This trip up North may have been my best road trip yet! I enjoyed this trip in ways I haven’t enjoyed others. For this trip, I slowed down a bit, stopped more, and witnessed things I never have before.
This one was one to be remembered and I’m so glad I stopped to recap this journey. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed living it!
April 21, 2019 Grand Junction, CO
I enjoyed a lovely Easter with some friends in Grand Junction, Colorado. We ate great food and drank too much whiskey but it was an absolute blast! I’m so very blessed to find genuinely good people wherever I roam. I’m continually reminded that good people are out there despite what the news will tell you.
It was during this Easter dinner that I realized it was only about a week and half away from the day I would leave for Alaska! How could this have happened? Where had winter gone? I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over. Not wanting to be selfish and/or greedy, I accepted that the new season was upon me.
I look back fondly at this past winter. Boy, was it a great one! Lot’s of snowboarding with great friends, trips across the country, and did I mention lots of snowboarding?! It was most certainly one of the best winters I’ve ever had.
Within the last two weeks I’ve realized something.
I have realized that I’ve found a lifestyle that I truly dig. A lifestyle that doesn’t allow me to sit in a place where I look forward to the future while dreading the present. In fact, it’s difficult for me to even think about the future because I’m so involved in the present. From my experience, that’s a rare thing.
It’s taken me a while to figure out this kind of lifestyle and I’m most certainly still learning. But, I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with it over the past couple of years and it’s taken me to some truly awesome places. But, more on this subject a bit later.
I’ve recently vowed to journal more about each day so that I can remember thoughts and feelings, etc. On road trips, my mind races and it’s impossible to remember all of the good ideas I conjure up. There’s no telling how many million dollar ideas I’ve forgotten or haven’t executed on. That changes now!
So, without further a-due and any more patting myself on the back, here’s my recap of the journey North!
A friend from Keystone decided to join me on the long trip North. We met a month earlier and somehow got to talking about summer plans. I told her what I was doing and she expressed how she would love to go to Alaska.
I encouraged her to look into jobs in Skagway and told her that she could ride with me if she wanted to go. I offer this type of thing to people whenever I can. I’d say 95% of people never take me up on it but kudos to her for actually following through!
I’ve had tons of help along the way and wouldn’t be where I am without dozens of people helping and supporting. I feel I should help others out as much as I can whenever I can.
5/3/19 @ 9:07 AM (Denver, CO)
Yesterday, we sat in traffic for about 2.5 hours [on our way to Denver]. Made poor time so decided to get a good meal at Waffle House and a good night’s sleep. She needed to drop her car off and fix their wheels, since she was going to replace them with rotiform kps wheels that were better for her car.
. (Check it out here)
I figured it would be several days before getting to sleep in bed so we decided to get a hotel room and rejuvenate from the hours of traffic we sat in. I was a little frustrated with it so I figured it would be good, for the both of us, if we just started fresh in the morning.
The Waffle House meal was great! I couldn’t tell you the last time I had eaten at one. I got scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast, bacon, and of course, a waffle. I devoured it about as quickly as it took the waitress to bring it from the kitchen to the table. If you’ve ever eaten at a Waffle House, you know about how quickly that is. I was hungry and I tend to eat fast anyway.
[Fun Fact: there are no Waffle House’s West of Denver. Last summer in Skagway, a guy came into the gallery who had just retired from a long career at Waffle House. We talked and I eventually brought up the question, ‘why aren’t there any Waffle House’s on the West coast?’ He said that in the 80’s they thought about expanding to California but couldn’t justify the expensive land. They decided to go as far west as Denver.]
I slept really good and we weren’t in any hurry to get rollin’. After all, we would be truck camping the rest of the way to Alaska, or so was the plan. I was excited to get on the road!
5/4/19 @ 3:43 AM (Great Falls, MT)
It was a beautiful travel day, yesterday. We ended up getting to see the Crazy Mountains which was very nice treat. I had recently watched a video on these mountains. To see them in real life was nothing short of awesome!
We ate at Fuddruckers for what would be our last meal in the lower 48. I was very surprised that there was a Fuddruckers in town but once I saw the billboard, that was for sure our dining destination. The burger didn’t disappoint.
Afterwards, we made our way to Walmart to crash for the night. Walmart parking lots are often a good place to sleep in your car. They’re well lit and provide plenty of space. This one in particular seemed very nice, as it was in a good part of town. I’ve slept in many Walmart parking lots and this one ranks right up there as one of the safest!
We played a game of chess before trying to get some sleep. I won but she definitely gave me a run for my money. Apparently, she used to play competitively as a kid.
I didn’t sleep well, which is why I’m up at 3:45 in the morning. I would typically just get on the road but I need to wait for Walmart to open at 6 so I can buy a car jack. Not sure why, but I just got a feeling that I should get a better one than the one that came with the truck. Better safe than sorry. Even though I’ve got Save Our Vehicle through SPOT, it’s a good idea to be as self-sufficient as possible rollin’ through Western Canada.
