Monday, August 03, 2009

The 'Ice' Begins to Thaw

After they told us that Lisa would be hauling her load over the frozen Arctic Ocean, I waited the entire episode for those nerve wracking 36 miles. When the clock showed 9:59 and Lisa still wasn't on that ice, I thought they were going to end the episode without showing us my favorite part, but thankfully, I was wrong. They saved the best for last -- as in, the very last minute of the episode. And just to be sure that we were good and nervous enough, they were sure to throw in the line about the climbing temperatures beginning to melt the thick ice (cue video of sudden death when falling through the ice into the freezing cold Arctic Ocean just for fun) and the shots of the already cracking ice below her 40,000+ pound load. Yup, it's April in Alaska and the ice road is about to become the waterway road in 3 weeks (give or take). But just because it's April doesn't mean that the temps aren't still subzero or that blinding wind storms don't pop up without notice. Just ask Lisa, George and Tim. They faced one over the bluffs and it was INTENSE! Visibility was less than 50 feet and trucks were coming at them with little to no notice. For some reason, these three were convoying together. Lisa "It just seems like I'm fast because the other drivers are slow" Kelly was stuck behind George (a.k.a Mr. Slow and Steady) and Tim until they switched and gave her the lead. This worked well at first, but she missed a gear on 2 1/2 Mile (a steep incline) and spun out causing her to hold up traffic while she backed down and started again. Luckily, she made it up the second time. So, it was a slow start for Lisa this week, but she finished strong.

Meanwhile, Jack was hauling a load of DRA (the substance that helps the oil flow through the Trans Alaska Pipeline) to a station outside of Coldfoot. Seems like an easy enough load until you learn that the tank was only 3/4 of the way full giving Jack what's known as a "live load." The load is constantly moving -- sloshing back and forth in the tank -- depending on the speed, brake pressure and incline/decline of the road. Things took a scary turn when Jack descended the Rollercoaster and the DRA sloshed to the front of the tank. The movement can propel the truck down the hill at a faster rate of speed causing a very dangerous situation for Jack. When he started up the next incline, it sloshed to the rear of the tank causing the truck to struggle to make it up the hill. He eventually made it to the station with the "live load" intact.

Straps and wildlife posed the other obstacles on the Dalton this week. Alex was hauling an oversized load back to Fairbanks when he and his convoy leader encountered a patch of bad frost heaves. The violent bumping knocked a strap loose and the sharp edge of his load cut the loose strap off. It was flapping in the wind dangling dangerously close to the tires while the load started to sway back and forth. Alex finally pulled over and made the proper adjustments before continuing on to Fairbanks. Further up the Dalton, Hugh and Phil encountered a lone caribou running up the road. She seemed content to stay in the road instead of moving to the snow-filled sides. Phil tried to steer her toward the side by closing in on her a bit and she finally made her way off the road. I tell you, if it's not moose than it's caribou! So many hazards for one road.

Ice Road Truckers airs Sunday nights on History Channel. To catch up on this season, click on over to where you'll also get show info, driver bios, and an IRT app for your iPhone.

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