Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by captainwelc » Thu, 29 May 2008 15:38:41


Alaska 2008: Unicycling the Haul Road
A Tale of Endurance, Luck, Alaskan Hospitality, One Wheel and a
Humorous Pair of Balls

        This trip has truly been the most epic adventure of my life thus far.
Even with rigorous training, months of research and nights full of
unsettled nerves before the trip, nothing could have prepared me for
the gravity of this adventure.
        About Me: My name is Mike Welch. At the time of this trip I was 25
years old. I was born in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and moved
to Pueblo, Colorado at the age of six. Growing up in Colorado was
fantastic. My father had his mid-life-crisis in this phase of my life
and instead of buying a Harley, he bought a mountain bike. I was only
ten when this happened and quickly got caught up in his craze and I
have some scars to prove it. Colorado was the perfect place to really
get serious about outdoor life. My father took me on some great 11,000
foot plus climbs before I even turned ten.
        Unfortunately when I was twelve the family packed up and moved to
Northern Indiana. Flat ground for as long as the eye could see. I faked
my way through high school, only being propelled through it by my
obsession with music. Naturally, I went to college as far away as
possible in Iowa. I stayed in Iowa only for a year. Then met a girl in
Ohio, followed her there to Ohio Northern University. In my over
romantic nature I broke up with her as soon as I got there. By nature
of private school tuition I wound up broke in less than a year, and
then ended up at Wright State University. I very quickly got sick of
that scene, and planned to move back to Iowa, but then met another girl
in Ohio. I got a quick admission to the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of
Music, went broke again, and transferred to the University of Akron.
Then I became really broke, and dropped out of school.
        After my academic disaster of an undergraduate college tour I started
working for Ohio Citizen Action, a non-profit environmental group, as a
canvasser. I spent the next 9 months knocking on doors around Ohio,
upstate New York, and Northern Florida. I learned how to talk to many
different types of people, but I got sick of it pretty quick. Then
following a girl again, I moved to Cincinnati in the fall of 2004, and
worked a lot of strange jobs. First I was a telemarketer, an easy road
to ***ism and depression. From there I went even further down the
labor food chain by working at an auto parts factory. After taking my
Christmas bonus and free turkey in November, I quit. I ended up working
as a music educator and child portrait photographer through the summer
of 2005. Then I got lucky.
        A Broadway show I have always been a fan of gave me a call and asked
me to send in an audition video. Instead I drove to where the show is
based in Bloomington, Indiana the next day and won the gig. Part of
this gig was learning to unicycle and play trombone at the same time.
The one wheel ***ion began there.
        On the tour after unicycling for about three months, I took the
company owned unicycle out of the theater in Madison, Wisconsin and
explored the college town streets. I loved riding on the street, and
even began barhopping on the wheel. After a few nights of using the
unicycle to pickup chicks I even got a DUI warning.
        After a few more months of touring and using the wheel to barhop and
pick up chicks (my friends dubbed the unicycle the *** wheel) show
management got wind of what I was doing with their unicycle. They
wouldnt let me take it home at night anymore. So I quickly bought a
Torker DX from unicycle.com and hit the streets again. In February the
tour ended up in Thousand Oaks, California, just at the base of the
Santa Monica Mountains. I went for a hike one day, and thought the
terrain looked rideable, and the next day, my obsession with rough
terrain unicycling began. I spent the next month in the Los Angeles
area spending most of my free time exploring the Santa Monica
Mountains many trails.
        After that tour I taught music for the summer and got married in late
August of 2005. Marriage put a serious damper on my adventure related
activities. To escape I took employment on a cruise ship that ran up
and down the West Coast of Mexico and through the Panama Canal. There
were plenty of great off road unicycling opportunities in Mexico, Costa
Rica, Panama and throughout the Caribbean. A month after my contract on
the ship was up, I ended up on a Japanese tour with Blast! In Japan,
unicycling was the only way for me to get anywhere. I commuted to work
everyday, continued to barhop and started to gain interest in street
style freestyle riding.
        In September of 2007 I became the first person to unicycle the decent
of Mt. Fuji. It felt great doing something more on the extreme side of
riding. Heading home from Japan it became pretty clear that my marriage
had fallen apart due to my constant nomadic existence. Shortly into
rehearsals for the next North American tour, we separated and divorced.
I was liberated and adventure planning began.
        The Haul Road adventure originally started as a three week backpacking
trip in Thailand. A month later it was very clear I didnt have the
funds to pull this off. From there the trip evolved into a motorcycle
trek from Chicago to Invuik in Canadas Northwest Territories. The flaw
with this adventure was that I didnt have a motorcycle. Change of
plans. I thought I would unicycle from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to
Invuik. I only had a month between tours. Damn. Not enough time. A
member in the cast had told me many times of his dream of driving the
Dalton Highway in Alaska. I checked it out. It was a 1000 mile round
trip from Fairbanks, Alaska to Deadhorse, the industrial camp that
supports the oil fields at the end of the highway at the Arctic Ocean.
        After a few weeks of research of weather, road conditions, finding
locations to buy supplies along the way, etc I decided this was the
trip for me.
        After telling my friends, family and internet unicycle message boards
of my plans, the consensus was the same on all fronts: Youre crazy,
You could die, Its too cold: All words of encouragement for me.  
        I spent the last three months of tour buying up supplies and spending
many late nights smoking and researching what else I could expect in
Northern Alaska in May. Good news that I found in my research was
always fine. But I honestly craved the bad news. Word of harsher
conditions really started to get me off. Everyone I talked to at
various outdoor stores where I was buying gear told me I was absolutely
insane, and I loved it.
        Tour ended April 27th in Newport News, ***ia.  On April 28th I
started heading north. Fly from Newport News to Chicago. Drive from
Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin. Fly from Madison to Minneapolis,
Minnesota. Fly from Minneapolis to Anchorage, Alaska. Fly from
Anchorage to Fairbanks. Myself, a unicycle, and a fifty pound backpack.

