Monthly Archives: October 2016
What to do when a refrigerator door falls off in the wilderness
The weather turned cold–48 degrees when we woke up in Teslin, Yukon, Canada and headed the RV to Dease Lake. It was late July and feels like winter back home in north Florida. And, of course, its sprinkling (more like spitting) and skies are overcast, heavy with moisture and feels like it could snow. We wore sweaters and a coat. It was so cold in the RV this morning that I turned on the gas heater before making coffee. I could see my breath. It was cold in the RV because we slept with the windows open. Thank goodness for Martha’s homemade quilts.
It was another sunless day in the North Country as we got back on the highway and drove south to Dease Lake–300 miles down the road.
Would have paid extra for someone to improve this weather.
It didn’t get any better at Dease Lake. Temps were a bit cooler at 46 degrees. It rained all night and was still raining when we got back on the road, driving 240 miles to Stewart, British Columbia, Canada.
About 10 a.m. and after a couple hours on the road, we stopped for nature’s call and made hot coffee. Martha opened the refrigerator door and it fell off. The refrigerator just fell off out there in the middle of nowhere. No refrigerator door repairman within 100 maybe 500 miles. No phone service, either. Remember, this is Yukon Territory, Canada. We probably didn’t meet five cars on the highway all morning.
And the refrigerator freezer was jammed full of fresh caught frozen fish–Kenai sockeye and halibut. It is a small freezer, after all, this is an RV.
A plastic piece attached to another plastic piece just broke off. It’s a Norcold model, for those wondering.
Fortunately, our traveling companion from Canada, Don, aka “Mr. Goodwrench” brought five tool boxes, every electric hand tool sold at Harbor Freight, a half dozen hammers of varying sizes, crow bars, fittings to fit everything, fuses galore, half mile of extension cords and of course, more fix-it knowledge than anyone I know. I suspect he could fix a broken tooth. He would at least try. No doubt, he taught Rube Goldberg everything he knew.
Out of one toolbox comes Gorilla Glue. The broken piece gets a dab while he hunts through another toolbox for a piece of thin metal which he couldn’t find but found a piece of heavy plastic instead. Out comes a pocketknife (do you have a pocketknife? Do I have my pants on?) And he proceeds to cut a piece to fit the bottom of the door for reinforcement. He drills holes in the bottom of the refrigerator door, attaches the plastic piece with screws and fits the Gorilla glued pivot post back in place. He made it look easy.
I know all of this sounds ridiculous and a little hokey, but the contraption worked. Two months later we arrived back in Florida and the homemade fix-it job was still solid when a mobile RV doctor came to the house and installed a new door. The RV doc looked at Mr. Goodwrench’s handiwork and just shook his head and said “Wow. That beats all.”
Back on the highway: Milepost 200, a bear cub was spotted lying on the side of the road. It had been hit by a motorist. The sight of the dead cub left us speechless for several miles as we both absorbed what we had just seen.
At Milepost 155 we stopped for lunch at Bell II Lodge, a rustic, really upscale place catering to winter helicopter skiing enthusiasts from throughout the world. They had two helicopter pads just outside the lodge. It was a treat to dine at a table with white linen napkins and tablecloth and silverware that matched. The scene made the soup taste better, too.
We were headed to Stewart, British Columbia, Canada, a distance of 240 miles—an average day’s work on the road. With a little luck, there will be bears feeding on spawning salmon at a little creek just across the Canada-U.S. border in really tiny Hyder, AK., population less than 100.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 78
GALLONS OF FUEL: 911
COST OF FUEL: $3091
A lunch stop at a roadside restaurant had a collection of several thousand caps tacked to the ceiling.
MILES ON THE ROAD: 8,134
Zero-Zero visibility blankets scenic mountain ride from Skagway
Buildings in Carcross duplicated colorful native art work on these new structures, housing sandwich and ice cream shops.
It happens occasionally when least expected: driving the RV and tow car into a parking lot crowded with cars and big tourist buses and not enough room to turn around.
We had stopped for lunch in Carcross, Yukon, Canada, partially because we were attracted to the colorful buildings located adjacent the White Pass and Yukon Railroad track which runs through the middle of town, when the RV parking snafu occurred. We also stopped because it’s lunch time and both driver and passenger were hungry and for the first time since leaving Florida six weeks ago and almost 7,000 road miles, we let our stomachs overrule common sense and drove head-on into parking lot too small to accommodate RV and tow car.
Carcross, like most small Alaska and northern Canadian town consists of only a few blocks of commercial businesses, but more than enough to take care of its 300 year-round residents. The railroad and the Klondike Highway, however, bring thousands of parading tourists through here most every day bringing smiles to business owners and a bit of aggravation to the locals. Several hundred tourists bailed out of the train as we bailed out of the RV to unhook the tow car. Even more had bailed out of the buses.
We managed lunch in a busy new sandwich place, enjoyed a black walnut ice cream cone for desert then paired the tow car to the RV again and headed back on the highway to Teslin, where we will camp for the evening.
