Day 48. Cantwell to Coldfoot, 414 miles
Alaska reminds me so much of Nevada, as each contains millions of acres of nothingness, bisected by a single road. In Nevada, it is desert yet the Last Frontier features forests.
When I stopped at the Arctic Circle monument and saw "Coldfoot, 41 miles" I failed to believe it. After kicking sticks and blaming the highway department for their signs, the locals for not telling me and the construction flaggers for not giving me a fuel stop map, I finally came to the proper conclusion.
I missed the fuel stop.
The warning light on the dash had riveted my attention for the last twenty miles, and the trip meter read, '200,' the approximate limit of the bike's range.
"Forty one miles. I'll never make it." I figured the light went on at a half gallon, and it's been getting almost 50 mpg.
I looked around and spotted a couple trucks stopped, as this was a - make that the - rest area. I approached two men and asked if they had any fuel. They did. They would. I bought two gallons of the precious fuel and thanked Roger profusely.
I returned to the Arctic Circle sign and offered to take family shots in exchange for photos of me. Win win.
I met Justin and his wife and son plus their extended family from Italy, none of whom spoke English. Turns out Justin recently returned from Afghanistan. He's a great man. I thanked him for his service and like all great men, he shrugged it off. He's served 20 years and 6 deployments. Told you he's great.
The Dalton Highway is all over the place. Lance, a truck driver, said one section is a hundred mile an hour stretch. Wow. Yet others are gravel, dirt, under construction and some sections are off road- ish, or paved with frost- heaved rollers. The ride is work. Watch ahead in paved sections, as some gravel sections look identical to the pavement, less the double yellow line. The gravel can get loose and sketchy from trucks churning it up.
Riding alone (typical), I came upon a bike like mine parked along the road. Stopped to see what's up. Engine warm, perhaps off an hour, windshield broken and no one around. Later I learned a guy fell asleep and rode off the road, broke his shoulder and three ribs. They flighted him out.
This is a dangerous place to have a crash. I passed one earlier today and thirty minutes later saw the aid unit going the other way. So that would be an hour before any medical people saw to them.
Some sections of the Dalton Highway are just plain fun. A pickup passed me and I decided to pace him. Let him hit the deer. I wove through the forest behind him, downshifted into turns, leaned over and accelerated out, up shift, go, then downshift again, leaning the other way. While it wound and turned, the twisties were fast, usually using fourth or fifth gear (it has a six speed).
Coldfoot at last! And what a setup. The beautifully appointed units have a history; I just know it as crew quarters for the Alaska Pipeline in the 70s. They added a stylish bathroom out of particle board and they came complete with twin beds. And the price? I won't even say, except this is the only place for 240 miles either way.
A long day, a workout and at times my hands ached all the way to my elbows.
But really fun nonetheless.
Tomorrow it's 240 miles to Prudhoe Bay, about as far as a person can go. But the bike can only go 200. At dinner I sat next to Lance, a truck driver and asked him where I could score a gas can. No luck. But he had a half empty 1 gallon oil can. He'd dump it in his truck and give it to me. Sweet! I scuttled around the neighborhood and found another one. Two gallons should be plenty. We are all set.