Nitto Tires JK Experience Alaska – Day 4 & 5

A quick stop for road construction on the Dalton Highway.

A quick stop for road construction on the Dalton Highway.

Wednesday Day 4

Driving to Deadhorse-Prudhoe Bay is on many people’s bucket lists including ours. When it was announced the night before that we would be making the 1000 mile Dalton Highway trip in two days, you could hear and see the excitement in the group.

The start of the Dal

The start of the Dalton Highway

The Dalton Highway consisted of nice smooth pavement, pothole ridden pavement, patches of gravel, roads made of river rock, full gravel and mud all with a speed limit of 55 MPH most of time. After just over 12 hours of driving on this inconsistent terrain, we reached the night’s accommodations, Deadhorse Camp in Deadhorse.

A photo of the ARB Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited in front of the famous Arctic Circle sign.

A photo of the ARB Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited in front of the famous Arctic Circle sign.

Shortly after the Arctic Circle sign, you can stop at a small ranger station just passed the only USA bridge to cross the Yukon river. There you can get a stamped certificate stating that you were in the Arctic Circle.

Shortly after the Arctic Circle sign, you can stop at a small ranger station just passed the only USA bridge to cross the Yukon river. There you can get a stamped certificate stating that you were in the Arctic Circle.

When you arrive in Deadhorse, you quickly find out that everything in Deadhorse is there to support the oil operations, not tourism. There really isn’t anything in the town, including food or accommodations. Luckily, we had stocked up with food in Fairbanks before leaving for Deadhorse so we had some “tasty” sandwiches waiting for us in the ARB Fridge/Freezer when we arrived and settled in.

Our "hotel" for the night in Deadhorse.

Our “hotel” for the night in Deadhorse.

If you are not traveling via a RV or van, you will be in for a surprise. Don’t expect a five-star hotel. Instead, all sleeping establishments resemble very large mobile homes that are configured in a manner like a dormitory with two twin beds per room and no toilet, but instead a large shared bathroom with showers. Most of the participants on the trip were not fazed by the rustic accommodation, instead seen it as a unique experience.

Our "hotel" for the night in Deadhorse.

Our “hotel” for the night in Deadhorse.

Later that “night” we were surprised by the staff at JKX with BBQ’ed Reindeer sausage with all the fixings. We ended the “night” standing around the BBQ, swatting at bird-sized mosquitos that were not in anyway affected by the falling rain. All while the sky was still bright enough to read your favorite issue of JP Magazine well past midnight.

Thursday Day 5

The Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic Ocean.

After a surprisingly comfortable sleep in our twin beds, we kicked the morning off with a little breakfast in the camp’s diner. Shortly after breakfast, it was off on a tour bus to the Arctic Ocean. We drove this far so we of course can’t leave without dipping our hands (some their entire bodies) in the ocean.

Old oil drums reaching out into the Arctic Ocean.

Old oil drums reaching out into the Arctic Ocean.

The only way to reach the ocean is to drive through Prudhoe Bay, a heavily secured area due to the oil operations. To do this, you must either be a credential worker in the area or be on a guide bus. After going through an armed check point, it was a just short drive to the ocean where we all had the chance to walk out and put our hands in the Arctic Ocean.

Fueling up the ARB Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited in Deadhorse before traveling back south towards Fairbanks.

Fueling up the ARB Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited in Deadhorse before traveling back south towards Fairbanks.

Now that most of us accomplished the Arctic Ocean bucket list item, it was time to head south backtracking our route on the Dalton Highway.

Stopped for construction on the top of Atigun Pass.

Stopped for construction on the top of Atigun Pass.

The route south was the same as heading north, just with a little more rain and mud. After a quick fuel and meal at the halfway point in the small town of Coldfoot, it was back on the road to our night’s unknown location.

The Dalton Highway was a little wetter on the way South vs on the way North.

The Dalton Highway was a little wetter on the way South vs on the way North.

After reaching permanent pavement and civilization, it was what seemed like a short drive to our next accommodation, the Hotel North Pole in the Christmas themed town of North Pole, AK.

Click here for Day 6 & 7 of the Nitto Tires JK Experience Alaska

Project Quicksand – Nitto Tires JK Experience Alaska

Project Quicksand – The speed (quick) in which the new ARB Mojave (sand color) Jeep Wrangler JK was built. When we were contacted by JK Experience about being sponsor of the Nitto Tires JKX Alaska 2016, we jumped at the opportunity to be involved and showcase the capability of a kitted out ARB Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited built completely with bolt on components. This would prove that you can build a capable vehicle that could conquer some very rugged terrain without fabrication or welding skills.

Traditionally JKX information is very limited and 2016 wasn’t any different. Leading up to the event we were given some basic information that would require some planning.

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Fuel was a major concern with this trip. As you can see most opted to bring extra fuel via a Rotopax container.

The first and most important is fuel. We were informed that we would be required to have at least a 300 mile fuel range during the trip. This would require the installation of an auxiliary fuel tank system or the ability to carry fuel via jerry cans. The second important piece of information was that we would need to be self sufficient and be able to pack food, clothing, tools and spare parts for 7 days worth of travel. In the past, participants of JKX would be required to camp several nights of the trip, but because of the uncertainty of Alaska weather and wildlife along with needing spare empty seats for media members, we would be spending every night in a hotel or “hotel like” facility.

