home videos shows tales contact


Thinking about Alaska?

By Adrienne Kristine

I was mildly interested in going to Alaska, especially after hearing from a fellow workamper who worked there one summer. She arrived in May and helped the local businesses open for the season before beginning her workamping job. Then she wrote about "termination dust": the first sign of snow signaling the end of the season and notice to leave.

Recently, I taught at the Life on Wheels in Tucson where I was fortunate to watch an abridged version of John Holod's trips to Alaska filmed by his company, RV Adventure Videos. After the presentation, I drove home still thinking about what I saw. I was hooked.

I chose three DVDs to watch: "RVing Alaska: What to Expect—How to Prepare" by Joe & Vicki Kieva; "Alaska: RV Adventure of a Lifetime" and "Alaska's Inside Passage," the latter two hosted by John Holod and Jodie Ginter. Each DVD stood on its own with a wealth of information, but when I watched them in that order, I had a three-course feast of the Alaska overview, northern RV drive and southern ferry trip.

Kieva CoverJoe and Vicki Kieva have created a warm, entertaining, and detailed film that realistically portrays the Alaska roads, ferry system and gorgeous scenery. I especially appreciated knowing about the highway dangers I had been warned about like construction and frost heaves were easy to handle. Joe assured viewers that if we slowed down (and who wouldn't with that scenery?), both the RV and the driver would be fine. The Kievas drove a 37-foot class A with a toad.

Joe and Vicki answered all the questions a newbie to our 49th state would have including the costs. For example, I had heard that once you drove onto the Alaska ferry that you were not allowed to stay in your RV. They confirmed that fact and showed the ferry passengers in staterooms or on deck, many with tents, sleeping bags, food and other supplies. Those who travel with pets will find that they will not be neglected and the owners will be notified when they can visit with their pets. The pets must remain in the RV but can be fed, exercised and hugged frequently during the ferry trip.

I enjoyed their White Pass & Yukon railroad trip and had seen a video about it on PBS. Many suggestions were also given for when to make reservations (December 1 the year before your trip), places to see and things to do. You'll want to watch again and take notes.

AKHWY CoverThe second DVD was the most recent and again I appreciated the realistic outlook of an RV trip to Alaska. This trip with a Born Free RV caravan began in Dawson City, B.C. and ended in Haines, Alaska.

John and Jodie stopped in many places along the way but I was particularly enraptured with the wildlife photos. With his sense of humor, John complained about the many hours he spent waiting for the right shot, but he succeeded admirably. If you are as interested in wildlife as I am, you will enjoy the orcas and humpback whales swimming close to the boat, Wrangell bears, sea lions, sea otters, puffins, bald eagles, moose, Dall sheep and other creatures that seem to be thriving there.

The towns described—Liard Hot Springs, Whitehorse in the Yukon, Dawson City and Diamond Tooth Gertie's, Chicken, Tok, the real North Pole, Denali, Talkeetna and its Moose Dropping Festival, the Kenai Fjord, Homer, Seward, Valdez, Skagway; cities like Juneau, Anchorage, and many more—whetted my appetite for more, especially those pies! I think John ate pie everywhere they stopped.

The roads are paved and gas stations are at least 50 miles apart. There is a large RV repair facility right on the Alaska Highway. That is especially comforting to a solo traveler like me. John suggested driving on the top half of the tank and that seems like good advice. Detailed maps are provided in the DVD, including John's famous toothpick tour.

There are many campgrounds and they all seemed to be located in very scenic places.

As I watched all the beautiful footage, I realized that I will need at least two months to see and appreciate Alaska. Three would be better.

AKIP CoverThe third DVD in the trilogy, "Alaska's Inside Passage," was filmed earlier than the others but had the most interest for me. Along with John's always amazing footage of wildlife, especially the orca and humpback whales, it contained the views from the deck of the Alaska Marine Highway ferries. This allowed me to see Alaska without the distraction of driving an RV.

Although John and Jodie took side trips by plane, jet boat and helicopter, much can be seen and appreciated from the deck of the ferry. Each town along the way had special attractions, whether native Alaskan cultural exhibits or historical sites and museums. I wanted to stop in every town to meet the local people, see the buildings and learn the history.

Watching John and Jodie climbing a glacier was unforgettable. The glacier was millions of years old and the sound of their footsteps crunching through the turquoise ice was intriguing. In the throes of global warming, they stood on a living relic of the Ice Age.

The idea of taking the RV off the ferry to visit the towns for a day or week is part of the fun of being an RVer. You're not governed by the cruise ship schedule and you're not at the mercy of the airline hassles. Your home is with you, and you can visit where and when you like.

Although John and Jodie traveled in a fifth wheel on this trip, I think a small motorhome is the best way to see Alaska. Kudos to John for backing that fifth wheel onto the ferry!

If you're thinking about traveling to Alaska, I recommend watching the same trilogy. Each DVD is complete; however, the true Alaska will be revealed by viewing them all. May I suggest gathering some friends, a big bowl of popcorn and your favorite libation?