Re: What will I need for the ALCAN?
I drive most of this route in reverse each summer to my property on the Kenai Penninsula, and the following is what I have learned. There are far more cultural things to prepare for than mechanical ones if you want to have a pleasant experience. I suspect you have driven this route before, so I will state some things that are geared more for those who have never driven the route before.
First off, your safety is most important: Bring enough arctic gear in the winter that you can survive if you break down and are stuck for a day or so at -40 to -60! Also, for a mid winter trip, you've got to bring tire chains! Lastly, buy one of those cheap throw away bar-b-ques at walmart in case your truck freezes up out in the middle of nowhere. You can light it and slide it under the front end and throw a blanket over the hood to unfreeze everything.
The Canadians are neat, clean, tidy, wonderful people and I genuinely love them, but they are also quiet and don't appreciate the boisterousness of their loud mouthed, south-of-the-border, yahoo-red-neck, arrogant-republican-George-W.-Bush-voting cousins. I get chewed on by them about Bush and his policies every time I go to Canada. Don't argue with them. Tell them you didn't vote for him and you are really sorry for all the trouble he causes them. I'm serious. I don't care how you voted. This is a survival guide for a foreign country that is very angry with this one, like it or not, right or wrong.
Take $300 cash with you and not a cent more, and don't spend it. I've been hassled for taking only $100. The secret is to put EVERYTHING on your debit or credit card. You will get the best exchange rate through the banks that way instead of some overpriced SWAG from some local retailer.
The Alaska Highway (sorry, it's no longer the "Alcan") is not the nightmare of yesteryear. It's all paved. The twists and turns, ups and downs have been mostly removed over the years. If you watch to the sides, you can see where the old "highway" went back and forth. They churned up the asphalt and grass and trees grow where most of that road once was. Now, some stretches you could land a 747 on then take off again without turning around.
I personally wouldn't bother with the cost of an extra tank, but if you have one and it isn't going to cost you anything, might as well bring it. However, I don't know if they will give you trouble at the Canadian border because of it- Diesel there is spendy, but I don't know how it compares to ours with the last 2 months of price gouging. There are plenty of places to fill up, but not necessarily at night, which is when I like to drive.
Study your road map for getting from Bellingham, Washington to the border crossing at Sumas and vice-versa. Backroads farm country and easy to get lost. Going northbound, if you take I-5 clear to the border, you are adding 150 useless miles to your trip, and a very ugly and slow border crossing situation.
Do not show up at the Canadian border with a NRA sticker on your truck. If so, you will be unloading everything you own and reloading it for 6 or 8 hours to reprogram your thinking. Arguing will get you 20 years in the electric chair, so don't.
Drunk driving is a felony in Canada (and Alaska). If you have been convicted of DUI in the states, you have the equivilant of a Canadian felony conviction. You will NOT be allowed into thier nation, period. A conviction is apt to show up after the 2 seconds it takes for the computers to photo and process your license plate to announce who the registered owner is. Two months ago the border agent asked me out of the blue: So is this car registered to you? I have driven several other cars over the border, several different times, but that was the first time in that car. They have all that info right in front of them so don't even try to bluff them...They have zero sense of humor and are NOT negotiable.
US border guards are even worse, especially on the southern end. I've seen ALL cars headed for Vancouver, Canada being stopped by US border patrol and sniffed by the drug and bomb dogs 1/4 mile from Canada. That seems illegal to me- no reasonable cause- but I won't argue with a 9mm glock held by BDU Bob fresh out of the torture academy at Abu Graib. The US guys are downright unfriendly...and frighteningly intimidating.
You MUST have your proof of US citizenship to cross the border either direction. Birth certificate and a valid drivers license are the easiest to present. In 2007 you will be required to show a valid passport.
If you are bringing a dog, you MUST have proof of rabies shots to get from Canada to the US. I don't know about the other way around. No more than 2 cartons of cigarettes allowed across the border, and ciggys are really spendy in Canada. 15 years ago they were $40-$60 per carton. Booze- Don't take it across the border- I think you can only take 2 fifths and it's a big hassle anyway.
Do not take a firearm across the border. A handgun will land you in prison, and the "long rifle and shotgun" paperwork is at least 5 pages in triplicate and has to be mailed to Auto-Wah months in advance for approval. "Just passin' through" with a gun isn't going to get it. Seriously. It is MUCH easier to have your firearms shipped by airfreight to or from Fairbanks by a friend or relative when you get to your US destination. There is some easier way for those in transit, but I spent hours trying to find the info and they have intentionally hidden it very well, forcing you to call up voice messaging that rivals their web redirecting dead ends on the subject.
