Sunday, January 29, 2017

Alaska 2017 Part 2

The one thing I wanted to do in 2016 when visiting Alaska was explore the Dalton Hwy.  With no reserve fuel I decided not to explore the Dalton Hwy.  The Dalton Hwy or as locals call it “The Haul Road” is 414 miles long and starts approximately 80 miles north of Fairbanks off the Elliot Hwy.  The first published fuel stop along the Dalton Hwy is in Cold Foot 240 miles from Fairbanks.  I was told that there was another fuel stop about 100 miles closer to Fairbanks at the Yukon River crossing.
To allow me to explore the Dalton Hwy and see if all the great fish stories I have been told is true I have installed a 63 gallon auxiliary tank in the bed of my truck.  I now have a fuel capacity of 99 gallons (36+63).  Based on information from last year’s travels in Alaska I should get approximately 6-7 miles per gallon on the Dalton Hwy.  This will give me the capacity to explore the Dalton Hwy and with a little luck I will hook up with a few large Arctic Grayling and some pictures of the Northern Lights
RDS Diesel Auxiliary Fuel Tank Insulation Kit

The pictures does not look like the wedge tank but it is the wedge tank

Arctic Grayling Caught on Chatanika River in Alaska 2016

Part 3 Should I take a second camera or upgrade my lens collection? Coming Soon.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Alaska 2017 Part 1

I have decided to return to Alaska for the summer of 2017.  In making this decision I thought it would be smart to review my preps I made for my 2016 trip to Alaska.  I started my 2016 planning with a spreadsheet listing the items and gear I thought I may need or at least be nice to have.  The list included auxiliary fuel tank, rock guards, mud flaps, tires, generator, fishing gear, etc. the list added up to almost $7000.00.  As you will see in the following this list was reduced to about $1500.

The next step was to take a hard look at the list and remove the items that were in I would like to have category.  One thing I struggled with was an auxiliary fuel tank for my truck.  I read a lot of blogs dealing with the drive to Alaska and the opinions were all over the place.  Based on the data I could find my standard 36 gallon fuel tank would not be a problem.  And in the end I never had a problem finding fuel except with my limited range I was not able to comfortably get to the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Hwy.  I averaged over 10 mpg on the Alaskan trip but in areas of rough slow roads like the Dalton Hwy I only averaged 6-7 MPG.

In my research I found a book called “The MilePost 2015” it is published every year so this year it is The MilePost 2017 .  The MilePost is a full-service guide to the highways, roads, ferries, lodgings, recreation, sightseeing, attractions and services along the Alaska Highway and Alaska road system.  Utilizing the MilePost I was able to locate fuel stops, restaurants, campgrounds, and points of interest along with road conditions for the Alaskan Canadian Hwy and all of the roads in Alaska.  Using this information I decided to pass on the auxiliary fuel tank, mud flaps, grill protector, and extra tires.  Removal of these items from the list made the cost of the trip much easier to accept.

The next big item on my list for the 2016 trip was a portable generator.  The generator I liked was a Champion 3100 for under $1000 with electric start.  I had already installed 400 watts of solar panels and was pleased with the performance.  But the 400 watt solar system was not able to maintain the battery bank during rainy days that required the heater to run.  The blower on the furnace is a heavy draw on the battery bank.  The generator looked like an easy fix but I did not like the thought of having to store the generator and the fuel for it.  Not only storage but when it was needed to charge your batteries you would need to drag it out of the truck or from a storage compartment and then make it hard for someone to relieve you of it.  So I decided to add an additional 200 watts of solar panels giving me a total of 600 watts.  My existing battery bank of 4 six volt batteries with 430 amp hours would be sufficient and not require any additional batteries.  This decision not only saved dollars it enabled me to live off grid in Alaska without having to deal with storage of gasoline and performing maintain of a generator.  With the solar system I was able to operate everything in the fifth wheel except the Air Conditioner.  I was able to watch DVD or if in an area that had TV coverage I could watch local channels.  All off the battery bank being charged via the solar system.  I ran into one other camper in Alaska that was also using a solar system in lieu of a generator they had 680 watts with about 450 amp/hrs battery bank and had also started with 400 watt and had to upgrade.

My list included such things as fly rod, wader, fishing tackle, camera equipment, etc.  Most of these items were more the like to have and not very expense so they all stayed on the list or at least most did.  Something I have learn with my travels is you can buy things on the road there are Grocery Stores, Auto Parts, Tire Stores, Walmart, Tackle Shops, and Amazon everywhere you go.
Bottom line is take what you need but be smart about it.  If an item is a safety item or a life comfort item it needs to be in the camper.  If something is one of those items that I may not need I will buy it on the road if the need arises.  Sure you may get a better deal if you shop around before getting on the road but why over load your camper with stuff you may never need.  I try to be smart about my overall weight in the camper it saves wear and tear on both the camper and tow vehicle.

