Alaska 2018 - I only celebrate my birthday every 60 years

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Ozarks Rider, Jun 26, 2018.

  1. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    DAY 30—————Anchorage, AK___________0 Miles / 0 km

    Hanging around town today. A relaxed breakfast at the hotel and then out to look around. It was a pretty nice day for weather which felt good to see the sun. Went to a small bookstore/restaurant down the way while we figured out what we were going to do.

    Headed over to the Alaska Aviation Museum on the other side of the lake from the hotel, all of a 10 minute drive. There is an incredible amount of history here, covering pioneer aviators, but also how this community played its role in the second World War. Little known fact is that Alaska was the only soil in North America that was ever occupied by the Japanese Imperial Forces. It’s a $15 charge for adults and well worth it. A lot of vintage and historic planes as well as exhibits covering World War II and general aviation. There are also some planes outside that you can look around and one that you can board. I liked this Alaskan Airlines display because of the way they hung up the plane.

    IMG_2827_Air museum plane on hook.jpg

    We hung around outside at a makeshift control tower which is also a good vantage point to watch float planes taxi, take off, and land. I could hang out and watch planes all day…for some reason.



    Next stop was a little bit east to the Native Alaskan Museum. Very interesting presentations and they have several examples of native lifestyles and their dwellings on a circular campus. Each habitat had features that made it uniquely designed to adapt to the environment.



    Back into the downtown Anchorage area. Found a sporting goods store where I bought some gas for my stove and a raincoat. We roamed around until we found a nice little Thai restaurant and then headed back to the hotel. Simple day but we learned a lot and it was enjoyable .

    IMG_2862_Anchorage Paula flowers.jpg
  2. lqgsrider

    lqgsrider Been here awhile

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    Good RR
    Thanks for posting
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  3. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    Thanks!
  4. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    DAY 31—————Anchorage, AK to Whittier, AK__________ 60 Miles / 100 km

    July 29 - Day 31.jpg

    Slept in, no hurry this morning. Plenty of time to get to Whittier so we enjoyed a relaxing morning and had breakfast in the hotel, for the last time. We would be coming back to Anchorage in a few days but the hotel would jump in price beyond anything we could justify. But, The Lakefront Hotel had served us well in helping to organize our legs of the trip with easy access to the airport, Motoquest, storage, as well as being a cool place to stay.

    We decided to make a side trip to Girdwood, AK which is about half way to Whittier. It’s a little skiing area that has a lodge and some trails you can hike so we spent a few hours getting some exercise on the trails and looking around. The lodge looked pretty nice and I imagine it’s a bustling place in ski season. There’s a little town area between the lodge and the Highway 1. Had a bite to eat and I liked the inventiveness of someone who turned five gallon buckets into chess pieces. Didn’t get many other pictures.

    IMG_2863_Girdwood Lodge.jpg

    IMG_2865_Girdwood outdoor chess.jpg

    On a trip like this, for me anyway, I will miss a 100 or so shots that in retrospect I wish I had taken, but there will also be 100 pictures that I probably shouldn’t have bothered with. I like to look back on the pictures but I can’t bring myself to be more focussed on photography than enjoying being in the moment of the trip itself. Someone intent on getting a more thorough photographic recollection of their trip will do much better at this and probably won’t think much of my collection, which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but I try to get a pic or two when I think of it.

    That’s partly why I like the Sena 10C so much. It gives you the eye view, pictures on demand, and the ability to capture the previous 60 seconds and record something that you would have otherwise missed. But you have to have a battery pack handy because it runs down the power fairly quickly and I got lazy sometime and didn’t have the battery pack hooked up. The majority of the video I shot was with the 10C.

    Quite by accident we timed the tunnel pretty well so that our wait wasn’t too long. It had been slightly overcast during the day, but once we emerged from the other side of the tunnel it was overcast and foggy. Pretty dreary weather. Checked into the hotel as we knew the way from staying there a few days earlier, and decided that we deserved another break from it all. We had some wine and cheese in the room, and then thought we would go downstairs and have something very light for dinner. But everything sounded pretty good so we both ended up eating too much and vowed to fast the following day.
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  5. longslowdistance

    longslowdistance Long timer Supporter

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    Great RR, thanks.
    Question: Based on your experience, if I had just one day as a tourist in Anchorage, what would you suggest?
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  6. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    Thanks very much! It’s difficult to answer your question other than from my personal perspective because I’m sure we barely scraped the surface and I am predisposed to my own likes and dislikes.

    We enjoyed the Aviation Museum both for the impressive collection of planes and memorabilia, but also the WWII history and specifically how it relates to Alaskan history. So that gets our vote, but there is a lot more to investigate and I’m sure there is a better Inmate to answer this question for you.
  7. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    DAY 32—————Whittier, AK to Valdez, AK__________ By ferry

    July 30 & 31 - Day 32 & 33.jpg

    Slept in via an extended food coma and awoke to a beautiful morning! Yes, sunshine and warmth, a day like no one else had every described Whittier, Alaska before! We went downstairs for a light breakfast and coffee while watching boats go in and out of the harbor. Glorious!





    We had four hours before our ferry was scheduled to board and we weren’t going to waste this incredible weather. We checked in at the ferry office at the other end of the parking lot. Virtually everything in Whittier operates around the center parking area and are short walks. We couldn’t leave the car in line as they have a fenced area that they don’t open until closer to boarding time, but that was ok because we needed the car to drive up to the trail head which is located behind the abandoned Buckner Building.

    There isn’t much fanfare for the trail head and we only found it because we had a map. There aren’t any signs as I recall and there is just a rutted out dirt turnaround where you park. It started off like a fire road. Nothing about it noteworthy really until a little further up when it narrows and then definitely looks like a path has been created. They have placed boards with fish netting or tar roofing tiles to provide grip because it looks to be wet most all the time and those boards would be pretty slick without some help. But in some places it was just the dirt trail and it was usually pretty sloppy albeit passable. The trail cuts through some heavy vegetation, in a few places there are rocks to climb that loosely take on the formation of steps that can be challenging but aren’t too difficult.

    Part way up, still in the trees, we could see through a clearing our ferry coming into port which was a nice vantage point. Eventually you get above the trees and still have to cover some real estate before getting to a plank platform that signifies the end of the trail…we think…no signs there either. From the platform you can see the Whittier Glacier-I think. It’s a big glacier and it would seem that’s a perfectly good name for it given the vicinity.



    Anyway, back down the trail, which seems to take less time going back than when we climbed up-maybe because it’s downhill? It’s well worth the hike if you are fortunate enough to get good weather and want to see Whittier from a higher vantage point. Even if you just want a little exercise and to stretch your legs. And we still had plenty of time before they would allow cars to line up so we walked around some more and I landed an ice cream cone as a reward for my physical stamina today.

    IMG_0054.jpg

    There are a few other restaurants dotted around the marina as well as some typical tourist shops. We never saw a cruise ship here but they do come in and most passenger who disembark get on the train and head north for Anchorage, Denali, and beyond. One of my favorite landmarks was the US Coastguard-Caboose!

    DSCF1165_US Coast Guard caboose.JPG

    Everything went smoothly getting on board. Not sure if we would have needed a reservation but I would suggest it this time of the year because your options are pretty limited if you are on a time table. It wouldn’t have bothered us to spend another day, or at least the remainder of the day in Whittier if we would have missed the ship. It was really a pleasure enjoying the sunshine.

