Epic Road Trip to Alaska! – Week 4

  This is the 4th week in our Epic Road Trip to Alaska, if you haven’t been following along, check out week 1, 2, and 3!

     I suppose this week could be subtitled “Exploring Fairbanks”. In our travels over the past 3 years, we are frequently on the move. Sometimes we get to explore an area for a couple weeks or more, but often we are off to the next destination. As a traveling-evangelist family, our destinations are determined by the proximity to the churches where we are ministering. We have two churches in Fairbanks that have had us in, so we are able to spend more time in this city. We are happy about this, I love the familiar feeling that develops after being in a place for about a week. We have enjoyed Fairbanks this week.

Wednesday, May 22nd -Fairbanks to Ester

    We started our day with schoolwork. This extended time of being parked is helping us to catch up on the work we couldn’t get done while bouncing down the road. 

     Matt had read about an old mining town called Ester. After dinner we decided to check it out.  There had been a hotel and some other attractions in this tiny town. The hotel had a for sale sign in the window and the grass was a little overgrown. There is a little jewelry shop owned by artisan Judie Gumm. Unfortunately it is evening time and the shop is closed. Right now we are 0 for 2 as far as attractions in Ester. The town is situated on the side of a steep hill and so we decide to drive up. There were several really cool little cabins and other interesting homes nestled in the hill, it was a fun drive. 

     As we drive out of the “downtown” area we went to the Ester Community park.  The younger kids are always ready to go to a playground, but this one was a little extra special.  This community was determined that its visitors would enjoy the great outdoors!  There were bikes to use, basketballs and soccer balls to play with, and firewood to build a campfire in the firepit – all free! So we had a short impromptu game of soccer and enjoyed the playground. Thank you town of Ester!

Ester Park Alaska

Thursday, May 23rd – Fairbanks

     We moved the RV today around lunchtime to South Fairbanks Assembly of God. Matt will be preaching here on Sunday morning and evening. 

    We did our schoolwork and then took our trash to the “transfer site”.  In Fairbanks, there are several of these transfer sites outside of the city.  It’s like this, you drive into this area with about 50 dumpsters and you drop off your trash.  There is also an area for recycling your old junk – stuff that is not really trash but has some life left to it – like an old couch or tv.  Don’t worry about your old junk(and maybe trash) someone will be there to give it a new home.  When we took our trash, there were probably a dozen or so folks out there scavenging for treasures. 

     After the adventure at the transfer site, we went to the YWAM headquarters on Chena Hot Springs Road. We had a connection to the director of this YWAM through a pastor’s wife we had met down in Mexia Texas. The director graciously invited us to attend their prayer meeting tonight. A group was coming in from an outreach in Mento, Alaska while we were there. We had a good time meeting new people and it was inspiring to hear about the work that they are doing. 

Friday, May 24th – Fairbanks

     Our oldest daughter Jessica is currently working on a research paper and I thought it would be a good excuse to visit the local library. The Noel Wien Public Library in Fairbanks made for a lovely visit, my inner nerd rejoiced to go spend a couple hours in the quietness, finding books. It was nice. I even had a few minutes to spare to look over the books for sale and picked up a book full of fun facts and quotes from the 20th century. Did you know that the guy who invented Nachos was named Ignacio Anaya?!?! Does that sound familiar to anyone?

25 cent book

     A sweet couple from Harvest Church invited us to their home for dinner tonight. It was a fun drive up to their home in the mountains. They were especially considerate and made us a delicious meal that was also Keto-friendly. Lettuce taco wraps for the win!  We had a great evening, admiring their adorable kiddos and talking about life in Alaska with them. It is such a blessing to meet new friends, and to see first hand how people live in different places.

Saturday, May 25th – Fairbanks

    Today a cool guy from the Harvest Church took us gold-panning!  He is totally a pro, I didn’t even realize that gold-panning was hard until I tried to do it myself.  It is hard, let’s just say that we didn’t strike it rich. But, we did have tons of fun, especially Sophia, our 4 year old, who dug in the dirt and made mud pies all day. 

gold panning

     The gold panning place was right by the highway, and in the midst of our fun, we did witness a sad moose/motorcycle accident. It was actually really shocking at first. There was a loud braking noise, and then we heard the impact, and as we looked over the moose was catapulted into the air and the man and moose tumbled down the highway!  The man was wearing a helmet and he stood up and pushed his bike off to the side before some people helped him to lie down over in the grass. They took him by ambulance after a bit. The poor moose was just pitiful. The collision must have broken his legs, he kept trying to get up and run away. But he kept falling. It was so sad. Eventually an officer came over and had to shoot him. I took my little girls with me away from the area so they wouldn’t see it.  

