Archive for February 2008

Alcan 5000 Favorite Pictures

February 29, 2008

Now that the event is over, we’ve spent some of our recovery time sorting through some favorite, and mostly never-been-posted pictures over the past 2 weeks.  Even though we’re only +2 days since finish, we already look back with extremely fond memories and lots of laughs.

Hairpin on the first TSD outside Quesnel:
TeamD in the snowbank on the Blackwater:
Road to Bear Glacier:
Bear Glacier:

Entering the Yukon Territory:

The snowball attack on the officials outside Dease Lake:

Doug’s Drunken Birthday Madness in Dawson (photo courtesy of Sirius Rally Team):

Bill and Doug from Team #18 and their sense of humor:

Our response (photo courtesy of Sirius Rally Team):

And our fixing of their decal (photo courtesy of Sirius Rally Team):

Iced Coffee at the ice racing and yes, it’s Stumptown coffee (photo courtesy of Sirius Rally Team)::

Quick stop for a scenic picture on the Dempster Highway:

Our friends from teams #16, #17, #18 and us at Tuk (photo courtesy of Sirius Rally Team)::

Playing with the Team Mitsubishi stolen Hankook flag and my busted tire (not a Hankook):

A closer look at our tire incident on the ice highway:

Our car on the Ice Highway outside Tuk (I think it’s saying – brrrrrr):


Alcan – Day 10 (WE FINISHED!!)

February 27, 2008

We’re done! We can’t believe this adventure we’ve had is over, and what a better place to finish than in stunningly beautiful Jasper, Alberta. We’ve been so lucky with the weather the entire way, we can’t actually remember it snowing even once other than a brief bit in Whitehorse.

We left Dawson Creek yesterday morning for the final transit and TSD. We took hwy40 from Grande Praire down to Grande Cache, spent some time at the visitors center, and then started our last TSD for the event. We were committed to completing the last one with not many points, although we (again) missed a turn, and got confused at this u-turn where you had to wait for 4 minutes. Kristin was absolutely incredible doing math on the fly to compensate for our screwed up odometer (due to missing the turn, and having to turn around), and we more or less seemed to get back on track. We were very pleasantly surprised at the end of the day to find we just had 13 points for that TSD, so although we made some errors we managed to recover quickly.

I think what we’ve learned throughout this event is that we can be competitive in the TSD’s, as long as we are consistent. Consistency comes with practice, so we know what we need to do. Considering that neither of us had REALLY done a TSD before, that we were in “Equipped Class”, which means you can use a special TSD rally computer (which all of our competitors had) which has accuracy of 100th’s of a mile, plus the ability to reverse the odo if you make an error, etc.. I think we did ok. Ultimately we came in 3rd in our class, and the over 1/2 of our points were from day 1 where we completely screwed up the first TSD as we were learning how to do it, and then completely screwed up the 2nd TSD when we crashed into the snowbank in Williams Lake. We had 584 points in total, 287 of those from day 1.

After the last TSD we made our way to Hinton which connects with Hwy1, and then the last 40 miles into Jasper. Jasper is one of our favorite places in the world, and we were so excited to hear the rally would finish here.

When we arrived at the hotel we did some champagne celebrations with the Keatly’s #16, Sirius Rally Team #17, and Doug and Bill #18.


After the celebrations there was a nice banquet where various awards were handed out. Paul and Kala won in their class, The Keatly’s (#16) won in their class, and the Damm’s won in our class (we couldn’t have lost to a better team!). Bill and Doug won an award for helping tow people out with their big truck, and also had an honorable mention for most spins on the ice race.

