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In this episode of the RVing with Joe & Kait podcast, we talk to Robert Morales, a seasoned RV traveler and YouTuber known for his channel Traveling Robert. Robert shares his extensive experience RVing to and through Alaska, providing valuable insights and tips for fellow RVers who dream of exploring the Last Frontier. From practical advice on navigating Alaskan roads to must-see destinations, this episode is packed with everything you need to know for an unforgettable Alaskan RV adventure.
RVing Alaska with Robert Morales
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Table of Contents
Robert Morales is a Cuban born, Floridian by choice, insatiable traveler. He shares his RV travel stories, producing inspiring, informative, and entertaining videos, enjoying the journey as much as the destination, sampling the local cuisine, imbibing the local craft ales, visiting the main attractions, and off the beaten path destinations.
In 2014 he acquired a small Winnebago travel trailer to explore the United States of America and beyond. In 2020 he became a Winnebago Micro Minnie brand ambassador. Having visited all 48 contiguous states and Alaska, Robert continues to travel sharing his adventures on YouTube and most of the other social channels.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- YOLO Moment in RV Purchase: Robert recalls the spontaneous decision to start his RVing journey, emphasizing the importance of seizing the moment.
- Navigating the Alaskan Terrain: Insights into the varying road conditions across Alaska, and tips for handling challenging routes.
- RVing Alaska Trip Planning Tips: Robert shares practical tips for effective trip planning, including route suggestions and must-visit spots.
- The Three Faces of Alaska: Robert’s unique perspective on Alaska’s diverse regions, from the untamed north to the bustling urban centers.
- Connectivity in the Wilderness: How technology like Starlink revolutionized Robert’s travel experiences, especially in remote Alaskan locations.
- Wildlife and Culinary Adventures: Engaging stories of encounters with Alaskan wildlife and indulging in local delicacies, including a $90 pizza.
00:45 Welcome and introduction
03:50 What it’s like to travel to Alaska in an RV
08:45 The three distinct regions of Alaska
11:43 Timeline of Robert’s RV road trip to Alaska, must-see destinations and places to camp along the way
18:02 Border crossings
19:03 Arriving in Alaska and exploring in an RV
23:37 The mosquitoes in Alaska
26:17 Worst road in Alaska and a rookie mistake
27:08 Robert shares his tips for RVing Alaska, including essential resources including Starlink satellite internet
30:12 How long to plan for an Alaska RV road trip, campground reservations, pre-booking tours and experiences
32:16 Coolest experience in Alaska
36:15 Most beautiful cruise in Alaska
38:36 Reserving campgrounds in Alaska
41:03 The $90 pizza experience in Alaska
50:45 Carrying a spare tire
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Robert Morales had a YOLO moment, you know, you only live once, let’s pull the trigger, let’s do this.
Joe Russo Talk about what it was like to travel to Alaska.
Robert Morales There are two ways to go up to Alaska. I’ve seen roads in Indiana a lot worse than the Alaska Highway. Just fill up whenever it’s like half a tank and you’ll be fine. We lost a few screws here and there is an RV, it’s gonna happen. The way I describe it to myself, there are three Alaskas. That was quite an experience, besides the mosquitoes. We had one mishap, rookie mistake. I mean, you have to have the $90 pizza.
Joe Russo In this episode of RVing with Joe and Kait, we’re going to be talking to Robert Morales from the YouTube channel Traveling Robert, all about what his experience was like traveling to and through Alaska. Let’s get right into it.
Robert, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us.
Robert Morales Thank you so much for having me, Joe and Kait. We’re the Russos. I mean, we’ve known each other for a while and it’s great to be on your podcast. Congratulations on the podcast, by the way.
Kait Russo Thank you.
Joe Russo This is a new endeavor for us and we figured now is the time.
Kait Russo It’s nice to finally pull the trigger and start our own podcast. So thank you for being on ours.
Robert Morales Absolutely, anytime.
Joe Russo Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into RVing? Where are you from? That sort of thing.
Robert Morales Well, I was born in the island of Cuba. Been here for actually two days ago was my 35th anniversary of arriving to the United States. So it’s…
Joe Russo Happy anniversary.
Robert Morales Yeah, that’s almost like an immigrant almost celebrates that more than their birthday. It’s like a rebirth, so very happy to be here. And now about RVing, we started RVing about nine years ago.
Well, before, we rented a couple of times before just to make sure that we knew we liked it. It all began actually with my brother-in-law. We were visiting family in Georgia for Thanksgiving and he rented one of those Cruise Americas with the picture of Zion on the side. And you know, unmistakable. And I’m like, hmm, you know, they had a dog and it was like very comfortable to travel that could pull off anywhere.
And I’m like, hmm, there must be something into this. And then we rented one twice actually. And…And after we rented the second one, we did the four corners out west, the national parks in Utah, you know the area, and I’m like, we have to do this, especially that area is made for RVing.
So we just went, we decided on something that I could kind of pull with my current vehicle that kind of fit in my driveway, kind of being the key word here. So we went to the dealer just to see it and the rest is history.
We had a YOLO moment. You only live once, let’s pull the trigger, let’s do this.
Kait Russo So you started with a truck and trailer or towing a vehicle and what do you have currently?
Robert Morales I still have a truck and trailer. I started with that, I have an old Kia Sorento. It was like the beefier of the Kia Sorentos, but still it was underpowered. But we were like, you know what? We’re in Florida, it’s all flat. What could possibly go wrong? Eventually we hit some mountains and that’s when it got sketchy. Eventually had to upgrade that Kia and then after five years towing with my original trailer.