        I made the mistake of strapping my tent to the outside of my pack in
Newport News at the airport. It fell off and was lost. ***. After a
few hours on the phone it was located and would be delivered to me the
night I spent in Chicago. It did not come until five in the morning and
I was up at 8am the next day. I knew I could catch up on sleep during
the flight north. The longest leg of the flight I spent sitting next to
twin one year olds. No Sleep. I showed up in Fairbanks at 2am tired as
hell and seriously irate from the yelling of the twins. I did a gear
check, packed everything how I wanted it and at 3am, went to sleep in
the airport. Security was kind enough to wait two hours before making
me leave. Four hours of sleep in two days. A rough start already.

        Day One: Only five minutes out of Fairbanks International Airport on
Old Airport Road, a heavy wet snow started to fall. Five minutes later
I had to stop and put my pack cover on. Ten minutes later, rain suit
on. The rain suit I bought said it was breathable; however it was more
of a sweat suit than a rain suit. I decided to wait the weather out at
the Northern-most Dennys in the world, only three miles from the
airport.
        After a fantastic last meal I headed out in the wet but slightly
lighter snowfall. I made a stop at a sporting goods store on my way out
of town to buy bear spray and fuel canisters, which I could not fly
with. Everybody at the store told me not to go. It was dangerous and
reckless. More encouragement for me.
        Theres a bike path that follows the first mile of the Steese Highway
heading north from Fairbanks. After that first mile the bike path
follows another road called Farmers Loop Road. In the snow I could not
see the intersection, and followed Farmers Loop Road. Of course I did
not know this until I saw a sign for the Fairbanks International
Airport eight hours later. ***. My first emotion was disbelief, than
acceptance and then fury. I was on fire! Quick. To the gas station.
Forty ounces of beer. Gone. Pizza place. Fed. Feeling better. I decided
to spend the night in Fairbanks and found a cute little backpackers
hostel: Billies.
        After settling down for the evening I became restless like I do, and
headed down the way to a nice little bar with an open mic night Id
noticed on my way towards the hostel. Showing up to a bar on a unicycle
will usually guarantee a free beer. In Alaska, you can drink for free
off this fact. Ive never gone to a bar by myself and had as much of a
great time as I did that night. So after 4 hours of great conversation
and about a dozen drinks, a lovely woman offered to give me a ride back
to the hostel. Instead she took me home, and if she did have any
intentions, she was disappointed. Thirsty seconds into the door, I was
asleep.

        Day Two: A fresh early start, and an enormous McDonalds breakfast. A
mile out of town I figured out where I made my error the day before and
realized how stupid of a mistake it was. Snow and sleep deprivation cost
me an entire day. ...

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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by captainwelc » Thu, 29 May 2008 15:39:37

Day Three: Woke up very early and cooked mashed potatoes for breakfast.
I brought only three things for food: Easy Mac, instant mashed potatoes
and Clif Bars. The road along this section was flatter than the previous
day and made great time. I made it all the way to milepost 50 where
there is an ancient looking souvenir shop called the Arctic Trading
Post. It looked like it had been abandoned for quite some time. The
good news was that there was a bus there that had been converted to an
RV for a fairly large family. Soft bunks that were surprisingly clean.
I even found a few cans of baked beans that had only expired two years
before. I took advantage of the cans, as I was already sick of the
limited diet I packed out. The camp provided about an hour of
entertainment just going through the abandoned buildings. I took a few
pictures of the grounds and called it a night. I woke around two thirty
in the morning to relieve myself and was surprised for about fif***
seconds of pink-green glowing from the Northern Lights. That was also
the last time I saw true darkness for the rest of the trip. Distance
traveled: 39 miles.

