June 20, 2015

Goshen, IN to Dawson Creek, YT

By: Rob Lowe

Featured Picture

The RV Adventures of Rob and Jane detail trips, we have taken in our 40 foot motorhome. The first to be documented, in what we hope will be a series, was one we took to Northern Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska during the summer of 2015. The trip lasted 3-1/2 months and covered about 16,000 km (10,000 miles). This is a compilation of regular messages which we sent to a small email list of contacts, all of which encouraged Rob to publish it in a more formal fashion. At the completion of the trip we were able to add sections not covered in the email messages and include some additional photos with details. A Blog posting of the trip commentary seemed to be the most practical and accessible to the widest number of people, thus that is what follows. It may also be expanded into a book format, including more photos taken along the way. Each section contains a Photo  file together with a running commentary. Should you wish to be included on a list announcing future blogs of RV trips we embark upon, send an email to us from this website.


Rob & Jane Lowe

June 15, 2015: Goshen, IN to Dawson Creek, YT

I am forwarding some pictures Jane took yesterday while we were driving through northern BC. We left home on May 16th, crossed to the US on the 17th and travelled to 2 RV Rallies in Goshen, IN. We were scheduled to leave Goshen on the 7th of June however there were bad thunderstorms, hail, tornado watches and high winds so we delayed our departure by a day. That does seem too bad until you understand that we had to cover 5,000Km (3,000 miles) to meet our travelling companions in Whitehorse, YT by June 23 at the latest.

We planned to drive 300 miles per day or stop at 3:00pm whichever came first. Well, we usually drove longer and occasionally exceeded our mileage goal. With about 4,000 km (2,500 miles) to go to our meeting place, I discovered that RV’s cruise control had become intermittent. We stopped at a truck stop to investigate the cause and I guessed that it was a poor connection between our steering wheel controls and the dash wiring harness. I disconnected one likely connector and instantly the two air horns and two electric horns began blaring!!! Everyone in that truck stop knew we were there! Fortunately the next connector was the problem and with the proper corrosion preventative product (which we sell) the cruise operated flawlessly for the remainder of the trip.

While we were in Goshen, IN we stayed the Elkhart County Fairgrounds and one clear summer night we saw this beautiful moon. I zoomed in to capture the detail. (Slide 1) Not to be outdone we stayed in a municipal park in Kenaston, SK and witnessed this (Slide 2) rainbow over a large billboard that was visible from the highway and the park. The billboard featured a picture of a pregnant women’s belly with a baby visible in her womb, and an old man sitting on a bench. Between the two images, the words "Every Human Life is Precious, Protect It” were displayed.


We arrived in Dawson Creek last Saturday and chose the Mile '0' campground to rest for a couple of nights. Prior to this we had stayed at Walmart's, truck stops and one municipal campsite, since our RV is totally self-sufficient (with the exception of fuel) for a trip of that length. Mile '0' of the Alaskan Highway is the place where you begin your trip up to Alaska through Northern BC and the Yukon. You can see the terrain change. Yesterday and today we travelled through the northern Rocky Mountains where it can be very remote yet beautiful in its simplicity. We've had some interesting conversations with locals, transplants from other provinces, truckers and RVer's. The downturn in oil prices has certainly caused a lot of job losses, business closures and dislocation. Even through all of that, the enthusiasm from those affected is admirable. This really is the "wild west” from the perspective of adventure and opportunity. There is a lot of optimism evident.


In Dawson Creek, we began our journey on the Alaskan Highway (also known as the Alcan Highway). Slide 3 shows the official starting point while Slide 4 provides the history of the construction of the highway. Slide 5 shows us standing under the Mile '0' arch. This photo was taken by a couple travelling to Alaska on a motorcycle towing a small trailer. We returned the favour by taking a picture of them.


After leaving Mile ‘0’ campground we took a short detour to cross over one of the original wooden bridges on the Alaskan Highway. It is known as the Kiskatinaw River Bridge and it is 162m (531 foot) long. It is the only original timber bridge still in use today. Slide 6 and 7 show the construction of the support structure, while slide 8 shows Cassi "examining” a timber and Slide 9 shows her running along the wooden deck. We drove our 15,200 kg. (33,500 lb.) RV towing our car of 1,678 kb (3,700lb.) across the wooden structure, much to Jane’s chagrin. (She hates bridges).  Notably, a sign posted prior to the bridge, warns of it being "Slippery when Wet!”

Slide 10-12 show another beautiful rainbow we witnessed while parked in front of a multi-purpose facility that included a restaurant, hotel, a work camp complex and a fuel station. We stayed the night, along with other RVs and truckers. After an evening rain we witnessed this vibrant rainbow that was huge in size and very intense. I don't think I have ever seen such a large and vibrant rainbow before.


