Alaska Is Not For Us

 Posted by at 12:43 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 032011

Several of our good friends, including Dennis and Carol Hill, Don and Sharon Del Rosario, Larry and Marilyn Forbes, and Luke and Cool Judy Rinehimer, are all traveling in Alaska this summer, and we’ve been following their adventures through their blogs. Their photographs are spectacular, the scenery is beautiful, they have seen some neat wildlife, and it has been interesting to see the trip through their eyes. But Terry and I have about decided that, for us at least, at this point in our lives, an RV trip to Alaska is very low on our list of things to do.

I know that probably sounds blasphemous to a lot of RVers, and the realization actually comes as a surprise to me, since when we bought our first motorhome and became fulltime RVers, taking a trip up the Alaskan Highway was one of the first things I wanted to do. I mean, how can you not want to make the trip? Isn’t it the adventure of a lifetime?

Rick and Paulette, a nice Canadian RVing couple, said a lot of what we feel with a recent blog post titled Any Places You Don’t Want To Visit In An RV?  It is a very long trip, and though the road isn’t as bad as a lot of people would have you believe, it can still be hard on an RV and tow vehicle. We have spent the last few weeks driving up U.S. Highway 101 from California to Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, and while it’s been a beautiful trip, it sure hasn’t been an easy road to drive in a big motorhome in many places. We’ve shaken enough things loose already, I don’t need any more.

We have also reached the stage in our lives where we really like creature comforts. We’ve done a lot of boondocking in our time, probably more than most RVers we know. But we’ve been there and done that. Yes, we can do it, but give me a full hookup RV site any day of the week over the prettiest pullout on a remote highway with a mountain view. Most folks we know who travel to Alaska seem to do a lot of dry camping along the way, either because there are not that many RV parks, or to offset the cost of the trip. We also need a reliable internet connection so I can post my daily blog, take care of customer orders, and conduct business. We’re not retired, we are working RVers. It seems that most of the folks we know who are traveling to Akaka have had at least some problems getting online.

I mentioned the cost of the trip above. That is another factor. From Blaine, Washington, on the Canadian border, to Anchorage, Alaska is almost 2,200 miles. By the time you see Denali National Park (and how can you go to Alaska and not see it?), and do some traveling within the state, you could easily put another 1,000 miles on your RV. And then you still have to come all the way back to the lower 48! Our budget would really take a hit from that.

A final factor is that this summer in the Pacific Northwest has shown us that we cannot depend on untested mail forwarding services. We have connections in many parts of the country that we have developed over time. But up here, the choices have been limited, and it would be even more so in Alaska. So we would have to rush up there and back between the time we send one issue out and the time the next issue is due. A fast trip of that magnitude is not for us.

There is a lot to see in the lower 48 that we still have not gotten to, and places we have visited that we want to go back to again. Sure, Alaska has beautiful scenery. But so does the Oregon Coast, the Rocky Mountains, New England, and everywhere in between. We’ve seen bear, elk, deer, and mountain goats from Arizona to Washington. Do we have to drive all the way to Alaska to see more?

Yes, we would like to see Alaska someday, but not in our motorhome. I could see us taking a cruise. That would be fun, and I wouldn’t have to go too far to find a place to eat!

Thought For The Day – Treat the earth well. It wasn’t given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children. 

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Nick Russell

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  20 Responses to “Alaska Is Not For Us”

  1. We decided not to RV to Alaska. We took a cruise and the train & saw a lot — even saw Mt. McKinley. We thought it was a great way to go & we do love RVing.

  2. We went to Alaska the first summer we started to fulltime. We really enjoyed the trip and would love to return. That said, I can agree with you that it is not for everyone. We doondocked most of the time, internet was real spotty and there was a lot gravel roads. We drove 20 mph through most of those areas. We went in 2007 with a 2006 40′ motorhome and needed new tires when we got back back. The tow bar on the toad loosen up and I had to fix that in Alaska. Other than that, we had no trouble. Yes, I would go back, but in a smaller rig.

