Well….here we are after a long absence. Has been a long and tough month but we are good and settled into one of the top 10 RV Resorts in US…Hearthside Grove in Petoskey Michigan….but more on that at the end of this update.
We left off our last post in Destruction Bay BC. From there we headed to our last excursion on the Caravan to Haines AK. This was about 150 miles south of the Alaska Hwy. We checked into Hitch-up RV Park just on the edge of this small town. The park was decent vs others we’ve experienced….full hook-ups, tight grass sites, but convenient to town. Haines is a very small port town. We were surprised to see full size cruise ships…couldn’t believe the town could support an influx of 4-5,000 tourists at one time…probably 2-3 times the population of the entire town. We patronized the local bars/restaurants….some terrible, some not bad. The Bamboo House was the top one….so called because they hung a curtain between the bar and the rest of the restaurant that had a bamboo fence design on it…thus the Bamboo House. Also visited a locals bar. Their top hors d’oeuvre was fried chicken legs…..no breading just bare chicken legs put into an air fryer…actually tasty when you’re hungy. The final visited spot was a local bakery that doubled as a Thai restaurant at night…interesting combination. But one of best bakeries we found on our trip. One of our days while in Haines we did leisurely rafting trip down the main river starting from mountain snow melt and ending into Haines port. This was a National Eagle Preserve. We counted 13 eagle sightings during our drift. Since we had seen so many eagles during our trip, this was our least favorite excursion especially since it was cold and misty for a 2 hour drift…oh well. Cindy took advantage of a pedestrian ferry to Juneau. ( I was over long boat rides so declined but fully enjoyed my day of solitude). Cindy’s adventure included the 3 hour boat ride each way and 4 hours touring Juneau….but saddened that she could not get a much desired hair appt. However her day including card games on the ferry to and fro, a ride up the tram overlooking the harbor with lunch atop, lots of casual shopping in town, and amazement at 3-4 cruise ships at port.
While at the RV park I asked a fellow RV-er if he noticed a subtle vibration while driving the road into Haines. He said not, but we chalked it up to perhaps an out-of-balance wheel which I would address once we got back to civilization. I was also noticing a higher than normal engine temperature but seemed to regulate OK.
We departed Haines and headed to White Horse BC and Pioneer RV Park. White Horse was a highlight overnight for me since it was the ONLY fuel stop with DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) at the pump (I’m easily highlighted 🙂 ). The rest of the trip required buying 2 1/2 gal jugs at walmart-type stores and manually filling the def tank. Our RV has a 15 gal def tank and we get about 125 miles/gal so the 5,000 mile trip through Alaska required lots of manual fills. White Horse was one of the larger towns along the Alaska Hwy but still small. We were only there overnight as we began our long journey to our final destination at Dawson Creek. Those were long driving days of 300+ miles per day but filled with spectacular scenery and multiple wildlife sightings…captured several in pics below….but no more goose-a-moose moments, thank goodness. After White Horse our next overnight stop was Ft Nelson BC, home of the famous ‘Sign Forrest’ where everyone is free to post a sign of their home town. We just looked as we drove by since mosquitos were getting feisty. Then we headed to Laird Hot Springs which we were looking forward to. En-route we passed the road wash-out from a burst dam, which was disconcerting at first news of a 500-mile required detour. However, BC-DOT cleaned up an old fire road which went around the damned lake…from which we could see the drained lake bed. It was only a 2 mile detour with well scraped dirt roadway. From a distance we could see the road damage which now had a 50-ft deep ravine….may be some time before they either fill it in or bridge it. Laird Hot Springs was a planned 2-day layover. There was no electric lines running through this area so the RV parks relied on generator power which worked well. The hot springs required a walk across the hwy and into a provincial park where they collected $5/person to access the hot springs. Then there was a good wooden walkway through the woods for about 1/2 mile to reach the springs. It was well planned with a large wooden deck overlooking the spring pools with bath house/changing rooms. The pools ranged in temperatures from 115 degrees to about 100….moving around you’d find your sweet spot. This would have an idyllic setting except for…swarming MOSQUITOES…the worst we experienced during our entire trip. Cindy entered the springs with others from our group while I stayed on the deck constantly swatting the pests and layering with OFF Deep Woods spray. Cindy lasted about 15 mins before we admitted defeat and started the brisk walk back through the woods to our RV. The bugs were no less evil at the RV. Apparently hundreds of mosquitoes took up residence in our storage bays….for the next 3-4 days they would find their way into the coach at night and buzz us incessantly. We learned to sleep with our bug-zapper racquets and manage to zap them in the dark as we heard the crackle as the racquet made contact. Most of night we just slept with the covers over our heads……aah, but what would an Alaska trip be without mosquitoes? Next overnight stop was at Ft Nelson, BC at Triple G Hideaway RV Park. Not much to it other than a place to plug in for the night.
