Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fairbanks to Fox AK

I had no major plans of traveling today.  A little wine and dine for my gal was on today's to do list.  I needed to put some time and money into my bike to make sure she doesn't leave me stranded.  I figure 2 weeks on the road and 6 thousand miles was an accomplishment enough for both of us to warrant some sort of a day off.

I made my way over to Lands End BMW/Harley/Honda ect. in Fairbanks AK.  These guys were one of 2 shops in town that had what I needed.  My bike was due for an oil change and needed tires pretty badly.  Two weeks ago I started the trip with an oil change and brand new tires but I've been having way too much fun with the roads on my way up here and my rear tire is pretty much toasted.  I wanted to put knobby tires on the bike for the Dalton Highway anyway.  The road is a nightmare when it rains and I had no idea what the weather was like on the other side of the mountain pass.  The thought of attempting the Dalton Highway with bald tires is pretty foolish and although I've been known for doing foolish things for the sake of a good time I wasn't going to tempt fate in the tundra.

I arrived at the bike shop with no appointment.  All the way up here I just kept putting it off for another day because I didn't really have a clue when I would be arriving or if I'd even make it at all.  Finally I just gave up thinking about it and decided I would roll the dice and just hope they had what I needed and time available to service my bike.  If they didn't I would just order the parts I needed and do it myself in a parking lot.  BMW's like mine are really popular up here so I wasn't taking too much of a risk.  

The service manager was still on his first cup of coffee when I strolled up to his counter.  He could tell just by looking at me that I rode a long way and had every intention to keep on heading north up to the Dalton.  We chatted a bit about my trip and the places I've been to and where I was heading.  He told me that he was going to be able to work me in and that he did have the tires I wanted but I would have to wait a while until he cleared the other bikes off the benches first.  I was glad he was able to work me in at all so I happily took a seat on a picnic bench outside.  

The bike shop was a nice place to spend the day.  Riders were coming and going most of the day to pick up parts or get work done on their bikes and I chatted with all of them about what they were riding and the places we've been.  I got some good intel on the Dalton and where to stop along the way to get gas and food.  The bike sales guy also gave me a map and told me about a couple of good campsites and hikes.  I told him I had no intention of hiking but he drew circles and arrows all over the map anyway.  I bought an oil cooler guard and rock guard and installed them both using the tool kit in my saddle bag right there in the parking lot to keep myself entertained.

I spent all day at the bike shop and even broke out my camp stove to heat up my lunch while I was there.  The guys working there must have seen people do this before because they paid no mind to what I was up to.  

By 5 oclock my bike was done and I was on my way to a small town about an hour north called Fox.  I pulled into a dive bar called the Howling Dog Saloon and asked the chubby girl behind the bar if there were any places to camp nearby.  She said I was in luck because they have cabins on the property for rent as long as I didn't need heat or running water for 45$ a night.   I booked a room and ordered a drink immediately.  By the looks of the town and the partrons wearing out the barstools I wasn't going to have the opportunity to be picky about my accomodations that night.  

I sat at the bar for a few hours drinking Jim Beam and cola by myself that night.  The bar had a juke box playing some pretty decent tunes and the girl pouring drinks had a heavy handed pour so I decided to tie one on and enjoy my last night of "civilization" for a while.  I texted a few friends but mostly thought about what the next few days had in store for me.  I have come so far and I've seen so many amazing things but I fully expected that the Dalton Highway would be the newest highlight of the trip.  It's about 450 miles each way of mostly unpaved gravel and dirt road across the northern most mountain range and down the tundra straight to Prudoe Bay where it meets and oil field service town called Deadhorse.  The only reason this road exsists is so that the heavily loaded 18 wheelers could haul supplies and equipment to and from the oil field.  These trucks run like frieght trains up and down the mountain passes and I've been warned numerous times to stay out of their way at all times.

After a few too many I stumbled throught the bushes and found my cabin.  If it wasn't so late and if I wasn't so drunk I would have asked for my money back and pitched my tent in the parking lot.  The place was a complete dump and I'm pretty sure the bugs were the only tennants this place has seen since the first gold rush.  My desire to pass out ultimately overcame my finickyness and I settled right into the dirty sheets for a good snore.

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