Saddle sore…

For anyone whose ever ridden a horse for any amount of time, you’ll confirm that the first couple of days is not fun.  Exercising muscles that you don’t usually use and sitting in a saddle for extended amount of time leads to something rather unpleasant…a sore bottom.  Add a medical issue like hemorroids, and the situation gets even worse.

Well, driving for long distances can cause the same problems with the portion of your body you sit on.  Not so much the leg muscles, but your bottom and tailbone can really start to suffer after a while.  And, depending on your vehicle, not have adequate adjustments or a place to rest your arms can make things worse.

So, today, I’d like to introduce you to the Kabooti cushion.  For anyone who’s required a tailbone cushion, these are one of the best, in my opinion.  The Kabooti is made of a memory foam type material and can be ordered with options to allow a cool/heat pack to be place in just the right position.

In my case, I suffer from gout in my right elbow and not so much from issues from sitting.  So how did this help me you may ask.  Turns out that the Kabooti with a cool pack placed on my center console was just perfect to relieve any pressure on my elbow.  I can very honestly say that the Kabooti was a god-send on my trip.

If you have such issues, I strongly recommend looking into purchasing a Kabooti, or something similar.

A personal note…

So, I wanted to let everyone know that I appreciate your visit.  I also wanted to let you know that everything I write about, I actually did unless I tell you otherwise.  For any product, service, or location I write about I have visited and I only give support to those products and services I think highly of.

While this started out, and will continue for some time, about my travels from Texas through Canada to Alaska and back home again, I hope to take and document trips to other locations in the future.  As I do, I invite you to follow along.

If you have a suggestion, please comment.  I appreciate any ideas or comments you may have.

Camping not for you…

In my last post, I talked about camping.  Whether you want to save money or enjoy sleeping outdoors, camping can be a great way to experience the Alaska Highway.  However, camping is not for everyone and may not always be the best choice.

Today, I will talk a little about my experience staying at hotels and bed & breakfasts along the way.

First, I enjoy being outdoors and camping can be fun, but I enjoy a nice shower/bath as well.  For me, comfortability was a deciding factor as I absolutely despise camping in hot, cold, or rainy conditions.  My trip encountered numerous days of scorching (for the area) hot temperatures and also days with wet snow and rain.  For me, booking a hotel room was a better option for my comfort, health, and sanity.

The Alaska Highway (and all other roads leading to it and from it) has greatly modernized in recent years as Western Canada begins to develop economically.  Almost every town has at least one modern motel/hotel and most larger towns have several option to choose from.

I believe I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it here, it is best to try to find the next nights accommodations before you leave each morning.  Most stopping points are generally smaller towns and rooms fill up fast.  Probably the most important reason to plan ahead is knowing how far you are going to drive that day.

I chose to drive about 8 hours a day.  By having pre-booked a room, I could accommodate my schedule to getting to the next stop at a pre-arranged time (most check-ins are after 3pm local time) and I was not then tempted to keep driving.  So, if I got to my stop a little early, or I wanted to do something along the way, by pre-booking a room, I was able to adjust my schedule to my stops.

I personally used booking.com to facilitate reservations and didn’t have any major issues.  There was one minor issue but that was the result of the hotel entering my name backwards and not booking.com’s fault.  I’ve included a link below if you’d like to check them out.

Take care to make a good decision on how and where to stop.  These decisions can help make or break your trip.

Camping Equipment

Prior to leaving, I spent quite a bit of time looking for equipment that I might need in case I ran into trouble or found myself without a hotel room for the night.  Many of the people I spoke to mentioned camping and/or sleeping in my vehicle (being a solo traveller, this was fairly easy).  After evaluating different configurations and possibilities, I settled in on a “truck bed tent”.

First, this makes sense for me because I drive a pick-up truck.  If you travel by car, you may want to consider a more traditional tent set-up.  However, because I do drive a truck, the “truck bed tent” made the most sense for me.

