Day 18 - 7/19/07: Fairbanks, AK to Coldfoot, AK

Day 18 - Fairbanks to Coldfoot
In Fairbanks Ready to Go Dirty Helmet 1st Look at Pipeline
     
Rain on the Horizon Dalton Hwy
     
Dalton Hwy - 1st Mile Dalton Hwy - 1st Rain
     
Fireweed Field Fireweed Field and Pipeline Pipeline
     
Bike on Dalton Hwy near Fireweed Field Construction Construction
     
Re-planking Yukon Bridge Yukon River Bridge Yukon River Fuel Leak
     
View of Dalton Hwy Bike at Finger Mtn Finger Mtn
     
Arctic Circle Mountains Pavement
     
Map at Coldfoot Arctic Visitors Center Map and Me at Coldfoot Arctic Visitors Center
     
Coldfoot Slate Creek Inn Exterior Coldfoot Slate Creek Inn Room 60 Coldfoot Slate Creek Inn Hallway
     
Coldfoot Camp Coldfoot Camp
     
Coldfoot Camp Sign Coldfoot Temperature Sign
     
Bike at Coldfoot Hotel Bike at Coldfoot Hotel Bike at Coldfoot Hotel

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 Fairbanks 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 maintenance camp.

 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.

 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:

Don't be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.
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