Arctic Circle Expedition : March 11, 2007

Meeting another adventurer. The Land rover 101 is in the shop



Mar 10 –Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Anticipating a short drive today (Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson is about 282mi), we settled on a very reasonable departure of 8am.  The obligatory kick-off photos at the “mile 0” start of the Alaska Highway and we were heading out of town.

Not too far out, Mike noticed the engine was riding rough and figured he had dropped a cylinder.  We had left the main highway to take the “Old Alaska Highway” and drive the curved wooden bridge over the Kaskatinaw River. Here, he determined he was indeed having engine trouble.  Not particularly able to start repairs on the side of the road at 3F, we pushed on, returning to the main highway and aiming for Fort St. John, some 25mi further along. 

We did a quick circle of the town and settled on the dependable icon of the north:  Canadian Tire.  Roy was quick to get us into his best mechanic and diagnostics were underway.  We were shortly introduced to a true adventurer – Shoichi (“Shoi”) Uetsuji – who had come to travel Canada from Japan and was also affecting some repairs and improvements on his trusty Mitsubishi ZR2.  Shoi shipped his truck from Japan, travelled up from Vancouver and was in Fort St John as part of his return trip from Tuk.  He’d had a bit of a mishap on the Dempster – proceeding down a newly re-opened road, picking up speed and suddenly NO ROAD.  He hit the banks and flipped his truck.  Front fender, side-view mirror was ripped off, damaged roof rack.  Shoi also unfortunately suffered some frostbite while waiting for the rescue vehicle, some 2 hours away.   He’s not deterred however and plans to return next year at this time as a guide for his friends and repeat the journey.  For now he’s heading to Nova Scotia, Florida, Mexico, Los Angeles, Seattle and back to Vancouver and home, sometime around July. 

Goes to show that you can never be “too” prepared…  There may be those who think that the plans we make are excessive:  gear lists, vehicle inspections, double checking everything.  But when you are potentially hundreds of miles from civilization, and the temperatures are sub-zero,   it’s about minimizing risk.  Plan for the worst, hope for the best.   Shoi’s experience convinced Eric and Mike to invest in a good set of chains – Jim has been hauling chains around for several years now and was already set.  Neal and Peter were onto the job  - searching out chains for the 38” Michellin military monsters for the 101.  No small task since these tires are similar to those found on a low boy trailer.  Northern Metallic was more than willing to help, but wanted a tire to confirm size…  The spare!  Roy kindly put the Canadian Tire Customer Shuttle into service for us to haul the spare for its “custom fitting”. 

With a repaired carburetor we were finally ready to head to Fort Nelson.   En route the 101 was experiencing some further technical difficulties and Mike and Jim affected a late night repair (adjusted timing and throttle cable) in the parking lot at the hotel.   At -5F.  

Head to pillow will be about 1am tonight.  Planning an early morning departure to tackle the remainder of the 581mi journey on the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse.   The Alaska Highway was built in 8 months and 4 days… A feat of perseverance and good old fashioned hard work.  We’ll see if we can endure the last miles tomorrow…