X-Type: Email; Outmail
Subject: I'M OK. I'M ALRIGHT from Ed and Edith Gray
Obviously the title of these Prudhoe Bay/Dalton HWY E Mails does not make any sense yet but IT WILL! I apologize for the
mis-spelled words, typo's, grammar mistakes but this program does not have spell check and I just don't want to take the
time so bear with it please!
I forgot to tell you about the road by HAPPY VALLEY on the way up. There is 50 miles that is something like I have never
seen in my life and I hope I never do again. It is raining hard and it is 10 pm at night and they are out blading the
road(seemed like an emergancy to me), I mean blading the rocks from the size of your fist to twice as big as your head
and trying to run a packer over them. There is muck on top, and around the rocks and tracks where the vehicles ahead of
you had gone. I very nearly got stuck 4 times and was just kicking myself I did not have it in 4 x 4. If I spin out I am
going to have to wade through muck up to my knees to put the hubs and pray I can get going again. Fortunately with all
the rock there is a base although we drag several times. Then the ultimate, something I could not believe. The road
grader is pulling the shoulder in. You say what is so unusual about that? The shoulder is a 3 foot high, four foot wide
windrow of rocks from the size of your fist to twice the size of your head and he is blading them out on the road WHERE
YOU HAVE TO DRIVE! I am bumping, twisting, and slithering along at 5 mph praying my tires will hold up and I don't put
a rock in the oil pan or something else underneath and every once in awhicle meet and 18 wheeler but guess what they are
"PUSSY CATS" now as they are crawling along also! I suddenly don't feel like a tourist in the way! I got the distinct
feeling if you make it this far you now gain some respect from the truck drives who drive it all the time! Can you
imagine trying to change a tire in the muck! Or getting a rock thru the windsheild before this as even at the slow
speeds you just got rained on by a shower of mud. The truck was absolutely muck, every place.
Back to Prudhoe Bay. We get to the Artic Caribou Inn about 5:30 AM and seen an Artic Fox run across the parking lot and
get out and listen to a couple of fellows talking about the bears. They broke into a pickup and got into some food.
The one guy said he seen one coming so he jumped up on the cab of his pickup but the bear paid absolutely no attention
to him. They fine you big time for leaving food out in anything that a bear can get into let alone feeding them but they
still have what are called GARBAGE BEARS. They have to shoot some of them they get to be such a nuisance. They haul
them out 200 miles and they come back. Anyway we hustle into the INN and charge up and down the halls looking for the
bathrooms. Edith finds the Ladies right away but I can not find the men. I am dancing I have to go so bad and just in
the nick of time I spot the sign and go charging through the door. As this great wave of relief swept over me as I count
1001, 1002 and get to 1045 and I am pretty well drained I rememer Earl Butz former secretary of Ag. who got fired for a
racist comment about black people were happy if they had a shined pair of black shoes and a warm place to go NUMBER 2..
You know what I thought that bathroom was a pretty special place and I don't think Earl's comment was that derogatory.
Some people just don't appreciate the finer things in life!
We have a buffet breakfast and get signed up for the Prudhoe Bay tour. As we eat I read the signs and talk with others
and find out more about the bears. I then realize we were so very fortunate not to have a bear in the back of the F-350
during the night as we had food in a cooler and rubber tub with just a couple of bungies. We hustled out and put all the
food in the cooler and put it in the cab of the truck. I then realized I had a lot of pictures in my digital camera so
I drop the tail gate down and download my pictures to the laptop. Earlier a fellow was sitting in the hall with his
laptop plugged into 110vac so I really did not feel out of place. Nobody really gave me a second look! By now it was
tour time. It was very interesting, and in the travelogue I talk a lot about it. ANWR should happen, they are
terribly enviromental sensitive and now they can drill out up to 4 miles so the impact and acres with wells, etc on them
are a very, very, small percentage. It actually is to the point of being crazy the money and effort they go to protect
the enviroment! If you want to know more about the oil situation I really did spend a lot of time learning about it up
here and it is facinating! The tour also took us to the Artic Ocean and I took of my shoe and sock and put my foot in a
have pictures. Edith put in her hand. The fellow had towels so I should of had my swimming suit on and went swimming
but anyway I made my goal and put my foot in the Artic Ocean. We could see the ice pack out about 1 mile. It was all
crushed up but all the water was covered with crushed, floating ice. When the tour was over we drove around town for
30 minutes or so but there are only a few roads you can drive on. There is no kids or school and most people work 2
weeks on and one off and fly in and stay in dormatory like places with food service, exercise and rec rooms. It is a
place to work and sleep. The summer has about 2500 workers and in the winter goes to 5000-7500 as that is when most of
the work is done on the snow and ice so as to no to damage the enviroment and not have to build an roads.