5:28 PM (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
We drove through Glacier National Park this morning. It was a beautiful drive through a part of the country I had never seen. Pretty cool. The park wasn’t completely open yet but we still got to see a small but beautiful glimpse. We also redirected our entry into Canada.
We entered a little West of the original plan but not much went according to the original plan anyway, so this followed suite. (Honestly, I’m really glad the original plan got altered, we could buy the car parts we need at the Auto News, we did not spend much money and this would turn out to be a very sweet road trip!)
This was the easiest border crossings I have ever had. The officer asked a few questions and let us on our way. I always have a huge sense of relief after crossing into Canada, just one less thing to worry about. It’s pretty much home free from here but still over 1,500 miles left to go or ~2,400 kilometers. Canada, like the rest of the world, uses the metric system so distance is measured in kilometers.
We started to get snowed on shortly after entering Canada and it only strengthened as we got closer to Calgary. Roads were fine though, mostly just wet, as the temperatures hovered near 0* Celsius (32* F).
As I’m writing this, we are sitting at our first (of what will probably be many) Tim Horton’s stop. Good coffee, delicious donuts, and free wifi. For two U.S. citizens, it’s hard to beat!
The plan was to crash somewhere nearby but I was feeling good and we decided to make our way to Banff. I’ve heard a lot about Banff and Jasper National Park so I decided to take the more scenic route this time around.
We struck out on seeing any wildlife today but I’ve got a good feeling about tomorrow in Banff and Jasper. I hear they’re beautiful and know plenty of people visit for backcountry snowboarding. Tomorrow evening, after we hit the parks, we’ll start making some real progress towards Skagway. Plan is to land in town Wednesday evening.
5/4/19 10:06 PM (Banff, AB, CA)
I’m currently laying in bed in Banff, Alberta. Last night’s sleep wasn’t the best from the front seat of the truck and I’m tired from an entire day of driving. I’m glad I’ll get a good nights rest tonight, as there are many, many miles left.
Traveling with a friend has changed my strategy a bit but for the better. Typically, I would just suck it up and sleep in the truck. It would be a bit more comfortable as I have a nice set up in the bed but with two people with gear and clothes for an entire summer has taken up all the bed space. Nonetheless, the extra money spent on hotels wasn’t bad and I definitely enjoyed the sleep!
The town of Banff seems really cool. We walked around town a bit even though it was snowing and really windy. We found another Tim Horton’s, grabbed some coffee, but was let down by the Wifi. So, we found a Starbucks nearby and grabbed some internet. We decided to find a place to stay here instead of truck camping. It would certainly be much colder tonight.
There are 3 ski resorts nearby and with all the freshly falling snow I am very tempted to go ride tomorrow. I’d really love to but most of my gear is packed and I’m a bit tired from a long day of driving. Plus, if we go ride tomorrow, we probably won’t be able to explore much of the parks.
I think the move is to explore the parks and accept that my winter is over. It’ll be a fun day going through the parks and scouting for wildlife.
5/5/19 9:22 AM (Banff, AB, CA)
What a great nights sleep I got! I feel good and excited about this day. There are some low hanging clouds but hopefully they clear so we can see all of the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.
You know, there are few places that just ‘hit home’ with me. One of those places is Jackson Hole, WY. I’m not sure exactly what it is but each time I’m there, it just feels right. Banff is the only other place that I’ve visited that has felt similar. I think it’s safe to say that I will be back, Lord willing.
5/5/19 3:44 PM (Jasper, Albert, Canada)
Another stop, another Tim Horton’s. Don’t get me wrong, the coffee, donuts, and food are good but a big reason to stop here is the reliable wifi. Refusing to turn on data roaming, a spot with good wifi is a prized thing when in a different country.
The ride through Banff and Jasper, on the Icefields Parkway, was pretty sweet! Saw some pretty awesomely rugged mountains. My mind always goes to, “could I ride (snowboard) that?” It’s just how my mind works when it comes to looking at peaks.
I did see some ski tracks on a few peaks and that really got me thinking, “damn, I could actually ride something out here.” Riding today would be out of the question, however. I know nothing about the snow or weather conditions. Avalanches aren’t something I take lightly.
It’s certainly on the radar!
I’m thinking that it may be a good while before I hop on an airplane in search of my next turns. There is just so much here in North America that I could drive to!! It just makes sense to me to explore these places first! Next winter, I am planning on making my first Canadian turns at Revelstoke.
In Jasper NP, we saw our first bear! It looked to be an adolescent black bear, as it was pretty skinny and smaller. If I had to guess, it was probably the bear’s first winter alone. It wasn’t bothered by us or the other couple of cars that had stopped to watch and grab some pictures.
