Having spent the last week taking it fairly easy getting to Fairbanks had been great but I didn’t think I would be heading north quite so soon. Having had the time to arrive early and have a day to rest was enough to get me ready for the last tough push to the Arctic. I had been told it wasn’t an easy road, It was busy with heavy truck traffic, There wasn’t anything to see, It was mainly gravel which could turn to mud in an instant if it rained and to top it off I was warned not just of the bears, moose and wolfs but also the clouds of mosquitos that if I wasn’t prepared would drive anyone mad. With the sun shining I had to make the most of the conditions and so I had made the decision to leave early and get to the start of the Dalton Highway or Haul road. Feeling good and leaving on a beautiful summers day I left at lunch and covered the 73 miles to the start where I would camp for the evening. With the sky still clear and the temperature still warm my chances of a good day tomorrow were good but what I faced along the way could change all that and I just had to go with it. Although I knew it would be easier in good weather part of me wanted it to be hard to make me appreciate the challenge. There was only one way to find out and that was to go and see.
Saturday 9th July
I woke around 7am in my tent and felt pleased I was already at the start of the Dalton highway. Wanting to cover at least 55 miles before I stopped I packed away my things and realised my legs were tired and sore. Thinking I might have over done it yesterday by covering cover 73 miles in the afternoon and evening I was starting to wonder if I had made a big mistake doing it. Not having much water I ate the food I had that didn’t use water, loaded my bike and made my way out to the highway. Hearing a motorbike out at the junction I arrived to meet a nice Argentinian called Marcelo.
Marcelo on his second attempt of the haul road after bad weather and falling he to was going to try and fulfil his wish
Wishing that I had an engine
He was fun to chat to and was also on his way to Prudhoe bay after a previous failed attempt due to the rain resulting in mud and falling twice. We wished each other luck and we set off on the now gravel road which immediately climbed making my legs protest.
I took it steady but I was so tired and the sun was beating down on me making me sweat profusely. It wasn’t long before the first of many invasions of mosquitos started to attack and so I stopped to apply Deet. This seemed to help keep them at bay along with turning my legs blue as it started to melt my Devon sticker on my top tube. After every climb came a descent back to the bottom of another steep gravel hill.
The next hill climbing out of sight ahead
Looking at my GPS I had six big climbs to get over all with hills within them. They were all steep, slow, hot and came complementary with swarms of mosquitos just to make sure I didn’t stop to rest. As it got closer to midday it started to rain which cooled me down but I was now worried the road would turn to mud. As the storm moved through I reached a creek I decided to stop and use the river water to cook.
As soon as I stopped I grabbed my waterproofs and covered myself not from the rain but from the mosquitos that were already in attack mode. It seemed to help and so I sat and finished the last of my fresh Salmon that I mixed with Pasta. Trying to lighten my food bag which was so heavy I ate what might help and got going.
The climbs continued until 4.30pm where I reached the last summit before I dropped down an 8 mile hill to the Yukon river.
The first signs of the Yukon river way off in the valley below
The views as I dropped were beautiful and the river was massive. I wound my way down to the bridge and continued to drop until I reached the other side.
The huge Yukon river
Spotting the first place to get a cooked meal for 130 miles I thought I would treat myself to a cooked meal and a break. I sat for an hour relaxing while I ate and started to feel the life coming back into me. Being told there was a fresh water well in 4 miles I set off and reached the hotspot cafe. As I rode around to find the water I spotted a cyclist who was camped.
He was from Japan and great to chat to. He told me that this morning he had tried to ride the road ahead but he’d had to turn around due to the mud. With the conditions being great now and feeling much better I decided I would try and cover another 20 miles.
However great it would’ve been to stop I was now feeling good and wanted to make the most of the conditions. Once I had filled my bottles and water bag I was now 13kg’s heavier but from here the road seemed to be much better. It stayed flatish for quite a while before dropping and climbing a couple steep hills like a huge rollercoaster.
How ever hard it was the scenery was beautiful
Feeling good I pushed on climbing and squatting the mosquitos as I did and decided I would call it a day at 9.30pm. Now I was covering the miles I wanted I started to relax and look for a place to camp. Spotting a pull off next to the pipeline I quickly popped my waterproofs back on and set up camp.
With my food bags hug up away from bears, it was time to try and wash without getting swarmed. Being next to the road I hoped no one would come along while I stripped and washed. Feeling much better all be it now tired it was time for bed and hope my legs felt good tomorrow. Having ridden 74 miles and climbed 2,400 metres I was now getting much closer to Prudo and tomorrow I would cross over the Arctic circle which I hadn’t done since Norway and would be a major landmark to the and the finish line.
Sunday 10th July
Waking up tired but rested I lay in bed, as I wasn’t in a rush to get up. Having pretty much all the daylight riding time I wanted I stretched off while watching the hungry mosquitos on the mesh looking back at me wanting some breakfast. I packed away the main things and put on my waterproofs to protect myself from the impending dome. I left my tent grabbed my panniers which were hanging up and popped the stove on. By this point the Japanese cyclist I had met yesterday rode towards me. We chatted for a while with me now back in my tent and eating my breakfast out of the way of my pursuers. Still with a few things to do he headed on while I packed away the last of my things and joined the road.
