The adventure of a lifetime started with a map of North America, and culminated at the “Top of the World.”
I’m FeeNom from Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been an avid motorcyclist since 2004. In 2019, I rode my Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special to each of the lower 48 states in 11 days along with my Motor Maid sister Shannon “Red” Lewis. We had an amazing trip.
As an adrenaline junkie, I’m always looking for ways to push myself. In June of 2021, I contacted Cynthia “Snacks” Franklin and told her that I was interested in riding to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, also known as the Top of the World. Snacks, who also rode to each of the lower 48 on her Harley-Davidson, was so excited that she committed to the ride that day. Snacks did some research and found that the Iron Butt Association has an itinerary called the “Ultimate Coast to Coast Challenge,” which would take us from the Atlantic to the Arctic Ocean, from Key West to Prudhoe Bay.
Over the next year, we planned our route, what gear we would need, and more importantly, which motorcycles we would ride. The motorcycle and tires were important because we would be traveling the world famous Dalton Highway for 500 miles. The Dalton Highway is famous because it’s one of the world’s most dangerous highways—it has miles of unpaved dirt and gravel roads, which have claimed several lives and been responsible for countless injuries and damaged motorcycles.
Snacks purchased a Harley-Davidson Pan America motorcycle for the trip. This adventure bike was made for this type of ride. I knew that the Dalton Highway would cause havoc to Apollonia (my Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special), so I decided to take my 2006 Honda ST1300. I used my Honda as my escort bike for funerals and VIP escorts, so I knew how well it handled. I purchased some Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR dual-sport tires, removed the cowl and some emergency lights, and my Honda was ready to go.
Broken chains and getting out of a speeding ticket
On July 15, 2022, Snacks and I met in Miami and rode down to Key West with her club sister KBarbie. After dinner, some key lime pie, and numerous laughs, we rested up for the beginning of our epic adventure. I was full of nervous energy, so I didn’t get much sleep.
All I could think about was the Dalton Highway, riding into another country, and the weather conditions. I’m a strong rider, but had virtually no experience riding on unpaved gravel and dirt roads. Snacks had taken an off-road riding course at Rawhyde Adventures in California, so she was well prepared for the ride. After reassuring myself that I was more than prepared for this ride, I was good to go.
On July 16, we rode to Mile Marker 0, got photos and gas receipts, then started heading north. We rode for 15 hours and 830 miles to Atlanta and stayed the night at my house. The next morning we started heading north toward the Northernmost Point of the Contiguous U.S. in Angle Inlet, Minnesota. This stop wasn’t part of the official itinerary, but we included it in the route because it was a unique place.
The main appeal of Angle Inlet is that it’s the furthest north point of the lower 48 states. Another appeal is that you enter Canada and then reenter the U.S. to reach it. According to the story of Angle Inlet, the printer made a mistake on the map, so the U.S. and Canada agreed to keep the border as it was originally printed.
Before we made it to Angle Inlet, Snacks noticed that the chain on her bike was dangerously loose. We had stopped in Nashville the day before to have the dealer tighten the chain, but it loosened again. We stopped at a Harley-Davidson dealership to replace the chain. Unfortunately, they didn’t have one in stock. After we were informed that it would be 2 days before another chain came in, Snacks rented a bike from the dealership, and we were off to sightsee. I’m a huge Prince fan, so I had to see Paisley Park and Lake Minnetonka from Purple Rain.
A couple of days later, we continued to Angle Inlet. The roads were in bad shape, but not as bad as I’d seen in videos. There was about 15 miles of gravel road. If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle on gravel, you know it’s something that commands your full attention. I’m happy that we went to Angle Inlet before going to Canada and on to Alaska—it prepared me for what was to come.
After getting a snack, it was time to track across Canada. We entered Canada from Manitoba, heading northwest into Saskatchewan. We were a little heavy on the throttle and got pulled over by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I was able to talk her into giving us a warning—I wasn’t familiar with how to convert miles into kilometers. If you plan on riding through Canada, make sure you figure out the conversion.
Praying in my helmet
Over the next few days we rode through Alberta, British Columbia, and Yukon. British Columbia and the Yukon have some of the most beautiful lakes and mountains that I’ve ever seen. At the same time, these areas have some of the most treacherous roads that I’ve ever been on.