        Day Four: I woke early again eager to make up for lost time from my
*** up the first day. There were outhouses on the grounds of the
Arctic Trading Post so was able to enjoy a dump on a toilet seat and
not deplete my supply of toilet paper.
         The day itself was filled with moderate climbs. The road was still
paved, although it was rough pavement. I reached the head of the Dalton
highway late in the afternoon and took the obligatory photos, dropped my
sack and took an hour nap in the gravel. I awoke to a native man who had
just pulled his truck over and he showed me a Newspaper article
published about me in the Fairbanks newspaper. He confessed he thought
it was a joke. We talked for a few minutes about the activity of the
Northern Lights the night before. He was old, and made quite the effort
to convince me that if you whistle at the Aurora Borealis, they will
move faster.
        I packed up and hit the road again around six in the evening. The
first twenty miles of the Haul Road are the worst. I should mention
that the Dalton Highway is still called the Haul Road by most in
Alaska. Anyhow, the first twenty miles are constant half mile, to mile
long stretches of uphill and downhill. Some grades reaching 12 percent.
I was ok riding hills to 8 percent, but after that I had to walk
anything steeper. After the first twenty miles I planned to make camp,
but the road became paved, so I decided to push onward to the Yukon
River.
        With the road surface being gravel, speeding trucks can pick up rocks
and throw them great distances. In the first few miles I took several
large rocks to the chest at high speed. Around milepost 18 I took a
rock to the head that hurt like all hell. I had to devise a system for
every time a truck passed me on gravel. I would have to dismount, get
at least ten feet off of the road, and when the truck passed, turn my
back and let my pack take the blow of the rocks.
        From milepost 20 to the Yukon River the road surface was good. Some
sections looked like they had just been paved that season. The grades
were still pretty hilly but nothing like the first twenty miles of the
Haul Road. I arrived at the Yukon River Bridge at one in the morning
and found that the visitor center, truck stop and caf were still
closed for the season and the river itself was still frozen solid.
Distance traveled : 83 miles.

        Day Five: Even at one in the morning there was still plenty of light
so after some Easy Mac I decided to push through the night. Slightly
exhausted and sluggish I moved at a slower pace. Coming out of the
Yukon River valley involved a lot of extended climbs, and not much
level ground or downhill runs. Sand Hill is about thir*** miles north
of the Yukon River and was a brutal mile and a half ten percent grade.
Shortly after that was what truckers on the Haul Road call Roller
Coaster. Carved into the side of a really steep hill, it was about two
miles long at a nine percent grade. But after that were lots of nice
gentle downhill runs. Near Finger Mountain I was still high enough in
elevation for there to be no tree growth and the snow was deep enough
to still hide all ground growth. To my estimate there was four to five
feet of snow on the ground.
        At milepost 102 is an old settlement known as Old Man, Alaska. It is
on no maps I saw. I finally ran into some company here: three kite
skiers. Kite skiing is exactly what it sounds like. The rider is on
cross country skis and is pulled by a twelve foot kite across the snow
and ice. A lot of fun to watch. Their names were Jerry, Amy and Andrew.
This trio was kind enough to cook me dinner and let me crash on the
floor of this cute abandoned cabin they were sleeping in. And of course
give me beer, whisky and something to smoke. Distance Traveled: 42
miles.

Day Six: Another early start. Plenty of flat riding, and at the most,
gentle hills. However I did have my first downhill challenge: Beaver
Slide. This downhill nightmare stretches straight out for two miles in
front of you at a nine percent grade. I had to stop halfway down to
give the backs of my legs a break.
        I crossed the Arctic Circle still early in the day, but the sign and
tourist area was full of snow, so I continued on. Early in the
afternoon I had to climb Gobblers Knob: about two and a half miles of
eight percent grade. My legs started giving out halfway up and I
considered making an early camp, but once to the top, I saw miles and
miles of downhill ahead into the Koyukuk river valley. So once again I
rode on. The valley was very pleasant, just very gentle hills and lots
of flat riding. I arrived in the truck stop in Coldfoot, Alaska. I
treated myself to grilled cheese and fries for supper. It was an
amazing meal.
        I called my parents shortly later and my mother, being the gracious
woman she is, insisted that she paid for a hotel room in the camp for
me. I couldnt refuse. After settling down, I modified my gear for the
trip north. Throughout my day in Coldfoot I had been hearing horror
stories from the weather near Prudhoe Bay. I made an enormous
windscreen for my stove for cold, windy cooking conditions, repacked my
gear for easier access to layers of clothing, and modified my extra hat
to make a ski mask. After a short nap and exploration of the grounds
and playing with the sled dogs I went to the bar for a late snack. The
owner bought me a beer and I ordered I side of tater-tots, which turned
out to be about three pounds worth; other people bought me beer again.
        On my way back to the room a woman with a television crew stopped me
to ask if I had a pipe. I of course didnt but said I could make one.
So we smoked. In my altered state of mind I decided to rummage through
the hotel lost and found. I found a heavy duty pair of gloves, a heavy
parka and snow pants. These would later save my ass up north. Distance
Traveled: 73 miles.