The weather was bright and sunny, the road flat and smooth (remarkable for a change); quite an improvement since this morning when we left Skagway, AK, and headed up the mountain for Canada during a heavy misting, drizzling rain and strong north winds. It worsened about 10 miles out of town, turning into ground clouds and thick fog. Visibility was zero-zero as we puttered slowly up the mountain and then crossed the William Moore suspension bridge which spans a 110-foot-wide over a gorge at Moore Creek, 180 feet below. We failed to notice the truck emergency runout ramp or vehicle turnouts approaching White Pass probably because of the fog and the steep incline which required an all-hands-on-deck effort.
The weather improved somewhat when we passed through Canadian customs a few miles down the road than finally gave way to sunshine, showing off the “beware of avalanches” signs.
The road passed through a rocky valley referred to as a Moonscape” where the landscape of stunted trees and lakes represents a transition zone between the treed lower elevations and the tree line, as described by Milepost Magazine. It was like waking up in a different world.
The weather was clear and dry for a change however, the landscape offered nothing to brag about. And, there was no wildlife to see.
We drove the Tagish-Carcross Scenic Loop and arrived in Teslin about 4 p.m. and enjoyed a dinner of fresh Kenai sockeye salmon, salad and potatoes with our traveling friends Don and Sue.
Today’s trip from Skagway covered 165 miles, which is less than an average day’s drive of about 250, but tomorrow’s trip to Dease Lake will cover 300 miles, making up
Dove Island and Windy Arm, a tributary off Tagish Lake, was a nice rest stop on the road from Skagway, AK to Carcross and Teslin.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 76
GALLONS OF FUEL: 844
COST OF FUEL; $2,836
MILES ON THE ROAD: 7,599
Taking the Marine Highway to Skagway
Backing the RV onto the Alaska Ferry for a ride from Haines to Skagway.
Cruise ships dock within walking distance of downtown Skagway, AK.
After three wet and dreary days in Haines, AK we loaded the RV onto an Alaska Marine Ferry named LeConte with connections to Skagway. We got in line with other RV’s and vehicles at the ferry loading area at 9:30, unhooked the tow car, fired up the generator, made fresh coffee and waited until about 11:30 to begin boarding. Since there is not enough room below deck of the ship for RV’s to turn around and park, it was necessary to back the RV’s onto the ship. With lots of help from the ferry crew, I backed the 32’ RV slowly down a long narrow ramp to the lower parking deck of the ferry. After several front and back adjustments and tight turns, I parked it very close to an interior wall, took a deep breath then exited upstairs to the upper deck of the ship.
Martha said for those parking RV’s,” it was like fitting sardines into a can.”
A real tight fit!
She drove the tow car down the same ramp and backed into a tight corner of an area referred to as the tunnel with a dozen other cars. Both vehicles were now parked in the bottom of the ship.
The LeConte Ferry, referred to as a day boat, at 235 feet long is the smallest in the Alaska Marine Ferry system and is used mostly on short trips within the Inland Passageway and the Lynn Canal where we are traveling today. It is interesting to note that Skagway is only 15 miles by water from Haines but 359 miles by road. Welcome to Alaska. Taking the ferry was a no brainer.
The brief ferry ride followed the canal with huge mountains on both sides of the waterway, some still showing spots of white snow from last winter at higher elevations. We were surprised when we sailed into Skagway and found four huge cruise ships in port. The dockage at the end of Skagway’s main street, brings ship passengers within walking distance of downtown.
Cruising the Lynn Canal from Haines to Skagway, AK aboard the Leconte Ferry.
After checking into a campground, we walked a half mile to downtown Skagway and found the streets, restaurants and bars filled with probably 8,000 passengers from the cruise ships. It’s not difficult to see the economic impact cruise ships have on Skagway, population about 1,000 and other small Alaska communities. Skagway gets about a million tourists annually, most arriving by ships.
Someone told us to wait until about 6 p.m. and the crowd would return to the cruise ships for dinner, leaving room in the restaurants. They were correct. An hour later we found a nice place serving seafood chowder that was excellent and few customers.
About Skagway: The White Pass and Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad is one of the town’s busiest tourist attractions. It takes visitors on daily trips through the mountains during summer’s months.Hopefully you can pick a day when the weather is sunny and clear, otherwise, views are obstructed on rainy and foggy days. Skagway also has prominent mention in Jack London’s book “The Call of the Wild.”
The town became a popular jumping off place for prospectors heading to the Klondike gold field across the mountains to Dawson City in the late 1800’s and briefly swelled Skagway’s population to over 30,000 people. The Chilcoot Trail, made famous during the gold rush is located just outside Skagway. It is the historic mountain route gold seekers took to the Klondike. Today, the trail is open for hikers wanting to duplicate (in summer, I hope) the route taken by the gold seekers.
We left Skagway on July 28 by RV, followed by the tow car, two days later for Canada, continuing our long drive home to Florida and still more than 4500 miles away.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 75
GALLONS OF FUEL: 808.9
COST OF FUEL: $2,660
MILES ON THE ROAD: 7,289
Taking a different route home from Alaska; it’s still over 4,500 miles away
Admiring fireweed in full bloom, a familiar sight growing along highways in Alaska and northwest Canada.
