Alaska bound

WELCOME TO MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT A BLOG. I PLAN ON USING THIS SPACE TO SEND "REPORTS FROM THE ROAD" FOR A MOTORCYCLE TRIP MY FRIEND BOB AND I ARE TAKING THIS SUMMER. MASSACHUSETTS TO ALASKA! A FIVE WEEK ODYSSEY THROUGH BRITISH COLUMBIA, ALBERTA, The YUKON And ALASKA....ALL THE WAY TO THE ARTIC OCEAN. If you would like to be notified when we update this blog, simply drop me an email or send me a "comment" and I'll add you to the notify list......... THANKS FOR COMING ALONG FOR THE RIDE!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"Ain't Does the Dalton"








Dateline: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 . . . Or ‘Ain’t Does Dalton . . . Both Ways’
It’s Friday as I write this, but it was Tuesday morning at 0530 when I started the adventure. As Roy explained, he was out for the count with the sore wrist. I didn’t try to talk him into completing this part of the ride. Too much at stake for him, personally, with the wrist. He had to make this decision on his own. The official breakfast time at Coldfoot is 0700. So I planned to have a candy bar breakfast and head out. But walking into the dining area, I found people eating, and the full buffet in operation. Turns out they open early for the truckers and pipe line workers. This $6.50 buffet puts any YB breakfast to shame! All we are used to plus several fruits, cereals (hot and cold), breads, and so on. All to the highest standard. Simply amazing considering where we were. After eating, I’m on the road at 0630. Out of the driveway, there is a sign ‘243 miles to Deadhorse’. Also another saying next services 243 miles. You’re on your own with this trip. The weather is good, with temps around 55 degrees. At mile 28 the road is undulating up and down slightly. At a crest I see a bicyclist about a half mile ahead. That dude is crazy! At the next rise, he’s gone. One more rise and I get the rest of the story. It’s a grizzly at the side of the road. Much bigger than the other day. You may know that bears have good hearing and smell, but not such great vision. Well, this guy hears a Beemer Boxer closing fast, and he knows he’s got a problem. I pull up about 75 feet short and he stands up, looks me in the eye, and heads for the bushes. Don’t mess with a YB if you don’t have backup! As usual, I didn’t get the camera out fast enough. The whole thing lasted about 5 seconds. Another 10 miles and a jack rabbit crosses the road. These guys, and the million or so Richardson ground squirrels, are all the wild life I will see today. Looking ahead, I can see the mountains of the Brooks Range ahead. And there is rain up there. Roy and I had made the agreement that if it was raining, we would not do this ride. So I’m a bit nervous, but the rain stays just to the east and I keep on. Up over Atigun pass is very steep, with big peaks rising right beside the road. Stunning views. I take just a couple of pictures, planning to take more on the way back when the light might be better.

After Atigun, the land flattens out into tundra, and goes on forever. We are following the pipeline, and there are pumping stations every few miles, but that’s about it. I get to Prudhoe at 1130 hours. It’s cold and quite windy. A visit to the ‘hotel’ finds that the next tour to the Arctic Ocean isn’t until 3:30pm. Not good. That would put me way past bed time getting back to Coldfoot. So I skip the tour (the only way to actually get to the real ocean), and dip my toe in the lake at the end of the public road. The ride back starts at 2:30pm.

A note about the road conditions. Roy explained a bit about the road, but that’s not the whole story. The road base is hard packed gravel with a high clay content. It really works quite well. But rain mixes with the clay to make slippery conditions for two wheeled vehicles. When they regrade the road, they mix up new gravel, and add calcium chloride to the mix, which ends up like concrete when water is added. They grade this out with large blades and water it down from tanker trucks. During this operation, we have to pass by, going through this slurry on the bike. It’s really touch and go, and a bunch of guys go down. I go through several miles of this in first gear and feel lucky to stay upright. That’s the construction zones. On either side of that are sections with hard pack, hard pack with rocks sticking out, hard pack with one layer of pea stone that works like marbles for us bikers, or thicker pea stone that you worry about sinking in to. So you have to figure out the road conditions on a second by second basis. All day. Plus, you want to look at the views, and I have to do Roy’s job of scouting for animals too.

So, as I’m riding back along the tundra, there is no wild life, and the mountains are coming into view again. This time there are some serious clouds up there. I know I’m going to get wet. Going into the hills, the rain starts. And it’s heavy. Fortunately, there is no construction here, so the road does not get muddy. But I’m down to about 20 mph dealing with the rocks, visibility, ruts and so on. Let’s see, 140 miles to go, at 20 mph . . . This could be a problem! Going over the pass again, I can’t do pictures. Can barely turn my head, and neck and shoulder muscles are tightening up from the strain of concentrating for so long. Fortunately, as I exit the pass, the rain lets up, and I can get back up to 45 mph in spots. Every mile, I recalculate arrival time. Looks like anything from 9:30 to 11:00 should do it. Turns out the time is 10:00pm when I roll in. We all have a beer and I get a grilled ham and cheese for supper. Turn in is at 11:00pm. Still fully light out.

What a great ride. Total miles were 482, of which 430 was dirt. (There is a 30 mile paved section). I was 303 miles north of the Arctic Circle!

Now on to Wednesday, July 12th. We are up at our usual 0530, get breakfast, and head south towards Fairbanks. We have the lower section of the Dalton to do again. Conditions are much better than on the way up and we make good progress. At Fairbanks, we call the BMW guy to see if I can change my oil. No dice, he’s busy and won’t let me work on the bike myself. So we continue on to the Denali area and camp at a really poor site for the night. Waking up the next morning, (now Thursday July 13th) we find steady rain. No reason to stick around, so we are off to Anchorage. Roy already told you about seeing Denali Mountain through the clouds. Really cool. Continuing south, the weather is getting better every mile. We arrive at Anchorage to warm temps and full sun. First stop is Alaska Leathers for a sheep skin seat pad for the GS. These are great people! I tell them about my need for an oil change and pressure wash for my bike. Do the oil in their driveway, no problems. They have everything all set up for the traveler. The pressure wash is two blocks away.

Meanwhile, Roy is showing his farkels to every biker that comes to the store. He has a great time, and has yet to be out farkeled on this trip! He also confirms that every motel is booked solid. So Barb (AK Leather’s owner and a real cool gal) says ‘Why don’t you camp for free at the Harley dealer?’ Sure enough, they have a grass area set aside for travelers, regardless of the bike they ride. You get the combination to a dedicated bath and shower room too! I can’t help but wonder what reception a HD rider would get at the BMW dealer when he asked for the same courtesy.

We wake up Friday morning, after a great sleep and head over to Gwennie’s, a restaurant dating form the gold rush days. I’ll let Roy fill you in on the rest of this story tomorrow.

You’re faithful reporter - Bob Ain’t Stoppin’

3 Comments:

At Sat Jul 15, 05:39:00 PM, Anonymous jefe said...

That's more like it!!
Yeah!
Yer havin' adVENTures; and we're having an MOA rally, while a couple of our YB pals are in Alaska.
(Anyone describe how hot it is in the lower 48? 'Sss hot!)
Keep blogging, bruthahs...

 
At Fri Oct 04, 05:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" Gwennie’s, a restaurant dating form the gold rush days."
No, not even from the same century.
Anchorage didn't even exist during the 'gold rush days'.

 
At Fri Oct 04, 05:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://gwenniesrestaurant.com/
~30 years old

 

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