Epic Road Trip to Alaska – Week 7!

  This will be the 7th and last week of the series “Epic Road Trip to Alaska”. It was difficult for me to find a stopping point on this series because our life is a road trip, we travel most of the year, and there are always new things to discover and talk about. But, this week we left Alaska, so it seemed a good point to end this road trip series. Honestly, I was a little sad about leaving. Alaska is such a beautiful place, and I have enjoyed documenting this adventure. I did find comfort in the fact that we are going home the long way, going down the Pacific Northwest, an area we have never seen before. I won’t be documenting these travels week by week, but I will probably give some highlights once it is all said and done. If you are just joining us on this epic road trip, be sure to check out Weeks 1-6!

Wednesday, June 12th – Chickaloon to Tok 

     Today before checking out of our RV site at Pinnacle Mountain RV Park near Chickaloon Alaska, I bought some homemade fudge from the RV park cafe and then Matt filled up at their propane station. After talking to the owner, Matt grabs a couple of the kids and walks over with the owner to where she is keeping some baby ducklings that she rescued. There were also a few alpacas on the property, the owner weaves with alpaca wool in the winter season – she was quite the industrious lady!

pinnacle mountain rv park

     We stopped in a little IGA on our route north and discovered why people say groceries are expensive up here in Alaska. I don’t blame the grocery store, I’m sure it is expensive for them to get supplies shipped this far out.

     After our quick grocery stop we drive for a while along yet another beautiful scenic highway. I can’t think of one time on this road trip where I would have been bored with the scenery. I am not exaggerating when I say that around every turn, there was something new and amazing to see!

Rainy mountain view

     We stopped at a rest stop so that I could cook dinner in the RV.  While we were parked, we noticed a man with his two boys, changing a tire on his trailer. It seemed to be taking him some time, so Matt went out to see if he needed any tools we might have on board. Come to find out, the man was removing one of the axles on his trailer.  He was coming from the opposite direction and he warned us that the road up ahead was really bad – it bent his axle.  Matt was able to find some extra-long bolts to help the man attach his leaf-springs back onto his trailer.  

     As we got back onto the highway, we were able to see, first-hand, how that man’s trailer was damaged. There were parts of the highway under construction where the gravel had completely washed out and only mud was left. Thankfully, Matt is an excellent driver and we did not get stuck or damage our RV. It was by far the worst road conditions we had seen on this road trip! 

     After we made it through the road construction, we found a spot just south of Tok, Alaska to park and sleep for the night.  

Thursday, June 13th – Tok, Alaska to Destruction Bay, Yukon Canada

     We have made the loop around Alaska! I remember planning out this voyage and thinking that the triangular-shaped route from Tok, to Fairbanks, to Anchorage, and back seemed so small in comparison to the large state of Alaska. That is only because the state of Alaska is Huge!  As one man at a church we visited told us when we were asking what we should try to see, “If you want to see all Alaska has to offer, it will only take you about 50 years.”  He’s right, there is so much to see and explore, we will have to come back.

     Tok is a small town, but has some great souvenier shops, we stop back in at one of them and pick up some small gifts for family back home. There is also a large gas station with a dump station and RV wash facilities that we make good use of.

      Before crossing the border, we stop at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge visitor center. We had stopped here on the way in, but it was evening and they close at 4:30. It is open this time, and the kids enjoyed exploring the various educational displays inside the center and chatting with the friendly volunteers who work there. We also went out back and took in the views from the deck.

Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge

     We make the trek back across the border and say goodbye to the USA for now. The drive back through that stretch of road that had made us all feel a bit sea sick on the way in doesn’t seem so bad now. We have either gotten used to the wavy roads, or they have done a good job repairing this portion of highway in the last month.  