We discovered there was a port a potty at the Tesoro station. OH IF WE HAD ONLY KNOWN! ANYWAY WE USED IT THREE TIMES
BEFORE WE LEFT TOWN TO BE SURE WE WERE WELL DRAINED!
I PUT UP MY DIPOLE AND WORKED EUROPE AND THE RUSSIA WITH GREAT SIGNALS. I MADE THE 6 PM SD TIME schedule and made contact
from as far as you can drive a car north in North America so we can add that to our most westerly point in North America
at Anchor Point, AK. We then started the return trip which started out great as the first 50 miles of road is good, ie
40 mph and the sun was shining. By the time we hit the Happy Valley stretch it was starting to sprinkle and the road
started out being better but the 33 miles right up to Happy Valley was just as bad as before. We had a pickup go around
us going 20 mph. I can not imagine how it stayed together and why all four tires did not go flat. I would not buy a
used vehicle in Alaska, no WAY! We got past the terrible stretch and were up to 20 mph sometimes and Edith said I think
we are getting a flat tire and sure enough the same one as before, passenger rear is flat. It is raining lightly and
muddy and rocks are sticking up in the road but we are a team and things are going great and I am kneeling on some boards
and not even getting very muddy and I have my bug clothes on and the truckers see our flashers and slow down decent.
We are just putting on the spare and it HAPPENS! ALL THREE WHEEL ON THE PICKUP DECIDE TO SIDE ON THE MUD!I yell and
Edith jumps back and the hub is setting on the hole in the rim by about 1/8" and the jack is half tipped over. Ultimately
is looked like what happened is the jack sunk in the muck down on some pointed rocks and they moved and that is what
happened rather than the pickup sliding. ANYWAY NOT A GOOD SITUATION! I now end up getting very muddy but manage to slip
some blocks under the axle pushing them in place with some of my masting, obviously not getting under the F-350 which
could come crashing down to the hub at any time. I then carefully back the jack off and believe it or not the wheel
holds it. Now to get the jack back under. I just can not get it as the rocks are giving me to uneven a surface so by
then two fellows that were on our bus tour stop, small world for people up there, and he finds a 2x 4 in the ditch that
is about 6 foot long so I set the jack on it and after many tries get the jack at just the right height and get it so it
will just slip under the axle and keep the cup shape piece on top of the jack straight so when the jack comes up the axle
is cradled in it. I cursed that thing as when I tried to turn the rod to raise the jack it would turn sideways or the
jack would tip over and I would have to start over. My 36 years of working with the public and only losing it twice was
taxed quite heavily here but I made it and FINALLY GOT THE JACK SNUGGED AGAINST THE AXLE AND GOT SOME UPWARD PRESSURE
ON IT. It was celebration time! Now to carefully jack and pray the jack did not slide of the 2 x 4 or the 2 x 4 did not
slip on the rocks. WOW! Things worked great, the 2 x 4 made some snapping noise as it pressed into the rocks but that
was good as it anchored the 2 x 4 so it would not slip and the jack was real straight so it did not slip. We finally got
it high enough so the weight was off the rim and was able to turn the tire and get it on the studs and get a couple of
nuts on. Now it really was time for celebration. This was about a 45 minute episode and the bugs nailed my belt line but
good where I was bent over but we had the spare on and our friends headed on down the road and we soon followed after
trying to wipe of some of the mud!
The road slowly got better but the fog and rain got worse! The plan when leaving Prudhoe Bay was to stop and sleep and
if we had to go to the bathroom we would do it in the dark on a pull off. But now I was so keyed up from the tire
episode we decided to drive until I got sleepy. We went over the Atwan pass in pea soup fog and Edith who really has
gotten over the white knucles about went ballistic going down the 12% grade maybe seeing 10 foot ahead knowing it is a
1000 foot off the side and it is wet and looks very slick but actually felt real good. I obviously went very slowly.
