Ten. Thousand. Miles. Two kids. One set of in-laws. And an RV. And this is not including our flight home. However, this is how I spent six weeks in the summer of 2015. Craziness right!?! I thought so, but it was by far one of the best trips we have ever been on.
My in-laws were going back to Alaska and wanted to take my then seven-year-old son with them. I did not want ‘my baby’ to be that far away from home without me, even though he was going to be with his grandparents, so I decided I would go with them. This created another problem: my then two-year-old son. I could not leave him home with my husband who worked full time, so I decided we’d all go to Alaska.
Our journey began with fewer than two weeks to prepare for the trip.
We left the third week of June with three adults, two kids, and an RV. We had my husband’s things for a two-week visit he’d make once we arrived to Alaska. To say we were loaded down is an understatement. Each of us had to pack for multiple seasons, plus food, supplies, a stroller, fishing gear and more. The belly of the RV, along with our tow CRV, was packed to the brim. All of this made our trip even more fun and memorable.
FUN!?!, some of you may think. How is traveling 10,000 miles with your in-laws and two kids in an RV fun!? Well, it was a blast. We all got along and both of my boys were the best travelers. I take that as a blessing in disguise, and I have an RV with a TV and a DVD player, and road games and toys to partially thank. My husband said we used the trip to visit all the Walmarts across the country. I admit; we saw A LOT of Walmarts.
Onto our journey…
We left home and met with my in-laws in Rockwood, TN, then proceeded to Paducah, KY. From Kentucky, we traveled to Fort Leonard Wood, MO and then onto St. Joseph, MO. There, we visited the Jesse James house, the Pony Express and more. We also experienced our first ‘car’ trouble with our tow vehicle. While out to dinner our first night in St. Jo, we kept hearing a strange noise. We could not figure out what was wrong with the CRV, so the next morning we took the car to a dealership. It took not one but three technicians to determine the noises we kept hearing were from the stroller strapped to the top!!! To say we had a good laugh is an understatement.
From St. Joseph we drove to South Dakota and visited the famous Wall Drug where I had my first ever buffalo burger; we then continued to the Badlands. There are no words to describe the vastness and the beauty of the Badlands. From Wall, SD we drove to Keystone, SD. There, we visited Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park. I have never seen as many buffalo as I did in Custer State Park. They were everywhere!!! The Crazy Horse Memorial was amazing as well. There, we enjoyed a lot of history in addition to traditional dances.
From SD, we traveled to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. The monument and landscape were breathtaking. We also camped in grizzly bear country just outside of Yellowstone National Park in Cody, WY. We attended a rodeo and drove to Old Faithful among other sites in Yellowstone. While we didn’t see any grizzly bears, we had one pay our campsite a visit in the middle of the night. He enjoyed rubbing his back on our RV.
From Wyoming we traveled Montana, which truly is big sky country. We spent one night there before traveling to Canada. Once in Canada, we had a five-day trip to Alaska and six days to get to Fairbanks before my husband arrived. Canada was beautiful, even if I had to pay to take a bath. The seven-year-old thought that was fun and weird. The two-year-old would get ‘airplane baths’ in times like that. We spent some time in Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the famous Alaskan Highway. Once you start the trek on the Alaskan Highway, you are on your on with the exception of a small town here and there.
On our way through Canada, we got trapped by forest fires in Buckinghorse, British Columbia. Yes, we had huge forest fires along our journey to Alaska. We were trapped between two of them in Buckinghorse and had to stop early for the night. However, we made the most of it by hiking when we could, making signs and having an all-out dance party when the ashes got bad. Next, we stopped in Watson Lake to put a sign up at Sign Post Forest. That was one of the neatest places I have ever seen.
The next morning, we continued onto Fairbanks. We saw a lot of active fires and signs of smoldering fires from Buckinghorse on through to Fairbanks. We made it to Fairbanks just in time to retrieve my husband from the airport. For the following two weeks, we explored many parts of Alaska including Homer, Whittier, Seward, and Anchorage. It was great to have my husband with us, even though I lost him for 36 hours to a fishing trip with my father-in-law.
During our travels we saw and visited many of the typical touristy sites including Denali, glaciers, wildlife refuge, monuments, military bases and saw more wild animals. Along with the hundreds of buffalo, some elk and deer, we saw 28 bears on our trek to and from Alaska. The most surreal was when my husband was fishing on the Russian River and a couple of grizzlies decided to fish where he was.
After two weeks, we went back to Fairbanks and I sent my husband home. Up until then, the longest we had ever been apart in 10 years of marriage were the 12 days he was in Nepal. I was sad to see him leave, as were the kids. However, we made so many memories while together in Alaska.
From Fairbanks, we set our wheels rolling towards Whitehorse, British Columbia and from there we visited family in Seattle for a few days. During that part of the drive we saw one of the most beautiful lakes, lined with mountains and snowfall — it was like something in a fairy tale.
Surprisingly, my children were AMAZING on our adventure.
We learned how to use the RV, including using the microwave as an oven. I, the mom, survived our trip on coffee and ice cream. Literally. My kids survived on a variety of snacks, games, journaling, and movies. We had normal food too but these were our go-to’s all along the way. My father-in-law learned every word to Frozen. Songs too. The movie RV was a trip favorite, naturally.
The only disagreements were my in-laws’ (LOL), which is normal for parents who have been married for 30 plus years, right?! The kids thought it was funny and I just went along with the funniness. My children also learned how to get by without electricity or running water. They learned how people of different cultures live. The educational and life experiences of this trip were unforgettable.
So much was experienced in those six weeks; I was amazed by our journey and want to take the trip again. And yes, I would drive, not fly. The drive is part of the journey, even with children and in-laws. At the end of the journey in Seattle, we were sad to leave our family and my in-laws, but it was time for my boys and me to fly home as life was beckoning in the form of school and birthday planning. We wanted to continue our adventure on into the lower 48 back home to Tennessee. While we were happy to be home, we were also sad to leave as we had learned so much on our trip and grown so much as a family.
I hope one day I’ll be able to take that trip again with my children or even my grandchildren. If the opportunity for you to drive to Alaska presents itself, take the trip! I promise, you will not be sorry!