Exploring British Columbia & the Yukon Territory (June 21 – July 2, 2018)

On Thursday, June 21st, we drove 82 miles to Dawson Creek, B.C. where we spent two nights at Mile “0” RV Park. Dawson Creek represents mile zero of the Alaska Highway that was constructed in 1942. Our caravan to Alaska was scheduled to begin on the 22nd but we chose to arrive a day early to get some relaxation before the hectic travel schedule commenced.

On the 22nd we drove downtown and got our picture taken at the iconic Alaska Highway sign. We also went to the visitor center and picked up a guide book for the Dawson Creek Historic Walking Tour. We spent the next hour strolling the streets of historic downtown Dawson Creek and enjoyed viewing the many murals and plaques that told the story of life in Dawson Creek in the early 1900s. The Mile “0” Post stands in the middle of downtown as a monument to the beginning of the Alaska Highway. We bought some meat at the Butcher Block, formerly Lawrence’s Meat Packing Co. (established in 1941).

Upon returning to our campsite, we met the two couples who are serving as the Tour Leaders and the Tail Gunners. The tour leaders, in addition to communicating and coordinating each day’s activities, are the first ones to arrive at each new campground and direct the travelers to their respective sites upon arrival. The role of the tail gunners is to be the last ones out of a campground each day and to watch for any members of the caravan who might break down along the route.

Later in the afternoon we met for a group photo at the Alaska Highway sign. Then we went to a local restaurant for a kickoff meeting, followed by a very filling dinner buffet. Although we had met some of our fellow travelers the previous day, this was our first opportunity to meet the entire group with whom we would be traveling for the next 23 days. While almost all of the travelers are retirees, it was interesting to hear the diversity of their backgrounds. Although we believe the vast majority of the group are signed up for a 50-day travel itinerary, we had elected to only travel with the group for 23 days and go as far as Anchorage with them. After we separate from the caravan, we plan to explore more of Alaska on a somewhat slower pace.


One of the requirements of the caravan is that everyone must depart each day between 6 and 9 a.m. This is considerably earlier than we are accustomed to getting going and will force us to get to sleep earlier. That’s easier said than done, especially when the sun hasn’t even set by 10 p.m.

On Saturday morning we left the campground at 8:30 a.m. and drove 282 miles along the Alaska Highway to Fort Nelson, B.C. The highway was fairly smooth and, although it had lots of ups and downs, neither were extremely steep. We made a short detour on a section of the original Alaska Highway to see the Kistatinaw River Bridge, the only wooden bridge from the original highway that is still in use today. We passed through Fort St. John after about 50 miles but, after that, there was little sign of civilization for the balance of the drive. We were very glad to complete the drive, which is the longest day of driving we have planned for the entire summer.

Kiskatinaw River Bridge

We spent Sunday exploring Fort Nelson. In the morning we visited the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. The museum contains a number of collections, but the overall theme is transportation because the collection that started it all was an antique car and truck collection started by Marl Brown, the curator. We spent some time chatting with Mr. Brown who was quite a character. The main building houses numerous smaller collections dealing with Canadian history and wildlife. In addition, the museum contains space for historical buildings and artifacts. We wandered into one of the old buildings and realized that we had walked into the middle of a church service so we sat down and stayed for the remainder of the service.

That afternoon we attended a presentation by the Fort Nelson Visitor Center at the Phoenix Theater. The first part was a slideshow dealing with the construction of the Alaska Highway. Then we watched a 90-minute recording of a 2017 performance celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. The performance involved individuals who shared how their families lived both before and after the construction of the highway.

On Monday, June 25th, the rains began and stayed with us for two days solid. As we prepared to leave, we discovered that the power reel that has reliably released and retracted our heavy power cord was no longer working. It had worked on Saturday afternoon but now was completely dead. We managed to manually retract the power cord but it wasn’t easy.

We drove 189 miles to Liard Hot Springs where we spent the night at Liard Hot Springs Lodge. It rained heavily most of the way and, although there had been several stops recommended along the route, the rain kept us from doing much more than driving. The fog kept us from seeing much scenery. We did stop at the Toad River Lodge for a fresh baked cinnamon roll. The heavy rain seemed to keep the wildlife largely out of sight but we did see a large herd of wood bison along the road near our campground. The wood bison are a different and larger species than the American bison.

