Sketchbook Detour

***Temporary Sketchbook Detour***

I began a solo motorcycle trip from Los Angeles on Friday, June 22, 2012, heading north, as far as I'm having fun. I'll be updating my sketchbook with posts from the road, and not necessarily artwork. I'm too beat by the time I'm in camp or in a cheap motel.

I'll continue with the sketches when I get back in a few weeks.

Yeah right! It's been months! I'll get back to it as I finish up some classes and have more time again. Maybe in another month, like in February, 2013.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not-a-Sketch: LA to Arctic

From Rancheria, Yukon, I rode the wide Alcan (Alaska-Canada Highway) up to Fairbanks.  After the tight and diverse Cassier highway, up through Western British Columbia, the Alcan seemed straight and wide.  Sure, there were plenty of animals to be seen in the vegatation on the banks along the road, but it didn't have the same closed-in wilderness feel of the Cassier.  It had more of a vastness appropriate for speedy cruising with the occasional destroy your suspension/rims/confidence patches of missing road/gravel/holes(?).

An exception was a very exciting stretch for the last hundred or so miles before the Alaskan border.  It was not the ideal motorcycling environment.  It was rainy, cold, and windy.  And then with the addition of loose dirt and gravel, and spray from passing vehicles, my semi-fogged visor was coated with a thin muddy film, until the rain would wash it off, for a few seconds, until another truck would pass from the other direction, respraying mud onto my visor. Not ideal or really that fun.

With magnificent use of money, time, and determination, I rode my big dirt-bike to Alaska!  The getting there wasn't so terribly difficult.  It was more about the remaining hyper-focused in all conditions to keep myself from screwing up and harming me, my bike, or the future of my trip. 

I continued up the Alcan, through various landscapes and a lot of the same, until I got to Fairbanks.  I grabbed a place to throw up my tent in a RV Park, and realized that my rear wheel-bearing needed to be replaced.  If a bearing goes, the wheel can lock up with fatal results, so the next day was spent hanging around the Thunder Road motorcycle shop while they found and replaced the part.  After spending some ridiculous money, I grabbed a ridiculously priced motel room and planned my final push north.

Up past Fairbanks, the only road that goes up into the arctic is the Dalton, or "Haul Road," used primarily by oil workers and the odd tourist (I am.).  The road consists of mostly of a combination of fine powdery dirt, calcium chloride, and gravel.  When it's dry, clouds of visibility impairing dust hang in the air behind passing vehicles.  When it's wet, it turns into slick-as-snot (well, slicker, actually) mud.  Seeing the water-sprayer truck pass by meant that I was going to have to work to keep from sliding off the road.  

It really didn't help that I was in sore need of new tires a few hundred miles shy of Fairbanks and they couldn't find a suitable  replacement at the motorcycle shop I was at the previous day.

As I followed the Haul Road up along the oil pipe line, the landscape became an endless, rolling tundra.

At the Arctic Circle, there were some volunteers working for the BLM that were there to welcome me and the other visitors to the marker.  A lady ushered me up to the sign and took a handful of photos for me.  She gave me a certificate and recorded some statistical information about where I was coming from, where I was headed, how many days I would be in Alaska, etc.

I was thrilled to have ridden all the way up from Santa Monica, CA, up to the Arctic, but also had to consider that I still needed to get home.  I recalled something about many of the fatalities on Everest being of people that had successfully summited the mountain, but got in trouble on the way back down the mountain.

I turned around shortly after the marker and headed back to Fairbanks, where I would be traumatized by the filth of my sink-washed laundry.

Now, with semi-clean clothes, and my Arctic Circle certificate, I'd get to start the second part of my adventure, heading back towards home.