RHYMES WITH TRUCK

Friday, December 8, 2017

Six Days To Laredo And Back.

Six days : 5723 kilometres.

3605 miles in 60 hours 5 minutes.

____ I leave on a Saturday morning; just a short break between trips. It's December and I need to get two trips done before Christmas as it doesn't look like there will be anything happening between Christmas and the New Year. Also it's a chance to get some sun on my back in the warmer climate of Southern Texas. Another load of paper to Laredo with the same overnight stops as the last trip; Missouri Valley and Thackerville then into the TA at Laredo.

____ A warm night followed by one of those calm still mornings with a clear sky and the Sun low in the sky. Reminiscent of the Mediterranean coast of Spain during a Winter getaway from the UK where I would sit and soak up the atmosphere and do nothing all day. But not today; paper tipped and re-load instructions received before 10 o'clock. A trailer switch at Waller, 334 miles to the North-East and they need the empty trailer as soon as possible. Back up to San Antonio on Interstate 35, then Interstate 10 after a quick visit to Popeyes in the San Antonio TA.

____ Just 15 minutes to swap the trailers and check-over the new one while the guy in the gatehouse sends all the paper work to the Ruby Truck Line office and the customs broker. Drivers used to go into the gatehouse but now everything is done through a small slot in a glass window with a speaker and a microphone for communication. I hate things like that as it reminds me of visiting a prisoner in jail but when there is no messing about and things get done quickly by people who know what they are doing, then I can over-look the demeaning and distrust of their system. I have enough time to crack-on up to Hillsboro and the possibility of getting home in two shifts.

____ The road works on the Interstate 35 West at Fort Worth aren't going to finish any time soon and it seems whatever time and what ever direction, there are always some hold-ups and that's without any fender-benders which can ruin any decent traffic flow for hours. Over-night closure of the complete interstate is common, along with a multitude of random lane closures during the middle of the day. So I tried coming through at rush-hour when at least two lanes are open in each direction. Guess what? Two hours ten minutes from Hillsboro to Thackerville, which is about the same as at any other time. I celebrated with a free breakfast buffet at the Winstar Casino. [Weds and Thurs for Over 55, Players Club members.]

____ I knew I had to get to Percival in Iowa to have any chance of getting back to Steinbach in one hit. A long day into a bitterly cold wind from the North and a night under two blankets; just two days after a night on top of the quilt. Then it is all Interstate 29, north through Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Sioux Falls and Fargo. Back across the border before dark with one eye on the fuel filter gauge. But the diesel from the southern states is OK this time; warm air has come into Manitoba from some where and it is a lot warmer than when I left, six days ago.
About as low as a low-loader can go.

Fed-Ex Triple.

Jordan has started running blades.

Two halves of a house.



    

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Picture Diary Of A Trip To Laredo.

12 Day Trip
A cold day to leave so the trailer air lines needed some alcohol.

A heavy load of paper destined for Monterrey in Mexico. Just 200kgs below maximum.

Saturday morning at the border with just a 15 minute delay.

At Northern Tool and Equipment, Fargo, collecting an inverter.

First night-out at the Petromart, Missouri Valley, Iowa.

Brisket sandwich for Sunday lunch at the Cowboy Travel Plaza, Oklahoma.

A neighbour from home is also my neighbour at the Choctaw Truckstop on the Oklahoma/Texas state line.

Another new Loves under construction: this one is at Temple, Texas.

Washing the unit after dropping the trailer in Laredo.

Gate to the drop yard is blocked by a bob-tail while security go for lunch.

Old Mexican bobtail in Laredo.

Stables at the US Customs checkpoint on Highway 83, 30 miles north of Laredo.

Cottonfield above ground: oilfield below.

Route 66 Travel Centre on Interstate 40, west of Albuquerque.

Amazing rocky outcrop on Navajo Nation lands, north of Gallup, New Mexico.

The Four Corners Monument. The only place in the USA where four states all meet at the same place.

The Wilson Arch. 

Look carefully and you can see the haul-road that took the wind turbines to the top of the ridge. 

Dusk at a scenic viewpoint at the top of Emigrant Hill in Oregon.

Snow chains needed for the Coquihalla Pass on the way home from Vancouver, BC.

Fueling-up at the town of Golden and the Kenworth suddenly gets a Black Crow hood ornament.

The only snow in Calgary is the man-made white stuff at the Winter Olympic Park.