After setting up at the campground at Liard Hot Springs Lodge, we all met to walk over to the Liard Hot Springs despite the fact that it was 50 degrees and raining. As we were waiting, a large wood bison strolled lazily through our campground. The group hiked across the road and down a half-mile boardwalk to the hot springs. Once there, we shed our rain gear and climbed into the warm water. The hot springs are formed when groundwater seeps through the porous limestone of the area and circulates through faults within the earth’s core. There the water warms and accumulates minerals. As pressure builds, the water is forced upwards and eventually resurfaces through cracks in the earth. There was quite a variety of temperatures available to the bathers. At the extreme end, the water was 145 degrees and, at the other end, it was as cool as a swimming pool. It was quite an experience soaking our torsos in the hot water and having cold rain coming down on our heads and shoulders. Of course, getting back out of the hot water and walking back to our rig in the cold rain was not nearly so enjoyable.

That evening the rain continued all night and the leak above our hallway light fixture returned. We thought we had gotten the leak fixed in April and had not had any problems since then.

On Tuesday morning we packed up in the rain and waded through deep puddles to get back on the road. We drove 143 miles to Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory where we spent the night at the Baby Nugget RV Park.  Along the way, we stopped at Allen’s Lookout with its sweeping views of the Liard River.

After getting set up, we did our laundry and took advantage of the wifi in the laundry room. We had gone two days without cell service or wifi and were feeling disconnected from the world. Then we drove into the town of Watson Lake where we watched two shows at the Northern Lights Centre. The Northern Lights Centre is designed like a planetarium, with projections on a domed ceiling and reclining chairs. The first show dealt with the sun and the electromagnetic storms that create the northern lights. The second show provided incredible views of the Aurora Borealis from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

After the show, we drove across the road to the Sign Post Forest. The tradition began in 1942 when a US soldier spent time in Watson Lake recovering from an injury. A commanding officer told him to repair and erect the direction signposts, and while completing the job, he added a sign that indicated the direction and mileage to his hometown. Others followed suit and there are now over 77,000 signs in the Forest. The Town of Watson Lake maintains the site, adding more sign posts as they fill up. Our caravan group, Adventure Treks, posted a sign that we had all signed.

On Wednesday morning we woke up to clear skies and drove 147 miles to Teslin, YT where we spent the night at the Yukon Motel RV Park. Although there were some puffy clouds, we loved seeing the blue skies and the scenery was beautiful along the way. We stopped at the Rancheria Falls for a short hike down to the falls. Shortly before arriving at the campground, we spotted a brown bear by the side of the road. The bear decided to dart in front of our truck but managed to sprint across the road before we reached it. Since we couldn’t get into the campground until noon, we stopped and enjoyed the views at the Nisutlin Bay Viewpoint which was directly across the bay from the campground. Then we crossed the Nisutlin Bay Bridge, the longest water span on the Alaska Highway, and checked into our site.

Wednesday afternoon Phil climbed up on the roof and tightened the bolts on one of the air conditioners to see if that would solve the leak. This had been done in April and had seemingly solved the problem for two months. However we won’t know if the repair worked until next time we have heavy rain.

That evening we had a group wine and cheese party around a campfire. A bald eagle flew directly over us as we sat by the fire.

On Thursday, June 28th, we drove 105 miles to Whitehorse, YT where we spent two nights at Pioneer RV Park. We stopped at Johnson Crossing, on the edge of the Teslin River, for cinnamon buns. We also stopped at M’Clintock Bay, a major bird migratory stop at other times of the year.

The fun really began when we arrived at the campground. The sites were so close together that our slide-outs were only inches away from our neighbors’. We had slightly more room on the other side but still had to duck under our slides to get around our rig. Needless to say, there were many unhappy campers.

Space between our rig and our neighbors’

That afternoon we went to the Beringia Interpretive Centre for a guided tour and film presentation. During the Ice Age, vast glaciers (1-3 miles deep) covered most of northern North America, locking up most of the world’s water as ice. During these glacial periods, global sea levels dropped as much as 100-150 meters, revealing the floor of the Bering Sea and creating a connection between Alaska and Siberia. This land bridge was part of the area now called Beringia. Unlike the rest of North America, the Beringian landscape in the north remained free of ice due to the climate being too dry. The land developed into vast plains of grasses, herbs and flowering plants and became home to grazers such as wooly mammoths and predators such as scimitar cats.

