Bonnie and Mike Pascucci are the 2012 Torklift International Treasure Hunt winners. They received a seven-day all-expenses paid adventure to Alaska in a Northern Lite 9-6Q. This is their story.
Having never really won anything short of a goldfish at an elementary school ping pong toss, I can only imagine what it’s like to get a phone call announcing that you’ve won an all-expenses paid truck camping adventure to Alaska. I think I’d pass out, or at least fall over.
Perhaps the best part of this story is how it starts. In short, Torklift International had to call and call to reach Bonnie and Mike Pascucci about their winning entry. Bonnie and Mike were very busy planning a significant family event, and it never occurred to them that the folks trying to reach them had incredible news.
Of course who could blame the Pascuccis for not answering the phone these days. Even as I wrote this paragraph, our phone rang with an automated recording, “This is a very important message…” Yeah, sure.
When Candice Boutilier, Marketing Director for Torklift International, finally reached Bonnie and Mike, they were stunned. This is the story of how they won the 2012 Torklift International Treasure Hunt and their grand prize truck camping Alaska adventure. If this doesn’t inspire you to enter the 2013 Torklift International Treasure Hunt (coming soon), perhaps nothing will. Remember, you have to play to win.
Above: Bonnie and Mike Pascucci at King Mountain State Recreation site
TCM: Congratulations on winning the 2012 Torklift International Treasure Hunt. Tell us about participating in contest, and how you won.
Bonnie: We found about the Torklift International Treasure Hunt in Truck Camper Magazine and later saw it on NATCOA. After deciphering the clues, we entered two photos; one from the 2012 Montana Truck Camper Rally, and another from Yellowstone National Park.
Above: Mike with the Lake Five Resort sign at last year’s Montana Truck Camper Rally
When Torklift International first attempted to contact us, we had nearly forgotten that we entered the contest. At the time, we were thick in the throes of planning a wedding and weren’t paying attention to the messages Candice Boutilier, Marketing Director for Torklift International, was leaving us. Candice kept trying to call us, looking for Mike.
When she finally reached Mike, Candice wanted us to have an internet connection plus a phone. I set up the internet on my new iPhone and rushed into Walmart for the last wedding supplies leaving Mike to talk to her. I returned out of Walmart to find him dazed and walking around the parking lot.
“The trip to Alaska”
“What trip to Alaska?”
“The trip to Alaska! We’re going to Alaska!”
We jumped into our truck and watched the YouTube video announcing our win again, and again. That evening we watched it three or four more times. It is still on Mike’s computer and I still hear it sometimes when he says he is working at night.
Mike: It was an amazing experience. I was talking on my cell phone with Candice and watching the video on Bonnie’s iPhone. Candice told me that we had won the trip to Alaska and the video showed our names being pulled out of a hat. They made the video to show us that we had won.
Bonnie: Candice later emailed us to ask where we wanted to go in Alaska. We did some research and emailed her a list of places we wanted to see. Jennifer Eleson at Torklift International made up a wonderful detailed chart of our chosen places, and suggested additional places like the Kennecott Mines. The chart also included options for campgrounds, associated costs, and the milage between destinations. It was a very impressive and well organized chart.
When the trip plan was settled, Torklift International paid us for the trip costs. The trip was more structured than our usual truck camping lifestyle, but Torklift International gave us the freedom to do what we wanted. We did a lot of our own research before going to Alaska and Torklift International really listened to what we asked for.
One major addition we made was to add an extra week to our trip, which we paid for. Torklift International paid for our plane tickets, the truck camper rig rental, and expenses for the first week. It was an incredible opportunity and we just wanted to extend it for an additional week so that we could see everything we wanted to see.
TCM: We know from experience that it can be quite challenging to fly somewhere and then go truck camping. How did you prepare and pack for the trip?
Bonnie: ABC Motorhomes in Anchorage, Alaska loaded the Chevy Silverado 3500 and Northern Lite 9-6Q with everything that we needed for camping including dishes, silverware, bedding, etc. What we needed to pack were personal items like clothing and cameras. We made a list of what we wanted to take with us and started making a pile in January.
TCM: Tell us about what happened when you landed in Alaska.
Bonnie: ABC Motorhomes picked us up at the airport and brought us to their dealership. It’s a nice set up and we were treated like royalty. The Chevy Silverado 3500 and Northern Lite 9-6Q rig was loaded up and waiting for us when we arrived. They said it was the nicest one they have had. We thought it was very nice, too.
Mike: When we got the camper, it was brand new, clean, and polished.
Bonnie: For supplies, the camper had three plates, three forks, four knives, three spoons, three coffee cups, a coffee pot, two kettles, and one frying plan. We also had two towels and one set of sheets. ABC Motorhomes had a lending library of camping supplies and a refrigerator full of food to get us going. We grabbed some German soup, some salad dressing, and chairs. That kind of thoughtfulness was evident throughout our whole experience with ABC Motorhomes. They made sure we were happy.
Above: Ship Creek Campground, Anchorage, Alaska
TCM: Being that you’re already truck campers, did they give you a walk through of the Northern Lite?
Mike: Yes, they did. Every truck camper is a little different. In addition to the walk through, we asked them about changing a tire. The service man came out and showed us how to do it and gave us an extra jack.
Above: Hatcher Pass/Independent mine, or as close as they could get to it, on the Glen Highway near Palmer
Bonnie: There were some rules that we had to follow because we were using a rented rig. The most challenging of the rules was that we couldn’t go on gravel roads. Other rules were no smoke, pets, or fish were allowed inside the truck camper. We got around the no fish rule by having the fish shipped back. We also hit a thrift store and got a cork screw, wine glasses, and a basket to hold small items like change and keys.
