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Old 07-23-2012, 07:25 AM   #71
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I love reading your blog!!! Thank you so much for keeping us all up to date on your travels. And your lessons learned are invaluable!!!!!!
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Old 07-26-2012, 01:42 AM   #72
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Not much of an update at this time, just realised it had been 3 days since the last post and didn't want rumours of our demise to begin circulating. We're alive and back in Dawson City after a harrowing all-day trip down the Dumpster, er--the Dempster. 13 hours of struggle, and at the end of the day what you do not want to hear from your co-driver as she opens the camper is "Oh my God!" More on that later, when I've had sufficient therapy...
The campground we spent Monday and Tuesday night at was among the nicest we've visited on this trip: Tombstone Territorial Park. Plan to stay there if you come this way. Beautiful mountain vistas and hiking. We didn't see any bears but were told they're in the area so bring bear spray. If we're ever in that vicinity again we'll surely camp there again. If we're ever staying in Dawson again, Courty and I won't stay another time at this refugee camp posing as an RV park. Don't want to be sued, so I'll just say its one of the ones just outside of town.
We're debating whether to go over the Top of the World highway from Dawson City to Chicken (!) Alaska and thence to Fairbanks, or to take the much longer route back through Whitehorse and up the Alaska Hwy. it's some 170 miles by the first route and around 700 via the Whitehorse retracing, but after the beating the camper took this last week, I don't want to beat it up more on the Top of the World highway, described as "formerly paved."
I'll stop for now and take out the microwave to see if I can find the source of a disturbing new squeak in that general area.
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Old 07-26-2012, 12:22 PM   #73
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Yikes. I'm glad you've made it out of the Dempster/Dumpster area, even if a bit battered and bruised. This is a real adventure trip that's for sure. Can't wait to see what's next--but hope it's not another set of potholes posing as a road.
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Old 07-27-2012, 01:00 PM   #74
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What a great journey so far....
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Old 07-28-2012, 02:58 AM   #75
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Hmmm. That "disturbing new creak" was the microwave cabinet starting to separate from the sidewall. After nearly 1,000 miles of being shaken like dice in a cup, it's amazing that only one interior furnishing is complaining. I don't have the tools with me that I'd need to do a really good repair so my short solution was to take out the microwave and put it in the back seat of the truck. Now we find we like the extra storage space, so I guess my solution when we get home will include either drawers for that cabinet or a pair of doors to close it off. I'm happy to report that the cabinetry I built in has (ahem) survived without a single problem.
The dismay I reported earlier when Courtenay opened the camper for the first time after a 417-mile careen down the Dempster was caused by the discovery that the refrigerator door had popped open somewhere along the way and dumped its contents on the floor. When you mix a quart of milk with half a can of refried beans, smoosh it all over the floor (paying special attention to getting the gooey stuff under all cabinets and built-ins), then discover this has happened after a gruelling day when all you want to do is go to bed, well, that makes for Post Dempster Stress Disorder. Two hours of mopping up plus discarding most of our refrigerated goods got it looking good again and we slept 11 hours.
The next day was very nice so we went for a little hike, singing loudly off key and hoping that any bears in the vicinity were not music critics. Courty walked ahead and improvised verses like "Eat the guy, he can't run as fast as I!" I retaliated similarly, something about "She's young and sweet; I'm just old meat." No tourist ingestion took place that day, and we passed it pleasantly in one of the most beautiful settings I've seen.
Wednesday we went on to Dawson City again, where we stayed in that campground/refugee camp I mentioned. That afternoon I stopped at the local hardware store and got some better quality hinges to replace the ones on the door under the sink, one of which had broken on the "D" road. That door really needs three hinges because of its weight, so I got some beefier cabinet hinges that happened to be an exact screw hole match for the stamped tin (or whatever) that came with the trailer. These Amerock hinges are tough AND they have a slight spring action to them that helps hold the door shut. I replaced the two original hinges and then added a third. Door fixed!
Thursday we started off for Whitehorse, having decided against the Top of the World highway on the grounds that the Dempster had done enough damage already, we didn't need another 170 miles of potholes. We got about 65 miles down the road when we stopped at a rest area and encountered a motorcyclist who had just come off the Top of the World and was enthusiastic about it. That did it. We turned around and drove back to Dawson, stopped for a fill up and some lunch, and headed across the river on the ferry to take the TOTW Highway. It was worth the trip. The road wasn't perfect but after the "D" road (I can't bring myself to say that word any more) it was a POC (Piece O Cake). And you do feel like you're on the top of the world. You can see a little bit beyond forever up there. You want to stop and take pictures everywhere.
