Day 18

165 miles
16.5 mpg
$0: Five-Mile Campground, Coldfoot, Alaska

I’m sitting at the Yukon River Camp, payin’ for a bit of slow satellite Wi-Fi to tell you about my day. Hi-res photos and drone video will have to wait. Not sure how many of these photos will come through.

I’ve driven some harrowing roads in many time (Israeli desert on a moped, Umbria in a stick-shift, the BQE in anything…), but this is a whole ‘nother level. I don’t think I’ve ever been this far off the grid. I didn’t think it would make me nervous, but it does.

I started the day greeting Santa Claus at his home in the North Pole (Alaska).

He really needs a better tailor. Mrs. Claus is doing him more no favors.

From there, I headed to the Elliott Highway, and on to the Dalton Highway. North, north, and north.

There are nicely-paved sections. But even those have frost heaves. The car and trailer handle it like a champ (the WD hitch really helps), but I wonder if any cabinetry will be intact by the end…

The gravel or dirt sections can be amazingly smooth. And a recent downpour (last night) keeps the dust down.

I may be imagining it, but I feel like every road-worker I pass cocks their head at me as if to say “really?”.

After about 20 miles on the mostly dirt/gravel Dalton Highway, I realize that I may need to rethink getting as far as the Arctic Circle with the trailer. I weigh the fact that I signed up for an adventure with the fact that I have 8,000 miles left to go in this journey.

The most disconcerting thing towing a pull-behind trailer on gravel is the trailer-brake situation. On pavement, you want it set to grab quickly and firmly. So the trailer doesn’t push you. On loose gravel, that setting will lock the trailer brakes. On a corner, the trailer could easily swing out.

So I find myself constantly adjusting the brake controller as the Elliott and Dalton Highways alternate surfaces. Often many times even within a mile.

But there are other signs I should not go on (with the trailer, anyway).

Firstly, I notice the over-the-sink cabinet coming a little loose. This is easily fixed with a screwdriver for now. I can see it’s anchored in lots of places, and it’s not going anywhere.

But more alarmingly, when I stop about halfway to the Yukon river, I notice I am hemorrhaging water. Yes. As so many Airstream owners before me have experienced, the cheap plastic low-water drain has sheared off. When I have really internet, I need to look back at the “Long Long Honeymoon” couple to see when theirs happened. And what they did to fix it.

Of course, the McGyver in me kicks in again, and I think – what do I have that could plug it up (or at least reduce the flow). First, I turned the trailer around so they the leak was on the “high side” on the pull-off – reducing the drippage. Then I whittled a nice dry stick I found on the roadside to fill the hole. It fit nicely, but not snugly enough.

Next, I mentally went through every small conical item I had in the trailer that might be pushed in. I laid them out.

  • Toothpaste lid
  • Tide Pen lid
  • Corn on the cob holder

And for those of you who have been following this blog for a few weeks, I also happened to have a few nice stainless steel bolts (for the water tank straps). Turns out, the larger sized one fit very nicely. And I just happen to have plumber’s tape (god knows why).

It still drips a bit, but voila:

It’s a start, anyway.

But I rethink my last days at the northern-most point on my trip. There’s a campground just past the Yukon River Camp. Maybe I’ll camp there. I have plenty of drinking water, even if there’s none in the fresh water tank.

And I can fill up with diesel for a mere $5.29/gallon. Given the isolation, I would pay any price for the peace of mind of a full tank on this road. I used nearly half a tank getting this far. I’m just thrilled they had diesel…

But my campsite is idyllic. I’m told at the visitor center across from the Yukon River cafe, that it’s been very quiet up here. Despite the great weather.

My new plan: camp here for 2 nights. Tomorrow, I take the car to the Arctic Circle, and maybe a bit beyond. Go to Wiseman and Coldfoot. Maybe as far as Atigun Pass. We’ll see. Without the trailer, the Touareg has a 700-800 miles range with a full tank.

I’m looking forward to some beautiful skies tonight. Maybe a little thunderstorm.

13 thoughts on “Day 18

  1. Wow. I think you’ve made a good plan. And I’m impressed with your ingenuity. Made me think about the Apollo 13 movie where they laid out what they had to fix something. Godspeed!

  2. Watch out for the Yeti.
    Take it easy. Your mother is very worried needless to say. Put in a good word for us to Santa. 🛷
    Love, Dad…

  3. Dear Dan,
    Please turn around – do you/we see any other vehicles on the road? Doesn’t that tell you something? And unless Airstream will fly a service tech, at their expense (you’re owed), to join you for the rest of the trip, your trailer will be in shambles before you get here (still 3,000 miles from home). Your dream trip is becoming a nightmare!
    I am more worried than you want to know, for the thousands of miles yet to go – alone. And don’t overestimate your mpg – there’s nobody around to rescue you.
    Head to Anchorage – now, please. A claim that you’ve been to the Arctic Circle isn’t worth the stress, damage, worry…
    Take care – be safe –
    All our love,
    Mom & Dad

    1. I’m fine. Really. Lots of folks around, driving all kinds of cars, trucks, RVs, tiring trailers. Stopped at mile 60, and took the car to the Arctic Circle. Plenty of gas every 100 miles or so (and I can go 400+). I’ll be fine. At the moment, at Coldfoot enjoying a great breakfast. I’ll see you soon.

  4. Hi Dan:

    Mom and Dad sure were worried!!! Hey, at least your Mom and Dad are still around to watch over you…. Glad that you made it to the Arctic Circle. And I loved the picture of you boys with Santa. Hope that you get to see a wolverine…


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