In May 2009, two middle-aged dreamers left their workaday world and
began to chase winter northward—on motorcycles. In the end
they would chase this season all the way to the frozen Arctic Ocean
where they watched it vanish into endless days. Along the way,
they encountered gold miners, arms dealers, herds of caribou, musk
oxen, countless bears, snow, sleet, hail rain, sun, unplowed
mountain passes, wary buffalo, charging moose, ice floes the size of
houses floating up the Arctic rivers, and Chinese investors in small
planes seeking mining fortunes. They also met some of the First
Nations people—one of whom gave them gifts of tribal pins, a
traditional gesture of indigenous hospitality accorded to strangers
in a strange land.
Bryan Whitehead writes:
"This was no mere vacation: it was a
quest. Our agenda was to try to reach the northernmost point
of North America—Prudhoe Bay—by motorcycle during the brief dry
season: after most of the snow had melted, but before the
quadrillions of mosquitoes hatch on the Arctic Tundra. We had
perhaps a ten- or twenty-day window that met these criteria. As we
gained latitude—and altitude—we encountered snow, freezing mud,
rain, hail, wind, and snow. And as we passed the Arctic
Circle, 24-hour daylight was the rule.
"The motorcycles were purpose-built and modified for this trip. These
machines had not only to vanquish over 2,300 miles of gravel, mud,
ice, and snow, but also had to handle 9,000 miles of US and Canadian Highways
to get there and back. The fuel stops are farther and farther apart
as you go north and they become both unpredictable and unreliable. 350
miles between fuel stops is common, so extra fuel, spare
parts, extra tires, tools, water, food, camping gear, and warm
clothing had to be packed on these machines—topping 650 pounds
of cargo each, plus riders."
Mr. Whitehead, an avid motorcyclist and cigar smoker, will give a
slide show and tell stories about what happened along the way.