After assembling our bikes in the small baggage claim, we changed into our biking clothes in the parking lot, made a quick stop at the general store to pick up some last minute supplies and started down the gravel road in the only direction that we will be traveling for the next 18+ months...South. We would rely on these supplies and the 40lbs of food we had strapped to our bikes for the next 9 days / 500+ miles to Fairbanks.
Despite the amount of research I did about routes and terrain there were only a few things I knew about the Dalton. I knew it would be around 32 degrees in Prudhoe, the road would be gravel, there would be one 5000 ft pass, numerous mountains and there would be no supplies. What neither of us were mentally prepared for were the mosquitoes. The locals tell us that this is one of the worst years in history. Words can't even do this phenomenon justice.
In the 200 mile stretch from Deadhorse to Antigun Pass a swarm of literally millions of bugs surrounded our heads at all times. Normally you look forward to tailwinds but this only allowed the mosquitoes to keep up with us while going downhill at 20+mph. We would get absolutely devoured on the uphills. Both of us resorted to riding in our mosquito nets which would provide temporary relief until they were able to find a breech in the armor. We will post some video shortly to confirm our stories.
The Dalton provided us with some awesome challenges. Lots of sweat was left on the mountains and hills of that highway. We have been logging about 50 to 60 miles a day and we are both adjusting to our bikes and the life of touring cyclists and all the intricacies that entails (saddle sores, pooping in the woods, etc). Hundreds of streams and rivers cross under the highway and we took opportunities to hook into some beautiful grayling.
So far we have run into four other cyclists, two of whom have the same final destination as us. Baptiste (http://frenchguyonabike.blogspot.com/) broke his derailleur hanger on his second day into the ride and had to be shuttled to Coldfoot where he could use the payphone to call around for a replacement. We ran into him while devouring hamburgers at the Coldfoot Truck Stop. Unfortunately he ended up having to hitch a ride down to Fairbanks where he has been working on locating this “one off ” item. Bruce, a fellow bicycling nut who will complete a 5000 mile tour in just 2 months met us as we crossed the first intersection in Fairbanks with ice cold Budweisers in hand. Bruce..who is 56 years young took off from his home in Munsie, Indiana and made his way all the way up to the Arctic Circle in record time. We've spent the last couple of days with Bruce and are both vibing off of his positive energy.
Through our new friends Steve and Joe from Brooks Falls we made a connection with their buddy Chris in Fairbanks. We arrived at Chris' place late this afternoon. After spilling our gear into his garage, we did a good portion of our laundry and sat outside next to the BBQ consuming every piece of meat that came off the grill. Highlights include...salmon, moose burger and sheep. Chris is one of the most accomplished hunting guides in northern Alaska and our stomachs are currently reaping the benefits of his skills. Parker entered a food coma shortly after the meal and I am lying on my side in pain because my stomach is so full. Everywhere we go we seem to find the best people.
It's exciting and unbelievable to think that we are just two weeks into this trip. So many more adventures, stories and fish to come.
So far...2 flat tires (Parker), Top Speed: 51mph and 50mph (on gravel..nbd), Highest Pass: Antigun @ 4800ft
Parker and I both hit the 2mph mark while climbing a couple of the 12% + grade gravel hills on the Dalton.