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|
|Alright... 389 miles to Deadhorse|
|The Yukon River..|
|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|
|The "famous" HotSpot Café|
|Typical hwy views|
|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.
|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|
|We made it! Arctic Circle|
|View from Gobblers Knob, Pump Station 5|
|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...