It was a much cooler day then yesterday but it was much nicer to ride in. The scenery felt bleak and very much moor like which reminded me of home. I had been told it wasn’t that interesting until I reached the mountains but I thought it was beautiful and yet unforgiving.
As I reached each peak I could look across the wide valley in front of me and watch as the storms that had been brewing were now dumping water off in the distance. As I moved closer to the storm I could see the rain following in behind me as it cleared in front.
Watching as the storm clouds move in
Looking back at the dust trails of the trucks as they followed the pipeline
Managing to miss the rain I finally covered the 30 miles to the Arctic circle and stopped to take a look. As I pulled off the road I saw a sign with a round board that showed what it would look like looking down on the world showing the Arctic circle. Having started in the arctic I could see where we had started and where I would finish.
Looking down on the earth I could point to the start and the finish
It was so cool seeing it and to see that I was almost there. Some guys turned up on motor bikes so I got chatting to them which was really great. Having ridden up from Portland it once again made me want a motorbike and good to see how they were doing it. Not having had any lunch I made my way to a picnic area to cook. Once I had eaten it was then time to set off and try and get a bit closer to Coldfoot. Being ahead of schedule felt great but with a big pass to get over I knew anything could happen and I wanted to get to Deadhorse on time. The road from the Arctic circle was once again hilly and very steep.
After getting over the first big one I dropped the other side to see it climb over the next high ridge. Feeling tired and with the wind picking up I decided to pull over part the way up the next hill and rest my eyes. I knew I would be ok in a few minutes I just needed a moment. Once I was set I continued to climb with the gradient getting ever steeper and wold pull over as the large truck flew up to try and keep up their speed. The higher they got the slower they became until they were down to a crawl before it eased as they reached a bend. Just as I was about to join a bit of tarmac a Moose came out from the forest and spotted me.
Although it was a little way off it was still amazing to see the wildlife
It was so cool to see it with its long clumsy legs as it flipped across the road and back into the forest on the other side. By the time I reached the point where it had crossed I tried to look for it but there was no sign and so I continued to slowly grind my way to the top.
A good name for a beer
Once at the summit the road levelled out with a view over to the next mountain range. With huge dark grey clouds with columns of rain filling the sky ahead of me as they moved through the mountains and the sun on my back the scenery was incredible.
I always knew the mountains were hard work but when I get to see scenes like this it makes it all worth every peddle stroke. From here I dropped into the valley where it followed a river up stream making for a much easier ride.
It was incredible watching the storm moving through ahead of me
Then to see this partial rainbow
I could then relax and take it all in and enjoy where I was. Spotting a sign for a Graylings lake parking and having done the miles I wanted I pulled over to a great spot that looked down towards the lake.
Great to have the sun out with enough wind to keep the mosquitos off
Having 25 miles to go before Coldfoot meant I would have an easy mornings ride to town where I could have lunch in the settlement. Being the last place before Prudhoe Bay which was now 268 miles away I was going to make the most of it and have someone else cook for me.
Monday 11th July
It had been cold in the night which I figured being inside the Arctic circle was a sign of things to come but at least being only 25 miles from Coldfoot meant I could take the morning easy and have a nice cooked meal once I had got there. It was a grey cloudy day and with a cool wind blowing from the south making me need to put on my jacket. Although it was cool in the wind it at least kept the bugs at bay while I had my breakfast. I ate a few bits that I wanted to finish off but not wanting to eat to much as I knew I still had a long way to go, I soon packed up and got on my way.
The road was good with only a few gravel spots and the uphill my GPS said that was big disappeared which was amazing up to the point where I found myself faced with two climbs that weren’t shown on it.
It was hard to show just how steep this his was but the truck was struggling to grip as it climbed
Looking back at the pipeline following the road
Feeling tired I grabbed a snack and started to climb slowly until I reached the top. Once over the second hill I started to count down the miles until I could see Coldfoot runway in the valley floor and knew I was getting close.
Looking north to Coldfoot
This was a picture in the cafe taken on the Dalton highway in the winter
I soon reached the tiny settlement and called in at the restaurant to eat a well deserved meal. Ordering a full breakfast which was just what I needed, I sat down and got chatting to two guys, One who was heading back from Deadhorse on his motorbike and the other just about to start on a pack raft trip once he had been flown into to the wilderness. It was really great chatting to these guys and hear about their plans. As I sat there I looked at my route and although I originally wanted to get 10 miles north of Coldfoot I decided to make the most of the day and get as close to the pass at I could without getting to over tired.
Taking a break
You know the next bit will be remote when poeple hunt with Bows and the next service station is 240 miles away
Once I had eaten an amazing meal and feeling full I set off out of town with a strong tail wind that blew me up the valley. Being a very steady climb was amazing as I was not only covering the distance faster but also climbing slightly at the same time.
With a great road surface and a tailwind it was just amazing riding
I was so pleased it was a nice to really appreciate the scenery
As I approached the mountains I crossed a river with a rest stop just after a bridge. It looked perfect for an early day and would leave me with a good crack at the pass tomorrow. Having been told the weather forecast was great tomorrow and that the bugs were horrendous on the other side I decided to enjoy the spot and not arrive to early in Deadhorse. Having done so many long days it felt weird stopping early so to keep me from riding off again I pitched my tent and got dinner on the go.
