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Old 12-31-2007, 07:28 AM   #181
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Some more pics...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ducky 149
Eagerly awaiting anthoer fabulous installment down in Chicagoland USA.

Keep em coming!!!
Thanks Ducky, you'll have to bear with me for a while as I'm in England for the hols...stayed with one sister over Christmas, another for a few days, and now I'm at my folks' place. (Visited a BMW bike dealer near the one sister's place this morning, had a look at the 650 Dakar, the X Country and whatever the third one on that line is). I'll carry on properly once I'm back home, but for now here are a few shots I took in Yellowknife the day I flew out. I really don't know how buddy did this, other than locking up his brakes...



















Happy New Year to you all!
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Old 01-07-2008, 06:39 PM   #182
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Latest news and a story

Alrighty then...I'm back home, and just in time too, because on the news this morning was a story about the TV show. The History Channel asked permission to film a second series this year, and they have just been turned down. The Joint Committee, which runs the road, has told them that the first series gave an unrealistic picture of the job and the people involved, so they have decided that they do not want the TV cameras back.
Then this afternoon I had a call from CBC Radio asking me my opinion, and I will be interviewed live tomorrow morning. Like I know anything!
Apparently instead of filming the same road, the second series of the show will feature truckers on the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, and the ice road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. So now you know as much as I do!

Time for a story. I mentioned a few posts ago that I had worked with Jay from the show for the first part of the '06 season, and what we got up to is worth a few minutes typing...
Myself, Terry, Don and Stan (who all worked for the same guy), and Jay, who has his own truck, were all asked by Tli Cho to haul a camp shack from town to Snap Lake mine, and then to run to the Misery Camp on BHP's Ekati mine site several times to bring back camp shacks that were no longer needed by BHP, to Snap Lake. Does that make any sense? One shack from town to Snap, then four or five trips from between Snap and Misery, each time bringing a shack back with us. This meant that we wouldn't be home for several days, and unusually Tli Cho said they were paying by the hour for this job, so we agreed a rate with our boss and set out.

The shacks are all overlength and overwidth, so we needed an escort truck on the Ingraham Trail, but we made it to Snap Lake no problem, and unloaded our shacks. We were using trombone trailers which extend for the overlength loads, and having unloaded we'd close them back up so as to make it easier to negotiate corners, and make it nicer for folks that we met on portages coming the other way.

I don't remember whether we stopped for a rest having unloaded our first shacks, or whether we'd gone to Misery to bring back another each before we did so, but whenever it was we woke up and heard that the road north was closed due to weather. We were effectively stuck at Snap Lake and we began to wonder whether we were even being paid while the road was closed. It was open to the south, so we wanted to head back to town, re-load there, and be ready to head north again when the road opened. We called Tli Cho to ask what gives, and to our surprise were told that we should wait there at Snap Lake, that they'd pay us 24hrs a day while we were waiting for the road to open. That suited us - being paid to do sweet f-all!

We wanted to go into the camp for a bite to eat, so on the radio we called security, and they came and picked us up in a pickup, dropping us off at the security entrance where we ran our coats and hard hats through an x-ray machine and were asked to remove our boots. Having had our meal we were taken back to our trucks again, and all was well.

While were in the camp, one of us had been told by someone inside that there was a back door that was only a minute's walk from our trucks, and that we didn't have to bother with all this security stuff. Well, they didn't say that we didn't have to - just that there was a way to avoid doing so...see the trouble brewing?! It is, as I'm sure you can imagine, a pretty thankless life sitting in your rig 24/7, not being able to walk, let alone drive, anywhere, so that afternoon Stan and I walked in through this back door, helped ourselves to a coffee and sat down in front of the TV. Not long afterwards we were joined by Jay, Terry and Don. As we were sitting there shooting the shit, one of the security guards came by and asked how we'd got in and who had told us about the back door. She wasn't upset or anything, stopping to chat for a while, but not five minutes later she'd gone and her boss had turned up. And he most definitely was not happy. He reemed us out for not going through security and told us that we had to come in through the x-ray room, delivered by the pick up truck, every time we wanted to come inside. He was an arsehole about it. "So", I said, "if I want to come in for a shit I have to call you over the radio, be collected by a pick-up, and then x-rayed?" Yep, apparently I did. We were all pretty choked at the attitude this guy was giving us, and Jay started making noises about how we'd all just head back to town and they could find someone else to deliver their shacks. Well, then his tune suddenly changed, and perhaps as we were going to be there indefinitely they's issue us with a security pass we could keep for the duration, and we could even come in the back door so long as we wore the passes all the time we were in camp. Jackass, he was probably bored out of his mind and just wanting something to do, but talk about going too far.

