Trip Report: Dalton Highway in an 80, Plus Introduction

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Mar 5, 2004
Denver, Colorado
Hello all - I recently returned from an 4 week, 8,800 mile trip from Arizona to the Arctic Circle and back. I want to share how my 80 series did, but as I write this I realize I've never done a proper introduction. So here goes:

My name is Scott and I am a 28- year old living in Arizona. I grew up helping my dad with his vehicle restoration projects. My screen name here, dtchevy42, is in reference to the vehicles he specialized in - Diamond-T trucks and Chevrolets from the 40s and 50s. On January 1, 1997, rather than watch ASU in the Rose Bowl, my dad traded in his 1985 60 Series for a brand new 80 series. For a time, I posted on ih8mud on his behalf, hence my relatively low profile number and early join date of 2004.

Fast forward to this May 2016. I was working as a registered Mechanical Engineer in the HVAC/plumbing consulting industry in Tucson, Arizona. Not happy with my current job, I quit in May and decided to hit the road until money runs out. I had owned the 80 Series for a few years and it is my daily driver. I decided it was time to do a proper expedition-style trip.

First, the modifications:

851/860 Medium Front, Medium Rear. Front has 20mm spacers.
Warn 8000 on ARB front bumper.
Seat Heaters : )
CDL switch with Pin-7 mod, no lockers
285/75/R16 BFG KOs
Wits end Console Scout Box and FEM under passengers seat.
Original headgasket.

This is my daily driver setup. Contrary to many, I still keep the 3rd row seats, and I use them!

One week after I left my job of six years, I loaded up the Land Cruiser with camping gear, emergency supplies, and a 4 changes of clothes. I also brought along a suit and dress shoes. Hey, I'm out of a job and it would be irresponsible not to be ready to interview! I also packed a 7-gallon water container, a gas can, some spare hoses, and a few CDs.

A friend and I left Arizona on Friday, June 3rd. Headed west on I-10 towards California. The first mission was to do Highway 1/101 from Huntington Beach north until it ended in Washington. I'll spare you the pics of the beach towns, but the first notable stop was Pismo Beach.


We didn't realize it at the time, but supposedly Pismo is one of the only California beaches you can drive on. For $5, you get an all day pass and a witness to CARNAGE! This is like dune life in Arizona, but with the easy-going attitude of Californians.

Upon entering, we encountered stuck folks. Perhaps we were naive, but we started helping pull people out. This fella was driving his girlfriend's red Cobalt before he got stuck. I like to think we saved his day.



Go ahead, critique my winching technique! After pulling out the F-250, we realized we just can't help everyone. It was time for lunch.


How did the unlocked 80 series do in the sand? Very well! Once I aired down the BFGs to 20 psi, I could go anywhere anyone else could, including the dunes. Later in the trip, we verified on an Oregon scale that we weighed 6,300 lbs with a full tank of gas. Can't complain!

But we weren't done yet. See where we parked? We were on the hard-pack, enjoying our tailgate lunch. Speaking of that, could you imagine an 80 with barn doors? Not nearly as fun. Well, then the Miata Club approached!! As they say in Wisconsin, "ohhhhh crep!". As the Miata Club veered into the sand to go around us, they all got stuck. Our bad for blocking the road! So we added two Miata recoveries to our list for the day.


From Pismo, we headed north. Most of Highway 1 was foggy, but the experience was still worth it. The Land Cruiser plodded along thru the twisties. We continued to the redwoods, and of course had to stop at the drive-thru tree. That's me driving. The 80 Series, at 6'-3" tall, barely cleared the 6'-7" high opening. Glad I didn't buy the roof rack.


We pressed north. Here was a typical camp setup. One of us could sleep in the tent, and one of us in the truck. You can see my window screen in the drivers' window. Thanks to the inspriation from rc51kid, I could totally blackout my truck when needed. one of my best CHEAP mods...curtains/blinds

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Next, I found myself in Bellingham, Washington. My friend had flown home from Seattle, so I was all alone. On Friday June 10th, one week after departing Arizona, the Land Cruiser and I boarded the ferry to Alaska.


