Day 7 – The Arctic Circle
21st of May.
In the morning in Coldfoot we do the last things. Refresh at the toilet, post the postcards, fill water and we are ready to go. It is promising to be quite a rainy day, we know. We packed our tent just in time before it actually started to rain. We leave around 10.30. We make a last chat with Jeremy and Kristel. They are heading for Fairbanks today and will be passing us later in the day. Jeremy wants to put an interview of us on film for his project about the Arctic.
This day covers some heavy climbs...again.
After cycling for about 30 km we encounter road works on the road. When we're close by an employee stands along the road and holds us. He communicates with his colleagues and eventually the pilot car comes our way where we can put the bikes in the back. We are dropped off 10 miles further! Nicely far away and not bad at all since the weather is cold and rainy and the road from the road block is rising considerably.
We want to try to get the Arctic circle today and that suddenly seems a lot better after the ride. It keeps raining. After having passed pump station 5 the road goes further into the mountains in a long climb to Globbers Knob.
*Pump stations are not petrol stations where you can refuel petrol, but large industrial installations through which the oil pipeline goes to boost the oil pressure in the gigantic oil tube.
When we are about 16 miles ahead of the Arctic Circle, Jeremy and Kristel are finally hit. We had actually expected them before but they had done other things first. We're running the interview for the camera in the rain. They give us a super lunch package with a sandwich with cheese lettuce tomato and onions, a big super tasty cake with chocolate in it, chips and a can of coke. Very sweet and very welcome! We love you guys!!
We say goodbye but who knows we meet in Fairbanks again.
When we finally arrive at the Arctic Circle where we would like to camp, we meet Sheppert and Mary. Mary is spotting birds while her husband is repairing the camper. They have already started a wine and the first question that comes to her mind when we meet her is whether we want a glass of wine or a beer. Of course 🍻👍
Actually, the couple had wanted to sleep in Coldfoot tonight, but because the rack on the back of their campervan has failed, they are stranded at the Arctic Circle. Mary gets the cheese, toast and olives. So we get a warm welcome very unexpectedly. Mary and Shep have traveled all over the north, middle and south Americas. They are particularly charmed by Mexico. This is their favorite country. They have had a good running restaurant for years and they speak a good word of Spanish too! They have disposed of the restaurant because they are retired and that is why they now have plenty of time to move around with the campervan. Prudhoe Bay is their destination on this trip.
Mary also cooks for us and we have a nice dinner together. Very cozy and especially super nice. She can cook really well. For us a welcome change from our meals where you only have to add boiling water.
They ask if we want coffee the next morning. Nice, of course Kim wants coffee. Arjan of course not, he does'nt like coffee. With a well-filled stomach we dive into the tent, there are 6.20 hours of cycling and 78Km on the clock.
Day 8 – The Ice Road Truckers
Mary is standing at the tent and wakes Kim with coffee. She has put down a thermos and Kim can start her day wonderfully.
When she wants to bring the thermos back, Shepert and Mary want to leave. Kim drums Arjan out of bed for a while so we can take a picture together.
We also leave as soon as we have packed everything.
The weather is pretty good and ultimately very sunny. The road looks good too except that it goes up and down in style. It looks like a roller coaster where we are in, where we unfortunately have to climb up ourselve all the time. Halfway through the day we are pausing in a parking lot. There are two trucks arriving that both stop here too. They would like to have a chat. They have seen us cycling several times and camping along the road. They had even seen that we were snowed in with our tent and did not expect us to cycle that day. A third trucker stops to enjoy.
Then all the stories come about all the cyclists they had met over the years and had given a lift because they couldn't go any further. One story even more beautiful than the other. Famished cyclists, frozen cyclists, cyclists with bad luck, cyclists who were completely through it, and so on. They tell us most cyclists start in Ushuaia, Argentina and end up in Deadhorse. Exactly the opposite of our route.
