Monday, 31 July 2017

Why is the Dalton so dangerous?

Welcome to The Arctic Rider blog,

Its now less than a year until I start my quest to conquer The Dalton Highway in Alaska, one of the worlds' most dangerous roads.

The new 'Arctic Ride Alaska' poster
I've still got a lot of planing to do and I've been working away in the background to get a lot of things firmed up, but I probably won't know the key parts of the trip, such as the exact dates I'll be going and the bike I'll be riding, until the Autumn. Anything I know before then I'll be staring with all you loyal readers of my blog.

In this blog, I'll be covering why The Dalton Highway is so dangerous, and why I'm hoping you will share some of your very hard earned Pounds (and other currencies for non-UK readers) in exchange for the danger and suffering I'll be putting myself in next year.

Firstly though, I must say a huge thanks to an unnamed Devitt Insurance employee who very kindly donated their employee-of-the month prize to The Arctic Ride fund for Tiny Lives and Cerebra. Great stuff!


If you would like to donate please click here. Any donation, no matter how small (or big for that matter) is appreciated.

So, the reason you are reading... whats so dangerous about this Dalton Highway then? Hopefully from my previous blogs you will have had some info as to why this ride and the road in particular are going to be so challenging.

Well firstly this isn't just a normal road built to get from A to B. It was started in the mid-1970s to support the recently built Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The road was private for 3 decades, used by oil company trucks and personnel, until 1994 when it was graveled and opened to the public. Since then a long term project has been underway to 'pave' the road which is only half completed. The 'paving' is a significantly lower standard than most modern roads and is still a significant challenge.

Weather

Due to Alaska and The Dalton being in the extreme North and within the Arctic Circle, the weather is cold and volatile. The climate range from subarctic to polar. During the summer months (Jun-Aug), the temperatures range from 21°C to 2°C, showing that most weather conditions aren't off limits.

Wiki Travel quote: "Weather is an important factor to add into Dalton Highway Trip calculations. Remember, this is the Arctic! During the summer it is very possible to encounter heavy snow while driving through the Brooks Range via Atigun Pass. Drive with extreme caution on the windy mountain roads. The gravel can be very slippery, especially in rain or snow."

In Deadhorse, at the summit of The Dalton, the Mean Minimum temperature in June (when I'll be travelling) is -3.4°C with the record low being -8°C. I best pack my thermals!

North of the Arctic Circle (Mile 115), there are 24 hours of daylight in the summer a. In Deadhorse the longest "day" is 63 days, 23 hours, 40 minutes (12:09AM on 20 May to 11:18PM 22 Jul);

Snow on the Dalton Highway, Alaska
Wildlife

The wildlife in Alaska is diverse and captivating. Bald Eagles, Moose, Walrus... oh and Bears! There are more than 50,000 black bears and 35,000 brown bears living in Alaska’s untamed wilderness  The Dalton Highway passes through territory of the Grizzly bear (largest species of brown bear). Grizzly bear attacks are almost always defensive, whereas black bear attacks are predatory. I've been advised by several locals to travel with a gun for protection... WOW!

Polar bears also live in Alaska and can roam the North Slope near coastal areas, although they generally stay close to the ocean. Polar bears are massive, stealthy (and in darkness, not very discernible from the snow), and dangerous, although far more shy than grizzly bears.

The Grizzly Bear
Wiki Travel quote: "You cannot learn enough about bear safety in this region."

Road

Phil Freeman, Veteran of 10+ rides up the Dalton Highway "Every year motorcyclists are killed on the Dalton Highway. Almost half of the highway is paved or chip sealed. The other half can be smooth or baseballs. There are relatively no places to stop along the way: no gas, no convenient stores, no McDonalds. There are stretches of up to 245 miles without gas. You are literally riding through pristine wilderness.  Welcome to the food chain."  

A wide variety of different road surfaces will be encountered on the Dalton. The beginning 100 miles are said to be the worst (pothole wise), but that may just be the time it takes to get acclimated to road conditions. This surface is gravel/dirt and is littered with a landscape of craters and potholes that will often slow your pace down to the 10mph mark, or destroy your suspension.

