I am in Fairbanks. I’m fine though my bike is 140 miles north on the Yukon River. A bit of a long day and explanation, so let me describe it from the beginning…
Slept last night a Fish Creek, mile 114 of the Dalton Highway, just a mile south of the Arctic Circle. Lovely campsite with my tent nestled under the trees. I had gone to sleep early, it is light all the time and by 4am I was well rested. I heard light ticking on the tent and couldn’t quite figure out if it was mosquitoes bumping against the nylon or light rain. Got up and found it was a very light and intermittent rain. Got out the stove, boiled water and added it to the prepackaged eggs and bacon meal. Otherwise fixed things up and was on the road by 4:45am.
Until mile 90, this part of the road in nominally paved, though there are large. gravel breaks. Just a few miles down the road, the road climbed 9% grade up over Beaver Slide. Total climb was well over 1000ft and I walked most of it. After that more ups and downs and break to filter more drinking water at mile 105.7. I carried extra this time. Thermometer said 8C and there was bit of rain and stronger wind. I had another good climb to Finger Mountain whose summit was at mile 98. Those first 16 miles took several hours but I was not in a big rush.
At the top, I saw one of the groups I’d been leapfrogging, three Swiss cyclists. They were still camped and didn’t pass later so may have avoided the wet and mud. In hindsight a good choice.
Four miles later, came past the two Swedes on their way to Ushuaia. Almost packed and ready to go. They were looking damp and almost out of food, so were happy when I told them the Yukon River had two cafes at mile 60 and 56. I rode past but they quickly came past me. From then, I could see their tracks.
At mile 90 the pavement ended and it suddenly became more difficult. I’ve figured out there are several different types of mud here and we started out with “peanut butter”. Soft, gooey and slippery. Avoid going too fast, particularly downhill or you’ll slide out. Continued to have some good hills and I walked parts here as well. It gradually firmed up and I slowly made my way. At mile 79 I passed my bailout camp location, but didn’t look too interesting, so kept going.
Unfortunately, despite it starting to dry some there was more mud of type “adhesive paste”. It sticks to itself and everything else. It caked under my fork and brakes and jammed stuff up, requiring me to stop and free things.
At mile 75 it happened. The adhesive paste jammed my chain and before I knew it the torque busted the derailleur cage and broke the derailleur mounting (no hanger on this bike). Broken! Now what to do. There was still too much paste to shorten the chain to single speed and hills would have been tough. So I walked and periodically look back to see at passing pickups for a ride. Several passed but few stopped. So I walked. At mile 72, I came paste the Swedes. Also, done in by paste. One internal hub jammed up and not working, they also decided to hitchhike, though rather than my walking approach, they sat in one spot and tried to flag vehicles.
I walked some more. Pleasant and sympathetic folks came past, including ones who offered me a coke. It wasn’t sure and most didn’t have room. The Alaska Pipeline pickups must have a policy since four passed but none stopped. Finally, after seven miles of walking, just past mile 68 a nice German-speaking couple stopped. They had a small camper and were willing to help with my request for ride to Yukon River Camp at the bridge at mile 56. We had to be careful to knock as mud off the bike as we could to avoid making a mess.
Very much appreciate the ride. At Yukon River Camp, assessed the next situation. Fairly quickly a tour van doing round trip a Arctic Circle stopped on their way back. Driver had room for a person but not a bike. I stored my bike and gear and then rode back with them. Again, very much appreciate kindness of strangers here.
What is next? I am in motel within walking distance of car rental agency that advertises rentals for the Dalton Highway. Tomorrow when they open plan is to rent a car and drive up to retrieve the bike and bring it to Fairbanks bike shop. After that will sort out what comes next. Not exactly the original plan, but best possible and again very much appreciate the assistance I received today.