We’d be riding on a paved road, and within a few seconds we’d be on a gravel road trying to slow down without hitting the brakes. We knew that if we hit the brakes, our tires would lose traction and we’d go down. Other times we’d be on a road and ride up to a construction zone. The lead truck would come and take us off-road on a slick trail leading us around the construction. I prayed a lot in my helmet.
While on a gas stop in Dawson Creek, we met a fellow rider, David, and his dog, Abby. David and Abby have ridden to 49 states, through Canada, and to Mexico on David’s Goldwing motorcycle.
After speaking with David for a few minutes, we rode about a half mile down the road to the start of the world famous Alaska Highway. We knew we were getting closer to our final destination and got pictures at the start of the Alaskan Highway site.
We stopped for gas at Muncho Lake Provincial Park and met a biker who was coming back down from Prudhoe Bay. When we asked him about the ride on the Dalton Highway, he said, “If you made it here, you’ll be fine.”
Before we reached Yukon, Snacks spotted a huge grizzly bear. Then, in Yukon, we saw three black bear cubs, a herd of bison, and an amazing 63-year-old woman who was riding her bicycle from Minnesota to Alaska and was headed back home. It amazed me how she had packed her tent, cooking supplies, clothing, and other necessities onto her bicycle.
We made it to Alaska on July 25. We stopped at the famous North Pole town to get pictures with the huge Santa statue before continuing on to Fairbanks. We had amazing brisket tacos and got a room for the night. It was light out for 22 of the 24 hours of the day, so it was a little hard to get to sleep. I forced myself to sleep, since the next day we would be heading to the Dalton Highway and I needed to be well rested.
The next morning we filled up our bikes and gas cans because it’s 254 miles from Fairbanks to Coldfoot, with no gas stations in between. And it’s another 242 miles from Coldfoot to Prudhoe Bay with no gas stations. We left Fairbanks and hit bad roads before we even reached the Dalton Highway. Once we reached it, we were relieved yet anxious. We were happy to be there, but we knew that the worst was yet to come. We rode over the wooden Yukon River Bridge and onto a long dirt road before reaching the Arctic Circle.
After the Arctic Circle, we made it to Coldfoot Camp. Coldfoot is the midway point to Prudhoe Bay and most bikers spend the night here before finishing the final 242 miles. We wanted to go the entire way in 1 day—mainly because we knew the weather would be changing for the worse overnight—so after fueling up and getting a few snacks, we were on our way.
Twist the throttle
The rain was steady, and we felt the temperature dropping. We came upon a mountain with a dirt and gravel road. The incline was so steep that I would have hesitated to ride up it even if it was a paved road. I was definitely nervous. Snacks and I had been communicating through our headsets. We agreed that we had to twist the throttle and just go. We couldn’t stop on that incline. If we stopped, we would slide back down the mountain and possibly injure ourselves. I twisted the throttle and felt my rear tire sliding from side to side, but I didn’t panic. I stopped praying and sweating once we made it to the top.
Next, we approached a valley and Snack’s bike started giving off alerts. The temperature had dropped from 62 to 34 degrees in about 10 minutes. This is when I realized that my heated gear went out. I later found that the fuse melted. I was cold and shaking, but we knew we had to keep going. We were still about 80 miles from Prudhoe Bay and the bad weather was chasing us.
Once we got out of the mountains, we came upon a newly paved road. We thought the remainder of our ride would be nice and smooth. Instead, the wind took over. It blew us from one side of the road to the other side and all we could do was hold the handlebars and pray that there wasn’t oncoming traffic. After 30 miles, we finally reached Deadhorse in Prudhoe Bay. We were cold, wet, and muddy, but we made it. I want to give a special thank you to the staff at Deadhorse Camp, they were amazing.
On July 26, after a year of planning, we made it from the Atlantic Ocean in Key West to the Arctic Ocean in Prudhoe Bay. I’ve never felt such a sense of accomplishment. Despite the bike issues, weather, road conditions, and having to change my own oil, we didn’t give up.
I hope that our adventure inspires you to get out of your comfort zone, and go make memories. It doesn’t have to be on a motorcycle. Just get out, explore the world, laugh, and live like there’s no tomorrow.