RubiKon Adventures

Tales and travels of "GrizzLee", "Looksha Lori" & "Yukon Johann"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Our Life Behind Bars – Father & Son Doing Time in The Northern Frontier (Mile 2940 to Mile 3216)

Day 13 (July 10, 2013)

After a restless night filled with anticipation and adrenaline, we wake up and began packing the bikes and taking our extra gear to the front desk. We were supposed to check out by 10 pm, however, with all the day light and lack of sleep we kind of lost track of time. We ended up checking out by 11. No worries though. However, that wasn’t entirely true. One thing that was on my mind was the tires. We met a fellow riding a R1200 GS A in Delta Junction that was running knobblies on his bike. When we found out where we were going, he stated that we won’t make it on the Metzler Tourances that I had installed prior to leaving for the trip. Of course he had just come off the Dalton highway and it had been raining pretty good for the past 2 days... so I thought that was why he was so adamant. The trie choice was something I wrestled with for quite a bit. Before leaving home, I was advised by my mechanic to stay away from knobblies for Johann’s bike as he was a new rider and where we were heading, it usually has lots of rain and wet pavement. So I took a conservative approach. Besides I have had good experiences with them. I rode on Tourances quite a bit in “dry” gravel in central B.C on 2 different trips and had no issues. But, we were expecting wet and muddy conditions that are very, very slippery and having driven on the Dempster highway in the Yukon/NorthWest Territories, I knew exactly how nasty the road could get. More so than just about any kind of gravel road in the lower 48 US states. Once at Fairbanks, in the University parking lot, I noticed nearly all the riders there had a new set of Heidenau K60s installed. Once again, my anxiety level rose. These riders were telling us that they were strongly advised to put the knobblies on. Oh boy, I didn’t plan for this in the schedule and the finances… and besides where could I get tires in such a short notice? The heck with it I thought. If it got too bad and unbearable, we’ll turn around. We are adventurers’ to the core. If we can handle the Donjek route from 2 years prior, I said to myself, we can measure up to anything this country can throw at us.  We can handle it I kept saying to myself. So off we went. I didn’t mention this at all to Johann as I didn’t want to give him any worries. As a parent and the leader of this expedition, I had to show confidence. I couldn’t let my worries transfer to my son.

We ended up having a breakfast-lunch kind of meal (brunch?) before we left Fairbanks. We gassed up before leaving town as we were unsure of the fuel situation the farther north we went. We had gone about 70 miles when Johann began to worry about fuel for his bike. I told him not to worry as we had enough to get to Coldfoot, but somehow, I got the feeling he didn’t quite believe me.

Rest stop just after Livengood

Typical views on the way
The ride up to Livengood was pretty cool. Lots of frost heaves and lots of trees. We began to see the pipeline appear alongside the road shortly after leaving Fairbanks. This was a good sign as it indicated to me that we were heading the correct direction.

I was actually too tired to ride any distance today without some more rest and soon after we passed LivenGood, I began to look for a rest area to take a little nap... which I did. Surprisingly, Johann closed his eyes a bit as well. I fell into a pretty deep sleep and didn’t notice that a couple of semi-trucks had pulled for a bit and left the engines running. I only noticed them when I awoke, not from the noise, but more so from the hard pillow I was using ( a large square beam that was lying on the edge of the parking lot.). My neck was beginning to hurt and I needed to change positions. Once I noticed the trucks, there was no getting back to sleep. Oh well, I had a good 20 minute nap and I felt pretty refreshed. So onward we rode until we came to the start of the Dalton hwy.

We arrive at the start of the Dalton Hwy
It seemed that the actual start of the Dalton hwy was still a long ride from our nap stop. When we arrived, we could see that the sign was raised higher than what I saw in my research pictures. And there were less stickers on it. Hmmm, they must have raised it and cleaned some of the stickers off.

A more inviting sign up the hill provides a formal welcome
 We were duped however, as we rode less than a mile up the hill and there was a more official sign carved in wood that stated “Welcome to the James Dalton Highway: Gateway to the Arctic –The Road to Prudhoe Bay”. This was a much better welcome than some nondescript metal sign. We stopped  for a couple of pictures and went on our way. The road was initially dirt, but very solid and very easy to ride on. The sun began to come out and we yelled for joy. This was the first time on the entire trip when we had sunshine without the high humidity and high temperatures. It was the perfect temperature for riding. We could really soak in the scenery. I couldn’t believe that we made it. All my fears and anxiety from the night before melted away with the clouds. Tires a problem? Heck no!! Not if it stayed sunny like this the next 4 days as the weatherman predicted. We were going to have on heck of a good ride.

