Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Artic Drive; Part 3
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Arctic Drive; Part III. Click image to enlarge

Day 2
Our second day started with a lengthy delay. We were all instructed the night before to set the Sprinter’s onboard timers that turn on the auxiliary heater engine to kick in and pre-heat the van’s coolant; a crucial step when overnight temperatures dipped below -40 C. The Sprinter requires about a half hour to warm up properly in extreme cold. The timer itself was very easy to set and I had our van all ready to go for the morning.

That morning we woke up to temperatures hovering just about -40 C with the wind chill making it feel more like -51 C. Despite my auxiliary heater kicking in and warming the vehicle as planned, there still wasn’t enough juice in the main battery in these frigid temperatures and my vehicle, like a few others, required a boost to get going that morning. One van didn’t have the timer set correctly and despite our support crew’s best efforts, would not start. We had to leave it behind in a heated garage and pick it up on our way back through town the next day. There is a reason why most trucks, tractors and commercial vehicles up here do not turn their engines off, ever, for the entire winter.

Once on the road, we quickly lost any signs of civilization and would only come across the odd building structure every once and awhile, half of which were long abandoned.  With no satellite radio or regular radio stations to be found, two-way radio banter quickly filled the void – and quickly got out of control.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Artic Drive; Part 3Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Artic Drive; Part 3
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Arctic Drive; Part III. Click image to enlarge

It was another clear sunny day which made for some spectacular scenery as we went up and down mountain passes and entered the Dalton Highway, which follows the Alaskan Pipeline all the way north.  For those who have never been to the far north before (like me), it truly is breathtaking scenery, like nothing I have ever seen before.

A few of the valleys we passed through had temperatures that dipped below -40 C; this would confuse the van and make the external temperature gauge read +85 C.  I would love to meet the German engineer who thought there was no way a vehicle could ever meet outdoor temperatures below 40 degrees Celsius, but would drive through an area where it is plus 85 degrees Celcius.

After a long day, we finally arrived at Coldfoot Camp, AK which is the halfway point between Fairbanks, AK and Deadhorse, AK. Coldfoot Camp is just that, an outpost camp first used when building the Alaskan Pipeline. It is less a hotel and more a barracks for workers. But it was a warm meal, warmish bed and a place to rest after a long drive. Coldfoot Camp is also considered the centre of North America for viewing the northern lights and that night we were not disappointed. I missed it, as I attempted to sleep in the freezing cold, hoping that the rats wouldn’t get to me.

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