I had been talking to Winnebago here and there and we got to an agreement where I became a brand ambassador for them. And as part of that agreement they lend me a trailer every year or every certain amount of time, it depends. And that’s what I have now. I still have a Winnebago, it’s a Micro Mini, but it’s a slightly, I went to a larger one and I downsized again to a 20 footer.
Joe Russo The reason we wanted to have you on the podcast today is to talk about what it was like to travel to Alaska, because that is a bucket list item for a lot of RVers. It is the only state that we have not yet RV’d in and we’re a little timid about going up there.
I mean there’s all the stories about blowing tires, the distance to get up there, all the other things, and part of us is just like, eh, why don’t we just fly up, leave the RV at home, that sort of thing. So we’d love to get your kind of perception on what it was like to travel up there.
Robert Morales Yeah, well it is certainly far. I can vouch for that. But I mean, and you can fly, they have several companies that rent you a Class C up there, you know, and the thing with the rentals, they don’t let you go on every road. So if you, especially you guys, you have a four by four, you kind of like the overlanding activities, I think for you guys it’s going to be better to drive your own.
But for everybody, you know, we got very lucky. We didn’t have a flat tire. We did have a chip in our windshield, but it didn’t happen in Alaska of all places. It happened, I believe, in Colorado on our way to Alaska.
So I mean we’re lucky and let’s go by parts. There are two ways to go up to Alaska. There’s the Alcan, the Alaska Highway, which is the main that everybody does. There’s the Cassiar and then once you get up there to the Yukon, there’s another two highways, the top of the world or continue on the Alcan. The Alaska Highway for the most part, I mean I’ve seen roads in Indiana a lot worse than the Alaska Highway.
So you shouldn’t be concerned and people say you have to have three, five gallon buckets of gas because gas stations are far in between. Not really, just fill up whenever it’s like half a tank and you’ll be fine. So do not be scared of the Alaska Highway.
There are many points of interest to stop. Everybody stops at Liard Hot Springs or the Sign Post Forest. It’s worth a quick stop, not stay five days, but it’s worth a quick stop. The only part of the Alaska Highway that is really bad is like the last 300 miles.
Joe Russo Okay, why is that?
Robert Morales After you pass a beautiful lake, it’s called Kluane Lake, and then comes Destruction Bay. After Destruction Bay and it’s not the washboard or the potholes, it’s the frost heaves, because you don’t see them coming. The frost heave, if you get one of those frost heaves too far, I mean, your wheels are almost gonna come off the ground. It is, and especially if you’re towing back there, still we lost a few screws here and there, it’s an RV, it’s gonna happen. But as far as the Alaska Highway, it’s for the most part fine.
The Top of the World, it’s kind of like the Destruction Bay part of the Alaska Highway. Frost heaves, washboard, potholes here and there. Usually the gravel parts are the best parts of the road because they withstand better, you know, like the harsh winters, you know, they’re easier to maintain in that sense.
Kait Russo You produced an entire series about going to Alaska on your YouTube channel. And you have a section on the road to Alaska, which is its own adventure, and then Alaska itself. And I remember chuckling because one of the first things you said was, you’re just going to risk it with the spare tire and in that you were going to bring an air compressor and a good tire repair kit. So it sounds like that worked out for you. And if you were to plan the trip again in an RV, would you go the same route or would you carry a spare next time?
Robert Morales Like a second spare? And probably not. Probably not. I think I would risk it. I mean, it’s I mean, there is one road that I already did and I probably won’t do again because, you know, and that was where we had the most trouble with. That’s the Dalton Highway. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s the northernmost road in the United States. The most remote. 240 miles without services. I mean, after that town, Coldfoot, which is like the halfway point, you’re pretty much on your own.
You know, you better have a way. There’s no emergency services. There’s no gas stations, nothing. And that road is mostly pretty bad gravel, and the paved parts aren’t very good either. So that’s the one road where I would take more precautions, if you will.
The rest of Alaska, I mean, some of it feels like really remote and the frontier. But the farther south you go, the more it’s, actually, the way I describe it to myself, there are three Alaskas. There are three areas, three main areas of Alaska. And the first one is Fairbanks, it’s the town in the middle of the state and north of there, and the surrounding area. That’s what I called the last frontier, the wild Alaska. It feels rough.
Automobile cars they have a power plug in the front because you have to plug them in at the when you park them in the winter because it is so cold that you won’t be able to start them again. So it’s that kind of you know minus 40 degrees in winter rough. Then you have the southern part of Alaska, which is like the Kenai Peninsula you know where the that’s a touristy part of Alaska it’s where all the you know where they were the Princess Cruise goes and all that world the cruises go and it’s like and you see them, you see up and down the parks, highway, the buses from all the cruise lines and even the Alaska railroad, they have cars. They may be like three cars from Alaska railroad, but then you have two princess cars, two Holland America cars, and it’s so touristy.
And then there’s Anchorage, the largest city. And as an Alaskan friend put it to me, you can see Alaska from there, but it’s not Alaska. You arrive there and there’s Chick-fil-A and even Raising Canes and all the chain restaurants and everything. You might as well be in Des Moines. It’s, you’re arriving in Anchorage and you are arriving in any suburb of any large American city. So those are the three Alaskans.
Joe Russo Just talking about getting up there, a lot of the people that we’ve heard will say that Alaska’s great. But what’s even better is the portion of Canada that you have to drive through. Did you stop in Canada at all or did you just kind of bomb through it?
