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Old 08-14-2008, 05:26 PM   #1
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Eek What's A Sweet Young Thing Like You Doing With This Motley Crew?

Getting off to a slow start, but at least it's a start, and will serve to get this show on the road. All who participated (and quit trying to hide those guilty faces) are invited to add photos and comments along the way.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And so we begin -

Several days before it all came together, one of our resident idiots, who shall remain anonymous in this narrative, obviously under the influence of demon rum or some other despicable concoction, suggested that it would be a good idea to get several riders together for a little ride to Deadhorse, Alaska – a destination that successfully defies any worthwhile reason for attracting travelers, or even existing, other than to separate oil conglomerates from a tiny fraction of their monumental profits, and to bilk any tourists foolish enough to venture to that desolate location on the... ha-ha... “shores” of Prudhoe Bay.

The initial idiot, not alone in that descriptive condition, soon found several similarly afflicted inmates from the dregs of society that frequent the forum known as ADVRider, specifically in that section reserved for those sentenced to reside in the state of Alaska (which is a terrible state to be in, aside from the location), or known to communicate with the aforementioned residents, and the list began to grow. One innocent female newcomer, totally unaware of the depraved condition she would later witness among said residents, asked permission to accompany this growing group of misfits. Permission was granted, and snickers were heard emanating from several sources, as the macho ADVRiders looked forward to yet another female rider finding out the hard way - that riding the Dalton Highway is a MAN'S game, and not for the weaker sex. Little did they know.

Eventually, due to that "w" word, and attrition due to other reasons (perhaps a well-developed sense of foreboding?) the group was narrowed down to two in the advance guard (who claimed to be fishing, but gave evidence of wisely wanting to disassociate themselves from the rest ) and five bringing up the rear.

That group consisted of the following: Annette, a young lady who knew where she was going; had a pretty good idea of how she would get there; and a rough idea of when she would get there. Her trip had dual purposes. This from her blog: "Starting Autumn 2008 I am going to ride from Alaska to Argentina in the hopes of raising money and awareness for Casa Alianza a Central and South American Children's Charity." Her blog is found at: http://www.alaska2argentina.co.uk/

The motley crew, listed below in no particular order.
Istvan (the a is supposed to have some kind of a little mark above it, and his name is pronounced EEST von), a young man who knew roughly where he was going, but wasn't in any particular hurry to get to his destination.
Russell, a young man from Texas who had places to go and see, and was well organized and doing it all in good order.
Craig, a gentleman from Florida who had already come a long way – both in life and on this trip – and was doing a remarkably good job of getting where he meant to go.
And lastly, yer humble scribe, an old phart who rarely has any idea where he is going; is still unsure of what he will be when he grows up; and is rather doubtful that he has ever embraced the concept of growing up in the first place.

Five bikes = 12 cylinders.

As varied as the riders, were the motorcycles upon which they intended to conquer the Haul Road. Annette rode a Suzuki DR650, a bike she had first seen less than a week earlier, shortly after arriving on a flight from England to pick up her new conveyance in Anchorage and head toward Argentina. By the time she prepared to ride north from Fairbanks, the little Zook still had accumulated fewer than one thousand miles on its odometer.

Istvan had arrived in Alaska on a KLR650, but it had suffered terminal mechanical problems and had recently been replaced with a 1995 BMW R1100GS. This motorcycle had been ridden nearly as little by its new owner as Annette's had been by its only owner. Now Istvan was going to find out if he had made a good purchase... or if he should have found a donor engine for his KLR.

Russell was mounted on a late-model BMW R1200GS Adventure, and obviously packed for adventure, as he had everything with him to exist for days along wilderness highways.

Craig had ridden north from Florida on his GL1800 Gold Wing, pulling a streamlined two-wheeled trailer painted in matching maroon. At least it was maroon when he left Fairbanks. Why anyone would want to inflict the Dalton Highway on a beautiful, shiny Gold Wing is for the rest of us to wonder, but it is done by a few riders annually.

