In this week’s episode of the podcast we pick of where we left off, halfway up the James Dalton Highway in Alaska. Also your feedback, more decluttering, and plans to go back to the Keys.
The Dalton Highway
Las week we talk about America’s northernmost and most isolated highway, but we ran out of time halfway. I told you how we left from Fairbanks on the Elliot Highway. Joined the gravel road at the Livengood Junction and then continued to our first pit stop at the mighty Yukon River. From here we passed by most hilly terrain, finger mountain, the Arctic Circle, Graylin Lake, and our second pit stop at the world’s northernmost truck stop at Coldfoot, Alaska.
North of Coldfoot
North of here is the most isolated and treacherous segment of the road. There will be no services for the next 240 miles.
I wouldn’t recommend going the whole 240 miles with a big rig as some parts are pretty rough and treacherous, but we can still manage to go a little further. Just north of here there’s Marion Creek campground where you can leave you rig and continue with your tow vehicle. A few miles further north we have an arctic village called Wiseman, dating back to the gold rush. Just a handful of people live here permanently but there are two places to stay. One of them is e Boreal Lodge, and the other is the Arctic Getaway Cabin and Breakfast, where we stayed on the way back. These are much better accommodations than those found back in Coldfoot.
The Brooks Range
North of here we’ll start seeing the most striking landscapes this road has to offer. Be sure to spot Sukukpak mountain, made up of marble.
Also be sure to stop by one of the many creeks and dip your feet in the chilly water.
And this is about as north as I would go if you don’t think your vehicle is up to the task. Here we begin climbing the Brooks Range.
There is one place to pull out and take a break by the Chandalar Shelf. Then it is a non stop climb to the continental divide, located at the Attigun Pass, the highest point in the whole road. At the top you may encounter a herd of dall sheep. You may also encounter snow even in the summer.
The North Slope and the Northern Plains
From here we start descending rapidly onto the North Slope. If you’ve made it all the way up here, Galbraith Lake may be a good place to camp.
North of here is the worst part of the trip as far a road conditions go, at least at the time of our trip. The road is gravel which feel like you are going over large boulders. This area is marginally attractive with rolling hills and no trees. It is true tundra climate. The last 60 miles is the flat northern plains.
Deadhorse, often described as the anticlimactic dystopia at end of our trip, is basically a company town whose sole purpose is support for the oil companies operations. The only was to reach the Arctic circle is by taking a tour, and I strongly suggest it if you’ve made it all the way up here.
My entire trip has been documented on video at the following YouTube playlist.
In this episode we travel to America’s northernmost and most isolated road: the James Dalton Highway in northern Alaska.
I come to you from the comfort of my car, parked at my workplace parking lot. I try to take advantage of my downtime to record the podcast, as when I get home in the evening I am tired and life sometimes gets in the way.
The James Dalton Highway in Alaska
The main theme of this episode is a road trip we made on America’s northernmost road. Although it is not ideal for a big rig, I know of people who have done part of it towing a large 5th wheel. We also saw our share of class C, trailers, and camper vans.
I am not going to go into every detail of the trip on this post. Also I didn’t have time to cover the whole road trip in this episode. I will have a part two for sure. Here we are only going to cover Fairbanks and the trip from there to the halfway point: Coldfoot. In part two we are going to go fro Coldfoot all the way to the Arctic Ocean, so stay tuned for that.
Next, I am going to post some very useful links that I used to plan this trip, and some pictures of our epic journey in Alaska.
In this episode we speak about RV inspections, RV upgrades, we interview YouTube creators and full time RVers Paul and Lorena, John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, and talk fire safety.
Point of View RV Resort
There are two RV resorts closing down in the Florida Keys, one of them is Point of View RV Resort, where we stayed last week and from where we recorded a segment of the podcast. The other one in Knights Key in Marathon. Point of View had a bit of a party scene but it was fairly new and all the facilities were very nice.
Fred asks about campgrounds in the Homestead area suitable for a big rig with a toad. I recommended Miami Everglades RV Resort which is an Encore / Thousand Trails property and is conveniently located halfway between Miami and Florida City.
Frank and Shelly ask about digital video. I use two main cameras besides my phone. The main camera is a Sony FDR AX33 and my secondary action camera is a Sony FDR X3000. I edit my videos with Final Cut Pro X, but I also recommend iMovie for beginners and Adobe Premier if you are on Windows.
We talk about John Pennekamp State Park, which is a future destination for us. It is a very popular place for snorkeling and kayaking. They also have a glass bottom boat tour that goes out to the coral reef.
RV Fire Safety
I found an article on RV Share that talks about fire safety tips
In this episode I go through our thought process to choose our rig, our purchasing experience, and our maiden voyage. Let the fun begin.
My wife and I have a Winnebago Micro Minnie 1706 FB. At the time that we bought it, it was the shortest and lightest towable that Winnebago made.
