Information Bulletin for Safari Condo Owners Vol. 8 Number 1, April 2006
Translated by Yvan Dumontier
Discovering the Alaska Highway
By Luc Foisy
Finally, my childhood dream to discover the Road to Alaska became a reality in the summer of 2005 aboard our Safari Condo with my spouse Henriette. We had imagined discovering very beautiful landscapes, mountains and glaciers but it was even more magnificent than what we had anticipated. Here is some information and advice to keep in mind should you plan such a journey.
Description of the journey
We must mention at first that the Alaska Hwy measures roughly 2 500 kilometres, starting in Dawson Creek British Colombia not very far from Edmonton Alberta northward through BC and the Yukon Territory (Watson Lake – Whitehorse – Beaver Creek) to Alaska by way of Tok, and on to Fairbanks close to the polar circle in Inuit territory. During our stay in BC (4 days), in Yukon (11 days) and in Alaska (16 days) the temperature averaged 10 to 12°C at night and 22 to 25 °C in the daytime with total daily sunshine of 20 to 24 hours. We must tell you that we had only three (3) rainy days throughout this journey.
We left Saint-Nicholas on June 11th and returned to Quebec August 7th after 57 days of journey and 20 000 km of road, among which 1 000 km of gravel road. We crossed Ontario rather quickly (3 days), rested for three (3) days in Mount Riding National Park in Manitoba and reached Dawson Creek on June 21st. The first section the Alaska Hwy in BC is very panoramic and we zipped through too quickly. We entered Yukon on June 24th, took the gravel road (500 km) including the Campbell Trail (Ross River - Faro) and the Sylver Trail (Mayo-Keno) to discover former silver mines, ghost towns (early 1970s) and unique landscapes. Then we travelled to Tombstone Mountain Park over 100 km of gravel road on Dempster Hwy leading to Inuvik. On June 29th we reached Dawson City, a historic Canadian gold rush city for a stop of 2 or 3 days.
Leaving Dawson City, we took the famous gravel road known as « Top of the World Hwy » which leads us in a few hours to the Alaskan border and then to Tok. Afterward we stayed 2 days in Fairbanks where the University of Alaska Museum of Natural History is a must. Our route then led us to one of the most beautiful American National Parks, Denali (grizzly country) for a 2 or 3 day stop if you like nature and hiking. We then travelled through the beautiful city of Anchorage, took one of the most beautiful panoramic roads in the USA "Seward Highway" and then discovered "Chugash National Forest" by way of Portage Lake and Whittier which you must see. On July 10th, we travelled to salmon country, the Kenai Peninsula for a few days stopover (Homer - Captain Cook State Park – Skilak Lake State Park).
On July 13th, we left the Kenai Peninsula and returned via Anchorage. We then took Glenn and Richardson Hwys to reach the magnificent Valdez Bay. We then travelled by way of Kluane National Park (2 nights) to Whitehorse (2 nights), a very pleasant city deep in Yukon Territory. We then reached the American town of Skagway, historically the front door to the gold rush that became the final destination for Alaskan cruise ships. Finally, we boarded the shuttle ferryboat between Skagway, Alaska and Prince-Rupert, BC for the Inside Passage through the Alexander Archipelago. From there, we returned through the Canadian national parks of Jasper – Yoho – Glacier – Kootenay-Banff – Waterton Lake and Montana’s Glacier National Park on the American side.
We then decided to head home on August 3rd in the morning (4 days – 3,600 km) crossing the Northern USA using Hwy 2 (Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) and the Trans-Canada across Ontario and Quebec.
Information and personal advice
The best travel guide for the Alaskan Highway is the Milepost (BC – Yukon – Alaska). Your precise guide to the highways, roads, ferries, lodgings, recreation, sightseeing attractions and services you will come across; and updated annually. The Fédération québécoise de camping et de caravaning’s Alaska SoloVR Guide is also useful.
The minimum length for such a journey is around 35 or 40 days if you avoid going astray, gravel roads and stopping twice in the same place.
Road conditions range from very good to passable if you avoid gravel roads. They are built on permafrost and affected by frost and thaw as well as earthquakes. When we encounter "loose gravel» in road repair sections, the danger comes from flying stones from vehicles driving by. When it rains, road salt dust sticks to the car body and hardens cement-like: wash it off using warm water in one of the many coin-operated carwashes. We suggest travelling early in the morning! You can also build a protection screen for your Safari-Condo using a 1" PVC pipe for the frame, a stiff 1/8 or 1/16" wire mesh as a stone cover, and pipe covering on the frame, all for a handful of “loonies”.