Even less snow in Saskatchewan, but the lakes are frozen.
Back in the yard, in the dark and in the snow.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Laredo Triangle.

12 Day Trip.
____ Four inches of snow to be brushed off the car before I can go to work. But the roads have been ploughed; just slippery sections and a temperature of -16 degrees C. The plan is to get out of the cold weather as quick as possible. A long day of a thousand kay gets me to Percival, Iowa, where the helpful tail-wind has brought the cold too. Another long stint on Day 2 puts me at the Oklahoma/Texas stateline  for a warmer night; just a touch of ground-frost in the morning.

____ An early start, a flowing run through the perennial roadworks on Interstate 35 at Fort Worth and I am down to the TA truckstop at Laredo before dark. Twenty-eight degrees C in the evening calm; sitting back with the windows open and a sweet iced-tea in easy reach. And that is the scenario for the whole of Wednesday; after unloading and running back to the truckstop. I am waiting for a trailer load of supermarket chiller cabinets to come over the Rio Grande from Mexico; expected Thursday at 08.00 hours. A day at leisure, a visit to the TA fitness room, a shower and then it clouds over and rain showers keep away the worst heat of the day.

____ With only four tonnes in the trailer and a destination of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia; it is journey of 4000 kilometres and five days to do it. The sort of run that I look forward to; a bonded load, so Customs are a formality too. Up to Sweetwater TA for a rendezvous with Mr. Ramsden; he's heading to Houston to swap an empty trailer for another BC bound load. That one is not due to be delivered before the following Friday; eight days away. Ruby Truck-Line can never be accused of not giving a driver enough time to do the work.

____ Into New Mexico; a night at Acoma Pueblo aka Sky City, then onto Ogden in Utah and the original Flying'J. It has an adjoining workshop, truckwash and tyre repair facility which is very handy because I wake up on Sunday morning to find a punctured trailer tyre. With no call-out and a patchable hole; $57 is a bargain and only a two hour delay. Then it's Utah to Idaho, through to Oregon and into fog. I constantly check temperatures on my phone's weather app but rarely scroll down for the details. Coming down Emigrant Hill at the Deadman's Pass; I drop into a blanket of thick fog. A surprise and scary too. There are heavily laden, slow-moving trucks descending the twisting Interstate 84. I am coasting down with just a little bit of Jake-brake; far too fast for zero visibility. It might just be one patch of fog or it might extend across the whole of the Columbia River basin; but I've done enough for the day and can stop at the nearby Arrowhead Travel Plaza.

____ The Arrowhead is the third truckstop on this trip that is owned by a Native American tribe. Night-out number two was at Thackerville, Oklahoma, where the Choctaw Nation has one of their thirteen truckstops. The Acoma tribe owns the truckstop at Sky City and the Arrowhead is run by the Umatilla people. All three have adjoining casinos. The fog hadn't gone by the morning and I eventually drove out of it in Washington State and the higher ground around the orchards of Yakima. Through the lands of the Yakama. I find a fascinating history of the First Nations as I travel more and more across America.

____ Back into Canada at the Pacific Highway, then a short run to the Petro Pass at Delta where I find myself parked next to a curtainside trailer. A rare thing in North America, but even stranger to find that the Volvo tractor unit is being driven by another British driver. Ex-Ralph Davies and a few other familiar names; we spend the evening chatting about the "Good Old Days" which we agree were bloody hard work and lucky to survive. Forty minutes in the morning, across to Port Coquitlam where it takes the rest of the morning to unload the eight chiller cabinets. Reload when empty: Edmonton, Alberta, for Monterrey, Mexico.

____ An eleven hour dead-head across the Rocky Mountains, good fuel consumption but I would have like a few tons on the drive axles when climbing the Coquihalla Pass. "Slippery Sections," it said on the matrix panels. No chains needed and through to Kamloops before encountering any snow flurries. A ten hour break at Valemount, then five hours to Edmonton where the twenty tonnes of paper make me feel a lot more  confident of traction as the snow fall settles in for the day. By Lloydminster, I am ahead of the snow-loaded weather front but into the icy blast from the North. By Radisson, Saskatchewan, it is minus 20 and a howling gale; the Detroit Diesel runs all night.

