Whenever you mention to seasoned RVers that you are heading up through the Yukon to Alaska with your rig, you get mixed responses. Some are dreaming of taking the trip and can’t wait to hear our views. Almost everyone who has done it says their trip was amazing and they LOVED Denali, wildlife, views, etc. Some say the roads are much better than they used to be and they didn’t have any issues. Others say it tore their rig to heck and caused all manner of problems. We even have one friend who got stuck perpendicular on the AlCan (Alaska-Canadian) Highway, blocking traffic for quite a while. (In that case, they were a little infamous further down the road, overhearing folks talking about the so-and-so blocking the only route. Ouch!!) Trying to be proactive, we’ve done a few things to get Brutus and Petunia ready for this adventure.
The first actually happened in 2021 when Mr. Wonderful (MW) beefed up our suspension, which included changing out the Dexter 4,400 axles for 5,200s, beefing up the original springs with a slipper spring system, adding shock absorbers, and changing out the wheels and tires for more durable versions. The pics and more info on that modification are here.
One of the reasons we bought our Grand Design Reflection 273MK was the abundance of storage. We figured it would be necessary for living in it full-time, and it definitely has been. However, having upper cabinets across the rear is a challenge. Over time, a good bit of sag developed in the middle of the 8′ span. We figured that wasn’t going to improve as we dragged her up on the Yukon and Alaska roads, so MW devised a little modification. First, the wall by the sink to the right was very lightweight, so he put a vertical support inside the kitchen cabinet. Then, after jacking up the center of the cabinets, he inserted a support post. At my request, he added a little wall that serves two bonus functions: 1) creates a little bulletin board, and 2) keeps water from the sink off of my desk. I think it looks pretty nice, too
While we’re talking about cabinets, some other previous modifications will definitely come in handy on the rougher-than-normal roads. To keep cans from bouncing against, and possibly breaking, the glass doors, everything is sitting in plastic baskets from Target. The upper cabinets also have child safety locks, not to keep little ones out, but to keep contents in.
Over the past several months, we’ve discussed various scenarios requiring repair. To help make breakdowns more palatable when there might not be help nearby (or even far away LOL), we have an extra slide motor, landing gear motor, and landing leg on board. MW also went through his tools to make sure he had the odd little extras that might be needed. In an effort to adjust weight, we removed the generator, which we have never used on the road. That left us free to shift some stuff forward of the axles, rebalancing weight. Finally, MW replaced the tires on Brutus before we left home. It wasn’t quite time for Petunia to have her’s, but we already have the new ones in the truck, should they be needed.
There was one modification that wasn’t specifically for this trip, but will make my life a LOT easier. I have always, and this word is not at all too strong, HATED the gas oven. It could not be regulated at all, and the lowest temperature I could get it to hold was around 400. Needless to say, not much but reheating in that thing. I’ve also really missed being able to toast bread for my tuna sandwich or a bagel. On the flip side, I liked the gas cooktop. MW gave me the best of both worlds. To begin, he removed the old stove/oven combo, which was donated to a gentleman in Sneedville who didn’t have any way to cook in his cabin. Then he installed a 3-burner gas cooktop that is almost exactly like the previous top. Next he built out the hole where the oven had been and added a pull-out shelf. That made it the perfect nook for a Ninja Foodi 10-In-1 XL Pro Air Fry Oven. We’ve been using it now for a few weeks, and I LOVE IT!!! He installed a strap to hold it all in place when we are moving, too.
Oh, there was one other change ahead of this trip: I bought a bike. More specifically, a foldable e-bike. It is a Lectric 3.0 that has 7 gears, 5 levels of pedal assist, and can go about 60 miles on a charge. No, I don’t think I’ll be riding that far, but it is nice to have extra if you need it. The weather turned cold in Sneedville about the time it came, so I only took it out once before we left. It is awesome, though and makes me feel like a kid. It also works the crap out of my legs! Bonus!! Thanks to friends Tom and Rose Wolfe for letting me try their e-bike in Colorado Springs. Although they have a different brand, that little ride pretty much pushed me over the edge! When not in use, Lexy (the bike) lives in our living room. I removed the table just inside our door, and she folds up and straps against the wall. I have a few plans for giving us back a tabletop and making it look spiffy, so stay tuned.
