Sunday, September 27, 2009

29 August 2009, Fairbanks, Alaska

I woke up and looked out the window. The sun was shining. It was going to be a good day. I got up and went out to my bike. I poured the two gallons of spare gas into the tank. I filled it up so wouldn’t need to purchase any gas. I went inside and filled up a garbage can with water so I could wash off some of the heavy sand and mud off my top box and re-attached my two gas containers. I then washed off the seat and the tops of the saddle bags. I loaded my bike, got into my riding gear, took some pictures and departed. I crossed the Yukon River and took a few more pictures. I had 120 miles/193 kilometers to drive to get to Fairbanks. It will be an easy day’s drive. First thing I notice are mountaintops covered in clouds or fog. This was the case until I came to the end of the Dalton Highway. I was in and out of fog the entire time. The road was muddy from the rain yesterday and with the fog it was slow going. Down in the valleys it was clear and as soon as you went over a mountain you were in the fog. Again I had to drive with my visor up and no glasses. Anytime I met a semi-truck or a car I would stop and turn my face away from them so as not to get hit in the face with a rock or get my face covered in mud and sand. I eventually got to the end of the Dalton Hwy and drove my bike into the ditch in front of the sign. A guy was sitting in his vehicle alongside the road. I asked him if he would take my picture. He said yes. He took five or six pictures and after thanking him, he left. I took a few more pictures of the sign and some close-ups of the different stickers on the sign from different people from around the world. I noticed some graffiti on the sign so I added some myself. I wrote DaveR 2009. The sign was damp so it didn’t stick so well. From here on it was a straight shot into Fairbanks. As I drove by the gas station where they gave me the wrong gas information I thought about stopping in and telling the woman where gas was available on the Dalton Highway, but I didn’t want to spend the time so I drove on by. When I arrived in Fairbanks I immediately headed to the Kawasaki Dealer and purchased a lock for my drive sprocket on my motorcycle. I then asked the parts guys where a car wash was. They told me and I went there and washed my bike. It cost me eight dollars. It was the first car wash I was ever in that used only dollar coins to operate. My bike was reasonably clean, and I left for the Harley-Davidson dealer to buy a t-shirt. Mission accomplished. I adjusted and oiled the chain on my bike. A gentleman walked up and started asking questions about my motorcycle. He asked if the Harley dealer fixed my motorcycle ok. I said my motorcycle was ok and didn’t need any repairs. We talked about his travels on motorcycles through the years and I told him of my travels around the world. He seemed genuinely interested so I gave him my blog address to read about my travels. I left the Harley shop looking for some food. I found a Kentucky Fried Chicken and then went to the AT&T store and had them check my cell phone out. It didn’t work in Alaska. It worked in Canada but not Alaska. The lady took the battery out and put it back in. Then she powered it up and shut it down twice. The bloody thing worked. I called Mary just to say hi and tell her where I am. It worked and I was happy. I then had them check my air card and had them change it from the world plan to the Continental U.S.A. plan, a significant cost reduction. I then found a hotel for the night and made some phone calls up here in Alaska.

28 August 2009, Yukon River Camp, Alaska

Leaving Prudhoe Bay…………I hope it doesn’t rain or snow. I got up in the morning and it is a cloudy misting day. I loaded my bike and got into my rain gear for a long day of slugging it out on the Dalton Highway. Today must have been my payback for not getting caught in the rain coming up the Highway. Everything thing was wet. I drove through 40 miles of rough road, but it didn’t seem as bad as on the way up there. It was rough but not like yesterday. I drove fog along the way. That’s always bad because it fogs up the face shield on the helmet. Because it’s so cold the face shield won’t clear and your breath fogs the inside up. If I lifted the visor up, my glasses would fog up. I ended up driving with just my glasses so I could see. The problem without being able to see clearly is you end up in a lot of potholes. There’s a stretch of paved highway just before the Brooks Mountain Range that is full of assorted size potholes. These were the worst potholes because they were usually deeper than gravel potholes and had the potential to bend the rims on my bike because of the square, sharp corners on top of the holes. With the gravel holes you roll into them and roll out. The corners are rounded off, of course with a bounce. With the pavement potholes you fall into them and bang out of them. The shock level is determined by the depth and diameter of the hole. The farther you fall into them the larger the shock coming out. I made it through them ok. Yesterday driving through the Brooks Mountains was very scenic. Today the whole mountain range was covered with clouds and socked in. You couldn’t see a thing. I rode up through Atigun Pass without any problems. There was a light dusting of snow on the road except in the wheel tracks. I didn’t have a problem with ice. All the mountains in this area have white snow caps: very beautiful. I drove on out of the mountains feeling really fortunate not to have encountered actual snowfall. I continued driving wet roads and road construction. The wet roads covered my bike with sand and mud. Of course me too. I notice as I was driving my temperature gage was going up. I knew my radiator was clogged up with mud and sand. I was coming up on a highway maintenance shop and a guy was sticking his head out looking around. I pulled in there and asked him if he had a water hose I could use to clean out my radiator. He said he did and let me clean out my radiator. I also washed the mud off the rest of my bike. Oh, that bike had a lot of mud on it. I cleaned off the engine, radiator, saddle bags, top box, wheels, under the fenders and of course myself. From the waist down I was covered with mud. Of course we talked a lot about motorcycles and how he’d seen a lot of bikes coming back from Dead Horse on trucks; bent up, wrecked or the whoever’s just didn’t want to ride them back to Fairbanks. I washed my glasses, and helmet visor and put my Polish thermostat back on the radiator so the engine would warm up. I thanked the guy for letting me clean up my bike, shook his hand and left for Cold Foot and gasoline. The farther south I rode, the nicer the day was getting. When I arrived at Cold Foot it was a nice sunny day. All the tourists were excited about being this far north in all of the Alaskan beauty. I pumped my gas, ate a small snack I had in my packs, and headed out. I was planning to stay the night at the Yukon River Camp 120 miles south of Cold Foot. The farther south I drove the darker the skies were getting. I was about 60 miles/100 kilometers south of Cold Foot when it started raining. It continued to rain all the way to the Yukon River Camp. By the time I arrived the wheel tracks were rivers running down the hills, the potholes were full of water and the road was getting soft and squishy from the rain. I was really glad when the Yukon River Camp came into view. I was tired, it was getting dark and I couldn’t see all that well anymore in the low light or dusk. I hoped they had a room available or I would have had to sleep in the rain or camp out. I walked in the door dripping from the rain and asked if they had a room for the night. They did. I paid for it and was shown to it. I drove my bike to the rear of the hotel and unloaded it. I took in only my bags and covered my bike. The room was very cold because they had the windows open so I asked them to turn on the furnace to warm the place up. They did. I ate supper, bought some souvenirs took a shower and went to bed. I drove approximately 360 miles/580 kilometers today.

27 August 2009, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

I got up and it was cold. My motorcycle cover had frost on it as did all the other vehicles around the hotel. I saw a grizzly bear, bull moose, musk ox and a caribou. There was snow in the mountain pass but not on the road. It didn’t snow or rain all day. The last 40 miles were full of potholes filled with water: just plain rough road. As it was a mostly sunny day, I took pictures around Prudhoe Bay and Dead horse. I also bought some souvenirs. I stayed in the Aurora Hotel a beautiful place. You had to wear blue booties or covers over your shoes so as not to track mud around the hotel and onto the rug. They provided three meals for the stay in the hotel. There were a lot of people curious about my trip up to Prudhoe Bay and the condition of the road.