The Arctic Circle Story and Today

Yesterday’s post was brief because I was too tired to write all that I wanted to share with you. This is the rest of the story of my trek to the Arctic Circle and an account of today’s journey to Chicken, AK and back to Tok, AK.

I woke up early as usual and looked at the Facebook posts and WordPress comments. It was raining and had rained all night. It did not look like a good day to do the Dalton.

My friend, Joe, encouraged me to ride to the Dalton Highway sign, take a picture and see what the road looks like. So I got on the bike and headed for the last gas stop before the start of the Dalton.

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I talked with the driver of a tour-van, who was getting gas at the next pump. He pulled out his phone and we looked at the weather radar. It looked like the rain would stop by the time I got to the Yukon River. He said there is a bad spot before the Dalton starts and that the first mile of the Dalton was uphill and messy. There’s is a turn-around at the top. He felt that I’d know whether I could continue or not after going through those two spots.

The gravel before these signs was not bad, so I continued to the signs. It’s rather hard to read them with all the stickers people have pasted on them.

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I continued up the hill and found the road not too bad. I kept going. Soon I saw the 9-mile post and then the 12-mile post. At that point I realized I was going to keep going. I got gas at the Yukon River Lodge. Regular gas was $5.49 a gallon.

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The mud in the “parking lot” was an inch or two deep and slippery. I almost dropped the bike, but recovered.

There’s a rest stop at Finger Mountain, about 15 miles before the Circle. These are hard rocks that stick out above the softer surrounding ground.

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I think the “Finger” has fallen down as I didn’t see anything that looks like the picture.

The road conditions varied and were affected by the presence or lack of rain. The dry spots were hard and smooth. I could go 50 mph in many places. The narrow, wet spots were pot-holed and more difficult to navigate. The rain obscured my vision and made it hard for me to find the “sweet spot” – the line where the road was smoothest. There are three 10-mile sections that are paved. The rest of the road is hard-packed gravel with a sandy-muddy coating on top. In the worst sections I could do 20-30 mph.

Here is a truck approaching on a paved section.

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Of course there was a construction area and a pilot car.

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Occasionally you see the pipeline.

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There was a tour bus at the Circle when I arrived and the van and driver I talked with at Hilltop. He was surprised to see I’d made it. He offered me some hot stew, which I gratefully accepted.  His passengers were a family of four from Hong Kong and a couple from Australia. They flew from Australia to the States, flew up to Fairbanks and took this tour as the start of their vacation. They planned to take the Princess cruise down the inland passage, tour some more and end up in Las Vegas where they plan to get married. They’ve been together 30 years and figured it was time to tie the knot. They live two hours north of Airlie Beach, the starting point of my friend Shrug’s Australian trip.

There was also a lady at the site handing out certificates and taking donations for an information center in Coldfoot. She’s the one who took my picture.

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I got gas at the same place on the way back.

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It started raining about five miles before the end of the Dalton. This section of road is narrow and up-hill. It was probably the toughest stretch of the trip. It continued raining off and on all the way to Fairbanks.

I stopped at a do-it-yourself car wash a removed the worst of the mud. Then I stopped for dinner and a beer. I showered, posted the pictures and quickly fell asleep.

The Next Day

It was raining still this morning. I packed up the bike and headed south on AK-2 toward Tok.

This is the dorm I stayed in.

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And a picture of the pipeline as it crosses a river. I passed North Pole, AK but didn’t see Santa.

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There is an information center at the end of the Alaska highway in Delta Junction.

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Just east of Tok I turned north toward Chicken, AK. My intention was to ride to Dawson, YT on the Top of the World Highway. It is gravel, but I figured I could manage it.

Chicken is an old mining town. They’ve hyped it. I can’t recommend anyone go out of their way to see it.

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The last few miles of the road before Chicken and beyond are gravel with a sandy-muddy surface. A few miles north of Chicken I stopped to take a picture of the river that flows beside the road.

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About a half-mile later the entire road was covered in 2-3 inches of glop on top of a glass-like surface. I found the road exceeded my capabilities.

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Three guys in a truck came along and helped me get the bike up and turned around. I figured the prudent thing to do was return to Tok , the Arctic Tent, and Fast Eddie’s Restaurant with free Wi-Fi.

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I wasn’t hurt at al land the bike is fine. The spill just reminds me I’m an average rider with a willingness to take some risk and learn from my experiences.