Day 12 – Deadhorse AK USA

day-12-welcome-to-deadhorseThis is our final day in Deadhorse AK; tomorrow we pedal south down the Dalton Highway for 20 days heading toward Fairbanks.

Tom and I have a fairly good idea about how fast we can travel on paved roads; unpaved roads, like the Dalton Highway, may not be as predictable. Soooo, it may take a few more days to reach Fairbanks; who knows!

Lisa - Post MistressThere are several obligatory photo opportunities here and we took advantage of them just to show everyone that we are really here and not sitting in some Arizona Resort.

One location is THE store that advertises the end of the Dalton Highway even though the Dalton Highway actually ends about 2 miles earlier. The Post Office is located in THE store and Lisa, the post mistress took our picture and posted it on the bicycle board along with one of my website cards. It is now official; we have become ice road bicyclists.

Coldfoot AK 240 MilesJames Dalton Highway

End Of Dalton HighwayThere are several other spots where photographs must be taken; one is the official ending of the Dalton Highway (or, in our case the beginning), the sign saying Coldfoot 240 miles, and the official Dalton Highway sign. Who says we are not tourists who ride bicycles.

If you will notice, the Coldfoot 240 miles sign also says Next Services 240 miles. Yes, regardless of how rugged or cold or unpleasant the trip becomes we have 240 miles to go before the next town. We will be eating prepackages foods, filtering our own water, and tromping off into the bushes when mother nature calls.

Along the way to Coldfoot AK we will be spending the night at such places named: Happy Valley, Pump Station 3, Toolik, somewhere along the highway, and Gold Creek Turnout. A few Hail Marys and an occasional Our Father would definitely be appreciated.

Prudhoe Bay National ForrestWe took a ‘tour’ to Prudhoe Bay today which required passing through a security checkpoint. The tour has to be booked several days in advance so a minimal security check can be done. Before boarding the tour coach IDs are again checked.

If you haven’t gathered it by now, this area is flat; drop a marble on the ground and it would look like a major hill. Well, to improve the scenic opportunities around the area Halliburton has established, with tongue in cheek humor, the Prudhoe Bay National Forrest.

Oil WellsThe Alaska oil fields are the biggest thing going around here and employ 4,000 – 6,000 people. Most of these people work 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off; companies provide housing and meals for their employees plus fly them to either Anchorage or Fairbanks as part of their salary. Most of the workers are men, with only a small percentage being women.

Collection PipesThere are well heads running down 7,000 – 8,000 feet sitting next to every little house in the above picture, and there are more wells and drilling further off in the distance. Individual pipes run to common collection points all over the landscape. It is truly impossible to describe the area; you have to be here and see it.

At Prudhoe BayWe finally made it to Prudhoe Bay. There is a lot of dark sand that has blown over from the Sag River and plenty of gravel from the oil operations. Almost all of the ice has melted, however, there was some still backed up in a protected cove or two. Just about the time we arrived some spitting rain developed but that did not deter a few of us from exiting the tour coach and walking the 100+ yards down to the bay for a photo.

There was plenty of ‘I dare you’ statements issued to everyone about stripping down and doing a polar bear dunk in the water. Finally, a fellow from New Zealand stripped and did it. When I say stripped down I do mean stripped ‘alllll theeee wayyy down’! He jumped in , went underwater, and came back up. To quote Rudyard Kippling, ‘. . . you are a better man than me Gunga Din.’

Andrew CheyneAndrew Cheyne was a fellow bicyclist that we met this morning at THE store. He had just flown in and was heading down to South America. Andrew has been on the road for quite a while and has bicycled in Russia, Mongolia, Asia, some of the middle east, and South Africa. He was quite likable, and very knowledgeable, and willing to share his ideas on solo bicycling around the world. He was somewhat of a natural born cut-up so it did not surprise me at all that he was the one to jump in to the bay sans clothing.

I am happy with my decision to switch bicycles and had forgotten how much I enjoyed riding the Bacchetta Giro 20. This immediate area is filled with substantial amounts of loose gravel, which can be difficult with a recumbent, however the bike is doing just fine. I did put a 1.75″ Schwalbe Marathon Plus on the Front and a Tour Plus on the back which adds to the traction. A trike really has some advantages when going slow up hills, and we will be experiencing some hills, however, I feel the Bacchetta will do just fine. Anyway, the die is cast and tomorrow I will see.

 

 

The Bacchetta Giro 20 Bicycle, Arkel Panniers, and Stuff Sacks.

Rick-on-the-roadThis was my first long distance self-supported tour (3,600 miles @ 65 miles per day & 1 day per week rest) on a recumbent; I would never again do another long distance ride on an upright bicycle. There are a few reasons for my comment:

  • At the end of the day (sometimes 100+ mile days) my hands, wrists, shoulders, back, neck, and butt felt great.
  • My relaxed field of view tended to be straight out in front of me when riding a recumbent rather that down toward the ground. When going up hills I was more relaxed and comfortable looking around and enjoying the scenery.
  • Special biking clothing such as padded shorts/pants or bicycling shirts were not needed. I was able to wear my everyday summer or cool weather clothing.
  • When riding into the wind I felt it required less effort to overcome the wind resistance.
  • This bike was so comfortable that dosing off in the warm afternoon sun was a real concern, particularly after eating lunch. True fact!
  • Disclaimer: This isn’t a knock on how anybody else chooses to ride or what they choose to wear. For me, a recumbent solved all of the physical issues I had previously experienced doing long distance bicycle riding.

