|11-17-2012, 10:25 PM||#1|
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Somerset, PA
Deadhorse after a Decade
Having not been up the Haul Road in many years, it was a treasure to make the trip once again. It's amazing how your perspective on a place can change after ten+ years, yet still remain the same.
Ride Report -- Somerset, Pennsylvania to Deadhorse, Alaska & back....22 Days - 11,608 Miles - 3 oil changes - zero tire / mechanical failures.
This was my third road trip to Alaska's North Slope, but the first on a bike. The R1200GS is a fantastic bike for a trip like this, and Metzler Tourances are an amazing tire. I fully expected to need a tire change at some point, but none were required.
It always amazes me how I overpack on trips like this. I probably used 1/3 of the stuff that I had with me. This was an incredibly wet ride - probably half the miles were through rain, which put everything I had through a real test, including me.
Over the winter prior to this trip, I made a lot of upgrades to the bike and my riding gear - all based on lessons learned after an earlier trip to California on the same bike.
Leaving home in the rain - 9 am on June 5th. This setup shows pretty much how I roll now on long trips.
The new Jesse Odyssey boxes have replaced the BMW OEM plastic boxes that I ordered with the bike.
In the left side I was carrying a 22 LB toolbag, water, food, octane booster, oil, spare gloves, overgloves,
camera, air compressor, tire bead seating strap, tire repair kit, jumper cables, first aid kit, plus a roll of
paper towel and a bottle of glass cleaner for the helmet visor.
In the right side I had 2 gallons of spare fuel, the "Milepost" book, my tent, a bivy sack, more oil, an Icom
2-meter HT, a repeater directory, various chargers / cables, maps, passport, etc.
The top Ortlieb bag contained all my clothes, sleeping bag, an extra pair of sneakers, and a sweatshirt.
The start of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. I didn't take many pictures until now.
In fact, this was one of the few times I saw blue sky until now.
Saw a bear every now and then. This little guy appeared alone, but mama was probably near.
Muncho Lake, BC. Most expensive fuel on the Alaska Highway is at these two pumps. $1.81 / Liter CAD.
The owner of this place told me there is some kind of union-implemented regulation that requires no fuel
to be sold on the Alaska Highway after 10 pm. That's okay, I'm not a union guy anyway.
Happy GS rider here doing my first oil change at 3,900 miles in Whitehorse, Yukon. Took me 3 tries to find
this automotive lube place that tossed me out a drain pan and let me change the oil outside. The truck driver
that delivers oil drums to this place was super friendly and took my picture.
Made the Alaska state line after 6 days. Could have easily done it in five, but I was constantly replying
to email while on the road with the trusty iPhone.
Another shot here of the Alaska / Yukon border. The treeless line through the woods between the flags
marks the US / Canadian border.
Also at the border, looking back southbound towards the Yukon at the dusty road I had just came up.
Waiting in line to enter Alaska - a fairly small border station here, compared to where I crossed a few days
ago in Sweetgrass, Montana. The trucks in front of me are out of Sterling, AK.
I had just eaten dinner at Fast Eddies restraunt in Tok, AK, and had taken off again towards Fairbanks
when I came up on several moose about 100' off the road. I got a photo of these two.
Leaving the Best Western in Fairbanks after a good night's sleep and a visit to the washing machine at the
hotel the night prior, I arrive here at the Hilltop truckstop at about 4:45 Sunday morning - and I'm waiting
for the place to open at 5. The Hilltop is the last chance for fuel & a hot meal before hitting the entry point
to the Dalton Highway just north of here. Had a great breakfast with eggs, toast, homefries, reindeer
sausage and sourdough pancakes.
Little ways north of the Hilltop, the Dalton begins. When I was here last in 1998, the sign marking the
start of the Haul Road wasn't nearly so littered with tourist-type stickers like it is here.
A few yards into the Dalton the pavement ends. Now at about 7 am, I start up the road.
Reality quickly sets in while reading the news on the mileage signs.
A sure sign of muddy times to come....
But mud there was none...at least not yet. Made the Arctic Circle in excellent time. I was the only one there.
Surprisingly I made Coldfoot without needing any of my spare fuel, but I soaked up 5+ gallons at the pump.
For anyone who is wondering, a 2009 12GS can go exactly 18 miles AFTER the low fuel / mileage range
indicator reaches "0" miles. I learned this coming into Fort Nelson, BC a few nights earlier.
