Thursday, 12 July 2012

CHAPTER 11


  DAY 12    FAIRBANKS TO COLDFOOT.      420 km

Today was the start of the infamous Dalton highway to Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic ocean. There was big relief all round that the weather was fine.
Gorgeous vistas of purple fireweed and long roads stretching into the distance





The trip up was absolutely beautiful as we ride up thru the tundra and boreal forests. At the start of the Dalton highway the road became dirt and gravel but fortunately was dry. However where there were roadworks it was somewhat slippery on the mixture of water, dirt and Calcium Chloride ( anti freeze )
First milestone was the mighty Yukon river and goodness gracious what a big river. It looked about as big at the Mississippi river.

Then it was up to the Arctic Circle signpost at the Arctic circle itself. Many many photos are compulsory and it must be one of the most photographed signs in the world !










The travelers four.......





Then onward was the cry and "Dick of the Arctic" and his gallant wife Diana, goddess of motorcycle pillion passengers, girded their loins or at least hitched their riding trousers up and it was north to the trucks top settlement of Coldfoot.





Coldfoot was so named because apparently the early gold miners got cold feet at this point north and decided to go no further. Clearly if they had of had access to finest Merino wool Icebreaker socks from New Zealand then Coldfoot may have never in fact have existed !

Finally it was up to Wiseman ( pop 50 ) where we stayed in a delightful log cabin may out of local hand hewn logs. It was run by Ute and ............ ( note to self - must get his name on return.) Anyway .......... was a retired trapper and regaled us with tales of being out in the woods in mid winter for up to a week at a time with the dogs and sled setting trap lines for catching fur animals. He told us the temperature in Wiseman gets down to minus 68 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. You have to enjoy the winter here he told us. Note to self - must not complain about cold Auckland winters again!


   DAY  13     COLDFOOT ( WISEMAM) TO DEADHORSE. 410 km

And dear reader it is off to the the Arctic ocean we go......





What a spectacular ride! The sky was totally blue all day without nary a cloud and the temperatures were positively barmy at up to 18 degrees C





The scenery was spectacular to say the least. We crossed the Atigan Pass (4000 odd feet high) and rode down the Chandler shelf to Deadhorse at Prudhoe Bay.

I had read blog reports of icy fogs, snow storms and freezing rain even in July on this road so it was hard to reconcile this with the magnificent weather we were having .

And into Prudhoe Bay the intrepid travelers rode.....

Tonight we stay at an oil workers hostel with the sexy name of RA 10. ( recreational area No 10 ). A comfortable hostel yes but a recreational area no! When you are an oil worker here you work 12 hour shifts for 2 to 4 weeks continuously then you fly out for your recreation, you do not exactly have it here.


  DAY  14    DEADHORSE. ( PRUDOE BAY ). REST DAY

Yes Mum, we are here! Today it was the obligatory trip to the Arctic ocean (about 18 km from Deadhorse) for the obligatory toe dipping exercise in the Arctic ocean.

"Drill baby,drill ! "




We arrived at the ocean after navigating countless oil derricks. In the distance you could see the limit of the pack ice. According to Sarah Palin Russia is just beyond that again! You have to do a compulsory look for Polar Bears before you are allowed onto the beach. Yes, really.

Then into the water we go. No swimming is allowed and I can only surmise that this is because they do not want frozen testicles washing up onto the beaches. Mind you the polar bears might see them as snap frozen delicacies and being revenge for Kiwis who eat " mountain oysters"


" Dick of the Arctic"









And now for a decent breakfast .......




Please can I have some more......




Cool beach babe




Goodness me, this Clipboard newsletter is interesting




We are now stuffed full of facts and figures about oil at Prudoe Bay. Suffice to say in summary that oil was discovered in the 1960s, developed in the 1970s and production peaked in the 1980s. However it is felt there is still enough oil here to last another 50 years. As engineering projects around the world go this was a biggie and must be up there with the biggest.

But trips are also about stories. We met up on the trip north with Barry and Craig - two brothers also doing the trip on motorcycles. They are also staying in " SA10" with us Barry lives at Willow near Anchorage and is a bush pilot with his own hire plane. He fur traps in his spare time and told us he had a real "scocum gal" of a wife who even looks after his trap lines in winter when he is away. He told us she had her baby one afternoon then cooked at the Lodge the next morning and only when the chores were done did she go off to hospital. Now that's a gal! We got regaled with stunning stories of living in the "bush" which is what we would call the outback and of flying small planes in Alaska.

Brother Craig on the other hand used to run the nuclear power plants on nuclear submarines and told us about life on nuclear subs as a submariner and being under the Arctic ice. His stories were also fascinating and I now know a little about the fission reaction and the different Uranium isotopes.

Who said a journey such as this is only about the joy of riding of motorcycles? The stories and tales encountered on the journey are absolutely fascinating although I think motorcycle travel helps draw the stories out from fellow travellers that you would never hear as an "ordinary" tourist.

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