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Thread: Leaving for Eielson in 21 days!!!

  1. #1
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    Default Leaving for Eielson in 21 days!!!

    I have waited 12 years and my dream finally came true! My family and I are headed to Alaska in 21 days. We are driving from Fort Walton Beach FL to Eielson leaving here on the 5th of February. Our daily itenerary is as follows:

    Day 1 from Ft Walton Beach Fl to Louisville KY
    Day 2 from Louisville to Eau Claire, WI
    Day 3 from Eau Claire to Winnipeg, MA
    Day 4 from Winnipeg to Saskatoon, SK
    Day 5 from Saskatoon to Edmonton, AB
    Day 6 from Edmonton to Dawson Creek, BC
    Day 7 from Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson
    Day 8 from Ft Nelson to Watson Lake
    Day 9 from Watson Lake to Haines Jct
    Day 10 from Haines Jct to Tok AK
    Day 11 from Tok to Eielson AFB

    We are driving short distances and taking our time so that we don't rush and we are safe as we can be. We have our emergency stuff for the car and we are planning to get new tires on the car. I just bought my 2009 Ford Fusion not even a year ago and I hate to put new tires on it since the ones on it only have 10,000 miiles on them but I think we have no choice. Ideas??? Luckily my car gets really good MPG so we have that going for us...26 city and 32 highway roughly I get about 415 miles per tank! We are having a block heater installed here before we leave so we will have that. Also I have been told to put cardboard or foam in the front bumper to cover the grill...is this true? I have 13 days to get there and plenty of leave just in case so that is no problem. We are making shorter drive times so we drive during the day and stop when it is dark. We are in NO RUSH! Could anyone let me know of good places to stop along this route are? We also have our two dogs (kids!) along on this trip too so we have already mapped out lodging along the way and that looks good. Please if there is any advice you can help us with we will take it. Thanks and look so foward to becoming Alaska residents and hope to stay and retire there.

  2. #2
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    That should be a pretty relaxed trip! I have always driven quite a bit farther between stops myself but can't reccommend that as it makes the trip more stressful. I also tend to stay more south along the CA/US border till I get to BC. The mountains in BC are beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the drive! That said winter could make lodging there a pain to get so your plan is probably better if you have already set that up. I also like a GPS for trips like that, it is fun to punch in the next destination and see the miles click off. Not to mention being able to find food and other "neat-o" things along the way easier.
    For tires you should really look at getting some studs, I am not sure if they are legal in FL but if you can get someone to order you up a set they would be worth the annoyance for the first 1000 miles of road humm when you get to the ice and snow! If you could get them there you could toss your good summer tires in w/ your household goods so that you have them when you get here. It is customary to swap tires here between a winter and summer set. As for the cardboard deal, that is more an interior thing where it is frequently -30* but it really depends on the car. It mostly helps w/ cars warming up faster when started in the cold or ones that don't seem to get warm enough to effectively heat the interior (your car uses the engine coolant to heat the interior). My old Chevy Aveo had such an efficient cooling system that at colder temps it never really warmed up thus necessitating partially covering the radiator w/ cardboard. We currently have a fusion and I have not found that it was needed. Good call on getting the block heater installed. Last note pack your ipod full of "road music" unless you truly enjoy the hum of tires on the road you will eventually get far enough north that even satalite radio isn't an option!

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    Congratulations. You'll be up here in time to see lots of snow and cold then go into a nice, short, long-dayed summer. Just like you hate to swap your tires, I wouldn't want to put the miles on my studs on the way up till I got to ice. Maybe swap them on the way and put the summer tires in your luggage.
    Have fun and let us know when you get here.

  4. #4
    Member AKFishOn's Avatar
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    Buy a decent cord to plug your car in, a lot of the Florida cords will be cheap, at -30 some cords don't do so well. I'm jealous of the trip as Driving up is by far one of the highlights of Alaska.

  5. #5
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    Default Welcome to heaven!

    Congrats, sounds like you have planned your trip well. I also strongly recommend studded tires. I believe the Fusion is front wheel drive - a front wheel drive vehicle with studded tires works quite well in Alaska during the winter. I would advise you to check the laws regarding studded tires in the northern portion of the US, and Canada. Find a tire shop along your route at the point where they are legal for the remainder of your trip and get them installed - call ahead to make sure the shop will have them in stock. If you have enough room, try and save your old tires. They will work fine in the summer and you have to change them out anyway, probably around May 1st. (Alaska law doesn't permit year-round use of studded tires)

    If it looks like studded tires is not going to be logistically feasable, then go with winter studless tires, like the Bridgestone blizzak or something similar and just get them put on before you leave FL. (Since tire shops in FL aren't likely to stock winter tires, I would look at an online shop like tire rack.com. Pick up a copy of Motor trend magazine - they always have adds in there.) They will also be much better in snow and ice than regular street tires. I would still advise swapping them out for regular street tires in the summer though, since they are a softer rubber compound and will wear much more quickly. This will allow you to use them much longer.

