King of the ice road
The sixth season of “Ice Road Truckers” finds Alex Debogorski hauling over Canada’s Dempster Highway between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. He crosses frozen rivers, lakes and even the Arctic Ocean.
Hugh Rowland and Rick Yemm travel the Manitoba ice roads, and Jack Jessee and three new drivers, Austin Wheeler, Darrell Ward and Ronald “Porkchop” Mangum, haul to and from Prudhoe Bay.
Two previous drivers conspicuous by their absence are Lisa Kelly and Maya Sieber. Fans had mixed opinions about the trucking ability of the women, but many were disappointed that Lisa didn’t return.
“Lisa’s really great. She’s a good driver with a mind of her own,” Debogorski says. “She’s going to be driving no matter what happens. And we don’t really know what happened. Was it the producer’s decision or was it Lisa’s? That’s unknown. I think the show benefited from having women drivers. Those women are a great role model for the women truckers out there. Plus, it’s got to get old seeing a bunch of ugly guys all the time.”
While Debogorski didn’t work with Maya, he thought she was a good trucker. “Maya got a bad rap from the hot tub scene,” he says. “But that’s the way these things go. You never know what portion of the filming they will use.”
He remains puzzled by critics of the women “who said they couldn’t drive or shouldn’t drive or whatever it is that people get themselves worked up over. Most of those people have never driven on an ice road.”
Debogorski enjoyed season six, but says he doesn’t know how the show turned out. It’s not showing in Canada yet, so he relies on U.S. fans to keep him up-to-date. “People ask me about various plot points, but I have no clue what they are talking about until I watch it,” he says.
He’s often asked is if he is afraid on the ice roads. “Sure I am,” he says. “You see trucks jackknifed in the snow and accidents that were probably unpreventable. There are plenty of better drivers out there than me, but I know enough to respect the weather and listen to the ice.”
In season one’s “Rookie Challenge” episode, he sums up his philosophy, “I gotta die somewhere, someplace. I guess today is as good as any other day.”
Debogorski’s been married to Louise for 40 years. They have 11 children and 13 grandchildren “and counting,” he says with a laugh. He’s open about his conservative beliefs, Catholicism and Christian values. Fans come to appearances bearing gifts of rosaries and prayer books.
He has plenty of opportunity to opine on the show and in a new documentary about his life with the working title, “King of the Road.” Loren McGinnis, director of the film, spent two months last summer summer traveling across the United States with Debogorski. They logged more than 23,000 miles in former cheese-hauling independent owner-operator Bryan Dax’s Red Giant Diamond Reo, considered the biggest big rig in the world. They went from truck stop to truck stop to meet fans.
“He’s a hillbilly philosopher,” says McGinnis, “and people are drawn to him for his relentless honesty and the way he looks at life. I found him to be smart, literary and a thoughtful person underneath a gruff exterior.”
McGinnis, who also lives in Yellowknife, believes Debogorski “put Yellowknife on the map. He’s our unofficial ambassador.”