June 23, 2007
WHAT'S it like driving a big rig 300-plus miles on a highway paved with ice?
It's about what you would expect: Cold, slippery and hazardous, especially when yer drivin' through a white-oat and you can't hardly see nothin', eh?
To interpret, that's Canadian for: ". . . when one is maneuvering one's vehicle through a thick snowfall or blizzard in which visibility is greatly curtailed."
As you can see from the above example, the Canadian manner of expression is much more colorful than my dry translation.
And it's the Canadian way of saying and doing things that enlivens this remarkable new reality series that scored record ratings for History Channel - 3.4 million viewers - when it premiered last Sunday.
Everything about "Ice Road Truckers" is astonishing.
The show is about the truckers who drive one of the world's most dangerous routes - a "highway," literally made out of ice, that stretches 350 miles north from Yellowknife, Northwest Terrorities, Canada - just outside the Arctic Circle - to a series of remote but gargantuan diamond mines.
This is no ordinary highway. It costs $10 million a year to build and lasts only two months. After that, it melts because it lies across a series of frozen lakes that remain that way for only 60 days a year.
In that short window of time, dozens of 18-wheelers make the trek from Yellowknife to the mines carrying 10,000 loads of critical provisions that will supply the mines and their workers for the rest of the year because after the ice road melts, the mining communities are inaccessible.
The road is an engineering marvel. While driving on it is a risky business for the drivers, it is also so lucrative that the truckers have nicknamed the ice-road run "the dash for the cash."
On "Ice Road Truckers," you'll meet six drivers whose experiences on the ice road vary from one who is doing it for the first time to a veteran of 26 ice-road seasons.
They are rough-and-ready Canadians who end their sentences with "eh" and pronounce "out" like "oat" when they describe the "white-outs" (or "oats") through which they occasionally have to drive.
The show reveals a world most of us didn't even know existed and captures it so vividly that you can almost feel the chill of its 40-below-zero temperatures.
"Ice Road Truckers"
Tomorrow at 10 p.m. on History Channel