Thursday, 23 June 2022
Today we headed off on our great Alaska adventure! We spent the morning packing up and getting the final things ready, then stopped by my chiropractor appointment in SF in the late afternoon. We picked up dinner in the city (Molinari’s) before driving just a couple hours north. Boondocked in a casino parking lot tonight. 🙂
Friday, 24 June 2022
Long drive day today. Got close to Seattle but ended up pulling into a rest area in Washington when it was getting late and we were about 2 hours away.
Saturday, 25 June 2022
Started the morning by getting an oil change, which we hadn’t had a chance to do before leaving. Then stopped into REI to pick up a rain jacket for A, which hadn’t been in stock before. Happily found exactly one in his size! And it was even yellow. 🙂 Got to our friends’ house and played the rest of the day there in the lake and had a delightful time.
Sunday, 26 June 2022
Church with friends and more hangs and fun. Met some friends of our friends who are also driving to Alaska this summer with their camper so we had lots to discuss.
Monday, 27 June 2022
Headed off! Stopped briefly to see some other friends. Long driving day. Crossed the border! Stayed in a parking lot in a little museum & visitor center. I was nervous about bears and made Dan close all the top air vents just in case. The little town had a dump so we took care of that before pulling in for the night.
Tuesday, 28 June 2022
Another long driving day. Stopped for the night at a little pullout to boondock at Bonus Lake Recreation Center. It was pretty but a bit muddy/steep getting in with just one area where we could fit to pull in. And somehow 8 MILLION MOSQUITOES got into the RV at night!!! It was miserable. Dan and I were up for several hours killing them.
Wednesday, 29 June 2022
Well, today was quite the adventure. We had a long driving day filled with stunning views. Stopped at a gas station and a fruit truck man handed us some fresh strawberries because the people who had ordered them didn’t pick them up. So nice!
Stopped at a gast station and picked up mosquito zappers (look like tennis racquets and basically electrocute them). They seemed to dissipate by morning from last night. We’ve never had them come into the RV before, even in buggy areas but there were hundreds last night!
Then we drove up Highway 37, where we saw the first of some wildlife!! Spotted a bear crossing the road, then another one a while later. We also saw a moose and a beautiful soaring bald eagle. So exciting.
We intersected wtih the Alcan just west of Watson Lake. We drove about 15-20 minutes before we were headed uphill and all of a sudden the RV started whining, and then just wouldn’t go, so we immediately pulled to the side of the road. Tried to turn it on and it wouldn’t turn on at all. The engine just would not turn over. Ugh!!!
Miraculously, just two nights before, Dan had JUST set up the little Garmin satellite messaging device I gave him back at Christmas. So grateful because there was zero cell service. So he was able to immediately message our Good Sam Roadside Assistance. They couldn’t get a tow to us that night since it was already about 5:30pm but said they could get one for us at 9am the following morning. We were also able to message Dan’s dad, who immediately started working on trying to figure out other towing options, a mechanic, and all sorts of things.
Several kind Canadians stopped to ask if they could help but we were pretty sure it was the transmission so there wasn’t really anything they could do. One nice couple said they’d call the police to come out for us, and also insisted on giving us their Tim Horton’s doughnuts. So kind of them. The RCMP ended up coming out to check on us and were so nice, and told us we were fine to stay the night there if we were comfortable, or offered to call us a taxi if we wanted to head into a hotel in town.
So we figured we’d just sleep on the side of the highway in the RV instead of going to a hotel. The kids had good attitudes and we were grateful we at least still had a place to sleep. Unfortunately, the night was absolute misery.
Literally thousands of mosquitoes came into the RV at various points through the night. Dan and I were up killing them from 1am-2:30am, then we woke up again and killed them from 4am until almost 6am – all the kids were awake at that piont, too, because there were JUST SO MANY of them. Everyone had zappers and were trying to kill them. M was the only one who was safe because she was in her zip up tent. I was also soooo uncomfortable because I was on my knees on our bed killing them for that whole time and it made my pelvic pain so much worse. We all tried hiding under the covers to sleep a bit more but they woke us up again around 8am. It was just absolutely awful. There were also way more in the back by Dan and me in our bedroom area. We had no idea where they were coming in because Dan even taped off all the ceiling vents after the night before, and spent a good bit of this time taping all along the edges of the windows and along the edges of the floor, but nothing seemed to help. Just the absolute freaking worst.
Thursday, 30 June 2022
This morning, we got a tow back to Watson Lake, about 20-30 minutes. We couldn’t all ride with the tow truck and they wouldn’t let us be in the RV, so 2 taxis came to pick up me and the kids while Dan rode with the tow truck driver. The taxis took us to Andrea’s Hotel (the nicer of the two hotels in town, we were told). There was a restaurant there so the kids and I sat and ate breakfast there while our room was getting cleaned. At this point, we didn’t know if we’d actually sleep there but we figured at least it was a place to stay during the day since we didn’t really know how things would progress and there wasn’t really anywhere else to hang out (and we were all completely exhausted from being up half the night killing mosquitoes).