For anyone considering a similar bicycle, bicycle accesories, or panniers, here are a few thoughts:

Bacchetta Giro 20 Bicycle

  • The Giro 20 has a small, 20″, front wheel. When compared with the 26″ model I felt it was easier to put my foot down when stopping, easier to get my foot back on the pedal when starting, and didn’t seem so twitching when going slow.
  • Velogenesis seat support clamps; before the tour started one of the stock ring clips that hold the seat support tube in place came loose, so I installed these clamps for ‘preventative measures’.
  • Shimano Deore 26/36/48 front chain ring; I don’t think I would have made it up some of the hills, fully loaded, with the stock 30/42/52 gearing.
  • The chain showed excessive stretch at the 2,200 mile point. Soooo, the chain and cassette were replaced.
  • Bachetta accessory kick stand; good choice! There was no need to find a leaning post when stopping on the road. One thing to note: I used a Greenfield KS2 black kick stand, which was longer than the silver model. The longer stand kept the bicycle more upright and more stable when panniers were loaded on only one side.
  • Bacchetta accessory fenders; another good choice. They minimized muddy rooster tails up my back and on my equipment as well as eliminating rocks flying up and about.
  • Velocity AeroHeat Rims; I was concerned about carrying all of the weight on a 32 spoke rear rim so I built up a 36 spoke rim which performed as expected. Was this a good investment? I don’t know. It was probably a good preventive measure, and I would do it again.
  • Schwalbe Marathon Tires; I spent the extra money on these 1.5″ tires. I had two flats on the road. Where they worth the extra money? Again, I don’t know.
  • Topeak Turbo Mountain Morph pump; a great investment. This was used multiple times for flats and topping off. The included air pressure gauge was great.
  • Planet Bike Blinky 5 Tail Light; good purchase. At night it was visible for quite a distance and the batteries (AAA) last a long time.
  • Planet Bike 2 Watt Blaze Headlight; the light was sufficiently bright and the batteries (AA) lasted an adequate amount of time. But, the mounting bracket has a plastic ‘click stop’ size adjuster which would loosen up on rough roads. I had to wrap electrical tape around it to keep it in place.
  • Edge 800; this was a gift from my son. Wow, was this a nice addition. The battery would last about 10 hours, and I tended to leave it on from start to stop each day. On really long days I needed to supplement the power with a Goal Zero battery pack. One note about the mounting bracket, which uses O-Rings to hold it in place. My deteriorated and one broke about the second week of the trip. Sooooo, I took nylon cord and tied the bracket to the ‘T’ and all worked well. I would not travel with the O-Rings, again.
  • ADEM headrest; I didn’t always lean my head back against the head rest, but it sure was nice to do on long stretches of road or going up hills.

Arkel RT-40 & RT-60 Panniers

  • These panniers were very durable and the zippers worked flawlessly. I enjoyed the ‘many’ pockets and storage compartments. After a week on the rode ‘stuff’ was easy to find and put away.
  • I did not take the rain covers. Instead, I segmented my ‘stuff’ into lightweight color coded waterproof ‘stuff’ sacks from REI. This made it easy to find what I was after. The panniers seemed to be fairly waster resistant (not proof). The Arkel rain covers weighed about the same as the ‘stuff’ sacks.
  • The bags had sufficient room for everything, including tent, cooking equipment, and sleeping bag.
  • Note: Before the trip I used ‘ZipLoc bags’, or similar items, to segregate my ‘stuff’. Unfortunately, these bags were not zipper proof, thus my move to the more substantial ‘stuff’ sacks.

I used various sizes and colors of Sea To Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks to segregate all of my ‘stuff’. This kept everything dry, easy to find, and allowed me to quickly remove what I wanted. Unfortunately, you have to go to an REI store to select the colors, as online ordering does not offer that option. The dry sacks ended up weighing about what the pannier rain covers weighed, so that was a wash. I would definitely use these dry sacks again.

An Overview Map of the Ride

cross-country-map

Our planning started with a set of Northern Tier Maps from ACA. We modified the routes based on things we wanted to do or see. We also modified the route during the ride based on road conditions or suggestions from the ‘locals’.

We traveled all different types of roads: interstates, 2 & 4 lane highways, and county roads. The only place we might do it differently would be in western and central Oregon/Washington because of the significant amount of logging chips on the road and the constant parade of semi-trucks on the secondary roads.

Only 1 of the 4 flats occurred on the interstate; the other 3 were on secondary roads. Debris seemed to be on all roads that were heavily traveled by semis, regardless of whether it was a two or four lane highway.

By far the worst road conditions we encountered were within city limits. It seemed to follow a pattern: Welcome to . . . and the poor roads started, Thank You for visiting . . . . . and the roads improved. At least you can quickly make it through small towns, but the larger towns? Oh, my goodness.