The triple glazed insulation of the Deadhorse pre-fab meant that the impact of walking outside into below freezing temps was fairly dramatic. Finding gas wasn’t as easy as it should be at America’s largest oilfield, then we had to find a workshop to properly bead the tyre on Gareth’s bike, following a series of flats from the day before.
As a result it was 9am by the time we were on the track South. The ride out was freezing – colder than any Brass Monkey I have ridden in 13 years. But once we were about an hour away from the coast things started to warm up.
The puncture fairy visited us again just where the Tundra meets the Brook Range and we had a combined tube replacing/tea drinking party on the side of the Haul Track while mud splattered road trains swept past. We found out later our progress was being relayed by radio to the drivers to ensure no one drove over the top of us. Then we started up the Pass and mist gave way to rain as we went over the top and arrived at Coldfoot in the late afternoon.
In Coldfoot we found two other riders had fared less well – one had been Med-Evac’ed out after a nasty accident and another had killed the wheelbearings on his bike – meaning it would travel the rest of the trip on a pallet.
The rain continued all night, turning the Haul Track into a quagmire. Just getting across the carpark was a challenge. We got on the road by 7am and pointed the bikes South to Fairbanks. Mud, water and liquid calcium chloride provided pretty challenging conditions but the bikes took it in their stride and all the team stayed upright. No mean feat. One of the biggest challenges was visibility – every time a mamoth truck passed you, you got coated in crap and wiping the visor turned it to an inpenetrable smear. That and another visit from the punture fairy to Gareth kept us pretty focused. We finally got back to normal tarmac around 2pm and arrived in Fairbanks a little after 4. Very tired but very happy to have done it.
To anyone considering doing the road, I say do it, so long as you have some experience of pilotting wet dirt roads. For me it was the single best ride of this trip. But make sure you do your homework: have decent tyres, lighten your load as much as possible, take a true adventure bike not a cappucino cruiser and allow yourself two days up and two days back. And, importantly, consult the weather first.