Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – The Last Leg

Destination: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken:  Alaska Highway

I’m calling this section “The Last Leg.”  There were still over 950 km to go but this section involved a lot of riding through consistent terrain and scenery.  I rolled out of Fairbanks on day 6 of my tour and continued pedalling down the road for the next 9 days without any serious mechanical or health issues.  The road conditions were variable, sometimes gravel with potholes, sometimes rough chip seal with regular frost heaves and on more rare occasions short sections of smooth asphalt which my butt thoroughly appreciated.  My impression is that the freeze thaw cycle and swampy environment that the road traverses are not ideal for maintenance.

I passed by Eielson Airforce Base where the runway ran right next to the road.  There was a lot of very loud activity with planes taking off and landing and circling the base.  Fun to watch for a few minutes.  Then farther down the road was North Pole and Santa Clause House.  Santa was available for photos and Christmas wishes but he was busy entertaining some southerners and I wanted to get back on the bike.  Delta Junction was my rest stop for the night.

Some interesting sights along the way ….

DSCF4520a DSCF4521a DSCF4526a DSCF4535a DSCF4528a DSCF4527a DSCF4538aAfter Delta Junction it was 180 km to Tok, the next town/campsite so in an attempt to gain some local knowledge I stopped in at the visitor information centre to find out if there was anywhere in between that I could set up my tent.  The woman behind the counter couldn’t find anything official in her book but remembered calling the Dot Lake postmaster for information about camping when another cyclist had asked the same thing.  The postmaster apparently has a reputation for providing tent space for wayward cyclists.  The Dot Lake postmaster is another angel along the way.  There is nothing at Dot Lake but the post office.  At one time there was a campsite behind it but that has been taken over by the forest.  The outhouse is still there though and the postmaster was happy to fill up my empty water bottles in exchange for an adventure story.

Dot lake postmaster

Dot lake postmaster

Alaska pipeline crossing a river

Alaska pipeline crossing a river

Day 8 was another epic day, from Dot Lake to Northway Junction 158 km.  I hadn’t planned on going that far but Tok wasn’t quite far enough.  My intention was to wild camp at one of the many interpretive pull-outs along the way but none of them had level enough ground for setting up a tent so I just kept on pedaling.  Just when I thought my legs were about to fall off from fatigue, I pulled into Northway Junction with a corner store.  I could use a drink!  I also noticed a giant camp ground sign.  That looked promising until I approached the door and saw the “Campground full” notice.  Sigh!  All I needed was a small rectangle of grass ……. no harm in asking.  The camp ground was definitely a no-go.  It was fully taken up by forestry service people and there was a baseball tournament in Northway so there wasn’t much available.  The woman, Sharon said I could camp in the grassy area in front of the gas station, but rowdy baseball players would be raucousing all night.  In the end she offered me a patch of grass in her yard by the state trooper station. Nice!  My third angel!

On day 9 I landed back in Canada.

As I was riding along the road I kept coming upon scat of different varieties with some unnerving frequency.  I wondered to myself what manner of beast would be crapping on the road.  Wish I could identify it and know whether or not I should be worried about bears or wolves.  I did recognize the occasional horse dropping interspersed between the unidentifiable  varieties.  I’d heard a story somewhere along the way about a Mexican who was riding his horse from Alaska to Mexico.  I wondered how long it would take to catch up with him.

Further along the road was the Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.  Perhaps this refuge has something to do with the quantity of crap I was seeing on the road.  I stopped for a refueling break and went inside to see if they had something to drink.  No beverages but I did note that they had books on scat identification.  They also had telescopes sited on a huge bull moose eating grass in one of the lakes.

Back on the bike after refueling, I finally made it to the US Customs area.  Built on the crest of a hill of course.  As I was riding by, a Mexican on a motorbike stopped me to chat.  He was riding across all of the continents on a motorbike and had plans to repeat the trip on a pedal bike.  He really liked my ortlieb panniers and wanted to take a picture with me.  Ok?!

