The Haul Road-Alaska

14. The Only Way Out is Through

The Sun had turned around and headed south again and we had reached our Solstice too. Back on the road we found conditions drastically changed. The rain that had passed through during our Sun watch had turned all the dust to mud, and made a much different driving experience, still quite rough, but in the dips where the dust had been there were now lakes of mud. The trucks passing through had churned it into a thick even consistency, that made for a lot of slipping and sliding.

At first I tried to go through on a slow bell so as not to lose control and that worked fairly well for the smaller ones. Eventually, however, I came up over a rise and there in front of me was a huge area of mud that filled a particularly large dip in the road. I stopped the van to study the situation. It looked like it was going to be at least hub cap deep. If I got stuck in the middle of that sea no telling how long I’d be there. The truckers who were on a time-is-money type of run were quite reluctant to play good Samaritan. There was no detour, and off the road was out of the question. It was all spongy tundra. “The only way out is through,” I thought.

This time I felt speed was advisable. On the downhill approach I built up a head of steam which carried me to about the middle of the quagmire before the rear wheels started to lose traction and the van started fishtailing. With the engine racing we slipped first to one side of the road then, over correcting, we would slide to the other. I was desperate to keep moving because I was sure that once stopped, I wasn’t going to make way again. Finally, I worked into the shallower area on the far side and the wheels began to catch hold again. It was a huge relief to get up the slope on the other side.

I decided I’d had enough mud, and I stopped at the first camping area that I came to hoping the following day would be a bit drier. The van was so encrusted with mud that I couldn’t tell what color it was. I thought of the van fondly as a gladiator who had faced the toughest possible opponent and came away muddied but victorious. In fact, the next day was much improved, and we made it back to Fairbanks with out much trouble.

Georgia had not liked the haul road at all, it was too rough for her. The vibration and jolts made it hard for her to get comfortable. She kept looking at me in a way that said, “Can’t you make it stop that?” While I was busy doing my usual clean everything number, she did an extended tour. She was gone six hours this time and quite delayed our departure. She must have gone some distance because I looked everywhere close at hand.

Tags: ,

Monday, September 7th, 2009 Chapters 11 — 20 No Comments