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The Arctic Sprint

Written on: Saturday August 15th, 2009

THE FINAL UPDATE
(but maybe there is more adventures in the fantastic lives of Stephen & Peadar)


After two and a half days of rain through Northern Canada it finally stopped.
We both saw a Grizzly bear by the roadside and later that day we finally entered Alaska.
Cause to celebrate, for us its not hard to find a cause. We had some drinks with our couchsurfing student mates from Fairbanks and woke the next day hungover to bits.. Strange how sometimes one drinks loads and feels great the next day and other times you drink a little and feel like death.
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We packed up, treated ourselves to a nice lunch and Ibuprofen (yes, we were that rough) and headed off at about 2:30. We estimated that it would take a day and a half to cover the 500miles to Prudhoe bay, of which over half is unpaved..

The rain was back and it drizzled all afternoon, we had a little bit of anticipation about the haul road and especially now with the rain. We had hoped it would be manageable and indeed it proved to be more than easy for a couple of pros like ourselves. When you've been through mile upon mile of soft sand in Northern Argentina and then Ruta 40 in the South and then you top that off with a ride through Southern Bolivia there is not much the states can throw at you that you cant handle. The rain made the dirt roads look a bit slippy but the ground was hard and it was uneventful. It was 150 miles to the Yukon River, then another 60 miles to the Arctic Circle. We decided to make it that far on Sunday. When we arrived at the Arctic Circle sign we were both a bit wet and cold. We had to set up our tent and get dry. We saw some camper vans and joked 'maybe they'll see us and give us a coffee, hahaha... Yeah!! and a movie in their camper van, hahaha!'. It started as a joke, but it actually happened. A head popped out of the camper van, "Fancy a coffee." We went from planning where to set up the tent the rain to being inside the Mackenzie's ( http://www.macswayround.com/ ) warm camper van drinking coffee and watching a great movie "The World's Fastest Indian" with Anthony Hopkins (Mam/Dad...you'd love it), as if that wasn't enough we stayed for dinner; a pork roast and after that drank lots of whiskey and chatted with Phil and his warm and friendly family. That night we slept inside the spare bed in the camper and woke to coffee. We couldn't have asked for more.
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We said goodbye and headed off. We have been riding through billions of evergreen fir trees for thousands of miles. The landscape from Canada to Alaska changed from flat to mountainous and everything in between but the trees stayed the same. Now as we headed into the final stretch we got some deciduous trees which were changing through their autumn colours and created a patchwork of green and yellow trees set against the red shrub covered mountains. Before we set out on this road I had thought of it as merely necessary and that it was not going to be anything too special, I was way wrong. These mountain valleys are one of the most beautiful sights Ive seen on this trip and coupled with the waves of happiness I felt knowing that we were really going to make it made this day a great joy. As if to congratulate us the sun shined as we entered the last 300 miles. That day we saw muskox, 'What the hell is that, its that a bear..' I didn't even know these animals were still alive. In fact, they had to reintroduce them to Alaska.

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A bit of rain and snow, "ITS NOT AS COLD AS I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE"

... I think I cursed myself by saying that

FULL SCREEN : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DAEpmiRmDA

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We had crossed the highpoint in the road north, the Atigun pass and beyond this was treeless terrain all the way to the ocean. There was a little snow, but nothing worth mentioning especially in the light of what was to come the next day. Counting down the final miles I was standing on the pegs, then standing on the  seat. weaving and beaming with a big smile. There was suspicion in my mind, 'Is he gonna gun it and claim some sort of victory?'. but no, we drove into Deadhorse side by side. After all the beautiful scenery it is a shame to end in an oilfield but if it wasn't here, there wouldn't be a road. Alas, there was no dancing girls or brass band!! I mean, come on!! we just drove the length of the planet!!! We took some photos, popped a bottle of cheap bubbly and found a place to camp for the night, ate, drank porter, champansky and went to bed. THE END!

Deadhorse Celebrations : Well as much as one can celebrate in an bloody Oilfield.

FULLSCREEN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvzAsW9abIU

 

We were so glad and lucky to have the mild sunny final day on the end of our trip north, but on the day we had to turn around and head back south we got a real taste of what its like to ride a bike on a bad day in late August inside the Arctic Circle.

