Young Jasper adventurer appears on Discovery Channel


Photo provided
Ryker Dodd, 8, of Jasper attended a Josh Gates lecture on March 1 in Nashville, Tenn.

JASPER — From his book- and artifact-filled home headquarters, adventurer, television personality and author Josh Gates shifted his eyes from a rolling camera to a video call on his computer, and he welcomed a Jasper family to an interview that would be broadcast across the globe.

“I absolutely love meeting my fans, and at one of my recent events, one of them got cut off before he could ask me a question,” Gates told his viewers. “Let’s fix that by surprising him and his siblings at home, with some help from his dad.”

Ryker Dodd will never forget the minutes that followed. Grinning ear-to-ear, in disbelief and surrounded by his parents and siblings, the 8-year-old boy began talking to his hero.

In a Friday phone interview, Josh Dodd, Ryker’s father and an art teacher at Jasper High School, explained that his son almost interacted with Gates in person earlier this year.

His great-grandmother, Jo Deputy, left money for Ryker and his brother, Beckett, and their sister, Lennox, to go on adventures of their choosing after she passed away late last year.

Ryker chose to attend a Gates lecture in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 1.

“He was just shaking when he came out on stage,” Josh said of his oldest son’s reaction to seeing his role model. “It was so cool, as a father, to see my son meet somebody that he looked up to.”

The 42-year-old traveler is the host and executive producer of the Discovery Channel series "Expedition Unknown" — a show that follows him as he sets out on a global journey to explore archaeological discoveries, historic mysteries, and scientific breakthroughs.

Ryker hopped in line when the early March lecture opened up to a question-and-answer session. The event came to a close, though, just before he could ask Gates about his wildest adventure.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. Fifth Street Elementary School, where Ryker is a second-grader, hosted a day where students were encouraged to dress up as their favorite book characters, and he dressed as Gates — complete with a replica Indiana Jones explorer’s hat, a scarf, a collared shirt and khaki pants.

Photo provided
Ryker Dodd, 8, of Jasper looks up to Josh Gates — host and executive producer of the Discovery Channel series" Expedition Unknown" — so much that Ryker decided to dress up as Gates when his school hosted a day encouraging students to dress up as their favorite book characters.

Josh posted a picture of the outfit on Instagram, and a while later, a message popped in his inbox from a producer of the Josh Gates Tonight television show. The family had been invited to appear on the newly-launched program.

Dad kept it all a secret up until the moment of the interview, and Ryker didn’t know he’d be meeting Gates until he saw his bearded face smiling at him through the internet.

Ryker finally got to ask his question.

“I wanted to ask you,” he said, “what was the craziest adventure you went to?”

The answer: A trek to Siberia, which Gates described as “one of the coldest, most dangerous trips we’ve ever taken, but also really, really beautiful and exciting.”

Ryker looks up to the Gates because he himself enjoys exploring new things and going to new places.

“I like when I get to find stuff,” Ryker said when describing his own love of adventuring. “And how you could just go to places you’ve never seen, and they look so beautiful. And meeting new people, too.”

He’s still adventuring now, even while much of daily life has been paused. The boy has been finding rocks outside his home and birdwatching from indoors, and he’s also been reading books about Gates’ many expeditions and World War II.

Ryker lives with his siblings, father, and mother, Megan, in Jasper. The family’s segment on the "Josh Gates Tonight" show can be played on the Discovery Go website.

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