Neither Deadhorse nor Prudhoe Bay are actual “towns” – there are no homes, restaurants, schools, or shopping centers; only oil drilling rigs, oil pumps, oil processing plants, and oil associated businesses.   The employees of the major oil companies stay at the Aurora and a couple of the other larger hotels while the smaller oil service and supply companies have their own camps to provide room and board for their crews, most of whom work 12-hour shifts, three weeks on and three weeks off.  The Deadhorse Airport is a busy place considering that no one lives there on a permanent basis!

Another of those things you will see around Deadhorse are pickup trucks connected to “bull bars”…

The bearded fellow seated to the right of my Bride is Clutch, owner of the Gold Rush and Commander of the “farthest north” American Legion Post as well as curator of the Wiseman Mining Museum.  He is also the proud owner of the only keg of beer you will find along the entire Dalton Highway…

Since 9/11, getting to the ocean on the North Slope is no longer done without the constant presence of a security officer after submitting your name for a background check 24 hours prior to your arrival.  This drive and dip tour is about the only thing of interest for a tourist in Deadhorse.  Other than that, this place is an industrial camp dedicated to oil production…

Remember, as a kid, you would crawl into an empty refrigerator box, cut out a hole for a window, and call it home?  This room is the adult version of that box…

Given community standards, this place is the Pride of the Arctic.  Less than 5 years old, it features large comfortable beds, cable TV with HBO, free laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, library, game room, three meals a day and a wide variety of snacks available round the clock.  All of these goodies are included for only $270 per night!...

While we waited for the return of the “pilot car” to guide us through the road construction, my bride snapped this picture of the biker in line ahead of us.  I bet this guy, engulfed in a swarm of biting critters, was wishing he owned a few windows about now.  He was mostly covered from head to toe in riding togs but not as thoroughly as these three…

The wildlife you may spot along the highway include the more common Arctic Ground Squirrels, caribou, and porcupines as well as the more reclusive musk oxen, wolves, fox, and bears.  Unfortunately, on this trip, we did not encounter any of the latter but saw our fair share of the other creatures who call this place home…

Keeping it cold is not a problem thanks to an easily accessible glacier in the neighborhood.  Need ice?   No problem.   Just take your axe and chop off a few chunks.  This may be the real reason for vanishing glaciers instead of that ever popular villain, man-made global warming.

Our first overnight stop was at Coldfoot Camp: a gas pump, small restaurant and a ragtag collection of mobile homes and trailers stuck together to form a “hotel”…

Our room at the Aurora Hotel in Deadhorse was a wee bit nicer than our digs at Coldfoot…

This curve was named by a trucker who was running 80 mph as he came over a rise and was confronted by this 90 degree turn at the bottom of the hill.  There are other sections of road with names such as Roller Coaster Hill and Gobblers Knob.  One was named for the steep grades and the other for the female entertainment brought in on Saturday nights for the pipeline workers.  Use your imagination here.

Prior to departing Fairbanks, we loaded up on lots of bottled water, beef jerky, sleeping bags, mosquito repellent, Fix-a-Flat, Gorilla Tape and extra fuel.  I figured that, given the number of big rigs running this road, we were gonna end up with a broken windshield but we were ready for flat tires, loose parts and getting stranded overnight.  We also have a CB radio in our Jeep that we kept tuned to Channel 19 to listen to all the trucking and construction traffic we encountered along the highway…

One of the “ice roads” featured in the TV show Ice Road Truckers is the Dalton Highway (aka: the Haul Road), built in preparation for the construction of the Alaska Pipeline, and now used extensively to haul equipment and supplies from Fairbanks to Deadhorse Camp and Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope.  Another “camp” was built at Coldfoot to house the men and women who maintain the pipeline and road.  Nowadays both camps also provide overnight housing for the increasing number of tourists who look at the 1000-mile round trip from Fairbanks to Deadhorse as a challenge of man and machine over Mother Nature and a nasty road…

The beachcombers were out in somewhat diminished numbers on the day of our visit and those few were only barely visible through the fog bank.  You just don’t realize how cold the Arctic Ocean is when huddled in nine layers of clothing on the beach.  So…

But the Dalton Highway offers more than just a view of the pipeline and the assorted heavy equipment maintaining or traversing it.  The spring and early summer offer a wide variety of wildflowers which grow in clusters and carpets along the road…

These large steel structures support the power lines to plug your vehicle into during the below zero winter weather.  The various companies located along the North Slope are concerned that these trucks are capable of starting on cold mornings, 30 and 40 degrees below zero temperatures are common in the winter, not only because they are transporting their employees to the job but also because the oil companies own most of the trucks.

