Monday, August 02, 2010
We've seen the loads of pipe with the ability to decapitate its driver if not properly secured. We've seen the sloshing fuel tankers with the instability only liquid brings to push a truck right over the edge of the mountain. We've even seen Jack Jessee haul some ridiculously heavy loads. BUT, we've never seen anything quite like the load this week that required three ice road truckers to get it to the oil fields in Prudhoe Bay. Lisa and Jack were dispatched more than 300 miles south to Anchorage to meet fellow driver Carey. There, they learned that Carey would be hauling a modular building up to Prudhoe to house some of the staff working up there for the winter. Total load weight: more than 209,000 lbs!!! The load was so heavy, that Jack and Lisa were there to help push it up the steep hills of the Dalton in a technique known as "push trucking." The hauler goes first and sets the pace. Then, the first push trucker (armed with a special bumper attachment to absorb some of the shock) hits the hauler and keeps his truck locked onto the hauler's bumper. Finally, the second push trucker hits and locks into the first push trucker's bumper. The force of the two push truckers literally pushes the heavy weight of the hauler up the hill.
So, Carey was off with Jack close behind and Lisa behind Jack. Things went smoothly from Anchorage to Fairbanks, but then the crew had to start the 500-mile journey up the treacherous Dalton. Jack, being the "Dalton Ace" and all, was no new-comer to push trucking, but Lisa had never had the privilege. She was beyond excited, but grew quite nervous as she approached her first challenge: the Rollercoaster. This steep drop intimidates me from the safety of my couch when a normal truck is descending it and then ascending the other side. Lisa needed to shift correctly, lock onto Jack and then maintain speed/RPMs. The push truckers are not allowed to steer their own trucks because the force locking them together makes the lead truck in charge of steering as long as the push trucks maintain their gears and speed. Lisa had previously made a rookie mistake on a smaller hill when she began to steer her truck because she thought it was coming unhooked. This time, she made another rookie mistake. In an effort to shift as quickly as possible, she missed the gear and came unlocked. But if there is one thing about Lisa, it's that she rarely (if ever) makes the same mistake twice. Instead of feeling defeated, she feels determined and she gets it right the next time around. Such was the case this week as well. From that point forward, she was flawless even navigating through the crazy, scary Atigun Pass.
After three days of push trucking, the crew made their way to Prudhoe safely and the modular building got there in one piece. Lisa felt a huge sense of accomplishment for conquering one of the most difficult tasks of her career. In fact, she was disappointed that it was over! Three days of white-knuckle driving and laser-focus had her wanting to do it all over again! This is why I love Lisa.
Meanwhile, Ray spun out on Ice Cut 80 miles south of Prudhoe. He had to get out in -42 degree temperatures to chain-up. But when he got back in his cab, his trailer wheels wouldn't move. He got out again and discovered that his brake valve was frozen shut. He had to get the torch and the hammer to try to unfreeze his brakes. After hours of torching, hammering and sliding down the hill, the frustration took its toll on Ray. He took it out on the camera crew in his cab. Finally, after rolling backwards several times and torching and hammering his brakes for more than 4 hours, he got back on the road. Thankfully, the camera crew escaped as well. And you thought driving was the only dangerous job on the Dalton!
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.