     As we were driving through this beautiful scenery, I was reflecting on our time in Alaska and the wonderful ministry opportunities we had while there. Up ahead, in the sky is this most unusual and beautiful cloud streaking down across the sky.  It seemed like we watched it for the longest time, creeping closer to it, and then under it. As we passed under it, we noticed a full rainbow arching over us, it was like we drove through it. It was such a beautiful moment.

clouds and rainbows

     We spent the night in the Destruction Bay area. The name sounds like it would be an unpleasant area, but it is a really beautiful area, with the large Kluane lake and huge mountains all around. 

kluane

Friday, June 14th – Destruction Bay to Whitehorse, Yukon Canada

     We have arrived in Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon Territory, Canada. It is a nice city in the midst of the wilderness. Matt will be preaching here at Bethany Church on Sunday. 

     We get settled in and then make a run to the Canadian Superstore to pick up some groceries. This store reminded me of a mix between Aldi and Sam’s Club back home. I have missed those two stores, so I really liked this one – I will talk about it more at the end of this post.

     We went back to the RV hungry and looking forward to homemade pizzas and family movie night. I was busy cooking with our convection microwave and I forgot to turn off the air conditioning when the power went out. Some things about being in an RV full time are inconvient, one of those things is having to think about what sort of power source we have. Matt had just made a comment about not being able to run both things at the same time or we would pop a breaker…

     We were able to use the generator as a backup source of power to finish cooking, but we didn’t want to run it for hours to watch movies. We changed family movie night to family game night. We had a blast, and our son Caleb discovered a new love for the game of Yahtzee. 

     I forgot to mention – today was also our last day of school for the summer!  We homeschool/roadschool so I guess you could say we are learning year-round. But today, we finished up our curriculum for the year(for the most part) so we are looking forward to some relaxing, less-structured days.

Saturday, June 15th – Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

     Today we decided to explore the city of Whitehorse. It is the hub of activity for the Yukon Territory, and people drive in from all over the Yukon to stock up on supplies. There are plenty of things to occupy your time in this city. Our first stop of the day was the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site. This old stern-wheeler was built in 1929 and used to carry silver lead ore and other cargo as well as passengers up and down the Yukon River. There has been an excellent restoration on this boat and it is now open to tours. It was fun and free.

S.S. Klondike

     We picked up some drinks at Tim Horton’s and then prepared for a scenic drive to Miles Canyon. We saw some great little planes docked in the water and enjoyed our drive. Miles Canyon is such a cool spot. As we got closer to the spot where you can get out and walk to the awesome bridge that crosses the canyon, we kept seeing teenagers in prom outfits. Apparently this is a popular photo opp. 

     I am glad they were there as we are all a bit scared of being eaten by a bear. The more people, the less likely we will startle some wild animal. We crossed the bridge and walked the trail a little bit. It is such a beautiful area, the water is a vibrant blue and it looks like the perfect setting for a fairy tale.

Miles Canyon

Sunday, June 16th – Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

    Today Matt preached at Bethany Church in Whitehorse. This church is very diverse and we enjoyed ministering to all the different people here. The people were all very friendly and made our family feel very welcome.  

bethany church

     After church, the pastor and his family took us to BP’s(Boston Pizza). It was super yummy.  We had a great time visiting, laughing, and talking about Canadian and American culture and politics.  

     After lunch we went back to the RV to have a little nap time. I am not sure why the kids don’t enjoy Sunday afternoon naps, I always think it is a great idea.

     After our nap we decide to go to A&W’s for a little Father’s Day treat. A&W’s are surprisingly common in Canada, almost like Burger King in America. We had some excellent onion rings and Root Beer floats. Don’t ask me about how the Keto diet is going…

Monday, June 17th – Whitehorse to Junction 37

     Today Matt and Caleb took the laundry to the laundromat and apparently I need to be worried because some older lady offered to marry him if he ever got a divorce! She was very impressed with his awesome clothes-folding-skills. Back off ladies, he’s mine.

     Before we leave Whitehorse we decide to stock up on groceries for the week at the Canadian Superstore. We all decide that it would be best if I go in by myself and shop while everyone hangs out in the RV in the parking lot. It is rare that I get to go grocery shopping by myself, so I had a lovely time.  

     The Canadian Superstore was super indeed! I told you already that it reminded me of a mix of Aldi and Sam’s Club, my go-to grocery stores back home. Feeding 7 people is expensive, I am all about saving money, and coupon clipping just doesn’t work for me on the road. 