        Day Seven and Eight: Woke up early again and my mom treated me to
massive breakfast in Coldfoot. The ride through the rest of the Koyukuk
River Valley was not hilly at all. But the scenery was fantastic.
Massive peaks and steep cliffs lined both sides of the valley. From
here on out the road is entirely gravel with patches of sharp rock.
Fif*** miles North of Coldfoot I ventured into a small Gold Rush town
called Wiseman, Alaska. The town was dead, nothing open. I was taking
photos when a woman poked her head out of her door and asked who I was.
I told her my story of the trip and she invited me in for lunch. A big
ass tuna salad sandwich, plenty of nuts, fresh strawberries, a good
conversation, a tour of the town and about two pounds of chocolate for
the road, she was one of the warmest people Ive ever met. Her name is
Louise Hall.
        The visit was a short delay in the trip, but worth it. I continued
North through the scenic valley and arrived at the foot of the
Chandalar Shelf and the last tree I would see at milepost 235. The
climb up the shelf was brutal. A ten percent grade for two miles. The
shelf itself is hardly a shelf at all. It continues climbing for miles
to Atigun Pass. One neat fact about the Alaska Department of
Transportation camp on the Chandalar Shelf is that they fire artillery
shells into Atigun Pass from there to trigger avalanches and then clear
the road.
        At the base of Atigun Pass I met a group of four wildlife
photographers who driving up to Deadhorse for fun. They gave me some
warm coffee and some food and a short conversation and called me crazy.
More inspiration. Atigun Pass was a real mother ***er of a climb. I
reached the foot of the pass around ten in the evening. There was a
light snow falling, it was twenty degrees and a group of caribou was
making its way up the pass just off the road. The road simply
disappeared into the clouds. The road up Atigun pass is a twelve
percent grade. Riding was not an option I had to walk it up to the top.
I didnt get up to the top until two in the morning. The prospect of
setting up camp in high altitude cold was too much to bear so I
continued on down the pass, a challengingly steep downhill grade
nearing fif*** percent at the steepest segment. I kept going and
cooked some Mac and Cheese near milepost 281. After a chilly nap in the
dirt I continued on at four in the morning.
        I decided to not make camp until the following evening, a decision I
later regretted. The North Slope was an easy ride, mostly gentle tundra
hills with a great view of the Brooks Range behind me and thousands of
Caribou to keep me company. I ran into the photographers I met the
evening before near the Toolik Arctic Research Station. I saw their
truck, caked in ice and mud screech to a halt. They said that what they
saw north was the scariest weather they had ever seen. I saw a video
they took of one of them leaning almost forty-five degrees forward into
the wind. They begged me not to go any ...

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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by captainwelc » Thu, 29 May 2008 15:40:43

Day Nine: Recovery. I woke up after four hours of sleep. I forgot to
take off any of my clothing so I had been sweating profusely for
several hours in my sleep. My head was throbbing so bad from
dehydration that I vomited all the food I had just taken down. I
smelled awful. Even the oil rig workers looked at me strangely. I ended
up at the wrong hotel. The hotel I intended to stay at was four miles
away. When I was walking out the door some people asked me where I was
going. I told them the Prudhoe Bay Hotel and they wouldnt let me
leave. Nobody was allowed outside except for emergencies. They insisted
I have a hot meal then somebody would give me a lift across town. I tore
through half of a cheese pizza, a bowl of soup, and a few pieces of pie.

        I caught a lift and arrived at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel early in the
afternoon. I was able to negotiate a cheaper room there by doing the
dishes at the end of dinner. So I took a much needed shower, and a nap.
I ate dinner early. I took down nearly three pounds of salmon steak, two
baked potatoes, and a huge salad. Then a huge bowl of ice cream for
desert. I felt awful from this over-indulgence, but did the dishes to
earn my keep.
        After super I ran into some awesome folks that worked for the airport
at Alaska Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration. They
had gotten wind of my story and insist that I drink with them. Note: The
North Slope Borough is a dry borough. Booze is extremely frowned upon
here. But we kept the noise down and got drunk. Good times. Distances
traveled: 0 miles.

        Day Ten: Leaving town. It was still a phase two blizzard. I tried to
test things out by riding to the post office three miles away, without
my pack. I made it one mile and had to turn around. This was not my day
to leave town. Id spent the rest of the day eating like an animal and
watching movies on HBO. Started to get stir-crazy being pent up.
Luckily one the girls I met from the TSA let me crash in her room, so I
didnt have to pay for another over priced room. Distance traveled: 0
miles.