These units turned out to be so popular that Winnebago vastly expanded their towable lineup. And you would have thought that lot of research went into buying this thing. You would think that I checked every single system in the unit, like John Huggins or someone with a little more sense would have done. Not me! I only had two major concerns: that it would fit in the driveway next to the house, and that it was light enough so that I could tow it with my existing SUV. I did check the brochure to make sure it had adequate holding tanks. It came with this innovative technology called a tankless on demand water heater by Atwood; the latest trend. In theory I could have endless hot showers, they didn’t say how hot but it looked great on paper.
Before this we had little experience RVing in fact. We started thinking about it more or less 10 years before we actually decided to bite the bullet and get our rig. Back in 2008 or 2009, we went to the Palm Beach RV show, just to look around. We were clueless about RVing. In 2010 we went to Alaska because I wanted to drive on the Dalton Highway, which is Americas northernmost road. While most of the road is unpaved and probably not suitable for most RVs, we did see our share of class C’s and trailers. We thought it would be cool to do this with an RV, have our own bathroom and not have to use the outhouses. After that we did a couple of trips renting class C’s and for the most part we loved the experience, especially a trip we did in the Four Corners region.
During that trip we really got the RVing bug. We had gone to the Tampa RV show, and we were sure that what we wanted was a gas engine class A, something under 30 feet because we wanted to camp at some state and national parks, and that seemed to be the length limit. We were fixated on a Winnebago Itasca model, the 27N. Had there been a diesel pusher under 30 feet, that would have been our first choice. Winnebago does make something they call a class A diesel under 30 feet, based on the Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis, but it is really a B+ disguised as a class A.
This was 2014, and on that summer my dad got sick and passed away. And when that happens in someone’s life sometime it is a wake up call. I started thinking: what if I die and I never get to travel in my own RV and live the RV Dream? This was around the same time that I saw the brochure for the Micro Minnie. At 7′ wide and 19′ long, it fit in my driveway like a glove, and although it was on the heavy side, I still could tow it with my Kia Sorento if I traveled light, so we said, let’s go see this rig. I want to see it in person. So we went to la Mesa in Ft. Myers “just to see it” and as soon as we stepped inside it just felt right. It felt like we belonged in there, which is a very subjective and emotional way to choose an RV. I would not recommend this if you are spending 100K or more. But it was $21,000 marked down to $16,600, so after a short deliberation I had one of those YOLO (you only live once) moments, signed on the dotted line, and the rest is history.
They were very quick to let me sign the papers, but when we arrived on the following Friday to take delivery, they looked at my SUV, and I could see the expression in their faces. Are you seriously expecting to pull this trailer with that car? Old Kia doesn’t look like much but, tongue weight 500lbs, check. 3500lbs tow capacity check, barely. That’s where I was pushing it because the Micro Minnie is just under 3000 dry, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I figured I would have to tow with my tanks empty and take it slow.
Then they started adding line items to my bill. It turned out I needed a new hitch, and a weight distribution system, and anti-sway bar, and a break controller. I had obviously not done nearly enough research on trailers. Up to that moment I had done mostly research on class A’s. It had never crossed my mind I would end up getting a trailer until that series of events in the summer of 2014 accelerated the process. I said, let’s make it as safe as possible, and while we’re at it let’s add and extended warranty and gap insurance. Then during the walk through when I had to hook it up to the car with the manual jack, I started breaking a sweat just going up and down, so I said, in for a dime, in for a dollar, how much does that electric jack cost? To make a long story short the final bill came up to around $20,000.
We didn’t care! We were so excited. We were going on our maiden voyage, with our yet to be named brand new RV.
The RV had come with a complimentary one year membership to Thousand Trails but we decided to save the thousand trails for some other time and rough it out at a nearby state park called Koreshan Historic Site, right on the Estero River. By the way Thousand Trails is probably a great deal if you are fulltiming but if you are vacationer/weekender like us in south Florida it was not worth it. There was nothing within reasonable distance so it was very unlikely we would use the 60 nights included in the package. There were some Encore properties we could go to, and in fact we did go to some of them later on, one of them the infamous Fiesta Key, and we would get a discount.
Going back to out maiden voyage, it was so exciting. We were now part of the club, and total newbies. One thing is to know the theory and another one the practice. I won’t go into how many tries it took to back up the trailer into our back in site. Eventually I parked the thing, not exactly straight and not exactly where I wanted it, but we managed. Luckily it wasn’t too busy in early September. Then, how do we detach the trailer from the car? Luckily I had filmed the guy who gave us the walk through so we watched the video, step by step and got everything figured out. There was a nature trail, and at that very moment I discovered a Florida I had never seen. I had lived in Miami all of my adult life, in the same state, but I had no idea this existed. RVing had changed our lives.
The historic site here consists of some buildings that used to belong to a sect founded by one Cyrus Reed Teed. They founded this place in 1894 as New Jerusalem. Teed died in 1908, and by 1961 it had become a ghost town, so the land reverted back to the state. Nowadays you can tour the structures, and the state park is very picturesque. There’s exotic vegetation from all over the world, and you can kayak on the river.
