Day 43 – July 18, 2001 – We woke up at 8:00 am in Prudhoe Bay (also known as Deadhorse), exhausted from the drive. Ben and Nancy had spent some time the night before discussing options: driving out, finding a way to trailer the cars out, leaving the cars behind and flying out, etc. (The option considered depended on whether Nancy or Ben was the one considering.) Ben checked on flights and Nancy decided to fly out and leave the cars behind for the others to drive out. Steve, who had to catch a plane out of Fairbanks at midnight on Friday, decided he couldn’t risk missing the plane and flew back, too. The others, Ben, Jennifer, Ginger, Ross, and Cindy bought gas, tee shirts (we’ve been there and bought the tee shirts), and pulled out around 11:30 am for the drive to Wiseman. Nancy and Steve caught a flight to Fairbanks by way of Anchorage and arrived back at the Super 8 later Wednesday evening. Nancy had survived the Dalton Highway and couldn’t see the need to do it twice.
The drive back to Wiseman was long and hard but there were no breakdowns and very few adjustments. There was a lot of construction equipment out on the road and many of the operators had cameras with them. As the cars drove past, the men would open the door and take pictures. At lunch, poor Lucky had to get outside and everybody piled into the Fordor to escape the mosquitoes and eat. They stopped back by the DOT office to let them know we had made it but no one from the night before was there so, mostly, they just drove. The road was in worse condition than the night before because of the on-going construction work and it took everyone’s concentration to avoid the obstacles. They didn’t see much wildlife and, when they did, they just pointed it out to each other and drove. It was a tired and much smaller group that arrived back at the bed-and-breakfasts in Wiseman at 11:30 that night. The trip up had taken 20 hours; the trip back had taken 12.
It was there that they learned that Ken and Joyce had not had an easy time either. Uta and Bernie of the Arctic Hideaway B&B had let them use their phone to try to get help. Willard Vinton of the Antique Car Club in Fairbanks made arrangements for a truck to pick them up at 3:00 on Tuesday but a variety of problems interfered with the man’s timely arrival. After waiting in the Coldfoot Cafe all day (and hearing reports from the truckers as to our progress), the truck arrived at midnight and the driver told them that, while he could take the car, he could not take them with him. They made arrangements to catch the twice-weekly shuttle back to the city on Wednesday and the shuttle driver literally had to install an extra seat to carry them both. They arrived back at the Super 8 around midnight.
I know what you are thinking: “What were they thinking?!” While none of us ever want to see that place or drive that road again, we are all glad that we did it. From the very beginning of the planning for this trip, driving to Prudhoe Bay has been the goal. We live in the south of Texas and Prudhoe Bay is the top of the world. It is the farthest north you can drive; there is nothing further north but ice. To go there in an antique car, to maintain the cars and keep them running in spite of almost overwhelming odds, to accomplish the goal we set for ourselves was exhilarating, even at 4:00 am.