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The Van Dames

The Van Dames are four ladies who are driving North to Alaska in August. Carol, Mary and Joyce are from Texas and Gail is from Michigan. Their 5,000-mile adventure will begin in Michigan and take them through the upper Midwest of the United States. They will enter Canada from Montana and continue north touring many cities and sites such as Lake Louise, Banff, Whitehorse and Dawson City before crossing into Alaska.

Click on the points on the map to see what we did at each location.

After getting to bed after midnight for several nights, we decided to sleep in this morning - That meant instead of leaving at 6:30, we got up at 6:30!!! We traveled a few miles and stopped at the eastern end of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Painted Canyon. The colors were stunning as nature has painted and shaped the landscape.
It was then on to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We bypassed the visitor center because it was getting hot and we wanted to do hiking. We grabbed a quick lunch in a picnic area with bathrooms - Yes Joan, we are doing a lot of potty breaks! Then it was on to see what the park held for us. We first found the Prairie Dog Town. They barked when we got too close and really were entertaining. We could have stayed there all day, but we were “Burning Daylight”!!
There were many overlooks and pull-over to admire how spectacular the park is. Along the way we came upon 3 wild horse herds. They were majestic animals and we especially loved the baby.
As we were complaining that we hadn’t seen the buffalo, a herd of 30 - 40 appeared as we rounded a bend. We moved along next to them for a few minutes when they decided to walk on the road with us. There was one huge bull who towered over all the rest. They walked right next to the van and Joyce kept stepping outside the door to take pictures. We thought she was going to ride one. It really was the highlight of the day as we travelled with them for the better part of a half an hour!
We were able to do 2 hikes. Some of it was pretty steep and went along the edges of the hills. We spent more time in the park than we had anticipated so it was after midnight again until we got to bed and had to drive a ways in the dark.
We would like to go back to Roosevelt National Park again as it was a very special place.

The Holiday (4th of July) is over and now it is one month until we depart!!! Time to get things done such as preparing the Mouse Mobile (named for its winter-time inhabitants!) for our 5,000 mile trip. New tires (we are each buying one), new windshield, and many things to insure a trouble-free trip to Alaska. After reading Ron Dalby’s book, A Guide to the Alaska Highway, we decided on a few things to have done. Since we already have a 38 gallon tank, no need to carry extra gas cans. It was suggested that we shield the gas tank to guard against rocks putting a hole in it. Screens over the headlights plus extra bulbs for them, new belts for everything, but keeping the old ones as they were still working when removed, extra gas filters, and just about anything that could go bad and be hard to obtain as we are traveling are just some of things we decided to have done. A bag of tools, some of which we don’t know how to use, but those traveling who might stop to help, may know how to use them.

We now have a mascot or guard dog who wants to be a sled dog, Egegik (pronounced EE-guh-gick, a town on the west side of the Alaska Peninsula, 326 air miles from Anchorage) who will be in most pictures of us plus we have named our GPS. It has a male voice so there was only one name we could give him, Jean Claude!!! After all we are the Van Dames!!

The other 3 women are arriving in Michigan 3 days early so that we can get supplies, pack the van and most important of all, have a 2 hour lesson with our mechanic as to how to do small repairs on the road should they be need. Changing a tire, replacing air filter or gas filter, and a few other points which he feels are important are just some of the things we plan to learn in our 2 hour session. Thank you, Mark. I know you have never had a request like this before, but we do appreciate your help.

We have enjoyed reading the adventures of the other travelers and have learned from events they have experienced on their way North to Alaska. We will join you there in August.