Deadhorse sits on the edge of the continent, in a coastal plain with gray curved roads and few road signs to guide the way. It requires tribal knowledge to get around, and most anyone you ask for directions will point the way with a finger, and you have to figure out how to get over there. To call it a town would be charitable, it is really an industrial construction site built to support the extraction of oil.
First order of business upon arrival: gas up the bikes and spare containers.
Prudhoe Bay is home to the largest oil in the US and North America, which means it’s also a strategic asset – access to the Arctic Ocean requires a background check with 24 hour advance notice, as you must use a guided tour for access. While this appears to be common knowledge among the locals and ADV forum, apparently lots of people continue to show up in town expecting to have immediate beach access & ocean vu.
Tip: 2011 may be the last year for guided tours, as the hosting Arctic Caribou Inn is shutting down after this year due to increasing maintenance bills and competing housing alternatives. When we were there in July, no other hospitality companies had yet committed to picking up the tour for next year. So anyone interested in dipping their toes into the Beaufort Sea in the future should research this ahead of time.
Upon arrival at the Caribou Inn, your name gets checked off on an Excel spreadsheet, you pay the $40 tour fee, view an 10 year old video in dire need of a refresh, and hop on the bus to see the production facilities, local wildlife, and finally the ocean.
We spent the night at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel, complete with excellent wifi, 3G, and an over-achieving buffet. The hotel likes to keep the carpets clean, so guests have to wear baby blue booties over street shoes to prevent grime creep. Very stylish, and disposable. James liked his booties so much he wore them on the southbound trip, as you’ll see in the next video.