Day 41 – July 16, 2001 – We crossed into the Arctic Circle today! A word of warning: there are lots of pictures of us at the site of the crossing. Not too many scenery pictures because we wanted our loved ones to know we actually made it to the Arctic Circle. If you don’t feel compelled to look at all the pictures, just feel free to skip it today.
Today was the big day! The first leg of the trip to Prudhoe Bay! We had pared down our belongings to just what we would need in the way of clothes and food, taking all the tools and parts we thought we might need. We got an early start but stopped before long for our first look at the Alaska Pipeline. This pipeline goes from Valdez to Prudhoe and is probably visible from outer space. We’re from Texas and we’ve seen pipelines but nothing the scale of this. It was built in the 1970’s and still is an engineering marvel.
We had 260 miles to go to get to our night’s lodging, a bed-and-breakfast in Wiseman, Alaska, just north of Coldfoot. Even though we were in a hurry, each stop seemed to take an inordinate amount of time. There isn’t much in the way of services between Fairbanks and Coldfoot and what there is, is expensive. We passed a gas station at the Yukon River Bridge to go on to one advertised in the Milepost, only to find that they were out of gas and the place was a dump. We gathered up all the gas cans and Ben drove back to the bridge to fill them up. We are carrying 19 gallons of gas in cans because the drives are so long between stations.
When we reached the Arctic Circle, we stopped for pictures (which you will see below) and to celebrate getting there. However, it is a long way from the sign to Coldfoot. We pulled into Coldfoot around 10:00 pm, exhausted and hungry and still had 15 miles to get to the b&b. Even though it was 10:00 pm, it was still bright daylight and we created quite a stir. I went into the cafe and overheard one man saying to another, “Look at those old cars! What the hell are they doing here?” That was the question of the hour, apparently, as Ken and Joyce told us they had decided not to go on to Prudhoe Bay. They were too tired, too sick of the bumpy road, too worried about their car. Their daughter Cindy decided to go on with us but they were going to head back to Fairbanks. We were disappointed that they would make that decision when they were so close but we didn’t know what the next day would bring for us either and didn’t try to change their minds.
We arrived at our b&b’s around midnight. We had rooms at two places because none were big enough to hold us but they were right next door to each other. We set the alarm for 5:30 am and went to bed.
Oh, one more thing: we finally saw a moose! Or, at least some of us did. Jennifer and Steve and Ben and Nancy were about two miles behind the other two cars. When we spotted this large bull moose in a small lake, Jennifer and Steve set out through the shrubs to get pictures. They will be added as soon as we can get them developed and scanned (services not available in the town of Coldfoot).