We made a quicker getaway than usual due to a rather wet mosquito munching morning. We’ve discovered two things that speed us up while outside the tent; Rain and mosquitoes. Once combined they speed us up quite considerably! As the bugs were having me for breakfast I decided not to hang around for mine so we packed our gear up and headed straight into Fairbanks. We found a McDonald’s for free wifi, hot drinks and a chance to get dry without being eaten alive and started compiling a list of things to do before hitting the road. By the time we’d zoomed round town and got everything done the sun was out and it was lovely and warm, almost too hot in our bike gear!
A guy called Daniel Rintz had been in touch with Ed as he was in Fairbanks and wanted to meet up so we made our way over to the really cool hostel they were staying at. It was over our budget but with an effortless haggle we got it down to $30 for the two of us. We were really pleased we did as we had a lovely evening with Daniel, his girlfriend Joey, a chap called Ray from New Hampshire and another guy called Thurston from Germany. Joey cooked spaghetti bolognaise which was really tasty and there were lots of laughs, stories and tales of the road. It’s always great to meet up with other travellers especially those on 2 wheels, plus a few beers and it made for a very enjoyable evening!
I spent the next morning doing my blog and Ed straightened my handlebars for me, they’d been wonky ever since we resprayed it and it’s quite annoying riding with one arm bent and the other straight!
The others left early afternoon so we went to wave them off. I was so happy to discover Daniel and Joey are as slack as us when it comes to getting going, we don’t feel so lazy now!
We eventually packed our stuff up and went to get food and had the usual mission of trying to fit it all in. I always manage to squeeze it all in but things do get a bit squashed!
By the time we’d done that and got fuel it was 7pm before we left Fairbanks. We rode for an hour then stopped for some food in a layby. We were getting hungry and it’s also recommended that you cook away from where you camp to avoid attracting the wildlife, especially bears!
We rode until we started running out of daylight then started looking for a place to camp. There weren’t any campsites on the map so we kept out eyes peeled for a place to wild camp that wasn’t infested with mosquitos! We eventually spotted a steep bank that went up to a flat bit that ran alongside the road. Having never ridden up anything steep (well except at the Elephant Rally in Germany but I was drunk then and don’t actually remember doing it) I was a bit wary but following Ed’s instructions I rode straight up it no worries, I thought ‘It’s never as bad as you think it is!’. We carried on riding along it until we found a reasonably flat bit, it was only mulch so we thought we could level it out a bit. I stopped, flicked my side stand down and lent the bike over. Unfortunately I’d forgotten the ground was as soft as a marshmallow and the bike and I continued going over until we hit the deck, much to Ed’s amusement.
Once we’d both stopped laughing Ed helped me up and we set about putting the tent up when suddenly the mosquitos arrived. I’d laughed and taken the piss out of Ed when he was purchasing the silly hat with the bug net but here I was gazing longingly at it wishing I had one too. Ed had the last laugh there, not so silly now!
Ed went off to get some water from a nearby creek so while he was gone I thought I better read the instructions for the bear spray. Although it’s a good idea to know how to use it, I discovered it’s not a good idea to learn how to use it when you’re outside the tent, at dusk, all alone, with a vivid imagination. I started daydreaming that a bear was going to come round the corner and attack me and I scared myself so much that I felt all funny and had to stop reading it! To make me feel better I ended the daydream with me saying ‘Hey bear, hey bear’ like you’re supposed to and the bear stopped and said ‘Hey! I love your accent! Where you guys from?!’ A running joke Ed and I have after continually hearing it from all the lovely Americans. It works for mosquitoes too, just as they’re coming in to bite you go ‘Please don’t bite me!’ and they stop and go ‘Hey! I love your accent! Where you guys from?!’ You get the idea.
It was funny to find out later that while I was scaring myself thinking a bear was going to come and attack me, Ed was thinking exactly the same thing down at the creek. We felt much happier and safer once we were back together. We can’t work out if it’s because we feel invincible when we’re together or if it’s just because we then have 2 cans of bear spray. Luckily no bears appeared but there were plenty of mossies about. We played with the death racket to get rid of the ones in the tent then finally hit the sack.