    These ships swallow up huge RV’s that you wouldn’t think would fit through the opening of the loading bays. They do, but just barely. Our little car was a breeze and so are motorcycles. More on the bikes later. What was really a treat for this seven hour passage was how much we were able to see verses a cloudy overcast day. The seats in the bow, especially those in front, go pretty quickly. Other popular spots are on the aft deck outside near heaters if it is chilly out but there are only a few chairs or places to sit. Even with the sunshine it can be on the cooler side.

    We took a table in the cafeteria area which gave us a good view of the shore nearest the ship, and a comfortable area to spread out and take a short nap or read. We’ve never been the sort to crush onto a venue to get the optimum area. We took what was left and made it work for us. The transit went very smoothly and we spent a lot of time just looking out the window. I walked around outside some but Paula found it a little too cool for her taste. When you come into the Valdez port area you look across and see the oil reserve tanks which is the southern terminus of the Alaskan Pipeline. In a few more days I will be back on the bike and head up to the northern end, about 800 miles / 1287 km to Prudhoe Bay.



    The seven hour trip went quickly as remarkable as that sounds. We had something to eat but you have to pay attention to their closing time because they aren’t open for the duration of the journey. We arrived after 9pm so we weren’t planning on doing much once we arrived and we were ready to sleep by that point. We were staying at the same place that Dan and I had a few days earlier so finding it was easy this time.

    “Glunk” - the sound of our melons hitting the pillows!
  8. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    DAY 33—————Valdez, AK__________ 0 Miles / km

    Woke up after a restless night because I think my legs just weren’t sure what they had been through the day before. A little fallout from the hike perhaps. We decided to stay another day in Valdez so I got on the Airbnb site and booked the room again, and while I was at it I booked a couple of nights in Anchorage to cover the last to days Paula would be here.

    Up to this point, I was not only pleased with the places we had planned, but the timing of how it all worked out. There wasn’t much margin for error but we hit everything and only had one glitch with lodging in Seward. But at this stage I didn’t really have a plan that worked so well. I had thought that we might go to McCarthy for a night, but I didn’t think the pounding on us in the car was worth it. To go up to Delta Junction would have been a haul and didn’t seem feasible for the time available. So we decided to spend an extra night in Valdez hanging around and then spend the last remaining full day and the day Paula was flying out, in Anchorage.

    So we eventually set out to look over Valdez. Dan and I had only been here for an evening so we didn’t look around too much, but enough to where I had a little bit of an idea where everything was. There was a chainsaw sculpting contest going on that we had noticed exiting the ferry the night before, so we headed over there. Amazing craftsmanship as you will see in the pictures. They used some other woodworking tools beside chainsaws such as grinders for the more detailed aspects, but overall no matter how they formed these creations they were amazing to look at.

    IMG_0063.jpg



    After that we took in lunch at a food truck along a row of restaurants facing the marina. A vast improvement over the meals Dan and I were stuck with before. Plenty of options along the marina so just head there when you’re hungry. One inmate said the hotel at the end of the marina also had a restaurant that was very good. Spotted a little friend getting some lunch too.

    DSCF1196_Rabbit under cart.JPG


    After that we were on to the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum. Not an easy place to find as it is connected to the local community college nestled in a small neighborhood. But it’s very impressive and worth a look if you have the time. The Whitney’s came to Alaska in 1947 and ran a gift store in Fairbanks stocking it with items from local craftspeople throughout Alaska. They also collected animal species of every variety and all are on display here. You can’t really appreciate how huge a Polar Bear is until you stand next to the one they have on display.



    Back to take a short nap and relax before going out to find dinner. We stopped back by the wood carvers to see how they were coming along before finding a restaurant in the marina area that had some seats available outdoors. A little cool, but still a beautiful evening to eat outside. Drove over by the ferry dock and watched some ships getting ready to set out and looked at the Valdez terminal again. Back home to bed after that and although it felt like it was still pretty early it was already past 10pm.

    IMG_0068.jpg

    IMG_0069.jpg
  9. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    DAY 34—————Valdez, AK to Anchorage, AK 299 Miles / 480 km

    August 1 & 2 - Day 34 & 35.jpg

    Up in the morning at the Airbnb and went upstairs to rummage some breakfast items. They had some basics like fruit and yogurt so we made the most of it. Weather was overcast and gloomy, but we were just throwing things in the car so I was enjoying this luxury while it lasted. Organization? Rain? Who cares?

    After we got over Thompson Pass the sun came out and it was a overall sunny ride back to Anchorage. Getting a little drowsy so we stopped at a little coffee hut in Copper Center and had a conversation with the young European lad (can’t remember the country now) who was working his way across the country before returning home. I ran into quite a few people doing this, on a work visa or just picking up some odd jobs and making their way across North America before their visitor visas ran out. Made we wish I had done more of it in my youth.

    The trip from Valdez to Glennallen is serviceable but not likely to be the highlight of anyone’s trip. Thompson Pass is interesting and this is the road that gets you to McCarthy but if I had limited time to pick where I went, I would skip this section and spend more time elsewhere. The Richardson Highway north of Glennallen is amazing if the weather is good. Glennallen to Anchorage is a bit better. There are some beautiful views of the mountains that way if the weather is nice. If not, you aren’t going to see much…but I suppose you could say that throughout most of Alaska. This is a glacier that is viewable from the highway but you can also drive down to it but I heard the admission is $30 or so and there are plenty of glaciers to see right off the road that you don’t need to pay for. Maybe because this is my fourth time through here, this is the only picture I took on the drive!

    DSCF1199_Glacier from Glenn Hwy.JPG

    Located our Airbnb in Anchorage fairly easily. Very cozy placed located in a middle-class suburban area and it had been modified so that the room had a private shower. More like a hotel room feel, but about 25% of the price! It would serve our purposes nicely and the host was very welcoming too. This would become base camp to make the transition back to the motorcycle which required picking up my bike from the dealer, getting everything cleaned out of the storage unit, and get used to living in a tent again after getting soft staying in so many nice places. In perhaps a perverse way, I was sort of looking forward to it.

    Took advantage of having the car to run some errands. Went to an REI store and bought some freeze dried food, a larger collapsable bowl (these come in very handy and pack down to nothing) and replacement brackets for my ROK straps that I had broken lashing my pannier to the bike in McCarthy. Then we went to the storage facility and got everything out of there. Amazingly it was all mine but it seemed like so much more than I remembered! A grocery stop to get some snack items and then it was time to look for dinner.

    Our host had recommended a place but it was mobbed, so after an exhausting search for something that was unique or different, we spied a place back off the street that had amazing food and a bunch of options for Paula who is limited sometimes due to her allergies. We had a feast! Bitter sweet however because it was our last dinner together for the trip.

    IMG_2908_Anchorage Paula final feast.jpg

    IMG_2909_Anchorage Dave final feast.jpg

    Dan called during dinner. He had been home for about five days and he was still exhausted from the trip! Good! Later I received a call from a woman who’s young son had discovered my custom ear plugs that I had lost somewhere around Chitina or McCarthy. My name and address was on the container and she called to say her son found it playing somewhere-she wasn’t specific. That was fantastic as I really missed them although I had a backup pair I used for the remainder of the trip. She said that she would mail them to me and didn’t ask for postage or anything. When I returned home I sent $20 and some stickers for her son as well as my sincere thanks.