As part of the tour, volunteers were given the chance to test the spear-throwing skills using an atlatl, a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity. Phil’s two attempts went in a straight line but failed to achieve much lift.

On Friday we toured the SS Klondike II, a stern paddleboat that ran freight between Whitehorse and Dawson City along the Yukon River from 1937 and 1950 with a crew of 23. With the construction of a highway between these two towns, many sternwheelers were decommissioned. In an attempt to save Klondike II, she was converted into a cruise ship that held 75 passengers. The venture shut down in 1955 due to lack of interest.

Our next stop was at the Whitehorse Fish Ladder which was built in 1959 to help chinook salmon move past the dam on their way to their spawning grounds. Adult chinook salmon leave the Bearing Sea in early summer and begin a 2,000 mile journey up the Yukon River to the exact location where they were originally spawned several years earlier. They don’t eat during the three months it takes them to swim from the Pacific Ocean to Whitehorse. Only a small percentage survive the journey. Most become victims of predators, starvation or fishing. The survivors continue on to the Upper Yukon tributaries where they, like their parents, spawn and die, completing their life cycle.

At 1,182 feet, the fishway is considered the longest fish ladder in the world. The ladder is built in a series of steps that span a rise of 60 feet from the Yukon River to Schwatka Lake. Each step has a vertical baffle the fish can jump over or they can swim through a submerged opening. Unfortunately, the chinook salmon had not yet begun arriving yet.  Their numbers at the fish ladder will be at peak levels when we return to Whitehorse in mid-August.

In the afternoon, we drove to the Miles Canyon observation point and then took a two-hour guided hike to the Canyon City archeological site. The hike began with a walk across a long suspension bridge. Our guide, from the Yukon Conservation Society, told us a great deal about the history of the area and about the plants along the trail. The Miles Canyon and White Horse Rapids were once the most dangerous obstacles to navigation along the 2,000 miles length of the Yukon River. During the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, crudely built boats and inexperienced navigators caused many accidents and deaths in the canyon’s rapids. Canyon City was a small gold rush settlement that was established in 1897. This was a portage way around the rapids that Stampeders used on their way to Dawson City. Norman Macaulay, a 28-year-old, came up with the idea to build a tramway along the bank of the river. He also bought out a competitor who built a tramway on the opposite bank. In 1899, Macaulay sold both tramways to the railroad for a fortune. The foundations of some of the Canyon City buildings were still visible and well as many of the food cans that the Stampeders left behind. Apparently, few of the Stampeders were hunters so, instead, they had to rely on canned food that they brought with them. Today, due to the construction of a dam, the water in Miles Canyon is 10 meters deeper than it was during the Gold Rush so there is less evidence of the rapids that had made navigation so dangerous.

On Saturday, June 30th, we drove 167 miles to Destruction Bay, YT where we spent the night at Destruction Bay Lodge. We stopped to see the Canyon Creek Bridge which was originally built in 1920 to cross the Aishihik River. It was rebuilt in 1942 for the Alaska Highway. Fortunately a newer bridge had since been built for us to drive across.

The drive around Kluane Lake was quite beautiful and we stopped often for picture taking.

The town of Destruction Bay has a population of 38 residents. Its name originated in 1942 when the encampment of the US soldiers working on the Alaska Highway was blown into Kluane Lake by 100 mph winds.

The campground wasn’t much more than a large parking lot but, by comparison to what we had in Whitehorse, the sites were quite large. There was one other caravan staying at the campground for the night, a large group from Germany who had rented RVs in Canada. The owner of the lodge and RV park was also the chef. He prepared a large meal that included 27-day aged Angus, marinated Baron of Beef. The owner was quite a character, as was the after-dinner entertainer. Both provided us with stories about life in the Yukon.

On Sunday, we had a short drive of only 115 miles to Beaver Creek, YT where we spent the night at Beaver Creek RV Park. Our drive was largely uneventful except for spotting a black bear along the highway.

When we arrived at the RV park, we learned that the owners were hosting a pig roast and entertainment to celebrate Canada Day. They even had a Mountie from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in attendance. The food was very good. The evening entertainment consisted of a 5-member family band, The Lack Family, and they were outstanding. In addition to the husband and wife, they had their three daughters (the youngest was 16). They have been performing fulltime for 10 years and have traveled internationally.

On Monday we said goodbye to Canada for a while as we headed into Alaska.


