Monday, June 28, 2010

Riders in the Storm

There is only one thing better than a new episode of Ice Road Truckers: a new episode that deals with wicked weather!  A blizzard that blows so hard truckers can't see the road right in front of them, dangerous drifts pile up faster than Alaska state DOT teams can clear them, deadly avalanches could strike at any moment and Atigun Pass closes stranding drivers in Coldfoot (the lucky ones) or in their cabs along the deadly Dalton.  In the last post, I mentioned that "rely on the delineators" is my new least favorite phrase, but this week, the truckers couldn't even see them to rely on them!  They were basically traversing the section from Atigun to Prudhoe on a wing and a prayer at best.  As you can imagine, the dangerous weather elicited different reactions from the different drivers.  One driver decided to take a risk while another played it safe.  One stuck with a convoy and another tried to live down a new dubious reputation.  And one driver had a moment that was a little too livin' on the edge -- and that was before he reached the storm.

In the past, I've wondered if sophomore driver Greg was a little too much of a cowboy on the Dalton.  He had been obsessed with beating Dalton Ace Jack and took a few unnecessary risks, but that seemed to change when he saw how quickly things can turn deadly and how taking your eye off the road for the slightest second can get you way too close to the edge.  This week, he had the scariest moment of the episode and it had nothing to do with his driving.  After Carlile learned about the storm, they decided to take no risks with a second-year driver, so they had Greg take a load of pipe to Coldfoot.  He would drop it there and turn and burn back to Fairbanks to pick-up another load.  This would keep him out of reach from the storm that was wreaking havoc on Atigun.  During his first trip, he hit 25 Curve and his tires stopped hitting the pavement.  He lost traction and he began to lose control.  He was speeding down the Dalton with no traction and he looked scared.  Very scared.  Luckily, he was able to down shift to slow the truck down and regain control and traction.  Just goes to show that even in good weather things can get scary.

Hugh was supposed to wait for Jack Jesse.  Dispatch didn't want one of their second years traveling through a Phase 3 storm (white-out conditions) without a convoy partner.  Since Jack's the best, Hugh was supposed to follow him up to Prudhoe.  But after waiting for Jack for three hours in Fairbanks, Hugh decided to go on to Coldfoot without him and meet-up with him there.  Once in Coldfoot, all of the drivers that had gotten that far were stranded overnight to wait out the blinding storm.  This meant that Hugh and Jack met up the next morning over breakfast.  Hugh was ready to go, but Jack wanted to enjoy a hot meal.  Hugh waited in his truck, but finally decided that he couldn't wait anymore.  He called dispatch and got permission to drop his load and return to Fairbanks to pick up another one.  Meanwhile, rival Alex drove through the height of the storm from Prudhoe to Coldfoot and then got crap in Coldfoot for the delineator he took out a couple of trips back.  He laughed, but seemed none-too-happy when he got back to his truck.  Personally, I think he should sign it and the truck stop in Coldfoot should hang it on the wall.

Lisa and Ray were playing it safe this week by sticking with their respective convoys.  Lisa made it to Coldfoot and was one of the first truckers out the next morning.  She was carrying a critical load that needed to be in Prudhoe within 48 hours.  Being grounded in Coldfoot overnight to wait out the storm put a damper on her time table.  Her convoy tried to cross Atigun, but wound up pulling over to wait out the worsening conditions.  Ray was headed south on the Dalton with his convoy, but they too got stuck on the side of the road after learning that Atigun had closed.  As soon as things seemed to break, Lisa and co. started their journey again, but conditions were dangerous.  State DOT crews were still unable to plow the road, so her convoy had to blaze its own trail.  It got to the point where she was asking the camera crew if they could see the road.  One false move and she and her rig were going over the side of a mountain!  It was INTENSE!!  They made it through the storm and were able to get a smooth ride the rest of the way to Prudhoe (and she made her deadline).  Ray and co. saw Lisa's convoy passing them, so they too decided to brave the Pass.  It was hairy, but they made it through.  Seriously, how awesome are wicked weather episodes??!!

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. 

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