    I heard from the couple with the young girl, Piper, that I met in Wyoming on the way up. They had lost the password for the Garmin mapping site and Piper wanted to follow along. It was great to hear from them. And an email checking on my progress from Peter and Kim in Idaho who I had stayed with. It’s funny how I was the one on the adventure, but it's always great to hear from friends new and old while you are traveling to see how they are doing.

    Back home to figure out the logistics for tomorrow. Everything culminates in getting Paula off to the airport in the evening but a lot to do before that. Also noticed that it’s starting to get dark at night now. I must go north!
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  10. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    DAY 35—————Anchorage, AK_______________ 0 Miles / km

    Another end to a chapter, which means of course the beginning of a new one. Paula’s flight leaves this evening and if you’re flying to the lower 48, this is the time that you want to leave. They probably offer earlier flights, but unless it is direct to where you want to end up, it works out much better to fly at night. Paula was flying back to Arkansas (to which there are virtually never direct flights it seems) through DFW in Dallas. By leaving in the evening from Anchorage, she would arrive around 6am in DFW, and be able to connect with an early flight to XNA in northwest Arkansas. By traveling overnight you are flying when you would be sleeping and you don’t get stuck with a layover because your flight arrived too late to get out on a connection. Depends on where you live of course, but I just thought that I would throw that two cents of advice in.

    Many tasks at hand before this. First off, we needed to get over to The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage where my bike was being refreshed and while we still have a rental car to get me there. Two new tires and an oil change, repair of the pannier, and standing instructions to service anything they might see that could cause me problems down the road. Could I have changed the tires and done the oil change myself? Yes, but this is a vacation and unless under duress, I am quite happy to leave it to the professionals.

    But before that, the smell of breakfast was wafting through the house so I ventured down to the kitchen to see about a cup of coffee and what was offered. Apparently though, we were staying at an “Airbn”…without the ‘b’ on the end. There was an older German couple who were indeed sitting down to what looked (and smelled) like a very nice breakfast. But they were on a more expensive plan than we were so our host apologetically offered me some coffee anyway and I embarrassingly accepted then scooted back to tell Paula it looked like we would be going out for breakfast. Unless the German woman was eating something particularly sour during this, she appeared to disapprove of us trying to be fed, and looked as though she was being dragged through Alaska against her will.

    After picking up the bike, we came back to the house and dropped it off. Everything looked good, although I instantly missed my MotoZ Tractionator rear tire as it had a more aggressive tread which would have been nice to go to Prudhoe Bay. However it was a better tire for highway which would be the vast majority of the remainder of the trip.

    IMG_2910_Anchorage Dave BMW dealer.jpg

    Then I had a box to ship back via FedEx to exchange some items that were more appropriate for the trip at this point. With all of my worldly possessions spread out on the floor of our room, I went through everything to evaluate each item and whether or not I had or would use it at this point. I had a mesh jacket for the ride up with a Frogg Togg rain jacket that both served me well. The weather fluctuations had vacillated between 100F+/ 38C+ and freezing so far, so I sent those back in favor of my KLIM Badlands jacket. A few clothing items upgraded for cooler temperatures and there were some things that I had for the auto portion of the trip that could go back. I don’t remember what else. I was pretty pleased though that I didn’t have many items on board that I carried all the way up and didn’t use. Sealed up that box and affixed the pre-addressed label that was sent with it, and dropped it at a FedEx Office store.

    IMG_2915_All my things layed out in Anchorage to pack.jpg

    Now I just had to make sense of everything that was left over! After nearly three weeks of downsizing my gear since I landed in Anchorage, between the trip with Dan when I didn’t need camping gear and the time in the car when I needed even less, I lost my packing routine and had to remember where everything went. Eventually I got it straightened out and that would be the norm for the remainder of the time I was on the road.

    After we managed to get something to eat for the day, it was time to get the car back to the airport where I had rented it. It would have been nice to keep it until I could run Paula to the airport, but that was four hours after it was due and we would have been walloped for the extra time. Take a look at what it costs to rent a car in Alaska, about double the cost in lower 48, and you do the math very quickly. That was the one advantage we missed by not staying in a hotel as they all run shuttles to the airport. However, turning the car in on time and taking a cab back to the house was about $20 with tip, and then Paula to the airport the same cost, which I set up with the driver ahead of time who was there on the dime. Much cheaper than keeping the car or paying the $350 a night for the hotel-if you could find a vacancy. As this pertains to the Lakefront Hotel, I didn’t pay anywhere near that amount by booking it earlier in the year. But on short notice, they get a pretty stiff rate at the hotels in Anchorage so be prepared.

    Bike picked up, box dropped off, car turned in, pretty much all set except getting Paula to the airport and getting all of my gear packed up. Rested and relaxed for a few hours before the cab arrived. Sad to see my wife head home. We had some adventures and I enjoyed seeing everything with her. I think she was ready for normal life again. The remainder of the evening I got packed and got ready to start the next chapter in the morning.

    IMG_2911_Anchorage Paula taxi.jpg

    IMG_2916_Paula's flight home screen capture.png
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  11. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

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    DAY 36—————Anchorage, AK to Fairbanks, AK__________ 387 Miles / 622 km

    August 3 - Day 36.jpg
    **Another map that needs to be updated**

    Anticipating a rainy start to the day, and being in a warm cozy bed, I wasn’t up any earlier than I needed to be. I was pleasantly surprised to see sunshine when I threw open the drapes though so that was a better start than I had expected after several days of gloomy weather. Forecast for Fairbanks and north looked to have a possibility of rain the following day, but then some reasonably dry weather “forecasted” for the next few days after that. I could wait out a day or two if necessary if the weather looked particularly nasty, but once on the way you’re on the way rain or shine…or snow…

    Got everything in the dry bags that go inside the panniers and hauled all of that downstairs to get on the bike. It was beginning to come back to me. Took off and stopped for gas and noticed a guy on a dual sport at one of the other pumps. Went over to speak to him to see where he was headed. He was an Irishman in his 30’s I guessed doing a RTW trip and who had been up to Tuktoyaktuk (or “Tuk” for short) and had taken some pretty adventurous roads on his own, having to extricate himself from some mud slogs along the way. He didn’t have much trouble going to Tuk though. He didn’t have any interest in going to Prudhoe Bay which was fine. I said “I’m an American, I have to”. Wished him well and off we went our separate ways.

    What I did have to get used to again was the weight on the bike. Between riding with Dan and a scaled down version of gear and then in the car for two weeks after that, I surprised myself going around a curve and the bike wanting to lean more than I expected. Getting accustomed to different tires might have added to that as well. Soon enough I was back in the swing of things. Weather was pretty nice and I had a surprise on the main road when I saw Denali off in the distance. This was amazing because I was well south of even thinking about it at this point. It takes you off guard because the snow on the top initially looks like a cloud is sitting on top of the mountain. A little bit later when I came up to the spur to go into Talkeetna, where several operators offer flights to Denali, there was a pullout just before the road dropped down and you could see it again from that vantage point. It was the last time it was visible that day.

    I had heard a lot about Talkeetna and I almost suggested that Paula and I check it out for a day trip, but as you make your way into town it is overrun with tourists and it’s a 225 mile / 362 km trip from Anchorage that really isn’t worth it in my opinion. If you’re a big fan of Disneyworld and don’t mind crowds, you will be a fan of Talkeetna from what I saw. But it was worth the brief glimmer of Denali as I headed down the hill. It struck me in a way that will never translate in a photo or video, as this idyllic brief moment of perfection. There were puffy clouds against a blue sky, a small plane crossing from my left, and Denali in the background. It was over in a few seconds. I’ve seen the video since and was disappointed that the fish-eye style lens on my Sena 10C just couldn’t do justice to the feeling of being there. After a cold cup of coffee and a brief break, I backtracked the 14 miles / 22 km to the main highway and headed north on Hwy 3 again.



