How to Stay Alive on a Winter Rally
 or
Do What Youíre Told, or Die in the Cold!

being

A Compendium of Advice Gleaned from Sourdoughs
and Sourdettes
and Other Idjits
Dumb Enough to Live Above the 60th Parallel

CLOTHING: When itís cold out itís always a good idea to dress warm. No doubt your dear mother told you that, but itís true anyway. Dress warm, or youíll freeze your sorry ass off in the winter. However, thereís a method to dressing warm that you must know about. FOOD & DRINK: When itís cold, really cold, like way below zero, itís important to remember to drink lots of liquids. Weíre talking good old water here. Why? Because, in Alaska and the Yukon, when itís cold, itís a dry cold. Inside your car, what moisture there is will condense and freeze on the windows. In short, believe it or not, youíll begin to dry out.  Anyway, drink lots of water or juice and youíll feel better (and remember coffee is a diuretic!). If you wear contact lenses, make sure you bring along your regular eye wear; contacts donít work all that well in the north country in the winter. If you should happen to find yourself in a situation where you've had lots of exertion or your rally car has ďpassed onĒ, then itís important to remember to take on as much water as possible. You may not feel thirsty, but in the dry air of the frozen north, you're drying out as fast as you would in Hawaii. Strange, maybe, but true.  Bring along plenty of food and water. Junk food is great for rallying; we call it ďRoad FoodĒ. Fats in the morning, carbohydrates the night before. Official US of A Army C-rations are  great for staying alive in a pinch. When you ainít in a pinch, eat as you normally would. Just donít skip meals. Carry more than you think you ought to, or youíll find yourself in the middle of the Yukon Territory coming to Serious Negotiations over who gets the last Bit-Oí-Honey.

EQUIPMENT: By this time you will have already set up your car as you see fit; some people favor block heaters, headbolt heaters, battery blankets, and such, which work well--if you have a place to plug them in. Get a circuit tester also since many vehicles with such a gadget collection start tripping 110 circuits, making bad AM neighbors. Another plan is to carry your battery into the hotel with you at night. Thin oil is a must; like 5-W-30.  It's also available in synthetics which seem to stay skinny at about a million below. Naturally we favor Red Line. Perhaps any mention of antifreeze would seem a little redundant---but remember that pure antifreeze turns into a gelid glop at very cold temperatures; ask Gene Henderson!  A fifty-fifty mixture should be fine. Photographers: cameras are known to freeze up in extremely low temperatures. If your gear  requires batteries, carry spares in your inside pockets.  In blowing snow, amber fog lights work well. Fog lights ain't worth diddly in any other situations, including fog.  Remember pencils - a pen will quickly freeze up and be useless while you're outside writing down times at ice races.

TIRES: The debate over hydrophilic compounds versus studs goes on and on and on. The Alaska Rally Team is unanimous in recommending studs. Ask Susie Fouse about the brand-new red 944 she wiped out on glare ice with hydrophilic tires, all because John was so smart.
The biggest winter rule is skinnier is better.  Try "minus 1" or "minus 2" combinations, or a few tire sizes narrower than standard while keeping standard rolling diameter & load capacity (replace 215/65R16 with 205/70R16, LT265/75R16 truck tire with LT235/85R16, etc).  Note: In recent years studless has improved.  Years ago we changed AWD ice race classes from sedan / SUV to just "studded" / "nonstudded", and results are interesting.  Here's one Tire Rack test, plus a 2012 comparison of studless tires.

IN AN EMERGENCY: Don't panic. No, really: DON'T PANIC! IT'LL BE ALL RIGHT! THEY'LL FIND US WHEN THE GLACIERS MELT! Remember, you're on the main road. Hell, you're on the only road! With little exception, you can feel reassured that somebody will be along quite soon. Of course, this somebody is likely to be another rallyist, so we have a bit of the blind leading the blind here.

And finally, HAVE A GOOD TIME. Why else would anybody go through all this nonsense?
 
Checklist for Equipment

Over the years, travellers across the Alaska Highway have equipped themselves in varying fashion. Gone are the days when you needed four spare tires stacked on top of the station wagon, but things can still go wrong when you are in the middle of nowhere, or just half a mile off center. Past rallyists have found the following items comforting, and of course some are essential. 

WHEREWITHAL: 
  •   As much cash as you feel comfortable carrying (travelersí checks are OK) 
  •   At least $100 Canadian unless you plan to convert some dough once you get across the border, assuming you can find a bank and itís open and it isnít a Canadian bank holiday and you arenít running so far behind you donít have time to stop. 
  •   Credit cards: Visa is virtually universal money (except in Tuk..). It once had the advantage that some remote gas stations donít quite get around to processing card slips for months, but now you're just as likely to find approval refused in some lonely place because of "an unusual charge pattern".  Tell Visa & AX you're going, and bring more than one card just in case!  Also note only chip cards now work at Canadian gas pumps, so either get one or line up inside.

  • CREDENTIALS: 

  •  Driverís license (a current one) 
  •  Passport 
  •  Vehicle registration (with notarized letter of permission if it ainít yours) 
  •  Certificate of insurance (required in Canada) 

  • NAVIGATION: 

  •  Rally computer installed and familiar to the operator 
  •  Navigatorís light & clipboard 
  •  Notebooks, pens of various colors 
  •  Highlight markers in various colors 
  •  Accurate clock and the ability to set it 
  •  Amulets for the superstitious 
  • THE  ENVIRONMENT: 
  •  Books, more than you think you need (books on tape are also great, and make good trading material). 
  •  Tapes, more than you think you need, ditto CD's 
  •  Sunglasses (yes, even in winter)
  •  Tinted windows, especially in the back 
  •  Special pillow & blankie 
  •  Rear seat reading light 
  •  At least one knife and bottle opener 
  •  Forty billion paper towels
  •  Hand crank flashlights are handy in cold weather.

  • ROAD FOOD: 

  •  Snacks should be chosen keeping in mind that the scent of barbecue potato chips makes civilized people throw up, especially in confined quarters. 
  • Ditto to strong cheeses. 
  • Salami and the harder white cheeses keep well. 
  • Ginger snaps or soda crackers fight nausea. 
  • Bread rolls work better than sliced. 
  • Mayonnaise happily encourages salmonella. 
  • One can live for weeks on Planterís peanuts and Pepsi.
  • Lots of liquid is essential, the Yukon in winter is just a very cold desert.
  • Courtesy of John Fouse (Alaska Rally Team member and frequent Alcan participant),
    with ruthless editing and comments by Jerry Hines.  Updated 10/2015.