Haul Road Primer - Part 1

Discussion in 'Alaska' started by Alcan Rider, Dec 28, 2013.

  1. Boston Mangler

    Boston Mangler I Just Don't Care!

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    Doing this trip in July 2015 and VERY much appreciate your writeup and info guys!

    Thanks
    #21
  2. AlaskaSolstice

    AlaskaSolstice Alaskan Adventurer

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    Wow, you REALLY Plan Ahead!!!:norton
    #22
  3. Boston Mangler

    Boston Mangler I Just Don't Care!

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    Yup... With work schedule, I NEED to plan this far ahead to take that much time off... :)

    Plus, researching and planning is 1/2 the fun! :)
    #23
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  4. AlaskaSolstice

    AlaskaSolstice Alaskan Adventurer

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    Boston Mangler,

    I understand. If you do indeed make your trip 91 years from now (July 2105) I probably won't be around, but if you happen to get up this way any sooner, say next year or so, and need a place to stay, camp, change your oil/tires, etc. feel free to give me a shout.

    Gary in Anchorage
    #24
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  5. Boston Mangler

    Boston Mangler I Just Don't Care!

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    :lol3

    Good eye!!
    #25
  6. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    To get back to the originally hoped-for purpose of this thread, here is a report from a rider who recently completed the trip to Prudhoe Bay. To give a little better perspective of his experience, he did it on a Honda CB750 with street tires. Rather than let that make readers think he is a terribly naive novice, this is the same bike he rode across Siberia ten years ago. IBA members will undoubtedly recognize the name of the report's author.

    "This is from recollections of the past four days. Don't sue me if you don't see what I've described. The road changes about every five minutes.

    "The road is paved entirely from Fairbanks to the entrance of the Dalton highway just past Livengood, a distance of about 80 miles.

    "Miles 0-5 northbound are hilly, dry, and corrugated by trucks braking in every corner.

    "Miles 6-26 are wide, beautifully scraped, and provide the highest unpaved speed section on the entire highway. This area looks as if it will be paved next year.

    "Miles 27-32 are paved with interspersed gravel sections.

    "Miles 33-37 are under construction, but there is no pilot car. I didn't have any problem when I went through there early last Sunday morning, possibly because the road crew wasn't working on the weekend. When I returned through this area in mid-afternoon today (Wednesday), it was terrifying. They had soaked the road and had piled on a bunch of new gravel. When I heard of Rex's accident, I thought this is where he would have gone down.

    "Miles 38-50 are magnificently paved.

    "Miles 51-55 are similar to the first section of the highway. This is where Rex bought it. Mile 56 is the Yukon river. It is very hilly on the approach to the river. When I went through it was clean and dry, though I took it carefully because of the steep slopes. Conditions apparently had changed within hours of my passage because Rex may have run into wet conditions that contributed to his accident. I repeat: you cannot trust any report of road conditions on this highway, even those that come from a single day.

    "Miles 56-65 are under construction without pilot cars. The Yukon river gas station/restaurant/motel is at mile marker 56. To the north they have soaked the road for at least the past four days. I saw three Harleys northbound this afternoon riding as if they were on thin ice. In truth the road is not that bad, but after becoming accustomed to the drier parts of the highway south of the Yukon, it comes as a bit of a shock.

    "Miles 66-89 are basically hard-pan and gravel. If you want to break something on your bike, you can do it here without any effort.

    "Miles 90-209 are paved with a few interrupted sections of gravel. This begins 25 miles below the Arctic circle (MM 115) and carries you blissfully to beyond the Dietrich river north of Coldfoot and Wiseman. You could get used to a road like this, but you shouldn't.

    "Beyond MM 209 there is no pavement until you reach Prudhoe Bay (MM 414) but for two small sections of a few miles each beginning just south of Happy Valley (MM 334). Last Sunday the road through Atigun pass was capable of being traversed at any speed you deemed desirable (despite some low-lying fog); yesterday afternoon a road grader and a water truck had rendered the south slope into something quite different. Things happen on this highway that fast.

    "North of Atigun pass the road is in significant part under construction but in excellent shape to Galbraith Lake at MM 275. Here is where the serious road work is underway with a pilot car taking you through the next 15 miles up to Toolik river. On Sunday it was, for me, positively a scary experience. I was so frightened of auguring in because of the endless mud and gravel furrows that the driver of the pilot car stopped and asked me if I were capable of continuing. I told him that I was going to do whatever I could to keep both my bike and myself in one piece and that beyond that I could do no more. Somehow we all got through it. At the end of the section I told the pilot car driver, "I'm coming back through here tomorrow, but I won't be any faster." I dreaded the very thought of it.

    "I dreamed fretfully about those miserable miles that night in Deadhorse. My goal for the return trip, I decided, was to avoid ending the day's ride in a hospital; my secondary goal would be not to soil myself, at least not more than once. Or twice.