There are 2 mountain passes, including The Brooks Range which is frequented by blizzards, windy, and prone to snow even in July!
Atigun Pass, The Brooks Range, Alaska



I think this says it all really about how dangerous this road will be. The road is primitive, wild, and potentially very cold... Its not like anything else most people will have ridden on. I've spoken to some who've done this ride and its been good, I've read stories of others who not made it home. Based on those odds I know I'll have to be on top of my riding game to take on this challenge.

Thanks for reading, and make sure if you haven't already please follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see my preparation for my latest adventure.

Gordon

Monday, 19 June 2017

Detail of the Dalton Highway

Hi there,

Thanks for checking in to my latest Arctic Ride Alaska blog update.

I'm still very much in the research and planning stage of my ride but the current plan is to complete the ride in Summer 2018. I still haven't confirmed what bike I'll use or the exact dates but I'm working very hard to get the bike and dates nailed down.

I'm also working hard to secure some more corporate sponsors of the ride to raise as much money as possible for Tiny Lives and Cerebra. If you are interested in discussing cooperate sponsorship, please get in touch via this blog or my social media.

While the 2,000 mile Arctic Ride Alaska isn't as long as my 6,000 mile trip to Arctic Norway in 2014, its certainly more dangerous for several factors, including; the even more unpredictable weather, the wildlife, and the road itself... The Dalton Highway has the distinction of (among other things) having the longest stretch of serviceless road in North America ....more to come on those topics in another blog.

Glenn Highway, Alaska (copyright www.travelalaska.com)

Detail of the Dalton

To get to Alaska I'll make the 20 hour flight from the UK to Anchorage where I will pick up my motorcycle.

The plan is to pick up any supplies I haven't been able to bring from the UK (food, some camping equipment, medical supplies, road flares, bear spray) and then head North ~400miles through the Denali National Park on to the former Gold-Rush town of Fairbanks.

Fairbanks is the last point of civilisation as I know it before I head up the Dalton. Here I'll do a final supply check before heading into the 5 day, 828 mile round trip into wilderness of the Dalton and the biggest challenge of my life.

After doing a lot of research and talking to several veterans of the Dalton, I can't stress enough how much of a challenge this ride is going to be. To quote WikiTravel:

"Small cars and motorcycles are highly discouraged. The road is extremely primitive in places, and small car and motorcycle wrecks are extremely common. Most motorcycle wrecks result in injuries, and the nearest EMS and medical services are in Coldfoot and Deadhorse. There is no cell phone coverage on the road, and some satellite phones do not work within the Brooks range. Motorcycles are EXTREMELY discouraged from making the journey." 

...... SH*T

Welcome to Fairbanks

From Fairbanks, I will continue North along the Elliot Highway before starting the  Dalton Highway. After 115 miles North I'll cross the Arctic Circle. From then road continues North over the Sukapak Mountain and the Atigun Pass and I continue to Galbraith Lake camp at mile 275. Its then another 139 miles to Deadhorse, the end of the Dalton Highway and the top of Alaska.

Galbraith Lake Camp 'intersection', Arctic Alaska
I will then return taking the same, and only route, back to Fairbanks and on to Anchorage.

While some of the pictures look stunning, I'm only starting to comprehend the danger of taking on this road and how careful I'm going to have to be to ensure I complete this challenge and come home in one piece.

Some other advice I have been given for the road:

  • Travelers are advised to have basic survival supplies, repair equipment, and equipment for camping.
  • There are only 3 petrol stations... Mile 56 at the Yukon River crossing, Mile 175 at Coldfoot and Mile 414 at Deadhorse. The stretch between Coldfoot and Deadhorse (240 miles) is the longest such stretch in the United States WITHOUT FOOD OR GAS STOPS.

Thats all for this weeks blog. Keep up to date with my progress on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

If you would like to donate to two worthy causes please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/thearcticrider

Until next time, ride safe.