All in all this was an absolutely incredible experience that exceeded both our expectations. It was extremely challenging with the TSD sections, and the endurance in general, but who else can say they’ve been north of the arctic circle in the middle of winter. We would do it again in a heartbeat. No Kristin knows what a rally hangover is like – feeling both broke ($$) and broken (tired).  Here’s a quick recap of the major items from this event:

  • 5000 miles
  • 1500 dollars in gasoline
  • 1 slashed tire
  • 1 bent rim
  • 1 busted exhaust
  • 1 broken windshield
  • 2 snowbank extractions
  • 2 countries, 2 provinces and 2 territories
  • 250 miles of ice highways
  • 1 hotspring
  • 80 Tim Hortons Tim-Bits
  • 1 lb of Stumptown Coffee
  • 5 ‘Eagle Claws’
  • MANY MANY new friends

Luckily we aren’t doing a 14hr drive back to Portland like many of our friends, as Stevan has so much family and friends in this part of Alberta. We have an EASY 200mi drive to Rocky Mountain House today to see Larry, Bonnie and the Blacks, and then to Stevan’s parents in Taber later in the week. On the weekend we’ll drive back to Calgary to see Moiz and other friends, and Kristin will fly back to Portland on Sunday.

Thanks to everyone for your support, encouragement and just following our adventure. We hope to have given you a bit of a peak into what it takes to compete in an event like this, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it as much as we’ve enjoyed sharing it with you.

Take care.

– Stevan & Kristin

Alcan – Day 8 / Day 9

February 25, 2008

Alright, we are back in civilization and can’t believe our Alcan adventure ends tomorrow. We’re currently in Dawson Creek, BC, but it really feels more like an Alberta farming town (and in fact is less than 10miles from the AB border, and is on Mountain time). Tomorrow we complete the last leg of our rally down the Bighorn highway from Grande Prairie, to Hinton, and then onto Jasper for the big finish.

You can tell you’ve been spending too much time with other teams when the pranks start to become more important than the competition of the rally. We bought some stickers for our and Sirius Rally Team #17’s car which read “DODGE THIS!” and “RAM THIS!” in response to Car #18’s “Subaru Recovery Vehicle” sticker. We also replaced “Reovery” with “Wanna-be”. Of course when we woke up in the morning we were expecting something, and we saw some can’s tied on a string to the Sirius Team #17’s car. After removing them and having them inspect the rear of our car, we drove off to a loud CLANKLE CLANLKE sound. When we pulled into the gas station some locals asked if we were just married and pointed to the cans tied to the FRONT of our vehicle.

We left Whitehorse yesterday after a repeat of Day 4’s TSD’s and Ice Racing. Did alright on the TSD and really took it easy on the ice racing after putting the car into a snowbank during the parade lap – it was -crazy- slick this time since there hadn’t been any snow since we were there 5 days ago.

After the TSD and Ice Racing we stopped at Tim Hortons for coffee and Timbits and made the 450mi trek to Liard Hot-springs in BC. It was a nice treat to arrive to some natural hot-springs, and we were obviously the only group of folks there. Our team, Bill and Doug from Team #18, and most of the Team Mitsubishi teams enjoyed some relaxing time in the hot springs before turning in early. We can tell the endurance portion of the event is taking it toll on us as we are electing to sleep rather than party at this point. We also stopped off at this sign forest which was a little weird but actually pretty cool; we found signs from California, Oregon and all over the world.


This morning, we got up and proceeded through Fort Nelson, Fort St. John, and eventually to Dawson Creek which was another 450mi day. We had 2 TSD events, one which we nailed (5 points), and another we screwed up on due to a wrong turn at a 4 way stop, which really screws up your odometer, although we were able to get things together by the end of the TSD. We also had a look at the TSD computer in Team #20’s car, which would definitely be a serious advantage if we were to do more of these.

We had some great wildlife viewings today and yesterday and it was obvious we were back in the Rocky Mountains.



Wolves (very cool):


Beautiful Rocky Mountains:


That’s all for now, as we’ve lost an hour due to the time change and need to get up early to finish the rally tomorrow.

– Stevan & Kristin

Interm Update – Day 8 & Day 9

February 25, 2008

Hello all,

Just a quick update since we stayed in Liard Hot Springs, BC last night and again didn’t have any internet as we were still in the middle of nowhere.

