My bicycle trip to the Arctic Ocean.

Bike/trailer & II had just gotten more supplies here.  I was in the parking lot of Fred Meyer’s store in Wasilla, Alaska.

This was my eleventh trip up to Alaska since 1990.  I really wanted to do something different than hopping freight trains this time while I was in Alaska.  After arriving in Seward, I went down to the small Carr’s Safeway grocery store, bought a newspaper and searched the want-ads for a bicycle.  After a short search I seen that somebody was selling a really nice Schwinn 18-speed mountain bike along with a two wheeled trailer, both together for $175.00!

Alaska bike tripAlmost ready to head out along the George Parks Hiway north.  Anchorage is roughly 45 miles to my south from here near Wasilla.

After I met with the seller, I indeed bought both bike and trailer then planned my trip from the parking lot of the store.  I was going to leave Seward, Alaska the following morning.  

I had heard several accounts from other Alaskans in the past of people taking trips up the Haul Road and they didn’t seem all that terrible.  In fact, thehardest part of the trip would be confrontations with wild animals along the way.   I  now knew just about every trick in the book about letting bears know of your whereabouts.  The main reason why most people were attacked by bears was because they stumbled across them unexpectedly, thus more or less scaring the bears into attack-mode, so the morning that I left I braced four sets of bear bells on my bicycle handlebars.  Now I sounded like Santa Clause coming down the hiway!  Every bump that I hit from a simple pot-hole to running over a sand grain would alarm anything in my path within 150 square-miles with a jingle-jingle-jingle! 

I left Seward on a bright, beautiful and crisp morning.  I peddled as far as Moose Pass which was about 27 miles north of Seward on Alaska route 9.   The ride had been fairly good, in that the road was good up until just south of Moose Pass itself.  By now, I had made my way far enough into the coastal mountains that I started experiencing higher terrain.  I made camp alongside the hiway at an RV-park and slept about seven hours, although the daylight hours had now been 19 hours long!

My second day brought really challenging terrain as I peddled my way inland.  I finally made it to the cut-off point at the Sterling Hiway to where you can go left to Kenai-Soldotna, or go northward on to Anchorage.  I stayed to the north and now was entering even higher passes.  I camped my second evening alongside the hiway at yet another roadside park.  I now only had about 85 miles to Anchorage.  This would be the toughest part of the entire trip actually.  I only made about 25 miles the third day.  The cut-off point at Hope Junction is where I stayed the fourth night.

By my fifth day I was in Anchorage where numerous other cyclists joined me alongside the hiway until I reached Eagle River township.  I camped here and I seemed to be in more of a daze than I was focused.  This was dangerous!  I was not paying attention as well as I should have been, but I was riding on the safer cycling paths that followed the hiway system from Anchorage all the way up to Fairbanks.  Being on this bike path sure made a big difference, being that I didn’t have to ride a fine line, plus I didn’t have to constantly look behind me and over my trailer in hopes that a tired motorist didn’t swerve off the hiway and strike me from the rear!

My sixth day I had ridden as far north as Talkeetna.  I was riding alongside the George Parks Hiway system that traverses from about Anchorage to Palmer/Wasilla to Fairbanks at a distance of about 330 miles.  At the same time I had 330 miles of asphalt bike path too, so it was mostly a breeze in peddling north.  This was too simple, I thought.  Why hadn’t I done it before?!

My seventh day I had made the township of Cantwell.  I could now see Mt. McKinley’s rise of more than 20,300.  How beautiful this part of Alaska was!  That evening at midnight, I laid inside my tent writing a letter to my Mother and Father without the aid of artificial lights.  In fact the sun was still perched just above the horizon of the thick, majestic forests.  What a place to live, I thought.  No wonder I spent so much time up in Alaska before, and this bike trip had been my most memorable trip yet!

My eighth day had me straining to get up high grade hills and smoking down the other sides!  At one point after cresting a tall hill, I must have been traveling well over 45 mph going down the other side!  My trailer was jumping back and forth, hunting all the way down and almost costing me an early end of my trip!

So far, so good.  My ninth day my bike was still holding up great.  I was surprised that I had made it so far without having a flat yet.  My trailer had pulled better than I ever dreamed it would as well.  I made it to Anderson.  I now was only 50 or 60 miles south of Fairbanks.  From the distance I had traveled so far, I thought that I could make the rest of the trip in ten to twelve days.

Finally Fairbanks and still no problems.  I made the roadside spot named Fox.  Fox granted me an artesian well where I filled up my water bottles.  This had to have been the best water I had ever drank in my life!  This natural deep spring was flowing constantly.  Many locals in this area used this spring to get their drinking water as well.  After I left Fox, my bike path vanished!  The hiway pavement vanished too.  I was now on the Dalton Hiway, also called the Haul Road.  This roadway from here up to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay was all unpaved, but had a hard dirt surface almost as hard and smooth as asphalt itself.

Dalton Hiway/Haul RoadJust north of Fox.  The Alaska Pipeline followed me all the way north as well.  (Notice how smooth my ride was)?