Robert Morales Well, yeah, of course you have to do, especially if you’re gonna take the Alcan, which is a little farther east, the Canadian Rockies are a must, I think. And I think we kind of rushed through them because it was such a long road to Alaska that we wanted to get there, so we didn’t spend enough time. But you know, the Banff area, Lake Louise, Jasper, yeah, that deserves at least a week if not more.
With all the hiking, all these lakes, they have this turquoise water that doesn’t seem possible. It seems like someone just dropped a bucket of turquoise dye to that lake, so and the mountains and it’s a beautiful area. Same with the Western part, if you come down like we did, we return on the Cassiar, on the Stuart Cassiar. There’s so many beautiful places in that area. And of course, there’s the area surrounding Vancouver, which is also beautiful.
Kait Russo Do you mind walking through kind of your timeline for your Alaska trip this year? Because I think you left Florida towards the end of May, is that correct?
Robert Morales Yes, yes. May 23rd or 24th, I believe we left. And we pretty much made a beeline for the Rockies. So I wanted to take some time to spend a little time in Colorado, and we did Yellowstone again, we did the eastern part of Glacier National Park, which was closed in 2020 when I was there. And we took our time, and then we took our time and a little bit of time in Canada.
We visited, I’m a Trekkie, so I had to visit Vulcan, Alberta of course, which the whole town is like a Star Trek themed thing, they have all those things. And then Calgary, which I was pleasantly surprised. What a great city, you know, it’s super diverse and bustling. And then we did the Canadian Rockies, which I already talked about.
And then you have to keep going north to a town called Dawson Creek, not the TV series, but Dawson Creek. And that’s the beginning of the Alaska Highway. So that’s one of the main stops that you have to do. From Dawson City, the first day drive is not the most scenic, to be honest. And the one thing this year in Canada, we had wildfires. So it was a lot of smoke. So it wasn’t very scenic. But once you get to, you start to get to the mountains. And right now the name escapes me. It’s called Summit Lake. It’s a great campground there and I should have a map in front of me because right before Summit Lake there’s a town that has the best cinnamon roll on the Alaska Highway. They claim it and it was really good.
They have a small RV park there too but we decided to boondock at this Summit Lake which is beautiful. It is called Stone Mountain Provincial Park. Nothing to do with the one in Georgia or the one in North Carolina. It’s called Stone Mountain and it’s beautiful there. And that’s the beginning of the beautiful part of the Alaska Highway.
From there, there are a few must stops. One of them is the Liard River Hot Springs, which, you know, that’s something that a lot of people do. You know, just, it’s not like you’re gonna stay there for a long time, but it’s a nice hot spring if you’re into that. They have waterfalls and they have a, you can either stay at the state park, or no, provincial parks, they’re called in Canada. But if you want full hookups and Starlink, you can stay at the RV park across the street, which is like, I don’t know, 40 bucks, 45 bucks a night. And they have no trees, so for us that, by the way, Starlink was a game changer when it came to this trip, because there’s no cell phone signal pretty much.
Kait Russo I saw the episode where you stopped at the hot spring. And I remember you were exploring one of the little creeks and then you decided to turn around. And I was getting a little nervous watching you kind of explore down this little creek. I was like, where is this gonna go? I hope you didn’t get attacked.
Robert Morales Yeah, that was a little bit scary. I was wearing water shoes and all that, but it gets narrower and narrower and you start seeing bugs and I’m like maybe I should return, although the floor is all gravel. I suspect some of it is manmade these days.
So yeah, Liard River, very cool to visit. Just one night, we got there at 4 p.m. I jumped in the springs, and then on the next day continued. And as I said, every, I wanna say 100 kilometers or so, there’s a gas station, and all of them, or most of them, they’re like little towns, you know, you have a gas station, an RV park, a convenience store and a small lodge and it’s all concentrated there so if you want every hundred miles or so you’re going to have one of those which is very convenient.
The next stop is Watson Lake. Watson Lake, it’s kind of in the border, it’s in the Yukon but you’re going to straddle the Yuko border there for a few miles and Watson Lake is mainly famous for the Sign Post Forest. Sign Post Forest, this started during World War II, you know, the two lonely soldiers, you know, they were building the Alaska Highway and they posted a sign with the distance to their hometown. And then, you know, people started doing that and now there are thousands of, I mean, if not tens of thousands of signs there. And I know every other YouTuber has put their sign there at some point, so I had to do that too. But mostly signs like road signs from all over the world. That was something to see.
Again, stay one night at the RV park or you can boondock. I mean there is boondocking, the other thing. Except the Yukon. The Yukon is a little more strict when it comes to boondocking but you can pull off pretty much in any rest area, any pull out and nobody cares. And in Alaska even less.
And the next big stop is Whitehorse, which is the capital of the Yukon territory. And there they have a, they have the, it’s an old riverboat. There’s several things to do there. There’s a museum, there’s another hot spring. And it’s a very developed city for how far north it is. It almost felt Nordic, you know, like kind of like this square buildings, but very, very well maintained.
And after that, that’s when it starts to get a little sketchy. You’re gonna go west. There’s this town called Haynes Junction, which is the first junction where you can go somewhere in Alaska. It’s a, there’s a couple of towns on the Alaska Panhandle that are not accessible from the rest of Alaska. So you can only access them through Canada and that’s Haynes Junction.
And then after that Kluane Lake, Destruction Bay, that’s when it gets a little sketchy. And just take a slow and eventually you’re going to encounter the border. I didn’t talk about the border crossings, but the border crossing into Canada was relatively easy. They grill you with a bunch of questions, like if you have, mainly firearms, for some reason they care about firearms, drugs and liquor. As long as you don’t have any of those, you’re fine.
