June 11, 2006 GMT
Dawson City, YT to Fairbanks, AK via Prudhoe Bay

Well, THAT was an adventure. Left Dawson City (via ferry over the Yukon River) and headed down Hwy. 9, the very aptly named "Top of the World Highway". Good gravel and absolutely outstanding scenery. Entered Alaska at Poker Creek,

the "most northerly land border port in the USA" (cool, another point in the braggin rights contests) and made my way to Chicken, Alaska.

I had seen many travel pictures of the place and now I had some of my very own. Pushed ahead to Tok, then Delta Junction. I of course, HAD to get the picture of the "end" of the Alcan Highway marker for the "bookend set".

Looking at the map, I was aiming for a town that was shown as Livengood. Thought I would get a hotel there since I was trying to make that three day window of "good" weather for the run to Prudhoe. I shot right on thru Fairbanks heading to Livengood. Anybody that has ever been to Livengood and is reading this right now is rolling on the floor laughing because THERE AIN'T NOTHIN IN LIVENGOOD!! At least I was only looking for a hotel. I met a fellow that had planned on getting gas there and ran out later on. I looked at the map and saw that Yukon River Crossing was another 60 miles along. It was not so good gravel and it had started to rain so it was going to be exciting. Here is an article I wrote for my Harley Owner's group. It is sort of "tongue in cheek" but it is accurate.

-- About 50 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska the James Dalton Highway, locally known as the Haul Road (cause that's what they do, big trucks haul huge things to and from the oil fields) starts it's way toward the Arctic Ocean. The name Haul Road is much more appropriate than James Dalton Highway because THERE IS NO HIGHWAY! The little red line on the map for the Haul Road is the same size and color as the rest of the lines on the map I got with my Alaska Milepost (I'm still thinking about filing a law suit for misrepresentation) and the roads getting up to Fairbanks were fine. I figured the ride to Prudhoe Bay was going to be a piece of cake, that is until I picked up the official BLM visitor's guide for the James Dalton Highway (AFTER I had already ridden 60 miles of gravel, dirt and mud and was wondering about the lack of highway). Here is the actual description from the guide. "The 414 mile road is narrow, has soft shoulders, high embankments, and steep hills. It is mostly gravel surface with sharp rocks, potholes, washboard, and depending on the weather, clouds of dust or slick mud. Watch out for dangerous curves, loose gravel and mud on the entire highway". I picked up this information while at Yukon River Crossing where I had stopped for the night (night being a whole other story since there IS NO NIGHT up there) because I was tired of riding in the rain and mud. The next morning it was still raining but I was feeling good so I continued on the 60 miles (and two hours) to the Arctic Circle turnoff, and got the picture. While there I talked to a couple of fellows on motorcycles that said they were turning back after getting their pictures (obviously much smarter than I). Another 60 miles and two hours (you do the math) brought me to Coldfoot Camp. This is the last place with ANY kind of services for the next 240 miles to Prudhoe Bay. As I was paying for my gas, I mentioned that I was heading for Prudhoe Bay. The kind lady said that I should look at the weather report they had just received from the Alaska Department of Transportation. Remember the part in the road description about "depending on the weather"? The paper she handed me had the following boxes checked: (1) High/Gusting Winds (2) Poor/NO Visibility (3) Blowing Snow/Drifting snow and (4) One Lane. There was also an additional information section that read "The Dalton Highway road conditions are very difficult due to gusting winds, heavy snow fall creating drifts, slick roads and low to zero visibility. Travel only if absolutely necessary." HUH? I had told all my friends that I was riding to the farthest north spot you could get to by highway so it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY that I travel (try NOT to figure out my logic)! At 12:00 noon I left Coldfoot Camp (I arrived there at 10:00 AM so I DID think about the situation for a couple of hours) and finally made it to Prudhoe Bay at 8:00 PM (again, you can do the math)! I had done it!!!! The Haul Road "braggin rights" were mine. The next day I took the guided tour so that I could get the picture of me standing in the Arctic Ocean (don't ask why, because I don't know). About 1:00PM I started back down the Haul Road which had dried out a bit over night, and the trip that had taken 12 hours coming north only required 7 hours to return south. --

I stopped at Coldfoot for the night (again night being relative), and secured a very expensive room (based on it's size, it may have once been a closet). Made it to Fairbanks about noon and straight to the car wash (of which there are a LOT) and then to the Kawasaki dealer for a service. Another expensive motel room but very appreciated.

Posted by Rick McDermed at June 11, 2006 12:00 AM GMT

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