Driving the Alcan Dec 28th to early January? (Anchorage, Fairbanks: RV parks, credit)
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Ok, So I currently live in Anchorage and it looks like I'll be flying down to to the lower 48 at Christmas and driving back up with someone after Christmas. I made the drive last summer, so I sort of know what to expect, at least the route and such.
My main questions are about gas stations and want reasurance that it is doable in a small car such as a Honda, as long as we have snow tires and bring snow chains. (we are prepared to wait out storms and unpassable snow if need be). My reading on here suggests that The Alcan is plowed pretty good in the winter and I should be able to make this drive. Any comments?
The other main issue is the gas station issue. When I drove up here in the summer, I drove all through the night and 24 hour gas stations were scarce. As I read on here, I read that a lot of the gas stations are seasonal and won't even be open during the winter. Will there be enough open gas stations open to fill up at least every couple hundred miles? What about 24 hour gas stations? We won't drive through the night if we can't, but would like the option if there are gas stations availvable. Also anybody have any clue on how I can find out ahead of time where there will be open gas stations that arent closed for the season? and also if any of them are 24hr?
I am editing this to also inquire about the iother roads in Canada. I will be driving from Chicago and last time I crossed the border by Winnipeg and the major roads I took were 16, 43, and 1 (1 might even be the Alcan I'm not sure) anyway are these roads open and maintained in the winter? Do you suggest and alternate routes for the winter?
First go buy a MILEPOST, that should help with the gas questions. Second if you find it very cold outside in some desolate place and you slap your forehead and say I should of Drove a V8! Then you will know why we recomend driving in March. Plan for a break down and hope you don't have one. Also bring along a piece or cardboard or winter front. If you use cardboard cut some holes in it around what would be the outer edge of your fan on the radiator. If you get into real cold weather and all you can do is keep the windshield clear then place the cardboard in front of the radiator to slow the air moving across it. The holes in the cardboard keep the fan from sucking into the radiator spilling all the anitfreeze on the ground. A winter front does a better job and costs less than 75 normally at Alaska Tent and Tarp. Last resort is tinfoil the grill and lower spoiler. Remember your blocking the wind from driving at 60 mph, not blocking air movement from the ground up to the radiator. You do want some air flow across it, but by the fan and not -50 at 60 mph.
Good luck and post some photos.
P.S. V6s are warmer but I would do the same for them or a V8.
I've done about 5 winter trips up the Alcan, last one was in 2005 in December. I don't recommend driving at night, lotta critters on the road due to deep snow. Always stay on the top half of your gas and should be fine. The longest stretch of road with no gas will be between Fort st John and Fort Nelson. There are a few places open year round on that part. You have Wonowon, Pink Mountain, Prophet River in between there. Don't do the Rockies at night between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake at night. In between the two is Toad River(open year round) and Contact Creek(open year round). Make sure you have a block heater on the car to plug in at night. I'll think of more.
As someone who recently drove the Alcan at the tail end of winter, I can tell you that there are adequate places to gas up along the highway. As one person pointed out, the Fort St. John to Fort Nelson stretch is probably the longest without any services, but they are still there. My advice would be to gas up at the station at the junction of 97 and 29 in Fort St. John. That should be enough to get you to Fort Nelson. From there, be sure to gas up in Fort Nelson, Toad River, and Watson Lake.
Each time you leave a town, you will usually see a sign that advises you as to how far it is until services are available. Hotels and RV parks are open year-round. But with the new Canadian dollar exchange rate, what was a cheap motel last year can now be quite expensive, even though it's priced the same. Be sure to take that into account when figuring all of your expenses.
And always follow the usual precautions: Have enough provisions to keep you safe if you get stranded in -50 temperatures. Take signal flares, blankets, food, and water with you. Winterize your vehicle and make sure it is equipped with an engine block heater. The Alcan is very well maintained in the winter. It has to be since it is a major trucking route for Alaska and the Yukon.
Stay on the Alcan, don't take the Cassiar. I did that a couple winters ago in late November. It was a major mistake. The Alcan felt like a highway after the Cassiar. They don't plow the Cassiar well.
Just keep on the top 1/2 of you tank as has already been mentioned. I have driven it with partners straight through without stopping in the winter. It would have felt nice to have a five gallon can of gas with us, but we didn't need it. Just never pass an open station if you are getting close to 1/2 full
Another thing to keep in mind is that most or all of the fuel pumps in Canada have no credit car machines on them. For some reason they all have gas runners that go and fill your car/truck up. Its always nice to tip them, I worked at a gas station before here and it sucked.
Have driven the AlCan seven times from Miami to Winnipeg to Fairbanks to Anchorage always leaving the day after Xmas, since 1995, the most recent in 2006. I will only add that I have done it every time in a 1992 Ford Taurus and the only prep was new tires, lower temp thermostat, cigarette lighter plug-in interior heater (Cardboard in front of the radiator never allowed the heater to work below minus 24 degrees F), Cell phone, lots of CD's & IPOD music, and an engine block heater for plug-ins on cold nights. The last trip I departed Miami 26Dec2006 and arrived 9 days later avg 549 miles a day. Many, many people are amazed that I do nothing extraordinary nor do I bring candles, blankets, etc. I'm sure I have been very fortunate. Next year I will bring a SAT phone...just in case. I find if I pay attention to the road signs, keep the gas tank above half, I have no problems with fuel or roads. I usually prep the car in Winnipeg at the GoodYear Tire Center (Oil change, safety check, new lower temp thermostat.) It is always a great trip. I think the only thing I would do different, and I say this every time, is to bring someone else with me...it's just so damn gorgeous I feel I need to share it with another human being. Use common precautions, common sense, and bring lots of music, (Sat radio does not work) and you will have a great trip, despite the lonliness of not seeing another car for perhaps 8-12 hours. It's cold, lonely, its GORGEOUS, and you'll be glad you did it the rest of your life!
Last edited by Alaska Man in Miami; 05-01-2008 at 04:16 PM..
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