Yer's truly was mounted on his so far-trusty '02 KLR650, a bike that had successfully carried his sorry behind to Deadhorse and back home once before, and was now being asked to repeat that thankless task. Since my home is a mere 750 miles from Deadhorse, my departure toward Fairbanks could be later than the rest, who had farther to travel. And as is my wont, I was 2 hours behind schedule when I hit the road, which provided me with an excuse to make haste. Still, one has to stop for photos of stunning scenes, regardless of schedules. Even with many, many sights of Rainbow Ridge over the years, it still attracts my attention, regardless of the weather conditions. Today, while clouds were flowing down part of it as though they were a waterfall, the sun spotlighted some areas on the lower slopes -


The rest of the scenes through Isabel Pass are safely stored in the dim recesses of this rider's cranium, ready to be pulled up for further examination and enjoyment in the midst of a future cold, dark winter.

In Fairbanks, a few of the denizens of that northern city braved the drizzle and rain that had the Chena River nearly out of its banks to meet with us at College Town Pizza for a bout of tire kicking, dining, and telling lies. John and Jeff were waiting in the parking lot when I rode in from Glennallen. Istvan pulled in shortly after my own arrival, and Kevin drove up in his cage (we'll overlook that social blunder this once ).


Jeff, Kevin (back to the camera), and Istvan check out the latter's GS


John, Istvan, and Kevin carry on a conversation with someone off camera.

Shortly after ordering some victuals and beverages, Annette and Russell arrived and introductions all around were completed. Being that the 250 mile ride had left this rider half-starved and even more absent-minded than usual, the camera was left in its idle state and no photos were taken of pizza fixings stuck to chins or draped over garments of contrasting colors. But surely you all have witnessed such things in the past, so use your imaginations.

Thursday night, after the get-together over pizza, 4 of us found our way – eventually – to the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks where we rented rooms for a bargain price – thanks to Kevin alerting us to their availability. In my own defense, I want to point out that I had told the others that I knew my way through Fairbanks, and could find Wal-Mart from anywhere in the city, but never made claims to knowing my way around the campus. So the fact that we took the grand tour of UAF is not my fault.

The dorm rooms were clean and quiet, better than the rooms in Deadhorse, and just $32 for one person, $38 for two. Our thanks to Kevin for turning us on to this situation, which we also took advantage of when we returned to Fairbanks


Friday Morning, August 8

Since the earlier excuse of being too hungry to function seems to have worked thus far, it will be called into play yet again, so there are no photos of the five of us taking advantage of the huge servings placed in front of us at Hilltop, some 5.5 miles north of Fox, or 16 miles from Fairbanks, on the Elliott Highway. But after a few cups of coffee and some sustenance, a walk across the sizable parking lot led us to these photos of an extremely wide load that was obviously destined for the Haul Road -


A quick glance at the number of tires on the ground indicated that this load was heavy as well as wide, and the presence of these two "pusher" tractors to help it up the steep grades confirmed that suspicion -



This is what the back end of the blue tractor, the Kenworth T800 Heavy Hauler, looks like. The large box on the back end is ballast - heavy weight to afford the drive tires traction. The plate below that is where the following tractor pushes as they all strain together to devy gravity on places like Roller Coaster Hill, Chandalar Shelf, and Atigun Pass.


Then came the moment when it was time to bid the pavement good-bye (with sinking hearts on the part of more than one rider, I suspect) and take the first uphill lefthander to who-knows-what -


Being the self-appointed photographer on this jaunt (which made it easier for me to zoom ahead on the pretext of getting set for a great shot, when really I was intent on being the first one to the restroom) I was in position as the other four came up and around, surely wondering what they had gotten themselves into -


But all continued on, albeit at widely varying velocities, as those mounted on the BMW R-bikes disappeared over the horizon and Craig began to seriously doubt his own sanity. For a while I stayed behind the Gold Wing and trailer, but handling the KLR at such slow speeds became too difficult and I hurried on ahead to keep watch over Annette. She, in turn, was beginning to collect photos to commemorate her ride to the Arctic Ocean, one shot at a time -


All the rides had been coached to pull far to the right whenever meeting a truck on any narrow portion of the road, and Annette was exceedingly diligent in that practice. I'm sure the drivers appreciated her efforts -


In no time at all, it seemed, we were riding down the Yukon River Bridge to the north side, where we briefly visited the BLM Information Center and Annette filled her fuel tank with "petrol" at Yukon River Camp across the way.


