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  1. Default From the Midwest to Alaska

    I heard of someone, a lady and her dog, taking a trip from Tennessee (I think) to Alaska last summer. She did well over 7000 miles. Other than one trip from Upstate New York to Montreal, I have little experience driving in Canada and the issues involved. I am very comfortable driving in the USA.

    I was wondering if there were trip reports or experiences others have posted on driving through Canada and even going to Alaska. How different is the driving experience in Canada? What are some issues one might face doing it during summer?

    My road tripping days are coming to an end at 75. I would like to do a last long solo driving trip.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Central Missouri
    Posts
    5,857

    Default

    I'm sure the moderators have lists of Alaska road trips that are covered on this forum.

    My husband and I, with our 2 daughters (then teens), trailered up to Fairbanks and return, about 20+ years ago. It was an unforgettable experience, so gorgeous.

    The roads are not bad at all, so forget any horror stories you may have heard. Summer is definitely construction season, though, so keep that in mind. Still, don't plan on long mileages each day. You'll want to stop and savor the views.

    Get a copy of The Milepost magazine. It is the "bible" and tells you what is at Milepost #. There are listings for motels, restaurants, campgrounds and RV parks. To go along with Milepost, we have a section of the Camping forum here with listings in Canada as well as along the Alaska Highway.

    If you wear glasses, take an eyeglass repair kit. My daughter broke her glasses in the middle of the Yukon Territory, where there were no optometrists or glasses stores, much less kits to buy. We had to buy a pair of sunglasses and snitch the screws from them to fix her glasses. I know, not exactly something you'd prepare for.

    Be prepared for food to cost more as well as fuel. If you plan wisely, you can pick up fuel and food near the larger towns so they're a little less expensive. Fuel is sold by the Liter.

    Most places take your debit card and that usually means a better exchange rate than carrying cash and getting Canadian dollars for it. Even 20 years ago, we didn't carry too much Canadian money, only a little for small transactions.

    Don't rely on the Internet too much. Even today, I understand that there are many places that don't have Internet signals. Same with cell towers, though they are "much improved" over 20 years ago.

    Start planning NOW! Once you start looking at the photos of places, you'll be raring to go.

    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,797

    Default We've got one of those!

    She doesn't have a dog, at least not for her American travels, but one of our longtime members, Lifemagician, has traveled solo to Alaska several times. She's from Australia, has some mobility limitations, and I believe she's older than you! Which is to say you should not underestimate your own abilities to make this trip.

    I believe her most recent trip to the North was in 2016, which she wrote about extensively here: The Lady in the Van RoadTrip.

    She also traveled there in 2012: Heading for the Horizon 2012 and she even went as far north as the Arctic Circle in 2009: Lifemagician's 2009 RoadTrip

    As far as driving in Canada, other than remembering the metric system, the rules of the road are not significantly different than the US. The biggest challenge is preparing for the remote sections with limited services, which is why The Milepost is the essential book for planning a trip up the Alaska Highway.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,262

    Default It's Different

    While Canada does have multi-lane, controlled-access highways in and around its major population centers, it does not have a nation-wide system of such highways. Indeed it has only one transcontinental road, the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH), although it has two branches west of Lake Superior. And if you plan to go to Alaska, your choices are even more limited in that there is one and only one highway connecting Alaska to the rest of North America, the Alaska Highway (ALCAN). I have driven most of the TCH between the upper Midwest and the Rockies. I found it intriguing because it was new to me, as a road, as an experience meeting new and friendly people, and as an introduction to another part of our continent and a different pace and way of life. On separate trips I have driven through a good deal of the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Coast areas. I have not driven the ALCAN.

    As you can gather from the above description and Donna's comments, services are few and far between on the more remote sections of these roads, so keep that in mind. Also by going through Canada you will be spending more time on the wide-open Great Plains. The basic trip you've laid out, Midwest to Alaska, is a very long haul. St. Louis to Fairbanks is over 3,600 miles, so this is not a trip to be taken lightly. It would most certainly be an adventure

    AZBuck

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    10,251

    Default

    There is an alternate to most of the Alcan - the Cassiar.

    The roads are not bad, but there will be gravel sections that are under construction. Be prepared for possible car damage.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,211

    Default Make unforgetable memories.

    Thanks for the thumbs up Michael. Heading for the Horizon, in 2012, was by far my best trip, but I note recently that all its photos have been removed. Guess even this site has its limits.

    My four trips to AK were in 2004, 2009, 2012 and 2016, the last one being when I was older than you are now. All my trips were camping trips somewhere between early May and late September. All were longer than a month, the first one was from Seattle in a rental sedan - the shortest because I could only rent the vehicle for 30 days. For the next one I drove, and slept, in a Dodge Caravan my friends in MN had loaned me (fully insured and AAA), and covered more than 13000 miles. The other two were in a vehicle I had bought in PA - an old Ford Hitop Conversion van. [I have so many wonderful memories of life in that van.]

    Somehow I never knew a trip had to be planned, i.e. not until I joined RTA. Even now, I cannot PLAN - not for a trip, not for tomorrow. My children tell me I live my life by the seat of my pants!. However, I will second Michael's point, that the Milepost is a MUST! No electronic device or program equals it. Buy it in March when the new copy comes out, read it marking those things which interest you, but don't let it stop you from going off your route when/if you see something along the way.

    If you are a planner, stick with what makes you feel comfortable. But don't overlook the opportunity to see what is down that side road. The most surprising things you will see are not planned. On my first trip I booked on a small boat trip out of Seward to the glaziers and see some whales - hopefully! It was while I was chatting with the skipper up front (all other 17 passengers were further back in the little boat) that a humpback and her calf breached right there in front of the boat. For these things you can't plan. You don't even have time to focus your camera. Even though we stayed in the area for a while, they never breached again.

