You may or may not recall the painting of the chrome trim inside the truck my grandson and I did a few weeks ago but one part was still bright chrome, the gear shift cover. So, Kellen 3d printed a new cover with the Two Lane Touring aperture/tire logo. I painted it white and installed it on Monday. Nice work K!
These are my brand new Tundra Trooper Trekkers. I bought them for $19 at Tractor Supply, a place I never bought anything before. And maybe not again given what they primarily sell. Nice place though and they had these great boots. I expect to set new fashion treads that will last for a decade or more once the photos reach the lower 48 sometime this summer. Get yours now before they are $24.99 with all the demand. Cindy has actual cute ones!
We have been told to find some protective effort for the front of the trailer to prevent rocks from the highways in Alaska from causing damage to the finish. It was not an easy assignment. First there are no great solutions. Some people cover the front of the trailer with material, others do big “mud” flaps, some use chemical coatings for the trailer, some use elaborate slings between truck and trailer and no one is completely satisfied. So I explored several and decided on the 3-M protective spray. When I went to buy it had been discontinued because it did not always come off, problem avoided. So next was something called Rock Tamers, giant mud flaps that extend across the back of your vehicle. Studying them on line, talks with the company, gave them my truck and pertinent information, they said, would work great. Finally bought them and they came Friday. Spent yesterday morning installing. There are a LOT of bolts. Got it to the photo below and they blocked -completely blocked - access to the plug in where the truck and trailer connect. Not that the connection is important just lights, brakes, turn signals - that sort of stuff. I was frustrated. Packed up the whole thing today to return. No good third options, of course, not really any good first or second options in the actual world. Guess I will try some other thing or plan on filling holes!
Cindy has been figuring out how and what to cook in our very tiny kitchen. Often when we travel eating in is a sideline to our main activity - finding good restaurants. But not this time. Lots of areas with few services and being gone a long time and the expense of restaurants v home cooking are some of the reasons we are expanding our effort this trip. Cindy has been trying some new recipes like this Taco Soup, all dried and spiced well - just add chicken. Easy to do with our little grill. This by the way was a wonderful dish. It came from the Savory Spice Shop here in Raleigh. Why would you shop there when it is less expensive at the grocery store? Because the personnel and the products are excellent & fresh -buying stale spices is counterproductive no matter how cheap they are. It is always clean, always staffed well, they have what you need in the size you need it and they are just nice people. In fact, we may just declare that Savory Spice Shop is now the Official Spice Purveyor of Two Lane Touring. Kind of like royalty, I’ll bet they are thrilled:)
We are in the final stages of preparation for the Alaska trip but while lots has been done we still have a bit to go. The truck is ready, new tires, new other stuff and the bed is reconfigured and largely packed. The generator has been serviced, tested and reinstalled in the back. Reservations for a bear adventure, Sitka, some campgrounds, contact with a couple of churches in Alaska and notes to friends along the way have been sent. We are packing up on Sunday night the food we have been buying along this winter and will make a new list out of what else we need. The trailer is clean inside, bed made and lots of extras stored. We will add two new storage areas on Tuesday. I ordered material you spray on the front to prevent rock chips - from 3M and will take care of that next weekend. Clothes are now being sorted and cool weather stuff stored. Our friend, Tom, is joining us for part of the trip so we are setting up more reservations and adventures.
…for not about the Alaska trip. So far we have three days at a campground 31 miles into Denali where once you park you cannot move your vehicle for your stay. We have the night in Wrangle I wrote about last week and we have the trip to Sitka finally planned. It was an interesting process. Sitka has a National Park site, so it is a must visit. Access to Sitka is by boat or plane. But reasonably priced transportation is rare. Only the Alaska Marine Highway would really qualify but it goes once a week to Sitka and returns once a week - all at odd hours and lengthy travel times. Plus there is a funding challenge in Alaska for the ferry and they are not sure yet which routes will be cut. So that seemed sketchy. We finally figured out that we could take a seaplane from Haines AK, to Juneau at 7:00 AM and get there for a 10:00 commercial flight to Sitka with no over night in Juneau. Then on the return a 6 AM flight back to Juneau (only one that day) and get a touring ferry back to Haines at 4:30 that evening. So we have three nights on the island in a small cottage a short distance from the park and from downtown. Not sure yet how we will get back to the airport at 5AM. The red on the map is the whole island, Sitka has 18 miles of paved roads and would be a dot among the red. Should be cool - I never was on a float plane before! We are now working on a bear tour plan.
