The Americas 2013

A Motorcycle Diary

Archive for the ‘The Americas 2013’ Category

7 August 2013

07 Aug

There is NO point in spending any more time than 1 night in Prudhoe Bay unless you working there and so after the compulsory “arctic ocean tour”, I was back on the road and decided to head straight for Fairbanks, 800km away, rather than the customary 2 day ride. You could be forgiven for thinking that the “Arctic ocean tour” is a boat cruise, but no, its a bus ride to the shore of the arctic ocean where you can go for a stroll and a swim and join a small but elite group of crazy people brave enough to venture into the freezing waters…like me!!


The Prudhoe Bay forest courtesy of the oil industry!!


NO! Its not a Speedo banana hammock! Its my jocks!!



I was on the road by about midday and fortunately, the days here are super long with sunsets around midnight at this time of the year so daylight was no concern notwithstanding 800km of Dalton Highway! The return trip was the same but different in that I got to see different aspects of the view that one cant see when travelling North! Once again, very humbled and privileged to have ridden this road and super fortunate to have hit Pristine weather on the return leg!


Loads of this going on on the Dalton!!



The only mishap took place about 100km outside of Fairbanks whilst I was up on the pegs, enjoying a challenging section of dirt when a wasp flew into my face, clipped the underside of my glasses and flipped into the void between eye and lens whereafter it was severely pissed off and let my lower eyelid know all about it!! Not pleasant but must have been SUPER funny to watch because I screamed like a girl on a rainy day parade whilst trying to keep both hands on the bars and bring the bike to a standstill from 100km/h on gravel…it was the longest 10 seconds of my life!!!


Constant companions, or perhaps competitors is a better word!!





The Dalton claims another Motoquest victim!!





And at the beginning/end of the Dalton!!

Anyway, got into Fairbanks at about 22h00 and headed straight for a self clean carwash to use the high pressure washers to get the sodium chloride off the bike because when that stuff hardens it doesn’t come off!!


6 August 2013-The Dalton to Prudhoe Bay – My Pinnacle Point!!

06 Aug

Happy Birthday my Miks!!

Today has been a long anticipated day! The seed for this trip took hold back in 2010 when I was riding from Cape Town to Cairo and it occurred to me then that an awesome adventure would be to ride the road from the southern most tip of south America to the northern most tip of North America. Much research went into understanding what a trip like this would entail but a foggy element of it has always been the road to Prudhoe Bay and the ride up the “infamous” Dalton Highway!

days ride

My 400km days ride from Coldfoot to Prudhoe Bay…

total ride thus far

My total trip thus far showing the southern and northern most tips!!

Research on Prudhoe Bay and the Dalton reveals all sorts of conflicting information ranging from the stark harsh beauty of the environment to the danger of the road and the post apocalyptic industrial mess better known as the town of “Deadhorse” at Prudhoe Bay! So with this in mind, many might ask what the hell I am doing riding this road and going up to this God forsaken place at all? Its a good question and one I have asked myself many times over however, the answer is a simple and clichéd one; this entire trip is not about a destination but rather about loving the ride and the journey, a journey that has shown me as much inexplicable natural and human beauty as it has the converse, a journey that has provided me with as much insight into the world as it has into myself and all of which I am deeply privileged and grateful for and so contrary to my words of 16 January and in the intriguing words of Ben Gibbard, “my December sun is setting because I’m not who I used to be”!




So, about the Dalton?! Yes, its a hard road if ridden in bad weather conditions however if you happen to hit it on a rare and “mostly” sunny day (as I did!!), then its one of the most incredible beautiful and dramatic rides one will ever do…..Ever!! The road has its harsh patches and there are enormous trucks everywhere however, they were courteous and polite 99% of the time so don’t believe everything you read! For the rest, it was mostly hardpack with the odd loose stretch but I was able to maintain riding speeds of between 80 and 120km/h for 90% of the trip from Coldfoot to Deadhorse, BUT, this was in pristine weather! The real reason for riding to Prudhoe Bay however lies in this remote and largely untouched part of mother Earth which reveals the symbiotic relationship between all of her harshness and all of her beauty coming together in the most perfectly balanced and breathtaking environment one could ever hope to lay eyes on, and this journey has largely been made complete as a result of having ridden this road!




