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Old 08-18-2013, 10:57 AM   #1
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Monaco Owners Club
Join Date: May 2013
Location: North Summer, South Winter
Posts: 105
Thinking of Going to Inuvik in Your Class A?

This is easy - don't. If you have a burning desire to see the arctic circle on one of only two roads that cross the arctic circle on the North American continent, I strongly recommend you leave your class A in Edmonton, AB and rent someone else's truck to make the trip (with good insurance, of course!). We just returned from a month in the Yukon and the NWT, and I want to pass on a few bits of insight gleaned from our experience. We did this trip in our 40' Monaco Knight with a Ford Fiesta in tow.

To get to Inuvik NWT by road, you have to "do the Dempster". Or in our case, "the Dempster does you!". This is a 456 mile dirt road with extreme dust, and the 18 wheelers enjoy the look of terror they instill on us mere mortals as they scream past. We picked up windshield chips/cracks from each of 6 trucks that past us in a row. In some places you can go 50 mph, but for much of those 456 miles, you will be doing 25-35 mph because of washboard surfaces. After the trip, we stopped in Whitehorse YT to lick our wounds, and was parked next to a Monaco Camelot that had also just run the Dempster. We had similar experiences; this is what we discovered:

1. Cover your towed. Or better yet, leave it with your class A in Edmonton. We used a windshield cover, which we discovered was woefully inadequate to protect the rest of the towed's front end. The 2012 Ford Fiesta now looks like it was sandblasted, with broken lights and gouges in the plastic. Some other folks had one of those plastic sheets that rest on top of the tow gear (I think they said they paid $450 for it from Blue Ox) - all that did was provide another bounce path for rocks. They also suffered similar damage. A full front bra that starts under the front bumper and runs up and over the hood, windshield and roof would be the minimal protection I would recommend if you are set on bringing the towed. We ended up with dust leakage into the car, with a thick coating of "talcum fine" dust on everything inside the car. We picked up nails in a couple of tires on the Ford, and ended up leaving the car in Eagle Plains (about halfway to Inuvik), which turned out to be a good thing - see "Ferrys" below.

2. Bring several windshield chip repair kits with you. Canadian Tire in Whitehorse was sold out when we were setting out; finally found several at the NAPA in Whitehorse. They are made by Permatex, and are easy to use - about $15 each. It is not a question of if, but when, if you are on the Dempster. We survived with 6 good star-type chips, which we repaired with these kits. Unfortunately, as we were driving into Edmonton on the trip home, we were nailed by a monster rainstorm that washed small rocks into the roadway, and a passing truck nailed us right at the edge of the windshield. It immediately turned into a 24" crack right in front of the driver. Ouch! Can't wait to find out how much that one-piece Panaview is going to cost to replace.

3. Make sure you have several tubes of radiator leak stop. Our Monaco has a grate installed under the radiator that is supposed to prevent rocks from getting into the fan blades and ultimately into the radiator fins, but we still managed to punch a large and several small holes. Just as we were approaching the 2nd ferry, over the Mackenzie River, we discovered our coolant spewing out of the radiator. We spent a night at the north side of the ferry crossing letting everything cool off while we figured out how were going to fix the problem. Ended up crushing that particular tube with some vice grips, and filling the cooling system with Mackenzie River water along with some pepper and a couple of eggs to seal the smaller leaks. Ended up sealing all the leaks within a few minutes of operation, but I would have felt more confident with some leak stop. Got some diesel-appropriate coolant in Dawson City when we returned, and the leaks remained sealed all the way back to Austin.

4. Ferrys. You have to cross the Peel and the Mackenzie Rivers on free ferries run by the government. Our 40' Monaco fit nicely on both of them. Unfortunately, their loading ramps and dirt runouts leading to them can be problematic. We lost our exhaust system leaving the Peel River ferry. We were carrying 25' of 3/8" aircraft cable, which I used to wire up the muffler, with only minimal exhaust noise increase. I think that nice chrome tailpipe is now part of the river bank - never did find it.

5. Bring an extra air filter. By the time we returned to Dawson City after running the Dempster, I was noticing a power loss. I checked the differential pressure across the air filter, and found the problem. Popped out the filter, which was PACKED with that fine dust, carefully cleaned the Donaldson housing, and smacked the filter around for about a half an hour to remove as much dust as possible. Our Cummins uses a large Donaldson can filter, which I thought was pretty universal. Turns out, in the Yukon, not so much. The good folks over at Inland Kenworth found the last one available north of Edmonton at that time over in Fort St. John BC, and had it shipped via Greyhound to us in Whitehorse.

6. Everything will come loose. We had screws, nuts and bolts falling out of things we never would have expected! Be prepared to check and tighten every nut and bolt you have access to, and a few you don't. Make sure you have a good selection of wrenches, nut drivers and screw drivers in your tool kit. If you loose any Phillips screws while in the Yukon, you will have to replace them with square drive type screws - they just don't sell Phillips head screws anywhere we checked. We lost the screws that held the passenger side fuel tank cover, and ended up getting a couple of square heads and a new driver tool (didn't have any square heads prior to this event). The water heater cover had a nice heavy duty chromed screen - it came loose without our noticing and was left somewhere on the road between the Yukon and Texas.

7. Be prepared to do everything yourself. You will need to "McGyver" many of your repairs yourself - don't count on much help. There is limited cell phone coverage - usually only around towns, which are few and far between. We actually managed to contact the Good Sam road assistance folks from the Mackenzie River ferry landing. Unfortunately, they weren't much help - first, they couldn't locate us on a map, even giving them our lat and long, so they couldn't figure out who to send. Then, I was told that if the vehicle was still operational, they would not help anyway. I admit, that even without coolant, we probably could have run the motor to destruction, it was not something I was going to do.

All in all, a fantastic adventure. Replacing the windshield, radiator and exhaust system - expensive. A month in the Yukon and NWT and the memories we collected - priceless!

Jay & Jo Couture Livin' On The Edge,
w/Dawson, our mini aussie, in a 2007 Monaco Knight 40DFT, towing a 24" Pace garage.
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Old 08-18-2013, 01:00 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Kentville, NS
Posts: 425
Thank you for sharing your story. I drove the Dempster 29 years ago in a '56 Chev so I cannot imagine doing it in a class A. We are just returning home now from Yellowknife, NWT and although the road is paved it does give a new meaning to a hard surface. We lived there for five years and at that time the road in was not paved. We did manage to pick up a rock chip on the way home in High Level, AB. I am not sure if you would have been that far north in Alberta or not. I agree, Whitehorse is the place to park your rig and then drive someone else's truck with lots of insurance. Thanks again for sharing your story...I loved it and can relate to it
Binnie, Wanda & Yasper (Labradoodle)
1999 Winnebago Chieftain 35U F53 Chassis V10
Towing 2014 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
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