    After things settled down, we went back to gold-panning. There were all sorts of antique equipment on the property. There was also this huge collection of Mammoth bones that they had discovered on their property! They let us walk through the Mammoth bones collection before we left. 

Mammoth bones

Sunday, May 26th – Fairbanks

     Today Matt preached at South Fairbanks AG, this church and pastor have a real heart to reach their community, which is in desperate need.  After the morning service, there was a potluck dinner, we enjoyed visiting with the friendly people from the church and met another family that is selling their belongings and will soon be hitting the road and living in an RV. 

     After our Sunday afternoon nap, Matt preached the evening service. Our gold-prospector friend came to the service as well as the super adventurous Brattrud family that is getting ready to hit the road in a converted school bus for a year while they raise funds for their mission work in Brazil with Fire International

     After church was out we noticed it was a bit smoky outside. I thought the neighbors were burning leaves or something. We all drove to McDonalds and noticed it was even more smokey on the outskirts of the city. The pastor’s wife told us that there was a forest fire, about 100 miles away. She said that there have been some summers where it was smokey like that nearly every day because of forest fires. I didn’t realize that this part of Alaska is such a dry climate and that forest fires are a serious problem.

Monday, May 27th – Fairbanks

      Thankfully the smoke has cleared by this morning, I don’t know if the fire was put out or if the wind direction changed. Today we decided to go back to Pioneer Park to enjoy their Memorial Day festivities. It was crowded, and we did have to wait a bit to ride the train, but we had a nice time. Everything at Pioneer Park was up and running, and the museums were all free (they did have a suggested donation box at the entry).

pioneer park

     We really enjoyed the pioneer museum with all the great history on display. I would say that Alaskans in general are pretty tough people, but these pioneer Alaskans were like, seriously tough people!  

    The older girls and I walked around the little cabin-shops while Matt and the other three got some ice cream. These little cabins and houses were not only adorable, they each had a sign describing the original use of the building. Some of the homes were full of period furniture, decorations, and pictures of the original owners.

     Bonus fact for you Indiana folk! Did you know that the city of Fairbanks was named after a Senator from Indiana, Charles W. Fairbanks? Yes? No? Well, neither did I!  He was also Teddy Roosevelt’s Vice President and is buried in Crown Cemetary in Indianapolis.

    After our fun and educational time at Pioneer Park, we went to a cookout. A family from South Fairbanks Assembly of God graciously invited us over to join their family cookout. They had a beautiful cabin and the kids all had fun playing in their backyard. We enjoyed hearing about what brought them to Alaska and we shared how we got started on the road.    

Tuesday, May 28th – Fairbanks to Denali National Park

     After doing laundry,  saying goodbye to our new pastor friends, and picking up some groceries, we were on the road again. We have all enjoyed our time in Fairbanks, and it seems like we are saying goodbye to Alaska, but this state is huge and we still have two more weeks to explore!

     The Parks Road to Denali is a beautiful drive, and I didn’t find it too bumpy.  Matt and I were excited to go to Denali, and Sophia kept asking where Molly of Denali was because she had seen the commercials for “Molly of Denali” – a new PBS kids cartoon. I was also hoping that the Campground at the National Park would have a spot for us. I had trouble figuring out their website to reserve a site online. No worries, they had plenty of open sites, we stayed at the Riley Creek Campground, close to the entrance of the park. The lady at the front desk warned us to be watchful of a mother moose that was a bit aggressive and to keep our little ones close. The camphost told us that there had been a mother moose and her twin babies walking through our site the past few days, but not to worry because she is not the aggressive one (they spray painted a blue stripe on the aggressive moose so that people would be aware of her temper problems).

     It was a very wooded campground, and peaceful, the trees seemed to give us a bit of shade so it seemed more like night time there. They have no water or electric hookups. We didn’t have any moose visitors to our site. 

     I felt like I was battling with two thoughts while we were at Denali:

1. “I really want to explore this majestic, amazing place.”

2. “I don’t want to feed my kids to a grizzly bear, or be eaten by a grizzly bear myself.”