While we were in the area we also explored other campgrounds for a future visit. I had heard from a good friend of mine, a fellow musician and RVer, about this RV Park right on the beach called Red Coconut. It is located on Estero Island, at Ft. Myers Beach, so we went there an reserved a campsite for a future trip. WE reserved site 18, which is not officially waterfront, but since it is the first site, on the northern side of the park, and the beach access is right next to it, you get unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, since I am actually going to talk about fort Myers, and fort Myers Beach in more detail in a future episode.
By the way when we returned home I managed to back the trailer into my driveway on the first try. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this.
Living the RV Dream with Traveling Robert – Episode 2 – Champagne in Maine
On this second installment of Living the RV Dream with a Traveling Robert we talk about Maine, andone of our listeners recommends Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park, in White Springs in northern Florida.
Interview with Rene Champagne
Rene has been a viewer of my YouTube channel for many years, a YouTuber himself at Boondocking Mainahs. He travels with his wife in a Coleman travel trailer. Which he has retrofitted to allow for handicapped wheelchair access. Below you can see some pictures of his modifications.
Camping in Maine
We also spoke about some of his favorite boondocking spots, one of them in Eustis, Maine, on the northwestern part of the state, near the Nash Creek
Peabody Mountain, Little Larry Road, in Bethel, Maine.
We also talk about paid campgrounds. His favorite is Recompense Shores at Wolfe’s Neck Farm.
Knowing me, you know we had to talk about food, and the differences between Florida Lobster and Maine Lobster. Here’s a picture of his favorite lobster roll.
We also spoke about Maine’s most famous Acadia National Park. It has the first sunrise in the United States, with a view of Katahdin Mountain.
Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Living the RV Dream with Traveling Robert podcast. Episode 1
I’ve been living in Miami for almost 30 years, and it is now that I’m beginning to discover the great State of Florida. Before RVing, most vacations consisted of going to some faraway place. Having a trailer, and the fact that we are “trapped” in the state being to far south, has forced us to explore places that are closer, and until we start fulltiming that will be the case. One of those places is pretty much in our very own our backyard: the Everglades National Park.
In my experience there are three main areas to explore.
Florida City Entrance
The first entrance is by Florida City, where there is a road that goes all the way to Flamingo, at the southern tip of mainland Florida. There are two main campgrounds in this area. The first one near the entrance is Long pine Key, which is primitive. The other one is Flamingo, at the end of the road, which has water and electric. There are plenty of nature trails, and even a missile site from the Cold War era. Right outside the national park, there is this place called Alligator Farm, where you can see all kinds of reptiles and birds. They also have very enjoyable airboat rides.
The second entrance I’m going to talk about is Shark Valley. The entrance is located on US-41, the Tamiami Trail in the Miccosukee Indian reservation. There is a 15-mile loop road that you can see by riding your bicycle or by taking a tram tour. At the southernmost point of the loop road there is an observation tower where you get unobstructed commanding views of the Everglades. On the loop road you will see plenty of wildlife, particularly alligators, much more plentiful during the winter months.
Big Cypress National Preserve
As we continue West on US-41, we enter a more wooded area called Big Cypress National Preserve. Do stop by the Oasis Visitors Center to get some information and see the alligators on the side of the road. This is also the southern terminus of the Florida Trail. There are several campgrounds on the area. Midway has water and electric, Monument Lake and Burns Lake are primitive. The best kept secret is the loop road that begins at the Monroe Station. It is an unpaved road that goes deep into the preserve. In my opinion the best experience because you can stop by the side of the road whenever you spot some wildlife, which is everywhere. The road ends on the east by the aforementioned Miccosukee village. There’s another primitive campground near that end of the road called Mitchell’s Landing.
All along US-41 in this area there are plenty of touristy places to do airboat rides, eat frog legs and alligator bites, although my favorite place for that is Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe, which is located further west by the site of the Ochopee Post Office, smallest one in the United States, and the road that goes to Everglades City, which is my third (fourth) and final recommendation.
From Everglades City at the National Park Service the is a great boat tour. From the tour you can see all kinds of birds but the main attraction are usually the dolphins. If you go in the winter they will sail by Indian Key, where there is a massive flock of white pelicans. You can only see them in the winter as they are a snow bird. There are a couple of campgrounds in this area. There’s the Outdoors Resort of Chokoloskee, at Chokoloskee Island, and Trail Lakes on US-41, and further west there of course Collier Seminole State Park and Naples/Marco Island KOA.
Hope you enjoy this first episode of the Living the RV Dream reboot. Don’t forget to send your feedback to email@example.com or a voicemail by following the link on the top right corner. Also watch my videos on YouTube.
In this unofficial first episode I introduce myself and make sure everything works. Stay tuned next week for episode 1, in which I will talk about the Everglades National Park, and Big Cypress National Preserve. Click image for the YouTube video