Alright – first off, sorry for the lack of a post yesterday. We were spending the night in Eagle Plains after heading up to Tuk from Inuvik, and Eagle Plains is essentially a hotel and gas station in the middle of the Dempster; 300 miles north or south before you see -any- civilization. When I asked about Internet, the lady laughed and said “You can’t even make a phone call that lasts more than 60 seconds here”. So consider this a 2-fer, for Day 6 & 7.
Day 6 was the big day of the rally, where we departed from Inuvik, NWT to our final destination and the most northern drivable point in North America – Tuktoyuktuk. To get to Tuk, you need to drive on an ice highway over the Mckenzie river, and eventually the Arctic Ocean. This ice highway as like -nothing- we’ve ever experienced, and even though so many people told us about it you have to see it yourself to believe it. It’s essentially a plowed section of the frozen river/ocean which is 40-50yards wide, that has no speed limits (well, no enforced speed limits). Here’s a picture of what it looks like:
Let’s have a quick recap of the dangers of driving on an ice highway:
- You are driving on polished ice.
- There are snow drifts 4-5ft high that you can’t see until you drive over them at high speeds, and when you do your car essentially jumps them.
- Most of the corners/turns are decreasing radius, which means they get tighter/sharper
- There are cracks in the ice parallel to the road, which are about as wide as your tires and will slice them if you drive in them.
- There are cracks in the ice perpendicular to the road, which are sometimes ~6inches higher, so when you drive across them they slice your front tires.
- Visibility can go to 30ft in less than 5 minutes due to Arctic Fog
- There are massive trucks driving on the road at very high speed (might = right of way).
- When we were there, there were a bunch of crazies in rally cars spinning out and driving their cars into snowbanks.
Despite all of these hazards, it was still absolutely incredible. Not without incident however. We managed to hit this massive fissure in the ice, which was about as wide as my tire, 12inches deep, and about 5ft long. We hit this going at least 70, and the car completely bottomed out with the suspension loaded. I saw ice hole just before we drove over it, and managed to get the fissure between my 2 front tires but it caught the rear passenger side and did this:
Did I mention it’s about 20 degrees below zero, so we did a nascar style tire change and were off again.
We had the car at 109mph top speed (175km/hr), which was scary and intense but fun as hell! Other cars also had issues, which isn’t surprising if you combine crazy drivers at high speeds on ice roads (this is TeamD):
We made it to Tuk for some photos, talked to the local RCMP officer and his family, and checked out the ridiculous prices of everything. Here are some photos from Tuk:
On the way back the visibility went to about 30ft in less than 10 minutes, which was down right scary, especially considering we had already blown out one tire (although I marked the ice hole in the gps so I could avoid it on the return trip).
Once we made it back to Inuvik we grabbed some lunch, did some shopping, and made a b-line for Eagle Plains 1/2 way down the Dempster as we heard a storm was rolling in and the north end of the Dempster is NOT the place to be in a storm. We made it to Eagle Plains just after dusk, and as soon as we walked into the bar we were offered the local specialty drink – an ‘Eagles Claw’. After far too many Eagle Claws, beers and general debauchery, we kicked it in Bill Beers room with the Sirius Rally team #17. Some local native caribou hunters were wandering the halls (we think they were trying to buy offsales from the bar), and found us in our room. The next 90minutes was a completely bizzare experience talking with locals and learning about caribou hunting, swigging wine, Crown Royal, and other silliness not worth repeating. There will be a lot lost in translation via the blog, but we will -never- forget our encounter with “Caribou Eyes” and his crew.
Most of the rally was hung-over this morning on Day 7, which had no TSD’s or competitive portions and was a ~550 mile trek back to Whitehorse. We are now racing against the time and weather as we make our way back south to our finish in Jasper, AB.
We miss everyone, and civilization in general, and will see some of you in Canada next week, and back home in Portland the following week. We can’t wait to read the comments as soon as we get Internet access and hope you are all enjoying our pictures and stories. Overall we’re fantastic, with no major mechanical issues, and the intense part of the rally behind us.
– Stevan & Kristin