From Alaska to Oregon
After nearly 19 years of residency, my Sister-in-Law is leaving Alaska this summer; and my husband and I have volunteered to help. Together the three of us are planning a cross-country road trip from Alaska to Oregon.
Moving into or out of Alaska from the lower 48 (that’s what Alaskans call the states south of Canada) is not for the faint of heart. In almost all cases, leaving Alaska requires driving the Alaska Highway, also known as the Alcan.
Many people who drive the Alaska Highway do so as tourists. After all, this area of the world is renowned for its wildlife and beautiful scenic vistas. I am looking forward to seeing all there is out there. But we are making this road trip in August of 2020, the era of the COVID-19 Pandemic, in a 15 foot U-Haul truck. Not exactly a vacation.
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Preparations for a Cross Country Road Trip
Even under normal conditions, you want to be prepared for a trip of this nature. From Anchorage, AK to Bend, OR, is close to 2700 miles. Most of the drive is in very sparsely populated regions of Canada.
In our world today, we are nearly always “connected.” Our smartphones and tablets can easily reach out and “Google” anything we want at any time. But if you don’t have a cell signal, you are not connected. We have read that this may be one of the hardest parts of driving the Alaska Highway to get used to.
So we are harkening back to the olden times while planning a cross-country road trip and carrying paper maps for navigation (not relying on GPS on the cell phone) and walkie-talkies to communicate with the caravan. No cell service means we can’t make a quick call to the others in our group.
Unique Preparations for Travelling During the Pandemic
Due to the current state of the COVID-19 Pandemic, there are a few other preparations we need to take into consideration.
- Before flying to Alaska, my husband and I both need to take the test for COVID-19 and have a certificate showing we are virus-free. It’s actually a little more complicated than just taking the test. There is a Mandatory Declaration Form For Interstate Travelers we will have to complete. Then depending on the testing available, we may have to be tested again once we reach Alaska.
- We start our journey just outside of Anchorage, and the Canadian Border is about 350 miles East-Northeast. Canada has placed a travel ban on all “non-essential travel” for US citizens (the US has the same prohibition for Canadians). The ban is to discourage tourism, which makes sense.
- While unlikely, the Canadian Border Patrol may deny us entry to Canada. We don’t want to be denied entry. So we will have documents with us showing where we are headed and that we are traveling for an essential reason. Our documentation will include the reservation confirmations from the hotels where we plan to stay and our final destination in Oregon.
- After driving 350 miles, not being allowed into Canada would be very frustrating. There is no other route to drive South to the US.
- Lastly, the friendly folks we spoke with at the Canadian Border Patrol Agency tell us we are expected to transit the Yukon Territory in 24 hours. This will be a harsh condition to satisfy. From our first stop at Buckshot Betty’s (in the Yukon) to our second stop at Watson’s lake is 548 miles. Technically, we are still in the Yukon. The Yukon is a big Territory.
Usual Planning for a Cross Country Road Trip
Have a good GuideBook
A quick search on Google for guidebooks in the area of our trip will point you to “the Milepost.” This guidebook is considered the “bible” and a must-have for anyone driving the Alaska Highway. You can order the Milepost from Amazon and many other retailers. The Milepost even has its own Facebook Page.
The Milepost is updated every year and has information on everything you want to know about driving through Alaska, the Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. If you plan a cross-country road trip in any of these fantastic wilderness areas, you need this book.
All of the highways and byways are outlined in detail. Maps are provided, including a large pull-out “Plan-a Trip” map. Information about towns, camping, sights, and attractions is given in detail.
The Milepost is a fantastic reference book for this type of trip. We have reviewed all the locations we will be traversing and the accommodations where we will be staying. This book is worth the $35.00 it will cost you.
AAA (The American Automobile Association)
As I mention in my post on getting an International Driving Permit, we are AAA members (the American Automobile Association). Our membership comes in handy when planning a cross-country trip. AAA provides maps and guidebooks they publish free of charge to their members. We have made use of our membership and received copies of their publications on Alaska and Canada.
Additionally, AAA has an online mapping program, TRIPTK®. This program allows you to layout routes and shows the mileage and estimated driving times. You can save your route guide as a PDF. You can even download the directions to your smartphone using the AAA app.
When using TRIPTIK, you can also see recommendations on the best fuel prices, AAA-approved hotels and restaurants, and sightseeing activities on your route.
Best of all, AAA members are also covered for Emergency Roadside Service in Canada.
Google (Everyone’s Go To)
You don’t have to use AAA services to plan your cross-country road trip online. Google Maps (the system TRIPTIK is based on) will give you most of the same route information and allow you to print out the directions or save them as a PDF.
You can use Google Maps, even when you are “off-line.” Before you start, download the Google Maps app for android or iOS, depending on your phone. On the app, search for the “map” you want, then at the bottom of the screen, choose the icon to “download” the map.
Downloading maps comes in handy when you don’t have access to the internet, like being out in the wilderness. But this is also useful when you don’t want to use a lot of cellular data, such as when you are traveling overseas.
Depending on the length of your trip, you may need to download more than one map. The maps use a good amount of memory, so you may want to save them on an SD card (if you have an android phone). Once you are done with the map, you can delete it from your phone to free up memory.
