Well, despite our best efforts , we are still here. The TV is dire and not much else to do as we need to stay near to the phone and email to chase people. By 2pm our time and 5pm Texas time, we know we are stuck for another night as the office in Texas is going home with promises of “tomorrow”. JC, in disgust disappears to the bar to drown his sorrows, where he met Mark a local fire fighter and state trooper, built like a bear he turns out to be one of the most interesting people he has met. A great story teller regaling John with stories of forest fires, Wally a local business man from whom he had bought a fire engine and a perverse game called ‘batarat’ that he had played during the Californian forest fires, the details of which are a bit too wild for the website. By the time I joined JC in the bar, they had both left and there was only John and Aaron left, being chatted up by a bunch of tipsy air hostesses. At least he was smiling when I got there! We must have looked a pair of sad people though as one guy – a real live Alaskan gold miner left $50 on the bar to pay for our dinner!!! He had hardly spoken to us and didn’t know us from Adam! Jessica, the barmaid for the evening told us that he was a regular and sometimes a bit strange. We left the money with Jessica and asked her to return the money to him when next she sees him. Let’s hope she does. Only goes to show though that there’s always someone to cheer you up when you’re feeling down. Go to bed praying for a phone call early tomorrow with some good news.
HURRAH, we are finally on the road again. Thanks to Johnny, Mary, Byron, Charles and everyone who has helped us to get this insurance sorted out and to Aaron and Ranjit (hotel owner) for keeping us company and keeping our spirits up. Coxy has got a grin from ear to ear just like the proverbial Cheshire cat as this is the day he has been waiting for. He will fulfill one of his many dreams as we take the famous Dalton Highway or the “Haul Road” across the Arctic Circle and head even further to Prudhoe Bay. The road was built to service the 800 mile Alaskan Oil Pipeline which runs from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. From Fairbanks it will be almost 500 miles to the top on a road which is mostly gravel and used, in the main by heavy trucks ferrying goods upto the oilfields. The headlights are given a protective coat of bubble wrap and we say a little prayer for the windscreen and tyres, before leaving Fairbanks and the Quality Inn behind – for ever we hope!!
Happy to be leaving.................here.......................................... and here..............
Mile '0'.................... The preparations................................................
Our first sight of the pipeline..................
At the Yukon River crossing – the only crossing of the Yukon in Alaska, the lady in the visitors centre is very helpful, providing us with lots of information and things to look out for on the way. The road varies from good tarmac (very little) to bad tarmac (most of it), from dampened graded and gravel twisting and turning alongside the pipeline that pops in and out of view along the route. The scenery, as we have come to expect of Alaska, is stunning. In the distance we could see a purple/ pink shade which we thought was heather but in fact it is fireweed which thrives in areas where there have been forest fires, paving the way for the wildlife to return.
Some shots to give you a feel of "The Haul Road"
As we crossed the Arctic Circle (JC has done this once before already this year with Adrian – it was much cooler then!) we stopped to take some photographs and met a biker from Montana, riding the road alone – brave man. Another couple, from a bus came up - his name was John Cox and his daughter was called Diana Morgan so his wife was more interested in taking photographs of us and the Toyota than of the Arctic Circle – fame at last!!
AT the Arctic Circle......................................................................................................
At the 175 mile marker we stopped at Coldfoot Camp to fuel up. That had been our destination for today but we decided to push on for another 100 miles as the weather was dull and we needed to be in Prudhoe before 2pm the following day to get our trip out to the Arctic Ocean. As we crossed the Brooks Range, the weather did indeed get wet but at least we know it won’t get dark at all. Climbing over Artigun pass the mountains in the mist looked quite eerie, dark and mystical and then the pipeline appeared again stretching ahead of us like a long silver python moving down the valley. Despite the new lens, we didn’t see much wildlife but spotted a couple of arctic fox whilst we were looking out for herds of Caribou that cross the tundra at this time of year – must have missed them and all we did see were herds of giant mosquitos which put us off pitching our tent by attacking us everytime we stopped and got out of the vehicle.
At 10.51pm the sun is still high in the sky and we only have 75 miles to go to Deadhorse. Not bad – 500 miles in 12 hours on this road – we have driven the “Haul Road” in one day – just like the other truckers!!
Midnight above the Arctic Circle........................................ Artic Cotton at midnight..........
At midnight the sun was still high in the sky. John rang Faye to wish her Happy Birthday,as it was already early morning in the UK, Julian because he always does from far flung frontiers, and we gave up on our battle with the mosquitos parking up, putting the seats back and sleeping in the Toyota. Not too comfortable but we had our sleeping bags and despite the bright sunlight, we managed to sleep until 6.30am.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FAYE!!!
We woke up stiff and bleary eyed. With the temperature at only 7 degrees, the sun had disappeared and our world was shrouded in mist. We were both glad that we had driven through the night and seen the haunting scenery of this area which we would have missed in this type of weather. Arrived at the Arctic Caribou Hotel, the starting point for our tour around the oilfield and our dip in the Arctic Ocean. Sounds like a wonderful place doesn’t it? It is, in fact an oilfield workers camp which has been improved to cater for visitors – modular building (link units) where the restaurant is like a workers cafeteria – great breakfast though! We managed to get ourselves moved up to the earlier tour and spent a couple of hours on the bus whose lack of suspension made it a teeth shaking journey over the gravel roads. The owners of the site do a great deal to protect the environment and the wildlife. It is rare to see such a mix of economic and environmental activities together, with caribou, foxes, many birds and bears (didn’t see any though) sharing this land with oil well, gas pipes and thousands of oil workers who operate the place 365 days per year, 24 hours per day. Hats off to Adrian, I bet some of the fields he has worked on would not be half as good as this one and I wouldn’t like to be living here for more than a couple of hours. They are crazy on safety issues. No alcohol is allowed on site, not even for guests and there is a speed limit of 35pmh which means it can take 4 hours to drive from one side of the site to the other. Speeding results in a suspension from work and drinking or taking drugs sees you on the first plane out of there, never to return. JC fascinated with the different types of machinery all over the place – these are definitely BIG BOYS TOYS - and the tidiness and lack of litter on the site.