I got into Deadhorse at about 17h00 after leaving Coldfoot at about 09h00; stopping regularly to take photos and to soak in the views and the silence. The last 50km into Deadhorse was ridden in a thick pea soup like fog that was freezing like it can only be when in the Arctic circle but made a lot better arriving to find Jax waiting for me at the large zozo hut better known as our “hotel”, the Deadhorse camp…I kid you not!


Zozo hut Hotel!!


A common and necessary form of travel in these parts!!


The famous Atigun pass!!


Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay has NO residents! People come up here on shifts of 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off to work for the oil industry in different capacities as this is solely a company owned “town” created for the specific purpose of extracting oil from the earth, so beautiful, it is not! Dinner (and every meal in fact) is a workman’s exercise of getting in line with your tray to get your daily nosh and although one might anticipate a dreaded meal, the food was beyond awesome, alternatively I was just starved after my ride, either way, it was a great meal and end to a fantastic day!!


Male Caribou with some impressive gear alongside the Prudhoe Bay oil pipeline…a Local resident of these parts!!


Tomorrow I will head back to Fairbanks and after having ridden this road am confident that the 800km ride is very doable in a single day if the weather is good!


5 August 2013-The Dalton Highway!!

05 Aug

We went to pick the bike up following its service from the Outpost at midday however on arrival, it was still as filthy as she was when I dropped her there on Friday morning and had oil all over the place! This unfortunately did not instil much confidence in the $400 service that had just been completed! I appreciate that they guys have been busy but I have NEVER had a bike returned to me following a service looking like this so I insisted they wash her down as it would be the only way for me to tell if there were any oil or other fluid leaks within the first few kilometres of leaving the dealer…fortunately there wasn’t and I managed to get on the road to Coldfoot by about 14h30!

days ride

The road from Fairbanks to the start of the Dalton highway is approximately 130km of regular paved road running through MORE beautiful Alaskan countryside! Think mountains and forest for as far as the eye can see and then suddenly you’re upon it! The paved road turns to dirt albeit fantastic in that its hard-packed and super easy to ride! I hit a few patches of rain that turn the road into mud and although a little on the slippery side very, very easy to manage with the right tyres!


At the start of the Dalton…note the nice clean bike that has only just been washed!!!


The essential addition to the pole at the sign of the Dalton!!


and after 2 hours of Dalton mud!!

On route, other than crossing north into the arctic circle for the second time in a week, I came across a lone white wolf sitting at the side of the road that contemplated me for just long enough to not enable a photo! Bugger! Needless to say it was fantastic to encounter as they are apparently super rare to see!



This is a great picture that shows just how far north I currently am and inside the arctic circle! The 3 red dots represent where I have been and where I currently am!

The Dalton is considered a haul road built specifically to connect the oil fields of Prudhoe bay with Fairbanks and as a result the truck drivers along this route are infamous, in fact, the TV Series, “Ice Truckers” is a series about the trucks that go up and down this very road because of how beautiful and yet dangerous it is!


In the picture you can see the oil pipeline running alongside the road which it does for almost the entire length of the Dalton.

Although I was originally planning on spending the night in Wiseman, I only got into Coldfoot really late, cold and hungry and the idea of riding another half an hour when there was an available room (with its own private bathroom, versus the communal bathrooms which are common in these parts) at the motel, I snapped it up and hit the sack not too long after.


What $200 (R2000) buys you in Coldfoot for 1 night!!!

Tomorrow I ride to Prudhoe bay which is a massive milestone in my journey in that although its not quite the end of the trip, it is the northern most point I will have ridden to.


2,3 & 4 August 2013

04 Aug

We have been hanging out in Fairbanks since Thursday night because the bike went in for a service at the Outpost (The BMW dealer in Fairbanks) on Friday, however, because they are so busy and it wasn’t possible to pre book a service slot, the earliest that I can get the bike back is Monday (5 August) lunchtime!

Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska however that doesn’t mean that there is much to do, in fact there would be nothing to do if it wasn’t for the fact that this is the week that the fair is in town so we opted to spend Saturday afternoon visiting the fair and it is in fact just how you see them in the movies!! The rest of our time here has been spent resting, exercising and watching movies on the hotel video system!


