Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Alaska- The Last Frontier

Nice doggy

Again, its another easy-peasy border crossing into Alaska and am quietly relieved as I'd hoped the warrant for my arrest from my unpaid Arizona stop sign ticket hadn't been processed yet. We'd met Ramey in Canada and he'd offered us a spot to pitch our tent at his house in Fairbanks. To be honest, We'd have quite liked a hotel room as we were pretty shattered but after phoning a few hotels, they were all well out with our budget so the tent it was.

Alaskan border

Ramey's place was a few miles outside of town but luckily he'd drawn me a pretty good map so it didn't take too long to find the place. No one was home but we knew it was the right place. Ramey is a friend of Karl Bushby (http://goliath.mail2web.com), the British guy who has been walking from Punta Arenas to Alaska via the Darien Gap, and just crossed the Bearing Straits by using the ice flow, with the final goal of getting to the UK, via the Channel Tunnel and will take something like 14 years, walking every step of the way! He is now part of the way through Russia but has been experiencing visa difficulties and has been using Ramey's place as a base so when we saw the sheer volume of equipment and camp food rations, we knew this must be the place. There were some cd's lying around the house including one entitled 'Bearing Straits photos for mum'. I could just imagine it- “Yes, that's very good Karl, now come and eat your dinner”. I'd read his book a while ago and was really looking forward to meeting him but unfortunately they were down in Seattle and Vancouver doing some promotional stuff. So we spent the following day doing fun stuff like oil changes and the like in preparation for the trip up north to our final destination- Prudhoe Bay (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prudhoe_Bay). I bought a bunch of dried food to take up with us on the 3 day journey including beer as it's totally dry up there! The road up there is just under 500 miles from Fairbanks and turns to dirt at the start of the Dalton Highway. Enroute, we crossed the Arctic Circle and naturally stopped for some photos. While there, a family on holiday insisted we join them for sandwiches and beer- couldn't really refuse!

Arctic Circle celebrities

On day one, we made it as far as Galbraith Lake, just over 400 miles from Fairbanks so not a bad effort really. It's really quite beautiful up there despite having a great big bloody oil pipe running alongside the road. On day two, we got up to Deadhorse, despite me getting a puncture only 20 miles from Deadhorse (easily fixed), my GPS giving up the ghost (only temporarily as it turns out) and finally, running out of petrol as we pulled up alongside the place for the oil field tours. Somehow, we'de made it all the way from Ushuaia at the very bottom of South America to Prudhow Bay in Alaska, 8 months and 18 days later. My starting milage was 62,831 and by the time we made it to Prudhoe, it was reading 91,926, a fraction under 30,000 miles.

"Clunk, click on every trip"-
you can never be too tooled up on a bike ride

Confused GPS- Alaska's f%cked up sunset/rise times

Midnight sun

GS shadow

The Deadhorse oil field is as far north as you can drive yourself. To actually get to the Arctic ocean, a few miles further north, you actually have to go on the oil field tour which costs $38. The blurb on the place goes like this: “Commercial oil exploration started in Prudhoe Bay in the 1960s and the field was discovered in 1968 Atlantic Richfield Company but production did not begin until 1977 when the Alaska Pipeline was completed. Production peaked in 1988 at about 2 million barrels a day, but had fallen to below 1 million barrels a day by May 2005, or roughly 300 million barrels a year. Total production from 1977 through 2005 has been 13 billion barrels. As of December 2005, it is estimated that only 3 billion barrels are left (recoverable), which is roughly 10 years of production at the current rate. In terms of recoverable oil, the Prudhoe Bay field is the largest in the United States, more than double the size of the East Texas Oil Field, the second largest”.

Anyway, we finaly got to dip our toes in the Arctic ocean under the watchful eye of the oil field security guard, all these months and miles since doing the same thing in Ushuaia. With hindsight, I think I'd have liked to have started the trip in Alaska given that an oil filed camps generally aren't the most beautiful of places compared to the lovely national park down in Ushuaia.

The Arctic Ocean- We done it!!!!
(hmm, think I actually prefered the Carribean...)

Well never mind, somehow we made it and it has by no means been an easy trip. Very briefely, we've both had lots of ups and downs throughout the trip but somehow, no matter what the problem was, there has always been a way out of it and a bed at the end of the day. Looking back on my photos of this trip just makes me smile and want to do it all again to be quite honest though my bank manager might disagree!

I'd just love to be back down in South America though, where it's just so different and diverse. To my eyes anyway, the people there seem to be generally a lot happier with what they have and never seem to be chasing some impossible dream like the rest of us in the more developed parts of the world. I miss seeing whole familes stroll round the plazas of an evening, the utter lack of globalisation and the same old bloody chain shops seen almost everywhere else in the world, the incredibly varied and stunning scenery, the corrupt cops, whole Mexican villages coming out to watch the building of a speed bump, potholed main roads, and for us anyways, low relatively cost of living and no doubt lots of other things that will come to me over the following weeks.

Hmm, I really don't fancy having to wash that!

As as for us and the rest of the trip, we still don't know where we'll be shipping our bikes from but a ferry trip down the inland passage and Vancouver are next on the list.


jmead11france said...

So glad to see that you both made it to the end. I got home on the 25th of July after several days of terrible rain. Please let me know how you doing, my email is 2at018@cox.net

If you ever are in Tucson, please come and stay. You would be very welcome. So glad to have had the opportunity to meet you. I have some good pictures of you you might want to get copies of too.

Jeffrey Mead

Mcoy said...

Well done you two. Home will never seem the same again in fact home is now anywhere, you're now "cittadino del mondo" - "citizens of the world" as a pal of mine likes to say! Your trip (and Karl's amazing trek) makes my paltry 100 km walk look like a piece of cake.

jmead11france said...

Hey, how's it going??

I put all the pictures I took of you and Michelle in a folder at this address. http://jmead11france.smugmug.com/
so you can grab them all at your convenience. I'm notorious for 500-800 photos a day, so I am disappointed actually there are not more. Best wishes,

Jeffrey Mead