Finally, we reached our final stop with our caravan in Tumbler Ridge BC, about 50 minutes from Dawson Creek, site of milepost Zero of the Alaska Hwy, which ends in Fairbanks AK at MP 1523. Not sure why we had to be so far from DC…perhaps no RV park which could take so many big rigs at once, although we saw another caravan with more rigs than us in one of the DC parks…oh well. We were all scheduled to have a group breakfast in DC with a Chamber of Commerce presentation then group picture at MP Zero. As we were all filling our plates at the buffet table we suddenly heard a crash of a plate and some gasps. One of our elderly companions, Nancy (about 75 yrs old) tripped on a table cloth near her table and crashed to the concrete floor with her full plate of food. Fortunately our group included a Dr and EMT so expert help was immediately available. Nancy laid still, but conscience, with an awkward bend of her left leg. She was taken away by ambulance and diagnosed with a broken femur. She was delayed in Dawson Creek for 2 days while insurances battled over what to do with her since the local hospital was not equipped to handle the required surgery. In the end she was flown back to her hometown hospital in Connecticut where surgery was successful and she’s recovering well…Whew! So then we all went to MP Zero and had our group pictures confirming our successful conclusion of our 63 day caravan adventure through Alaska, covering 5,000 miles. A trip to always remember and a check-off of one of our bucket-list items. Now for the 4,000 mile trip home!
Meanwhile that vibration seemed to be getting more apparent and engine overheating continued especially on some of the steep inclines we had to endure. The next Freightliner dealer was in Grand Prairie Alberta, about 3 hours from Tumbler Ridge. We followed the shorter route shown by our GPS, not knowing it included 45 miles of dirt, pot-hole-filled road, with no cell service…shame on me for not checking the route more carefully. But we made it to Freightliner where at least we had made an appt. After describing what we had experienced, and thinking it was an out-of-balance tire, we left the RV at the garage and departed in our car. In about a half hour we received a call to come back to the garage to discuss what they found. The shop foreman and mechanic met us and took us into the garage where they had removed the drive shaft revealing a severely worn ‘yoke’ which connects the driveshaft to the universal joint. They said they were amazed that we made it there since it was about to break and drop the driveshaft to the ground. (I shook inside thinking about our recent trek through the desolate dirt road with no cell svc. ) Of course the ‘yoke’ is a rare part so not immediately available. In short, we were in Grande Prairie AB for the next 10 days enduring the wrong part originally sent, then 4 more days for the correct part. They also said our antifreeze was down 2 1/2 gallons which probably explained the overheating. At least Grande Prairie was a good-sized small town which we grew to learn every inch of it during our 10 day hiatus. There’s always a silver lining….Cindy got her hair done, we got joint pedicures while consuming a bottle of Rose’, experienced several good restaurants, and checked the power to the RV daily since we had a full refrigerator incl 10 lbs of salmon and halibut. We also replaced the RV batteries while there….all 8 of them thinking their 4-yr old age was nearing their life cycle. And we once again learned that God works in mysterious ways and provides what we need, not necessarily what we think we want. First Cindy, then me, came down with covid….so being holed up in a comfy hotel room without having to drive hundreds of miles a day was exactly what we needed to endure and recover….Praise God!