Prior to leaving on the big adventure, there were a couple of final things to take care of. First, I needed to hand off some bookkeeping stuff in Greensboro. After 5 years of continuing to do bookkeeping and taxes on the road, I decided it was time to retire from the majority of the bookkeeping. Keeping up with accounts payable, accounts receivable, and daily entries with very spotty internet coverage in remote areas was getting old. Although I knew that I would have to give it up sometime, it was still a very tough decision. The people I worked with were friends long before they were clients. The change will give me more time to keep up with writing, though, which I need. Still keeping my finger in some minor bookkeeping and personal taxes means that Tax Junkie is still open for business, just a little less of it. MW says I’m easing my way into full retirement. Don’t know if that will ever happen! LOL
Since we were going in that direction, we planned to see a couple of other friends, too. On Friday, March 17, we left the foggy, overcast mountains and headed east over to Pelham, North Carolina, to catch up with Chuck and Dempress Palermo. They had us pull right up into their yard and plug into water and electric. How’s that for service?! It was great catching up with them and Demp’s Dad, Bobby, for a few days. While there, we checked out the Bricktown Brewery (delicious) and had breakfast at Biscuitville, both in Danville. (Honestly, if you aren’t from Biscuitville territory, make a point of going and checking out those biscuits!) Chuck and MW also spent time at the American Armored Foundation Tank Museum, also in Danville. Per MW, they had a huge display of armored vehicles, interesting dioramas, and even a model tank battlefield. There was also an impressive array of uniforms and headgear. The guys both gave it two thumbs up and said it was well worth the cost of admission!
On Sunday, MW and I checked out Gatewood Baptist Church. Honest to goodness, this was the most welcoming place either of us have ever been. Before the service started, we were greeted by nearly everyone in the building. Then we were welcomed by the Pastor Adrian Moore from the pulpit, and both the opening and closing prayers by different people included a request to pray for the Tennessee visitors. Wow! The sermon, about the way to the Father, was good, too. We will definitely go back if we are in the area again. Afterwards, we met Chuck and Dempress for lunch at Pangea Asian Fusion, which ranked right at the top of the best Asian I’ve ever had. Then it was time for us to say goodbye and head on down the road.
We arrived at Hagan-Stone County Park (review here), our go-to place when visiting Greensboro, by mid-afternoon and were set up pretty quickly. The next day we took care of some errands during the day, then headed up to the Parker’s abode for a terrific dinner of grilled steaks, tuna, and shrimp. OMGosh! Awesome!! Plus, Tina baked a peanut butter cake to celebrate MW’s birthday, which was on the 15th. After supper, we headed out to hear a little bluegrass and country music at Keith and Tina’s favorite spot. It is an informal gathering where a variety of people sing and play, including Keith, Tina, and Keith’s son Gage. It was terrific and we stayed until about 9:30 PM. I understand that Keith and Tina didn’t roll in until about 2 AM! My body just won’t let me do that anymore, especially after a 4:30 AM wakeup.
Tuesday I took care of some writing, had an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar, met with my business peeps, and did several tax returns. That night we were treated to supper by Ashley Meredith, Realtor extraordinaire, with all of the team. It was lots of fun, and I enjoyed catching up with everyone. Then on Wednesday, Tina and I spent the day together catching up on girl time. (That’s something I just don’t get enough of since we sold our house in Browns Summit, NC.) We finished up our visit the way we started it, with both of the Parkers over a meal. This time is was supper at one of our favorite places @Elm Street Grill, owned by our friends Ravi and Chef Ruchi Khanna.
On Thursday, after a lot of fun crammed into a few days, it was time for us to head south to Georgia. The drive was long and grey, but uneventful. We arrived at Rocky Mountain PFA (review here) around 4 PM, then headed over to Mom’s for supper and a hug after getting set up.