(To be continued in Part 2)
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Old 08-14-2008, 05:58 PM   #2
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Fantastic adventure!! Thanks for the great intro!!

Lookin' forward to more
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Old 08-14-2008, 06:06 PM   #3
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Fantastic! Thanks!

Is Istvan with you? You know he used to ride a KLR?
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Old 08-14-2008, 06:21 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SRA
Fantastic! Thanks!

Is Istvan with you? You know he used to ride a KLR?
Not sure he would want me to divulge that bit of information. Guilt by association, y'know. I'll let him reveal that over on KLR650.net when he gets around to posting a ride report.
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:02 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alcan Rider
...the huge servings placed in front of us at Hilltop, some 5.5 miles north of Fox, or 16 miles from Fairbanks, on the Elliott Highway.



Last time I pulled up at Hilltop early in the morning the lot was deserted but for a couple cop cars. I wheeled over to the pumps and they were shut off so I walked toward the front door and one of the cops says "what are you doing?"

Turns out they'd just been robbed and the boys in blue weren't out to search and destroy some Hilltop donuts...

I fired up the 950 and limped off on fumes.
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:08 PM   #6
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Part Two, Deux, Dos, Etc.

We resume our narration at the BLM Information Center, where our heroine, freshly filled petrol tank clutched tightly between her thighs, parks her bike and avails herself of the facilities placed there for travelers' convenience.

Allow me to backtrack a few miles here, and relate some of the events from the prior 56 miles of the Dalton Hwy. It had been interesting, following Craig on his Gold Wing and trailer. This was his first foray onto gravel, and it was obvious that he was nervous, as he had every right to be. For a while I was afraid he would soon end up festooning the grille of a southbound semi-tractor, as he was taking his share of the road from whatever portion seemed to offer the least likelihood of setting his bike on its side. A northbound State Trooper pickup had to pull far to the left to pass the Gold Wing, and I was actually surprised he didn't stop to inquire as to Craig's sobriety. But it may have been that he was aware of the difficulty in piloting a large touring bike on this sort of surface. Either that, or he was late for his donut break. That was one of those times that I was really wishing for a helmet cam, as I was leery of trying to take photos one-handed while on the move at such slow speeds.

Annette, meanwhile, was having no trouble at all exploring the performance potential of her DR650. Flying uphill on the beautiful paved stretch between Mile 37 and Mile 49.5, my KLR was falling behind despite my best effort toward snapping the throttle pull cable. Had the run to Deadhorse been uphill all the way (as was my walk to school as a child, when I trudged through 10' deep snow - both ways) Annette would have been there and gone before I ever arrived.

Now to proceed from where the first paragraph left off -

Craig must have been gaining confidence as he rode, as it wasn't long after the rest of us were assembled at the BLM site that he pulled in. Russell had been chatting with the driver of a tour bus that was stopped at the information site, and she broadly hinted that Hot Spot, just up the road, was a good place to get a meal. So after a brief conference, we decided to take a quick run up the road to Hot Spot ourselves for a bite to eat, then return to finish viewing the displays. Arriving just ahead of the busload of geriatric tourists (I should talk - but I am a geriatric motorcyclist, there's a difference.) we had our orders in and were already seated when they began to queue up to receive their lunches.

Craig's Wing and trailer, the last motorcycle to arrive at Hot Spot, but he beat the bus.


Ahead of the rush -


The calm before the storm - just before the hungry throngs arrived -


Enjoying the meal -


A lush garden spot in this short growing season -


Not all the passengers from the bus were of the geriatric persuasion -


Then, lunch completed, while Craig proceeded to the Arctic Circle, the faster four rode back to the Information Center to finish viewing the informational displays there.




