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Return from the Haul Road

June 27, 2010

There is a visitor center at Coldfoot that can certify our having crossed the Arctic Circle, but they don’t open until noon.  Rather than waste the time, we opted to drive a bit farther North, so we continued on up the road for about 40 miles into the foothills of the Brooks Range which contains another Continental Divide separating the Pacific from the Artic Oceans. We turned around just as it started to rain.  There is a spot a little farther up the road which we did not reach called the Farthest North Spruce. Here is our milepost: which represents the mid-point of our trip:

This is the Farthest North Ladybug!

The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center was very well done—a modern high class facility with interpretive exhibits, a library, even a gift store.  It seemed out of place next to the more primitive buildings and facilities of the camp.  We got our certificates and had a hearty lunch at the camp before beginning the trek back to Fairbanks.

 In the rain, the formerly passable gravel sections became slick, rutted, treacherous mud paths.  It seems that the road is constructed by mixing large quantities of calcium chloride into the gravel.  When the road is dry, this chemical allows the dirt to retain moisture so that road dust is not so bad.  But in the rain, the compound converts the top inch or so into a concoction the locals fondly refer to as snot.  And to be sure, it is slick!  And it gets into every nook and cranny on our bikes it can find. 

Dirty, Dirty!

Dirty.

We were only marginally comfortable at 15 mph, so it took absolutely forever to get off that road.  I realized that every minute of our time on this road was spent on pins and needles.  We’re glad we did it though.

 Back in Fairbanks, we, the bikes, and all our gear hit the showers.  Everything was unpacked, the outer stuff sacks and luggage were thrown into the tub, and hung up in the motel room to dry.  The room was wall-to-wall gear.

In the morning, the bikes went to a do-it-yourself car wash and came out only relatively clean.  After the cleaning, most of the functionality of my brakes returned.  The forks and shocks were pretty much exhausted of all oil, so the leakage onto the brakes was stemmed.  We picked up Sebastian’s old tires that were on hold at the Harley dealer, packed them onto the bikes and headed back in the general direction of home.

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