The Road to Alaska Part Two: Side Trip to Prince Rupert, Some Drama, and on to Yukon

Having chosen to make the drive through Canada rather than take the ferry along the Marine Highway, we were missing the bulk of the astounding Canadian and Southern Alaskan coast, so much of which is only accessible by boat or plane. With solid travel days during our first three legs, particularly the westward turn during the third, we realized we had time for a side trip and elected to continue west on BC 16 towards Prince Rupert. This would mean a casual 170 mile detour each way, with a likely three day stay once there.

Unfortunately, we encountered two significant problems. First, we blew a tire, the driver side inside one on the rear dually axle. Our best guess is that we picked up a piece of sharp debris maneuvering around a traffic accident early in the trip. This was a true blow out: the tire energetically gave way 40 miles from Prince Rupert, taking the fender trim and part of the lining with it. After stopping and inspecting, we determined that the tire had disintegrated to the point that it was no longer hitting anything else or rubbing against the outside tire, so we chose to limp down the road at low speed, flashers on, until we reached Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park about 15 miles outside of Prince Rupert. Arriving in the late afternoon we found a nearly full park, but the camp host guided us to the last remaining site. We secured it for two days, set up camp, and after consulting with the camp hosts, made arrangements with a local tire shop to mount the spare we had purchased just before entering Canada.

I have no idea why I took this closeup of tire tread. It is obviously quite purposeful, yet it is neither the blown tire nor the replacement. It is, however, a tire, and the closest thing I have to a picture of our tire drama, so enjoy.

So everything was fine: we had a lovely spot in another beautiful lakeside campground within an easy drive of our current destination, and we had survived mostly unscathed through our apparently mandatory Canada-to-Alaska tire blowout. Unfortunately, there was more drama. Rosemarie had started feeling a bit under the weather back in New Hazelton, was deep into “bad cold” mode by the time we closed up shop our first night at Prudhome Lake, and by the next morning was down hard: bedridden, exhausted, light fever, aches, pains, and general reduction in her normal sunny disposition. I headed to the pharmacy for COVID tests (negative) and over the counter cold and flu meds, so not a lot of tourism going on that weekend.

The “C” is for control, not COVID. One of the downsides to Rosemarie being sick is that we, by which I mean she, took very few pictures of this leg of our journey, which explains why you are getting pictures of a tire and medical test: it’s all we have.

By Monday morning Rosemarie was approaching human again. We broke camp and limped into town for our appointment at Kal Tire, where they mounted and installed our used spare. It cost about $50 US and only took an hour, so we are quite grateful to the staff and mechanics at this excellent shop. Rather than return to drycamping at Prudhomme Lake, we stayed at a private RV park in town, Prince Rupert RV Campground. There we had an interesting spot in their terraced campground with power, water, and a separate dump station for about $41 US, which is pretty reasonable considering the location at a modestly touristy seaside town. We were happy to have services, but no one was feeling up to exploring, so we called this whole side trip a wash and moved on the next day, back tracking to Kitwanga to intersect BC 37, the Cassier Highway.

Along the way we stopped in Terrace to purchase a new spare tire for the RV, finding a Hercules Strong Guard, one of our preferred options, for about what you would pay in the states. We made a short drive of it that day, only 200 miles, using iOverlander to find another lovely roadside campground on the short of a small lake. The short dirt road in was a bit tight, but we had an excellent site in a small clearing that we shared with a young long-distance bicycle traveler making his way all the way up to the top of Yukon.

The next day we put in six hours making our way up to Dease Lake. We really started to notice the road conditions deteriorating, with frost heaves and related winter damage more frequent. Cell service was much less consistent as well, with long stretches of road and even towns of more than 700 people in complete dead zones. Friendly locals, who seemed rather proud to not have cell service, guided us to a local community college that had free guest Wi-Fi, which allowed us to pick our stopping point for the night. We selected Waters Edge Campground, a nice place with friendly owners and recently revamped sites for $27 US. It is all dry camping, but they do have working (if slow) Wi-Fi for the guests near their bath house. Were we less tired from a full day of driving we would probably have sought out a free site in the area, apparently there are a couple near some gravel pits just off the highway.

As you can see, we are mostly through British Colombia, and aside from the trip to Prince Rupert, mostly following our planned route.

Next up: We enter The Yukon and turn on to the official Alaska Highway.