We rolled early eating breakfast with some of the oilfield crews cafeteria style.
Dave suggested we grab some treats for our British bicyclist friend - he wouldn't be too hard to find - two bags of Crackerjacks found their way into my tankbag.
Topping off our tanks and gas cans we headed South again.
Interesting note - on the way up my Garmin didn't show the Haul road - I was just blazing a path across an electronic void on the screen. When I turned on the Garmin in the morning, it now identified the Haul Road and showed Deadhorse as a town at the apex. Strange.
We rolled South slowly gaining altitude off the swampy Tundra, reaching the high Tundra and Caribou herds. A couple sprinted across the road in front of Dave's bike, but a quick grab of the brakes averted disaster. A pair of Musk Oxen watched us ride past - dusty clouds behind our bikes.
Just before a small bridge, I saw the our British biker, just breaking camp down by the stream.. We pulled off the road, gave him our 'gifts' and chatted for a while more - I think he was happy for the conversation and break from his routine. ' Not sure if he knew what Crackerjacks were.
We warned him about Atigun, riding a bicycle over this pass - even if it weren't snowing and blowing - stuck me as nearly impossible. The muck and steep grades would probably stop even Lance Armstrong. I've since checked - he pedaled over the range. He proved everyone wrong.
We parted company - I looked to the South - the Brooks Range was again shrouded in low clouds?”?‡ª and a front was blowing in hard.
Once again we crossed the Pass, and once again I could see nothing. Flashing lights on a sign told us to check channel 19 on our CB for current road conditions - not very helpful since we were not so equipped. I cranked up the heated grips and gear and headed back up the grade.
'Don't use the front brake, Don't use the front brake' I kept repeating to myself as my rear tire slipped and slid on the slick, mucky road surface. The snow started in earnest at about 2000', and started to accumulate on my windscreen and helmet, slicing visibility to a few yards.
I dropped down a gear and bumped the revs and we ground up the pass. An eighteen wheeler appeared and vanished in the blowing snow ahead of me setting my pace - passing is certainly not an option here, regardless of the weather. I would wind up standing on my pegs for extended stretches to negotiate the muddy ruts.
What can I say - we made it through without incident - no pictures - too tense.
We stopped for fuel at Coldfoot, and were happy to be able to tell the waitress that for the moment, all was passable on the pass.
The rest of the ride back actually improved dramatically - the slick calcium chloride roads had hardened up perfectly, to almost paved quality. I bumped my speed making sure that I saw Dave in my review mirror at every rise - he was hanging back a bit.
I got to the start/end of the Dalton and waited about ten minutes for Dave - puzzled that he hadn't showed up.
I turned the Beemer around and started back - and Dave appeared. It turns out that the radiator of his Kawasaki had completely clogged with the mud of the Haul Road, leaving his bike to overheat. The on-board computer, sensing the temperature rising cleverly shifted the bike to a limp home mode. This is actually a neat feature, you are slowed down to where a chasing wolf could catch you, but you keep sputtering and moving. And we hoped that the temps were contained to a point where the engine would sustain no damage.
The grades on the South end of the Dalton are steep - even when pavement is reached - for the run into Fairbanks, there are a lot of grade changes.
I let Dave ride ahead - but he was moving slowly - I trailed with my flashers on. We eventually reached a restaurant and I was able to wheedle some buckets and access to their outside faucet - Dave tossed 6 or so buckets of water into the radiator trying to flush out some of the baked in mud, but this was really a job for a high pressure washer. And a stack of quarters. The water did however cool the bike sufficiently so regular riding speeds were regained. We reached Fairbanks, found a car wash and he blew his clogged radiator clean.
The BMW was a bit dirty and benefited from being hosed down as well.
Dinner that evening was eaten out of a gas station - it's always fun to people watch at a BP mini mart at 11:00PM - kinda like living in an episode of Cops as we ate our chips, sodas and sandwiches of uncertain vintage.