10 tips for RVing to Alaska (part 1)

RVing in Alaska last summer taught us many things. We gained not only a useful perspective but some much-needed confidence. Alaska is a lot of things but being wholly predictable is not one of them. Prior to beginning our trek from Northern Idaho through Canada toward our family’s 50th state, we had a growing list of Alaska fear factors that others had helped us build.

I’d like to take that list and work through the fears one by one separating out fact from fiction and offering up my top tips.

When I first set out to share my top 10 tips, the content quickly became too detailed for one post. Therefore, I have broken the list into two parts. Today I will cover bug & mosquito populations, road conditions, and route decisions. Tomorrow I will follow up with weather conditions, internet access, wildlife encounters, RV and truck breakdowns, flat tires/cracked windshields, food prices, and mail retrieval. Let’s get started!

FEAR #1: BUG AND MOSQUITO POPULATIONS

We’d heard horror stories about the HUGE Alaskan mosquito population. Yes, we’ve been to the Florida Everglades. Yes, my husband grew up in the humid, lake filled, mosquito-ridden state of Minnesota. But Alaska was worse, way worse (at least that is the story we kept being fed).

Driven by my desire to survive, I purchased garlic capsules. I added “take garlic” to our morning routine hoping it would help make us less tempting to bite. In the end, the area of bugs and mosquitos was perhaps one of our top surprises. While we did find isolated pockets with a healthy mosquito population, on the whole, they were so frequently not present that we would often forget to be thankful for their absence.

Given the size of the state, this isn’t necessarily surprising. In the lower 48, Minnesota has a lot of mosquitoes but Northern Idaho does not. Roughly 1,000 miles separate these two states. However, in Alaska, you can travel 2,700 miles and still find yourself in the same state. It makes sense then that there will be areas within Alaska that are very bug-heavy (those who opted to drive to the Arctic Circle told us they practically battled bugs in hand-to-hand combat) and many areas that are not. Ironically, our most prominent mosquito memory occurred in the Yukon, NOT in Alaska.

RVING ALASKA TIP #1: Our traveling friends own an electronic, hand-held bug zapper. Not only is this useful in eradicating bugs from your area, but the kids find it to be intensely exciting to use. We also found mosquito head nets to be useful while fishing in a few locations where the bugs were thicker and our hands were busy (clicking through will take you to Amazon via my affiliate link). Our worst mosquito encounter occurred when we boondocked next to a placid lake. It’s probably best to be leery of a location that is so ideal for mosquito reproduction.

FEAR #2: ROAD CONDITIONS

Overall, roads in Alaska fall somewhere between fair and good. Few roads were actually bad. Those that were did not surprise us and were typically not a required route—we simply opted to drive them anyway due to the lure of fantastic views.

Photo: The Denali Hwy. This was one road that we regretted traveling on due to the exorbitant amount of dirt it brought into our RV.

Again, the drive to Alaska through the Yukon offered the largest stretch of roads that were in repair. I also think it’s fair to say that our scale of what makes a good road “good” was diluted slightly as our time in Alaska lengthened.

Photo: After driving the Denali Hwy. we spent several hours cleaning the entire RV from this thick layer of dust.

By the end of the summer, we certainly hadn’t driven freeway speeds in many months. However, who would want to miss all the beauty? Going slower sure aids in taking in the breathtaking vistas and animal sightings!

Photo: After taking the Top of the World Hwy, the truck and RV get a MUCH needed wash!

RVING ALASKA TIP #2: Meeting oncoming traffic while driving on poor roads was rare. We often took advantage of both lanes to weave around or between frost heaves. We traveled with another family and took turns taking the “lead driving position”. Communicating with walkie talkies, we were also able to give each other some warning if there were road conditions to be aware of. If you are following another RVer, take cues from their speed and driving. Continue reading “10 tips for RVing to Alaska (part 1)”

self-sufficiency < deeper dependence

This week a friend encouraged me that in a time of prayer for our family she felt like God gave her the word “digital journaling”. She believed God wanted to encourage us to be willing to be raw and open about what He is doing in and through us.

I received that word and am here to say that God is working, helping me to identify areas that need to be more closely focused on His face and asking me to set aside some good things for His best things. Conceptually it sounds amazing and holy and pure and right. In reality, it’s not so easy.

OBEDIENCE OVER UNDERSTANDING

Recently our family attended The Send in Orlando, Florida. Perhaps I will write in more detail about the event itself in the future, but for the purpose of today’s topic, I’ll hone in on a specific aspect that was encouraged by one of the speakers—an invitation to enter into a 40 day fast.

As I prayerfully reflected on what might be the best thing for me to fast from, the answer that rose up in my heart was a little unexpected: fast from social media and step back from building my health coaching business. Immediately, I recognized the time that this could free up for focused prayer and study in God’s word as well as pouring more into those closest to me. However, the subsequent wave of thoughts has required more soul searching.