Canada Customs was another 27 km past the border and the no-man’s-land section in between was all bumpy chip seal.  Not an easy ride. It was slightly easier in the middle of the road where it had been worn down by cars.  And since I was encountering cars so infrequently, that’s exactly where I rode.  Somewhere in this section is where I also passed a convoy of about 100 north bound cyclists from Texas doing a Livestrong charity ride.

I finally arrived in Beaver Creek and decided to get a room and have a shower and a good night’s sleep.  It was an awful, smelly room with shared bathroom.  But 4 walls is what I needed right now.  I did wander down the road and found an awesome burger joint, Buckshot Betty’s.

I woke up at 6 am on day 10 to the sound of rain.  Sure glad to have those 4 walls and a roof over my head, hope it stops before riding time. Back to sleep. Zzzzzzzz ……

I’d planned a super easy day and after my requisite stop at the info centre found out that another Lakeview campground was a reasonable 80 km down the road.  More construction and more rides in pilot cars – short rides.  The next 40km was mostly loose gravel, packed gravel, a few paved sections and one more ride in a pilot car.  I battled a mean headwind as well.  But up to this point I had been quite lucky with the winds.  It meant hard riding up the hills and no coasting on the downs.  A mentally and physically draining day.

Dragonfly

My dragonfly friend

I pulled in to the campsite around 4 pm and I was literally the only person there.  I went for a walk just to make sure when another cyclist (northbound) pulled up behind me and asked where the water was.  There was no water, except for the creek running beside the campground.  The thing with most of these campgrounds is that the maps show things like fresh water wells and garbage bins and toilets but a lot of the time they don’t exist when you get here.  And riding down the road, especially in the 27 km of no mans land between the US Customs and Canada Customs there are numerous signs promising rest stops with food and water which, in reality, don’t exist. Do not count on the maps and information to be right.

The campground slowly filled up with people in giant RV’s over the next few hours.

Campsite by the river

Campsite by the river

 

On day 11 I was awakened by stoopid motorcycles at 6 am.  What assholes!  Is that kind of noise necessary?  Could still hear their bikes for miles after they left …. finally fell back asleep for a bit.  Woke for good at around 8 am.  I was trying for an earlyish start for a slow and easy 100km day.  It rained a bit over night so packed up a slightly wet tent.  I was ready to hit the road at 9 am.  The weather gods had other ideas though.  The downpour started at 8:59 and didn’t stop for 2 hours.  So much for my slow, easy day.  I hid out under the cooking shelter with Richard (the northbound cyclist) waiting for the weather to break.

Finally at 11 am we decided to take our chances as the rain had lightened up a bit.  We said our good-byes and good lucks and headed out in opposite directions.  The rain stopped completely after a few kms.

It would seem that this was headwind territory.  The uphills were gradual and not too tough but it’s really demoralizing to not get a break on the downhills.  Camped at Destruction Bay.  A bare bones ugly campsite, but the only one around.

Day 12 was another extreme headwind day.  Another day of battle.  I tried to take it slow and easy.  Kluane lake is a beautiful glacial green through my sunglasses.  It didn’t really tranlate in the photos.  The mountains were also amazing.  Tall and green but not many trees, with glaciers hanging in the tallest ones in behind the green ones.  Stopped to check out Soldier’s Summit, the site of the 1942 opening ceremony of the Alaska Highway.  After feeling like I was riding up-hill all day into the headwind the last 20 km down into Haines Junction was a dream come true.  I stayed at the Cozy Corners Hotel.

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It’s amazing how the wind at your back for even a short while can be a game changer.  Finally had a tailwind for a couple of hours on the morning of Day 13 where I cruised along easily at 27km/hr. I made significant headway before noon so didn’t even mind when the wind changed direction.  I’ve been seeing a lot of horse manure on the road and today I saw hoof prints in the dirt on the side of the road. I must be catching up with the Mexican.

I encountered a coyote today.  It popped up on the road right in front of me.  It didn’t know I was there until I gasped.  It looked at me for a few second and then turned back into the forest.  Glad I found Irene’s place and will be staying in the shed out back.  People have been asking about wildlife but apart from the muskox at Deadhorse, the Moose in the marsh and the coyote today, I haven’t seen much ……. and not one single bear.