Beautiful Alberta (June 13 – 20, 2018)

We left Okotoks, AB shortly after noon on Wednesday, the 13th, and drove 106 miles to Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court campground in Banff, AB where we had reservations for four nights. The drive took us through Calgary before turning west to Banff. We arrived around 2:30 pm and had to wait in a long line of RVs waiting to check into the campground. Our site (#217) was a good-sized semi-circular pull-through site. Phil had booked the reservation months earlier, the minute they starting accepting reservations, and couldn’t remember whether or not we had 50 amp service. Unfortunately, we discovered that the campground only has 30 amp service which required us to manage which devices we could run at the same time.


The weather forecast was rather disappointing, with cool and rainy weather predicted for the entire stay. Phil grilled hamburgers for dinner and had to clean and put away the grill immediately afterward due to concerns about bears and coyotes scavenging in the campground.

On Thursday we ventured out to explore downtown Banff. The weather was in the 40s and was raining steadily but we were determined not to let that spoil our visit. We were not the only ones with that idea and had to drive around a while until we were able to find a parking spot along the Bow River. We visited the Banff Visitor Center and then strolled through many of the shops on Banff Avenue.

We returned to our campsite and Phil had to disconnect our water hookups in anticipation of overnight temperatures near freezing. We celebrated Phil’s birthday with his traditional blueberry pie.


After dinner we went for a short hike near our campground. Although we got sprinkled on lightly a few times, the rain held off until we were back home. The clouds that had blocked our view of the mountains all afternoon were mostly gone during our hike. We encountered an elk very close to our trail and then a large herd of elk near our campground.

The weather forecast for Friday called for rain most of the day. Despite this, we decided to drive to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, about 35 miles north of Banff. On a normal day, parking at these spots is very limited and most visitors must park at an overflow parking area and take a shuttle. In fact, when we first arrived at the turnoff for Moraine Lake, the parking lot was filled and vehicles were being turned away. However, we drove on to find a turnaround spot and, as we returned, we were allowed to enter the road to the lake. Although the parking lot was quite full, we were pleased to find a spot that was both wide enough and long enough to handle our truck.

We walked along the lake and, despite getting some light sprinkles on us, managed to stay fairly dry. The scenery was beautiful. We were tempted to rent a canoe but the possibility of being on the lake in a rainstorm caused us to pass on that idea.

We next went to the Lake Louise Visitors Center and had some lunch at one of the cafes. Then we headed to Lake Louise where, once again, parking was limited but we managed to find a spot. We strolled past the famous Chateau Lake Louise and along the bank of the lake. Like Moraine Lake, the reflections from the mountains on the lake were truly magnificent.  We encountered a large group of people gathered along the trail and learned that there was a mama grizzly and two cubs a short distance away.  Jan took advantage of the opportunity to use her telephoto camera lens to get some great pictures before the grizzlies scampered away.

We managed to make it back to our truck before the rain started and the rain continued for much of our drive back to Banff. We were really blessed with much nicer weather than forecast for our sightseeing. We were very glad that we had ignored the forecast and had visited the lakes.

On Saturday we went exploring a couple of the nearby lakes. First we stopped at Lake Two Jack and then continued on to Lake Minnewanka.

We then intended to drive up Tunnel Mountain Road to Surprise Corner where we could get an overview of the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. We didn’t have an address; we just knew that there was a small parking area across the road from the overlook. When we came to a parking area and saw some people crossing the road, we assumed we were at Surprise Corner. It turned out we were actually at the bottom of Tunnel Mountain Trail, a moderately steep one-mile climb to the summit of Tunnel Mountain. There were very many switchbacks along the trail and the altitude gave us quite a challenge. Regardless, we made it to the summit and enjoyed the view. The hike back down was a lot easier. After getting back in the truck, we continued down the road until we came to the real Surprise Corner. After viewing the hotel from the overlook, we started down the trail to the Bow River Falls but, after our hike up the Tunnel Mountain Trail, we didn’t have the energy to walk all the way down to the falls and back.

On Sunday we packed up and headed 180 miles north to Whistlers Campground in Jasper, Alberta where we stayed for three nights. We stopped at a pull-off to view Castle Mountain.

