One of the strangest seasons ever came to a close last night with the finale of Season X of “Ice Road Truckers.”
All season long, unusually mild temperatures turned the seasonal roads of northern Canada to mud and thawed the ice on many of the region’s lakes to dangerously thin levels.
It was also a season that saw one the show’s stars die in a light plane crash after filming had ended.
Episode 10 picked up where last week’s ended with business partners Darrell Ward and Lisa Kelly joining forces with Polar Enterprises’ owner Mark Kohaykewych and drivers Todd Dewey and Steph Custance for an unusual final run: a four-truck convoy over 400 miles of muddy road opened just for their trip to North Caribou.
The finale also featured what may eventually be looked back upon as one of the better segments in the show’s 10 years as Alex Debogorski and Art Burke became the “Ice Road Truckers” Odd Couple, or maybe Butch and Sundance.
The Convoy to North Caribou
Last week’s Episode Nine ended with a billow of smoke coming from the cab Ward shared with Kohaykewych. Episode 10 began with the fire being extinguished and Kohaykewych fixing some dashboard wires that had shorted out. It wouldn’t be the last time he’d step up to keep the convoy moving.
Still, Ward and his former boss turned business rival traded barbs as they bounded along, prompting Dewey to say, “These two sound like they’ve been married for 70 years.”
Back on the road — if it could be called that — the convoy encountered a 15 percent grade of mud and thawed muskeg, which stopped Ward’s truck in its track.
After backing down the hill, Kohaykewych used the front loader Ward was hauling to push each truck up the muddy slope.
Still, the best — worst, actually — was yet to come: crossing a lake that was covered with standing water. To be sure it was safe, they drilled a hole through the ice with an auger and found it was about 18 inches thick; less than half what the truckers are used to driving over.
“Polar has a right to refuse work,” said Kohaykewych. “I can’t make you do this.”
To which Ward replied: “It is what it is.”
Dewey added: “I didn’t come all this way to not deliver this load, so I’m willing to take the chance.”
Kelly and Custance agreed and one by one they crossed the ice, Kohaykewych in the lead on the front loader.
As Custance fretted over the CD when she crossed the lake, Kelly got off the best line of night, and maybe of the season when she said, “As long as you’re still on top (of the ice) we’re good.”
Everyone made it off the ice and after 80 more muddy miles, rolled into North Caribou.
“I wondered if we’d ever get here,” said Ward.
Kohaykewych wrapped up the trip and the year saying, “We make a real good team. I have a newfound respect for what you guys do.”
Art & Alex: Together Again for the First Time
When last week’s episode ended, Burke’s truck was hemorrhaging anti-freeze and bits and parts were all but falling off as he arrived in Sachigo Lake. At the same time, Debogorski was headed his way, telegraphing the two were destined to make the trip home together.
The season finale didn’t disappoint. Neither did the foul-mouthed Burke and the prayerful Debogorski.
With Burke’s truck on Debogroski’s flatbed, the new Odd Couple started home … almost.
While they had negotiated the wilderness trails to Sachigo, it was civilization that threw them a curve. Headed out of town, the truck atop the trailer was too high for the few utility wires over the road.
In what was one of the top 10 scenes in the history of “Ice Road Truckers,” Burke stood on the step of his truck’s cab as Debogorski inched along, and with a shovel lifted the first set of wires.
“If this kills me, I’ll be back and I’ll haunt the **** out of Polar,” said Burke.
The two surmised the next set of wires may have electricity running through them, so decided using a long-handled, wooden broom was better than a shovel.
“Art’s gonna give me a heart attack,” said Debogorski, who slowly moved the truck under the wires. But, for a moment, it seemed as though something had gone wrong. Badly wrong.
“Where’s Art?” asked Debogorski.
His new driving pal was nowhere to be seen, until he popped up from inside his disabled cab.
“Art’s not dead so there wasn’t much power in that line,” said Debogorski, and they headed for home once again.
Bouncing along through the dark, it seemed the worst was behind the two of them. They had just 10 miles to go to get to the paved highway home.
Wrong. This was the season finale after all.
Suddenly a dashboard light flashes and a buzzer sounds, and Art swears.
“We got no air,” said Debogorski.
Climbing under the truck, he found an air tank hanging loose and leaking badly.
The two grizzled old truckers quickly switched into Boy Scout mode. While Debogorski worked to get the tank secured, Burke found a small tree branch and whittled a plug that was jammed into the tank to stop the air loss.
“It’s fixed,” declared Debogorski, and the two headed home. Finally. “Mission accomplished, said Debogorski. “I guess we’re done for the year.”
“As you would say,” added Burke. “Thank you, Lord.”
Driving into the night, Debogorski is heard to say, “I’ve meant to talk to you about your language, Art.”
But it was the late Darrell Ward who had the last word in Thursday night’s season finale when he said: “What’s it mean to be a trucker? Freedom,” and added, “I feel very fortunate to be an ice road trucker.”