If I step away from my business for 40 days:
-I’ll lose traction and my consistent investment of time will crumble.
-The women I work with may feel abandoned.
-What will be left when I return? Continue reading “self-sufficiency < deeper dependence"

just how bad are the mosquitoes in the Yukon?

Hi! It’s been a while. Remember me? We are currently in Florida working in the panhandle with Samaritan’s Purse for the Hurricane Michael recovery efforts. You are welcome to hop over to my Instagram Page and view my daily stories to see more about what that is like (be sure to say hi while you are there).

Where are you at? I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to since my last post! Today I am going to do a time hop back to a post that I wrote in route to Alaska this last summer. I’d waited to post it until Trent had time to edit the accompanying video. I hope you enjoy!

When we started telling others about our plans to spend the summer in Alaska, one subject inevitably surfaced again and again: mosquitoes. People really felt it was important to let us know how bad they were.

However, I’ve learned to use caution when fear is involved. After all, it almost kept me from visiting Florida the first year we wintered in the RV. Plus there are these two strong factors that we believed set us squarely in a category devoid of any mosquito naivety:

Trent grew up in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes and millions of mosquitoes.

We’ve been to the Everglades!

However, we haven’t even crossed the border into Alaska and we’ve already learned some major mosquito lessons. Just how bad are the mosquitoes in the Yukon? You be the judge. Continue reading “just how bad are the mosquitoes in the Yukon?”

i quit exercising for 20 years

While I’d been living in freedom from my eating disorder for well over a decade, it took much longer to freely engage in exercise. I recognized that in the past my exercise levels had become obsessive. Fearful that I’d slip back into the same obsessive mindset if I started exercising, I largely avoided it altogether. Occasionally I’d dip my toes in the water with a gym membership here and a workout DVD there. However, for the most part, I nestled right into the bosom of my fear, finding a convenient excuse to quit exercise for 20 years.

THE SHIFT

Two years ago things started to shift. We embraced a new lifestyle of RV living and I vowed to start praying through my fears and embracing discomfort. Three months into our travels, the topic of exercise rose to the top. Not only had my husband started running a few days a week, but we found ourselves parked adjacent to a couple that seemed to think daily exercise was part of their full-time job (I later found out that it was). I’d stare out my window watching them take turns working out in the Florida heat and think, “That looks hard, why would anyone want to do that?” or “I think they are taking that exercise stuff a little too seriously.

THE QUESTIONS

In defense of my own personal fears, justified myself right out of taking action on my own health. As the days passed and their consistency remained, my resolve started to waver. Instead of directing my thoughts at them, I found myself starting to look at myself. A flurry of thoughts started swirling through my mind:

What would happen if I gave myself another chance at this?
But what if I started obsessing again? What if I backslid into my old ways?

My food mindset has been healthy and whole for a long time.
What if my mindset was focused on being strong instead of being skinny?

How could I maintain a regular exercise routine while on the road?
My husband was doing it. My crazy neighbors were doing it. It must be possible.

What would happen if I committed to regular exercise?
How would that feel 6 months from now, a year from now if I didn’t quit?

Not typically one to tread lightly into new terrain, I sat on these thoughts for a few months, pulling them out every now and then to re-examine them from new angles. Out of curiosity, I researched the workout programs my neighbors were using. I discovered that they were health coaches who supported people using their programs with online accountability in the area of exercise and nutrition. I looked into the costs and discovered they were markedly less than I’d anticipated. I wondered and wavered some more.

THE CHALLENGE

On Super Bowl Sunday the men were outside in camp chairs watching a TV mounted in the bed of a truck while I found myself inside an RV surrounded by women munching on snacks and sipping wine. The topic of exercise came up. Many chimed in that this was an area they could use some accountability in. The idea of a plank challenge surfaced. Each woman would put in $25 and for one month we would practice our planks at home. We’d check in with each other and report our progress. At the end of the month, the woman with the best time overall and the woman who saw the greatest improvement would spilt the pot.

I was in.

Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that I’d never done a plank before. In fact, I had to google the term to be sure that what I thought I’d just agreed to was actually accurate. My starting time was piddly but I didn’t really care.

I was going to do this. Continue reading “i quit exercising for 20 years”

my eating disorder

I was fearful.

I was insecure.

I was chasing an ideal that was destructive.

This is the story of my eating disorder.

HELLO LIE

It started in my childhood with this simple lie: “Being pretty is important.” As I chased an unobtainable ideal, another seed was planted within my heart: “In order to be pretty, you must be skinny.”

It may sound trivial or trite but this singular idea dominated my thinking, decisions and focus for the better portion of my school age years.

This twisted truth first germinated in my heart during grade school. While I was learning how to make friendship bracelets and play dodgeball, I was simultaneously watching my mom fight an ever-shifting battle with food. Seeing her ongoing struggle with weight impacted me at a root level and I proactively determined that her reality would not become my future.

my eating disorder Continue reading “my eating disorder”