These tents allow the user to put a tent above your truck bed and use the truck bed as a kinda “secure” sleeping area.  As the pictures in my blog show, many large bears inhabit northwestern Canada and Alaska.  For me, having some metal between myself and the bears was comforting.

Once installed, there are a number of options to put an air mattress (individual or fitted to the truck bed) down for a more comfortable nights rest.  You can also purchase accessories like lamps and cookstoves that make any stop comfortable.  They even make small camping toilets that you can purchase if restroom facilities are not available.

If this sounds like an option for you, take a look at some of the products below.

 

Conversion to ebook and paperback complete!

After a number of requests, I have completed the conversion of my blog entries into book form.

So, if you don’t have time to browse through all of the entries, would rather have a portable copy, or, would just rather read a book, all of the content included in the blog posts can be found in book form by clicking below.

Day 18 – Dease Lake, BC to Prince Rupert, BC

Miles Today:  425

Total Miles:  6,535

Today’s travels were all about black bears and trees.

In case anyone is wondering, there appears to be no shortage of black bears in north central British Columbia.  They are everywhere – even in the trees (couldn’t get a picture with the semi-truck in back of me).  Here is a fairly representative picture of what I saw today.  At least they are black (most of them anyway) and easily seen.

As I said, there really weren’t many opportunities for new types of pictures, but here is a river along the highway.

I mentioned the trees.  In Alaska, Yukon, and northern BC, it is mainly spruce and poplar trees.  Most of these are less than 8 inches in diameter and a tree that large may be close to 300 years old.  Somewhere just north of Dease Lake, there is a change and you start to see fir, aspen, and birch trees intermingled with the spruce and poplar.  As you get further sound, there are also tremendous cottonwood trees (which are in full cotton mode).

As you drive south and towards the coast (Prince Rupert is about 300 miles south of Juneau, AK), the trees get huge.  Whereas a large tree in the north was 8 inches and 30 feet tall, as I drove to Prince Rupert, the trees were 100+ feet tall and 30+ inches in diameter.  A big difference.

Tomorrow I retrace 120 miles along BC16 (Yellowhead Highway) and then stay on BC16 to Prince George, BC.

Day 17 – Whitehorse, YT to Dease Lake, BC

Miles Today: 405

Total Miles: 6110

Whitehorse was much cooler than when I was here last week.  Last Friday the high was in the 90’sF, this week 40’sF.  When I left this morning, it was 35F and I drove through some light snow about 30 miles from town.  The highest temperature I saw on the truck’s thermometer today was only 49F, so it’s cold compared to the 100F or so at home.

Today’s route followed the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to the junction with BC37 about 12 miles from Watson Lake.  This is the same road I wrote about in my Day 8 post, so there’s not much to add other than it is a much nicer drive when its dry.  Today’s drive was almost all wet – either rain or snow.

Turning south at BC37, the Cassiar Highway (or BC37) is a two lane track through the mountains of western BC.  I say two lanes, but, in fact, the entire road is unstriped right now (although it is paved), so, you kind of have to pick your path.  This gets interesting if you meet a large truck or RV.

About the only thing to note was that, somewhere along the way, I transitioned from almost exclusively spruce and poplar trees to spruce, fir, aspen, birch, and poplar.  The scenery is spectacular (as it has been for a while) with the added benefit of fresh snow (about 6 inches in places) on the mountains.  Dease Lake is as beautiful as most of many of the other lakes I’ve seen.  Smaller lakes along this highway are crystal clear; being able to see their bottoms even from the road.

The only thing I was able to take a picture of today was a black bear and I will post that when I have better internet.  As for cell phone service, the last signal I had was in Whitehorse – over 400 miles away – and I don’t expect any for another 300 miles or so.  Anyone relying on being connected should definitely avoid the Cassiar Highway.

Day 16 – Glenallen, AK to Whitehorse, YT

Miles Today: 533

Total Miles: 5,781

I left Glenallen, AK early this morning.  Temperature was around 35F/1.7C with a little frost on the windshield.  Needles to say, I’ve finally found the cool weather I was looking for.

