In Which Mercedes’ Sprinter Becomes A Long-Distance Sherpa
In the wintery wilds of northern Alaska, even the cute little critters want to kill you.
As I am about to nod off on my long leg flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage ahead of driving to the Arctic Circle, the friendly twenty-something Alaskan knitting furiously in the seat next to me pauses and says, “When you’re driving up there, don’t open your windows.” In the dead of winter? I hadn’t planned on cruising alfresco, but her warning to keep the glazing snugged against the weatherstripping is one I would take to heart. She continues: “If you leave ’em open, a fox is liable to jump right in. There are lots of rabid foxes up there, and they leap into your car and just Go. To. Town.” And here I was, thinking that a curious bear or maybe an ill-placed moose in the road was going to be my biggest potential four-legged threat. In the wintery wilds of northern Alaska, even the cute little critters want to kill you.
Bedraggled after two flights and a long layover, I reach my hotel room nursing a toothache and a suddenly metastasizing cold. I manage to down half a reindeer burger from room service and a sleeping pill, and with a cute red fox taking the place of the killer rabbit in that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail stuck on mental replay, I hit the pillow, wondering what in the hell I’ve gotten myself into.
The next morning starts early, and I meet my fellow adventurers-to-be at the morning briefing. We’re assembled at the Anchorage Sheraton at the behest of Mercedes-Benz Canada, and our plan is to drive from Anchorage to the former mining camp of Coldfoot, which lies north of the Arctic Circle. In Sprinter commercial vans. At 1,264 miles, it’s the last leg of a longer endurance run that started out in Edmonton. We’ll stop for the night in Fairbanks, then run alongside the 800-mile-long Trans-Alaskan Pipeline before saying hello to the Arctic Circle. From there, we’ll venture up to Coldfoot Camp, where we’ll hopefully stand directly underneath the Northern Lights. Then we’ll do the whole thing in reverse, ending up in this very hotel five days from now.