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Old 11-05-2007, 02:48 PM   #136
BlueLghtning
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Hey Squonker, glad to see you are still posting up stories. I've been extremely busy for the past 2 weeks, so haven't been keeping up, but just spent the last 45 minutes reading what you've added!

Keep it coming! I'm still enjoying it as much as ever!

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Originally Posted by squonker
My parents sent me an article from The Sunday Times newspaper in England this week, a story about the ice roads. A writer spoke to a couple of drivers who live in British Columbia and come up to drive every winter. One was on his second season, the other was on his 20-somethingth.
What a load of shite this article is. I wonder whether the author knows that she printed so much rubbish, or whether the two guys she spoke to purposely fed her a line. Maybe she never spoke to anyone at all.

Firstly she says that in one season you can earn a year's salary, a common myth but sadly untrue. Next she says that "jack-knifing, breakdowns and frostbite are common place". Well, the only time I ever heard of a truck jack-knifing was at the end of a hammer lane when buddy switched off his cruise control too late, hit the brakes to turn the corner back into the loaded lane, and slid himself into trouble. Break downs are no more common than on any other road, and there are ways to avoid frostbite. Like wearing clothes. She says that "any wrong move could see you and your truck sucked down into the freezng water". I don't think so. Later on she mentions how on some stretches of road drivers drive with one hand on the door handle to make a quick exit should things go wrong, but that too is just a common myth.

Here's a quote from the driver on his second season. "...that's all you hear out here - cracking ice. It cracks so loud it sounds like thunder and nothing can drown it out, even if you turn your stereo right up - and I like some pretty heavy rock music. You just listen to every crack and panic gets hold of you and it's pretty hard to keep going, to be honest." Holy smokes, this guy is SO full of it. Sure, wind your window down and you'll hear the ice cracking, but you have to have your stereo switched off to do so, and if he's that scared, why does he do it?

The writer then says that 800 truckers set out every year (odd, because there aren't that many trucks on the road), and that many have to be flown back to Yellowknife because they're too scared to drive any more once they've made it to the mines. To my knowledge, not once has that ever happened. But I can guarantee that no boss is going to charter a plane to fly back a driver who has just driven twenty hours across the ice in a loaded truck and doesn't want to drive 14 hours back in an empty one.

Well, it just goes on and on. One of the drivers says that it never rises above -40c for the entire time, and then tells a story of how he was out there so late one season that the ice was melting as he drove across it and he almost didn't make it out. Hmm, ice melting at -40c. Odd. The same guy then says that at the beginning of the season you get four hours daylight a day. By the end it's up to 20 hours. The truth: 5.5 at the beginning. 7 at the end.
It's funny that you post this. This sounds about like the B.S. that the actual TV show fed us over the course of the season. It's good to hear it from someone that actually knows.
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Old 11-05-2007, 08:09 PM   #137
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Another story, and some relationship advice!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueLghtning
Hey Squonker, glad to see you are still posting up stories. I've been extremely busy for the past 2 weeks, so haven't been keeping up, but just spent the last 45 minutes reading what you've added!

Keep it coming! I'm still enjoying it as much as ever!


It's funny that you post this. This sounds about like the B.S. that the actual TV show fed us over the course of the season. It's good to hear it from someone that actually knows.
Hi BlueLightning, glad to see a familiar name! When you mentioned you'd spent time catching up, I suddenly realized that I'd really posted very little over the past week or so, so I have another story for this post. It's a story about nothing in particular, but it's all part of the big picture! I think this is from my first trip to BHP, having been running into Diavik exclusively until then.
Yeah, that article is still pissing me off. I'm tying to get an email address for the writer so that I can set the record straight and it's sitting on my kitchen table right now, making me swear every time I look at it! I was looking forward to throwing it away asap, but I'm going to send it to the son of a friend of mine. This kid is 10 and last year when I saw him I gave him a genuine Ice Road ball cap that only drivers are given, so he was pretty chuffed. And the exaggerations in the story will only give him more to tell his Mum and friends about!

First I'd better go and upload a few pics. Hold on a mo.......
Ok. These first two are of Gordon Lake


Gordon is south of Lockhart and is half as long as Mackay Lake, so, at 1.5hrs it is a 'one movie lake' for those guys that have DVD players on their dashes. Some people complain that it is as boring to cross as Mackay, but I've never had a problem with it. At least there are trees to look at! I remember one day I stopped on Gordon when I was running back empty and fairly sure that there were no security around, and took some photos right down close to the surfcae of the road. I'll try and find them soon.


These two are of Lockhart.


I like this one. It looks so damn cold!


Every winter road driver has his own number, which is clearly displayed in the windshield, and that way security (as well as other drivers) can tell which truck belongs to whom. Up until that point I had been number 700, so at dispatch points I was always “700 Ben”. Had I begun to drive a different truck while still working for NWTL I would have kept the same number, but now that I was with a different company I became “531 Ben’, and it was as such that I left Yellowknife that afternoon with a load of plastic pipe bound for BHP’s Ekati Diamond Mine. I was happy to go to Ekati for several reasons. Firstly I hadn’t been there before and wanted to check out another mine site. Secondly, I had been told that the security there, like the atmosphere, was much less strict than at Diavik, and that the food was way better. I was soon to find out.

