Where the sidewalk ends
Dead Horse, AL,
1300 miles south of the North Pole, Northernmost point accessible by road in the world.

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I am north, as north as you can get by car. A good 300 miles past the Arctic Circle and just a short 1300-mile jump to the North Pole. I would keep going except that there is a small matter of the Arctic Ocean in the way of my journey northwards so this is as far as I can go without getting wet. Only a few miles off shore ice fields begin so the way I figure it if I could swim just that far I could walk the rest of the way. But, and this is the irony of it all, seeing as there are icebergs floating around in the water it has the annoying tendency of being cold, a tendency that is sheared by many things up here. Temperatures in the winter, I am told, can get as far as Ė100 Fahrenheit (that includes wind-chill but thatís still very cold). Right now though, it is quite nice outside (60 or 70 degrees) and more then warm enough of the killer skidders to suck upwards of a pint of blood a day from anything that moves. For those who forgot, these are the mutant mosquitoes that roam the tundra in the zillions. I asked one of the natives for a ballpark figure on how many of those little critters they estimate live here and he asked me, with a straight face, if I understand scientific notation. Supposedly there are also killer Grizzly bears cruising the streets looking for a tourist or two, perhaps with a glass of milk, as a light midnight snack. For the most part though the bears have to settle for cookies because there are very few brave souls who venture up here. A 400 mile dirt road through the tundra leads to this truly god forsaken enclave of humanity where just about everybody is either digging for oil or driving around in really cool tractors pretending to dig for oil. There are oil pipes with all kinds of nifty looking valves sticking out of them crisscrossing the land and every 100 yards or so some ugly industrial looking building with, naturally, more pipes sticking out of it and big flames coming out the roof and/or sides. They tell the visitors that those are some kind of safety pressure release pilot lights for natural gas or something, but I know better. Back when they built these monoliths it was really dark and really cold (they do most of their construction in the winter because then the ground is covered with ice and they donít have to build roads) and there are no women up here and no alcohol and nothing really to do for fun and it was just a matter of time before the engineers entrusted to build this place, who are for the most part astatically challenged to begin with, came to the conclusion that big flames jutting out of buildings would be neat, not to mention warm.

The point is that this is the end of the road, the conclusion of a journey. You canít travel north any farther. I have reached the absolute limit, the zenith, the crest of the peak of the highest climax and there aint nowhere else to go from here.

So, you ask, why would a sane person drive a quarter of the globe up until he can go no farther? Is it the sense of curiosity innate in all human beings to see whatís around the next bend? Is it the mortal lust for adventure that drives us to walk until the sidewalk ends? Or, maybe itís a challenge that must be met simply because itís there?

How the hell should I know?!?! I am in the middle of an oil field surrounded by frozen dirt on one side and knee dip swamps on the other; the perpetual daylight confuses my notion of time; I keep seeing mirages (no kidding, it has something to do with the ambient temperature against the permafrost); and the mosquitoes are sucking my brains out. How am I expected to figure questions rooted in the human condition under these conditions? All I know is that I took a dip in the Arctic Ocean, and I donít know of anything cooler.

Omer and I taking a dip in the Arctic Ocean