Well we have driven the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse and back to Fairbanks, approximately 996 miles and we are now headed for Texas to meet the group for South America. It turned out to be just another long mostly dirt road but a week ago it seemed like an amazing challenge.
The road was constructed in 5 months in 1974 and until 1994 it was only open to commercial traffic servicing the pipeline. It seemed from reading various articles that the truckers would prefer it stayed that way and that other vehicles were not really welcome. For example Rule No.1 as stated in the Dalton Highway Visitor Guide - Big trucks have the right of way, and one should only stop at turnouts. The road was described here as: remote, narrow, busy with trucks, having soft shoulders, high embankments, steep hills, lengthy gravel surface with sharp rocks, potholes and you could face clouds of dust, slick mud, deep snow, and ice or flooded roadway. As well there were no grocery supplies along the way and no where to get water or to dump and that, very expensive fuel was only available at Coldfoot and Deadhorse. In the literature one was advised to carry 2 spare tires on rims and several spare parts as there were no maintenance services along the route and towing was very expensive. We were warned of everything from swarms of mosquitoes to grizzly bears, Deadhorse has been overrun with grizzly bears in summers past, and polar bears also wander into town.
So I was a bit nervous as we headed north with plenty of food, propane, water and additional fuel but with only 1 spare tire, no spare parts and no weapons to ward off a bear attack, not even bear spray.
Well as I said we drove the 996 miles in 5 days, luck was on our side, our food was adequate and although groceries were not available, meals were. Cold was not a problem as it didn't get below freezing the whole journey even though 3 of the days were spent above the Arctic Circle and Deadhorse was at latitude 70.
We didn't get a flat tire and didn't see anyone with a flat tire. The mosquitoes and bears were not about, and only a few caribou and ravens ventured out to greet us. All the truckers and road maintenance crews were helpful, considerate, slowing down on approach and keeping well to their side of the road. The CB radio, our ears as they say in the trade was not mentioned anywhere in the literature. But in the Milepost it did say if you can't see ahead, it is sometimes advisable to turn off your engine and listen for truck traffic before you continue on some of the steep sections.
Thank goodness Rob had prepared us with a CB radio, and his call signal KE7YVF; Kilo, Echo, 7 Yankee, Victor, Foxtrot, and I wasn't asked to put my ear to the ground every few miles.
Today is an R & R day. A chance to clean the vehicle both inside and out and to put our heavy winter clothes into the carrier on top of the Tiger - we anticipate that they will not be needed again. The temperature in Fairbanks today was 75, and this looks like it will persist for most of the next week.
I am going to let most of this entry belong to Nina and her comments on the Deadhorse leg of our trip.
One interesting tidbit of information I picked up on a TV commercial for Alaska today. The oil pipe line was built with a lot of zigs and zags in it to allow for expansion and contraction due to temperature variation and ground movement. The oil that flows through the pipe is hot. When the crew allowed the first hot oil to flow, the pipe lengthened 4 feet per mile. The line is roughly a 1000 miles long so the thing got 4000 ft longer.!!
Nina forgot to mention that the Dalton did, in some part live up to its reputation it is remote, narrow, busy with trucks, it does have soft shoulders, high embankments, steep hills, lengthy gravel surface with sharp rocks, potholes and we encountered clouds of dust, slick mud, deep snow, and ice but thankfully not a flooded roadway.