... so there's more

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The next morning we went to do 'the tour'. The oil companies own all the ocean side property and since the some planes hit some towers tourists cant drive to the ocean in case they drive their bikes into a rig or something. One has to take the tour bus, or the ripoff wagon as it should be called. A forty dollar tour, they try to make it an oilfield tour but the fact is your paying 40 bucks to get to the ocean, it sucks but we had to do it. As a bonus tho, we arrived in the hotel for the tour just as they were closing the breakfast bar and due to some confusion with a Thai waitress we got to take four filled trays of breakfast for free. As we were walking off with our swag the head chef came over and said 'Are you going to pay for that at the main desk?', I mumbled a 'Eh, yeah sure' through my smirking face and we walked off. The tour ended at the Arctic Ocean, grey and dirty it reinforced the fact that it was a ripoff.  After the tour we arrived back to the bikes and Peadar had a flat in his front tire, it was beginning to rain and the day just went downhill from here. Peadar got to work on the tire and I went back to pack up our stuff and tent in the rain. After this we filled up our tanks & Jerry cans for the 240 mile stretch to the next gas at 'Coldfoot' and bought souvenir Prudhoe bay stickers for a few friends (which you will never get because they fell out of my Tank bag along with mine and Peadar's as well)
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Finally we headed out at about 2pm into the freezing rain. The roads had lots of slick mud on it but they still weren't challenging to ride, the challenge was to trying to keep positive. "Well, at least its not snowing". Then came the snow. At this point the only thing I had left to hope for was that we got no more punctures and that there was no bike drops or crashes. If that had happened I think I would have been pushed over the mental edge I was clinging onto. The trucks still hurtled by at great speed and threw mud onto our visors, wiping them clean was impossible. With the visors up the cold rain and snow got in but it was safer than trying to look out of the smudged muddy visor. Hands got colder and colder. A while back I had made plastic covers for the handlebars and even tried a pair of marigolds under the leather gloves but it was no less cold. I stopped and heated the soaking wet leather gloves and my hands on the exhaust but it was of little help. When we made brief stops we could hardly speak to one another, we trembled and tried unsuccessfully to shake off the cold. Ive never been this cold but I've been here before, you want to give up but you have no options, your on your bike in the middle of nowhere, there is nothing to do but battle on, to move forward mile by freezing mile. It's now three days later and the tips of my fingers are still not back to normal.  There were times when the weather eased up (when I managed to take my camera out) but it came back again and once that cold is in you it takes a lot of coffee, dry clothes, indoors and showering to get rid of it, and eventually that did come but only six hours later, two hundred and forty miles on at the perfectly named gas station-hotel of Coldfoot.
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The day after happiness and a heavenly ride came HELL.

FULLSCREEN:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98ZWbgvWoec

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It has clearly been one of the greatest experiences in my life (so far) to have done this trip and I have enjoyed sharing it with you and knowing that you are sharing the adventure with me through your comments. Have I learned anything?, apart from a great deal of Spanish and motorbike mechanics. Yeah!! Lots!! to much to summarise here but if I have learned one thing, its that anything is possible and on that note...  
I'm off to sell the bike and find a job.
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Adios Amigos. Suerte!

 

 

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26th August: Deadhorse, Prudhoe bay, ALASKA.

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WE DID IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We left in October 2007, 18 Countries & 35,000 miles.

We drove from the furthest southern road in the world to the furthest north,.. Deadhorse, Prudhoe bay.

....I'll update more later.... 

We went through heaven and hell in 24hours. An unbelievably beautiful sunny ride through the stunning autumn lanscape to the top and then the next day a snow and rain soaked 6 hours of HELL, the coldest I've ever been! Now we are back in civilisation, Fairbanks planning our next trip. A jetbike trip to the moon, ETA 2015 ; )

 

 

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23rd August: Fairbanks, ALASKA.

Well, we are here, in ALASKA!
By the title of this blog you'd think that was enough for us, but the goal for Peadar and I was always as far south to as far north in world as is possible on bike. ....and www.footstops.com/ushuaia2prudhuebay doesnt really have a good ring to it. We have only about 500 miles left. The last 240 of which is all dirt. The haul road is what they call the Dalton highway. Its just a dirt road for truckers hauling stuff from the oilfields in the north and of course a few crazy bikers looking to go as far north as the road will let them.

I'd love to write more about the last few days from the 2days of rain to the shine, but I've gotta be off.. the Arctic Circle is calling

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August 21th, 12AM, Waston Lake, YUKON TERRITORY.

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The thermals are on. Woke up today in my tent with freezing toes, reminds me of Patagonia. It takes frozen toes to remind me of the setup: Mototrbike jacket goes under feet. Rookie mistake, wont happen again. We were camping out on a forestry access trail last night and some guy drove by and warned us about Grizzlies, hide your food after dinner! Chips and beans, delicious. Camping food always is. The Mozzies ate well that night too, they were relentless vicious swines.The next morning the Canadian hunter guy rocked by at 6am, he had a chat and we wasted some time. The friendliness of the Canadians is really holding us back, don't they realize this is an arctic sprint, hahaha, Oh yaa... 

