Every time I’m privileged to travel to Alaska, I return with wonderful memories and feeling as I’ve truly escaped from everyday life. It’s an experience dramatically removed from the norm and brings back childhood memories of camping, hiking and exploring the mountains of our great national parks. This vacation was packed with all three.
We arrived in Anchorage on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 the day before we were to pick up our RV from Great Alaskan Holidays. After picking up a rental car from the airport we stretched our legs with a walk through the small Earthquake Park then enjoyed a bit of the gorgeous drive down Turnagain Arm.
With long days we had plenty of daylight left to enjoy strolling around downtown Anchorage after dinner before returning to our mid-town Springhill Suites hotel. Our hotel was a great location and provided free parking, something not found in downtown Anchorage.
Thursday morning was full of pre-RV shopping. We decided to do all of our shopping before picking up the RV so we could simply load up and head north. Definitely glad we went this route as it took several hours to gather all our supplies from both Wal-Mart and Costco.
We rented a 25 foot Winnebago Chalet from Great Alaskan Holidays. With a fleet of over 300 RVs they appear to be the market leader in Alaska. Their RVs were everywhere! The pick-up process involves watching a 25 minute video, filling out paperwork, inspecting the RV and you’re ready to go. About 45 minutes in total.
There is an owner manual and abbreviated user guide in the RV but would recommend checking out the Winnebago owners manual online ahead of time if you’re new to RVing. Charging the house batteries versus running the generator can be a bit confusing if you’re not using full-service campgrounds. I’ll provide a more detailed review of Great Alaskan later. For now it’s time to head north (after one more quick stop at Wal-Mart!)
I drive a small two-seater sports car. A 25 foot RV needless to say is a different driving experience. Took a few miles to adjust to the width of the thing and cornering. Not to mention the amount of wind sway. We had been forewarned by my parents, who we were soon to meet up with, that everything takes longer in an RV. Boy were they right! Add at least another 10-20% to any estimated trip time.
We meet my parents and their friends Bill and Annie at the Talkeetna Camper Park 2 1/2 hours north of Anchorage. Within minutes we were hooked up, introductions made and settled in with a glass of wine.
Denali National Park is about five hours north of Anchorage so Talkeetna makes a great stopping point if you get a late start out of Anchorage. The “downtown” area is a ramshackle group of buildings with a visitor center and a brewery. Several guesthouses provide accommodations for those who aren’t camping or RVing.
It also can provide amazing views of Mt. McKinley on a clear day. My parents (Jim and Sue on the left), Bill and Annie (on the right with Missy their vegetable loving Cocker) enjoyed a fantastic view the day before.
After a long day it’s time to experience our first night in the RV. Tomorrow we continue north to Denali!