The road deteriorated after crossing into Alaska. The 20 miles or so of the "Border Spur Road" from the border to Alaska highway 5 and then 20 more miles or so to Chicken were the "D" road all over again. We gritted our teeth and just did it.
Chicken is a town of 35 or so people, all of whom base their businesses on various chicken jokes. "I got laid in Chicken, Alaska" being the one that apparently causes near-fatal humor around there. We of course had to stop and spread some cash around. My son the former firefighter will probably appreciate the iron-on patch for the Chicken, Alaska, Fire Department. I can hope, anyway; that's his Christmas present (just kidding, AJ).
A few miles outside Chicken we hit an actual, real road! It went on being a road for most of its length, too! It connected to the Alaska Highway about 20 miles east of Tok. Once we turned onto the Alaska Highway we thought we were in highway heaven. We exceeded 50 MPH for the first time in nearly 3 weeks. Frankly we found it a little scary to go that fast.
If you take that route, plan to stay overnight or longer at Tok River State Recreation Site, about 9 miles east of Tok. It's really nice and filled with experienced travellers whose brains we picked for ideas. Another great place to get ideas and information is in Tok at the Public Lands Information Office, next door to the Tok Visitors Center.
This morning, Friday, July 27, Day 30 of our trip, we hitched up and drove to Fairbanks. We're putting up here for the weekend at the Tanana Valley Campground and RV Park, which is right in the city. It's not the best in the area but it's quiet and the wi-fi is good. Tomorrow I need to call around and see if any RV repair places will look at my brakes. Adjusting them didn't help, there's still almost no detectable braking action, even with the brake controller turned all the way up. I think its another victim of the "D" road, unless the brakes are worn out after a year and a half and 13,000 miles. I may not be able to get in at a repair place 'til Monday, so Denali--our next destination and only 121 miles away--will have to wait. Even though the truck's brakes are adequate to stop us I won't go farther with no trailer brakes.
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Old 07-28-2012, 03:23 AM   #76
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some pics: 3 sites along the Dempster up in the clouds; view from Tombstone Territorial Park overlook; our campsite at Tombstone, note the dirty trailer and the beautiful backdrop
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It's never too late to have a happy childhood!
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Old 07-28-2012, 03:27 AM   #77
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more pics: another view from Tombstone campsite and 4 from the Top of the World highway
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Old 07-28-2012, 02:05 PM   #78
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Fairbanks weather for today: 77 and sunny. People are sweltering here! Hope the heat wave back home is slacking; a message from the dog sitter said it was 107 in the Des Moines area that day.
I have an appointment on Monday to get the trailer brakes checked and repaired if necessary so we're sticking around a couple more days. I plan to post a summary before long of what's failed and not failed (so far) on the A128, it might be useful to folks wanting to "harden up" their units for trips like this.
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Old 07-28-2012, 11:54 PM   #79
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Things that worked, things that didn't

A month on the road, especially roads like those we've been on, can give your camper a thorough shakedown in all the meanings of the word. Here's a list of what has survived or been useful so far and things that haven't. Some may be specific to the A-frame series.
The tires were a source of concern before we left but they've done quite well. They have about 13,000 miles on them as of the moment and they don't show much wear yet. I've kept them at 65#, the recommended pressure for their load range, and they handled the "D" road--so famous for generating flat tires that all the literature on driving that road tells you to EXPECT flats--without complaint. And that's 1000 miles of gravel, round trip.
I installed a set of headlight protectors before we left home. These are tough vinyl--or whatever--membranes from Xpel.com that glue onto the headlights and parking lamp lenses to guard against rock damage. I've had no rock damage to them, although other parts of the truck's front end have taken hits and been dinged.
Most of the trailer's systems have taken the beating well and still work as when new. The basic trailer box, for example, is still tight and waterproof--though not 100% dustproof. The furnace, water pump, stove and microwave all still work fine (havent used the A/C lately but it was fine last I knew). Gas and water piping are still intact. The frame is solid and I don't see any deformation. The roof and folding wall system have stayed in alignment. In fact, I think the way the trailer folds down and locks shut has contributed to the survival of the basic trailer box. We've had no leaks during rainstorms. We've pressure-washed it twice and no water has come inside that way either.
