Day 19 - 7/20/07: Coldfoot, AK to Deadhorse, AK

Day 19 - Coldfoot to Deadhorse
Next Service 240 Miles Scenery Outside Coldfoot Scenery Outside Coldfoot
Scenery Outside Coldfoot Stitched
Scenery Outside Coldfoot Sukakpak Mountain Bike at Sukakpak Mountain
Sukakpak Mountain Above the Tree Line
Valley Before Atigun Pass Valley Before Atigun Pass
Valley Before Atigun Pass Stitch
Atigun Pass Atigun Pass Atigun Pass
Atigun Valley Atigun Valley
Atigun Valley Stitch
North Slope Rest Stop North Slope Rest Stop Bathroom Arctic Tundra on the North Slope
Franklin Bluffs Haul Road on the North Slope Haul Road Shoulder on the North Slope
Pingu Prudhoe Bay Hotel Bike with Company Vehicles
Bike at Deadhorse Bike at Deadhorse Bike at Deadhorse
Bike at Deadhorse Me at Deadhorse Sign Bike and Me at Deadhorse Sign
Deadhorse Waterfowl at Deadhorse Caribou at Deadhorse
Caribou at Deadhorse Deadhorse Deadhorse
Deadhorse Stitch

Today was a good day. I overslept, but that's ok.

 I got up and packed the bike. I wanted to leave before Jason and Scott as I had been using them as my safety net. But it was not to be. They left before I did and were busy having breakfast by the time I rode over to get gas. After gassing up the bike I had some breakfast at the restaurant. I ordered 2 eggs, hash browns, and toast. I don't know what kind of chickens they have in Alaska, but it looked like I got 5 eggs. I also got around 1/2 lb of hash browns. This breakfast was huge! While eating I met a guy on the way down from Deadhorse on a Harley. He’s a photographer and has been loving his trip. He is up north touring all of remote Alaska. He filled me in on the road conditions and we went our different ways.

 I went out to the bike and put away my heated vest, it was already in the 80's. To pack it up though, I had to take the spare tires off the bike to get to the saddle bag. I stopped removing my gear from the saddlebag lids in order to gain access (tent, or sleeping bag & rain suit). Once everything was loaded back up, I set out. Next stop Deadhorse! (literally, as there are no other stops along they way)

 As I left Coldfoot I made sure to snap a pic of the "240 miles to next service" sign. This stretch of the Dalton Hwy is the longest in North America with no services. Right after the sign, I saw a moose, and Jason speeding back to Coldfoot. I asked if everything was alright. It seems he just forgot his debit card at the restaurant. So what do you know, in the end I did get to leave before Jason and Scott. The road was much like yesterday, mostly hardpack and gravel. In the patches where the road is good, it is really good. I was able to get up to 60 mph on the hardpack. But on the parts where it was bad, it was much worse than yesterday. It’s rather interesting to be riding on a rough, dirt and gravel road and see a “Rough Road Ahead” sign. How could it get rougher than it already was? I quickly learned to pay close attention to these signs. When the sign says rough road ahead, it means it!  Right before Atigun Pass there was a patch of deep gravel. This is the section the BMW riders had warned me of yesterday. I had forgotten about this patch until I was almost in it. I managed to slow down, and it’s a good thing I did. The gravel was between 2 and 3 inches deep. There were several patches of deep gravel and a few of deep dirt on this leg.

 The scenery was outstanding. I have snapped more pics these last 2 days than all the others combined. Things got really exciting when I passed the tree line and headed into the mountains. It was amazing. When I went over Atigun pass (the highest in Alaska), the temp dropped quite a bit. Then the wind kicked up. After 50 miles or so, when I had had enough of being cold, I pulled over and put on my heated liner. I also had some antacid. I don't know what did it, but my stomach was in knots. I ended up having to stop twice to "take care of business". Oh yeah, on the way down Atigun pass I saw 7 dall sheep. But due to the road, I could not stop for pics.

 The last 50 miles of the Dalton Hwy were the worst. The road crews were repairing several stretches in this last 50 miles. In one spot there were large potholes the size of my fist and rocks the size of my thumb. In another it was deep gravel that the crews had not yet spread out. In another they had hosed down the road. In others they dumped fresh dirt which had not yet been graded, which means that it was loose and soft. The absolute worst part I hit was one of these dirt areas. A grading truck about 1/2 mile ahead of me did a U turn real quick before I caught up to him in order to grade my side of the road. When I got up to him, he stopped. When they grade the roads up here they do one side, then the other, then the middle. However, until they do the middle, there is an 8 inch mound of dirt running down the center of the road. So, as the grader stopped in my lane, I moved into the left lane, oncoming traffic. Now this sounds way worse than it is. While you see vehicles up here, you can go over 10 minutes without seeing a sole. So it's not like I was going to plow headfirst into a car. It's just I was in the oncoming traffic’s lane. I'd been riding in this lane for about 5 min, with the mound to my right, in the middle of the hwy, when I saw a dust trail (you almost always see the huge dust trails before the vehicle). I knew I had to get over into my lane, across the dirt mound. I slowed down and gave it a go. The handlebars started bucking wildly. It felt like they were slamming from stop to stop. I muscled through it and made it into my lane, but I had thought for sure that I was going down. These types of conditions are what I had been led to believe the entire Haul Road would be like.

 Other than the last 50 miles, of which only 10 were really bad, it was pretty good riding. I was surprised that 100 miles or so are paved. And some of the best road was the fresh hard pack in the last 12 miles or so.

 As I approached Deadhorse the clouds rolled in. It was very overcast and then got even colder. The temps had dropped into the 30’s as I rolled into town. I should have taken a pic to remember my first look at Deadhorse. I found my way to the Arctic Caribou Inn. They were full up and had no vacancies, so they directed me to the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. As long as I was still at the Arctic Caribou Inn, I asked about the tour. They requested my driver’s license. I told them I called last night, but they wanted it anyway, so they got it. When I got to the Prudhoe Bay Hotel I ended up with a private room w/bath for $125 (half the price and a better room than at the Arctic Caribou Inn). The night’s room payment also included meals, and they have food 24x7. For dinner I had 2 hot dogs, rice, a salad, 2 white milks, and chocolate milk. I got me a t-shirt, pin, and some post cards in the gift shop. I asked about a larger gift shop and the clerk directed me to Brooks Range Supply over near Drill Station 12. She gave me a map and away I went. On the way I saw two caribou with huge antlers on the lakeside, but my camera was buried in my pocket. I got to the store and took my pic at the Deadhorse sign. A worker was coming out and offered to take my pic. He then told me to go get the bike for a second pic. I thanked him for both. Inside I found two post cards, a patch, and a couple of stickers.

 On the way back to the hotel I saw the two caribou again. I took some pics, and then parked the bike. I set out on foot to track them down. I took many pics, let's hope they come out.

 Then it was back to the room and postcard time. I filled out 16 to send out.

 Tomorrow I go for a dip in the Arctic Ocean.

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