    As I came closer to Denali, the trees disappeared and the road flattened out. The skies became overcast and there was no sign of Denali despite being 50+ miles / 80+ km closer. It does get more mountainous again but vegetation becomes more sparse. Trees are limited in size because they can’t grow very large through the perma-frost. You have to look at a globe to see just how north you are at this point-the equivalent to southern Greenland. Or another perspective, it is roughly the same mileage from Sweet Grass, MT near the Canadian border, to Mexico City; as it is from Sweet Grass, MT to Denali. It’s up there, and we’re not nearly done yet!

    Trapper Creek, which is the town that services most of the tourists that come on the train, car, RV, etc., isn’t much to bother with either…in my opinion. I didn’t stop and just rolled through heading for Fairbanks, AK. It is another 200 miles / 320 km to Fairbanks from there and I was ready to finish the day. I was heading to Sven’s Basecamp and Hostel that I had heard about. No reservations from this point on which was a relief and as a general rule, you rarely if ever need a reservation if you are tenting unless it’s a national or provincial park in the height of the season.


    I found the place easily enough. Not too far off a main road. Not sure what I was expecting from this place, but at a bare minimum all I needed was a place to roll out the tent. They have huts and rudimentary accommodations and they were all spoken for. It was $9 a day for the tent, and then another $9 per person-that being one of each, so a total of $18 a day for one person to tent. That plays out a bit more tomorrow. I was escorted by a very nice woman who was the caretaker to an area that had a few tents but space for more if you could work something out between all of the tree roots that were above ground level. This is when a cot pays for itself very quickly. I got the tour of the kitchen and showers and was good to go. Set up the tent and then went to a grocery store to get some items for dinner and for the trip north. For the most part it was a very young crowd as hostels frequently are, but for some reason I found this collection of kids to be kind of miserable. From their inability to make eye contact to one who looked downright suicidal, it was a very strange vibe there. No other motorcyclists except an older couple on a Boss Hog towing a trailer who were stuck for a few days due to a repair. I had the mistaken impression that this was a sort of motorcycle base camp for riders headed up north but it certainly wasn’t the case when I was there.

    IMG_2971_Fairbanks tent.jpg

    So it is what it is. Sitting outside the kitchen finishing off a roasted chicken I was being watched carefully by a couple of dogs who belonged to the place. Apparently Sven is quite the musher and has something like 70-100 dogs at another location that are raised to pull sleds. These guys were fairly small and didn’t fit my concept of the type of breeds you think of for sled dogs. Wrong again! Damn, twice in one day… There were two swinging doors leading from outside into the kitchen, and you could tell that the dogs were trained not to enter, but that didn’t stop one from poking her nose between the doors just far enough to get a few good sniffs of the evening meals being prepared. It was pretty cute-and I don’t often use that word. Anyway, thinking about our dogs at home that I was missing, I offered up just a couple of small pieces of chicken scraps for them, and then was immediately scolded by the previously very nice caretaker for my beneficent, well intended, but misguided act of charity. I felt pretty stupid and I think that was her intent.

    IMG_2919_dogs.jpg

    DSCF1276_Kitchen at Sven's.JPG

    Back to the tent to check on the weather. What had been forecasted a day earlier as pretty clear weather for the following day, was now calling for rain, but possibly better weather the day after. Whatever. Can’t control the weather, I was ready to go, so I decided to set out the next day.
    MizzouRider, eddyturn and Smidty like this.
  12. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 37—————Fairbanks, AK to Coldfoot, AK__________ 254 Miles / 408 km

    August 4 - Day 37.jpg

    It was a restless night’s sleep due to jets taking off and unmufflered vehicles going back and forth on the boulevard. Sven’s sits just to the east of the northern end of the runway for Fairbanks Airport. I woke at 5am to jets getting on the gas which leads me to believe they were taking off to the southwest. Some earplugs might be in order next time and maybe someday I’ll start remembering this in the moment rather than the next morning.

    Got up a little bit after that and went to the kitchen to make some breakfast before setting off. There were already a few kids in there as well, blankly staring down at their phones. They were endlessly scrolling through whatever was commanding their attention on the screen with a sort of lifelessness that makes you think if that phone was ever to be pried from their hands, they would cease having a will to live. I openly confess that I shouldn’t have been so bugged by this, but I remember hostels from my younger days as places to connect with all sorts of people from places literally all around the world. To see this potential to discover new ideas and personalities suffocated by electronic devices was discouraging. Honestly, it felt like being at a mall because there seemed to be groups of people rather than individuals who were traveling and they stuck together.

    After breakfast I started to consider my ascent on Prudhoe Bay. I was hoping that I might hook up with some other riders that I would meet at Sven’s. That clearly wasn’t going to happen. It was possible to take down my tent and leave unnecessary items behind at the hostel seeing as I would be coming back this way, so that was the original plan. I didn’t need camping gear so that would lose quite a bit of unneeded bulk. But then I asked if I could just leave my tent up and pay the daily rate for the tent, sans me being in it, which I thought was a decent spend of $27, and then all I have to do is crawl back in it when I return. Caretaker looked at me strangely because there was no charge for leaving everything in their storage, but I thought it was a relatively inexpensive way to save me some hassle. If it was raining and I was exhausted when I came back, it would be well worth it.

    I headed out but wanted to stop and pick up an inner tube just in case I had a tire issue that my plugs couldn’t handle on a tubeless tire. Getting repairs made once you head north can be arduous and take a long time. Towing is crazy expensive for all of the obvious reasons. I had made a point of getting all of my maintenance done in Anchorage because I had heard nothing but good things about that dealership, and nothing but negative comments about the dealer in Fairbanks. I decided to stop into Northern Power Sports in Fairbanks which wasn’t too far out of my way, for the inner tube. Had a very good experience there, and when I mentioned the reviews I had heard about the Fairbanks BMW/Harley dealership in town, he said “They say you’re not supposed to say anything negative about your competition, but I have heard those stories too”. Reviews online don’t seem that bad, and full disclosure I never stepped foot inside the other place, but I can say the BMW service department in Anchorage was outstanding. Take that for what you will.

    You have to go through a slew of traffic lights getting out of Fairbanks so don’t get in a hurry to get started. You will hit virtually every single one red. It gets frustrating when you are psyched to hit the road. It takes about 80 miles / 128 km to get to the southern start of the “Haul Road”. It sneaks up on you as you wind around on a two lane road up to where you either stay on Hwy 2 for Manly Hot Springs, AK or lean right towards Hwy 11 to Coldfoot, AK. Here you will see a sign that is frequently decorated with stickers and I imagine that this is the reason why the sign is so far up in the air. I have seen others, Tail of the Dragon comes to mind, where the sign has been obliterated with stickers to the point you can’t even read it anymore. From here, 400+ miles of whatever nature and road construction can throw at you!

