Day 7 7/13/12 4482 miles on the odometer. I wonder if i will be able to see the north pole today?
I rose on the beautiful friday morning close to 9:30. It hadnt rained that much during the night and the sun was out, so i was rather optimistic about the day. A few of the other people there were already gone. I got everything packed up and the people in the last of the suvs were taking off. They were talking to a fellow from Alabama who came out of his 5th wheel. I went over to say hi to him after the suv left. Didnt plan on sticking around for very long, i was pretty excited to get up to Prudhoe, and didnt want to get there too late, considering what i was paying for the hotel room that night($170). He insisted i come in for coffee, so an hour and a half later i was able to get out of there. Turns out he was 73 and had drove up to Prudhoe Bay with a friend of his who was about the same age. They left their wives behind and hit the road for 6 weeks. The camper was probably 25 feet long or so, and they had just about everything they need. Even had a cooler full of meat! I was almost jealous, until i learned that their Duramax was only getting 8mpg. My 48 mpg average was much more desirable. Maybe when im that age ill switch to 4 wheels, but probably not.
Before i left there i asked how long it would take to get up to PB from there(260 miles). He said i would have to spend the night again before i got there. I was rather sceptical of that prediction, and for good reason, my klr can go just a little bit faster on gravel roads than a dually pickup with a 5th wheel camper behind it. The tailgate on the pickup was just coated in mud, they didnt even want to open it. So i thanked them for the coffee and wished them luck on their trip. Coldfoot was only about 20 miles away. I had briefly considered staying there in one of the rooms available for rent, but at $200/night, just wasnt in the budget. Wiseman i think was a little cheaper, but i couldnt get ahold of anyone there. Gas was only $5.25 a gallon at Coldfoot. I think the meter was off on the pump, because i dont know how i could have gotten 59 mpg, from Fairbanks averaging 60mph(263mi/4.4gal). To fill up here you have to walk inside first and give your drivers license to the cashier. I wouldnt think there would be drive-offs out here in the middle of nowhere, but they must have had some issues. After fueling, i sat down for lunch, which was good, not too expensive, and left a little after noon.
The Dalton is paved really well around Coldfoot, then continuing on north for 30-40 miles. It was a nice contrast from the gravel i had been driving through. Bumped it up to 75mph and made some real good time until i came to the construction zones. The first one i had to wait 10 minutes for a pilot car and the 2nd one maybe 5 minutes. The sections they were working on were gravel, and were realy rough. It wouldnt have been so bad if they hadnt been watering the road down so much to control dust. The construction company was using offroad haul trucks too, making it super fun to follow them through the mud. Most of the traffic had been semis with a few pickups from the oil company, with an occasional tourist in a suv or pickup. No cars on this road. Coldfoot is about as far north as cars would go, unless they were extremely adventurous. Or extremely foolish, depending on how you look at it.
I stopped to take a few pics here and there. A semi hauling a boat was parked on a pulloff just before Antigun pass. Must be for one of the drill rigs, or a fishing boat, i wasnt sure. On the top of Antigun pass i came around a bend and saw two bikes pulled of the side of the road. Figured it would be fun to stop and see where they were going, and if they could give me any info about the road ahead. Turns out they were from New Zealand, and had their GS 1200s shipped over for only $1800 each way. Each bike was accompanied by 2 riders, married couples in their 60s. They were on day 20 of their trip from Vancouver, BC and were planning on heading back down to the lower 48 states to see a bunch of national parks, then head down to the tip of Argentina by November. Wow, that sounds like a blast. The GS would most definitely be the bike for that. 2-up on a klr, not so fun. One of them had the standard GS, the other had the Adventure model, which had lower gearing and a 37 ltr tank he said. Mine is only about 23 liters. A company does make a 10 gallon tank, but its not worth $550 to me anyway. Unless i did a Siberia ride or something. One of the gals placed a stuffed kiwi on my bike and took a picture for their album. They told me the road wasnt too bad. Just watch out for rocks and mud. I dont think they were in any big hurry, just taking their time seeing the Americas. Soooo jealous.
Pulled into Deadhorse about 6pm. No staying overnight somewhere else for me! It was just a really nice day out. Sunny and 70 degrees! Is this really the arctic? Got fuel first, there is only 1 little fuel station there, and you have to put spill mats down. I just grabbed a pump and filled up my bike. Only after i went inside did i discover that you had to pay first. No attendants here, just swipe and fuel. I couldnt figure it out, so i walked over to the office in the next building and after talking to one of the guys in the office, i discovered i had used fuel someone else had paid for. Oops! 5 gallons at $5.35/gal was only about $27, but whoever swiped their credit card probably would not be pleased to see that on their bill. The office guy just told me to come back the next day and they would pull up the transactions for the day and i could just pay cash for it. Sounded good to me.
Next, i checked into the Aurora, a 400+ room hotel built out of Conex boxes on wheels, so they can move if needed. Surprisingly enough, the hotel was one of the nicest i have ever been in. They had a large cafeteria, a weight room, a library, snack room, and a laundromat. Most of the rooms there were small, i got one of the bigger ones. Nice and clean, i couldnt complain. The ground was muddy everywhere, so when people came in the hotel they had to put 'booties' on in the entryway. Just little slip-ons that went over your shoes to keep the mud off the carpets. My lips were super chapped, so i had to buy some carmex lip balm in the hotel lobby. My one and only cash pruchase there. Every night a person stayed there, they provided 3 meals in the cafeteria. I ate at least $30 worth of food, so that kinda offset the cost. And they had a snack room where you could go get sandwiches, chips, yogurt, granola bars, etc any time of the day.
I ate dinner and rode around town as much as i could to see what was there. Mostly oil companies, or contractor companies supporting the oil companies there. Usually about 3000 people were in the area at any given time. No one really lives there full time. People fly in, work 2weeks on/2weeks off or 3weeks on/3weeks off or 4weeks on/2weeks off, or for the super diehards- 6weeks on/1week off. 12 hours shifts generally. The cleaning ladies at the hotel would get like $11/hr, but make $65k/ year due to the overtime. When i was driving around i stopped and talked to a flagman holding a stopsign. he was from St Marys Alaska, downstream on the Yukon. He was getting $31/hr just to hold a sign. Working 84hr weeks, that only about $2500/week take home pay. Where can i sign up for this job? Work 3 weeks on, then fly anywhere in the world for 3 weeks off on a continuous basis, and take home $65k? Ride the whole world 2.5 weeks at a time. Maybe someday. Anyway, he had a mosquito net on, they werent too bad, but i would imagine standing outside for 12 hours would get a little old.
Went back to the motel about 9pm, it was getting cold out-50s. Mary Ann was working the night shift at the front desk, so i talked to her about the atmosphere on the north slope. Lot of people coming and going all the time. Most companies would pay for their workers to fly in from fairbanks or anchorage and pay all the room and board while they were there. Not a bad deal if you dont mind being gone from home for weeks at a time. She did scrapbooking, so when i told her i had drove my bike up from MT, she had me go sit on it and take a picture. I got some snacks after that and watched some tv before bed.
Coldfoot parking lot.
The front counter inside.
The Arctic Tundra pics-
The Brooks Range. Very beautiful.
Me on Antigun pass courtesy of Kiwi Photographer.
Its a muddy mess!
Prudhoe Bay luxury suites.
290 miles today.