And then going back into the United States is most like customs. You have to declare if you have eggs, and eggs seem to be a problem. Certain things, and it’s hard to find super accurate information about what you can bring or you cannot. It changes. Now the problem with eggs is avian flu, but in the future it could be something else.
And the first town that you’re going to encounter in Alaska is Tok. It’s a small town called Tok. But that’s where it begins. As soon as you get to Alaska, you start seeing these snow-capped mountains. There are mountains everywhere, and there are beautiful lakes everywhere, and waterfalls, and rivers, and all that. But in Alaska, it’s just like the concentration of them is just like, it’s a lot more. It’s the largest state, but there is so much.
And I’m rambling here a little bit, but I wanted to get this point across. The main thing is your geographical location. Being so far north, even mountains that are not as tall, they keep the snow on the top year round. And then if you don’t look at it on a map, look at it on a globe exactly where you are, you are like on the top of the world, literally. You can point to it.
And then it never gets dark that time of the year. We arrived in Alaska. I wanted to time it so we did Fairbanks for the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. And they have something on the Saturday closest to that date, it’s called the Midnight Sun Festival. Fairbanks, by the way, is the second largest city.
And the end of the Alaska Highway is really a small town called Delta Junction, but there’s not a whole lot to do there, so you get there, take a picture with the sign and keep going to Fairbanks, large city. A lot of things to do in the vicinity of Fairbanks. And it’s a fairly large city. You can still tell you’re on the frontier, but it’s everything. They have everything.
Now, the Midnight Sun Festival, it’s a cultural experience. It’s like any carnival anywhere, any festival. They have vendors and music and all that. They have a, on the solstice, that we didn’t do, at the end we decided not to go. They have a baseball game that begins at 10 p.m. And they don’t have lights. They don’t use the lights. You know, it finishes at midnight or 1 a.m.
And the thing is with daylight savings time and the way Alaska is positioned in the time zone, the true midnight really happens like at 1.30 a.m. So that’s when the sun is gonna be the lowest. And yeah, you do the sun does set like at 12:30 a.m., and then it comes back up like at 2 a.m. But it never gets dark.
Joe Russo I was gonna say, I remember watching a video with Gone With The Winds, where they were up in Alaska, and they did a, it was like a 5K or something at midnight. You remember that?
Robert Morales Yeah, they do that too. I think they do it on the same day as the baseball game. But I’m not certain. I’m not certain about that. Yeah, that’s something that actually we could have done, but we wanted to do other things.
We went to the, in Fairbanks, it’s a day trip to Chena Hot Springs, which is a nice area. Actually the highlight for us was not the Hot Springs, but they have a nice museum with an ice bar, and they carve a martini glass out of ice. And they carve it in front of you, and then they give you an Appletini at the end of the tour. Probably 25 degrees in there. I don’t know how long and they have these ice sculptures that some of them are 30 year old sculptures that they’ve been there, you know, they keep them frozen even in winter. That was a cool place.
Kait Russo Did you freeze your martini glass so you can take it home?
Robert Morales The tradition is for you to smash it on the ground on your way out. So that’s what we did Yeah from there you can go two ways. You can go north as I mentioned earlier on the Dalton Highway which is actually when you realize that you’re really in the Arctic because you go past the Arctic Circle and once you go past the Arctic Circle and you have to wake up in the middle of the night to experience this, if you have a clear day, go experience the midnight sun, the real thing.
You know, that was very emotional for me. I had one pretty much, for many years, I had wanted to experience this and I have heard this. There’s this mountain, it’s called Gobbler’s Knob that it’s about, I wanna say 20 minute drive from the Arctic Circle going north. And from there, during this date, in late June, the sun doesn’t set. You see it kind of coming down from the west where it would, and then when it hits dead north, it’s like five degrees over the horizon, and then it starts going back up after the astronomical midnight. And that was quite an experience, besides the mosquitoes.
Joe Russo Yeah, I wanna hear about the mosquitoes.
Robert Morales Especially in this northern part of Alaska. And not only there, you know, the Yukon in Canada too, I mean, mosquitoes are crazy. I mean, they swarm you. If you’re moving, not quite as much, but if you stop like I did, like to take a picture of the midnight sun, as you do, they’re just flying all over you. They don’t bite as much. If you’ve been to Florida, our mosquitoes here in Florida, they land on you and they bite you immediately.
These mosquitoes in Alaska, they’re kind of lazy, like lethargic, you know? There are a lot of them, but they land on you and they’re like, hmm, should I bite him? Should I not? And eventually they do, but I just wore bug spray and I had one of those nets, you know, for like the worst of the worst days, like when I had to, you know, go grab the generator to get some power and all that, you know, so yeah, we did that.
And then of course, the Dalton Highway takes you all the way to just before the Arctic. It’s the most remote road. First you go through Boreal Forest, then after you pass the Brooks Mountains Range, you go, it’s the north slope, but it’s tundra. Nothing grows, no large trees will grow that far north. And eventually you go to a town called Dead Horse, which is kind of anticlimactic because it’s all, you know industrial facilities for the oil companies, oil wells. And it’s not the most attractive place.
From there you can take a tour. And you have to take a tour if you want to see the Arctic Ocean. And you are what, 10 miles away? You might as well go the extra, not even 10 miles away. And it’s not expensive. You get it there at the Dead Horse Camp. And they kind of give you a tour of the oil facilities. And then at the end, you get to if you feel so inclined, you can take the polar bear plunge, as it’s called. I just waded in the Arctic. I just did. I didn’t go all the way. I chickened out.