I pulled in to Lockhart at 11.15pm having made good time due to an increased speed limit on the five or six longest lakes on the journey. This was only a small 5 km/h adjustment, but it made a surprising difference, and was of course very welcome. The reason was officially due to thicker ice, and it came with an explanation that the more an ice road is driven on, the thicker the ice becomes. But I suspect that it was also due to the fact that this was March 19th, and there were likely only a couple of weeks left of the season at the most. A huge number of loads still had to be delivered, and there was probably a certain amount of nervousness at RTL, NWTL and Tli-Cho, all of who had signed a contract that they would deliver ‘x’ amount of loads to various mines. Security at this point became noticeably more lax about trucks traveling a couple of kilometers per hour over the (new) limit, too. They certainly weren’t turning a blind eye to anything excessive, but weren’t being quite as strict as they previously had been, and actually it made the journey a great deal less tiring. When you were running at a slow enough speed that your cruise control didn’t work, it was easy to find yourself speeding up or slowing down, and a fair amount of energy was spent watching the speedometer and keeping tabs on your right foot. I was extremely tired at this point, however, and decided that I was going to stop and get a full six hours sleep that night.

The next morning I felt great, and having had a quick check of my straps was on my way to BHP with Russian Mike leading the way. I began to think that having just had one and a half times the amount of sleep that I usually took in a whole return journey, that I might be able to make it all the way back to Yellowknife. True, BHP was further away than Diavik, but I understood that they would be considerably faster unloading, so perhaps things would even themselves out there.

I made Ekati at 2.30pm. I wrote in my journal that it was an hour past Diavik, but that the last 26 kilometers were on the high grade, and the speed limit was 60 km/h for that part of the journey. Mike had gone to unload his fuel at the Misery pit adjacent to Ekati, and I had to travel that last 26 kilometers alone. The views were fantastic; Ekati is on the same lake as Diavik, Lac De Gras, but the two mines are (just) out of sight of each other. The high grade was elevated enough to give me first rate views of the lake in the sunshine. I wished that I had Amanda’s camera with me (I had given it back to her to take on her trip in case I was held up and didn’t make it back to see her before she left.) As I neared the mine there were sign posts I could follow, but at the very last minute they ran out. I tried to call dispatch on the radio but had no response, and was just about to pull over and confirm where I was supposed to go (rather than make myself very unpopular by driving somewhere I shouldn’t), when I saw a couple of other trucks parked up. Stopping beside them, I donned my safety gear and began looking for a building that looked like I should be in it. I found the ‘sprung’ around a couple of corners, and the folks there certainly seemed very efficient.

Sure enough it was only forty minutes before I was on my way to be unloaded. It was interesting to see the differences between the two mines. Yes, Ekati is far more organized, and their attitude is far more relaxed and friendly. Their operators weren’t as good though, and one chap even told me that a fair amount of them even consider the winter road drivers to be a nuisance which is rather odd, because with no winter road there would be no mine and they wouldn’t have jobs. The main difference was the dining areas, though. Diavik’s had impressed me, but paled into insignificance compared to what BHP offered. The range of foods, the quality, the separate room where we were able to make our own sandwiches and grab things for packed lunches simply blew me away. It was better than most restaurants.

I made it back to Lockhart at 9pm, very tired. I called Amanda and grabbed three hours sleep before leaving again shortly after midnight. My plan was to take full advantage of the fact that I had now had back to back loads, and to only spend the minimum amount of time in Yellowknife. One thing I was very keen to do, though, was to put the sheets on the bunk through the laundry – they were absolutely filthy.

Before I left Lockhart I wrote in my journey that I had noticed the northern lights being particularly impressive the past few nights, and also coming out much earlier than before, sometimes even before it was dark. I wondered whether it was the time of year that made this difference. Another thing I noticed was how much longer the days were becoming, and how fast they were doing so.

I made town at 7am and had a cup of tea with Amanda, then when I was in dispatch booking a time out I bumped into Pat, a friend I had made who was from Vancouver Island. It was mid morning by now, so I booked out for 1.40pm and went with Pat and Amanda to Tim Hortons for lunch. While we were there Ron Hamilton and his guys came in, so Amanda got to meet Reg and Charlie, whom I had told her all about. Ron told me that as of that morning he had pulled all six of his trucks off ---- and gone over to haul for Tli-Cho. He too had become fed up with the delays between trips, it seemed. I can’t say that I blamed him, but felt kind of bad for the dispatcher there at the same time, who still needed the trucks. I left that afternoon with Brian, Pat’s colleague from the same company in Nanaimo and made Lockhart a little after 9pm. Once again I was extremely tired, and we were booked out for 3am so I ate as fast as possible and climbed in to my bunk as early as I could.

We arrived at BHP at 9.15am and I had another fast unload. I grabbed an excellent lunch and went to the store to buy a T-shirt for Amanda as well as some ball caps for myself. Brian had had a faster unload than me due to the fact that he was hauling fuel, so while I was eating and shopping he used the gym and had a shower. I also scored another underweight backhaul, making it three for three, and became increasingly worried that one of these days I was going to have to carry a full load back at the loaded speed. Brian and I left together at 1.45pm and made it to The Meadows at 11pm. I was shattered and needed to sleep before I could face the Ingraham Trail safely, so I decided to sleep until 3am then dolly off once I was back at RTL’s yard, fuel up, hook up to my next load and book out for six hours later. It was about 5am by the time I was fuelled and ready to think about my next load, and because I had moved all my things from the house where Amanda was house-sitting I went to my own place to shower and sleep for a couple of hours.

