Government Loads Give Owner Operators an Alaskan Adventure

When Bennett Motor Express owner operator Carl Lawrence got Alaska on his mind, he and fellow owner operator, Jerry Boyd wanted to come up with a way to get loaded there sometime. In early 2017 they talked to freight agent Nancy Denend about the possibility. Nancy, who covers military freight for bases on the west coast of the US, had a bead on some freight from Oak Harbor, Washington to Eielson Air Force base in Alaska. With about a month’s notice, Jerry and Carl committed to the loads and their adventure planning began.

Knowing the demanding trek would take them through Canada, Carl and Jerry had both purchased new trucks in 2016 that would help them be compliant with West Coast and Canadian emissions regulations. Carl and Jerry drove across country to meet at the shipper who was preparing a Navy squadron for training in Alaska. While at the shipper on a Tuesday in July, the drivers met up with a third operator, Steve Latham who also committed to the journey. When Carl and Jerry chatted with Steve, it was clear that he wanted to run a similar route. So the three men decided to convoy.

Their 2,346 mile route to Alaska took them about a week. Carl shared that the trip took them through Kamloops and Prince George, British Columbia. A forest fire in BC caused the group to detour out of route and then they found their way back to Route 37. On 37, Carl said that, “You were lucky to see a half dozen cars the whole day. The road had no shoulder, no places to stop and no one to help. We were all thankful we planned ahead with spare tires and plenty of fuel”. Crossing over into the Yukon Territory, Carl said that they were on the lookout for Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, a character in the 1960’s TV show, but had no luck.

Once in Alaska at the air base for delivery, the group decided to get in some sight seeing. They headed to the Fairbanks airport to pickup a rental car for a drive to Denali National Park. At the park, the guys did some hiking and took in the breathtaking scenery. Carl also got an up close look at one of Alaska’s black bears and a buffalo walking down the road.

When asked if he would do the trip again, Carl replied, “Yes, as long as it’s in the summer. Things could be very hairy up there in winter.”

David and Marie Hutchison Enjoy Unforgettable Adventure Together

The Alaskan freight involved five loads. While Carl, Jerry and Steve convoyed with three of them, owner operator David Hutchison saw one of the flatbed loads on the Bennett load board. He called his wife Marie in Connecticut and teased her that he was thinking of loading out for Alaska. Marie told him in no uncertain terms that ‘he would not be going to Alaska without her’.

Marie booked a flight from Kennedy airport to Washington and met David there to join him on his Alaska trek. Marie, had only ever been on very short trips with David, but nothing as long as the 2,500 mile voyage into the Alaskan wilderness. The couple hooked up with fellow owner operator Michael Christensen who hauled the remaining freight on the journey. Michael was unable to stay together with the couple only because of a necessary 34 hour restart.

David and Marie saw exactly what they had hoped for. The couple have done moose and black bear tours all over the northeast, but never got to actually see what they went for. In Alaska, they were not disappointed. In addition to seeing black bear and mountain goats, they were able to see a moose and a buffalo up close and personal. When they were nearly done with their trip, they joked that the only thing they wish they could see was the ferocious grizzly bear. Sure enough, looking into a field along a roadside stop, they got to see a grizzly!

As David reflected on his trip on the way back to Connecticut with Marie, he said that he would love to go back to Alaska again, “even in winter”. His only requirement is that he have a young side kick to sling tire chains in the brutal cold. Marie, who now has plenty of experience with life beside her husband out on the open road, in truck stops and battling for temperature control in the truck, said “I agree”. Maybe she will change her tune the next time an Alaskan adventure hits the load board.