Other good stuff to know about the Far North Country
by John Fouse
I. The rallymaster is full of hot (or is it cold?) air….
Tire Pressure - when it's cold and your car's been sitting for hours in -30 degree weather (or worse) be sure to check the tire pressure before starting out in the morning. Actually, you should keep an eye on your tire pressures once it drops below freezing. Why? Besides the fact that's what Jerry want's you to, cold air takes up less space than hot air (which could explain why I'm larger than most other people) and this causes a drop in tire pressures. I recommend you begin the rally with the recommended tire pressure, and adjust to what makes you confortable along the way. Always check pressures when the tires are "cold" for your baseline reading. "Cold" means when the car's been sitting still for at least two hours. Keep in mind that as you drive the car the pressures will increase as the tires warm up. Also, when it hits 32F/0C, the rule of thumb is your tire pressure will drop one pound for every 10F drop in ambient temperature.
What Does This Tire Pressure Business Mean Really? - what it means is tire pressure can/will have a positive or negative effect on how your vehicle handles. The harder you drive the more you'll notice the positive or negative effect of the right or wrong pressure. Adding or dropping your tire pressure is cheap and quick "chassis tuning".
One very important thing to remember about too little tire pressure: It's possible to pop the bead off the tire, which means what little air is left will fall out and you will most likely fall right off the road. This is not a good thing, because everyone else on the rally will drive by pointing and laughing. For example: On the '86 Alcan 5000 I was stuck in the mud. Bob Chandler stopped just long enough to get out and take a picture. He got back in the car and drove away. Grimshaw stopped just long enough moon us. I'm still waiting for a pay back on that one.
So…LOWER the pressure a few pounds for really slick stuff, and remember to RAISE it back up for the dry stuff.
The last thing to remember is to bring along a good tire pressure gauge.
LAST MINUTE NOTE…. It seems as if your infamous (which means "more
than famous") rallymaster, Mr. Hines, will explain some rule about tire
pressure needing to be within 10% of the recommended pressure during the
Solo Sections. Better check with Jerry, or you'll get in trouble.
Rallymaster's note: Hey, this simply means that any theoretical Solo advantage from low pressure is outweighed by the fact that you'll either:
* run a tire off the rim and blow the next TSD while having it fixed (ask Ron Clyborne), or
* not have time to air it up and drive a car that sways all over at speed for the next 3 hours.
Wear Safety Glasses for the Trip to Prudhoe Bay - you'll be driving over nearly 500 miles of gravel road to get from Fairbanks to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay. This is a nasty road! An evil road! A road that will eat you, your car and most of all your tires for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Why safety glasses? Because there's lots of BIG truck traffic, and the highway maintenance boys are always putting gravel down for traction. Several windshields will not survive the trip. But the most important thing is your eyes. Protect when with quality high impact plastic safety glasses which you can get at most any hardware store that's worth a damn. They'll cost you about 10-15 bucks, which ain't too bad, really. Trust me. You should have them. Having them is one thing. Just be sure to actually use them. (Rallymaster's note: These will be provided at the start for all participants, because they are REQUIRED during the Kuparic oil field tour.)
Sunglasses are a good thing - to keep you from going snow
blind. During sunny days the sun shining on the white snow will be tough
on the eyes. So, don't forget your sunglasses.
Deadhorse, Alaska is right next door to Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field on our side of the planet. About 50 miles west of Prudhoe Bay is the Kuparuk oil field, and about 25 miles to the east is the Endicott field. Lots of oil up there. The road between the Yukon River and Deadhorse is officially called "The Dalton Highway". Most people simply call it "The Haul Road", because most of the supplies for the oil fields are "hauled" up by truck. We'll be stopping in Cold Foot for fuel. You'll go over the Arctic Circle just before Cold Foot. Once you're north of the Brooks Mountain Range you're in an area Alaskan's call "The North Slope", or simply "The Slope". You'll figure out why if you make it that far.
This rally was on its way to Deadhorse in '96 when the whole thing ground to a halt due to a Phase III white out. They never made it past Cold Foot. Couldn't see because of the high winds and blowing snow. It's not uncommon for the wind chill to exceed -100 F, with ambient temperatures at -50 F or lower for days at a time.
The North Slope, and Alaska in general, has just two seasons. Those are: "Winter" and "Winter will be Back in a Minute." When you get to the end of the Haul Road you'll be about 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It ain't going to be warm. While your pal, "Ozone" Al Gore continues to lie to us about global warming, and blame the nasty evil capitalist pig rally car driven' guys, the ice caps are NOT melting, and no one is growing bananas in Deadhorse. In fact, about the time you go north of the Arctic Circle you'll run out of trees. No No No!!! I didn't have them all cut down. They just can't, or won't grow there. Can you blame them?
DO NOT try to set the Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay overland speed record. Run pretty much at the speed limit. The Alyeska Pipeline Security Police can give you a ticket just like a regular Alaska State Trooper, and besides they've got guns and have a tendency to shoot people from New Jersey.