        Day Eleven: Making a break for it. I made it almost five miles out
before I decided it was still too much to get out of town. I sadly and
furiously turned around back towards Prudhoe Bay. I had to hitch twenty
miles out of town, just to get out of the blow. It was a cold but easy
ride from there. My thermometer held steady most of the day at twenty
degrees not too bad. I made a late camp at the Happy Valley Camp. The
Camp itself is a house, five or six small hunting lodges, an airstrip,
and a few abandoned trailers. I sought shelter in an abandoned trailer.
It is sort of a custom in the North the leave cabins and trailers
unlocked for travelers. There is almost always a note welcoming you and
asking you to cleanup when you leave. It is always a treat to find such
shelter. Distance Traveled: 80 miles

        Day Twelve: I woke to find that the air had cooled down to ten degrees
with a real stiff wind. After dragging my shit through three feet of
snow from the trailer to the road, I had just put my pack on when I
noticed a curious grizzly strolling my way from one hundred yards out.
I backed slowly up the road, and pulled out my bear spray. He still
followed. Fifty yards, he slowed up, but still came toward me. I turned
on my Spot device (to send out a distress call.) Forty Yards, ready to
pull my knife. Thirty yards. I managed to snap a picture with my camera
phone. Twenty yards. Picking up the pace. Ten Yards. Stopped and backed
off. Twenty yards. The charge. From a distance of five yards or so I
unleashed a hellish orange cloud of bear spray that sent the animal off
the road into the snow, face down in the snow. The bear groaned and
walked in circles, head down while I made it over then next hill and
out site. ***.
        The rest of the day was haunted by thoughts of bear attack, and
unbearable cold. I made it back to Slope Mountain around nine in the
evening and set up camp across the road from the Alaska DOT station. It
was five degrees above zero. My sleeping bag in this kind of cold is
very crowded: myself at six foot one, two water bottles, a water
filter, fuel canisters, camera, batteries, boots, socks, and gloves. No
room to move. My sleeping bag is rated down to zero degrees. Bullshit.
It was the coldest night of relative sleep I ever had. Distance
traveled: 44 miles

        Day Thir***: I slept until about seven, when it got above freezing
and the sun was out. Much better. I made tea and breakfast, and got a
great start feeling better. A mile down the road the DOT was grading
and treating the road with Calcium Chloride. Wish left the road covered
in muck that resembled wet cement. This went on for fif*** miles. I got
very muddy. And it slowed me down, a lot.
        Climbing Atigun Pass from the North was even worse than the south. The
grade leading up climbs 900 feet in three miles, then another 900 feet
in two miles. From there its all twelve percent grades or steeper. I
reached the high point around eight in the evening. Downhill was great.
I made great time down off the pass and off the Chandalar Shelf. The
River Valley was a slight downhill grade almost all the way to
Coldfoot. I got into town late, but not too late for a few beers.
        A reality TV show had been filming Americas toughest Jobs up in
Prudhoe Bay saw me up there when they were filming, and again earlier
that day near milepost 235. They were drinking like Alaskans. I think
there were twelve of them on the crew. Each one of them bought me a
beer, and one of them even bought me a meal, and one of them gave me
something to smoke. I felt like I was in college. Again my way with the
ladies got me lucky, and I passed out on their room floor. Distance
traveled: 105 miles.

        Day Four***: Hangover. Luckily I couldnt leave town until at least
after one thirty in the afternoon, because thats when the post office
opens in Coldfoot. My awesome mother sent me a relief package of energy
bars and new pants. When I got back to Coldfoot after about 740 miles of
riding, there was no crotch left in my pants.
        Post service above the Arctic Circle is unreliable at best. My package
wasnt there yet. So I set my tent back up in the same place. Early in
the afternoon two Swiss bikers I met in Deadhorse pulled into Coldfoot.
These guys were riding the entire length of the Pan-American Highway,
from Deadhorse to the southern tip of Argentina. They are raising
awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. Great dudes riding for a great cause.
Their website is www.muco-velo.ch
        So I hung out with them for the rest of the day and was able to
communicate pretty well through their broken English and my broken
French. Another night in Coldfoot. Distance traveled: 0 miles.

        Day Fif***: The post office in Coldfoot, Alaska is only open in the
afternoons on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Since I had nothing to do
this day I decided to climb a nearby peak. It was quite the adventure
in itself. To get to the foot of the mountain I had to cross the Haul
Road, go through the Alaska DOT camp, across the Coyote Air Services
runway, and through some tundra. Once through the tundra I stripped
*** and waded through 3 feet of icy snow melt. Once dressed and
warmed it took me eight hours to make summit. Although the snow was
deep the wind had blown most of the ridge clear. Five hours of decent
lead me back to the icy river, and I was back in camp. I snuck into the
public shower at the hotel and took a scalding hot shower. There were no
guests there anyways.

        At the only bar in Coldfoot that night there was a small celebration.
Some Eskimos from a nearby village were celebrating the birth of a
baby. These were great people and like all Alaskans, they knew how to
throw back. They even bought me, the only white in the bar a few drinks
before I headed back to my tent. Luckily I was exhausted that night and
sleep came easy. It was getting quite bright, even at the darkest point
in the night. Distance traveled: 0 miles.

