What a day! Today is by far the best day
of the trip.
It started in Fairbanks at the Marriott Springhill Suites. I
showered, got dressed and went downstairs for continental breakfast, nothing
beats free on this trip. I had some Cherrio's and a bagel, but the pizza
from last night just wouldn't settle. I took my time eating as Jason had
said they would be down for breakfast around 9:00. They didn't show. I
checked outside to make sure their bikes were still there, they were. I came
back in and asked the front desk girl if I could leave some stuff with the
hotel. She said yes. As I turned to go upstairs, I saw Jason and Scott in
the dining area. I spoke with them for a few, Jason was the nicer and more
outgoing of the two. They were headed up to shower and pack up. As I wanted
to ride the Haul Road with them, I went back to my
room to kill some time. I worked on the website some more. When I felt I had
waited long enough, I went down to drop off my laptop and get a u-cart. I
decided to leave my laptop, batteries, and charger at the hotel. Well, I
decided, but was very uneasy about it. The front desk girl said they have a
locked room they keep things in and assured me it would be safe. I got a
call ticket to pick it up upon my return. I went up to get my stuff and when
I got to my bike, Jason and Scott were getting ready to leave. Oh well, so
much for depending on other people. They were going
shopping, and then would be spending some extra time at the
Yukon River. I said I would catch up.
As I was finishing packing, a
guy came up to me to ask about the trip. He loved it. He was going as far as
the Arctic Circle later in the week. I installed my video
camera for some test footage, then I mounted up and headed out. When I tried
to call up the gps, I realized it was stuck in a boot re-boot cycle again.
Only this time button pressing didn't work. I unplugged all the connections
and re-plugged them again, one at a time. This finally did the trick. Now
for some gas!
On the outskirts of town
there's a pipeline viewing station where you can walk around, under, touch,
etc... The Alaskan Pipeline. I took a few pics. I figured I would be seeing
way more of the pipeline than these folks.
There were big clouds on the
horizon, most of them rain filled. All of the
Haul Road horror stories I had heard started to
play through my head. But I pressed on. I passed 2 moose on the way to the Haul Road. Right
before the rain started, I pulled over to prepare. I packed up the video
camera and put on my rain pants. And none too soon! Right around the next
corner it started to rain. But I was determined to see this through. After
all, isn't this what my trip was all about?
It stopped raining after a
few miles. And before I knew it, I was at the start of the James Dalton Hwy, I stopped for a pic.
Literally around the corner,
the pavement came to an end. And bam! Just like that I was on the Haul Road. The first
sign said "pavement ends", the second one said "speed limit 50 mph next 414
miles", I was finally here.
I was timid at first, only
hitting around 30 mph or so. I remembered that I needed my CB hookup to be
able to talk to the truckers. So I pulled over to get hooked up. I saw a
Harley coming and he stopped to see if anything was wrong and to chat with
me. He said the road was ok, and to be careful in the wet parts. He had gone
as far as Pump Station 4 before turning back. He also told me about a broken
down car north of the Arctic Circle. He stopped to ask if they needed help, but
they said they were fine. He said (and I quote) "No one else was stopping, but maybe if the
girl pulled out her titties they could get some help". Needless to say, this
made me laugh.
I slowly gained confidence in
the bike over the next few miles, until the rain started again. Then I had
to start all over. But this was the kind of road this bike was made for.
The scenery was, once again,
unbelievable. Only now I had battery power for the camera, and plenty of
room to stop and take pics. I actually walked under the pipeline and took
some pics. It was way cool.
About 12 miles before the Yukon River there was road construction. Traffic had to
wait on the Pilot Car to come and get us. There were only a few bad spots in
the construction zone that spiked my pucker factor, one of them being semi
deep mud. The construction zone lasted for 10 miles.
After that I had to wait at
the Yukon River Bridge, the only one that spans the
river. It's a wooden deck bridge, and they were redecking it. When it came
to my turn I took it slow and dodged the potholes. I stopped for gas there
as well. I think I topped it off a little too much. I left the bike on the
side stand while I had a burger, and then walked down to the
Yukon River for some pics. When I got back to the bike, it was
leaking fuel. As it was coming out of a tube, I figured it was ok.
While I was at the river,
Jason and Scott showed up. I spoke with Jason for a few about the road. I
thought it would be horrible, full of thick mud, potholes the size of small
cars, and rocks as big as your fist. But it wasn't. This is when I realized
that every viewpoint is just an opinion. Someone who hated the road would
say it was horrible, someone who loved it would say it was great. In the
end, the only way to know is to see it for yourself. (I made an analogy of
the road to liver. I asked Jason if he liked liver, he said no. I asked if
he liked carrots, he said yes. I asked how the road was, and he understood
it was all based on opinion). I then went to my bike to head out (which
brings us full circle back to the gas leak).
I have to say it was very
nice going solo today. The vast stretches of solitude were welcome (true
solitude, not by yourself in a city solitude).
I found that the world melted away, and it was just me and the road.
It felt good, but strange at the same time, not to think of work, or family,
or money. Just the road, what path to take, throttle up or down, brake or
coast. I ran through deep mud, gravel, potholes, and had a ball. You should
have seen how dirty the bike got.
My next stop was the
Arctic Circle. There's a little green sign that points the way.
I went up there, positioned the bike, and took some pics. An older couple
and their sister came in after I set the bike up. They asked about the trip
and I got them to take some pics of me.
Then came Finger Mountain.
There are all these rocks everywhere that stick up and look like fingers.
Once I left there an oversized truck came by. His follower said on the CB
"those BMW riders are putting us Harley riders to shame”. I guess they
didn’t figure that I was listening in.
Around 8:30 I got to Coldfoot.
I went to the Arctic Visitors Center,
looked around and bought a patch. Jason and Scott pulled in as I was
leaving. Then it was off to find a room. I found one at Coldfoot (there is
only 1 stop in Coldfoot, kinda hard to miss).
I spoke with some other BMW
riders who had rented a car for this part of the trip. They too loved the
story. We chatted about the road as they had gone as far as Atigun Pass.
They warned me about a section of fresh, deep gravel right next to a road
I got a room (@ $159) and
went to unpack. Then over to the restaurant for dinner. I had a patty melt,
fries, and salad for $14.83. It might be a little expensive, but it sure was
good. After all, it’s not like you can go to the place next door for food
(there is no place next door). I talked with 3 people during dinner. They
all were fascinated by the trip. Some of them told me about the Harley group
that came through.
Apparently a group of 43
Harley riders were doing a charity ride from Deadhorse, AK to Key West,
FL. Only 3 of the bikes made it
out of the Haul Road.
They brought extra bikes, just in case. All of those got messed up too.
Bikes were totaled, frames bent, wheels bent, etc… They even had to life
flight out a few of them. I know I wouldn’t ride this road on a Harley!
I called ahead to Deadhorse
to give my info for the tour. They do a background check on you, just to
make sure you aren’t going to blow them up. One of the bakers took my info.
Then back to the room for a shower.
Don't be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.
I am not quite sure what made
today so great. I am sure the scenery and true solitude had something to do
with it. But more than anything else, I think it was living up to my goals
and overcoming my fears. After all, I almost copped out on the whole trip a
few days ago on the way to
Toad River. One of my good friends passed
these words on to me, and they have become my mantra: