Ward Lake in Ketchikan, Alaska. Photo by me.

Driving from Ohio to Alaska — through Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, + along the Highway of Tears in British Columbia

Departure: Friday, July 28 6:30 p.m.

Day 1

Day 1

Ohio to Wisconsin

7.30.17 | Ah, where to begin. I guess from the beginning. My dad had stuffed everything in my car and Zach and I were on our way. The beginning part of the trip is a blur — Ohio to Indiana to Illinois flew by. Probably because we literally were flying, it seems like those people don’t give a damn about the speed limit in Illinois.

We were going about 85 (Zach was driving) to keep up with traffic and a state trooper zoomed up behind us out of nowhere with his lights on. Zach was moving to the right to pull over and the trooper passed on by us. Needless to say, he slowed down after that. For a while, at least.

The Super 8 in Wisconsin.

We drove from around 6:30 to 3 a.m. and arrived in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, next to the Kalahari resort. We stayed at the Super 8 which was actually really nice but expensive because of how close to Kalahari we were. We snuck the cats into that hotel but they were pet friendly, just didn’t feel like spending more. You could say we’re rebels of a sort.

Day 2

Wisconsin to North Dakota

Pretty trees and blue skies in Wisconsin.

In the morning, we took off and made it through Wisconsin and on to Minnesota. What can I say about Minnesota? We didn’t see anything scenic but they are true to their name — there are a LOT of lakes, but it was such a long drive through Minnesota. The roads were great and the trees and lakes were pretty and eventually we hit North Dakota. Ah, North Dakota.

As long as I live, I will do everything to avoid North Dakota. It was a freaking scary drive. I drove all the way from Wisconsin to Fargo, North Dakota, which is about 7 hours. Zach then drove from Fargo to Minot.

I was scared the whole way. When I say farms for miles, I don’t mean ten or twenty. I mean hundreds. The entire trip, four hours, was us driving on a 75 mph, two lane road. That’s really scary because oncoming traffic is coming at you doing 85 and you’re doing 85 and the only thing separating you is a double yellow line. One veer to the left and we’d be gone.

North Dakota is flat. Like really flat.

Not only that, but it was mostly semi trucks. Every time a car was about to pass us I looked away because I was so scared lol. Zach is the only person besides my dad or mom I trust to drive my car so it wasn’t his driving. It was just in the middle of nowhere with long, country roads. If we were to break down, we’d be SOL. But, we made it to the Dakota Inn in Minot, ND, four hours away at about 11 p.m. That’s a whole ‘nother story.

Day 2

First and foremost, if you ever go to the ugly, shitty town of Minot, for the love of GOD please stay away from this hotel. We pull up, and keep in mind we had driven 12 hours to get here, and we see a bar next door to the hotel — the “Trapper’s Lounge.” There were drunk people walking around outside and it was SUPER SKETCHY. Whatever, that wasn’t even the worst part.

It’s safe to say there’s a lot of bugs in North Dakota. The windshield looked the same. Gross!

They give us a room and we meander on over with all of our stuff and two cats and open the door. It smelled like someone had poured buckets of pee all over everything in the room and it was musty. I was about to start crying, the blankets were wet, the bed was stiff, the pillows were flat, the water pressure was awful…I could go on. But the people were nice and they had a waffle machine. Decent tradeoff?

Obviously I asked to be switched to a better room, this wasn’t me being high maintenenace. I mean it was disgusting. So we switched rooms and it was MUCH better. It didn’t smell like piss but it didn’t smell like roses.

Zach spilled the cat litter all over the carpet and lost his phone right when we got there for about 30 minutes and that was stressful. I didn’t sleep well and woke up in the morning very unbright-eyed not ready to take on the day HAH!!! I got Starbucks though so that made things a little better.

Sunflowers for daysssss in North Dakota! (The only good part about it)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my cats are doing great in the car. Bernie meows for a while and then falls asleep and they don’t go potty in the car. They’ve waited every night until we’ve gotten to the hotel and I can fill the desposible litter box up. The only thing that’s concerened me so far is the heat, I have to make sure they’re drinking water and aren’t dehydrated.

Day 3

Day 3

From Minot, we were on our way to the Canadian border, about an hour away in a town called Portal. That was in the middle of nowhere, too, and we were the only car going towards Canada.

Canada, eh?

Oh, Canada. Literally, OH CANADA. WHY WAS IT SO DIFFICULT TO GET INTO YOU. We pull up to the Canadian border and we were the only car there. It was a small, single building and we pull up and a border patrol woman approaches the car. She rests her arms on the passenger window and leans her head inside.

“Where do you live?”

Ohio.

“Where are you going?”

Alaska.

“How long will you be there?”

Until our ferry leaves on Friday.

“Do you have any plants, firearms, tobacco, mace or alcohol?”

“I have champagne in the trunk (thanks Hannah) and I have mace,” I said.

“I have some tobacco,” Zach added. “No plants.”

She checked out my cats rabies vaccine paperwork and told us to pull over to the side across the border and wait. She took my mace because it’s illegal in Canada. Then, she took our passports and scanned them inside after we’d been waiting for 10 minutes.

She came out and asked Zach to come inside and made me wait at the car. Twenty minutes later, he came out and said she wasn’t going to let us into Canada.

I was sitting there for an hour while Zach talked to her and tried to work his way in.

She was NOT going to let us in. I was thinking Zach was going to have to fly back from North Dakota and I was going to have to finish the drive on my own.

(Ask me about it — I don’t want to put my brothers details on the internet LOL). My parents had to fax some paperwork and she finally let us in.

An hour later, she told me to come inside and sign a paper saying I was choosing to abandon my mace at the border. AND WE WERE ON OUR WAY, after a stressful, nerve-wrenching hour at the Saskatchewan-United States border. Phew….

There was nothing stopping anyone from driving right through border patrol, though. No bars or rumble strips or anything. I’m sure if someone sped on through they’d be chased down pretty quick.

Pretty bummed it looked like North Dakota. Hahah I was thinking there’d at least be a change in scenery.

Annnnnnd we were off, again, driving along in Saskatchewan. We pulled over to a tiny Petr0-Canada gas station because the gas stations are scarce in Canada and we wanted to top off. We pull up next to a man in a truck with a Saskatchewan license plate and he noticed our Ohio plates.

“You need a petro-Canada gas card, eh,” he said.

We couldn’t get gas there but we heard someone say “eh” so it was pretty worth it. Zach said he thought that was a stereotype that all Canadian’s say “eh,” but let me assure you, it’s not. They all say “oh yeah,” and “eh” a lot.

We kept chugging along and found another gas station and grabbed some noms (Dairy Queen). We tried to pay for gas in USD (cash) but they didn’t take it there so I just used my card.

About two hours into that drive, my car was acting funny. It would stop accelerating, accelerate again and then stop again, which led to our next adventure.

I knew we weren’t going to make it to the next biggest town, Regina, (pronounced Re-gyn-uh) not like the name Regina…strange.

So I eventually turned off a side road and my car completely died. We were in the middle of absolutely nowhere, it was 95 degrees and sunny and there was no gas stations, homes or businesses for hundreds of miles. We got so lucky we broke down when we did, we turned right into an air conditioned gas station and sat there with the cats and gave them water.

I called AAA and luckily they got to us within 45 minutes and towed us to Regina, where they had a Volkswagen Dealership. My mom and dad booked us a hotel a five minute drive from the dealership and we waited until the morning for the diagnostic. P.S. gas is $9.09 CAD here, which equals $7.09 USD. What in the world…

Sunset views from the hotel in Regina.
Day 4

Day 4

Regina to Lloydminster

We had to wake up early to call the Volkswagen Dealership to start working on my car…but the key was locked in my car and I had to call AAA for a lockout.

The nearest AAA person was 40 minutes away, but the dealership ended up getting the car opened. They said it was a cracked alternator belt and a coolant leak, and would be fixed in a few hours.

We checked out of the hotel and waited about three hours until it was done and we were on our way again! The drive from Regina to Lloydminster, Alberta was a beautiful drive. We didn’t see anything too special but hundreds of miles of farmland as we drove into the sunset.

I would compare the route we took to Route 30 in Ohio, past Mansfield. It was long and surrounded by farms and was considered an interstate. The road had signs “gas station in 2 km” but the gas stations aren’t off the side of the road like they are in Ohio. You had to pull of, drive about ten minutes and then you’d get to one.

Nothing but this from Regina to Lloydminster

Saskatchewan, at least the parts we saw, is basically farm country. The license plates, which are only on the back of cars in Saskatchewan and Alberta, even have crops on their license plates.

Day 5

Day 5

Lloydminster to Prince George

This was by far the best day. Even though it was a 10 hour drive it was BEAUTIFUL. It was neat to watch the landscape change from flat, farmland to snow covered mountains as we drove towards the coast.

What we saw on the way into the forest. We weren’t ready for what was to come!

We entered the forest a short while after Edmonton and were surrounded by trees and hills. We approached Jasper National Park (the green patch on the map) and drove through there for at least two hours. We could see the park from an hour away! There is nothing I could say to describe what we saw, so I’ll leave that to some pictures. We did see a few moose, though!

A moose in Jasper National Park.
Zach in Jasper, looking at the hot springs.
Just beautiful!

