Thursday, May 28, 2009

Prudhoe Bay Trip - Day 2

The next morning we woke bright and early to the sound of birds chirping in the bushes behind our tent. The sun was already up and warm. A man in a car stopped by to chat. He and his girlfriend were driving to Prudhoe Bay in their car. We talked a bit, and he took a picture of us behind our tent.

We broke camp and set off for places further North!

It took only a few minutes to wind our way through the morning traffic in Fairbanks to where we hit the Steese Highway out of town. I went to college in Fairbanks, and even though the area has changed a lot, it was nice to drive this road. We passed an overlook that I spent many hours sitting at during college as I thought about life, living, and my latest boyfriend troubles.

Just outside of town we came to an informational wayside next to the Alyeska Pipeline.

From the Steese Highway we turned onto the Elliot Highway for a short time until it intersected with the Dalton Highway, the infamous Haul Road!

The true adventure begins!

The road immediately turns to gravel and climbs a long steep hill with winding curves. It's as if the road is telling you from the start, this is serious folks, I'm not playing. We'd only been on the road for a short time when a lynx ran across in front of me. Cool!

25 miles or so into the ride the road turns back to asphalt. Unfortunately the asphalt is broken and frost heaved, so it is not necessarily easier riding than the gravel.

The road was bordered in pink grass that grows everywhere in Alaska. It is very pretty, but also very sharp and will cut you if you handle it carelessly. The views are impressive from the beginning, but the road requires full concentration.

Even a momentary lapse can cause major problems.
Shortly after stopping for that photo op, we came across a section of asphalt. I relaxed more than I should have and didn't see the HUGE step when it turned back to gravel. It was a momentary lapse, but it almost ruined the rest of our trip. When I hit the step it caused my bike to totally bottom out on the front forks. Nut hit it too, and shortly after we stopped to talk about it. Almost immediately we noticed that my left fork seal was leaking now, in addition to the one on the right. "We'll have to watch that," Bobby said. Uh, yeah!

We continued on toward the Yukon River crossing at mile 56 of the Dalton. On the way we rode some beautiful road. We rode through beautiful country on a not so beautiful mud road. Then we got right behind the water truck that was spraying water and calcium chloride on the road.

The infamous wooden deck of the Yukon River bridge.

The Yukon River and bridge from the visitor information center.

The fins on the supports for pipeline are designed to let off heat. The pipeline runs through a lot of permafrost that would be damaged, and could cause the pipeline supports to collapse if it melted. The fins help keep the temperature down.

There were several other bikers in the visitor area, but we only waved and didn't really get a chance to talk. For those heading South, they were reflecting on their trip and taking a moment to relax as it neared its end. For those heading North, we were wondering what the road would bring us, whether we'd soon be sitting here with a dirty bike, a big smile, and a sense of lifetime accomplishment.

We had planned to eat lunch at Yukon Crossing, but after speaking to some more experienced travelers, we chose to eat the Hot Spot instead.

to be continued...

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