My truck has chrome trim rings on the dash and that was not comfortable for me as bright flashes of light can trigger migraines and avoiding that was difficult at times. So my grandson, Kellen, and I added changing that to our list of projects yesterday. And this is the result!
I now have nice, non-reflective white (matches truck) trim in the cab. Kellen is adapt and figuring out how things work and we were able to remove and, after painting, install these again.
Also if you are tracking the issue with the truck I wrote about twice already, the transmission to the fan clutch motor became a radiator that was leaking and causing the fan motor to act oddly. So new radiator, new hoses et al, tune-up (overdue) and new filters and the truck is ready except for new tires next month and an oil change. Hope that service will provide us with reasonably reliable transportation to and from the 49th state.
Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve is in south central Alaska. The park and preserve form the largest area managed by the National Park Service with a total of 13,175,799 acres an area that would swallow six Yellowstone National Parks. It also has the second highest mountain in North America as well as 9 of the 16 highest in NA. The Bagley Icefield covers much of the interior. The boomtown of Kennecott exploited one of the world's richest deposits of copper a century ago and the abandoned mine buildings are a National Historic Landmark. The park has two rough gravel roads, one about 11 miles on the very north and one of 68 reaching into a small village and the mine area. We have scheduled a night in a lodge near the mine as the 68 mile road takes a long time to drive IF you don’t get a flat tire. So we plan to drive in one day, stay the night and drive back the next. Ought to be a spectacular place. Last year this vast park had fewer than 80,000 people enjoy the space.
Tens of thousands of you have asked “When will Two Lane Touring get some T-shirts?” Actually no one ever asked that question but we can dream, right?
I however did ask my creative granddaughter, Addie, to design a t-shirt that CJH and I could wear on our trip to Alaska, or at least on the two warm summer days in Alaska. And she designed this:
I am just thrilled with how it turned out, Addie did a great job and Kellen did the technical stuff to get it all online etc. So we ordered a few in different colors and now all we have to do is wait for that warm Alaska summer. We are set. Here is a closer view of the art work.
So, what a relief. It is still needing a repair, two actually, but the transmission is not only ok, it is in good condition. The whirring noise was not a slippage in the transmission but a faulty fan motor clutch that was intermittent. There was also three cylinders that were miss firing. So, now we are off to a different repair center where I leave the truck on Wednesday.
MANY thanks to Roy at Cottman Transmission. He not only diagnosed the problem he did so in the time promised and for no charge. Really! The shop is highly recommended on social media platforms and I can see why. He also patiently explained all of the process and answered all of my questions. So, a big thank you to Roy and his staff and a high recommendation for their shop if you are in Raleigh (or North Carolina for that matter) and need someone to replace a clutch or ascertain an issue in your transmission call Roy. Stellar job.
So, we did a short trip to make sure everything was working well in the trailer. Good news, it was. However, we did uncover a huge problem, the official truck of TLT started to experience slippage in the transmission. It occurred both with and without the trailer and grew slightly worse from the onset of the issue until we got home. I stopped on the way to see if it was fluid and the Ford mechanic said it is a sealed unit, cannot add fluid. He thought it was the 1, 2 and R module (4, 5 and OD are separate) but I doubt that as it twice did the whirring noise at highway speed with no apparent reason to shift or change gears. So, thanks to a lot of time on the internet I have dropped the truck off at a transmission specialist this afternoon. Waiting on his call Monday early afternoon.
The bed of the truck is being repacked. Tires were ordered today for first of May install. The trailer is just back from the hospital. A successful operation for a leak was done and water system checked, all is well. Also two minor recalls from Oliver were inspected but did not require repairs. We are restocking the Oliver as well and plan a short trip to Columbia SC for a new church opening Sunday and then a couple days at the beach to check over everything. We are also making specific plans for six of the National Park sites including Arctic Ocean, Bears, Abandoned Mine Town, More Bears and Glaciers on land and sea. I am also starting to look at specific birding locations for my “really want to see” list. It numbers 26 species. Not that all of them are realistic.
This is more than just the Alaska journey but it fits here. The yellow pins are places visited and photographed. The red pins are places not visited - the majority, or places visited and not photographed, ie pre-camera days. So all of the red pins are in our plans. The trip to Alaska will also include the parks in S/W South Dakota, one on the edge of Wyoming, two in North Dakota (and one revisit), as many as possible in Alaska and as many as 10 on the way home through Washington, Idaho etc.