Certified mad - dipped in Arctic... Start of the next challenge.... Big Boys Toys..............
Well this is the start of our long journey South from Arctic to Antarctic. We met a couple of cyclists who are also starting their journey today, along a similar route to ourselves, they estimate that it will take them 2 years – think we will make it before then. This road seems to attract those looking for a challenge, mostly motor bikers, cyclists and overlanders like ourselves. Message for David Hughes – when planning your record breaking drive – you can do Fairbanks to Deadhorse in 12 hours, whilst sticking to the speed limit.
Filling up in an oilfield.................................................... Don't know if they made it????
As we head South the temperature rises from 7 to 25, the mists cleared and we have a beautiful sunny drive across the tundra with storm clouds, once again hanging over the Brooks Range. Lucky us – a few specs of rain is all we have and as we pulled into Marion Creek campsite the skies, were blue, the sun was still shining and the champagne that I couldn’t have to celebrate our reaching the Arctic Ocean was chilled. JC lit the campfire to keep away the bears and the mozzies! A wonderful end to a wonderful day with spectacular scenery, made even better by the fact that this road is shared only with those who are looking for a challenge. Not many tourists, no cafes, no gift shops just the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. Even I couldn’t finish the champagne so tonight our stopper was bubble wrap and a cable tie. Bubble wrapped bubbles – could this start a new phase!
Keep the bugs & bears away with fire.. The office planning next part of route....
Woke up to sunshine again. Got the tent packed up in record time. Checked the vehicle out for damage from the road – he even got underneath it Paul – hope you are impressed. No problems. As we come back onto the road the side graders who were making the mud last night must have been working all night – the road is as smooth as silk – luxury – for a little while anyway and we head on into Coldfoot Camp for fuel and breakfast. The story goes that this place, originally called Slate Creek was eventually named after two green horn gold miners who got “cold feet” about having to spend the Winter up hear and did a runner.
This is the most Northerly Truck Stop in the World, built with the help of the truckers, by a man who had won the Iditarod dog sledge race. The central column of the restaurant is signed by the truckers who helped and the walls are covered with photograph of jack knifed lorries and huge loads that have been transported along the highway for over twenty years, so for all of you truckers who are keeping up with JC here are some photographs for you. 500 miles of mostly gravel, no phones, no mobiles, two truck stops mostly oversized loads and they do it in one day. You guys have it easy – he said that not me.
FOR THE BOYS AT COX'S, READER'S, JESSOP'S & DREWERY'S
Stopped at Finger Mountain to look back at the road we had driven and then carried on back to the Yukon Crossing to pick up our Certificate for driving the road from Steve.
The preparation............ The presentation..............
Finally, after almost a 1000 mile trip we hit the tarmac – wonderful at mile 0 again. Celebrated – no cracked windscreen, lights or burst tyres by having a round of M & Ms – still helping out your pension fund Robin!
What we need now is a heavy rain shower to at least get some of the mud off. Sorry Rick – promise we will wash off when we get back to Tok, which is our destination for tonight. Would the classic cars have made this trip – who knows but one thing is certain there would have been plenty of chipped paint and Roger and Richard may have had to replace the clutch and windscreen yet again (or should I say Richard)! Rick and Di would have been worried sick because they couldn’t wash off poor old Basil! Stephen would definitely have needed a new exhaust and Joyce would definitely hang up her rally boots. Stuart and Angie and Neil and Olivia our “always keep the hood down gang” would have had dust in every orifice. Gerry and Corrie’s fancy fuel system would definitely have got clogged up! Stuart and Jenny wouldn’t have needed the overdrive at these speed limits but could still have got a few donuts in! Charlotte and Robin would have been bored – no side trips possible on this road! Charles and Jane would have taken twice as long as everyone else photographing all of the wonderful scenery and would definitely have needed a service after doing this! Geoff and Jenny would have probably have made it but a few more bits would have dropped off and the bonnet would have been fastened down with the bright red Alaskan braces! Chris, Jill, Col and David would have turned around and came back after Coldfoot due to the lack of any decent bars or restaurants along the route. David and Lorraine would have been steady and sure all the way there and back and at least they wouldn’t have had to worry about their headlights as it was 24 hour daylight all the way! Dave Brayshaw would have been lost with no contact to the outside world but Jenny would have pressed on for sure to have a swim in the Arctic Ocean! Paul and Joanna’s spotlights would have been covered in mud anyway so he would have not had anything to complain to Paul about! Ron & Elsa – perfect conditions for a Lotus Cortina – a true RAC rally route! Finally, the Discos – Stuart, Barbara, Paul and Nikki would have been OK – we saw a Landrover 101 at Deadhorse that had made it there at least – didn’t see him on the way back though!
One thing is for sure we all would have had fun and the route book would have been easy!!!!
Spent the night at Fast Eddy’s campsite, Tok, and raised a glass to you all.
We now have a tracker on our vehicle so that we can monitor our progress as we go along. It converts our position into Google Maps, so if anyone we know is interested in actually seeing where we are, just leave us a message on our message board, with your email address and we will send you a link.
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