Friday, July 31, 2015

Whitecourt toTaylor BC, Peace River

Off at 6:45 MDT, nice sunny 10C. Fueled up at a Shell in town, and scraped off the buggy windshield (our poor van hood had to stay buggy most of the trip). After a McD stop we hit the road for Grande Prairie AB.

At 10:10 we were stopped in GP, bought some DEF fluid at a CTC (yes, old IT people love acronyms eh). Luckily this DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) is easy to find almost anywhere. It's part of the diesel emissions system in the van. We use a litre about every 750 km. The 20+ litre reserve tank gives us a lot of range before a refill is really needed.

After CTC we stopped at a nearby Safeway for groceries and fuel. I find as we’re getting into more remote country, I’m getting more conservative with fuel fillups, often (like this time) filling up when the opportunity arises, even though well before we’re down to half full.

Mostly good highway from Edmonton to GP, some 4-lane divided too.

Near Dawson Creek we stopped for a picnic and stretch, a lovely day. We had texts from both of our girls and from Alan, nice to have a cell phone working out here.

After the obligatory stop in Dawson Creek for “start of the Alaska Highway” pics: 

...we carried on to Taylor BC. We stopped at the Tourist Info there:

A very chatty lady convinced us we'd better go back a mile or two to the Peace River Bridge cg there, as there isn't much ahead of us for quite a while. $15 unserviced.

Once again we were glad traffic noise is muted in the van overnight, as the campground was beside the road and almost under the Peace River bridge.

Today's route:


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lanigan to Whitecourt Lions AB

An early departure today, to make up for the slow (and enjoyable!) day yesterday, away about 7 am CST, a nice sunny 14C. We’re just amazed at all the sloughs through here, everything looking lush and green. No drought, fires or smoke around here.

The cell phones gave us a note about the time change, even calling it Saskatchewan time instead of CST. Saskatchewan doesn't switch for Daylight Savings Time, so in the summer is the same time as Ontario EDT. Confusing.

We scurried through Saskatoon before the morning rush (assuming there is one there). At North Battleford about 11am, 22C, we stopped at a WalMart. Our old campstove has been emitting unburned propane from the smell of things, not good. After 25+ years, it seemed time for a replacement. Walmart had an assortment, one of which we bought, and also had a McD for a very late breakfast muffin. We also topped up with fuel nearby, for a very full stop.

Carrying on west on TC16, we hit Edmonton. What a mess! The whole east end around TC16 was being ripped up and rebuilt. We managed to get off TC16, and it took almost an hour to get back on, due to extensive construction and detours. Then we had a tough time even following TC16 to our exit. Both we and Jill (our GPS) were quite confused. 

We did get through though, and were camped at Whitecourt Lions cg by 6pm MDT, $23.40. Good cg, good washrooms, pay showers gave a good length of time for a loonie. Lots of traffic noise when outside though.

Today's route:


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Windy Riding Mountain NP to Lanigan Sask

Away about 9 CDT, 14C and sunny. The rain must have been heavy overnight, this was the park entrance:

We’re heading to some interior park roads, particularly the bison viewing area.

This big lone bison bull: 

...had an encounter with a ranger while we and the birds watched from safety nearby:

The gutsy ranger ended up taking his coat off and flapping it at the bison, which made it back off. No trees out there! Below is a .wmv video clip of the encounter. Once you click the Play arrow, you can click the box in the lower right to view it full-screen:

We also spotted several pelicans on a nearby lake:

It got quite windy and stayed fairly cool, up to 17C at 10:30.

When we came out of the park on the same road we came in on (which was the only way out), a tree had fallen right across the road. We had to strip off branches then sneak under it to carry on:

Coming Through

Then not too much further on the same road:

This didn’t look too bad, but we couldn’t move it. Luckily we had our small axe with us, and were able to chop a section out and move that aside, with the help of a passerby. Lots of exercise this morning!

So by 12:30 we’d come about 80 km today, and breakfast had been a couple of fig newtons and some sugar snap peas. When we went to make lunch with some buns we had brought from home, we discovered they were still at home, hopefully still in the freezer (they were).

We pressed on into Dauphin, had lunch, got a few groceries and fuel. It’s up to 24C and quite windy.

We stopped about 6 pm CST (ie Sask time, since Saskatchewan doesn't switch to DST) at Lanigan Lions cg, about 139 km east of Saskatoon, $12 unserviced.