Alright... 389 miles to Deadhorse

The Yukon River..

Looking good

Heading to the Yukon Crossing
We rode through about 17 miles of construction near the start of the hwy. I was getting a bit worried as we were moving slow, and I feared that more construction lay ahead and we weren’t going to make it to the arctic circle until the next day. We did, however, make it through the construction zone and we came upon pavement.. What the heck? I thought the Dalton was all dirt with the exception of about 30 mile stretch near cold foot. We made good time from there all the way to the Yukon Crossing. They were doing construction on the bridge and we had a bit of a wait there. The flagger told us that there maybe gas across the bridge. Once we got across, Johann headed directly over to check on fuel. He was really worried about gas. I think we had gone about 110 miles at this point and he gets a bit testy around the 200 mile mark when the fuel light comes on his bike.

Flagger on the bridge giving us good advice
  Not only did they have fuel (at $5.30/gal), they had a restaurant there and we grabbed a couple of burgers. As we left, a couple of guys we met at the dorms in Fairbanks were gassing up and told us about the Hotspot Café just done the road. They claimed that they had burgers the size of dinner plates and that we should’ve gone there. OK we said… on the way back we’ll have to give it a try.
The "famous" HotSpot Café

Typical hwy views
Off we went. The riding was magical. I took lots and lots of footage with my GoPro (There will be a video coming).  I noticed a huge burn area and the pipeline went through it. I wonder how the pipeline fares in fires. 

The pipeline snakes its way through valleys, rivers and mountains
The road winded through the forested spruce, up and down big valleys and crossed many creeks with the pipeline almost always in view. We began to climb higher and higher in elevation, ever so gradually.
Finger Mountain
Eventually, we could see in the distance a unique rock formation. Awe, Finger Rock, I said to myself. I forgot about this in my research.  The area is known as Finger mountain, but is more like a high plateau. The rock formation itself, is granite and seems somewhat out of place this far north. We stopped and hiked the area for a bit. I believe it must have been about 7:00 pm by now, but we couldn’t tell by the sun as it was still high in the sky… 24 hours of daylight. Johann and I took another rest and enjoyed the serenity of it all. All the while, I was thinking that this would be an incredible start point for a multi-day hike along the high plateau. One can see for miles and miles. I would imagine that it would be great for wildlife viewing as well.
From this view, it looks almost phallic in nature :-)

I took my riding gear off and slipped on my hiking shoes.
Good place for a walk.

Johann taking a much needed rest

The high plateau had expansive views in all directions
After a long stay at Finger rock, we made our way north. The ensuing valley was pretty spectacular with expansive views north and many nice lakes could be seen in the distance, dotting the tundra landscape. We had perfect lighting. We arrived at the Arctic Circle a bit later. Of course we had to take a complimentary picture to prove we were there.
We made it! Arctic Circle

View from Gobblers Knob, Pump Station 5
From there the scenery got even more beautiful. We were still on the high ridges and stopped at one of the pullouts, Gobblers Knob, which offered great vistas. We could see one of the pump stations (pump station 5) in the valley below. Again we were puzzled by the partially paved road this far north. We could make good time here if we wanted, but with dazzling scenery and warm weather, why waste the opportunity? We eventually made our way into a valley, heading deep into the Brooks Range. We stopped at Grayling lake and noticed a couple giant moose feeding in the waters on the opposite side. Too far for good pictures, but we could see that they had huge antlers. It was an amazing area.
Beautiful Grayling Lake nested in the valley
Marking the start of the Brooks range

Huge Moose were feeding in the lake

Nearly to Coldfoot

The road as we approach Coldfoot and our camp for the night

We headed north to Coldfoot. We arrived there around 10:00 pm. We just missed visiting the The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center. We will have to catch it on the way back. I guess our casual scenic motorcycle tour was taking a toll on the schedule. But, no worries, we are on vacation after all. We grabbed some gas and a couple of sodas and headed about 4 miles north to Marion Creek Campground. It is a fantastic place to camp. However, we had one problem. The well was still frozen and we had to get water from the Marion Creek. Since one of our gas containers had yet to be used, we filled it up with water from the creek. We had a very late dinner and tried to sleep in the midnight sun. Both of us had been feeling a little “loopy” for the past few hours… a combination of the lack of sleep, the adrenaline rush and the long hours on the bikes.  Before fading off to sleep late into the night, off in in the distance we could hear wolves howling. Pretty cool way to end our day.

Stay tuned for Day 2 on the Dalton...

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