Photo of death racket
When we woke, the porch was absolutely covered in the little biters but we managed to get out of the tent eventually. Ed soon set to smothering himself in anti-itch bite cream, they seem to love his arse!
I learnt how to go down the steep slope which was fun and we hit the road headed towards the infamous Dalton Highway, bathed in glorious sunshine. It was weird approaching it, I don’t know if it was nerves, apprehension or curiosity? We’d heard so many mixed things about it that we really didn’t know what to expect. What they had all failed to tell us however is that a lot of it is actually paved!
It was dry all day and we had a mix of paved, dirt, loose gravel and compacted gravel. The weather was beautiful as was the scenery which included hills, mountains and huge expanses, not forgetting the pipeline that was running alongside us pretty much the whole time. That’s the only reason the Dalton, or what is known to the locals as the ‘Haul Road’, is actually there; to run supplies, parts etc to and from the oil fields. There’s something really cool about the pipeline, for some reason I like it, it’s like a vein running through the state.
Later on in the afternoon as we got higher it got cloudy and cooler. The clouds rolled through the trees and sat just above our heads.
I won’t tell you too much about it but it was at this point that I had a bit of Shepee fail (a shepee is a device that allows a woman to wee standing up) . Let’s just say I learnt that you can’t wee up hill… nuff said. As we continued the weather cleared up and the sun came out warming everything up nicely.
We stopped at the Arctic Circle line, I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was fairly non descript.
We finally reached the town of Coldfoot at about 8.30pm. We were tempted with the all you can eat buffet but discovered it’d finished half an hour ago, this was actually a good thing as it saved us $45. We went and found a campsite about 6 miles out of Coldfoot called Marion Creek and it was really good at $8 for a site. There were raised platforms which our tent only just fit on but it was nice to be off the ground. They also had Bear/Ed/Rachel proof food lockers which was good, once we finally worked out how to get in them!
I didn’t get to sleep very quickly due to copious amounts of bug bites. You’re fine until you accidentally scratch one then you just can’t stop, it’s borderline orgasmic! I got to the point where I was scratching my entire body regardless if there was a bite there or not, it was ridiculous. Luckily I finally got to sleep but woke up a bit like a new born kitten.
It was fairly overcast in the morning and the road was a mix of paved, dirt, gravel, dirt with gravel on it and also what looked like loose gravel but was compacted. You have to be careful as it’s easy to become complacent thinking all the gravel is hard then next thing you know you hit a loose section and get a major wobble on! Luckily with our bikes being small, light and not that fast when it does happen it’s just funny and a bit “Weeey heeeey!” You just let off the throttle and let the bike do what it wants to do until you’re out of it, or you fall off in a fit of giggles. One of the two.
Ed’s chain was rubbing due to his wheel being wonky so we stopped to sort that out when some furry things appeared! We’d spotted quite a few of these little creatures here and there and we absolutely love them, they’re sooo cute! They continued to appear along the roadside pretty much the whole way to Deadhorse and back, popping their heads up like meerkats and swishing their tails. Ed said ‘They’re like what squirrels would be if they didn’t have trees to climb and lived on the ground’. We later found out much to our amusement that they’re called Ground squirrels.
They reminded me of this clip from BBC’s walk on the wildside…
As we continued towards Atigun pass all the tundra changed into lovely autumnal colours, shades of reds, oranges and yellows all intermingled with various shades of green, it was really pretty.
Atigun pass is a high mountain pass across the Brooks Range at an elevation of 1444 m (4739 feet). Going over was no problem, there were scare stories of snow and freezing temperatures but it was a pleasant temperature for us, there were a few patches of snow here and there but nothing on the road and certainly nothing to worry about!
A long road wound down from the pass eventually getting us to the bottom where the scenery opened out and it became really flat and mountains started appearing in the distance. About 50 miles from there the road turned to dirt and gravel, some of which was fairly deep! We discovered it’s best to stick to the middle of the road when possible as there’s less gravel, you soon know it if you venture too far over to the edge! There was a beautiful low sun and a really nice feeling in the air, a feeling of calm. I love it when it’s like that.