It was awesome getting to see a bear just casually eating grass up close! I think I managed to get at least one decent photo. I’m hoping that once we hit the Al-Can we’ll start to see more. Jasper will be our last real stop until Whitehorse, which is about 20 hours away.
Once in Whitehorse, it’s pretty much home free. It’s just a quick 2.5 hour jaunt to the windy city!
5/6/19 7:20 AM (Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada)
Holy shit. What a 12-14 hours it has been!! After leaving Jasper, we saw a big horn sheep on a cliff and my first ever grizzly that we got to watch for a good while. I don’t think the pictures will turn out quite as good as I would’ve liked but maybe I got one good one.
It was just awesome to see a grizzly move about in the wild. We got to watch for a good 20-25 minutes before it walked out of sight.
I drove pretty much all night after stopping for some dinner in Grand Prairie. I drank a Bang Energy drink and was all set!
Caffeine is a ‘secret weapon’ of mine for these long road trips and driving through the night. Now, the trick is not the caffeine. The trick is using it only when necessary, and know how much you’ll need. I didn’t drink any caffeine the 5-6 days leading into the trip.
At the beginning of the trip, a medium roast coffee was all I used for caffeine and strictly in the mornings. I didn’t pull out the Bang Energy drink until I knew I would need it to stay alert all night. She worked like a charm.
Perhaps, I’ll dive more into this later. Leave a comment if you’d like more info!
I finally pulled off the road around 4:00 AM to sleep. I slept for about an hour and woke up wide awake, so I cranked up the truck and got back on the road. The sun was coming up around 5-ish, it actually woke me. Not a bad way to wake up, if you ask me.
I was wide awake and ready for another day of driving. I felt pretty good other than my stomach being a little upset from eating too many sun flower seeds last night. Nonetheless, we were back on the road and shortly after, we would see a rare sight.
As I’m driving, I’m constantly looking on both sides of the road for wildlife. Sure enough, on the right side of the road, I saw what I thought was a wolf, at first. It was sitting and facing the woods. I slowed down and drove past, turned around and parked about 200 yards away. I pulled out my camera and got a closer look…
My eyes couldn’t believe what I saw through the view finder. It was a lynx, a freakin’ lynx!! How incredible was this? I crept the truck closer, taking photos all the while. It stayed still, graciously allowing me to snap photos and been in awe of this scene.
We spent about 15-20 minutes watching it. It was sitting down for most of it and it looked right at me. It certainly knew I was there but was afraid. After a few minutes, it got up and started walking parallel to the woods, still in view.
I crept the truck forward to keep up with it, snagging photos all the while. It walked about 50 yards before it stopped and sat down, this time facing the woods. It seemed to me that the lynx was tired, as if it had been hunting all night with no luck and this was his last, half-hearted attempt at finding food. After a few moments of sitting, it casually walked into the woods.
What an incredible way to start off a Monday morning! Wow.
We still have about 10 hours to Whitehorse. I’m excited for this stretch of highway because last year I saw about a dozen black bears, herds of caribou, buffalo, and elk. With any luck we should see more wildlife. Although, I’d be perfectly happy with not seeing any more and reminiscing on what I had been so fortunate to witness. Man, this has been one of the best road trips to date.
5/7/19 8:17 AM (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada)
We arrived in Whitehorse about 12 hours ago. I was definitely feeling that last stretch as we approached Whitehorse. Not much wildlife as we got into the Yukon Territory. We did see a moose but it ducked into the forrest before I could get a photo. They’re pretty elusive despite their large stature. We did see a few more black bears and a few herds of buffalo.
It feels really good to be in Whitehorse. Skagway is just a short drive away now and if there are no clouds, it will be one scenic drive! I’m pretty excited about being back in Skagway for the summer. I’m planning on doing lots of hiking and LOTS of working. Nowadays my summers are spent mostly working my ass off and saving as much money as possible to have as much fun as possible in the winters!
I’ve grown quite fond of this set up and next winter I’m planning on taking things just a little bit further, so I’ll need all the cash I can save!
We’ll probably grab some groceries at the Real Canadian Superstore and then make our way South to good ole Skagtown. I’m ready to get a nice workout routine going and get my strength and shreds back!
5/8/19 9:32 AM (Skagway, AK)
We arrived in Skagway around 10:30 AM yesterday. We drove around town quickly before unloading the truck and getting unpacked. It didn’t take quite as long as I was expecting. I still need to organize a bit but it’ll get there. I’ve got the next few days to settle in before starting work on Friday.
I’m pumped to be back in Skagway and looking forward to a great summer! I am definitely planning bringing back the podcast, and blogging at least once a week. In fact, I’ll have a blog bounty to help keep me straight. (More on the blog bounty later).
I’ve got two major book projects that I’ll be working on throughout the summer. You can expect my next book to be out around April/May of 2020. I’ll be working diligently to make this happen!