     I like to think of myself as adventurous, but I suppose I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to wild animals. I cannot say the same for the large amount of fearless hikers/backpackers/adventurers that we saw at Denali. These people were unfazed by the sheer volume of bear warning signs posted all over the park.  One sign said to keep 900 feet between you and a bear. No problem, I’ll stay in my car…

denali day 1

     We did explore a little, we did the scenic drive and spotted some moose. We saw just the tip of the over 20,000 ft high Denali in the distance, we were grateful for that because we had heard you can only see it on a very clear day. We spent two days at this National Park, and it was beautiful, I will finish telling about our Denali adventures next week.

Thank you for reading about this leg of our journey! Our Epic Road trip to Alaska continues next week as we drive to Houston, Anchorage and further south. 

Read next: Week 5: Denali to Anchorage

    If you would like to find out more about our ministry, Kingdom Pursuit Ministries, go to www.kpministry.org  


Epic Road Trip to Alaska! – Week 3

This is the 3rd week of our Epic Road Trip to Alaska, if you are just joining us, be sure to check out week 1 & 2 in this series. This has been a week of ups and downs, literally and figuratively. The road from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory to Alaska is notorious for a reason. Up and down, back and forth, at times I felt like we were in a sailboat and not the RV. The end of this past leg of the journey has been restful, we are in Fairbanks for a week and a half, so it has been nice to have the RV parked and to explore the area.

Wednesday, May 15th – Whitehorse, Yukon to Canada/Alaska Border 314 mi

     We woke up in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory with the exciting feeling that we were getting very close to Alaska. We made a stop at this cool old wooden bridge next to a turnout(rest stop) and decided to make a video with the fam.  We had seen so many black bears along the highway over the past couple days, so we were a little bit scared to stop…

Canyon Creek Bridge

     We made a short pit stop in Haines Junction for gas and coffee.  Matt talked to the owners about the wildlife in the area after seeing a legit bear warning sign on their door. They informed us that they don’t see as many moose in the area because the bears and wolves have been killing them. Scary.

     We had heard rumors that the Yukon Territory was very desolate, and it turns out that north of Haines Junction, this is true. The drive was still beautiful though. We really enjoyed driving around beautiful Kluane Lake. The road skirts almost completely around the lake. We drove right past Burwash Landing because we hadn’t been on the road that long, and had I been reading along in the Milepost instead of working on last weeks’ blog, I would have known that Burwash Landing is a great place to stop before driving the seemingly-never-ending wavy road that takes you through the Yukon Territory.  

     It is interesting to note that this portion of the Alaskan Highway has always been troublesome. The ground is swampy, and has thick layers of permafrost. There were many areas where little pink flags were put next to the road to warn travellers of frost heaves-unpleasant speed bumps where the road has buckled. The ground is swampy underneath the road and it freezes and then thaws, making it never-quite solid. 

    Beaver Creek is the most westerly Canadian community, only 20 miles or so from the Canada/Alaska border.  We stopped and stretched our legs at the visitor center and then had dinner at “Buckshot Betty’s”. It was a nice little break. 

     We took a picture next to the “Welcome to Alaska” sign and then proceeded to cross the border. The border patrol officers were friendly and asked us some questions. They were very thorough to check for forbidden Canadian groceries. They inspected our fridge and we discovered that the bell peppers and avocado we had left in our fridge could not be brought into Alaska. 

alaska sign

     Back on the road again, we stopped at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge visitor center for a quick photo op under what we later discovered is a cache (a small cabin-like structure on posts to store food and other goodies out of the reach of animals). We chatted with other travellers that were making the journey from the lower 48 and they gave us some tips about Denali National Park.  

scenes along the alaskan highway

     We drove another hour or so and found a large pull off that served as a boondocking spot for the night. We noticed an abundance of ” the Alaskan state bird”, otherwise known as mosquitos, buzzing around the RV screens.

Thursday, May 16th – Alaska/Canada Border to Fairbanks, Alaska! 296 mi

     We feel refreshed and ready to start a new day of driving knowing that we only have about 200 miles to go. Tok, Alaska is a great stopping point for souvenirs. We stopped at two gift shops and bought some postcards and an Alaska magnet for our state magnet collection. It was fun to talk to the owners of the sod-roofed Burnt Paw gift shop and B&B. They were very friendly and gave us some history about the area. 

    Onward to Fairbanks, where we would be spending the next week or two.  Matt is scheduled to preach at Harvest Church in South Fairbanks on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The pastor is very hospitable and welcomed us with some food so that we didn’t have to run to the store when we got in.  We appreciated it very much, it was nice to settle in, eat, and relax for the evening.