The road felt like it was going on forever, we really felt like we were riding to the top of the world, going up higher and higher with nothing around us, being above the tree line there wasn’t a tree in sight. Trees don’t grow north of the Arctic Circle for several reasons:
1) The very short summer, lack of sunlight and not enough days of temperatures of at least 50°F / 10°C don’t allow large trees to complete an annual growth cycle.
2) The ground is always frozen beneath the top layer of soil (permafrost), so trees can’t send their roots down far enough for the necessary structural support.
3) The harsh, bitter wind carries sharp crystals of ice that cut and kill trees. The treeline on a map is not a straight line – it fluctuates, largely depending on the force of the cold Arctic winds.
We finally made it to a place called ‘Happy Valley’ which was about 80 miles from Deadhorse, someone had told us we’d be able to camp there. It’s basically one big area just off the road that’s a private hunting camp, people fly in and out of there for hunting trips. We rode round it not really seeing anywhere suitable to camp, it was just rocky and covered in gravel. We went and asked a couple of guys sat in the corner where we could go and they suggested behind a big pile of rocks so we went and pitched our tent there out of view. We went and asked the office if we could camp and use the showers but we were told no as it was a private camp and they had clients around so no-one else could be on site or use the facilities. Fair enough about the showers but we decided we weren’t going to move the tent, no-one apart from the guys that told us to go there could see us so we stayed put for the night, sneaking out now and again from behind the rocks to get water and use the toilet. A shower would have been nice though as we were covered in dust. When trucks go past you get enveloped in a big cloud of it and it gets everywhere, we were covered in it!
Pretty much everyone we met on bigger bikes told us the trucks often ran them off the road or into the deep gravel and flung big rocks up because they’d go past them so fast. They were therefore very surprised when we’d tell them that they slow down for us and wave! That’s seriously what they did, it was brilliant. Another point for small bikes!
We had our dinner then wondered why we were tired even though it was broad daylight, we checked the time and discovered it was about 10.30pm! Really weird.
We woke to what we thought was the pitter patter of rain so happily used that as an excuse to go back to sleep, we weren’t in a rush to get wet. I then woke up about an hour later and the sound was still there, this time I needed the loo though so I had to get up. I unzipped the inner of the tent and was surprised to discover that it wasn’t rain, it was loads of little bugs stuck in the porch flying in to the sides trying to get out! With our excuse not to get up flying out the door of the tent we decided to surface and make our way to Deadhorse. It was surprisingly warm and sunny, quite different to what we were expecting.
The road was mainly gravel and we’d been riding for about an hour when we spotted a biker on the side of the road. We pulled over to see if he needed help them realised it was Matt who’d been at the House of Harley campsite in Anchorage when we’d been there. He’d busted a tube. Unfortunately the valve had been torn out of his spare one in a previous incident and the one he was using had a big gash in it from a piece of wood, it was the repair that had gone this time. He’d been doing about 80mph when it happened, squeeky bum time! He couldn’t break the bead so Ed used a nifty little trick with his side stand to get it off. It was a big tear so we helped repair it and had a good chat and a catch up while the glue was drying before helping put it back on.
Unfortunately Matt had left his phone in someone’s truck when they’d rescued him the first time so he had no way of contacting anyone and we didn’t have a phone either so Ed advised him to go slow and hopefully the repair would last to get him back to civilisation!
We continued on our way, the road was so long it really did go on forever. It was completely flat and mostly gravel right until the end. Just as we were getting near the end of it we spotted someone walking, we couldn’t believe it. We got chatting to him and discovered he’d walked all the way from Dawson in Canada over the last 5 months! It was funny as he stopped and said ‘Your bikes, they’re so small!’ to which I replied ‘Yeah but you’re walking!!’
Ed ran out of fuel just outside of Deadhorse but luckily he had some in the can to get him the last few miles.
It was weird approaching Deadhorse and coming to the end of the road, it’s a huge industrial place and it was really misty, it kind of felt like a lunar base. We rode round to the Prudhoe Bay Hotel and parked outside. As soon as we pulled up people started coming up to talk to us, some in disbelief that we’d ridden the little bikes up the haul road. They were in further disbelief when we’d told them it’d been easy.