The more I thought about it the better the spot became and so I started to relax. I could use the bathroom if needed, I would wash in the river, light a fire to keep the bugs off and enjoy the rest. Once I had eaten I went to wash in the river and use the protection of the bridge so no one could see me. It was so revitalising standing in the sun and wash in the ice-cold water with nothing on and no one around. It was just what I needed to relax and feel fresh before lighting a fire and do my jobs.
This was just the best camp spot
It had been a cold start to the day and I was worried I would miss the views but the day just got better and better and with a clear day forecast tomorrow for my last pass I was excited. As the day came to an end I settled down for the night. Although the time was getting on I was now over the threshold to have 24 hour sunlight with my GPS showing the sunset after the sunrise.
Tuesday 12th July
Having a restless night and waking to various sounds outside one of which was a hair digging up plants.
I got up to have breakfast and so before I left my tent I packed again and sat this time in a relatively bug free spot. I knew this wasn’t going to last as I headed north so I sat and just enjoyed it while it lasted. I set off around 9am and made my way up the valley which remains pretty flat but climbing pretty much the whole way.
It was just great riding on such a nice day
But with the large rocks and sharp stones there were cars that fell by the way side
After covering 30 miles and getting close to lunch I stopped at a good spot in the shade and cooked up some dinner. While I was sat a guy pulled up in a jeep and I got chatting to him. His name was Todd and had come over from BC in Canada and was heading up to Deadhorse.
Todd was just the nicest guy and a great guy
He was such a great guy to chat to and ended up talking for over 2 hours and giving me muffins in the process. Once we had finished chatting we said goodbye and both set off for the pass.
Looking back after the first of two big climbs
The first of the steep hills came after another 10 miles where it levelled off and dropped into another valley.
This looked fun to drive
As I rode towards a bend a guy in a work vehicle stopped and handed me a couple sandwiches. It was so kind of him and we ended up chatting for a while as well. He headed on and as I came around the corner I could see the 2 mile slope ahead of me.
Looking west to the start to the pass and watching the trucks struggling up the steep gradient
Rising at a gradient of 10% meant it would be a tough one but as I got closer I spotted a traffic control. I headed to the guy at the front and asked If I could ride it but I was told I had to put my bike in a truck. I explained that I hadn’t taken a vehicle in the 40 countries I had been through and I was so close to the end. He called his boss Karen who came down the pass to see me and I explained everything to her. She said she would see what she could do and after a while headed up to speak to her boss. I sat in the car out of the way of the mosquitos which were now filling the air and chatted to the guy while I waited. Karen arrived half an hour later with the good news and the bad news.
The good news was I could ride the pass but the bad news was I could only do it at around 2am. seeing this as my only option other then to take the truck I thanked her so much for helping me. The bit I had forgot while telling her what I was doing was that I could ride the 2 miles in 15 minutes. She thought this being a little ambitious so said I could do it in 18. A time trail at 2am wasn’t what I had planned but being my last pass before the finish it seemed appropriate. With time to kill I set up my camp and chatted to the guy. It was great to hang out but feeling tired I headed to my tent to eat and rest before the big climb later.
My camp until the early hours
Wednesday 13th July
I woke up at 1.11am and being given a 1.30am start I packed my tent and quickly loaded my bike. I was still half asleep but the cold air soon started to wake me and I was keen to get this over with. Wondering what on earth I was doing time trialling at 2am I have no idea but if it got me over the pass without getting in a truck I was up for it. Karen briefed me on some safety rules and once I was ready I set off.
The awesome Karen getting very excited about me riding up the pass and she was such great company
It wasn’t long before I realised just how steep it was and how far I had to climb. Typically as I left the pilot car two trucks came up behind me but knowing what to do I wasn’t to worried and kept going. Having to stop for the second I dug deep and pushed as hard as I could to reach the top. Once over the brow I was greeted by the lovely lady who told me I had climbed the pass in 30 minutes and 17 seconds which I thought wasn’t to bad considering I was on my touring bike.
After I chatted to her for about half an hour I set off down the other side to an incredible landscape. Being now almost 3am and the sun being low in the sky made the colours and shadows incredible.
Watching for bears and wolves I continued to drop into the valley and try and cover around 30 miles before I stopped. Apart from taking pictures I was making good progress even with the short climbs that I had to get up and over.
It was just mesmerising and I was actually pleased I had got to see this
Looking back at the road as it traversed the mountain
The road followed the pipeline down the valley with the odd truck driver on the road doing an early shift.
Some night souls travelling the highway through the midnight sun
It was magical riding at this time but I was shattered and I felt sticky as I hadn’t washed yet. Once I had got past Galbraith camp I started to look for a good place to put my tent. Seeing only water logged wetland I pushed on until I saw a service road to the pipeline and so I went in to pitch my tent underneath and out of sight. By the time I was ready for bed it was 4.30am and I was exhausted.