Eventually the weather did clear up and they opened the road. We had fun heading north empty, passing all loaded trucks and going the wrong way up the hammer lanes. My trailer didn't have a roll bar on the end, and even though Stan and Don had winch trucks they'd been told not to use the winches, so Jay was kept busy unattaching from his trailer, and on to each of ours in turn, where he'd winch each load on. Because I had didn't have that roll bar, to load my trailer he'd winch a shack half way on to his own trailer, then I'd back up as fast as I could under the overhang to ram it onto mine as far as I could. When we'd got it so that it wouldn't drop off the end of my trailer, a chap in a loader would come and push it the rest of the way for me. Those shacks aren't heavy, and they only need four straps to hold them on (mind you, they need to be long straps). In the end I think we hauled 4 or 5 shacks from Misery to Snap Lake each, and then spent the majority of the rest of the season bringing more up from town. Towards the end I was given that humidor or whatever it was called, which nearly fell off my trailer on the way to Lockhart. I wrote about that in an earlier thread.

Being an imbicile, I took only one pic of one of these shacks on my truck, and it is crap. But, for your viewing pleasure....


You can't see that it's over length or over width, but other than that it's pure genius!

A few more pics to round out the post...





Flooding...


And a couple of the hoar frost on the front of my truck.




I'll continue with that anatomy of a trip in the next few days...
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Old 01-11-2008, 03:20 PM   #183
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Anatomy of a Trip Pt.8.

Lockhart on a grey day


A nice sunset


Da road


So, I think that we left off having passed Lac de Gras camp and told dispatch where we were headed. Where are we headed? Well, if you're going to Diavik you're probably only 45 mins away, and it's a simple matter of taking the sign posted turning, from then on it's only about .5 km until you drive up a small hill onto the Diavik property. They have their parking lot signed too, now, with a particular area for freight trucks, and one for fuel. Park up, get dressed in all your safety gear and head into dispatch with your paperwork to let them know you're there. Some guys radio in their arrival as they're driving up the hill, but you have to go into the office anyway, so I figure there's no point in disturbing them, and anyway they already know where you are because they'd have heard you radio in to Lac de Gras dispatch.

If you're going to BHP you sail right past the Diavik turn off, and about half an hour later you'll hit the 'high grade', which is to say solid ground. You climb up off the ice and you're on a road that is perhaps 10 km long, and brings you to a junction. This road is well maintained, but it's still the one place that I've messed up enough to have had to chain up! I was day dreaming climbing up there one day (it's mostly up hill), and there'd been some wind from my right, so in places the right hand side of the road was drifted in. I was miles away dreaming about Jessica Biel or something, ignoring the radio chatter 'cos I knew the road was plenty wide enough for two trucks to pass, when I suddenly realized that I was just 10 seconds or so from passing a truck coming the other way, and I had to move as far to the left as I could because of snow drift, and that meant I was going to be bogging down somewhat. But because I hadn't been paying attention I hadn't sped up and I didn't have enough momentum to get through the deep snow. I came to a stop and had to chain up, and wait for a grader to give me a tug because I was facing up hill. There were several trucks from other convoys stuck behind me and it was about an hour before I was going again, but they were all very good about it. One of the guys behind me drove for the same company, and he was being understanding, which I think helped everyone else to be, too.

So (eventually!) you make it to this junction, it's a right hand turn to go to Misery, and a left to Ekati. Take a left and you're on an excellent raod for 26 km, with a 60 km/h speed limit even if you're loaded, because you're not on the ice any more. It's a sweet ride all the way in to camp, but...the first time I went to BHP I was alone. The left turn I just mentioned is signed so that was easy enough, and as I got nearer camp and started to see buildings, but I had no idea where to go. I tried calling BHP dispatch but got no answer, and then I saw another sign telling winter road trucks to turn left. I did so, and passed a whole bunch of buildings, but had no idea where I was supposed to stop. If I had inadvertantly driven into a high security area, or where those million tonne dump trucks fly back and forth, there'd have been trouble. Dispatch still weren't answering my radio calls, but then I came around a corner and saw some other rigs parked. I pulled up alongside and now had to find the dispatch office, which isn't signposted. I started opening doors in every building I saw, and eventually found where I was supposed to be.

