About Larry

I live in Bandon on the southern Oregon coast and I've been riding for a long, long time, years, decades. We won't go there kiddies but believe me, it's been awhile. During that time I've done most of my riding on the road with occasional off-road forays, most of which were intentional. Some weren't. Until just a couple of years ago I'd never ridden a hack - that's sidecar to those who aren't familiar with the lingo. I figure riding a hack up Alaska's infamous Haul road all the way to Deadhorse should top off my torture tank for quite awhile.

About Mac

Mac hails from Robins, Iowa and has been riding bikes longer than most people have been around. He managed to torture his old BMW past the 100,000 mile mark and presently rides a Yamaha FJR. His newest ride, a 2008 Ural Patrol is waiting on the dealer's highest shelf until the flood waters recede after which they'll assemble it and turn it over to him. The fact that he's heading to Alaska for his first journey on a new rig should tell you all you need to know about him...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

July 29th - Deadhorse to Wiseman - Larry turns 200 today!

Happy birthday Larry you old geezer!

Early today we took the tour of the Prudhoe Bay oilfields. This was supposed to include getting off the bus for a short walk to the Arctic ocean wherein Mac would place his big toe and the icebergs would likely melt for miles around . Unfortunately for those who paid dearly for this tour the operators were not able to fulfill their end of the bargain and instead took us on a tour of oil rigs, gas plants, large equipment storage lots and other equally interesting items, not unlike a tour of 1950's Soviet technology museums. Yippee. Goodbye $38.

Thus began our southern return trip down the Haul road to Wiseman, a small hamlet located just north of Coldfoot. Rain was beginning to fall as we left the tour bus and mounted our filthy beasts. Being experienced in such matters I duded up in my flashy red outfit which Mac refers to as the Santa outfit. This from a man who wears rain pants with duct tape holding the legs on. Hmm...

Heading south it wasn't long before the weather turned really nasty, rain in torrents with cross-winds which turned the pot-holes into mini tire busters capable of dislodging the most firmly affixed items on your bike. This was no lightweight affair, it was serious stuff requiring constant vigilance to stay on the road and as we later agreed, not a helluva lot of fun. The run from Deadhorse to Wiseman was around 230 miles taking us over the Antigun pass again only this time in dense fog, rain, and more mud than you can imagine. Somewhere around mid-way I had to pee so I selected a carefully chosen spot and pulled over. Being garbed in multiple layers of zippered and Velcro secured rain gear meant having to do the boogie-woogie dance for several minutes while getting, er, uh, unleashed? Naturally as these things always go as soon as I was about finished Mac appears through the driving rain storm. This isn't any problem as he thinks I'm funny as hell to watch when I'm trying to get back into my gear. How delicate he is. Then up comes the German couple we'd met at Marion Creek campground a few days ago, soaking wet and covered with mud on their way north. Evidently Germans are accustomed to funny older men attempting to restore their dignity and little laughter was spent. Probably had something to do with the storm. Immediately on their tail arrived another guy on his BMW adventure thingy all dressed up in proper BMW adventure clothing, also heading north. We told them to avoid the tour and which hotel had the best food, etc., and off they went never to be seen again. I finished re-costuming and we rode off into the grime again. Camaraderie is everything...

We arrived at Wiseman late afternoon and thanks to Mac we located a great little cabin at the Boreal Lodge, a mom & pop operation with very reasonable rates. I'd stopped at the one before it and thought we were out of luck due to the no vacancy sign posted but Mac knew there were at least 3 places according to the Milepost book he'd brought along. At least the first one had some cool sled doggies so it made a nice stop. At the Boreal Lodge there was a nice community kitchen where we ate a dinner comprised of food we'd pilfered from the Prudhoe Bay Hotel, then crashed early in order to make a clean break in the morning. Rising early we used the water hose provided and washed off a lot of the mud we'd accumulated the previous day, then headed into Coldfoot for a great breakfast. On the way out we took pics of the old trading post plus Mac spotted a moose with her yearling calf standing in the river.

Our brief stay at Wiseman was a good one, the people who operate it had left their teen age son in charge and he's one of the nicest kids you'll ever meet. Polite, respectful, not given to laughing at older people, that sort of thing. We settled in and enjoyed ourselves. In short we got blitzed.

Monday, July 28, 2008

July 28th - Hanging out in Deadhorse

We were so beat yesterday we figured it would be best to rest up for a day before heading south so that's what we did. Besides the food is so good we didn't want to leave just yet. Bad news and good news this morning, Mac's back tire went flat overnight so he had to change it out with his next-best spare. He's getting pretty good at that so maybe this one will hold on for awhile. My luck was better as I found my missing cell phone rolled up in my tent. I'd had a similar incident happen a few days ago so I guess whenever I can't find something that's the first place I should look.

After our morning adventures we headed out to find the general store and post office. We ran into a guy who told us how to find it - no signs of course - and his directions proved invaluable, we'd have never found it otherwise. Mac bought a couple of T-shirts and I satisfied my personal needs with bumper stickers, now mounted on the sidecar. They're the variety that peel your paint off if you try to remove them so I figure they'll stay there until it's time for a paint job.

We've signed up for a 2-hour tour of the oil fields at 08:00am in the morning after which we'll start our return ride south. Mac is going to head east when we reach Fairbanks on a route that will take him to Montana and then on towards Iowa. I'll head south to Delta Junction and after that my choice of directions will likely depend on weather conditions. Linda's younger brother Dan works up here and he stopped by for a visit this evening. He said the overall weather is turning cold earlier this year and there are reports of snow in the hills around Anchorage so maybe it's time to head for warmer climes... No matter how you slice it, Bandon is a couple of weeks away at the normal pace for my sidecar and there's still lots to see.

