I droped out of my truck at 10 in the morning. It was still dark and would remain so, because at this time of the year there is no sunrise at all. Just 4 hours of twilight. Nothing more than this. This „town“ at the end of the world was basically just a bunch of workshops and containers, combined with some refinery at the horizon. Town centre: Missing. And at -35° I wasn´t in the mood to go for a walk. I went immediately in the nearby Hotel named Black Gold. Remember this name please!
I was at the end of my expedition. The hotel should give me some shelter against the cold. It was build of containers. The inside remembered me a bit of Star Trek. The friendly guy at the reception said, I can wait in the TV room and get warm. Also they would have breakfast for 10$. Winners breakfast. I couldn´t say no. I paid and moved towards the dining hall. The friendly guy from the reception said, that it would also be possible for me, to make myself a lunch package for the way and that I could grab one of the ready-to-go sandwiches out of the fridge. That was so awesome! A well as the strawberries with whipping cream.
After I wrote and published my Expedition-Closing-Post, I went back onto the highway and tied to catch a truck to Fairbanks. There are hardly any cars on the 666 km long Dalton Highway, especially in the winter time. There are no houses or villages in between Dead Horse and Fairbanks. Only one truck stop half way. Every truck that passes would go to Fairbanks. Actually pretty easy. Unfortunately there where only 1-2 trucks passing by each hour. Two times I went out for waiting around 60 minutes but had to go back into the hotel afterwards. -35° have been to challenging.
Hitchhiking in the coldest winter
At least the Black Gold gave me a warming welcome. “It feels like you would already live here”, said Michaela, who was the boss I suppose. “Do you need a job?”, asked the friendly receptionist and laughed happily. I laughed with them. When I stepped out the third time, already waiting for 30 minutes, no truck passed by, some of the kitchen workers came out. He was observing me and we started chatting. He asked if I am hungry and that I should come into the warm hotel and he would give me some food. Of course I had nothing to say against some offered warm meal. It was already 5 in the evening and “getting dark” again. They were all so fucking friendly. I got some vegetables, yummi rice with stuff in it and chicken wings. Also a comfortable leather couch and football on a plasma tv. I started realizing, that it might get difficult, to get out of this place!
Fourth try. There was a truck waiting. I approached the driver. He would go South later. And yes he could take me. Would go around 9. I stepped out at 8 to hitchhike another time and he was gone. Left me behind. I was kind of disappointed. While getting back into the dining hall and asking desperately one of the many oil workers, if he would be a truck driver, I saw the guy from the other truck sitting at a table and chatting with Michaela. He said, that they got a job on the oil fields and will stay till a bit longer here. Making money. No ride out of Dead Horse. My last hope for this day died.
And so I was standing at their table and we talked about my trip and how I could get out the best. I can´t remember how exactly the conversation went, but Michaela asked me, what I would do in the night. I said I would just hang out somewhere, where it would be warm. I am used to this, so no problem at all. Silence followed. She looked at me: “Do you need a room?” I was surprised. I said, that I don´t necessarily need a room, but if she offers me one……the friendly guy from the reception was adviced to give me a room. I was told several times, that I should go to bed, have a long rest and that they would take me to the terminal in the next morning. The place where most of the trucks clear their load. What a beautiful offer. Thank you so much Black Gold Hotel!
Hitchhiking with airplanes
Next morning she knocked at my door to wake me up and said, that there is still 30 minutes breakfast, just in case if I want. Afterwards we drove to the terminal. I had this idea to hitchhike an airplane and I knew that there will be two flights going out of Dead Horse this day. The first airline, Ravn, couldn´t help me, The manager was not there. Probability of success: Low. The second airline could not help me. The manager was not there. Probability of success: Impossible.
So I went back on the street. Today it was colder than yesterday. My beard was freezing again, but also my scarf, which I used to cover my nose against the wind with, started freezing and finally my scarf and my beard froze together. Not an easy hitchhiking day. I did not want to go back into the hotel they were so friendly to me and I didn´t wanted to exploit their hospitality. So I hitchhiked back to the airport.
I got picked up by some oil workers and an elderly woman who shouted with me. That I can not do that. I can not hitchhike in this temperatures. What the fuck I am doing here. And that I should take a flight to get out here and not go back on the road again. But I had no choice. It was close to one. I knew that around two a flight with ravn would leave to Fairbanks. I went to the terminal again to give it a second try. The manager was there this time and told me, that they can not put me on an airplane for free, even if there are open spots. I had to play my trump.
Flashback: It was 2,5 months ago, that I hitchhiked through the US with a guy who was pilot for Ravn Airlines. He gave me his number and said, that he can give me a boarding pass for a one way ticket to every destination the fly to. For only 30$ administrational fee. Originally I did not suppose to take this offer, because even for 30$ it is not hitchhiked. The normal flight would have cost around 400$. But now my expedition was over. I had to get conscious about this fact. Taking a flight under special circumstances should be all right. One week before there would not have been a question about this. For sure I would have hitchhiked out, however long it would have taken me and however painfully the cold would have treaten me. But now I thought: “ Well, okay.”
Getting out of this shit!
The only problem was, that I had the number and name of the pilot, but nothing more. And he had to book the ticket within one hour. Hopefully I could reach him. While the airline manager was looking for the telephone, another guy started talking to me. He was sitting behind the counter all the time and followed our conversation. He asked for the pilot and his name. Then he said. “I can give you a boarding pass!” He was pilot as well. This way it was much easier and for sure I would make it into the airplane. We chatted briefly, asked the manager for permission, I gave him all my left money (22$, but he said it is okay) and so I got my ticket.
As I checked in the manager was at the door and controlled my ticket. I was the last person. “I am glad you made it on the flight”, he said, “If you would not have gotten a leg-pass from the pilot, I would have given you one of mine. We are happy to help and it is no fun to get stucked here.” Wow, this generosity. Didn´t expect that. And so I was sitting finally in my airplane to Fairbanks and had for 22$ my first paid-flight of my whole journey.
Thanks to all the wonderful people in Dead Horse. Don´t know how I deserved all this. The place itself was absolutely hostile and one of the first places I perceived as really dangerous (regarding to the climate). Rough nature up there. I searched a long time for this experience. But this article should tell another story: That you should trust the unkown, even if you don´t know what the fuck you will run into! Something I learned out of this experience.