August 22, 2009 GMT

21/8/09

We are in a motel in Fairbanks resting for a few days before we start riding south to Canada, that will be tomorrow. The ride to Prudhoe Bay and back was a challenge in lots of ways and it is good to be back with civilisation. We left Anchorage on Friday 14 August in pouring rain and the rain stayed with us for the first 250 miles past Denali National Park and we didnt see much of the scenery because of the clouds. After the rain slowed down the character of the ride changed and it felt as though the journey had begun and we could enjoy the passing mountains and forests. We stayed the night in Fairbanks and set off on Saturday morning again in the rain, which didn't stop, and after the tarmac ran out we where riding on muddy gravel roads which really tested my off road riding skills. the rain continued even through the Yukon River crossing and crossing into the Arctic Circle. We stopped for the night at Coldfoot Camp which is 120 miles past the Arctic Circle and is a truck stop on what I later found out is featured on TV as the Ice Road in the programme of the same name.
The following morning we set off for Prudhoe Bay in bright sunshine which stayed with us until we went through the Atigun Pass which is the highest part of the James Dalton Highway and the temperature dropped to -2.5C. Shortly after this the rain started again and didnt stop for the 2 nights we spent in Prudhoe Bay; the rest of the ride was wet and at times scary with the bike struggling for grip on the slippery gravelly road. We were hoping to see some of the wildlife at this point with the landscape being treeless Tundra, and we saw Arctic Caribou, a Snow Fox and one Wolf - no Grizzlys! Prudhoe Bay exists mainly to service the oil industry which has the biggest oil field in Northern America and the hotels serve as digs for the support service operatives. The restaraunt at the hotel was like a canteen with good hot meals served most of the day and night. Marilyn spent the first day suffering with a migraine attack and it wasnt until the second day that we went out in the wind and persistent rain. We went on a tour that took us to the Arctic Ocean and some brave souls even stripped off and went in the water, but that looked like a bad day at Skeggy so we didn't bother.
The next day we set off from Prudhoe Bay for the return to Coldfoot Camp, again in the rain and then shortly after that a snow storm that lasted for over 130 miles, with snow laying on the road over the Atigun Pass; this time the temperature was -3 C, another squeaky bum moment! Prior to reaching the Atigun Pass the bike showed a low oil pressure light and then the engine began to overheat so we had to ride a few miles and then stop to allow the engine to cool off; a 6 hour journey took 8 and a half hours. Almost every stop saw a concerned passer by asking if we needed help and we met some great people this way. The time at Coldfoot was spent trying to sort out the bike, including a 6 am call to Balderstons Bikes in the UK. The next morning was spent cleaning some of the mud off the bike, but 15 miles into the journey saw us overheating and returning to Coldfoot. More cleaning and we set off again, but after 15 miles the bike was still overheating. We spent more time cleaning the bike's radiator using a toothbrush and a borrowed flannel with the help of a Texan living in Calgary, called Joe. We set off again in the sunshine riding together with Joe and the problem was finally cured. The ride back to Fairbanks was like being on a totally different road and we saw lots of scenery we hadn't seen on the Northbound ride. The final 80ish miles was on good tarmac with lots of fast sweeping bends and finished the ride in a satisfying fashion.

Posted by Albert Sollini at August 22, 2009 06:30 AM GMT
 


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