Pictures: Day 11

Day 11 / Sunday, June 22, 2008

The next morning, Chris noticed his rear tire looked low on pressure and it wasn't getting filled up with air...

Because of this little sucker who was letting all the air out. No problem, because we can handle simple issues like this.

Chris' Tire Repair Kit using sticky rubber snakes.

First, ream the hole nice and clean.

Then place sticky snake in eye of holder.

Ram into the tire while twisting to get a maximum seal around the hole.

Now, this is where it's tricky. You have to pull the holder out while leaving the tire snake in place. A quick swift motion is required.

Voila, hole in tire is plugged. Trim off excess tire snake and fill with air. I myself prefer the mushroom plugs, as they're easier to work with. But whatever gets the job done.

Chris' full set of tools that he brought along. Nice machete.

Finally all set to leave. Time was around 10 am local.

The road out of Fairbanks, leading to the Dalton Highway was nicely peppered with long sweepers and note the blue skies.

Since this was Chris' first street bike in a long time, I gave him a few pointers on leaning into the corners and being a natural motorcyclist, he quickly caught on. He in turn helped me out with my off-road riding skills.

Twisting this way and that way...

See what I mean by enjoying these signs that point to such huge landmarks.

At the start of the Dalton Highway.

The pavement ends and it's gravel for the next 400 odd miles to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay.

Speed Limit of 50 mph on the Dalton.

Take me North.

We soon realized that it's actually not all gravel. There were bits and pieces of paved tarmac. Here's an example of some frost-heaved tarmac.

The first sight of the Alaska Pipeline that the road follows all the way to Prudhoe Bay. The road was built to service and build the pipeline in the mid-70s.

A beautiful piece of tarmac on the Dalton.

Heading north with this section of tarmac ending soon.

Coming up to the Yukon River.

Crossing the Yukon River.

The E. L. Patton Yukon River Bridge.

Stopping for lunch and gassing up at the Yukon River Crossing out post. This is about a 100 miles from Fairbanks and the next gas stop is about 140 miles north at Coldfoot, the halfway point. The restaurant inside was pretty decent. They had pictures of when a huge grizzly broke in during the winter and caused lots of damage. The other regular cars here are most likely just going up to the Arctic Circle and then turning back. The road gets more remote past the Circle.

A Harley on the Dalton. It just goes to show it doesn't matter too much what bike you're riding as long as you have the right mentality.

And here's the rider. He said he went straight to Aerostich's warehouse in Duluth, MN and dropped about 2 grand in getting fully kitted out for this trip. He said lots of people have called him crazy for doing the trip and we said, fear not, you're among friends.

The lone road cutting a path amongst the wilderness. It might be a lonely highway, but I didn't really feel lonely and actually felt very much at peace being deep in the wilderness (besides the road).

The zigzags of the pipeline were designed to allow it to move horizontally due to either temperature expansion/contraction or earthquakes. It was considered an innovation in the 70s.

Mile marker post south of the Arctic Circle.

While we had great blue skies for most of the day, there were some passing rain clouds. When it gets wet, the Dalton Highway can be a real challenge to ride as the gravel parts become slick like wet clay.

A passing rider heading south.

Yes, this is the Arctic Circle and I made it with auDRey! Pretty cool to actually be here after seeing so many pictures and thinking about how high up in the latitudes you actually are. Besides Alaska, I think Norway is the only other place in the World where you can drive up to the Arctic Circle and of course, some roads in Siberian Russia.

Nice to have met Chris to share this experience with.

Onwards, we're headed to the end of this road.

Prudhoe Bay is a nice destination and all, but the ride up there was something else. Some very beautiful riding terrain.

The passing rain added a bit of a mystic effect.

At times if felt like we were riding off the face of this Earth...

Huge valleys. This was quite a common sight, yet its awe-inspiring effect never got old.

Stopping at the half-way point on the Dalton Highway. From here, it's a 240 mile desolate stretch of highway and this is where all the extra gas cans come in handy. Our two-man group of Chris and I became a four-man after we hooked up with these two guys: Steve on a BMW R1150GS and Rick on a BMW F650GS from the Seattle area.

A trucker heading north to the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields with some pipe casings for drilled holes.

Leaving Coldfoot and heading for the Brooks Range and Atigun Pass.

Riding huge valleys following the pipeline.

The last of the tall trees.

The sparse vegetation indicating that we were getting closer to the Brooks Range, as the tree line stops there and tundra is the predominant flora north of there.

A close-up of the pipeline. Since oil travels through the pipeline at about 120 F, the Vertical Support Members need heat exchangers on them to reduce the heat given off by the oil to the VSMs, so that they don’t melt the permafrost underneath and sink, damaging the pipeline. As an engineer, the pipeline is truly a marvel, especially considering it was built in the 70s. But as a naturist, it's also truly a sight for sore eyes dotting the entire landscape all the way to Prudhoe Bay. Two sides to every coin.

auDRey soaking it in. Dramatic views around every corner.

Steve on his R1150Gs.

This exposed granite peak was quite a sight.

Getting close to the Brooks Range.