It is about 1 mile down with a couple of curves. After awhile it cleared up some from the fog and was still light.
Now for the title of these E-mails. We just pass the first bathroom south of the Prudhoe Bay at about 220 miles south
and we are I suppose about 30 miles north of Coldfoot. OK you know some about the conditions, no bathrooms, only
trucks, pickups, vans and SUV's, it gets dark about 12:30pm, the fog and rain. We come around the corner and here
is a sub-compact about the size of a Tempo and this Japanese couple are changing this front tire. It is getting dusk
but you can see her hunched over rubbing her hands and a steaming styrofoam cup of coffee on the hood. He gets up from
kneeling by the front tire as I roll to a stop and am running the window down. I see travelers suitcase setting out that
you pull with a handle and has wheels and the trunk is open but nothing else is out so obviously they are not carrying
much are there would be stuff setting all over to get the spare out of the trunk. He comes bouncing around the front
of the vehicle and I say are you OK, DO YOU HAVE A SPARE. In broken English with a very Japanese accent, smiling, happy
voice he says I HAVE SPARE, I'M OK! I'M ALRIGHT!
I am embarrassed to say ALL I COULD DO WAS SAY GREAT! OK! AND HEADED DOWN THE ROAD ROLLING UP THE WINDOW! I managed to
hold it until I got past the rear of their car and I busted out laughing. I laughed until the tears rolled down my
face! MY GOD! They are NOT OK, THEY ARE NOT ALRIGHT! I sure hope they had sense enough to turn around and go back
to Coldfoot. I think they were putting on a doughnut but I can not swear to it. They may of had another spare in the
trunk or back seat but it really did not look like it. That little car would not be up to that road. As I write this
I really feel bad about not turning around and going back; although I know I would of busted out laughing when I tried
to talk to them. As I write this I get to laughing and I know for the rest of my life if anybody says I'm OK, I'm
ALRIGHT I will remember this innocent, sweet little Japanese couple and I hope the Lord took care of them! Remember
it is the "LAW" of the Dalton to have two spares and not be driving a car and to come prepared!
We kept forging ahead and I just did not get sleepy. We went over GOBBLERS KNOB in pea soup fog and again it was white
knuckle time for Edith. I was OK except at the top there was a pull off and I could not figure out which was the road
and which was the pull off. I stopped and it took me a long time to figure out which was which! Again the trucks turned
to "PUSSY CATS" a classic sign conditions have deteriated significantly! We pressed ahead and made the Artic Circle
with great outdoor toilets! Give me a F-350, warm blankets, a toilet and some water and life is GOOD! We wake up as it
is getting light after about 4 hours of sleep and head off. The road gets better except for 25 miles of muck from
construction and we arrive at the mighty Yukon and pull off and get a picture of the bridge, WOW! BTW I still am on
the same tank of diesel I filled at Prudhoe Bay and we go on the to Artic Circle Trading post we stopped at on the
way up. Nice family and we bought some reasonably priced sweat shirts, had some free tea and got our Artic Circle
Certificates and gave them the road conditions for there board posting. We then arrived at our 5th in Fairbanks 52
hours after we left and still had a little diesel left in the tank so made 520 miles on this tank.
TO GET THIS INTO PERSPECTIVE IT IS LIKE LEAVING SALEM AND DRIVING TO DAYTON, OHIO ON GRAVEL ALL THE WAY. LOW SPEED
2-5 MPH TO TOP SPEED OF 60 MPH FOR A TINY LITTLE WAYS! SOME SECTIONS ARE 40-50 MPH. The high point of the trip home
were seeing the wild Musk OX right along the road and the Yukon and some of the Brooks when the fog was not to bad and
the first 100 miles south of Prudhoe Bay the Artic Tundra really good.
Would I do it again! ABSOLUTELY! It is something WE WILL NEVER FORGET! Thanks for riding along and please send me an
E-mail once in awhile! Just don't use reply without deleting what you got from me, THANKS! address is email@example.com
Ed and Edith
[MID: 1103_W0SD Sent Via: KA6IQA Date: 2001/08/16 06:37:33]