    "And it shall be recorded that in fact I came back through that same area with the same pilot car the next day at noon and could not have had a more pleasant experience. The road had completely dried out. I stood on the pegs, sang a few tunes, and waltzed through the zone in 32 minutes. It was as if I'd been transported to some other place on a magic carpet. It had not been a happy trip for me to that point, but I was actually laughing my way through what had simply baffled me the day before. That's the story of the Dalton highway. You never know what's coming next, not day to day, sometimes not hour to hour.

    "There is nothing noteworthy going on north of the construction zone but for a short stretch beginning at Gustafson Gulch, though I don't think it's named after our Jack Gustafson. On Sunday the water truck had made the road for about two or three miles a thing of malicious wetness (there being a lake to the left of the road where the truck can refuel, as it were); but the following day the truck was nowhere in sight, the road had dried out, and my terrors had mercifully fled.

    "The last 30 miles into Prudhoe were soaked by water trucks both coming and going. I'd seen a Go Pro video of a rider making at least 45 mph in those final miles a couple of months ago. I was struggling to do 25 or 30 through the slop Monday.

    "And I will say once again and finally: the only thing that remains the same on the haul road is change. It is a different world up there. And typing this report in a Super 8 in Fairbanks, I am constrained to admit that I don't miss that world one little bit.

    Bob Higdon
    #228
    Fairbanks AK"
    #26
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  7. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    A further report follows the one above:

    "Geoff G. writes:

    "'The first week of July, along with a fellow on an R1200 GS and a fellow on a V-Strom 650, I rode an '07 F650GS (thumper) up the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay and about a week later the Dempster Highway to Inuvik. The 15 miles of construction from Galbreath Lake were already in progress at that time. I didn't have to deal with a water truck, but only because it was raining(!!) through that section. The construction techniques of that area are NOT motorcycle friendly. Scrape a bit of the surface off with a grader, spread out the resulting loose stuff along with more loose stuff, and then it seems that the main idea is to wait for traffic to pack it down. If it rains before getting packed, well, it's not a problem on 4 wheels. This trip was happening the first few days of July after June was the wettest month on record. Just my luck.'

    "Riding a motorcycle safely on a public highway, whether in Alaska or Canada, shouldn't be a matter of luck.

    "In my opinion what those highway departments in Alaska and the Yukon are doing to motorcyclists, as Geoff described, borders on criminal negligence. It's one thing to set up a construction zone with a pilot car, as they've done in the section of the Dalton north of Atigun pass; it's quite another thing to come along with a water truck, flood the road with water, throw a few tons of gravel down, and maybe --- not always --- stick up a sign warning of road equipment ahead.

    "I came through the hilly section just south of the Yukon river at 1130 Monday morning (I have a time-stamped receipt from the gas station at Yukon camp twelve minutes later). It was clear sailing for me, and I am a rider of exceptionally modest skill. Two and one-half hours later Rex LeGalley ran into a flooded and newly gravelled road in that same location and crashed. The difference that day was not Rex's skill or mine; the difference was what the Alaska Department of Highways had done to that road in the time between our respective appearances.

    "I understand that as motorcyclists we are permitted on that road by sufferance. It's a work road. I get it. But we are not prohibited --- as we were prior to 1994 --- from traveling upon the haul road at all. And if we are legally allowed to ride there, then I contend that we are entitled to the same protection afforded to other travelers and their vehicles. If they want to ban us because making the road at least marginally safer for us is prohibitively expensive, then let them make that case. I could support that argument myself. But for God's sake don't beckon us with one hand and lay a lethal trap for us with the other.

    Bob Higdon
    #228
    Whitehorse YT"

    #27
  8. Solarmoose

    Solarmoose electric Supporter

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    did someone ask for this?
    #28
  9. XXMe

    XXMe Not my picture

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    Someone was asking for info on an AK trip and I suggested, as I always do, that they read Jacks writings. My guess is that the powers that be made them handy for everyone to try to at lest slow down the many inquiries.:D
    #29
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  10. KHud

    KHud Survivor

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    Yup, but we are at our max for stickies. I'll have to mewl and whine to get the D2D sign-up thread posted.
    #30
  11. XXMe

    XXMe Not my picture

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    Kevin,

    If you just leave up one, say the Alaska Primer, Jack has links to all his others on his posts. Folks can just point to post #1.:dunno

    You might need kind of an introductory post before Jacks writing to point this fact out to those who don't actually read.:thumb
    #31
  12. Gabeslaw

    Gabeslaw Take the Challenge Ignore the Assholes! Supporter

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    Yes the name "The Haul Road" is well known but folks up there kept calling it the slope when I visited August 8-9, 2014 in Deadhorse. I wonder if the slang name is changing. Great article aqnd when you get to Deadhorse dont bring booze.....get your fill in Cold Foot which is half way.

    NOW..........in Cold foot a small cubicle is $200 per night. For a cheaper and more specious room drive 18 miles north on the Haul rd to Wiseman. Go down the road to the first house and knock on the door. Ask for Clutch who has cabins, rooms....for $100 or an ice tent and a cot on a dirt floor for $20 a night. Eat in Coldfoot and run up to Clutch's B&B in Wiseman. There are more B&B's down the road and a small general store. Check it out and I promise you will like it!

