Prudhoe Bay, top of the world
Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
159Trip End Jun 23, 2010
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Where I stayed
Lou and Des had decided to ride to Prudhoe bay, which is about as far north as one can go in Alaska. Lynn and I had no wish to tempt fate and ride the gravel road all that distance, so we packed the boys a lunch and muffins and sent them on their way at 7am. It was a good day's ride, maybe two, depending on conditions, so, best to leave early. They were both quite excited about the trip and probably glad not to have the girls tagging along for a change.
Lynn and I were happy for the guys to have some boy-time, and had already resolved to go down Santa Claus Lane to visit Santa’s house in St. Nicholas Drive. It was a beautiful walk. All the street lamp poles are shaped like candy canes and are painted red and white. The whole town has a permanent Christmas theme
Lou and Des emailed that they had arrived at Prudhoe Bay at 10:40pm after a challenging ride. It’s still light at that time of night, so they must have just decided to keep riding until they got to the Bay, not that they had lots of choices of accommodation along the way, in the Arctic Circle. They did bring a tent and sleeping bags in case they got caught short and needed to pull up along the way. There's a lot of wildlife up that way and not too many people.
Lynn and I got word from Des and Lou, by way of email, they would be leaving Prudhoe Bay at lunch time and would be heading to Coldfoot, which is half way between Prudhoe Bay and North Pole, where Lynn and I were. Obviously, it was too much of a ride to do it all again in one hit, so they had decided to break it up into two bites and sleep in Coldfoot, if they could get accommodation. Lynn and I were a bit worried and would be glad when our men were home again.
At 6pm Des and Lou slowly rode up into the carpark of Hotel North Pole, filthy dirty and very tired
We poured coffee and the boys poured forth with the saga of their ride to Prudhoe Bay and back. The trip up there took fifteen and a half hours to cover 840 kilometers. The road conditions were variable and ranged from pavement to clay, gravel to rocks. There were road workers along the way keeping the roads manageable for the truckers. The truckers were considerate of the boys on the bikes, and slowed down so as not to spray them with stones. The ride was along the Dalton Highway also known as the Haul Road, because that’s what it was designed for, to haul supplies up to the town of Deadhorse on Prudhoe Bay to the oil and gas workers and refinery station.
Lou got a flat tyre along the highway. Apparently the last time he had a tyre changed in Whitehorse, in the Yukon, a small stone had got caught up between the tyre and the tube and had gradually worn a hole in the tube. Luckily Des had his new compressor with him, and the tyre was pumped up in a jiffy
The further north the boys travelled, the colder the weather became, and although it was getting late, it was still light. They rode over the mountains and into the snow covered, barren, flat tundra. They motored on at a good pace, taking special care on the clay and gravel, especially when it had just been wet down by the work vehicles.
They arrived at the town of Deadhorse at 10:30pm and booked into the Prudhoe Bay Hotel at $150 per person, but that did include three good meals, and a midnight snack. They were surprised when the receptionist asked if they had just ridden up there to Deadhorse. They said, "Yes we have." She said “Congratulations, you’re the first bikers to make it up here this season. You’d be surprised how many fail and have to turn back before getting here.”
The local Police man, also staying at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel, who had visited Adelaide last year, was keen to talk to the boys and also congratulated them on making it up the Dalton Highway. Lou and Des couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, it was challenging, sure, but not that hard. The boys settled into the cafeteria for coffee and a snack until 1am and agreed to start riding out again at 11am the next day
The next day, Des and Lou prepped their bikes for an 11am getaway, and realizing that it had been snowing all night, and the temperature was -5 degrees celsius. Lou had purchased a newspaper to put under his jacket and on his thighs as the chill was so fierce.
Approximately 5 kilometers on the road south of Prudhoe Bay, the road was completely covered in snow. The wind was gusting at 80 kilometers an hour, making blizzard like conditions to ride in. Des didn’t see the snow drift that he ran into, and as he put it. “I wanted to waltz and the bike wanted to tango”, it wasn’t a pretty sight. The bike and Des slid along the road, bruising Des’s hip and ego. My brother Lou, who was leading at this stage, stopped to turn his bike around to help Des, only to find his bike slide out from underneath him. Lou helped Des right his bike, and one of the mine workers in a large pickup truck helped Lou retrieve his bike from the snow. They continued on, albeit a little less gung-ho, and at a much slower pace. Now the boys understood what all the fuss was about, making it up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse, they had been lucky the weather had been in their favour on the way up.
Further south the weather cleared, still very cold, but the scenery was breathtaking. The wildlife was spectacular and wild geese flew overhead and a large herd of caribou crossed the road in front of them.
They stopped to rest at Coldfoot, which had taken about 5 hours to reach. They had a coffee and toasted sandwich at Coldfoot and were surprised to hear that the Coldfoot station, where they were, had only reopened for the summer 3 days previously, which was lucky because they didn’t have enough fuel to get back to Fairbanks or North Pole. The waitress told Des about a grizzly bear which had made it’s residence in the shop four years earlier during the winter months, and showed him the scrapbook of the story about the bear. Unfortunately he was a very old male bear who could no longer hunt, so was scavenging. The ranger called for three volunteers to go into the building with flash lights, as there was no power, and shoot the poor animal. The waitress said, there was four shots fired. Two went into the floor and two into the bear. None of the men wanted to own up to the floor shots.
Des went outside and spoke to Dorothy, a local trapper who had a stall with mountain souvenirs to sell to passing traffic. She had trapped woolvereen and lynx cat and made them into hand bags to sell.