To this point from Fairbanks, I was amazed at how much of the Dalton is now paved, as will also be the case
further north of here. This photo above is taken just leaving Coldfoot.
The weather is absolutely remarkable as I hit the base of 4,700' Atigun Pass here in the Brooks Range.
Anyone who knows this country knows of the poor weather that often prevails here.
Cresting the top of Atigun Pass, I take a few photos and walk around a little.
Still on top of Atigun - looking north up the Dalton into an avalanche zone.
Brief 10-minute wait here for the pilot car. The guy holding the sign said he saw a pack of wolves just
before I arrived to this point. After I asked, he admitted to keeping a handgun close by for protection.
Can't blame him.
Making excellent headway up the road, and now well above the Brooks Range and on open tundra, I spot
this herd of bull caribou on the east side of the road. Pictured here is just a fraction of the number I saw.
A closer look with a bit of help with the camera zoom. This all reminded me of the last time I was here,
taking pictures with nothing more than a disposable film-type camera.
Since I was already off the bike spying the caribou, I take a little break and walk around, still amazed
at the excellent road conditions and the weather. 12 years ago when I was on this road, there was no
blacktop at all on the Dalton. Now, much to my surprise, probably half of it's distance is paved, however
there are still several areas on the 414-mile stretch where the gravel & mud can be deep. The section
of road where I am stopped at above is one of the better sections of gravel.
Delineators seen here marking the sides of the road. In winter, Phase 3 whiteouts occur on this very stretch
of road here south of Prudhoe Bay, as a result of the wide open tundra and strong Arctic winds.
About 50 miles south of Deadhorse now, more caribou seen here on the west side of the road with antlers
in velvet. I probably saw 150 caribou total on the day I took these photos.
Making amazingly good time all day, I hit the Tesoro pumps in Deadhorse some 12 hours after leaving
Fairbanks. The weather has deterioriated now though and the temperature has dropped sharply as I put
the mandatory spill kit under the bike and go inside to turn the pumps on at this un-manned station.
In Deadhorse / Prudhoe Bay, fuel spill prevention is a high priority for all vehicles. Containment mats like
these are often seen even underneath parked equipment and trucks to keep engine oil from getting on the
permafrost. I gave the bike a good swallow of octane booster here because there's no telling what the
fuel quality was like.
Here at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel - same exact place I stayed at 12 years ago when I was here in my 1996
F-150 pickup. The hotel is basically a camp for oil field workers, and is set up as a dorm-style building that
is built up off the permafrost. Just inside the door, they give you boot covers to wear so mud isn't tracked
all through the building. There's no blacktop at all in the town of Deadhorse - all the roads are dirt.
I drew just a bit of attention at this place, and a nice fellow offered again to take my picture, just as I was
backing the bike into it's parking spot for the night. Not many bikes show up in these parts with PA plates,
and I was met with a lot of friendly faces & subsequent questions about the trip, etc.
My room inside the Prudhoe Bay Hotel Sunday night, June 13. No idea who left the can of Lysol sitting on
the desk under the TV, but it wasn't me. I decided to spend the extra $20 and get this room that had it's
own bathroom attached. Heck, I figured I earned it. Last time I was here, the room I got had a shared
bathroom & shower.
Because of the 24-hour daylight here at 70 Degrees north, they had cardboard taped to the inside of the
windows to keep the sunlight out at night.
This place serves huge, all you can eat meals - dinner and breakfast - inclusive with the room cost. It's
basically a cafeteria-style layout, and you eat with all the workers who are up here staying at the hotel.
If you leave this place hungry, it's your own fault, because the food is endless.
Monday morning now, preparing myself for the ride back down the Dalton, but not without taking a spin
around Deadhorse first. Why shouldn't I, after all it was 31 degrees outside....
Just a few photos of the area around Deadhorse here I took while riding around. Still very early in the
warm season, as lots of snow is still around.
Very typical scene looking down a road in town.
Off-road vehicles for oil field work.
The still-frozen Colville Lake. An oil rig is visible in the distance across the lake. This location, just a few
miles from the Arctic Ocean, is the furthest north one can go without being escorted, or by being employed
by one of the contractors working in this area.
The famous "End of the Dalton Highway" sign - which I found purely by accident. There's a pretty nice
hardware store in this blue building, along with a post office. I went inside and warmed up, and mailed
a couple postcards back home to the warm tropics of Pennsylvania.
Everything about this area is industrial, and everything that is here is here for a reason. The guys that
work up here work 4 weeks on and 2 weeks off. I talked with several guys who live in southern AK that
come up here to work.