This boat, the Columbia, was built in 1967 and is part of the Alaskan Marine Highway System. Our tax dollars support this ferry service, which runs from Bellingham to Juneau and beyond. It cost me $400 to ride the ferry, plus $1100 for the Land Cruiser. Interestingly, they never asked my weight, only my overall length.

I did declare a firearm, my Remington 870, for which I received an orange sticker for my windshield. To my surprise, 1/3 of the vehicles in the holding bay also had firearms. I guess we are going into bear country.

I was headed for Haines, Alaska, north of Juneau. It was going to be a 3-day trip, but I opted against a cabin to save money. I am not very camping-savvy, but I managed to get my tent duct-taped to the deck of the boat in a timely manner.




Coast Guard rules mandate that the car-deck is generally off limits, so sleeping in the truck wasn't an option.

Out on the deck, it was a little bit cold and wet at times. But, they serve beer in my room! Plus, the Inside Passage was not to be missed.


Finally, after three nights of sleeping outside on a steel deck, I drove off the boat in Haines, Alaska.

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From Haines, one can connect to the ALCAN. Evidently, locals prefer the term "Alaskan Highway". In the 1940s, the military built the highway with civilian cooperation, but then civilians were restricted from using it! So the military acronym of ALCAN is not used much.

The road to Fairbanks was pretty desolate, but there was a lot of construction. Summertime is the only season when the road crews can get much done. On one stretch north of Haines Junction, we followed a pilot car for nearly 70 miles! I was really glad I was in an 80 and not a passenger car. Coming from Arizona, I don't use that rear wiper much, but with all the mud flying around, I was using it constantly.

Somewhere near Northway Junction, I came across this fellow, biking in the middle of nowhere. It seemed we were 50 miles from the nearest major town in any direction. I had to stop to take his picture. The garden gloves? He is actually mushroom hunting. The Model 94? He's more concerned about moose than bear. Good to know.


I spent one night in Fairbanks before starting on the Dalton Highway. In Fairbanks, I looked over the Land Cruiser and fueled up. At this point I had driven 3,400 miles since leaving Arizona a little over a week ago. I was burning about 1 quart of oil every 1,000 miles.

As for fuel, I decided to fill my 5-gallon jerry can for this portion of the trip. I don't have a drawer system or any racks, so my 5-gallon jerry can had to ride inside with me. I learned, as most of you have, that if you put the gas can near the exhaust vents in the rear cargo area, it actually flushes the air quite well. I can't remember smelling gas so long as the jerry can was tight.

Now, the real fun starts as I head almost straight north to the Arctic Ocean.

First, the Arctic Circle. The pic below was taken at 12:00am. Land of the midnight sun. I camped here for the night. You can drive all night in this place!


The Arctic Circle is where most tourists turn around. But as one Aussie I met said, "You have some cash and a Land Cruiser, what could go wrong mate?!" So, I kept heading north on the Dalton Highway.


The Dalton Highway, also known as the Haul Road, essentially runs north from Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay. It serves two purposes: for one, it parallels the Alaskan Pipeline for much of the way. Second, it enables trucks to bring equipment to and from the oil fields at Prudhoe Bay. Although I have not seen the TV Series "Ice Road Truckers", supposedly Seasons 2-4 are filmed on this road. It is not meant for tourists like me! Much of the road is improved gravel, with some sections of asphalt. Truckers do not keep solid log books here. This road is as close as you can get to the golden age of trucking in the United States.

In the pic below, you can see the Alaskan Pipeline on the left.


Driving the road takes some getting used to. Of the people you encounter, 60% are over-the-road semi trucks (almost all Kenworths, with some Peterbilts and a few Western Stars). The trucks are not limited to the 80,000 GVWR that they are here, or at least they do not adhere to it.

Then, 20% are road crews, mostly driving Chevrolet Silverados. Tourists on motorcycles make up the next 15%, and I'd say only 5% were tourists in cars or SUVs like me.

Speaking of other traffic, passing oncoming traffic was a chore. This is one place where I did slow down. When passing a vehicle going the opposite direction, I made it a point to reduce speed to 30mph. Otherwise, there is just too much dust and risk of windshield damage. Although I have some chips I need to have professionally fixed, I did not have to replace a windshield.

