Monday, June 12, 2017

Burnaby Blitz.

Six Day Trip to the West Coast.

____ West bound with a light load of only twelve tonnes; so no need to check the weights at the scale at the end of the road, like I would with a load of Texas-bound peat-moss. Yet it is open for business and I have to roll-over any-way. A reminder that it is MOT Inspection Blitz Week; the first week in June, an annual event that sees most government scale-houses open all day, all week. My fear is that an eighteen year-old truck may be an inspection magnet, but I get a green-light at every out bound weighing. Bizarrely, all the scales were closed on the return leg of the journey.

____ The load has come up from Waller in Texas and going to Burnaby, BC, via Steinbach; which is an awful long way round. I can only assume that the driver had an emergency situation at home and that the company brought him straight back to the yard.There is no other way that it is logical logistics. But the mileage for me is roughly the same as a trip to Texas; just a mountain range to drive over instead of an all down-hill south-bound cruise.

____ First night-out is at Swift Current, after a long sunset. Second night at Golden; leaving just a short day into the Greater Vancouver Area. The regular parking spot for a night at the Delta Petro-Pass before leaving early to get across town to the Burnaby delivery on Friday morning. While unloading; news comes through that the Trans-Canada Highway is closed between Revelstoke and Sicamous. Heavy rain has caused landslides and wash-outs; snow-melt has also swollen the rivers. The reload is from Kelowna and the office suggests a return route via Jasper and Edmonton.

____ Fruit juice from Kelowna and it is heavy; right up to the maximum Canadian weights. 87,000 lbs and across the Rockies by the long way home. On the way back to Kamloops; the road is closed by a fatal accident at Falkland. Detour is by a dirt road towards the town of Chase, totally in the wrong direction, loose surface, clouds of dust and impatient traffic trying to make up for lost time. A fourteen hour day for three hundred miles before reaching Kamloops for the night.

____ Two big days are needed to get the load back to Winnipeg. It starts with a rain-soaked run alongside a raging North Thompson River; past a mist shrouded Mount Robson and through a RV saturated National Park at Jasper. Cloudy skies until Edmonton and onto North Battleford for end of an eleven hundred kilometre day. I reckoned on an eight hour break; but sleep took hold and stretched it to over ten. Thanks to the light-nights of June; I was still able to finish before dark. Dropping the trailer in Winnipeg and bob-tailing back to the yard.

Kenworth W900 in British Columbia.

Manitoba dirt roads are straight and flat: BC dirt roads are winding and undulating.

Fresh snowfall on high ground in the Jasper National Park.

Cedar log delivery at a Delta sawmill.

We've had bigger than that in here, driver.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Louisiana Purchase.

An Idea Of Distance.
Ten Day Trip.

____ The first trip using the e-log tablet while still doing paper logs. A lot more office-type work; so I take a passenger with a good grasp of Information Technology and give her the  button pressing job with strict instructions not to forget the all-important work status changes. Surprisingly, the difference between the two sets of figures is never more than a quarter of an hour during the whole ten day trip. A good example of how Ruby Truck Line is an employer who gives plenty of time for their work. The log-book brinkmanship  at Flying Eagle would never have aligned the numbers. But with my present employer I am not taking home the regular bi-weekly pay-cheques of over $2000 and probably won't see such pay-packets in the foreseeable future. Not that I ever ran bent or anything like that.

____ There are three types of driver that falsify their logs. "Innocent mistake" is the one who doesn't know they haave done anything wrong until it is pointed out to them. It may be ignorance of the law, bad mathematics or a lapse of concentration but they gain nothing from it. "Death Wish" is another violator. This driver does not care about the rules and regulations, they just do what they want and will often not even bother to start a daily log-sheet. Disenchanted with the job, problems at home, possible drink and drug addiction; this driver might well have done a good job in the past but now the loss of their licence would be a happy release. The third group and by far the biggest group is the "Percentage Driver." The thinking driver who weighs up the risks of detection against the gains in time and money. The zero% chance of getting caught when unloading-before-logging-on when parked at a customer over-night versus the nailed on certainty of getting done for over-weight at a scale which boasts that they will still be open for the fortnight after hell freezes over. This a driver who will often start to manage his log-book days before when he sees a hiccup on the horizon; but he will be quite liberal with his timings when he has hours to spare. This driver knows the law and just how far he can bend it. What is their chance of getting caught, after all their careful consideration, by an un-expected, out-of-the-blue log-book check when they are bang-to-rights, up-a-creek-without-a-paddle running dodgy? Once in a million miles or every eight years or so. Mr. Percentage will notice a drop in pay with e-logs and the company while notice a drop in their productivity.

____ A bonded load of peat-moss for the Home Depots of Mexico; trouble-free driving with nights-out at Norfolk, Nebraska, Thackerville, Oklahoma, and Encinal, Texas, before unloading at Laredo and finding that a pallet had toppled over at the front of the trailer. Mushroom farms and plant nurseries are never worried about split bags or wonky pallets but when the goods are for resale it's different. Luckily it can be re-built and re-wrapped before I get a clean signature on the bill of lading. Then it is off across Laredo for another bonded trailer; destination Bolton, Ontario.