     I bought so much food, and other stuff we needed, and maybe some other stuff we didn’t need. The only thing I couldn’t find were paper plates. But don’t worry, as a bonus for buying sooo much stuff at this store, the cashier told me at the checkout that I qualified for a free gift – a cute paper plate party set! What!?!?! So cool. I was apparently having too much fun at the Canadian Superstore to stop and get a picture of it, but here is a picture of my deluxe paper plate gift set.

paper plates

     Even though we left quite a bit later than planned because someone spent too much time in the epic grocery store, we were still able to drive for about 260 miles. We found a spot to stay just before Junction 37 for the Cassiar Highway.

Tuesday, June 18th – Junction 37 to Iskut, British Columbia, Canada

     Today we are excited to drive on new uncharted territory for us – we had been backtracking from Tok to this point.  The Cassiar Highway is a much smaller highway than the Alaska Highway and is a bit more narrow, with most of it feeling more like an Indiana County Road than a highway. It is a beautiful drive none-the-less and we spot several more black bear along the highway today. 

     In my limited experience, I would say that British Columbia is the place to see bear. We saw 18 in British Columbia on our way up to Alaska and we saw 5 more today!  

black bears

     We stop at Jade City (it isn’t really a city, but it is the center of the Jade industry for this region). According to the Milepost, about 1 million pounds of Jade is produced each year from the Cassiar Mountains, and about half of that is exported. Jade City was a fun stop to stretch and look at all the large pieces of jade in rock form. We also enjoyed the gift shop and bought some little jade pieces.  

jade city

    Tonight we stay at Mountain Shadow RV park.  If you are going through this area, I would rate this RV park as a must stay! I picked it because they advertised wifi in the Milepost magazine and we hadn’t had any signal since we had left Whitehorse. We were pleasantly surprised that they had fantastic views and our site had nothing between us and those fantastic views! We had a very pleasant overnight stay, enjoying the majestic surroundings.

     I feel like this picture is a great conclusion to this road trip series. It represents what this trip has been for us: an amazing, majestic, and wonderful adventure from the comfort of our motorhome. 

window mountain view

Thanks for reading along with us!

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 6!

 This is the 6th week of our Epic Road Trip to Alaska, I hope you have enjoyed following along with us. If you are just joining us, be sure to check out Weeks 1-5.  We were talking last night about this trip and how there hasn’t been one time that the drive was boring, some areas are more majestic and beautiful than others, but it has all been beautiful, there is something new to see around every turn. If you love to road trip, I would recommend this trip for you. It has truly been an epic adventure!

Wednesday, June 5th – Anchorage to Nikiski 

     Today we left our spot in Anchorage and drove south toward the Kenai Pennisula. There is only one way to drive from Anchorage to the Kenai and part of that route is a scenic byway called the Turnagain Arm. It was a fantastic drive, the road skirts the mountains, which are butted up against the inlet. There were plenty of turnouts and scenic spots to stop. 

     We stopped at Beluga Point. It was a really cool spot, the train ran in between the parking lot, the rock formations and the water where the Beluga whales can be spotted. We didn’t see any whales, but it was still a nice spot to get out and look around.

Turnagain arm

     We kept driving south for a bit and then turned onto the Sterling Highway and then the Kenai Spur Highway towards Nikiski. Matt will be preaching here Sunday, and it will be our landing pad for the next few days while we explore the Kenai Pennisula.  

     Once we got the RV settled, ate dinner, and stretched out a little bit, we decided to explore Nikiski. It is a small town and the last one going north on the Kenai Spur Highway. We decided to test it out and see how the highway ends.  It took us to Captain Cook State Recreation Area. The highway turns into an access trail of some sort for the pipeline according to my phone navigator.

     We drove back into Nikiski and took the beach access road.  It took us to a rocky beach overshadowed by a ginormous oil rig setup.  There were several people fishing and families enjoying the beach and so we figured it was safe and we wouldn’t be eaten by a bear.  We had a nice time beachcombing and found some cool rocks. On our way home we spotted a moose and her twin babies – so cute!

