4 mei 2022

Dalton Highway - part 1

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The departure

Nervous, scared and surprisingly emotional I stare at the sign at the general store. All I must do now is cycle those first few meters, I look around one last time and smile: leaving has never been so hard. Prudhoe Bay is nothing more than sheds and industry. Throughout the year it has no actual permanent residents. ‘You can't live here, only work,' the store owner tells us. We buy far too expensive bear spray, a foghorn and camping gas. The bear spray is supposed to protect us from a bear if it will come too close. Did you know that this only works if the direction of the wind is right? Otherwise, you will blow this cloud of hot peppers in your own face. In addition, we have the foghorn. 

The far North

Closer than this I will never get to the North Pole. Nothing grows here and everything is frozen as far as the eye can see. An icy wind and eternal silence are our faithful allies on this untamable tundra.

We are surprised when the track turns out to be a perfectly paved road. The first 60 miles are in perfect condition, then it becomes a rough gravel road. We want to ride an 50 mi a day average and have planned to eat in the evening and then cycle a bit further. That way the smell of cooking isn’t near our camping spot.

Setting up the tent in solid freezing temperatures is no laughing matter. Glove liners off, perform an action, glove liners back on. This happens for a while until our little house is set. The warmth of the sleeping bag feels like heaven! A little much needed security in this still unknown world.

Hey bear, coming through

We are regularly stopped by enthusiastic truck drivers who want to take pictures of us. ‘You guys are the first cyclists this season,' says one of them. According to the other, we are total badasses for doing this in the snow. At a steep slope we are stopped. 'Goddamn, does this have to happen now?’ I yell at my dad. The man lowers the window of his car and tells us that there is a grizzly bear 2 miles down the road. Thanks for stopping, I immediately think while my heart is racing. Exactly where the man described we see a grizzly bear in the distance. What a huge beast and how wonderful to see it in its natural habitat.

It is exhausting and quite different from cycling in, for example, the Ardennes. Out there you try to be as quiet as possible in the hope of seeing some wildlife, here you have to do the opposite and make noise. ‘Hey bear, coming through,' we shout in turns when we enter a bend. Funny that we are speaking English to the bears! You search the area for a large brown moving spot. Believe me, after a while you see bears in everything!

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