1 August 2013..Hello Alaska..At Last!!!

01 Aug

Notwithstanding the 1600km of dirt roads I have ridden over the last two days, I woke up feeling remarkably fresh and wanting to go for a little ride…and the top of the world highway starts just a couple of kilometres from here!!

One of the benefits of these very long days is that you can get so much done before nightfall! I started the day by going for a walk around Dawson in order to get some photos of this quaint little place and then finally got onto the top of the world road by about 14h00 and into Fairbanks by 20h00.

As mentioned a few days ago, Dawson city looks like it is stuck in a gold diggers frontier town time warp; tin and wooden structures, dirt roads, blacksmiths and saloons with names like Diamond Tooth Gertie’s! Its charming personified and made more so by the fact that its a functioning town with families that live and raise their children in this beautiful environment!!

Pics of Dawson “City”….



Vintage snowmobiles!!!








I assume the Flora Dora hotel was the original house of ill repute!!

I am handing the bike into the BMW dealer in Fairbanks tomorrow for servicing so it was time to get the luggage off the bike (which is covered in mud), get the bike kit washed and get everything cleaned up as this was originally supposed to be the end of “Leg 4 of the Americas”. The original plan was to fly back to SA now for a couple of weeks however, the prospects of 30 hours of flying, taking a week to overcome the jetlag and then repeating a week thereafter was impractical because we need to be back in Cape Town by the 20th of September for a wedding and so instead, I am going to ride up the Dalton to Prudhoe Bay this coming Monday and Tuesday and then Jax and I are going to spend a few days going down the Alaskan inside passage looking at the glaciers, whales and bears before starting the final trek across Canada to Montreal.

Days ride..

My Days ride on the top of the world highway and into Alaska…






31 July 2013

31 Jul

Inuvik is great, but small, cold and far north. When I woke up this morning I previewed the weather for the next 2 days and its apparently storming on the whole route back to Dawson along the Dempster tomorrow, whereas today, its blue skies and peachy conditions!


Ferry over the Mackenzie river!


That said, I made a decision to ride back to Dawson in order to avoid having to ride the 800km muddy version of this road which is apparently a nightmare! I got out of Inuvik at about 11h30 and had an awesome, fast ride back. Whereas the ride to Inuvik took 10 hours, the return took only 8.5 which was great fun although perhaps a teeny bit reckless because of the speeds I was averaging!

Days ride..

Return run to Dawson!!


Spending the night in Dawson and undecided about whether I do the top of the world highway and press onto Fairbanks tomorrow or have a lazy day here!




30 July 2013

30 Jul

I have been looking forward to today since I decided to ride the Dempster Highway…and I wasn’t disappointed! The intention for today was to ride from Dawson to Eagle plains, a 400km ride. I figured this would be a good distance for a dirt road ride because along the Dempster which is 780km long, you either stay in Eagle plains or you push on to Inuvik as there are no alternatives for fuel or accommodation, that said however, I got to Eagle plains by 13h30, feeling fresh, loving the views and the riding and made a last minute decision to push on to Inuvik!

Days ride

Days ride…


One would think I would have learnt not to do this by now, by the time I got into Inuvik 780km and 10 hours of dirt road since I left Dawson, I was frozen to the bone not to mention starving and exhausted but feeling great for the accomplishment. The ride through the Northern Yukon and the state of the Northwest territory has been magnificent but the highlight was definitely the area from Tombstone Park up to the Arctic circle and thereafter, although beautiful, not nearly as dramatic!

Crossing into the Arctic circle means crossing into a zone where on the summer solstice (21 June) there is 24 hour daylight within the zone from latitude 66.33N. Equally, that means that on the winter solstice, the same zone experiences permanent night time. Today, sunset is 01h00 and sunrise is 05h00 although it doesn’t actually get dark but just a version of twilight!


Although its the middle of summer, there are still ice sheets on the lakes!!


Two moose lake, you can see the big guy in the water in the top right of the photo!!


And the one of two moose, moose’s or meese?!