        Day Six***: I slept in again with the knowledge that the post office
didnt open until the afternoon. I broke camp, and was ready to go as
soon as my package arrived. I was waiting at the door when the post
office opened and the woman working smiled and said there was no mail.
The mail truck flipped the night before. I was furious. I spent most of
the rest of the day kicking rocks and yelling in the junk yard. I calmed
down in the evening. I watched a few movies on the satellite television
and when into the bar to see what was going on.
        Tonights party was due to gold miners. I was almost in disbelief that
there are still gold mines in Alaska. Gold miners are an interesting
breed. They are dirty, bearded, smelling men who enjoy drinking when
they can. I fit right in. The reason for the celebration was the
discovery of an eigh*** ounce gold nugget that would bring in more
than twenty thousand dollars to the mine. Definitely reason to
celebrate. I went back to the dog yard to find the dogs howling like
all hell.
        There was a moose cow and an older calf about ten yards away from the
length of the sled dogs chains. The dogs were going ape-shit. I grabbed
my camera and went to work. I spend about twenty minutes taking pictures
of the cow and calf duo. Then I went closer. Perhaps it was the beer. Or
maybe it was just the first time I saw a moose and I didnt know how
dangerous they were.
        I went straight through the sled dogs houses and they were jumping
all over me smearing dog shit all over my clothes with their paws. I
was getting great photos of the moose from only fif*** yards out. I
started to remember something that someone told me about the dangers of
a Moose cow with a calf. With this in mind I positioned myself atop a
fif*** foot embankment for easy escape if necessary.  
        I was now within ten yards of the cow, making sure not to come between
her and her calf. I got some great close up moose pictures. I was sweet
talking ...

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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by captainwelc » Thu, 29 May 2008 15:41:08

Day Eigh***: I was so e***d to leave Coldfoot I didn’t know
whether to shit or go blind. I ate a great breakfast and hit the road.
Only a mile out of town all hell broke loose. I got caught in a serious
downpour. Even in the sixty seconds I had to put on my wetsuit and pack
cover I got completely soaked. Luckily it was up to about sixty
degrees, even though I was still considerably north of the Arctic
Circle.
        I was slowed greatly and I was miserable. My legs had a chance two
soften up a bit as I was off the wheel for four consecutive days in
Coldfoot. Then rain let up around five PM and I made camp before the
rain started again. A shitty first day back on the trail. But I had a
great site to camp, right next to Grayling Lake. I even had an outhouse
to throw my bear-proof-bag on top of on take comfortable bowel movements
in. Early to bed. Distance traveled: 25 miles.

        Day Nine***: I had the pleasure of a wake up call provided by the
Alaska Department of Highway Transportation. A semi full of dirt rolled
in every five minutes or so for over an hour, dumped their load and a
bulldozer was pushing dirt around ferociously. I awoke sluggishly, and
earlier than I would have liked to. I cooked the usually Mac and Cheese
for breakfast when a blue pickup truck slammed on their brakes on the
highway.
        He pulled into the rest area and asked if I was seriously unicycling
the Haul Road. I of course said yes. It turned out that he is a
photographer and he was working on a photo-book project of the Haul
Road and the people that travel its length. He asked if I minded doing
a few photos and I didn’t mind.
        After a photo shoot and a short chat I packed up camp and hit the
road. The hills here were not bad at all. Late in the afternoon I
arrived at the Arctic Circle camp area. When I rode in a immediately
went to the outhouse their and was startled by what I saw—***
in my urine. I was slightly concerned.
        I rolled up to the tourist Arctic Circle sign to find a group of
tourists piling out of a fif*** passenger van with a guide in tow.
They of course asked what I was doing up there on a unicycle. I told
them my tale and they were in near disbelief. They asked how I felt and
I was slightly delirious so I was honest. I said that I was exhausted,
had been hearing voices, and that I was pissing ***. Curious smiles
turned to looks of disgust and the promptly left. Must have been
something I said… I took the obligatory Arctic Circle photos and
headed south.
         As I turned out of the parking area I realized that I forgot about
riding down Beaver Slide on my trip north. A mile later I found myself
looking up a straight shot two mile nine percent uphill grade. I
managed to ride maybe half a mile of it and then spent the next hour
and a half slowly trudging up that hill. I started to hear trucks that
didn’t exist come up from behind me. I was having full out
auditory hallucinations.
        I made it to the top and had smooth downhill riding all the way back
down to Old Man, Alaska. The not-so-smooth part of this leg of day was
when I looked over my shoulder to see a string of trucks hauling ass
toward me. Whenever I saw this I dismounted, got ten feet off the road
and waited for them to pass. Only at this point in the day, sometimes
the trucks never passed, they disappeared. I was now having visual
hallucinations.
        I pulled into Old Man around nine in the evening to a nice cabin to
spend the evening in. Upon arrival I went to the outhouse not to find
*** in my urine, but urine in my flood. I was freaked out.
Unfortunately I found an ancient bottle of whisky inside the cabin. I
drank myself silly, but was still careful to eat a decent meal and
drink plenty of water. There really is a certain comfort to be found in
booze when you’re troubled about something. This night, I found
that comfort and drifted to sleep in the cozy cabin. Distance traveled:
73 miles.

