Best month for Prudhoe?

Discussion in 'Americas' started by ricohman, Mar 26, 2009.

  1. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    I was thinking about July.
    I am planning my trip to Prudhoe Bay from lower Saskatchewan. I would think that July would be the best month but is there a small window of dry conditions I should be looking for?
    #1
  2. d_day_6

    d_day_6 ADVrider poseur

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    End of June to end of July..

    I was in AK summer 07, rode up from Wisconsin 6-22 to 7-24.
    Minimal rain, but unpredictable...obviously.

    Lots of daylilght, that is the nice thang..

    Ride safe..
    #2
  3. Happyjack

    Happyjack 300 pound gorilla

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    I did Key West to Prudhoe Bay July 1-July 29, 2006.

    Dry, hot in lower 48, but got cooler. Prudhoe Bay was 31 degrees and in the teens during night, if I remember.
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  4. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    What's the winning number for the lottery? If you can predict that, you might stand a chance at predicting the best time to ride to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay.

    For years, the best time has been the last week of May, first couple of weeks on June. Last summer, however, was a bit different. Early June wasn't bad - a little chilly over Atigun with the expected snow. But a week later it started raining all the way to Canada. Yet 4th of July was the best weather I've seen over the entire Haul Road.

    There are two distinct climatic zones to be dealt with between Fairbanks and Deadhorse, and the weather in one is no predictor of the weather in the other. Add to that the fact that you can ride one direction in a downpour and/or blizzard, and the other in bright sunshine.

    This is the Adventure Riders forum - if it's easy it isn't an adventure. :D Just make up your mind you're going, be prepared for anything (including turning around if the snow over Atigun is more than 6" deep :eek1 ) and do it.

    Regardless when you do it, somewhere along the way you'll run into freshly graded slop laced with a high percentage of calcium chloride (which manages to get a better grip on hidden motorcycle parts than Super Glue and is corrosive to boot), loose gravel that is going to do all it can to put your bike to sleep, gas prices that you'll be talking about for the next two years, and fellow two-wheel travelers who appear to be having a great time in spite of the difficulties. They're all sick!

    A few hundred photos providing information about the Dalton Hwy/Haul Rd can be found here.

    Have fun, take lots of photos. :thumb

    Jack
    #4
  5. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    Thanks for the info.
    I should be used to the cold. Its still -18 here today with 4 feet of drift blocking my garage door. And I've ridden through many a snow storm in the Rockies.
    Since all we have is greasy grid roads here I should have that covered as well.
    Gas was $6.76 a gallon here last summer. Funny how it will be cheaper in Alaska.
    But being turned around due to snow concerns me. That would spoil the trip but at least we went as far as we could.
    Can we wait for the plow at the top? And then go through?
    The calcium chloride is another concern. If it's washed off within a few days, is my bike still going to rust like the Titanic?
    #5
  6. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    On the Haul Road you could find yourself riding through a snowstorm any month of the year. It's only when it starts building up on the road and requiring tire chains on your GSA/KLR/DR that you really need to worry. Urals with two-wheel drive and good knobbies can keep on a'truckin.

    Yeah, you probably won't find much challenge in this trip then.

    Ahh yes, coming from Canada you'll be used to the sticker shock. But don't forget to add in the exchange rate. Good for us traveling your direction, but you have my sympathy.

    If it's just a brief snow squall, you can wait at the bottom or top. But if there's a grader at the top trying to keep the road open, and trucks are having to chain up to get through, there are better places to be. Sorta like it was late last September -
    [​IMG]

    When you can't see 30 feet ahead of you, and there are vehicles that could flatten you and your bike without even feeling the bump threading their way along that same narrow, winding road... mebbe discretion is the better part of adventure.

    When you get home, dismantle your bike and take a pressure washer and brush to everything except the engine internals. Should get 99% of it off. The rest can be considered a souvenir, and adds character to your steed.
    #6
  7. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    I'm am not saying this isn't a challenge. I am hoping it to be the best touring challenge so far! I am just saying that growing up in a rural area left me with little pavement to ride on.
    I was planning to swap some knobbies on at Dawson City but now I see bikes doing this ride on street rubber so I really don't know which tires to bring.
    I have noticed that lots of riders leave gear behind at Coldfoot for the final ride to Prudhoe (much like mountaineers pushing for the summit). Is this to lighten the bikes up on the slippery road? What would you recommend?
    And Im not a speed-racer. This is a vacation after all and I want to have some fun.
    Even if it's a bit painful.
    Can't be more painful than watching Harley dudes unload their bikes from trailers at Sturgis.......
    #7
  8. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    While I generally recommend leaving as much behind as possible, and traveling to Deadhorse as light as is practical, if you intend to camp, have good knobbies, and are not in a big hurry... don't worry about it. Every trip I've made to Deadhorse has been on a fully loaded down bike - including an aux. fuel tank that's full when I leave Coldfoot and Deadhorse. The light weight admonition is for those wanting to rush up and rush back.

