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.
How to Stay Alive on a Winter
Do What Youíre Told, or Die
in the Cold!
A Compendium of Advice
Gleaned from Sourdoughs
and Other Idjits
Dumb Enough to Live Above
the 60th Parallel
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.
Dress in layers. In other words, you
should dress in layers from the inside out. Three layers is a good rule
to follow. The first layer should be of something like your long underwear,
known to some as a ďunion suit,Ē in case you are lost already. The second
layer should be some nice loose-fitting pants and shirt, and your third
should be a good pair of ski pants and parka. Actually, very simple. No?
Note: Official Alaska Rally Team union suits must come equipped with flaps,
two button only. These flaps are forówell, if you donít know, you are too
young to run this rally. Read your general instructions, or call Satch
Head gear is very important, and we
do NOT mean hash pipes and beads. Say, for example, that youíve fallen
off the road in a big way, and it becomes necessary for you to be outside
in the wind and cold for an extended period of time. . . like more than
30 seconds, maybe. Anyway, if you should happen to be outside for any time
at all, remember to have on a good hat to put on your head. Head. Remember
that. OK, anyway, itís a little known fact that you will lose more heat
out the top of your head faster than anyplace else. Donít worry about why,
and all that, just remember to put on your hat! Another choice, a good
full-face ski mask, ainít a bad idea.
Hands must be kept warm. You can screw
up your hands quicker than anything if youíre not paying attention. First,
always keep your gloves handy. If you have to change a tire, or open the
hood or something, always put your gloves on first! If itís cold enough
outside, and you grab onto a metal object (rally car, for example), chances
are good that youíll stick to the damn thing, just the way you did when
you licked that flagpole at age ten. Youíll look pretty stupid running
down the road during a regularity, holding onto the door handle (which
your hand is stuck to) because you forgot to put on your damn gloves! Hope
Isuzu gets a picture of it ! Mittens are much warmer than gloves,
but if youíve got to work on the rally car, then you need gloves. If youíre
just out there trying to stay warm, mittens are the answer. Bring
both on the rally.
Feet must be taken care of. Keep your
feet warm and dry. If you should happen to get your feet wet, dry them
off, change your socks and shoes, boots, or whatever. Donít wait for your
feet to go numb. Take care of your feet as soon as possible. Itís not necessary
to wear two or three pairs of socks. A single good pair of ski socks will
do just fine, as long as your foot gear fits properly and you keep it dry.
Some last words on clothing: Make sure
what you have fits loosely. Tight duds may look good in the ski lodge,
but youíll freeze your buns off in real winter weather. This ainít no fashion
show! What happens is that loose-fitting clothing allows a layer of warm,
insulating air between the layers of clothing, thus keeping you warm(er).
Clever, no? Anyway, thatís the way it works. Trust us. Also, make sure
that what youíve got is clean and in a good state of repair. Clean things
are warmer than dirty things. Finally, inspect all your garments for tears
and rips. Fix or replace. Simple enough.
And more generalities: Stuff filled
with feathers is warmer than other stuff. Stuff made of wool is warmer
than most other stuff. Polar fleece and its generic equivalents are very
good, but most such synthetics have a reputation for odor absoprption -
if that's a concern try the new Capeline. Finally, remember that natural
fibers like wool are much more fire retardent than synthetics.
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.
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.
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?
The first rule is to stay with your car.
This is because everything is farther away than you think it is. And it's
colder than you think. And your brain doesn't work when it's cold. (Of
course if your brain worked in the first place you wouldn't be out here
swearing at Jerry Hines).
The second rule is think first. We
know the immediate reaction to hitting a snowbank is to throw open the
doors and run around the car in your shirtsleves, but now both you and
the inside of your car are cold and full of snow, and there is probably
some other nut about to find the same bad corner. Even if it takes a checklist,
try the following: don warm jacket/ hat/gloves, grab flare(s), get out
(closing door), place flare, and survey the situation. If you're
stuck give it your best try the first time and if it looks like you're
just making things worse hook up a tow strap and get back in the car to
radio for help. It's a also a good idea during the transits to pair up
with other rally cars; besides, the miles just seem to fly by faster when
you're jawing away on the radio.
Another cardinal rule of the North
is never pass by a stopped car without stopping to ask if you can
help. Chances are somebody has merely stopped to take pictures or wrestle
frigid fingers through several layers of clothing in order to find that
pesky little thingie that's shriveled up to nothing. (And if you want to
know why women really hate us, watch one of them wrestling her way through
even more layers while nestling in a snowbank behind the bushes, especially
when there ain't no bushes. Oh, yeah. Woe to the fool who lets even the
slightest hint of a smirk crawl across his features.)
Checklist for Equipment
Over the years, travellers across the Alaska
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.
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.
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.
Driverís license (a current
Vehicle registration (with
notarized letter of permission if it ainít yours)
Certificate of insurance
(required in Canada)
Rally computer installed
and familiar to the operator
Navigatorís light &
Notebooks, pens of various
Highlight markers in various
Accurate clock and the
ability to set it
Amulets for the superstitious
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
Tinted windows, especially
in the back
Special pillow & blankie
Rear seat reading light
At least one knife and
Forty billion paper towels
Hand crank flashlights
are handy in cold weather.
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
Bread rolls work better than
Mayonnaise happily encourages
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.