Part 2 “What will be different for the 2017 trip”. Coming soon.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Finding Places to Stay on the Road

One of the challenges of living full time in an RV is finding places to stay.  When traveling I try to cover about 300-500 miles a day and stop for the night before it gets dark.  When looking for a long term stay more than a few days I use  Even for an overnight stay RVParkReviews has some good information but there are two apps I use that is faster and easier while traveling.
I have found that AllStays Camp and RV using my smart phone serves me well.  When you open the app it has map of the area with a flashing icon showing your location.  In addition to your location it identifies potential places to spend the night along with fuel stops.  To get more information you touch the icon on the screen and you are given the Name of the business and the distance you are from it.  When the name pops up touch the flag and more information is given address, phone number, and if they allow overnight camping etc.  You can see all the different versions at or visit Amazon to check out AllStays Camp and RV .
The other app that I use is an RV Club called Passport America (  Passport America has over 1900 campgrounds that offer you up to 50% discount.  I have stayed at several of their participating campgrounds and all but one gave me a 50% discount. They do have restrictions on what day of the week you can use the discount and how many days.  Most of the restrictions are around holidays and on weekends.  If you are traveling during the week it works out great.
The question I ask is do I need a couple of days to rest or do I need a few hours to sleep.  If I have driven for several days I like to find a campground and spend at least 2 nights.  Two nights give me plenty of time relax and check out the local area.  If I just need a few hours of sleep and something to eat I tend to stay at a truck stop, rest stop, or Walmart etc.
When you just want to get a few hours of sleep and move on early the next morning….Everyone talks about overnighting at Walmart but I try and avoid them when traveling.  You would think that Walmart parking lots would be a safe place but you just never know what the area may be like if you are just passing thru.  If I needed supplies and found a 24 hour Walmart with plenty of parking and possibly another camper in the parking lot I would most likely stay the night.  For the most part I like the large truck stops Flying J, Pilot, Pedro’s, and Truck Stops USA etc.  The truck stops do tend to be noisy but I have never felt unsafe in one of them.  Interstate rest stops would be my second choice for a few hours’ sleep when traveling.  I tend to stay away from rest stops close to large cities.  One thing to keep in mind when parking at truck stops and/or rest stops make sure trucks can see you when they are looking for a parking spot.  When pulling into a spot don’t pull all the way to the end leave the back of the RV in alignment with the rear of the trucks.  If you pull all the way forward a trucker may think the spot is available not see you until he is halfway into the spot. 
The bottom line is if there is any doubt about the area I move on down the road.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Where to Winter 2017

Planning My Next Adventure
With the New Year here it is time to plan my winter travels.  As usual I left Livonia MI in the fall getting out ahead of the winter wonderland of the mid-west and headed south. 
I stopped for a few days visiting with my sister in Henderson NC.  I stayed on Kerr Lake at the J.C. Cooper Campground some of the sites would have been a challenge to get my 34’ fifth wheel into but I found several sites that were more than large enough for me.  The campground is a great place to stay the site were spacious and a lot of them were on the lake with the electrical hookup in the normal location but the potable water connections varied with every site so a long water hose(50+ feet)would be a good thing to have here. 
After leaving NC I headed to Cottageville SC to spend a little time with my friend Paul at his hunt camp.  There were still a few downed trees from Hurricane Mathews that needed to be removed.  So instead of guns and fishing rods we got out the chain saws.  From Cottageville I headed to Ridgeville to spend some time with my son Michael and his family.  I always enjoy my time at Michael’s there is plenty of space for me with electrical outlet and potable water…plus close enough for Bryce (my grandson) to walk over and hangout with me.  When leaving SC I head to Covington GA to visit friends and make plans for the winter.
So where do I want to spent the winter.  SC and GA are not bad choices and they are top of list with TX and FL competing for the number one choice.  To be completely honest AZ is my top choice but looking at my spring and summer plans staying close to the east coast would be a better winter location for me.  Using and US Climate Data I started looking at areas in FL and TX.  I found that prices and availability is about the same with FL a little more expensive than TX for similar campgrounds.  As I have not spend a winter in either place I wanted to get an idea of the climate so I visited US Climate Data to get the average temperature and rain fall.  Looks like Weslaco TX area is my top pick at his time subject to change.  The reasons I selected Weslaco is the monthly rate is $400 not the cheapest but a good rate, approximately 1 inch of rain a month for January thru March with average temperatures mid 70’s high and low 50’s for the average low.  The average rain fall is a big factor in my choice because I like to wax my fifth wheel at least once a year so with warm temperatures and dry climate it make this task a lot easier.  Cold rainy or just rainy weather make washing and waxing a 34 foot fifth wheel a real challenge and the warm climate gives me more incentive to ride my bike more.

The next question is will I stay in the GA/SC area or will I spent the winter in TX.  I am here in Covington for the next few weeks with doctor appoints and a few friends I want to visit with.  Once my business is completed here I will make my decision for the winter…