Big Plans

Some adventures are spontaneous. When the heat and humidity in North Carolina finally got to us in the summer of 2011, we headed north, guided by a vague idea of where we wanted to go. Everything else was serendipity: those beautiful views of the Appalachians… discovering what a neat city Duluth, Minnesota, is…. and so many more surprises.

Other adventures require a bit of planning and more preparation than usual. Most RVers will tell you that making a trip to the far north is like that, especially the first time.

Yep, I’m talking Alaska. The Big AK.


No cruise for us. No flying to Anchorage or Fairbanks and renting a car or RV. This was as much about the journey (roughly 2000 miles from US border to US border through Canada) as it was the destination — a destination we’ve thought about since we started full-timing over four years ago.

We talked to RVing friends (a surprising number of whom did not drive their RVs up here) for advice, scoured blogs and books, and filled a notebook with ideas about what to see. When I got a copy of *The Milepost* in March, I read it nearly from cover to cover, highlighter and pen in hand, and made even more notes. Even with all the notes and ideas, most of these were so we’d know what we might want to do if we stayed in a particular place, when we might want to fuel up, where we might want to stay longer than a night. General guidelines — we didn’t want to give up our serendipity, but we didn’t want any surprises (the bad kind), either.

Rig Ready

We heard the roads are bad, that the wear-and-tear on RVs and any vehicle in general can be rough, so Bob changed all the tires on the RV and toad; thoroughly cleaned both vehicles; had all the necessary maintenance done on them; stowed a spare RV tire in the back….

We also know that water quality can vary widely from community to community, so Bob changed the filters and ordered spares. He tackled the leaky air conditioner and bought a spare water hose.

He plotted our route on the GPS and created waypoints for the various RV parks and overnight stops along the way (not that we’d stop at all of them, but the GPS would be ready with directions for them if we needed them).

He did a thousand things I can’t even remember, much less list, all of them critical to our rig’s well-being.

Land of the Midnight Sun

The darker it is, the better we sleep, so heading into nineteen or more hours of daylight required a bit of preparation, too. We bought some large black bath towels at Walmart and I stitched them together (so they’d be long enough to hang below the bottom edge of the windows). First I roughly measured and pinned two towels together length-wise…


…then stitched the two towels together. Make yours fancy if you want — I’m just happy when my stitches hold together šŸ™‚

Here’s a view after stitching:


When we’re ready to use them, I roll the top a two or three times and tuck that rolled portion on the top of the valance. Here’s what the window looks like without the covering…


…and here’s the window with the covering over it (see how it’s rolled at the top, then pressed flat to stay?):


We tested this while staying in places where we were near security lights and found it worked great. We were now ready for those bright nights up north! (Or so we thought.)

Twice as Much Money

We’d heard the adage: when you head north through Canada and into Alaska, you’ll need half the clothes you’ll pack and twice the money you’ll bring. Even so, we packed a variety of types of clothes, from tank shirts and shorts to jeans and jackets. We’d be able to layer these as needed.

When it comes to the “twice the money” part, we just decided we’d spend what we needed to in order to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime trip. So to do that, we decided to scrimp before we left. To do that, we stocked up on the things we thought might be hard to find on the road — or if we found them, they’d be high-dollar items, like RV toilet paper.

So we put some plastic bins under the bench seats and tossed in extra toothpaste, toothpicks, floss…. We stocked up on things we knew we’d use a lot of, like garbage bags, paper plates, plastic storage bags, and tucked those under the bench, too:


Some RV friends asked if carrying the extra weight was worth it, but my philosophy is that I’d rather pay a little more in fuel (because our mileage suffers if we carry the extra weight) than run out of TP when we need it the most šŸ˜‰ To each his own, right? Besides, how heavy can ten packs of toilet paper be?!?

Ready? Set? Go!

Of course, preparation can go on forever, and we had an entire country to travel through before we got to Canada, then we had two provinces to cross before Alaska… It was time to fire up the GPS, fuel up the Winnebago, and head on up the road.

Adventure awaits!

About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
This entry was posted in Cool Experience, On the Road, RV and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Big Plans

  1. This is our first year as fulltimers and the subject of AK has arisen purely as a theoretical. I sort of wonder if it’s a trip we’ll ever make only because thus far we have tended to drive a short distance and stay a couple weeks then drive a short distance…. ad infinitum

    That said — where we DO want to go is Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

    Best wishes along the way and keep us posted on how things go.

    A retired Photographer looks at life
    Life Unscripted

    • Ellen says:

      Peter — Welcome to full-timing!! So far we’re finding we’ve been able to do Alaska exactly as you describe — we like traveling this way, too — driving, then stopping a few days, sometimes longer. It helps that we started on the West Coast, though we came up from Southern California, so that was still a bit of a haul. We’re thinking of Nova Scotia and other Maritimes in the next year or two. We’ve been to NS several times, though not in our RV, so that will be very different for us. If you’re blogging — would love to see your posts on that trip should/when you make it šŸ™‚

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