The Deadhorse airport. Lots of flights to and from Fairbanks.
One last picture before I get down to business and put away some miles heading back south.
As soon as I got 30 miles south of Deadhorse, the weather improves greatly. I was talking to a guy at the
Prudhoe Bay hotel who mentioned he was a pilot that was waiting for the weather to clear so he could fly
over to Barrow, AK. He said the visibility is almost always poor up there.
The Alaska Pipeline following this section of the Dalton. I also took a good bit of video while riding here.
Another shot looking south at the pipeline, approaching the Brooks Range once again.
Part way up the north side of Atigun here, facing north with the Dalton in the distance.
Long steep grades. As a former over-the-road truck driver, pulling these hills in the winter would be a real challenge.
Heading down the south side of Atigun now, I surprise these mountain goats.
Again making good time, the above photo I took at exactly 12:00 midnight, facing south, just a few days
before the summer solstice. I was about 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle while taking this photo. This was
as dark as it got that night.
Skipping ahead now - back in the lower 48 - sitting here near Driggs, ID on Rt. 33 looking at the Tetons.
Very near the Idaho & Wyoming line, approaching Jackson, WY.
In downtown Jackson, WY - I stop at this tire place to change my oil again outside. The guy who runs
this business told me that Harrison Ford stops in once in a while to get tire work done on his classic cars.
On WY. Rt. 287, in the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Big storm brewing near Dubois, WY - again on Rt. 287.
Same storm - I was glad it wasn't following me.
I like these wooden fences - they're about 12' tall.
I took a day and explored a lot of roads in northern Colorado / southern Wyoming that I hadn't been on.
Crossing back into Wyoming on Rt. 230, headed towards Laramie.
The following day I found some great dirt trails off Rt. 77 near Casper, WY.
I spend an afternoon on this road...what a place! Looking at the GPS, this road above could have led me
back into Casper, which is where I was heading, but I didn't have enough fuel for it, so I had to take the
shorter blacktop route back to town. The dirt miles would have been double what the paved miles were.
Old Tourance / new Tourance. I'm very impressed with these tires. Nearly 12,000 miles and I still had
1/16" on the rear. Not too shabby considering where this tire had just been.
|11-18-2012, 05:40 AM||#2|
Joined: Jul 2012
Location: El Portal, Ca
KK3an- Awesome read. Man, you were really covering some ground there! Averaging roughly 500 miles a day, is not taking it easy!
Loved your photos. Looks like you sure lucked out on weather when you were north of Fairbanks.
I've been reading a lot of these Deadhorse ride reports, trying to glean useful tidbits here and there in preparation for next summer when I'll ride from my home in NorCal Deadhorse for my first time. Well, my first time on a motorcycle that is. I've been up here for over half of my last three years working in Kuparuk, a Conoco oilfield about 40 miles west of Prudhoe Bay (where I've also done some work). I work 4 weeks on, 4 weeks off sometimes working additional weeks in my time off. My first year up here, after my third hitch, I went home for a week, then came back up for a 7 weeker. In a twelve week period, I worked eleven weeks of 12 hour days, 7 days a week. Ugh. Which reminds me, as I saw a few things you'd probably enjoy some insider perspective on, because it seems like you have a lot of, and appreciate, knowledge. First off, people who work up here have a myriad of schedules. Usually, but not always symmetrical, as you have an alternate staying in your room, driving your truck and doing your job when you're at home. 2 on, 2 off is the most common. 3 on, 3 off is less common, and rarer still is my schedule of 4 and 4. As for the giant can of lysol, the previous occupant didn't leave it. Those are in every room on the slope, even here on the oilfield, (where I am now). You see, it's a good idea when you first get to your room, to spray drawer pulls, door knobs, etc, and let it stand for ten minutes. It's the hospital grade for bloodborne pathogens. Kills mrsa, norovirus, etc. Which is rampant up here. Most guys are pretty slobbish and don't practice good hygeine. As for being in Deadhorse, the permafrost was about 20 feet or more down, considering anywhere with a road or a building is sitting on over 10-15 feet of gravel (ostensibly so that when they're done extracting oil they can remove all tracees-also, to protect the tundra). The spill prevention under vehicles is a requirement, because any spill (no matter how tiny) has to be reported, and they don't want to have to do that! The flights out of the airport mostly go to Anchorage. Yes, they also fly to Fairbanks, but for the most part, it's an Anchorage flight.
