The Journey to Prudhoe

Aug 16th

Waking up to beautiful sunshine and clear skies had never made me happier, I was about to tackle the Dalton Highway.  The Dalton Highway is 415 miles (668 kilometers) straight north past the Arctic Circle ending at the Arctic Ocean, you can’t get any further north than this!

The first 120 kilometers were easy, a nicely paved highway, then the road turned to gravel and eventually mud.  My bike started to wobble shortly after the mud started and I thought it might go down, but I pulled out of it ok and eventually hit hard gravel roads again. It was smooth sailing to the Yukon River where I stopped to warm up and get some fuel. It was not long before I reached the Arctic Circle where I stopped to rest and get a photo of me and my bike at the Arctic Circle sign.

The highway presented challenges but I eventually made it safely to Coldfoot, representing the halfway point. I was tempted to push on to the end of the road, the weather was favourable and it was still early enough in the day that I could make it. It was in Coldfoot that I met Hilton and Tony, riding BMW’s also on their way to Prudhoe. Tony had broken the shock on his bike just minutes earlier but was determined to reach Prudhoe. For Tony, Prudhoe is the “Holy Grail” of motorcycle destinations, and I have to agree. We agreed to ride together the remainder of the distance together in the morning.

Aug 17

Waking up early and a bit cold at my camp site I was still very excited about the ride in front of me. Excited and nervous at the same time. None of us had any idea how the road ahead would be, we had heard mixed reports. The road did provide its challenges, but still allowed us to safely stop and take some amazing photos. We crossed a mountain pass that I thought would never end, and when it did so did the tree line. We were now in the tundra. Construction was out biggest obstacle on this part of the highway, loose sand and rocks the size of your fist were being compacted to repair the road. The closer to Prudhoe we got the colder it became, and then the rain started making me even colder. The rain did stop, 20 minutes after I put on my rain jacket but I was enjoying the extra warmth and was not going to take it off.   The last 100 kilometers were the coldest, and it was here that it looked as if we would ride right into the sky.

We reached the “Holy Grail” of motorcycle destinations, Prudhoe Bay. Cold, tired, low on fuel but excited that I had achieved another milestone, the most northern point I could ride. Checking into the Prudhoe Bay hotel where for $150 you get a decent room and all the food you can eat, and the food was fantastic.

Aug 18

The three of us had our own tour of the oil fields in the morning where we were given an explanation of the history and current situation of the oil projects. The best part of the whole tour was the opportunity to dip our toes in the Arctic Ocean.

Back on the road heading south, in weather of 36F. Tony left a bit earlier as bike was much slower without the rear shock while Hilton and I took the opportunity to take some great photos while making good time. We photographed Muskox, Sheep, the Alaska Pipeline and unbelievable mountain ranges. The road provided the same challenges and was no easier the second time around.

Making it to Coldfoot safely but tired the three of us enjoyed a beer or two (ok four). I pitched my tent in the same campground as I did on the way up. Immediately after my tent was up, my neighbour came over and showed me a video of a Grizzly walking around the campground. I slpt that night holding my bear spray.

Aug 19

Waking up to the coldest night I have ever spent in a tent was not a lot of fun. There was frost on everything and my hands were numb from packing up my things. This last stretch of road seemed to be the easiest. I think because I was more familiar with the conditions but mainly due to the lack of rain. Hilton had damaged his rear fender on the ride out and I met up with both guys at the BMW dealership. Fortunately for me my bike came out unscathed.

This was the most amazing ride I have ever done!

Aug 20

Check out Hilton and Tony’s web site at http://greatarcticadventure.wordpress.com/ . We are heading different directions today but I hope we can ride together again in the future. I am adding Hilton’s house in Austin Texas to my list of destinations when I head south, and if I am lucky enough, Tony’s place in New Zealand.

The Dalton can be a dangerous road. Here is an article of a tragic accident that happened just a week or so before I made my journey. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/08/09/1776480/motorcycle-riding-tourist-dies.html

As much as I love Alaska it is time to head south. Argentina here I come!

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9 Responses to The Journey to Prudhoe

  1. Jane Rose says:

    Great commentary. Good that you linked up with other bikers for support. Very happy that your toes did not get nibbled by the bear! You are right about Prudhoe Bay being the Holy Grail for bikers; others I’ve met have mentioned that, but only some go on up. Good for you. The mountains sound amazing.
    Maybe all other roads will be a piece of cake after this!

  2. Jane Rose says:

    Great commentary. Good that you linked up with other bikers for support. Very happy that your toes did not get nibbled by the bear! You are right about Prudhoe Bay being the Holy Grail for bikers; others I’ve met have mentioned that, but only some go on up. Good for you. The mountains sound amazing.
    Maybe all other roads will be a piece of cake after this!

    Oh, and I KNEW that pipeline was well-supported! hahaha
    And it is supposed to be a TOE in the water, dearie, go back and do it right….
    haha

  3. La Kitten says:

    Glad you all made it up safely. El Gato (aka Hilton) neglected to mention any kind of “fender bender”!

    From the look of your photos, I’m thinking you must of given him a few pointers with the camera as the pictures he’s been sending are much improved 😉

  4. greg says:

    I cant take credit for the photos. Truth be told El Gato gave me a few pointers. As for the fender bender – blame it on the road. It was minor and the excitement must have affected his memory.

  5. Sean Cavanagh says:

    WOW great adventure, very cool.

  6. Kevin says:

    Hey Greg,

    I fell asleep the other night before I was supposed to meet ye guys for dinner, I must have been tired. I woke up around eight got some food and went back to bed. I left early the next morning in the rain from fairbanks and ended up spending the night in Chicken, an interesting place. It was so cold that I didn’t get much sleep so I’ve only made it to Dawson city today. Great ride on dirt roads though. I got myself a nice room here and a nice shower to heat up. I’m going to have a drink in the bar later on that contains a human toe. Interesting I know.
    I’m heading for Whitehorse tomorrow I guess. Well I’ll most likely bump into you somewhere on the road again.
    All the best
    Kevin

  7. Jane Rose says:

    You are past Whitehorse already (Sunday) and seem to be moving quickly. Are you doing Cassiar?
    Keep safe and enjoy the adventure!
    Sorry about the double post, but I had to razz ya about not getting your TOE in. ;[)

  8. Steve says:

    Greg,

    What a fantastic time it seems your having. The more I read, the more envious I get.

    Cheers
    Steve

  9. Doug Laird says:

    Greg:

    Great meeting you at Dease Lake after leap-forging for the last two days. Great exchange of ideas, seems that we’re pretty much on the same page.

    Dave and I will cross in to Mexico from San Diego on 4 October and ferry from LaPaz to Topolobampo to miss some of the excitement of northern Mexico.

    I’ll send you my schedule when I get home on Saturday.

    Ride Safe.

    Rgds./Doug

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