WARNING! Guys, take it from me ('cos I learned the hard way)....even if you're dog tired and want some time alone, even if your girlfriend has been house-sitting for two months and the previous day you moved all your own stuff back to your house, it's 5am and she's getting up in a couple of hours to catch a plane, never EVER consider going back to your own bed for uninterrupted sleep. The shit I got for not going back to where she was sleeping was amazing...never again! In all honesty I can't see what the big deal was, but she certainly saw something in it!



Sheesh, that looks so desolate




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Old 11-08-2007, 06:21 PM   #138
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Things are moving

Spoke to my buddy last night, the one I hope is going to sell me his truck for the '09 season. Actually I think the chances are pretty good - he has been doing some work hauling...umm, I think it was ammonium nitrate and he needs all the tare weight he can get. His 500hp Cat isn't the lightest lump and he wants to buy a truck with a Detroit. I'd rather a Detroit too, but tare weight means nothing on the ice roads, so a 500hp Cat will do me just fine, thank you very much.

And it's a long weekend - I have four days off school so in the morning I'm hitting the road to Yellowknife (sadly not on the KLR, that is all tucked away and hiberbating for the winter), but while I'm there I'll tell the guy I drove for in '06 that if he can guarantee me two trips when I'm on March break, it'll be worth my while driving up again for that. Maybe if one of his guys is sick or burned out or something.

Anyway, I thought I'd post some more pics before the weekend, and a couple of these are better than I realized.

This truck belongs to The Red Army. Well, technically it's a WestCan truck I think, but then I heard that WestCan has bought out The Red Army so I guess it's all the same thing. You can see his wheel chocks on the ground there. Much less chance of brakes freezing on when they're not applied. These trucks are parked at Lockhart.




I really like this shot. It looks as though I was crouching down on the ground when I took this shot, but unless I was stopped for some reason I must have been sitting in the cab. That reminds me - often you're driving for 8 hours with nowhere to pull over, and sometimes nature calls. What do you do? There are two commonly accepted methods of relieving yourself while driving a rig on the ice road... Firstly, you just let the guy behind you know that you're going to be "stepping out onto the porch", and he'll know what you mean. Speed up a couple of clicks then put her in neutral, open the door and stand out on the running board with one hand on the steering wheels to avoid the pot holes, which will otherwise see you falling off the running board and onto the ice, then having to chase your truck up the road with a rather sensitive area hanging out exposed to the cold (dragging along the ice in my case!! ). Method number two is to carry an empty plastic milk jug with you and that way you don't have to slow down at all, although you may have to explain why you're weaving about all over the road. I was lucky in my first season that my cruise control worked at 26 kmh. The speed limit being 25 kmh, I didn't have to slow down at all and could stand out on the porch still avoiding all the potholes and therefore some major potential embarrassment.

Nah, that has to have been taken from down on the ice. Not sure why I was stopped.



If you look closely at this one, you can just see the sign saying "10" as you come off the ice here. It's on the right. No prizes for guessing that this is Portage 10! That's where Dome Lake maintenance camp is, at the far end of this portage, and Dome is the southernmost of those camps.


These are 'weekend warriors', locals out hunting. There are obviously regulatons as to what and how many you can hunt, and that's why they have to stop at the RWED shack on the way out (see earlier post).


Here is the RWED shack. Anyone want a job this coming winter? It's probably pretty warm in there.




I quite like this one, taken from the top of Charlie's Hill. You can see the slickest ice just where you need the traction most of all....
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Old 11-09-2007, 04:16 PM   #139
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Fascinating, Thanks so much for taking the time to share.
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Old 11-14-2007, 09:24 PM   #140
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It's been a while...

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Originally Posted by Wallace
Fascinating, Thanks so much for taking the time to share.
Thanks Wallace, I've been rather lazy of late. Was up in Yellowknife for the weekend to catch up with friends, including one ice trucking colleague I haven't seen since before the last season. We chatted about the job over a coffee, him telling me the news, gossip and rumours from last season, and our contemplating the future of the road. Many changes afoot, it appears, but one thing for certain is that the weather is just not cooperating this year. Again. The coldest it has been in YK so far this winter is a paltry -13c, which isn't cold enough for the ice to reach the required thickness to get the plows out. That's the first and most important stage in building the road, in my opinion, because the snow acts as an insulator. If you can get a low ground pressure plow out onto the ice (now there's a job you need big balls for!), once the snow has been cleared the ice will thicken up much faster once it's exposed to the wind. From then on things progress at a reasonable rate. Until then, nothing happens at all.

Peter thinks that the road was at its maximum capacity last year (12,000 loads hauled), and he's wondering what will happen with all the new mines opening up. Last season he took two loads to a very junior mine called Colomac (sp), which sounds as though it was quite the adventure. It's at the top of a steep hill - steep enough that trucks can't climb it, yet they wanted eveyone to try anyway. This is the same sort of attitude as Snap Lake refusing to gravel their hills, and having to have a Cat stand by all season long to pull people out of trouble. Apparently at Colomac they had the Cat there, but they wanted you to get as far up the hill as you could anyway. Of course it's just a big waste of time putting your chains on when you already know you can't make it up, but they'd make you go for it until the point were you spun out, and then drag you up the rest of the way. It would of course be easier (and faster) just to drag the trucks up from the bottom with no chains on. Anyway, apparently his last trip of the season was to Colomac and the road was so dicey that at one stage they were going to have to leave their trucks there. Yikes!

