Kelly's 2011 Alaska Journey

Day 16 - Sunday, 6/5

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Dalton Highway
Two prizes today: First, travel on the famed Dalton Highway, the only road from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. I'd been led to believe that the road north of Fairbanks was all dirt, but happily that was an exaggeration. There was actually 83 mi / 134 km of pavement north to where the Dalton Highway started, and oddly, about half of the Dalton on which we rode today (~180 mi / 290 km) was paved to some degree. I'm told that our next and final leg north to Prudhoe Bay will have mostly dirt, and it's Brenden who said this, so I trust the information.

A goal
for years
Arctic Circle!!
The second prize, and in my mind the one with greater magnitude: Arctic Circle, baby!! This has been a goal of mine for at least 20 years. Everyone else in the team was also thrilled to get here. We're now at a trucker's camp in Coldfoot, AK. Beers are flowing, and we're all toasting our making it above the 66 degrees, 33 minutes north latitude.

As expected, my GPS has gotten completely confused. At 5:30 pm, it changed to night view, thinking that the sun had set. Looking at the details, it shows sunrise at 1:23 am, and sunset at 2:34 am. Clearly it doesn't know what to do when close to the planet's poles.

Today's been a good day- We managed to luck out with weather once again; The predicted rain in both Fairbanks and Coldfoot never materialized. In all honesty, a few sprinkles would have been nice to keep the dust down, but far be it from me to complain! My preference would be to keep it as dry as possible. It's much easier to ride on dry ground than soupy, slick, sticky mud. Since I had the extra 4000 mi / 6437 km on my tires before starting the Prudhoe excursion, my tires are worn more than the others. My tread is fine to get me home, but if the weather gets icky, I might not have the tread to get me through sticky mud. But I think I'll be fine. Worst case, my bike goes on the trailer, and I take a MotoQuest bike until we're back on the asphalt. I don't expect it'll come to that, though.

the pig
road north
The Dalton
We had a few photo stops along the way- The first was a viewing station for the Alyeska Pipeline in Fox, AK. Now, I'd been to the pipeline earlier near Valdez, but this had an information booth (though it was closed), and a couple of generations of pipe-cleaning "pigs," on one of which I decided to do my best Slim Pickens impression.

Juan and
We stopped at Finger Mountain, which showed the plants of the arctic tundra. We stopped at both the start of the Dalton Highway and the crossing of the Arctic Circle. Brenden asked if we could see the dashed line in the sky, denoting the crossing, but by that time some light clouds were forming and obsuring any line which might've been there. ;-)

The trees got smaller and scrubbier, to the point of their being snubbed by even Charlie Brown should they have been used for Christmas trees. No doubt it'll be very early in the day tomorrow when we're past pretty much all plant life taller than a few inches.

The Dalton Highway could be renamed to the "Let's follow the Alyeska Pipeline" highway.

While it was sometimes on the left of the road, and sometimes on the right, it was pretty much always within view from the Dalton Highway. It seems strange to look at though- It's 48" / 1.2m in diameter, but there's also insulation and protective shielding around it. It's not a small pipe. It's sturdy, and on very strong supports. Yet, as one travels the highway, it's seen as a very thin silver thread snaking its way through the forests and tundra. From a distance, it seems so fragile.

Colorful riders
with colorful bikes
Yukon river
Stopping for lunch at a little place in Yukon River was a welcome break. It was a rustic little place, with one window that had been boarded up. "Why?" you might ask. A 1500 lb / 680 kg grizzly bear broke in one night. It went through all the food, making a mess of the place. Someone came in, shot it, and they served bear for quite some time. A number of T-shirts were sprayed with the blood of the bear, and oddly those are the shirts which sold the fastest! As for the boarded-up window, the outside shows the backside of a bear as it enters, and the inside of the window shows the front of the bear as it comes in. Each table has a copy of the photo album of the incident.

We're now at the Coldfoot Trucker's Camp, where we'll stay the night. There are a few others here, mostly just getting fuel for their bikes and stomachs, then heading out again. There are two guys from Poland, and their bikes are buried under the gear they're carrying. Their bikes are Eastern European copies of the Honda Hawk street bike, and they're loaded beyond belief.

Coldfoot Camp
Modest room
The "hotel" seems to be a number of connected shipping containers (though it really isn't), with about as much luxury as that image may evoke. Trust me, it AIN'T the Four Seasons. Still, it has all we need, and after having been on the road (especially dirt) for most of the day, it's a welcome refuge from the wilderness- regardless of the fact that the walls in the rooms are unfinished flakeboard. Then again, having been so involved in search and rescue has afforded a little perspective. When one starts to think of a clean non-flush pit toilet as luxurious, this place may as well be considered the Bel Aire Hotel!
There was a great deal of light coming past the edges of the curtains, so I managed to affix them to the wall to minimize the intruding photons. My electrical tape was still on my bike, and as I didn't feel like going outside and braving the mosquitoes again, I used band-aids instead. They did the trick. Necessity truly IS the mother of invention.

On the plus side, the bar has good beer, the dinner buffet was better than many places seen, and the rooms are clean and smell fragrant. We're happy, well fed, and relaxing. No Internet, though, sadly. I can only imagine people looking at this blog, thinking "Where are they? Are they okay?" But I expected that Internet would be difficult if not impossible. There's no cellular service here, and while there IS wifi, it's not something that the patrons can access. I'm told that there's connectivity at Prudhoe Bay.

It must've been an exhausting day- At 9:00 most of the group was hitting their beds. It's now not quite 10:30 pm as I type this, and I'm looking forward to resting myself. My daily ritual of backing up photos and recharging batteries is almost complete- The phone, bluetooth ear bud, camera and two of the three helmet-cam batteries are taken care of. Once I can swap in the other helmet cam battery, I'll be headed for the land of nod myself.

Total riding distance today: 260 mi / 418 km   Running Total: 4524 mi / 7281 km

Stay tuned...


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