I made it to aroadside camp at Livengood within 28 hours!  By now I was so exited!  I had peddled far from the reach of any mountains, and best of all, I had left most signs of Mankind behind as well!  My trip was smooth and curvy.  Nearly two weeks into my trip I was nearing the Arctic Circle.

Dalton Hiway/Haul RoadThis was near Livengood township.  Misquitoes were so bad! 

By my sixteenth day I finally made it to the community of Coldfoot, Alaska.  Coldfoot had a historical marker on the shoulder of the road that marked a point where in1992 a record high temporature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit had been set, and that same year in January, a record low temperature of minus 82 degrees Fahrenheit had been set!  Both records had been set in that same year.  Wow!  What an extreme in temperatures!  The mercury this day for me was around 65 degrees, so I was right in the middle.

One more set of mountains to go!  By my twenty-fourth day, I had peddled to the foot of the Brooks Range.  They are North America’s northern-most mountain range!  The Haul Road carves through the Brooks Range at a famous point called Atigan Pass.  The grade through the pass was no more than six percent, but when the road heads upward and downward six feet every 100 feet, you can visualize what I’m talking about if you picture me in your mind peddling up this grade pulling a trailer eh?!

Anaktuvuk Pass now lay about 90 miles to the west of Atigan Pass. It was named by the original explorers that sought gold on the North Slope in the mid and late 1800’s.  Anaktuvuk Pass was worse than where the Haul Road crossed the Brooks Range, and many gold-fever stricken explorers had lost their lives in this unforgiving landscape!  My trip now was almost like something out of a science fiction book!  Everywhere that I look, there was nobody to be seen.   There was almost no evidence that Man even became a prominent species on the planet!  I was alone!  I had a feeling deep inside of my inner being that Niel Armstrong and Buz Aldrin must have felt as they looked back at the Earth while on their way to the moon!  It was indescribable serenity and beauty!

Atigan PassThis is Atigan Pass. You can see the Dalton Hiway ahead at the bottom of the pass as it curves around and up to where I’m at here.  (I’m on the shoulder of the Dalton Hiway here near the highest point on the pass).

At Coldfoot three days before, I had to get as much dry food as possible.  I had roughly eight to ten military MRE’s in my trailer to eat, and roughly four gallons of bottled water as well.  The next place to get food and water wouldn’t be until I reached Deadhorse/PrudhoeBay where my trip would end.  From Coldfoot to Prudhoe Bay was right at 240 miles away.  I had already gone over half this.  On my twenty-seventh day my tired legs peddled me into Sagwon Camp.  This would be my last contact with a human until I reached my destination, so I talked to four men that were working along the Alaska Pipeline here.  They were staying at Sagwon Camp, and worked for Alyaska Pipeline company.  They did maintenance work along the entire length of the Alaska Pipeline as repairs were needed.  It was so great to make human contact!  I stayed and offered my help, being that I knew a bit about welding.  They refused my offer, knowing that they could be fired from one of the best high paying jobs in the world.  They did love hearing my previous hobo stories of hopping freight trains in the lower-48!  On my twenty-ninth day, we said our goodbyes, and I started the last leg of my trip.

Thirty-three days from my start in Seward, I rolled into Prudhoe Bay on the north end of the North Slope.  I spent one night at the North Star Inn for free!  I met a couple of workers that were employed with BP Oil Company in the motel restaurant and they invited me back to their room after hearing my story of riding my bike all the way up.  I took the most wonderful, hot and steamy shower I ever had my entire life!  I slept a full fifteen hours!

BP oil companyThis area was near where I met the BP oil company workers. The entire area of Prudhoe Bay sits on the frozen tundra of the North Slope.

The next day, I sold my bike and trailer at the Deadhorse airport to a couple that worked  at the Horizon Airlines terminal.  They had been working there for some three weeks and had no transportation to get to and from work.  They gave me $250.00 for both my bike and trailer.  I had not only made the entire planned trip up, I also made $75.00 on what had gotten me up there to begin with!

The next day, as I fly back Anchorage bound,  I glared through the window on the DC-10 airplane and I could not help but notice the landscape underneath me. As I sat in awe, I was dumbfounded at how I made the entire trip without having one flat tire, or any equipment problems at all the whole trip up!  I couldn’t believe that I had rode a bicycle, pulling a two wheeled trailer that long distance without my legs falling off from strain, pain and suffering!

Post office near the airportThis is the post office near the airport where I flew back to Anchorage from.

Flying over the Brooks Range mountainsI’m flying over the Brooks Range here.  (What a magical place)!  It was so hard to comprehend I had ridden a bike that entire distance without having one flat tire or any mechanical problems!

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About hoboshoestring

I'm a professional hobo of nearly 25 years. This blog is a collection of my most memorable freight train trips; most with photos. First things first, a hobo is someone who rides freight trains and is not a homeless bum on the city streets. I've been hopping freight trains for transportation since 1989. I've ridden over 340,000 miles of steel rails in 49 US states, eight provinces in Canada and 14 states in Mexico. I ride all rail lines in North America. I have hundreds of hobo trip photos that can be viewed by clicking my "Photostream" at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30715417@N04/
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