Pictures: Day 12

Day 12 / Monday, June 23, 2008

The start of my serious troubles on this trip. In the morning, on the road leading out of Galbraith back to the Dalton, I went through a puddle a little too quickly for the reduced air pressure that I was running and the wheel rim bottomed-out and blew out the inner tube; not patchable. And I only had a front 21" spare tube for my 17" rear tire. I knew this wasn't the best solution, but what to do.

Breaking the bead of the tire on the rim using Chris' kickstand. Steve (from Seattle) who was watching and taking pictures was impressed with how quickly we were going about this tire change. Not having replaced a tire by myself before this trip, I was quickly becoming a pro.

Getting the tire back on.

We're still smiling. I mean, come on, we're doing a tire change in the tundra, high up in the Arctic. Not many people get to experience this.... because you're not supposed to, haha.

The longer front tube would be folded over on itself in the shorter rear tire and we didn't know how long it would hold, so to reduce weight on the rear, the guys offered to take a pannier each. What great guys.

Tundra and very little elevation change from here to the Arctic coastline.

Note the paved road in the middle of nowhere and the almost perfect horizon. We figured the road was paved near the pump stations along the way for the pipeline, because those were the sections most traveled by the Alyeska trucks (company managing the pipeline). Maybe they flew in to the pump stations and drove from there.

The road changed from pavement to gravel multiple times.

About only 70 miles away from Prudhoe Bay, guess what happened...

Yup, that folded over front tube in the rear tire finally let go. It lasted about 70 miles, which is not bad. I knew it was a temporary fix (putting the bigger tube in a smaller tire), but I was hoping it would at least last till Prudhoe Bay. Having run out of patches and spare tubes, I figured my options were waiting for a passing biker that had a spare tube, or hitching a ride into Prudhoe Bay and fixing my tube.

Being still in the middle of nowhere, I figured hitching a ride into Prudhoe Bay would be the safest thing. Steve (from Seattle) rode ahead and flagged down Steve (from Denver) in the Landcruiser and asked if he could give me a ride into Prudhoe Bay. I used my Bike Crutch to hold up the swing arm and also piled a lot of stones to stop the bike from rolling and support it in case the stand gave way. I hid my side panniers in the bushes down from the road.

Steve came back and offered to give me a lift into town. What a great guy. Here he is strapping down my rear tire on to the roof of the Landcruiser. He had this cool lite-jacket that had a mosquito net sewn into it, which others asked if they could buy from him.

Pictures from the Landcruiser. It was actually quite a hot day, temps were maybe near mid-80s F, so being in a nice air-conditioned jeep was a welcome ride. Plus, Steve and I had a good rapport from the previous night and we had good conversation in the jeep. One funny incident, I asked if anything had gone wrong on his trip so far and just then, a rock from a passing truck came flying and cracked his windshield. Oops. He told me not to mention bad things anymore, haha. Something about Quantum Flux where just saying something negative puts into motion a negative action somewhere in the Universe.

The end of the road. That stop sign is the end of the Dalton Highway and probably the northernmost publicly accessible road in the world. You turn left to go to the motels and right to go to the oilfields. That water there is connected to the Arctic Ocean, so that was good enough for me as I wouldn’t have time to take one of the tours.

In Deadhorse (the town that supports the Prudhoe Bay oilfields) I found a truck tire repair shop and Rick here fixed my tube up real good and even gave me a bunch of industrial strength patches and tire cement in case I had more punctures.

That's a nicely done patch. But bad news was that I had 4 other holes in this tube that I patched up before installing in the tire.

The classic picture of the end of the road sign at the general store.

Steve was staying the night and going to do the Arctic Ocean tour in the morning and by now, the focus of seeing the Arctic Ocean was down on my priority level, as I was more focused on trying to get back to civilization (Fairbanks). But since I was here, I figured I might as well see a bit of the area. Steve drove me around town to get a feel for it.

The whole focus up here is to get the oil out of the ground (about 9,000 ft below) and pumped into the pipeline. And there is a whole oil field services industry up here: someone to do the drilling, someone to do the pumping, someone to service the trucks, etc. There are about 5,000 people up here, all working 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off.

An oil derrick.

Summer is actually the slow season here, because most of the ground becomes swampy and heavy equipment can't be moved easily. As soon it gets below freezing (I think in late September), they make ice roads and things start moving a lot easier. It's busiest here in the dead of winter.

So my bike didn't make it to Prudhoe Bay, but my rear tire did, so that's got to count for something. My plan was to hitch a ride down with all my belongings to my bike, put her back to together and get going. But surprisingly, I couldn't get a lift. The trucking companies said they have a liability issue with picking up passengers, and no private vehicles were heading down the road.

Next: Day 13, Tire Repairs and Overnight Dalton Ride

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