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Old 02-10-2014, 01:31 AM   #12
Narrowrd
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Kenai AK
Posts: 32
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Born and raised in AK, I've traveled that route many times. In my opinion it's best experienced in an RV, anything smaller and you just want to rip the bandaid off. My fastest run was less than 48 hours nonstop Seattle to ANC.

Amenities are well marked but often seasonal- sometimes a hotel or fuel station is shut down for a few months out of the year. That can gum up the works, as sometimes you have a couple hundred miles to the next one. The internet has helped a bit, as you can easily find B&Bs through trip advisor, etc. but you can't count on cell reception for a good portion of the trip, so planning ahead is essential. Now you can rent Sat phones on the cheap, which wouldn't be a bad idea if it's your first trip.

The road itself has been paved for some time, but maintenance is forever lacking. The worst part is typically a five mile stretch near the border. Potholes are one thing, but we get earthquakes up here, as well as flooding rivers. A few years back I went into a corner at 65mph and found half the road missing partway in. I was able to swerve into the opposite lane, but no road crew had marked the area yet. If you are heading north in June, July or August you should be able to find a spot between the constant line of RV's and caravan up in style. All the Frost Heaves will have settled down by then, and most road work should be attended to. I once lost a rear window to a frost heave- it was big enough where the front wheels left the ground, the back window shattered on impact. Now I watch for tire marks in front of frost heaves- the big ones have skid marks from the wheels locking up in air, then leaving a mark upon touchdown. By late spring most are marked with orange flags. If you watch for the flags you should be fine. I drove up with a friend from Ohio once who couldn't see the color orange, for whatever reason. He left his exhaust, cat-back on the highway.

Other than mechanical trouble, you should watch out for wildlife- most the big rigs up here have bumpers with bull-bars that extend a good seven feet up to cover the front well, as well as "moose lights." Again, if you are traveling up in July, by the time you get far enough north to hit a Bison or a Moose, it'll be light 20 hours a day. I've never hit anything, but I don't outdrive my headlights or stopping distance. I've braked for moose more than I can count.

Rock chips are going to happen, a chipped windshield is called an Alaskan windshield. Add the coverage to your insurance and take it off when you get back home, or just factor the cost of replacement into the trip.

It's a fun trip to do slow. Hit the hotsprings up north, stop a lot to have lunch and take pictures. If you are an early riser you will see much of the wildlife between 4 and 6 am. I once counted a bear, wolf and herd of deer all in one morning's stretch of road. It's much more tame than it used to be, but with the fact that much of it is still remote and Murphy's Law combined, it pays to be prepared. I'm heading down in April to prep my rig for the trip North from PHX. If I can get everything worked out, I'll head north this spring. If not it'll winter another year down south.

As far as things to do the sky is the limit. You mentioned watersports. I'd suggest a packraft from Alpaca Rafts. It won't take up much space, and you can hike with it, inflate and then kayak around. It really opens up the possibilities, esp when you want to see the real Alaska. Fishing is huge, so it has to be mentioned. With a full freezer of fish heading south, you can compensate for some of your trip expenses. I can walk ten minutes from where I am now and catch a Red Salmon all summer long... we have crab, snapper, cod, halibut all here on the Kenai Peninsula. I've never had a winter without fish in the freezer, it costs me the time spent, which most people would consider therapeutic. There is a lot of boating, salt, swiftwater or lake. The trips out of Seward allow you to see the Glaciers up close and the marine life, killer whales, etc. You can leave your coach in ANC and take the train up to see Denali. Keep us updated and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.
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Micah S.
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