Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

‘Ice Road Trucker’ comes home to thaw

| February 11, 2010
Carlile Transportation's George Spears
Carlile Transportation’s George Spears

When I rode with Alaskan Haul Road driver George Spears in the summer of 2006, he was planning to retire in the next year or so. However, he kept postponing the day.

Then he was asked to stay for production of the third season of the History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers” during the 2008-2009 winter. It was the first time the show was done on the Dalton Highway, known as the Haul Road, between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay.

Spears says season four is also on the Haul Road, with many of the same characters. The producers filmed Spears’ retirement party, so if that makes the final edit, viewers will get one last look at him.

“They wanted to make it official that I took off and left,” Spears said this week from his home in Greenup, Ill. That’s near … well, it’s not really near anything, but it’s on I-70 west of Terre Haute, Ind. Spears has a farm there, as well as his mother and two sisters –  and no shortage of fans.

“I didn’t realize that many people were going to watch that crazy show,” Spears says.  “Everywhere you go, people recognize you.”

And some of the attention is from companies wanting him to drive, but he’s only interested in various personal projects. “I ended up hauling corn to town for the old boy that farms my place,” he says. “I tell you what, I looked good in that old day cab.”

Those going to the Mid-American Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., might get a glimpse of Spears, who plans to attend all three days, March 25-27. He’s been asked to help with the Rockwood Products booth, though he says he also really wants to see the show, so look for him elsewhere on the floor, too.

The next season of “Ice Road Truckers” will launch this summer, featuring some returning drivers and two new ones, says History Channel spokeswoman Vicky Kahn. “This season will focus on monster loads that require dual trucks as well as an ice road over a river,” she says.

  • Lucinda Coulter

    Wait a minute! Only those unfamiliar with Hoosier heritage would say that Greenup, Ill., near the Indiana state line and along I-70 near Terre Haute, Ind., is “not really near anything”!

    Terre Haute, after all, is the training ground of Celtics basketball legend Larry Bird. He grew up in nearby West Baden. And then only 72 miles on down the road from George’s neck of the woods are former astronaut Gus Grissom’s home in Mitchell, Ind., and, 72 miles north of Geroge, is a statue at Purdue University in honor of Neil Armstrong, who attended Purdue as an engineering student.

    George Spears’ stomping grounds include the Indiana home of the great comedian and happy-go-lucky seeming entertainer Red Skelton. And World War II columnist Ernie Pyle, who brought the horror of war and poignance of soldiers’ bravery, close to American readers for the first time, grew up in Dana, Ind.

    That’s not to even mention one of Indiana’s — and probably Illinois’ as well — most important qualities for truckers: Some have told me that the state has great trucking lanes for getting to freight that moves. And I know that the rest areas have no curbs to help the trucks get in and out easier. (It makes snow removal easier, too.)

    As an Indiana farm girl, I’m happy to share a compendium of facts about my home state.

    All in all — George Spears is a celebrity among celebrities. Anyone up for a game of basketball or ice road trucking? Lucinda Coulter, managing editor

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