Nikiski beach

Thursday, June 6th – Nikiski to Kenai

     After we did our school work in the RV today, we made the 15 minute trip back to the city of Kenai to run some errands and explore their city a bit. We were out of food at the RV so we ate fast food and then drove to the historic old town center of Kenai. There are amazing views from Kenai of the Kenai River and the Cook Inlet. There was also a Russian Orthodox Church from 1895 that has been kept in excellent condition. 

Kenai

                                                                                       
    After exploring the historic area, we went to an awesome park to let the kids run off some energy.  We had been playing for a little while when, all of a sudden, a moose comes running out of the woods!  We were hoping that he had just been startled by the airplane that had just flown overhead, and that he wasn’t being chased by a bear. The moose didn’t seem to care about all the people in the park, he just wandered over to a thick patch of grass and have a bite to eat.

moose playground

     After the park, we drove down to the beach and I was pleasantly surprised to find it sandy and beautiful.  We even found some cute pink seashells. The view from the beach was perfect, there were several mountains and volcanoes across the inlet.  I always love going to the beach, and while this one was much too cold for us to swim (not for the locals, there were some swimming) it was a lovely evening.

     After the beach we made a trip to Walmart for groceries and such and we noticed that the prices are a bit higher down here on the Kenai pennisula.  It ended up being a more active day than we had planned, but in a good way – so we head home tired and happy. 

Friday, June 7th – Nikiski to Homer

     We were excited today to make a day trip down to Homer Alaska. One of the unexpected benefits of these long hours of daylight in Alaska has been the ability to explore much later into the night. Sometimes when we are traveling south in the winter, it is difficult to get our school work done and explore because it will start to get dark at about 4:30pm!

     Our first stop on the way to Homer is Ninilchik Village. The old town center is tucked along the base of some cliffs overlooking the Cook Inlet. We had a picnic lunch overlooking the water and the volcano in the distance. After lunch we stopped in a little gift shop and I bought a cute little necklace made by the artist who lived there. 

Ninilchik Alaska

     Our next stop is Anchor Point. I read in the milepost that there is a sign that reads “The Most Westerly Highway in North America”  so we decided to stop for this photo op. Little did we know that Anchor point is also a spot where bald eagles gather on the beach!  We spotted about 10 of them, gathered around some sort of dead animal/sea creature turned eagle-feast. We unhooked our tow vehicle because you can also drive on the beach. This is great for us, another excuse to run around on a beach!  We also spotted a tractor driving out into the water to pick up a boat on a trailer.

Anchor Point Alaska

     We arrive in Homer about 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  This little gem of a town lives up to all the wonderful things the people in Alaska have been telling us. It is yet another beautiful spot where the water meets the mountains. There are amazing views in every possible direction.  

     We make a stop at the free “Island’s and Ocean’s Visitor Center”.  It was a really cool place with interactive exhibits that the kids really enjoyed.  We didn’t stay very long because we knew we wanted to explore the Homer Spit.  

Exploring in Homer

     The Homer Spit is a long stretch of land with beaches, restaurants, shops, the harbour, and all kinds of stuff.  It sounds like it would be touristy, and although the prices were a bit higher, it didn’t feel too touristy or crowded.  While we walked around the board walk and shops, we spotted otter swimming out in the water – I love otters, I wish we could have gotten a closer look.  We also saw some fisherman preparing their fish for a tasty meal.

     We ate dinner at a little restaurant on the beach.  It was super good, I had the halibut taco and a side salad. Homer is the Halibut fishing capital of the world, so we had to try halibut from here. I am glad we did – yum!

homer spit

   After dinner, we did some more beachcombing. I had read that you can find seaglass in this area.  We did find some more cool rocks, Caleb found a fossil, but no seaglass.  

homer alaska

It has been another wonderful day, and we drive back to the RV tired and happy again.