Irene's Place

Irene’s Place

Shed behind Irene's

Shed behind Irene’s

 

On day 14 I finally arrived in Whitehorse.

Some photos of what I encountered on my last day ……..

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My overall impression: An exciting ride and adventure which was by no means lonely to do as a solo trip.  I met a number of people heading north along the way.  Mostly solo cyclists.

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Deahorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Deahorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Destination: Fairbanks

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Dalton Highway

I’ve been back from my bike tour for a few weeks now and have settled back into my daily routine of cycle commuting 12 km to work and 12 km back home again and repeat …..

I am reminded how amazed I was by the outgoing, friendly, generous people I encountered in Alaska. The cycling trip began as a real adventure and a means for challenging myself by pushing my own physical limits and comfort levels. Somehow it evolved to become as much about people I met along the way.

On the Dalton Highway the people I encountered were so interactive. They were interested in where I was going and where I had come from. A woman I met at the Deadhorse airport was excited for me, exclaiming that I would love the scenery. Some hunters passed me on my way out of Deadhorse and expressed concern over whether I would make it through the cold nights, truckers slowed down and gave me a wide berth on the road, random strangers and road crew offered me bottles of water, a Mexican motorcyclist circumnavigating the globe on motorcycle wanted a picture with me as did numerous other people. There were so many fun and interesting interactions with people I returned to Vancouver with a restored faith in humanity.

This brings me to to the first angel I encountered on the trip. As I said in my last post, the sidewall of my tire popped about 400 km from Fairbanks. A tanker truck pulled into my little rest stop and a big black fluffy dog jumped out and bounded towards me. He sniffed around my tent a bit ignoring his owner’s (Michael) calls. We started chatting and I showed Michael my damaged tire. He offered me a ride in to town.

Sometimes you have to take a chance on someone and besides I got a good vibe from him and his happy dog, Dougie so I accepted the ride. So what if I land in Fairbanks at 4 am. I can pitch my tent in the park and I would be so much closer to the bike repair shop. It was the fastest tent dis-assembly ever, I quickly threw my stuff back in my panniers and tossed them in the truck.

Mike-and-Dougie

Michael and Dougie, my Dalton Highway angels! (Michael sent me a few pictures at my request)

Big-Truck

This is the truck they picked my up in. (photo courtesy of Michael)

Michael and Dougie were great hosts and travel partners. So glad I took the ride! And very educational too. I didn’t know that the Dalton was one of the highways featured on the TV show Ice Road Truckers. I had questions about the Ice Road, the pipeline, the truck we were riding in …….. as we were riding along I was learning more and more about Michael as well, a really sweet guy. His catch phrase was, “What would Jesus do” (WWJD) lucky for me Jesus would pick up a stranded cyclist.

I also noticed the terrain was getting hillier and much more challenging. Atigun Pass was tough but this section was probably tougher. On one particularly steep hill Michael really had to let the truck go on the down side in order to make it up the other side. It must have been about a 12% grade.  That would have been tough to pedal up on my fully loaded bike.

We stopped to stretch our legs at the Arctic Circle and I got my requisite photo.

Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle photo taken at around 2 am

We arrived in Fairbanks, where I discovered the hotels were all booked up due to the carnival. By this time it was after 4 am so we decided it would be easiest if I just stayed on the couch at his place. Nice! I was exhausted! Woke up around 2 pm feeling not very refreshed. Michael’s friend Stanley was in town – also a trucker and 72 years young. Boundless energy, lots of stories and loves stopping in at museums in the towns he passes through. Very interesting people I have found myself in the company of. This is what adventuring is all about!

After running errands, purchasing a new tire, and my first shower in 4 days, Stanley took us out for dinner to Big Daddy’s BBQ restaurant as seen on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. After my raw food rations for the last few days I was ready to sink my teeth into a giant mushroom swiss burger. Yum! They had many great stories to tell about adventures in trucking.  Both of them knew where my home town Fernie was and had both delivered part of a ski lift there.