Friday, May 17th – Fairbanks, Alaska 0 miles

     Today we had a picnic lunch at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. There is no admission to enter, and this park has playgrounds, museums, the SS Nenana (a large riverboat) on display, and cabins and older buildings from Alaska’s pioneer days. The cabins are occupied by various shopkeepers and artisans and arranged so that it’s like you are going through an old town – shopping and history in one!  There is also a carousel and train that you can buy tickets to ride. It is still early in the season, so not everything was open, we might go back next Saturday to see it in full operation.

pioneer park

     After our little excursion, the driving and time change hits us. We head back to the RV for an afternoon nap before tonight’s church service.  

     Church starts at 6:00pm and was a special service for the ministry teams at Harvest Church.  Everyone was very receptive and we had a wonderful time ministering here.  After service there was a cake/pie and ice cream reception for everyone.  We have decided to enjoy carbs again for the weekend and get back to Keto next week.

Saturday, May 18th – Fairbanks, Alaska 0 miles

     Today we slept in a bit and enjoyed our Saturday with no RV driving.  We heard great things about the Tenana Valley Farmer’s Market in Fairbanks and decide to check it out. This Farmer’s Market includes farmers and artisans across an area about the size of the entire state of Indiana! Being the beginning of the growing season, there was not a lot of produce, but there were lots of tasty things to eat and pretty things to look at.  We may have had a bit of a carb overload, but it was totally worth it. 

Fairbanks Farmer's Market

     Tonight’s church service was awesome, we were refreshed by the faith of this church! 

     We had heard that it would be daylight here most of the time, and I was a little over confident that my ability to sleep in most conditions would prepare me for the all-sun-all-the-time experience. I underestimated the effect that this amount of daylight would have on our systems. I am not complaining about the weather, the warmth and sunshine have been fantastic. It is just a bit confusing, 9pm feels like 5pm, and it’s actually 5pm back in Indiana. It’s strange.

Sunday, May 19th – Fairbanks, Alaska 0 miles

     Today was the last church service for us at Harvest Church and it was awesome, again! The pastor and his wife took us to The Cookie Jar – a local restaurant/bakery for lunch.  Guy Fieri, from the show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives made a stop here in 2009! They make huge, amazing cinnamon rolls, and the pastor ordered some as “appetizers” for our table. Yum!

    We went to the RV to have a carb-induced nap.  Afterwards we took the kids to a local park for a little bit. 

Monday, May 20th – Fairbanks, Alaska 0 miles

     Today Matt took all the laundry to a laundromat because he is my hero. Is it too much info to tell you that it was getting a little stinky in the RV because of the abundance of dirty clothes? Gross, but true. 

     We did our school work while Matt was gone. 

     I think now would be a good time to give a little disclaimer: 

     We are not on vacation, but our lifestyle is nomadic, and so some of the details of our day might be ordinary.  Even though we are in new areas most of the time, we are only sort of tourists. If we did all of the touristy things offered in each new area, we would quickly run out of money. I also think we get to know a little bit more about the authentic life for the people who live here when we do “normal” things.

    After our normal school and laundry routine, we went to the Pastor’s house for a moose burger cookout. Yum! The house was super cool – built in the side of the mountain and had a sod roof that we could walk on. There were families there with kids the same age as our kids, so we all had a great time hanging out and making new friends.  

     We then went to Fred Meyers(Kroger of Alaska) and prepared ourselves to jump back into our Keto diet. The carb roller coaster has been fun, but we know we need to get off this ride and get back to Keto. We were pleasantly surprised to find the grocery prices comparable to a Kroger back home, maybe a little higher, but not bad.

Tuesday, May 21st – Fairbanks, Alaska to North Pole, Alaska  13 miles

     Today after school we drove to North Pole Alaska.  We looked at the Reindeer at a tourist thing they had there, but opted out of the tour. There is a huge Christmas store there and we found some fun ornaments for this years’ Christmas tree. It was pretty fun.

North Pole Alaska

     After visiting the North Pole, we drove back to Fairbanks and went to Creamer’s Field, where there is a farm museum, walking trails, and large fields that have become a home to a variety of migrating birds. It was very peaceful and educational. 

Creamer's field Fairbanks, Alaska

     We are enjoying our time in Fairbanks, in many ways, it feels similar to the midwest. There are farm fields and suburbs, and lovely spring weather.  It is nice to be in one spot for a little while.

Thank you for reading along with our Epic Road Trip to Alaska! Be sure to check out the previous weeks in this blog series if you are just joining us. 