Even though I felt horrible for not washing I was so tired I quickly fell to sleep and didn’t wake until 9am. By this point the sun was on the tent and slowly turning it into an oven. I wheeled my bike over to my camp spot and moved my tent back in the shade while I had breakfast. I didn’t hang around long as where I had camped wasn’t allowed. I headed out to the highway and set off north and within 5 minutes of joining the road a service car came along slowly looking at the pipeline. Not knowing whether I had been reported I kept my head down and pushed on to a lake. Feeling hot and sticky I stopped to have a quick wash when I saw the Japanese cyclist I had met a few days ago coming along the road by the lake.
This was just breathtaking looking back towards the pass
I went over to say hi but he was tired after a long morning so I set off again leaving him to rest and started the next few steep and long climbs. By this point my whole body was tired and I still had a long way to go. I dropped down to a bridge with some clear water and decided to stop for a break. I made a coffee and ate snacks but with the mosquitos trying to get me it was hard. Once I’d put on some spray I leant against my bike and fell asleep. Although I was only asleep for a few minutes it picked me up and so packed away and got going. It wasn’t long after this that I spotted Todd coming back from Deadhorse and pulled over to say hi. We chatted for a while which was great when The Japanese guy arrived. He looked exhausted and he seemed to be happier on his own so I said goodbye to Todd and set off.
Once over the next climb the road levelled a little which made the going a little easier. As the day went on the sun got hotter and I was starting to regret not filling up my waterbag at the last river.
I was so thirsty and I could feel the energy being sucked out of me. I managed to collect some from a river that didn’t look great and heading on with my eyes open for something else.
One of the trenching machines for the fibre optic cables looking more like a prehistoric animal
Nearing the end of the day I spotted some guys welding a digger bucket and asked if there was a construction camp close by. They pointed to a place 5 miles up the road and to say they had told me to go there so set off slowly getting closer.
On arrival I explained I needed water and noticed they were all having their dinner. As I filled my water bag I was asked if I wanted to eat and within a split second I was serving up roast turkey slices, mash potato, veg and gravy which put me in heaven. Then to be given a cold soft drink and an ice lolly for desert I was back to normal. I thanked them for an early christmas and set off armed with another cold can and an ice lolly to join the road. Being told of a viewing area I could camp in 10 miles was perfect so I pushed on until I reached it. The place was great and put me 70 miles from Deadhorse but the down side was the bugs were terrible. Really needing a wash by now I got everything ready and turned my tent on to its side with the door pinned back.
The view from my camp was incredible with the clouds
My mosquito infested camp for the night
This gave me all the time I needed to get clean which was great. Once I was done I loaded the tent got my bed ready and worked out my day. Since 1.30am this morning I had ridden 105 miles and climbed 1,400metres. Now only being one days ride to Deadhorse felt great and would mean I had ridden from Fairbanks in 6 and half days which I was pretty pleased with.
Thursday 14th July
I woke at 4am being shaken in my tent by the strong wind that had picked up in the night along with my Thermarest and pillow deflating. I woke up tired but having 70 miles to go till Deadhorse I wasn’t to worried about how long it took me. Although the wind was still strong the Mosquitos were sat at the door for their breakfast so I grabbed my food bag and ate in my tent. By the time I was packed and ready it had just gone 10am and started to climb one of the many steep hills ahead.
I took it easy mainly because I was tired and once over the hills I dropped to a huge stunning plane that spread out in front of me. By the time it lunch I had covered 30 miles and still having 40 miles to go so I pulled over to eat in a lay-by. While I ate I could look out across the tundra at trucks driving the dusty highway leaving trails of dust pouring out from the rear like comets moving in the night sky.
Although this place was bleak it had a certain peaceful charm about it especially in the low light. Feeling sleepy I applied some bug spray then leant against my bike and fell asleep.
Although it was like being on one massive plane it was unreal and stunning
Once I had regained some energy I packed away what I had out and set off down the road to meet the first of two road construction camps. I was met by a guy called Jeramia who told me I couldn’t ride the road while it was being worked on. I asked when they finished for the day and he told me it would be around 7 to 7.30pm.
This is Percy Pringle which is a fresh water spring formed by the ground freezing and raising the ground level
Jeramia at his post was such a nice guy to chat to
With it now being just after 3.30pm I decided to wait and so sat and we started chatting. Jeramia would normally work on the machines and in the winter would build ice platforms that they would build oil ridges on. Then when the ice melted the rigs would then be floating on large section of ice where the equipment could be easily removed on to boats. It was interesting listening about his work along with his tails and of almost being caught by a grizzly while working at the traffic control just two weeks before. While we sat waiting for the road to be reopened he told me about a herd of muskox that were small arctic bison that graze on the tundra. Wanting to see them I jumped in the next pilot car where the lady drove me up while she took the next load of traffic.
Muskox grazing on the fresh pasteur as they headed north
Checking out the new road works as they were putting two layers of insulation under the road to try and prevent the permafrost from melting
Once I returned to my bike I then had to wait for about half an hour and by 7pm I was free to go. It felt good to finally be getting closer to Deadhorse but hearing that the next road construction team were working 24 hours my hopes of riding all of it were starting to fade. Undeterred I kept on going until I had covered the 18 miles to the end of the first road construction and to the start of the next.
