Is a drive to the beach for a dip in the ocean the ultimate road trip? Yes, when it’s 5,000-miles.
Yes, when the last 400 miles are a pot-holed dirt and gravel road.
Yes, when it’s the Arctic Ocean.
Mike Lizonitz, 67, and his wife Patricia, 66, made the trip from Pennsylvania in their Kia Sedona, modified for car camping with a memory foam mattress under a homemade shelf for gear storage.
It was, Mike said, “Our last great road trip. We’ve driven to 48 states. We cruised to Alaska from Vancouver, but we’d never driven there.”
Mike said they didn’t feel their trip really began until they reached Mile Zero of the Alaskan Highway, 2,700 miles from home.
The Alaskan Highway is a 1,387-mile, two-lane blacktop, from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska, near Fairbanks. Mike and Patricia car camped for $8 a night, stopped to visit Santa at the town of North Pole and left their mark at Watson Lake Signpost Forest in the Yukon.
At Fairbanks, they rented a 2017 Ford Escape specially equipped with full extra spare and donut, tool box, CB radio and medical kit for life on the Dawson Highway, the last leg. Dalton highway is a 414-mile dirt and gravel industrial road, riddled with potholes and without cell service. Facilities are spartan and spare, there are no gas stations or basic services on the last 240-mile stretch. The terminus is Deadhorse, an oil camp, at Prudhoe Bay.
Taking a day and one-half each way, Mike and Patricia spent the night, though never fully dark, at a self-serve campground sleeping in the rented Escape. The Dalton follows the Alaska Pipeline. Three quarters of the distance is forested, until the “Last Spruce. “Ahead was a vast grassland of the tundra.
Most of the traffic was semi trucks which kick up gravel, dinging windshields. They saw only two private vehicles in 400 miles. At Deadhorse they took a shuttle bus to the Arctic Ocean. Mike waded into the Arctic to his calves, while Patricia dipped her toes in.
It was a trip only 10 of 10,000 visitors who reach Fairbanks complete.
They gassed up at Deadhorse at an automated pump station, paying $5.49 a gallon. They spent $2,000 on gas for the entire trip.
They got back to Pennsylvania after traveling 9,997 miles in three weeks.
Jack Smiles is a feature correspondent for Times Shamrock Communications in Pennsylvania. He was born in 1947.