        Days Twenty and Twenty One: Despite my drunkenness the night before I
woke up fairly early an refreshed and was relived to find to *** in
my urine at all. So I hit the road with high spirits. I had smooth
sailings down several steep downhill grades and through gentler grades
down into the Yukon River Valley. I arrived at the Yukon River Camp
just before noon. The camp was now open but I declined the opportunity
to get a decent meal because it was so early in the day and I was
feeling great.
        I called my parents collect and let them know my location, slammed a
giant cup of coffee and took pictures of the massive Yukon River bridge
and the river, which had almost no ice now.
        Riding over the bridge itself was a real ***. A half mile long
wooden bridge at a seven percent grade. Very strange riding, for a
bridge. Once over the river the climb out of the Yukon River Valley was
not nearly as bad going southbound as it was on the other side to the
north, and it was paved. Much more agreeable riding. I made fantastic
time.
        The Boreal Forrest was now void of snow and every mile I rode, the
greener she became. Around six in the evening I started to become
haunted by visual and auditory hallucinations again. This time it was
on the final twenty mile stretch of the Dalton Highway—the
toughest section of the 415 mile road.
        At the top of one of the higher hills I ran into some bear hunters.
They could probably tell I was a wreck from a long day of riding. The
tried to get me to make camp, but I wanted to make it back to the head
of the Haul Road before retiring for the night. When I told them this
the tempted me to stay with something to smoke. I could not turn down
the offer.
        Alaskan pot is unlike any other strain I have smoked. It is fruitful,
sticky, and colorful. It does not make you tired, delirious, or make
you eat. Upon smoking this tasty herb I felt immensely better and
decided to hit the road around ten that evening.
        And so I road through the steep hills of the Dalton Highway through
the Boreal Forrest. Stoned. I didn’t care.
        I hit the head of the Dalton Highway at two in the morning. I thought
to myself, “Why Stop Now?” I did eat three packets of Mac
and Cheese and a few energy bars underneath the sign that marks the
beginning of the highway.
        At three in the morning, with a full belly, I moved south on the
Elliot Highway. I was making great time back on paved road. The sun was
rising shortly after I left. The hills that ***ed my legs three weeks
before now barely slowed me down as my legs pumped like the pistons of
an engine of a train on its way to hell. I passed the Colorado Dome
Trailhead at six in the morning, and took advantage of the outhouse
there. I was out of toilet paper at this point.
        Shortly after that I passed the bus at the Arctic Circle trading Post
that I had slept in many nights before. I briefly stopped to filter
some fresh water and relive myself. I found more *** in my urine. I
was starting to get worried. Nevertheless, I continued on. At ten that
morning I arrived at the Wickersham Dome Trailhead and made a decent
sized meal of Mac and Cheese and energy bars.
        I hastily hit the trail again. Although I was hearing things again,
the visual hallucinations I had earlier in the week had not come back.
I reached Fox at four in the afternoon and did not even dismount,
despite the fact that I promised several people at the bar there that I
would check in on my way back. I hauled ass the last eleven miles into
town. When Fairbanks came into view I dumped my excess drinking water
to save weight.
        The last two miles into town were all downhill. I was so happy to see
the town. The first restraint on the north side of town is a
McDonald’s. I didn’t care. It was real food to me. I
chocked down four fish sandwiches, two large fires, a giant shake, and
two apple pies. Then I puked.
        I still had six miles back to the hostel. I rode slower than normal.
Sort of dizzy. The newspaper article about me three weeks before had
generated a little bit of attention and truckers and tourists on the
Haul Road had spread rumors of my progress while I was gone. People
were hollering and honking at me more than normal. It was kind of neat.
But I just wanted to get my ass off of my saddle.
        I stumbled into Billie’s Backpacker Hostel around six that
evening. She was surprised to see me back so early. I was surprised to
finish so early. I was 10 days ahead of schedule. She promptly had
pizza in my hands and despite her strict no drinking rule at the
hostel, we all had beers. Distance traveled: 186 miles.

Total distance traveled: about 1010 miles

        Despite my looming health problems and lack of sleep, I took no nap
that evening. I told my tale to the residents of Billie’s
Backpacker Hostel to a group of people from the States, Canada,
Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong, Bulgaria and Argentina.
Most of them didn’t know what the hell I said.
        Either way we ended up at the same bar I started at three weeks prior:
The Marlin. We spent the night drinking good beer, smoking great hash,
and talked bullshit in half a dozen languages. Drunk and stoned we made
our way back to the hostel. I climbed into my tent in the backyard and
slept.

        I spent a few days in Fairbanks with a girl I met in Deadhorse who
worked for the Transportation Security Administration. I had to change
three flights and that took some time. I finally made it back to
Chicago to stay with my parents until my next tour begins in Japan this
summer. I no longer hallucinate or have *** in my urine.

