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.
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.
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.
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!
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!