Saturday, June 8th – Nikiski

     Today we slept in and relaxed with tv and super mario brothers for a while.  A friendly and hospitable couple, elders at the church, invited us over to their house on Island Lake.  We had fun kayaking and canoeing and I realized how out of shape I am after peddling the paddle boat around the lake for a bit with the kids.  The family have 3 golden retrievers who quickly became Hannah and Sophia’s new bffs.  We then enjoyed pizza and our older girls made cookies for all of us.

lake day

Sunday, June 9th – Nikiski

     Matt preached today at Aurora Heights Assembly of God. They are a friendly group and were in high spirits as they had just voted in a new pastor. There was another family there with lots of kids and our little ones enjoyed playing with them.

     After church we went back to the couple’s house on the lake and enjoyed lunch and a visit. We didn’t do any boating today, instead we went back to the RV for our day of rest. We did see a mother moose and her baby wandering around the neighborhood tonight, she walked right past the RV.

Monday, June 10th – Nikiski to Seward to Whittier

     Today we leave our Nikiski spot and decide to do a little sightseeing on our way back towards Anchorage.  We make the trek down towards Exit Glacier and Seward.  It is a detour south but we have heard that it is worth the drive. Exit Glacier is huge and there were signposts along the way that indicated how far the glacier had been in former years.

     The town of Seward is lovely.  It was a tad bit busy with people coming in off of tour boats and the RV parks were almost full as well.  We found a place to park the RV for an hour or so while we explored.  We walked the docks around the harbor, keeping our eyes peeled for sea lions and otters, but they remained elusive.  We did see a couple huge halibuts being weighed on the docks – they were well over 60lbs. I think there was some sort of competition going on. 

Seward Alaska

    After exploring the harbor we drove over to a cool playground with views of Resurrection Bay.  It was a beautiful spot and the kids enjoyed running around.   

      After we left Seward we decided to stop by the town of Whittier. This town is very unique. There is only one road in and out, part of this road goes through a mountain – a tunnel that is one lane about 3 miles long, that tunnel is shared with the train. So when you go through the tunnel, after they tell you it is your turn, you are driving on the railroad tracks! Crazy! I was feeling a little claustrophobic riding through this tunnel.

crazy tunnel

     The population of Whittier is about 250 and more than half of the residents live in the 14-story high Begich Towers. This highrise is also home to a church, the post office, and an underground tunnel that leads to the school. At one point the town was a military base and the large building where the military lived is now abandoned.  

Whittier Alaska

     We had an amazing dry camping spot for the night, we were surrounded by mountains and overlooking Prince William Sound. It was peaceful and majestic. I really enjoyed our stay in the fascinating town of Whittier.

Whittier Alaska

Tuesday, June 11th – Whittier to Chickaloon

     We left back through the crazy tunnel, but not before seeing the train come through, which was pretty cool.  We drove back up along the scenic Turnagain Arm and into Anchorage.  We stopped back at Cabelas to buy Matt an early Father’s Day gift.

    We drove up through Palmer (where we should have stopped for groceries because they were way more expensive in the smaller, isolated towns). We ended up staying at Pinnacle Mountain RV Park just south of the town of Chickaloon. The Camp owner also had a cafe and shop where Matt bought some homemade cookies for the kids.  

     We have had such a wonderful week, Alaska is such a beautiful place, I feel so blessed that we have been able to go on this adventure. If you are considering an Alaskan road trip, do it! You won’t regret it. 

     Thank you for reading this weeks post in our Epic Road Trip to Alaska!

     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 5

Sled Dog

 In this fifth week of our Epic Alaskan Road Trip we finished exploring Denali National Park, celebrated a birthday in Anchorage, and got to see what life is like in Houston Alaska.  If you are just joining this road trip story, be sure to check out Week 1, 2, 3, and 4!

Wednesday, May 29th – Denali to Houston

      We have another day to explore Denali National Park. The park offers a bus tour on a converted school bus, it is the only way back into the park past mile 15 in the summer. We considered doing this tour, but then decided against it when we discovered it was 6 hours long. Maybe when the kids are older and excited about a 6 hour long bus ride.  Instead, we went to the visitor center, gift shop, sled dog kennels, and drove around in our personal tour vehicle – our Honda pilot.