We have been planning this trip for a long time and one of the really good tools is YouTube. We have found three in particular to be worth watching: Long Long Honeymoon, Keep Your Daydream and The Motorhome Experiment. All three have been to Alaska recently and all three have decent skill at video, although we like the first two more that the latter. You can see with these programs various campgrounds, roads, attractions and even issues that arise. We are watching several of them for a second time now that we have more of an itinerary and a better understanding of where things are located. There are other good videos as well, some from Alaska tour operators some from the state but just explore your destination - there are likely lots of videos to watch.
We plan to prepare most of our meals for the Alaska trip. Breakfast is usually cereal or toast in the trailer, lunch is a light meal like apples, almonds, cheese and yogurt. Dinner will be something we prepare each evening for the majority of the time. Depending on where we are it might be every day on the Alaska Highway or near Wrangell-St. Elias NP and less often in Homer, for example, where there are lots of tempting restaurants. Because of the higher cost of food in both Canada and Alaska we will take lots of staples from home. Our plan is to get a couple of items each grocery run here (with appropriate dates) and take them along. We have storage in the trailer we have never used that will hold a fair amount and a new bin for the back seat of the truck that will take two or three bags worth of groceries. These are the first two bags we have gathered. A bonus of this plan is that we are picking up the things on sale. Like the rice dish here, we have five for the trip all bought at half price. We cannot take food for 4 months but staples, maybe most of them.
We have been waiting for this insanely detailed 700 plus page book of not just the Alaska Highway but of every highway and gravel road in Alaska. It provides details even down to what the signs you are passing say, what stores might be ahead, where to find a library or a campsite or… Just a great tool and needed as the planning is getting more detailed each day. There is also a large pull out map that is an additional planning tool to go with our larger Alaska map.
I found a decent map of Alaska. Finally. I love maps, paper maps. I like looking at options, this road v that road, how close do I come to an interesting side route, old town or lake. The gps is a great tool for getting you to a specific address but I like to plan the route and use the gps for the last few miles. Or to get out of a town to the road I want. And I really like spending time on the satellite views on Apple maps or Google earth. But when you really want to know where you are in relation to somewhere else, the scale of the trip and the alternate choices you cannot beat a paper map. And it never needs to be charged! I have been looking for a good Alaska map for weeks but finally found this one and it is perfect for our needs. We have already made two adjustments to our travel and I am sure more to come.
Many people influence all of us in different ways. The primary reason we are towing a travel trailer with a plan to visit more than 400 parks across the United States is due in a large measure to the enthusiasm for both camping and National Parks that we met in Curt and Jackie McSherry.
We had another trailer when our boys were small. It was definitely pre-owned and its systems were poorly understood by the new inadequate owners, us! It was a solution to some of the challenges of traveling with a family on a small budget but we were glad to sell it because the whole experience was not great, even though we were able to see some wonderful places.
We met Curt and Jackie at church when they came to Williamsburg, and we admired their small RV, a Rialta. I had visions of traveling and parking anywhere in a small camper - but considered it just a dream. Then, the McSherrys chose not only to sell it but to offer it to us at a very good value. They also provided their advice about how to use an RV and camping in general - it was excellent counsel. We benefitted from their kindness and excitement for the project. So we were off, to Yellowstone and Glacier, to Florida and South Carolina, to Maine and Prince Edward Island. And we were able to park it just about anywhere. The Rialta helped us to gain a better perspective on our travel habits and the beautiful sites we visited just made us want to see more. The desire for a more robust shower and more headroom than the Rialta could provide and to leave the campsite without taking the “house” along moved us to the Oliver trailer which has taken us 30,000 miles to 27 states. And we are preparing for another 20,000 miles and many more states.
Curt and Jackie headed to Alaska a few years ago but an unfortunate accident in Canada cut short their plans. We hope that the photos and diary of the journey that they started us on will delight them. Thanks to two wonderful people who are great examples of faith and faithfulness - a joy to share their friendship.
You already likely know that driving to Alaska means you are driving across a portion of Canada, right? You may also realize that means you will spend money in Canada and you need Canadian money. The last time I was in Canada was on our trip to Prince Edward Island in 2011, I think. So a few days ago looking for something, I don’t recall what that was, I opened a little box and found money, Canadian money left from our trip to PEI. Now it is not a lot but at this stage $40 is half a tank of gas in the Yukon and we are glad to have it!