____ Many people collect souvenirs from each and every state that they visit; for some it is fridge-magnets, for my passenger it is shot glasses. As a token of my appreciation for all her hard work with the e-logs; I swing by Louisiana and Arkansas to add to her collection With a cargo of just 13,000 lbs and a tail-wind; a little bit of non-Interstate driving doesn't add any time or cost to the trip and I enjoy driving new roads. The Indianapolis 500 is underway as we approach; fearing traffic congestion, I stay on Interstate 57 all the way to Interstate 80, south of Chicago. A night at a quiet Sawyer TA as American companies get their drivers home for the Memorial Weekend holiday; before crossing the Bluewater Bridge and back into Canada at Sarnia.

____ By the time I have unloaded in Bolton; the mileage for the 66 hours work in seven days is 3663 miles. As good as it gets. The reload is from Oshawa at 3 o'clock Wednesday afternoon. A wasted day at the Esso Truckstop on Dixie in Mississauga; playing crib with the passenger as thunder-showers come and go. Before loading, there is time for a stroll along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Birds singing in the sunshine and if you look out across the water you have your back to the General Motors car plant; but can still hear the traffic roar from Highway 401.

____ A cross-country route avoids the GTA rush-hour as we leave with the load for Regina. To New Liskeard as a late setting sun finally out-runs the west-bound truck. The Eleven, all the next day to Nipigon; where a voice from the top bunk wakes me in the morning with "Can you turn the heater on, please." Ground frost as the  temperature has come down faster than a fat kid on a see-saw. It was 38 degrees in Laredo, Mississauga had a high of 30 and the swings and roundabouts of Canadian weather have Steinbach at 33 degrees centigrade by the time the truck is back in the yard. Somebody else can take the toilet rolls to Regina.
Peat-moss pallet needed re-building. [Always photograph any possible damage]

The passenger found this thing washed up on the shore of  Lake Ontario.

Un-exploded bomb? No. Naval flare.

British registered 2011 Daf Horsebox on Highway 11. West of Kapuskasing. Saw it again in Nipigon the next morning.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Long Distance Hidalgo.

10 Day Trip.
____ Hidalgo, the movie; a mustang and long-distance rider go to the Middle-East for a 3000 mile horse race in the 1890's. An enjoyable film that had me wondering about the horse's name: Hidalgo. It is Spanish for "Nobility." There is a Hidalgo state in Mexico and the town on the Rio Grande in Texas. My route, due South from the border at Pembina is 1700 miles to Hidalgo; the longest North/South run in the US.

____ The first time for a while that I'm south of the border before noon, needing three days to get the peat-moss to it's destination. To Cubby Bear's in Norfolk, then the Winstar at Thackerville and third night-out at the Flying'J at Edinburg, on the edge of the urban sprawl that covers both banks of the Rio Grande where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Unloaded at a trans-ship warehouse before heading up to Waller for a pre-loaded trailer. Booked in to unload at Edmonton, Alberta, on the following Wednesday; so over four days to cover 3500 kilometres.  Familiar roads north for two days; then a cross-country, two-lane highway route across Nebraska and the Dakotas. Heading for a border-crossing at North Portal on roads I haven't run in years.

____ Virtually no big rigs from the major fleets, just a few farm trucks moving grain and a whole stream of bull-racks, hammer-down with their King of the Road attitude. Then a cutting crew; two matching Peterbilts, combines on low-loaders with their grain trailers tacked on the back. Another Pete with a huge tractor and trailer on a double-drop, doubled-up with the headers on a step-deck. Bringing up the rear; a service truck towing a big travel-trailer. South-bound to Texas where the fields of barley are already turning into fields of gold. In Saskatchewan, the air-seeders are still sowing; desperately trying to avoid the wet patches.

____ Delivered on time at Edmonton and across town for the re-load; getting away just after lunch. Wood-chips for a firm of hog-haulers at La Broquerie, just a few miles from Steinbach. I take it back to the yard; finishing late on Day 10. But just in time to have a word with the guys in the workshop; an intermittent speedometer fault. Sometimes it's fine, then it goes hay-wire, then back to normal. I haven't a clue what's wrong and I don't think they know either.

Dust Devil in South Dakota.

Twenty axles of a side-dump double.

Fort Randall Dam across the Missouri River

Open-air horse trailer with the nags saddled-up and ready.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Kiss Of Death : Madisonville.

Seven Day Trip.

____ Six months at Ruby Truck Line and a trip with plenty of time to reflect on the job. Low pay and old equipment with weak links in the chain. I like the outward leg of the trips to Texas and the Mexican border; the big triangles to British Columbia or Ontario also satisfies. But the company struggles to complete the loop. Trips are taking too long and with the advent of e-logs it will only get worse. This trip to Madisonville would have been five days at Flying Eagle. For the exact same cents-per-mile from six years ago; now it takes seven days. The same peat-moss to the Monterrey Mushroom farm that Flying Eagle delivered every Tuesday and Thursday. After the demise of Flying Eagle; Schroeder Freight took on the work, now they too are no-more. It is a poor paying load and most Manitoba hauliers just take the work to get their trucks south of the border, where they have good paying freight waiting to come back to Canada. Nobody makes money taking dirt to Texas.