Sure enough there was a pilot car waiting to take me but there was no 2-4am riding gap. Spotting a pipeline service road I said I would ride that instead and being happy to let me go I started to head off. Within a few hundred metres I spotted huge area of ice that crossed the river which was left over from the winter freeze.
Melting arctic ice to take to the south to use in drinks with the girls and their kids to celebrate.
It was beautiful to see and looked so clear. Wanting to collect some to use as ice cubes in drinks for when the girls arrived I set about melting the ice and filled a flask with water. Being surrounded by millions of mosquitos it was a little distracting once once I had got what I wanted I headed back to my bike and got going.
Looking back at my bike under the huge sky
It wasn’t long before the road returned to the highway but crossed to the other side where it continued. Thinking this was perfect I crossed over onto a good dirt track until I reached the pipeline that came out of the ground.
It followed along by the road for quite a way which was amazing as I could see the heavy equipment on the road but after a while it started to move away from the highway.
Hoping it would slowly make its way back to the road I continued on for several miles but could see the road getting further and further away. As the pipe headed north west it finally turned north where I could see it disappear off in the distance to a huge plant miles away from the town.
Looking on as the pipeline got further away from the highway.
At this point I realised I was going to have to make a choice of either riding back and getting a lift or cutting across the tundra and getting back on the road hoping I could ride the last bit. Deciding I had got this far and I wasn’t going to get a lift for the last bit I knew I would give it everything to get there and I would cross the tundra with my bike. I set off towards what looked like tiny white buildings and the first couple hundred metres was good until I hit the water that was just below my knees.
Looking out across the swampy tundra to a distant line of what looked like trucks only to find they were massive plies of insulation meaning I was further away from the road then I thought
Lifting my front panniers off and up out of the tall grass and water I clipped them to the back of my bike and pulled and pushed getting further away from the pipeline. By the time I had covered a mile it had taken me about 45 minutes. I checked the distance to the road and saw it was still another 3 miles away and my heart sank. Realising I was going to be doing this for some time I got my head down and continued to wade through the marsh. Although I had a swarm of mosquitos around me I did at least have a head net on to keep me from going insane and I had sprayed my hand with Deet to keep them off.
Getting a little worried about how far I still have to go with the risk of grizzlies
As I neared the halfway mark and now being 2 miles from the pipeline and 2 miles from the road I remembered what Jerimia had told me about the Grizzly running at him just two weeks before. At this point I started to worry and knew if a grizzly did come along there would be nothing anyone could do to help. Now having a little more motivation to keep going I pushed on having to change my route to get around the small lakes which were sat within the tundra almost invisible until I reached them. The thing that did help was it never got any deeper then my knees due to the permafrost that was 3 feet below the surface. Aiming for what I could see now were huge stacks of styrofoam that was going under the road I kept going but my body was know aching all over. I had now been heaving my bike through tall grass tufts and knee deep water for almost 3 hours. I stopped to take a breather every half an hour or so and my hands were shaking from the strain. Know only being 3/4 of a mile away I dug deep and pulled and heaved on my bike to get those last few hundred metres to the road and by 1.30am I finally reached the dirt road which just felt amazing.
Looking back at my tracks through the marsh
Know being off the tundra and at least a little safer for any grizzlies I started to ride toward town. Being 9 miles away and most of the heavy machines behind me I now found myself heading towards a service vehicle and a pilot car. My heart sank again but I approached steadily and as I went to pass I noticed the driver who had stopped me had nodded off while waiting for a vehicle to arrive. I calmly road past and pushed on getting ever closer to town.
2am in the morning back on the road with the sun still above the horizon
As the miles ticked away the first of many building came up with the first saying Deadhorse camp and I knew then I had made it.
An army of huge snowcats ready for action
It was now just after 2.30am and I was shattered. I rode the deserted highway when I spotted a few campers that were parked down by the rivers edge. I looked around and saw a good place to camp. I then pitched the tent and got my dinner on the go. While the water was boiling I loaded the tent before sitting down to eat. I couldn’t believe I had made it but what I had achieved hadn’t even began to sink in. I knew I still had around 15 miles to go to the finish but the hard work was now over with. I had put so much energy into the last 7 days that I was now exhausted. For now all I was good for was sleep and being 4am thats what I was going to do.
This was taken at 4am 2 hours after the sun started to rise and yes it was that bright
Friday 15th July
Apart from waking up in the night to pump up my pillow and Thermarest I slept so well. I think with the added barriers and the focus on getting to Deadhorse had zapped all my energy. I woke round 9am to a cool windy day which was great as it was keeping the mosquitos down.
9am with a plane coming into land at Dead horse
However there were enough to keep me on my toes so I still had to prepare for them. I got up, lit my stove and sat on the bank looking out to a bleak and baron landscape of tundra, the ice-cold river and huge industrial buildings designed for the harshest environment. It was however beautiful in a that it felt stark, remote and unforgiving. This was one of the many arteries of the world that extracted the black gold from the ground in order to feed us with the raw ingredient that is used to pretty much make everything we have.
Although I still had 15 miles to go I sat looking back over our trip and where it had got me. I felt numb from the sheer emotional roller coaster of each and every country, the people we had met, the places we had seen and what we had endured mentally and physically. I felt sad Sharon wasn’t here to lift me up and and the same vice verser. Still having time left in Alaska was great as I could start to look at a life off my bike and what life had in store for me next.
