Meandering north to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jwc, May 24, 2019.

  1. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Pretty good. My unscientific results are after 4,400 miles the front has no discernible wear and the rear has lost ~4mm after mostly smooth asphalt. The front is louder than the Mitas E07 Dakar I had on my 2014 Roadie. I’m no knee dragger so for me they handle well on the road wet or dry. Haven’t been in really loose gravel or deep sand yet so they handle the firm stuff just fine.
    #41
  2. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    6/11/2019


    Today is our last day with Ronnie and Karen, they will be going back home while we continue on to Alaska. But first we go to the Jasper Skytram to check out the view from Whistler’s Mountain. It’s a cloudy day so we have coffee in the cafe at the top. The wind is blowing steadily so it only takes a few minutes and Jasper and the surrounding area is in view. I decide to walk up the summit trail which turns out to be fairly steep and for this flatlander the air is starting to get thin at over 7,500 ft elevation. I walk up to what’s called the false summit for a few photos and a brief respite before going down in the tram with the others.

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    After Lunch we say our goodbyes to Ronnie and Karen. We’ll miss you! It was truly unfortunate that they were unable to ride their Goldwing as initially planned, but we enjoyed your company on our journey. They both want to come back riding instead of driving sometime in the future when their rehab is complete.

    Heading out of town toward Hinton Ted and I catch Hwy 40 to Dawson Creek. A large elk is standing with his front hooves on the shoulder of the road and I get close enough to see his front quarter muscles twitching as it tries to decide which way it wants to jump. Happily it’s away from me and I pass on. As we ride on toward Dawson Creek we see 5 mountain goats in a group by the road, 2 deer and a rather large black bear. As we are on the bikes we don’t get any photos. - where are you Karen??

    Before leaving Jasper I visited with a fellow who was peddling his bike on a 2,000 mile trip complete with camping gear. He said at 65yo this might be his Swan Song on long distance cycling trips and was thinking about migrating to mototravel. Respect and Kudos to you....pedal safely. Then at a fuel stop in Grand Cache we meet Jim whose lived in Grande Cache for 50 years. Jim was full of helpful advice on the route and the history of the place. As a former welder he drove the route when it was all gravel and took 7 hours to go from Grande Cache to Hinton instead of 2. It was great to meet you Jim.

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    Keeping a wary eye on the roadside we stay vigilant for wildlife that wants to share the road with us. The terrain changes gradually as the mountains turn into rolling prairie as we ride to Dawson Creek. Calling it a day in Dawson Creek we look forward to tomorrow and when we will start riding up the Alaska Hwy toward Fairbanks.

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    #42
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  3. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    Are you going to make it to Dawson City for D2D?
    #43
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  4. Fuzzy74

    Fuzzy74 Been here awhile

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    We came through a day behind you. Road to Moraine lake was blocked but he waved us through on Motorcycles. At the parking lot attendant put us in spots a car wouldn’t fit. Lake Louise cats had to park miles away and ride a bus. They had special parking for bikes right next to sidewalk to go in.
    #44
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  5. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Will try to make the D2D. Having a few mechanical issues I am trying to sort out. The wife’s Honda CB500X has developed a loose ignition switch and it randomly turns off the power to the bike on rough roads. Her cellphone went kaput and her Cardo PackTalk charging port decided to do a walkabout so now no way to charge the com unit .
    #45
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  6. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Yep. In 2017 it was the same for us.. This time we were with friends who were in a truck and didn’t want to go and leave them behind. Super cool to get vip treatment for bikes.


    #46
  7. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    6/12/2019



    We paused at the Alaskan Highway mile zero sign for the obligatory photo. While there we met Mike from Arizona and Randy from Nebraska who were taking a zero day on their return home from Alaska. It was Mikes 6th trip and he had several useful suggestions for us. One of which was to stop by the Alcan welcome center just across the parking lot. They were very helpful and we were able to get some paper maps and a lists of campgrounds and facilities along the way. I like having something’s backed up in a way that does not require batteries or internet access. ~4,000 miles after leaving home we are finally at the starting point of traveling the Alaska Hwy.

