June 22- After 4 days of bus travel Brian and I arrive in Whitehorse at 3 am. In a creative attempt to transport our boxed bicycles and travel gear to our next destination Brian scours a nearby parking lot for a shopping cart.
We are in luck! 5 minutes later our gear is loaded onto a Staples shopping cart and we roll down 2nd avenue to the 24 hour Tim Hortons. That was EASY!! Two breakfast biscuits, 1 moka and a double double later we board the Alaska Direct Bus bound for Fairbanks. Our driver Dave and his golden retriever Luna are great hosts!
Twelve hours later we arrive in Fairbanks Our http://www.warmshowers.com host Janet loads our bikes into the back of her SUV and we drive to the log cabin she shares with her husband Robert. Just 30 minutes later we relax in the comfort of Janet & Roberts cabin, enjoy local beer and delicious homemade shepherds pie and fresh baked bread. After 4 sleepless days on a bus we retire early to the comfort of their camper van to and promptly pass out!
June 23rd – The next morning we are treated to hot coffee, a full breakfast, and most importantly hot showers! Janet treats us to buffalo brats & caribou steak and we head down to Fred Myer to load up on groceries for the first leg of our bike trip. We spend the rest of the day packing and prepping for the Dalton.
June 24th – 12:30 pm, We board Frontier Airlines. After a 1 1/2 hour flight over the vast arctic tundra we arrive in Prudhoe Bay. As I disembark the plane I feel the icy cold winds of the arctic hitting me full force. Chilled to the bone I immediately find my luggage and change into every warm layer of clothing I own. Brian and I spend the next 5 hours assembling our bikes in the baggage claim area. 6 pm rolls around and we are finally ready to hit the road. A little nervous and very excited we push-off on our bikes and pedal towards the Dalton highway. 5 min later we suffer our first flat. This is a rough road!! It’s impossible to imagine just how rough it is unless you’ve driven or cycled on it. Brian quickly changes is flat and we continue down the road to our campsite, a Department of Transportation site on the side of the Dalton. We pitch our tent behind a large pile of calcium chloride bags – sheltered from the wind. Hungry, sick and cold, we eat a dinner of tortia, cheese, and sausage and retire to our sleeping bags fully clothed and shivering. Early the next morning, the morning of my 32nd birthday I awake to the sound of trucks motoring by our tent and men talking. I poke my head out of the tent and yell “Good morning! Would you like us to pack up our tent?” The gentlemen, replies “Nah you can sleep in long as you don’t mind the sound of us shootin’. I’ve got 40 men coming down here for training this morning. Don’t worry, we’ll be shooting away from you!”
A few hours later Brian and I start packing up our gear and find that Brian’s rear wheel has deflated overnight. After several attempts to patch the tube we’re on the road again only to make it a few km down the Dalton before we find that his rear wheel is losing air again. Once again we change the flat tire. After several attempts to lighten the load on his bike, and further attempts to make our way down the Dalton Brian’s back tire is still losing air.
In just 24 hours we had used 3 of our spare tubes and patched one tube three times! After having flown over 400 miles to Prudhoe and cycled a mere 2o km on Dalton we would be forced to return to Fairbanks without accomplishing the first portion of our trip. With no available services and no way to obtain additional bike tubes our trip had come to a halt. Feeling defeated we walked our bikes back to Prudhoe in the hot sun. By the time we arrived at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel we both had suffered sunstroke and the cold/flu Brian had picked up while traveling suddenly took a turn for the worse – now he had a fever.
June 27th – Before we could depart Prudhoe Bay on our scheduled flight I had to cycle back to the Brooks Range General Store to return some supplies. Upon leaving the store I ran into some young men replacing a nut on the front tire of their van. Having arrived in Prudhoe the evening before they had already taken a tour to the arctic ocean and were planning depart for Fairbanks in just a few hours. I immediately asked them to take Brian and I with them. It was a win win situation! We would pay them a reasonable sum to drive us back to civilization enabling us to avoid spending a fortune on airfare to Fairbanks. We loaded up the van and by 1 pm we were on the Dalton!
Four flat tires and 18 hours later we arrived back at Janet & Roberts house in Fairbanks. It was 6 am before we pitched our tent in their backyard. We posted a note on their door and promptly fell asleep for the next 8 hours. Like I said, we felt defeated, but this isn’t the end of our story.In fact we have completed the first 1000 km of our trip from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, but that’s another story!