the Cadillac Ranch, and breakfast)
    Spearfish-Madison / 13h / 14h (stopped at a few roadside attractions)

    And then, to argue your other point..

    Madison, WI - Buffalo, NY: Google says 11 hours, and it took us 11.5 hours, with a quick stop for lunch.

    No, we aren't crazy reckless drivers. :)

    Syracuse is about 3 hours East of Buffalo, so I can see how in your experience the drive to Madison would be much longer. My theory about Google Maps is that it calculates it according to the exact speed limit, and in most cases on highways to stay with the traffic you are driving at least 5mph over that to stay with the traffic.

    Thank you for the State Park recommendations. I understand that my request for advice as to accommodations is a little broad, I was just hoping that there might be some people on here who have traveled this way and could tell me where they stopped- which places they liked and didn't.
    Last edited by puff5655; 10-12-2010 at 08:15 PM. Reason: mis-spelling

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default the smell test

    I'm not really sure what you're doing to make the times work - I'll just say that pretty much every other regular member of the forum has had the same experience - that Google's travel time estimates are off by around 20% when you factor just the minimum of stops.

    There's also the fact that the Google time estimates don't really pass the general "common sense test."

    Buffalo to Madison is a 700 mile trip, to do that in 11 hours you'd have to have an average speed of 64 miles per hour - which is very close to the 65 mph speed limit in place for the vast majority of the trip. (and yes, I'm aware that Syracuse is farther than Buffalo....)

    The problem is, in the real world, there are frequent times you'll have to slow down below those levels, and even if you don't hit traffic, you are going to have to stop for fuel, food, and other rest breaks. At those times you are traveling Zero miles per hour, which very quickly will drag down an average speed. In the real world, its nearly impossible to average even 60 mph unless you are driving at a crusing speed above 80 mph. The best I've ever done was 62 - and that was driving 85mph nearly all day and keeping stops to the barest of bare minimums. For most situations, 57 mph is a good average for calculations in the west, and closer to 55 mph is more typical in the east - if you really work at it you can do a little better, but not by much.

    That also is a much more minor point to the bigger problem I see that you are planning to drive 1300 miles in 2 days over an infamously rugged, remote, and slow moving 2 lane highway. Maybe you'll find a way to pull that off too, I just don't quite know how.

  5. Default

    I assure you, we were driving in the real world.

    OK, 700 miles, average of 64mph. The only time we stopped was to go through a McDonald's drive though and to get gas- total of 20 minutes, and only ran into traffic that significantly slowed us down once- for at most 10 minutes.

    So, even if we were going 0mph during the traffic jam, that would take it down to 700 miles in 10.5 hours, which meant we stayed around 67mph on average for that trip. The speed limit might have been 65, but you know (as you said you were going 85) that to stay with traffic you are typically going 5-10mph over the limit at least.

    Maybe we were just lucky.. can't say.

    As for the Alaska portion, even the entire AlCan portion is paved now. Remote means little traffic to slow us down. Yes, it's 2 long days of driving. It's 1300 miles in two days. Last trip we did 1500 miles in 2 days no problem.

    Yes, it is more mountainous, and so I do believe you that this portion might take longer than estimated. I'll ask around. Family and friends await us in Anchorage, so once we get there we can rest for a few days.

    Actually, I know someone who did St. Paul MN to Fairbanks AK, 3000 miles, in 3 days. Now, I wouldn't try THAT, but it makes our 1300 in 2 sound doable to me.

    I'll do some more research with some live folks up here and hopefully figure out what sort of itinerary will really work. Thanks again.

  6. Default Almost Time

    Talked to about a dozen people who have done this trip frequently.

    Leaving on July 24, 4300 miles from Buffalo NY over to Calgary and up the Cassiar.

    Just me and my dog, thinking it will be about 10 days or less, and under $1000. Totally winging it (intelligently)--- no reservations, no time limit. I don't have to be back to work until August 15.

    Pretty excited. Bought my Subaru Forester, now I just need a new GPS. :)

    FYI for everyone wanting to do a trip to or in AK, buy THE MILEPOST. Definitely an essential.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Just gas for 4300 miles is going to eat up most of a $1000 budget! It's about 5 bucks a gallon in Canada. If you get 25 MPG, that's $860 right there.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Quote Originally Posted by puff5655 View Post
    FYI for everyone wanting to do a trip to or in AK, buy THE MILEPOST. Definitely an essential.
    I'll endorse that. Have a safe trip. I did the Cassiar without reservations, but did carry a tent. There's a pretty good place just west of the Cassiar on the Alcan. Campground, Motel, Cabins and fuel. Pretty good, as far as they go up that way. If you have the time, the Top of the World Highway is definitely worth it.

    And don't miss the Bear Glacier, just west of the Cassiar, on the way to Stewart.

    Just watch your speed limits in Canada, not only are they enforced, but wildlife is prolific. You would definitely come off worse in a collision, but worse, you could kill an animal which is on the endangered register.

    And yes, I travelled it alone.... without dog.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California

    Default AK Hiway

    I think Google maps is more realistic in the lower 48 than anywhere in Canada!

    From Hope, BC to Fairbanks, we stopped at the following:

    Quesnel, BC
    Dawson Creek, BC (toured the AK Hwy museum)
    Ft Nelson (good place for an overnight)
    Toad River (sightseeing)
    Watson Lake (Sign Post Forest, etc)
    Whitehorse (Follies, Yukon River, etc)
    someplace I can't remember but it was extremely MOSQUITO laden! White River, maybe?
    Delta Jct (parents' preference)
    North Pole, AK

    Though we regularly do 450 miles a day pulling a 5W in the Lower 48, there was no way we could have kept up that pace in BC, Yukon or even AK. This is not freeway driving. Most is paved, but you've got construction (summer is construction season that far north, and it's a shorter season than down here), trucks that won't let you around because they're trying to make time, and (most importantly!) there's just SO MUCH to see and do! As the PP pointed out, wildlife is also abundant and the last thing you need is an accident. You will be at fault, period. Then there are flying rocks, and you may want to stop and have a short repair done before your windshield resembles a spiders web of cracks.

    We LOVED Alaska, and we went up and back in 8 weeks - but I wished afterward that we'd tried for all 12 weeks of my summer vacation.

    Last edited by DonnaR57; 06-06-2011 at 10:42 AM. Reason: forgot one O/N stop; grammar issue

  10. Default

    Thanks for those tidbits Lifey and Donna. I love Alaska too, which is why I've lived there for 3 years and am going back :)

    I'm planning on gas being the majority of the cost, I think you're right on that it will be around $860. Besides that I'll be camping and mainly eating from a cooler/what I cook at the campsite, so food+lodging won't be too bad.

    $1000 is more of an estimate than a budget. If it ends up costing more, it's no big deal. I'm interested to see what it ends up to cost, though. I'll be keeping track.

    I'll be sure to take my time and be on the lookout for wildlife. Also not planning on doing any driving after dark, which will be easier when I get up north and have more daylight hours to work with.


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