And so the adventure begins.

The gang poses for a portrait.
The gang takes a break from packing to pose in front of the caravan. From left to right: Anne, Jim, Sally, Fred holding Gus and Deb.

After a year from inception, planning and packing, we finally hit the road tomorrow morning. We leave from Congress traveling through Prescott, Verde Valley, Flagstaff and eventually spend the night in Kanab Utah. I won’t feel like I’m out-of-town until we’re on the other side of the San Francisco Peaks.

Even though we’ve spent the last month getting the vehicles ready, there’s always something else to pack. This morning, such as, I had to go out and get longer chains because I replaced the hitch with a new one. The pile in the dining room is smaller now, but I always have this feeling that we’ve forgotten something . . . and it’s something important. At some point however, you have to just get in the car and drive. We’ll take care of the unknown when it happens.

Our journey north generally will run along the I-15 corridor until we get to Montana. Then we plan to cross the Continental Divide entering Canada on the east side of the Rockies. Then the trail follows the Canadian Rockies up to the Yukon Territory where we turn west and head to Fairbanks.

There is a little town just after entering Alaska called Tok. It’s here that we make a great loop through the state. The route includes Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, and the Kenai Peninsula and eventually back to Tok. Then we’ll head for home.

On the return leg, we plan to stay west and through the British Columbia coastal range crossing the border near Vancouver. The tentative plan is to travel on or near the coast until mid California. By then, I’m sure we’ll all be tired and want to make a bee-line across the desert, but that’s too far ahead to think about now.

I’m planing on posting something from Kanab tomorrow night and it would take something disastrous to prevent me from doing so. But then you’d want to know what happened, wouldn’t you? So for now, I’ll see you tomorrow.

jw

Preparation – Protecting Images

From a photography viewpoint, one of the greatest hazards of an extended trip is the loss of digital files. Keeping my images on the little memory cards is inviting trouble. I’ve been on a couple of trips where a cards disappeared in the night. One trip, my friend Jeff left a box of prints in a motel room and he had to backtrack to retrieve them. Imagine making a nine-thousand mile trip and having nothing to show.

So, what are my plans for safeguarding my files? Well, one of the first rules is to back up your data and store it in multiple locations. I’m not going to take my work computer on the trip, but we bought a laptop with traveling in mind. It has plenty of storage and lots of working memory. It will easily run Photo Shop and my Web management software. My first safeguard will be keeping backup files on it.

That takes care of one copy, but what it the laptop is damaged or goes missing? Well, there are several cloud storage programs now available perfect for just such a strategy. There is Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Drive. Of those choices, I went with Google Drive; I already have a Google account and they had an affordable plan.

You can get a free Google Drive account, but you’re limited to 500 Meg with it. Since one of my raw files easily tops 35 Meg, I would quickly max out that space. For $10 a month, I signed up for a Terabyte of space. That should get me by for three months. Should I need more room, I can grab more space on the fly since there are no wait times.

The great thing about cloud storage is that I can access it anywhere in the world and upload my photos. When I get back to my desk, they’ll be there and ready to download. That is of course unless someone hacks into Google and destroys everything.

jw

Michael Reichmann – RIP

This morning, as is my usual routine, I visited the blog The Online Photographer, where I read the sad news the Michael Reichmann passed away May 18th at the age of 71. Michael was a man of many accomplishments, most significant to me; he was the creator of the Luminous Landscapes Website of which I was a regular visitor for the last thirteen years.

During my transition from film to digital photography, the Luminous Landscapes (also nicknamed LuLA) was my textbook for growing my art. Most important to me were the lessons on color management and printing techniques. I’ve integrated these ideas into my workflow and use them to this day.

My heart goes out to the Reichmann family and to his many fans that share with me this great loss.

jw

Preparation – Apps

When I plan a trip like this one, I try to learn as much as I can about my destination. I want to know about the history, the climate, and what what’s cool about it, what makes me want to go there in the first place. I look for websites of local photographers and I look at the pictures on Google Earth. Along with all of that acquired knowledge, Queen Anne and I pack local travel guides and when we arrive, I pick up the best maps I can find. I can spend hours going over maps, mile by mile.

