I left the campground in Cantwell the day before yesterday and headed to Fairbanks, a city about 800 kms south of the Arctic Ocean. The previous night I had three goes at cooking my dinner because of the showers of rain. As you may recall, on the menu was spaghetti mixed with a dodgy looking tin of sausages. On attempt #1, I got the water boiling and had added the spaghetti, when down she came. Covered the table with my space blanket and hurried into the tent to sit it out for an hour or so. Attempt #2 I had finished cooking the spag when the next lot of showers arrived. Back to the tent. Attempt #3, success! I added the sausages to heat them through. The spaghetti was quite nice, considering. The sausages were vile, but I wolfed them down anyway because I hadn’t eaten since that morning. I can’t remember the brand, but do recall that they were small chunks of “beef, chicken and pork in soup”. Bletch.
The next morning I did some washing, which I have to do fairly often because I have a limited amount of clothing, then hit the road. I had intended visiting the Denali National Park, which is a must-see, but the place was chokkers with tour buses, RVs, and hordes of people, so I kept going. It was a good run to Fairbanks, only 200 + kms or so, and only one section of muddy roadwork through which I again rode very slowly and carefully. The rest of the road was good.
Fairbanks is where I exchange the street tyres for knobbys. Some people seem to be able to ride on gravel in street tyres, but I’m not one of them, so the knobbys are essential for the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Ocean, much of which is unsealed. I need all the help I can get because it is a long time, about 30 years, since I have ridden any distance on gravel.
Took the bike to Dan at Adventure Cycleworks. Dan and his son run this business from their home, primarily changing tyres, and do a pretty good trade in the summers. I got on to them through the advrider.com forum. Dan did the tyres while I waited and did a mighty fine job too. Also told me all about the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Ocean, which he has travelled on many times since the early 80s. Very interesting man to talk to AND I learned how to change and balance tyres. Not that I’m an expert, so don’t all come lining up expecting me to proficiently and competently change your tyres!
Here’s some pics of us with the bike and new tyres:
Anyway, went to pay Dan for his good work and the c/card got declined. Bummer, I thought, because it hadn’t worked a few days ago either. I put that down to a computer glitch or something going on with the bank, and didn’t think too much of it. Now it had been declined twice, I knew there was something up. Paid Dan with another card and hotfooted it to ring the bank. They told me the c/card had been cancelled and referred to their Fraud Department. Spoke to the bank’s Fraud Department who said, “You told us you were travelling through North America, so when we noticed purchases from Spain, we cancelled the card. Someone used it for Hertz car rental and a hotel in that country”. Lovely, but yay to National Australia Bank for being so vigilant! I thanked them profusely. They had already refunded the money and will issue a new card.
I hadn’t used this particular card since ringing BC Ferries to book the ferry to Prince Rupert, and of course gave them the c/card number over the phone. It’s possible someone could have been listening in to my conversation.
I know I said I was going to be staying in campgrounds from now on, but I’m not at a campground. I’m not at a hotel or motel either. Nor am I at someone’s home, a Bed and Breakfast, hostel, backpacker place, or on the street. However, where I am I have a bed, showers, toilets, internet access, and it’s warm. And no, it’s not jail! It is about the same price as a campground. Can you guess?
Quite some time ago, in the midst of planning this trip, I spied this comment, again on the advrider.com forum:
“During the summer (June-mid-August) rooms are available in the dorms at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. A two bed room runs $38 per night, a single is $31. (Cheap local hotels of dubious character run $100/night)These are spartan rooms with no TV and the bathroom is down the hall. They are, however, clean, safe, dry and warm. Laundry facilities are in each hall. Reservations are generally not required, but to be safe you can make them by calling (907) 474-6769 starting in early May”.
So that’s where I am, and have the room booked until Saturday 12 June. This is an excellent place to leave all my extra heavy baggage, including the big yellow thing, whilst I spend four days tackling the 1600 km round trip to the Arctic Ocean and back.
The Arctic Ocean is reachable by two roads in North America: the Dalton Highway in Alaska, or the Dempster Highway to Inuvik in the Yukon, then plane to the ocean (in the summer), or via ice road (in the winter). I am intending to ride both roads during this trip. Here’s a map of the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay:
The road is 800 kms each way and much of it is gravel. I will stay overnight in Coldfoot, which is about the halfway mark, and again in Prudhoe Bay at the Arctic Ocean, so it will work out at 400 kms each day. I dithered for quite some time about doing this trip. 400 kms is okay on a tarred road, but this is not the greatest road in Alaska, or anywhere. Right now it is about 15 degrees in Fairbanks, and drizzling. It is 2 degrees in Prudhoe Bay today, with forecasts of 4 degrees over the next few days. Guess it will be a test of endurance, if nothing else.
I am planning on leaving tomorrow morning, which is Sunday here, and will be back on Wednesday afternoon/evening. I will take my camera, sleeping bag, and a change of clothes, because I want as light a load as possible. Due to there only being one gas station on the way I’m also taking a 2 gallon, or 7-8 litres, can of fuel. Will only be able update this when I return because of lack of internet access up there. I’ll leave you with some photos of the Dalton Highway to the Arctic, courtesy of Google Street. Talk to you all on Wednesday (North American time) or Thursday (Australian time).