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    Seeing a bear cub that had been apparently struck by a vehicle was a sad reminder to be extra vigilant in watching for wildlife near the road. We saw five more bears before the end of the day. As we came out of the mountains the day warmed up and we had blue skies for riding. Canada has some really large bugs who also liked warm days. Occasionally we would have to pull over to restore our visibility of the road by removing the remains of one of the aforementioned insects that after deftly maneuvered around our windscreens had chosen a flight path intersecting with our helmet visors.

    We crossed the peace River bridge entering Taylor,B.C, it was the longest metal grating deck bridge we’ve rode over to date. The tires on our bikes wandered a bit as they gained and lost traction but we slowed down and were thankful it wasn’t wet. I am sure there are a lot more of these to come. After Fort Nelson there were long patches of gravel as road crews worked in the brief time allowed to maintain the roads. Signage was good so we were not suddenly surprised when the road alternated between asphalt and gravel. As the Alcan is a major trucking route there were lots of semis going south and when we passed the dust the trucks created totally obscured the road and visibility went to zero for a bit.


    It was only 5:45 as we came to the Tetsa River Campground. The campground looked inviting and had all the prerequisites so we decided to stop for the day. For only $75 we topped off our tanks, got a campsite and dinner of home baked bread and soup. Mmmm good. Did I mention they close briskly at 6pm? The campground setup and my fellow campers seemed pretty cavalier in their attitude toward bears. I guess I haven’t been here long enough but I made sure that any of our ‘smelly’ stuff was outside the tent for the night and my bear spray was close at hand. (That would be a party if I fired that off inside a tent ). As an aside, I can vouch for Picaridin Insect Repellent lotion for repelling mosquitoes, we couldn’t have sat outside without it.


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    Our camping neighbors turned out to be a couple from Quebec who were truck camping and a gregarious couple, Didier and Nelly, from France on two new BMW 1200s. Didier and Nelly had sold their business, home and all personal belongings except what they needed to travel around the world by motorbike. They had flown from Paris to Montreal and had explored Canada as they worked their way west. After Alaska they will travel the US, Mexico and South America then on to Africa and beyond. Their blog can be found at www.2nomadesamoto.com

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    Setting up for the night always includes charging our Cardo Packtalks for the next day. Ted’s Mini USB connection had started to get fiddly but as I was trying to seat the cable the socket came out of the headset completely. Aaaaarg. Now we will need to find a replacement along the way. I know a lot of folk detest the idea of helmet comms but we have become accustomed to it and miss it when not available from alerting to traffic hazards to sharing thoughts on the passing landscape to notifying when stops are required.
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  8. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Preparing to break camp we discovered Ted’s phone had not charged and now would not even turn on. Hmm not good as she uses it for a camera and to chronicle our journey and keep family and friends updated via FB. Along with her Packtalk Bold mini USB port it was not a good day for technology but not a show stopper either. Perhaps something can remedy the problem in Whitehorse. We said goodbye to Didier and Nelly and made plans to see them again again should their RTW travels ever bring them to our neck of the woods.

    With the road maintenance behind us we settled into a smooth rhythm flowing with the curves through the mountains. We didn’t take any photos of the prettiest parts as there were either little or no shoulders to pull onto, besides the road just begged to be ridden. Ignoring the dark clouds on the horizon we enjoyed being in the moment.

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    Many of the places we stopped for fuel did not have the latest pay at the pump technology. It’s tempting to put in long days when it doesn’t get dark till after 10pm but just because it’s still daylight doesn’t mean you can get gas when you need it. No proprietor present may mean no gas either.

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    Muncho Lake was beautiful but we decided against the tour.

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    Wildlife is plentiful in the Yukon. These guys were completely ignoring the traffic and look disinterested enough in us I stopped to take a photo. To take a photo I have to stop the bike, take off gloves, fiddle with the phone, take photo and reverse process. Nothing dramatic it just takes a few minutes. So some wildlife is more amenable to photos than others. We saw a few bear foraging on the roadside as well. When I slowed for a possible photo on one that was close enough not to come out as a fuzzy black blur on my cellphone shot he stopped ignoring me and looked up at me. As I don’t speak fluent bear I couldn’t read his expression. Was that a smile for the camera or a smile because he was tiring of his vegetarian diet? Oh well never mind Mr. Bear, never mind.
    #48
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  9. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Of course we eventually caught up to the rain but by then the road had leveled out a bit and we had been able to enjoy one of the better sections. For years I have read about and seen pictures of the sign post forest in Lake Watson and it was something I wanted to see for myself. Sure enough, as we entered Lake Watson the rain broke and we were rewarded with clearish skies to visit the signpost forest.