After passing Lake Louise, we turned north on the Icefields Parkway, reputed to be one of the most beautiful highways in the country. We pulled over a number of times to enjoy the scenery. However, we were challenged with having to make split-second decisions before we passed the turnoffs as to whether the pull-offs were large enough to handle our truck and fifth wheel. When we reached the Columbia Icefield Chalet, the major attraction on the Parkway, the bus parking lot was full and the car parking lot didn’t appear to have spaces large enough for us to park. We turned down a road labeled Toe of the Glacier and immediately knew we might have trouble getting back out. Fortunately we found a pull-off along the road that was wide enough and flat enough for us to park. We walked a few hundred yards down the road to the trailhead for a 1-kilometer climb up to the foot of the Athabasca Glacier. Due to the melting of the glacier, it was unsafe to actually walk on it but we got close enough to feel the cold. When we returned to the parking lot, we analyzed various paths that we could use to get turned around. Although it was a tight fit, we did manage to get our rig turned around and returned to the Icefield Parkway. After that experience, we didn’t attempt to pull off at any more attractions, except to get pictures of some mountain goats grazing on the hillsides. Since many of these attractions are within 20 miles of Jasper, we decided to return in a couple of days when we don’t have the fifth wheel behind us.

We arrived at Whistlers Campground in the Jasper National Park at about 3:30. The temperature was around 70 degrees and we had bright sun, a huge difference from the weather we left behind in Banff. We got out our rug and folding chairs and enjoyed sitting outside for the rest of the afternoon.

IMG_0171On Monday afternoon we took care of domestic duties, including laundry grocery shopping and refueling the truck. The laundromat was quite interesting. It was in the basement of a convenience store and was combined with a stationery store. Jasper is a small town and parking is limited. We ended up parking 1 ½ city blocks away and lugging our laundry to and from the laundromat. It was a sunny and warm day, with temperatures in the low 80s.

Monday evening we went for a stroll along the Miette River. The Miette is a small river that runs into the Athabasca River. It is reputed to be one of the five best flying fishing rivers in Canada. The river is fed by melting glaciers and snowcap and the current was extremely fast.

On Tuesday morning we headed out early to see some of the Icefields Parkway attractions we had passed on Sunday. We hiked a 3-mile trail through the Valley of Five Lakes. Each of the five lakes were beautiful and very clear. At one stop we watched a duck dive about three feet under water and we could see it as clearly as if it had been at the surface.

After the hike we drove about 10 miles south to Athabasca Falls. The water pouring through the falls was milky-white as it was runoff from the melting glaciers and contained silt from the erosion caused by the glaciers.

On Wednesday we drove 250 miles through the northern Alberta wilderness to Grande Prairie, AB where we spent the night at the Grande Prairie Rotary Campground. The drive was one of our toughest yet. The road was very hilly and extremely rough. We drove through numerous construction zones. Part of the drive included a detour over hard-pack dirt that had large potholes. When we stopped for the night, we discovered that the carousel had fallen out of our microwave and shattered, cracking part of our cooktop. Fortunately the cooktop still works and we hope to find a replacement carousel for the microwave at either an appliance store or Amazon.

On the Road to Banff (June 3 – 13, 2018)

On Sunday morning, June 3rd, we left Rockford, IL with heavy hearts after learning of the death of Jan’s brother, Keith, the night before. Phil had only managed to get a few hours of sleep and Jan had gotten even less. As Phil drove the 252 miles to Pine Harbor Campground in Chippewa Falls, WI, Jan spent much of the trip discussing arrangements with family members.

When we arrived at the campground, the office was closed and we didn’t know where we should park. After sitting there a while, another camper came by and told us to just grab any open spot. The campground was laid out rather haphazardly due to the many mature trees and the sites were not clearly defined. We pulled into one spot that seemed like a campsite and proceeded to set up. After we were settled in, the owner came by to welcome us and collect the fee. The many trees made the use of our satellite dish impossible but we were too tired to care.

It was clearly critical for Jan to get to Tennessee but, with no idea how long she would need to be gone, we decided that we would drop Jan off at the Minneapolis airport for a flight to Nashville and Phil would continue the drive westward. Phil managed to find Jan a one-way ticket from Minneapolis to Nashville on United using some of our frequent flyer miles. On Monday morning, Jan had to give Phil a quick lesson on how to perform the tasks she normally handles in hitching and unhitching the fifth wheel. We drove 100 miles to the MSP airport. The tricky part was finding a way to get Jan to Terminal 1 while we were towing a 13 ½’ high fifth wheel. As we approached Terminal 1, Jan noticed that there was an upcoming tunnel with only a 10’ clearance. Fortunately, Phil was able to exit onto the truck route before we reached the tunnel. However, the truck route to Terminal 1 only had a 13’ clearance. Phil’s 17 years of living in the Twin Cities paid off and he knew the route to Terminal 2 without dealing with any low bridges. Jan took the shuttle to Terminal 1 and managed to catch her flight on time.