    My fist trip was via the Cassiar (37), and back along the Alcan then on to Vancouver. The second trip I took the Alcan for the full length there and back. Each time I have seen endless roadworks. I have stopped to let a mother Grizzly with her cubs cross the road. I have stopped by the side of the road to watch a mother moose teaching her young one what to eat off the various shrubs. In 2012 I took my van to Prudhoe Bay as well as Yellowknife, to see where the ice road starts, and came back through central Canada, to the border crossing south east of Calgary.

    Never did I go past a visitor centre or tourist information without finding out what they had to say/offer. Similarly I chatted with everyone I met along the way, no matter where I was. when having a cuppa or at a place to camp. It is always interesting to hear what they have seen and where they have been. Even though you can't see and do it all, it helps to make sure you don't miss those things which interest you most.

    I could go on and on, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask. Have to add that I have not been particularly well. but stumbling back on this thread has revived me completely.

    Thanks.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 12-20-2022 at 07:15 PM. Reason: User request

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,917

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Thanks for the thumbs up Michael. Heading for the Horizon, in 2012, was by far my best trip, but I note recently that all its photos have been removed. Guess even this site has its limits.
    Lifey, we haven't removed any images that I know about...

    Give me a link to your thread that has the removed photos and I will investigate.

    All of the photos are still there, that I can see in this thread.

    Mark

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,967

    Default I see them.

    Just to let you know as the title says, I see them in that link also.

    Dave

  9. Default To Alaska in a Corvette..

    I would like to do a solo road trip from St. Louis to Alaska, a certain challenge for a man in his 70’s. I get confusing reports with some saying it cannot be done in a Corvette, that there are gravel roads, pot holes, gas stations and motels far apart and on. They suggest a 4 wheel drive.

    There are others that state that if you select the route to enter Canada and to the Alaskan highway, the roads are much improved, the services are there well within 20-40 miles, that it can be done in a Corvette. To opt out of looking at the shortest route and instead stick to the paved highways. They say that people advising against it are those that travelled to Alaska a decade or more earlier, that conditions are much improved.

    So, my questions are whether it can be done in a Corvette, whether there is a well travelled and paved route I should use and what that is. What might be the best time to go on such a trip. Is starting in May too early?

    Note that ferrying myself and my car over is not something I would choose unless there are no good options.

    Moderator Note: Please keep all of your questions about your Alaska trip ideas in this thread.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 01-09-2023 at 07:12 AM. Reason: Merged

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    7,211

    Default A Corvette? Why not? It's been done before!

    In lots of ways, I was very fortunate. I did not have many to turn to and ask, and those I did, especially family thought I'd lost my marbles. I headed out! And when the asphalt ended, and the rest of the road I was on was gravel, well, I just continued - albeit a bit slower. You will be driving much slower anyway, as the speed limits in CA are slower and enforced.

    If you are going to stick to the asphalt, you're going to miss a lot. There's nothing like going down a side road/track, usually gravel, and because most think like you, they miss out on so much. What is wrong with the occasional pothole. Drive so you can see it way up ahead and stop before you get there, and then make sure if you want to continue, or turn back and take an alternative. I've had to make those choices ever so many times.

    But the key is to drive slowly!!! There is no line of traffic behind you to harass you. Remember you are NOT driving in the U.S,

    And yes, there is absolutely no reason why you should not do it in a corvette. I know a gentleman from Australia who did it in a righthand drive Lotus which he had shipped across the Pacific Did most of the trip with the top down. He went all the way to the Arctic Circle - not sure if he made it to Prudhoe Bay. My only thought at the time was, being so low down in the car with the roof down he would be vulnerable to wildlife. I always treated wildlife with great respect. They can be most unpredictable, especially when they have young. You will no doubt also come accross travellers going to AK on motorbikes, and believe it or not, on bicycles. On one of my trips I met a family of five on bicycles, and another time there was a brave soul doing it by Shanks's Pony.... i.e. on foot!

    [After Alaska he took the Lotus all the way to the tip of Argentina. I know he chronicled the whole trip on a Lotus owners' website. If I still knew the site I would link it here, but I have long since lost contact with him.]

    Contrary to popular believe, it can get quite hot in Alaska and northern Canada. You will be surprised how many roofs have solar panels and solar hotwater.

    The season is from May to September, July and August are the hottest months. If you are going for 2 or three months, go from later in May. If only for a couple of weeks, depart in June. It also coinsides with the Bears, Moose and Byson coming out with their young - a sight to behold! (Another reason to drive SLOWLY!) Mid May and around mid September there are a LOT of motorhomes on the roads. These are all being driven from the lower 48 to AK for the locals to use during their holiday season.

    But Hey!! Get the Milepost first. Read it and go by that. Take things as you find them. You can make all the plans in the world, but when you get stuck behind a pilot car at roadworks - some which went for miles and hours, or when the road is blocked with a bushfire up ahead, there's not much you can do. You just take a deep breath. Always have something to eat/drink in the car, get out, go for a walk, get to know the folk in the car behind you and in front of you. Amazing at a time like that how much information other travellers can give you. Heck, I have even seen people get out a small camp stove and make tea/coffee for all around, even firemen and road workers.

    Just pack your things, take the car you like and go enjoy yourself. If I could I'd be up there again in a flash. But alas! those days are over. So glad I went four times while I could.

    Lifey

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