Mike-and-Stanley

Michael, Guy (Fieri) and Stanley at Big Daddy’s

I took a couple of days off in Fairbanks to re-provision and let my knee rest before continuing on to Whitehorse.

Was my damaged tire a curse or a blessing? There are now about 400 km of the Dalton Highway I still have to ride under pedal power and Michael has offered to drop me off in the exact spot he picked me up if I ever decide to go back and do those 400 km. But if it was adventure I was looking for, it was adventure I got! An awareness of the forgotten dimension of adventure, called human nature.

Maybe people in Vancouver/Richmond are friendly and generous too but I don’t see it very often.  I see people focused on their phones in their cars (which is illegal) on the bus, skytrain, and walking down the street.  They are barely watching where they are going let alone looking up long enough to give a smile or nod to people they almost run into.  My general observation in day to day living is that Vancouverites are “plugged in” to the internet at all times and “tuned out” of real life.  And I, I’m sad to say, am not usually in the mood for smiling and nodding either after fending for my life and rights to use the road as a cyclist every day in Vancouver/Richmond.

Maybe my feeling about Alasaka had to do with my attitude too ….. I was on vacation with no real agenda and in no hurry to get anywhere.  I was open to what came my way. And probably seeking to engage people in conversation myself.

Regardless, a renewed confidence in people is what I took home from this experience.

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Deahorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Deahorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – The Last Leg

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Destination: Fairbanks

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Dalton Highway

Day 3

I had a much more restful sleep last night.  There was some comfort in hearing the trucks rumbling past frequently enough that I didn’t feel completely alone in the universe and infrequently enough that I could enjoy the solitude.

I broke camp at around 9 am local and headed down the hill.  At the bottom there was a road crew flag person fully outfitted in mosquito netting.  He advised me to take a ride in the pilot car for the next section as the road was a “real mess.”  Some hard core cyclists a few days ahead of me had insisted on riding the entire way and found it pretty rough.  I’m no super hero – I’ll take the ride!

Sixteen miles and some great conversation later I was dropped off at Galbraith Lake.  My goal for yesterday!  Doh!  If only I had ridden to the bottom of the hill the night before …..  I learned a bit about the road and how it is so hard to maintain on the melting permafrost.  It just slides down the hills leaving behind giant gaping holes or craters the size of cars give way as the ground melts and subsides.  It is apparent in the Arctic that global warming is real and accelerating.  As we were driving I noted that I most definitely would not have made it past this section had I chosen to ride.  After unloading my bike, taking on water and spraying down with the industrial strength bug poison offered to me by the road crew, I continued pedaling down the road.

I am struck by how everyone I have met so far has been amazingly friendly and helpful and giving and concerned for my well-being.  I have a feeling that nobody in trouble is left behind on the Dalton Highway.

Now for the major challenge of the day – Atigun Pass …..

The clouds were high in the sky and puffy and white with sunny breaks.  The weather was looking good for summit day 🙂  I had been closely monitoring the reports for the last week or so and there had been snow fall warnings for Atigun Pass 4 days ago. Word from the work crews was that it had snowed and stuck a couple of days ago but things were looking great today.  The terrain right up to Atigun pass was gradual and rolling,  not too difficult.  And then THE PASS!  My left knee had been giving me some grief this trip but now the pain was getting intense.  So pedaling a 100 lb bike up what I estimated to be a 6 – 7% grade (based on riding up Cypress Ski Hill Road back home) with one functional leg for approximately 3km was a serious mental challenge.  I took a lot of breaks to admire the view back down the valley and am not ashamed to admit that I walked for a ways.  I finally made it to the top!  Anticlimactic much?!  There was no sign telling me I had arrived.  No sign reading “Atigun pass, elev. 4800 ft.  highest highway pass in Alaska.”  So I uneventfully rolled over the top and started the steep descent.  I took as many breaks on the way down as I had on the way up.  The road was rough and my brakes needed to cool down frequently.  Also my hands were cramping from gripping so hard.  I descended into a beautiful green valley bottom where the grade and road surface were perfect for letting go of the brakes and cruising along for a while.