    My wife is currently on her fourth winter season on the same set of studded tires with her 03 Trailblazer and they are still in good shape, with roughly 20K miles on them.

    Enjoy Alaska, and make sure you take tons of pictures along the way to remember your trip!

    The other 299,300,000 people can have it.

    Noone has a more intimate understanding of, or deeper appreciation for freedom, than a soldier who has fought for it in a country where it does not exist.

  6. #6
    Member COtoAK's Avatar
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    Be sure that you take the time to stop at Laird Hot Springs when you drive up.
    If you have time, purchase a Mile Post.
    Be sure that you bring an extra can or 3 of fuel.
    Send your firearms and ammunition up here first.

    I have a ton of really good friends I can plug you in with at Eielson. Are you living on Base, in North Pole, Salcha, or Moose Creek? You'll be excited about Eielson. You can see the Alaska Range on clear days from the base. Specifically Mt. Deborah, Mt. Hess, Mt. Hayes, and Mt. Moffat are the ones that you can see standing high.

    We'd be more than willing to host you over for dinner, too... if you are interested.

    Welcome to Alaska, neighbor!
    Lurker.

  7. #7
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    3 weeks.. cool you should enjoy your arrival.. first part of Feb, is normally the coldest!!!!! could expect any where from 0 to -60 in temps

    make sure you stop in the state and set your coolant levels to a minimum of -55 deg, you will experience some very wild temp fluctuations on the drive up.
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

    meet on face book here

  8. #8
    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    Unless you are visiting family in MO or WI I'd recommend crossing at Sweetgrass MT. From there it's a strait shot to Edmonton/Calgary and so on.

    The tires are worth the investment, and get your care winterized before you leave Fla. If you have a sponsor they can fill you in on what you need. Of course google may have it too.

    Congrats and welcome.
    I'm USAF Retired and an Eielson veteran. It's a good assignment.

  9. #9
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    If you can't get studded tires get some winter ones that can have studs added later. That is a good option and there are plenty of shops up here that can do the work for you.

  10. #10
    Member AKFishOn's Avatar
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    I second the recommendation about your boarder crossing, a guy can really make some time traveling in the states verses the Winnipeg route and the road from Sweatgrass up to Edmonton is very nice. Probably bias though as I grew up an hour from that boarder crossing, pretty flat and boring land but you can make some good driving time and plenty of cheap places to stay. For that route I'd go FL to Nashville, to St Louis, to Kansas City, to Sioux Falls, to Billings, to Three Forks MT, then to Helena (through Townsend MT), pass by Great Falls to Shelby MT (closest town of any size to Sweatgrass). Last time I did the math about 280 miles difference from where I started in Georgia. You will actually be able to use high beams on this route before you hit the ALCAN.

    Or like this: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&sour...e=UTF8&t=h&z=9

  11. #11
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    So you think we will do better going through the states rather than going across Canada? I do not want to drive through the mountains too much. Are the roads going that way better than going through Canada? I want to make sure that we are going the safest way and that we won't have any issues. How long would it take us to get from MT to Edmonton? Once we get to Edmonton we are going to follow our previous itenerary. I talked to my sponsor and he said that they have all weather tires on their cars up there. I am not going to have the room in the car for the 4 tires plus our luggage and the dogs. Again I am taking all of the help and info that we can get! We are looking foward to the new assignment and we are hoping that we can stay up there till I retire!

  12. #12
    Member AKFishOn's Avatar
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    My recommendation is to skip Edmonton and stay at Whitecourt, AB (lots of good rooms and easy to park, eat, close, and not Edmonton traffic and cheaper).

    Sticking with your 5 days to Edmonton or close to Edmonton here is what I would recommend in reverse travel direction:

    Whitecourt. AB (about 110 miles past Edmonton) to Shelby MT - 530 miles (easy miles)
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...09645&t=h&z=17

    Gillette, WY to Shelby MT - 650 miles (through Townsend MT - removes the route through Boulder which is slower) these are very easy miles unless bad snow between Livingston and Bozeman MT
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...h&z=14&iwloc=A

    N. Omaha NE to Gillette, WY 650 miles
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...h&z=14&iwloc=A

    Paducah, KY to N. Omaha NE 610 miles
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...=h&z=9&iwloc=A

    Ft Walton Beach Fl to Pahucah, KY 580 miles
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...h&z=15&iwloc=A

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    I disagree with AKFISHON I traveled the same path and Edmonton was alright. I think its Presidente suites right beside their big ole mall is where we stayed, big militairy discount and they allow pets in the room at no charge. We took ten days from Utah to fairbanks, eight days driving and two days at the Mall in Edmonton. The biggest problem we had was finding rooms in the smaller towns.