After dropping Jan off at MSP, Phil drove another 150 miles to Lazy Days Campground in Miltona, MN. Miltona is a very small town (pop. 434) about 20 miles from Alexandria, MN. Almost the entire drive from MSP was on I-94 and Phil was running low on fuel as he got close to Miltona. He was anticipating a service station at the interstate exit but there was none. The GPS showed another 30 miles to the campground but Phil was confident that he would find a gas station somewhere in that distance. Unfortunately, with each turn he made, all he found was more farmland. After driving 30 miles with the low fuel light on, he was so stressed over possibly running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere that he missed the final turn. Fortunately, he was able to pull into the driveway of a farmhouse and back out onto the highway without a collision. When he finally reached the campground, he knew he didn’t have enough fuel to make it any farther. He asked the campground owner if they might have some diesel and she said she thought her husband might. Sure enough, he came by after Phil got set up and gave him enough to reach the nearest service station. Even with the diesel from the campground owner, Phil only had ½ gallon left in the tank when he finally made it to the service station. This was an extremely stressful experience that Phil hoped to never have to deal with again (foreshadowing note – he will, within a week).

The campground in Miltona was virtually empty. They were scattered rigs that appeared to belong to seasonal campers but, since Phil was there on weekdays, these rigs were almost entirely unoccupied. The campground was largely an open field with many trees that were only 10-20 feet tall.


The open issue at this point was where Jan would rejoin Phil. Phil had originally planned to spend two days in Miltona, MN and meet Jan in Fargo or Bismarck, ND. The options for airports before fewer are we headed farther west. As the week progressed, we determined that Jan wouldn’t be able to get back until early Friday morning. Phil stayed an extra night in Miltona and then spent Thursday night in West Fargo.

On Thursday morning Phil hitched up the rig by himself for the first time and drove 120 miles to the Red River Valley Fair Campground in West Fargo, ND. The online reviews of the campground were somewhat poor but there were very few other options in the area. The website indicated that the sites were first come, first serve but Phil was optimistic that, if he arrived by 1:30 pm, there would be sites available. After striking out in the first section, he did manage to spot a couple of back-in sites that were open. Backing our rig into a campsite is always a challenge, even with Jan’s guidance, so doing it alone proved to be even more of an adventure. He cut his first attempt too sharp and put an 18” deep gouge in the soft soil to the edge of the driveway. The second attempt was more successful after getting out of the truck numerous times to inspect the progress. Fortunately, the campground appeared to be filled with long-time campers who were at work so there were no spectators. After getting parked, Phil discovered that the site only had a 30 amp electrical hookup and had no water hookup. Fortunately, Phil was able to make this work overnight by not running the air conditioners and by conserving the water we had in our fresh water tank.


Jan’s first flight on Friday morning left Nashville at 6:25 am. It arrived in Chicago on time but the connecting flight to Fargo was delayed by over an hour. So, instead of arriving in Fargo at 10:58 am, it was after noon by the time she landed in Fargo. Phil had decided not to repeat the adventure of driving a fifth wheel to the airport so, after picking up Jan, we returned to the fairgrounds, hitched up and got on the road.

With the unexpected loss of four days in our schedule, we were faced with having to drive six straight days to arrive in Banff, Alberta in time for the reservation we had booked months earlier. After leaving West Fargo, we drove 283 miles to North Park Campground in Dickinson, ND. Fortunately, the entire drive was on I-94 and we gained an hour when we crossed into the Mountain time zone. We managed to arrive at the campground right before the office closed at 5:30 pm.

On Saturday morning, we drove on another 137 miles. The drive took us through the southern section of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and we stopped at a rest area that had a view of some of the park’s badlands.