    DSCF1205_Starting Dalton Hwy sign.JPG

    It started to rain a little bit as I started up the Dalton Highway. I put on my heated jacket liner but I never had to turn it on. Staying dry was the main thing. Because I was riding by myself and wasn’t sure what to expect, I was fairly conservative in my speed. After I got more used to the terrain and road surface, I picked up the pace a bit. Most of the time I was in fifth or sixth gear and between 50-60 mph /80-100 kmph. There were a few sections where I was cruising along on pavement and then it would turn to dirt without any announcement. Because it was raining and much of the road is dirt, it was difficult at times differentiating between pavement and nonpayment surfaces. But after you see it for awhile you start getting used to it.

    The rain wasn’t heavy but my issues had more to do with my pinlock that needed to have the dust cleaned out which I hadn’t noticed before this. So I had the shield up on my Arai XD4 and that was causing my prescription glasses to be difficult to see through. The latter was a problem more than a few times and it made me wish I had followed through on my thoughts to get contacts for these matters. Anti fog products haven’t worked really well for me because my glasses stay close to my face, but I did locate some water-repellant spray that I started using more and that made a big difference on my shield, glasses, and camera lens on the Sena 10C.

    The wooden Dalton Highway sign is easy to spot. Just off to the right going north in a big pullout area. A family stopped for pictures so we took the opportunity to snap pictures of each other. My mind was wandering a bit as I settled in for the ride and I ended up flying by the sign for the Arctic Circle. An obligatory photo op. Got turned around and pulled into the area, which can’t be seen from the highway very well-if at all. Once again I thought that it was something that would just appear and didn’t realize I would have to be on the lookout for it. There are vans of people who come up to get their picture taken who I think might not go any further than this. It’s a bumpy ride for sure, although I thought that this was a better road than the one to McCarthy. The main advantage of a motorcycle is that you can dodge the potholes when four-wheels plus can’t in most cases. And the potholes were usually worse on the paved sections than the dirt. I was distracted at one point and hit a pothole pretty hard. I felt better having a beefed up Woody’s Wheel on the front as it might have paid for itself in one shot!

    On the other side of the much talked about wooden bridge that spans the Yukon River, is the Yukon River Camp. This camp is the first thing you come to for taking a break, getting fuel, and something to eat, and the only place with services between starting the Dalton and Coldfoot. I had heard about the steep grade and a sort of ominous reputation of this bridge. In a truck, going north (downhill), wind blowing, and covered in ice, I bet this would be an exciting ride! But in the rain on a motorcycle in either direction, nothing to worry about. I was surprised that it had a wooden plank surface rather than a metal grate. And when it’s wet, it does feel a little squirrelly if you catch two boards that aren’t the same height where they meet. Your front wheel will catch the planks where they come together and it almost feels like you’re in mud.

    The Yukon River Camp sits bedside the Yukon River and is not quite half way to Coldfoot. The staff there are incredibly friendly and food is very good. The parking lot was a complete mud bog but they don’t have any issues with people coming in with muddy shoes etc. There were some riders who pulled in just about the time that I did who were primarily from Texas. They were headed to Prudhoe Bay as well but I was enjoying my solitude so I decided to stay on my own and see them in Coldfoot. They were headed to Wiseman for the night but there isn’t any food there so they were stopping to eat and get fuel in Coldfoot.



    The weather was pretty miserable at times and there wasn’t too much to see when it’s like that. Didn’t spot a single animal of any variety and for the most part visibility was limited a good portion of the day. The pipeline pops up every now and then and in some cases you can see it stretch all the way to the horizon. The rain let up for awhile at times which I appreciated because there were some great views, especially right as I left the Yukon Camp. Later, just before I reached the Coldfoot Camp, it started to come down again just as I was drying out. The Coldfoot Camp is a right turn off the main road despite my GPS telling me to turn left. Coldfoot Camp is definitely a right turn as you can see from the video. I’ve been told that my estimation of how much of the road to Coldfoot is paved might not be as high as I say in the video. There is so much mud on the road when it rains and some the road is hard packed to the point that it is a very smooth surface that it’s possible I was on mud when I thought it was mud covered pavement. There seems to be a bigger collection of potholes in the unpaved area, but often the most severe ones are in the paved sections.

    There are fuel pumps as you come up to the buildings and the restaurant is just beyond that. You have to go inside and leave a credit card to pump fuel. Across the parking lot are the accommodations. They are pretty old and serviceable, but not cheap. There are some other options in the area such as Wiseman further north a short bit, but there is not a plethora of choices. You get a room with two single beds at the Coldfoot Camp so you could split the cost with someone, and they have their own bathrooms which apparently was not always the case. Expect to pay upwards of $175 and that doesn’t include a breakfast or wifi, and phones don’t work so great here either.

    It’s a bit of an ordeal trying to get into the accommodations without making a mess of everything from the mud on your clothes-get used to that. Pretty much guaranteed that you will start showing the effects of the muddy road by this point on the bike and certainly from your knees down. I tried to get my pants off just inside the entrance to minimize tracking mud in. It would be great if they had a quick power washer you could use, but the water source is miserly which I was told the next morning when I simply wanted to use a hose behind the kitchen to wash off my radiator. Washed off myself in the shower anyway which felt pretty good and headed into the dining room where I came across the group from Texas who were stopping in to eat after fueling. I also encountered a van driver who I was speaking with briefly and he asked me if I knew where I was staying in Deadhorse. Hadn’t thought that far ahead I said, even though that would be tomorrow. He highly recommended The Arctic Oilfield Hotel. I wasn’t sure on availability so I sent an InReach message to Paula and asked her if she could please call and make a reservation for me-which she was kind enough to do. I passed this information along to the group but they weren’t sure what they were doing either, other than going on the tour to the Arctic Ocean to dip their toes. You have to make reservations 24 hours ahead of time for this, which I hadn’t, but I was ok with not making it up there or spending the $75.



    Near the entrance to the restaurant there was a guy talking about how he had been stranded for a few days north of Coldfoot because some rocks in the road construction had sliced up his car tire, twice! Yikes! This gave me something to think about and I was glad that I had grabbed the inner tube just in case. With that all done, and not much else occupying my time, I decided to turn in early.
    fastpast, eddyturn and RedDogAlberta like this.
  13. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 38—————Coldfoot, AK to Deadhorse, AK__________ 241 Miles / 387 km

    August 5 - Day 38.jpg

    Decent night’s sleep. Still overcast and dreary but not too cold. Went over to the restaurant to have breakfast and caught them just as they were opening-not customary for me! After a fairly basic breakfast I headed back to the room to grab my gear and figure out how to get myself dressed without making a mess inside and having to dress outside. I cleaned my pinlock, added the nose guard to the helmet to hopefully reduce fogging of my glasses, treated my glasses as well, and went around behind the kitchen to wash off the radiator. I wanted to clean up my blinker lenses that were covered with mud, but it took some work getting it off because it was like a thick coating of clay and it was not impressed with my wimpy hose. It was about 40 degrees / 4.5 c and it wasn’t raining. All good, let’s see what the day brings.

    I hadn’t encountered much construction thus far, but about 30 miles / 48km up the road I came upon the first one. There were three utility trucks in front of me as we waited briefly for the pilot car and no other traffic in sight. Off we went. Was this where I had to be careful not to have my tires sliced open? What would the road surface be like? Just the way I like to start my Sunday mornings. It was a fairly long stretch, a little mushy in some places, but overall not bad at all and no sign of tire slicing rocks! Yet anyway… The road surface through the construction will change slightly and that’s the part that gets you. If it was all soft, hard packed, whatever, then you could get used to it. But at any given time it might get soft or wet, then hard packed and dry, you just never know when it will change. The pilot car cleared out and we were on our way.