Peter did 36 trips last year (which is excellent) - the same number as Alex D. (star of the TV series), who is known for pushing it pretty hard. I've personally never once seen or even heard of a few hard core guys (such as Alex) sleeping, but of course they must do somewhere along the line.

I also called in on an old boss to see about doing a couple of trips when I'm on March break, so we'll see what happens.

Some photos, and I'll try and dig up a story in the next few days. I know I haven't posted one for ages, but school seems to be awfully demanding these days!

Unloading dynamite at Diavik.


Tahera's Jericho Mine is at the far end of the road, 30 kms past Lupin.


Shame this is so out of focus, it may have been a decent shot otherwise.


Security!


This looks as though it was taken near (probably right at) Lockhart.




Here we are in the parking lot at Diavik. My nose is the second from the right!
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Old 11-18-2007, 08:49 PM   #141
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Another story

It's been a while since I last took the time to post a story, but I have one for tonight - the story of the last trip I did in '04, when we got stormed in at BHP (although we did try to make it out)! I have a few more pics here too. Let's start with a couple of the plows...





And one of the road as you draw nearer to the mines. I always thought it looked very lunar up there (but never having actually been to the moon I can't be absolutely sure I'm right)!




Getting busy, here!


It was April 1st when I set out on my last trip of that year. Although it wasn't really a bad trip compared with some (very few were completely uneventful), what did go wrong began early on. On Charlie's Hill the last guy in our convoy spun out, and I posted a pic of that and told his story in an earlier post. We'd all stopped on the top of the hill anyway, and the first two trucks had already pulled away when buddy asked us to wait because he was stuck. The two lead trucks were already off the portage and onto the lake so they couldn't stop, and myself and Ron, the guy behind me, stayed behind to help the chap who was stuck get moving, then we'd also be there for him to have someone to run with.

Because of the delay, when we got to Lockhart we had a lightning quick lunch and ended up joining up with the two guys who had gone on ahead again. As we began crossing Mackay Lake one of the guys pointed out a sun dog, a rainbow circling the sun quite a way away from it. This means bad weather coming, apparently, and sure enough within a couple of hours we could tell things were going to get bad. The other trucks turned off to Diavik and I carried on to BHP with Ron bringing up the rear. We'd already decided that we'd get unloaded (I forget what I was carrying, but it was likely prill), grab a bowl of soup and get the hell out of there before things got really bad and we ended up stuck at the mine.

It was midnight by the time we left and the wind was as strong as I had ever seen it. I remember being surprised that they even let us leave actually, but they gave us the go ahead and we pulled out, yours truely in the lead. We needn't have bothered really. We'd only gone about 2km when I pulled the plug; it was just really, really shitty weather. We could only crawl along at a few kmh because the snow was blowing so hard it was hard to see more than a few feet in front of you, and it was also drifting across the road pretty fast. I wrote in my journal that the visibility was down to 20ft, and of course at the speed we were going the journey back to Lockhart would have taken several hours longer than it should have done. I just wasn't up to fighting this storm for the time it would take us to get down off the high grade and anyway we were in danger of becoming stuck in a drift right there on the road.

As I made the call, Ron happened to be passing the one wide spot in the road for the next 24km. Of course, if I were a smart man I'd have made the call when I passed it and we both could have turned around. But no, me no smart! Ron turned around and headed back to the mine while I began to get pissed at the prospect of possibly having to keep going for another 24 kms until I knew I'd be able to turn around. After a few mins I had had enough. I couldn't see anything - my trailer in my mirrors, or even the other side of the road, and I was pissed enough to do something dumb. I swung as far to the right as I could, gritted my teeth, clenched my butt cheeks as tight as I could, sucked my stomach in and swung the wheel hard to the left, hoping that I'd be able to turn around before I ran out of road. The turning-circle gods must have been with me even if no-one else was, and I made it by the skin of my teeth. I parked up next to Ron and went to sleep having first had to use eveything I could find to cover my radiator grille up. The wind was blowing head-on towards me and I didn't know this Western Star well enough to be able to tell how it would cope with that while I was snug as a bug in the bunk. I didn't want to have to wake up from the sleep I so desperately needed to have to fight the thing from dying an untimely death due to frostbite of the block! It had taken the best part of two hours to drive the last 4 kms, and it was 2.30am when I finally turned out the light.

It was no surprise to wake up in the morning and find the road officially closed, but I wasn't even bummed out this time, figuring that it would be my last trip anyway, and there were worse places to be stuck. I spent that day catching up on email, buying some mine souvenirs for friends and family, and shooting the shit with the other stranded drivers. By 9pm I was exhausted, but it was too early to go to sleep so I forced myself to read for a while first. Earlier in the evening I'd seen on the TV that the wind was dropping and I wondered whether the storm was dying down, but once back outside the wind was as strong still as it had been, and I couldn't see us getting out of there that night either. But as it turned out I might as well have gone to sleep when I first felt like it, because at 2am I was woken up with the news that the road was open again. As Ron and I drove toward the dispatch office to sign out, I could feel that one of my trailer brakes was frozen - and I hadn't even set them! The run back to Lockhart was completely uneventful, and I was back in Yellowknife by mid afternoon to confirm that I was indeed done for the season.