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    It was not hard to find being right on the Alcan as you are leaving town. It was bigger than I had imagined as I wandered through all the street signs, license plates and homemade signs people have left over the years I wonder what that lone GI would have thought if he could have known what he started so many years ago as he was missing home.

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    Sure enough we came up to more maintenance and the flag man waved us to the front of the line to wait for the pilot truck. As we approached the front of the line we saw it was a flag woman (person) and she was very particular about exactly where we were to wait at the front of the line and had us adjust our parking by a few feet a few times. I got the distinct impression we were still not quite measuring up while she instructed us on the rules governing Yukon road maintenance traffic control. Ah well, in Louisiana motorcyclists get no such preferential treatment, smile and wave boys, smile and wave...

    It was several miles of gravel behind the pilot truck then several more miles of heavier gravel on our own. But we were at the front of the line and eating no ones dust - nice - .

    Before the gravel had turned into pavement we pulled into the Continental Divide Motel / Restaurant / gas station for fuel. Walking in to pay there was a delicious aroma wafting from the kitchen, which brought the idea that a good hot dinner followed by a comfortable night stay was too much for Ted. The ride for the day was over.

    Then Ted informed me that her bike had lost electrical power twice while riding through the rough gravel. Fiddling with the ignition switch I discovered it had in intermittent loose connection. Most of the time it was fine but would on occasion when bumping the key would turn slightly and shut off the electrical power to the bike. No problem, I’m sure the part is on every Walmart shelf. We had ridden all this way without a single incident of the ignition switch being a problem. Looks like another thing to try and sort out in Whitehorse, I’ve read really good reviews about Yukon Honda we’ll pay them a visit as well. I removed the ‘cute’ little metal bear she had for a key ring decoration and hoped it would help. Anything on an ignition key is a bad idea.
    #49
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  10. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    6/14/2019


    Got a little earlier start at 7:30 eager to be on the road. We passed over quite a few more rough gravel patches in the road and the CBX never lost electrical power. I wonder if the biggest part of the problem wasn’t the key ring decorative bear?

    We hoped to buy a new phone and Packtalk Bold in Whitehorse so we stopped in at Yukon Honda. Walking into the showroom I saw Nelly sitting in the waiting area. She and Didier were getting the tires changed on their bikes. It’s good to see them again, I wonder how many times our paths will cross?

    The folks at Yukon Honda were very helpful with supplying me with a wiring schematic for the CBX in case my ignition switch went out while on the road so I could bypass the switch. A new switch could be ordered and arrive in a week.

    They had no helmet communicators in stock of any brand. In a few quick calls I found out that there were no helmet communicators in stock of any brand anywhere in Whitehorse, though they would be happy to put in a special order, it would arrive in about a week. Apparently the Folks around Whitehorse are really patient about making special orders and aren’t a very chatty bunch when they ride.

    We met Don when stopping for fuel and coffee. A retired truck driver He had driven trucks all over Alaska and Canada for 45 years and was very helpful in suggesting routes. He had an easy going manner and it was a pleasure to sit with him awhile over a cup of coffee. He cautioned us about riding too fast and ignoring the signs to slow down. Not because of speeding citations but from how the road surface can change quickly from asphalt to gravel then back to gravel, as well as the animals. He also said the Haul Road was tricky due to the number of “kids driving trucks nowadays that don’t know when to slow down”. Don said if you pull over and slow down for passing trucks they used to return the favor. Now all you have is a 50/50 chance. I guess it’s “kids” that I have seen that don’t seem to mind passing in corners.... Thanks Don, we’ll try to be careful.

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    As we approached Alaska mountains rose on the horizon.