Give the BIG trucks lots of room. Don't do something stupid around these BIG trucks. This is their road, and they make their living on it. You're only a temporary guest. Travel with your headlamps on at all times, and generally be nice people. It won't take the truckers long to figure out what's going on, so be very careful. These boys are serious redneck big truck drivin' guys, and most of their old ladies keep a spit cup next to the ironing board. So, don't piss them off. If you're nice, they'll be nice. If you're not nice, well, Jerry won't be able to do much more than notify the next of kin.
White Outs Are Not Good - high winds will cause blowing snow to make it almost impossible to see where you're going. So, what happens if you run into a white out between the Yukon River and the North Slope? If you can't see where you're going, and you can't see on-coming vehicles until they're right on top of you, get off the road at the first possible opportunity. DO NOT just sit in the middle of the road, and don't drive in the middle of the road. If you do, most likely a semi-truck slightly larger than the USS Missouri will come along and squash you like a June Bug. Find a wide spot or a turn out and stay put until you can see. For emergencies make sure you have drinking water, road food, warm stuff to wear, etc…sometimes these white outs can last for days. The longest I've seen there was a nine-day blow in March of '81.
Zero or Near Zero Visibility will give you Vertigo - in other words you won't be able to tell if you're right side up, up side down, turning or going straight. It ain't a whole lot of fun, unless of course you're REALLY crazy and you work and live in this sort of stuff like I do.
Amber Fog Lamps Work Good in Whiteouts - because they cut down on glare, and will provide an extra bit depth perception. Fogs will also give you some light on the sides of the road. That means there's a "horizon" to work with, which cuts down on vertigo. High beams and driving/pencil beams are pretty much worthless in a white out. Wire your fog lamps to work along with your parking lights for really poor conditions. When things get bad enough even your low beam headlamps should be shut off. Fogs and parking lights are the best when you can't see five feet past your hood ornament.
Windshield Washer Fluid. Be sure you get the good stuff - Your regular stuff will freeze, so get the good stuff. You really won't need too much stuff. Most likely you won't use half a washer tank's worth of the stuff once you get up to Dawson Creek and beyond. Empty out your washer tank of the summer stuff and refill it with the good stuff. In the winter, the farther north you go the less stuff you'll use. Why? Everything is froze up. Ain't no mud. It's froze. The lakes is froze, the rivers is froze, the road is froze, and will your ass will be froze if you use an outhouse with a brass toilet seat in Fairbanks. Anyway, go to K-Mart, Target, or wherever and can get the stuff that's good too at least -20. In Alaska, the Yukon and Northern B.C. they'll sell you stuff that's good to -50. Get some of that stuff. You can get it in Fairbanks, Delta, Tok, Whitehorse, etc.
Carry Gas Line Anti-Freeze - it's a good idea to have some of this stuff. It's an even better idea to put it in your gas tank. Every gas station north of Seattle sells the stuff. If your gas line freezes up we'll see you in the spring. I'm not sure why, but for some reason if your gas line is froze up, and no fuel can get to the engine, the damn thing just won't start/run.
Don't Litter - because, believe it or not, you could find yourself in the slammer. The oil companies, the State of Alaska, the Security Cops, etc, etc, are big on keeping the place clean. Also, Alaska is my home and if you mess it up you'll hear from me. Don't throw trash out the window of a speeding rally car. Keep a litterbag inside the car and get rid of it at the next gas stop. Really, you can get into big trouble, especially in the Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay area for littering. You don't want to end up on the Group-W Bench. (Can anyone guess why we had to move Satch Carlson to Portland about 8-9 years ago?)
Don’t Feed the Animals - on the North Slope in winter about the only animals you'll see moving around are foxes, caribou, polar bears and the occasional musk ox. Don't feed the foxes, caribou or musk ox. It's against the law, and not good for the animals. What about the polar bears? They'll eat what they want, when they want, and are especially fond of stray rally drivers who feed the other critters. Should you be observed by a member of the law enforcement community feeding the wildlife you can plan on being a guest of the State, as well as getting up close and personal with the local version of Judge Judy…which from what I'm told isn't a pleasant experience. Oh, yes. One more thing. After you've paid the fine for a wildlife and/or environmental infraction you won't be able to scrape together the down payment for a free meal.
The Last Chance ATM Machine will be in Fairbanks. If you want some cash before you head up the Haul Road, better stop in Fairbanks if you want to hit the ATM. North of there you won't find one. I suggest having an ample supply of The Long Green before going north over the Mighty Yukon River. You can use VISA and Master Card in Cold Foot and Deadhorse, but they don't take Canadian money, out-of-town checks or American Express. Cash American works everyplace on the planet. Even in Deadhorse. And yes, Alaska IS a state, and the currency is US Dollars. Sorry, brightly colored beads for use as legal tender was outlawed only this past July.
Have a Good Time - One last thing and then I'll go away and leave you alone…this rally is just about the most fun you'll ever have with your clothes on. Have a good time. If someone on the rally pisses you off just consider the source, ignore them and keep on having a good time. Be nice. Jerry has gone to a lot of trouble to put this thing on, so enjoy the experience. Don't bother Jerry with complaints. It's been my experience that he'll grin at you, anyway. Bring your camera and capture the hundreds of moments you'll remember for the rest of your life.