We went in to the hotel in hope that we could haggle for a good price but she wasn’t budging. $115 each with all food included. We particularly liked their sales technique, be it intentional or not. You stand at the reception where you’re told a horribly high price…
You then turn round to think about it and are faced with this…
However it wasn’t the poster of a bear that persuaded us, it was our cold fingers and grumbling stomachs that sealed the deal. On the ride up I’d said to myself that there was no way I’d be paying that much for a hotel room, it’s nearly a week’s budget and in our eyes overpriced. However there we were slightly chilled, miles from anywhere we could camp, and hungry. All inclusive food was mentioned and that was it, our stomachs had decided for us! I must admit it’s hard keeping to a budget, it’s so easy to say ‘Sod it!’ but we thought we’d never be there again so we decided to treat ourselves and I vowed to get my moneys worth in food – and that I did!
We made our way to our room then headed to dinner which was served from 5pm-8pm. There was so much to choose from it was brilliant, I didn’t know when to stop. We eventually went back to the room and I writhed around in food induced pain while Ed went to investigate bus tours to the Arctic ocean. Unfortunately you can’t take a private vehicle up to the ocean so you have to get a tour bus there. It was $60 which was expensive but we thought ‘We’ve come this far, let’s do it’. It wouldn’t have felt right if we hadn’t made it to the ocean, it was like the icing on the cake and better to regret doing it than start heading south thinking ‘I wish we’d done it, I wish we’d gone all the way’. The morning tour was already closed and we’d only just got on the afternoon one by 15 minutes as they have to get permits done for everyone going on it, phew!
We woke up at 7.30am purely to continue getting our moneys worth in the form of breakfast. (Food; another thing that gets me moving quicker in the morning!) Cereal, porridge, pancakes, fresh fruit, eggs, sausage, bacon, you name it they had it! We ate then went back to sleep for a few hours. We then spent the rest of the day milling around the hotel chatting to all the workers, everyone was really lovely I could have happily spent all day there but we had our tour at 3.30pm so made our way over to the Deadhorse camp for that. We were with about 8 other people and the driver was great and answered all our questions. I personally found it really interesting as did Ed so we were both pleased we did it, and we got to feel the Arctic ocean… fecking cold!! They take you from the Deadhorse camp along to the security booth where only authorised vehicles are allowed to go then they take you through the oil fields and eventually to the ocean. It’s only land based drilling at the moment and various companies lease plots from the government.
We went past blocks of individual drilling points. We found out they have so many as they have to keep alternating between them to avoid melting the permafrost. The oil is pretty hot when it comes out!
And then we finally made it to the ocean! You can actually see the ice on the sea along the horizon.
I didn’t put my feet in but I put my hand in, the cold instantly set into my bones and quickly crept up my arm, sod going for a swim in it!
And on the way back we stopped by the National Forest.
About 2 hours later we returned back to the Deadhorse camp with a much better knowledge and understanding of what goes on at Prudhoe Bay. In my opinion it’s worth doing but I did meet someone who wasn’t that bothered about it, each to their own I guess.
Ed had noticed my rear rack had cracked (probably under the weight of all the food!) so we went to see some guys he’d met the day before who worked for a rental company. They were all really lovely and helpful. They cleaned up the rack and welded it back together for me, tightened up all the nuts and bolts that had shaken loose along the Dalton, gave me some spare bulbs and tried to fix things that didn’t even need fixing, they were just happy to help. Top guys!
Tom invited us to have dinner with them at their camp which was really kind so we went and spent the evening with them. They were all great company and we shared lots of stories and covered plenty of interesting subjects! They said they don’t normally speak or hang out with any of the tourists that come up there so it was a real treat to have our company, it wasn’t something that normally happened! They eventually all went off to their beds but Tom invited us for a drink in his room. It was great to chat to him, it was really interesting to talk about all sorts of different things, he was a really nice guy. It was about 11.30pm when we finally left to find somewhere to pitch our tent, luckily it was still fairly light! The sky was beautiful, layers of colours along the horizon with a big low moon.