     The visitor center was really cool, there were a large variety of interactive displays that the kids really enjoyed.  We also stopped by the gift shop and picked up a cool vintage-looking print and some fun animal magnets for the kids.   We ate our lunch in the RV and then left the RV in the large parking lot there while we explored the park.

denali national park visitor center

     After lunch, we went to the sled dog kennels in Denali National Park.  We parked and then followed the wooded path to the kennels.  The woods are very thick and hidden about 20 feet off the path was a moose, lying down and watching us walk by.  We were hoping it wasn’t the aggressive moose that we had heard about – the one that likes to charge people on trails – I don’t think it was because this moose seemed to want to hide.  As we got closer to the kennels, we saw another moose, it was moving fast, but not towards us.  We decided to name Jessica our official scout because she has an eye for spotting wildlife – she saw both the moose and had to point them out to us.

     The sled dog kennel experience was a total win.  They have some very well behaved dogs that you can pet and they were very friendly.  I’m not really a dog person, but I couldn’t help falling in love with the sweet sled dogs.  There was also a sled-dog demonstration – a ranger explains all about the sled dogs and the dogs pull a cart around a track.  It was really interesting.  We learned that there are some areas of the park that they do not want machinery or vehicles driving through, and so the sled dogs are vital for carrying supplies back into the park.  We also learned that the dogs use their tails to cover up their faces to keep warm while curled up sleeping – cuteness!

Denali sled dog kennels

     After a bit more exploring and driving through the park, we left and drove south towards Houston, Alaska where Matt would be preaching on Sunday.  We stopped along the way at a turn-out spot and I made dinner.  We arrived at the church around 9:00. The pastor and his wife met with us and fed us all some snacks at their house, which was on the church property. 

Thursday, May 30th – Houston to Anchorage

     Today is our oldest child, Jessica’s birthday.  While on the road, we try to make birthdays special by letting our kids decide what type of day that will be.  Jessica wanted to go out for a birthday dinner and do some shopping, we decided that Anchorage would be the best option.  We left around lunchtime and the hour drive from Houston to Anchorage was very scenic. The area south of Wasilla is very pretty.  

     We went to a bookstore and Kohls and Jessica picked out her birthday presents.  After shopping, we went to Benihana’s for a fun dinner (they offer a free birthday meal if you sign up online).  It was entertaining and delicious.

Birthday fun in anchorage

     After dinner we did a scenic drive just outside Anchorage to let our food settle before we had birthday ice cream cake.  We saw two moose very close to the road.  We do a lot of scenic drives in our tow vehicle, it is able to go places the RV is not.  I think if you live in an RV, you have to like to drive (or ride in my case) and we do.  The kids do too, as long as the drive is kept interesting with stops at a park or for a snack. 

Moose

   Back at the RV we had super-yummo cookie dough ice cream cake and Jessica and Olivia watched a late-night movie with us.

Friday, May 31st – Houston

    This small town of Houston Alaska is what I had pictured in my mind when I thought of us coming to Alaska.  It is rugged, and I imagine that life here in the winter is difficult.  The pastor and his wife are pretty tough, although they would downplay this and consider themselves normal by Alaska’s standards.  We enjoyed listening to their stories of hunting adventures and were amazed by the ginormous woodpile outside their house for winter heating. 

     The church is having a garage sale today and tomorrow.  We don’t really do garage sales very much any more because of our limited space.  The younger three really wanted to go check it out and so I took them.  We found some doll clothes and some pretty doilies to use for the Barbie family that live in the RV with us.

     Today the pastor took us on a short walk through the woods, it was cool and a little scary.  These old cars were swallowed up by the wilderness. I think he said there used to be a mining camp here.

Exploring Houston Alaska

     We had heard the stories of the notorious Alaskan mosquitos and up until this point, we had seen mosquitos, and while they were bigger than the ones in Indiana, they hadn’t bothered us that much.  In this thickly wooded place of Houston, Alaska the mosquitos were fierce.  We put on bug spray (or dope as they call it here) when we went outside and they just swarmed around us but didn’t really bite when we kept moving.