Read next: Week 4: Fairbanks to Denali

If you would like to find out more about our ministry, Kingdom Pursuit Ministries, go to www.kpministry.org

Epic Road Trip to Alaska – Week 2

Canada, Oh Canada, you are large and beautiful! As a location-independent family, we always enjoy the experience of traveling to the unknown and unfamiliar. It is so exciting to say, “We’ve never seen this before!” and we have been saying that alot this week! This leg of the journey started in Miles City, Montana and ended in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.  What a fantastic journey it has been, I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Wednesday, May 8th – Miles City, Montana to Conrad, Montana

    We left our Walmart “campsite” in Miles City Montana and continued northwest across this massive state. It is massive, but not boring. I found the views today peaceful and beautiful. I love that we are traveling in the spring and among all the cows are adorable calves running around.

Montana sky

     We stopped in the town of Roundup, Montana where there was a nice park and wide side street for us to park the RV. We had lunch and then ran around and played an impromtu game of tree tag. It was just the bit of exercise and fun we needed, we got back in the RV refreshed and ready to drive some more.

     We stopped at the Great Falls Walmart and I made dinner in the RV while Matt picked up a couple of things. We kept on the road and drove to Conrad, Montana to a small campground. Whenever we are stopped for the night and have internet service, Matt likes to look up what wildlife are in the area. He discovered that in 2018, there had been a grizzly bear that wandered into the farm just behind the campground (yikes!). We decided that the laundry could wait until morning.

Thursday, May 9th – Conrad Montana to Balzac, Alberta, Canada

     The other campers and camphosts at this RV park were very friendly. One lady told me some cool stories about her grandfather, he was a circuit-riding preacher in that area. We did a bit of laundry at the campsite, and I took the two younger girls to play on the playground (don’t worry, we didn’t see any bear, and there was a large group from a daycare out there as well).  We packed up our rig and headed north to Canada!

     We stopped at a small town along the way to eat the rest of our produce and dairy products before we crossed the border. We weren’t sure what to expect, we had crossed the border before when we went to Niagara Falls, but never in the RV. 

     Border Crossing at Sweetgrass: Our passports and the kids’ birth certificates were ready, and we had left our plants, eggs, milk, and guns behind… The border police asked us a few questions, made sure we had the children we said we had, and politely welcomed us into Canada. It was pretty smooth and painless. It didn’t take long at all. 


      Some first impressions of Canada:

     1. Canada is living up to their politeness reputation by offering “litter bins” along the highway on the frequent “turn outs”. As a mom of 5 kids, I can appreciate a well-placed trashcan.

     2. Awkard and small gas stations. I have found that since we have been RVers, I am always checking out gas stations, even when I’m in the Honda and I see a nice spacious gas station, I notice. So far the gas stations here are a bit small, and that is weird to me considering the wide open spaces we are seeing, and the large amount of pickup trucks.

     3. Fantastic Mall! (continued later)

     4. Less Restaurants (at least by American standards, which might be an overkill of choices if I’m honest)

     We continued driving north through Calgary where our windshield was unfortunately chipped by a passing car. The campground we stayed at was just north of Calgary in Balzac, Alberta. We were all pretty famished by the time we arrived because we had emptied our fridge earlier in fear of the border police. No worries, just 5 minutes from the campground was a shopping area and we were sure to find a restaurant for dinner tonight. There were not a lot of restaurants surrounding the mall like you normally see in American shopping areas. But, as we drove close to the mall, we noticed the name “Food Hall”.  We figured it was the same as a food court, so in we went. 

     Excuse me while I gush about this mall “food hall”. AH – MAZ – ING!

“How fantastic can a foodcourt be?” You might ask.

Pretty fantastic.

We all ate, it was wonderful, and even though I looked a mess from traveling all day, we decided that we must walk the mall a bit. I was a happy lady.

     After the mall we took the car and drove through a car wash. Then we picked up some groceries from a very lovely and clean grocery store. Back to the RV park for the night. Balzac RV park wins for convenience, but was a bit loud next to the highway.  Shew, that was a long day, I’m getting worn out writing about it.  

Friday, May 10th – Balzac, Alberta to Rochford, Alberta, Canada

     There were some adorable prairie dogs scurrying around the RV this morning as well as some ginormous rabbits. We left the RV park and drove to Red Deer to have our windshield repaired. The repair guys were friendly and quick, and even said “Have a good trip eh” when we left, which totally added to the Canadian experience. 