We found a patch of gravel on the other side of the road by the water between their camp and workplace for our tent. We were slightly wary as one of them said they’d spotted some fresh bear tracks by the stairs but we did the usual practice of storing food far away and keeping bear spray near, it helps make for a good nights sleep!
We woke to another beautiful clear day. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather it was so warm and sunny we were even in t-shirts! We packed up the tent then headed back to the Prudhoe Bay Hotel to catch up on internet related stuff and have one last feed before we hit the road. We were going to sneak in for lunch but couldn’t be bothered with the potential hassle so paid $15 each for all you can eat hot and cold buffet and made sure we stocked up on plenty of milk, cookies, fruit and dinners.
We didn’t leave until gone 6pm as we were chatting to so many people in there, they were all so interested in what we were up to and they were all really lovely. We left and headed over to the Deadhorse camp to see Tom and give him one of Ed’s DVD’s to say thank you for everything. Unfortunately he was out for a run so we left it in his room and got on our way as time was ticking on. I was sad not to be able to say goodbye, Tom and everyone else there had really made it for us and it would have been nice to have spent some more time with them. They were interested, interesting and so friendly and helpful it was a pleasure to have spent time with them. Hopefully we’ll get to catch up with Tom in Oregon!
We left Deadhorse about 7pm. I actually really enjoyed it there I could have happily stayed a few more days, maybe even worked there for a bit! But getting my money’s worth was starting to show as unwanted holiday weight so we thought it was time to leave. It’s funny because on the way back I was chatting to a guy at a gas station who had driven up to Deadhorse with his family, I asked him if he’d enjoyed his time there and he said not really. He said it was pretty boring and the exhaust had broken on his car and he couldn’t get it fixed anywhere despite asking around. It surprised me as we’d had no trouble getting stuff fixed and also had a really good time up there. It then made me realise just how important the little bikes and our attitudes were, they drew people to us and it was the people that had made the place so enjoyable. Yes awesome scenery and views help but when you don’t have those it’s the people that really make a place.
About 30 minutes down the road we went past a broken down camper van. They had driven it all the way from Mexico but had unfortunately snapped a fan belt. They were really lovely and we tried to help but couldn’t so wished them well and went on our way, hoping that they wouldn’t have to wait too long. We didn’t get to chat for very long but I’ve checked out their website since and it’s really interesting, who they are, what they’re doing and why. I now wish we’d had more time to talk but hopefully our paths will cross again and I’ll get the chance! More information can be found here http://poloapolo.net/en/, I highly recommend that you check it out.
It started to rain and it was getting late so we decided to stop at ‘Not so Happy Valley’ for the night. I told Ed that Emma from the camper van had said they’d seen a Grizzly bear the day before. I said they could at least give them a nice name to which Ed suggested ‘Fluffy Bear’. So we call them that now.
I got up about 10.30am and instantly developed insect induced tourettes and to be honest I was getting a bit irritable with them and the rain. I’m learning to snap out of being irritable more quickly but there’s those few times when you just can’t shake it off. We rode for about 15 minutes when suddenly my bike got a major wobble on in the wet mud, it made me laugh so hard that I instantly snapped out of my mood and smiled wondering why they hell I’d let myself get so irritable. I may be on the trip of a lifetime but things still get to you, for me it’s just a case of learning not to let things bother me or to at least get over it more quickly. And that day I discovered that nearly being thrown off my bike in slippery mud does the trick quite well! It was raining intermittently and we rode down a really slippery muddy hill which was quite deep, it gave us a taster of what it would be like to ride the road in bad weather, it would take us twice as long at least. We continued on and the weather cleared up, it was dry over the pass and we were treated to a beautiful view at the top.
