It always starts the same. I see a ride story or a ride listed at the Iron Butt website and then "I wonder if I could do that?"
After that thought enters my mind the planning starts.
This time the ride was the IBA Ultimate Coast to Coast ride. Key West, Florida to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
Time to do some research. The ride would cover over 11,000 miles and include the Alaska and Dalton Highway.
The weather? It would be hot in the south and it could be snowing on the Dalton.
The roads? Interstate, two lane, mountain roads and 100's of miles of gravel/mud roads.
Because of the conditions I added a few things to the bike.
An engine skid plate -
I made a lower full length belt guard. There would be a lot of gravel.
Two gallons of extra gas, tire repair equipment, first aid kit and a CB radio.
And a run flat snow tire -
I'm ready to go. I'm practicing sitting - 2010 Victory Vision 8-Ball -
The plan. Leave Milwaukee and ride to Key West, FL to start the ride.
Milwaukee - June 6, 2012 - 8:15 pm - Central time -
Day one. Leaving Milwaukee.
I had planned to leave early Thursday morning.
When I left work on Wednesday (June 6th) I knew I would never be able to sleep so I started getting ready to leave.
Ate, finished packing, looked the bike over one more time and left at 8:24 pm central time.
Chicago. Always busy -
Heading south to Key West, FL.
I wasn't sure how far I would make it that first day but I had a good night and day and before I knew it I was in Georgia.
I stopped for gas in Valdosta, GA and it was just starting to rain so I decided to stop there.
It was 5:20 pm eastern time and I had ridden 1034 miles. This would qualify for the IBA SS1000.
This was a good start to what would be a 16 day road trip.
Stopping in Valdosta turned out to be a great idea! Only another 600 miles to Key West.
When I arrived in Key West there were three things that I needed to do. I needed a picture of me and the bike in front of the southern most point marker.
I needed my witness forms signed. I had two police officers sign my form. I also needed a receipt that would show my start time and location.
Time to head northwest. Key West, June 9th - 3:54 am. Central time - The start of the UCC -
Heading north -
The Overseas Highway - Islamorada, FL-
I made it to the top of Florida before the rain started. It would rain everyday on the way to Alaska -
I hate putting rain gear on. I always wait too long. Another "I should have put the rain gear on at the last exit" picture -
Passing through St. Louis -
North Dakota was a challenge. Oil change in Fargo. Crazy high winds. Almost ran out of gas and I had a hard time finding a motel room (Oil boom).
The next day I was in Canada.
My GPS found a 13 mile short cut. Thanks GPS!
I made it to Mile Marker Zero in Dawson Creek, Yukon. From here it was another 2000 miles to Prudhoe Bay, AK -
From my motel room door. One of the stops on the Alaska Highway -
Along the Alaska Highway -
Tok, AK, just south of North Pole -
Canada was amazing but my destination is Alaska and the Dalton Highway - I met two riders from Wisconsin at the sign.
I would meet them again later that day.
414 miles to Prudhoe Bay
This is the fuel stop at the Yukon River Camp, Mile Marker 56. One of only three places to get gas on the Dalton Highway.
Yukon River Camp - Mile Marker 56
Coldfoot - Mile Marker 175
Prudhoe Bay - Mile Marker 414 - Price $5.51 a gallon for regular.
The gas stops -
A stop at the Arctic Circle - Another 300 miles to Prudhoe Bay.
The pipeline -
Next stop Coldfoot. This would be the last stop before the ride to Prudhoe Bay, AK.
One is not like the others -
My room. Only $199 a night - The summer rate is $219 -
10:00 pm Alaska time -
I spent the night in Coldfoot and set my alarm for 2:00 am Alaska time.
Had breakfast, topped off the gas tank and headed north -
Next stop Prudhoe Bay - 240 miles -
I take a lot of pictures and they really help to remember the trip details.
I like to start early. I had set the alarm for 2:00 am.
This picture - June 16th, 3:59 am (Alaska time).
It's 47 degrees and I'm 34 miles north of my starting point that day, Coldfoot, AK.
An earlier picture shows that I left Coldfoot at 3:00 am.
An hour later the temperature would drop to 40 degrees (another picture) and then slowly would raise to the mid 50's.
A lot of detail in what was less than 1 second of a day -
North into the Sun
To me this was another unique experience when riding north of the Arctic Circle.