Gordon

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The bike and speaking to the Alaskan locals...

Hello!

Welcome the latest Arctic Rider blog.

Plans for my Arctic Ride Alaska in 2018 are steaming ahead. I've been doing a lot of work to try and make this ride as big of a success as my Arctic Ride to Norway in 2014 and my Iron Butt challenge last year. However the main contributor isn't the work I put in but the people who are supporting me through re-tweets, like, and views on YouTube, and ultimately donations to the charities. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far!

The past few weeks have been busy and I've had some similar questions coming from colleagues, friends, and family about my trip and progress, so I thought I'd address this update with the questions I've been asked.

What bike are you using?

Kawasaki KLX650
I'd love to have done this ride on my trusty Suzuki which took me to Arctic Norway and back, and on my Iron Butt ride but it simply isn't workable for 2 reasons. Firstly the cost of shipping my bike to and from Alaska is more than I paid for it and more than I'm hoping to raise in funds, which defeats the point. Secondly, its really not the right bike to take on the Dalton Highway with. While there are some mad folk who have done the ride on sports bikes, the risk of the weather and the roads being bad is too high for me to attempt on a sports bike. I'll be using a more suitable bike.


BMW GS650

That has left me with the option of getting a bike in Alaska and I''m exploring a few avenues. I've been in touch with 2 bike hire companies in Alaska, MotoQuest and Rent Alaska. I'm currently talking to both companies about what bike would be best and how we can partner together for my trip.

In addition, I've also been speaking to Suzuki, who I partnered with on my last 2 rides, about how they can support me with using one of their V-Strom bikes in Alaska.. more on that when it comes through.



Suzuki VStrom650
So at the moment depending on which route works out best for the project will decide which bike I use. Whichever bike I take it will be a mid-range dual-purpose bike either the Kawasaki KLX650, BMW GS650, or the Suzuki VStrom 650. I'm looking forward to riding a different bike either way.








When are you going?

At the moment all I have committed to is doing the ride in 2018. Due to the extreme weather in Alaska, I have a window of June - early September but I have a few other constraints too. Firstly, depending which bike I go with and its availability will restrict when I can do the ride. Secondly, to keep the costs low I'm trying to book the most economical flights to Alaska (its not cheap!) and the timing of these will also play a part. Thirdly, and most importantly, a new member of the Arctic Ride family is due to arrive this summer. My very supportive wife will be finishing her maternity leave ealry summer 2018 meaning as a family we will need to carefully plan how Kirsty is going to cope at home with a toddler and a new born while going back to a full time job as a lawyer. Like I said, she really is supportive,
MotoScotland.com

What support have you have so far?

As I said in my last blog, I've had amazing support from Clive and the team at MotoScotland.com who are giving me some off-road training in January 2018. In addition to MotoScotland, I've been speaking with some Alaskan locals who have been giving me some really good tips about riding in Arctic Alaska.


Phil Freeman, from MotoQuest, gave me some great tips over the phone. Due to road construction on the Dalton, the best time to ride in early June to avoid being held up by this. Also there tends to be less rain/snow at this time. He also told me some great local tips on where to camp and how to keep the bears away (you read that right, actual bears!!) and that having a fast wipe for my visor is key due to the passing trucks covering my visor is calcium carbonate from the road surface!



I also linked up with Ethan from Anchorage who, as a local, thinks I'm hardcore for taking on the Dalton (and nice justification for my nervousness taking on this ride). I'll definitely be taking him up on this offer of a beer!

That is it for this update. Thanks for reading and supporting.

My donation page is now open. So if you think I'm mad for taking on one of the worlds most dangerous roads in support of Tiny Lives and Cerebra, please chuck a few coins in the (virtual) bucket. Any amount is appreciated. Click here or on the logo below.



Peace out and ride safe.

Gordon

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Off-road training and the Easter Egg Run

Hello!

Its been a few weeks since I announced that I will be heading to Alaska in 2018 to take on the notorious Dalton Highway to raise funds for Cerebra and Tiny Lives.

