Saturday in Deadhorse:
We had reservations on a tour through the camp so were up fairly early in order to take advantage of the showers at the Arctic Caribou Inn (our hotel/RV camp) before catching our bus. Security is pretty strict there. In order to get to the Arctic Ocean you have to go through the oil production areas, and that is by tour bus only. In order to board the tour bus you have to sign in, present ID, watch the informational safety video and sit through a little lecture. Heads are counted any time the group moves anywhere.
The driver was friendly and the day was gorgeous. The camp was not exciting to me, just a bunch of apparently random metal structures whose various purposes I’ve long since forgotten, but when we got to the Arctic Ocean, our driver let us get out and run down to dip our toes.
The family from Kentucky that we met in Coldfoot stripped to bathing suits and dunked all the way in! They had totaled their car just outside of Deadhorse and a BP safety officer had had to rescue them the night before, but they were all in good spirits obviously! Although the ambient temperature was in the high 60’s, the wind off the sea was chilly, so most of us opted for dipping rather than plunging. (You can get a certificate for a Polar Bear Plunge or a Dip!)
After our tour and our dip (another head count as we reboarded the bus), we returned to camp to pack up and start back down the road. We hated to leave after such a short stay, but hey, it took us over two days to get here, so …
A brief stop at the Deadhorse general store (and souvenir shop!) and we were headed south…the only direction available! The weather continued to hold until we approached the Brooks Range. Fantastic clouds built up on the horizon and a drizzle made the approach to Atigun Pass muddy and slick.
Winnie picked up a new rattle which we discovered was a dangling muffler. At the top of the pass we decided we shouldn’t let it bounce all the way back to Anchorage, so I crawled under and wired it up with a piece of wire coat hanger, earning the fix-it queen title for the trip! What made it exciting was not being able to turn Winnie off while I worked next to that hot muffler! One of the ladies held it up in place with a big serving spoon while I fastened the wire. Hey, whatever works…
(Our practice throughout the trip was to only shut Winnie off at night…she had to keep running even during our lunch stops for fear of not being able to get her going again!)
The downhill run out of Atigun Pass was slick and spooky in the rain. Winnie’s hips sashayed a bit, but she held the road. The pop-up trailer was a little more sketchy, threatening at every turn to pull S.’s van off the road. She was geared as low as she could go and crept down with as little braking as she could get away with and made it just fine. At the bottom of the steepest part of the grade the road began drying out and we were in sunshine and blue skies again within a few miles. (I can’t imagine driving that pass in an 18-wheeler…let alone on ice!!)
We made it to Marian Creek Campground north of Coldfoot without further incident, pulling in at about midnight. There we were finally able to celebrate in style. Wine, champagne (for a Fourth of July toast) and beer flowed, along with a concoction known only as “coffee creamer.” We got so silly that the only other group camped there came and politely asked us to party elsewhere! Oops… We apologized and packed it in for the night. In our defense, it was still broad daylight and we hadn’t really processed how late it was…not a good excuse I know.
Sunday we stopped at the Hot Spot Café between Coldfoot and the Yukon River camp. There we ran into our neighbor and his girlfriend! Alaska is the definition of “small world.” After great hamburgers eaten outdoors in the sun, we continued on to Fairbanks, arriving at a decent hour for a change! This time there were no adventures involved in finding the RV park. We were a bit subdued after a rowdy night and a long trip.
Monday morning was quiet. Part of the group took off to visit Santa Land in North Pole while the rest of us bathed, chipped at the worst of the mud and dust in and on our rigs, and relaxed in the sun. Our tourists returned and we pulled out of Fairbanks mid-day and made it back to Anchorage by about 10pm.
As Winnie pulled into our cul-de-sac she started making a horrible clunking sound in the rear. We stopped at the curb, jumping out in alarm…and then laughed. After nearly 1600 miles, in the road construction in our own neighborhood she had picked up a huge rock between her dualies! No matter…we were home.
Epilogue: Like us, Winnie had a good time, but she was tired and dirty. She refused to start a couple of days later when we got in her to go the carwash! A neighbor helped us get her going and $30 worth of quarters later we had the last of the mud blasted off and drove her out to Palmer to get that new starter installed and the muffler more professionally fixed.
For our first road trip, she did AWESOME!
My dad repeatedly shakes his head in wonder at the trips we’ve made with this little rig that he had given up on!