A cool rain fell on me as I cruised away from the vehicle laden roads of Fairbanks into the quiet mountains. The Elliot Hwy turns in Livengood toward Manley Hot Springs and I continue north to the Dalton Hwy.
I would grow very familiar with the mud shown in this picture. The rain fell throughout the day as I worked my way up to Coldfoot. I picked my line around puddles and slippery ruts created by the heavy loads hauled north to Prudhoe Bay.
I came across a man towing a handcart and gave him a granola bar. He was from Japan and didn't speak English very well.
On the return trip I learned his name was Cho and he began in Dawson City Mile 0 of the Alaska Hwy in April and is slowly approaching his goal of Prudhoe by September. What an amazing feat!
I camped at Marion Creek CG in Coldfoot as a cool rain fell. It was 11PM before I turned in for the night but of course the sky was still bright.
The following morning greeted me with more rain. The surrounding mountains now sported a dusting of white snow which I knew would soon be all around me as I climbed in elevation.
It began to snow in large white flake yet I motored up the rises and past the timberline. The majestic peaks of the Brooks Range soared overhead, their dark rocks contrasting against the virgin snow.
Soon the snow accumulations were becoming alarming. I could no longer feel my fingers in the wet gloves and my toes were becoming numb. I have four extra pairs of gloves which are much warmer but naturally I'm saving them for worse conditions. I am always sure things will get worse before they get better.
Trucks appeared in the distance high up into the mountains. A passing RV flagged me down to warn of ice ahead. "I'll go as far as I can" I murmured in my helmet. Tense muscles and shaking legs made me ache all over. I passed Chandler Camp of the Alaska Hwy Dept where snow fell heavier and the wind began to howl. Arctic cold cut right through my GoreTex and wool layers making me shiver uncontrollably. I would later learn that temps were 24F when I was riding through and gusts up to 30mph. Truckers in t-shirts emerged from their heated oasis to put on snow chains. I motored past pushing with my feet when the scooter slid sideways on the snow.
I finally came to a parking area and what appeared to be a steep grade downhill. "yeehaw!" I screamed , then paused...I didn't know if I could make it back up the other side. The internal struggle between safety and turning around or following my dreams and heart forward into the frozen unknown was quick. I've come this far...I'll drag the damn bike up the hill tomorrow if I have to. Deadhorse or bust! The downhill grade sloped and made for port traction in the ice. I kept an eye out in my mirrors for any trucks barreling down behind but none came. The vista was breathtaking and soon the road surface improved after a grader swept the gravel clean.
I could see the road sloping downhill into a white snow storm and knew I was done with the worst of it. Little did I know the hardest part was yet to come. Cold winds blew a wet snow on my visor and upper body limiting visibility and lowering core temperature. Slippery road conditions were made worse by the use of Calcium Carbonate as a solidifying agent. Ice formed around my riding gloves from the wind.
The construction zone's 30 minute wait allowed time to chat with the sign man who offered me a shack for windbreak while I scarfed down a granola bar and stamped frozen boots to the ground. I was waved to follow the pilot truck 15mi trough the zone. Not 5 minutes into my slow struggle up the first rise, all 4 of my fuel bottles came dislodged and clanged out into the mud before the following semi trailer. Fortunately he swerved and I raced back to retrieve the precious fuel to carry me through to Deadhorse.
The remainder of the day was spent shivering and riding. The song lyrics "Keep that hand on the plow hold on!" Reverberated in my head until I was singing and whimpering all at once into the Arctic wind. I could only see 300ft in any direction and the sky was a bright white. The miles ticked down as I drew closer to Deadhorse. Unlike a motorcycle where the miles roughly equate to minutes @60mph, I had to double them and then some to figure out my distance. By the end of the construction I had 125mi to Deadhorse, or 6 hrs at my daily avg of 20mpg. It was going to be a cold and difficult day. The afternoon dragged on and I forced myself to eat a banana an granola bar for heat. I also had to refuel the Ruck twice. Numb fingers clumsily fumbled the fuel bottle caps and failed to properly zipper close Velcro. In time I would ask for spiritual guidance and cry out to my mother for help. That was a first. It was a pitiful spectacle of near death conditions while I kept the throttle pinned. After may hours of thought and overcoming emotions repeatedly, the tower of Deadhorse Airport and an oil rig shone ahead. The horizon along Prudhoe Bay had a golden hue to it and the slightest blue shone distant beyond the haze. It took an additional 20min to arrive which felt like a lifetime to my racked body and brain. No matter what a room cost, I was staying indoors tonight. Industrial equipment was in all directions and the hum of diesel generators hummed the camp a pitiful lullaby.. This truly was hell frozen over.