Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 17 - Top of the World - Part 3

This post is a continuation of my Alaska trip in 2012 for anyone reading my blog for the first time.

After making a right from the Top of the World Highway and start heading north on the Alaska Highway for about 12 miles you reach an important junction in Alaska. The town of TOK is located at the junction of the Alaska Highway with the Glenn Highway.  It seems all roads to Alaska go through Tok.  From Tok you can continue north to Fairbanks or head south on the Glenn Highway to either Valdez or Anchorage.
Saw this guy pedaling north.

I didn't waste too much time in Tok, stopped for gas and a snack and continued north.  I wanted to reach Fairbanks before it got too dark and my plan was for on the way back from Alaska to stop in Tok and spend the night at a famous campsite.  About 110 miles later I reach another milestone, the end of the Alaska Highway at the Delta Junction.  At the junction of the Alaska Highway and the Richardson Highway is a monument with the 1422 mile mark and end of the highway.  The lady inside the office said I could bring the bike up and park it in front of the monument for the picture.  I propped my camera on a ledge and got my picture.

Nearby are two important items that I'm sure I will be seeing more as I head north.  The "Pig" as it's known, is a device that travels down the pipeline to conduct a variety of functions.
The majority of pipeline maintenance is done by pipeline pigs, mechanical devices sent through the pipeline to perform a variety of functions.  The most common pig is the scraper pig which removes wax that precipitates out of the oil and collects on the walls of the pipeline. Wiki

The other shows the three different pipes used in the pipeline over the years.  The big one is currently used from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, the other two much smaller are no longer used.  The smaller is 3" in diameter, the second is 8" and the current pipe is 48", four feet in diameter.

Nearby are two huge mosquito's, the buggers I would encounter by the thousands further up north, an omen of things to come.

Nearby is a house from the gold rush and pipeline construction era with lots of period items.  I spent some time reading and educating myself on the difficult life these earlier adventurers must have had.

I leave Delta Junction and continue north now on the Richardson Highway heading towards my next destination, North Pole where Santa lives.

I first stop at the North Pole visitor center hoping to find Santa but he was busy somewhere else, probably tending to his reindeer.  Coffee was free so I helped myself to a cup.

There is a Santa Claus Lane in town, obviously, I point my GPS to it and head there.  I had to get a picture with Santa but the best I could do was this statue of Santa near a store that would put the Christmas Store to shame.

I head to the store and after perusing through thousands of Christmas items, I end up buying two little ornaments, one for my wife and the other for my daughter.  They love decorating the Christmas tree.  Since I don't have any empty space left on my bike, I had to buy things that wouldn't break so I could shove them in a corner of a pannier.

An igloo with an extension cord coming out the window, I wondered if little elf's were inside busy making more ornaments.

I didn't find Santa but did find some of his reindeer nearby.  They looked a little tired.

This poor fella looked tired and his coat a little disheveled.  I kind of felt sorry for him, having to fly around the world with that fat bas..., Santa I mean.

After a while I had enough of North Pole and all the consumer trappings, I left town and headed to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, about 15 miles up the road.  I get to the front office, young college interns, almost all beautiful ladies, something I hadn't seen in a long time and ask for a room.  Of course they have rooms, it's summer and most students have left for the summer.  A beautiful young lady shows me the place, shows me where I can get snacks, where the laundry room is and gives me the key to my room.  I cart my stuff upstairs to the 3rd floor, grab the dirty clothes and after picking up some detergent put my clothes washing.  Next I head to the shower where I spend a considerable amount of time enjoying the fast running warm water, something I hadn't experienced in a while.
After skyping with my wife using the free wi-fi, I hit the bed and slept like a baby.

Tomorrow I leave for what will be the most difficult and dangerous part of the trip.  I will head north to the start of the Dalton Highway, make a stop in Coldfoot for fuel and then continue to Prudhoe Bay.

More to come....

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 17 - Top of the World - Part 2

This post is a continuation of my Alaska trip in 2012 for anyone reading my blog for the first time.

On my last post I said I was fast approaching the town of Chicken.  The town is a community founded on gold mining and is one of the few surviving gold rush towns in Alaska. The population was 7 at the 2010 Census but there's usually a few more during the summer months.
I hadn't seen anyone on the road for a long time and as I approached the Walker Fork River I decided to stop to rest and admire the scenery all around me.  The road was damp but smooth and allowed me to make good time without having to worry too much about the road.

As I pull into Chicken I see lots of heavy machinery that I'm sure had been used at one time or another on the gold mining operations.  Most of the heavy equipment is now rusting.  The town consists of a few houses, the famous sign at the entrance to the town proclaims "I got laid in Chicken".  I had seen so many pictures of motorcyclists in front of the sign but I was alone so I just took a picture of the sign with my bike.

I was dying to have a good cup of coffee and something to eat.  I park my bike in front of the "Cafe" and ask the lady if they have pancakes.  Of course we have she answers and they are delicious.

I decided to go for the hot chocolate instead of coffee and ordered myself a set of pancakes.  She was right, they were delicious, I took my time to savor them and warmed myself with the hot chocolate.

In front of the store I had seen a fenced in area with puppies crying inside .  After my delicious breakfast I walked over to see what all the commotion was about. I was surprised when I saw them, they were Siberian Huskies puppies with the bluest eyes I had ever seen.  There were a few puppies but two of them had unbelievable eyes, I was mesmerized.  Huskies are my wife's favorite dogs and I was sure she would love to see these puppies and would probably want to take one home. 

These pictures are not manipulated

Some of the rusted machinery and equipment.

I'm sure you would need chains when the temperature is -40 below freezing.

I visit the local mechanic which is also the guy running the place.  They have built a few cabins for the summer employees but he tells me he's the only one that stays year round in Chicken.  I asked him what if something happens and you are alone, he tells me you just have to deal with it and live through it because no one will get to you when it's 30 or 40 below.  It reminded me of the "Shining" with Jack Nicholson, stuck alone in such a desolate place.

Just up the hill is the F.E. Company Dredge No. 4, also known as the Pedro Dredge, originally owned by the Fairbanks Exploration Company.  
The dredge commenced operations in 1958 on lower Chicken Creek in September and worked for approximately five months every year thereafter until October 1967.  In 1998, the 500 ton dredge was moved overland to its current location at the Chicken Gold Camp.  More here
I walk around admiring the 500 ton machine. Each individual bucket would probably carry half a ton of material, they are gigantic.

It was time to leave Chicken and continue my trip to Fairbanks where I had been told I could get a room at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  I had clothes to wash and having a dorm room and access to washing machines would be perfect.  First I had to stop by the famous Chicken.

I leave Chicken and about 65 miles later traveling south I'm back on the Alaska Highway at the Tetlin Junction.  I make a right and head northwest towards Tok.  Soon I pass a huge river and bridge.  The mountains in the distance providing a beautiful backdrop as I head towards them.


Up ahead is Tok....to be continued