Monday, July 19, 2010
Hitchhiker's Guide to the 'Ice Road'
The treacherous Dalton Highway winds its way through the stunning mountains of the Brooks Range as it heads north into the Arctic Circle ending at Prudhoe Bay. The infamous Atigun Pass is over 4600 feet in elevation and more often than not, proves to be a difficult foe for more than one truck driver. But there is one element of the Pass that we have not had to encounter in the two seasons since the show moved to the Alaskan haul road: AVALANCHES! The mighty (and extremely dangerous) force of nature has been a non-player, and more than likely, that's thanks to an avalanche technician by the name of Reid Bahnson with the Alaska Department of Transportation. We watched him test the snow last week, but this week we got to see him do the coolest part of his job. He and his crew took some canons up to the Pass, closed it down to traffic, and shot the canons at the mountains to cause the snow to slide down in a controlled action. The idea is to do this periodically so the snow doesn't pile up and eventually buckle under the heavy weight and tumble down the hillside into the road taking whatever objects are in its path (including picking up multi-ton big rigs like they're toys). It was so much fun to watch Reid blast that snow! I even contemplated a career change until the little graphic popped up and reminded me that it was -55 degrees out!
Meanwhile, Lisa spent most of the episode sidelined thanks to some DOT violations and an about-to-expire health card. On her way back to Fairbanks, she was hoping to get another load and get back on the road after falling behind thanks to last week's wicked weather. Apparently, the state DOT had a different idea in mind. She stopped at the weigh station, but had to undergo a full inspection since she hadn't had one in 2 months. The inspector found a missing hazard triangle, straps that were too far apart and a few other minor violations. When it was all said in done, she had a $160 citation and an appointment at the local health center for her routine physical. After paying her fine and getting a clean bill of health, she was finally ready get back on the road and start making money to pay for the day's unexpected expenditures.
Hugh was busy dealing with some hostilities from his fellow drivers. Apparently, there's some resentment on the Dalton for those who come over from Canada. The American drivers see it as the Canadiens stealing their jobs, and in a tougher economy, the tension seems to have risen. He received some nasty radio chatter that had him feeling a little hot under the collar. Of course, that changed when he found out that rival (and fellow Canadian) Alex was having some problems of the mechanical kind. Alex made it to Coldfoot, but switched his load with a Fairbanks-bound driver because he wanted to get the steering wheel in his rig checked. This left him grounded in Fairbanks for the time being. Elsewhere, rookie Ray reached Prudhoe and got some good news. He was assigned a load that was bound for the river ice and the native village of Nuiqsut. He was a bit nervous to drive on the slick ice, but made it to the village without any problems. And speaking of remote villages, Merv was finally able to get across the frozen river to bring much-needed fuel and supplies to the town of Bettles! Jack Jesse was busy dealing with a rookie pilot driver as he hauled another oversized load to Deadhorse. The rookie made a big mistake when she radioed on the wrong frequency, but overall, it seemed that she got the thumbs up for the Dalton Ace. This episode may have been less intense than others, but it looks like it was merely the calm before the storm. Next week looks INTENSE!
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.