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    #32
  13. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    There's "The Slope" (shortened version of "North Slope") and there's the Haul Road, which is the avenue by which one accesses the Slope via land transport. Probably 99% of North Slope oil workers have never traveled the Haul Road, at least no farther south than Pump 4.

    My own first trip to the North Slope was by plane, as construction of the Haul Road had not yet even been started at that time. This is the way most present Slope workers travel to and from work. The North Slope Borough encompasses almost 95,000 square miles and the Haul Road (more correctly the James Dalton Highway) is the only road connecting any part of it to the contiguous Alaska highway system.
    #33
  14. KHud

    KHud Survivor

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    That's right. Jack was the sole survivor of the Wiley Post and Will Rogers crash. :rofl
    #34
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  15. Mark907

    Mark907 Adventurer Supporter

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    Quote:
    <table width="100%" border="0" cellpadding="4" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset"> Originally Posted by Alcan Rider [​IMG]
    My own first trip to the North Slope was by plane..........
    </td></tr></tbody></table>
    That's right. Jack was the sole survivor of the Wiley Post and Will Rogers crash. :rofl
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Ha! could be Aug. 15 1935



    <script src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/2.1.1/jquery.min.js" name="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/2.1.1/jquery.min.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
    #35
  16. aalexander

    aalexander Been here awhile

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    I have to comment on this:

    I's unclear to me whether these are the words of "Geoff G" or Bob Higdon from Whitehorse, but in either case, the speaker is way out of line in making such demands.

    The Haul road exists for one reason, and for one reason only: To service the North Slope Oil Fields.

    As noted in the post, there was a time when non-oilfield related traffic was prohibited. One of the reasons was that it was a dangerous road (It is, in a lot of ways)

    So, the argument went that it should be up to the individual motorists to decide whether they chose, individually, to accept the dangers of the Haul road.

    And eventually the Haul Road was opened to the public, should they chose to accept the dangers of driving or riding on it.

    Now we have some demanding that it be made safe, because it is dangerous, which is precisely why it was closed to the public before.

    Yeah, the Haul road is dangerous, more dangerous than a paved road in Florida. (just for example) If you don't accept those risks, don't ride the road. Nobody who doesn't have a job there *needs* to go to Deadhorse. I'm not saying that one *shouldn't* ride to Deadhorse, I will probably make the trip myself sometime in the (hopefully) not too distant future. But I am saying that demanding that riding a motorcycle to Deadhorse should be made as safe as riding on any other public road (at great expense to the State of Alaska) is BS.

    It is what it is: an industrial route through the wilderness for oil field trucks, not a recreational route for tourists on Motorcyclists. If you want to ride to Deadhorse, that's part of what you're taking on, a tough, challenging and potentially dangerous ride That's one of the reasons it's more of a noteworthy ride than say, one from Houston to Mobile (no disrespect intended).
    #36
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  17. KHud

    KHud Survivor

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    I think the author responded to your points before you wrote them.

    "I understand that as motorcyclists we are permitted on that road by sufferance. It's a work road. I get it. But we are not prohibited --- as we were prior to 1994 --- from traveling upon the haul road at all. And if we are legally allowed to ride there, then I contend that we are entitled to the same protection afforded to other travelers and their vehicles. If they want to ban us because making the road at least marginally safer for us is prohibitively expensive, then let them make that case. I could support that argument myself. But for God's sake don't beckon us with one hand and lay a lethal trap for us with the other.
    #37
  18. aalexander

    aalexander Been here awhile

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    Well, no, not really. He *says* he gets it, but then proceeds to demonstrate the he really does *not* get it.
    #38
  19. KKORO

    KKORO Been here awhile

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    No, I don't believe he "gets it."

    I'm planning an Alaskan trip for next summer (2015). Personally I've decided not to do the Dalton because of a realistic assessment of my skills. That said, I relish the idea I have the freedom of changing my mind when I get there. If there are too many with the entitled opinion that these type roads have to be made safe by the government for anyone at any skill level, the road will probably close again and I would lose the freedom to have the choice.

    What a great article. If I choose to up the Dalton, I now know what is expected of me and I will act as though I am a visitor and the "haul trucks" on the "haul road" will be treated as my hosts. I will show great respect and deference. And I'll bet, with this attitude, if I choose to go, I'll make it.

    Later,

    John
    #39
  20. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    Those are the words of Geoff G, as quoted by Bob Higdon. In your sentence above, I am unclear as to whether you meant "...as Bob Higdon wrote from Whitehorse" or "...Bob Higdon who lives in Whitehorse". :scratch

    This Bob Higdon is a retired Washington, D.C. attorney now residing in Florida. Pertaining to motorcycles, he was instrumental in making it legal for motorcycles to use the HOV lanes on any federally funded highway in the U. S.

    As far as Mr. G's assessment of the Haul Road - it is a publicly-funded road and his, as well as your and my, taxes pay for its upkeep. Therefore he reasons that it should be maintained in such a manner that undue harm should not come to any of those paying for such upkeep. If it were a private road, maintained by the oil companies, then that would be different. But the reason it was opened to the public for travel is that the public is paying for it, therefore the public is entitled to use it.
    #40
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