The Route We Have Planned for Our Cross Country Road Trip
In researching our journey, we’ve found that most guides for road trips on the Alcan go from Mile One in Dawson’s Creek, British Columbia, Canada, to Alaska, USA. We are doing the opposite, starting in Alaska and heading South; this means we’ve had to read the guides in reverse. That’s ok; we are flexible.
We plan to make the cross-country road trip in six days. My husband and I are driving the U-Haul and my SIL in her vehicle with Ally, her 100 lb +/- Golden Retriever. So not only do we need to get decent hotel reservations at each stop, we have to ensure that the hotels also accept dogs.
The day by day plan is as follows:
- Anchorage to Beaver Creek, YT, CAN – 407 Miles
- Beaver Creek to Watson Lake
- Watson Lake to Fort St. John – 590 Miles
- Fort St. John to Williams Lake – 395 Miles
- Williams Lake – Centralia, WA, USA – 470 Miles
- Centralia, WA to Bend, OR – 268 Miles
Total distance, with no detours: 2,678 miles + / – (actual mileage is sure to vary). Keep in mind that Canada is on the Metric System, not English. Converting miles to kilometers gives you a total of 4,310 kilometers, and that is a lot of driving, my friends!
What We Hope to See on the Road Trip
These photos below are what we expect we will see on the drive. I totally plan to see the Sign Post Forrest in Watson’s Lake. Real photos from the road to follow in the Out of Alaska Road Trip post!
There is not much wiggle room in our driving plan. We need to end each day fairly early, around 5:00 pm, so that we can be sure to be in a “town” with facilities for fuel and food. Services close early, we’ve been told. This means that we will be starting each day at dawn, probably around 6:00 am.
Supplies For Our Cross Country Road Trip
First and Foremost! Don’t forget to bring your passport, passport card, or “Real ID” for entry into Canada. A Global Entry Card and International Driving Permit might be of use as well. Canada looks a lot like the United States, and they speak English much like the United States. But Canada is not the United States.
There are rest stops on the Alaska Highway. One benefit of TRIPTIK vs. Google is that TRIPTIK identifies which rest stops have facilities. But it would help if you were prepared for extended periods (four hours or more) with nothing around except bears, birds, and moose. At least I’m hoping we see this sort of wildlife. We’ll be jamming down the highway, but I hope to get some good photographs.
On a cross-country road trip, the last thing you need to worry about is your clothes. Our focus will be on comfort and utility. You may love your skinny black jeans. However, unless your jeans have a lot of lycra in them, they will not be comfortable when you are sitting in the cab of a truck for ten or more hours.
Choose looser-fitting pants and tops in natural fibers. These garments work best in a multitude of temperatures and weather. Wear good driving shoes that are comfortable but sturdy enough that you can also walk a few miles if needed. Sunglasses, reading glasses, hats, and visors are good to have along to protect your eyes. Lastly, it may rain, so we will have some poncho or light rain jackets.
Comfort Kits (one for each vehicle)
To keep us moving forward in the most comfortable way possible, we are packing comfort kits for each car. Don’t forget that one of the passengers is Ally, my SIL’s sweet Golden Retriever.
- A basic first aid kit
- Mosquito Repellant
- Pillows and blankets for back support or quick naps for the non-driver
- Personal toiletry items. There may be rest stops with facilities, but don’t count on them being well supplied
- Disinfecting Wipes, Regular Wipes, Hand Sanitizer
- Fun, easy to eat, nutritious snacks
- Doggie treats
- Most important, load up your playlists, podcasts, or e-books on your phone or digital player. Again, you are driving through a lot of wilderness, and it is not likely going to be a radio station for entertainment!
- Walkie Talkies – To keep in touch with each other and to reach out to Truckers or other drivers with a CB (Citizens Band) Radio.
- Satellite Phone
- Vehicle Emergency Kit
- 5-Gallon Gas Can (Filled)
- Jumper Cables
- Spare tire (make sure you check this out before you leave)
- Vehicle Jack and Lug Wrench
- Lugnut lock (if your wheels have locks)
- Window Cleaner & Paper Towels
- Flash Light
Electronics (After all, I’m a Blogger!)
- Cell phones
- Tablets (or Laptop)
- Our SkyRoam hot spot, so when we do get to a place with cell service, we can share it among our devices (up to 5).
- BTW if you click on the link for SkyRoam above and choose to buy or rent a device, use coupon code SKYROAMTEC for a 10% discount on your purchase!
- Camera – for better photography than the cell phone
- Car Adapters for 12V to USB
- Secondary Power Supplies (you may want a solar-powered backup power supply)
Cross Country Road Trip – Are We Ready?
We’ve been planning this cross-country road trip for over a month now, and we think we are ready. The three of us have reviewed the maps, the roads, and the stops. My SIL has even lined up some young men to help us load up the U-Haul so our old backs won’t be wrecked before we even start.
There are still a couple of weeks until we head out, and I’m sure there will be changes during that time. Any words of advice are much appreciated!
If you would like to see how it all turns out, check back here towards the end of August for the post on the actual road trip!