Find out where the wild things really go with The History Channel’s Alaska Off-Road Warrior TV Show. As far as off-roading goes, there is nothing like placing yourself into the wild and testing what you and your vehicle are made of. Add in a 5 team competition and you have the making of an adventure fit for the greatest outdoor warrior. The History channel presents a new warrior challenge that pits vehicle vs man vs Alaska. If you’ve followed us in the past, you’ll know that Alaska is at the top of our list for places to re-visit and experience off road. The next best thing to going in person has to be this great new unscripted Off-Road Warriors TV show. Five teams participate in an intense timed race from the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean on 8 of the most grueling Alaskan trails. Each trail is separated into 2 legs, and the teams with the best aggregated time will be victorious. The Series begins Nov 30 on the History channel, check out the preview here. As for the challengers, here is a little run down of the adventurous warriors.
First we have butch ”Big Dog” Evans & “Wild” Bill Coty, together they have 25+ years of off-road experience. Next there’s Brent & Scott Leigh, proud believers that off-roading is a way of life. From Washington, Carl Jantz & Rich Rudman, also know as “MacGyver” and the “Mad Scientist” (who can make their home-crafted jeep run with a paper clip), are the only outsiders. Pete & Shey Lannigan, a brother and sister team utilize their fighting spirit in more ways than one. Last but not least, Jason Beard & Glen “The Polack” Lukas, a marine and his friend who are eager to show off.
We had the chance to chat with Carl Jantz & Rich Rudman and gain a little more insight into their experience. Check it out below.
Q: Can you tell us about where you’re joining us from today?
We’re actually both at Rich’s shop, Manzanita Micro, he’s from Kingston and I’m from Poulsbo Washington, and his shops halfway in the middle, and his shops quieter than my shop (laughs)
Q: How did you guys get involved in the show?
They came looking for the crazy professor guy in Seattle with an electric jeep, and I said that I didn’t have the jeep built yet, though I had a friend who had just successfully completed a extreme winter snow challenge and I was like “yup we have a jeep and we’re good at it so where do you want us to go”? They interviewed us and they went “you guys are perfect”.
Q: Why are you referred to as the crazy professor guy?
Because I look it! I do a lot of engineering and high performance electric vehicle work; I’m a power electronics designer, so I typically spend a good chunk of the day with computers on and large things making funny noises and blowing stuff up from time to time, and so I kind of fit the part.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your vehicle
Since Rich didn’t have his electric complete yet we took the gasser, I have a 1942 Willy CJ2A body and chassis are stretched 25 inches, it runs a Chevy V8 fuel injection, it’s got ton and a quarter axles and big old swamper tires. And one thing that I really like about it is does not have an electric winch, it has a power take off winch, so my winch is powered by the engine.
Q: Tell me a bit about how your vehicle performed on the show, or didn’t (laughs)
We spent 8 weeks getting it ready, and we found a lot of stuff fatigued, we had to replace the clutch, we have to replace front ring and pinion, rear ring and pinion, we built a new drive line, and we got all this stuff ready and then I had 34 break downs, just one thing after another. The frame’s 1942 frame, that was our biggest one, I can fix little stuff but there’s part of my frame held together right now bit bed frame and sheet metal screws, that’s about all I can say without spoiling anything for the show (laughs).
Q: Is your nickname now MacGyver?
Oh my nickname has always been MacGyver.
Q: Without spilling the beans can you describe any of those incidents where you had to MacGyver your vehicle back together?
Oh goodness, you’re going to see us repair a tire that you can stick your fingers through the sidewall on the trail, that’s just one of many things that happened, and then you get to see us replace us way up in the mountains in a very, very miserable environment, we fixed it, it held there, and we prayed we never had to use it, but as it turned out we did.
Q: The farthest north that I’ve ever been is Skagway, can you describe a bit about the conditions that you experienced on the show?
I think the craziest thing was the weather, it would go from t-shirts and sunny weather, it’s the middle of summer in Alaska, right? It would be like that for a couple days and then all of a sudden we’re getting flooded with rain. There’s so much rain it’s coming through our vehicles sideways with the wind storms. We’re holding windows together with our arms while we’re driving, and mud and rain and we’re like, oh, this is a wonderful summer day, where? It made for a lot of muddy conditions, we were getting stuck in the mud left and right. We had to use every trick in our bag to get out.
Q: That has to have a bit of a psychological impact on you as well, can you talk a little bit about how you worked through some of those incidents?
We just yelled at each other louder! (laughs), near the end we’d had so many break downs, when you first start you think, well, if it blows up, we tried, but the closer you get to the end, and we’re doing OK as far as we can tell with the other competitors, we’re all running neck and neck and it’s getting near the end and there’s so many things that go wrong it’s a mind game. If some simple thing goes wrong it’s like, boom, we’re done for. I think that was the worst of it. I tell you, God was on my side because there was a lot of things that went wrong, that could have gone a lot worse, we’d discover at the end of the day during an inspection, oh my god, the frame’s cracked in half! We have to fix this by start time tomorrow morning. And I don’t mean cracked in half, I had it once, the frame’s 4 inches, it was cracked all the way within an 1/8 of an inch, the body was holding it together all the way back to camp. When you go four wheeling for a weekend and you have a break-down and you spend an hour of two fixing it and then you four wheel the rest of the weekend it’s great, it happens, but now you have a break down and it could cost you a LOT. It’s not like your trailer is 10 miles away and your buddy can drag you back to your trailer limping, no, you’re 500 miles away from anything.