The pipeline runs close to the road as I approached the Brooks Range

Approaching the Brooks Range

Approaching Atigun Pass with the pipeline running along side the road

Approaching Atigun Pass

Atigun Pass where the grade steepens

Atigun Pass – The grade steepens. You can barely make out the switchback at the base of the mountain on the left where the road turns up towards the right under the rocky part of the mountain straight ahead.

Looking back down the valley from Atigun Pass

Looking back down the valley from Atigun Pass

Trucks passing me on the way up Atigun Pass

Atigun Pass

Me on the downslope after cresting Atigun Pass

Me on the downslope after cresting Atigun Pass. Happy to be going down.

Green, lush looking valley on the south side of Atigun Pass

Green, lush looking valley on the south side of Atigun Pass

It was dreamy riding for quite a long time with the occasional rough patch.  I eventually came upon another serious downhill I later found out was called “The Shelf.”  Brake cooling, finger relaxing, and vista gazing stops were required.  I landed in another  green valley bottom and the first trees I had seen since leaving Vancouver.  I made it through Atigun pass and landed in sweet paradise!  The sun was shining, the mountains were magnificent, it was finally warm enough for shorts and the mozzies had all but disappeared ………… well, until dusk anyway.

The first trees I have seen since leaving Vancouver

The first trees I have seen since leaving Vancouver

I continued down the gradual rolling terrain that was more down than up, thinking I will for sure have no problem reaching my goal for today.  I was aiming for Marion Creek campground at mile post 179.  Another paved section started at around mile post 209.  Yes!  Smooth sailing for a while ………. wait a minute, what is wrong with my bike?  Why is it wobbling so much?  After a quick inspection I found 2 serious looking bulges in the sidewall of my back tire.  Who knows how long it had been like that so I kept going along the smooth road.  A half mile later it blew up.  Dammit!  I changed the tube and reset the tire hoping that would help.  It didn’t, the bulges remained.  I continued on for a ways until it felt like my second tube was going to blow.  Conveniently I made it to a rest stop at mile post 204.

Blown sidewall on bike tire

Blown tire

My grand total on the Dalton highway was 210 miles (340 km).

How disappointing …….. of all things to fail me, tires were just about the only thing I didn’t have spares for.  I had brakes, brake cables, shifter cables, extra chain links, tubes and screws for my racks but no extra tires.  After all, my Continental touring tires were only 2 weeks old and every other pair I’ve ever had were bomb proof.

Now what to do?

The end of my Dalton Highway ride

The end of my Dalton Highway ride

The end of my Dalton Highway ride

The end of my Dalton Highway ride

Without really thinking much about it I stuck out my thumb for the next vehicle that came by (20 min later).  They stopped but didn’t have enough room for me, my gear and bike so I stayed put.  I checked the time and it was about 9 pm which I realized that would put me in Fairbanks at a very inconvenient hour for finding a place to stay.

New plan!  Set up camp and start hitching in the morning.  At least I’m in a convenient place to pull over, with a pit toilet and bear proof garbage bins.  I noticed some handles on the back of the bin and opened it.  Hmm …….. this could be a good place to store my food bag.

I was just getting ready to bunk down when a big tanker truck pulled into the stop …….

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – the Last Leg

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Destination: Fairbanks

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Dalton Highway

Day 2

I survived the night!  I wasn’t eaten by a bear, or a wolf or a raven ……. have I mention the ravens are huge up here? …… and my food cache was untouched by the tundra scavengers ……..again, have I mention the ravens are huge up here?

At some point I finally warmed up and was actually quite cozy when I awoke although I’m not really sure how much real sleep I got.  My face felt like a giant puff ball and my eyes were swollen almost shut.

