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1000 Americans: Jack Reakoff, Wiseman, Alaska. About oil drilling in Alaska.

August 15, 2008 by  
Filed under 1000 Americans, Friendly people, Go green

_MG_9996-Wiseman-Jack-reakoff-house

‘I have been living in Wiseman since 1971, when I was 13. I have to go to Fairbanks to get supplies every 3-4 months, but hate it.’

Jack Reakoff is one of Wiseman’s famous faces and voices. he seems to know a lot about a lot and works part-time as a tourguide, showing busloads of tourists around Wiseman and telling all about its history. Whenever there is a radio discussion about a current topic, Jack calls in and he has been featured in books, videos and guides. he sells fur from animals he hunts and traps and beads to make necklaces and jewelry.

He has a clear opinion about the oil industry and the thoughts behind the pressure to start drilling in the last remaining wilderness in the arctic:

‘It’s all political. Due to new drilling methods there is actually more oil in the North Slope available than there was when they started drilling a few decades ago. But they have to lower the output, which serves them for several reasons: firstly, the pipeline will not break. It is old and corrosion has lowered the maximum pressure that can go through. Read more

1000 Americans: 8 Ball, Wiseman, Alaska

August 15, 2008 by  
Filed under 1000 Americans, Friendly people

_MG_9998-8ball-close-cabin

8-Ball, is one of the 33 inhabitants of Wiseman, Alaska. He had worked on the pipeline and has climbed some mountains in the area. He set us up with a cabin for 2 nights and even gave us some fresh lettuce, with dressing! He is the new owner of the Wiseman Trading Post, the old general store slash museum.

‘Yes, the General Store is mine. I bought it a few years ago, when the guy owning it moved out. I am not really using it, but wanted to prevent some tourist company buying it and making it into a tourist attraction.’

What is his real name?

‘8 Ball is how they know me and what I answer to, and it is how I am in the phonebook.’

Only when checking his store, I notice a small card saying to whom checks to pay for t-shirts and souvenirs can be written out to. Apparently the bank does not know ‘8 Ball’. Next to the card is a jar and a sign stating: ‘We use the honour system, please deposit the money for what you bought in the glass jar’. Below the packages of chewing gum that are marked with 30cts is a little note: ‘The gum is 30cts. Only got 25? Close enough’

‘Yes, I have no time to stand in the shop all the time. if people really want to take anything without paying for it, they can have it.’

Just when we were cycling out of town, we heard an engine behind us and 8-ball appeared on a small 4×4 vehicle that every Alaskan seems to have nowadays. 8-ball stopped besides me.

‘I forgot my manners. As you were going to Coldfoot for some lunch, I just thought, maybe I can make you some soup! Do you want some?’

The we did something that biketravellers normally never do: we turned him down.

‘Thanks for the offer 8-ball, much appreciated, but you already have done so much for us. We have to go.’

1000 Americans: Beth, from Bend, Oregon

August 15, 2008 by  
Filed under 1000 Americans

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Beth works for one of the tour companies in Alaska and visits Wiseman regularly. I noticed the tattoo aroudn her wrist: a bicycle chain with a tooth.

‘Yeah, I crashed hard one time on my bicycle and lost some teeth, this is to remind me. I run a Bicycle coop in Bend, Oregon. We try to promote cycling, repair bikes and teach about road safety.’

————-

Now there is a real biker-chick! Thanks for making the world a bit greener, maybe others can follow in promoting cycling.

Day 8-9, 19/20th July 2008: Wiseman – Arctic Circle. Thoughts about food, Alaska & angels..

It was time to say goodbye to Wiseman and 8-Ball, even though we could have stayed much longer. He asked us not to tell everybody he was such a nice guy, but we said that we could not do this.

Just when we were cycling out of town, we heard an engine behind us and 8-ball appeared on a small 4×4 vehicle that every Alaskan seems to have nowadays. 8-ball stopped besides me.

‘I forgot my manners. As you were going to Coldfoot for some lunch, I just thought, maybe I can make you some soup! Do you want some?’

The we did something that biketravellers normally never do: we turned him down.

‘Thanks for the offer 8-ball, much appreciated, but you already have done so much for us. We have to go.’

And off we went. The road was not as bad as we had left it 2 days before and soon we arrived in Coldfoot, the leftover from the Pipeline and mining town. Now it is mainly a truckstop, serving Alaskan-sized portions of food. as mentioned, most cyclist do not have epiphanies when cycling. The only deep thoughts that cross our minds are usually either:

  • When can we eat again? I am hungry..
  • Damn, that wind is again slowing me down, when will we get tailwind?!? Is that another rain cloud up there?
  • Should we stop for lunch now and push another mile or two?
  • 20 miles cycled today, so that is 32km, so almost 11km per hour. Seems it is time to stop for a snack, but maybe then it will take too long until dinner..
Truck lined up in Coldfoot

Truck lined up in Coldfoot

As you can see, the thoughts of a biketraveller are mostly about basic subjects: food and cycling, distance and weather. Ivana and I both admitted to eachother that we increased our speed when approaching Coldfoot, making non-stop calculations: ‘Coldfoot is at Mile 175, this is Mile 171, so 4 miles, that is 6.4km. We go 13km per hour now, so almost 30 minutes to lunch. Oh no, uphill, 40 minutes to lunch. Great going down again, only 10 minutes to lunch now.’

_MG_0031-Ivana-Pablito-Arctic-CircleSuddenly we both realised independently a horrible possibility: what if the other cyclist had come to Coldfoot before us and had already bought al the snickers bars!?! Read more

Day 4-6: 16/17/18 July: Galbraith lake – Wiseman

July 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Alaska, Friendly people, North America, Trip reports

P1080140-Harry-road-truck-dustAs the other cyclists were sound asleep and they would be faster, Ivana & I left before them. We were greeted by a very strong headwind, which promised not much good for the next 30 miles up to the pass. Fortunately it was still dry most of the time and further relief was brought by some friendly people on the road.

When I stopped to wait for Ivana, I met a few women, who worked at the Toolik Lake research center. They were intrigued by our trip and even more by the Solar Supra solarpanel I had on the back (which charges even when in cloudy conditions). They took some photos, to share with their class and treated us on some homemade cookies, yummm…_MG_9948-Hugo-family-cars

Just down the road I noticed two huge 4×4 vehicles coming our way. What struck me were not the many different stickers, but the Argentina- Alaska notice and I stopped them. It appeared to be the family of Hugo, which I will introduce in a separate post. we are starting to meet so many nice persons, that I am going to start a different category: 1000 Americans. Not sure if we will get to write about 1000 different people during this trip, but we will definitely meet them. For now let me just say that they gave what we needed most: a cup of coffee for Ivana and a Twix, Oreo cookies and some other treats for both of us!

_MG_9953-Kowalski-Aigun-passNo more excuses now, we had to get up to the infamous Atigun Pass in order to cross the Brooks Range and the roads started to climb into the clouds. The rain came back as well and the final hours up to the pass were quite gruesome, chilling us to the bone.

_MG_9955-Harry-Atigun-pass-self

The last section was so steep that Ivana and I both had to walk for a bit. I arrived first on the pass, but as it is not a touristy road, there was no sign, no shelter & no place to hide from the storm. But luckily, a truck was parked and I could shelter behind, waiting for Ivana to appear from the mist.  Ok, into the wind and downhill! Read more