Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10-19-09: Attentive Driving

Driving on the unpaved section between Livengood and our neck of the woods is probably the most harrowing and exhausting 80 miles I’ve ever experienced. Mind you, I’ve done my fair share of winter driving in the mountains of Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington and South Central Alaska; I’ve driven in the cities of Chicago, New York, Seattle, Portland and the DC Metro… but nothing has required such dogged attention and nerves of steel as our last stretch of road.

You must keep careful watch for any patches of ice or sudden deep snow drifts. You have to constantly be feeling what your vehicle is doing because sometimes it’ll just squirm out on you for no obvious reason. You have to be mindful of what the weather is doing since a sudden gust of wind can slide you right off the road and the temperatures can drop 20-30 degrees coming up or down some of the ridges and your windshield frosts up almost immediately. And, not only must you watch the road, and try to find the edges of the road, but you must know exactly what section of the road you are on in case your vehicle does start to slide you’ll know which side of the road that you need to try to skid off into… trust me smacking a tree or an embankment or rolling over into a ditch is way more preferable that careening off into space and down a cliff. Yeah, as if that weren’t bad enough, you still have extremely large wildlife to contend with on the roadway. What do you do when you’re coming around a blind curve on ice and there’s a friggin’ moose in the middle of the road? Well, you certainly don’t hit the brakes or make any radical steering adjustments!!! (and now you can guess why we had angle-iron welded to our front bumper and grill!!)

But anyway, it’s not such a horrible drive as long as you take it slow and keep it in 4WD… it just takes all your effort and a LOT of time. Just have to remember where all the turn-outs are so you can stop for a drink, a smoke or a pee (which is also really interesting for women when it’s below freezing outside – guys are so lucky!). It goes without saying… we don’t plan to drive into Fairbanks much in the winter once we get our final couple of supply runs done!

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