Friday, September 12, 2008

Alaska, Part 3: The End of the Pipeline

The last stretch of the Dalton Highway is a journey to the end of the world. The tundra extends for hundreds of permafrosted miles in every direction, the equilibrium broken only by the occasional musk ox skeleton (I can spot them when they're dead), white cliffs (not Dover), and the return of BlackBerry reception (not T-Mobile). Finally, the highway plunges into an eerie fog through which Deadhorse gradually comes into focus, a coven of warehouses silhouetted by krieg lights and the never-setting sun. (There are places in Alaska where the sun doesn't set for sixty days in summer and, conversely, doesn't rise for sixty days in winter, topping the biblical plague by a factor of 20. Even so, there are places in New York where any sense of light or hope is permanently absent, e.g. Brooklyn, Mamma Mia.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Alaska, Part 2: Hostels, Hostiles, and Hikes

On the road to Deadhorse, one has to sleep somewhere. For us, these requisite somewheres came in the form of random hostels (in Fairbanks, Alaska's second biggest city), backwoods cabins (in Wiseman, a 13-person village whose showers have two settings: hypothermia and apocalypse), and trailers (in Deadhorse, also Menlo Middle School). Given the communal living spaces, part of the hostel/cabin/trailer experience is playing nicely with others, a task at which Bryant and Jarrod excel. No matter what country a person is from, Bryant speaks their language, attended the same university for at least one semester, and engineered their national railroad. Jarrod possesses extensive knowledge about their government and its trade relations with China—or if they're from the United States, their senators, electoral votes, and all applicable geopolitical data, no matter how obscure the state (i.e. Utah).