Speeding in Canada: The tolerance for speeding is different than in the states. I once was ordered to take my wife to lunch at Moxies Resturant in Prince George in lieu of a fine. I recommend it, by the way- That would get a cop fired here, yet in BC it gets you out from behind the wheel where you have been for too many hours. Their RCMP's are decent people without the "I'm the law here" attitude.
Watch your tranny temps if you are towing, and if you don't have a temp guage, install one before you leave. There are several long, steep pulls that will eat your tranny on that route if you don't have adequate tranny cooling. Speaking from $4,500 worth of experience. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/depressed.gif[/img]
One year ago yesterday, we drove through 6 hours of snow and 23 degrees F in the middle of the night and saw 2 other motorists and one hitch-hiker...200 elk and one grizzly. So you may or may not need chains. And be careful by driving only when you are alert! For those that don't know, a moose, which is dumber than a sheep with a low IQ can weigh 1,600 pounds and is just the right height for you to shear it's legs off and put it right straight through your windshield. They stand right in the middle of the road because it's convenient for them, especially in foul weather. There are wild horses, Buffalo, goats, sheep, deer, elk, cariboo, wolves, fox, and maybe even Girls Gone Wild on that highway at all hours. Only thing I haven't seen is the girls, darn it.
Whitehorse, Yukon Territories must be a leftover from the "cities of refuge" concept. Do NOT leave ANYTHING in you vehicle there overnight, period. You would be better off not staying in that town as far as I am concerned. In July I had to stay there to get some sleep and stayed in the only hotel that had a room available. Water pouring from someone's second floor bathroom into the lobby...for so long that nobody paid attention to it because it washed the vomit from the drunks out.
The Cassiar Highway is a much more scenic route- but it's slower in spite of it being 150 miles shorter, and partially unpaved. You break down out there and it may cost you a couple grand for a $50 part with installation. It happened to my neighbor one November 14 years ago when it was -40. I hope to drive it again when I am not in a hurry, durring the summer.
Another side trip that is incredible is the trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City, not to be confused with Dawson Creek, 1,000+ mile south east. It's where the gold rush started and you can drive up the gravel road to the creek itself to the exact spot where gold was discovered...and to a retired dredge that is enormous, and to a section of the creek where you can pan for gold. Don't plan on getting rich there. Active mining is miles further up. After spending a little time in Dawson Creek (the town), learning about prostitutes, madmen and how the Nordstrom family made their first fortune, you cross the yukon river and head for the "highway at the top of the world." If it's clear, it will change your life. I camped along the road and would love to again. Some stretches are unpaved for a few miles, but it is all good road, as was the Cassiar when I drove it 2 summers ago. Motorhomes can make it no problem. More gold country on that road and it eventually ends up back at the Alaska Highway in Alaska on the southern side of Tok. That gets you out of the northern most 100 miles of the highway in Canada which is terribly frost heaved. Speaking of which, in the frost heave areas, keep your speed down to no more than 50 mph or you will destroy your shocks and maybe more. I snapped a front sway bar end link from the frost heave bumps in that area that were about 12 inches tall.
A good spare tire is certainly a must. Last year we had 2 separate mishaps with our trailer and it cost me 4 tires and 2 wheels plus 2 days of travel time.
If you need parts, Dawson Creek, Whitehorse and Tok Junction are about your only really viable options between Fairbanks and Prince George. There are fairly good sized towns along the way, but they seldom will have what you need in stock. If you break down, Greyhound busses are all towing trailers that they haul freight in, and you can get what you need usually in a day or two for a price.
If I had a few bucks to spare and my engine was back in my Excursion, I would be heading that way as soon as I could get my trailer packed. I'm on strike so I have all the time in the world, but no money to go anywhere.
Plan on 5 days of driving between the US border to Alaska border. You might be longer or shorter depending on how you drive. I do it in lots less time than that, but that's me.
Have a great trip- anyone thinking about making that trip can PM me if you need any other info- I also posted some other info about the route in the rallys and events forum a couple weeks ago, I think it's called "alaska trip."
clam the powerstroke grinch
2000 Excursion LTD 4x4
Slightly tweaked HPCR 5.9 Cummins
Allison 1000 5 speed auto