Early in last night’s episode of Ice Road Truckers, narrator Thom Beers uttered the three words drivers on the temporary roads of northern Canada fear most: “Spring has sprung.”
Mild weather was turning the ice roads into mush as the drivers were making harried runs most thought would be their last of the season. It would be, as Beers said, “A fight to the finish.”
Next week’s season finale of Ice Road Truckers will write the last chapter in what has been a difficult and unpredictable winter.
Todd Dewey: Nightmare on the ice roads
Typical runs of the ice roads of northern Canada are, at best, like a bad dream.
Todd Dewey saw his trip as something more: “We can let the nightmare begin,” he said as he set out from Pickle Lake on the road to Big Trout Lake.
What made Dewey’s trip nightmarish was the load itself: an 80’ x 14’ camp shack that was as heavy as it was long. And, it didn’t help that he’d be on a narrow, twisty ice road with several steep hills.
But, with what he called “a death grip on the steering wheel” and an outlook of “slow and steady,” Dewey set out to Big Trout Lake.
Normally, travel on the ice roads can be a solitary undertaking. Not this time. With a massive oversized load and a questionable road under his wheels, Dewey came upon another truck coming towards his. Then a second one right behind.
“Take it slow guys,” cautioned Dewey on the CB. “Slow. Slow. Slow.”
The other drivers heeded his warning, and the first one passed with no concern as Dewey edged over to the right as much as he dared. The second one: no so much. There was a hair’s breadth between the two trucks, and that’s when Dewey slowed and got stuck in some new snow. Then the other two trucks were likewise stopped.
Dewey was quick with the shovel and got his and the first of the other two trucks freed. The second had to be chained to the first and yanked free, letting Dewey continue.
That proved to be the easy part of Dewey’s trip.
Later, further along on what Dewey said was the worst road he’d ever been on, a hill slowed and then stopped Dewey’ progress. He backed down the hill and made a second, more emphatic run and made it.
“I need to be thanking God for that one,” said Dewey. “He must have been on the back pushing.”
He arrived in Big Trout Lake and said, “I can finally breathe for the first time in days.”
Lisa Kelly & Steph Custance: On the road together
Neither Lisa Kelly nor Steph Custance had much easier times on what would become a joint run for them.
Both were headed to Bearskin Lake, Custance about 10 miles ahead of Kelly. They joined forces when Kelly came upon Custance on top of her flatbed tightening the straps on her load of building supplies.
With Kelly taking the lead, the two bumped along over the rough — and getting rougher — ice road.
Just after Kelly said, “This has not been the most profitable season for me,” smoke started filling the cab of her truck.
“Smoke is pouring out of the dash,” she radioed to Custance. “I can’t see anything.”
Both women stopped and climbed into Kelly’s cab. A quick inspection found a faulty fuse hadn’t broken when it should have, causing some wiring to melt and smoke.
A new fuse in place, the two were back on the road with Bearskin Lake just 20 miles away.
But, it was Custance’s turn for trouble as their portion of the episode ended with her plowing into the ditch.
Art Burke: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over
Veteran Polar Industries driver Art Burke had a split load to deliver; half going to the airport at Deer Lake and the other half going to the airport at North Spirit Lake.
“My last run, boy,” said a weary Burke, hoping to get in and out quickly so he could get home to Yellowknife. “(I’ve) been down here two months and had enough of it.”
Standing between Burke and his first stop was an eight-mile-long crossing of North Spirit Lake he said was “kind of yellow looking.” That discoloration could have meant mud coming up from the bottom of a possibly thawing lake.
“I’m gonna go extra slow,” said Burke as he eased onto the lake. “If I rush, I might not get out of here at all.”
That strategy paid off as he cleared the lake with only a small amount of popping and cracking and standing water splashing under his rig.
Half the load delivered, it was on to Deer Lake’s airport, where the second half was removed. Next stop: Winnipeg and then home … until his phone rang.
That call was from Polar’s boss Mark Kohaykewych, and the news was not good. He needed Burke to go to Pikangikum to backhaul a bulldozer.
“Can you please just do it?” Kohaykewych asked an unhappy Burke.
Good — if displeased — company man that he is, Burke agreed. The outcome will be part of next week’s finale.
Ice Road Truckers airs at 10 p.m. Eastern and 9 p.m. Central on the History cable channel.