After all the planning, we were anxious to get on the plane. Romke again suffered sleep deprivation because of our trip and woke up with us and took our bikes and all bags to Schiphol airport at 5 in the morning. It was raining cats and dogs (or lions and hyenas as we use to say in Tanzania, but that is a different post about our preparations that we still have to write
We had booked with Condor airlines, but the first leg (Amsterdam to Frankfurt) is executed by Lufthansa. It was a messy check-in, but while we were busy preparing our bikes for the transport, we were pleasantly surprised to meet up with our friend Bas. He works on a project at the airport, heard we were leaving and came in a few hours early to boost our sense of humour as always
Condor had been nice to us by allowing extra luggage, free transportation of our bicycles and the lowest ticket price.
One of the best things they offer is cheap international one way tickets. somehow all major airlines charge more for a one way ticket than a return ?!? Anyway, as we try to minimize our flying because of environmental impact, we were also happy to find out that Condor flies directly from Europe to Canada/Alaska instead of going through major hubs in the lower 48. This makes the trip shorter and therefore cleaner.
The Lufthansa part was great, the check-in easy and the on board service friendly. We could check our luggage all the way through to Fairbanks, so at the huge -and customer unfriendly- Frankfurt airport, all we had to do is get new boarding passes for the 2nd flight. Well, it turned out that is was lucky that we had a 3 hour lay-over, as we needed it between walking from one end to another and queuing up at Condor..
The flight itself was basic, no personalized TV, but I can live with that in exchange for a few hundred euros saved. Besides, we crashed (no pun intended) in our seats the moment we sat down and only woke up for drinks and meals… The food was nice and the views (perfectly announced by the friendly pilot when applicable) were outstanding, seeing the Norwegian coastline, Jan Mayen island & volcano, Greenland and Northern Canada, before we stopped for a while in Whitehorse, Canada. Another hour later we touched down in Fairbanks, Alaska, just a few degrees south of the polar circle.
We were delighted to see that not only our bikes, but also our bags made it. Less happy I was when I noticed that some baggage handler along the way had roughly turned my front wheel in such a rough manner that it had scratched my frame and destroyed my front light. Immigration was very friendly here and very interested in our trip and gave us no trouble.
While we were reorganizing our gear and fixing our bikes a huge rainshower passed and Ivana and I looked at each other with a frightened look and started looking for our Vertical raingear. Our bikes were heavy and we were both grumpy, until we saw the campy roadsign that welcomed us.
We had been in contact with Ericka *& Miles through the excellent Couchsurfing community, offering hospitality between/to travellers. Her house was easy to find and we were welcomed to our own room where the packages I had ordered were already waiting: a new lens for my camera, some memory cards, a new stove and a big box from Big Agnes/Honey Stinger with our new tent and a lot of energy gels and bars.
Ericka let us call to Matt at the Northern Alaska Tour company and we were pleased to hear that one of their vans was leaving the next morning, and they were offering us free seats for us and our bikes and gear, all the way to Deadhorse! This is the name of the community near Prudhoe Bay, close to the Arctic ocean as we could get and the start of the Dalton Highway. This was perfect!
Ericka helped enormously by driving us from one store to another to get some last minute supplies lie some spare inner tubes, dinner and breakfast and bearspray! (As I mentioned in my first post, they did not have after-bear..).
Fairbanks is 10 hours later than Amsterdam, so our day was already 34 hours long. We were tired after all the lack of sleep but as we would leave in a few hours, time to sort our stuff again: what would we not need the first 2 weeks? Mistakes can be fatal for us or our bikes on one of the roughest roads imaginable…
We are now several days on the road and have some time to write some proper reports. Frankly I am amazed I can type this, as I was sure that the constant bumping of our bikes and bags over the very rough roads would have destroyed Lenny (Our Lenovo X300 laptop), but surprisingly it still works as always, long live the solid state harddisks. If you can actually read this, then it means it has survived all 2 weeks of Dalton Highway, one of the most infamous pieces of dirt road in the world…
But let’s go back a few weeks, back to the lowlands and share our journey with you in words and images.
I am not sure if it is me (us) or is there just no way to properly prepare for a 2.5 year trip? We had been planning since a year ago and still many things had to be done in literally the last minute. At least you can get a lot more done if you use the 8 hours we normally waste on sleeping on working and preparing
As our house was already rented out, we moved back and forth between my mom’s house and Romke & Anouks place. R&A have two wonderful kids and they were happy to assist in sorting out all the gear we received from our wonderful sponsors, this is Kira, checking out the Ortlieb and Carrera gear that Jacobsons sent us.
and this is how part of their livingroom looked during their vacation:
Thanks again, Romke & Anouk & Kira & Jelte, we would not have made it without you.
We took the train up North to say goodbye to my Mother and Sister. By the way, in The Netherlands we have a great railway system, which will get you everywhere in no time. of course people like to complain about the train service, but i think it is perfect, there are even a lot of special spaces for bicycles in every carriage, very useful to do some last minute fine-tuning:
My Mum helped us with some last things and we even managed to make a mess in her place. She was very sad; even though I have been away for many months at a time in the past, this will be the longest period away so far.
My sister lives close and we also visited her to say goodbye. We had a nice dinner at a organic Indonesian restaurant in Assen, with great food and service and we could even park our bikes inside. As with my mom, she was in tears when we waved goodbye from the train, but again somehow I was not sad, maybe we will see each other soon again.
Ivana had already said goodbye to her family in March, when she came to Amsterdam. But thanks to the wonders of skype and broadband Internet, she had been talking/videoconferencing with her mum and sister (that almost have the same names as mine) every evening for hours, while packing and sorting stuff.
Going on all these adventures is selfish in a way as we are worrying our friends and family. But I think we can repay their concerns and affection with stories and images and knowledge that we are following our hearts.
ps: we also had a nice going away slash b-day party, but i will post the images in a separate post once we find the images again