After a three hour nap and some coffee, I was ready for the 500 mile trip up the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay. Like many of my fellow competitors, I envisioned reaching Prudhoe Bay, and touring the oil fields, as the highlight of the rally.
By 3:30am, all of the teams had assembled in front of the hotel and were ready to head out as a group. For safety reasons, the rallymaster wanted all of the rally vehicles to stay relatively close together, at least within radio range. As fate would have it, I decided to start out the day by switching places with a crew member from car #9.
Since arriving in Alaska, the weather has become unseasonably warm, to near freezing during the day. Shortly after leaving Fairbanks, snow began to fall. Not a good sign. The warmer temperatures caused the icy spots to become very slick, and combined with the fresh snowfall, the result was slow progress. We were also delayed by two jackknifed trucks. While we were parked waiting for the road to be cleared, there was much discussion as to whether or not the group should continue or head back to Fairbanks. By this point, the two cars in the rally had already turned around and headed back to civilization, which included Dick and his Camry . . . and my camera, spare clothes, etc. Should the rest of us reach Prudhoe, I guess I could buy a toothbrush. After hearing over the radio that a snowplow was working its way up the road, the group agreed to press on to the Arctic Circle. Prior to reaching the Arctic Circle, we came across the rallymaster struggling along in his 3 wheel drive pickup. Considering that it was near noon and we still had 300 miles to travel before reaching Prudhoe, not to forget the uncertain weather and road conditions, it was decided that everyone still headed north would turn around at the sign marking the Arctic Circle and return to Fairbanks.
The disappointment of not reaching Prudhoe Bay made the return trip to Fairbanks seem very long and slow. It also made me determined to make it to Prudhoe, someday, maybe when the Alcan Winter Rally returns in the Year 2000.
The extra time in Fairbanks gave everyone the opportunity to rest and catch up on much needed sleep. The last two days, with their long hours and difficult road conditions, had been the most challenging of the rally, and tiring.
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