Los Angeles to the Arctic Circle and back

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 13, Part 1: Fairbanks to the Yukon River

Stopped by the Harley dealer to get new tires and Ky need his brake and an oil leak fixed, neither of which we could fix ourselves.  We got there before they opened and there was already a line.  

My tire was good when I left LA.  I didn't tell anyone at the dealership where we were going because i hear they spend a lot of the time talking people out of it.

We were at the dealer for 7 hours.  Took a walk and found a closed strip club.  I like the name "Lonely Lady"

Royal Enfield rider

Finally on the road.  Shit roads even before the Dalton

Got to the start!  And let me start by saying that last night I was googling "Harley on the Dalton" etc and almost everything out there was "you're gonna die"  I know people have ridden it on street bikes, but the Internet consensus is "don't."  The show Ice Road Truckers is filmed on this road, its considered one of the deadliest roads in the world (a fact i didnt mention to any loved ones back home). Its also called the Haul Road, and serves mainly as a route for getting oil out of the Arctic, the oil companies want the road closed.  But from my reading it seemed that it boiled down to weather, if it rains, you're screwed. The calcium chloride they put on the dirt to keep the dust down when mixed with water is as slick as ice.  And they water down the roads daily. So my plan was ride, and if there were sections that were wet and dangerous, I would wait it out.  There was definitely a big part of me that was having second thoughts, its kind of a jockish thrill seeking bragging quest, and I'm more of a kick back and enjoy the views rider.  But I also like to complete things.


At first the road was pretty typical gravel and crap, slate and chip seal, crap but nothing too crazy.  It was teeth rattling, and i thought my tires might burst, but a lot of the roads on this trip were like that. This guy asked where we were heading and we said "arctic circle" and he said "don't do it, they watered down the road by the roller coaster hill and its all a muddy sloppy slippery mess."

But he gave us chocolates to help us when we said we were gonna try.

I took my bag of and threw it in the forest, it was making the bike more top heavy than usual, and on these roads any bit helps.  I just kept a few emergency necessities.  Ky thought it was cheating, but I don't think my dirty underwear needs to cross the line for it to count. 

I hoped I would find it on my way back down.   Later i worried that there was a Cliff Bar in the bag, the bears would like that. 

The packed down dry dirt parts arnt bad

Then stretches as smooth as the I-5.   But just when you are complacent a sudden pot hole or hidden gravel patch wakes you up. 

Back to this.  Also the truck drivers don't give a shit at all about the bikes.  One guy came hauling around a blind corner towards us in the middle of the highway with a grill that said "Death before Dishonor," he wasn't messing around.

Then the mighty Yukon

Dumb yet scary mechanical problem, the key fob security battery was dying, that's the 'alarm' that scares bike thieves away by blinking its lights.  And without the fob the bike won't start.  That would be the dumbest way to get stranded.   Fortunately I thought ahead and brought an extra battery.  Up here you have a variety of ways to screw up and the margin for error is zero.  

Yukon Camp, a lot of the oil workers seemed to be staying here

I didn't mention that Arto and the filmer truck left before us and were out of cell range, we had no idea where they were, whether in front of behind, or on the road at all.  I didn't want to depend on the truck, but I guess I planned on using gas from their gas cans.  The gas station was closing in an hour and we did not have enough gas to make the trip there and back without being able to get gas here again.  I saw a gas can on the ground and we found its owner, Jeremy, and asked if we could fill it, and leave it behind the shed and come back for it later.  

He said sure and asked if we wanted a ride on a leaky boat.  Of course!  Now I have two things buried in the tundra, my bag behind a tree and a can of gas behind a shed.  

I was hoping that if we killed time the muddy roads up ahead would dry. 

He wasn't kidding about the leak, he said he found the boat in the ice one day.

He was so rad, missing teeth and awesome stories.  I guess he's in an episode of Ice Road Truckers, I'll need to watch that show when I get home.

The vibes up here are heavy, it's like an industrial wasteland.

Continued in part 2

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