     We drove all the way to The Ranch RV park near Rochford, Alberta. This RV park had actually been the owners’ cattle ranch for years, but they have since converted it to an RV park. It was situated in the country on a lake, and was home to many migrating birds. We really enjoyed relaxing there, I would definetly go back. We met the owners and they were very friendly and welcoming. 

The Ranch RV park

Saturday, May 11th – Rochford, Alberta to  Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada

     Today we slept in and left for Grand Prairie around 12:00. We only had about 3 hours or so to drive. We arrived in Grand Prairie and met the pastor of the Oasis Group Ministries, where Matt is going to preach on Sunday. The pastor gave us a tour of their facilities, which are quite unique. They have 21 apartment units, a daycare, a grocery store, and office spaces connected to their church building.  They are truly reaching out to their city by creating housing to help prevent homelessness and create a place of community in their area. 

     I have to admit that I was pretty niave, I just didn’t think of homelessness as being a problem in an area that experiences such a long and harsh winter. But it is. It was inspiring to see the work that they are doing. 

     After meeting with the pastor, we decided to take a break from our Keto diet  for Mother’s Day weeked and go out for pizza. Yum!

Sunday, May 12th – Grand Prairie, Alberta to Pink Mountain, British Columbia, Canada

     Matt preached this morning at The Oasis Group of Ministries. It was a refreshing service, we enjoyed ministering and meeting with all of the friendly congregation.  After church, several of the people gave us tips and advice for our trip farther north. This was the first time we talked with people who had actually done the trip. (Other than my Grandpa, who toughed it out in the 1950s like a true explorer, but that is another story for another day) 

     After lunch and some more visiting, we were back on the road about 4:30 in the afternoon. We drove through the iconic Dawson Creek, and took a photo of the 0 mile marker of the Alaska Highway. As we drove into British Columbia, we noticed the roads becoming more steep as the landscape became more mountainous. I am glad that Matt is driving, he’s a pro. 

     We were within 5 miles from the Pink Mountain RV park when we looked over and saw a beautiful gray wolf sitting up straight and tall along the highway! So cool. When Matt went to register at the RV park, and tell the guy at the desk about the wolf, this guy knew all about it, and he had pictures to go with his wonderful hunting stories. Apparently the wolves had been quite the hunting prize in that area.

pink mountain

Monday, May 13th – Pink Mountain, British Columbia to Muncho Lake, BC

     This day has been our most spectacular driving day so far.  We saw 12 black bear, 1 lynx, 1 moose, and lots of elk and caribou! We did not make great time, the road was winding and sometimes scary, but the views were breathtaking – all day! So many pictures, but I will just share my favorites.

mountain scene
Mountain view
black bear

     After all those winding roads, we were able to stay the night at a pull over spot right next to the beautiful Muncho Lake. It was a great day. 

Here is a video view of our awesome boondocking spot:

Tuesday, May 14th – Muncho Lake, BC to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

      We left our most beautiful boondocking spot and drove west towards Whitehorse. Today we were blessed to see wild wood bison. I lost count, there were herds of them! I think they look a bit taller and skinnier than the buffalo we had seen in South Dakota.

Bison Crossing

     We drove past Laird hot springs and decided against the idea of walking the mile and a half board walk to the hot springs after reading about a black bear that killed two people in 1997 and about the more recent “predator bears” that are known to frequent the area as recently as 2013 or so.

     We were making good time today and we made it to the iconic Watson Lake for lunch. Watson Lake is home to the “sign forest”, a man-made forest where people have been hanging all sorts of signs with their hometown/family name on them. There is also a visitor information center behind the sign forest. One very sweet worker there loaded us up with free travel workbooks/info books for the kids.  

Watson Lake
sign forest in Watson Lake

     From Watson Lake we drove further northwest to the town of Teslin, it was our fallback destination if we didn’t make it all the way to Whitehorse. Teslin is home to beautiful Teslin Lake and a large population of Tlingit (Klink-it) First Nations’ people. There were a few museums and heritage centers in this small community, but they did not open until June. 

     We made it all the way to Whitehorse tonight and stayed at the Caribou RV Park. This RV park was very nice and clean and had a quaint “woodsy” feel.  It finally got dark around 11:30, we are so glad we bought those blackout curtains! 