We hung out in a room while Dan and his dad tried to figure out what was going on with the mechanic. They figured out that it was, indeed, the transmission, and couldn’t be fixed in that tiny town, so needed to get towed to Whitehorse, about 5 hours west. I called our Good Sam Roadside Assistance to confirm they would cover the towing (they’re the only ones we know of that have unlimited towing mileage and we are SOOOO grateful we had that coverage – never expected to need it but very grateful to not have to cover the $5,000 CAD tow ourselves). I also looked into the shuttle from Watson Lake to Whitehorse, Yukon, which would’ve been just over $1,000 CAD ($800 USD) for our whole family. Ugh.
Meanwhile, Dan’s dad was amazing and calling places all over Canada to try to locate a transmission. The shop in Whitehorse said they wouldn’t be able to look at it until Monday since tomorrow (July 1) is Canada Day. It just felt like everything was falling apart. After so much money and effort, it just felt so disheartening.
Dan did find out that the tow truck driver was selling his old year 2000 Ford Expedition. He just so happened to want to purchase a car in Whitehorse himself, so wanted to sell this car and also was willing to tow the RV to Whitehorse tonight itself because he wanted to pick up the other car. Though the Expedition is old, it only has about 107k miles on it, so not too high. He only wanted $3,000 Canadian for it (about $2300 USD), so we decided that it was the best option we had. We found out that the RV could take between 3-6 weeks because they needed to order a transmission and it needed to be built, so we realized we’d almost certainly need to something else to drive into Alaska at least for part of our trip.
As frustrating as it was, we checked out the car and it seemed decent. And then a guy who overheard Dan’s conversation with the tow truck driver just so happened to have a spare 3rd row bench seat sitting in his garage that would fit in the expedition. No idea why he happened to have it but he offered to just give it to us so the car would actually have 7 seats/seat belts and would fit our family. There were zero rental cars available anywhere in Watson Lake OR Whitehorse or anywhere within several hundred miles (and would probably cost that much regardless), so we figured that was a pretty decent option and an actual miracle.
Through the day, we also looked into a couple other options, including buying a trailer for $11k. But we didn’t feel confident that the Expedition could tow it and that was quite pricey, so we thought it made more sense to stay in hotels/Airbnbs instead.
I also texted with some old friends of Dan’s who live in Anchorage to ask if they had any suggestions for hotels/Airbnbs since quite a bit was booked already. She extremely kindly offered to let us stay with them when we were in the Anchorage area, and was so generous about it. So grateful to them.
So we ended up buying an old green Ford Expedition! So random but we’re grateful it worked out. We ended up staying at Andrea’s hotel that night (we were able to take their last two rooms) and got just a few things like toiletries and packing cubes out of the RV before it got towed since the tow truck driver (Steve) said we would still be able to get stuff out of it when we got to Whitehorse ourselves the next day (since it was on the way to continue to Alaska).
What a day.
Friday, 1 July 2022
This morning, we repacked the packing cubes to pare them down to take with us in the Expedition. I got each kid down to one large packing cube and Dan and I each had a large and a medium. We had less variety but I think it will work fine.
Then we hopped in the Expedition to drive to Whitehorse. We originally thought we’d need to purchase a car top carrier there but we decided to wait and see. When we got there, we found the RV parked on the street by the Ford dealership. We considered whether we could just sleep in the RV that night if we could get it cleaned out from the mass mosquito carnage and sealed off. When Dan opened the trunk yesterday, he saw hundreds of mosquitoes and a hole leading into the RV under our bed, so he thought they might be getting in that way. There was also a hole under the kitchen sink (it always got dusty in that cabinet under the sink) so we figured we should seal everything off so tons more wouldn’t get in while it was sitting there for potentially a couple weeks.
So we had everyone pitch in and we cleaned out the dead mosquitoes that were on literally every surface – floor, shelves, counters, everything. They were also alllll over all the bedding so we removed all of it and took it over to a nearby laundromat to wash everything so it would at least be fresh and clean for when we got the RV back. Dan spent hours sealing off the holes with sealing tape and we also bought Raid spray to spray the outside of the RV.
We also figured out what other stuff we’d need to take with us, from shoes to hiking gear to bear spray and insect repellent. Hopefully we got everything we need. It felt exhausting because packing up to leave on a trip is always so tiring and takes so much mental energy, and now we got to do it for a second time on this trip! Ha. We definitely pared way down but hopefully got the essentials for what we’ll need for Alaska. Fortunately, it stayed bright really late because we were doing all this until close to midnight. We also got everything into the Expedition and organized the trunk and inside the car and realized we’d be fine without a cartop carrier, which was nice!
We made the beds back up with clean linens and decided to test out sleeping in the RV that night. Hallelujah – NO MOSQUITOES!!