Day 15 (June 24, 2012)
Road from Fairbanks to Wiseman (just above Coldfoot) after stopping by the Northern Moosed RV Park and Campground to meet with Rich Welliver (owner and Arthritis Foundation contact). Rich helped out by making arrangements for me to stay at the Wiseman Goldrush Camp in Wiseman before heading to Prudhoe Bay. Wisemand is about 250 miles south of Deadhorse, AK (Pruhoe Bay) via the Haul Rd. Thanks for your help Rich!
Headed north from Fairbanks about 8am and crossed the Arctic Circle about 11am that morning. The Arctic Circle is partially defined as the place above which the sun does not set – and I can testify to this. I am still having trouble dealing with bright sunlight at 1:00 in he morning. But, a good night’s sleep the night before hitting the road has made all the difference in the world. Felt good and the reputation of the famous Haul Road didn’t seem as intimidating.
Stopped off in Coldfoot for gas and guess who came running out of the restaurant? Roger Patterson of Areostich Tours fame! Roger lead the tour of Patagonia that I did about 2 years ago. For all the details on the “End of the Earth” tour, see the Patagonia Blog or check out the Patagonia video. Roger had tried hard to talk Aerostich into sponsoring the Ride to Alaska, but I guess it kind of bucked the company policy. If any of you riders out there has an interest in doing one of Aerostich’s tours with Roger – do it, you won’t regret it. Roger was leading about 28 riders from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay and back – they were on the return trip. Was good to see him and we both committed to staying in touch.
Made if to Wiseman about 2pm and met Clutch Loundsbury, owner of the Wiseman Goldrush Camp. Quite a character and heard many interesting stories over the next few hours when we ended up going back to Coldfoot for dinner. Clutch donated the stay at his place to benefit the Juvenile Arthritis cause.
Day 16 – June 25, 2012 – Wiseman to Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse)
Well, everyone I talked to about doing the “Haul Road” on moto cautioned that gets pretty tricky only if it rains. The calcium chloride used by the road crews to keep dust down gets really slick when wet. Well, of course, the clear warm weather trend of the last week or so decided to change just in time for my push to Deadhorse. It rained most of the night and temperatures dropped to about 50 degree F. It had stopped raining by the time I actually got moving, but the damage was done – the dirt roads were wet and slick. Very, very big space up here. Miles and miles of tundra and nobody else around, especially at 5am. the bike danced on the gravel and slid on the wet smooth sections. Just about the time my confidence grew, I would hit a patch and almost loose the bike – needed to be very attentive on this ride.
Passed over the Atigun Pass after about 55 miles – pretty amazing and kept the adrenaline flowing. Not sure how steep the decent is over the other side, but couldn’t imagine doing this in winter. This is the spot of all of the drama in the Ice Road Truckers series. I saw evidence of past catastrophes in the damaged/missing guardrail at 5000′ ASL. Dramatic plunges to the valley below.
Anyway, by abut 11am, I pulled into Prudhoe Bay. Outside temperature was about 43 degrees and the wind was howling. Impressive place – even though it is mainly industrial buildings. As one who works in the industrial environment, I can only imagine the work it took to establish this industrial complex, all to satisfy the insatiable thirst for oil – makes you wonder…
So, I made it. Now begins the long trek home, after a good night’s sleep and a few meals. Heading out by 5am tomorrow. Supposed to be about 35 degrees out. Will be chilly for the 1st 2-3 hours. Just hope the rain quits. Depending on how I feel, I might just continue on the Fairbanks – would be a 12-14 hour ride. However, if it is warm and dry by the afternoon – I am finding the dirt/gravel road kind of fun. Dirty though – thorough cleaning needed – both me and the bike…