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We aren't sprinters though, I mean we left Ireland in Oct 2007, sprinting just isnt in our blood. We have been driving lots but there is still lots to go, we have to have naps, it gets tiring hours and hours, day after day. Yesterday Peadar was ahead of me and I had to pull in and ly down, I was raining but I was fully waterproofed so I just lay down on the ground for a power nap. I snapped out of it 20 or 30 mins later and went from dazzed to refreshed in a few seconds. Canada is massive, I mean it is the second biggest country in the world, and just crossing BC has take us nore than two days and thats only one province.

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We are constantly surrounded by trees. Canada isn't doing its bit! its  loosing the war on trees. There are so many different types of 'christmas trees' here, tall skinny ones that look like pipe cleaners to massive beauties and all in between. Id say if i could count all the trees that have passed by my view it would be a more than a billion. Enough tree talk. Still no moose, but we have seen Caribou and BISON, THEY ARE MASSIVE. We are in Watson Lake today, staying at Barrys, from couchsurfing. He had a caribou stew ready for us when we arrived. It was amazing. Just what two bums like me and Peadar needed. Ive added more photos. We could have made it to the Alaskan border today but after camping for 3 nights we decided to sleep in. The  arctic sprint continues, after cofffee and sambos.

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AUGUST 19th, 2PM, Chetwynd

We've been getting in the midday naps (and midmorning, and maybe midafternoon aswell) roadside, literally whereever we pull over, sambos made roadside..Literally, Peadar uses the ground as his kitchentop ..and We've been looking at loads and loads of trees (and stunning scenery) and signs for bears and moose's but as yet haven't seen any..

Was going to be doing a daily blog update if we managed to make it to the couchsurfing towns I had set up, but we only made it 800k through the 1200k day I had planned for yesterday, till good i guess...

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So last night we were camping (no wifi in the forest) ..would've been nice if I hadnt had to spend 2 hours last night changing the new rear tyre and then giving up when the tube got pinched.. so bed just before 12, up at 530, to work on tyre again, it was cold and the rubber was even harder to get on and it punctured twice more while trying to get it on. It was a S.O.B. ...both of us working on it and it was just near but not quite impossible to put on. I hate bridgestone trailwings..

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We've driven on and stopped for lunch, but before we could buy it some lovely ladies told us they are opening a cafe tomor and they'd like us to be their first customers. So free coffee, sambo's and WIFI.. Candadians are real nice,  back camping tonight. will update in a few days 

 

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August 17th

Desmond, Desmond, Desmond...Will the bikes make it indeed..!!

Im not sure if anyone gets it, but there is a recurring fear of catostrophic failure, which at this stage could be just a small thing just outside the budget, or further on something that breaks that is just impossible to get. Very soon we will be heading far into northern Canada.. where the towns get small and far apart, and that is going to be the norm from there on in.

Tonight just before we set up camp there is a new sound, what is it, im not sure, is it a big deal im not sure.. we'll see tomor. 

So were in Canada, staying with a family(originally from South Africa), the very first people we met in Canada and we end up camping in their garden and just had a big dinner with them. 

Last night we looked for a microbrewery in Portland but it was too late so all we could find was a pub which had some local brews.. A summer porter, light body, full on flavour, delicious... and a guy sitting at the bar worked in a brewery and cycled home and came back in 10 mins and had three bottleof beer for us. How nice. This morning we got up and after breakfast we moved our stuff outside Scott's house as he was heading off to costa rica. He said goodbye and drove off. A few minutes later I realised my motorbike was inside the house. We didnt have his mobile number. So I had to speed to the airport and luckily I caught him before he checked in. He told me where the spare key was and gave me the alarm code.

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We took a slight detour from the interstate and looked at Mount St. Helens. SEEN IT(so what!)..Ok, back on the Interstate.

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Seattle was sunny which surprised me, I heard it always rained there. Traffic was quite M50-ish, but thank god for the carpool lane, wierd to think that the massive amount of cars in the gridlocked traffic ALL only had one person in them. (Trevor I waved, did you see me!!)

The border went well but the guy asked all the where do you get your money from?, when did you last work?, how much you got?, can you prove it? etc, but with almost no asshole-ness which is bog standard from US border dicks.

Canada is more expensive than the states, which was a bit of a surprise, but regardless its onward and upwards to the top of the world. 