Kait Russo But did you plan to?
Robert Morales I wanted to, but I’m like, it’s too cold. You know, it’s I’m from the Caribbean. You know, it’s kind of like it’s worth it. In hindsight, I probably it was probably a missed opportunity, but I probably should have done it. I mean, I could talk a whole hour about the Dalton Highway. It was the most intense adventure of the whole trip for sure.
We had one mishap, rookie mistake on my part, that we left the water pump on, on the road, and it’s so bumpy. This is like the least maintained road there in Alaska that our faucet opened by itself, you know, the faucet in the sink, in the kitchen sink and we lost like half a tank and we filled up like half of our gray water. So we kind of had to make a beeline back because we were at the limit of our boondocking capabilities there.
And supposedly there was supposed to be a dump station at Dead Horse but both the mile post and the BLM guide were wrong. It’s no longer open. So yeah, we kind of on the way back, we kind of high tiled it back to Fairbanks.
Joe Russo For people that are going up to Alaska, what resources would you recommend they get or have on hand?
Robert Morales Well, everybody recommended to me the Milepost and I may be the oddball here. I opened it twice. And because twice it had the outdated information. So, I mean, if you have a co-pilot that is gonna go, mile by mile and there’s something, or if you have a lot of time to plan, you know, and you can go mile by mile and see what point of interest there are.
Otherwise, I mean, we were spoiled. We have Starlink in motion. So we had internet like even in the most remote corners of Alaska as long as there were no trees. So we used Google instead, you know, to find our way. But if you don’t, yeah, the Milepost could be a great resource.
Kait Russo It sounds like Starlink was one of the most essential resources for you on this trip.
Robert Morales It was a game changer because my wife, she’s working from the road, you know? So she was able to work from anywhere, you know? Even in the middle of nowhere, Dalton Highway, where there’s nothing else, you know? There’s not a soul for 200 miles probably on that north slope, except the people that are on the road.
Kait Russo Do you mind sharing what your Starlink plan was and how much you were paying?
Robert Morales Way, way too much. So the standard plan is $150, right? But that one doesn’t include in motion. So you have to get the standard. Is it still called roaming or now it’s called something else? Roaming priority. Even though I went through my priority gigabytes in less than a day. But the priority allows you to use it in motion, which works remarkably well for something that is talking to satellites going high speeds in the sky and you’re also going in a different direction.
I mean, it worked really well. So it was 250 a month, what we paid during our time out there just so we could use it in motion. I understand that’s something that not everybody will need, but in our case, we thought it was worth it.
Kait Russo And it sounds like, especially since the book you were referencing had outdated information, being able to access the internet when you’re in the middle of nowhere to find out where, let’s say, the next gas station is or the next water fill is, is essential.
Robert Morales To be fair to the model post, probably the online information about some of these places was also going to be outdated. Like there’s an old wooden bridge near Dawson City, that Dawson Creek, that was no longer open. And well, that dump station, that even the online BLM guide still marked it as available.
Kait Russo Going back to the timing of your trip, it sounds like it took you about a month to get to Alaska. And then how long did you all stay in Alaska to explore?
Robert Morales We spent almost six weeks in Alaska, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. The Dalton Highway was like the beginning of our trip. After that, we went down to Denali National Park, of course. That’s like the most visited point of interest in Alaska. And then we went down to the Kenai Peninsula. We spent like, I wanna say, like three weeks in the Kenai Peninsula. That’s what I call the touristy part of Alaska.
And there are so many places where you can take like cruises or, well, we took, let’s start with Denali. I have to organize my thoughts here. You guys help me out if you want. But from Fairbanks to Denali, just a couple hour drive is very, very close. And Denali National Park, of course, if you wanna enjoy the park, you have to take either a tour or one of the shuttle buses because you can only drive the first 13 miles. That’s the only part of the park you are allowed to drive with your own vehicle. And you don’t even get to see Denali on those 13 miles unless you hike to the top of the mountain. So do that.
There’s a town right across the road from the entrance to the park. They have RV parks and all kinds of businesses. Even a very cool saloon at the Princess Hotel. So it’s very nice. And you can camp in the park too. They have several campgrounds, but you know, I decided to reserve the full hookups campground outside the park. It seemed more comfortable. And so many hiking trails and so much to do.
Kait Russo How far in advance did you book some of these campground reservations and experiences? Because the way Joe and I like to travel, we like to wing it. And we rarely ever book anything in advance, but I don’t know if that’s possible if we’re planning an RV trip to Alaska.
Robert Morales Actually, it is. The coolest experience that we ever did in Alaska, which was Brooks Falls to see the bears eating salmon there, catching the salmon on the river. I couldn’t make a reservation. I went with the most famous company, reputable or not, and they have booking, but then it’s all weight limited. If they ask you how much you weight and it’s a small float plane, so they couldn’t, they said they didn’t have anything, so I kind of had given up and last minute, you know, Ileana, she went online and Viator of all places. And lo and behold, there was room in one of the tours.
They have like 10 companies that do the same or more. I don’t know how many companies they have. They all charge the same. They all do basically the same tour. You know, they take you on a float plane to Katmai National Park, which is a beautiful flight. I mean, it’s one of those bucket lists, like, you know, you’re gonna remember it forever. And then, you know, that platform where you see the bears, you know, it’s eating salmon and it seems so close.
