Entry #1 - THE ROAD TO YK
We departed Edmonton yesterday with the understanding that it would be a few days until we were ready to hit the ice. Unfortunately, the opening day of ice season is a moving target, mostly the result of warmer than average temperatures due to El Niño. Usually the ice opens up around February 1st, of each year, but the unseasonably warm temperatures have slowed things down significantly. So, upon departing Edmonton, yesterday morning it was understood that there would be no hurry to get up here. We drove for about eight hours the first day, fueled in High Level, Alberta, and then shut down for the night.
After coffee and breakfast, the next morning, we rolled for the Northwest Territories, only to find ourselves stopped in Enterprise. After crossing the Enterprise scale, I was notified by the DOT that my transponder for the bridge across the Mackenzie River was not activated, so I had to call down to our safety assistant to find out what was going on. After 2 1/2 hours, we were on our way again. The only setback now, was lost daylight. It was 3;30 in the afternoon, we had about an hour and half until darkness fell across the landscape. With that darkness came the reality that after we crossed the Mackenzie River we would be running “Buffalo Alley” at night. Just north of the bridge is a fuel stop restaurant called BIG RIVER that services the town of Fort Providence. From that point on herds of Buffalo can be found moving freely across the highway. The highway from Fort Providence to Yellowknife is a 312 km, narrow stretch whose middle line is usually obscured by snow and ice and banked by falling shoulders that are merciless to wandering wheel. The road took the life of one of our drivers back in 2013 when he had a head on collision with an explosives truck. Adding herds of buffalo to the mix makes it all the more dangerous, so doing this stretch of road in daylight hours is always preferable.
A couple years ago I
was hauling fuel up in the middle of night and rolling into Big River when a
lone buffalo ran out in front of my rig. Normally when a deer or a smaller animal gets out in front
of you it is sacrificed. No one wants to roll over a Super B tanker full
up with fuel. The DOT frowns on that sort of thing. Especially if you say something like, "I swerved to miss a groundhog." So, unfortunate as it is, hitting a single animal is better, than causing an environmental disaster and getting your mug on the CBC National news. But a buffalo is an
entirely different thing. If you collide with one, your moose bumper will not
be the only casualty. Hitting a full grown bison is tantamount to colliding
with a full size 4X4 pickup truck. Getting back to my story, when this buffalo got out in front of me
I got on my brakes and I kid you not, when I say that his tail was polishing
the top rung of my moose bumper while simultaneously soiling the grill. He was running hard, I was braking hard and the giddy
laughter got the best of me. Eventually, I got slowed down enough for him to
pull away and seconds later the rest of the herd, that had been pacing me, cut
across the front of my truck. The bison and my rig lived to fight another day.
I can only speculate what made them dash from the woods into the road, likely
they were spooked by wolves.
Fortunately, we encountered no buffalo on the 3 1/2-hour trip to Yellowknife, just the odd southbound rig hugging the center line. We arrived at the YK camp at approximately 8:30 PM to find about twenty plus rigs idling in the lot. The temperature was tottering at -21 Celsius, which is frigid, but we want it colder. Minus 35 would be good or even minus 40. The colder it gets, the quicker the ice firms up and we can get this dog and pony show on the road. Speculation is running wild, I've heard rumors, from Edmonton to YK, that the ice roads won’t be opening until the 4th, the 5th, the 6th and even on the 10th of February. Nobody really knows, everyone wants to guess. Some of us are taking advantage of the downtime by grabbing some rest, while others are catching up on a movie or some other entertainment in the sleeper of their rig. Me, I thought I do a little preliminary testing of my voice to text program and set about writing this first blog. So far not too bad, it's a pretty good program. Thankfully, I will have my good friend Jake Anfinson to sort through the gobbledygook mess later on when I am no longer afforded much free time. For those of you who don't know who Jake Anfinson is, he is a writer, a part-time editor, and also a good friend of mine. Jake beta-read Acadia Event and recently edited my short story collection Dark Passages. Although we have never met in the flesh, we have skyped and interacted quite a bit over the web and I consider him a very good friend.
If we are delayed
for number of days, the question is, “What am I going to do?” Well I have one or two tricks up my sleeve and
it all really depends on the weather, I plan to get out with my camera and take
some shots and maybe wander around Yellowknife bit and show you around.
Yellowknife is at its best in the winter. There is something mystical about
this town. With that in mind, I’ll see if I can get down the road and do a walk
about tomorrow to introduce you to the city of Yellowknife. It was my intention
to take you down to the main street where the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant
is played out in the final scene of Acadia Event. As I understand it, Col. Sanders
has left town. Speculation is that the giant rotating KFC bucket is now being
used as a hot tub by a bunch of native Skentophyte.
This concludes my first entry, but I will keep you posted as things develop and now that morning is upon us, Brad are I are going to venture out into Yellowknife to explore the city and grab a few snapshots. As we wait for the road to open I will continue to update you with photos and posts, so stay tuned.
Expect an update on YK in the next day or two…
Mj Preston - N.o.60th - 2/3/2016