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AUGUST 16th

We finished up work on friday, and had a Quesadilla lunch cooked up on the building site by our Guatemalan coworkers.. A tasty sendoff. That evening we went over to Derrys for dinner that went on to the Pub and back to Derrys for more delicious wine and the next morning we were too hungover to go anywhere so we put off going till the sunday.

Its sunday night now and today we drove eleven hundred kilometers to Portland, Oregon. We are staying with Scott, a friend Peadar met in Costa Rica. Tomor we head to mount St Helens and then on to a new country Canada, to Vancouver. 

I am going to keep updating this blog (almost daily..ish) as we head north.

Check our location on the map to the left ..

Over the coming week or so to see the end of our epic journey.

 

From Des on Aug 17th, 2009

Best of luck guy's. it feels like the final episodes in a TV series, will the bikes make it??? What facial hair will Ste end up with???Will Peader get maced again?? who knows?

From Trevor Heath on Aug 17th, 2009

Good luck on your travels to the north. Wave as you ride past Seattle :) I'm planning a trip to Panama for November. Most likely will buy a KLR 650 for the trip. Regards Trevor

From Trevor Heath on Aug 17th, 2009

You might like to read this article about Mount St Helens

From Trevor Heath on Aug 17th, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/science/18helens.html?hp

From Linden on Aug 18th, 2009

Keeping fingers crossed that bike will last just long enough to get to Purdoe Bay. Ride safe and watch out for moose and bears

From Mark P on Aug 18th, 2009

Best of luck lads. Naturally I'm jealous of this part of your journey, although the whole experience was enviable. When you get to Vancouver there is a hostel there called 'The Cambie' that I stayed in. I don't recommend it, one of the worst I've ever been in, and I've been in some sh*DFDJ holes. Knowing both you lads you've probably hooked up with some poor smucks who are willing to give you lodgings and some tasty meals, so hosteling is probably furthest from your cunning minds. The Canadians are great people, Peadar be nice. Ste, even better tash than last time. Inglorious B*$^$*%)$. Check it out. Be safe. Mark.

From Aine on Aug 18th, 2009

Fair Play - nearly there - 1100 k's-impressive. Keep updating - Gud Luck on the last leg xxx

From Des on Aug 18th, 2009

Ah the wonders of smells and noises on a bike, I kept hearing this ping noise on my bike as if I had ridden over a metal number plate after hearing it about 5 times I decided to investigate and found my tool kit had a hole in it

From Des on Aug 18th, 2009

Just looking at the map are you going through Edmonton?? if your going that way say hi to the guys in Dawsons Creek for me

From Trevor Heath on Aug 20th, 2009

Stephan, Which tires have you been most satisfied with on your journey? Trevor

From Pete on Aug 22nd, 2009

Good luck on the last leg.... should I expect to see you on the Discovery Channel in Deadliest Catch soon??

From Jennifer on Aug 23rd, 2009

Hi Guys! It looks and sounds incredible so far..great photo of the Bison..I hope everything goes your way for the last leg of your trip..take care.

From Orla on Aug 24th, 2009

If you see any arctic monkeys up there, tell the new album is great.

From Paysandu Paul on Aug 25th, 2009

Fair play to ye lads! Nearly there! That was some trip! What's next?????

From Des on Aug 26th, 2009

So whats going on? have u made it yet , come on seriously its been 4 days since the last update :)

From Linden - Dublin on Aug 27th, 2009

Brilliant, well done - classic trip, classic photos.

From Trevor Heath on Aug 27th, 2009

Congrats on completing the journey, clearly a much greater achievement because of how you went about it.! When you get a chance the BBC were at the Copper Canyon recently. Images here http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/world/americas/8206058.stm Regards TH

From joe the celt on Aug 27th, 2009

Congrats lads... weldone to both of you, a fantastic achievement

From Mam and Dad on Aug 27th, 2009

WELL DONE Ste AND Peadar We knew you would make it, we know you and know how stubborn you are when you make up your mind to do something, its all or nothing. Well done again Mam and Dad

From Aine on Aug 27th, 2009

Whats all the hype about?? 35,000 miles......sure thats nothin!!Ah no,a big congratulations 2 u both-well done--will ya be home between this trip and the moon?

From Paul Cathcart on Aug 27th, 2009

Well done guys. i have been following your your blog with great interest and envy all the way. Great photos and writing Safe riding back. Paul & Family

From Josef & Amanda on Aug 27th, 2009

Congrats guys! From the 'South African' Canadians.