Enough for now. Here's the sky


And the road...

That's approaching Lockhart from the south

And, just for Galute, a plow!
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Old 01-11-2008, 06:35 PM   #184
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Cool squonker!! Welcome back, hope you enjoyed your visit with your folks.

What is the purpose of flooding the road? Is that how they repair bad sections or do they do that just to make the ice thicker and stronger?
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Old 01-13-2008, 08:18 PM   #185
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Anatomy of a Trip Pt.9.

Quote:
Originally Posted by galute
Cool squonker!! Welcome back, hope you enjoyed your visit with your folks.

What is the purpose of flooding the road? Is that how they repair bad sections or do they do that just to make the ice thicker and stronger?
Thanks, galute! Yeah, I had a great visit with my folks - best one yet, actually. Really good stuff.

And you answered your own question about flooding - yep, repairing and thickening/strengthening the weaker or damaged sections are exactly why they do it. It's kinda cool the way it works, because you'd think that the new layer would be so thin that it wouldn't make any difference, but it's so cold that the water almost starts to coagulate and therefore it doesn't run as fast, and there are times we were driving through it when I think it was about .5 inch thick. Wild. They let it set up, then grade it...and Bob's yer uncle!

Glad that plow shot pulled you out of the woodwork!


Another frosted window shot


Weekend warriors


The '401'


So, having found the dispatch office (!) it's kinda up to where you are, and what year it is, as to what happens next. BHP has always been efficient, and I don't think I've ever had to wait more than 45 mins there before anyone came to unload me, and most times it isn't even that long. They always know what you're carryinig, where it goes, who is going to unload it etc, so you follow a pick-up to where ever it is you're going, and someone is there to unload you. My first year, when I took several loads of prill there in a row, they even began to let me go to the stockpile unaccompanied, which is not very common in my experience. Even though they had to coordinate with the explosives company to send a loader and a couple of guys to help unload the truck, it would always happen right on time. At Diavik it might take weeks to arrange something like that!

So yeah, Diavik...my first year they were simply atrocious, and couldn't have organisd a piss up in a brewery. Several drivers refused to go back there, and plenty were told not to bother coming back, having lost their tempers at the dispatchers. Quite why it was such a shambles I don't know, but I think I've already told a couple of stories about having to wait several hours, and in one case overnight, to get unloaded.

Having said that, someone who cared must have got wind of what was (or wasn't!) going on, because the next year they seemed to be on a totally different planet. It was just as quick to go there as it was to go to BHP, although the facilities were much better, and much more freely available, at the latter. The only good thing about being held up so much at Diavik that first year was that the mine had signed a contract with the various freight companies which agreed that if a truck was kept waiting longer than three hours to be unloaded, that after that three hours they would pay an hourly fee. I can't remember what that hourly rate was, but I know it was much higher than I had expected, and while most bosses agreed with their drivers that they would split it 50/50, my boss told me I could have it all. Very nice, when you consider those two 12 hour delays I had. I like being paid to sleep. Could probably make career out of that, if I had a nicer pillow.

Anyway, having unloaded you would, if you were at BHP, follow the pick-up back to the parking area, or if you were at Diavik you'd have to call for an escort on the radio. At Diavik I'd often grab a danish or something then hit the road, but at BHP I'd make the most of the fabulous 'restaurant' and have a decent meal before pulling out. Of course, depending how you felt you might take a nap first.

If you're at Diavik they won't let you leave alone, but you could coordinate with trucks leaving BHP and meet up with them at the Diavik turn-off on the main road, where they'd wait for you. Technically, although the trucks from BHP would have been allowed to leave the mine unaccompanied because they were on the high grade, they were meant to wait at the ice for someone else to come up behind them so that they could travel together. But, because it was only about a 15 min drive from there to the Diavik turnoff, we'd go that far alone, and everyone turned a blind eye.

The road,


Lac de Gras,


And more pink snow. Must be someone who drank too much cherry pop...
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Old 01-14-2008, 11:27 AM   #186
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great pics, Squonker!
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Old 01-17-2008, 06:14 PM   #187
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Anatomy of a trip Pt.10.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tsilliker
great pics, Squonker!
Thanks tsilliker, I rather thought I was long past any good ones I had, just going through the motions of getting rid of what I had left. Glad that someone thinks I was wrong! Oh, and I PM'd you back, btw.

Just a quick one tonight as I have to go out in a mo....

Water truck


Diavik from the road


View from the road


So it looks as though we're headed home. I forgot to mention before that when you leave BHP they just say, "ok, thanks", and when you go to the dispatch office at Diavik before you head out (you have to pick up your paper work, which they don't trust you to hold on to yourself - frightened you're going to just drive off, I suppose), they ask you whether you have anyone else to run with. You say, "yeah, the guy standing right beside me who just told you that he was leaving too 20 seconds ago", or, "yes, there's a truck on it's way to the junction from BHP", at which point some of the Diavik dispatchers will even call that truck and confirm that he really is on his way. They just don't trust us, those Diavik folk.

It's 4 hrs from Diavik back to Lockhart when you're empty. For one thing the speed limit for empty trucks is 5 km/h above that for loaded rigs, so north of Lockhart that's 40 km/h, and when you hit the hammer lanes, which most of the big lakes have, you can take 'er up to 60 km/h. Mackay Lake still takes an hour and a half to cross at 60 km/h - it's going to be the death of me, that lake, I swear.

Approaching Lockhart you'd call back to the guys behind you and arrange with them that you're either going to turn in for food and/or rest, or 'turn and burn' - take a right and keep on heading towards town. If I remember correctly it's another 5 hrs from Lockhart to Yellowknife. Or maybe that's to The Meadows. No biggie. My first season they had a strange rule at Lockhart that even if you were turning and burning, you still had to physically drive into the parking lot and swing around, driving out again, before you could head south. Strange, but so is Bob Saget and he did alright for himself.

Or, you can split the convoy up here - as long as two of you are together you can carry on home and the rest can go into camp. I only once turned and burned, when I was in a big hurry to get back down the Ingraham Trail before they closed it that night for wide loads. The rest of the time I'd pull in and grab a bite at least, if not a kip too.

Another sunset


I guess this guy is an advance party from the flooding crew!


And the road again. Oh, 'ang on, that's Mackay Lake Lodge.
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Old 01-21-2008, 08:08 PM   #188
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Trombone trailers

Thought I'd throw together a few words tonight about the trombone trailers we used to haul those over length/over width camp shacks to Snap Lake in '06. Their being over width didn't have any connection to the use of special trailers - that was all down to their length - but it was their width that neccessitated a pilot car on the Ingraham Trail. And some really big loads used a pilot truck all the way to Lockhart. (Some of the portages south of Lockhart are a little narrow. Once you get north of the camp it all opens right up once you're above the treeline, and even the portages become few and far between).

But first, some entirely unconnected pictures....



This one is on Mackay Lake. The road ahead is suffering a bit form over-use, so, because it's such a big lake and there's plenty of width, they block off the damaged part to let the crews nurse it back to health, and open a new lane for us to use in the meantime. The standard method of blocking off a lane? Snowballs painted with orange flourescent spray paint!




Ok, these trombone trailers. I think I mentioned earlier how they work, briefly. There appeared to be two types to me, which would basically be newer fancy-schmancy ones, and older not-so-user-friendly ones, the ones that I always seemed to end up with! In fact I'm not sure it was a coincidence, because as far as I could tell there was only one older one, and I only remember one trip when I wasn't pulling it!

The difference is in how you extend them, then close them back up. Basically the unit extends by pulling the two locking pins (one on either side) out of their holes, at which point you make sure the trailer brakes are set, release the tractor brakes, and drive forwards. Bingo, you move and the rear half of the trailer doesn't, so it extends. It's important to remember at this stage that you have to put the pins back in place!

What happens, though, is that all the way up from Edmonton to YK and then the mine, these trailers have been driving through snow so they are caked up with ice and shit, and those pins are frequently quite reluctant to move all the way. Thank goodness for hammers.

The pins are moved by air from the truck - the same air that operates the brakes on both truck and trailer. On the fancy trailers all you'd have to do is turn a valve on the trailer and the pins would unlock. Extend your trailer then turn the valve back again and they'd lock back into place. On my trailer, though, I had to fart around moving air lines from the brakes and connecting them to another fitting so that I had air to the pins. Then I'd do my bit and lock the pins back up, move the airlines back to where they needed to be for me to have brakes, and only then was I good to go.

Because it was a pain in the arse I often didn't bother to close my trailer up when I had unloaded. It wasn't a huge deal, except that it was probably at least 60ft long extended, and I had to take sharp corners on portages really wide, which didn't always make me too popular with drivers coming the other way - which I can quite understand. When I began to get comments I began to close my trailer up before I headed home, but in the same way that the pins were all gummed up with snow etc, so was the sliding part of the trailer.

I'd change the air lines over, hammer the pins unlocked, then jump back into the truck to back up with the trailer brakes locked. This should have done the trick, but more often than not it didn't, of course - murphy's law. This was when the fun started. I'd have to ask security to escort me to the mine's unloading ramp and set myself up about 20ft away from it, with the back of my trailer pointing towards to dock. Instead of slowly, carefully backing up as you would do with say a piece of heavy equipment on board, I needed some umption to close the trailer up, so I'd back up hard (trailer brakes still locked, but sliding easily over the icy/snowing gound and not making any noticeable difference), slamming into the ramp and thereby forcing the trailer closed. Heck, that thing was so jammed up now that it would have been quite possible (if not quite highway safe!) to run back without then having gone through the effort of having to line the holes up and hammer the pins back into their loked position, but it sure did the trick!



Caribou


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Old 01-22-2008, 11:51 AM   #189
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Bump for a great thread

Pics and stories are so real, how else would we find out what actually happens on the Ice Road.

Thank you squonker.


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Old 01-22-2008, 07:26 PM   #190
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I am also still really enjoying this thread. Very well done! Perfect mix of pictures, descriptive text and good anecdotes.

Keep it up please!

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Old 01-23-2008, 04:45 PM   #191
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I am enjoying this a great deal. Keep it up!
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Old 01-26-2008, 04:05 PM   #192
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OffRoadCruiser
Pics and stories are so real, how else would we find out what actually happens on the Ice Road.

Thank you squonker.


Carl
Quote:
Originally Posted by Longer
I am also still really enjoying this thread. Very well done! Perfect mix of pictures, descriptive text and good anecdotes.

Keep it up please!
Quote:
Originally Posted by GS4ME
I am enjoying this a great deal. Keep it up!

Wow, thanks guys! I'm still amazed that anyone is reading this crap at all, but as long as you want more, I'll try and think of things to tell you! I'll have to dig out my notes soon to see whether there are any stories that I've forgotten about, but I have a horrid feeling that I'm almost out. Maybe if I can just keep this going long enough until I get up there again for a week in March, then I'll come back with new stories!

Speaking of which, it being...what, Jan 26th? 27th? today...I expect the road will open for the season any day now. I'll have to listen to a local news sometime over the weekend.

And I think I mentioned that I had done an interview about the roads on CBC Radio a week or so ago. On the strength of that I've also done one with the Calgary Sun newspaper, which will come out next month. I'll ask the chick that is writing the story whether I can post a link to it up here for you.

Some pics for today...

That is taken right outside the main entrance to the Lockhart camp building. The trucks you can see are on the southbound road.

This is Lac de Gras lake, and I'm pretty sure I took this as I was driving out of the Diavik parking lot, back onto the ice.


Just a view from the road, is all


So I haven't done any preparation for today, but I thought I'd dispell a few myths about the road. Some of them are repeated over and over again, and I'd not know any better if I hadn't been there myself, so hopefully this will enlighten you.

Myth: You can earn a year's salary in one two month ice road season.
Fact: I suppose that's technically true, but it'd be a pretty lousy year's salary! Maybe if you work at McDonald's or something, cleaning the toilets, with your tongue, you could earn the same amount again. I dunno - I know what I earn, and I know what you can earn if you own 4 trucks and have a good season, and there really isn't enough of a difference in the two figures to make it worthwile running all those rigs, keeping them going, finding drivers etc. It's good money, sure, but if you worked it out on an hourly basis I bet it would be far below minimum wage.

Myth: You can hear the ice booming like thunder while it cracks as you drive over it.
Fact: No siree, you can't. I am told that ice does boom that loud sometimes when it's forming on the ocean, but I've never heard it and anyway, by the time we get onto it the ice is long since formed. If you wind down your window and turn your stereo down you can hear it creaking, for sure, and I seem to remember in '06 when conditions were bad I could hear it over my stereo sometimes, but in general it's pretty quiet.

