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DAWSON CREEK, B.C. — It’s 5,000 kilometres from Edmonton to Alaska’s Arctic Circle, but we’re driving all the way to experience a true taste of northern winter from behind the wheel.
We’re driving in a convoy of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans. Mercedes hopes this will demonstrate that the Sprinter is a rugged vehicle capable of handling anything winter can throw at it.
Well, we’ll see.
I’m driving the first leg, up through British Columbia and the Yukon on the Alaska Highway into Alaska and down to Anchorage, then Kathy Renwald will take the wheel and head back north through Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle. She’ll be on the Dalton Highway — the road that services the pipeline and leads to Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean.
We timed this trip well, of course — the weather up here has so far seen highs of
-10 C and some blowing snow as I write this. But it’s due to drop dramatically as we head into the mountains and over the passes, where the two-lane highway twists and turns and trucks chain up for the tricky stretches. We’re carrying chains too, just in case.
The journey’s only just begun: I’m writing now from the southern start of the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, where the U.S. army began construction of the road in 1942 and finished just eight months later.
That was a primitive, difficult road, intended for military transport to service the airbases that supplied the north, which was vulnerable to attack from the Pacific. Almost immediately after its completion, civilian engineers set to improving the road and now it’s a modern two-lane highway that supplies both the Yukon and Alaska from the south.
But it’s still a road of romance and intrigue, and Kathy and I will be telling some of its stories as we travel north in the Sprinters. You can see regular video reports at wheels.ca, and read our accounts there and here in Wheels.
It may be cold in Toronto but it will be colder where we’re going. Here’s hoping the Sprinters see us to the end to tell you all about it.