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    As we approached the southern end of Lake Kaluane from a distance it looked like the ground was burning as the wind blew a white cloud across the lake. As we got closer and rode through it we discovered a strong wind was blowing across a dry river bed that appeared more like a beach picking up dust in a white cloud. It blew across the road and lake so thick it was difficult to see to ride through, making a strange spectacle indeed.

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  11. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Then we saw these bruins. I could use a handy suv that was parked at the roadside taking photos as a barrier to snap off a few myself. The bears were totally unconcerned about the people who were stopping to gawk. Then a vehicle pulled up with a dog that started vigorously barking at the bears and I knew it was time for me to go. Ted who is normally the main wildlife photographer between us had been watching the whole business from a safe distance up the road, she had wanted no part of these shenanigans.
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  12. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    6/15/2019


    We loaded the bikes up and left Destruction Bay excited about entering Alaska today. The morning was brisk but not cold, perfect for riding. At first the Alcan bordered on either side by evergreen trees blocking out any view of the horizon. But as the miles passed we were once again rewarded with snow capped peaks on the horizon.

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    We haven’t been taking photos of the welcome signs at state lines this trip but for Alaska we made an exception.

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    We stopped as we passed through Tok to get fuel and a burger from Fast Eddies. I can sure recommend Fast Eddies, the burger was the best I’ve had in awhile.
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  13. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Reaching Delta Junction and the end of The Alaskan Highway we snapped a few photos. It was just past closing time for the welcome center but the lady closing up was gracious enough to open back up to give us a paper map of Alaska and a city map of Fairbanks. Thanks.

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    Are these the large mosquitoes I’ve heard tell about?
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    While pushing on to Fairbanks where we would hopefully replace Ted’s iPhone and get a new Packtalk communicator. About eight miles out of Delta Junction I got that niggling feeling of “where’s my phone”. Finally I couldn’t stand it and pulled over to check. Aaaand, no joy, no phone. So back we went to the welcome center to see if I had placed it on my bike while getting the paper maps. Hopefully it fell off in the parking lot and not somewhere on eight miles of roadway. Backtracking at a somewhat brisker pace than we originally left, I’ll spare you the details of the self deprecating, angst filled search that ensued. Where we finally found it was snugly resting in the middle of Ted’s tail luggage. I had apparently placed it there to when talking to the folks at the welcome center and it had ridden there ever since. Who needs Rok Straps?

    By this time it was too late to make it to Fairbanks before the Verizon store closed so we decided to call it a day. Looking for a camping spot we secured what we thought was the last spot available in the Delta State Recreational Area Campground.
    The cabin is reservable, tent sites are walk up only. Well we had already paid so no use crying over it.
    To some it’s a cabin of very spartan means as we will need all of our camping kit except the tent. Yep, the veritable lap of luxury.
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    No water or toilet but there is a wooden bunkbed table and chairs and electricity. Next time we’ll know.

    While unloading the bikes Mike and Greg walked over to talk about camping and bikes. Greg had a Goldwing at home but wanted to trade it in for a Tiger or GS where he would be more comfortable in the gravel. Seems like wherever I go my Tiger is a conversation starter.

    Tomorrow on to Fairbanks and solving a few first world problems.
    #53
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  14. Rider1807

    Rider1807 Love To Ride

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    If you like Thai food try Jen's Thai food on your way back through Tok. It's a little trailer a block North of the AlCan by All Alaska Gifts (Opposite the Tok Cutoof Road). Great food.
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  15. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Thanks, will give them a try.
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  16. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    6/16/201


    Just before reaching Fairbanks we came to the North Pole. They really play it up with candy striping on streetlight poles and street names like Santa Claus lane. I wonder how many letters they get from kids around Christmas time? A quick bite at the local McDonalds, and we were off.

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    Arriving at Fairbanks we secured a campsite at Rivers Edge Campground and headed off to run errands.

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    Being Sunday more than a few stores were closed. We managed to replaceTeds phone from the Verizon store, and then headed off to a local outfitting store for a new charge cable for my watch and a Ram Mount for Ted’s new phone. In the outfitters parking lot we met Tony. Tony had worked road maintenance on the Dalton for years and knew it well. He agreed with Don’s general opinion and bid us to be careful. It was great talking with you Tony thanks for the tips.