It had been my intention for some time to get one or two photos that illustrated the depth and steepness of Roller Coaster Hill near Mile 76, and with other riders along this seemed like the ideal opportunity. Of course, just as I was about to descend into its depths in preparation for the photo shoot, along came the heaviest concentration of traffic we encountered during the entire trip. At least 6 vehicles in a row passed going southbound before I could even start down the hill. But once I was there and set, the riders started coming my way. Apparently the bravest (although there is the distinct possibility the other two gave him a shove), Russell came first, followed by Annette, with Istvan following to pick up the pieces of bikes and riders should it be more dangerous than it appeared.




Successful in surmounting that obstacle, we hastened on slowly (well, you weren't there, so how can you say we didn't do it just as I stated?) to the viewpoint west of Mile 86.6.


Another obligatory stop (both for the view and for the multiple restrooms) is the Finger Mountain wayside. The same bus that had arrived behind us at Hot Spot was already there, with its disgorged passengers milling around the parking lot; a few of them off on the short nearby trails to get different photos.


(Part 3 to follow, and then Part 5, with maybe a Part 4 in there somewhere if I don't get sidetracked)
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:37 PM   #7
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focus.

Good to keep your focus.
Great report. Thanks for the pics too.
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Old 08-14-2008, 10:17 PM   #8
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The 3rd Part

Just as we were preparing to pull out of the BLM site at the Yukon River, a Chevrolet sedan had pulled part way in, then turned around to head back out. It sat there in the drive as our string of motorcycles got onto the highway, and as I passed I noted the Argentina license plate. Interesting, and one of those things that happens only in Alaska. Here was Annette, getting started on her ride to Argentina, and right next to her was an Argentinian finishing his trip to Alaska. Now, our bikes parked at the Finger Mt wayside, this same Chevrolet pulled in and the driver got out. It wasn't long before he was surrounded by people from the tour bus, all full of questions. One lady tourist, apparently from some Spanish-speaking country herself, conversed with him at length. As it turned out, we saw this same car and driver several times in the next day and a half. Reminded me of the days when the Alcan was all gravel, travel there was slower, and you would play leap frog with the same bunch of vehicles for three or four days in a row, until you felt like neighbors.








As we found out later, the driver's name was Gabriel F. Storchi, and he was on a pilgrimage of sorts. He had already been traveling for months, and was keeping up a blog as he went. His website is at:
http://www.alaskaacaballo.com.ar/ And translated into English: http://translate.google.com/translate?client=tmpg&hl=en&u=http://www.alaskaacaballo.com.ar/&langpair=es|en

We also learned not to park our bikes so close together. Whenever we left them alone for an appreciable length of time, we would come back and find more bikes than when we left. While at Finger Mt the number was increased by one BMW R-bike, and one KLR650. The Beemer rider was from the South 48, but the KLR rider was definitely from across the pond. His accent was so broad that I would have had to ask him to repeat every third sentence. Annette, however, speaking the same strange tongue (when will the British ever learn to speak proper English? ) conversed with him quite easily, and I believe they were each actually able to understand what the other was saying.

Having paid many a visit to the spot without taking a single photo of the namesake geologic feature, I zoomed the lens out to avoid having to walk more than a couple of feet, and took this one -


And now it was time to ride the final 16 miles to the Arctic Circle, the turn-around point for the majority of riders – perhaps indicating their superior intellect. Arriving there, we found the spot to be quite popular, and everyone seemed to be content with taking turns posing for photos in front of, or next to, the sign. Finding the backside vacant, I took my own shot of that surface. It was instantly obvious, even to my untrained eye, that we were not the first ones to arrive there.


And then, the front side of the sign still being posed against, I decided to see what all this activity looked like from the sign's point of view.


The young man (ya gotta remember, at my age any male under the age of 40 is a “young man”) on the right seems to be giving instructions on the use of his camera to the gentleman in the red jacket in order to have his photo taken by the sign. There is a lot of that at this site, as families often want the group shot to include all of them. If I'm not mistaken (and this is my narrative, so I'm not, even if I am) he is the rider who added his GS to our numbers at Finger Mt.

