|the rewards of pedaling all the way on the Dalton Highway|
If anyone is still following the Tippy Top Tour you may have noticed the Tippy Top Tour Tracker hasn't been moving since my arrival in Fairbanks, AK.
|Tippy Top Tour Route|
So what the hell is going on? Well I had to return to work to put in my 2 week notice/ transition back to seasonal employee. Unfortunately for me the company I work for has grown so fast they are unable to allow me to take as much time off as I used to. It has been a good run the last 9 years and I feel like they have been more than generous and completely understand that things change ( I mean 120 days off unpaid... who does that). However, I am unable to quit pursuing my adventures. Hopefully the transition to a seasonal employee goes smoothly and will work better for my employer and me going forward.
I flew out of Fairbanks last Tuesday I think to Anchorage (which is my hometown, where I was born and raised) and visited with my family for a week. Had some good seafood dinners there. Then flew on from Anchorage this past Sunday to Reno. I am in Reno for the next 2 weeks and will be returning to continue on with the Tippy Top Tour tentatively on the 19th of this month. My biggest time factor is getting over the Going to the Sun road before they close it in late September. I don't want my return leg to be a race all the way back. I would like to take time to fish/ photo/ collect data.
Some good things about the intermission is that I hope to get some more technology for the return trip so that I may stay better connected during the trip. I am purchasing an iPhone so that I may do: Instagram, post here, use the app from iNaturalist.org and in general stay in better touch on the way south so that it is a little more interactive than the north bound leg of my trip. What I run into with the cell phone is that basically about halfway through BC, Canada I lose all cell service. This is where the wildlife observations become more frequent and the riding more scenic so I dislike losing contact with the blog. My resolution to this is that many campgrounds/ RV parks/ towns have Wi-Fi so it is easy for me to use the iPhone to stay in touch when out of cell range.
|can't wait to get my hands on the new iPhone|
I am also purchasing a new DSLR for the return leg. I am hoping to bump the quality up on my photos with my point and shoot camera and also improve the quality of the video I am currently shooting. I hope to shoot more time lapse photography and maybe get better wildlife shots. There is a little bit of a weight penalty and the expense, but I am finding the images/ video makes my trip "pop" more so it is well worth the investment. One nice bonus of the DSLR/ iPhone combo is that I may use the phone as my point and shoot and DSLR for better quality shots.
These 2 weeks back home in the BLC (Reno, NV) are going to be hectic. Keep and eye out here for a post with my wildlife sightings (google earth map), guest post for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and maybe a few photos. Unfortunately I will not have time to get any of my journals up for the trip so far ( which will be on the blog, but dated for the date the post is actually from) with photos. I will give a shout up in the fall weekly when I start trickling those onto the blog.
|view of the Brooks Range overlooking a slough of the Canning River from our field camp|
My environmental internship in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) was absolutely incredible. Check out one of my co-workers photos here for now. It was an honor to be in such a remote location and definitely gave me lots of ideas about future trips/ adventures in the refuge. I managed to find a total of 55 nests which I am proud of. I was glad I was able to be a productive team member and able to contribute valuable data to the study. The biggest surprise for me is that looking at birds through binoculars or the naked eye is one thing. It is a completely different experience handling the birds. This was done so that we may band the bird and collect samples (blood, feathers and fecal). It is the most rewarding work I have done in my entire adult life. It was a little overwhelming at first to try to wrap my head around all of the details of the study and how to collect the necessary data while in the field. However, after a week or so it became second nature. I liked that we were able to cover about 10 miles a day on average while collecting data. So many incredible things happened while out there, here is a brief list:
Walked on the Arctic Ocean (frozen) and observed the Ringed Seal
Observed Fata Morgana (making an other worldly place that much more other worldly)
Observed Arctic Fox, Wolf, Grizzly Bear
Had 40,000 caribou come through our camp
Observed a Polar Bear at close range feeding on ground squirrels
Flew over the Brooks Range twice
Added 35 rare birds (may only be seen in the Arctic) to my life list
