Picking up the vehicle had been surprisingly easy - no special license required and amazingly light preparation for a week's trip. (We went with a premium company in part because they provide all linens, towels, cookware, and dishes, and they don't require you to clean your vehicle or dump the holding tanks before turning it in, as most companies do.) Great Alaskan Holidays picked us up at our hotel, sat us down for a 20-minute video on the quirks of operating the rig, and then introduced us to our home for the week.

The 29-foot Tioga held us all comfortably as a manager briefed us on its features: microwave oven, beds for six, stand-up shower, propane range, and a refrigerator that runs off propane. He showed us how to fill the water tanks, drain the sewage tanks, and keep the twain from ever meeting. Then he gave the toilet a test flush, flipped on the fridge, tossed me the keys, and walked out. She was all ours.

We tossed our gear aboard, got the girls strapped into their car seats around the kitchen table - within reach of sippy cups and crayons - and lumbered off. First stop: shopping center.

The difference between provisioning a backpack and provisioning an RV is the difference between a Zen tea ceremony and a Super Bowl tailgate party. On the trail, I've been known to pack a single candy bar as a week's worth of dessert, having stripped away the unnecessary outer wrapper to lighten my load. In Alaska, we engaged in a sort of grocery store bacchanal, quickly filling two carts with goods both weighty and perishable: fresh vegetables, beer, wine, ice cream, and a bag of chips.

Fully loaded, we made our way south, shedding the Anchorage suburbs and finally having time to gaze at the panorama framed by our wide picture windows. The saw-blade edge of mountains loomed over the rough green waters of Turnagain Arm, and we stopped at a forested pull-off to ogle the view and cook lunch.