But generally, I would drive 30-45 minutes without seeing another vehicle. While much of the road looks like the above picture, there are serious potholes that would certainly cause damage if not avoided. So, traffic uses the whole road, including drifting into the oncoming side, to avoid ruts, potholes, and the like.

The easy answer to driving this road would be to SLOW DOWN! However, that is just not possible. Trucks travel fast, averaging 55mph or more. Due to their larger tires, the washboard and the potholes don't affect them like it would a car or motorcycle. The problem is, if you go slower than them, they will want to pass, at which point you pull over and take a barrage of rocks to your windshield. I felt the best way to drive this road was to keep a rhythm by driving at the same speed as the trucks behind me.


And this is where the 80 Series REALLY shined! With my suspension and BFGs, I could drive fast enough to keep in rhythm with the trucks, all the while absorbing the bumps and bruises. I really can't articulate how well this Land Cruiser did. I had visions of my counterparts driving an 80 Series across the roads of Saudi Arabia, as these trucks were designed to do, at high speed but in relative safety. Some spots were soft, and some where washboard, but in many places I comfortably cruised at 75 mph on a gravel road across the tundra.

The nice thing about the Dalton is that unlike much of Alaska, the trees are sparse so you can really see out. You have lots of time to slowly apply the can see oncoming traffic a mile away!
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That's a helluva intro :cool:
What about communications?

The neat thing about the Dalton Highway is immersing yourself in the trucking culture. I did my research before I set out - I learned that in Canada and Alaska, most truckers have dual radios in their cab. CB Channel 19 is used for critical information, like asking permission to pass, or for road conditions. For chit-chat, they use a VHF radio. I believe most truckers buy either marine-band radios OR modified amateur radios like ICOMs in the 150 mHz range. I confirmed that nobody actually holds their amateur radio license. There are several channels they have preset, like ARROW-1, LADD-1, HAUL, or ALCAN. Each trucking company also has their "company" station. There is sort of a gentleman's agreement that they stay on these channels so they do not interfere with Coast Guard or commercial airline communication. They do not hit repeaters, and instead use their radios on simplex. What you get is a very reasonable line-of-sight output.

Nobody uses amplifiers, either on the CB or on the VHF. So, with the CB, you get a 3-6 mile range, and with the VHF I think I was sending/receiving up to 10 miles out. It's actually a great system. The CBs don't walk all over each other, and the VHF gives you a little bit longer chit-chat distance.

So below was my setup. First, the CB:


After using a Uniden 510XL for years, I stepped up to a Cobra 29. It has integral weather radio, which is useful. It also gives you additional functions like RF Gain. RF Gain kinda works like an additional way to squelch out garbage. It is a great enhancement. I could never go back to a Uniden 510.

This radio also has a Mic Gain selector, which lets me dial my voice up or down. So, if I am talking to a truck right behind me, I can dial back my volume so I don't come in distorted through his speaker.

Next, my CB speaker setup:


I bought a $20 external speaker off Amazon and used some self-tapping screws to mount it to my dash. It came out really clean. This really makes a huge difference in interpreting what other people are saying to me.

For the CB antenna, I used a YotaTeq mount with a generic 36" antenna purchased from a truck stop. My SWR, verified by TTT Truck Stop in Tucson, is 1.4. As TTT told me, don't touch it, don't mess with it! Even though it's a cheap antenna, success is success!

One thing about the YotaTeq mounts....even a short 36" antenna flexes the mounts and chips the paint. So, I bought a spring from a truck stop and it solved the issue.


Let me tell you, having a CB on this road was ALMOST essential. Truckers used it all the time! Often, when I approached a slow truck, the driver would initiate contact with ME! A common conversation went thusly:

Trucker: White fourwheeler, you got a radio back there?
Me: Yes I do.
Trucker: Go ahead and pass me NOW!
Me: Passing now.
Me: Thank you driver.

This happened five or six times.

In other spots, I learned by listening that you are supposed to call out your position on hills. A few of the hill climbs were practically one lane. You could not see over the crest. You would say something like "I'm southbound approaching Ice Cut Hill". If somebody was on the other side, they were supposed to call back. If you heard silence, it was safe to take the hill.