I packed up camp and set out into the misty morning.  It was pretty easy going for a while as the road was packed down by the trucks and was almost as smooth as an asphalt paved road.  Outside of the wheel tracks though it was definitely not bicycle tire friendly.  A tip to remember is that this road was built to transport supplies to the work camps along it and to Prudhoe Bay so the haul trucks have the right of way.  They do most of their hauling in the winter months when the road becomes solid ice and much easier for transport.  During the summer months they are still hauling but I think I only encountered one every 30 to 45 minutes.  It wasn’t a big deal to move over to the side of the road give a wave and let them pass before continuing on.  And a vast majority of them slowed down as they passed in an attempt not to fling rocks and dust in my direction.  They slow down when passing each other as well.  Nobody wants a cracked or broken window  hundreds of miles away from an auto body shop.  Courtesy goes a long way on the haul road.

I learned quite a bit about the Dalton highway and the people that work on it as my adventure took a detour from the plan on day 3 …….

Muddy dalton highway stretching off into the misty distance

Heading out into the mist …….

Interesting tundra flora

Interesting tundra flora

After riding for a couple of hours the sky cleared and the sun came out.  I made it to Last Chance Wayside with a pit toilet and over-flowing bear proof garbage bins …. its probably a good thing I didn’t make it this far yesterday.  I stopped for a lunch break and as I was finishing up my feast of PB&J wraps a van pulled into the rest stop.  I chatted with the driver for a bit, he was surprised to see a solo female cyclist out on the haul road.  By this time I was starting to feel much more comfortable with my new reality and enjoying being out on the open road.  He offered me some bottled water before continuing on his way.  Never pass up a water opportunity.  Up to this point I had only passed small ponds with standing water looking more like mosquito incubators than re-hydration opportunities.

After lunch, It was slow going again but there were 2 long paved sections I tried to take advantage of.  At about the 90km mark (for the trip) the mosquitoes came out in full force.  It seems that when the sun comes out and the tundra warms up a bit the mozzies come “Alive.”  They didn’t bother me too much for the first 3 hrs but they were relentlessly dive bombing my head, buzzing my ears, and trying to get up my nose, in my mouth and in my ears.  It makes breathing a bit of a challenge.  I sprayed down with bug spray which worked well for about 20 minutes until I sweated it off again.

Note: Definitely need a no-see-um head net for this trip.  I put a half-hearted effort into finding a head net before I left for the trip.  Checked the local MEC store but no luck so didn’t pursue it further.

Despite the mozzies, I really enjoyed the landscape.  Green rolling hills with a wall of snowy peaks rising out of them.  Beautiful!  The scene is big  and wide open and there is no way I could capture the vastness in my tiny camera lens.   But I made an attempt anyway …….

Blue Bird Day on the Dalton Highway

Blue Bird Day on the Dalton Highway

The pipeline

The pipeline

Snow Capped Peaks of the Brooks Range from the Dalton Highway

The Brooks Range from the Dalton Highway

Near the end of my day I came upon a caribou with the most massive rack I have ever seen.  By this time I had packed my camera away and was focused more on finding a good camping pullout than Arctic wildlife.  The caribou was relieving itself at the side of the road.  I stopped and stared.  It stared right back at me and continued to relieve itself.  I went for my camera but it wouldn’t come loose.  The caribou walked up on the road, stopped and posed perfectly for me – stoopid camera not coming loose – it walked across the road and looked at me again – poser – stoopid camera – and then wandered off onto the tundra – finally my camera came loose.

Caribou on the tundra

Caribou wandering away from me after posing so perfectly on the road just in front of me

I rode on a little farther feeling more exhausted than ever.  Crested a hill around mile post 289 and looked over the top to see another fairly steep down hill followed by another uphill.  There was no way I had another hill in me.  Construction on the other side meant loose gravel anyway and generally hard riding so I set up camp at the top of the hill.  It was super windy – a blessing as the mozzies left me alone.  The goal for the day was Galbraith Lake at milepost 274 but I just didn’t have it in me.

Camping on the hilltop provided spectacular and unobstructed views of the tundra and sky as the sun sank low on the horizon.  Again, the camera just didn’t do it justice!

Day 2 camp set up on pipeline access road

Day 2 camp set up on pipeline access road

The sun dipped low behind the hill in the back ground creating this sunset effect.  It's 2 am.

The sun dipped low behind the hill in the back ground creating this sunset effect – it’s 2 am.

Pink mountain scene behind the tent at 2 am.

Pink mountain scene behind the tent at 2 am.

2am sunset/sunrise

2am sunset/sunrise

Stay tuned for the continuing mission to conquer the Dalton Highway ……………

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – The Last Leg 

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Destination: Fairbanks

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Dalton Highway

My latest adventure began on July 26 2014 in Deadhorse Alaska.  The goal was to ride the Dalton Highway from Deadhorse to Fairbanks, Alaska and then continue on to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory along the Alaska Highway.  I had initially planned to do this trip with a friend but due to a  scheduling conflict it morphed into a solo venture.  I had never really questioned whether I could do the trip physically and the reality that it was an unpaved haul road for big rigs was not lost on me.

The psychology of doing a trip like this solo was daunting though.  But why?  I’m not sure if the fear was emanating from me, or if it was projected on me by others.  My family, friends, the oil field workers at the airport, people I met along the highway?  Would they have expressed as much concern for my safety if I had been a man doing this trip solo?  It is true, the first full 24 hours were a bit rough as I transitioned from my familiar busy city life to remote solo cyclist.

Day 1

I was feeling fine for the flights up to Deadhorse.  I had some anxiety over my bike having to be transferred between 3 planes which increased slightly when I saw them taping the box back together in Anchorage before loading on the final flight to Deadhorse.  My anxiety increased further upon disembarking the plane and realizing I was the only girl getting off and everyone else was being greeted by someone who would bring them to their respective work camps.  While waiting for our luggage, a few of them were putting the fear of god into me about bears.  I put my bike together and questioned over and over again “What the hell am I doing here?”  All the while seriously considering buying a plane ticket home immediately.

After my bike was assembled, the first order of business was acquiring bear spray.  I found the Deadhorse store after navigating some extremely muddy streets and miserable, misty weather, all the while considering ordering up a hotel room and buying that plane ticket back home.  It was 6 pm local time when I finally hit the haul road with my 100 lb fully loaded bike.  Food weighs a lot!!  I had to transport it from Vancouver as there is no real grocery outlet in Deadhorse.  Fresh food is delivered directly to the camps where the oil field workers have all meals prepared for them.

Fully loaded touring bike outside Deadhorse hardware store

The requisite photo of my fully loaded bike outside the Deadhorse hardware store after picking up bear spray (a.k.a. my super powers).

I made it all the way to the Deadhorse city limits when I encountered a Swedish cyclist trying to hitch a ride back to Fairbanks.  He had ridden north from San Francisco.  He gave me some tips, affirmed that the Arctic Ocean tour wasn’t worth it, we said our “good lucks” and I headed out into the mist.  Deadhorse is about 10 miles from the ocean which is inaccessible except by tour bus as civilians must be escorted through the oil fields.  I had considered taking the Arctic Ocean tour to say I had put my foot in the ocean but would have had to wait another day until the next tour so decided to ride on instead.

Deadhorse city limits

Deadhorse city limits

Muskox by the river

Muskox

I made it another 100 m down the road and saw a heard of muskox down by the river.  Cool!  It was exceedingly slow going on the variable road.  Sometimes it was hard, sometimes bumpy, sometimes soft and muddy ……. still questioning my sanity.

Bear Spray a.k.a My super powers

My Super Powers

My goal was Last Chance Wayside at mile post 354, approximately 96 km from Deadhorse (the mile markers count down from Deadhorse which is marker 414).  This would have been no problem at home on smoothly paved roads.  I gave up from exhaustion at 11 pm (local) at mile post 373.  The sun was expected to set on July 29th so still plenty of light.  I set up camp on a pipeline access road and nearly froze to death in the wind.  There is no protection from the elements on the tundra.  Not sure if I got much sleep.  Had nightmares that made me want to turn back, heard lots of noises (mostly the tent flapping in the wind), thought the ravens were eating through my food pannier.  I had the bear spray at my side the entire time like it was the holder of my super powers.  Without it I would lose all powers and courage to move forward.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

View from tent my first night.  The sun as it swung low on the horizon at 2am.

