I woke up at my pretty awesome Coldfoot campsite for the second morning in a row, this time to very cold sun and blue skies. It was weird because there were no mosquitos I could see anywhere. I toyed with the idea of giving Deadhorse another go, but then I remembered the foot of snow that was inbound later in the day. I packed up and figured I should get to Fairbanks before I stranded myself somewhere.
I was feeling like I'd been cutting it a little too close with my luck the last few weeks, especially after the two day jaunt from Whitehorse to Fairbanks with a toasted sprocket and chain. I had to ride a few more days around town to get to class while I waited for the parts to come in, and my chain jumped off the rear sprocket two times before I could put on new parts. It wasn't really a question of safety (minus chain failure), but of money I'd have to spend to get myself out of a bad fix. When I was in Fairbanks I heard a similar story of a guy who's bike didn't make it far past the AK border on the Al-Can. His fees for getting a ride to town and coming back in a truck for the bike were well over $500, and I've heard on the Dalton in can be triple that. I'm not starting my trip with a big chunk of savings, more like a few grand in the bank and a plan to work seasonally to sustain the trip as I go. Having a chunk of money disappear like that simply to get back to square 1 would be a steel pipe through the my heart and the trip. So instead of sticking around, I got a move on and went South.
I have never seen my temp warning light flash on in the 1.5 years I've owned the Beemer, so it was a pretty good shock when I saw the red bulb pop up while the temp was clear and cold in the mid thirties. I had some suspicions about what was going on and as soon as I pulled over I saw I was right. My radiator was buried under about a 1/2" of nitrate cement. I was out of water, so I pulled out the screwdriver on my knife and hacked away at it for about twenty minutes until it was cleared up.
I was pretty whacked out after the long day in the crappy weather so I ended up pulling over for a bit and just passed out for a few hours in the sun. I got closer to the start of the Dalton and spied some spots where the pipeline dived a little lower to the ground. I'm a climber, so when I see a unique opportunity and a sign telling me NOT to climb on something, well you can guess what I usually do
I saw the sign.
This dirt sticks everywhere once it dries out. I'm pretty sure the lenses on my shades and face shield are both trash at this point.
From Yukon River camp on the dirt was back to great hard pack and I felt like I was in top form on the bike. I was averaging about 60-70mph and loving the freedom. I was starting to finally figure out the concept of looking further ahead on the dirt at high speed- If I don't look down at the weird grooves as I cross breaks in the dirt, I sure don't feel them as much. I slowed down for the 10 miles of mysterious swamp at the start of the Dalton and spied two slow moving figures in the distance. As I got closer, I couldn't believe I was seeing two bike tourers, right in the mud and on this road that was in the final stage of spitting me out. I pulled right on over to get their stories and take a photo.
Jacob (front) is American, and Gerry (back) is German. I think they teamed up while riding across Europe/Asia/Russia over the last year or so. Apparently I had caught them right at the start of their AK to Argentina ride. I was pretty stoked and inspired by their stories, so I got their web info and told them I would probably catch them somewhere in Mexico after working up here the next four months
If you guys are interested you can check out their journey here:
There's something awesome about Gerry's setup that I just can't pinpoint.
I made it back to Fairbanks and checked back into the Glacier House. I made sure to spend money for ten minutes of pressure wash time downtown to get all the damn mud out from everywhere I could. I've heard horror stories of people forgetting to do that until they get back to the lower 48, and it's a big no-no. Now the steed is clean again. For now.
I'm rolling towards Anchorage at this point where I have to report to meet the guide crew on the 26th. I'm not sure about how I'll spend the next three days, but I'm currently in Healy and considering hiking the Stampede trail to the Chris McCandless bus today and tomorrow. I'm not sure about the river crossing but hopefully the water's low enough (I'm not going to do anything stupid). If it is, maybe I can see some more mountains and bears somewhere.
Who knows? Onward.