BP to allow Argentines through to Slope

Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

ANCHORAGE - After a 40,000-mile drive from Argentina to Alaska, a couple's dream to reach the Arctic Ocean in their antique car stalled Tuesday at a pay phone just north of the Arctic Circle.

But it appears Herman Zapp and his wife, Candelaria, will be allowed to continue the 230 miles to Prudhoe Bay after getting the OK from the BP oil company.

The Zapps left Buenos Aires on Jan. 25, 2000, in a dark blue 1928 Graham-Paige automobile with "Driving from Argentina to Alaska" painted on its side.

What they didn't count on when planning the trip was that the tour operators who work with BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. to provide summer tourists with access to the Prudhoe Bay oil fields would have shut down for the season, said Dennis Allen, a member of Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska, a group that hosted the couple in Anchorage.

"The area is secure for anybody besides military and oil... When they started three and a half years ago they probably didn't think this far ahead," Allen said.

BP was making special arrangements so that the couple - but not their vintage automobile - could complete their journey, said BP spokesman Daren J. Beaudo.

The car would have to stay behind because the couple hasn't completed a safety course required of all drivers in the oil fields.

If the 1928 Graham-Paige sprang even a small leak, it would have to be reported under environmental regulations, Beaudo said.

And the couple's young son, who was born during the trip, also would have to stay behind, Beaudo said. No one under age 16 is allowed in the oil fields.

A BP security person would drive the couple in a company bus the approximately seven miles to a dock where Hermann and Candelaria would be allowed to get out and take pictures of the Arctic Ocean, Beaudo said.

"They will be able to complete their journey, maybe not 100 percent intact with their vehicle, but able to say that they followed through on their mission," he said.

Beaudo said BP, which oversees operations in the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, wanted to help the couple but it wasn't easy. Security was tightened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said.

Allen said the couple never would have gotten this far if people hadn't helped them along the way. When they needed a new set of tires in Texas, Allen and another Anchorage man, Bruce Campbell, put up some money along with others.

The baby was born in Greensboro, N.C., on June 4, 2002. Doctors donated their services and money was raised to pay her medical bills.

In New York, members of a Graham-Paige car club rebuilt the car's engine because they didn't think the car would make it to Alaska, Allen said.

The journey began with the couple heading to Chile. From there, stops included Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.

With baby in tow, the couple headed to Washington, D.C., and New York, and then into Canada. They returned to the United States and traveled through Colorado, Utah and Arizona before arriving in San Francisco, where Herman's father lives.

To help finance the trip, they sold copies of a small book they wrote titled "Three Americas-One Dream."

From California, they headed north through British Columbia and the Yukon Territory before arriving in Haines Junction on Aug. 15.

Three days later they drove into Anchorage where they spent several days with Allen and his wife, Diane.

The Allens lent them their motorhome so they could stay at the Alaska State Fair and sell their book and South American handicrafts.

Then it was off to Fairbanks where the Vernon Nash Antique Car Club hosted a barbecue. Eventually, the couple said their goodbyes and headed up the Dalton Highway for the last leg of their journey.

Herman used a pay phone Tuesday to call Allen from Wiseman to issue his plea for help.

He was happy to find out later in the day that BP was going to let them in, even if the baby and the car had to stay behind, Allen said. He predicted they would take the tour and reach the Arctic Ocean on Thursday morning.

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