Day 8 7/14/12 4772 miles on the odometer. Looks like im not quite going to make it to the north pole.
I got up early to eat breakfast before they shut down at 7:30. Went back upstairs and took a nap back in my hotel room for a bit, then got ready for to go on the Arctic tour. The tour departed at 9am. The weather was not so cooperative on this day. 70 and sunny to 50 and rainy. Not what i wanted to see, but i came prepared. The tour company wasnt real clear where to meet, so i asked several people around town. The location they gave me wasnt exactly accurate. Whatever place i got to was closed. Since there was cell service at PB, i gave the office a call, but of course they were in Fairbanks and were not very familiar with the area. Finally i drove out of town to the south and found the correct building. Even though it was cold the mosquitoes were out in force. We had to have a pre-tour meeting inside once the 20ish people were all there. The tour guide was half native, evidently his dad came to Alaska from Thief River Falls, MN with the intent of marrying a native, and as he put it,'' he was a product of that dream.'' He was pretty funny, i think he did the tour once or twice a day for the duration of his time there. Since i am grew up in North Dakota about 200 miles away from Thief River Falls, we were able to talk lefse and lutefisk and other scandinavian traditions.
After a brief safety meeting/tour overview going over dos and donts, we got on a passenger bus and proceeded to go through town and past the security gates to the Arctic Ocean! So cold! The temperature was around 50, the wind was blowing, and it was raining lightly. The guide would talk as we drove along, explaining the history of the area and what was going on currently. The caribou were all over the place, they would walk across the road and lay down under the pipes and just chill during the day. Prudhoe Bay has the highest concentration of mosquitoes in the world for 3 weeks in the summer. The caribou will run for miles and miles to get awat from the nasty buggers. And lose a decent % of their body weight at times from loss of blood. There were 3 gals probably in their 20s from
Oregon on the bus, and when the guide inquired if anyone knew the difference between caribou and reindeer, on of them exclaimed quite enthusiastically, "Reindeer can fly!!" After everyone laughed the guide informed us that reindeer were bascially domesticated caribou, which i never looked up, so i would assume that is indeed the case. We drove to the ocean, got out and took a bunch of pics. I went in the water only up to my knees, it was too cold for anything more. The beaches had a bunch of driftwood on them. The rivers must carry trees out to sea, then they wash ashore later. The trees quit quite a ways from PB, so they sure didnt come from a local forest.
The tour was only 2-3 hours long. I was hoping to see a grizzly or musk ox, but alas there was only scat and a few prints in the mud. I talked to a few of the others on the tour. There was an older couple, the guy had worked there many years ago, he mentioned how much it had changed, a gal from Prince george, BC by herself, so i took a few pics for her, and a couple with older kids from possibly britian? Im not sure, they had accents though. AFter we got back from the tour, i went back, ate lunch, did some free laundry, took a nap, then checked out and filled up once again at the gas pump. This time i did it right, so for my .7 gallons, my credit card was duly appreciated. I stopped by the office again to see if they had figured out how much i had stole the day before, but they couldnt pull it up, so i just paid the approximate amount and called it good. The guy had worked down in a NAPA store in Gillette, WY, so he was familiar with the mining industry and the northeast WY/ southeast MT area in which i live. I talked to him for quite a while and begrudgingly took off in the rain for another destination. The rain continued for 50 miles or so, then cleared up briefly, then rained again for another 50 miles before finally clearing up. The temperature came up as well to the low 60s i would say. Thankfully the road construction wasnt going on so much on this fine saturday evening. I did have to wait for one pilot car for a stretch of the road they were working on. It was really bad, muddy, potholes, and steep. I had to slow down to 5 mph at times. kept it up the whole way, no slideouts.
I got to Coldfoot a little after 8pm, just at 5 hours from PB. Ran out of gas 1/2 mile from the turnoff, but a few pints from my gas can and i was back in business. The gas pump told me i only put in 4.5 gallons, and i only added .5 gallon from the can, so something was a little fishy. Normally mine hits reserve about 4.8, and runs out at maybe 5.5, so i should have had to put in at least 5 gallons. Buy whatever, ill take less more gas for less. I went in the cafe to eat and they had a buffet going on for $20. I needed to eat, but wasnt that hungry and didnt want to wait til 9pm for the grill to open back up for orders, so a burger and a braut later i was back on the bike. I went out the south entrance from Coldfoot instead of the north one this time. I noticed that there was an arctic visitor center there, so i swung in to see what they had. The center was rather interesting for being out in a remote location. They had a presentation goin on, so i listened to that for 20 minutes or so. The park ranger must have been interpretive, he gave an overview of the area and its wildlife before closing with a song about the arctic. I enjoyed that. Looked around and took a few pics before riding out.
The campground at the S. fork of th Koyukuk river i had camped at 2 nights before had 2 of my locks for my panniers i had forgotten. I stopped and looked for 10 minutes or so, but i only found one. I wasnt planning on hanging around for a while, so i didnt bother taking my earplugs out(i always use them). After looking for a while i noticed the pickup box camper parked there had just the screen door on, and i think the people inside had been talking to me, but i didnt hear them. There were two couples inside, one in their 50s, and his parents, who im sure were in their mid 70s. It was the weekend, so they drove up from Anchorage to do some fishing on the way back from PB. When i said i had made Coldfoot in only 5 hours from PB, i was met with a few raied eyebrows. Most people who dont ride i guess dont know how much better an enduro is on bad roads as opposed to a car or pickup. Especially with a big camper in the box. They had just made halibut for supper, and insisted that i eat some and take the rest. Very nice people, we talked for well over an hour. The middle-aged woman expressed a fair amount of concern when she learned i was touring the continent solo on my motorcyle. She gave specific instruction to stop frequently, get enough sleep, and make sure i eat enough. Even my own mother didnt give me a list that strict! Oh well, she was just worried as all mothers typically are.
I left with some halibut and rode until i hit the arctic circle, where i took a few more pics by the sign before heading up the road to the campground. There was only two other vehicles there. I didnt have to fight for a spot thankfully. I picked a spot by a picnic table, set up my tent, climbed a tree to tie up my food, and went to sleep well after midnight.
Dont get lost, its a jungle out there.
Prudhoe Bay oil pipelines.
Caribou grazing plains
Smokey was here.
cold. very cold.
Crusty the crustacean.
musk ox track.
The beautiful Dalton highway.
307 miles today.