    Passed a small grass air strip along side the road with a few planes and their pilots nearby. And then I came across a huge pile of rocks beside the road that had been broken up and looked to be ready to be incorporated into the construction process. For the sake of economy and efficiency, it looks like they will bore into a huge rock wall on a mountainside and then put huge boulders into a device that breaks the rock into very large aggregate used for road beds. This rock can be very jagged and no doubt perilous to one’s tires. Fortunately it looked pretty quiet this morning and it wasn’t being used.

    Maybe because it was Sunday, or this could have been a typical day anytime of the week, but for the first 90 minutes, I hadn’t seen another vehicle in either direction except the three service trucks way back when. I wasn’t in a hurry, just taking my time looking around. I started to climb up a long hill and was up on the pegs stretching my legs. I got a little sloppy staying to the right and when I crested the hill and just started to sit down, a white pickup service vehicle came blowing past me on my left and nearly losing control as it caught the left berm. There wasn’t any way to convey my apology that wouldn’t look like I was pissed off, but I felt bad about holding the guy up. It was totally my fault for not paying attention, but it had been so long since I had seen any other traffic that I got a little lazy.

    It’s worth noting at this point that the vast majority of trucks and oilfield workers in general are not enamored with RV’s, cars, and/or motorcycles coming up and playing tourist. This is serious business up here and I had just violated one of the key rules which is STAY OUT OF THE WAY! There are no facilities for washing off your bike in Deadhorse, despite the fact that you will really want one. Although you might find someone who will help you out if you get in a jam, the town is simply not set up for anything remotely amenable to working with tourists.

    It rained more this day than the day before. A little chilly too, but my visibility was the bigger issue. Going up Atigun Pass I ran right into the low clouds and/or fog and it was very difficult to see. When I stopped and removed my glasses, it was about 50% better than I thought it was! It was still plenty foggy at times but my glasses weren’t helping matters. I wish my vision would have been as good as the video shows it. As for the much heralded Atigun Pass, once again I’m sure that it is far more of a challenge in a heavy vehicle or snow covered surface. If it’s raining hard the surface might be a little snotty but still not too bad. In some areas the guardrails look tortured and I’m not sure if that’s from people hitting them or snow being pushed up against them. If you are driving a heavy vehicle I wouldn’t put much stock in them keeping you from going over the edge! Overall, the pass is only about five miles long and depending on conditions, you are over it and on your way in no time. It is notable for being the highest mountain pass in Alaska at 4739ft/1444m that is transited and maintained year around. It is also where the Dalton crosses the Continental Divide.



    The road will change back and forth a number of times. It can be hard packed, dry, wet, mushy, potholes, and of course graters that will churn up miles of road and leave these rows of soft trailings that they will later come back and smooth out. It felt to me like driving through wet cement that was 3-4” deep. It doesn’t feel like mud exactly. The video doesn’t do it justice as far as picking up the change in surfaces, tire ruts, and the occasional uncertainty as to just how slick the surface was at any given time when it was wet. And with respect to a few paragraphs back, don’t expect any forgiveness from the grater operator if you need to get around. That’s your problem. These conditions aren’t anything someone with average riding skills can’t handle (if mine are even up to that level) but there are still bikes that go down from time to time. It’s difficult to describe without making it sound more perilous than it is, yet you need to pay attention and stay aware all the same.

    Rental companies generally prohibit their bikes from going past the Arctic Circle or up the Dalton at all and for good reason. The calcium chloride that is used to keep dust down when the roads are dry, also creates havoc throughout the bike from chemically tainted mud everywhere to all sorts of moving parts that don’t want to move so well anymore. One of the difficulties that I encountered was the ball joints in my shift lever were getting cranky and making it difficult to shift because they were so dried out they become abrasive. Any metal parts that move will be completely unimpressed with what the highway does to them. The more rain you encounter the worse it will be. It won’t leave you stranded, but you will want to try to wash off things like brake disks, radiator intakes, etc. as soon as you get back off the Haul Road. More on that after I get back to Fairbanks.

    About a half hour away from Deadhorse I came across a long construction zone. I was behind a semi pulling a low-boy with a bulldozer on it, and the flagman waved me to come to the front. It’s fairly common to bring motorcycles to the front in construction zones and I am assuming it is because of rocks that can get shot out from the tires if there is a lot of gravel. There was just one skinny lane that wound its way through the construction vehicles on both sides. We would be down along the left berm at first, then climb up and over the top to the right side. Every time we crossed over the middle, the ground would get very mushy and there were all sorts of deep tire tracks that were a challenge to stay in or jump to another. All the time I am conscious of the semi behind me who was not letting any lichen grow on him. I had cause to question a few times as he crept closer behind me that if I dumped the bike, would he have time to stop, or would he just run my ass down and they would simply pave over me?!

    After we cleared the construction it was a hard packed washboard surface with pea gravel on top. I was relying on the toughness of the bike to keep me going without simply beating the crap out of it because I still had a long way to go yet to get home. As the truck caught up with me from behind I slid over and let him go by so I could back it down a bit. I can’t imagine the beating that guy was taking in that truck. The difference between owning your equipment and not I suppose. I did spot a small fox alongside the road which was almost the entire extent of any wildlife sightings for the day.



    With about 15 miles / 24km to go, you can start to see some of the buildings of Deadhorse on the horizon and it feels like you are on the verge of the Land of Oz. But because it’s so flat and you can see it from such a distance, it feels like you’re never going to get there! And did I have to pee! Giddyup! As I came into town on a big sweeping left curve, I had three priorities. First, get fuel; second, find the Arctic Oilfield Hotel; and third, PEE! Clearly, I had these in the wrong order…you might say reverse order… But this I did. The road stops at a “T” intersection and there are some directional signs and one was fuel to the left. There was a grater digging up the road, but the lanes were so wide that I was able to be on the left side of the mound of dirt but still have plenty of room to avoid oncoming trucks. I found the line for fuel which was a card lock operation, and after that I had to ask directions for the hotel. All of the classic hotels you see and the famous sign are in this area, but of course my hotel was all the way on the other side of the town (turn right at the 'T'). As I got back on the road, a water truck was coming from the other direction and picking up where the grater had left off. As I approached the fan of water which reached well past my lane, and I didn’t have anyplace to go, I wondered if he was going to kill the water as I went by. If not, I needed to be washed off anyway. Nope, kept it going and I got a little wash. The real disappointment was that it wasn’t nearly enough to clean up me or the bike! This is one of the handful of times that I was kicking myself for not having my video operational.

    As I rolled up on the Arctic Oilfield Hotel, you could already tell that it was a really nice place. In order to get checked in, I had to stop in the lobby and put on these thin blue boot covers which clearly weren’t made to go over large Sidi adventure boots. After tearing a few covers I finally figured out the recipe to get them to work. Walked up to the desk and the receptionist, Tonya, seemed pleased that I had taken the time to cover my dirty boots. I couldn’t help but notice a resemblance between Tonya and Barbara, one of our managers in the office. When I confirmed that BOTH were Harry Potter fans, I had Barbara send up a picture of herself holding a book to show Tonya.