 **A helpful resource for us on this leg of the journey has been The Milepost! You could do this trip without it, there is basically one main road the whole time, but it is nice to have the Milepost. It is a very detailed map/guide book that gives descriptions about the area.  It is very updated and accurate, a new addition comes out every year. There is little to no phone signal  so I cannot rely on the navigation apps on my phone. I am enjoying pretending I’m back in the 1990s, before my phone told me what to do, when to turn, etc. 

That is the end of this leg of our Epic Road Trip to Alaska! Thank you for reading along!

Read next: Week 3: Yukon to Fairbanks

If you would like to find out more about our ministry, Kingdom Pursuit Ministries, go to www.kpministry.org

Epic Road Trip to Alaska! – Week 1

 We are embarking on the longest road trip of our life to date! This journey will take us from Indiana to Alaska, then down through the Pacific Northwest states and then heading east from northern California back to Indiana.  We are estimating it to be about 10,000 miles over 3 months. We are super excited to go places we have never been, learning how life is for people we have never met, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ along the way. I will be posting weekly, (Wednesday to Tuesday) documenting where we have been and what we have done along the way if you care to follow along. 


Week 1: Jasonville, Indiana to Miles City, Montana (1398 miles)

Wednesday, May 1st – Jasonville, Indiana (0 miles)

    We have been parked at Shakamak State Park this week. We arrived Saturday night and have been enjoying full hookups and the beautiful scenery inspite of the rain.  This state park is super nice, it offers swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and reasonably-priced camping. 

     We are at Shakamak because it is less than five minutes to Jasonville, Indiana, and we have been holding revival services at Jasonville Assembly of God Sunday-Wednesday. If you come to this campground, or live close to Jasonville, I would highly recommend checking out this church. We love coming back here, the pastor and his wife and the whole congregation are super friendly and loving and they always make us feel like familly. This is the last night of the Revival meetings and it was focused on kids and teenagers. It was a really fun night and 11 kids made the decision to follow Christ.

Thursday, May 2nd –  Jasonville, Indiana to Urbana, Illinois (120 miles)

     Matt took all the laundry to a laundromat because he is a stud and does all the laundry on the road – some laundromats are a bit shady and we figure he is more intimidating than me.  While he was there, we did our schoolwork and prepared the RV for departure.  As we left Shakamak State Park, the dogwood trees were simply beautiful and seemed to be giving us a fine Indiana farewell.

RV driving down the road

We met some sweet friends at Bogey’s in Terre Haute and the kids had a blast playing games, eating pizza, and playing putt-putt. 

     We left there about 8:30 or so and drove a few hours to a Walmart in Urbana, Illinois.This Walmart allows overnight parking for RVs so that is where we went and stocked up on supplies. We have never driven to Alaska, but have heard rumors that the prices on everyday products are much higher than what we normally pay. Boondocking (or dry camping, basically parking and sleeping) not only help to keep our costs down, it is a way to save a little bit of time whlie traveling.

Friday, May 3rd – Urbana, Illinois to Clinton, Iowa (206 miles)

     Today we left our Walmart home from last night and headed north and west towards Iowa. We have friends in Clinton, Iowa (right on the Mississippi River) and we were glad that we could stop in for a short visit. We love that we have made friends since we have been on the road that we can go back and visit. It is neat to see the kids pick right back up where they left off.

     The Riverview Park in Clinton is a great stop over spot, it is very clean and well maintained, it has a great little playground, and is fairly inexpensive. It is a self-pay system and you fill out an envelope and drop your payment in the box at their restroom/laundry facilities. The only negative would be the very loud train that runs right next to the campground.

Saturday, May 4th – Clinton, Iowa to Storm Lake, Iowa (296 miles)

     Today we left Clinton Iowa and headed west. We stopped off at a propane place just outside of Clinton on Highway 30. We drove across a large portion of Iowa today and we didn’t do the interstate, instead we took a smaller highway, and it was a beautiful day for driving. 

     We stopped off in Cedar Rapids to check out a local camera shop, my old camera had a problem and I was hoping they would have the solution. Unfortunately the parts are no longer made for that model.  I also had been looking at new models, something small that would be convienient to take along, and something that could shoot videos as well. We found a great little camera, but they didn’t have any more in stock, so we walked next door to Best Buy and they had it. I have been LOVING my new camera, and told Matt it could be my Mother’s Day/Birthday/Christmas gift:)

     We drove to Storm Lake, Iowa and parked at The Church of New Beginnings, where Matt will be preaching tomorrow.  We noticed on the drive that the sky did look bigger. I don’t know if that has something to do with the altitude difference or because there is less population and more wide open spaces, but it seems like we can see much farther across the landscape than back in Indiana.

