Just arrived at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel, again. It’s getting familiar. I cannot believe how I recognise where to get gas, the start of the Dalton Highway and the hotel in such an obscure place. To world bikers Prudhoe, or more correctly, Deadhorse, is known as the northern start of the Pan Americas, the most northerly point accessible by road in North America. I nearly started the journey from Salt Lake City, ride north to Prudhoe then south to Ushuaia and finish in Salt Lake – same distance, same double and yet, not quite. The purists would say that not starting the journey at the top or the bottom is not acceptable. It’s as broad as it is long, but I don’t want anyone poking any holes into the credibility of this record ride.
Slept reasonably. The lack of darkness at night is disturbing. I a brimming with too much energy and don’t know how to switch off. I get my witness book signed at the reception desk. I a determined Guinness recognise this ride, on behalf of bikers so that they might have a go and break this record if I get it.
I set off. It’s blue skies and sunny but cold. The sea has frozen. I like Prudhoe because tourists don’t really get here, only travellers. Here we go.
The ride to Coldfoot and over the Atigun Pass is spectacular. Wild, spacious, raw, inaccessible to most travellers for most of the year. The Ice Road Truckers truck all year, down Ice Cut, up and down Chicken Run, down Oil Spill Hill, up and down Chicken Run, up Beaver Slide. It is minus seventy degrees in the winter, a little over freezing in the summer. The lakes are still frozen and we are in the warming up period.
The journey is going to be hard, I know it. I still struggle with the relevance of it and so far wonder what else would I do with 38 days of my life. Of course it’s longer than that. I have been thinking of this route for years and the double has been in my head for many months. Hundreds of hours of planning in my head. Sponsors, family, partners, friends, children become the recipient of my self centredness. I am like Truman Burbank in the Jim Carry film ‘The Trueman Show’. I have created my own world and then invite a few people to share in it.
My day includes blowing my horn at young moose as they ran alongside me. I ride at just the speed they dare not cross in front of me but not too fast to overtake and in this way I corralled them along the tundra. They gallop across the melting permafrost and into the shallow standing water, me blowing my horn when they dare veer off and for a mile or more we share this. It’s a moose joke.
The receptionist at the hotel, she’s called Berty. She was friendly, helpful and utterly not impressed with my adventure. ‘They all come up here’, she tells me, ‘all the nutters on the motorbikes’. She’s right, and going both ways is just twice the insanity. She hands me a key and go change.
The food in the hotel was free and you can eat all that you want. It’s a nice twist of hospitality having travelled so far on a bike that has now clocked up 16 665 miles. What a bike! This Super Tenere seems capable of taking everything I throw at it. I cannot make it meek. The R1 had that naughty streak and whilst not that, this bike is cheeky with it’s movements. It handles every range of surface imaginable, and, without any loss of comfort. Surely something should have snapped or come loose by now, but nothing, not a washer. We still have a very long way to go.
I ride hard and quite well actually. Feel strong because the project has started. Stop at Yukon Services by the river and meet a charming couple who sell me a bear tooth as a keep sake. They live up the river a way, all year and boy are they delightful and eccentric. I promise to visit them on the way back.
Now I am in Fairbanks, in Starbucks using their free wifi to write and send this blog. 300 miles more to go to reach 800 miles, let’s see.