Travelers to Alaska have several road options for reaching the 50th state.
From Great Falls, MT, cross into Canada to Calgary and then head northwest to Banff, Jasper, Grande Prairie, and Dawson Creek and on to Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Whitehorse and Dawson City. Then cross the border to Tok, Alaska. This route, which includes the Alaska/Canada (Alcan) Highway, covers about 3,900 miles and offers splendid scenery, particularly through Banff, Jasper and Watson Lake and lots of exciting stop and shoot camera moments along the way.
Also from Great Falls, MT., some prefer the shorter route that takes them through Calgary, and Banff, but turns northwest to Prince George, north to Watson Lake, Whitehorse, and into Tok, AK. This route covers about 2,700 miles.
Since we drove up on the Alaska Highway, we are looking for a change of scenery and taking a third route back to the states which follows Cassiar Highway 37 along the western side of Canada. We will put the RV and tow car on an Alaska Ferry at Haines and get off in Skagway then northeast to Canada and Carcross,Teslin and south on the Cassiar Highway. We will pass through Prince George, the only large town on this route to Jasper, then head south to Calgary and into Montana. Milepost, the bible for Alaska travelers, tells us the Cassiar Highway is a very scenic route, lots of mountains and prospects of wildlife viewing and the good news: ,a decent two-lane highway for 450 miles. It’s an additional 1400 plus miles to Great Falls, MT. and close more to 2,500 to our home base in Florida.
Nerves worn thin by rough roads; Eagle watching in Haines, AK
When told about the sorry state of some Alaska roads, a real sourdough laughed and said you should have been here 50-years-ago.
One thing all Alaska bound RV travelers can agree is the sorry condition of some of the roads. Granted, there were some, such as the road from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula, that were excellent. Roads in the Denali National Park areas were also above average. Some in northwestern Canada also had issues.
Totems welcome visitors to Haines at a waterfront park.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the window to repair roads in the far north is very narrow. Winter comes early here and road building comes to a halt when snow starts to fall.
The road we are traveling today ranks a zero on a ten scale. Driving from Galkona where we overnighted in a mostly gravel campground to Destruction Bay was as bad but not as dangerous as the famous Top of the World highway. The road to Tok, one that we traveled a month ago, is humped with frost heaves and potholes galore but it’s paved. It’s the road to Destination Bay and on to Haines Junction, that loosened teeth. Some of the road was paved but a lot was gravel with a steady helping of really deep potholes. Road crews were trying to smooth out the rough spots but making only temporary improvements.
Anglers working the waters near Haines, AK for sockeye salmon.
We would drive five or ten miles before being stopped by construction flagmen; drive a few miles and stop again. The road is so rough we have slowed the RV to 30-35 miles an hour to avoid blowing out a tire or breaking an axle. Unfortunately, the rough road didn’t slow the big trucks who met us in the opposite lane with little regard for the speed limit. Making today’s trip even less exciting was the constant drizzle and low hanging clouds that blotted out the mountains and the rest of the landscape.
It was a tiresome, boring and rugged 348-mile drive.
A young eagle, estimated to be about two years old, keeps an eye on the photogpher while resting in a tree near Haines, AK.
A few days later the door on the Norcold refrigerator just fell off, no doubt a victim of the rough road.
We crossed into Canada at Port Alcan, Milepost 1222, and gladly over nighted in Destruction Bay, getting out of the RV only to hookup the electricity and water. We were both worn out.
The lousy weather (rain and 48 degrees) continued the next morning as we headed for Haines on the Alaska Highway. Fortunately, we are on a good paved road and enjoying the aqua-blue scenery of big Kluane Lake, Yukon’s largest at 154-square miles. It is an excellent fishing lake for trout, northern pike and grayling but the weather has scared off the fishermen today. It’s difficult to reason why we’re here but waiting for the weather to improve might take a week.
The lousy weather was helped somewhat with a stop at a bakery in Haines Junction that served up hot mocha coffees and fresh pastries. The town has a splendid Visitors and Cultural Center which we visited and purchased a few Tlingit native crafts for Christmas gifts before getting back on the highway.
Backing the RV onto the Alaska Ferry for a ride from Haines to Skagway.
A real tight fit!
After Haines Junction, we drove from the Yukon Territory through a small section of British Columbia and passed through American customs again before entering back into Alaska and reaching Haines. Unfortunately and because of the weather, we didn’t see much of the famous Chilkat Pass, the route gold seekers took during the Klondike Gold Rush since it was one of the few mountain passes offering access into the Yukon from the coast.
We stayed in Haines at the Hitchup RV Park for three days, hoping to see eagles and maybe catch a few salmon. It was too early for the salmon but we did see several dozen eagles during our three day visit, part of the native year-round population. A month later about 4,000 bald eagles will descend on the area to feast on the pink salmon run.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 69
GALLONS OF FUEL: 779
COST OF FUEL: $2524
MILES ON THE ROAD: 7046