I sat and made coffee while planes turned in low to land in the high winds and started to wash the kit I had in my bags. It was as if I was already getting ready to head home. Today was going to be an easy day where I could relax and sort through my things before Nancy and her brother Ric arrived. Due to fly in at 1.30pm I slowly got my things ready before heading up to the road to make my way to the airport. Being only a mile away I figured 10 minutes would do but as soon as I reached the road the wind caught me. With gusts of up to 45mph I was then battling with my bike to even move forward. As I was making my way up to the turn off I saw Tatsu coming the other way having just made it here.
After a tough ride Tatsu had made it and was ver pleased to have finished his journey
It was great to congratulate each other and chat for a while. We talked for a moment before I needed to go to make sure I arrived to meet Nancy. Just as I arrived at the airport their plane taxied in and within a few minutes we got to meet.
A Shelter Box being transferred my Alaska Airlines
It was so great to meet them both and to be here for when she arrived. We were then met by Trish who came to pick us up and drive us back to the Deadhorse camp.
On arrival we then got to meet Sean who had done most of the ground work to help us and we could finally thank him for all his help. He was such a great guy who showed us around and where we would pitch the tent.
Settling in before the trip to the finish
By this point the wind was just howling and so to pitch it would be really difficult. We got it up in the shelter of a building and then moved it out to the field but being so large with out having the chance to stake it we knew it wasn’t going to happen with just the three of us. Deciding to wait for the wind to drop we took it down and made our way inside to get acquainted.
Nancy had been a total star in not only doing the ground work to get me to Prudhoe Bay but also for getting a Shelter Box this far north. Pretty much chatting for the rest of the day until dinner we sat down to relax and enjoy a good cooked meal from the restaurant.
Tomorrow was going to be my last few miles to the finish line and with Nancy and Ric here for support I was looking forward to it.
just name of lady
Saturday 16th July
I headed to bed but I was no where near ready to sleep. I was wide awake and restless and so I made my way to the empty room opposite to do some work. I lay on the floor writing but I was to warm to sit for long. I looked out of the window and saw that the sun was still high in the sky despite being 1am. It looked peaceful out there in the wilderness and I wanted to explore.
I went back into our room grabbed my camera and headed out. It was cool and so quiet outside but fresh enough to feel awake. I wondered around the site and walked through the huge snow vehicles that were standing ready for the harsh winter to come.
With the sun peaking out from under a line of cloud it was beautiful and enchanting. I headed back in, climbed into bed and feel into a deep sleep then woke just before 8am. I went into our room to see if Nancy and Rick were awake and sure enough they were.
Nancy getting to know Cowburt
We went and had breakfast and enjoyed the morning relaxing before my ride out through the oil fields to the Arctic Ocean. It wasn’t long before Dave our driver arrived and asked if we wanted to go earlier. This was great as it would give us more time out at the ocean and time when we got back to relax. We got ourselves ready by 11.30am, I loaded Dolly for her last ride north, put Champagne in the bottle cage and soon we were ready to go.
Dave drove around to pick up Nancy and Rick and escort me out to the bay. This was incredible as no one is normally allowed to be outside the van until the ocean but yet with Nancy’s amazing charm and Sean’s hard work and enthusiasm I was here ready to go. We set off and I rode back in through Deadhorse and turned towards the oilfields.
What I was doing hadn’t quite sunk in yet and so I continued to ride until I was away from the main buildings. As I rode I started to settle into the ride and it started to dawn on me that I was almost there and alI I had been through to get here. The realisation that Sharon wasn’t here was so hard and the memories of what had happened came flooding back. Somehow this didn’t feel like an achievement with out her because it was never meant to be like this but yet here I was. I cried as I rode which made me feel numb even thinking about it. The whole thing was so overwhelming and so hard to comprehend.
I then started to think about calling my parents and Sharon’s parents when the memory of ringing them to tell them about Sharon being killed came back to me. It was all I could do to keep peddling but I had to keep going, I had to get through this. As the miles ticked away I saw my first glimpse of the ocean and the end of the road. I didn’t know what to do and stood there just staring at it as if it was a foreign object. Was this really the end? was this what it was all about? what do I do now? Rick called to me and said go on then. It was what I needed to make my way to the waters edge and dip my wheel in the water. I was here and the effort both mentally and physically was incomprehensible. I stood numb with tears in my eyes when I saw Nancy walking down with a banner with Shelter Box on it and I realised then it was all worth that extra effort, that extra push up the hill, the insect bites and the hot winds, even the hike across the marsh all to help people who had lost everything.
I could get dirty and wash, I could go with out sleep and find a place to rest, I could call home and speak to loved ones and thats what kept me going. Nancy handed me her phone so I could call home and at first it wouldn’t work but then I got through. It was so great to say I had made it but equally as hard knowing I had failed to take care of my wife.
With a lump in my throat both my parents and Sharon’s were full of love and support which was incredible. I could also confirm to Sharon’s mum that after searching the world she really does make the best coffee cake but don’t tell anyone because they are all mine. Wanting to lift my bike to celebrate would have been a good idea but after 4 hours of dragging my bike through a marsh up to my knees I needed a hand.