Insofar as the the reports about how tough the road is, well, its a dirt road, and a well maintained one at that. Naturally, it has some rough patches but nothing that cant be dealt with by ensuring that the bike has the right tyres and pressures for the terrain, that being the case, its a piece of cake even when you hit some wet patches of “gumbo” because of rain!





There were 2 ferries on route to Inuvik, the peel river and the Mackenzie river…this is the one over the Peel river.


Our lady of victory” church in Inuvik which shares a name with the real name of Notre Dame in Paris. This church was entirely built by volunteers back in 1958.


Typical Inuvik houses…also known as smartie box houses!!

I’m now a day ahead of schedule so if its raining when I wake in the morning, Im going back to sleep, otherwise I’m heading back to Dawson for a rest day on Thursday!


29 July 2013

29 Jul

I was up early to get my new tyres sorted out but I didn’t get out of Whitehorse until 11h45 because Yukon motorcycles were quite busy although the guys squeezed me in and I managed to leave sooner than the anticipated mid afternoon!


The big girl gets new shoes!!

The ride to Dawson was a 550km ride up the Klondike highway which was more of the same beautiful northern Canadian vistas which I am starting to become a little blasé about!! Dawson is a real frontier town; houses made out of tin much like the old gold mining town of Johannesburg as still seen at Gold Reef city, except this is a functioning active town that is stuck in a time warp!!

days ride

Days ride…



I haven’t taken pics of the town today because I need to get to bed but will be back here for Friday night and will get some pics then.

Tomorrow…the Dempster..woohoooo!!


28 July 2013

28 Jul

I spent the day in Whitehorse because I have to wait until tomorrow for new tyres before I head up to Dawson to do the Dempster Highway. The name of Whitehorse is apt; you will note its singular, as in one horse, so there is very little to do here which perhaps isn’t a bad thing as I need to rest up and do some chores before the riding of this coming week.


My Sunday chore!!!


This is 23h45 just a little after sunset!!


27 July 2013

27 Jul

Today was a long 700km ride from Dease Lake to Whitehorse in the Yukon. Arriving in the Yukon has really started to feel like I am pushing the last frontier elements of this trip which I last felt when approaching Ushuaia in Argentina back in January.

days ride

Days ride…

The ride up the remainder of the Stewart Cassier highway continued to produce more beautiful scenery and although I had high hopes for the “ghost town” of Cassiar, there was in fact almost nothing to see other than some dilapidated houses and streets that have been taken over by forest.

Being from Africa, one would think that being this far north and the weather pretty cold, that Mosquito’s would be the last of my concerns? Well No! These little buggers are huge, ravenous and swarm! I have learnt not to take my helmet off, lift my visor or take my gloves off when I stop for photos because that’s the only way to ensure I don’t have an immediate drain of all my essential bodily fluids!! When I have taken off the helmet to ensure that I get my handsome visage on the odd self taken portrait, I often think that if anyone was watching me dart back to the bike (in the 10 seconds before the camera goes off) doing a little dance like a fast Macarena to keep the little buggers off my face, they would think me insane…at least it gives me a little something to laugh at in the solitude!!


Met a biker called Nick heading down to Seattle after buying this KTM in Juneau…


The remains of Cassiar…



Me fooling about with the camera and tripod…post my little dance!


You would think I only have 700km to do today so can afford the time to muck about like this!!??..You cant see it but In this picture there is a mosquito trying to climb INSIDE my right eyeball!!


I eventually got into Whitehorse by about 17:00 and checked into a small motel in town before heading off to watch a movie in the local cinema (more like a small warehouse that has been converted) which finished at 23:30….and it was still light outside! I guess that’s what happens when one is so far north!

SAM_4084 SAM_4087

Tomorrow I am spending the day in Whitehorse because I need to change my tyres to knobblies before I tackle the Dempster on Tuesday. Everything is closed here on Sunday and tyres aren’t available in Dawson where I head to for Monday night but am getting quite excited at the prospects of doing this “highway” because of the varying nature of the reports. Although I think that the reports tend to be made to sound worse than it actually is (and I doubt ANYTHING can be worse than Isiolo to Marsabit to Moyale in Kenya) because people tend to make the experience sound more grandiose (or morose in this case), Read here from a guy who did the road a short while ago!!