  15. #15
    Member AKFishOn's Avatar
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    Glad to hear you had a good stay in Edmonton in 06 I had to call security (at the Mall) on two guys attempting to get into the topper on my truck, then had a couple of stumbling drunk encounters when I went out to check on the truck, trailer, and car in a 1.5 day stay. You are correct about planning ahead on rooms, of the four times I've stayed in Whitecourt I have never had reservations, the last time we had to try three places to find a place. I prefer to stay at the link I posted (pool with a small waterslide for the kids, good prices, free internet, breakfast, good price right next to a Boston Pizza, McDonald's and a shopping/grocery place all within a short walk). Either location can have pros and cons, just sharing my opinion and experiences.

    Unique place to stay in Edmonton: http://www.fantasylandhotel.com/rooms/wemindex.asp (not dog friendly)

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    You might also consider having your transmission and differential oil changed to a lighter weight or synthetic. If you hit some extreme cold, it will make it a lot easier to get going in the morning and you will get better gas mileage. Same for engine oil.

  17. #17
    Member grcg's Avatar
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    Default Liard Hot Springs!!

    I agree! Stopping at Liard is a must!! There are few things that cure car-butt better than a good soak in a beautiful place!!

    There is a lodge across the highway from the entrance to the Hot Springs (within walking distance). An article I found (sited below) says it is open in the winter - but I would call to confirm that if you wanted to stay at the lodge there overnight. My Mom and I stayed there overnight the summer we drove the AK Highway. She was kind of grumbly about stopping and going to the hot springs. Now she just asks when we are going back!!

    from: http://explorenorth.com/articles/liard.html

    There are two lodges close to the hot springs, though only one is open in the winter. Across the highway from the springs is the Liard Hotsprings Lodge (formerly Trapper Ray's) - this log structure has fuel, 12 rooms in the lodge and 25 RV sites, and is open year-round (phone 250-776-7349). .... A half-mile south is Liard River Lodge, one of the original highway lodges, located on a spectacular bluff above the river. They have full services, from gas and tire repairs to a forested campground, and the food is excellent (phone 250-776-7341).

    Also:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liard_River_Hot_Springs_Provincial_Park
    http://www.britishcolumbia.com/hotsprings/?id=18

    Have a good, safe trip!!

  18. #18
    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAFfamily07 View Post
    So you think we will do better going through the states rather than going across Canada? I do not want to drive through the mountains too much. Are the roads going that way better than going through Canada? I want to make sure that we are going the safest way and that we won't have any issues. How long would it take us to get from MT to Edmonton? Once we get to Edmonton we are going to follow our previous itenerary. I talked to my sponsor and he said that they have all weather tires on their cars up there. I am not going to have the room in the car for the 4 tires plus our luggage and the dogs. Again I am taking all of the help and info that we can get! We are looking foward to the new assignment and we are hoping that we can stay up there till I retire!
    My first recommendation is to go to Google Maps and turn on the sattelite view, zoom in and follow your route up. This will give you a good idea of what type of country you will be driving in. You won't be in the mountains through the US portion If you go up through Montana to Edmonton it will be all prarie with some rolling hills. After you leave Dawson Creek you will be in mountainous or hilly terrain all the way into Fairbanks. Once you get further north the roads will be on or in hills and some mountains even though you are mostly following river valleys. What I am saying is that if you want to avoid driving in mountains you should take the ferry from Washington.

    One piece of driving advice about Canadian roads. When you see a sign saying that a curve up ahead is posted as 45km/h, believe it and slow down. The Canadian version of DOT does not over engineer their roads to allow for speeders. They build their roads to fit the terrian without pouring too much money into it.

  19. #19
    Member AKFishOn's Avatar
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    You will also find out what orange flags and cones on the side of the road mean in Canada. Especially in the Yukon.

  20. #20
    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKFishOn View Post
    You will also find out what orange flags and cones on the side of the road mean in Canada. Especially in the Yukon.
    It means: Have a lid on your coffee cup, OR make sure your seat belt is tight, OR "test of your suspension system next 500 miles."

    Remember the Dukes of Hazard did not dive an overloaded minivan.

    The frost heaves might not be too bad in the winter. I don't remember too many from January 90, but then I had not slept in three days either.

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