Bears-Beware! Dodge Invades Alaska

V10 Dodge Storms Alaska

Sep. 01, 2002 By Tim ""Desertbull""
Off-Road.Com long time reader Darren B. heads to Alaska with his Dodge

In Alaska, they have a creature called a bear. Some are brown, some are black and some are grizzly. Well, yeah there are bears all over the Western United States, but in Alaska, bears are like mosquitos. They're almost everywhere. Remember, Alaska is the Last Frontier of America.

The Dodge Ram V-10 Beast is no match for this bad boy Grizzly that's often found in the wilds of Alaska. Many trucks have been known to become victims to the huge monster strength of the powerful Grizzly. This beast here is on the prowl for his next meal.

When traveling in a land of harsh extremes, vast distances and unique driving challenges, one thing you better have right is a high-quality vehicle. A good rig is just not a good idea, but it's essential!

The Ballein's, Darren and Bill, father and son respectively, are big game hunters. As well as being long-time desert racers, recreational off-roaders and formally a ex-Class 7 racer in his hey-day, Darren is in Alaska for a nice long vacation with his dad out in the last of the American frontier. Unless you've been to Alaska, you probably don't know what we mean.

Having traveled through British Columbia and Alaska extensively several summers ago, we were bothered by bears nearly every campground we visited. The last of the American frontier sounds like a "canned" saying, but until you have driven the Al-Can Highway you really don't know. No pit monkeys to change your blown belt or hose, no help to repair you flat tire and when you blow your main seal, your done and on your own. AAA is a long ways away!

This Dodge Ram V-10 stormed Alaska during the past few weeks. Driving nearly 4500 miles from San Diego, California to Fairbanks, Alaska, ex-class 7 racer-Darren Ballein and his father are tracking beer and moose in the Alaskan outback.

On a beautiful Saturday in August, at 1:00 am in the morning, Darren warmed up his Alaskan Dodge V-10 Beast for a jaunt from San Diego, California to Fairbanks, Alaska. By Sunday, Darren was in Oregon where he picked up his dad, Bill. They left from Rogue River, Oregon on Monday morning and crossed into Canada by late Monday. The Dodge Ram purred along Interstate 5 until they crossed into Canada where the same highway changes to the Highway 1. Soon enough, Darren and Bill were pushing that Dodge Ram V-10 by Hope, Canada and up the Kokahala Grade towards the town of 150 Mile House in British Columbia. A day later they cruised by Prince George, BC and onto the deep reaches of the Canadian Territories. Next they drove into Whitehorse and then finally after what seemed to be a ton of miles, they crossed that California plated Dodge Ram back into the United States at Port Alcan, Alaska. Their next stop was in Tok, Alaska where the all important telephone call was made to his honey at home, Diana. All was safe and sound as they entered Alaska after a long trek across North America. Soon enough they arrived in Fairbanks and readied to arrive at the remote hunters camp outside Circle, Alaska.

This guy finds his own place to sleep. On the soft river bank with his feet dangling in the water, this grizzly just finished a huge meal of 20 big salmon.

Leading the way on navigation is a book affectionately named, "The Milepost." A must and often referred to by Alaskan and Canadian travelers as, "The Bible." This publication is a huge couple inch thick full detailed 8"x10" book. Published by Morris Communications, it's a book that all Alaskan travlers are in possession of. And of course, Darren and his navigator, Bill used The Milepost exclusively during the first half of their trip. The Milepost provides a mile-by-mile description of all major highways, roads and detailed information about campgrounds and towns along the famed highway. Go to for details on how to obtain this valuable publication when planning a trip to Alaska.

Darren has reported his bad-ass Dodge V-10 ran smoothly and without problems. The Alaskan-Canadian highway is no challenge for the Dodge V-10 Ram with a cab-high camper shell. The long and steep mountain grades can certainly test the Ram's power and braking system, this Ram performed flawlessly. On the way they have reported spotting moose, caribou and goats during their travels. They continue on.

Darren and Bill towed a small trailer loaded to the gills with hunting and camping supplies. Upon arriving to Fairbanks, Alaska they loaded up on the last of the needed camp supplies and headed back into the backcountry over several hours of Alaskan dirt road, through the mud, the thick mosquitos and finally into the same camp they have visited years before.

The cab-high camper shell provides comfort from the weather during the nighttime hours. Darren constructed custom cots on each side of the truck bed and they are lined with soft thick foam cushioning to allow them both to sleep hard when Mr. Grizzly is rocking this Dodge Ram V-10 back and forth during his quest to open the FridgeFreeze!

The gasoline bill for the one-way trip was about as much as a 4-day fishing trip in La Paz, Baja California or a 3-day hotel stay at the MGM Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. And we're not talking off-season in the middle of summer. Stopping to fill up the hungry Dodge Ram V-10 was about the most annoying thing so far on this adventure. Darren and Bill are stomping around the backcountry tracking down wild game and living close times as fathers and sons do all the time. Experiencing the adventure of a lifetime shared with family members.

Their camp is comfortable with all the amenities of a typical hunters camp. Nothing at all. The only thing they have is what they brought, which includes a warm bed, a place to sit and somewhere to cook along with a nice fire pit for those midnight Northern Light shows. As the sun sets in Alaska, oftentimes the sky gets no darker then a typical West Coast summer evening at dusk. That can make it a bit difficult to get some shut eye during the first few days. Darren and Bill are surviving and sleeping in the back of the Dodge Ram equipped with custom fabricated sleeping cots constructed by Darren. Although, it's not quite the Hilton Suites in Juneau, Alaska, it's a comfortable set up and as the days go on and the hunt continues, long tired days are followed by a hearty dinner and a good sleep.

The latest up-to-date report on the 12-volt FridgeFreeze refrigerator is nothing but outstanding. Darren reports the FridgeFreeze has continued to operate above expected levels and all of their perishables and cold drinks have been chilled to perfection. Now that they have arrived into their hunters remote camp in the American Frontier, the Fridge/Freeze will be put to the ultimate test. Darren's test of the FridgeFreeze will be chronicled in next months edition of Off-Road.Com! We will report how the FridgeFreeze holds up to any encounters with a grizzly or two. But expect to hear how many days the FridgeFreeze ran off of one deep cycle battery and how much ice they had to make to keep those evening drinks around the campfire cold and icy. If Mr. Grizzly decided to keep them entertained during the evening they could always offer them a cold beverage to put him in a mellow mood.

Stay tuned for updates about this reader's adventures in Alaska!

Darren and Bill Ballein on an EPIC adventure in the Last Frontier of America!!!

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