    The place is pristine inside. I did my best not to brush up against anything with my dirty suit as Tonya showed me around. She was very kind to put me in a room as close as possible to the front so I didn’t have to carry my things very far, and she pointed out the canteen area and encouraged me to eat as much as I wanted around the clock, and take as much as I wanted with me as I headed south the next day. I will go out on a limb here as I have somewhat limited experience with the other facilities in Deadhorse, but from everything I have heard the Arctic Oilfield Hotel is the nicest place on The Slope in every aspect. After a day of slogging through the dust/mud, treat yourself to this place and you won’t be sorry. There is a mud room access to the lockers where I could change before going to the room. So I secured some large trash bags and put my dry bag in one and my riding suit in another and that’s where they stayed as I worked out of them on the floor of my room. I didn’t dare take them out of the trash bags because I would have made a mess. The room was incredible. Cable TV, comfy bed, cell coverage, and a great shower. Then, off to the canteen to eat!

    The food was fantastic and there was as much of everything that you would want to eat regardless of what time of day it was. There was a hot line that had specific hours, but the remainder of the canteen was available 24/7 and had plenty of options. The only peculiarity was that for every food transaction you had, whether it was getting a glass of milk or going to the salad bar, you had to wear blue disposable gloves. Not a problem really and I applaud the sanitary requirements, just nothing I had ever dealt with when I was in the oil patch 35 years ago. I slept well and it wouldn’t have been a problem for me to spend a second night-if there was any reason to. And all of this, about $120! I considered that quite the bargain!



    I called Paula and checked in once I had a chance to relax after dinner to update her and see how she was getting along since we had parted a few days ago. She was taking advantage of the weekend to relax before heading back to work the next day. If the weather would have been bad the next day, as I mentioned I would have gladly spent another night to rest and eat like a king, but it looked like a decent day coming up so I was going to hit the road.

    One sensation that I had was that it felt like the trip had reached a conclusion. After all, it was the top, the finish line of sorts, yet I was a little more than 4000 miles / 6400 km (using the shortest calculations) away from home and far from finished. There was still territory that was yet to be explored, people that I would meet, but the focus for over a month to get to the top of Alaska had been completed. It was all downhill from here!

    IMG_3078 2_Prudhoe Bay General Store_Manip with me.jpg
  14. silverspurs

    silverspurs why?

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,252
    Location:
    E-DA-HOW

    Yikes!... hope your roads going South are better than they were coming North!... enjoying your report!... SS..
    Ozarks Rider likes this.
  15. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    Wasn't too bad. South was definitely better weather and I will be posting that within a few days I hope. Thanks for following along! I really enjoyed your RR as well.
  16. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 39—————Deadhorse, AK to Wiseman, AK__________ 230 Miles / 370 km

    August 6 - Day 39.jpg

    I suppose I need to start another chapter here. After all, I am technically headed towards home for the first time so that qualifies as an alteration in the program. I struggled with getting up and out the door due to my affliction with getting an early start in comfortable environments. But first, breakfast!

    I always feel compelled to eat way too much at buffets in order to get my money’s worth, but I compromised in this situation with adding a bunch of goodies to my pack for later down the road, per Tonya. I donned my blue gloves and went to work getting something to eat for breakfast and then lunch and dinner. You can see from the pictures that this is a very well appointed cafeteria and overall the Arctic Oilfield Hotel is a bargain in every respect.



    Loading up the bike was a bit of a pain because I had to haul everything into the mud room and then try to get dressed in my suit with all my gear strewn about. Then to load the bike. Not too bad as I only had a dry bag for my top box and another dry bag strapped behind me. Got everything ready, and off to Wiseman we went.

    The weather was nicer today. On the positive side, no rain and better visibility. On the negative side, BUGS! I had seen virtually none on the way up. On the way up I had stopped and removed my helmet without any issues at all, but it was colder and raining. Today with some sunshine the bugs were looking to make up for lost time. If you stopped for any time, ANY time, you had to keep your face shield down or expect company. Once I was moving it wasn’t a problem at all.

    First thing I saw as I was just south of Deadhorse was a herd of 20 or so Musk Ox feeding alongside the river. I had been told in Fairbanks to look for them but the weather was poor in many spots on the way up and I didn’t see them. But they were exactly where I was told they would be. This was already a positive sign as my wildlife sightings the day before we’re minimal at best. A short while down the road I came across some very large birds crossing the road. I tried to get closer to see what they were but I honestly have no idea. They were about the size of flamingos, but even I ruled that out!

    I rolled up on the construction zone and had to wait for the pilot car. Struck up a conversation with the gentleman in the service truck waiting ahead of me. Nice guy. He was from Kodiak and had been working on The Slope for quite a while. Seemed to like his job although I can’t remember what it was that he did. As we were talking the bugs started to swarm us and I had to put my shield down, but he just kept on going and didn’t let them bother him. I noticed this as well with the flaggers. There was a point perhaps where they got used to them and just decided they weren’t going to be annoyed by them anymore.

    Time to go. I put together one video that shows the entirety of this construction zone if anyone wants to see what the whole process looks like. Over 20 minutes from one end to the other but when you’re riding it seems shorter. There are areas that are hard packed dirt and no issue at all, but there are some other areas where it hadn’t been long since they laid stone and a covered them with dirt and those sections took some adjusting as you weren’t sure what you were riding on. At one point in the video, around 12:10, you will see the pickup I’m following do a little fishtail as he crosses over from the left side of the road to the right. That gave me a few seconds to scan the road and see what I needed-or could do. Overall it was pretty harmless but it’s that unknown factor as you constantly change road surfaces that makes it interesting.



    The weather wasn’t brilliant but it wasn’t raining (at the moment) either and the ceiling was higher than yesterday so the views were much more dramatic today. And the road was in pretty good condition at the outset which helped me settle in. As I was daydreaming across a plane I came up on two moose calves just ambling down the roadway. My first instinct was, where’s Mom and how pissed off is she going to get as I approach these two? My Sena was low on batteries so I snapped a couple of pictures with my camera, but by the time I hooked up the external battery and was ready to go, the two youngsters had vanished. I scanned the tundra for them but it was quite a ways down the road before I caught up with them. This time they wanted to check me out, I’m still looking for Mom, and then they went off the road and started heading back the other way they came from. These were my only moose sightings on the entire trip!


    All of a sudden I came to a section that was a sloppy muddy mess, and it went on for miles. Normally when I saw a truck coming the other direction, I would pull over and wait for them to pass, especially if the road was a mess. But as I was climbing one stretch in this crap I didn’t dare stop because I didn’t have the most aggressive tire on the rear and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get going again. Momentum, just like in sand, is everything in this chewed up mud full of water and calcium chloride. The truck seemed to be taking it easy down the hill too because I guarantee if he had to stop suddenly he would have ended up sliding off the road.



    Eventually I got to Atigun Pass again. It was still a little messy going over but not too bad. It was sleeting in some areas at the top but mostly it was just cold and damp. I let a pickup get around me but we all had to take our time behind a semi working his way down the other side. From a motorcycle perspective, the biggest liability I saw were some of the fissures in the road caused by water runoff. A few of these were wide enough where they could catch a tire if you weren’t paying attention. Once I came down on the south side of the Brooks Range I was in rain for a good portion of the rest of the afternoon.



