Our Long, Strange Trip to The Last Frontier

As we traveled North to Alaska, we encountered various problems challenges along the way.

“Somebody doesn’t want you going to Alaska…”

We heard that more than a few times from friends and followers. Eventually we started thinking it, but that didn’t stop us from completing our mission to The Last Frontier. Some may view these issues as “signs”from “somebody” but we view them as a fact of life–at least when living the nomadic lifestyle! Just how did these challenges challenge us? Let me count the ways…

Lost GPS

No GPS signal from RVDataSat 840 dish controller.

It all started when our RVDataSat 840 lost itself. After some quick troubleshooting, I determined we needed to replace the GPS receiver. I could still enter coordinates manually, but since we would rely heavily on using satellite internet in Alaska, and everywhere along the way, this immediate repair was a must.

RVDataSat GPS

New RVDataSat 840 GPS Receiver

Replacing the GPS receiver was the simple part. Catching up with its delivery, was a bit more challenging. Once we were back online with auto-deployment of our dish, we were grateful to be back on the road with everything in working order. Or so we thought…

replaced parts

Replaced Range Sensor and Ignition Switch

Mechanical trouble continued near Coulee City, Washington, not long after we finally felt fully prepared for long journey north, with our functioning satellite dish, all new truck tires from SimpleTire, and both the truck and trailer completely serviced.

Ding! That dreaded engine light sounded as we headed up the hill for some free boondocking at Banks Lake, followed by a loss of power, then a temporary failure for the truck to start. Our unexpected visit to The Shop, turned into a week-long stay in Ephrata where we replaced the Range Sensor and Ignition Switch on our Dodge Ram 2500.

“Is your shifter always that hard?”

The mechanic was thorough. But after discussing how the shift lever did have a tendency to stick, and discovering that part could take weeks to arrive, we agreed to have them lube the shift cable and get back on the road.  

puncturedd new tire

One of two flats in Ephrata

Before we even left town, we had not one but two punctures in our brand new truck tires! With repaired tires and a clean bill of health on the truck–for now–we crossed into Canada, and continued our search for free boondocking.

free boondocking

Free overnight parking and RV dump in Salmon Arm, BC.

Next Up: I could not get the truck out of park when leaving a sweet spot in front of Canadian Tire. Sure, the lever had been sticky. This time it was stuck. On the verge of breaking it off–and another laughter yoga fit–I finally got the truck in gear and Rene found a Dodge dealer in Kamloops. I knew exactly what we needed, but feared we would be waiting another week for the part. To my surprise they said they could have it the next day.

The next day they installed our new Shift Interlock Cable, but not before that mechanic realized the one they were sent had a bent pin. Another surprise–they were able to get a replacement the next day, and install it (again) with no problems, and this time without charge. Shifting was still a bit sticky, however, so we took their $3000+ estimate for further diagnosis and valve body replacement and went on our way.

Beautiful BC! Dawson Creek here we come…but not before another unexpected detour to Tumbler Ridge while waiting on a new flipper.

RVDataSat Flipper

RVDataSat 840 Flipper Gone Bad

Wait on a what? After taking another crazy off-road route to a secluded wooded area we hoped to stay a few nights so I deployed the dish, desperately hoping to lock on through the small opening in the trees. The true desperation started when I heard the azimuth motor on our RVDataSat 840 strain, then thump and continue. Dumbfounded, it took me a moment to realize what happened. The dish did not stop at 360º like it should. It was still spinning. The flipper did not stop the mount from rotating.

The waiting was the hardest part, since a replacement part was not available. Understanding that the situation is the boss in situations like this, we enjoyed our stay in Tumbler Ridge and met up with the delivery at Mile 0 RV Park in Dawson Creek–after paying more for shipping than the part itself. Much more. Thankfully, it was another simple repair and we were on our way, once again.

Then…when the Sewer Cow reared its ugly head, I decided to replace the check valve in our water heater while we were stopped in Whitehorse–the last city of any size before the last leg of our trek to The Last Frontier. That is when I taught myself how to extract the broken check valve from our RV water heater.

RV water heater repair

How not to replace RV water heater check valve.

Finally! We were on our way to Alaska. What else could go wrong? Right?

After one night at our most beautiful Yukon boondocking stop yet, the shit really hit the fan. Or the leaf spring hit the tire rather–after it snapped on a frost heave north of Destruction Bay, shearing our hydraulic disc brake line and busting off shock absorbers in the process. We weren’t going anywhere…just 80 miles south of the Alaska border!

trailer tow

CoachNet to the rescue!

Funny how our broken leaf spring on the Alcan will be our highlight memory of RVing to Alaska. As mom used to say, funny peculiar not funny ha ha. Thanks to CoachNet, we had our trailer towed and repaired after back-tracking five hours south to Whitehorse. That long weekend will certainly be a reminder to never travel without roadside assistance, extra tire hazard protection coverage, and a TPMS for the truck and trailer!

Alas, the destruction north of Destruction Bay was not the last of those “signs” that certain “somebody” kept showing us. After developing our Plan B Alaska RVing trip, we enjoyed the beautiful drive around the Golden Circle. But after some great times and beautiful spots in Skagway and Haines, we had to call CoachNet one more time.

satellite internet wifi calling

Wifi calling + Satellite Internet = CoachNet Rescue!

Wifi calling via satellite internet is a good thin in these parts along the Cassiar highway. After changing the trailer spare and limping along to Good Hope Lake, Rene asked, “How far is the nearest cell service?” Rene asked.

“Ha! About 300 miles…”

Good thing I made those repairs on the dish, and that was still working well! One more roadside repair in the middle of nowhere, and we were on our way, once and for all–forever grateful that our adventures were not much worse.

The road goes on forever, but the party never ends…

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6 Responses to “Our Long, Strange Trip to The Last Frontier”

  1. It may have been alot of heartache and costly expenses, but it sure made for some unforgettable memories. Great travels!

  2. Alaska is truly an adventure. We are still hanging around. The crack in the windshield grows, the back window leaked, the car window makes a terrible sound when going up and down….
    But it’s still fun!

    • Hey Patti I’ve been thinking about you two! Glad you are still having fun up there. I’ll bet it’s starting to look like fall? Might as well stay a while until all the fires in BC are under control, lots of road diversions happening. I hope your pup is doing well.

  3. Wow, wow, wow, you are sure a persistent, determined couple of travelers. Hope you had some fun along the way.

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