You know, seeing nature, the circle of life happening before your eyes so close, it’s something that you definitely want to do. Of course, yeah, it comes at a price. It comes at a price, and I’m gonna say, it is $1,000 per person, that tour. Yeah.
Joe Russo Yeah, that is, I will say, out of all the things I’ve seen in Alaska, that is definitely on my bucket list.
Kait Russo Yes. I’m willing to pay for it. I mean, I would venture to guess you paid a lot more in fuel to get to Alaska.
Robert Morales Oh yeah, for sure, for sure. And that was not the only tour we did, but it was definitely the most expensive one. I would definitely take one of the cruises, the day cruises that they do, they all last around six hours more or less. And one of them we took from Seward, which is also a very touristy town, but beautiful.
Even though the weather did not cooperate, they take you on Resurrection Bay there, and Kenai Fjords National Park. And you get to see glaciers, and you get to see the glacier cabin, which is something, you know, sometimes you don’t get to see it, but when you get to see it, it’s really cool. Because you don’t know when it’s gonna happen, so you have to keep your eyes peeled on the glacier. And by the time you hear it, you hear the noise, it already happened, you know, because sound takes a while for it to travel. But we did see, we did get to see some glacier cabin.
We saw humpback whales. We saw the most beautiful waterfalls, even though it was raining the whole time, but we still got to enjoy it. And there are two more tours that, one that we didn’t take because we figured, we already taken two glacier viewing tours. So there’s a tour from Whittier, which is, Whittier is a peculiar town.
All this is in the Kenai Peninsula. Because to get to it, you have to go through a tunnel. And this very narrow tunnel. It’s one way, only one lane tunnel, and it’s shared with the railroad. So it’s on a schedule. Going eastbound is on the half hour, going westbound is on the top of the hour, and then if the train happens to be coming, you have to wait.
But it’s very much a white knuckle drive because you’re driving on top of the rail, and your vehicle kind of and my new truck has that lane departure assist or lane keep assist. And it kept getting confused. And the truck was trying to steer me a different way and I’m going like 20 miles an hour on this tunnel. It’s two miles, but it felt like an eternity.
Now, Whittier. Whittier is this town that most of the town lives in this big, you know, like 15 story building. And that building has like everything in there, you know, hospital. stores, facilities, they don’t really have to get out of there in winter if they don’t want to.
But they have a cruise, it’s the 26 Glacier Cruise, if you’re ever in Alaska. This is the most beautiful, and the weather also was great. But you see all these glaciers, one of the largest ones, I forget, I think it’s a mile wide and like, I want to say 500 feet tall. It’s, I mean, it’s called, the area is called College Fjord, and all the glaciers are named after famous universities. This one happens to be Harvard Glacier. And then there’s another, actually, the most beautiful one was at the end of the trip, at the end of this cruise.
And I’m trying to look it up here on the map, and I can’t find it, but I will. And that is Blackstone Glacier, Blackstone Glacier. It’s beautiful as it is because it’s like at the end of a canyon, but then there’s this huge waterfall on the right hand side. And that’s probably the most scenic thing. I mean, the most, like you’re like, okay, that’s, it was worth it. So same with the previous cruise, the one in Resurrection Bay, the Humpback Whales. When we saw the Humpback Whales, I’m like, yeah, this was worth it.
And this is one of those things that, you know, it’s only in Alaska, you know, and makes the whole effort of spending three months on the road and making it there, you know, like, yep, this is what it’s all about.
Kait Russo With the Whittier glacier cruise, was that just a day cruise?
Robert Morales Yeah, that’s just a day cruise. It departs in the morning, you know, and they give you a meal, which is nothing out of this world, but it’s a meal. And after you reach the glacier, you know, there’s all this ice on the sea, you know, and they get some of that ice and then they give you, I mean, you have to buy it, of course, but they give you cocktails with glacial ice.
Joe Russo I’m in. I want in old fashioned with glacial ice.
Robert Morales That’s exactly what I had. Yeah.
Joe Russo There you go.
Kait Russo Going back to the reservations piece, how many of the campgrounds did you reserve way in advance? And do you feel like you needed to do that? Could you have just pulled into a random campground and gotten a site?
Robert Morales Way in advance and way in advance, we’re talking two weeks. I mean, we didn’t really reserve anything way, way in advance. And yeah, I totally went on a tangent when you asked me that earlier. I went on the tours instead of the campgrounds.
And the good thing in Alaska is you can boondock pretty much everywhere. Everywhere. They have plenty of pullouts. And and I mean, we will stay at campgrounds because we’re power hugs and we wanted to charge the batteries and we wanted to take a long shower. But and that places like, for example, we spent a week, a whole week in Anchorage, which for us, that’s a lot.
People who know me, I’m like two, three days, and we keep going. And we spent a whole week in Anchorage, a whole week in Fairbanks. So those we reserved. The one in Fairbanks was the one a little sketchy because it was during the Midnight Sun Festival and that one we reserved in advance and still we got like the overflow sites. There were still full hookup, but they’re like by the front in the back of a gas station, not the best sites.
Yeah, you don’t really have to make the reservation unless for example in Seward, the Seward Municipal Campground, you can get a site waterfront. If you want that waterfront site, they’re dry camping, but they’re waterfront. So you may want that one. That one you may want to reserve in advance. By the time I reserved the Seward, which was like a week before, they didn’t have those. But for the most part, and if you don’t want to stay at the campground in Seward, there’s boondocking like five miles away from downtown or whatever. It’s everywhere.
Kait Russo Round trip from Florida, Alaska and back was, would you say roughly three months? Could you talk about like budgeting for someone who wants to do a trip to Alaska from that part of the country like what’s a rough budget they should plan for?
