AllMotorcycleTravel

Blogging the Dalton

The people you meet along the way.. or after.

When the trip is over, the memories get  bottled up inside, quietly waiting to be opened up, like a shook up bottle of pop. I had the opportunity to ‘pop the top’, and swap stories with Glen. Several years ago, Glen tackled the Dempster with 80 Military vehicles. Glen’s 84 year old grin turned into a boyish smile, as we swapped similar stories of places we saw, people we met, and riding conditions crossing the Northern Slope.  I cherish these memories and these people. They breathe life into my soul. This is my tale of a trip onto Alaska’s Northern Slope…

Blogging The Way on the Dalton Highway

My interpretation, impressions and recollections of the final 59 mile ride north of the 250 mile stretch connecting Coldfoot Camp to Deadhorse Camp. This stretch of the Dalton Highway* is commonly called the “Haul Road”.

 

*The Dalton Highway is a 414 mile stretch of road beginning north of Fairbanks at the Elliott Highway. It then ends at Deadhorse near Prudehoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean. 

Rambling around the country quite a bit lends itself to much planning.  To combat fatigue and simply enjoy whatever the road brings, unless asked for input, it is no sin to go with the flow and follow the pack.   

Stern faced but has been grinning ever since.. Don can ride, ride like the wind…”Ya know I don’t plan much Don..”

This comment is confirmed when fellow rider, motorcycle mentor and semi-unconditional best amigo says to me:  “T-Bar you really don’t know where we are riding to, do you?” Knowing he is on to me,  I am hesitant to answer. “Uh, kind of. Well, I made some of the Hotel Reservations.”

 Don, at 74 years of age musters up a recognizable grin, resembling a boy ready to explore some unknown area that he’s only read about in pirate comic books. “ T-Bar. This is the Dalton. And according to a well documented 2011 British  television show, one of the world’s most dangerous roads.”  How hard can it be? I ask myself…

The end of hotel chains.

The last gas stop, hot dinner and sleep before the Antartic! Coldfoot Camp

 Coldfoot Camp’s accommodations follow the simple conditions of most work camps. Trailers with paper thin walls which hold 8 to 10 small rooms. Each with sink, toilet, and a pair of double beds.

This is travel at it’s finest. Unpredictable living conditions, changing weather patterns, and NO electronic entertainment. Ordering food is definitely not the same-old, same-old fast food.

About the only thing that does seem predictable is the stories. Yesterday’s adventures from modern day cowboys, in the midst of living their own personal adventures of travel and  desires to see the world. Even if it’s a bucket list ride, these folks are riding their ride and living their dream.

The Atigun Pass

No 250 mile gas-less stretch, between Coldfoot and Deadhorse Camp, is complete without a photo op at Atigun Pass, mile marker 244. Crossing the Continental Divide at an elevation of 4,739 feet, temps dropped from the mid 70s down to 36 degrees. I ended up putting on every piece of clothing I brought. Not even a mosquito could pierce these layers. Of course, the odds are against a mosquito making it to this elevation in this climate. But if one did make it, I was prepared.

Common scene on the Dalton. Expect a 10 min wait for the pilot car.  This is happening to safely get you around busy construction.

-These stops give you an opportunity to learn about the natives, the people and their personal stories of what brought them to this beautiful land.  
-Allows time for a restroom break, to shake off the cramps and stretch.
-Nourish up with water or snacks as this will be a long ride.
-Check up on your fellow riders and meet new riders and encourage one another.
-Secure you gear, check over your ride and assess the damage.

Adventure riders come in all shapes, sizes and intellects.  During a stop, my engineering friends observed how this road was being repaired:

‘A thick sheet of a type of Styrofoam is laid, then layered with varied sizes of rocks and stones. As the process continues the gravel is constantly watered creating a wet slimy cement gravel substance that sticks to everything.’

While waiting for Pilot Car on the Dalton

A break for the Outdoor Restroom, Nourishment, Hydrate, Stretch, Check For damage, meet riders encourage one another and…
take pictures!

 

Owen Wilson said it best in the movie Armageddon when he asked of the asteroids surface conditions.
“In other words the scariest environment imaginable.”  For me that is exactly what it was.  At dinner that night a fellow rider and friend noticed how notably quiet this extrovert was, and asked me if I was O.K. My only thought was; This Road is Dangerous and the what-ifs are huge. What if a flat, a breakdown, a crash. These $20,000.00 overgrown dirt bikes are going to get demolished. One biker was flown out last week, he didn’t make it.

Why are we here? Is there a reason, some rationale reason What is your reason!!?

What does one do?  With B.M.W.’s fuel gauge barking. 25 miles left in the tank. We arrive at Prudoe Bay at 6:30P.M.  This is not a town where people live with Quick-marts on every corner.  Large hopes of a road were crushed, crushed as large as the deep crushed gravel roads.  DUH, I score on the Common Sense-O-Meter a big Fat Zero.

Prudhoe Bay is a place of business for BP, Halliburton, and other oil companies. Heavy equipment uses the crushed gravel roads to maintain and operate businesses. This is not a tourist area with hotels. It is a large scale work camp, built to house engineers, roughnecks and construction workers. 2 weeks on, 2 weeks out. Not a place for joyriders. Adventure seekers…maybe? These haul trucks don’t seem to mind blowing by you like you are standing still. But think of it as your vacation in their world. You might just be in their way.

Time is precious and short, staying in the moment instead of worrying about the return drive ahead. A little exercise, a hot shower, and a hot meal with friends. A chow line style dinner at Deadhorse. The cooks and servers are tenured, and share great stories of summer living in Alaska, and then wintering in Costa Rica! The lives they lead are inspiring. Mind you, these accommodations are for workers. Head colds and the flu spread through the camp like wildfire. Plastic gloves while loading your tray, and booties over your shoes, are a requirement. Respecting others who are trying to sleep is a common courtesy in a land of 24 hour sunlight. As I was tossing and turning, attempting after dinner rest, the pack was learning and attempting long range photos of bears in Deadhorse!

Don and I got up early for the 8am tour. Neither words nor pictures will do Prudehoe Bay justice. Stories from the tour guide expressed ‘what the folks who love this land  will do, and the lengths they will go to’, so as to ensure its nature, environment, and the animals who frequent here all stay safe and well preserved.

The end of the line

 Don and I were surprised how people from all over the world come to take the Pipeline Tour. Just like these youngsters, many people will take a traditional dip in the Arctic Ocean.