Camping is free of charge in all roadside rest areas in Yukon and Alaska. Yukon and Alaska Park campsites are not expensive, sometimes quite spectacular and as a rule do not require advance bookings. Keep some coins and dollars handy for self-registration campsites. Get your hands on a Yukon and Alaska Parks Camping Directory form Tourist Information.
Restaurants in Yukon and Alaska have never been known for their gastronomy.
Returning from Alaska by Cruise Ship, although it saves time and kilometres, is quite expensive and not so spectacular. The only visible glacier is Skagway, our starting point. Better take Highway 37 or 97 southbound from Watson Lake, Yukon.
Internet Access is generally free in the Province, State or City Tourist Information Booths or municipal libraries. Given the demand, you may sometimes have to put your name down on a waiting list.
Safari-Condo Maintenance should be no problem in Yukon and in Alaska: all you have to do is look for GMC dealers.
Well, enjoy your journey to Alaska!
Wintry Camping Experience
After some informal experimentation, this is the first campsite experience by a group of Condists this winter: Long live “Le club des Escargots givrés” - Frosty Snails Club.
Inuits have, in their language, several words for snow, depending on its composition, density or flake thickness. This weekend of February 18th 2006, I think we would have exhausted the Inuit lexicon, for sure.
From our departure on Friday morning under ice pellets which froze on our windshield wipers, we arrived at the St - Léonard de Portneuf's Polar Campsite in pouring rain. Millimeters of water on the ice-cold road forced to us to use caution especially since the road leading to the sites of campsite was covered with at least 30 cm of snow crusted over by a mixture of rain and hail. We had left early to check that 20 Safari Condo which were supposed to come have a beautiful place to take full advantage of their winter campsite.
Paths are soon cleared of snow and vehicles begin to pouring in. Grouped together around a prospector tent, every vehicle had a so-so power supply. Inside the big tent, two wood stoves located one at each end, warmed up those who came to dinner while the temperature had dramatically dropped to minus 20 degrees. The snow, swept by a lively wind, had replaced both the rain and the ice pellets. The storm was brewing.
Remember the monstrous pile-up on highway 40! It was exactly this Friday! Naturally some campers had to surrender. But, early Saturday morning, they appeared happy to be able to enjoy a fresh air therapy!
Fresh air you say? Rather cooler air. During the night from Friday to Saturday, the mercury dipped to –27, and, and in the early hours of Sunday morning, Stéphane took a picture of the Service Centre thermometer which shivered at -34° Celsius!
A little bit crazy to camp in these conditions? Not really! As my grandfather would say: “There is no misery to be had!” It is a question of having like everybody, or almost everybody, at least a half-full gas tank for those in vehicles with gas heaters or enough propane in their tanks for the whole weekend, for the others.
Choosing our weekend? Not really. Using the calendar, we agree on an available date with the campsite owners and… we take the weather as it is. After all, it is winter! And we chose to camp out! Of course, ski trails were covered with a crust which sometimes supported us, sometimes not. The trails had not been beaten either! But the sun lit up the ice crystals on the birches and alders, telltales of yesterday’s showers, and the partridge, looking for a hole in front of our snowshoes that had replaced the cross-country skis, had a hard time finding its way under the hardened snow.
Other fanatics, meanwhile, took advantage of the icy wind to ski-kite the ice-cold lake. And being towed windward back of Daniel’s snowmobile, they enjoyed the chance to warm-up both toes and fingertips.
Saturday evening was particularly enjoyable. The dinner which was to take place at about the 6 pm began only at 8 pm because other groups occupied all available tents and igloos on the grounds. We were not the only nuts around! And the feast lasted till the middle of the night amongst endless discussions, teasing and jokes.
The boldest, according to planned activities, put on their snowshoes or boots for a walk in the moonlit forest. And what a moonlight it was! After about a kilometre, the path ended in a small lake on which the reflection of the moon stretched out the trees’ shadows! The silence, the cold of the night! Back at about 2 am, the walkers, good-humoured by this icy night, returned, quietly (!), to their warm Safari Condo.
To see photos of this unforgettable weekend, log on to, “Condists” corner, “Le club des Escargots givrés.”
By Michele and Daniel
Spring fever is particularly fierce for Condists. It strikes us all, but the symptoms are more severe for those who never had the chance to go south or camp in winter. If your Safari Condo has been in hibernation for several months, the wake-up date is surely highlighted in red ink on the calendar, maybe a picture is posted on the refrigerator or as a screen saver on the computer; you plan to attend a RV Show, just to get back in the spirit and, finally, you tour specialty shops to find that must--have ingenious thingamajig, so that the next season is just perfect. On D day, the red one on the calendar, you feel just like when you picked up a friend at the airport after a long absence. It is a feverish day filled with all the beginnings of a new season. It is the blank sheet on which to write our adventures throughout the coming summer.
