After munching on some trail mix, I bundled up in my never used sleeping bag and prepared to get some shut eye in these bright conditions. I woke up a few times during the night. I had to put on some warmer socks as it got a little chilly. Definitely not good sleep, but it will have to do. Iím sure Iíll sleep better after a full day of cycling. Well, now its time to get myself together and check out this town before heading south. Itís 8:30am and I would guess its in the 30ís (F). I hope it warms up!
I loaded up all my gear and realized Whoa!, I have a lot of crap! And heavy too! I donít need all this junk. Time to minimize. But first I had to go to the Arctic Caribou Inn to see about my tour of the oil industry and the Arctic Ocean. I met Rick and then my guide Kelly (Rickís wife) shortly after. She informed me she was new to the touring gig, so I needed to bare with. no problem. We were joined by another 3 people, a family that drove up from Fairbanks and was going to drive back later this evening. We watched a pro-oil video about the area and thatís when I started to realize how tired I was. I was in a dark room in a comfy couch. I could have passed out. After the short video, we hopped in a huge green bus. Bill, a Deadhorse old-timer, was our driver. He was pretty informative during the tour and added some of his own anecdotes. After a drive by the oil industry and many pipes running this way and that, we arrived at the Arctic Ocean. We could see little water and much ice. We snapped some photos, splashed around in the water a bit and discussed the surroundings and unique lifestyle up here before getting back to the bus. Bull and Kelly were pretty laid back and it was nice to have an organized introduction to such an interesting place. On our way back, I spotted 3 grizzly cubs playing on a snow pile. Everyone was excited and we stepped out for some photos. There were the 3 cubs of Kate, the local bear nuisance, or one of them anyway. Bill spotted Kate around the corner of a building in a field and I was shocked at her size. Huge! I couldnít imagine seeing a male. This was my first time seeing a grizzly bear, or any bear for that matter, in the wild. I was very excited to have this opportunity so soon in my trip and it made the whole $37 dollar tour worthwhile. We hung out and watched the cubs play some more and got a better view of momma Kate as she wandered around keeping a close watch on her cubs. After we got back to the inn, the other tour guests were getting ready to head South. We talked a bit then I asked if they could take some of my things to Coldfoot, about 240 miles south on the Dalton Highway, so I could lighten my load a little. They agreed. After I sorted out some stuff, I was amazed at how much I had lightened my load. Not that I was going to be very light, just that the stuff I separated out was pretty heavy! I repacked my stuff and it was a much better fit. I had a bowl of caribou stew and a cheeseburger with fries at the inn to load me up before the big start. Mmm, delish. As I made my final preparations, I talked with some very nice people who inquired about my journey as they passed by. I stopped by the general store for some extra water, 3 snickers, and a Deadhorse patch to add to my collection. My last stop would be the gas station for a little fuel for my camping stove. I met Robert, who looked like a native to me. He was very inquisitive and gave me some gas at no charge as well as two large plastic bags to cover my sleeping bag and pad and tent which was strapped to my bike rack. He said it would get covered in dust from the passing trucks on the road otherwise.
So I said farewell to Robert and Prudhoe Bay and took to the rough road ahead on a beautiful sunny day. It was about 4pm when I left. The first mile or so out of Deadhorse was SO rough! I hoped it wouldnít be like this the whole way. I could barely control the bike. Fortunately it smoothed out a little (as smooth as a gravel road can get, anyway) and I was relieved. I snapped a few short as I left and started cruising at a very slow 10mph. It took me about 20 minutes to figure out the appropriate attire for the weather. The sun was shining, but it was a little cool out. After a while, I took off my pants and rode in bike shorts, a long sleeve with shirt under, and bike gloves with wool ones over them. As I got out further from town, I started to thing: Man, I am really doing this! I am on the Dalton Highway above the Arctic Circle! The views out of Deadhorse were surreal. It was hard to associate this huge expanse of flatness with Alaska. There were tiny motes of water surrounding polygonal shaped masses of grass. Imagine what the bottom of a dried up lake looks like. The mud all cracked in outlined uniform shapes. Like that but larger and green, with water in all the Ďcracksí. After about 15 miles, I started seeing caribou grazing in small packs off the side of the road. Some just stared as I rode by or stopped to get a photo, and some got jumpy and started jogging clumsily away. At about my 30th mile I saw a huge herd of about 100 caribou. I stopped here for some granola bar and trail mix. The first truck to pass me while I was stopped asked me if everything was Ok. That was cool. He informed me the mosquitoes were getting bad farther South. Good to know. I was surprised how little traffic there was. Just because I heard horror stories about the speeding truckers. Most everyone who passed me from every direction slowed down considerably and most returned the gesture when I waved hello. Hopefully this kind of consideration will continue through the next few days. Nothing new as far as wildlife between mile 30 and 40. Actually shortly after my break, I was riding and noticed a butterfly in my peripheral. Wait, thatís not a butterfly, itís a freaking mosquito! The bastards came out in full effect and were chasing my ass down for 10 miles. I actually sped up to about 12-13 mph during this time to try to keep them behind me. They wouldnít quit. I ate macaroni and cheese and tuna. I had to eat the open pack of tuna before the bears started swarming. (40 miles)