I felt bad for the motorcyclists and the families in pickup trucks who were not running radios.
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Sounds like a great trip! Looking forward to the rest of the story.
Now for the VHF radio....I used a Yaesu FT-60R dual band, coupled with a mag-mount antenna.


You can see it's set to ARROW-1, which is 155.190 MHZ. Of course, the Yaesu can receive on this frequency, but not transmit. The day before I left Arizona, I made the decision to perform the MARS/CAP mod. See here:

I realize for the serious HAMS on this forum, this is sacrilege. However, communications on this road can be life and death, and I decided the ability to transmit on the commonly-used frequencies outweighed the risks. Fortunately, the MSRS/CAP mod was easy to do. Man, that resister is small! To "remove" it, I crushed it with a pair of tweezers. On radio checks throughout Alaska and Canada, I got "loud and clears!"

It's too bad amateur radio isn't used more commonly in the lower 48 among truckers. It is remarkable how clear the transmission came in using this handheld with simplex transmission. And to be able to separate out the chit-chat from the critical information is a neat concept.

One of my favorite stories was making friends with a trucker on the radio. I got out ahead of him about 4 miles. Suddenly he says "Driver, turn around! Come back and check out the grizzly bears." So I pulled a U-turn and as I approached, he had stopped his Kenworth in the middle of the road to check out 3 grizzly bears. Such is Alaska.
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As you say, 155.190 is not part of the north American 2m amateur band. But it's not part of the marine band either.

But it's Alaska after all and they have their own rules for just about everything.
As you say, 155.190 is not part of the north American 2m amateur band. But it's not part of the marine band either.

But it's Alaska after all and they have their own rules for just about everything.

Interesting...I admit I never checked what constituted the marine band. I wonder who uses this...I really need to reprogram my radio before using in here in Arizona.
I spent one night near the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay. This is an oil town...nobody actually lives here; rather, the workers come on rotation. The big contractors are Halliburton, BP, Chevron, and CH2M. Here's the 80 series as far as we could go at the bay. This photo was taken on June 19th, so right before the solstice. It was around 9pm at night.


To get to the actual ocean, I had to charter a shuttle thru the oil rigs thanks to Homeland Security and company rules. The shuttle stops for a few minutes at the Arctic Ocean. As a former swimmer, I HAD to get in.


Ambient temp, as verified thru Weather Channel, was 38 deg F with a 20 mph wind. The water probably was a little warmer, but as it was I couldn't feel my feet for 20 minutes. I was in the water for about 60 seconds, and toward the end started to feel sick to my stomach. Gave me a new appreciation for the movie Titanic. Elementary school was correct, there were no penguins at the North Pole.

Of course, Prudhoe Bay is where the Alaskan Pipeline starts. It heads south toward Valdez, there they put the oil on tanker ships. The pipeline is impressive. I have done a little bit of piping engineering in my career, and I can really appreciate the work that went into this. On top of the piping supports are metallic fins for heat rejection. I learned later that the hot oil in the pipeline can heat the adjacent pipe supports, which causes them to sink into the permafrost. The fins help prevent this. The pipeline appears to be on rollers for expansion, and there are pipe supports EVERY 50 feet for hundreds of miles! They don't like you parking or walking under the pipeline, and it is visually monitored (by drone, truck, or helicopter I assume) twice per day for breakage or tampering.

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The Dalton Highway is 1000 miles round trip from Fairbanks. But it's not without some civilization! I cooked lunch on my tailgate at Toolik Lake, a University of Alaska at Fairbanks field station, where they study Arctic ecology. You can see some buildings in the background, across the lake.


The trip home was uneventful. In traditional Alaska fashion, the way back is not redundant - it's a brand new view! I made it to Fairbanks in one piece, but still had 4,000 miles to return to Arizona.

One of the adventures the way home, south of Fairbanks, was driving the Top of the World Highway, which that heads east to the Yukon. The views were incredible and the nice asphalt was very welcome.


