“Do you have my chocolate?” the half naked man queries me.
I’ve stopped my Mini on the Dempster Highway, alarmed by the site of this bedraggled bicyclist in the arctic wilderness.
He slumps down on his bike, “Oh, I thought you were my chocolate. I gave $10 to a passing car, asking them to get me chocolate and send it back down the road with someone. I thought it was you.”
Struck by his strange method of Dempster communications and exchange, I try to keep him engaged in a conversation. I’m not convinced that this daring bicyclist hasn’t become delirious out here on the road.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any chocolate. Do you need something to eat? Some water?”
He refuses my offer, indicating he has plenty of both.
“Where are you going?” I continue.
“Inuvik! Where all the tourists go!”
“And where did you start?”
I eye his very lightly packed bike, “You rode from Seattle with just these things?”
“Yes!” he beams.
Finally convinced he is of as sound a mind as anyone trekking up this highway, we say goodbye.
I ended up staying in Inuvik for over a week, resting, touring, and waiting for a pretty day to drive back. I didn’t think it was possible, but the drive down seemed every more magical than the drive up.
But the midnight sun really plays tricks with your mind. I had no idea how much I subconsciously orient myself in time and space by the movement of the sun.
I couldn’t quite figure out where it went during the course of a day, so I decided that when I got back to my pretty campsite at the arctic circle, I would stay up all night and watch its movements.
(In case you are curious, here is a time lapse photograph of the midnight sun by Anufl Husmo.)
Back on the road late the next day, I’m again perplexed by the sight of yet another man alone in the road. He’s waving a white t-shirt, so I pull up alongside of him.
“Hey, thanks for stopping. I flatted and was wondering if you could tell my buddies.” He points to his motorcycle in the gravel pull out.
“Uh, sure. Where are your buddies?”
“They should be just up the road, stopped somewhere waiting for me. Just tell them I flatted.”
“Are you stuck out here? Do you want me to give you a ride?”
“Oh, no,” glancing back at his BMW bike. “Please just look for them and tell them to bring me a tire.”
Not seeing the logic of his decision, I leave him abandoned on the roadway, picking up my pace in hopes of coming across his friends.
I drive for three hours. Coming upon the last few miles of the Dempster, I am stopped by my two friends from my first day!
Finally pulling into the mile zero truck stop. I see two guys on motorcycles. They look beat to hell after an all day ride on the Dempster.
“Are you waiting for your friend?”
“Yes!” I see their relief.
“He’s up the road about three hours. He wants you to bring him a tire.”
I see their despair.
And with that, my Dempster adventure was done!