The day started off pretty stressful. We weren’t sure we were going to be able to attempt the ride to the Arctic Circle. It has been raining for two days straight. It has not stopped. We learned today Fairbanks had the most rainfall in its history during the month of June. A new record. Everyone we talked to warned us about how bad the haul road (Dalton Highway) gets when it rains. It is pure muck and very slick. The trip is about 400 miles and about 80% of it is not paved. We have come a long way, and we decided to go for it.
Instead of taking the Harley’s we decided to take bikes that were outfitted for the Alaskan terrain. It’s not that the Harley’s wouldn’t make it, they did just fine in Patagonia, the deserts of Chile and Peru, and the death roads of Colombia. The truth is we’d had enough of that and frankly it sounded like a lot more fun to do this leg on BMW’s motorcycles. They are basically big endurance motorcycles and a blast to drive. I told my boys later today it was like riding dirt bikes to the Arctic Circle. It was awesome. I highly recommend it.
Sure it rained the entire way there, but we actually enjoyed it. The scenery was magnificent but the mosquitos are hard to describe. Thousands instantly surround you when you stop along the road and having 100% Deet is a must for this trip.
The most difficult part of the trip is passing the semi trucks. The locals call this the haul road and it is most famously known as the road filmed in the show Ice Road Truckers. In the winter it is frozen and dangerous; let alone having only 2 hours of sunlight a day. When a semi truck passes you, you have to look away or you will instantly have a face shield covered in mud.
The Alaskan pipeline follows the entire stretch of the road. It is an amazing site. We had seen pictures of it, but none do it justice. It reminded me of the Great Wall of China, stretching mile upon mile like a snake through the Alaskan wilderness.
Our only stop for the day was at the Yukon River Camp. It’s the only outpost on the way to the Arctic Circle. The chance you take is that they might have fuel, or they might not. The last thing we were told was, “if you get to the Yukon outpost and they don’t have fuel, you’re done. Turn around and come back to Fairbanks. You’ll never make it.” Needless to say we were stressed all the way there and sure enough they had fuel today.
If you’ve ever ridden a dirt bike you know half the fun is getting muddy. It’s one thing to get dirty on purpose, it’s another when you don’t have a choice. We kept a towel between our legs so we could clear our face mask occasionally. The motorcycle windshield was useless and it stayed covered in mud.
The Arctic Circle is just a stop along the road. The US National Parks Service has put a sign there to identify it. We were surprised to find two park rangers stationed there (sitting in a truck) waiting for anyone to arrive today. They were there to greet us and help us take pictures. They also presented us with Arctic Circle certificates. It was very cool and provided a moment to be proud of our Park Rangers and the work they do to help people.
It was a special moment for us in that we felt like we had completed many Miles With A Mission. As we rode back to Fairbanks we thought about all the miles we had covered, 16,000 or so through some 18 countries. As we rode we reminisced and laughed about the stories and experiences we had shared. Ushuaia, Argentina seemed a world away. Here we are, we finally made it to the Arctic Circle. From one end of the America’s to the other. Mission accomplished.
A special thank you to Keith & Renee Payne, owners of Alaskan Adventure Riders of Fairbanks, Alaska. They are the go-to people for motorcycles in Alaska. Their equipment was first class and we were extremely impressed with how they cared for us, instructed us, and prepared the bikes for our arrival. They have a facility on the property of the Harley Davidson dealer in fairbanks with easy access from anywhere in Fairbanks.
Keith met us bright and early with everything ready to go. Their prices are more than fair and we couldn’t get over how well the bikes were outfitted with everything needed for a great ride to the Arctic. They also provide rentals for anyone making the loop in Alaska (Fairbanks-Tok-Anchorage-Fairbanks). You won’t find a better organization to rent bikes from. Leave your Harley’s with Keith and take a bike that is built for Alaska. You won’t regret it. And when the day goes exactly like you’d hoped for, I suggest you leave Keith a great tip. He won’t ask for it and will probably refuse it, but insist that he take it. Once you see how dirty these bikes can get you’ll understand the work that goes into cleaning and prepping these bikes everyday. Their phone number is 907-378-2739 and their website is www.fairbanksriders.com. Tell them Miles With A Mission sent you. Nothing in it for us, we are just grateful for Adventure Riders.