____ I pushed on late into the night to make the last day do-able; six hundred miles and 13 hours on the clock. I got home but it was touch-and-go at times. Two weather fronts battling each other across the Prairies as first I had warm temperatures and snow followed by cold winds and ice rain. It alternated between the two, all day as I pushed on relentlessly; trying to get as much done before darkness descended. Starting in the dark, finishing in the dark; bitter cold, blowing snow and still only November. I have brought the trailer back to Steinbach as instructed but I might get it again after an hours re-set and continue with it to Laredo.

US Army tow-truck; zoom in on the hi-tech door look.

Alberta is now having Winter.

Scraper on 8 axle rig.

Elk in Jasper National Park beside the Yellowhead.

Saskatchewan is now having Winter.

The Deserts of New Mexico.

Price Canyon, Utah, Short cut to Salt Lake City.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Jack-Knifed!

Seven Days Away.
3817 miles in 63.15 hours = 60.5 mph.
____ My early morning coffee on my day-off is interrupted by a one-word text message from a mate. "Jackknifed." The first snow-storm of Winter has claimed Ruby Truck Line #101. Written-off less than five miles from the yard on the last leg of a nine day trip; strong winds having blown snow over Highway 52 and heavy traffic having polished the road to a shiny sheet of glass. No-one hurt but a well-kept black Volvo bent beyond economic repair. I cancel my plans for the day and watch the Great British Bake-Off on the television; later making some savory scones and wondering if I have what it takes to be the proprietor of some tea-rooms or a cake-shop.

____ A look through the Job-shops on the Internet confirms there aren't any "Money-For-Nothing" jobs out there. Poor pay, poor conditions and un-sociable hours are available anywhere and not just in the truck-driving section. I could sell second-hand cars but don't want to be an arse-hole so I resign myself to putting in the long hours and earning enough to survive. By the time I get going on Friday morning; the roads are bare and dry. I push on South as far as possible hoping for warmer weather; it's still October.

____ Steinbach to Percival was a big punch, followed by another to Thackerville and a Saturday at the Winstar. Destination is Hidalgo, so ditto for Sunday; taking US Highway 77 from Waco. Avoiding the busy Interstate 35 and the road-works at Temple. At 1800 miles, this is the longest outward load and three hard days behind the wheel before I reach the TA at Edinburg, Just a few minutes from the drop.

____ Peat-moss unloaded and away to Pasadena for plastic granules; a more relaxing day. Getting into the Love's Truckstop at La Porte to find that Houston is well on the way to recovering from Hurricane Harvey and the Houston Astros baseball team are about to win the World Series. Nothing like a bit local sporting achievement to lift the spirits and get a place buzzing. Loaded and away to Big Cabin as the LA Dodgers force the final game of the "Best of Seven." But by the time I wake up in Watertown on Thursday morning; the Astros are World Champions for the first time in their history. Meanwhile, I have gone from sleeping under a light duvet to huddling under the duvet and two fleece blankets. Back into the Tundra and home inside seven days. Good miles, a couple of days off and back down for some warmth. It's going to be a long Winter.

Kenworth W900 with tanks X 3

Round Bales

Blade Runners

Refugio Shell Station still not repaired after  Hurricane Harvey.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Nice Day To Start Again.





____ There's nothing sure in this World. So let's sink another drink; cos it'll give me time to think. Nothing left to lose and nothing left to prove. I'm all out of hope; one more battle brave could bring about a fall. Hanging out by the State Line; such a human waste. I've been away for so long. When I'm far from home don't call me on the phone to tell me you are all alone.

____ Leaving late; it's dark at the border and Fargo is all I do. Third trip in a row that doesn't go to Texas. Oklahoma and the town called Prague; over thirty years since I was in the Czech representative. Memories of trams, cobbles and the fear of low bridges on a big seven hundred mile day; tail-wind friendly. Overnight in Iola, traversing Tulsa at dawn. Mid-morning drop with a young guy making his debut on the pallet-truck; it's like pushing a bit of string, you don't want to be pushing string, pull it. Then OK City, a Blue Beacon truck wash, early finish and wait for the morning reload.

____ More tail-wind, north-bound and heavy. Gypsum for Saskatoon. Brisket sandwich at Cowboy's and a long punch up to Cubby Bear's at Norfolk. Saturday and the wind changes; Nebraska and the Dakotas into a cold northerly. Start in the dark; finish in the dark; now and for ever. To Schatz Crossroads at Minot; leaving a lesser chunk to the 'Toon. Plaster gone and homeward bound, picking up seeds at Richardson, south of Regina. A load for the 'Peg, dropped in the morning and bobtail back to the yard.