|END Location:||Morning Temp:||Comments:|
|Fairbanks, Alaska - Inuvik, Northwest Territories|
Alaska / Yukon Border
||Barry drove as far as comfortable, through Tok and towards the border. Nothing significant to report. Lars was totally beat.
|Woke up and drove to Whitehorse. A cool town with 30,000 residents. Got some food and a few extra supplies, then passed out. It was Monday night and the town was frozen over from the cold front moving in.
|As we bedded down in the truck we knew this was the ultimate test of man and machine. Locals thought we were crazy, but still allowed us to suck much needed power from their telco building so the Yukon would again fire up. In the morning the mercury had dropped to an amazing -56.
Eagle Plains, Yukon
|It was the coldest day of my life. Inside we were
warm and toasty and the GMC was happy to get back to idling. The town was
very sleepy with a true arctic overtone. So what's it like to operate at
these temperatures. Not bad...I was still able to jump out of the truck
for about 2 minutes at a time without gloves to take pix. At one point while
snapping some images on the ice bridge in town, I suddenly felt an incredible
sharp pain in my ear lobe. No question they along with my hands were starting
to freeze. I had only been outside the truck for a couple minutes, but the
temp was still -56 according to our new thermometer. I ran for cover. Recovery
time for my hands was about 60 minutes, Ear lobe 3-4 minutes....Reid who
we had met at the bar previously was spotted with a 1 foot flame or "tagger
torch" blowing on his toyota engine oil pan. After we gave him a jump
it started amazingly enough. At 12:00 noon we pushed for Inuvik. Instantly
the smell of burt wires filled the cabin and the heater while the temperature
had climbed to a balmy -45 degrees quit. This was not good. We bypassed
the circuit board so the heater fan worked, but was always on high. (Direct
wired to battery). Shut down now required pulling wires apart, often arcing
a big spark. A bit delayed we still clear town by 3:30pm after fearing a
total mission failure. As it got dark we drove through some beautiful mountain
ranges while fearing for our lives on a 1 lane snow covered road with very
few, but aggressive 18 wheelers oncoming. 370 kilometers north along the
Dempster Highway we pull into the first and only gas stop. We fill up and
bed down for the night.
|The drive between Eagle Plains and Inuvik was totally surreal. The color of the light and mountains was unlike anything I had ever seen. White smooth mountains looked like sand dunes as we cleared the arctic circle. We reach Inuvik and after a terrible meal and being offered a room for two hundred dollars which we declined we are back to the truck stealing power from a local hotel.
|After some dog sledding we head out on the ice roads
to Aklavik. The real goal was the 200 km road to Tuktoyaktuk. It is and
likely will remain closed. A week long storm (worst in 20 years) has caused
severe overflows and hundreds if not thousands of drifts. The road to Aklavik
shares the first 30-40 km with the Tuk ice road which is unbelievably wide.
About 50 yards or 10 lanes. Really really huge. The Aklavik turnoff is just
a single lane punched through the snowbank with deep ruts. Road signs are
visible throughout, just jammed into the snow. Stop signs, distance markers
and turn warnings can be spotted everywhere. Then we hammer down about 100
km, see the RCMP (Canadian Police) on the way and roam around on the ice.
Despite winding down a river the ice road also has huge open spaces. It's
a pretty odd and slightly unnerving feeling. We cook some hot dogs on the
way back while the northern lights fill the sky. Occasionally a taxi cab
is seen on the ice. The tractor trailer grocery store with "Fruitman"
on the doors was also interesting in Aklavik. We head back to town and spend
the night inside (for once!) at the dog sledders who also run a lodge. Waking
up in the truck when it is ice cold is pretty tough after almost a week...
James River, NWT
|In the morning we decide to make a push for Tuktoyaktuk,
driving around the road closed sign. About 15 minutes later at 70 mph we
see a red truck stopped in the middle of the road, with steam coming from
the road ahead. A Telus (telecom dude) guy gets out smoking a cigarette.
