My back is sore. My legs are weary. We have ended Our Longest Drive. Super friendly Inuvik provided a memorable end to a great adventure. It was not the smoothest of trips. The tracer car blew a tire in Helena, Montana and broke down in Watson Lake, Yukon. We couldn’t get Internet service for two missed opportunities to be on CBC television. There is a postal strike. But our troubles were minor, our happiness boundless.
We played golf at midnight of the longest day. We visited the Igloo church of Our Lady of Victory and the northern most mosque in the world. At the invitation of David Jacobson, the US ambassador to Canada, we told the Our Longest Drive story to 17 ambassadors of other nations. It was Aboriginal Day. The music and jig dancing lasted long into the night. I kissed Sarah, a 90-year-old drum dancer, on the forehead and told her that she was beautiful.
Earlier this morning, we flew to Tuktoyaktuk. There are no trees or vegetation, just the bleak gray of tundra and pale blue sky, stark white ice and clear water in each direction. Climate change is washing away this peninsula’s shoreline, destroying the permafrost and threatening a way of life that has withstood the test of centuries. One hundred whales are still hunted each summer. But the summers are warmer and the bugs in larger abundance and the caribou harder to hunt.
I walk ankle deep into the Arctic Ocean. I climb 30 feet down a wooden ladder into a natural ice box, surviving the cold, claustrophobia and vertigo. We meet the mayor Merven Gruben, who shows us around and gives us some tee-shirts and ball caps. He’s descended from generations of Invaluits who, for ages, have lived here. Dan, Jim and I wore our winter coats. Merven greeted us in sandals, shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.
Some people who have followed our journey believe we set out looking for something. But all we wanted was to go somewhere we haven’t been before. Our Longest Drive wasn’t a bucket list wish. Mike came around for the ride, but is leaving a minor celebrity.
I am met by a local woman who saw us on CBS television. She, like everyone else that we’ve met, says she think what we’re doing is wonderful. Doreen and Stan – a couple from Kelowna, British Columbia – feel exactly the same way. Stan chokes up as I tell him how after reading a book I found the idea of driving to Inuvik romantic. As I think back, Dan struggled for six months about joining me and Jim couldn’t see the logic in going – alas, there was none.
We’re united in satisfaction, at last. It took 19 days, 5500 miles of driving, traveling through three time zones, seven US states, two Canadian provinces and two territories – but we made it.
Thanks for following our journey,