  3. To each his own. It is really tough to sort out what you WANT to do from what you are suppose to want to do on top of breaking loose from all the things you HAVE to do living a conventional lifestyle with the kids, the house, the job etc. That is the best journey if you have the courage to take it and act on it.
    Having said that, and having been to Alaska with the fifth wheel for most of the summer three times, 101 in Oregon is much worse than any road in Alaska.

  4. Another consideration in going to Alaska is what to do with all your guns when you cross the border into Canada.

  5. I don’t have any burning desire to go to Alaska. For that matter i don’t really care if i go east of the Mississippi River, I figure that i can spend a lifetime or two just exploring the western part of the nation. :>)

  6. While your work related reasons make sense for your decision not to RV to Alaska, you should understand that the Alaska you can see from a ship is quite different from the Alaska you can see by RV, even if you add on a land package that the cruise companies offer. When you do cruise, I would recommend a small ship with around 100 passengers. We have cruised in Alaska with large and small ships and the opportunities to view nature and get away from large groups of people made the small ship experience far superior. My memories of our last RV trip to Alaska include lots of great scenery and experiences on the Canadian portion of the drive as well. We are planning and saving to go back again by RV next summer. Fingers crossed that the diesel prices won’t take off again….

  7. Those are my thoughts exactly. When the time come and Alaska calls we will fly. Time has value.
    Ed The East of the Miss.comment is how I feel also but we have to since our son and a granddaughter are over there. Way too many trees for me.

  8. We feel the same way and we get a lot of grief from others about OUR choices…oh well, such is life.

    We plan to visit Alaska eventually, but we plan to do it with a cruise. Hawaii will be a plane ride, but they are both so far down on our list that we may or may not ever get to them. There are way too many other great places in the lower 48 to see that should keep us busy for a long, long time.

  9. I understand and sympathize with the business constraints that make it difficult for you to spend a summer on the ALCAN. I would like to suggest an alternative. I was under similar constraints back in the day, when I held a full time job. I did, however, manage to RV Alaska three times in a rented motorhome, twice on one and two week excursions out of Anchorage, and once a two week trip in a new RV, picked up at the factory in Chico, CA and delivered one way to the rental company in Anchorage. I felt like a total fool, renting RV’s when I already owned one, but it was a viable approach to “doing” Alaska with limited time away from the grindstone. Since retiring, we have driven to Alaska twice in our own coach, and found it a highly memorable experience. I have also cruised Alaska, and, while it’s nice, it’s not the same as the RV. I guess I’m just prejudiced toward the RV lifestyle. BTW, Winnebago runs a very nice caravan to Akaska, but it is six weeks.

    While I agree with Mary’s comment above that ALCAN and the the roads in Alaska are, in the main, better than Hwy. 101, there are exceptions. These include and the Haul Road north to Prudow Bay, and the Top of the World Highway east of Chicken. These are, however, side trips, and there is much breathtaking scenery accesible by good road.

    However you choose to spend your summers, I wish you the best, and look forward to seeing you when our paths next cross.

    Travel safe.

  10. Thank you for permission to state openly that we’re not going to Alaska to those whose mouths fall open at that statement. We are new fulltimers and there is so much of the US that we want to see. We feel that will keep us plenty busy while doing our business from the road and visiting family. Alaska has never been on my list for no particular reason. It just doesn’t hold the appeal to me that other states do. Isn’t it nice that we can all decide what works for us and what doesn’t and still be friends?

  11. Larry and I just returned from our 2nd Inside Passage cruise, celebrating our 40th anniversary. We’d done the Inside Passage back in 2000 and at that time, we knew we wanted to go back and spend more time – it’s like getting a small taste of Alaska but still not the same as seeing it on your own schedule and w/out hordes of other cruisers. When we were thinking about what to do special for our anniversary, he suggested driving to Alaska again. We spent about 10 weeks in Kenai in 2005 as school grounds host – the trip up and back was fabuous, as was our time in Kenai – gorgeous scenery around every curve. But looking at miles vs budget, we opted to do the cruise again. I’ve been following Dennis’ and Cool Judy’s blogs and wish we could have driven but again, that is a chunk of miles, especially as we come and go from the east coast.