The spare tire mount is back there where road bumps are amplified greatly, so I've been checking it whenever we've stopped, and it's as solid as the proverbial igneous. The dual battery system on my homemade mount is fine, though rock chips have taken some of the paint off. The propane cylinders are still tight but I did have to really screw down the big wing nut on the clamp early in the trip. The diamond plate on the front may have some dents but is intact. All the lights inside and out are fine, including the ones I installed from IKEA. Windows are all fine and have not deformed any more than people have noted elsewhere in other threads--it's only a deformation of the gasket system anyway.
The things on the trailer that have failed or appear to have failed include the hinges on the door under the sink, which loosened time and time again, then bent, then broke. That door's too heavy for just 2 hinges. The microwave cabinet has started to pull away from the wall but will be fixable when we get home. It should be removed and reattached with some sort of screw anchors or maybe Gorilla Glue. The black metal frame that holds the microwave in the cabinet has bent in two places and broken in two other places--clearly not a sturdy enough design. One of the chromed wheel lug nuts has cracked.
I have an appointment to have the brakes inspected on Monday, so will be able to say more about how they've weathered the trip after I pay the bill. It may simply be that 1,200 miles of dust and mud--added to the 12,000 other miles on the system--have compromised the brake magnets or shoes or both. How long should the electric brakes last on these units? I may be the first to find out. Or it may turn out that my brake controller (Pilot brand) has gone haywire from the vibration and isn't doing its job right.
There are a few things that haven't failed but have developed pesky habits. Our setup drill now includes screwing the stove mounting screws back in each time. They manage to vibrate loose even on relatively smooth roads. We have to take the burner rings out when we pack for travel or they'll come out on their own accord and skate around inside the closed stove lid. The result isn't pretty. We have to jam one of the seat cushions in the entryway to hold the two doors there closed. I've had to rig a big bungee cord (a 3-footer) across the front of the sink/stove cabinet to keep the cabinet and fridge doors closed during travel.
Useless or nearly useless things we brought along include the solar panels. Most places we've camped have been heavily shaded up here in forest country so the panels are just dead weight. The big inverter I carry in the truck might as well have stayed home--we haven't needed high-wattage 110V that much. We also carry a small 100 watt inverter that works fine for charging the toys while we drive. The porta-pottie will stay home next time too--too much trouble to mess with when the campground biffy is just steps away. Your mileage may vary on that issue. The CB radio is a form of insurance, I suppose, but I haven't needed it yet. We brought a toaster oven along but haven't stayed in one place long enough to justify digging it out of the storage bin. On the other hand, the pressure cooker has made cooking dried beans and grains easier and has cut down a bit on meal expenses.
Things I'm glad I have with us include our AAA Plus RV coverage. Haven't needed it but you never know. A second mounted spare for the trailer--good idea. Likewise haven't needed it yet, who knows if I will but Ive got it (Be sure it's load range D). A full tool kit including a drill, torque wrench, and hydraulic bottle jack is good to have. Brake adjusting tool. Lots of flashlights--one always works even if the others have died. Weather radio! Duct tape and wire ties. Big piece of cardboard to lay on when you have to get under the trailer. iPad.
We should have brought lots of rags. Eventually, everything you touch is dirtier than you've ever seen it, and using washcloths and dishtowels to help clean up will not earn you the Spouse of the Year Award. Likewise pack a pair of cheap cotton gloves for everybody. They get dirty fast but they go in the wash just fine.
That's what I can think of at the moment. This would be a good time for others to chime in with their tips for essentials and forgettables!
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2011 Rockwood A128
2000 Silverado 1500 pickup
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Old 07-29-2012, 06:18 PM   #80
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It sounds like your trailer has really been put through the ringer but overall has weathered the storm just fine. That gives me some degree of comfort as I get ready to purchase my A124 hardside pop up. Currently I am getting my tow vehicle ready and setup to go pickup my new trailer.

I am also enjoying reading your posts/log and sure that everyone else is too. Please keep us posted. Your pictures are also really enjoyable. Thanks.
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