So after 10 days we were on our way once again, headed towards Glacier NP with a new yoke and full antifreeze, praying our mechanical troubles were now behind us. The journey to GNP required 3 days of travel with overnight stops at Edmonton AB and Cardston, 15 miles from US border. Of course all of our RV park reservations were now lost through Petoskey MI so Cindy was busy calling all the parks and cancelling those reservations.
In the meantime our vibration had ceased and the overheating seemed under control. We arrived at a beautiful RV park (Base Camp) in Kalispell Montana, about 40 mins from the entry gate to Glacier NP. Our trip to Glacier the next day had us enter the Park at 4 PM since reservations to enter were next to impossible to obtain, but you can enter after 4 without a res. We entered The Road To The Sun which clings to the cliffs of an amazing road to the top of the pass at 6,600 ft…an amazing journey seemingly going back in time with incredible engineering to carve this road where no normal person would think was possible. Of course we found the McDonald Lodge at the bottom of the road where we enjoyed some Cosmos in a beautiful old lodge building overlooking a gorgeous lake. Ironically, the one thing missing from the park were….glaciers….most gone from global warming…but still an incredible experience. The town of Kalispell was quaint. And, yes, we found another incredible bar called The Ritz (no connection to Ritz Carlton). It was a bar connected to a spa with hair salon and nail treatments, but the bar itself was one of best we’d ever been to right up there with King George V hotel in Paris. Their handcrafted drink list was impressive….only wish we could have sampled them all….but we held at 2 each and took a 3rd back to the RV park where we set up our chairs, lit our camp fire, and watched a beautiful sunset over the Montana hills.
So off we went after 3 days in Kalispell, starting our path back east. We wanted to pick back up with our planned route home by meeting our reservation date for the upscale RV park in Petoskey Michigan on the upper peninsula, near the Canadian border. We had 7 days to cover 1800 miles, more than doable with 250 miles per day. We did not plan stops more than a day in advance so we could drive as far as we felt each day. Our path went from from Kalispell – Bozeman – Miles City MT……Jamestown ND…..Minneapolis MN….Shawano WI……Petoskey MI. We made great time and arrived 2 days early so extended our stay to 7 days at Hearthside Grove RV Park in Petoskey.
We’d like to say that journey was uneventful, but noooooo! First, CIndy caught a viral ear infection so a stopover at an urgent care center with antibiotics got her back on track. And Oh…that overheating?…caught up with us in Alexandria MN just after Cindy took over the wheel to give me a break. That fateful warning alarm sounded with a console message reading ‘Warning, radiator fluid low’. We chose to ignore it and clear the message off the screen. Of course in this case ignorance was NOT bliss. After we cleared the message 2 more times, the temperature gauge began rapidly rising. As it approached the RED zone we pulled off the side of the interstate and turned off the engine. To my chagrin, my inspection revealed red radiator fluid draining out the bottom of the engine underneath the RV…..a sight I was now familiar with. But this time it seemed only a burst hose. Once again God was with us as we found a 24-hour emergency diesel service, on a Saturday afternoon, only 5 miles away. Within 45 mins a roadside repair truck pulled up behind us. After 2 hours on the side of the road, the mechanic had a new hose installed which was in as difficult a location as possible…..but he was relentless in his pursuit of repair. He re-filled all the lost fluid and had us follow him to his nearby shop where he pressure-washed our radiator saying it was caked with dirt….an apparent reason for the high engine temps.
The next 2 days saw normal engine temps…but the 3rd day, our final leg to Petoskey, it began to rise again but not to critical levels. Once at the RV park and letting it sit overnight, I checked the fluid level and had to add 2 gallons of fluid….hoping it was normal to see the fluid work its way through the depths of the engine cooling chambers and needing a top off. We’ll see when we hit the road again next week. Our approach to the Upper Peninsula took us neat Sault Ste Marie and the Canadian border, then over an impressive and huge suspension bridge over the Straights of Mackinaw. And that’s where we leave off on this blog posting. What an adventure! We may need to do several posts to include the related pictures for this posting. From here we’re a week away from home, hoping to arrive about the 22nd….let’s hope so. Hope all our followers to this blog are doing well. Cheers!
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