This Denali trip isn’t different, only this time we’ve stepped into the 21st Century. Anne just got a smart phone and I bought a tablet, and we’ve loaded several apps to help manage our trip better.

When traveling with an RV, it’s important to plan your camp sites. That’s what AllStays does for us. At $9.99, AllStays is the most expensive application we bought. This app uses Google Maps and overlays campgrounds, dump stations, LP dealers, casinos and even Walmarts along the route. Clicking on an icon opens a dialog box showing a brief description of the item and links to the location’s Website, directions from your current location, current weather conditions, pictures, reviews and if the campground is Web savvy, it will open a page that allows you to pick out a campsite and book it. The app also shows steep downgrades, low bridges, and escape roads, so you can change your route. It’s an impressive little app well worth the price.

When traveling, I always have a hard time reconciling all of my receipts and checkbooks. The next app that I bought will help me with that. This app is called AndroMoney and it was built mostly for business travelers. In it, you to enter something that you paid for and then stick it into a bucket, like personal, business or medical expense. You can start out with a budget amount and it will show you if you are over or under your daily, monthly, or annual allotment. It has built in reports and you can export the data to Excel or another money management programs. The cost for this was a staggering $2.99. At that price I figured that I couldn’t go wrong even if I only didn’t use most of its functions.

The next app is called TripLog and is free (upgrades are available for a small fee). You all know someone that keeps a mileage logbook in their car; don’t you? That’s what this app does. Each time you stop for gas, you enter the odometer reading, the amount of gallons, the fuel price and total sale. You can also enter other auto expenses like oil changes, car washes and such. You can log each trip you make with your vehicle and categorize them as business or personal and TripLog will generate a report that you can use for filling out taxes. There is a feature that allows you to connect a Bluetooth OBDII reader. Without getting too technical, that’s the port below your steering wheel your mechanic plugs diagnostic stuff into and figures out what the check engine light means. Don’t let that scare you away, you don’t need to use it, just put the numbers in manually. It’s something intriguing to techies because it means the app will automatically start a trip when you turn on the car. I plan on using this program to track segment and overall mileages, and yes I do own an On Board Diagnostic (OBD) reader.

The next two apps that I’ve loaded are just for fun. We are big fans of Food Network and especially the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. We’ve tried several of the places that Guy Fieri featured on his show and we pretty much agree with his reviews (actually, if the restraint isn’t good, it won’t make the show). So the app named DDD has the show’s locations. Be still my blood clots. There are even three places in the Fairbanks area that you can bet we’ll try.

Triple D has a pretty good list, but the show was never shot in Canada. The other Food Network app not only includes the Guy Fieri shows, but includes all of the restaurants featured on the network, including the show The Best Thing I Ever Ate. This app is called TV Food Maps and does have places in Whitehorse and Dawson Creek. With all of these places to try, I’m getting antsy to get on the road.

The apps that we’ve loaded are Android devices, of course, if you own the other kind of device, there are versions for IOS that you can get at the Apple Store.

jw

Preparation – The Trailer

Custom Casita Drawer
Custom drawer made to store clothes under the bed.
New Drawer Latch
The drawer latch added this week should keep the drawer from inadvertently opening.

In addition to the regular cleaning, flushing and stocking, to get The Ritz ready for this trip we had to make a couple of inside modifications. Since we permanently configure the rear seating area as our bed, there was a large unused space under the table, so I made a clothing drawer. Storage space in a small RV is premium.

Last year, I installed the drawer on long ball bearing rails so it would easily open and we could get to the back compartment used as a hamper. I expected the rail’s stops would be sufficient to lock it in place while the Casita was being towed. I was wrong.

The rocking, starting and stopping of the trailer is enough to open and close the drawer and because its tolerances are so tight, it ripped off several door knobs of the side cabinets slid open and slammed shut.