We’re writing this from a poached wifi connection in Fort Nelson we found after lunch and driving around a residential neighborhood 🙂

Yesterday we left Whitehorse after another TSD and some ice racing, which was more or less a repeat of Day 4.  We then made it to Liard Hotsprings and enjoyed a nice evening in the natural and -very- warm springs.  It was so cold outside our feet stuck to the ice surrounding the springs as soon as we got out.

We’re about to do another TSD, then possibly some Ice Slalom Racing, and make our way to Dawson Creek tonight for another TSD rally.  Tomorrow is the home stretch as we have an easy ~350mi day into Jasper, where the rally concludes.

It’s nice to be back in the rockies and we’ve seen a TON of wildlife in the past 2 days – Bison, Elk, Caribou, and this morning a lone black wolf howling on the frozen river (what a treat!).  Kristin is still keeping her eyes open and is hopeful to see the elusive moose.

We’ll post more pics from the past couple days tonight from Dawson Creek now that we are back into civilization.

– Stevan & Kristin

Alcan – Day 6 / Day 7

February 23, 2008


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

Northern (well – Southern) Lights

February 21, 2008

We just came back from a midnight viewing of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).  It was one of the things we -really- wanted to see, and it was awesome.  The cool thing is that because we are so far north, you actually look south so they are more like the Southern Lights.  Unfortunately the only camera we have is our Sony HD video camera which has a CMOS sensor, so doesn’t pick-up low-light very well at all, hence no pictures.  I wish I brought a SLR camera with adjustable exposure.

– Stevan & Kristin

Alcan – Day 5

February 21, 2008

We can’t believe we’re already 1/2 way through the 2008 Alcan 5000.

It looks like our mechanical fuel issue problems are being kept at bay, thanks again to Gord and the Sirius Rally Team for their help fixing that last night in below freezing temperatures.  We kept an eye on it all day and didn’t see any more fuel leaking out, so there shouldn’t be any major catastrophes such as the car burning down due to fuel leaking all over the hot engine.  Speaking of fuel, today was the first day where Premium/91 octane fuel was not available.   Although we have never filled up with anything other than 91 (per the owners manual), but we didn’t really have much choice.  I just kept off the Turbo and drove the car gently, and didn’t hear any pre-detonation/pinging, but we probably couldn’t hear it over the road/tire noise anyways.

We got up pretty early to avoid the line for fuel at the start of the Dempster Highway, both of us pretty tired.  I think the multiple days of only 4-5 hours sleep, coupled with late nights, too much beer, stressing about the car leaking fuel, stressing about the infamous Dempster highway, and just everything combined is starting to wear on the both of us.  We’re still having a blast, but the endurance aspect of the event is absolutely playing a role.

The Dempster highway is a 450 mile highway which connects the Alaska Highway to Inuvik, and the Northwest Territories.  We’ve hear numerous horror stories about 20ft high snow drifts, running out of fuel (1 fuel stop, 230mi) arctic fog leading to 10ft visibility, passing trucks who don’t like to share the road on blind corners, and the fact that the highway is more or less build on 12ft of shale rock.  This means that if you go off the edge/shoulder, you will plummet 12ft into the permafrost, and most likely roll, or completely destroy your vehicle.  We passed more than 1 car that had crashed some time ago and was essentially abandoned.

We however were very lucky, and had a completely clear, warm day and saw very few trucks or other vehicles on the road.  Now we have been to some pretty cool places, but the first 200 miles of the Dempster is just -absolutely- incredible; we’re talking like National Park beautiful here.  The sun is really odd because we’re so far north, that the sun is essentially making this big arc but only in the south.  Because we’re more or less driving due north, the Sun now seems completely behind us (moving east-west) all day.  Here are some of our favorite pics from the day:




Right after Eagle Plains (1/2 way point on the Dempster), we finally reached the Arctic Circle:


Some of the teams literally took pictures with their shirts off, it was seriously that warm.

