Prudhoe Bay

Day 1-2 - August 21-22

I arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska 12 hours after my departure from Cleveland.  I collected my bike from the Trails End BMW – it was ready to go with no damage from shipment. 

The dealership has a pile of bikes and will “mine” any required part from this liberal stock of crashed and abandoned motorcycles, likely left there by people like us.

There are six of us here:

Mike, Dan, Linda, Stan, Bill & Friedl

Mike Matthews and his girlfriend Linda Sikorowski - have done the lion’s share of trip planning

Friedl Neuhold, an Austrian living in Switzerland, has been working for years on converting municipal waste to energy (Friedl is riding Mike’s Transalp).

Stan Hix and Bill Nunes are driving the chase vehicle.  Bill was supposed to ride the haul road with us tomorrow, but had an unfortunate accident which left his bike incapacitated – but Bill is OK.   So far no new donations to the Harley dealership motorcycle pile.

The group has been in Alaska for one week already (prior to my arrival):


Mike, Friedl and Me

Mike needed to have his tires changed and he found a place located way back in the woods - It specializes in tires for people just like us.  The shop is run by Dan Armstrong, an Alaska mountain man who, in addition to knowing everything about tires, is an expert on bears. 

Armstrong debunked the two basic rules that I have always lived by:

  1. Wear little bells and carry pepper spray when in the woods and
  2. Look for bear scat – if you see small scat, it’s generally a black bear and if you see brown scat (with little bells that smell like pepper spray), it’s generally a grizzly

Armstrong implied that the reverse is true – as grizzlies charge, one should stand up, wave their arms and make as much noise as possible and the grizzlies will stop.  On the very rare occasion that they do attack, you should roll up in a ball and play dead.  Armstrong is much more leery of black bears (which can be also be brown, but without the hump) – they attack ferociously and do not fall for the roll up and play dead trick.  Armstrong believes they are much more dangerous than grizzlies and that you should fight for your life.  For the rest of the day I was preoccupied by the thought of bears:

I asked Armstrong if it’s worthwhile carrying a pistol in bear country and he replied “If you carry a pistol the smart thing to do is file off the front sites so that when the bear rams the pistol where the sun don’t shine it won’t hurt as much.”

Three of us will take the trip on the haul road tomorrow; Mike and I will go all the way to Prudhoe Bay and Friedl will go to the halfway point.  We plan to spend two nights in Coldfoot at the halfway point, and one night in Deadhorse on Prudhoe Bay - this will put us back in Fairbanks by Thursday night. If the Top of the World Highway is open (Yukon Highway 9 which connects Alaska to Dawson City), our plan is to head west to Dawson city and up into the Yukon on the Dempster Highway.

It has been slightly below freezing at night so we plan to depart around 9:00 a.m. when the day warms up.

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  • Vincent Cummings - August 24, 2010, 10:55 am
    Dan you old bear that leather jacket you are wearing must have over a hundred thousand miles on it by now, hey when the markets come back sell some stock and up grade that jacket, you will be surprised with how the textile industry has change in 30 years !!!

    Good on you all for putting this together and getting out there doing it !! Wish I was with you but some of us are still working for a living, or still paying of the exes!!

    I wouldn't tell you to be careful and ride safe, because I have ridden with you before and know that saying that would be a waste of time, so instead Ride Fast and Take Chances.

    Enjoy
  • Go Man Go
    Don Frank - August 25, 2010, 4:13 am
    Dan Great to hear you are on the road again. Have a great ride and watch out for those bears!
    Don
  • The Dusty Trail...
    Henry - August 26, 2010, 11:11 am
    Dan-

    Thank you for your update blog along the dusty trail! It will be exciting to live vicariously through your journey that I hope to make in the not-to-distant future!

    I though you might like a few quotes to share with the folks you meet along the way....

    "When a pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle sees it; the deer hears it, and the bear smells it."
    - an old First Nations saying

    "Bears are not companions of men, but children of God, and His charity is broad enough for both... We seek to establish a narrow line between ourselves and the feathery zeros we dare to call angels, but ask a partition barrier of infinite width to show the rest of creation its proper place. Yet bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bears days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours and was poured from the same fountain....."
    - John Muir

    "The greatest thrill is not to kill but to let live"
    James Oliver Curwood (from the "Grizzly King")

    "Those who have packed far up into grizzly country know that the presence of even one grizzly on the land elevates the mountains, deepens the canyons, chills the winds, brightens the stars, darkens the forest, and quickens the pulse of all who enter it. They know that when a bear dies, something sacred in every living thing interconnected with that realm... also dies."
    - John Murray

    "When you dance with a grizzly bear it is best to let him lead."
    — Anonymous cowboy saying

    -When you can see the color of a Grizzly's eyes, hop on your horse(or motorcycle) and ride like you stole it!
    -Henry Brownell 2010

    Ride safe and please keep the updates coming. BTW, I hear a flair gun in one 'sling' and a 44mag in the other are a good combination....but I would still file the sites, just in case;-)

    Best Regards,

    Henry Brownell
  • Bears and bike parts
    Andy Dalzell - August 27, 2010, 4:06 pm
    Advice on bears from someone who avoids them: Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you.

    Andy Whizzer parts in the salvage pile at the BMW dealer?

    Have a great ride.

    Andy
  • On bears and bike parts
    Andy Dalzell - August 27, 2010, 4:08 pm
    Advice on bears from someone who avoids them: Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you.

    Andy Whizzer parts in the salvage pile at the BMW dealer?

    Have a great ride.

    Andy
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