From Damian Duffy on Aug 28th, 2009

Wow, well done lads... hell of an achievement ... will you be home for a few pints before the next trip?

From Des on Aug 28th, 2009

Im going to buy you some heated grips for Christmas even if you don't own a bike ;) well done lads. its a great achievement.

From macswayround.com on Aug 29th, 2009

Hi there, Congratulations!! You made it! It was great to meet you guys at the Arctic circle! We have enjoyed finding out about some more parts of your journey and will continue to look back through your blogs. Hope we get to meet again one day - there is always whisky and a movie happening in this camper!! We are sure to be in Ireland some day soon!Cheers for now, Phil & Sharon!

From macswayround.com on Aug 29th, 2009

p.s - Thanks for the mention in your blog - we shall be updating our site shortly too!! Phil

From joe the celt on Aug 29th, 2009

Thanks for the finally update... but i am in SHOCK !!! Please say its not so... your going to sell your moto ???

From Ste on Aug 29th, 2009

Joe, It aint an easy decision, Im torn about it and looking at all options.. but I cannot afford to ship it home and cannot afford to do much really. So Its time to bite the reality bullet and focus on the bank balance, your can only ignore the elephant in the room for so long ; )

From joe the celt on Aug 29th, 2009

Stephen and Peadar, look lads you have done an amazing and inspiratonal adventure, infact you both are legends... please look into the cost of shipping the moto's back to Ireland... lads i know it's hard but believe me "those moto's" are now part of Irish history. I will bang up ?100 to help you ship the moto's back, email me a contact number and i'll drop the cash down. much respect joe

From Steve Charlton on Aug 29th, 2009

Great trip thanks for letting me follow. Steven, If you do another trip keep me posted. Thanks, Steve Stevecharlton@msn.com

From Arturo on Aug 30th, 2009

Well well well, Against all the odds through the pain and punctures.... Oh i think i'll leave the descriptives to you steve. Congrats lads, i know how much you must have enjoyed it. I'd love to join joe in contributing for the bikes fare but i'm saving for my next trip!! Again well done and Peadair you still owe me fifty pesos argentinos:-)

From Ste on Aug 31st, 2009

In true Columbo style: "Oh just one more thing..." I forgot to thank all the folk that made this trip possible and as enjoyable as it has been, from everyone who wished us well on the road or through the blog,to those who had us into their homes and especially to Orla, Joe, Linden and Derry and everyone else.. you know who you are and what you did to help and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Adios for the hundreth time ; )

From macswayround.com on Sep 1st, 2009

Hi guys - September already! We just wanted to say that we would have liked to be able to help you out with getting your bike back at the same time as our camper - but it is just too full of our own stuff! Instead we will donate £50 to the cause and maybe some of your followers will do the same -so hang in there and wait and see what happens! Cheers, Phil & Sharon

From Mark P on Sep 3rd, 2009

The end. Don't make me laugh. There is no end, only the beginning of something different - Jacinta told me that once. Anyway, yeah the fun's over boys, trip done, picture's taken, memories, eh remembered; now get back to Ireland and start your intensive bout of depression. Come on you'll love it!!!

From flood on Sep 5th, 2009

what an amazing trip. Fair play to the both of you, it has been EPIC.

From Damian Duffy on Sep 9th, 2009

Count me in for a donation on the shipping

From Stephen on Sep 9th, 2009

Cheers veryMucho for the offers of help with shipping but time to tell ya'll, the bikes were sold in Alaska(Its well and truely over now). We were both broke and needed cash. We used some of the money to fly back to SanFran and now we are starting our new adventure.(it sucks.) Looking for a job! ...THANKS AGAIN, stebray@gmail.com

From joe the celt on Sep 10th, 2009

"but time to tell ya'll, the bikes were sold in Alaska(Its well and truely over now). " Hope you sold them to some worthwhile hobo's... a bit like yourself's ;-) good luck joe

From Trevor Heath on Sep 14th, 2009

Sadly Joe, because of US licensing and import laws the bikes are likely to be broken up for spares or used off road as farm hacks.

From Stephen on Sep 14th, 2009

Farm hacks!...broken up!..Jeez!! trevor, stick the knife in and turn it!! If it is so then a well deserved retirement for the bikes... has this turned into some sort of message forum.. ; )

From Stephen on Oct 16th, 2009

IM BACK IN IRELAND..well and truely over is the trip. But what a finish I just got one of my photos into the 2010 H.U. Adventure Motorbiking Calendar.... It'd make a great Christmas present!!.. BUY IT!! ... I get a cut of the profits ; ) www.horizonsunlimited.com/contest/2009-photocontest