Guess we're not getting through here. He was on his way to set up some internet
for the oil companies. After talking for a few, he gets on the radio and
peels out heading back to town. We walk a ways out and carefully inspect
the water flooding. Amazing how 5 feet of ice bends as you can visibly see
the ice drop down under the weight of the fresh water above. After watching
first a truck pass through from the opposite direction, then a work truck
dragging a full size 20 foot container on skids go though at full speed,
the BlackBullet joins and also heads north, water splashing. The next encounter
is with a crew of work trucks and plows. We slow down and nobody seems to
care at all. Onward we go, after another 30 minutes or so we come across
an intersection. This is the first time where it seems possible to actually
"get lost" on the ice. GPS receivers are activated with data logging,
so we can always retrace our steps. Should have done this from the beginning...two
trucks are seen in the distance digging out an oil operation. Briefly thereafter
we hit out first passable, but significant drift. This is the end of the
road for us. There road on the arctic ocean is 30 kilometers away, but getting
there is impossible and the chance of getting stuck almost 100%. As I stand
there looking around the huge dump truck that had been clearing snow decides
to pull up to see what we are up to. This was truly the most frightening
moment of this whole adventure so far. The creaking sounds and visible cracking
from the ice as the pressure wave of water shot underneath me is impossible
to describe. The truck pulls up and stops two feet from our truck. Guess
there is no such thing as too much weight around here..."what the hell
you guys doing out here?". Totally friendly guy and we BS for a while
with him also telling us "we lost a grader here the other day"..great,
would you mind backing up a few feet! Apparently the trucks clearing the
road from Tuk have made it the 100 km across the ocean and are just starting
up the mouth of the river. He thinks it will be at least a day before they
get to where we are. We will be gone..misson aborted. After fueling in Inuvik,
we attack the 1200 km back down to Whitehorse. After 3 hours we reach James
River maintenance station where blinking red lights and "road closed"
signs greet us. With nothing to do but wait, we bed down for the night.
Another night at -25 is really no big deal.
|With a sharp and persistent rap on the window we
wake up and scurry to open a door. "There is coffee inside" says
a local guy named Freddie. We thought for a moment he was going to tell
us something important like "the road is open". We later determined
that they were probably just worried about us and wanted to make sure we
were okay. The coffee was pretty good. "The highway man is coming and
will call us on the radio" mumbled Freddie. After worrying about gas
and idling for a couple hours he pops out of his hut with the following
info "Let her rip! You will meet the plows over the border". We
swing open the gates and speed onward in complete flat light. Alone in the
frozen arctic yet again. Not long after that our noses again detect burnt
wires. The "quick fix" was failing as the poor connection was
overheating the wires, melting the wire insulation and factory connector.
As we yank the sticky and hot wires apart our heater spools down. Outside
temp is -28. Great...we crack the windows and glove up and continue briskly
for Eagle Plains. Apparently being the hog that this truck is, and with
the rear heat maxed out and seat warmers on high, the windshield stays clear
and we stay warm. After gassing up AGAIN (hundreds of gallons later...)
we drive for 5 hours with no heater and windows cracked at -30 degrees.
MPG in these conditions is in the single digits...We find the local GM dealer
when we arrive past midnight in Whitehorse after seeing about a dozen huge
elk. They open at 7:30 and we are hoping for a quick fix.
|Waking up in the relative comfort of -2 degrees
at 7:15am I pull on some grimy jeans and head in to present my case. A big
canadian service writer from Klondike Motors is completely unhelpful and
throws the book at us. "We could maybe fit you in by the end of the
week". Not very good. We leave pissed off and forget our new shovel
in the parking lot. Complete crapshoot morning. Breakfast is once again
at the Bonanza whatever with the elderly waitress telling us her theory
on global warming. "It only got warmer after they sent the first space
shuttle to the moon, and now they just keep poking through the ozone layer.
We need that." Whoa, anyways the eggs were good. Leaving town we see
a dreadful sign - Fairbanks 949 km. Busted up...12 hours later we pull into
Barry's driveway. Still no heat, burnt wires, broken roof box, clunk in
the left front, dent in the roof, and fuel gauge on E. She is starting to
show her age eh. Odo now reads 26,800 miles.