Daniel and I wish you a warm “Homecoming” with your Safari Condo and a most pleasant summer filled with trips and friendships.
Big Rivière-du-Loup Gathering Our big gathering will soon be here and 130 crews have already
answered Mr and Mrs Leclerc’s invitation. Here is some last minute advice. The arrival is scheduled for
Thursday June 22nd 2006 at 12: 00 noon and the departure, on Sunday
June 25th at about 4: 30 p.m. How to get there: Coming into
Rivière-du-Loup, take exit 507 and follow directions to the ferry until you
reach the Camping du Quai. Objects to bring and
think about: -
strip (if you have one) -
Fill up water
before leaving -
Port wine, etc. (of course there is a SAQ nearby) -
Groceries List form the last “Coquille” -
I need service? If so, have I set up an appointment with the plant?? Object to leave behind: -
Kitchen shelter. You can bring it, but, at 2 or even 3 to a site, you might
not have enough room to set it up, and if you do then you can be sure that
you will have to share it with your neighbours. J Mad Scientist: Some of you asked questions about
the Mad Scientist Competition. Mad Scientist Competition has been around
since the beginning of the annual Safari Condo gathering. It is a friendly
competition which brings together condist inventors, “do-it-yourselfers”,
briefly, all those who have improved their Condo with their very own
creation. Not need to get complicated! The best ideas are often the
simplest. People who participate undertake to share their ideas with the other
condists and with Safari Condo. Some of the last years’ winning
entries have ended up in your vehicles. This year, all participating
vehicles will be identified so that all interested condists can have a
look at all entries. Have a good idea? Don’t be shy, participate! Michèle
Big Rivière-du-Loup Gathering
Our big gathering will soon be here and 130 crews have already answered Mr and Mrs Leclerc’s invitation. Here is some last minute advice.
The arrival is scheduled for Thursday June 22nd 2006 at 12: 00 noon and the departure, on Sunday June 25th at about 4: 30 p.m.
How to get there: Coming into Rivière-du-Loup, take exit 507 and follow directions to the ferry until you reach the Camping du Quai.
Objects to bring and think about:
- Extension cord
- Multiple-outlet strip (if you have one)
- Fill up water before leaving
- Wine, Port wine, etc. (of course there is a SAQ nearby)
- The Groceries List form the last “Coquille”
- Do I need service? If so, have I set up an appointment with the plant??
Object to leave behind:
- The Kitchen shelter. You can bring it, but, at 2 or even 3 to a site, you might not have enough room to set it up, and if you do then you can be sure that you will have to share it with your neighbours. J
Some of you asked questions about the Mad Scientist Competition. Mad Scientist Competition has been around since the beginning of the annual Safari Condo gathering. It is a friendly competition which brings together condist inventors, “do-it-yourselfers”, briefly, all those who have improved their Condo with their very own creation. Not need to get complicated! The best ideas are often the simplest. People who participate undertake to share their ideas with the other condists and with Safari Condo. Some of the last years’ winning entries have ended up in your vehicles. This year, all participating vehicles will be identified so that all interested condists can have a look at all entries. Have a good idea? Don’t be shy, participate!
DANIEL’S ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE
Reminder: Important Advice Re: Electric Roofs
Electric roofs have been improved for 2006. This improvement will be retrofitted free of charge to all vehicles coming to the plant for maintenance. From now on, when you set up an appointment with the plant, just let Frédéric know that you have an electric roof and that the modification has not been made. Safari Condo shall keep a record of all vehicles having had the modification.
This modification is made to the front slides of the electric roof. A Velcro strip (soft part), been placed there to insure minimal friction between both surfaces, tends to loosen when heated. This can adversely affect roof operation. The roof can still be used even without the improvement. It is however important to check that no glue residue on the front stainless steel corners of the electric roof. In this case, carry on the following maintenance yourself until you come to the plant:
1-Clean off any glue with a solvent (thinner or Varsol)
2-Apply petroleum jelly to both corners.
You can carry on this maintenance as a precaution, even if there is no visible glue residue of both front corners of the roof. Once modified, this maintenance will no longer necessary.
If your vehicle is equipped with a propane heater, there is a zinc anode for corrosion protection. Depending on the hardness of your water supply, the anode will be eaten away more or less quickly (between 2 - 4 years). After a few years, don’t forget to have your heater checked during a visit to our plant or RV service centre. The boiler itself will corrode if the anode is completely eroded and is not replaced.