|a full clutch of Buff Breasted Sandpiper eggs that I found|
|the crew (from l to r Scott Freeman, Brendan Higgins, Ian Davies and Heidi Helling) on the Arctic Ocean|
After coming out of the field from ANWR I did a quick turn around in Fairbanks, AK (which I don't like at all as it is flat and I was raised at the foothills of the Chugach so flat does nothing for me, let alone the heat/ mugginess). The Dalton Highway leg of the Tippy Top Tour was PUNK ROCK to say the least. I definitely had to want it as the trip was intense. Let alone the feeling I was digging myself in deeper (literally and physically as my tires sank into the deep mud) and pedaling north to the Arctic Ocean only to have to turn around and have to pedal the same route back. The worst thing was dealing with the road crews who insisted I put the Champ in the back of their pilot vehicle and skip many miles of the route ( lost track but may have been anywhere between 60-70 miles of the route when totaling all the different construction sites along the route). If any of you know my approach well I do what I do by human power. It was an insult to me and the Champ to be told the highway was closed to cyclists otherwise ( since I was unwilling to ride in a vehicle) and that I may not proceed to Deadhorse, AK. Let alone the reasons for this practice are nonsense and when I wouldn't oblige the road crews resorted to behaving like infants. They would attempt to drive me off the road, strike me with their vehicles, turn the water on the water trucks on me ( like being hit by a firehose while riding) or resort to name calling. I was really let down by all of this behavior as cyclists from all over the world come to ride the Dalton Highway. This is no way to treat tourists to the state and it is illegal. More on that later. My determination won out in the end though and ends up the law was on my side. It was hilarious on the return trip to see the look on the flaggers face when they realized I would be riding both ways (let alone go all the way... inside joke). They basically had the look of, "oh no, not this jerk again...". At which point I would begin video taping the interaction and timing the delay which resulted in a timely delay and me proceeding unhindered minus some childish name calling because I prevailed and they were pouting. As the singer songwriter Laura Casey sang on the front porch of the Coldfoot Saloon to the very truckers and construction crew that harassed me, " I know a guy who pedaled the entire f'in thing!" Again feelings were hurt and one trucker took a deep inhale of his cigarette, readjusting his paunch and exhaling his opinion, " I wouldn't ride a bicycle on this highway." I have nothing but respect for the truckers of this highway and truckers in general as there is no flat on the Dalton. You are either going up or down, no in between. This requires a trucker to be shifting constantly and there are hills on this highway that if they don't get a run at it they won't make it up (imagine pedaling them then on a loaded touring bike). Side note: almost all Dalton Highway truckers drive Kenworth. Must be a bomber truck if that is the tractor of choice for this highway. Also, truckers are typically the the most responsible motorists with regards to bicycles. When I look in my little rear view mirror to see who is approaching me from behind ( which I am totally aware and watch like a hawk so please don't honk at me from behind) and I see it is a truck (not an RV or car) I relax as those guys and gals know what is up with regards to how to pass a cyclist safely. I guess I am getting older as before I would have escalated the interaction, but instead I just smiled at him knowing this time traveler had prevailed because of the determination it takes to ride the Dalton Highway. The rewards were mine in the end. Incredible sunsets (if you can call them that as the sun only goes behind the Brooks Range it doesn't set), Musk Ox, being chased by a grizzly bear ( the Champ got me away though... good job champ), crossing the Continental Divide at Atigun Pass, bombing down steep mountain passes and swimming in the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay were some of the rewards for pedaling this lonely route.
|the Champ on the north side of Atigun Pass...it was greasy on the descent and I can't imagine riding this road without disc brakes|
I can only imagine what adventures will be had on this last leg of the Tippy Top Tour. There is plenty of remote dirt roads to be pedaled (easily more remote than the Dalton Highway). Let alone the scenery is going to be incredible. I am really looking forward to it and staying in touch better so that you may experience the route in real time a little better.
So the Tippy Top Tour Tracker will be idle and I will give a shout when I am back up and on the move. Thanks for your patience and support while I fulfill my commitments to my employer.