It was 6:45 am (Alaska time) and I'm riding north and into the sun and had been for over 3 hours.
I kept looking at the GPS and saying "are you sure we're going the right way?"
Heading north to Prudhoe Bay, AK, 6:45 am -
A little detail -
The Dalton –
The Dalton Highway is 414 miles one way. Starts north of Fairbanks and ends in Prudhoe Bay.
I arrive at the Dalton Highway road sign and meet two riders. I take pictures for them, get my pictures and continue on.
The beginning seems easy but you have to be careful of the dips in the road. If you hit them to fast they will throw you off the bike.
I hit a dip that bottomed out the bike, it threw me out of the seat and was standing straight legged on the floorboards. Wow!
Time to slow down.
Within 10 miles there is construction and a steep descending hill, at the bottom is rutted mud.
Already the front tire wants to slide out from under me.
I have only gone 10 miles and I think I may be in over my head. This may be too much for me and the Vision. Somehow we make it through.
This was the surprise to me. The Dalton Highway never stops changing.
It could be a paved road with deep dips, pot holes, frost heaves that look like a little volcano breaking through the road and then change to loose gravel without warning.
The gravel may be small or large stones, dry or covered in mud. Some parts of the road were just small rocks, depending on the stage of construction.
There were hill climbs followed by a descending mud covered road. You never touch the front brake. You let the engine do the braking.
Just when you thought the road was getting a little easier there would be a tanker truck spraying water. I hate water trucks.
It was construction season on the Dalton and they can work around the clock. Watch for red flags and cones. There will be something bad.
When it was dry there would be blinding dust and blinding sun at 3:00 am. I also had rain and just south of Prudhoe Bay there was light snow.
There is also a ride through the mountains. It never stopped changing and you get to do it twice. On the way back a hill climb turns into a descending road.
You also have to deal with the large trucks, construction equipment and work zones. It’s their world, you are in the way.
Most of the time there was one lane down the center. No one wants to be by the edge. Trucks always get the lane choice.
The two riders that I met at the Dalton Highway sign I would meet again just north of the Yukon River crossing. This was still south of Coldfoot.
One rider was standing and the other was sitting in a lawn chair in the road. I thought this was odd. I stopped and asked if they were taking a break.
The rider in the lawn chair had gone over the side, was injured and was waiting to be airlifted to Fairbanks.
The next day in Prudhoe Bay I found out from a truck driver that the rider broke 3 ribs and his shoulder.
The truck drivers know about everything that happens on the Dalton.
After that I didn’t take many pictures. I didn’t want to take a chance and conditions change too quickly. Plus I needed to stay on schedule.
I made it to Coldfoot and got gas, dinner and a room. The small room was $199 a night and includes nothing.
I got up at 2:00 am Alaska time and was heading north by 3:00 am. Heading north at 3:00 am and into the sun? The plan is to ride 240 miles to Prudhoe Bay, get what I need and come back.
This would be a long day but the weather looked good. It’s 240 miles to Prudhoe Bay. I fueled up in Coldfoot and the next gas stop is Prudhoe Bay.
The 240 miles of the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay was the toughest. More of everything. Plus now there are Caribou in the road.
It took 7 hours and 27 minutes to cover the 240 miles to Prudhoe Bay. An average speed of 36.9 MPH.
Some pictures on the Dalton Highway -
Thanks for the picture Susan!!
The Dalton Highway sits on top of a 3 to 5 foot deep gravel berm. The gravel insulates the permafrost underneath the road.
Because of the terrain the drop off can be a lot more than 5 feet. The gravel and the drop off can make this a very dangerous road.
There is normally one good lane down the center with a lot of loose gravel on the sides.
When a truck is coming from the other direction or wants to pass, you'll want to slowly move over
and stop because there will be flying gravel and hitting the loose gravel at a higher speed can end badly.
Atigun Pass -
10 miles from Prudhoe Bay. A little extra calcium chloride.
The calcium chloride helps to reduce dust and helps to bond the road together.
Now I need the same things. A gas receipt to stop the clock, witness forms signed and a picture at the end of the highway sign.
Gas stop in Prudhoe Bay -
June 16th -Prudhoe Bay, 1:31 pm Central time -
Some of the wildlife in the Yukon and Alaska -
The Grizzly Bears
While riding along the Alaska Highway, in the Yukon, I had seen a few black bears but this was my first grizzly bear sighting.