Tom from BP and Dave our awesome guide and driver giving me a hand
I was here and to have Nancy and Rick here with me along with the Shelter box was just incredible. With the Champagne open and Dolly my bike, Cowburt my travel companion, my Bolivian wife and child who still refused to wash and me were rewarded with a drop of the bubbly on us along with some to drink.
Cowburt having his share for being a great companion
Cowburt and I having finally making it to the finish
I know I don’t know why I went in either but it was warmer then I thought it would be
With all this done it was time to take the plunge and get into the Arctic ocean and yes it was as cold as England on christmas morning. Once out I wrapped up in my down jacket where I got to meet Tom from BP.
Nancy, Rick and David were just the most amazing people and I felt proud to have met them all and so grateful for all they had done to get me to the finish.
He was really great and interested in what I had done and was so kind in congratulating me. We then loaded Dolly and all my bags into the truck and headed back through the oilfields to the camp via the end of the Dalton Highway.
Nancy, Cowburt and me in Deadhorse
I couldn’t believe I had done it and a huge weight was now lifted and I could start to look to the future. I had no idea what it would hold but I knew I was looking forward to going home and rebuilding my life with my family and friends. Taking a shower once back at the camp felt incredible and it was like washing away more the just mud and sand. I joined Rick and Nancy for dinner which was just what I needed and enjoyed their company. I thanked Sean for all he had done and then he told me he had managed to arrange a ride for me back to Fairbanks.
Sean was just the most awesome person in organising my way through the oilfields and my lift back to Fairbanks
Taking a look around at the world that was momentarily on hold before the winter storms hit and turned it into one of the most inhospitable places on the planet
Ground squirrel making the most of the food while he can
Just a few of the hardy flowers that make it through the harsh winters to colour the landscape
This was incredible and I just didn’t know what to say. It had been so overwhelming what they had done to allow me to finish this and to complete this journey right to the end not just for me but for the thousands of people that have followed us and me, put their faith in me to finish and to give hope to so many lives. It was the last challenge and they had made it happen seamlessly. With dinner over we headed back to our room when Tom from BP arrived to give me a few souvenirs from their company. I was just in awe of the kindness of so many and he was one of so many that made this whole experience memorable. With our dinner ready we sat and ate another amazing meal before sitting down with Nancy to watch a movie. It was the perfect end to a tough but incredible day.
Looking at this cloud formation I knew I had timed it right to get here as this would mean rain and a lot of it
Tomorrow I would be heading south back to Fairbanks where I would get to stay with Margaret and Leroy again and plan for my journey south to Anchorage. Having just over a week before Amanda, Avril, Lucy and their kids joined me I could have a warm-down ride along the parks highway and possibly get to see Denali national park. I was now heading home all be it a few weeks a way but I was heading home and I couldn’t wait.
Starting off at the beginning of the Haul road also known as The Dalton highway and riding up the north slopes had been in my mind for so long and yet here I was at the most northerly point that was accessible by road. I had started it wanting it to be hard and thats exactly what it had become. The first two days from Fairbanks had been so hilly and combined with the heat and the steep dirt road I knew I was in for what I had asked for. Once I had reached the Yukon river the road did even out slightly and although still tough going I could at least enjoy the views. Reaching my last pass should have been fairly straight forward but with the will of endurance and wanting it to be memorable, ending up in me doing a timed hill climb seemed to be quite fitting. With roadworks thrown in to test my will to ride all of it, the last part really was a test of body and mind having to wait 4 hours for the first section to be open when I could have easily given in and taken a pickup and the second involving me having to cross 4 miles of Marshy tundra in grizzly country. Once I was in Deadhorse however a new and much bigger challenge awaited me. Although the last part not to mention the last four years had been tough I now had 18 miles to the finish to try and comprehend what I was about to achieve on my own.
Reaching Prudhoe Bay meant so much to me, It was the end of the north American Continent, the end of the Americas, the end of the riding the two longest landmasses in the world, crossing 5 continents and the end of a journey we had both set out to complete it together. Although I’d had endless hours to think about this and the moments leading up to the finish I wouldn’t know until I rode the last few miles to the Arctic Ocean which I knew I couldn’t prepare my mind for such a thing. The sheer enormity was hard to even fathom and the emotional rollercoaster we had both been on and the one I was left with was too big to know where to start. Arriving at the end without Sharon was like having a massive lead weight on my heart knowing she wasn’t there to share the joy of finishing what was our dream. Instead I was left feeling numb and sad I had arrived alone. The memory of making those phone calls home to Sharon’s family and then to mine after she had been killed, a call which no parent or sister should never have to hear hit me hard leaving me in tears and made the call home home to say I had finished even harder. They were however all so kind and all I got was praise and love. I knew this was the end of one hard and emotional chapter in my life and the start of a new one.
Although the end was so hard in so many ways it was a huge weight off of me knowing I had done it. So many people had been behind me willing me on, I had completed a journey that we had set out to do and although it was so hard knowing Sharon wasn’t there I know felt I could now start something new.