This week, I picked up a small gate latch and installed it so that the drawer can be locked to a bulkhead when closed. It’s small enough and in an out of the way location, that I don’t think it will become a nuisance on its own.

The second modification came about because of an ‘Ah Ha’ moment. Since we’ll be traveling through the land of the midnight sun, we will have trouble sleeping with only the sheer curtains covering the windows. Anne channeled Betsy Ross and fabricated a set of black-out curtains to clip on and provide dark sleeping quarters.

The next steps to get The Ritz ready are packing the wheel bearings, checking the brakes, disinfecting the water tanks, then fill it with food and clothes. I also need to find a good local car wash. She may as well start the trip all clean and shiny.

jw

Preparation – Clothing

As a desert dweller it’s natural to ask what and how many clothes to pack when traveling above the 45th parallel. It’s part of our local culture to watch the evening news and smugly feel sorry for the people ‘back home’ suffering through another blizzard, so my first inclination is to pack everything in my closet that has goose down. However, we’re traveling during the summer, now what do I need to pack.

With a little Internet research I came to a conclusion that the weather will be pretty much the same as a typical Arizona winter with mild days and cool evenings and an occasional wet front now and then. That means we’ll need layers that can be added or removed as needed. For me that means tee shirts, a couple different weight sweaters, a flannel shirt and a waterproof windbreaker.

Neither Queen Anne or myself are fashionistas and I doubt that her highness’ entourage will be invited to a gala at a foreign embassy, so there’s no need to pack any formal wear (as if we had any). But, I think we’ll include a couple of outfits that would be appropriate for a swanky restaurant or something.

Since we’ve limited space in Fritz (the truck) and The Ritz (trailer), we won’t be bringing our entire wardrobe. We’re planning on enough to get us through a couple of weeks at a time. We’re building in laundry days into the itinerary so that we can use up our quarters (or whatever the Canadians have) in the laundromat. And since drying takes the most time, we’ll need something to read while we wait. I suggested that Anne could take the clothes down to the creek and beat them on a rock while Fred and I fished for dinner, but that didn’t go over well.

That’s our packing strategy for now; it will be interesting to see how well it pans out. For all we know, we might wind up in Freddy Meyers, shopping for snow parkas or extra underwear. Only time will tell.

jw

Preparation – Tires

I need to get Fritz (our truck) ready for the trip. Although our Casita trailer weighs about half of what Fritz’s capacity is, it’s a long way to Alaska and back; over a third of the way around the planet. I’d like to prevent troubles before they start.

My newsletter readers already know our gang doesn’t have much luck with tires. <Knock wood> . . . we’ve not had any such trouble this year but it’s not wise to thumb your nose at Lady Luck. Last week, when I had my favorite tire store examine mine, they said that there was enough tread to make the trip but it would be better if I got new ones. After a week of pondering, I’ve decided to follow their advice and spring for new tires.

Fritz came with a set of Michelin run-flats and I’ve replaced those with a second set. When you lose air in a run-flat tire, you’re supposed to be able to drive up to fifty miles on the damaged tire. Theoretically, that will get you to a repair shop. Fortunately, I’ve never had to and don’t want to test that theory. Because Fritz came with this type of tire, he doesn’t have a spare.

I’ve always liked Michelins, but these don’t seem to hold a balance well. Sometimes they’ll roll down the road nice and smooth and other times, there’s bouncing at all four corners. So, I did a little research yesterday and I’m considering trying a set of Bridgestones. I have had a chance to have a set of Bridgestones on Betty, our other car, and I liked how they felt on the highway. The price is almost identical, I’m just hoping for a better ride.

I also want to have a spare for this trip even though there’s no place to put it without giving up luggage space. Fritz has one of those buttons that you push if you’re in trouble and someone comes to rescue you. Looking at the map, I wonder if there’s even cell phone coverage on some of those roads. Believe me, I’ve had plenty of experience changing tires and I’d rather have something I could change than wait for tow truck. While I’m at it, I might as well pick up a matching spare for Ritz, the Casita. So today I have to scour eBay to find a couple of wheels for the rigs.

jw