As you leave Glenallen headed east, you don’t have many options.

I chose Fairbanks/Canada, which also took me back to Tok.  The road from Tok to Anchorage, through Glenallen, is called the Tok cut-off and is the route most people take to Anchorage.  When I left Tok the other morning, I wanted to complete the Alaska Highway, so, I went north instead of taking the Tok Cut-off.

Filled with gas in Tok (about 140 miles from Glenallen) and headed towards Canada and Whitehorse.  The Yukon sign (below) and the Alaska sign (from the other day) are in the same parking lot and this is the “official” border; however, the customs offices are about 20 miles apart with the Canadian stop at Beaver Creek, YT.

Canadian customs asked a few more questions than the first time, but I made it through with no issues.  Again, I had an RV in front and in back of me – starting to think timing it this way is everything.

Driving towards Whitehorse, I again passed Kluane Lake.  After some research, I discovered that the glacier that fed the lake has retreated to the point that it now feeds a different river.  So, Kluane Lake, at this point, is completely dependent on snowpack and rain (and it was raining today).

Along the road, I got to see one of the last species of “large” wildlife I’m probably going to see on this trip.  Since traffic was already stopped, here is a picture of a cinnamon color-phase grizzly bear.  Quite impressive to see it eating on the side of the road.

The rest of the trip was made in a light, steady rain that did a good job of cleaning bugs off my grill and windshield.

Day 15 – Homer, AK to Glenallen, AK

Total Miles today: 401 miles

Total Miles: 5242

Started the day in Homer with ice, yes ice, on my windshield.  Left a little early as I’m still waking up with the sun which rises around 4:30am and I’m not real good at waiting.  For the first time in almost two weeks, I had to use my sun visor as, until now, I’ve been driving westerly in the mornings.  The next two weeks will require that sun visor.  It is nice to be head south again though.

It is amazing how many tourists are here.  Even the vastness and remoteness of Alaska seems diminished by all the people who are here to “see” Alaska and not experience it.  I realize I am on of the visitors; however, I am here not to do everything I can in one trip but, rather, to experience the experience of driving the road.  I don’t feel that I’m being led around like a puppy to only those things that everyone wants to see.

Anyway, a few pics along the road.

This is a lake (if you look real, real close there’s a cabin in there somewhere) along AK1 on the way back to Anchorage.  I didn’t get any pictures of the Turnagain Arm because of road construction – plus the tide was out so it was mostly mud.  With a tidal swap of up to 40 feet each day – its pretty dramatic – seeing the area with the tide in and tide out is truly amazing.

After washing the mud and salt off my truck in Anchorage, I continued on AK1 through Anchorage and headed east at the junction of AK1 and AK3.  AK3 head north to Denali and Fairbanks and AK1 (the Glenn Highway) heads to Tok.  Just after you leave Palmer, AK, you travel along the Matanuska River.  I had the privilege of visiting this river several years ago and today I saw the source of the river – the Matanuska Glacier.  This is what we think of as a more typical “ice tongue” glacier that slopes out of the mountains like a frozen river (which it is).  You can actually almost drive up to the bottom of the glacier, but, alas, that’s an experience for another day.

Early in the morning, I had my first “road” encounter with a moose.  These large “deer” have a manner very much like the whitetail deer at home.  Except, even small moose are as large as horses.  When you come up a hill and you see a large black blob that doesn’t look like its supposed to be there, you probably need to slow down – or in this case stop.  The cow moose decided to make her way across the road and I didn’t feel another few days in Alaska was indicated at the time.  Later, after passing the Matanuska Glacier, in a series of switchbacks and steep grades, another large black blob appeared on the side of the road.  This time she let me pass, but, as soon as I stopped to try and take a picture – off she went.

The final picture is of Mt. Wrangell about 10 miles from Glennallen as you drive in from the West.  The road doesn’t actually quite make it to the mountain, but the trail keeps on going.