Ice Road Truckers

Posted: October 27, 2010 in The World Needs More Canada


If aliens tried to learn about humanity from TV, it’d be interesting to see what they thought. People would die in terrible ways a lot more often. Maybe as often. That’s a sobering thought. Near-death experiences would certainly be a lot more common. I’ve had one or two.

There was the time I grabbed an electric fence to see if it was electric or not, and the time I ate 17 slices of pizza and tried to walk round Merry Hill. I’ve basically mastered fear, but my first tour of Canada tested my resolve. They intentionally designed that country to be a real-life (or death) assault course. We’d driven a long way across the country, and become pretty casual about it. “A three-day journey? Not a problem. I’m pretty casual”. Indeed, day one was easy enough, and ended in pizza. Those Canadians love chances to die.

Day two started casually enough. I lay across the 2nd back seat, resting my head against the mountain of unneeded pillows chucked to the back of the van. Seatbelt? Nah. I’m too casual.

We stop at a truckstop. Weird places, truckstops. I know of no other place where you can buy a lovely hunting knife and do your laundry while you take a shower. Who would do that?

We get back out onto the road. I say road, it’s more of a rink. I’m pretty sure we were overtaken by the Mighty Ducks at some point. Or just some ducks. I knew I’d be fine so long as I didn’t let my tongue touch any lamp-posts.

As we reach the speed limit, we casually overtake a lorry, but this isn’t just a lorry! This is a semi. A lorry built to scare other lorries. A lorry that’s got a 6-album record deal and a driver only allowed to operate the vehicle after having done at least one stint in prison.

We skid. We really skid.

This isn’t the first time, but this is the worst time this has happened. Our vehicle is  spinning like a teacup at a fair. The volume in the van has been decapitated. All eyes are on the lorry inching nearer and nearer to and further and further away from and nearer and nearer to our faces.

“Well, this is it. This is how I die.” I think. My life begins to flash before me, but I skip most of it because I’ve seen it before.



Ouch… I thought ouch. I thought! I must be alive! I am in a footwell. Smoke is rising. It tastes nuclear. I climb up out of the footwell. My brain has gone into safety mode. My default action man settings have been activated and I am about to earn my dinner. Now I’ve played Need For Speed. I’ve tried and failed not to crash the pink Cadillac and I’ve seen the ensuing explosions.

My brain quickly assesses the situation. My throat is dry. I try to find my 2L bottle of Canada Dry somewhere on the floor but my brain is busy and out of irritable courtesy hangs up a ‘do not disturb’ sign which takes the form of a spinning egg-timer. I smell and see smoke. I taste the (what turns out to be leaking fire extinguisher) fumes. I want to vomit.

The van is going to explode. We’re going to die. We have to evacuate.


The door is snowed in.

I give up on the Canada Dry and raise my foot to smash through the window but am distracted by the suddenly not-so-casual Sarah, my team leader, who is now beneath me in our nose-dived van. I think she might think I’m in shock.

“Dan! Calm down! You’re in shock”.

She definitely thinks I’m in shock.

At her behest I refrain from Eric Cantona-ing the window and decide to escape through the driver’s door, open somehow despite the snow. My brain, working at max speed, has surveyed the situation. If I am going to make it out of this alive I’m gonna need to get over Rachel. I’m rubbish at getting over girls.

Time is running out.

3 people don’t have to die here. 2 is obviously better. Sometimes you have to make these kinds of decisions. Rachel always takes about 7 minutes and a magazine to get out of the van. We don’t have that sort of time and there isn’t a Circle K in this particular middle-of-nowhere. It’s too late for her. Sarah is sitting still in her chair. I have the best odds of making it out alive.

I dive heroically over Rachel and catch her back with my foot. “Daniel!!!” “Dan!” shouts a tense Sarah.  I am in the doorway, nearly having secured survival. “You’re about to walk through 4 feet of snow, put some shoes on!”

I have no shoes on. This is brand new information. Perhaps I’m in shock.

Sarah lobs Rich’s spare boots at me and I thrust them on. No time for laces, I burst out into the surprisingly warm -15 degrees.

The van does not explode.

Rachel tells me off.

Casually the Canadian AA (CAA) man arrives. “I’m sorry. It was this van’s time. It’ll probably work but it’s written off.” He uses the strongest chain he has to pull Doug out of the snow. We have a very cold trip back to the truckstop.

I take a shower.




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