It may sound like I wasn’t enjoying it and looking to the end and not for the Here and Now and in some ways I was but that was only because of what had happened to Sharon. Since her passing I have wanted to finish this for her but also for me. I knew I needed to finish this before I could start my own life and so for that reason I did focus on the end.
Heading back to Bolivia was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do after Sharon was killed but in going back I have forced myself to face my demons and try to become stronger. I have met incredible people in all walks of life and all of them I have learnt from in one way or another. Heading home for christmas almost ended my journey as it had made me so home sick that the thought of riding the whole length of Mexico, America, Canada and Alaska so huge and scary but luckily I had the Mexicans to thank for picking me up and loving to ride my bike again. Being surrounded by such warm and welcoming people had given me the kick up the bum I needed and had set me up for the last part of my trip up through the America’s and Canada.
Having now finished I was faced with a new journey and one that involved going home and starting a new life, One I was used to but one that was alone and so different to the life I have been living for so long. After 4 years of living out of bags and always on the move, the thought of going back to work and setting the alarm clock without the freedom of the road was draughting. Luckily for me I love where I live, I love my family and also all my friends and however much I hate the alarm clock I know I will be ok.
I have heard so many people ask me if I knew when I started what I know now would I do it again and my first reaction would be no because of losing Sharon but then most of us wouldn’t do anything if we knew then what we know now. Before Sharon and I started this trip I spent almost 4 years of our life watching and helping Sharon recover from sever back problems resulting in 7 months of that with her hardly being able to walk. Knowing how far she had come, the motivation and drive to get better and to see her recover through so much hard work and pain then to come out the other side so strong, so happy and so proud of what she had done meant it was the most powerful effect on making the right choice to do this trip and to make the most of every second we have.
I’m also asked how I feel about what I have achieved and to be honest it hasn’t really sank in yet but the way I see it its just a long bike ride. The reason for this is that I see so many people going through life on their own journey. whether it’s dealing with Cancer, illness whether its mental or physical, losing a loved one and having to pick up the pieces, battling through drug or alcohol recovery. I also see people picking up tin cans to make ends meet and living off the tiny scraps that life puts before them and yet here I am with a British passport that allows me to travel the world, My health thanks to where I live, A good lifestyle and the support of the NHS (national health service) that Sharon wouldn’t have achieved what she did if it wasn’t the care and dedication of so many incredible doctors and nurses to get here better, Who work endlessly to try and keep each and everyone one of us in the UK healthy no matter race, religion or wealth and something I have come to appreciate so much more especially after riding around the world.
Having done this trip I have learnt so much about the world and the main thing is that it is a good place, in fact its an incredible place with the most breathtaking places and the most wonderful people. I can see that no one wants to be in a war, people want to be in a loving family, have loving friends and have the best for everyone around them. It has been so amazing hearing from people who have gone to the places that previously they wouldn’t have even considered and have as a result loved it. Or have tried new things they would never have done before. I get excited about people heading to south America where Sharon and I have been to and know they will have adventures very different to ours but they are out there doing it. I love it when I see family and friends doing well whether it through sports or academia. I think about the exciting times that kids have ahead of them after doing their first dance lesson, their first camping trip, their first proper bike ride, their first poem or painting, their first newspaper article, their first horse ride and know they will all look back and know it was those first times and the times that they were supported by their parents, their teachers and of course their friends that will change their lives forever.
Knowing I have had this opportunity to do this trip has made me appreciate more of what I have and what I have had and has made me think about how all of it can change in an instant.
Finding ShelterBox as a charity to support wasn’t hard because once we looked at the charity it was so obvious how incredible the charity was and how effective it is in helping so many that have no say in what happens next. With everything ripped from underneath so many people affect by causes beyond their control and to have ShelterBox arrive like angels to put them back on their feet and help them rebuild their lives is astounding. Losing Sharon was the most horrific thing to happen in my life but having Shelterbox to put my life into perspective in what it it like to lose the person you love so much helped me pick myself up and finish my ride and in that time I have been constantly reminded of the sheer amount of time, effort and resources The Rotary International, companies, large corporations and you put into the charity.
With my journey north now over and being at the end of the road it was time to get my head around what I had done and make my way back to Fairbanks. From there I would ride my bike to Anchorage as a warm down ride and meet up with Nancy Dodge again and join her for her birthday. With my bike then left to put its wheels up I could relax with a few days off before I would then be joined by 3 very good friends that I have known for many years along with their children and head to the Kenai peninsula for a holiday. It was just what I needed before I headed home and I couldn’t wait. I was so ready for some time off and some R&R with friends and these three I knew I would have a amazing time and I couldn’t wait.
Thanks for reading xxx
Country stats and overall totals
41- Alaska (USA)
Alaska’s state flag
Currency: Approx £1=1.37 dollars
Number of days in country: 15 so far from Alcan border to Prudhoe Bay
Totals from Ushuaia Southern tip of Argentina/ South America
20,131 miles/ 32,391 km, total alt gain 369,357 metres
Total distance cycled in Alaska: 830miles / 1,335km
Total altitude gain in Alaska: 11,811metres
Running Distance total: 36,279mls /58,373 km
Running Altitude total: 563,151 metres
Altitude gain per mile: 14.23metres/mile
Currently drinking beer in Alaska!!