Dec 22, 2023 | Destinations

The Great Alaska Adventure

Great cruising weather near Seward, Alaska

By Paul and Elaine McVinney, BRN 7815

I’m writing this article as Elaine and I just returned from our long-planned, epic trip to Alaska we have looked forward to for years. We visited Alaska together while on a Princess cruise/train voyage in 2007 and have wanted to return ever since. We planned the trip for quite a while, loaded up the Escape Pod, and launched out on July 1. Since we had a lot of stops and events packed into this trip, it took about five months. We got home just before Thanksgiving and will be glad to see the grandkids again.


Planning took a long time as we had to make reservations at high-demand locations such as Banff National Park as soon as their reservation windows opened. As you know, making reservations means paying for campsites up front so we had a lot of money sunk into the trip before we even left. Many thanks to Chuck & Maggie Helwig who have led Airstream caravans to Alaska and lent me their planning book and provided much wise counsel!

Elaine at the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan


So many iconic destinations (plus family and friends) were on our list that we ended up with a five-month trip with 74 separate stops.

We have wanted to see Mackinac Island, so we went straight there from home, spent three days at a nearby Michigan state park, then crossed easily into Canada. Canada border agents asked us about bringing weapons into Canada. We sped across the Canadian Plains to Calgary. Almost there? No way. Not only is Alaska a big state, it’s a long way away. When we hit Calgary, we were still almost 2,000 miles from Fairbanks, our first Alaska destination.

We took our time going through the Canadian Rockies, spending a few days visiting Banff National Park, Jasper NP and Kootenay NP.

Paul at the Sky Bistro on Banff Mountain.

Banff NP was pretty upscale with amenities, Jasper less so, and Kootenay was pretty rugged as there was no water or power at any sites and one dump station at the park entrance. Canadian provinces and Alaska have a limited window for road repairs, so expect delays. Also expect that your trailer will get pretty dirty from the light oil used to keep the dust down in the areas under repair.

Alaska Destinations

We spent a week each in Fairbanks, Denali NP, Anchorage, and Seward. Overall, Alaska is a pretty rough and rugged place with a lot of businesses just getting by. Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seward have everything you may need, but you won’t find a CVS or strip mall on every corner. You will likely have to drive further to get anything than you would in the Lower 48.

The only real traffic we found was where wildlife was grazing at the side of the road. Watching out for cars and people was more hazardous than any animal encounters.

Paul and Elaine ready to fly to Denali from Talkeetna.

Other than wildfire smoke, the weather cooperated for most of our time, and we had some great days of hiking, flightseeing around Denali from Talkeetna, and on the nature cruise in Seward. Those events worked out just as we had hoped.

From Alaska, we headed south to the San Francisco Bay Area to see Elaine’s family, further south in CA, east to my college reunion in Colorado, then continued east toward home. Near the beginning we stayed at Penn Wood Airstream Park in Pennsylvania and near the end we stayed at Tennessee Cumberland Airstream Park. Both were great and I’ll write reviews for another newsletter.
Since we were gone for so long, we arranged ahead of time for family and friends to stay at the house. We also have great next-door neighbors who looked after the house when no one was there. We used the iPostal service for mail during the trip which provided mixed results; again, another short article for a future newsletter.

Launch vehicle and escape pod get a needed bath


• We met people we knew and made new friends in many destinations where we stayed for a few days. It’s amazing what we found we had in common once we started chatting with people. Airstream, of course, is a great conversation starter.
• The trip was great for catching up with close family, cousins, and long-time friends. We thanked them for their hospitality, and they thanked us for remembering them. Everyone wants to be remembered.
• Farmers markets: The best food at great prices all along the way
• Cinnamon buns: We had to sample them wherever we went! The winner: The Bake Shop in Girdwood, Alaska.
• We went to every hot spring we could find along our path. The winner: Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs in Whitehorse, Yukon, an elegant European-style spa that’s well worth the cost of the day pass.
• Repairs: Yes, some repairs were needed along the way, but nothing we couldn’t handle. I can provide a summary in another article in case anyone may be interested.
Overall, it was a memorable trip and one which every traveler should plan on.

Thanks for traveling with us!

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