Then Annette posed for her Arctic Circle photo to add to her blog when she gets the opportunity.


And one more, with the whole group, except for the photographer, who knows which side of the lens he belongs on. Istvan, Annette, and Russell


In this photo you might be able to make out that the two KLR's are parked in the back, in order to give the three BMW's a head start.


And then it was time to depart toward Coldfoot, where we intended to partake, once again, of sustenance, prior to our arrival at Wiseman, where we had lodging reserved for that Friday night. The others being in a greater hurry than the old man, advantage was taken of the separation to gather in a few more photos of scenes along the way – like this crossing of the South Fork of the Koyukuk River.


And the south fork upstream from the bridge


A few miles farther on, looking back at the Koyukuk valley


Just past Mile 160, rain in the distance with the sun over my shoulder produced rainbows in several locations. This one is over the Coldfoot airstrip.


And this one, appropriately enough, shows the pot of gold to be shaped like a 48” oil pipeline.


One more stop before the restaurant at Coldfoot – the Interagency Visitors Center, which has some very interesting displays and video presentations.


And then, the restaurant and a real meal. We sat out on the open deck to enjoy the fresh air. A brief rain squall had us running out to our bikes to batten down the hatches, but when we left it was on barely damp roads


(More to come in Part 6, which may - or may not - follow Parts 4 and 5)
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The Lure of the Dalton, The Lure of the Dempster, Haul Road Chronicles, My Evening Rides, Alaska Primer
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Old 08-15-2008, 12:08 AM   #9
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Wow that Jack can really write! And ride too!

We had lousy weather the whole time you were up on the road, now I wish I had gone with you!
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Old 08-15-2008, 02:34 AM   #10
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Beautiful place!
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Old 08-15-2008, 05:06 AM   #11
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I am enjoying your ride report and photos. Thanks.
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Old 08-15-2008, 08:45 AM   #12
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I resemble your comments about our intentions. We actually did fish, although the nasty pisces managed to avoid the camera, so I cannot prove it. Nice report! Dick
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:16 AM   #13
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Wow

It is like being the co-star in your own online movie (and not that kind gents).

Thanks Jack for writing it up much more elegantly than I ever could.

Annette
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Old 08-15-2008, 03:19 PM   #14
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This is fantastic shot, front page material for sure

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Old 08-16-2008, 10:08 AM   #15
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Part 4, Which Just Managed to Squeeze in Ahead of Part 5

Friday Evening, August 8th

Before we pulled out of Coldfoot, there was one more task to be taken care of, since I had fueled the KLR immediately upon arrival. A photo of the Coldfoot Post Office.


Annette filled her DR's tank with petrol, while the rest of the riders satisfied themselves with unleaded gasoline. Never noticed a “petrol” pump at Coldfoot before, but guess I just hadn't looked hard enough.

We arrived at Boreal Lodging in downtown Wiseman a little later than originally planned, thanks to the liesurely pace at which we had consumed our dinner. Dick and Jim, the two scouts who had gone on ahead to mark the trail with fish skeletons, were already settled into the cabin. They came out to meet and greet, and introductions were made once again. We all ambled over to the cabin at their invitation, and sat around on, and in front of, the porch, feeding mosquitoes.


Jim and Dick had had a long day, having returned from Deadhorse (and NOT from wrestling huge rainbow trout out of pristine waters, as they might have wanted us to believe). They both showed signs of being ready to enjoy some slumber, but our gang, having had a fine day and wishing to share it with one and all, kept the quantity, if not the quality, of conversation at a high level.


But after a while, even Annette (who had been on a pretty hectic schedule since her arrival on U. S. soil) began to show signs of winding down.


The two bickering Camp Robbers (also known as Gray Jays, Canada Jays, and “those @#%*$ birds that stole my bacon”) were assigned the chore of cleaning out the cookware, the remains of dinner having an appearance remarkably closer to rice than rainbows.




