Sunday, June 29, 2014

Preparation (Mental and Otherwise) for the Dalton

While we waited out the rain there that seemed to incessantly fall in Fairbanks, we prepared the bikes, our gear and ourselves for the Dalton Highway ride to Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay. 415 miles. 25% paved. 75% dirt.

We stripped every unnecessary bit of gear and weight off of the bikes and repacked anything heavy as low to the ground as we could. We would bring only a spare change of clothes each and whatever cold-weather gear we wouldn’t already be wearing.
On the ride up to Alaska, we had been warned about the Dalton by many riders. And one encouraged us to read Phil Freeman of MotoQuest’s “Do’s and Don’t’s for the Dalton Highway.”

So I did. This was perhaps as bad of an idea as it was a good idea.

“Some say knobbies, and some say 70/30 tires. Both work and have their limitations, and to be honest, much of it comes down to rider skill.”

Hm, I’ve got 85/15. Al least they’re new.

(I was ready to street race before, but now I have a sweet new Kenda K761 15/85 to ride the Dalton with)

“When you cross a truck on dirt: Hunker down behind your windscreen. These trucks are throwing rock – sometimes the size of baseballs – and you need to protect yourself. Do not ride with your face shield open. Keep as much of your body behind protective surfaces as possible.”

Sounds like fun!

“If you did not grow up on dirt bikes, race competitively, or take an off-road course and practice, then this road can be over your head. If you do not know to get on the pegs and give it the gas when things get creamy, then you should not be on the Dalton at all.”

For those of you just joining us, as of July 1, 2014 I will have been riding for 1 year (with a 4 month break to make wine), so I did not grow up on the dirt, nor have I done any of the above. I DID spend a 1/2 day with the stellar Shawn Thomas from RawHyde, so that should count for a lot. I’ve got standing on the pegs down.

(Shawn Thomas trying to get me to look down during our Beginners Off-Road morning course at the Overland Expo.)

But have about a 50/50 success rate with gassing-it when things have gotten dodgy in the past. Hopefully mud is kinder to me (and my poor panniers) than sand has been.

“On the Dalton, no matter how you plan and what weather the weather, you can always have a mile of terror.”

Well, at least I know what to expect, now. Thanks Phil :)

We made a final grocery run for food for the next 3-4 days and in the parking lot, met a Dutch couple going around the world in a Toyota Land Cruiser.

(Bernadette, Ad and their Land Cruiser)

They had just come from Prudhoe Bay and told us the story of watching a motorcyclist in front of them crash his bike about 20 miles from Prudhoe Bay. He sustained only minor injuries, thank goodness, but his bike was another story. Fortunately for him,  both he and his bike were picked up by a truck coming from Prudhoe Bay and delivered back to Fairbanks. Poor guy, only 20 miles to go.

(A photo that Ad and Bernadette took of the bike that crashed in front of them. Fortunately, the rider was OK.

Roel and I discussed strategy and decided if things got too hairy with the weather/mud, we would adjust our plan accordingly. Whether this would mean leaving my bike somewhere and doing the ride 2-up on the Africa Twin or turning back altogether, we would have to wait and see.

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