Mosquito attack

Somehow, the mosquitos found a way into the RV.  Even if we were diligent to open our door and enter/exit quickly, they still managed to find a way.  They struck us at night, those little jerks.  I’m a pretty sound sleeper, but a mosquito buzzing in my ear is enough to wake me up.  Our poor kids were waking up with bites on their faces, hands, and feet.  I was getting bites through my clothes! Crazy. Anyway, we ended up spraying on bugspray before bed, to prevent more bites, it helped a little bit.

Saturday, June 1st – Houston to Wasilla

     Today we made a quick trip over to the town of Wasilla to run some errands.  We stopped at Lowes to pick up some beadboard to fix up the dresser at the foot of our youngest’s bunk.  We also picked up a cute rug to replace the one that has lost its luster after 7 people have wiped their shoes on it for 3 years.  

     We also made a trip to Walmart to pick up some groceries.  

Sunday, June 2nd – Houston

     Today Matt preached at Hilltop Assembly of God in Houston, where we have been parked.  It was a good service, the people were open to ministry at the altars after the preaching.  

     There was a pitch-in meal after the service.  The congregation brought some delicious food, including moose, elk and salmon, and homemade bread. We had a great time talking with the people, and hearing about their life in Alaska.

     Later in the evening, we gave the pastor and his wife a tour of the RV, it is always fun for us to show people our tiny home for the first time. We had a nice visit.

Monday, June 3rd – Houston to Wasilla

    Matt helped the pastor pick up a load of garage sale stuff today while the kids and I did schoolwork.  We are almost done with our school work for the year, and it feels like a milestone because this will be the first time since we’ve been on the road that we will be able to take a summer break.  The first two school years on the road we ended up just doing school year-round. It was difficult to learn how to schedule school time on the road.  We have settled into this life and I would say that our kids are able to work in all sorts of situations.

     After school we drove to Wasilla to visit Newcomb Park.  It had been sunny all day and it started to get cloudy right as we were leaving the RV. We were hopeful as we left because it looked sunny towards Wasilla.  When we got to the park, we noticed there was a little beach there for swimming or fishing.  It was maybe 60 degrees outside, but there were kids running around in their swimsuits and people wading in the water.  I would say these particular Alaskans had a different definition of swimming weather than me. 

scenic road to wasilla

     After the park, we drove to Three Bears Alaska to pick up a couple of things.  It was an interesting store, there were groceries, camping and hunting gear and household items.  They also had some stuffed animals on display.

     When we got back to the RV, the pastor stopped by for a visit and then gave the kids (and Matt and I) a music lesson.  He taught us some chords on the piano, and helped the kids to learn to play together in time.  We have a keyboard, two ukeleles, two guitars, and a tiny tamborine on board the RV, the pastor gave us some music to work on together, I am looking forward to hearing us all improve and learn more.

Tuesday, June 4th – Houston to Anchorage

     Today we said our goodbyes to the pastor and his wife and prepared to move our RV south to Anchorage for the night.  We stopped by Millers Market on the way out of Houston and had some lunch and ice cream – yum! 

ice cream collage

     We drove to Cabela in Anchorage for a boondocking spot for the night.  The kids always enjoy walking around Cabela, there are so many stuffed animals and interesting things to see. Hannah and Sophia were really excited about the large fish in the aquarium.  

     Tonight we met a lovely lady and her two daughters.  Matt gets to talk to all sorts of people when he calls churches, and this lady is a book-keeper at a church in Anchorage.  We had a connection with her in that she knew some of our friends in Iowa.  Anyway, she invited us over to her lovely home with amazing views for pizza.  We had a great visit and Sophia really enjoyed playing with her tiny dog.

     After dinner we went back to our boondocking spot for the night.  We are very excited for tomorrow because we are going down into the Kenai Pennisula.  We have heard so many things about this area being the most beautiful part of Alaska. Next week I will tell you all about our Kenai Pennisula adventures!

     Thank you for reading this week’s post about our Epic Road Trip to Alaska!  If you would like to know more about our ministry, Kingdom Pursuit Ministries, go to www.kpministry.org

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 and 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. 

    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. 

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. 

Canada

      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!

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. 

map

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.     

     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.**