Up until this summer, there were still a few adventures I’d not yet made around Alaska, partly due to time and effort, partly with respect to my son’s age. I wanted to show him the remote nooks and crannies of our state when he was old enough to appreciate both the location and his good fortune to be able to plant his feet upon soil few ever get to experience.
When COVID-19 happened and the world turned upside down, it quickly became clear that our typical patterns for summer wouldn’t be the same, and we needed a new strategy. A road trip seemed the most viable of the few options presented to us and other Alaska families looking for something to help them escape the daily run of bad, bad news. So, where?
We would go north. With Go North, in fact, an RV and car rental company, operating bases in Seattle; Whitehorse, Yukon Territory; Anchorage; and Fairbanks. Offering rugged vehicles and permission to tackle some of Alaska’s usually-verboten highways (Denali, McCarthy, Dalton, etc.), Go North opened a doorway for us to explore the Dalton Highway, heading for the first 153 miles of the Dalton’s 414 in an effort to become reacquainted with each other and Alaska’s Interior and Arctic regions in a way we hadn’t before.
Driving the Dalton requires a vehicle with the chops to handle gravel, frost heaves, and the normal lumps and bumps of remote Alaska travel. Go North rents a few styles of vehicle, ranging from a 15-passenger van to 24-foot RV coaches. With only two of us, we opted for a truck camper with the “Gold” package (meaning a newer model truck, but nothing in the fleet is older than 2013). Perfect for two, and maybe four if one has small kids, the truck camper was a beefy rig that was easy to drive and tackled every situation we threw at it. Kitted out with housekeeping items (additional) and a 35-gallon gas tank, we felt confident and secure as we drove toward the Dalton’s first miles.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the exemplary COVID-19 protocols practiced by the entire Go North team. From enhanced cleaning procedures to providing guests with a packet of hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves (this was really such a lovely touch), we climbed into the truck feeling cared for and safe. Inside the Go North office, distancing, hand washing, and no-touch payment is regular practice now, and every step of check in was carefully and thoughtfully laid out to illustrate their understanding and willingness to care about their guests. Perfect.
I’ll talk about the trip itself in a post later this week, but for those thinking that a road trip might be the best way to vacation this summer, you’re right on target. Self-contained and able to get you far, far from other folks, RV travel is rapidly becoming a very popular mode of Alaska staycationing. Right now, Go North is also offering a 50% off special for locals (in each of their bases), and frontline workers fighting to keep COVID from taking over. That’s 50% off the base rental rate and 50% off prepaid miles with a four-night minimum. This works one way or round trip, too, keeping in mind that Canadian borders are currently still closed for all but essential travel through August 31, 2020.
This is also an excellent place in the story to remind all travelers their responsibility to each and every resident in the communities they visit. A notice posted on the door of Coldfoot Camp said it best: “We are a remote place, with the nearest medical care 260 miles away…” Y’all: Wear a mask. Indoors for sure, and outdoors if you can’t maintain a six-foot distance from other people. I mean it. It’s not hard, and it shows you care about others’ welfare, regardless of what you believe. Because, friends, it’s the right thing to do.