Myth: It's a big race to see who can get the most loads in.
Fact: It's just a job, and all things being equal we're all going to get roughly the same number of loads in anyway. I don't know of anyone who keeps comparing trip counts with anyone else. (And what's the point, anyway? What are you going to do if you have fewer or more trips than anyone else? Laugh at them? Cry?) It does come up in conversation occasonally and sometimes you'll run into someone in town in the weeks after a season has ended and ask them how their season was - in that situation it'd be normal to base part of your answer on how many trips you did, because that would dictate how much you earned.

I can't think aof any more myths off the top of my head (but I am kinda out of it today) - maybe I'll come up with more for later.





The surface of the road - I think I took this shot on Gordon Lake. Apparently I didn't stop for long enough to focus the camera! (Didn't want to get busted for stopping on the ice by Security!)


I'll try not to leave it as long before my next post this time - thanks for all your kind words.
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Old 01-28-2008, 03:12 PM   #193
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Thanks for the really interesting report!

.... seems that on the other side of the Pacific have similar problems with ice roads..

Pic taken from site http://www.sever66.ru
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Old 01-28-2008, 05:23 PM   #194
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Squonker, I just finished reading an article in Truck News, about Ice Road Truckers being denied a second season. As you've stated, they made the job look excessively dangerous and that it didn't put driving up north in a good light. The interesting thing is, they might do a show using other ice roads, other than the ones they used last season, which according to the article are owned/maintained by the guys from Diavik. Be safe .

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Old 01-28-2008, 06:02 PM   #195
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More story/pics/news on the tv show

Thanks for that contribution, GeorgioXT. I'll have to check out that in more detail later - looks like very similar stuff!


Quote:
Originally Posted by woodgrain
Squonker, I just finished reading an article in Truck News, about Ice Road Truckers being denied a second season. As you've stated, they made the job look excessively dangerous and that it didn't put driving up north in a good light. The interesting thing is, they might do a show using other ice roads, other than the ones they used last season, which according to the article are owned/maintained by the guys from Diavik. Be safe .

Woodgrain
Hey Woodgrain - any luck getting a drive? Let me know if I can help at all...Yeah, it seems that they;ll be filming on the Dempster Highway and the ice road between Inuvik and Tuk this year. I know that Alex from the show has signed on for it, but not sure who else will be there. I'd be surprised if any of the Kelowna lot wanted to do that, but who knows? I'll have to look at Truck News too - I don't follow the industry as a rule, but perhaps I'd better start doing so! I was looking on-line just now to see if the road had opened for this season yet (mighty cold here right now), but wasn't able to find anything. Should be any day now.

Hey Galute, look what I found! I didn't take this shot, got it from the 'net, but it was taken on 'our' road.






This is from my journal in '05. Some of it is repetitious, I know.
I was very happy to have yet another quick turnaround, and was off again at 10.40 that morning on my third trip for that week, and it was only Thursday. At last trips were coming as fast as I had wanted them to from the beginning, and I was euphoric at that plus the fact that they were going so smoothly and fast. I hoped that this time I might be back in Yellowknife the following night for a friend’s birthday party, but I knew that at 10.30pm that same evening the Ingraham Trail was being closed for several hours to let some wide loads up. If I arrived at The Meadows much after 10pm I wouldn’t be allowed to go any further, and would have to spend the night there. The weather didn’t look too great, with almost white out conditions in places, so I hoped that that wasn’t going to affect me.

I left Lockhart with my friend John and started to drive through the night, but we were both very tired. At the north end of Mackay Lake it was 1am and John suggested that we park up for a few hours on portage 49 and I reluctantly agreed. Although I’d have liked to push it on to the mine, I realized that for safety reasons it might be a good idea to stop seeing as he wanted to anyway. There was also the fact that he wouldn’t have been allowed to stop by himself to sleep there, and I wouldn’t have been allowed to carry on by myself. We didn’t particularly fancy turning up at Diavik at 3am (which it would have been had we carried on), and we didn’t think that Lac De Gras would let us pull in there, so we pulled over trying to keep the noses of our trucks out of the wind, which was just howling, and agreed that we’d start rolling again at 6am. The wind had been a problem coming across the lake, as the doors on my truck seemed to let cross winds straight in, and my feet were once again freezing.