July 27th - Deadhorse at Last!

Dang, the Haul Road is one heck of a ride! After breakfast in Coldfoot we met a couple of Russian guys who'd just returned from Deadhorse. They were pulling a trailer made out of a 55 gallon oil drum behind one of their Harley's, definitely a fashion statement. They said they made the ride in 5 hours so we figured it would take us at least 7 or so and that proved to be a good guess.

The ride itself was fairly uneventful if you consider 247 miles of potholes as such. We stopped several times to rest and once to fuel up using our spare cans. Mac liked the Antigun pass the best, said it went on forever. We arrived in Deadhorse late in the afternoon, tired and beat but without any serious bike problems. The Prudhoe Bay Hotel turned out to be great, $180 per night for the 2 of us but including all meals and a free laundry room. The food is great, prime rib being on the evening meal our first night. We stuffed ourselves and crashed early. What else is there to say? We made it!

July 26th - Coldfoot!

It's only been a couple of days since we rode from Fairbanks to Coldfoot but it seems like a week ago. Maybe it's the rain and mud but it's definitely something mind boggling. Our stay in Fairbanks turned out to be nicer than we expected in spite of the high-priced grubby hotel. I think it was due to the nice staff who treated us courteously and made us feel at home. In any event we headed out early, stopping at a new McDonald's for breakfast. That's always a welcome change from the over-priced independent places and the food quality is consistent.

Moving on we rode several miles out of town before stopping for gas and an opportunity for me to get into my red rain suit. I really hated to do it as it seems whenever I do it immediately clears up and it becomes a sweat-shop. Of course that's what happened again...

The ride to Coldfoot took us past Linvenfoot, the beginning of the Haul Road. Mud, potholes, washboards; all contributed to bone-jarring riding that threatened to tear the sidecars off our bikes. At one point I hit a pothole large enough to launch my spare tire and both gas jugs. The spare is cabled onto the luggage rack but jugs went off into space, landing on the gravel but not busting open, a testimony to durability of the plastic they're made of.
We stopped for a few minutes at Finger Mountain and then on to Old Man, now for sale and where Mac and Joe stayed eleven years ago. It looks exactly like the pics in travel books but has a sense of desertion about it. A little further on passed over the Arctic Circle and stopped for pics and to make blood donations to the local mosquito population. Several gallons lighter we headed north again, arriving in Coldfoot late in the day. Pricing out the hotel rooms at the $179 per night convinced us to go camping at the Marion Creek BLM park 5 miles further on. The Golden Age Passport made it more attractive at $4.00 per night. Even with the new bear-in-the-area warning signs... Mac built his best ever fire and it was still going at 4:00am in spite of the torrential rain that set in around 10:00pm and continued for most of the night. He'd asked me a couple of days back if my tent was really waterproof and this night it proved to be so, I slept dry and warm. In the morning after breaking camp we rode back to Coldfoot for breakfast and then it was back on the road to Deadhorse.

Friday, July 25, 2008

July 25th - Tok to Fairbanks

We've been hearing rumors the past couple of days about traffic being turned back from Deadhorse for security reasons. This would really screw things up as neither of us wants to ride the haul road only to be turned back 20 miles short of our goal. For one thing we wouldn't be able to carry enough fuel for that, we've been counting on refueling at Deadhorse. Mac has been to the Arctic Circle post before and if we can't go to Deadhorse we'll ride at least that far. With that in mind we rode from Tok to Fairbanks today. Not much in the way of photo ops, just a nice leisurely ride in weather that has turned from morning rain showers to uncomfortably warm.

We stopped at the North Pole visitors center to see what they might stir up in the way of motels and they sent us here, another nameless old place situated under the flight path to the airport and adjacent to a dirt road leading to the local Harley Davidson dealer. Imagine if you will what that's like, planes buzzing on final approach while beer-bellies rap up and down the dirt road on their hogs. Tomorrow we're out of here no matter where it takes us.... Mac's new rear tire that he had installed in Bellingham is kaput at 2000 miles so he's changed it out. My tires are holding up so far so I'm going to leave them alone, at least for now. Both bikes seem to be running OK although I ran out of gas at 112 miles today so it may be time to wash the air cleaner again. Lots of dust and dirt on these roads so maintenance requirements are much higher.

July 24th - Top of the World Highway & Chicken, AK

This morning it wasn't raining so we were at it early, took another tour of Dawson City for photos, stopped for rolls and coffee, gassed up for a mere $7.59 per gallon, then took the ferry ride over the river to the beginning of the Top of the World Highway. The ferry ride was interesting, I was placed at the very front of it and one of the biggest trucks was parked next to me, around 6" clearance. It took two of us to jockey the bike around so I could ride off. As I was heading up the ramp I noticed a fox standing next to a dirt pile watching the ferry. I was able to snap a couple of pics before he took off.
Heading up the mountain was when we really got into the fog routine, visibility nearly nothing but at least there wasn't any other traffic. The road itself was mostly wet sandy mud with the usual pot holes. After a few miles and a lot of climbing we broke out of the fog into sunshine which we enjoyed for the rest of the ride.
Chicken was not at all as I expected it to be, the buildings are mostly newer and cater to tourists like ourselves. Prices we're not that bad and we had a great lunch at one of the cafes. We both bought T-shirts at the main store where we met a couple of guys from Montana, one of whom was riding a sidecar. He was knocked over to run into 2 other hacks in Chicken so we declared it a convention. On the way out of town I stopped off at the post office to buy stamps for post cards and that done, we headed straight for TOK where we set up camp for the night. Several other riders showed up and we had fun swapping tales about the various roads we'd ridden. It started to drizzle about bedtime but it only lasted a short while and by morning everything had dried out.