A Crashed Truck, Twenty-One Bullets, and a Wedding

Posted On March 18, 2012

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Mother Nature has blessed us with the month of March here in Coldfoot. It’s still winter, but wow does it feel different now. It’s still below zero almost every night, but now the sun carries warmth, heating the days up to about ten or sometimes even twenty above. It stays light outside now until about 9pm and it’s only going to increase. It’s been nearly three months since the winter solstice, and the spring season starts this Tuesday with the vernal equinox. In fact, by this time next month, there won’t really anymore darkness; it’ll be too light at all the time.

Because this time of year is popular for truckers and tourists, business in Coldfoot has been a maddening rush and everyone is overworked and struggling to keep up. For the most part we still have our small winter crew, but with the big tour groups that have been here recently, it’s felt a lot like the busy summer days. So March is a mixed feeling; it’s beautiful and sunny and wonderful outside, but inside it’s a crazy rush of traffic and headaches. But that is usually what life is like in Coldfoot.

My friend Brian rolled his truck on the Dalton Highway a few days ago while driving back to Coldfoot. There’s this one part of the road that goes over this place called Finger Mountain. The land is really exposed and the wind blows like mad, usually causing snowdrifts to block the road. One of these pesky snowdrifts caught Brian’s truck and flipped it off to the right hand side ditch; he was lucky to be alive and unharmed.

I went back to Finger Mountain with him the next day to try to get his truck started. He’d already gone back before with a few people to right the truck back onto its wheels and tow it to a safe turnout. When we got to the truck, it must have been about zero degrees or so with the wind blowing about 30 or 40 miles per hour. If you stood correctly you could actually lean back against the wind. The conditions were absolutely horrendous, but we popped the hood of the truck and went to work.

The wind blowing snow across the road at Finger Mountain:

Fixing the truck:

We spent five miserable hours on Finger Mountain, freezing our fingers (literally), disassembling the engine, cleaning the frozen snow and motor oil out of the spark plugs and the air intake. We had to constantly get back into the truck we drove there in so we could thaw out our hands and faces so we wouldn’t get frostbite. As the sun began to dim in the west, we had to give up. We’re pretty sure the car is fixable (we were able to turn over the engine), but realistically it needs to be brought into a warm peaceful shop. We did all we could do up there in the raging arctic hurricane that is Finger Mountain.

The next day we celebrated the marriage of Brian and Allison. They met in Coldfoot a few years ago and finally on St. Patrick’s Day, tied the knot and made things official. So we had a monstrous party for them, combining the wedding celebration with St. Patrick’s Day. It was glorious. The service was held in the small chapel in Wiseman (they had to dig it out of the snow first), and the locals showed up, including most of the camp workers. I was even one of the two official witnesses who got to sign the marriage license. After the ceremony, Brian had a keg that he salvaged from his wrecked truck, I brought the stuff for Irish Carbombs, and we spent the whole day partying and drinking and having a really good time. In typical redneck fashion, we all brought our guns too and had a twenty-one bullet salute. Good times in Alaska.

Wiseman, day of the wedding:

The Chapel:

Brian and Allison:

The cake:

Lastly, (from left): me, the groom, and the bride.

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