Monday, June 07, 2010

'Ice Road' Open

On the road again!  Dalton Ace Jack Jesse, Alex Debogorski, Hugh "The Polar Bear" Rowland, and my girl Lisa Kelly are back on Alaska's Dalton Highway navigating treacherous conditions, steep passes and hairpin turns in order to bring much-needed supplies to the oil rigs up on Prudhoe Bay -- part of Alaska's oil-rich North Slope.  And this TV fan couldn't be happier!!  This season, two new drivers are joining the line-up: rookie Ray Vellieux and Greg Boadwine (who sat out most of last season after wrecking his load of pipe on the side of the road and narrowly escaping serious injury).  Ray seemed to struggle a bit this week while Greg made it his mission to beat the Dalton Ace to Deadhorse.  But new faces weren't the only changes this season because the show decided to up the ante a little by adding two new side roads along the Dalton.  One is actually a trail (as in un-paved grassy/woodsy path through the woods) that involves crossing a frozen river and swamp land to get to the remote town of Bettles.  The trail is the only way in or out of this town and it's only accessible 30 days out of the year!  The other involves crossing river ice to reach the native village of Nuiqsut. And just in case this wasn't enough excitement to start the season, a trucker flipped right outside Deadhorse spilling his entire load of pipe and landing himself in the hospital.  He wasn't the only close call, though.

Rookie Ray left his wife and kids behind in Montana and set out for North America's most dangerous haul road after his business went under in the stalling economy.  And this week, his first trek up the Dalton stalled as well... at the worst possible spot on the road: the dreaded Atigun Pass -- 4800 feet of sheer terror in the best conditions!  He made the rookiest of all rookie mistakes: he didn't "chain up" before ascending the steep pass.  Truckers routinely apply chains to their tires before climbing the mountainside because, without them, the truck's tires have a hard time finding traction and they spin causing the truck to slide backwards down the incline.  Trucks can get out of control and skid off the side of the mountain and down the deadly cliffs.  Ray learned this lesson the hard way as his unchained tires lost traction and his heavy rig began sliding back down the hill.  Luckily, it stopped and he was able to apply the chains and keep going eventually reaching Deadhorse without incident.

Lisa's first assignment of the season found her pulling a large car-hauler that required her to go extra slow (as not to pop a tire) and to take extra precautions not to tip the tall, top-heavy load.  She was a little hesitant to take the assignment, but she hit the road with a convoy partner and they headed up the 414-mile road to Prudhoe.  Things were going... well... slowly.  Since they were under a time limit, her convoy partner suggested that they switch loads at the truck stop in Coldfoot.  Lisa wasn't too happy about it because she was concerned that the guys on the road (who constitute a hefty majority) would give her crap about it the rest of the season.  After a quick call to headquarters to make sure the boss was in agreement, she and her partner switched loads and made it safely (and probably a lot quicker) into Deadhorse.  Hopefully, Carlile will give her some oversized loads again and she'll be able to get back her cred.

Elsewhere, Greg failed in his first attempt to beat Jack to Deadhorse, but he did get there safe and sound -- welcome news for his wife and children.  Jack took the prize for the largest, craziest load of the week.  Alex had a good first run up the Dalton.  There were a few hairy moments on Atigun when the temperature started rising steadily the higher he went.  As the temperature rises, the ice gets softer and the truck has a harder time finding traction. He made it up despite the 33-degree temperature.  Once in Deadhorse, he spent the night before heading out on the river ice to Nuiqsut.  I learned this week that I'm never going to get used to hearing the scary sound of the ice cracking as the trucks pass over it.  It's creepy!  No Hugh this week, but we did see him land at the Fairbanks airport just as the episode was coming to an end, so expect the competition between him and Alex to start anew next week.  So EXCITED this show is back!!

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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

omg a really big fan of the ice road truckers a big tks bein looking4 a blog site 4 ages!. plz can u send me some of the big rigs nd the oil rigs a Prudhoe Bay plz my email is a big tks andrew