Arctic Circle: mosquitoes, mud, potholes and pipline


June 7: The rally is over, but I have lots more to write. First our trip to the Arctic Circle on the day off in Fairbanks. At one time, lots of the participants talked of going, but on the morning of, we set off alone, later to be followed (and passed while having lunch )by the 1916 Lancia with Jan and Meredith.

Jan’s 1916 Lancia

How to describe the Dalton Highway that runs from Fairbanks to the Yukon River Camp (our lunch stop) and on the Coldfoot finally ending in Deadhorse? The title says it all. How do mosquitoes survive the Alaska cold? They must be a better breed than those that NC  sports in the summer.  As soon as you roll down the car windows these eager, hungry buggers swarm inside. As soon as you start to move, they commit suicide against the windshield. I cleaned the windshield so many times, I’ve lost count and the one time we were stopped (for 30 minutes) for road work, I even cleaned the facemask of our new motorcycle riding friend. Ed took this photo while sitting in the car with the windows up!

Cleaning a personal windhield

OK, that’s the annoying start. The route itself is perhaps half tarmac (my new British vocabulary) and half gravel-and ALL potholes. It’d doable, certainly, but takes constant attention and dodging. I felt like this should have been part of our precison driving rally. We bought the Milepost guide to Alaska byways-sort of like the  Yachtman’s Guide to the Bahamas and this book warned about all the heavy truck traffic, mostly tanker trucks on this “highway” that throw stones and gravel as they pass at high speeds.  Well, that part was not really a problem. We encountered very few trucks and most of the time we were alone and could run right down the middle of the road.

Dalton Highway

Alaska pipeline

Then there is the pipeline. You can see it for long distances which is amazing. It runs all the way from Deadhorse  to Valdez with 11 pump stations. Sometimes it is very close to the road. I wonder just how they protect it all  those miles?

Then of course there is the mud. This road is built on permafrost which explains much of the potholes and broken tarmac. The heavy, fast-moving trunks are responsible for the rest.  Fortunately, it has been dry and we only had short stretches of mud. We did get rain and hail on the way back but even that was short-lived.

Was it worth it? Sure. One more adventure under out belts and have shirts that say “Arctic Circle Club”. The entire round trip was just under 400 miles and it took 12 hours. That did include photos opts, lunch and two cautionary fuel stops. You don’t want to run out of gas out there.

Crossing the Arctic Circle

It was a tiring day with constant vigilance. Stewball handled the potholes well. No flat tires, no front end alignment problems. That was our day off before the final run from Fairbanks to Anchorage, but that will be a separate blog.

Jan, Ed and Stewball-who now boast a sticker that says “I survived the Dalton Highway.” Thanks Stewball for another wonderful road adventure.

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About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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One Response to Arctic Circle: mosquitoes, mud, potholes and pipline

  1. TBC says:

    Fabulous adventure!

    I did warn you that the mossies in Alaska are the size of Pterodactyls and drive the Caribou mad at times. Still, between mossies in Alaska and midges in Scotland, I’ll probably opt for the mossies. Then again, I never headed for Alaska until August or late, late July, as the State Bird (The Infamous Mossie) had dwindled by then.

    Safe travels home.

    Hugs, from sunny Provence … and no bugs … and lavendar and basil in our rooms to chase any away that might consider venturing in.

    TBC (and Arnie)

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