Above: Mike at Buffalo Lake, Alaska
TCM: What did you think of the Chevy Silverado 3500 and Northern Lite 9-6Q?
Mike: It was a sweet combination. It was nice to have the Torklift tie-downs, Fastguns, and StableLoads. The truck didn’t know the camper was back there. The truck and camper match really worked. The Northern Lite was on a one ton dually, so it handled really well.
Above: Mike and Bonnie at Root Glacier, Kennicott
TCM: What were some things that surprised you about this trip?
Bonnie: I was surprised a how much your body counts on light to tell you to do simple things like eat dinner and sleep. We are old farts and eat around 5:30 to 6:00pm. Up there it would be 9:00pm and we hadn’t thought about supper yet. It was still very light out. Mike can fall asleep in four seconds no matter what. I’d be reading until 1:00am without a light.
Above: Camp Creek Trailhead off Glen Highway, mile marker 117
Everything up in Alaska is big. You are in the valley, surrounded by mountains, and know you couldn’t hike it all in a day. It puts us in our place of how insignificant our problems are.
Above: Mike at Jim’s Campground at the end of the McCarthy Road. You cannot drive past the bridge he is standing on. Once you cross the bridge, you walk, bike or pay for a shuttle van.
Once we returned home to Montana, we went out to our mountains. They’re pretty spectacular, but they don’t surround you like the mountains in Alaska. Mountains were all around us the entire time in Alaska. Here we have more open space between them. Montana is Big Sky Country. Alaska is big country, country.
Above: The end of the road at Homer Spit
TCM: What were some of the favorite places you visited that you recommend to other truck camper owners who travel to Alaska?
Bonnie: We liked the end of the road at Homer Spit. I don’t know how anyone can go to the Homer Spit and not take that picture.
Mike: We took a four to five hour ferry ride at Valdez. With the truck camper, it’s expensive but doable. I wouldn’t want to do it with a towable RV where you’re stretched out more. They charge you by the foot. On the ferry we went from Valdez to Whittier.
Bonnie: We saw lots of wildlife from that ferry. It was like a mini cruise.
Mike: I also liked the Whittier Tunnel.
Bonnie: The people are so different in Alaska. They are so friendly. We were up near Glenallen at a campground, and the guy asked how our produce supply was. He said, “I have some romaine lettuce if you’d like”. We visited with him for forty-five minutes to an hour, and he took our picture when we were leaving.
I also loved the guided fishing part of our trip. The fishing was incredible and our guide was patient. Catching the really big fish was an experience. I’m not into fishing, but I can see how it could be addicting in Alaska. From the boat, we saw moose and grizzly bears fairly up close.
Mike: The Saturday market was full of things we have never seen before, like Salmon tacos.
Bonnie: And salmon egg rolls. We saw handcrafts, needle arts, and lots of art work there. It was stuff the Alaskans work on all winter.
The high of being in Alaska stayed with us until we got home. Being in Alaska was a nice feeling and it changed me. Montana is a lot like Alaska in that a lot of people come to visit our state. I need to show the respect that the Alaskans showed me and share our state with others.
Above: National Historic Landmark – The Kennecott Mines
TCM: Do you think you’ll go back to Alaska in your truck camper?
Mike: If we do, we would go to Seattle and take the Alaska Marine Highway all the way north and then meander through Alaska and come back down on the highway.
Bonnie: We love Alaska. We both lived up there, so we have loved it for a long time. I don’t think our finances are going to allow us to get up there again. That’s what made winning the Torklift International Treasure Hunt special for us. We were able to stay an extra week with money we had saved.
Above: Mike at Willow Lake on the Richardson Highway, about mile marker 87; closest town is Copper River
TCM: This year Torklift International is having another Treasure Hunt. Any suggestions for our readers on how to win?
Bonnie: We were telling the people at the Montana truck camper rally to take a picture of yourself every place you go. It’s a good habit to get into. Getting your picture taken with the entrance signs is good for entering contests like Torklift International’s Treasure Hunt.
TCM: Anything else that you would like to add?
Bonnie: This was the trip of a lifetime and words cannot express how grateful we are to Torklift International for the opportunity. Part of what made this Alaska trip special was how special we were treated.
Everyone you meet in Alaska is experiencing a trip of a lifetime. Going to Alaska was on their lifetime bucket list and they saved up to make it happen. It’s really neat.
Here at home, we sometimes forget how special Montana is. It’s a wonderful place and we can go and see it whenever we want. Alaskans, perhaps because many of them chose to move there, recognize how special it is and want to share that.
The people at ABC Motorhomes made sure we knew how to get every place we wanted to go in luxurious comfort. Our fishing guide, Ed, untangled Mike and Ryan’s fishing poles at least a half dozen times with a smile.
The car rental return man called when we went to the wrong franchise and said, “don’t worry, I’ll move it tomorrow”. Annie at the Soldotna Visitor Center made sure we didn’t miss a site on her beloved Kenai Peninsula.
Alaska tourism made a great Alaska iPhone app, so we didn’t miss anything. We would enter in where we were and the app would give us suggestions of where to go. Having that app really added to the trip.
Torklift International not only gave us the truck camper, the perfect way to see Alaska, but also paid for the trip and planned it so that we could see what we wanted to see. Thank you to everyone who made our trip wonderful.
Truck: 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500, crew-cab, long bed, four wheel drive, diesel
Camper: 2013 Northern Lite 9-6Q Classic
Suspension: Torklift Stableloads