Sunday, May 5th – Storm Lake, Iowa to Plankinton, South Dakota (236 miles)

     Matt preached today at The Church of New Beginnings in Storm Lake, Iowa. After church we enjoyed getting to know the pastor and his wife and kids over lunch at Pizza Ranch. It was fun to talk about ministry life, parenting, and homeschooling.

     Leaving Storm Lake, we drove north, so that we could drive through the southwest corner of Minnesota and put the Minnesota state sticker on our window map. We then hit Interstate 90 and went west towards South Dakota. 

     It had been about 14 years since we had stopped at the World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD and it was time for another visit. We arrived at about 7 or 8 so all the little tourist shops and the corn palace were closed. Even though it was windy and cold, we were able to get some fun pictures and see the Corn Palace exterior up close and personal.

corn palace

     From Mitchell we drove west to Hill’s RV Park and Campground in Plankinton, South Dakota. It was a quiet, inexpensive spot right off the interstate with full hookups and a laundry room. 

Monday, May 6th – Plankinton, SD to Rapid City, SD (251 miles)

     Back on I90 heading west. Today is an exciting day, we have The Badlands, Wall Drug, and Mt. Rushmore on the itinerary! It was hard to describe the Badlands, so the kids didn’t know what to expect, and the younger ones weren’t so excited about a place called badlands and they didn’t know why we would want to take them to a drug store. 

     So maybe we should always downplay new destinations, because the kids were all pleasantly surprised and amazed at the Badlands. I had forgotten how big of an area it is. The scenic loop through the Badlands National Park is 35 miles long, and there was something amazing to look at the entire time.  Even though it was cold and a little rainy, we loved driving through and getting out for a few photo ops.  Someday we will have to stay at the campground and hike some of the trails…

The Badlands

     We had a short visit at Wall Drug where we explored the fun western displays and picked up some magnet souveniers and postcards. We wanted to keep moving because we were determined to see Mt. Rushmore and we heard that they do a nightly lighting ceremony.

     We arrived at the Cabela in Rapid City about 5 or so, I went in and bought a much-needed rain jacket before leaving in our tow vehicle towards Keystone and up to Mt. Rushmore. Fog, crazy dense fog, covered the roads as we made our way up the mountain. We hoped that maybe it would pass over. When we got to our destination, we thought that maybe it was a bad sign that there were no parking attendants, but at least we did not have to pay $10 to see nothing. There were a few other dissapointed tourists walking to their cars in the parking lot – no views of Mt. Rushmore tonight. Back to Cabela for our overnight stay.

Tuesday, May 7th – Rapid City, SD to Miles City, Montana (289 miles)

     We woke up today to more fog and a dense fog advisory alert on our phones.  Did I mention that apparently, in May, it is still winter in South Dakota(at least by my Indiana winter standards). I think, that maybe these people in South Dakota are a bit tougher than me. 
    By the time we arrived at Mt. Rushmore at about 11, the fog was lifting and it had stopped raining. Yay! We could see it! You could almost argue that the bit of fog gave them an even more majestic look.  It was wonderful for us all to see, and the museum was interesting and educational. It is inspiring to see what people can do if they put their minds to it.  We took a scenic drive around the mountain and through some cool tunnels on our way back to Rapid City. 

Mt Rushmore collage

     We left our Cabela home and drove north into the southwest corner of North Dakota so that we could put the North Dakota state sticker on our window map.  Highway 85 north turned out to be a very lovely, scenic drive but also a bit bumpy.  We stopped at a truckstop just inside North Dakota and I made dinner in the RV and Matt bought us both a coffee from the truck stop. 

     Our last stop for this leg of our journey is Miles City, Montana. We took highway 12, going west, and even though it was cloudy and getting dark, the scenery is changing again, and we notice pine trees dotting the landscape here in Montana. We parked the RV at the Walmart in Miles City for our overnight stay.   

 Read next: Week 2: Montana to Yukon

     Thank you for reading the first in our blog series “Epic Road Trip to Alaska”!

If you would like to find out more about our ministry, Kingdom Pursuit Ministries, go to www.kpministry.org.

  ** A helpful app I use when planning our overnight spots is called RVParky. I would highly recommend it. It is free and it shows rest stops, truck stops, RV parks, cracker barrell, and any Walmart, Camping World, or Cabela spots. Users of the app add reviews as to whether the locations allow overnight parking.**