This the security shack at The Meadows


I was never that upset to pull in there and find the convoy ahead hadn't moved away yet (see pic below). It meant I had twenty minutes so check my straps and chains, do some paperwork and drian the main vain before we set off for the 8 hr drive to Lockhart.


Cool '80s vintage International rig here. I saw it for two seasons and it never once broke down. Many people wanted to buy it, but it wasn't for sale...


Parked at Lockhart


Yours truely at Lupin
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Old 11-19-2007, 01:38 AM   #142
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I'm so glad you're writing this stuff down.
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Old 11-21-2007, 06:45 PM   #143
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Quote:
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What are the chances of getting permission to run the road with a Ural/hack combo?


Hey Moosekiller, are you paying attention?
Yep! I am now! Just 2 months late, that's all...

GREAT thread!! Not sure how I missed this one!
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Old 11-23-2007, 10:03 PM   #144
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Getting in trouble with Security

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GREAT thread!! Not sure how I missed this one!
Hi Moosekiller - was wondering when you'd show up here! Good to have you along.

I'm pretty weak this evening - went to the Post Office to do my weekly mail box check, and as I was walking there I thought about how next week I should take my car as I ordered some bike tires. Well, one set had turned up already so I walked back home with a box with a set of KLR tires in it, and although they're not particularly heavy it was a 15 min walk, and now I can't even lift a cup to my mouth without my forearms shaking! What a puss! And I didn't have any gloves on....man, I'd forgotten how much it hurts thawing out your fingers again. Yikes.
But I have a set of Mefo Explorers now, and I'm well chuffed. You can't even buy those things in Canada so I got mine from Fred at Arrowhead Motorsports and he shipped them USPS for me. I only had to pay $15 duty when I picked them up, so total including shipping was $240 for what I am lead to believe is a fantastic tire. A rear Gripster by itself is +/- $150 in Canada so I'm tickled pink. Can't wait to put them on in April when I dig the bike out from under the snow! I'm glad to see that my Alaska 2008 thread in 'Upcoming' is getting some hits now too - glad to know I'll be meeting some folks that I only know by name right now. Roll on D2D!

Anyway, you didn't come hear to read about bikes, did you? No, it's trucking time...but I have to be honest, folks, I'm running out of stories. There are plenty of trips I could write up, but nothing happened on them and I dunno if that'd keep you tuning in. The 2005 season seemed so quiet compared with the one before, but I did remember one incident worth recounting. Maybe in '09 while on the road I'll do a kind of Trip Report throughout the season if I have time. Prolly have to be on this thread, though.

Some pics to begin with. These first two are from Lupin.




And this one is on the road to Lupin...


Could have sworn I'd already posted this one...




So, the first year, once I'd got the 'lay of the land' I tried to run as an 'independent' when I could (not that often thanks to my dispatcher), but it worked better for me. Although there are advantages of running with a regular group of guys you've got to work really well together particularly when it comes to agreeing on how long to sleep for, and where, as well as how far you're going to try and get in the next stint of driving - to Lockhart? All the way to the mine, etc? There was such a bunch of guys that year, but they had a different boss, a guy who was pretty controlling and I didn't get to do as many trips with them as we'd have liked. The advantage of being an 'independent' is that you could tag on to, drop off from, or start your own convoy pretty much whenever it suited you. Perhaps in the middle of the night the road would have been quiet, but a little patience usually paid off it you wanted to go somewhere (and brown nosed the dispatchers at Lockhart and the mines enough)!

In '05 I ran almost the first 2/3 of the season with the same bunch of guys, and we all worked for the same boss. Carl had about 6 or 7 trucks on the road - James and Neil were running as independents partly 'cos that's the way it worked out at the beginning of the season (and partly because no-one else was overly keen to run with them if they could help it!), and that left Stan, Terry, Don and myself running together most of the time. They were a pretty good bunch - Don and I had a few issues with Stan, but all in all we got along pretty well and worked well as a team. We were all locals, living in Yellowknife, and some of us knew each other anyway. I'd known Terry for a couple of years, and I believe Terry knew Stan already.

When you're on the road you're supposed to be monitoring Ladd 1 on the UHF radio, listening to who is coming towards you, trying to work out where you're going to pass them, etc. The same goes for knowing who's behind you and various other things - location of Security, for instance (they always have radar guns pointed at you). Really only the convoy leader needs to be doing this, but in theory everyone else should be, and although they'd turn a blind eye if you were crossing a long lake like Gordon or Mackay and you weren't on Ladd 1, at any other time, and especially on a portage, everyone has to be on Ladd 1. Well, Don, Terry, Stan and I would use a pre-arranged channel as our 'chatter' channel, because Ladd 1 was 'business only', but we would bullshit the whole way to and from the mines on our other channel, to the point that we were rarely on Ladd 1, actually. Naughty boys, we were.