    Wiseman, especially headed south if you have brought food with you, is a comparative bargain compared to Coldfoot Camp. There are a few places that rent, I stayed at Boreal Lodge, and figured that I would run across the Texans on their way down. This is where they stayed on the way up and I might have too if I was more organized. It is half the cost of Coldfoot, but there aren’t any services such as restaurants or fuel. They do have a kitchen, but in my case I still had a formidable stash that I had brought from Deadhorse so I was fine. I even had enough to offer to the others when they arrived. For $80 you get a room with two single beds, and they have cottages which I didn’t inquire about. A shared shower, but honestly after a day of rain and muck, who cares as long as there is a shower?



    The Texans arrived a few hours later. They had had a pretty good time doing the Prudhoe Bay tour which I had skipped. Everyone had something to eat but there wasn’t much else to do. They kindly extended an invitation to ride with them the next day to Fairbanks which I appreciated and took them up on the offer.
    BC Biker, Bigbob1, Smidty and 2 others like this.
  17. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 40—————Wiseman, AK to Fairbanks, AK__________ 270 Miles / 434 km

    August 7 & 8 - Day 40 & 41.jpg

    Awoke to a beautiful morning. Sun was out, clouds had moved aside, a perfect day to finish off the Dalton Highway and head back to my humble tent in Fairbanks. Whether I had just caught up on rest at this point or gone to bed earlier than usual, I was the first one to stir. I took the time to have quiet cup of tea in the community kitchen and collect my thoughts. I

    It all starts to feel surreal at some point. The advance preparation, expectations, and living in the moment, eventually come at you at a pace or quantity that is difficult to digest. As I write I can’t believe everything that has transpired in nearly 40 days with who knows what’s ahead of me? No matter how much time you have for a trip like this, it will never be enough.



    As everyone began to emerge from hibernation, we slowly got around to trying to wipe some of the muck off the bikes and get ready to go to Coldfoot Camp for fuel and breakfast. Some of the muck was beyond simply defiling the hotel towels, it was going to take some serious and continuous pressure washing to get these bikes back in shape. The Texans (as I will call the group for ease of reference) had already scoped out a wash bay in Fairbanks and that would be a priority for all of us when we got into town. In the meanwhile, I tried to knock off as much as I could around the brakes and it was suggested that I clear the holes on the disks which seemed like sound advice.

    The ride from Wiseman back to the Haul Road was as nice as any other portion of the trip. The weather was glorious and couldn’t have been improved at all. You wind around a well groomed gravel road and along a river that is absolutely beautiful. It costs half as much to stay there as the Coldfoot Camp and you get the bonus of an extra ride.



    Made it to Coldfoot and gassed up before heading inside to get breakfast. The buffet apparently only is offered on the weekends so everyone took care of whatever they wanted and then we shoved off. As some of the Texans had communication between them, they kindly placed me at least one bike from the back so we would all stay together as a group. The sun was out, the roads were dry, we were ready to go!

    Just a short time into the trip a couple of the riders had stopped and it turns out they had spotted a small bear alongside the left side of the road. At first I couldn’t see him as he paralleled the road. The road bed was built up 6 feet / 1.8 meters so unless you got up closer to him he wasn’t visible from the highway. Then with all of the bikes out of the way, he popped up over the side and made his way across to the right side of the road and disappeared into the brush.



    We were making great time and keeping up a pretty good clip. On this stretch going north, between the wet roads and just being overly cautious, I probably averaged about 40-50mph / 65-80kph. With these conditions, getting more comfortable with the road, and riding with others, we were averaging 65mph / 105kph and in a few instances around 80mph / 129kph. The dirt roads were easy to pick up speed, but the paved roads you have to be careful of because they have some vicious potholes and if you hit one wrong, it’s very possibly the end of your day…or worse. There was a Mother-Son team who had rented a car to go up and do the Prudhoe Bay Polar Plunge. They had met the Texans up there and we kept coming across them because they had blown out a front strut along the way and had to limp the car back to Fairbanks. We passed them several times in a “Tortoise and the Hair” fashion as we stopped more than them but we were also going much faster.

    Made the requisite stop at the Yukon River Camp for a quick pie a la mode and coffee. Couldn’t have asked for better weather for the day even though we got a very slight touch of rain once we were south of the Haul Road later. The parking lot was much less muddy this time!



    Off again over the Yukon River Bridge and points south. Made it to Fairbanks and went by a Walmart for some supplies. Everyone but me seemed to need something so I volunteered to stay and watch the bikes in the parking lot. Seemed like the least I could do to show my appreciation for being adopted for the day. I called Paula and got caught up with her. Then on to the wash bays. I want to say that everyone spent about $10 to try and clean their bikes up, and we also took the opportunity to wash off our pants a bit. All of the rumors are true that your bike will get completely filthy and the calcium chloride will cause metal latches and shifters to get cranky until you can shoot them with some WD-40 or equivalent thereof. And don’t be too concerned trying to get it all off because you won’t, at least not yet. However, I meant to pretreat my bike before going up and never got around to it, and there have been no lasting effects due to the muck. I may have expedited the wear on my front breaks a bit and I did change those pads out when I got home, but it wasn’t metal on metal.



    I still had my tent waiting for me at Sven’s Basecamp, but the Texans found a great accommodation through Airbnb because a Super 8 Hotel room was around $160 a night-and they were sold out! You should be able to get the entire floor for that, but there are a lot of traveling oil workers here and that becomes the going rate. But for about $220 they secured a very nice Airbnb that could accommodate all of them! We went over so they could get situated, and asked for a dinner recommendation. The place that was suggested looked interesting enough, but it was a long wait to get in that none of us were really in the mood for. Instead, we settled on a Mom & Pop Mexican restaurant that served our purposes well.

    DSCF1274_Goodbye dinner with Texans.JPG

    Pleasantries all around as I parted company to head back to my tent for the night. I sincerely appreciated the opportunity to ride with them. Good people. The Texans were headed for Tuk but I had decided to leave that for another time. I did offer up my 6” media squeegee that I had brought along in case I ventured up that way because I had heard about the legendary mud and that seemed an appropriate device to clean it out if need be. I wasn’t going to need it.

    I got back around 830pm and was ready to be done for the day. A shower and a call to Paula who was not far from going to bed. I was too despite the time difference.
  18. fastpast

    fastpast Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2017
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    So Cal east
    I'm glad to see your windshield stayed as dirty as mine did. No matter how many times you cleaned it, it would be filthy in a matter of a few miles. Really enjoying the RR.
    Ozarks Rider likes this.
  19. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    I hear you on the windshield. I wasn't looking at video along the way and didn't realize that the perspective of my camera behind a dirty windshield was going to block the visibility of most everything in front of me. My mirrors got in the way a few times too. Oh well. Hope you had a great trip! Thanks for the generous comment.
  20. FlounderUSN

    FlounderUSN Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2016
    Oddometer:
    24
    Location:
    Granite Falls
    This has been a fun read! Can't wait to hear the rest of the saga! But more so, I can't wait to ride the Alcan myself in a couple years or so. I have read the entirety of this thread over the past week or so and I always have points I want to mention along the way but never jot anything down and then forget by the end...oh well but I will mention some points on the enhanced license thing. I believe you mention that it might be border states that allow for crossings on an enhanced license and that is, I believe correct, at least for Washington (but only at Washington crossings). However, too late for you but if others are reading this and planning, you can get a Passport card from the passport offices (can order with your passport or separately if you already have one). It is basically a drivers license sized ID card that can be used at land crossing and by sea from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. This allows you to just carry that extra card and not the full passport for a trip like yours FWIW.

    Thanks again for the fun read!
    Ozarks Rider and Bigbob1 like this.