My Arctic trips, dark nights, chickened fried steak, and learning to love fiction

I started travelling to the high Arctic in 1995, and by high Arctic, I mean this place called Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. I got there by flying directly south of my home in Calgary Canada, to Seattle, and then a four hour trip to Anchorage.

There was then a direct flight to a place called Dead Horse Airport, and yes that’s what they called it. I still have no idea to this day why they called it Dead Horse, but that is the name.

The airport isn’t much at all, a Quonset hut with buildings attached, with a steady stream of smoke curling out of it. On my first visit there, it was minus 40 below.

I went there to do business, back then I sold specialized work wear, stuff that would keep you warm in minus 70 Below. Yes that’s a minus, and it gets down to minus 100 hundred up there. Hard to believe.

What’s the point of my story? I learned to love fiction again. I admit I lost it sometime after 1988 when I started my business. I think I read ever book on selling, and business organizational behavior, and investing until at one point…I think my brain might have been drying out.

But there in the high Arctic, in work camps that were our only sleeping quarters, as there were no hotels close, I found fiction books, and piles of them. They were everywhere. Back in 1995 before Kindle, or stuff streaming on your laptop, there was the printed page.

To pass the time, which seemed endless up there, I’d pick up a book, and read it in the lounge (that’s dry lounge – no liquor in the camps.) Or I read in my small bunk quarters. They consisted of a single bunk bed with drawers, and a desk, and you shared the shower with your neighbor. Remembering to unlock their side of the door when done – otherwise a large oil worker appears in your room at around midnight to remind you.

In between the reading, there were one or two sales calls, as we’d have to wait until the person we were there to meet came back from some oilfield, then we’d make our presentation, and then, yes then back to reading.

There was of course food up there, tons of it, more food than you’ve seen on a dozen cruise ships, and it was nonstop. At midnight you could make yourself a Ice Cream Sundae if you wished, or heat up some Lasagna, or make yourself an espresso or Latte.

I still remember being introduced to Chicken Fried steak, and wondering why bother to make this? I tried some, and I think my stomach has still not forgiven me for it.

But back to the fiction, there alone in the long Arctic nights with Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Michael Ondaatje, Douglas Adams even some Isaac Asimov thrown in, I was never alone, never bored, and always entertained.

From the dark and cold nights of Alaska, I’d venture back home, and pick up paperbacks on my way home, the flights were over three hours, and there was always a long layover in Seattle. I consumed Detective novels, and Grisham Novels, and just about everything I could find.

The beauty of it was, when I retired, I could think of nothing more I wanted to do than write Fiction. My wife was amazed, she thought I might write books about sales, or business.

I told her no, I would write fiction in my retirement, I wanted to add to all those amazing books I read in my travels, and maybe one of my books will end up in a library in one of the oil camps in the high Arctic. Now wouldn’t that be a treat!

My book Polar Bear Dawn, is set in the High Arctic, and can be found on Amazon. Perhaps you’ll read it, and get a sense of what I saw up there.