Our third day found us returning to Wiseman and our very own Alaskan wilderness cabin…

Other than the self-induced windshield crack and a small dent from a large truck-thrown rock just an inch below our windshield, we had naught but dirt to show for our adventure.  And the next morning we took care of that…

The highway is truly magnificent when you consider that the entire 414 miles was built in less than 6 months in 1974 at a cost of $185 million…

Do you still want to go to Deadhorse?

We spent the next 12 hours in one of the most rugged and pristine environments we have ever travelled.  The descent from Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range marked the end of forested land and the beginning of the true tundra laden Arctic where only small shrubs and bushes can survive in the barren landscape.  This is also the area where you are most likely to see musk oxen and caribou…oh well, maybe next time. (Zook sez:  NEXT TIME???!!!  Are you crazy??!!  Take your meds you crazy old coot!!)  

And at days end…

Not too bad, huh?!  That damn little step-down between the bedroom and bathroom nearly killed me during the several night-time visits I made to the bathroom after helping Clutch finish off the remains of his Friday night barbecue keg.

The next morning (Monday) I dumped our 10 gallons of emergency gas into the Jeep, gave the empty cans to Clutch and topped off the fuel tank at Coldfoot.  It’s critical that you fuel up at each of the three gas stops along the highway because you can never be sure if the next place down the line will have fuel and you never know just how long it will take you to get from one place to the next due to road construction, avalanches, breakdowns or a host of other potential calamities.  Any of these could keep you in one place for a very long time and it’s reassuring to know that you have some extra fuel to run that heater. There are 3 fuel stops along the highway: Yukon Crossing is 140 miles from Fairbanks; Coldfoot is 140 miles from Yukon Crossing; and Deadhorse is 240 miles from Coldfoot.

While the first three days of travel were filled with clear blue skies and warm weather, by Monday the sky was overcast and rain threatened all the way to Fairbanks.  We pulled into Fox (10 miles north of Fairbanks) around 5pm and wasted little time heading directly to our number one choice of places to recover from or share tales about a long day on the road…

Whodathunk those Halliburton people would get here first.  These are the only trees you will find growing anywhere near the Arctic Ocean.  Speaking of which…

Ice Road Jeepers.  That’s us!!

Remember that broken windshield I mentioned?  My navigator and truck/bulldozer communications specialist caused the crack you see in the above picture while bashing mosquitoes on the windshield.  The woman has a really mean right hook!   (Zook sez:  In my defense, there was already a chip in the glass; I merely “extended” it!)

About the only creature you will encounter in numbers equal to the mosquitoes are the flaggers on either side of the numerous road construction areas.  It is during these stops that you want to keep your windows closed…

There are a lot of folks who live along this highway year-round in a variety of minuscule communities.  While calling various places to reserve rooms for the three nights of our travel, my smooth talking travel agent wrangled an invitation to an American Legion barbecue from the owner of the Gold Rush B&B in Wiseman…

  Ice Road Jeepers                                                            July 14, 2013

This may simply look like an over-dressed olde fart hanging out on the beach at Malibu, but I can tell you that he was mighty happy to have that little piece of towel waiting on shore to remove the ice crystals forming between his toes…

For those of you keeping track of our various medical procedures, I had left shoulder rotator cuff surgery back on June 28 and made this trip to the Arctic just 10 days later.  I think the healing process is going just fine.  So much so that I have challenged, not only our son, but also our future son-in-law and grandson to the Kenai Challenge Fishing Tournament Part 2.  Of course we’ll be using the same officials, rules and scoring procedures as before.  Bring it on, Turkeys!!!!!

See y’all next time.  Hugs, C&K

Okay, it really isn’t ours, but the Arctic Getaway was warm and comfy with a bathroom and kitchen and a roof that didn’t leak…

And my Bride was very happy to crawl into bed that evening in one of their “Mega Queen Suites”…

Coldfoot is 260 miles from our point of departure in Fairbanks, not a bad day’s journey considering road conditions and the abundance of stops we made to read signs, pee on a bush or chase wildlife across the tundra.  I wanted to include a really great picture I took of my co-pilot watering a bush while shooing mosquitoes with her hands and an inquisitive ground squirrel with her foot but it mysteriously vanished from our camera.

Upon re-entering the highway at Coldfoot you are greeted by this collection of signage…