I've been working flat out on lots of different items including; a sponsorship prospectus, project plan, contacting airlines to try and get sponsorship for my travel across the Atlantic, as well as designing a new logo for the ride (see below).
The new Arctic Ride Alaska logo

Arctic Ride Alaska is going to be by far my most difficult charity challenge yet for a few reasons.

  1. First of all I'm going to be on the other side of the planet, very far away from my support network and a full 9 hours behind UK time. This means I'll only have a short window to report back to my sponsors, media, and most importantly my wife and children. 
  2. Secondly I'm not going to be riding my own bike. The cost of transporting my bike to Alaska and back was going to be more than I paid for the thing, and a sports tourer isn't exactly what you want for the Alaskan terrain.
  3. Thirdly, over 1,000 miles of the 2,000 mile trip is off road. To put than in context, thats more off-road than the entire length of the UK, or riding London to Rome!! ...Did I mention I haven't done any off-road riding since I was 11 and suffered broken bones from a crash!


Due to the fact I have practically zero off-roading ability and I won't be riding my own bike, I've enlisted the help of the UK top off-road training school MotoScotland to get me into shape from my Alaskan Adventure.


Clive and the team at MotoScotland have already given me some great advice about riding the Dalton including what kind of bikes I should be looking at (more on than for another blog). Very generously, MotoScotland have also booked me onto one of their off-road weekend courses to give me a taste of what life on the road will be like in Alaska. I'm very pleased to announce that MotoScotland are officially the first partner of  Arctic Ride Alaska.

MotoScotland offers off road training & experience days on the UK's largest off road centre (50,000 acres of stunning Scottish Highland landscapes). Everything you need to off road is included in the price. MotoScotland is the first UK off road training centre to have its off road training courses endorsed by government, motorbike insurers and council road safety departments. Courses start from £249 and you can find out more at http://www.motoscotland.com/

Durham Easter Egg Run
This weekend I was able to get out on my bike with 1,200 other bikers supporting the annual Durham Easter Egg run. Assisting hospitals in Durham and Darlington in the North East of England, the Easter Egg run sees all attendees donate Easter Eggs to be given to sick children at each hospital, with a ride out between.



It was a spectacular event to be a part of with hundreds of supporters lining the streets of Durham and Darlington to cheer us on. It was also a great way to see the biking community coming together to show we're a bunch of scary, bread growing, leather wearing nutters (we are that as well).

Thanks for reading, Thats it for this blog but now that I am getting into the flow of planning the trip there will be lots more to come including; bike selection for the trip, the route, fundraising ideas, and corporate sponsorship and support updates.

As always, ride safe!

Gordon

Saturday, 1 April 2017

2018 Charity Motorbike Challenge Announcement

Hi Everyone!

Thanks for tuning in.

For those who didn't see my announcements on social media last week, I've finally made public my plans for my next charity motorbike challenge.... I'm going to ALASKA in 2018 to take on the DALTON HIGHYWAY!

I created a 2 minute promo video about my challenge which you can view below or on my YouTube channel.




In summary, 'Arctic Ride Alaska' will see me fly across the Atlantic to Anchorage in Southern Alaska to then ride to Prudhoe Bay, the most northerly town in Alaska, deep inside the Arctic Circle. The route is via the deadly Dalton Highway, one of the worlds most dangerous road.

The total mileage of the ride is 2,000 miles with about half of that on the notoriously dangers Dalton Highway. I will be required to do a substantial amount of off-road riding.


What the experts say - "Every year motorcyclists are killed on the Dalton Highway. Almost half of the highway is paved or chip sealed. The other half can be smooth or baseballs. There are relatively no places to stop along the way: no gas, no convenient stores, no McDonalds. There are stretches of up to 245 miles without gas. You are literally riding through pristine wilderness.  Welcome to the food chain." - Phil Freeman (Veteran of 10+ rides up the Dalton Highway), MotoQuest - Alaskan Motorcycle Specialists.

www.motoquest.com/
I'm taking on Arctic Ride Alaska for 3 reasons:

To find out if the 'average rider' conquer the fabled Dalton Highway?

