A trucker’s eye view of Alaskan history
More than a few trucking books have arrived at Overdrive’s editorial offices over the years, but the most recent I’ve gotten is one of the best. It’s “Eighteen Wheels North to Alaska,” by Cliff Bishop. His long career in the West has included many years of driving truck in Alaska. Now, at 86, he’s published his memoirs “to retain some of the history of trucking in Alaska.”
And a colorful history it is. Some of the book’s 29 chapter titles give you an idea of the diverse ground he covers: “Earthquakes,” “Avalanches,” “Accidents” and “Alaska’s Inhabitants: Wolves, Bears and Characters.”
The “characters” include a young man who worked with Bishop and turned out to be a serial killer; a mentally ill, trigger-happy trapper; and a murderous would-be terrorist opposed to construction of the oil pipeline along the Haul Road between Prudhoe Bay and Fairbanks. For those who didn’t get enough of the Haul Road (the Dalton Highway) on the last season of the History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers,” there’s a chapter on “Building the Haul Road” and another on “Alaska’s North Slope.”
The book also has dozens of black-and-white photos and an appendix of “Alaskan Drivers and Old-Timers,” listing hundreds of people. And yes, the list includes George Spears of “Ice Road Truckers” fame and, as readers of this space know, the driver with whom I rode in 2006 for a Truckers News feature on the Haul Road.
Bishop himself qualifies for the list. He says he’s got his CDL reinstated and is hauling lumber. “It beats the hell out of sitting on my duff and watching TV,” he writes at the book’s conclusion. “I’ve got an old Ford diesel with a 3406 Cat engine with a 53-foot flatbed trailer. I must admit that I am enjoying it a lot. Maybe at age ninety I’ll make a sincere effort to retire. Or not.”
– Max Heine