        The Dalton Highway is a lofty, but highly achievable goal for a
unicyclist or any cyclist. I may have gone too early in the season, and
it came closer to claiming my life than I would like to admit. But
seriously, if you have the chance, ride this road. It is one hell of an
adventure. If nothing else, drive it just for the scenery. It is worth
it.

A special thanks to:

Unicycle.com for giving me equipment that ...

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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by boise » Thu, 29 May 2008 16:06:22

Wow.  I'm printing and reading.  Looks awesome.  Thanks for sharing.

Z

--
boisei
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by dangerdo » Thu, 29 May 2008 17:45:26

Amazing you not only survived an incredible feat of human endurance but
also managed to party on,hats off.:eek:

--
dangerdog

once I was young and stupid....that was some time ago
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by stevey » Thu, 29 May 2008 21:12:15

Amazing trip and great writeup!  Thanks.

--
steveyo

steveyo
..like having your own personal rollercoaster...

- a few 'uni race write-ups'
(http://home.nycap.rr.com/rduhan/uni_race_writeups/)
- muni and kokopelli uni 't-shirts, mugs and stickers'
(http://www.cafepress.com/steveyo)
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by entrop » Fri, 30 May 2008 00:35:47

1) You're insane.
2) Thanks for vicariously taking the rest of us along on the wild ride.
Excellent, excellent writeup and great photos!

Hands down, one of the most risky, ballsy and downright ridiculous
unicycle adventures I've ever had the pleasure of reading.   I would
expect nothing less from a unicycling broadway trombonist.
Particularly enjoyed the descriptions of people pleading with you not
to ride to your death.

Hats off to you, sir!

--
entropy

Shut up and ride.
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by lpound » Fri, 30 May 2008 08:21:48

Wow Mike, thoroughly enjoyable write-up! Glad to see you were still able
to unwind every night, and for free to boot. Also glad to see you didn't
actually have to use the SPOT (its emergency function at least), but I
bet you were glad you had it.

This ride will serve as great inspiration for long distance unitourists
to come.

--
lpounds

'Levi' (http://tinyurl.com/6l5fmr)
'Photos'

'Unicycle' (http://youtube.com/watch?v=P7MiIYTE5Yo)
'Juggle'
(http://youtube.com/watch?v=7-q-VOaDB7M&feature=related)
'EGG'
(http://youtube.com/watch?v=3y-Zwr3-i4k&feature=related)
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by Into the blu » Fri, 30 May 2008 09:42:14

You are a gloriously defiant nutter.

Well done mate.

--
Into the blue

ok you primitive screwheads, listen up! you see this? this... is my
boomstick!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0nwe4xqdmm&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w0finuhtnk&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clwuso7vbze
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0jynznbl0q
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by unicycle686 » Sat, 31 May 2008 14:36:39

WOW, that was an awesome story, thanks for sharing!! It was like reading
one of my favoirte books, Into The Wild, all over again. I'm sure you
have probably read it, right?

Congrats to this amazing journey. Would you do it all over again if you
knew what you know now? Would you ever consider doing it again? And what
would you change?

You should consider submitting this story to a magazine, hey it'd even
be great in the Uni magazine although I don't think the editor likes if
the story and pictures have already been put online. But think it'd be
worth a shot!

WOW! You might have just put a new item on my "bucket list"! Who else
wants to join me? Call it Ride Across Alaska...and I think I'd use a
36"?

--
unicycle6869

Jamey (formaly tuna6869)
'www.uniproshop.com' (http://www.uniproshop.com)
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by unicycle686 » Sat, 31 May 2008 14:51:50

Also, I was confused if you made it to Deadwood? If not where was the
farthest you made it, like what day...although towards the end you
mentioned that you met some cyclist in deadwood? Just curious....

--
unicycle6869

Jamey (formaly tuna6869)
'www.uniproshop.com' (http://www.uniproshop.com)
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by Dann » Sat, 31 May 2008 15:41:21

Holy crap, respect!
Read every word, what an awesome write up. I think because Alaskans
rarely meet one another, when they do, they share and socialize. In a
large city, people ignore each other and run around in circles. A crazy
trip on a *24"*, you nutcase:p .

--
Danni

*)---':cool:, 1m HighJump*

'My Videos'
(http://ca.youtube.com/user/danielcormeau)
'Sliver Trials Park' (http://tinyurl.com/6ooszk)
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by unicyclist.c » Sun, 01 Jun 2008 04:07:01

excellent write up, was it what you expected?

--
unicyclist.ca

http://www.Unicyclist.ca
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Alaska 2008: The Dalton Highway Write-Up (Long)

Post by Naom » Sun, 01 Jun 2008 16:15:20

There are no words I could write that would convey just how much I was
astonished by this lunatic crazy expedition.   I am privileged to be
able to read it.

Nao

--
Naomi

The dress in which I unicycled was not THAT short, but in retrospect, I
think that maybe the blue one would have been more appropriate to the
terrain.
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