Along the Top of the World Highway was the town of Chicken, Alaska. There is no electrical service...the entire villiage runs on generator. Many people know Chicken as an area that is still rich with gold. The town is very proud of their metallic chicken sculpture.


This old truck sits along the road to Chicken. It is a Coleman and originally started life as an airfield tractor towing B-36 bombers in the early 50s. Colemans utlized two Chevrolet Advance-Design cabs welded back-to-back. This was not somebody with a welder, it as a factory truck sold to the USAF! The push-button door handles identify it as a 1952-1953. It would have been powered by a 525 cid gasoline 6-cylinder by Buda.


The Land Cruiser crept along. We took the Cassiar Highway south through Prince George, British Columbia, and rounded out our trip with a drive through Jasper and Banff National Parks. Near Lake Louise, it was good to hit the 4-lane highway again.


The final attraction on the trip was Glacier National Park in Montana. It was a foggy day so Glacier wasn't as spectacular as it may have been, but the drive was still gorgeous. Here I am with my trusty truck.



Glacier National Park still utilizes the original White shuttles from the late 30s. Now on Ford E-series chassis's, these still serve the park with a bit of elegance.

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Any hassle coming through Canada with the firearm?
Curious how many miles are on your 80.

In the end, I drove 8,802 miles in the month of June (corrected for tire size). I now have around 184,000 miles on the Land Cruiser. I used 575 gallons of gas, for an incredible 15.3 mpg average. With 6,300 lbs and 285/75/R16, I'll take it! Now, much of the trip was at the optimal 55 mph, so that certainly helped.

The trip was pretty brutal on the truck. On the way home, as I was driving through Flagstaff, I encountered a terrible vibration. One of my tires started to bulge, suggesting tread separation. Looking at my records, my tires BFG KOs had 56,000 miles at that point. Those ATs were amazing, but I've always wanted to try 255/85/R16, so yesterday I had new Cooper Discoverer ST's installed. Time will tell if they are as good as the BFGs for my use. I also am still working on getting the corrosive calcium silicate off my truck...

Next steps for me are to get the Land Cruiser worthy for my next adventure, finding a job! As a construction engineer, I am looking in Denver and Phoenix, so there are a few more nights of sleeping in the Land Cruiser left as I drive around to interview, not to mention the adventure of moving. But, now I know the truck is up to whatever I throw at it.

I hope you all enjoyed this post. I am really grateful to this forum. I don't post much, but I am on here daily. Like CDan says, this 80 Series has been a big source of pride in my life. Although I still have many modifications planned, I was proud to be able to demonstrate what a mostly-stock, daily driver Land Cruiser can accomplish. There was very little prep done for this trip, save for the communications, yet the truck performed admirably.

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Any hassle coming through Canada with the firearm?

No, surprisingly there was not any hassle. The first time crossing into Canada, I was alone. So, I decided if I got held up or detained, that was okay. What I did was fill out Canada's Non-Resident Firearm Declaration Form ahead of time.

Forms - Royal Canadian Mounted Police

When I got to my first border crossing into Canada near Haines, Alaska, I declared the firearm and told them I had the form ready to go. They asked me to pull over and come in the office. I may have been lucky since it was a very remote port, and there were only three of them in the office. All the officers were watching the NBA Finals when I arrived. They did spend quite a lot of time looking at the computer and my passport though. Once they decided it was okay, they stamped my license and had me sign it in front of them. I never was asked to produce the gun. I think it's also important to note that I emphasized I was not "visiting" their country, only traveling through to Alaska where I was going to spend quite a bit of time in bear country. When crossing into Canada on the way home, I simply showed the same form and was waved by without issue.

I want to also mention that on the way into Canada, I stopped at the US Customs Station and had them sign my 4457 form. This form is used to declare things you are taking out of the country that you intend to bring back. Basically, you declare your intentions and the US Customs officer walks out to the car, verifies the serial number on your weapon, and signs the form. Upon entry into the US, I used this form. I don't think it is mandatory, but it was appreciated by them. It proves you aren't bringing in a foreign weapon.
When were you in GNP, I seem to remember a winched white 80 with AZ tags up near logan the day the road opened up all the way over top. We may have crossed paths while you were in my neighborhood....
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