A few miles down the road I started daydreaming, this led me to gain too much speed and I found myself hitting a deep section of gravel too fast at the edge of the road that I couldn’t get out of. The bike got a serious wobble on and I thought I was going to lose it but luckily I somehow managed to save it. Funnily enough it didn’t make me laugh that time, it made my heart feel funny! I think that’s how most of the accidents happen, from going too fast for the conditions. The road can be fine then next thing you know it’s deep gravel or if it’s raining then slippery mud. If you hit a bad patch at low speed you have chance to react and save it, it just ends up being funny and at worst a bit of a bum clencher. If you hit it at high speed it’s potentially deadly. So basically if you ride like a dick or even just too fast for the conditions then yes the Dalton Highway could be dangerous, but if you ride slowly and sensibly for the conditions then it’s no more dangerous than your ride to the shops.
Sadly people have died riding along the haul road and it’s usually when it’s been wet and muddy. Get thrown (I use the term loosely here) from your bike at 20mph and you probably won’t even have a bruise, get thrown from it at 40-50mph and it could be a whole different story. And I do appreciate that on rare occasions you can be going slowly and have a freak accident and just happen to land badly, but it’s rare to have a serious 1 vehicle accident at low speed.
And granted our bikes are somewhat different to the majority of bikes that frequent the road, for starters they’re a fraction of the weight and we don’t exactly have far to fall! We also found after talking to several riders of bigger bikes that riding them slow was boring thus making them ride faster than they really should do for the constantly changing conditions. That’s why you need a bike that’s fun whatever speed you’re doing. Our bikes are fun whether we’re doing 10mph or 50mph. In fact doing 20mph through wet slippery mud was probably the most fun part riding wise. And doing 15mph up a hill wasn’t boring either, I just got to see more and had more time to soak up the view. It’s like being on a bicycle except you don’t have to pedal!
It remained dry as we continued on in the direction of Coldfoot and the scenery was beautiful. I love it when mountains are illuminated in the last of the days sun, the light is so different then.
We made it to Marion Creek camp ground and put the tent up. Unfortunately it was raining when we packed it up so it was all wet and damp inside. Ed decided to dry it out with the stove which has worked fine in the past but this time he lit it inside and nearly set the tent on fire! The flames licked the sides but luckily he got it out just in time. He once set fire to my bike trying to light the stove with my spark plug. I’m starting to think I shouldn’t leave him unsupervised.
We planned to get up early which of course meant we got up even later than usual. I had peanut butter and jam porridge for breakfast, a fine creation! It was lovely watching all the wildlife at the camp ground. Squirrels ran around collecting supplies and a woodpecker happily bashed it’s head against a tree in search of food.
We went and fuelled up at Coldfoot. I decided to have a snack out my top box which turned out to be very lucky as it was at that point that I realised I hadn’t actually attached it to the rack, it was just balanced on top! Oops. God knows how it managed to stay on for the last 6 miles between there and the campsite but thankfully it had. It would’ve been a ‘NOT THE FOOOOD!!!!’ moment.
The road was smooth and paved to begin with and we had beautiful views despite it being fairly overcast. It started to rain so we stopped so Ed could put his trousers on, he was wearing some, they just weren’t waterproof! Low black clouds hung over us for a while but we managed to ride through it and were then left with a very muddy road… FUN!! I was riding behind Ed so I got pretty covered but I love getting dirty and muddy, feel like a proper adventurer then! Also if you aren’t far enough over when the trucks go past you get a pretty good splattering. I was seconds away from getting a face full but managed to get my visor down just in time!
It was actually pretty grippy considering how muddy it was but the sides were still slippery and we’d occasionally get stuck in a deep bit and have to wobble our way out. I found it was worse riding behind Ed as I could see his tracks going all over the place and I knew that my bike would be doing exactly the same. For some reason it was better not knowing when it was going to wobble than to know and try and be prepared for it! We had a great time playing in it, messing about and doing doughnuts, we laughed a lot it was great fun. I was actually sad when we ran out of wet mud, I missed it!
We came over the brow of a hill and there right in front of us was a sow and her cub, we couldn’t believe it! We stopped straight away not really sure how to gauge the situation. We kept our engines running just in case, to be honest my initial reaction was to turn round and ride back the way we’d come and leave them alone, I’d never seen a bear before! They’re incredibly protective of their cubs too so we knew not to get any closer, even if we’d wanted to. We were quite happy where we were enjoying the moment but being well aware that they’re wild animals and to be treated with respect.