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    Now I’m used to people’s opinions urging caution, some of whom it would be very unwise to not heed. Then there are some that are a bit over the top. Such as the helpful lady at the information desk at Lake Louise who seemed to try to talk us from even going up the Alcan due to pirates. Not to seem ungrateful, but we rode the entire length from beginning to end. And I didn’t see even one Jolly Roger, or ever hear “avast ye matey, an surrender ye doubloons”. Now I did see a cruiser or two, complete with the customary leather clad rider but they were generally of the friendly sort. However all the stories of the rigors of the Haul Road, reports of riders body parts being moved from their appropriate places had taken a toll on my better half. I suggested she stay at camp while I continued to the Arctic Circle solo, but all that did was to force her hand into riding it with me, not something I was favorably inclined toward. IF something did happen when she didn’t want to go. Well the Arctic Circle sign side trip had been on the might do list anyway so I booked a drive up, fly back tour for tomorrow. I know, I know now I don’t get to put an Arctic Circle sticker on my bike as my bike didn’t go. I guess I could plaster it on my forehead..

    Now all we could do is try and get a good nights sleep after eating a healthy and nutritious meal and be ready to go for 5am. How nutritious the meal was I’ll leave to others to judge. The early to bed was sabotaged by forgetting that dark comes well after my early to bedtime.

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    Our camping neighbor had just driven the Haul Road with his pickup and slide in camper, it was so covered in dust and road salt you couldn’t tell if his rear indicator lights were working, which they weren’t. I carry a small multimeter in my tool kit -right next to the welder- and tried to lend a hand. Bed time came and went without notice.
    #56
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  17. GeezerLarryP

    GeezerLarryP Adventurer

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    Awesome RR to this point. I'm looking forward to the next few day's reports before I blast off Monday the 24th. Just curious how much weight in gear you are carrying on the CBX? It looks pretty well loaded. Almost as much as my 650 V Strom. I've tried to whittle it down but still 100+ pounds of crap. Safe riding and maybe we will pass you on your return trip.
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  18. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Yep, it’s a bit overloaded at ~90lbs. No problem for the subframe but the CB500X just doesn’t have quite enough HP. A lower gear and slower speed is required when going up a steep hill, especially if there is a headwind as well. But overall that’s not all that often, the CB500X is a great little bike.

    Glad you’re enjoying the ride report, though it doesn’t even come close to truly portraying the vast distances, spectacular vistas and interesting people we’ve met along the way.

    Hope to cross paths.
    #58
  19. Project Mayhem

    Project Mayhem Moto Aficionado Supporter

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    +1 on Jen's Thai...very tasty, and very convenient in relation to the Eagle Claw Motorcycle Campground- you should stay there, it's a very cool little place.
    :beer
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  20. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    6/17/2019


    Up and at ‘em we make the short ride over to the airport for our tour of the Arctic Circle with the Northern Alaska Tour Company for 5:15am. After a brief introductory/ safety speech we get into the van with 2 other couples and our driver / tour guide. Not the way I thought we would go but now fortified with snacks and plenty of stops along the way we’ll enjoy our day as tourists. Everyone we spoke to, including our tour guide, said the Dalton can not only change drastically from day to day but hour to hour. The day we went were near perfect conditions, with blue sky, mild temperatures, and relatively light truck traffic to the Arctic Circle sign which is just under half way to it’s terminus at Deadhorse. During our drive up there were only 11 semis and they all slowed as we pulled over to let them pass. There had been a light rain the night before so there was also very little dust. Obviously this was not the case for our camping neighbor who had driven it just the day before us and shorted out the lights on his pickup. So for us the infamous Dalton Hwy to the Arctic Circle was only a little worse than much of the construction zones we’ve already encountered on our ride up from the lower 48. Even when conditions were perfect I can see if you were carrying too much speed and hit a pot hole or weren’t ready for a sudden change from pavement to gravel it could get really dicey really quick. There was another relatively short section a water truck made a it bit more interesting when the hard pack dirt turned to slick mud.

    Our driver passed the time with interesting information about the Dalton Hwy and the flora and fauna we passed along the way. The van was comfortable the energetic and casual manner of our driver was engaging so I resolved not to fret about not riding my bike and enjoy the day.

    A few photos:
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