Day 6 7/12/12 4028 miles on the odometer. Its only been one night, but i love Alaska.
Since this was the first motel i had stayed at so far on the trip, i decided to get some good sleep, getting up around 10. Had me toe shoes along, so i went for a run for a mile through a path in the trees to work out some soreness in my legs. Alaska must get boring in the winter. There were pop cans, beers bottles, snack wrappers, and all sorts of trash all through the trees. Its sad to see so much trash in a beautiful place like this. I had to be careful for glass fragments from the bottles while running. Didnt want one going through my thin soles. After that i packed up all my stuff and headed over to Fast Eddys for a halibut sandwich for lunch. For $12, it was well worth it. There were a few harleys and dual sports there, but the place was fairly busy so i didnt talk to any of them. There was a large visitor center in Tok that looked interesting so i stopped in there for a bit. They had information about the history and culture of the area. I meet a couple in their 30s from St Cloud, MN. They had just pulled into Tok that morning in their minivan. They asked me if i was worried about bears on the bike. I told them i had bear spray, so not really. The guy was surprised i got it through canada. He was under the impression that mace was illegal in canada(i found out later what i had was legal). I didnt get asked if i had bear spray when i went through, so i didnt worry about it. Evidently they had seen a grizzly sow with two cubs right off the road on the Alcan in Yukon that morning. I would have liked to have seen a grizzly, but maybe wouldnt have stopped. I have the whole state of Alaska to see one anyway. I wished them luck and rode off.
After riding maybe an hour i pulled off and drove under a bridge and took a few pics out on the banks. The river must have been much higher in the spring. It looked like it could have been 1/4 mile wide or more then, but was only about 15-20 yards wide now. Lots of rock and sand to ride on. The bike sank in 3 or 4 inches in a few spots, so i had to watch it. Next stop: Fairbanks! I arrived there mid afternoon and proceeded to drive around town to see what was there. I bought some food and an extra gas can for the next day. Made a few phone calls, checked the weather and determined Prudhoe Bay would be a great place to see the following day. My milepost said there area up there had been overrun with grizzly bears in recent years, so i chose against camping and booked a room at the Aurora Hotel for only $170. And i thought $85 was bad! The tour guide company required a 24-hr notice for bookings to see the arctic ocean, so i planned on getting to PB the following day, stay overnight, then hit the 9am tour and head out shortly thereafter. I inquired at every hotel i called up there and the tour company how long the drive was from fairbanks. Most people said 11-15 hours. One lady said up to 2 days depending on traffic and road conditions. I though that was a little extreme, but i wasnt in a 18 wheeler either. Fueled up and stopped in at subway to eat before i left town. There were a few people ahead of me in line, so i had to wait a few minutes to order. Good thing i did because two guys came in after me at just the right time. They had seen my bike outside and asked where i was from and where i was going. Turns out they worked at a gold mine north of town, and one of them was a geologist and had done an internship up in prudhoe bay. He was also a klr rider as well and asked if i was on, advrider.com, which i hadnt heard of before. So if you are reading this Ryan, thanks for the heads up. He hadnt rode a bike up the Dalton highway, but had been through in a truck. Said it wasnt too bad. He also recommended the Top of The World highway going to Dawson City as an excellent ride, i think he was going to ride it before he went back to Texas for school that fall. He gave me his cell number and told me i could call if i needed help or a place to throw my tent down. So i talked to him until they left. The other guy ran Cat 793 end dumps at the gold mine. He said at first he was an equipment operator, but since i work at a coal mine, i had to know something a little more specific. They left after getting their sandwiches, but i had to sit down to eat. For some reason eating sandwiches on a motorcycle just doesnt work very well.