Driving after Jasper until Prince George was very mountainious and we lost signal a few times on our phones. There were only a handful of cars heading the same way we were and if we would have broken down in the mountains with no service…well I have no idea what we’d do.

When I say mountains, I mean nothing but mountains. One road traveling down the middle of a patch of mountains, in the “wildlife corridor,” according to signs. It constantly had signs warning us of moose for “the next 10 km.”

Zach in Jasper.

The entire city of Prince George had a smell — kind of like poo. It wasn’t anything special, aside from the great view. We actually entered British Columbia as we exited Jasper Park, then we saw Mount Robson. For the rest of the drive through BC you couldn’t look to either side of you without seeing something beautiful.There were lakes, trees and mountains for miles.

Mt Robson in British Columbia

Day 6

Prince George to Prince Rupert

It was a beautiful day in Prince George: 85 and sunny. Like I said earlier, the rest of the trip through British Columbia was mountains. Throughout the drive from PG to PR we lost signal a few times. Then my car started acting up again.

Driving over a bridge in the mountains.

Three hours into the drive, right before Smithers, it was doing the same thing it was in Saskatchewan. It would stop me from accelerating, so to stop it from completely dying I pulled off the road as soon as it happened.

If it were to have died on the road, there was nowhere to pull off and those roads are dangerous. You can’t see a car coming around the curb and they’re doing 100 km/h which is 70 mph. Not to mention the wildlife.

The motel we stopped at in the mountains.

We pulled into a motel and panic-called my parents and Aunt and Uncle. What the hell do we do now? We are SO close, only five hours left. There was a boat shop next door to the motel so we went there and asked if there was a mechanic nearby, and low and behold there was.

Luckily, again, we stopped where we did. The towns in the mountains are few and far between and we’d go two hours without seeing one. The mechanic looked at the car for about an hour and he even drove it.

The view in Smithers.

He saw nothing wrong with it and told us it would get us to Prince Rupert and to keep going. He said if it does it again, stop, let it cool down, and start driving again. Come to find out, it was the heat causing the issue…probably the fuel pump. Both times it happened, it was 85 and sunny.

We took it slow, from town to town. “20 more kilometers to the next town, if we break down,” and that’s mostly the extent of our conversation for the rest of the trip.

Long story short, it cooled down when we drove from Burns Lake (before Smithers) until Prince Rupert. The car didn’t have any issues for the rest of the trip and we finally made it to Prince Rupert. On the way from Terrace until PR, we were the only car on the road. It was dark, cold and we had no service for two hours.

It was a little stressful and I let go of worrying and said it is what it is, and I had no control over what was going to happen. Thank God we made it.

We arrived in Prince George at midnight and got to our hotel, the Moby Dick Inn. There was no air conditining because who needs it on the coast of Canada? Well it was 77 and sunny and the room was stinking hot, but we only had to stay there for two days so it was fine. The cats liked the heat, anyways.

Day 7

Prince Rupert

We woke up a little late and had all day to explore the town. Prince Rupert is not a very nice place, the businesses are mostly all closed down. They had a pier with about five shops, but at least it was beautiful.

Zach talked to some locals who said they hate living here because there’s nothing to do. I believe them. We drove around for about 30 minutes and couldn’t find anything to do, so we went to the Pier. I got some ice cream and was wearing an Ohio State shirt.

“Are you really from Ohio,” the man working at the shop said.

Yep!

He said he lived in Columbus for a while. Small world, eh?

At dinner time we were walking down the road trying to find somewhere to eat and found a place called Naomi’s. It was a small town diner and was delicious! Zach said the fish and chips was really good, but I don’t like fish all like that.

Since there was nothing else to do, we walked around for a bit and enjoyed the view.A few things about Canada, at least in the parts we’ve driven through. They LOVE Tim Horton’s and Dairy Queen. There were those two at every major city and a 7/11 gas station.At the gas stations, I rarely had to pump my own gas. There was always someone there to pump it and they also cleaned your windshield and checked your oil. Canada is awesome! Lol. Our ferry to Alaska leaves today at 5:00 and it will arrive in Ketchikan at 11. My new boss got us a hotel for the night, then on Saturday I move into my new apartment!


The view from my apartment.

So we made it to Alaska, a week and a few minor bumps in the road later. What an adventure, and there’s no one else I’d rather have done it with. Would I do it again? HELL YES! I’d do it again in a heartbeat, with a different car, more time and would have planned to see more touristy things on the way. We saw raw Canada though — Saskatchewan, Alberta…a lot of people go to Ontario and British Columbia. I’m glad we took the route and saw the things we did and I’m glad I got to share it with all of you.

Where to next?
Settler’s Cove in Ketchikan
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