Spring is here!!
Dewinterization: normally you can return your vehicle to the summer mode from the end of April. Don’t forget to disinfect the plumbing of your vehicle (see instructions in your Safari Condo manual If equipped with an electric water heater, don’t forget to completely fill the water heater before plugging it! If the vehicle has been set aside over the winter, make sure the batteries are fully charged by plugging in to a power supply for 24 to 48 hours.
I self-inspect my vehicle.
(Before leaving the first time)
1-Reinstall the fuses which were removed in the fall before storage.
2-Try out all electric circuits: lights, refrigerator, fan, heating, heater (full of water!!!), inverter.
3-Check or have someone check your marine batteries, especially the electrolyte.
1-Make sure your plumbing is well disinfected.
2- Make sure your heater is full of water before starting it up.
3-Check the plumbing for even the slightest water leak.
Make sure all of propane, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work before leaving the first time.
1- Check that all vehicle work properly. Test headlights, flashers, parking and brake lights.
2- Check tire pressure and wear. (See Daniel’s Advice, in the September 2005 Coquille.)
3- If the vehicle was stored, don’t forget to check if registration and insurance are still valid.
Aluminium Bike Case: for 2 bicycles and all their accessories. (Helmets, Bags, etc.) Won’t block rear windows on M and L series. Coming soon on
Thule Swivelling Bike Rack: modified by Safari Condo so that support pivots on driver side. Won’t block rear doors.
Cushioned Toilet Cover: also used as a pouf.
Pioneer AM-FM/CD/MP3/GPS Radio: Voice, bilingual and in-dash. Available on M and L Series from 2003. Coming soon on
Kayak Carrier: No more loading or loading problems. A trolley slides on roof rails to the rear of vehicle. Tie your kayaks at breast height, without ever having to climb on the roof. Coming soon on
Front Single 28" X 73" Bed: available on all M and L Series vehicles. Sets over the front seats. Coming soon on
Big Gathering 2007
Next year will be the 9th Edition of the Safari Condo Gathering. We have already visited Beauce twice, Lac St-Jean, Estrie, Montérégie, Outaouais, Mauricie and soon Lower St-Lawrence. The other day, Michèle and I wondered where could we hold the next Big Gathering and, in our minds, without uttering a single word, we both visualized the same answer: the Magdalen IslandsJ A simply crazy idea considering the complexity of its execution but how exciting are its beautiful sites and friendly islanders. More than ever, in order to carry out our project, we need the help of our Condist friends from the host region. So if you are Madelinot / Condist and like our idea, we are looking for volunteers to help us organize the craziest Big Gathering in Safari Condo history. You can reach me at the plant (I shall be away from April 24th to May 21st) or by e-mail through our web site: . Please note that the Gathering should not be held as usual on St-Jean-Baptiste Day, but rather toward the end July or early August, the time of year when the plant closes for the summer vacations.
Travel to Europe
By Gaétan Boulanger
Note: several persons have requested information about shipping their Safari Condo to Europe for travelling. Gaétan Boulanger wishes to share his experience.
o Prices quoted in Canadian Dollars. Exchange rate with Euro was 43 % at time of printing.
o With or without Safari Condo or other:
o Container from Montreal (2 000 $) –Add 1 000 $) for turnkey service (delivery in Roissy, Paris)
o Roll On Roll Off (RORO) from Halifax (2 000 $)
o Flat bed from Montreal (2 000 $)
o Vehicle and content Insurance (2% of insured value, for example, $2 % 50 000$ = 1 000 $)
o Overseas transport time for vehicle is 14 days.
o Plane ticket at a reduced price (to see Zoom Airlines – flyzoom.com)
o Fuel Availability (Butane, Propane)
o Gazoline vs diesel
o RV Insurance
o Electricity in Europe
o 200 vs 110 = transformer
o Amperage: between 6 and 10 amperes
o Remote electric boxes
o Grey and black water drainage
o Solar panels
o Remote connections
o Adapters and connectors
o Potable water? Water Purification Pills
o Important addresses: embassies, service stations
o Particularities: Spain: Reflective triangles and vests
o Safety: burglar alarm, safe
o Campsites organization
o Cycling in Europe (shipping preparation, transportation (back and forth), maintenance …
In our next publication, Gaétan Boulanger will answer all questions about transporting a Safari Condo to Europe, and consider other alternatives. Meanwhile, if you have experiences and information to share on this subject, do not hesitate to let us know!
Have a Great Camping Season!