The Wares RV Across the U.S.

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Photo by Bill and Cynthia Ware at the Alaska border.
Photo by Bill and Cynthia Ware at the Alaska border.

In this report I will discuss some aspects of our RV trip to Alaska in the Summer of 2012. We visited 10 different military RV parks. My wife and I are solo travelers and wanted to repeat our 2005 trip. We pulled our 29-foot travel trailer with a Ford F-250 Diesel pickup from Mississippi to Alaska. It was an 84-day, 13,000-mile trip. We did not do many one-night stops but we figured we camped in 45 different spots. We primarily camped in state, federal and provincial parks and military campgrounds.

Our route included Mississippi; Louisiana; Nebraska; South Dakota; Montana; Alberta, Canada; the Alaska Highway; Tok, Anchorage, Girdwood, Soldotna, Seward, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Chitina, Haines, and Skagway, Alaska; followed by the Alaska Hwy, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, Canada; then Minnesota, Tennessee, Mississipi and home.

The Alaskan Highway. Photo by the Wares.
The Alaskan Highway. Photo by the Wares.

What most people ask about such a trip is damage to an RV on Alaska Highway (the new name for the Alcan Hwy). We had none in 2005 and none this time. The roads are all paved although there are occasional short gravel patches where the frost heave has broken the pavement. This is primarily in Yukon Province and between Tok and Palmer, AK. The highway repair folks quickly remove broken patches, flag the spot and temporarily fill it with gravel. Along these spots you should use caution to drive slower and avoid meeting another vehicle which might sling rocks on you. Most years, there are several miles of the aforementioned highway being rebuilt where you have to drive over rough gravel. Also you must contend with where the frost heave has made the roadway wave-like but may not brake the pavement. Here you must drive slower to avoid heavy bouncing.

All in all, it is still the RVer’s ultimate big trip. The sights and sounds are awesome. The weather is cool, but occasionally damp. The wildlife viewing (and almost hitting) is truly unique. The main thing is to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. Canada can be as beautiful and exciting as Alaska.

This year after leaving Tok on the way out of Alaska, we turned south at Haines Junction, Yukon, to visit Haines, AK. The 148 miles down the Haines Highway can be described in many ways. It is the most awesome, the most desolate, the most rugged, the most uninhabited, and the most exciting road we have ever been on. The Icefield Parkway between Banff and Jasper, Alberta, is special and wonderful but it does not compare to the remoteness of the Haines Hwy. We highly recommend it. We had truck problems in Haines and got to really enjoy the town, it’s people, the bears and the eagles. After staying for five days, we took the Alaska State Ferry to Skagway, AK. We enjoyed the 12-mile boat ride to the Skagway we visited in 2005.

Now back to the main purpose of this report in R&R Travel News©. I will review the RV parks on military bases we visited. I will not go into great detail. They all have full hookups except Elmendorf AFB, AK, and Ft. Wainwright, AK.

 

The Wares take in the fresh mountain air after setting up their camp. Photo provided by the Wares.
The Wares take in the fresh mountain air after setting up their camp. Photo provided by the Wares.

Barksdale AFB, LA: Their Famcamp is on base but about five miles east of the gate and the runway. You should enter the base at the commercial gate on the north side of the base from I-20. There is a nice new office with a full-time attendant. The roads are gravel with concrete pads. It is surrounded by tall trees and can accommodate any size RV like all of these camps.

Offutt AFB, NE: Their off-base park is south of the base off the end of the runway on a large lake. The terrain is flat with a few small trees. You drive around the base on the north side. After passing several blocks of businesses and residential sections, you finally see a little sign to turn right to reach the end of the runway. You will think the GPS is lost. When you come to the end of the runway, it is to the left, across the railroad tracks. There is an attendant who runs a small store and snack bar. Some of the turns are tight. There is the Strategic Air & Space Museum about 35 miles southwest of Omaha in Ashland. It is new, large and really worth seeing. There are aircraft, mockups and exhibits there you will rarely see even in Dayton.

Ellsworth AFB, SD: The park is on base and has a volunteer host. It is small and tight but should accommodate any size RV. All the trees are small as it is on the high plain. It is surrounded by grassy lawn. RVs are directed to enter by the commercial gate of the old highway. However, we had no trouble leaving by the main gate for easy access to the interstate. The aviation museum there is outstanding inside and out. It is located just right of the main gate and accessible to the general public. There are many aircraft outside including a B-1 and a B-52D. This B-52D bomber has its Vietnam war black paint scheme. Since I flew this model, I was especially interested to see it had the bomb shackles mounted on the pylons. I think it is one of only a few B-52s on static display with the shackles. I saw bombs lying beside the building without their tail fins, so I expect eventually they will be hanging on the shackles. That will be really special.

Malmstrom AFB, MT: This park is off-base but just beside the fence. It has a volunteer host, paved streets and the spaced-out concrete pads are surrounded by grassy lawn. It is very neat and clean. The rapids and the Lewis and Clark National Museum are worth seeing there.

Its a moose! The great beast takes a moment to pose for the camera. Photo provided by the Wares.
It’s a moose! The great beast takes a moment to pose for the camera. Photo by the Wares.

Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER): The old RV park is on Elmendorf and is rustic with gravel streets and pads. We like it best even though there are no sewer hookups. It is otherwise well appointed with two wash houses. There are full-time volunteer hosts. There are trees all around, but not a jungle. It is so convenient. It is near the main gate at the Muldoon exit off the Glenn Hwy heading from Anchorage to Palmer. The new huge Exchange, gas/diesel station and indoor car wash is a few hundred yards away. Just off base is a new strip mall with a Lowe’s. Some of the sites will accommodate large RVs.

Fort Richardson-Black Spruce RV Campground: It is also off the Glenn Hwy Muldoon exit. It has good gravel streets, mostly sewer sites and can accommodate all sizes of RVs. It is located on the back side of the post between the post and the airbase.

Seward Military Recreational Resort, AK: It is off-base in Seward. This is a first class military resort with a small RV park located in the must see seaside town of Seward. The resort is open year-round and enjoyed by military families in Alaska. It has rooms, cabins, a gift shop and a restaurant. They can sell you discounted tickets for activities in Seward. You need to make reservations for RV sites or rooms especially in July.

Eielson AFB, AK: The camp is on base , but 26 miles south of Fairbanks. We stayed there in 2005. There are no sewer hookups and the sites are rustic and located in tight gravel streets between low trees.

Fort Wainwright, AK: We camped here but I cannot recommend it. It is very convenient, just to the left of the main gate which is in town. In the past it may have been nice but rustic. Now its gone to ruin. There is a new MWR rental facility where you can check in. When the post expanded the new family housing, they took much of the RV park. What was left has leaky water connections and broken electrical hookups. It seems the base has not kept it in good repair. We stayed there one night, shared electrics with the site beside us and turned off the city water as it leaked so badly. I hope at some point the park will be improved.

Chena River State RV Park, AK: We parked in Fairbanks for three days. It is also in town and close to Pioneer Park. It is a very nice compact park set in trees. At only $10 a night, we highly recommend it. We had a wonderful time this trip and would like to go back someday. We went to some different places and saw more animals than we saw in 2005. We enjoyed the wild places, the snowy mountains, the eagles, the bears, the moose and especially the cooler summer weather. If you have any questions at all, email me. There are a lot of details I left out but would like to tell someone.

Happy travels,
Lt. Col. Bill Ware USAF/ANG, (Ret.) and Cynthia Ware
Brandon, MS
biware@bellsouth.net

Reprint from Jan-Feb 2013 • Volume 43, No. 1