Dream Trip To Yukon and Alaska By Road, To Anywhere Else By Any Means At All

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Planning A Rigorous Over-The-Road Trip (or Any Tough Travel) -- -- (Dream Travel Trip Anywhere; Yukon-Alaska Road Trip)

Alaska and Back: Did The Guides Work? > Getting Ready to Leave

How I planned
the Alaska trip...

The single most important planning task for this trip - or any trip to the Yukon or Alaska - was to choose a realistic route to follow.

Because I wanted to travel down the Alaska - Canadian coast on an intercoastal ferry, I had to plan the entire trip route working backwards from the day and time, late in the trip, that I would board the ferry.

Had I started trip planning any other way or, worse, assumed that at a given stop, I could easily find last-minute night's lodging after I got there, the trip would have failed.

I'll explain.

Early in July, 2006, about a month before I left, I made the final decision:
YES! Do it!

It became clear, early on, that the very next thing to do was to select the day and time of the ferry sailing I wanted, and the port of departure in Alaska that made the most sense given other places I wanted to see beforehand.

To do that, I had to get and carefully study the ferry sailing schedule (on the internet) and then contact the ferry people to make sure I could reserve a berth for me and space for the car on the boat
and sailing date I wanted.

It had been easy in theory to select other places I wanted to see on the trip. I soon realized, however, that even this part of the planning would take solid research, to figure out which stops should come before others on the list (example: should I see Denali before taking the road north to the Arctic Circle, or after?).

But to calculate
how long it would actually take to get from Point A to Point B each day, I had to carefully research road conditions on what would invariabaly be the only road connecting A to B.

The results were sobering: T’aint no interstates up there, folks!

So I had to sort out how much time I could really cover in a day’s driving – especially if I wanted to stop and stare at the beauty unfolding along the way. Which I did, by the way!

I then worked backward from the sailing date, determining distances I could cover for each day's drive, and then pinning down candidate hotels or motels along the way.

Only then could I prepare my pre-launch list, figure out a realistic budget, make hotel / motel reservations (with deposits if needed), and – most important for this trip – assure enough time to preserve my space for car and driver on the Alaska Ferries way-cool
MS Columbia sailing from Skagway, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington.

What tools did I use to get the answers I needed? A lot of time on the web, for sure, especially to become familiar, more than just by using maps, with what the
very few-and-far-between paved roads in the Far North were really like.

Searching the web for many hours, and not accepting the first advice offered up by one or another website,

I finally concluded that the single most important planning resource I could get hold of was The Milepost.

The Milepost
is a thick, colorful, mile-by-mile roadway guide, updated each year, covering all major roads in Northern British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. I immediately bought it from Amazon.

Alas, the first time I cracked the cover, my jaw dropped. Everything seemed so confusing!

That is because
Milepost’s highway information is organized not by highway number and instead by where portions of one or more numbered roads begin and end at major junctions, and by the secenic regions they cross.

Thankfully, the more I used
Milepost, the more it became user-friendly.

When all’s said and done, no other resource served me as well as did
Milepost in identifying not only where to go but where to stay – and how far I could expect to travel on a given day.

This allowed me to plot out realistically where I would be at the end of a given day, and to make all necessary motel and hotel reservations, including the Alaska Ferry sailing.

Close seconds to Milepost as planning resources were the official web sites for British Columbia, the Yukon Territories, and Alaska.

There I found specific advisory services, updated daily, that accurately reported highway conditions – indispensable not only for my planning but for advisories while on the road.

Equally useful: their recommendations on what emergency gear and spare parts (and spare tires!) to bring.

I admit to leaving totally unplanned the drive back to Washington DC from Bellingham, Washington, figuring correctly as it turned out that early in September, there would be plenty of hotel-motel rooms along the (unplanned) route home.

So, with no planning at all, car and driver went up to Vancouver, then down to the Cascades, through Idaho and parts of Montana, south through the Gallatin Range (so beautiful that
your jaw will drop!) to Yellowstone, east on US 212 (one of North America’s highest and most dramatic paved roads) and points further east.

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....................................Copyright 2007-8, Clifford L. Brody

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