Q: That would be intimidating. What would you say you learned about yourself during this process?
The more stuff was thrown at us the better we worked. The nastier it was, the quicker we got on it, the more we worked on it, we learned who fell apart when, who needed to sleep in, as it got worse, we got better. That became the trail sequence of run, find out what broke, fix it, get prepared for the next run. It turned into a on the trail routine that none of us had ever thought of, a long run for us down in the states is a long weekend, this was two months up there. It was one series of tear down and re-fixes and literally bailing wire, and we joke because we had three different sizes of bailing wire and we knew how to use it and why. Some of the other competitors were teasing us because Rich was making dinner and they were like “is he your mother, is he your wife?” It wasn’t like there was any division of chores, it’s just if I’m fixing something that I can fix best, and somebody else is doing something else that has to be done, so I’m the mechanical guy, he’s the electrical guy, so if something electrical goes wrong, I’m like “Rich, fix that” and then I’m fixing dinner or taking a nap. I mean, you’re trying to get rest the whole time and it doesn’t work, because it’s light out until midnight, and it never gets dark. We discovered that when it was getting dark, and then it starts to get light again, the light never goes out, but the lights dim, and when they start to dim you better get some sleep in because you’re going to be racing in a few hours. Your body just wouldn’t shut off. We took all kinds of flashlights to prepare for the dark miserable nights and it never got dark (laughing), and somebody said “well what do you need all the lights for?” and I said, “well I’m not going to get stuck under some rig that I can’t see” and they said “it’s never going to get dark” and we looked at him and said “really?” the only time we used the flashlight was in the tent.
Q: If someone said to you “respect mother nature” what does that mean to you now?
I think you pray every day that mother nature doesn’t kill you with the weather. Are we going to drown, get eaten by bears, drive off a cliff, or find ourselves going, geez, we need three more pistons, and you’re not going to find them out here! Respect mother nature in terms of the trails, we spent a lot of time and effort trying to stay brown, and up there the term brown means you’re going to stay on the trail, well on the trail is where the mud holes are and the disasters. So you’re torn between staying brown and to survive you want to be as far away from the brown as you can! You want to have one tire on something green. And so it was a mind game of whether you drove down the trail up to your headlights in mud, or you tried to put one tire just a little bit more green because once you dig it up with your tires its now brown, not green so we had respect for the environment, but we also had the reality of being able to drive a 6000 pound jeep through a mud hole without leaving body parts behind. You’ll see me running across these bogs with gear and cables and I had respect for mother nature, I was hoping she wasn’t going to reach up, grab me, and pull me into the water and do me in right there! What we have respect for is mother river, oh my goodness, you’d be on some road some guy made with a cat 10 years ago to see if there’s gold at the end of a canyon, and the road hasn’t been cleared in years, and there’s part of it that are fine, and then there’s other parts that the river took away, you’d go around a corner and go “um, that’s deep!” so do you try and hug around a bank where the river is eroding around you, or do you try and cross the river to the other side? You’ll see that hunters and packers have taken different routes on these old trails, and we’re like, we don’t know which way to go! Half the tracks go this way, half the tracks go that way!
Q: My last question, what advice would you have for anyone who might be interested in doing something like this, what is one piece of advice you’d give them?
Gear up! You can’t have enough equipment on board, and you gotta have spare parts. You have to have outdoor gear, you gotta have gear to survive out there, and you have to remember, you’re not the only one surviving out there, your jeep needs to have every part, everything that you thought could fail, you have to have it under the seat, in a box, you need to prepare for everything coming unglued. It’s actually easier to keep yourself warm and supplied with the proper outdoor gear than it is to have ¾ of a jeep in little baggies under the back seat. Which is our joke, we’ve got two jeeps there, one you can see, the other is in little baggies and part boxes hidden in corners and stuck under seats and a distributor here, an alternator there, power steering there, it’s that kind of expedition in Alaska, you really have to take stuff that you never would have thought of on a normal weekend outing. A person should get all the gear they can get, and then they should load up their jeep, and then hit all the hardest trails they know, and not go home. I don’t care of ones on one part of the state and the other. Where are you from?
We’re north of the border in Alberta
Ok, let’s pretend there’s two trails in Alberta, and two in Saskatchewan, you’re going to run the one in Alberta, and the one is Saskatchewan, and then you’re going to go back to Alberta, and then back to the other one. By the way, you can’t stop and ask anybody for help. As for weight, I remember reading this story about these guys who were doing a South America tour and they packed all this extra stuff on their rig and they even packed extra axels, and then their axel broke, and they figured, did the axel break because they were carrying the extra weight of the axel? (laughs). But I’ll say this, I’ll carry the extra weight of a welder. Advice is, learn how to drive a week on your own, and take a welder.
Good advice. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today.