Did you go upstairs of the napa auto parts/hardware store/post office? The general store upstairs has some pretty classic shirts and crap if you want to get souvenirs. Also, a minor point about the 'boo. Even the female Caribou have large antlers. Not just the bulls. It's for predator defense against grizzlies and less commonly, wolves. You're probably into this, so check out "caribou vs grizzly" on youtube. Those antlers have evolved perfectly for the fighting of grizzlies.
I think I'm going to have to mount a set of those tires as soon as I'm home now that I've seen how well they performed. Also, I was curious about your border crossings. Any drama?
I really enjoyed reading about your trip. Thanks for taking the time to write it all down for us!
Benduro screwed with this post 11-18-2012 at 08:16 AM
|11-18-2012, 05:45 AM||#3|
Joined: Jul 2012
Location: El Portal, Ca
one more question..
Also, what gear were you wearing? With that much saddle time in the rain, I sure would like to hear your words on what it was and how it performed! Whether you'd recommend it or not. I'm getting pretty sick of reading reviews on commercial websites trying to sell you that product. To hear them tell it, everything ever sold is 100% waterproof.
|11-18-2012, 06:52 AM||#4|
Screwed the Pooch
Joined: Jul 2003
Location: Silk Hope, NC
Yeah, nice trip. Get the bad weather out of the way on the front end!
"It's not that I don't like people...I just find I am happier when they're not around"
|11-18-2012, 07:08 AM||#5|
RIDE for PASSION
Joined: Jan 2008
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia/ Bangalore, INDIA
Wonderful pics with equally crisp write up.
Thanks for sharing such a nice trip log.
Growing old is compulsory - growing up is optional
Exploring the world on 2-wheels...little at a time RIDE for PASSION
|11-18-2012, 01:15 PM||#6|
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Somerset, PA
Thanks very much guys.
Trespasser - I'd be very interested in chatting / emailing. My address is: email@example.com
Appreciate your comments & insight, etc. Makes good sense about the Lysol, etc. That had not occurred to me at the time, but definitely does make sense.
I presume there are only winter roads (private roads) leading out to Kuparuk, and onward west to Barrow? And that is indeed a pretty brutal work schedule you have there!
Yes - had a good look around the NAPA. I was wandering the entire store trying to think of anything I might need for the bike (spare stuff).
Gear used on that trip was Motorport Ultra II Kevlar jacket & pants, and the boots were Helimot Daytona Roadstar GTX. Only water intrusion was up the pant legs a few inches - only because the inseam length was a bit short on the pants and didn't cover the boots fully. Aside from that - nothing got wet whatsoever.
No issues whatsoever with any border crossing. They do all want you to remove your helmet at each one though.
The popularity of the internet was visible to me on this past trip - as was not the case in the late 90's when I was there last. My photos from back then of objects (like the initial Dalton Highway sign just north of the Hilltop) had no stickers on it. Now, the same sign is often seen plastered in stickers - probably due to more tourists learning about the road.
Better than half of AK Rt. 11 (Dalton Hwy) is blacktopped - possibly more now. I've heard rumors the full length will be paved by 2015, which will really take a lot of the adventure out of it.
For what it's worth, I'm in the middle of prepping a '13 R12GSA for an attempt at the 86 hour, 31 minute riding record from Prudhoe Bay to Key West, FL, which I'll start in the spring of 2013. This attempt has been 2+ years in the making.
|11-18-2012, 01:43 PM||#7|
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Seven Springs NC
Good report! You really lucked out on good weather especially in June!! Welcome to Alaska picture gets me a goose bump every time I see Alaska RR! It's a dream for me to ride up there very soon! Thanks for sharing!
- Converting 1998 Harley Sportster XLHugger 883 into Dual Sportster
|11-18-2012, 03:34 PM||#8|
Joined: Nov 2010
Location: On your way to everywhere, Batavia, IA.
Thanks for taking us along, Brought back good memories.
Alaska Ride Report,
Hyder Alaska 2up
|11-18-2012, 09:36 PM||#9|
Joined: Jul 2012
Location: El Portal, Ca
Damn, dude. That's gonna be a hell of a trip. You gonna get a spot beacon so we can participate? And a radar-detector, I presume?!
|11-19-2012, 05:36 AM||#12|
Joined: May 2011
Did I get this right
You are talking an average speed if you don't even stop for gas of just over 63mph
Be careful to say the very least
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