Route today: 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Davey's Lake to Riding Mountain NP Manitoba

Away this am at 6:40 CDT, 19C. We expected some windshield damage this trip, but not yet! We picked up a small chip about 50 km east of Dryden. We got to the Manitoba border at 10:30, 24C with some drizzle.

About 12:30 we stopped at Boyd’s glass to get the stone chip repaired, as it’s deep enough it could spread later on. By 1:50 we were stopped at a Flying J for fuel and a Denny’s lunch stop. There was lots of road construction yesterday and today.

It’s still quite windy today, but it sounds like we avoided several tornadoes that went through the area yesterday. I talked to a fellow gassing up his wind-damaged motorhome. The frame was twisted so the slideout was stuck with about 8 inches protruding. He said the insurance company will likely want to write off the whole RV.

We stopped along #16 for an hour or so, so I could have a nap, and then almost stopped for the night at Minnedosa Park. We changed our minds though, and quickly got our money back. It was a crummy muddy park, for local weekenders I guess.

Then we convinced ourselves to go on to Riding Mountain Natl park, even though we were both ready to stop. This turned out well, as we enjoyed that park. Camped by 6:40 CDT. An unserviced site was $28, as we still have an active Discovery pass. Rain overnight.

Route today:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pancake Bay to Davey's Lake ON

We didn’t leave until 6:45 EDT, 13C, real slackers this morning! This was a nice camp spot, in spite of some traffic noise as it is close to the highway. It also had a boil-water advisory and no cell service. Good washrooms though.

We saw a little black bear at the side of the road (alive!) just before White River. We stopped at the tourist center in town, cooked our breakfast in their picnic area, and fueled up nearby. No cell service at all through this area. 21C at 10am.

Nice lunch spot right by Lake Superior at Rossport right at noon.
We stopped at a Walmart in Thunder Bay about 3pm and got fuel at a PetroCan, then trekked across 102 as a bypass shortcut to 17 on the other side of TB. It got up to 27C, with the sun coming in the front window, so we finally turned on the A/C. Half an hour later it was up to 33C, thank goodness for A/C!

Saw a red fox this aft, and a deer eating alongside the road. This was a long hot drive, and even though the road itself is much improved from years past, we’ll likely try to return through the US.
We got camped about 5:00 CDT at Davey’s Lake cg, 1km south of Ignace. $10 cheaper than a provincial park, it also included wifi and lots of black flies.

Route today:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

*START* of Alaska Trip, July 2015

Our first trip to Alaska. This was a looong drive, almost 16,500 km in all. We were gone 5 weeks and 1 day.

Miscellaneous Notes:
This was the first tough trip for our 2014 Sprinter van. It worked well for us again. It averaged 8.6 L/100K (or 32.7 Cdn mpg) for the trip. Van odometer went from 15,642 to 32,109. We went out via Canada and back via the US and Canada. It was a nice mix, seeing new areas in BC, and new and familiar areas in the central US.

Sunday July 26:
We got away about 5:50 EDT, across hwy 4 on a beautiful morning, tempered by thick fog south of Wasaga and Collingwood. 12C starting temp.

Breakfast at a McD in Parry Sound about 7:55, up to 18C by then. A couple admiring our van mentioned we were lucky to have missed the 6-hr hwy closure the day before. An accident caused a lot of people to spend the night in the area.

Nice lunch spot in a town park in Blind River, about 12 noon.

By 3:15 EDT we had made it to the Agawa Crafts Esso at Pancake Bay, about halfway between Sault Ste Marie and Wawa. Diesel was $1.10.9 there, but fortunately we didn’t need any, as the pumps were very crowded. Unfortunately we had filled up on the way out of Sault Ste Marie at $1.25.9 instead! Lots of people around the ACE today.

By 4pm we were camped at a nice water-view site in the Agawa Bay cg (unserviced, seniors rate $32.50) in Lake Superior Park. 

We were brave enough to put our feet in the water, but it was too cold for us to take a dip. We unwound with a beer and smoked salmon (from the Agawa Crafts). 

It got up to 31C for a while today, too hot for us, but by 3:30 had dropped to 23C, about perfect. After a walk we cooked up some of Janine’s new potatoes with ground beef and onions.

Several things here indicated the trend for a lot of the trip:
- Didn’t need levelling blocks for the van
- No hookups needed
- We don’t seem to notice the traffic noise nearly as much when sleeping in the van as with the trailers over the years, likely due to the van insulation type.
- Simple meal prep
- Early start and early stop
- Great range for the van. We usually filled up when about ½ full, which gave us a 500 km cushion.

Today's route: