Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-A Some Final Thoughts
This is the first part of a two-part article, No. 32 in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska
Until you actually get on the road and enter the Canadian Northwest and Alaska, you can’t appreciate the distances involved — or the grandeur. We made this trip knowing there was a lot to see, but maybe just as important to us was to check “Alaska” off our list of states we’ve visited as RVers. Boy, what an eye-opening experience! It’s a long way up there with lots of rough driving, but we now know we have to return.
As I drove over the past two-and-a-half months, Monique jotted down a few thoughts to include in our articles. Here are some that we haven’t mentioned or didn’t emphasize enough.
Taking Pictures — I wrote an article about photography for RV.net earlier this year called “Keeping a Visual Record of Your Travels.” [http://blog.rv.net/2010/05/keeping-a-visual-record-of-your-travels/] In it I asked, “Why take pictures? Are you looking to keep memories alive? Are you planning to give a talk to the Kiwanis Club when you get home? Or is there a big bodacious dream of having your pictures published in a table-top book or in magazines? These are all good reasons to keep a camera with you and snap pictures.”
During our Alaskan trip, I took about 10,000 pictures, which I downloaded into my laptop. Then I deleted about a third. Then I looked again and deleted about a third of those. The remainder is the collection we want to keep as memories of the adventure.
A year ago, I bought a good camera that uses interchangeable lenses, having been spoiled from my days of using my company’s camera before I retired. A few weeks before this trip I “invested” in a real lens to capture what I expected to be exciting wildlife, scenery and cultural experiences. It undoubtedly has been worth the cash outlay.
Last week we met what locals called the biggest black bear they had ever seen. We estimate he’s seven feet tall, and we found tree scrapings 8’4” off the ground. This is not a fellow you want to get close to, but you also don’t want to miss the shot. With a 300 power zoom, I stood 75 metres (we are in Canada) away and we now have a clear digital memory to look at when I’m too old to hitch up the ol’ Bigfoot trailer.
We still use our little camera, especially when the “big lens” monster is too much for a situation; however, Monique won’t let me forget that one of my favorite, most scenic shots of the two-months in Alaska was taken with that little camera. Additionally, I took one shot with my cellphone camera so it would look very touristy. Unfortunately, it also came out looking professional.
I need to mention one more important thing concerning photography. An external hard-drive is not expensive. It plugs into any USB port and allows you to copy files, including pictures, onto a hard drive to keep separate from your computer. I backup everything twice onto external hard-drives: one for the trailer; the other to keep in our truck. It does take resolve on my part to spend a few minutes copying everything, compensated by the peace of mind it brings.
Cash — Visa, MasterCard and cash are the most accepted forms of payment throughout British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. Even many of the U.S.-based chains don’t take American Express and Discover Card. Banks with ATM machines are easy to find and eager to dispense Canadian currency from your American account.
One disadvantage (or advantage) of relying on plastic in Western Canada is that the businesses don’t always have electricity, so when you find an ulu you just have to buy, maybe you’ll have to try to find it in the gift shop in the next village … that gives you extra time to think about your purchase. At cafes you might not have that option, so if eating is important to you, it’s a good idea to have cash available. The exchange rate is close enough now that it’s not worth the time thinking about it.
In the past week we have stayed at two B.C. provincial parks that did not have a host/facilities operator. We didn’t see anything about writing a check, so we ended up putting cash in the envelope – all Canadian $ except a $10 U.S. Plus, $4-$5 for the “sani-dump” charge (in loonies and toonies)
When we arrived at outposts that put a higher than usual pricetag on everything, I gladly paid the tab and told them “Thank you.” After all, we were happy it was them living 200 miles from everywhere and not us. Having services available where and when you need them is worth a few extra dollars.
Music – Having music available is important to us, particularly on those 200-mile treks through the wilderness. We have XM in our truck, giving us a great variety of music, news, comedy and talk programs. However, as you get further north and the mountains tower higher and higher, the XM/Sirius satellite is left behind over the horizon. There’s programming for 20 seconds and then lost signal for a minute, and it gets worse until there is no signal at all.
Local stations are sparse except in major cities, and even then music choices were not to our liking when we did get reception. My preference is classical, which I never found on our trip, even on public radio, but we’re open to just about any music. We mainly kept the radio off and didn’t want to play a recorded book that would distract us from the scenery.
If you want music, we suggest having your MP3 or I-Pod by your side, or if you have room for CDs, stock up for the duration.
Fishing – I haven’t had a chance to try out my new rod & reel; thus, I’m not the person to write about fishing. I can say that our caravan group went out three times on charters, of which two were duds. The other time they maxed out.
While in a First People community in B.C., we were nearby when we saw a well-appointed fisherman buying salmon from the local natives. “I got a flat tire on my truck, broke my rod, got a cracked windshield and didn’t get a bite. At least I can take something home,” he explained.
We’ll have more of these random thoughts when we have internet again.
From the “Never-Bored RVers.” We’ll see you on down the road.