  12. We would love to go to Alaska, but we will not make it. We had plans a couple of years ago to go with friend. We are on a tight budget so when we figured out what petrol would cost, the price of a RV park to stay at and then have money aside for emergency’s we decided we could not go. There is still so much we have not seen in the lower 48 to keep us busy the rest of our lives. I would love to take a cruise up to Alaska, but Mike will not take any cruise so that part is out also. Be safe traveling

  13. Nick (probably Greg too), glad to hear you are not going to Alaska by RV, that will leave more RV spaces and food for us who are going to Alaska next year. Thanks much.


  14. We’ve had this discussion and came to the same conclusion. If we ever go to Alaska it will be by ship and train. Although, the idea of renting an RV after we get up there has appeal, that implies flying to get there which has no appeal.

    I’m glad we did make an effort to go east, though. Visiting Revolutionary War and Civil War sites helped those portions of our country’s history make sense to me for the first time. I suspect, visiting Alaska would do that, too, for another portion of our history but I have a lot more local history to experience first.

  15. For my complete comments on this topic, ready my blog to be posted this evening at In the meantime, I’ll just say that everyone has to set his/her own priorities. For me, it’s all about the adventure and experiencing something new. I’ve been a full-time RVer for over 8 years and have traveled extensively before that for business, but I don’t think I’ll ever run out of interesting, unique places to go. We’ve met people on some of our excursions here in Alaska who were on a cruise for 7 to 10 days, and they all said they wished they had more time to see more. And comparing the expense of a cruise to an RV trip is like comparing apples and guacamole. They’re both food, but oh, how different!

  16. Our first big trip with our new to us motorhome was to Alaska. We were novices in every aspect of Rving and we got along great. No mishaps with MH and we loved every minute of the trip. We stayed all summer on the Kenai Pennisula and would go back again. We have to research it but we would like to go by ferry up the inside passage. Saw a presentation, I think at the Gypsy Journal Rally a couple of years ago at Casa Grande, and they talked about hopscotching up the coast and riding the ferry system, and I think if I remember right, it was cheaper than driving the whole way with the cost of gas. At any rate, we just loved our trip and would like to do it again someday. But, I have to agree with everyone, there are so many places here in the lower 48 that I still want to see that it will be a while before we do it again. Happy traveling.

  17. Nick, you won’t go because the Chinese restaurants are too far apart. We spent the entire summer of 2006 and loved every moment of it. Just take your time and you won’t have any trouble. You can bring a shotgun into Canada.I agree about the Haul road and the top of the world highway, I strongly recommend against both.

  18. Nick — the discussion goes on and on, and not many will change their minds by reading others’ opinions. Your points are completely valid and sustainable. We’ve taken the trip — would we go back? Decidedly YES, but probably won’t, for our own very valid and sustainable reasons. In the meantime, we get to see and enjoy a lot of the rest of this country.

  19. Nick – again I agree that Alaska isn’t for everybody. We have been to Alaska seven times in our eleven years of retirement. We have done the Big Ship land and cruise thing, driven up and back in our small motorhome, taken the Alaska Marie Ferry up and back with our small motorhome, flown up and visited Barrow and Prudhoe Bay – driving the Haul Road back to Fairbanks, flown up and done the Winter activities, taken a small ship cruise from Juneau to Sitka, taken a small ship repositioning from Seattle to Juneau and are now preparing to embark on another big ship cruise with our two adult children. Alaska isn’t for everybody but it does have something to offer for everybody! We love visiting and feel that our two summers spent there were the best. The people, the wildlife, the scenery, the festivals – all are experiences we enjoy reliving. The costs can be great but the experience in our opinion is priceless!

  20. We have been to Alaska with our RV. We enjoyed our visit but once was enough. For our money the trip from Glacier Park in Montana up into Canada through Banff and up to Jasper is equally scenic and full of animals. And Victoria Island just north of Seattle is fabulous. The Canadian Maritime Provinces are equally superb. With so many great places closer to us here in the US, I would have to suggest that if going to Alaska isn’t high on your priority list, then go see some of the sites in SW or SE Canada. They are truly beautiful and just as scenic as Alaska. And no, I’m not Canadian, I’m from Florida.

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