Monday, August 24, 2009

'Ice Road' Closed for the Season

"Dalton Ace" Jack Jessee's Marks of a Good Season:
1) I didn't die
2) I made it home every trip, and
3) I made a little money doing it

Mission accomplished for all of this season's drivers on Ice Road Truckers. And what an intense, fun, and exciting season it was! I'm sad to see this year come to a close (and worried that the show will once change locations next season and we'll lose the awesome-ness that is the Dalton, the awe-inspiring views of Alaska, and the fun drivers who drive that road every year), but it did end on another set of exciting notes. My girl Lisa finished off her stellar season by navigating her brake-challenged rig back to Fairbanks. After leaving Deadhorse, she discovered that the air was leaking out of her trailer brakes which would eventually render the them useless. Her biggest concern was that the air would run out just as she was climbing a hill, causing her truck to lock up and come to a dead stop on the incline. She managed to ascend the always-scary Atigun Pass, but had to make it back down without any trailer brakes. Thanks to some good shifting and her jake brake, she was able to navigate down Atigun without applying her brakes. Once she reached Coldfoot, Tim was able to help her cap the air leak well enough to get her all the way back to Fairbanks. She completed her 15th run and her most impressive season yet that should put her on the path to become the Dalton's first heavy-haul woman.

Meanwhile, Hugh had a temporary set back with his brakes as well. The thawing roads made for some extremely bumpy rides and one of those bumps knocked one of the brakes off. Phil was able to fix it with a bungee cord, and Hugh then made it back to Fairbanks just in time to pick up his 14th and final load the next day. Rival Alex was paired up with veteran George Spears, and the two took the slow and steady route much to Alex's chagrin. He had an otherwise uneventful ride to Deadhorse where he finished his 13th and final run of the season (one behind rival Hugh). Meanwhile, George finished his 15th and last run of his career (maybe). All along, George had said that this would be his last season on the ice road, but he was beginning to have second thoughts on his way back to Fairbanks. Hmm... time will tell if George really hangs it up this season. His protege (and family friend) Tim finished his first solo run of the season without any problems.

The episode's most thrilling moment almost didn't happen. Jack was supposed to haul his load of diesel fuel across 70 miles of ocean ice to remote Point Thomson, but when he arrived in Deadhorse, he learned that a polar bear (or possibly a polar bear den) was blocking the ocean ice road. Only a few hours remained before the road closed for the season and Jack was about to pack in it when the polar bear moved and the road reopened. So, he pulled his 50,000 lb. truck out onto the ocean ice, and I literally held my breath. The end of the season means thawing, and thawing means thinner ice separating Jack from the bottom of the freezing cold ocean below. You could actually see chunks of ice separating as he was passing nearby! So scary! In the end, he made it safely to Pt. Thomson where he dropped off his 20th load of the season (more than any other driver).

So, it was an intense season that saw some of the worst weather in the Dalton's history. There were blinding white-outs, huge mounds of snow, tons of accidents, wildlife in the road, and slippery, steep passes. Simply put, it was awesome! And I can't wait to do it all again next season. Better start breaking in the edge of my seat in a few months.

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

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