While i was eating i noticed another rider sitting down eating. He had rode his GS up to Prudhoe Bay 2 days before, driving to a campground north of Coldfoot the 1st day, driving to PB and doing the 3pm tour of the arctic and driving back to camp the 2nd day, and coming back to Fairbanks the 3rd day. He told me it wasnt that bad of a road, and i could do it in 10-12 hours easy as long as i didnt have to wait too long for the pilot cars in the construction zones. After finishing my sandwich, i departed from the fair city by the banks and rode the 80 miles north to the start of the Dalton. I was expecting pavement first, then gravel later, but alas that was not the case. It started out gravel, then went back and forth to pavement numerous times throughout the duration of its 414 miles. I caught up to some semis rather quickly, and had to back off because of the dust. Also i had to put up with the smell of burnt brakes behind the majority of them, they must either not know how to properly utilize their jake brakes or the 12% grades were just too much. The hills werent that high, nowhere near what a mountain pass is(i.e. Berthoud pass, Loveland pass, Rabbit Ears, Beartooth, etc), so i dont know what the deal was. I stopped by a stream to stretch and let some semis go by. Wild blueberries were growing on small bushes off the road, so i ate a few. This was also my first time on the tundra. Very squishy. Some steps i took went in 6 inches! Perfect for a WCW match or something. It was at this moment the mosquitoes attacked. Swarms of them everywhere, my goodness! Growing up in eastern North Dakota we usually had them bad for about a month or two in the summer, but nothing like this. They would be attracted to the heat coming off the bike everytime i stopped, so i ran up and down the road while i put my gear back on. Good thing this isnt downtown LA, or people would really think im weird.
About an hour later i went over the Yukon river bridge. Its all downhill, covered with wood if i remember right. I pulled off into the parking lot on the west side and drove down to the boat ramp. There were probably 30, 40 vehicles or so in the parking lot. I would speculate that a lot of people bring their boats up and go fishing for multiple days on the river. Plenty of room for everyone, the river is almost a mile wide there. There was even a tugboat docked by the non-public ramp. I didnt stop at the restaurant. Wasnt too hungry. Across the road i discovered a visitor cabin, but it was closed this late, 9pm. To get there a person had to cross under the oil pipeline, it was 20 feet or so off the ground, just off the east side of the highway I walked down a path to the river for a quick view. A pipeline security officer was sitting in his pickup while it was running on a seperate parking lot to the north of the visitor center for a little while when i was there. I had to lay down just right to take a nap on one of the benches outside so he wouldnt see me. The mosquitoes were just horrendous, i pulled my hoodie over my head to keep them out. After resting a while, i ate a snicker bar and got back on the road. About 50 miles later i stopped on a downhill section of the highway and hiked up one of the hills around 11;30. Although the elevation there isnt that high, maybe 3000ft?, the tundra is just so squishy, its like walking on sand or snow. I didnt go much more than half a mile off the road, but it took probably 20 minutes of huffing and puffing. Part of that was because i wasnt in real great shape from taking time off for an injury to heal. I sat at the top for a while, the wind was coming out of the west making the upper 50s feel somewhat chilly. Semi truck would pass by every 5-10 minutes, jake braking down the hill. When i got back down i had to put all my warm clothes back on. The mosquitoes were back and hungry for blood, much to my chagrin. I had to run up and down the road 5,6 times while i put my sweatshirt, jacket, helmet, gloves, long john shirt, and chaps back on. And i still had mosquitoes smeared all over me. It seemed like if i stopped for 3 seconds, there would be 100 on my back. Yuck, im going to have to do some laundry later.
Ten or 15 miles further down the road i ran into the arctic circle sign and stopped for a few pictures. Not the best light after midnight, but im coming back through in 2 days, so ill get some better pics then. Around 1am i saw the sun dip below the Brooks mountains in the north. First time i've seen that. I saw a few people camping off the side of the road here and there, but usually they were just pullouts and i didnt want to creep them out by camping next to just them. Close to 2am i came to the South Fork of the Koyukuk where there was a pulloff with a few campsites next to an outhouse and bearproof containers. There was a 5th wheel camper, 2 suvs with people sleeping in them, and a suv with people camping outside it by the berm. The clouds had started to let a few raindrops fall, so i set up under a spruce tree in case it rained further and went to sleep.
Pics of a floodplain next to a river between Tok and Fairbanks.
A pulloff a short ways up the Dalton.
Yukon river bridge visitor center.
Yukon river bridge.
A hill i hiked.
Views from the hilltop.
my bike is on the highway about the middle of the picture.
All the essentials.
This isnt a real great picture, but its the best one i had of the 1am sunset.
454 miles today.