    One way of doing it, without putting yourself under too much pressure, is to overnight at Wiseman - just 15 miles north of Coldfoot - then make the round trip to Deadhorse the next day, overnighting at Wiseman again that night. Or... if you don't mind the expense of a room in Deadhorse, take a leisurely ride from Wiseman to Prudhoe Bay, stay there overnight, then all the way back to Fairbanks the next day. That is the way the crew I was with in August preferred to do it, as covered here.

    Remember - the tiime of year you'll be up here, the sun won't be going down at all north of the Brooks Range so you can put in long hours without having to ride after dark at all. Most all of my southbound trips solo are done by riding all "night" long, and I've found that with the sun near the horizon I can get some really nice photos.
    #8
  9. bush pilot

    bush pilot Long timer

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    This was early June 2003 on the HulaHula river at 2am.
    Nice light.
    It had been raining a bunch before we got there and the river was pretty high.
    Some more photos of that trip

    Attached Files:

    #9
  10. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    I think the idea of a leisure cruise up with a night over at Dead Horse may be the plan. But getting all the way to Fairbanks looks to be a pretty long haul on the Dalton.
    I will be on my R1150GSA and my buddy on his KLR. We may also have one or possibly two other riders on VStrom's but neither of them have any gravel experience so the pace may be slower.
    The daylight issue is neat. Knowing that it will never be black (unless its pretty dark and storming) takes some stress off the ride.
    But a snow blocked road at that pass could be a spoiler.
    I noticed you had a variety of tires (Goldwing?) and bikes along. Maybe knobbies is overkill.
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  11. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    The weather will have a major influence on your travels. Dry and sunny - the worst road conditions will be where DOT is grading the road or there is some sort of construction going on, and the last 35 miles or so that is generally dry, loose, large gravel. Several riders have gone down in that, but it can be handled.

    Rain most of the way, especially in the areas with clay-type fill - it can get pretty slimy and your forward speed will drop off. Riders find their energy sapped more by the anticipation of disaster in such conditions than the actual riding. With gravel experience, and the confidence that comes with it, you can make pretty good progress. Of the four riders that I was with last August, none had very much gravel experience, yet by the time we were within 100 miles of Deadhorse speeds were quite "satisfactory".

    Probably the most relaxing schedule, other than camping along the way, would be to overnight at Wiseman, ride to Deadhorse and overnight there, then back to Wiseman for the third night. That would allow for most weather issues, stopping for photos, meals, and plenty of rest - as well as taking the bus to the Arctic Ocean for those so inclined.
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  12. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    So you would recomend knobbies?
    I ask only because I will be swapping tires anyways.
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  13. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    Tire choices always involve compromises, as we have all experienced. Knobbies are a good idea, especially for those with no gravel/dirt riding background. Just like insurance, great if you need them, but you hope you don't. But tread life is less with the knobs than with an 80/20 or 90/10 tire, so that has to be factored in.

    By waiting as long as possible to mount knobbies, you might be able to do the gravel roads and still make it back home, if that is your goal. Some riders change out the tires while the highway treads are still good, then mount them back up before the final push home.

    For peace of mind, knobbies on all the bikes would probably be a good idea. That way you would be prepared for rain coming over the Top of the World Hwy (where it can also get slick as snot), a detour across the Denali Hwy if you felt like it, and the Dalton Hwy. Nothing like having the opportunity to do some exploring and not be able to because your tires are inadequate.
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  14. ADVBMR

    ADVBMR Polygamotorcyclist

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    If you want a leisurely trip, don't even think of doing Fairbanks to Deadhorse in a day. Better to stop in Coldfoot or Wiseman.

    You mentioned you have riders who don't have experience on gravel. There is loose gravel on the north slope and it's about 130 miles from Atigun Pass to Deadhorse. You may want to try it but keep your options open.

    I didn't catch what time of year you are going, but the arctic colors are best around August 10-20. Anytime after August 20-30 it starts turning cold up there and you can get snow, especially by September.

    Good luck and have a safe trip.

    #14
  15. ADVBMR

    ADVBMR Polygamotorcyclist

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    Thanks for posting pics of the Hulahula. I first visited that country in 1972, hiking over from the Sheenjek to the north slope, sometime before there was a pipeline or road to Deadhorse. I've made many trips since and will be back there this summer with my kids and nieces.

    But what I really want to know is, how did you get the GS in than dinky little Super Cub?

    #15