May 2015 - Grand Canyon - AZ ARB Photo Shoot - Taco, Jeep

We felt that our our overland themed 2012 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited wasn’t aggressive enough for the possible Alaskan terrain were might encounter on the trip.

We already had two JKs in the ARB fleet, a very capable 2010 2-door at our Seattle location and an overland themed Unlimited at our Florida location. Obviously the 2-door’s storage capacity would hinder the ability to carry all the required items of the trip as well as having an open seat for a media member. Our red overland themed 2014 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited would easily meet the cargo space requirements and with the already installed Rhino roof rack, securing fuel containers would be an easy task.

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Our 2010 Jeep Wrangler was plenty aggressive enough to conquer the Alaskan terrain on the trip, but was not a viable option due to the lack of interior cargo space.

As mentioned above, information is very limited leading up to the event and pretty much a need-to-know basis. We would not know what kind of terrain we would be encountering until each day of travel. The day could be all paved roads, it could be all dirt roads or very technical off-roading. We wouldn’t not know until the drivers meeting the morning of travel. Because of this, we determined that our overland themed JK would not be aggressive enough for the Alaskan terrain.

So the decision was made to purchase and outfit a more aggressive but overland capable Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited for the trip. After scouring the classified ads for a clean, used Wrangler Unlimited it was determined that it was more cost effective to purchase a brand new vehicle.

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Our brand new 2016 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Sport as we were picking it up from the dealership.

After a week of deciding on a color and searching the local dealer listings, we found our Jeep, a basic, no power options 2016 Mojave Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport. And with that, project Quicksand was born. The Jeep was purchased on the late afternoon of Wednesday July 13th with the departure deadline of Monday July 18th to arrive in Anchorage by the event’s check-in date of Saturday July 23rd. In other words, this was going to be a very quick, but doable build.

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Dana Spicer Ultimate Dana 60s were provided to us for this project seen here with the ARB Air Locker installed.

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Dana Spicer Ultimate Dana 60s were provided to us for this project seen here with the ARB Air Locker installed.

First things first. Dana Spicer sponsored the build with front and rear Dana Ultimate 60s which we had already loaded up with a couple of ARB Air Lockers in preparation of being installed under our new Jeep. With these new axles, we would need to different length driveshafts that were sponsored by Tom Wood’s Driveshaft. To order the correct length, the suspension and Dana 60 axles would need to be installed to measure for the correct length.

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Factory axles out, Dana Spicer Ultimate Dana 60s ready to go in.

With the new axles (bolt pattern) and the mud that we new we were going to encounter, new wheels were required. Our friends over at TR Beadlocks donated a set of their beadlock wheels. These wheels mated with Nitto Trail Grappler Mts proved to be a perfect combination while in Alaska. To make sure we had enough clearance for the new Nitto Tires, MCE Fenders were installed front and rear.

The Jeep was purchased on the Wednesday night, this meant that the factory axles and suspension would need to be removed and the new Dana 60’s along with the Old Man Emu 4” suspension with the new BP-51 Internal Bypass shocks would need to be installed by the following morning (Thursday) to ensure that the driveshafts could be made and shipped overnight for the installation and differential gear break-in over the weekend.

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New front and rear driveshafts were provided by our friends over at Tom Wood’s Driveshaft.

The Jeep teardown started at 4:30PM, the suspension (springs, shocks, control arms) and axles were in and the Jeep was on the ground by 10PM that night ready for driveshaft measurements.

Checking suspension clearances after rolling it out of the shop.

Checking suspension clearances after rolling it out of the shop.

After several days of hard work, the Jeep was completed that Sunday morning and was out on the local roads adding a few miles to the new differential gears.

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Ready for the day’s test drive and differential gear break-in.

With the build complete and the differential oil changed, it was time to hit the road in our completely bolt-on ARB accessorized Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited for a 2200 mile journey from Seattle to Anchorage to the official Nitto Tires JKX Alaska 2016 checkin.

Special thanks to Mike at MCE Fenders for coming down to the shop on his day off to install the MCE Fenders and work on other parts of the Jeep.

Complete build included:

ARB Product:
– ARB Front Stubby Bar
– ARB Intensity LED AR21 lights
ARB Under Vehicle Protection
ARB Rock Sliders
Rear Bumper and Tire Carrier (modified for 8 lug wheels)
– OMEJK4BP51 4” suspension system with OME BP-51 Internal Bypass Shocks & ARB Control Arms
– Front and rear 35 spline ARB Air Lockers
– ARB Twin Compressor with Manifold
– ARB Inflation Kit
– Safari Snorkel
– ARB Breather Kit
– ARB 50QT Fridge Freezer with Loom
– ARB Recovery Kit: RK9, additional winch extension strap, ground anchor
– IPF H4 Headlamp Lenses and IPF H4 LED Bulbs

Non ARB Product:
MCE Front and Rear Fenders
Front and Rear Dana Spicer Ultimate Dana 60s (8-lug)
Tom Wood’s front and rear drive shafts
TR Beadlock wheels
37” Nitto Trail Grappler MT tires
Rhino Rack Backbone roof rack
Rotopax w/lockable mounts
Maxtrax w/mount system
Grab Bars
Cobra CB C75 WX ST
Teraflex under seat compressor bracket
AEV Procal

Click here for Day 1 & 2 of the Nitto Tires JK Experience Alaska