To investigate how Dangerous is the Dalton Highway traveled by motorbike?

And most importantly, to raise funds for two amazing charities who I have supported on my previous challenges:


  • Cerebra - Working wonders for children with brain injuries. Who supported my little brother Robbie during this childhood.
  • Tiny Lives Trust - Supporting premature and sick newborn babies and their families on the Special Care Baby Unit at the RVI hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. My daughter Islay was born prematurely in 2014 and spent time at the Special Care Baby Unit.
I have set up a Virgin Money Giving page for those wishing to donate.


I've got lots of plans to make this my biggest challenge yet, and I'll be revealing some of these ideas soon and posting regular updates on my blog and social media pages. If you are interesting in supporting or being involved in my Alaskan adventure, then please get in touch!

Thanks for reading, and until next time.... Ride Safe,

Gordon

Monday, 20 March 2017

Its been a while...

Welcome from The Arctic Rider!

Thank you for joining to read my latest blog.

Its been 3 months / 14 weeks / 100 days since I last took to the keyboard to write a blog post... I need to get my act together right? Thanks to everyone who has continued to visit my website in the meantime (no less than 10,000 views last month) and support my charity motorbike project.

While its been a long time since I have blogged I've still been working very hard on my next adventure which is going to be my biggest and most challenging yet! While I'm not quite able to tell you where and when I'm going, what I can tell you is that I'm currently in talks with a global motorcycle manufacturer about using one of their bikes for the next trip, and I'm also in talks with a major UK motorcycle magazine about doing a feature too.  Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement in the next few weeks on my Facebook page and on YouTube.

Iron Butt badge - Available to members only
Alongside starting to arrange my next challenge, I've been trying to improve my video editing skills so I can better share my adventures and preparations with you all. In December I shared with you my Iron Butt challenge video. After some feedback, and the pressure of time in the modern world, I've created a 2 minute version for those of you who want a quick-fix of The Arctic Rider's epic ride from Lands End to John O'Groats in just 18 hours. Check it out below.



That's all for now but stay tuned as I will be very soon introducing my next ride. As a reminder of previous trips I've been looking at check our the 'Future Adventures' page.

Thank you for reading and your continued support.

Ride safe,

Gordon

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Do you want to watch my Butt?

Greetings from The Arctic Rider,

Its now 5 months since I completed my Iron Butt challenge raising over £1,600 for The Tiny Lives Trust. Again, massive thanks to all of those who donated! My charity motorbike adventures would be nothing without you all, I'm just the middleman.

Its taken me a while but I've finally completed my video editing of the Iron Butt ride. Its now available to watch on The Arctic Rider YouTube channel and in the below link.



Its a 9 minute video so make sure you grab yourself a cuppa and biscuit to buckle down for the ride.

I'm also creating a shorter 2 minute version which will become a permanent feature on the main page of The Arctic Rider website / blog.

As its winter and I've been doing less riding I'm using my time to do more video editing, including creating a 2 minute clip of my Arctic Ride 2014. Watch out for that in 2017.

Even though I've been bad at keeping everyone up to date with my blog, my Facebook and Twitter accounts have been active with my continued work. If you want to follow me at any of social media accounts you can do so at the following links:

Facebook - www.facebook.com/thearcticrider
Twitter - www.twitter.com/arcticride2014
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa0DPj6Na3tLRPfvtTk_yVQ

Highlights since my last blog include:


Sept 16: Completing the Great North Run with Mrs Arctic Ride raising money for Tiny Lives


Oct 16: Attending The House Lords Reception representing Cerebra in  my role as Ambassador

Nov: I received my OFFICIAL IRON BUTT CERTIFICATION

That is all for this edition folks. Keep an eye out in the new year for more videos from my rides and plans for my next adventure which I will announcing in due course.

Ride safe and have a very Merry Christmas.

Peace out.

Gordon