Sharing the cabin with Dick and Jim, I treated myself to the queen size mattress in the loft


and on the way up got a bird's eye view of the interior


along with interior decoration courtesy of a past successful fall moose hunt


With a window near my head, the midnight sun was making its presence known, but a stream flowing nearby offered sufficient gentle sound to compensate.


Alarms had been set in most rooms the night before, and my own mental alarm went off about 5 minutes early, so we five were up and ready to roll only a few minutes behind schedule. It was at this point (after she had locked her motorcycle keys inside one of her panniers) that we were able to convince Annette that it probably wouldn't be necessary to secure her panniers with 4 (yep, 4, I counted 'em) padlocks here in the wilds of Alaska – since the camp robbers weren't likely to ply their trade on metal boxes, and if the bears wanted them, they would just pick up bike and all and wander off into the woods with it.

Saturday Morning, August 9th

On the road, headed north.




Annette getting in position for a photo of Sukukpak Mt


and pulling over to capture the image for posterity


Once again, progress was good, and in seemingly no time at all we were at the base of Atigun Pass. Russell and Istvan had pulled over next to the West Fork of the North Fork of the Chandalar River (that's what it says on the sign ) to wait for us stragglers.


Being the photographer by virtue of having a working camera, I rode on ahead to get a series of shots of Annette coming around the corner at the bottom and proceeding up the steep grade

(There is a motorcycle and rider in that photo, but ya gotta look close. That's a big country up there, and we're kinda small in it.)





We ran into dense fog coming over the top of the pass from the north side, so we stopped and got out all the cameras so we could take photos of fog from 5 different perspectives.


The scenery was less than spectacular on the north side descent, thanks to not being able to see any of it.


Out of the fog and out onto the tundra, we were treated to the sight of muskoxen foraging next to the road. On my 8th trip north of Atigun, I finally got to view these formerly elusive shaggy beasts. So I took enough photos to make up for lost time.














Even though the rest of us had been moving along at a comfortable pace, we had yet to catch sight of Craig's taillights since just before climbing up to the Chandalar Shelf around Mile 236. But he had stopped to take photos of the muskoxen and pulled out shortly after Annette and I pulled up to do the same.

By this time Craig was feeling pretty cocky, and thinking to himself “The guys back home in Flatistan will never believe this - riding the Wing on a gravel road, and not only doing it at better than a walking pace, I'm pushing the speed limit! Lessee, what can I do to prove to them that I really did it?” About that time one of Alaska's Finest fortuitously appeared on the far horizon, and a bolt of brilliance flashed through Craig's mind. “I know! I'll wind it up to about... oh, 76 miles per hour... and wave the trooper down and ask him if he'll... oh... the red and blues are flashing. Guess I won't have to flag him down after all.”

“Say, officer, since you stopped anyway, would you mind... What's that officer? Uh, press hard, four copies? Oh, sure.

“It would have been a $106 fine but you reduced it to 55 mph and a $50 fine? Well..., I guess 55 miles per hour on a gravel road will impress the guys back home enough. Thank you, officer.”






In retrospect, I wonder if the Trooper who gave Craig the ticket was the same one who had to pull so far to the left to pass him two days earlier?? Ya don't wanna take a chance on making one of our finest late for his donuts, y'know.

Istvan related afterward that he had felt just a little guilty, because he had been keeping up with Craig until he saw the headlights coming from the other direction. But not guilty enough to step up and say “Me to, me too!”

Just after that, a second band of muskoxen were sighted near the road just ahead of us, so another photo stop was in order.












And that is how 5 dirty, muddy bikes found their way to the parking lot of the Arctic Caribou Inn in Deadhorse


(More to come - you've been warned)
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"I am in the prime of senility." Ben Franklin
I'm so old I remember when the gallons rose faster than the dollars on gas pumps.
The Lure of the Dalton, The Lure of the Dempster, Haul Road Chronicles, My Evening Rides, Alaska Primer
Haul Road Primer
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