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.
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!
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.
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.
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.