It was definitely nice to travel with this group on this remote road. We were all getting along nicely and decided to camp out on the tundra instead of making it all the way into Deadhorse.

Rick taking in the sights.

Passing a truck. On the real gravel parts, rocks kicked up by the trucks are known to break a lot of passing windshields, but it’s not an issue for rider’s helmet shields. It's just a matter of life up here.

Rick taking in the sights.

Chris taking in the sights.

Chris relaxing on his Cadillac.

Going north... far north.

Coming up to the first mountain pass in the Brooks Range before Atigun Pass.

Passing Rick at a random rustic restroom. Note the Century21 realtor sign out in the middle of nowhere. I guess this land is for sale then.

Climbing up the first pass.

Great views.

Looking back at Rick and Steve (excuse the flopping lanyard).

Rick climbing up.

Coming down the other side and heading to Atigun Pass up ahead. At this point, we had all agreed to camp out on the tundra. Rick, an avid hunter told us that all these lands belong to the Bureau of Land Management and not the National Parks. So, this is all public land and we're encouraged to camp and make use of the land. The only fear is grizzly bears. We were on the look out for suitable areas to setup camp.

Heading to Atigun Pass.

The start of Atigun Pass, which is supposed to be a really hairy ride in the wet or during winter.

Starting up Atigun Pass.

Heading up Atigun Pass - the northernmost pass in the world that is kept open year-round.

In the summer, the road itself isn't much of a challenge to ride as it's designed for huge industrial trucks. But the steep 10% grade is a serious challenge for the big rigs that have to cross it, especially in the winter.

At the top of Atigun Pass at 4,600 ft. Steve said he noticed a little path leading down into the basin behind me so I went to check it out...

In the basin of Atigun Pass. This is how most rivers form, from snow melt. This little stream will pick up strength along the way and empty into the ocean.

I was a bit apprehensive about crossing that little stream, since I don't have much experience in water crossings.

But after watching Chris and Rick run through there and getting some pointers of just keeping the throttle pinned open, I decided to go for it.

Yee haw! What a load of fun. I guess this counts as a bike wash. Here we are playing around in the water about a 150 miles from any civilization. Awesome. I didn't get that wet either. Thanks to Steve for the great picture.

Climbing up the hill on the other side of the stream. It always looks less steep in pictures compared to how it actually felt. Chris said he had great respect for the DR after seeing her do everything the big Bimmers could do, that too fully loaded down with all that luggage. What a great bike.

Chris taking his bike as high as he could go among the ice and tundra.

Voila, he made it into the mush. Getting out required just a bit of help from the rest of us.

After crossing the stream again and while attempting to turn the big beast around, she decided to lay down for a nap. That's what those panniers are for anyway. No harm done and lots of smiles. Nice to be having some off-road riding fun high up in the Arctic.

Steve's silhouette against the Brooks Range. This huge pullout at the peak is meant for the truck drivers to take a break before attempting the equally hairy steep downhill for them.

We found some wood lying around and decided to break it up and use it as firewood at our camp.

Rick with the broken wood on his bike. Heading down Atigun Pass.

I was told the best part of the ride is just after Atigun Pass as the valley opens up.

This view alone in person is worth coming up this way.

The lonely Dalton snaking away out of the mountains.

Chris stretching the legs, nearing the end of the day for us.

To get a feel for how big this valley is, note how small Chris is on the bridge up ahead. The feeling of being there and experiencing this Big Nature really drives home the point of how small mankind is in comparison to this Earth.

Even though the road is so straight at times, one can hardly be bored with views like this.

Setting up camp at Galbraith Campground, a remote, rustic campsite that had one bear-proof garbage can and that's it. This is at the foothills just north of Atigun Pass, about 150 miles from Prudhoe Bay. We guessed that this was an old industrial campsite, maybe for building the pipeline or the road.

The view was great in all directions.

Chris checking in with his wife through an Iridium Satellite Phone from literally the middle of nowhere. The phone worked like a charm. And not too prohibitively expensive: about $300 for 3 weeks with minutes.

Enjoying the little campfire that we got going in one of the best campsites I've ever been at. Local time is about 12:30 am.

Here is another way to Adventure-Tour. This is Steve from Denver/London who's making a Tip-to-Tip trip (Prudhoe Bay to Tierra Del Fuego in southern Argentina). He got his Toyota Landcruiser all decked out for the trip with skid plates, lifted suspension, tent on the roof for some security, a fridge, propane cooker, plus all sorts of adventure gear: climbing equipment, a foldable bicycle, I think an inflatable canoe, etc. He's doing the trip solo and has no timeline. He had been in Alaska for a month already. We met up with him on Atigun Pass and we all got along pretty quickly.

One of the most memorable aspects of this trip was being up this far north during the Summer Solstice and experiencing the never setting Sun. The Sun is behind me and I couldn't take a picture directly of it, but we enjoyed seeing the Sun just skimming the horizon and riding back up. It's about 1:15 am.

We just soaked up the great views.

I think the Sun was rising again at this point. Time is 1:45 am.

Next: Day 12, Getting into Prudhoe Bay

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