One night Stan, Terry and I were heading south around portage 20 or so in that formation (Stan in the lead, me bringing up the rear). All of us were on the other channel and as I drove onto the portage a 'four wheeler' (civilian pick-up) came up behind me and passed me, towing a ski-doo on a trailer. I'd seen the lights in my mirror and switched to Ladd 1 in case it was Security, but as he passed me and I saw that it was wasn't, I switched back to the chatter channel and carried on bullshitting; but of course I let Terry know that the pick up coming up behind him was 'safe'. Just a couple of minutes later a Security pick-up came past me the other way, but I ignored it because Terry hadn't said anything about it coming, and therefore there was no reason to go to Ladd 1 (other than that I was supposed to be on it while on the portage)!. Well, next thing I know, just as I'm coming off the portage and onto the ice , more four wheeler lights come up behind me. I ignore them, and as he pulls along side me I see that it is Security, having turned around to follow me - and he's beckoning for me to get my ass on the radio. Oops!

Now, the Security guys on the road are awesome guys, almost to a man. They're almost all ex mounties and they are there to help us, not hassle us. Sure, they'll give you the appropriate amount of grief if you're speeding (depending on how fast you were going and how often you've been busted), but as a rule they are an excellent bunch of guys. There always has to be one exception, of course, and he was right along side me right now. I changed back to Ladd 1 and he was calling my number (we all have to have our truck numbers clearly displayed in our windshields - you've probably noticed it in the pics). "Why weren't you on Ladd 1?" he asks in a not very friendly way. I think I probably said something like, "I was talking to my friends", but I knew I was in the wrong, I was just going to try and get away with it, that's all. He said, "You know you're supposed to be on Ladd 1 on a portage" and I said "Yes, but everyone in this convoy is on the same channel, so we are all communicating with eachother". (This isn't dropping Stan and Terry in it, because they were out on the lake and therefore in a sufficiently grey area). He said that he'd turned around and followed me to let me know that there was a four wheeler in front of me (how could I not know - it had passed me!), and as I already said - I'd let the guy in front of me know. He asked me what the number was of the truck in front of me so I quickly looked up Terry's number (lucky I had it because you only have the numbers of the trucks you're travelling with if you are leading - if I hadn't lead a convoy with him in it before I wouldn't have known and Security would have been even more pissed that he had to go and chase a second truck!). He then started to call Terry on the radio, which I knew was a big waste of time 'cos he was on our own channel, but obviously I wasn't going to tell him that, so I qickly went up there and said, "Terry. Security is calling you on Ladd 1 and he isn't a very happy chappy." Terry came back down (and no doubt Stan did too, to listen in) and Security gave him the same spiel he'd given me, only now he was claiming to have chased the two of us off the portage. Bottom line was that he was writing Terry and I up for not being on Ladd 1, and then he drove off, leaving the three of us to wonder what was up with his attitude on 'our' channel (Security can only listen to Ladd 1 and 2 so we were safe)!

Well, there is no real harm in being written up - it only affects you in two ways. Of course, get written up too often and you'll get a ban for a few days, but the main way is that every time you do a trip to a mine and it is 'incident free', your truck number (technically your number, not the truck's) gets entered into a draw. Each season Diavik Mine, Ekati Mine, and the Joint Committee (who over-see the running of the road) each put up a $1000 prize. At the end of the season, three numbers are drawn from the hat, and those three drivers win $1000 as a way of saying, "You did good". Obviously the more trpis you do - the more safe trips you do - the better your chances of winning. But.... every incident, such as my being written up on this occasion, means that my number is withdrawn from the draw and you have to start again. Neither Terry or I are the type of have to worry about breaking the rules to the extent that we'd get a suspension, but we were now less likely to win the money (which actually didn't mean shit to me because I had never heard of anyone being awarded it anyway, although of course I would have been very happy to do so).

I happen to be friends with the head of Security, and the next time I saw him at Lockhart he had seen the report and knew that I'd been busted. I didn't try to say that I was innocent, but I did mention that buddy's attitude had been a bit uncalled for - not sure whether it did any good. Anyway, apparently I'm not that quick a learner, 'cos only about 5 days later I came soooooo close to being busted for the same thing again, on another part of the road. That particular Security guy knew I was not on the right channel and I began to...well, lie basically....and luckily he was too busy to write me up again, but after that I was on Ladd 1 the whole damn time. Terry and Stan could keep each other company, but seeing as I'd had a spotless record in two seasons until just a few days before, and was friends with the head of Security, I was good as gold after that.

End of story. Some more pics....






I think I took this one to try and show what the surface of the road looks like...there had better be a good excuse for taking such an awful picture!


Here's a good shot - galute, you still here?
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Old 11-24-2007, 04:50 PM   #145
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This is fascinating!!! I'm hooked on this thread - good work!

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Old 11-25-2007, 08:08 AM   #146
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Yup,I'm hooked also.

Great thread............
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Old 11-25-2007, 06:48 PM   #147
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Anatomy Of A Trip (Pt.1.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Longer
This is fascinating!!! I'm hooked on this thread - good work!

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Quote:
Originally Posted by awryders
Yup,I'm hooked also.

Great thread............
Thanks guys, much appreciated.

I thought I’d go over the anatomy of a trip today, sort of run through one from start to finish. Every trip is different, of course, but they are all alike, too. Does that make any sense? I thought not. Good.

But first, some pics...



This be one of 'dose 'dere water trucks


Here's that lunar landscape up near the mines again. We call this stretch of road 'The 401' (named after major highway in Ontario) because the speed usually picks up on some of these portages. A few are quite long.






