From the start of the road
Last night before I found my campsite, I checked in with the hotel offering oilfield tours. Corbin was kind enough to take my name for the security officer in hope that he’ll let me on the 5 o’clock evening tour. With my only responsibility of the day being to call in again before five to confirm my identity as a non-terrorist-tourist, I sleep away the strain of yesterday well into noon.
I meet with Grant, the badged tour operator, to secure an unorthodox exception to the 24-hour notice rule for the tour, and we quickly take to each other and talk about my adventure. I guess I don’t fit the oilfield risky person profile because he invites me to come back at five for the tour. Sweet.
At twenty to five, I join Jim and Mary, my co-non-terrorist-tourists, in the hotel’s tour room. They’re in Alaska after having sold a business in the Southwest US to finish a tour they started together some 38 years ago. Leaving friends and family behind, they drove from the US to Tierra Del Fuego and then caught a ride to Cape Town, South Africa to drive all the way to Europe. They say that this trip to Deadhorse will seal the deal on what they started in the 70s.
I don’t say it, but I hope Alaska is not the end of the road for Jim and Mary. What they have together is very unique and special. It takes devotion and love stronger than crazy glue to be around a spouse 24 hours a day, years at a time, and while traveling the world. So, don’t let Alaska be the end of your journey. After all, can’t we see Russia from here?
Mary tells us to hush our talking so we can listen to Grant’s narrative of the Greater Prudhoe Bay Area. I listen and take pictures.
The best part of the tour is our visit to the Arctic Ocean. Grant parks the bus and sends us on our own to walk the gravel jetty into the water. Joking to Jim and Mary that this is the closest thing to a shower I’ve had in four days, we take turns wading into the water and swapping cameras. On the ride back to the hotel, Grant’s narrative is over and we talk up a storm about traveling and trade contact info.
It’s feeding time back at the hotel cafeteria. I noticed two BMW motorbikes in the lot and am looking for the tired and dirty blokes who rode them so we can chat. I see a helmet, smile, and introduce myself. While stuffing pizza, lasagna, salad, veggies, and desert down my throat, I learn about Ben and Matty and why they chose to ride two beat up BMW road touring bikes to Deadhorse on street tires. Moreover, I learn why and how they plan to ride them all the way to Argentina.
We trade stories and backgrounds, and I get my first real fellow vagabond rider bonding moment that I think I was looking for in the phantom GS rider yesterday. Where JD left me feeling like the Dalton was just another ride around the world for him, Ben and Matty epitomize what adventure touring is all about. It’s a penny pinching, tent camping, never ending endeavor to keep one’s mind open, bike running, and resilience to the elements high.
Leaving Deadhorse is a new experience for me in more ways than one. Most significant is the realization that I’m staring at a road before me with endless possibilities. This truly is the start of a road and not an end. Where I go from here is unknown and unplanned. The thought of a blank map frightens me. I’ve always worked to an end with a very defined beginning and articulate middle. This has always afforded me a path of least resistance and the fewest number of unexpected bumps. I don’t have that now, and I hope it will make the journey an adventure.
Tonight, I do know of a destination. We ride out of town together in search of cheaper accommodations than the $190 a night being offered by the hotel. Ben and Matty stop to camp just outside of town and will return for the early morning oilfield tour, but I start my ride south with another sunset in the sky and Chena Hot Springs in my sights.