Well it's been a week since we were on vacation and enjoying the wonderful fall weekend in Fairbanks. Today in Milwaukee it is cloudy, drizzly and cool . . . sorta like that first weekend when we arrived in Fairbanks. I've spent the past 24 hours, other than sleeping and breakfast time, working on my photos from the trip. I'm happy that I've been able to post all that I want to on PhotoBucket (there are six slide shows there). My next major post-trip project will be writing my IgoUgo travel reports, reviews and journals.
Some have asked about RVing in Alaska and how we did with gas and mileage. In total, we drove "the beast" 1,431 miles and used 177 gallons of gas. Our total gas bill for the trip in the RV (excluding the rental car for three days) was $628.50 or $3.55/gallon. The high was in Cantwell ($4.259) and low of $3.259 in Talkeetna. Had we only known we could have made it that far, we could have saved about $25! We found gas to be around $3.40 +/- in and around Anchorage (including Palmer and Wasilla) and around $3.70 down on the Kenai Peninsula. We paid $3.529 at the Safeway in Fairbanks but also enjoyed our final tank at $.10 off thanks to our Safeway card and a large initial grocery shopping trip to get us started. As for propane, we went through about 3/4's of a tank or $50 worth.
RVing was actually pretty easy. David found the 29' Winnebago easy to drive. The truck part of the motorhome was a Ford 450, and he said handled well. Most of the internal systems were pretty intuitively set up . . . including the hook-ups, etc. Because we both enjoy some space for sleeping, and we have a tendency to snore, we found sleeping on opposite ends to be in our best interest. Both beds were very comfortable and roomy enough "for one". LOL
We did very basic meal preparation in the RV . . . cereal most mornings, but we did splurge twice with pancakes! Lunch was typically sandwiches and chips . . . and dinner spaghetti (and left overs the next night), hot dogs or hamburgers. We did have plenty of micro-popcorn plus some snacks (trail mix, pistachios, Special K snack bars and Chips Ahoy cookies) available for when the urge hit. Our total grocery bill for the 14 days (of which, 10 nights were in the RV) was just over $200. As for groceries, we found Safeway (with a member card) to be about the same as Fred Meyer in terms of pricing on groceries but more expensive on OTC meds (Nyquil and Dayquil caps).
For the dining out that we did (5 breakfasts and 5 dinners) we spent just under $500. That made our total food cost for the trip (a total of 17 days) $700, which I think is pretty good.
About campsite costs, we did not do any boondocking, although we were open to it on our night in Glennallen but a $20 (with WiFi) place appeared out of nowhere so we stayed there with full hook-ups to boot. The most expensive camps we used were the two fishing camps (Alaskan Anglers and RW's) at about $40/night but the Northern Lights 2:1 coupon made it very affordable. River's Edge RV Resort in Fairbanks was very nice and $35/night with the Good Sam discount.
Speaking of Good Sam, the membership paid for itself with the "free night" rebate for a max of $25 given that the membership was on sale for $19 from their regular price of $29. We also purchased their platinum service plan for $109 which will also be good for use here in the lower 48 on our regular household vehicles for the coming 11 months. We felt it was good insurance to have in case of an emergency or something unexpected like a flat tire or running out of gas.
Camping inside Denali National Park at the Tek Campground was a highlight even though it required very limited use of the generator and no hook-ups. I enjoyed the remoteness, plus being an hour inside of the park to start our day on the two days that we did the shuttle bus. Three nights of camp, park admission fees and our Tek shuttle passes cost $135.
The luxury of using Alaskan Lodges along the way was a very nice break from the camping. As much as we did enjoy the camp experience, having unlimited hot water showers was wonderful. While lodges in Alaska can be pricey, it was a splurge worth experiencing!
This was a trip that was initially being planned for over two years ago. I maintained a three-ring binder with all of our travel plans, reservations and receipts. I used spreadsheets to keep track of the budget and prepaid items, so that we were prepared for the expenses along the way and knew what splurges we could afford should the opportunity present itself.
Having the reservation documents saved us on two occasions, both on reservations made through AARP last October. The first was with Avis rental car our first weekend, where they were going to charge us their current rack rate. The other was our last weekend at the Comfort Inn in Fairbanks. The manager checking us out did not like that I had such a great deal rate and questioned it. I had the e-mails documenting both reservations through AARP's travel center (Expedia) and both had to honor the rates. You hate to have to get to that point with any merchant, but without the paperwork, I doubt I would have been successful in holding either to the rates quoted.
Regarding the "Milepost" . . . considered the bible of road travel in Alaska . . . I have to say, it was immensely helpful in planning and greatly missed when I left a small suitcase at the FAI airport on our arrival and therefore didn't have the book (or any of my other reference materials) for the our entire trip. With that being said, we did get by without it although I did toy with ponying up $25 to buy one in Wasilla but did eventually err on the side of frugality. The biggest "miss" in my opinion by not having it was the drive from Palmer to Glennallen and from there to Fairbanks as these were routes I was not familiar with and the "Milepost" would have been very beneficial, especially on the Richardson Hwy. (I would have liked to have been better prepared for the great vistas and views between Cooper Landing and Delta Junction!)
So in closing, the good news is that we have left enough of Alaska to do on a future trip . . . maybe 2013? The things we missed seeing and/or doing . . . in no particular order: Musk Ox Farm (Palmer), Homer, Valdez, the entire drive between Palmer and Glennallen (thanks to fog and terrible visibility), Wrangell-Elias National Park, Morris Thompson Center (Fairbanks), silver salmon fishing WITH fish to send home, and Independence Mine (Palmer).
Of the things that we did do, the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge is a "must do again" . . . maybe tying that into some fishing (halibut and silvers). I am also looking forward to another flightseeing trip with K2/Rusts this winter . . . and would love to visit my new friend Tom if he gets that aurora lodge up and running near Palmer.
Thank you to the Culbert Family for their warmth and friendship . . . and making this adventure of a lifetime possible for us! It is our hope that your two weeks in Hawaii will be as relaxing and enjoyable as our time in Alaska was in your very fine motorhome.