Monday, August 4, 2014

Alaska RV rental firm hits the skids with "F" rating

Planning to do an Alaska RV tour, but don't want to take your own rig? Here's a tip from the BBB: You may want to "pass" on renting an RV from B&B RV Rental in Anchorage.

The Better Business Bureau has given B&B its lowest possible customer satisfaction rating -- "F." That after over 20 parties have complained to the marketplace trust organization about how B&B has dealt with them as customers. Recently the BBB said that it, "Recognized a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding sales practice, product, customer service and refund issues."

What sort of "pattern" has the organization "recognized"? Several customers said they'd made reservations with the outfit months in advance, and often paid in full or made a large deposit for the rental. Then, shortly before the day to pick up the rig, they'd receive an e-mail that said the company wouldn't be able to honor their rental, and that their money had been refunded. On checking their accounts, the customers would note that the money had NOT been refunded, and their telephone calls to the company would go unreturned.

Other customers who did actually get their RV from the company said the units they were rented were in horrific condition, with problems ranging from bad plumbing to terrible odors. One customer said his credit card company, who advised that he have the RV inspected by an independent outfit for damage before returning it. He took the advice, and after returning the rig, was surprised when his credit card was later dinged a $1,000 for a "cracked windshield." Happily, with the inspection in hand, the credit card company joined the battle to fight the charge.

Another customer told an Alaska newspaper that the RV they rented from B&B was seemingly 'falling apart.' They reported that cabinets would fly open, and contents would spill all over the rig. Happily, one thing they found that did actually work was the motorhome's carbon monoxide detector. They found that out when awakened from sleep -- the motorhome's generator exhaust was leaking back into the rental unit, and the alarm saved them from a probably disaster.

When the BBB approached B&B RV Rentals about complaints that were stacking up, the company refused to work through the agency to try and work things out. One newspaper says the firm says that the Bureau is essentially attempting to blackmail it into becoming a BBB member, and that they'd handle their own complaints. If the record that is mounting up with the BBB is any indicator, the rental firm needs to brush up on its diplomacy.

Incidentally, the company also operates under other monikers. Look for them under, and AK Motorhomes. Before you plunk down your credit card on an RV rental, exercise due diligence. Check out the company's rating on the BBB web site.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Now's the time to plan a summer trip to Denali National Park

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For Star Trek fans, space may indeed be the final frontier. For RVers, space isn't someplace we can head for (at least, not yet), so for 'final frontier' RV goers, consider putting Alaska on your navigation console. December is an excellent time to start planning for an Alaska summer adventure. A key point to plot in? Denali National Park, centered right on North America's highest mountain, Denali, or Mount McKinley.

The park itself covers six million acres, and only a tiny fraction is accessible by RV. The main north-south running road through Denali is a short, but spectacular 91-mile roadway that runs more or less parallel to the Alaska Range, rugged-looking bunch of peaks if ever there were. Don't worry about how far you might have to drive over rough roads in your RV along this one – only 15 miles are accessible to us mortals, the balance of the roadway is handled only by concession operated busses. Still, the views from these busses are spectacular, and it's a good time to think about reservations, but we'll come to that later.

NPS photo
Park tours can give you great views, but an educational experience as well. The Tundra Wilderness tour routes visitors through boreal forests to rugged tundra, and alongside some hairy cliffs with nasty drop-offs. Maybe that's why only the concessionaires get to drive these roads – no guardrails, so not for the faint of heart. Don't worry, you can watch your heart rate return to normal from the comfort of your RV, when your safely back home at one of the park's campgrounds.

Riley Creek Campground is just inside the park entrance, and can handle rigs up to 40'. Rates for RVs range from $22 to $28.00.  Farther up the park road, at milepost 13, you'll find Savage River Campground, with the same size restrictions and fee structure as Riley Creek.

Teklanika River Campground is a special exception to that, "can't go any farther than 15 miles on the roadway." If you stay at Taklanika River, you can drive your rig in as the campground at Mile 29. The campground will handle RVs to 40' long, and charges $16 a night. But there's a catch: You must stay at least three nights at Teklankia, and your righ can't leave the campsite until you're ready to head back to the park entrance.

Be ready to "rough it" at any of the Denali campgrounds – there are no hookups. You'll definitely be having an Alaska boondocking adventure.

Now, about those reservations: Park concessionaire, Donyon/ARAMARK handles reservations for both the shuttle buses and the park's four largest campgrounds. The outfit began accepting advance reservations for the 2014 on December 1. Reservations are taken by phone, on-line or mail. Reservations are no longer being taken via fax.
Approximately 65 percent of the shuttle bus seats and 100 percent of the campsites in the Riley Creek, Savage River, and Teklanika River campgrounds can be reserved in advance. The remaining tickets are made available for advance or walk-in reservations two days before the travel date.

The shuttle bus system is designed to provide transportation into the heart of Denali National Park and Preserve for visitors who wish to view the park’s scenery and wildlife, access campgrounds, go hiking for the day, or take an overnight trip into the park’s backcountry. Drivers will answer questions and help visitors spot wildlife. The shuttle bus system will operate from Tuesday, May 20 through Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, weather permitting.

Here's the information you may want about shuttle bus prices. Adult single trip fares from the Toklat Eielson Visitor Center Wonder Lake Kantishna trip, range from $27.00 to $51.50. The camper bus fare (for campers in park campgrounds or with backcountry permits) is $34.50.Children age 15 and under ride free on shuttle buses and half price on tour buses. A maximum of eight shuttle bus seats may be requested with each reservation, and ages are required as age discounts may apply. Be prepared to provide alternate dates and times when possible.

There are also two multi-trip bus pass options available for visitors who plan to do multiple trips during the same summer. The 3-for-2 pass allows one individual to travel into the park on three separate trips during the same summer season for the price of two trips, provided the third trip is equal to or of lesser value than the first two. A reservation is required for each trip, which do not have to be taken on consecutive days. Reservations can be made in person at the Wilderness Access Center or Riley Creek Mercantile in the park, or by telephone at 800-622-7275.

The 6-pack allows a visitor to travel into the park on six separate trips during the same summer season for a discounted rate, i.e. $41.25 for destinations as far as the Toklat River (Mile 53), and $61.50 for destinations as far as Kantishna (Mile 92). The 6-pack is good for only one individual, i.e. is not transferable, and the first bus trip must be reserved when purchasing the 6-pack. There is a minimum of five days between trips. All reservations must be done in person (valid ID required) at the Wilderness Access Center or Riley Creek Mercantile.

Phone reservations can be made by calling 800-622-7275 nationwide or 907-272-7275 for international callers between 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Arizona time). The web address for on-line reservations is For mail-in reservation requests information, give the outfit a call.

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