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Headed north.


Camping on the spit in Homer.

With this South America trip we are actually completing a greater journey from the northernmost drivable point of North America to the southernmost drivable point of the South American continent. Back in the summer of 2010 we took a six-week motorcycle trip to Deadhorse, Alaska with nothing but our hopes and dreams (and maxed-out credit cards…). Officially beginning from Winnemucca, Nevada (where Ehren was fresh off of a job interview that would pay off six months later), we traveled north through the Sawtooth Mountains and along the Salmon River in Idaho to a brief sojourn in Glacier National Park in northern Montana (where Britt’s Kawasaki Vulcan got a rear flat, leading to a lengthy tire-changing session at a gas station in St. Mary).

After Glacier we went through Banff and Jasper National Parks, straddling the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia as we made our way to Prince George. From there, we went north on 97 with a stay in Chetwynd (“the chainsaw-carving capital of the world!”) to spend Britt’s 22nd birthday. We continued up 29 through Hudson’s Hope and checked out a few dams along the Peace River. Rejoining 97 we stayed at a campground in Pink Mountain (we camped out every night except for 1 night in Chetwynd, 3 nights in Anchorage, 3 nights in Fairbanks at Ehren’s cousin’s cabin, and 1 night in Fort Nelson after 3 days of rain).

Ehren poses with Denali in the distance. His hair poses for no one.

Furthering our way north, we checked out Liard Hot Springs, the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake, had world-famous cinnamon rolls at Johnson’s Crossing, enjoyed an awesome breakfast at Burwash Landing, tossed sourdough pancakes at the Sourdough campground in Tok, and hosteled it up in Anchorage.

All this, and we still left for Coldfoot in the morning.

On our way to Anchorage from Tok we met a couple (also on motorcycles and also originally from Minnesota) at a scenic pullout who invited us to their home near Talkeetna (south of Denali National Park) to see their sled dogs. After spending some time on the Kenai Peninsula camping out on the spit in Homer and crossing Kachemak Bay to check out the artist’s colony of Halibut Cove, we continued north towards Denali and made good on our promise to stop and visit the dogs. We then spent two nights at the Riley Creek campground in Denali National Park and took the park bus for a lengthy tour, spotting caribou, moose, grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, hoary marmots and even a glimpse of Denali peak itself.

After Denali we continued on to Fairbanks, where we had to give our bikes a little TLC before making the trek up to Deadhorse. Britt’s clutch cable was hanging by a strand and Ehren tore apart the top end of his KLR (once again) at his cousin’s cabin to try to suss out the cause of his ongoing oil-burning issue. Once we were put back together, we headed north. When we stopped off at the Arctic Circle sign to ham it up for a picture, we met a bicyclist from Spain who was doing an Anchorage-to-Deadhorse ride. He took our picture for us and we took his picture for him and then we parted ways. We camped just outside of Coldfoot that night, resting up for the rest of the Dalton Highway the next morning.

Thanks for taking this photo of us, Miguel!

We rode up to Deadhorse and back in one day; in order for us to be able to do that, Britt left her Vulcan in camp and we rode two up on the KLR. The road was sloppy and slick and the KLR had better tires and clearance for it. We got snowed on while going over Atigun Pass; this was the third week of August. Following the Alaskan pipeline north, we were treated to wide open views of the tundra in all of her fall colors. Just miles from Deadhorse, we spotted a herd of muskoxen crossing the road in front of us. We quickly pulled over and got a few photos—what a sight!

Muskoxen outside of Deadhorse.

“Deadhorse” could have described the way we probably smelled.

Once we got to Deadhorse we didn’t actually spend a whole lot of time there. We took some video right when we got in and then made our way to the Prudhoe Bay General Store, picked up a souvenir sticker and a Snickers bar for a snack, took our photo in front of the store sign, refilled the bike and gas cans and then started back south again. We were there for about 45-50 minutes. The entire trip from Coldfoot to Deadhorse and back again took us 14 hours. After we got back to the campground, Britt rejoined her bike and we rode down to the Coldfoot Camp for a bite to eat. While there we ran into our bicyclist friend from Spain, who had just gotten into Coldfoot. We ate with him, shared road stories, wished each other happy travels and said good night. We then returned to our lichen-covered campsite and had the best sleep of our lives.

The rewards of riding pillion up the Dalton.

We stayed two more nights at the cabin in Fairbanks recovering from our strenuous and chilly ride on the Dalton and then pounded pavement on our way back to the contiguous 48. We made it back to Minnesota from Fairbanks in a week, just in time for Britt to begin her last year at college. The only notable thing we did on the way back was get a photo with the Mile Zero marker in Dawson Creek (which is smack-dab in the middle of a somewhat busy intersection). On our return journey we talked about the possibility of doing a South America trip someday.