Once the bears had disappeared we continued on and stopped at the Yukon River Camp.
It was getting late and we were pretty hungry so we treated ourselves to an awesome homemade burger and a slice of pie, so good! We decided to camp there as it was free and we couldn’t be bothered to ride any further. We found a spot, pitched our tent and watched an episode of ‘Allo Allo’, living the dream!
We actually got up pretty early for us, it was about 9.30am. It was dry but the mossies were out in force so we had a quick breakfast, fuelled up and got on our way.
We rode for quite a while then we swapped bikes for a bit so I could see how much faster Ed’s is up the hills (he has a bigger carb) and there was quite a considerable difference! We pulled over and Ed asked how long my bike had been vibrating that badly (unfortunately you could only feel it in your feet). I said quite a while and I had mentioned it before but Ed didn’t realise quite how bad it was until he rode it! Turned out the chain was ridiculously slack so we sorted that out then had a little art session by the side of the road.
It stayed dry all day so the road conditions were good and it eventually became paved again. We stopped to retrieve a basket that Ed had found for me and stashed in the bush when an Irish guy called Gary pulled over and stopped for a chat. He was riding a 660 Tenere and was on the way up to Prudhoe depending on the conditions. He said he’d already ridden the Dempster highway and described what it was like so we told him if he’d done that then he’d have no worries going up the Dalton. We just advised not to ride too fast and to be aware of the changing terrain, just because the last 3 gravel sections were hard and compacted doesn’t mean the next one will be! It was great to have a chat with him and we swapped details, he was doing the same kind of route as us so no doubt our paths will cross again at some point!
We didn’t have many miles left to do before we got back on to ‘proper’ road. To be honest I felt a bit sad about coming to the end of it! I’d enjoyed being off road and having all the different types of terrain to ride on, it made it much more interesting! But the time had come to say goodbye to the Dalton Highway and make our way back to civilisation.
We kept on going and I ended up riding well ahead of Ed who had about 3 trucks behind him. I was going at a decent speed when I came round the corner and saw something in the road, at first I thought it was a little bear then I realised it was a porcupine! It was a weird looking animal but so cool! It was sat in the middle of the road so I stopped and beeped my pathetic horn worried that the others would come round the corner and squash it, probably getting 40 punctures in the process! It turned round and waddled back in to the bushes and I continued on my way not believing I’d actually seen one. I’d have loved to have got a photo of it but being on a blind corner with trucks following behind it wasn’t the ideal place for a David Bailey impression, so here’s a picture I drew instead.
It also turned out to be a lucky porcupine. It was lucky for 2 reasons. Firstly if I hadn’t been travelling so far in front of Ed and the trucks and scared it, it most definitely would have been squashed. Lucky porcupine. Secondly if I hadn’t got so excited by seeing it and flagged Ed down to tell him, we’d have never discovered in time that the nut to my swing arm had disappeared and the bolt was making it’s escape rather rapidly, thus allowing the back end of my bike to detach itself from the front end of my bike! Lucky porcupine.
I’d pulled over to tell Ed about seeing it but he rode straight past confused why I’d stopped so he pulled in to a layby up ahead. I pulled up alongside him all excited about my latest wildlife sighting when he said ‘That’s a horrible noise!’ ‘What noise?!’ I said, turning my music off and taking my earplugs out. ‘That horrific noise coming from your bike! The noise caused by your exhaust not really being attached to it anymore!’ Oh dear. I’d failed to notice that my bike was falling apart beneath me. It was already vibrating and not running quite right so I hadn’t noticed any new vibrations or anything untoward. We pushed the bolt back in and used mole grips to keep it in place but they soon pinged off so we wrapped some duct tape around the end of the bolt. It did the trick but I had to keep looking down to make sure it was still in place and a give it a cheeky kick with my heel to ensure it was properly in there! I joked that I probably wouldn’t notice if the wheel came off and could Ed please let me know if it does. I then promised to be more aware of my machine.
It still has 2 wheels.