We crossed 2 ice bridges which are usually cable ferries in the summer, and finally made our way into civilization after 450miles of pretty much nothing.

We’re now spending the night in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, in the same hotel as the crew filming the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers television show.   Kristin talked to the crew for a bit, and they claimed the Ice Road to Tuk is in good condition and have been filming for a couple of days here.

Tomorrow we leave for our final destination, Tuktoyuktuk via the Ice highway.  We’ve heard so much about this and are really excited.

– Stevan & Kristin

Mechanical Difficulties – Hopefully Avoided

February 21, 2008

We had our first bit of mechanical drama last night.  After filling up with gas in Dawson, we were noticing a strong fuel smell in the car.  Upon closer inspection there was definitely fuel leaking from the fuel lines, and pretty severely all over the engine.  This is NOT the part of country to have fuel issues, as today we go Dawson to Inuvik, and there is no gas for ~300miles to Eagle Plains.

I started to freak a bit, as this is actually a new/recent problem with 02-04 Subaru WRX’s, in that when cars are subjected to warm/cold/warm/cold temperatures, the rubber hoses expand and contract, and ultimately can leak fuel.  Once we quickly diagnosed the problem, I started asking around for some assistance.  Luckily we’ve been hanging out with Team #17 –  Sirius Rally Team, which includes Gord who works for Rocket Racing and services for Pat Richard.  He knows these cars pretty well, and quickly exclaimed – “I’ve fixed about 4 of these in the past little while”.  So in near freezing temperatures, in the dark, he removed the power steering pump to get access to the hose clamps to tighten them down which was the obvious source of the leak.  They were definitely too loose, and upon putting everything back together the problem seemed to have gone away.

What pisses me off is that Subaru knows about this problem, has issued a service bulletin event, but won’t do a recall.

I’m cautiously optimistic the problem will be held off until we get back to warmer temperatures and it won’t really be an issue at all.

Off to Inuvik!

– Stevan

Alcan – Day 4

February 20, 2008

We’re writing this from Dawson, which is a really cool little town pretty far up north.  The hotel clerk said at one point it was the biggest city in North America, with a population of 60,000 during the gold rush; now – 1,800.  We’ll have to leave early in the morning, so won’t be able to see as much of it as we’d like, but it’s a good excuse to come back in the summer when it’s a little bit warmer.

As an added bonus, there is a total lunar eclipse about to happen, and we’re so far up north we’ll be looking south for it in a couple of hours.

After the ice racing we washed the car (which stayed clean for all of 10 minutes), refueled and started heading north to Dawson.  Here’s a picture of Kristin getting ready to kick some ass in the ice race:


Our buddy team #18 Doug and Bill appeared to have a sense of humor by placing this decal (not dee-cal, de-cal 😉 on the back of their truck:


The drive wasn’t quite as scenic as yesterday, but there was a very interesting stretch where there was a massive forest fire in 1958.  We passed the turn-off to the Dempster highway which takes us north beyond the Arctic circle to Inuvik and eventually Tuk.  Here’s a photo from the car on the way to Dawson:


I can tell we’re pretty far north because fuel here in Dawson is $1.51/Litre (that’s $5.70/gal!!).  We’re more than happy to pay that in fear of the alternative, but we’re a little bit worried to see what it will cost up in Eagle Plains and Tuk.

We’re staying in the Yukon in, which is actually the old Gun and Ammo building here in Dawson (MikeP should enjoy that).  Hopefully we’ll have time for a couple more pics of the town before we leave tomorrow. Luckily it’s only about -20C instead of the -60C it was last week.

Tomorrow the adventure really begins on the Dempster and the approach to crossing the Arctic Circle and eventually the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyuktuk the following day!

– Stevan and Kristin

Kitty Update Please!

February 20, 2008

We sure miss the little baldy’s.  Any updates on the kitties? Are they ok?  If anyone who is taking care of them would please send a quick note/comment it would be appreciated 🙂