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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

North to Alaska!

July 24, 2022 (Sun)

Yes! It is happening!

We have loaded up Harvey, our faithful RV, and pointed him due North to Alaska!

(There is a 1960 John Wayne movie called North to Alaska, which has a snappy theme song, but a terrible plot. We tried re-watching it and got about 20 minutes in before we just gave up. Guess you had to be there.)

Backstory: When Gini was 21, she got a job for the summer with the National Board of Missions. They rambled through the islands of Southeast Alaska putting on Vacation Bible Schools in logging camps, canneries, and small towns. After the job was done, her parents flew up and met her in Juneau and they toured Alaska together.

Anyway, one place that has especially stuck in Gini’s mind was the town of Skagway, where she got on a narrow-gauge railroad to Whitehorse and had a grand old time.

Well, the wish fairy descended and said, “If you could go anywhere in Harvey, where would it be?”


Gini is ready to head North!

This is going to be a trip and a half—we’re leaving today, July 24 and won’t be back until Aug 31! That’s 35 days—the longest trip Robert has ever taken, and the longest non-work trip for Gini (the only longer trip was—you guessed it—her trip to Alaska!).

The plan is to go north to Dawson Creek, where we will enter the Alaska-Canada Highway (or “Al-Can” as we seasoned web-travelers refer to it). That’s about 800 miles. From there, it’s about 1,500 miles of hilarity driving through a lot of nowhere (look at a map, you’ll see what we mean). The Al-Can ends at Fairbanks.

From Fairbanks, we drive south to Anchorage, then eastish to Skagway where we catch: the Alaska Marine Highway, baby! We’re doing it all! Also, we might be able to catch the railroad to Whitehorse (it doesn’t run all the time because Supply Chain or some such).

Whew! We have no reservations (well…), and the only due date is Aug 27, when we need to be in Skagway to board our ferry back home.

Our previous trip in Harvey was about 10 days, and meticulously planned. Why not triple the duration and just wing it for where we stop each night? What could possibly go wrong?

8:00 am Woodinville

Okay, we’ve thrown a bunch of stuff (and food) into Harvey and we’re ready to take off. Our packing approach this time has been: throw everything in boxes, and we’ll stow it once we’re on the road. Basically, we’re letting our future selves deal with it.

Time to hit to road!

8:20 am Woodinville

But first (as always with Harvey), we stop for gas.

9:20 am Woodinville

And we need to visit a friend to pick up some pills for Gini.

10:00 am Woodinville

More gas, but this time, it’s the propane kind of gas, which is a challenge to find on a Sunday morning. (“We only sell propane during the week,” “I have to wait for Joe to show up before I can do that,” “The main tank is empty, so drive down that dirt road to the barn-like structure and we’ll fill it up there.”)

Now we’re off!

11:00 am Mount Vernon

Man, all that going back and forth has left us hungry—so we stop in at a Burger King (“The best burgers,” says Gini). Only the drive-through is open, so we head there.

Two things happened:

· We are not used to driving a very tall vehicle (the air-conditioner on the top of Harvey is about 10 feet from the ground)

· Some over-height vehicle (not us!) had bashed the “Don’t be taller than this” sign at the Burger King drive-through, so we were unaware that there was a limit of 8 feet 10 inches.

So, we got to back out of a drive-through lane (fortunately, we noticed a later sign and thought, “Hmm, that seems short”) and make some new friends (“Would you mind going backwards for a bit?”) and we made it out okay.

Good burgers, too!

12:20 pm Sumas, Washington

If you haven’t been to Canada lately (and not many have, because the Canadians were pretty snooty about travel there for a while), you may be unaware that you need to download an app on your phone and fill in your name and passport number and where you plan to stay in Canada and the details of your Covid vaccination and when you plan to arrive and exactly when you plan to leave and where, exactly, you plan to enter Canada. The app is called ArriveCAN (as in “Can you arrive?”).

Fortunately, Robert was all over this. Unfortunately, Robert doesn’t do well with forms. With ArriveCAN, the issue had to do with where we were staying the first 14 days we were there, in case Canada wanted to stop by with some welcome flowers and chocolates. There was not, however, a way to indicate “We live on the road, baby. Catch us in Harvey!”

So Robert entered “None” for destination and it turns out there is a city in Canada named “None.” Problem solved.

1:10 pm Sumas, Washington

We picked Sumas for our border crossing, because the AAA guy (yes, we went to AAA—they still do maps!) said it was always the least crowded crossing.

Except maybe on Sunday mornings, when the wait is almost an hour.

We held our breath when we got to the agent, worried that Robert’s shenanigans were about to get us inspected internally. (Plus Gini is already on a watch list for having zipped through the Nexus line when she wasn’t authorized.)

“You have any guns?” Nope. “Chickens or eggs?” Nope (and Canada doesn’t care which came first—neither is getting across the border!). “You going to stay in that thing?” Yup. “Welcome to Canada, eh?”

3:00 pm

Turns out that Abbotsford, BC (“The Raspberry Capital of Canada”) is pretty popular with RV campers. Or there’s a lack of affordable housing here as well, and there are a lot of people living in trailers at RV campgrounds…

Anyway, we finally found a spot at an RV Campground, although it doesn’t have electricity and the washrooms are all closed, so no showers. It’s flat and hot and we sweat a lot as we stow as much as we can in Harvey.

We’re just delighted to have made it across the border! Northward ho!

Disorder and Chaos? Whatever do you mean?

By the numbers

Because what experience isn’t improved by some statistics?

Miles traveled so far: 131

Estimated Percentage of total road miles: 4%

Days so far: 1 day

Estimated Percentage of total road days: 3%

Gini & Robert

Harvey Staff

P.S. While Robert has been sitting outside on the lovely summer morning in Canada, his phone alarm has been going off every ten minutes with an “active shooter” alert in Langley (about seven miles away). Welcome to Canada!

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