First, the rally facts: It's approximately 6,000 miles from Seattle, WA to the Arctic Ocean and back over nine full days. The route back was excellent. The event had approx. 1,000 miles of T.S.D. rally and approx. 100 controls. There were one lead car, one sweep truck, two media crews, two Subaru Outbacks, and two BMW 325 SX's. There were approx. eight new people to go past the Arctic Circle for the first time.
The Rally of the Lost Patrol is a winter driving adventure; everything is in this event. Driving approx. 3,000 miles on snow and ice, driving 200 miles on frozen rivers, driving 2,000 miles on major highways, and long days on the road with no breaks makes this a long, hard drive. It goes to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and the Arctic Circle in February, which makes this the coldest rally. The average temperature this year for five days was probably 30 below zero. On the Dempster Highway, it was 53 below and there were 80 mph wind gusts. Everything is frozen on and in the cars. From my Pathfinder we probably saw 400 caribou, 200 moose, two wolves; four bald eagles, fifteen elk, 1,000 deer, two flocks of Ptarmigan (state bird), six foxes, and one big lynx (Some flat-landers said it was a mountain lion, but it had points on the tips of its ears and looked about eighty pounds, so I say it was a lynx!)
We ate caribou chili and moose stew at Dawson City and at Inuvik, N.W.T. above the Arctic Circle, where they had a three plate special: smoked Arctic char, roast musk ox, and caribou steaks. Yes, we're in the Arctic!
One night at a bar, a local asked if I'd buy a raffle ticket to help local youth hockey. It was $5 a ticket, so I signed up, and when I asked what the prize was, he said it was a dozen fresh eggs.
This year, I noticed something up there about how they describe the temperature to each other. They never say "below zero". The temperature at the hotel was -43! at 7 A.M. When I asked the temperature at the gas station at 8 A.M., he said, "Oh, it's about 45 today."
We went to a bar at Dawson City. It was midnight on Saturday and there were approx. fifty cars and trucks in the parking lot; every car was running with no one in them. (Remember gas is $4/gallon around here.) One night in the Yukon, I was checking into a hotel and asked the clerk for a wake-up call at 6:l5. He asked me if I wanted one around 3 to start the car up or if I would leave the car running.
The next morning one of the Jeeps couldn't move because the transmission fluid was frozen and one of the Saab turbo's clutch wouldn't push in because it was frozen.
What are the roads like? One road, Campbell Highway, we drove eight hours over approx. 400 miles of 6-10 inches of fresh snow, and we only saw one plow about 300 miles in, no one else. On this road, eight of the twelve cars went off into snow banks.
Thank God for Richard and Sharon in the sweep! I got to pull Adventure Boy out of the snow here also. My co-pilot this year was Peter Schneider from Wayne, NJ. We did this last year. He was ready this year for Arctic weather and icy roads. We did pretty well. We won three days and had zeroes for 1/3 of our scores. We had only three bad scores in nine days. Next year the rally is supposed to have a touring class, so hopefully, we can find a few more Arctic Adventurers.
This year I brought a journalist from Maine, Cynthia Curtis. She says she has to go again. So, boys and girls, get two friends, rent a 4x4, (three in a car is okay) split the cost (approx $6,000) and just do it!
In the 1997 event, my plans are to bring three or four worker cars and run and event against myself. So, plan to take ten days off in February, 1997 and get out your driving gloves and warmest clothes and go.
I forgot to say that you get to see a zillion "oh my God, look at this view" sunrises and sunsets, and don't forget your film. Last year as well as this year, we took over 1,000 shots, and we're not camera people!
Yours in Our Sport,
Gary L. Webb
Lost Patrol Rally