While eating dinner there, we met a business consultant from Kingston, ON who was reviewing alternatives for increasing business now that the work camp was vacant because of the oil industry layoffs. The owner had a number of similar operations in Saskatchewan and Alberta and was looking for ways to grown his business. We also met a trucker who regularly drives the Alcan and he told us we were in for a treat with all the wildlife he regularly sees on the highway that was ahead of us.  


While in Watson Lake we visited a local museum, having had lunch in their parking lot. Some of the items on display were from bygone eras. Slide 13 shows a telephone we remembered as kids. Noteworthy was the phone number displayed in the center of the dialer UN 3-3506 where UN was the first two letters of a word such as Union or United (we could not make it out) followed by a single number then 4 more. That was the way phone numbers were displayed and remembered in our youth. We can remember the clicking as the rotary dial was pulled to the stop to dial a called number. The antique radios with the vacuum tubes displayed in the museum, (Slide 14) were also a common item in our youth. I can remember repairing radios for family friends and often replacing a burned out vacuum tube was the solution.  My first ‘job’ was at a store known as Television, Accessories and Tubes (T.A.T.). That company supplied tube testers to drug stores to which people would bring in tubes from their radios and television sets and test them in the large tube testers. Should they need a new tube, the replacement was found under the tester, in a large pull out drawer. Not only were small electronic items part of the museum’s displays, the owner had a number of vehicles "all in running condition” and a huge engine used to power a generator that supplied electricity to the town. Slide 15 shows the engine’s crankshaft and pistons, whereas Slide 20 shows the block. Speaking of vehicles, (Slide 16), this truck was started up while we were having lunch. While it ‘ran’ the exhaust system was non-existent so it ran NOISILY. What a racket!

The museum also had a small historic chapel that was moved to the museum recently along with the local original RCMP detachment office and home for the staff. We toured both together with two ladies from Quebec, one of which is shown in Slide 17. We would cross paths with them 2-3 times during our trip.

In the wood shop, Jane tried out her skills using some of the tools to shave down wood. (Slides 18 & 19).   The 21stslide shows the entrance to the museum, with some of the outdoor equipment displays. Given that the museum owner is in his 90’s, others are being asked to donate to sustain the viable operation of the museum and also restore many of the items that have arrived onsite over the years. We talked with him and asked what motivated him to start collecting all of these various items. His answer was simple: I thought that someday people would want to see and touch things that were commonplace for me. I hated to throw something away. He had items from every aspect of life and he was still very much alive and able to share his thoughts.

Our tour guide was a young woman originally from New Brunswick, who was educated as a travel agent and lured west by the aura of the oil boom. She decided to take a job in the oil exploration industry, only to be laid off within the last year as the oil industry contracted. She stated: "I could not see myself sitting at home collecting Unemployment Income, I wanted to work and this job intrigued me. So here I am and I love it!" We could tell that she loved her work. This is an example that would be repeated many times during our trip of personal stories of people we met enriching our travel experience. Having the flexibility to linger wherever you want is part of the RV experience we both enjoy.


Travel up here is as expected in remote regions: highways generally are tar and gravel, with sections where they are redoing them, and dusty or muddy side roads are the norm. We've seen pickup trucks that have travelled those roads and that other than the roof you cannot even see the body colour. Sometimes the mud is so thick that headlights, brake lights and signals are completely obscured. We clean the windshield and lights daily on our RV, although we don't have the mud like the pickups.


Hopefully you will enjoy this update and the photos. Jane's message follows:


Sending this to all of you ..so you know that we are OK. We stayed in a very remote campground last night in the mountains. It was very basic with power supplied by generator for the whole park. It was turned off at 10 pm and on again at 7 am. In other words, if you happened to be plugged in ...after 10 pm you were out of luck. It was the only place though for miles and we dry camped (without water, sewer or electrical connections).

Today we had a beautiful drive. I’ve enclosed three pictures taken out the windshield as we drove.  The first one is Summit Pass 1,295 m (4,250 feet) elevation. Was absolutely beautiful. Highest spot on the Alaskan HWY. We can't capture it in a picture with snow-capped mountains.

The second is a herd of Bison eating along the side of the road. One of the calves was nursing. We had been told by truckers that if a Buffalo was on the road …stop and wait until it decides to move. The third picture is of a black bear sauntering along the side of the road, minding its own business. 

We are now in Watson Lake, Yukon, finally out of BC. Tomorrow we head towards Whitehorse.

We will connect tomorrow again if there is a data connection. 



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