The next several days were spent visiting with Mom and Dad2 (Larry), visiting with Aunt Pat & Uncle Russ, doing a little shopping, and eating, too. (Mom made Taco Soup, and I contributed some Venison Stroganoff with meat courtesy of the Parkers). MW helped Larry finish insulating his shop and build a work bench, and I helped Mom hang pictures. In between I worked on tax returns and did the laundry. On Sunday morning, MW and I stopped in at Armuchee Baptist Church, where the people were super friendly. The interim pastor, David Howard, preached a very interesting and uplifting sermon on never giving up…on God, on ourselves, on love.
Before we knew it, the last day was upon us. We spent that visiting, and hanging out in downtown Rome, where we had late lunch at Mellow Mushroom, browsed at Dogwood Books, and had ice cream at City Creamery. Then, as it always does when visiting my parents, our time was over too quickly and we had to say goodbye. Mom and I talk on the phone a lot, but I sure do miss her between hugs!
Almost forgot, I did a pretty good job of crushing my left hand..at least the left side of it. I was trying to figure out the best way to bring my 63-pound bike up the steps into the RV alone. (MW helps me, but I needed to know I could do it without his muscle.) Honestly, I don’t know where I grabbed, but I do know that my upper body was pushing against the handle bars, which in turn torqued whatever I was holding up against something else. The result was me crushing my own hand as I leaned in to figure out what was crushing my hand. I didn’t yell, but there were some choice words running around in my head, for sure! It immediately swelled up pretty good, with the worst part being right along that outside metacarpal. I really thought I had given myself a boxer’s fracture. Years ago my son, Ryan, had one, and he described his issues. Based on that, maybe not, so I decided to wait it out. As I write this three weeks later, all bruising is gone, but there is still a knot and one spot that screams if it gets touched wrong. Other than that, it’s all good.
Just like that, it was time to head back to the barn for the final few days. The drive home was almost all interstate, but at least it was a beautiful day. We stopped in at Daddy Mac’s Down Home Dive south of Knoxville for lunch, the second time going there, and they still get a great review. Below is part of the reason why. As we rolled back into our valley, we were happy to see the crew getting started on building the new driveway. Although it wouldn’t be completed until after we were on the road, it was nice to see the progress.
Over the next couple of days we caught up with our Sneedville peeps, paid a last visit to Sneedville First Baptist, and completed the final chore…giving Petunia and Brutus a good bath and shine. Who knows? She might not get another one until we get back in the fall. Now we just had to wait for departure day.
That’s it for now. Next up…the right direction, rough starts, and the Grimm visit. See you on the path!
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Poaching Cathy’s facebook. Just before moving to CO, we spent a week driving 2500 miles in AK, flying from Seattle. Still a memorable trip for so many reasons. Thinking Denali, Anaconda/Copper River, Homer, Glacier Bay, Valdez, camping, mosquitos, etc. If interested in what we found worthwhile, contact me by email or phone. Always wanted to drive up there, but when push came to shove the two weeks each way, plus AK time, was too great while employed. I think the AlCan terminates in Tok and by now is all paved?
That must have been a great trip! We will be crossing into Canada soon and are both pretty excited. Our only other Alaskan adventure was a cruise/tour with my parents in 2008. It was terrific, but this time we will get to see more. Bonus, we won’t be sharing our bus with a constantly crying 2-year old…stupid parents fault!! There definitely are still some gravel roads for us to travel up into the Yukon and in Alaska. We will be driving up to Deadhorse, which is 500 miles each way of the stuff. Insane, right? For that one Petunia will be left behind in Fairbanks, while I stick my toes into the Arctic Ocean. I’m not going to make it to Nome, Kodiak, or Dutch Harbor, but we had to trim down to get back south before bad weather. Of course, as I write this, we are traversing northern Iowa in a snow storm. Will keep the offer in mind and post lots of pics. Most of the AlCan is paved now, but we will be off and on, checking out Dawson City and other areas. It’s going to be awesome!