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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Venturer, Apr 3, 2019.
Yup its a grizzly, - its not walking away...
After a short nap, we awoke ready to take the final ride on the Road to Tuk/Arctic Ocean. After dumping luggage to make the bikes lighter, refueling, and a good breakfast at the Mackenzie Hotel, we headed out. Conditions weren't great with temps near freezing and threat of rain and snow. We learned later that it had snowed at Tuktoyaktuk overnight. Weather is so variable and unpredictable in the Arctic that route planning and departure timing can be challenging. While the Dempster is notoriously tricky when wet and snowy, the Road to Tuktoyaktuk is comparatively much more susceptible to rapid deterioration. It is built on a layer of permafrost, and took three years to complete, requiring crews to work 24 hours a day in extreme cold. The 85 mile Road to Tuk was only opened in November 2017, and required eight bridges and 359 culverts. The road is still quite fragile and can become impassable if wet. However, like the Dempster, it isn't terribly difficult if dry. We had spoken to several riders who had very different experiences depending on conditions. Some really capable riders had abandoned the ride after experiencing impassible mud, while some other less experienced riders averaged 40 mph with no issues. We also heard of riders going down hard in the mud and breaking bones...
Excellent Venturer! Loving the journey.
Yep what Cal said I'm going with
"IT"S A GRIZZLY ! "
Great story and ability to tell it in a short and captivating manner. Just awesome, best lunch hour entertainment I had in a while. Thank you!
The road was only moderately difficult for the first 80 miles or so. Despite signs of recent rain and snow as we moved further north, we made good time and were less than 10 miles from our final destination! Then we hit the final stretch coming into Tuktoyaktuk and it was obvious that it had snowed a few hours earlier. The last 5-8 miles had not been finished and the top layer was an evil mix of Calcium Chloride, aggregate and mud. Think semi-hardened cement. As others have reported, this stretch becomes unrideable when wet. Tires become clogged, and the increasing diameter will jam the tire to a complete stop, often causing riders to suddenly fall. Unfortunately, this began to happen to Jim's BMW. We had to stop every 100 feet or so and attempt to dig the mud out of his front tire with a stick we found on the side of the road. After 2-3 falls in a very short distance, we felt defeated. We tried to get moving again over and over, only to have the tire-clogging drama repeat. Unfortunately, riding on the edge of the road, or off the road is completely out of the question since the permafrost is like quicksand.
Please note that theses videos and photos don't show the full story.
My rear tire:
Over the course of several days of adventure riding, Jim and I had discovered that we both shared a drive to persevere and "McGuyver" our way out of challenges. We were fortunate to be "wired" in a similar way. However, for a moment it felt like we had met our match with the last mud stretch coming into Tuktoyaktuk. Construction trucks were reporting rider injuries, and abandoned vehicles. We were contemplating leaving the bikes and walking into Tuk... As we were debating our next move, a Canadian Government employee driving a 4WD Chevy came slithering to a crooked stop next to us, concerned about our predicament. We said we were okay but wondered if we could hitch a ride to Tuktoyaktuk. She said we could ride with her if one of us would drive the vehicle (I noticed her hands were shaking). Jim jumped in the driver's seat, and we headed north. We saw several trucks and motorcycles stranded on and off the road. Two riders were in the mud attempting to leave Tuk, looking like beaten men while attempting to remove front fenders and brake lines to create more tire clearance, after having an easy ride up the day before.
In the end, we made it!
I would heartily recommend Tuk as an adventure destination. This small arctic village is populated by indigenous people who thrive in extremely harsh conditions, and are kind and welcoming. I do think they are a bit overwhelmed with the increase in visitors allowed by the new road. Previously, the only way to reach Tuk was by boat (Summer only), helicopter or Ice Road on the frozen sea in the bitter winter.
The bay for the Arctic Ocean/Beaufort Sea was still frozen.
In the end, you did McGyver it. Presented with an A or B dilemma (ride on or turn around), you chose C and achieved your goal!
Well done !
Thank you for the comment. We were determined to make it but when Jim's GS kept locking up causing him to fall several times, we began to worry about injuries. I used to race enduros and even GNCCs, and have never experienced a surface like that final wet stretch into Tuk. Diabolical. BTW, I would not hesitate to go back (after confirming drier conditions). Also, as this new road seasons, it will firm up and start to feel like the Dempster. Note that the Road to Tuktoyaktuk dries quickly. We spoke to some guys on who went up the following day on V-Stroms with more street oriented tires who had no issues.
Nice report. Do you remember the date you got to Tuk?
These short conversations with a Inuvik-based road crew manager were interesting. A fellow adventure rider.
Waiting on the Mackenzie Ferry on the way down from Inuvik we had more mud.
I believe June 16, 2018.
Jim had some drama and funny comments as we headed south on the Dempster to Eagle Plains.
We ran into these crazy, funny hooligans on old Goldwings on the Dempster. Unbelievable. I later read their ride report about the trip on Vintage Goldwings with interest.
Note my "weather resistant" iPhone camera had fogged up after all the crap-weather on the Dempster. I guess iPhones aren't "Dempster-proof".