Ok, so let’s say you’re booked out for 6am. That’s a good time to leave ‘cos you’d have had at least part of the night at home (in my case anyway – I keep forgetting about those poor bastards for whom ‘home’ is their truck for two months), and it wouldn’t be much later than about 10.30pm that you get to the mine if things went smoothly. Ok let’s call it 12am, things never go that smoothly! And for the purposes of this trip, we’re going to BHP so we’re happy. (More money and a nicer camp with a more efficient staff). So it would likely have gone something like this…

… no dispatcher is going to give you your paperwork until the last minute, so if we’re leaving at 6am you’d call by the office at 5am to pick it up, having first hooked up to your trailer (if you weren’t already), checked everything over and fuelled up. Now you’ve got thirty minutes or so to grab a coffee, and you have to be at Nuna Dispatch twenty minutes before your ‘t-time’. You don’t want to be too late turning up at Nuna either, ‘cos if they’re swamped they’ll tell you you’ve lost your spot and will have to wait until the next one is available - possibly hours away. I’ve never actually seen this happen, but that’s what they say and who am I to argue?! They need that twenty mins to do their own paperwork, for which you have to hand them what your company dispatcher just gave you, and you have a few mins to check your straps/chains, whatever you need. While in the trailer there you sign out on a sheet stating where you’re going, what you’re carrying, your ‘road number’ and what your ‘t-time’ is. This is also when you would find out who you’re traveling with, and decide amongst yourselves who is going to lead the convoy.

A convoy has a minimum of two trucks and a max of 4 or 5, depending on various things, but usually it’s 4. They leave every 20 mins. It may be that you’re running with the same group of guys you have been for a while and perhaps there’s only one ‘unknown’ in the convoy, or if you’re an independent then you’ll be the unknown if the others have all run together before, or it could be that you’re all independent and no-one knows anyone else. Deciding who leads the convoy is sometimes quite amusing. A lot of people – probably the majority – don’t want to ‘cos either they’re not comfortable doing so or they just don’t have enough experience to be able to call the shots. (There is no minimum amount of experience needed before you can lead, you’re either comfortable doing so or you’re not, but no-one is going to let you lead if you’ve only ever done say 4 trips. A more experienced driver wouldn’t let you lead in that case, and would do so himself even if he didn’t originally want to). Some guys that have been doing it for years think that it is their job to lead, and there’s no discussion – they tell you they’re leading and that’s that. I don’t have a problem with this because these guys know what they’re doing and are usually good to run with. If they turn out to be cretins you can always just pull over on a portage and join the next convoy (now that reminds me of a story for another day!) Some guys are just control freaks and will actually turn up early and park off to the side out of the way, then, when it’s twenty mins before their ‘t-time’ will move and park in such a way as to block any other trucks from leaving the parking lot, so they have to lead. Not much you can say to someone like that. Personally I like to lead because then I can set the pace. You’d be surprised how many people like to drive under the speed limit, or seem to have no concept of the idea that they are paid by the trip, and that therefore the sooner they get home again, the sooner they can get out again. I’m not talking about breaking any rules, but some of these people seem to think they’re on holiday. I’m comfortable following if there’s a ‘known’ leading, but every time you’re in a convoy with a new person leading you always wonder what they’re like. At Nuna dispatch you get to meet them and form an opinion, but if you’re at Lockhart, say, and you hear a convoy pulling out and want to join on the tail end, you never know what you’re in for. Sometimes you can tell pretty quick by the talk on the radio. If the guy leading is asking everyone their names and road numbers you know he’s done it before’ cos he’s writing them down. But if you read my post about when I went into the snow bank, that leader didn’t even know I wasn’t there anymore. He likely had his knuckles rapped for that, but I don’t know.

Hey, this is going to be a super-sized post if I keep going. This seems like a good place to stop for now, and I’ll continue soon.



This looks suspiciously like a school bus. Must be a flooding bus.


Chasing my own shadow




Lockhart
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Old 11-25-2007, 09:45 PM   #148
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Old 11-28-2007, 02:25 AM   #149
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Keep on posting whatever, whenever you can Squonker, you have a fan base here.

I see that the trucks are very lightly loaded. Suppose that`s the way it has to be when travelling over ice. What method do you use to get the pallets of drums etc to the the rear of the pan for unloading by the forklift?

Here in Australia at the moment we are having a bitch session about moderators editing posts, the inclusion of non bike content and here`s your thread, up to ten pages, I think you`ve mentioned your bike twice and it`s still going strong. Looks like it was a good idea from the moderator to keep your thread in it`s regional area. Those of us, like myself who are interested can continue to visit your thread and it doesn`t get buried by the huge number of posts at "ride reports".
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Old 11-28-2007, 04:57 PM   #150
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Anatomy of a Trip Pt. 2

Quote:
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Good man, Klay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSD4ME
Keep on posting whatever, whenever you can Squonker, you have a fan base here.

I see that the trucks are very lightly loaded. Suppose that`s the way it has to be when travelling over ice. What method do you use to get the pallets of drums etc to the the rear of the pan for unloading by the forklift?

Here in Australia at the moment we are having a bitch session about moderators editing posts, the inclusion of non bike content and here`s your thread, up to ten pages, I think you`ve mentioned your bike twice and it`s still going strong. Looks like it was a good idea from the moderator to keep your thread in it`s regional area. Those of us, like myself who are interested can continue to visit your thread and it doesn`t get buried by the huge number of posts at "ride reports".
Whatever I can, whenever I can? Ooh, the pressure! I do see that the thread has had more hits in the last 48 hours than it has for a long time. That's good though, and we're over 5000 hits now. Thanks everyone. I'll see how long I can drag out this 'Anatomy of a Trip' thing.

The trucks are loaded according to the weight limit at the time. As the season progresses and the ice thickens the weights go up, and to be honest I have no interest in how much my load weighs unless it's either very light (I took a load of box springs up to Diavik one day - hardly even registered on my guage), or very heavy - not sure what the heaviest load I've hauled on the ice is, but I know that that load of tires I took (the one that's in about 17,000 photos) was over the limit by a wee bit. Shhh - don't tell anyone. There's a pic earlier on in the post of a rig that had gone into the snowbank. He was pulling a tri axle flat bed, yet only had 12 one tonne bags of cement on - and that's nothing, at the beginning of the season they'd only been hauling 6! It depends on the number of axles you have too, of course.

Getting the pallets of drums to the back of the trailer? A chain wrapped around the fork rack, with a hook on the far end. One chap stays in the trailer and unwraps the chain then hooks it on the next pallet. Loader backs up, dragging the pallet with him. Buddy in the trailer signals him to stop, then the loader comes forward again and the trailer guy wraps the chain back up around the rack. Now the loader can get the pallet with his forks - Bob's your uncle.

Not sure about your mods - to be honest I've never even been to your regional forum. Before I started this I PM'd a mod and asked whether I could post it in Trip Reports. He said try GWN, and he were are. Makes no difference to me where I post it - people seem to be reading it anyway. And yeah, I mentioned my bike a couple of times just so that no one can say there's no bike content at all! KLR - there you go, three mentions now!

Ok, some quick pics before I do anything else, starting with what I believe (and hope!) are the last two of that load of bloody tires. It must have been the first trip I took a camera with me or something.



Streuth, that's a big loader.


This is on the way back from Lupin. We'd spotted this un-frozen stream on the way up, and pretended to be having truck problems so that we could stop for a couple of minutes and investigate it when we came back again.


Having decided who’s going to lead, when the dude in the Nuna dispatch trailer gives you the ok, it’s a Le Mans type start with everyone piling out the door and hopping in their rigs. (Chocks away first), and in general we’re parked in such a way (there are actually charts up on the wall telling us the correct way to park at Lockhart, I thought it was quite funny. If I remember, I’ll scan one and post it) that there’s only really one order we can pull away in, anyway. From dispatch it’s about 1 Km ‘till the Ingraham Trail. There’s a stop sign there, and as the lead truck makes the left turn, he’ll call out “Four trucks north on the Ingraham Trail”. From then on he has to call every other kilometer. Southbound trucks will do the same thing and the idea is that when the road gets narrower, you won’t get a nasty surprise when you come round a corner at 70 km/h and find another truck barreling towards you with no room to pass. As we get really close to another convoy we start calling out every kilometer, and often the two leaders will say, “I guess we’re about to meet up” or something. If it comes to it, northbound trucks have right of way, and sometimes – when the leader of the southbound convoy is really nice, he’ll actually have all his guys pull over for you. Gotta love that. Also, trucks are supposed to be spaced out 1 km apart on the trail, so it can take a while for two convoys to pass each other. Often the spacing gets messed up too - one guy is too keen and another is a bit scared – so as leader you’d talk back to the guys behind you. “Just coming up to the first truck now. Big gap between between #s 2 and 3. Driver of third truck is unusually ugly etc.”

It takes about an hour to get to the end of the Ingraham Trail, and the beginning of the ice at Tibbett Lake. The turning comes up quite suddenly and it’s not unheard of for a truck to sail right on past it, and that’s a b.i.t.c.h. ‘cos the turnaround isn’t big enough for a set of trains, and to have back ‘em up a kilometer, in the dark, around a corner….I know I couldn’t do it. Anyway, assuming you made the turn….you have to slow right down ‘cos once you’re on the ice (and you are now), it’s 25km/h. You cross two lakes, both pretty short, and you’re at The Meadows in about 10 mins. The Meadows is another dispatch point, where the spacing is corrected again, meaning that for whatever reason, if the convoys are no longer spaced 20 mins apart…well, they will be once more ‘cos Meadows Security won’t let you go until 20 mins after the previous convoy. I actually like stopping at The Meadows ‘cos it means I have to time to check my straps and chains without feeling rushed. Or with feeling rushed if, once you pull in and the leader tells Security the numbers of the rigs he’s leading, Security then says, “10-4 . You’ll be leaving at 7.17, so…you have 4 minutes.” That sucks. I really like to make sure my chains and straps are good to go, because it’s 8 hours to Lockhart when I’ll be able to check them again. And the section of road between The Meadows and Lockhart is the roughest and most banked, so if your load is going to shift it’ll be then. You could stop and re-tighten a chain or something along the way, but unless you were super quick you’d likely have to wait for the next convoy and join them. Depends on the leader – he might say we’re all stopping for 5 mins, or he might say we can’t because the following convoy is too close. Or he may just not care about your problems. We all have those days, right?

Shoot. We haven’t even really left The Meadows yet and I’m already at one post’s worth of drivel. Ok. Security has called us and said that we’re free to go. We’re outa here. So am I. Next post…



Very strange to be the only tuck at Diavik - certainly the only time this ever happened to me.


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