With the pipeline running parallel to the road, we made good time through the thawed tundra plains, ever wary for oncoming trucks. Fearless semi truck drivers would appear on the horizon, racing toward us trailing a gigantic dust plume. As opposing traffic draws near, it's necessary to slow down when entering the dusty, white-out conditions left behind. With an elevated road, any unexpected off-road excursion would be most unpleasant. Just in case, we tested OnStar, only to learn that we were on our own in the extreme north. Marking the halfway mark, Coldfoot provided an essential rest stop, with an opportunity to refuel and scrape the windshield clean. We again met Phillip, our German motorcyclist friend, looking worn-out from the tough, dirt-eating ride. Off-road ace Kiwi offered to drive the Paris-to-Dakar-issue BMW for a stint, allowing Phillip a much-appreciated break from the road and rock-flinging trucks.
As the miles ticked away, Phillip gradually sucked down pretzels, cookies, and drinks like a trainee for the annual Coney Island eating competition. In return, he offered colorful conversation that proved more than an even trade.
A brief stop to check on Kiwi Knievel turned into a protracted pit stop, as we saw that the Hummer's left rear tire had begun deflating. Consequently, we proceeded to swap it with one of the two spares on board. Considering the conditions of the roads we'd traveled, we were impressed it took this long for our first flat to occur, as we'd seen many other motorists changing tires along the way. As is too often the case, getting the jack and tools out proved to be a challenge. Located beneath the standard spare, we needed to fold the rear seat forward to access the equipment, yet even with a manual in hand, we were unable to pull off this seemingly simple task. Assault from the dreaded mosquitoes added frustration, and later left us with grotesque bumps about our face, neck, and hands. The screw-type scissor jack took about a thousand turns to raise the heavy Hummer, but it was surprisingly easy to elevate the massive vehicle. Fortunately, we were on flat, hard ground; otherwise we could have easily found ourselves short at full extension.
With a fresh tire installed and a repacked truck, we were back on the road, completing our day's mission. Just outside Fairbanks, we rolled into the very first gas station to slake the H2's thirst. Kiwi decided to pass on filling the BMW, learning his lesson a few miles later when the bike sputtered to a stop. Switching to the reserve tank got him rolling again, trailing a sizeable "I told ya so."
The late light made it easier to drive long into the night, with our bodies often arguing with the clock. The sun set at 1:57 am, only to appear again at 2:13, right when we were gobbling down more chow from Taco Bell. Looking like dirt-covered Mad Dog from the Orbit gum commercial, after 250 miles of fun Kiwi was glad to relinquish his two-wheeled ride for the night. Never had Kiwi's nose been so brown.
Weary, we motored to a nearby motel for a few hours of shut-eye before rising early to again write and send the daily update story for the MT Web site.