Planning your getaway: weatherwise, the best time to drive through Alaska is from late spring through early fall. With daytime temperatures ranging from 55 degrees to 75 degrees in the summer, dropping to 45 degrees or lower at night, it's best to bring along cold-weather wear and rain gear wherever you go. And if you do visit Alaska during the summer months, you may want to bring an eyemask to sleep in - they don't call it the "land of the midnight sun" for nothing.

Wrestling your rig: the airport in Anchorage is ringed with RV rental operations eager to graduate you from your hatch back to a behemoth three times as long, no special training required. The high-end company we chose, Great Alaskan Holidays (888-225-2752, offers a 29-foot tioga with unlimited mileage for about $1,000 a week during the spring and fall, about $1,300 during the peak of the summer. some operators charge lower rates, but they don't include all linens and cookware, and they usually require you to return the RV completely cleaned with the waste tanks empty. With food and gasoline and two nights hotel on either end, our nine-day trip cost about $1,600 (not including airfare).

Mapping your course: Alaska is so big you can drive yourself crazy trying to cover too much in a short time. we agonized almost until pulling out of the parking lot about whether to head north from Anchorage to the great inland wilderness around Denali National Park, south along the Kenai Peninsula, or both. With only a week to spare, we turned south for a complete circuit of the Kenai. We're glad we did. Our route down Cook inlet to the west (to Hope, Homer, and Clam Gulch) gave us great views of mountain-flanked waters, coastal forests, and small villages. Our loop back up the Gulf of Alaska to the east (from Seward to Fox Island to Portage) introduced us to offshore whale watching, sea kayaking in island coves, and an up-close view of glaciers. (the overnight trip to Fox Island cost about $320, including gourmet meals and a six-hour wildlife boat tour into Kenai Fjords National Park.) next trip: Denali!

ABC motor home:
(800) 421-7456

Alaska economy RVs:
(800) 764-4625

Clippership Motor Home rentals:
(800) 421-3456

Sweet Retreat Motor Home rentals:
(800) 759-4861