One large grizzly and two cubs were eating along the side of the road. I wasn’t sure if I would see any more so I wanted to get a picture.
I rode past the bears and did a U-turn, rode past the bears again and did another U-turn and stopped and got my camera ready.
I pulled up by the bears and kept the engine running. I took a few pictures and quickly left.
The bears did not seem to care that I was there. They never even lifted their heads to look at me. They just kept walking and eating.
There would be more grizzly bears but none this close.
Moose in the road -
The Spot Tracker route transferred to Google Earth - 5613 miles - 7 days, 10 hours, 10 minutes based on receipt times -5 time zones -
This is half of the trip. I also rode to Key West and it was 4000 miles back home to Milwaukee.
The Top of the World -
The ride pins - Certified - The SS1000 and UCC -
The pin on the bottom right is from the Alaska Highway - Mile Marker Zero in Dawson Creek, Yukon.
I had stopped for gas and the woman behind the counter asked where I was from and where I was going.
She also asked if I would sign her guest book. After I signed the book she gave me the pin and wished me luck.
Made my day, people are always so nice on these trips.
I had lunch at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel and headed south. It would be another 7.5 hour ride to Wiseman, AK.
The next day I found out about a rider that was with another group I had met. He had crashed 10 miles south of Prudhoe Bay and also broke ribs.
He was airlifted to a hospital in Anchorage. That’s over 500 miles!
The weather looked good. 100 miles later it was raining, just before the rain there was light snow.
Rain changes everything. Everything is scary now. Easy on the gas, easy off. Never stop watching the road.
I was hoping that it wouldn’t rain but it’s good to know that the Vision could still make through.
The bike is covered in mud and now more construction areas. More mud. Hill climbs and the mountains.
Next stop - Wiseman, AK.
It’s a terrible picture but this is Jim “Clutch” Lounsbury. The rest of the story -
I had ridden to Prudhoe Bay and was heading back to Coldfoot, AK.
At one of the road construction stops one of the workers told me I could save some money if I stayed in Wiseman.
The rooms were $199 a night in Coldfoot and he said I could find a room for $60 a night in Wiseman. Cool! Off to Wiseman.
Wiseman is just 13 miles north of Coldfoot. It’s an old mining town with a population of about 30.
There are no gas stations, no restaurants, no stores.
When I pulled in to Wiseman Jim was standing in the road and greeted me. It had been a long day.
I left Coldfoot that morning at 3:00 am, it was a 7.5 hour ride to Prudhoe Bay and another 7.5 hours back to Wiseman plus time spent in Prudhoe Bay.
When I arrived in Wiseman it was almost 9:00 pm, I was dead tired. I just wanted a room.
I told Jim about my day and then I asked him “do you have a room?” He says “Yes, $150 a night, oh and just so you know we don’t have electricity.”
What…$150 a night? No electricity? My camera battery is dead, I need electricity.
Jim tells me “you can plug your camera into my generator, I’ll give you two cans of beer to celebrate your ride, you can use my power washer
and I will make you breakfast, all for $150. Okay, I’m staying in Wiseman.
Jim shows me “my room” it’s a one room cabin with a bed in the loft and you climb a ladder to get to the loft.
Jim also showed me his own private gold mining museum and other things he had collected from the area.
Jim was a fourth generation gold miner and also worked on the Dalton Highway. Jim had a lot of stories.
I washed my bike (gas powered power washer), plugged my camera into the generator (waited for smoke) and then I sat at the picnic table
and had my two beers and listened to Jim’s stories.
Finally I look at my watch and it’s almost midnight. I look up and it’s a bright blue sky, big puffy white clouds and the sun is reflecting against the mountains.
Wow! The midnight sun in Alaska.
I tell Jim that I have been up 22 hours and I really need to get some sleep so it’s off to my cabin.
The next morning Jim does make me breakfast, a few more stories and it’s time to leave.
Staying in Wiseman was a perfect end to my ride to Prudhoe Bay.
The power washer -
My cabin -
3:00 am central time - Midnight in Alaska -
No rain on the ride home -
Back in Wisconsin -
Back home in Milwaukee - June 22nd - 9:16 pm - Central time -
Fun ride! The full trip was 16 days and 11,197 miles. An average of 700 miles a day for 16 days.
Because this was the first time this ride was completed on a Victory I was invited to the Victory Rally in Spirit Lake, IA to share pictures and stories. Cool!