Robert Morales I don’t know exactly how much was spent to be honest about it I’m like we’re going to Alaska you gotta do it. You know you we want to drive 5,000 miles one way. Whatever it takes you know we’ll figure it out later. So when I do my taxes this year, I’ll I can let you know how much we spent and I kind of don’t want to know I mean you have to have the $90 pizza right?
Joe Russo Yeah, I guess so.
Kait Russo Wait, is that for a whole pizza or a slice of pizza?
Robert Morales No, that was the whole pizza. This is a funny story. This was at the village in front of Denali National Park. Actually, we sat at the bar there that there’s it’s a the pizza place there. I forget the name. It escapes me right now. And right next to us, it’s they happen to be viewers of my YouTube channel. So we started chatting and this and that.
And they had a king crab pizza for market price, of course, they don’t tell you the price. It’s like, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it, right? So I’d like to have the king crab pizza and the bartender told me, you know, it’s $90, right? I’m like, I’m not gonna say no in front of like, I kind of, and I still wanted to do it, you know, I was peer pressured into doing it kind of, yeah, it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever had, that crab. And later we found out it had a whole pound of king crab, $90.
Well, when we went down to Homer, which is another place that we haven’t talked about much, a pound of king crab was $120. So I guess that was the cheapest pound of king crab in Alaska at $90. So it worked out.
Joe Russo Yeah, I have a friend who works on all of those Alaska TV shows and has spent a lot of time in the winter and summer going through Alaska. But he was telling us, if you want the freshest, best king crab, it’s in Homer.
Kait Russo He did say that. Now, did you try the king crab in Homer?
Robert Morales No, we didn’t. I said, you know, one is enough. In Homer, we tried Hallibut, of course. Halli is the Hallibut fishing capital of Alaska. And Homer is a very it’s a it’s a very cool town, I mean for the most part is the spit, is this peninsula that goes into the water that almost looks like artificial, like man-made, but they claim it’s natural and that’s where, you know, all the restaurants, most of the restaurants and all that is.
And that of course is the gateway to the float plane ride to see the bears eating salmon. So, and they have all kinds of, you know, you can go fishing, cruises, and we’re not really into fishing all that much. I mean, I’ve done it twice in my life. So we didn’t do that, but they have all kinds of cruises from there to an activities and experiences.
Since we are already in that area, Kenai Peninsula, the most perhaps authentic experience we had like of Alaskan culture, we happened to be in this small town called Kenai during the salmon run. And there’s the Kenai River there. And it’s like, you have to be a resident of Alaska to be able to do this.
But thousands of people deep net fishing, they have these big round nets, they just dip them in the river and at some point the salmon is gonna get trapped in there. And seeing all the people doing that and even the people who have boats, I can’t believe they weren’t crashing against each other because it was like a fishing frenzy out there, hundreds of boats on the mouth of the river there. That was quite the experience.
Kait Russo That sounds like fun. So you basically had a giant net that you put into the water?
Robert Morales Yeah.
Kait Russo And then just waited essentially for a salmon to jump in it. And then you would bring it up.
Robert Morales Yes, you go on the beach. There’s a beach there. And there’s literally thousands of people. And during that time of the year, they let them camp on the beach on both sides of the river and other rivers in the area as well. And yeah, it’s like a think of it as like a huge lollipop, right? It’s a round net with a long stick, and then you carry it and you stick it in the water. And yeah.
Joe Russo Did you get to stick it in the water, or was this Alaskans only?
Robert Morales No, I didn’t, I didn’t get to do it. Maybe if I had an Alaskan friend, but it’s an activity in the past, it was anybody could do it. But nowadays you have to be an Alaska resident to be able to do it legally.
Joe Russo What was your number one thing you saw or did in Alaska that really stood out? Well, besides the Brooks Falls and the bears eating the salmon, well, we’re part of the 30% club. We got to see Denali.
But I’m trying to think here. It’s hard to pick one experience, if you know what I mean. But I would say probably the most unique was the, yeah, Katmai National Park, Brooks Falls, and the bears eating salmon and the whole experience, the float plane ride on itself. I mean, we were packed like sardines in that plane. It was uncomfortable, but the views out the window were spectacular.
Kait Russo For anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, they need to check out your YouTube series on Alaska because just watching it gets me so excited about going to Alaska in an RV. Because we keep going kind of back and forth on, well, do we want to RV there first, or should we maybe fly in, tour around a little bit, and decide?
Joe Russo Yeah, we’ve actually been talking about this year, because we have a lot going on, is taking one of the cruises up, do the cruise, maybe a couple excursions, or just stay up there for a while and then fly home. And then just get a feel for it, and then be able to take our RV back when we don’t have any other things going on, we don’t have to rush it, and we can just take our time.
Robert Morales Yeah, that’s the thing. It is a commitment. You have to budget your whole summer. It’s not like you’re driving even cross country. You have to take your time. And we spent six weeks in Alaska. And there’s so many things that we didn’t get to do.
And for example, as you probably know, I broke my ankle in Quartzite last year. So I wasn’t still 100% to do longer hikes and all that. There are many hikes that I didn’t get to do. And the many things that in hindsight, all the research in the world that you can do, there’s still things that you miss, like little towns here and there that I would have liked to visit and we didn’t.
The one thing we haven’t mentioned, it’s the northernmost point in the United States. And we had to fly there because there are no roads. That’s one thing, it’s up until two or three years ago it was called Barrow, Alaska, and now it’s the Iñupiaq name Utqiagvik, which doesn’t really roll off the tongue, and pretty much everybody, even Alaska Airlines, still calls it Barrow.
