Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sunday, 15 August 2010 – Coldfoot to Deadhorse – 245.5 miles

Dear Diary,
Today the Dalton Highway

It tested me on every level I could imagine – my patience, people skills, riding skills, faith in other users of the road. It tested my intestinal fortitude, endurance and my love of riding. And it definitely tested my commitment to complete the ride.

It all started out fine. I had a good night’s rest, ate some fruit and granola and enjoyed another sunny morning. I saw Indian Steve at one of the construction zones (of which there were many!) We talked for a few minutes before his radio crackled “All Clear”. He said there would be a few whoop-dee-dos after the construction zone and that I should be careful. I told him I would and proceeded through Atigun Pass and crossed the Continental Divide.
This photo was taken near the crest of the pass.

There were indeed whoop-dee-dos. And roller coaster-ish hills and steep grades and gravel and mud and more.

The next construction delay took about 30 minutes. The one after that was about an hour. And there were more. I stopped counting after 6. At one, the female flagger said "That's a cute moped." "Thanks," said I, "but it's a scooter."
she - I see a moped.
me - A moped has pedals. It's a Vespa scooter.
she - Well, alright. (like she doesn't really believe me)
I avoid further conversation by getting off and walking around a bit. The pilot car comes about 15 minutes later and as I'm riding off she says, "Have fun on your moped." I just waved.

I think it was two stops further down the highway when the flagger (this time a guy) says, "You get pretty good gas mileage on that moped?" I nodded yes and wondered if he's talked with the other flagger. "Where are you from?" he asked. "San Diego, California." "So how much did it cost you in gas to get here? About 50 bucks?" I nodded again and said, "Something like that."
I give up. I don't want to talk to these guys anymore. I walked around a bit and took photos to avoid answering any more questions.

The road got progressively worse. My confidence was being erroded. The scooter was being bounced around to the point where the front rack came off. The tire and yellow fuel bladder were still bungeed to it as the rack bounced up, unhooked itself from the legshield, ricochet off the front tire and landed in the middle of the road.

I was riding toward the right-hand side of the road when the rack came off. I didn't have time (or quick enough reflexes) to avoid going into the rock-filled ditch. I was uninjured but still unable to lift, drag or ride the scooter back onto the road. I tried to flag down the next 3 vehicles - all Alyska pick-up trucks driven by able-bodied men, all looking at me waving at them, all of them seeing a scooter in a ditch, none of whom stopped. I would have thought these local boys had more compassion for visitors. I waved at the next three vehicles, two campers and a pick-up. The campers keep going, the pick-up stops. Thank God! Two young men, hunters from Maryland, came to my rescue. While they lifted the scooter back onto the road, I picked up the rack and scoured the road for pieces of the rack to reattach it. I found most of the parts, except the rubber bumper that supports the bottom. The boys from Maryland used duct tape to fashion a replacement.

The two campers who passed me earlier had stopped further up the road. It turns out the guys in all three vehicles were together. I thanked them all for stopping and shook hands with the two that actually helped, assuring them that the scooter and I were fine. A little shakey, but fine.

I noticed a small leak in the yellow fuel bladder earlier. Now it was even worse. I poured as much of it into the scooter's tank as I could and hoped it would be enough to carry me the rest of the way to Deadhorse.

By now it was getting windy. Remember that unforgiving afternoon wind that I complained about before? It was back. The parts of the road that had not been watered down were getting dusty. Here you can see wind-whipped rapids.

Finally, after what seemed like many hundreds of miles, there was pavement. I was never so happy to have a semi-potholed, partly gravel-covered road to ride on. And when I saw this sign, I laughed out loud.

I was indeed happy for the 70 or so miles that the pavement existed.
Just to show me who was boss, the highway gave me one more sign.

All right. You win. You are the toughest, baddest road ever.

there's still daylight
I only have 50 miles more to ride
this gravel is nothing compared to what I've been on today.
So, if this is all you've got to throw at me, you will not defeat me.

I stopped to take a picture of the Franklin Bluffs and prove that, while I may be down, I am not out.

I rode slowly all the way to Deadhorse.

I replaced my leaky yellow fuel container with another 1-gallon can from the hardware store. I was amazed it was still open at 10pm. Inside, I found an even smaller post office, which took up a corner of the hardware store. What do you think of this one, Matt?

The clerk did not believe I'd ridden up the Dalton Highway on a scooter. He went outside and took a picture to add me to their wall of fame.

It was nearly midnight when I made camp.

Tonight, I didn't care about the howling wind. Go ahead. Give it all you've got. I won't hear you. I'm exhausted.

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