Monday, November 14, 2005
Morning folks. Today will start a week of "posts from the past". Damn, that sounds rather ominous, almost scary! Kidding aside, I'm simply going to put up some stories that I hope you find interesting. This one I posted on Jan 30 of this year.
To a lot of people ice is something to drop into a glass, in cube form, when preparing their beverage of choice on a hot day. Some in colder climes get a bit more exposure to it as in scraping it off their windshields or trying not to fall on their butt while walking on it. The fitter among us even play games on it such as ice hockey, skating and curling. That's right Bubba, curling, a large recreational winter sport in many parts of the world. Google it. Some even use it as a medium to produce wonderful sculptures, but to most it is not an intregal part of their lives. Not so to many people and businesses in the north. To them it is an extremely important link, as it were, to the outside. Once the lakes, of which there are thousands, are frozen over, ice roads can be built to haul in much needed supplies. Without these roads everything would have to be flown in, and you can just imagine the cost. While there are flights for things like perishables, medical supplies and things of that nature, most wait for freeze-up to bring in the bulk of their freight.One such place is a small radium mine that I hauled a load of diesel fuel into for their power plant(generator). This place is so far north that the nearest civilization is in Russia, and not that far away either.
During so-called freeze-up, government inspectors are monitoring the ice formation by air and on the ground. Also during this time a route is mapped out, as no two years are ever the same as to ice conditions. Once the ice is deemed safe, it's load up and haul you know what. It might interest some of you to know that 12in of good ice will support a fully loaded semi weighing in excess of 100,000lbs. 48in will support a loaded Hercules aircraft. But be careful, not all ice is the same. It takes more knowledge than I have to be able to spot the bad stuff, but luckily in the convoy I was part of we had an old-timer to keep us out of trouble. When you're crossing a lake such as Great Bear, which is 200 miles across, you'll encounter many obstacles. Sometimes you're on ice like glass, other times waiting for the cat(bull-dozer) and grader to punch a hole and smooth a path through the pile. The trip consists of hop-scotching from lake to lake, some sheltered, some open, so conditions are always changing. White-outs, waiting for a herd of cariboo to cross, throwing a parachute over the truck to change a fuel pump at 48 below, changing a wheel on the truck, 60 miles from shore, and watching your trailer wheels slowly sinking are just a few of the fun things to do on this cruise. Oh, by the way, there are no fine dining establishments along the trail, so you better pack a big ol' jungle box. Bring along enough to last a few weeks, because other than the one hot meal you'll get at the mine, you'll live out of that box. When Emeril Lagasse hollers Bam!, it means one thing, but out here it means the chunk of Polish sausage you wedged between the turbo-charger and the exhaust manifold, is ready. Hey, you've got a source of heat so you learn to adapt, or eat out of a can. Besides, a baked potato with a hint of diesel exhaust, yum-yum.
No matter how many times you are told that as long as the ice is snapping and cracking you are safe, it's little comfort when you're standing beside the truck having a wiz, and admiring your penmanship as you write your name, when a big ol' crack runs between your legs. Into the truck, release the brakes, in gear and haul ass out of there before you even think of putting your pen away.
This is getting too long and I have'nt touched on half the story. But I am going to say one thing, if my health would allow it, I would do it again in a heart-beat. Too bad the youngsters they're kicking out of driving schools these days could'nt experience some of the things that go into making a well-rounded trucker. Hell, I could teach a monkey to shift gears. Some things can't be taught, they've got to be lived. But that applies to all walks of life.
P.S. Tomorrow a story about hauling equipment for rock bands on tour. Bands like Heart, The Grateful Dead, Trooper, and even Willy Nelson and my bud Waylon Jennings.
Trucker Bob blogged at 3:29 AM