Monday, July 12, 2010
Heavy Hauls & Close Calls
Jack Jesse had a relatively routine load of diesel fuel that he had to get to the remote native village of Nuiqsut. They were running dangerously low and had been waiting for the river to freeze enough to safely support a heavy truck loaded down with heavy diesel fuel. So, Jack was off on his way to Deadhorse and then across the river ice to Nuiqsut. Things were going along just fine until he started ascending Atigun Pass. As he was climbing the steep 4800-foot mountain, we were getting a lesson on the danger of diesel loads. And then, as if on cue, the hypothetical danger started to become a reality. The problem with the liquid load is its constant state of movement. It sloshes around as the truck travels, but becomes especially hazardous during an incline. The fuel sloshes back and forth and the motion can throw a trucker off the side of the pass if he/she isn't experienced enough to compensate for the movement. Of course, Jack is very experienced, so no worries. Yeah, not quite. As he was climbing the hill, his tires lost traction and the slipping caused the fuel to rock in the tank. The truck veered toward the edge of the road and all but went off the side. Jack "Dalton Ace" Jesse was worried. You know things are about to go seriously wrong when something rattles him. Thankfully his cool, calm demeanor kept the situation under control and the truck stayed on the road. Later, he had to stop on the river ice after blowing snow conditions made travel near impossible. He hoped the conditions would get better, but after sitting still over bowing ice for too long, he decided to press on despite the worsening blowing snow. He went to Nuiqsut and got there safely with the much-needed fuel.
Meanwhile, Lisa got an extra wide/extra-extra tall load to haul to Prudhoe. Things got hairy as she navigated through the city streets of Fairbanks and came this close to not clearing a traffic light pole overhead. Seriously, the side view of that clearance was unbelievable! After encountering a fast-moving truck who got a little too close for comfort, she seemed to be home free. The drive was going along uneventfully, and she was closing in on Prudhoe when she faced a new obstacle: the local law enforcement. Apparently, North Slope police do more than issue speeding tickets. They also pull over truckers randomly to make sure their log books and paperwork are in compliance. Lisa saw the cop pull out after she passed, and she knew she was about to get a spot check. She was concerned, but the cop drove right by her pulled-over rig. She breathed a sigh of relief as she pulled into Prudhoe and set a new goal for herself this season: to not get pulled over by the cops!
Alex and Hugh kicked their rivalry into high gear as they pulled out of Fairbanks within a few hours of each other. Alex got the jump, but Hugh planned to pass his rival in Coldfoot. He figured Alex would sleep in and this would allow Hugh to get up early and on the Dalton before Alex even knew he had been in Coldfoot. Hugh purposely parked his truck close to Alex's to block him in so he couldn't beat him out of Coldfoot the next morning. But Alex found a way to get his truck out anyway -- by hitting the mirror on the SUV parked near him! Don't worry, though, he left a note (or at least he started to until the driver came out and told him not to worry about it since his other mirror was already broken). Hugh woke up to find a broken mirror and no Alex. After having a good chuckle at his frienemy's driving skills, he got on the road. He eventually caught Alex just outside Prudhoe, but took advantage of Alex's wrong turn and beat him with the off-load.
Ray got an emergency load at 11 o'clock at night and headed north. He began to get a bit sleepy and then he made a huge Dalton mistake: he took his eyes off the road for a split second. In that split second, his truck started to go off the road and tragedy seemed inevitable. He managed to miss becoming another statistic by the skin of his teeth. Just another close call on the craziest road on TV! Ice Road Truckers airs Sunday nights on History. To catch up on this season, click on over to History.com where you'll also get more information, trucker bios, and an IRT app for your iPhone.