The view from my tent the first night as the sun swung low on the horizon (at 2am).

A close up view of the muddy Dalton Highway

The muddy road ahead

One of the millions of ponds I passed on the tundra

One of the millions of ponds I passed on the tundra

Stay tuned for the continuing adventure …………….

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – The Last Leg

Back in Business!!

I’m back from my big cycling trip to Alaska and the Yukon.  If it was adventure I was looking for, it was adventure I got!  I’ll post more of my story and some pictures in the coming days as I sort it/them out.

Also as I am writing this post, my “new” (looks more like refurbished) computer fan arrived in the mail and after a couple of false starts, I’ve got this old lap top purring like a kitten again ……….. for now 🙂

Inside the laptop

Putting the “new” (refurbished) fan into my laptop!
So excited to get it done I didn’t even change out of my commuting clothes!

Fixed laptop

Aaaaaaaaaaaand action!! It works!!!

 

Alaska Anyone?

It has been on my mind to cycle the Pan-American Highway from its northern most reaches at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to its most southern point of Ushuaia, Argentina.  The “official” route measures approximately 48,000km.  Yowzers!  That is a trip that will take some time!  The kind of time I don’t really have at the moment …. the timing is right, however, for a baby step.

Pan-American Highway according to Wikipedia

Pan-American Highway according to Wikipedia
This is not the exact route I plan to take. My preference is to stay more coastal along the Pacific side of North America

The plan is to ride  the Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks Alaska and continue on to Whitehorse along the Alaska Highway.

There is currently a snowfall warning for Atigun pass in the Brooks Range section of the Dalton Highway.  On the flip side, the sun doesn’t set until July 29  ……. wish me luck!

I won’t be posting anything along the way (not that I have any great consistency with posting anyway) as I will have no power source and no internet service.  My computer isn’t really up to the task right now anyway.  I’ll hopefully find the time to keep good notes and take some fantastic pictures to put up on my return.

Computer

 

World Cup Final

Leo Messi and 4 German Defenders World Cup 2014

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”
photo from Leo Messi’s facebook page

Better late than never for this post ……….

I know you can’t believe everything you see on the internet but if these riots in Argentina are real ……….. what a disappointment!

I mean, I was really (really, really, really, really) hoping Argentina would win.  Go Messi!  But he is only one guy against 11 other players …….. it takes a whole team.  They played a great game, the (thankless) defense was on and maybe if Messi’s right hand guy, Di Maria had been healthy they would have got the goal they needed.

I have never really paid so much attention to a World Cup before.  I have, in the past, been far more concerned with playing a game or doing a sport than watching it on TV.  But somehow I really got sucked into it this year.  The group round was awesome!  I couldn’t watch ALL of the games, but not one single one that I did watch was boring.  The knock-out round was a little less exciting.  A game of strategy maybe ……. waiting for the other team to make the first move …… or mistake.  I really felt for Brazil in the semis.  It was like they lost Neymar Jr and their heart with him.  He was exciting to watch as all of the superstars are …….. there is a reason we know their names.

I can’t imagine the intense pressure the players must have felt.  Especially those who are built up by the media.  Is playing the game even fun for them under that kind of scrutiny ……….. I hope so.

It’s entertainment people!!!!! Cut them some slack!! And riots!! Seriously!!

I am disgusted by the whole thing.  As I was with the riots in Vancouver after their loss to Boston in the 2011 Stanley Cup Play-off.  Watching it on TV, living in the same city, what a surreal experience.

World Cup Break

I haven’t been writing much lately.  I have something in the works but adventures are on hold until the World Cup is over.  Excitingly, two of my teams made it to the semi-finals!  Sadly they are playing each other.

For those of us who can’t watch the games live due to work scheduling, I thank CBC for such great internet streaming coverage.  It is a little difficult to replay the games without already knowing the score but I practiced covering the right part of the screen during the group round.  So I’ve got it covered, so to speak 😉