According tothem we started in just the right time. July, August were the worst months to cycle following them while most cyclists are on the Dalton Highway. One of the three jokes that if we can finish The Dalton the rest of our trip to Usuahia chould be no problem because most cyclist came from the south but couldn't make it. We will see hopefully he is right!
We have set ourselves the goal today to camp at mile 60. There is should be a nice camping spot, running water and a toilet, just 5 miles before the Yukon (river) crossing. Because of the many heavy climbs we do a long time today and meet Russian guy who is traveling the world on his motorbike for allready four years. http://khariton.com/
Finally around nine o'clock in the evening we reach MP 60. Thanks to the nice weather today, we decided to cycle for a long time to get this point. Once we have arrived we make good food and we build the tent so that we can sleep well. The weather is nice now but for the coming days again bad weather with a lot of rain is predicted so we will see ...
Bike facts: 7 hours and 81km cycled today.
Day 9 – The Mighty Yukon River
The sun is shining when we get up so we are pleasantly surprised. We have breakfast with meal bars and tea. Arjan sees that one of his rear bags is broken. Probably by all bumpy roads a screw has been shaken loose and fallen out. After the repair we leave but it is almost lunch time. The Yukon crossing is already over 5 miles. There is a viewpoint over the Yukon river and of course a restaurant. A noodle bar. We have a look around and we treat ourselves to a nice lunch. We enjoy it and are definitely here for an hour, so we start cycling at half past 2.
Fortunately the weather stays good. We have some good climbs again. Our goal today is to at least get Hess Creek overlook at mile point 21. When we arrive there it is already eight in the evening and we decide to make our dinner and eat here. The views with the low hanging sun above the deserted and rugged landscape are magnificent. Then we cycle a bit further. As soon as we can find a nice place to put up the tent, we stop. Kim makes the beds ready and Arjan hangs the bag with food and sunburn in a tree against the bears. Finally, we can sleep after 6.5 hours and 69km cycling.
Day 10 – Mile Zero
In the night has rained quite a bit, it is clearly a less beautiful day than the other days. The start of the day does not foresee much good for the rest of the day. We climb and drop again time after time. Especially the climbs are long and steep.
We are getting a quicker appetite for food. Apparently we are already starting to go through our body fat reserves because we feel we can eat whole day long. Around midday it is equally dry and we go to a water stream to purify water and eat pasta. That is where Mary and Shepert drive by with their campervan. They stop for a short chat. After a drop-off with beer and delicious cookies with chocolate, they go on again. They have tickets for a basketball match in Fairbanks where they want to be on time.
Eventually we arrive at about 15.30 at the start of the Dalton Highway (for us the end of this road) So we have achieved another great goal!
After turn on to The Elliott Highway we see one of the ice road truckers again that we spoke two days before smoking a cigarette in a parking lot. He waves and enthusiastically yells; "You made it!" 🤘 Very nice that we just see him here.
Now on to Fairbanks but it's impossible to get there today as there are still 135 kilometers climbing between the start of The Dalton Highway and Fairbanks and we are stranding on a nice spot along a river where Daniel, Robert and Ethan, students geology. Together with a few others they are stationed here for different study assignments.
Day 11 – Into Fairbanks
The climbs are long and steady today. The descents happely as well. It is increasing to 600 meters and then descending to 200 meters again and again and again. In contrast to The Dalton Highway with the short climbs and descents, they always take 6 to 10 kilometers here. That we are getting closer to Fairbanks is clearly noticeable, traffic is slowly becoming busier and more aggressive.
Just before Fairbanks we stop to refill our fat reserves at Hilltop Truckstop Restaurant. We have some online contact with Robin, our Warmshowers host in Fairbanks, and we kick the last kilometers with well-filled stomachs. We meet our host Robin and we dive into the bed in their guestroom. How nice, finally a real bed and shower.
More later on... stay tuned for the Denali Highway.
The Denali Highway is certainly one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Much of the route lies above timberline, so the vistas go on forever. The mountains and glaciers of the Alaska Range form a majestic backdrop, with miles of rolling tundra punctuated by shallow lakes in between.