But there’s one daily flight from Anchorage to Barrow and if you wanna just to say that you were at the northernmost point there by the Arctic Ocean, it’s worth 24 hours of your time. They have a pretty good hotel with ocean views. But there’s really not a whole lot to do there except, you know, do that. And there’s a museum that was closed when we were there, but it’s something else to do.
Kait Russo Now, during the time that you were there, is that a popular time to see the northern lights?
Robert Morales Nope.
Kait Russo I know that’s seasonal.
Robert Morales Nope. The thing with the Northern Lights, they’re up there. But since it doesn’t get dark, you can’t see them. So you have to wait until later in the season. Had we stayed into late August, September, maybe we would have been able to see the Northern Lights. But, uh, yeah, we, um, we had to, we had to get back for some other reasons sooner than we wanted to.
Joe Russo. All right. I’m sold.
Kait Russo You’re in? All right.
Robert Morales I am thinking, and this is my crazy mind thinking here, I’ve been thinking for a couple of months, to fly to Anchorage in late February and take the train to Fairbanks and maybe I’ll be able to see the Northern Lights. Like a two week winter trip, just you know, fly up there and like a conclusion to our trip if we will.
Kait Russo I like that idea because if I, now the first time you all went to Alaska in 2010, you flew there? Because you didn’t take an RV.
Robert Morales No. In 2010, and we were already thinking about RVing back in 2010. And we did the Dalton Highway back then, too. But we flew. We flew to Fairbanks. And we spent most of the time in Fairbanks. And it was just like a week, just a week, you know, like to get a taste of the midnight sun.
And not every rental company will let you go on the. There are three highways that don’t let you take a rental vehicle. That’s the Dalton, the Denali Highway, which is another highway we haven’t talked about, and one that is called the McCarthy Highway that goes into a town called McCarthy, which is in the Wrangell-Santelias National Park.
But there’s a couple of outfitters in Fairbanks that will rent you, and at the time it was a four-wheel drive. Back in the day, they gave it to us with a CB radio. That’s what everybody uses to communicate on the Dalton still to this day. Not everybody has Starlink and an extra spare tire. So and they send you on your way.
Joe Russo Well, the one thing we need to get for our van is a spare tire because we don’t have one.
Robert Morales Not even one?
Joe Russo No, not even one. So we have a air compressor. We have a very well complemented tire repair kit. But no, no spare tire, so that’s gonna be on our list.
Robert Morales The thing with those roads is you’re not gonna get a nail, which is easy to remove and unplug. It’s probably gonna be a big sharp rock that is gonna pierce through your tire and that tire is gone. It’s not repairable. That’s the problem with those dirt roads up there.
Joe Russo Well, I think we’ve taken a lot of your time and really appreciate you kind of scratching the surface for us of Alaska and I can’t wait to get through the rest of your Alaska series on YouTube.
But before we let you go, there is a question that we are asking all of our guests and that is, what is one thing you wish you knew before you started RVing?
Robert Morales Oh man, you know, this has changed over the years. I wish there was an Expedia for RVing, you know, like a universal booking system. Sometimes you end up, in my case, sometimes I just end up going to campgrounds that have an online booking system, just not having to call, wait for a call back. And that’s something that I thought, you know, I was never a camper.
You know, I jumped into this lifestyle as an RVer. I thought it would be like hotels, you know, 24-7 reception desk and this and that. And I realized that it’s more of a, you know, having to, especially mom and pop campgrounds, you know, you have to call, make a reservation and this and that. And then, and I didn’t know there were so many options besides, you know, campgrounds, you know, we have Harvest Hosts and HipCamp, there’s so many different ways that you can stay out there.
Joe Russo Yeah, I don’t know how many times we’ve been in towns where we think we’re going to boondock and then we realize there’s no place for us to boondock or all the spots are taken. And then we’re driving around looking for a campground and all the campgrounds are closed. So you can’t go in and get a spot. And we’ve gotten lucky a couple of times where we’ve popped in and they’ve closed and they’re walking out. We come in and say, hey, do you have a spot? Can we just park here for the night?
Robert Morales Well, you have a camper van. For you guys, it’s easier, too.
Joe Russo Yes, it’s much easier. I mean, we can fit in a standard parking spot.
Kait Russo Now, before we let you go, for people who want to find you and check out your Alaska series, how can they find all of your content? Go to my YouTube channel, Traveling Robert. I have an Alaska playlist. And I’m pretty much everywhere. All the social networks, just look for Traveling Robert, at Traveling Robert, all one word, American spelling, with one L. And that’s it.
Joe Russo Great. Well, thank you very much. And it was great having you on the show.
Robert Morales Thank you. Thank you, Joe and Kait. It’s been my pleasure being able to chat with you guys again.
Joe Russo Well, and you’ve inspired us to get up to Alaska.
Robert Morales So yeah, you got to do it. You guys got to do it.
Joe Russo Well, I hope you enjoyed that episode. If you’d like any of the resources that were mentioned in today’s episode, check out the show notes or head over to our website at we’retherussos.com. We have a lot of RVing resources out there, especially of all the other states that we’ve been to, since Alaska is the one we haven’t gone to yet. But there are resources for the new RVer as well as the experienced RVer, and you’ll find links to my two books, Take Risks and Tales from the Open Road.
Thank you so much for watching or listening today, and if you haven’t, please subscribe or follow us from whatever platform you’re watching or listening to. We’ll see you next time.