I’m not sure whether or not I slept through my alarm or hadn’t set it in the first place, but I was woken up just before 7am when another friend came past and gave us a blast of his air horn. John and I pulled in behind him, and we made Diavik at 8.30am. The weather by then looked worse, and the possibility of being stranded there again gave me yet another reason to be on my way south again as soon as possible. I was unloaded by 11am but decided to wait for John and Pete, who probably wouldn’t have appreciated it if I had left without them in another convoy. It was beginning to look as though I wouldn’t make The Meadows by the time the Ingraham Trail was closed for the night, but I wasn’t going to give up yet. My feet were cold even though I was wearing my –100c Sorrels, and I was about to write in my journal that I couldn’t believe it was that cold in the truck, when I noticed that a banana I had put on the floor the day before was frozen solid. I enjoyed listening to my friend Mark Roberts on Oz-FM in Newfoundland again on the radio. We had worked together at a rock station in Alberta, back in my radio announcer days.

We had a successful trip home and I actually made it back to Yellowknife for 11pm that night. I was too tired to go to the party, but I was glad not to have to spend the night sleeping at The Meadows. Little did I know that I wouldn’t always be so lucky. Heading into the office the next morning I found that the road had been closed at 1am because of the weather. I immediately relaxed a little, found my next load and chained and strapped it down so that I was ready to leave again whenever my phone rang. I had a fantastic afternoon walking and grocery shopping with my girlfriend Amanda, followed by a very enjoyable supper with her parents. Later that evening my friend Thomas came around for an hour and I caught up with him.

The next morning after breakfast Amanda and I met our friend Ken for coffee at Javorama downtown, and during that I got ‘the call’. I had been booked out again for 2pm so I still had a couple of hours yet. I would need to top up the tanks on my truck before I left because it had been sitting for about 36 hours by that point. Although it wouldn’t have used much fuel, it was always dangerous to leave town without the tanks filled to the brim because you never knew what was going to happen and how long you’d be away, or where you might find yourself stranded. If you were anywhere other than at a mine or one of the camps, i.e. on a portage, for any length of time and needed fuel it would become an emergency situation. Once the engine stopped it wouldn’t take long before you were seriously cold, and quite apart from that the air pressure in the braking system would drop so that the brakes applied themselves and would freeze on. It was an added concern for me that my fuel gauge didn’t work. I had left the truck running as always because it wouldn’t have started again in the cold. Throughout the whole ice road season, the only times I ever shut my truck down were when I was parked safely in the shop doing maintenance. While I could in theory have parked in the shop in situations like this while the road was closed, not only might someone else needed to have used it to work on their own truck, but it was also not good for vehicles to go from the cold of outside to the warmth of a heated building, and back again any more than was necessary.

A truck takes a few days to become fully accustomed to the temperatures we were dealing with. Despite their being heavily winterized, it always took a trip or two before the truck was acclimatized to the cold. In that period we would have problems with air lines freezing more than usual, ice forming in places where it caused problems, and brakes sticking on. To winterize the trucks, we had tied on belly tarps to keep as much heat as possible in the engine, oil and transmission. Air dryers were filled with brake line antifreeze, and every driver carried a jug of this around with him. It was a good habit to get into to pour some down both air hoses before hooking up to a new trailer, just in case there was any moisture in the system. Winter jackets were also buttoned over the radiator grille, and the trucks were serviced. Because they were not going to be switched off anywhere they would become cold, regular 15-40 engine oil could be used as opposed to having to use a winter oil such as a zero weight. Likewise, anti freeze could be mixed at the same ratio as would be used in any regular car that was going to spend the winter in the arctic. Although our trucks would experience far colder temperatures above the tree line, the crucial difference is that they would not be switched off, as the car would be.

More Caribou




A nice short van trailer here (look in my mirror!)- gotta love them 'cos there's no strapping and chaining to be done, and no danger of your load falling off the trailer! Once I took a load of dynamite to Snap Lake in a van....quite amusing because they didn't want the load and had told town not to send it up, as they didn't have room in their explosive storage area for it, but the message never got to the dispatcher who sent me off with that load. When I got there all they could do was get me to drop the trailer and I ran back bobtail. Has to be the easiest load ever taken up the ice road, I should think!
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