Day Miles: ~10
It’s the evening of May 25, 2016 in Fairbanks, and Tyson and I are blogging and filing photos from the trip. We had planned for the next day to just hang out in Fairbanks to catch our breath, and take a break from 10-12 hr days in the car. I happened to notice on our MilePost map that the Arctic Circle runs pretty close to where we were…right on the Dalton Highway which we have already saved for another time.
More digging through Google, and I found that there is an official marker for the Arctic Circle off the Highway. This is when my excitement level creeps up, and I map out how long it would take to get there. Turned out to be 5 hrs (one way), 190 miles over very questionable road conditions. I causally mentioned it to Tyson to test his interest level. We ended up agreeing it would be cool, but fr another time. That was that.
The next day, we took it slow and easy in Fairbanks. We ate a hardy breakfast at the Denny’s next door (which happens to be the Northern most Denny’s!) and we ran a few errands.
We stopped to see a piece of the famous Trans-Alaskan Oil Pipeline System. This thing runs 800 miles and has carried over 17 billion barrels of oil.
Next, I took the 6 into Kendall Mazda/Kia to get the oil changed and a general inspection. I admit, a big part of me just wanted to say I got an oil change in Alaska. 🙂 I left the 6 there and rode with Tyson for a bit. We stopped at the Honda dealer in town to see the accommodations, a restaurant called The Cookie Jar featured on Diners Drive-Ins & Dives, and then headed back to the hotel for more laptop time. Wasn’t much later I got a call from Kendall recommending I “winterize” the 6. Haha! That meant adding a block heater, special low temp coolant and a battery upgrade. I don’t think that will be needed back home, so I declined. Otherwise, the 6 was ready.
That evening, the subject of the Arctic Circle came up again. Tyson revealed he was about 40% convinced to go and spend the extra day. I was at 85%. We kept weighing the pros and cons. There also was a big factor of our cars not making it. The sensible thing to do would be to pass and save for another time. However, we are not sensible. The decision was finally made early the morning of Day 8.
Day Miles: 391 | Total Trip Miles: 4,446
We freaking drove to the Arctic Circle! I am in disbelief we actually did this.
Besides losing a day of travel, our other reason for possibly ditching this idea was our uncertainty of how our cars would handle the road. How many flat tires could we expect? Would rough conditions shake our cars apart? Would there be so much mud we’e risk getting stuck or sliding off? On the tires, Tyson was well prepared with a donut spare, full sized spare and even another tire. I only had a full sized spare. If I got one flat, I’d better pray long and hard that I wouldn’t get another. Both our low-slung sports sedans have their bellys only inches off the ground and the low profile tires don’t do much to cushion big blows. In the end, our hunger for adventure outweighed the risks, and we went for it.We left our hotel room in Fairbanks around 6am, gassed up in Fox, AK (just 8 miles north) and headed for the Dalton Highway!
This highway is pretty remarkable for road trippers. Named after James W. Dalton, this 420 mile road begins at the Elliott Highway, (north of Fairbanks) and ends near the Arctic Ocean at Deadhorse, AK. Historically, it was built as the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System supply road. It’s been featured on several episodes of Ice Road Truckers and it’s not what you’d call a cruise. When ice and snow aren’t present, you have to face broken pavement, severe frost heaves, massive potholes, mud, sharp rocks and gravel. Numerous cars go wrecked and don’t return home. Even on our drive, we noticed a few past crashes that looked like they weren’t going to be cleaned up anytime soon.
Entering the Dalton Highway
Numerous occasions, signs instructed to always keep lights on for safety.
The Dalton Highway in all its glory!
First distance sign we came to. 60 miles away! Another 300 and you’ve got yourself Deadhorse.
The first half of the Dalton drive looked like this. We assumed it had been recently graded as the surface was smoother than many of the paved roads we’ve experienced on this trip.
Topping off our tanks in Yukon River Camp. Only one gas pump was available with a price of $5.49/gallon. In this remote location, we didn’t care.
The arctic landscape. From here, the roads did get a little dicey in some areas that required constant attention.
This sign caught me at a specific stressful moment avoiding frost heaves and potholes…my response, “No sh#t, Sherlock!”
Just in time: A tour van pulled up as we were getting ready to depart.
More views for the soul.
On our way back, we stopped at the BLM visitor’s center (more like cabin) and got certificates acknowledging our achievements of getting to the ‘Circle.
Felt like a kid with his first report card to hang on the fridge!
Photo on the way back. We managed to get a few more layers of mud on the cars. Just what we wanted to show that we meant business in Alaska!
Back at the hotel and “Holy Muddy Cars, Batman!” How does this make my detailing buddies feel? 😀
Tomorrow we will be heading back towards the lower 48. Yukon is on our radar for the next night. This will mostly be backtracking, but I will be back with fresh content soon after!