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6/14/02- Prudhoe Bay
6/15/02 - Tundra going toward Prudhoe Bay
6/15/02 - Alaska Pipeline on road to Prudhoe Bay
6/15/02 - Tom at Artic Circle
6/15/02 - Musk Ox on road to Prudhoe Bay
6/15/02 - Tom at Prudhoe Bay
6/15/02 - Brooks Range on Rd to Prudhoe Bay
TOM’S TRIP TO PRUDHOE BAY
6/13/02 - 6/15/02
I left the motel in North Pole, AK at 6:00 AM on 6/13/02 and headed north toward the Dalton Hwy. I was pretty excited in not knowing what was in store for me. I knew I was going to experience an adventure I would remember for the rest of my life, so I was living every moment in the now. About 30 miles from the motel was a truckstop and my last chance for gas for the next 250 miles. I bought an extra gas can & had a big breakfast. The sky was overcast when I left the truckstop on the Dalton Highway heading north toward Coldfoot. I traveled on pavement for the next 20 miles. The bike ran very smoothly as I wove my way through the hills. Then the pavement ended and it was dirt road with all its potholes, corduroy surface, gravel, and rocks. Within a few minutes of riding on this surface I was able to feel the bike's reaction, and the Beemer was soaking up all of the bumps as I brought the speed up to around 60mph. From Tallahassee to this point was 8500 miles. We had ridden most all of it on pavement except for a few miles of construction. But it was only now that I realized what the Beemer was made for. It is a world class, surpassed by none, adventure-touring bike. It is designed to take on any road condition that the world has to throw at it, and I was privileged to be its pilot.
As I continued on, the terrain got steeper. I was in the foothills winding my way north when I came to the first road construction section. That's where the mud began. The construction crews keep the road watered down. After going through that particular construction section, it started to rain, and it rained off and on for the next 400 miles. I probably went through 6 construction sections by the time I got to Coldfoot, and the rain was steady all the way. The temperature was in the 40's so I was getting cold. At Coldfoot I had lunch and gassed up. Next stop - Prudhoe Bay.
From Coldfoot it was good riding. The terrain was becoming more mountainous with lots of streams swollen from the spring runoff. There were huge thick slabs of ice in these streams. All along the way the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was within sight. Sometimes real close to the road and sometimes up to a quarter mile away. I began to climb in altitude as I approached the Brooks Mountain Range. The rain was really coming down now. The mountains disappeared into the fog, but I knew I was surrounded by big, big mountains. This highway is traveled very little. I could go 75 miles and not see another vehicle. That's one of the things I enjoyed the most -- the remoteness. Going through the Brooks Range, there's a pass called the Attigin Pass, which has lots of switchbacks. My speed was down to about 15 to 20 mph through this area. As I got to the Northern side of the pass and was coming down onto flatter ground, the road with all the mud, rocks, together with sleet and rain, made visibility through my helmet visor almost 0. The inside of my visor was foggy, and my glasses were steamed, and in a split second, I was going off the road. The road was built up with big rocks the size of basketballs on the side. As I was coming down the rocks off the roadbed which, is about 4ft off the tundra, all I could think of was how bad this is going to hurt when I fall on these rocks and mess up the bike. But I was able to control it into the tundra and immediately thanked God for safety. I was on the tundra and still moving when I felt the back tire start to sink. I pointed the bike up the rocks, gassed it, and, thankfully, got up on the roadbed. I thanked God, again, for getting me back on the road. Shaken, I paused, and then kept on going picking my way through the softball size rocks on the road. Negotiating the rocks & road seemed to be more difficult from then on because my confidence had been compromised. The rest of the ride to Prudhoe Bay was wet, big rocks, and hard going. I did stop and see a herd of about 15 musk ox.
The Musk Ox terrain is sort of the gentle rolling tundra surrounded by the streams and rivers that drain off from the mountains. When you're on one of these hills, you can look out, and the tundra just disappears over the horizon. I went through quite a few more construction sights with deep mud and heavy rocks. This was about 10 hours into the ride and fatigue was really setting in. At about 60 miles south of Prudhoe Bay, the road flattened out onto the very flat tundra, and the road conditions were much better but with loose small gravel on top of the dirt. The wind was blowing from the east at about 30 mph, and I was heading due north. I had to really lean into the wind. And it was a very steady wind. Being wet, cold, and tired, I was wondering if this road was ever going to end. About 20 miles from Prudhoe Bay I saw small herds of Caribou. Finally I reached Prudhoe Bay and checked into the Arctic Caribou Inn and was so cold I could hardly sign my name to register. It had been 14 hours since I left North Pole. The temperature was 30 degrees. A hot shower can do wonders. I felt a hundred percent better after that.
The next day, after a good night's rest, even though the night never showed itself, I drove around and looked at the oil field service businesses. I prayed for God to keep me safe and keep the bike upright. Then I headed south. The temperature was 35 degrees. The cloud cover was very low and seemed to be about 500 ft. off the surface. It was like a blanket. About 50 miles south I started to see a blue line on the horizon, which was the sky. The further south I got, the more I could tell I was coming out from under the cloud blanket. There was heavy rain to the right and heavy rain to the left as I sped southward. Then as I got past the rain I was at the foot of the Brooks Range. That's where I met Gregg. He was on a BMW GS heading north. I pulled over when I saw him coming, and he pulled over too. I told him about the conditions up north and he told me what it was like down south. We talked for about 20 minutes, then we were both on our way. As I got into the Brooks Range the clouds in the sky disappeared, the day was absolutely gorgeous. A sight to behold! Now I could see what I had ridden through the day before. The mountains were snowcapped, the road was drier, and I knew I was experiencing a moment I would never forget. As I went through the Atigan Pass, I stopped several times just to take it all in.
I got through the mountains and had a beautiful ride all the way to Coldfoot. It was about 8:00 PM. I had spent extra time stopping and enjoying the beauty around me. From Coldfoot I had 275 miles to go. Even though it was 8:00 PM, I knew I would be riding in daylight all the way back to North Pole. I put my head down and let the Beemer do what it does best. I crossed the Yukon River at midnight. Even though the sun was low in the sky, it gave a beautiful gold tone to the surrounding trees and mountains…a look I had not seen before. I kept going at a steady speed and arrived back at North Pole around 2:30 AM. It had been 18 hours since I left Prudhoe Bay.
These were two days of my life I will never forget. I loved every minute of it.