Saturday, July 4, 2009

AK '09 - Day 14

Today was the day, I would finally complete the Ultimate Coast to Coast ride. Since it was going to be a long 700 mile day I set the alarm clock for 3:30 but thanks to my anticipation and Dick's alarm on the Stallion I was awake at 2:45. After laying in bed for a few minutes I decided to get up and leave. I was on the road by 3:37 local time with a send off from John and Fred.

My plan was to fill up in Fairbanks and then again in Cold Foot. I thought I remembered reading about a truckstop just before the Dalton that was a good place to get the latest road conditions. When I got into Fairbanks, Hwy 2 basically took me around the outskirts of town and the only gas station I found wasn't accepting credit cards so I didn't stop. When I got to Fox I found a 24hr unattended pay at the pump station so I filled up and kept going. A little farther up the road I found the Hilltop gas station and cafe so I pulled in for breakfast. There weren't any truckers to query about the road so I just ate my breakfast and continued up the road.

By 9am I reached the Dalton Highway. I pulled over to get a picture of the sign and then air down my tires. Then I was finally on the Dalton highway heading for Deadhorse. I was hoping to be in Coldfoot by 12 and Deadhorse by 5. Well I didn't make it to Coldfoot until 12:30 because I stopped at the Artic Circle for a photo and a break. I visited with 2 riders at Cold Foot, they were coming down from Deadhorse. They mentioned 2 problems, the wet roads because the water trucks, and the deep gravel stretch near Deadhorse.

Well I found the slippery mud caused by the maintenance crews. That stuff is slick. And I found the deep gravel, it was the last 50 miles of roadway going into Deadhorse. The best I could do was 35mph so it took me an hour and a half to get through it.

Atigun pass was a little disappointing to me, as I really expected a dramatic climate change when I cross it. Nope, it was 67 degrees at the top of the pass and no snow on the ground of course. I think it was when I got to Atigun Pass that I noticed a bad sound coming from the clutch and transmission. When the bike is in Neutral and I let out the clutch I hear a gravel like sound. Not really a grinding, more like a clattering coming from the front of the transmission area where the clutch is. The same noise is noticeable if I'm in the lower gears and close the throttle with the clutch out. Since I was closer to Deadhorse than Fairbanks I decided to risk it and ride on. If the bike died in Deadhorse I figured I could get it loaded on a flatbed back to Fairbanks.

The transmission noise didn't worsen and I made it into Deadhorse at 7pm. I got my final gas receipt and checked in at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. After unloading the bike, I called Reagan to let her know I made it and then hussled down to the cafeteria for dinner before they stopped serving at 8pm.

The day was really long, I spent 10 hours on the Dalton and 5 hours getting there. In hind sight it probably would have been better to have launched from Fairbanks, but I completed the ride and kept the rubber side down so it's not so bad. I'm not looking forward to the first 50 miles of the ride tomorrow as it's back through the deep gravel but at least I know how far it is so I'll know just how long I'll be on it. Plus the wind should be at my back which might make things a little easier.

Hopefully the transmission will hold up and get me back to Fairbanks without issue. Riding back tomorrow I may also be able to pay more attention to the scenery and enjoy some of it. Then I can give a more detailed description of the ride on the Dalton. Right now at least it's just a blur.

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