We stayed overnight at the Small Towne RV Campground in the very small town of Terry, MT. We would have preferred to drive farther but there were no other campgrounds between Terry and our next stop. As it was, Small Towne RV Campground wasn’t really much of a campground. In reality, it was a field on the edge of a somewhat rundown neighborhood where the landowner had put in hookups for 10 RVs. Terry is such a small town that it only had one restaurant listed on Trip Advisor and Jan discovered that it had gone out of business. The closest neighboring town was 39 miles away and we decided against driving that far for a meal. We finally discovered that there was a small café open in town, the Hog and Jog, so we got take-out burgers for dinner. After dinner, the owner dropped by to collect his payment and provided us with a binder of things to do and see in the Terry, MT area. All we really wanted to do at that point was to get some sleep so we went to bed early.


After our first good night’s sleep in a while, we got on the road again on Sunday by 10 am. Unlike the previous few travel days, none of this day’s journey was on the interstate. We drove 231 miles to Lewistown, MT on back roads that had continual steep hills and valleys. Phil uses an online app called Trucker Path to plan his routes so he was aware that there were no truck stops along the entire route. In normal conditions, our 32 gallon tank of diesel would take us about 275 miles so that should not have been a problem. However, in addition to the hills, we drove the entire day into very strong headwinds. Both of these factors caused our fuel consumption to be much higher than usual. With 110 miles left to go, Phil started to worry that we might not have enough fuel to make it to Lewistown. We continued to drive on mile after mile but never did find a gas station. We tried to find fuel on our smartphones but were so far away from civilization that we had no service. We drove another 30 miles after the low fuel light came on but we were still another 30 miles from Lewistown and we could see nothing but farmland. Finally, Phil pulled into a ranch driveway and went and knocked on the door. The owner was very helpful and, although he had no diesel, he gave Phil directions to the closest town that was less than two miles away. Phil drove to the town but we couldn’t find the gas station. Jan walked up to a house to ask for directions but no one was home. Then she walked down to the laundromat and got directions. As it was, we were only two blocks away. We managed to make it to the station and were relieved when they had diesel. We then continued on another 30 miles to Lewistown and never did pass another gas station until we reached the city limits.

We arrived at Mountain Acres Campground at 2 pm but the office was closed until 4 pm. Fortunately they had our name and site number on a board by the office. We found the site and managed to get set up before returning to the office later to check in.

Our stays in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota this Spring brought us up to 37 states in less than three years. We will hit #38 when we enter Alaska on July 2nd.


On Monday, June 11th, we drove 192 miles to Shelby, MT where we stayed overnight at the Shelby RV Park. Shelby is only 40 miles from the Canadian border and was our last stop before crossing the border. The campground was on a hill adjacent to the Comfort Inn. The wind had been blowing 20-30 mph all day as we drove but seemed even stronger as we set up at the campground. When Phil registered at the hotel desk, he was given one of the lower pull-through sites to minimize the wind but it was of little help. We struggled to even get our door open and, when Jan walked up the hill to check out the laundry room, she struggled against the wind to even walk back to our site. When Phil went to refuel the truck, he discovered that, once again, the strong headwinds had dropped our fuel economy to 7 mpg. Our rig rocked all night and the winds were still very strong when we packed up the following morning.

On Tuesday we drove 207 miles to Okotoks, Alberta where we spent the night at the Lions Sheep River Campground. We got through the border crossing fairly easily, after answering just a few questions. We had been prepared for the worst after reading lots of stories about Texans having their rigs search thoroughly due to the suspicion that all Texans would be carrying firearms. Although the drive was much less hilly than the previous two days, the strong headwinds continued to hurt our fuel mileage. We had to stop for fuel after only 175 miles.


The town of Okotoks is a modern suburban community, about 30 miles south of Calgary. The Okotoks campground, managed by the local Lions Club, was connected to a popular city park and was quite nice. The only downside was that the electrical hookup was only 30 amp. Fortunately, we didn’t need the air conditioners so this was never a factor. We had a very nice dinner at Original Joe’s before heading to the Walmart Supercenter to stock up on groceries for the coming week. As this was our first shopping trip in Canada, we were quite disappointed by the lack of variety of groceries. Our experience at Walmart, and a follow-up trip to Safeway, left us unable to find many items on our grocery list. After getting through the border checkpoint with only questions, we regretted not loading our refrigerator when we were still in the U.S.

On Wednesday morning, we took it easy. Checkout time was noon and, since Banff National Park was only 106 miles away and didn’t allow check-in until 2 pm, we waited until the last minute to leave. Phil visited the NAPA Auto Parts store and the local Dodge dealer to load up on various fluids for the truck that might be hard to locate during our drive.