____ First night-out at Watertown, followed by Chanute, then just north of Madisonville before unloading in the morning where the same petite Hispanic lady signs for the load without ever checking; same as she ever did. The re-load is from Pasadena, the regular plastic granule pick-up, but not until Friday morning. A whole day wasted and expensive too; if you are not earning then you are spending. A visit to Northern Tool and Equipment yields some much needed plumbing stuff for the Mack motor-home at the cost of two days' pay. Frustration is compounded when the load is not ready; it is 2 o'clock before I am north-bound amongst heavy weekend getaway traffic on Interstate 45.

____ Away from Thackerville, on the Texas/Oklahoma border with two full days driving to get home. Saturday's highlight was a rendezvous with Neil Ramsden, a fellow Ruby Truck Line driver, at the Emporia Travel Plaza on the Kansas Turnpike. Always nice to meet a mate on the road; we eat McFlurries, discuss Sunderland's relegation, Ipswich's failure to reach the play-offs; then he heads off to Hidalgo and I push on to Sioux City, Iowa. There is no Sunday highlight; just seven hours of 105 kph cruise-control on Interstate 29 with it's new batch of road-works. Back in the yard by five.

Farmer's Oil Kenworth W900

Line of Six Cabover Peterbilts at Wilkins, Tonkawa, Oklahoma.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Texas Tag For Tyler

10 Day Trip
____ It's a bad state of affairs when he truck-driver is subjected to more scrutiny and control than a kiddy-fiddler on parole. Rules and regulations are about to be more strictly enforced when electronic logbooks become law in December 2017. Although I drive a truck built before the year 2000 which is exempt from the new mandate; Ruby Truck Line has decided everyone will go onto e-logs. So I'm in the office with two other drivers for an early afternoon training session. A badly presented flat-screen slide-show that went in one ear and out the other. Two of us kept quiet but the other driver wouldn't shut-up. An endless stream of irrelevant, un-interesting stories that doubled the meeting time. I left without my log-in password; so haven't done anything with the new box of tricks. I suppose I'll muddle through when the time comes.

____ Away later than expected, down to Watertown and then Big Cabin; heading for Troup, an old regular from the Flying Eagle days. Swinging by the Soulman Bar-B-Q at Van and getting a chance to to use the Tyler by-pass for the first time with my Texas Tag toll paying transponder. Avoiding the annoying traffic light saturated town before parking at the plant nursery with the peat-moss for the first time in nearly five years.. Shorty: the same fork-lift driver did the unloading before I set-off for Laredo. Over 400 kilometres and seven hours driving before swapping trailers. A load for Ontario; crossing at Sarnia. US Highway 59 to Houston and into Arkansas at Texarkana; proudly proclaiming that it is the future Interstate 69 corridor. The same Interstate 69 that takes me north out of Indianapolis and all the way to the Canadian border.

____ Unloaded at an industrial estate at Bolton, just north of Mississauga, on Tuesday morning before running down to Hamilton for a reload which will always be known as the "Mud-flap Disaster Load." I've ripped-off a few mud-flaps over the years; but never three in one single manoeuvre. A shallow looking muddy puddle had hidden depths and reversing through it ruined my day. I thought I might get a chance to re-attach them but it never stopped raining, all the way to North Bay.

____ Every year has it's "Last Snows of Spring" and I caught the 2017 version on Highway 11 through the Canadian Shield. It started with freezing rain, then ice pellets, a bit of sleet and finally, a full-blooded snow-storm. Everything that can slip down the back of your neck and make your life cold, wet and miserable. Drive it like a Yorkie Bar, one chunk at a time. Cochrane for breakfast, Kapuskasing for a shower, Hearst for coffee before tackling the barren two hundred kilometres to Longlac. Then another 200 kay to Nipigon. Running on hard-packed snow and giving full respect to the swooping curves at the Pijitawabik Palisades.

____ The only positives from a long day are the heavy load, which gives excellent traction, and the long day-light hours. The busy two-lane highway, snow-covered and at night would have been treacherous. A cold night at Nipigon where  I put the winter-front on the Kenworth's grill, hopefully for the last time. For the last six months, it has been on and off more times than a pair of whore's drawers. Snow for most of the way back to Manitoba as I take the trailer back to the yard and leave the mud-flaps with the guys in the workshop.

The e-log and messaging tablet with handy hook for a rubbish bag.

Dickey's is good, but given a choice, I would go to Soulman's every time.

A snowy Highway 11 beside Lake Helen in Northern Ontario.

Ruby Truck Line Number 4

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Avenue of the Saints

Sixteen Day Trip
____ There is something about an old truck driver that becomes a fork-lift driver. Things are effortless whenever I have had the good fortune to have one of these guys load my trailer. In and out of the Vassar peat-moss packing plant before my allotted appointment time. Into Minnesota at Roseau and down to Bemidji where I cross the Mississippi River for the first time. I will be running along-side America's major waterway right to the delivery address at Modeste in Louisiana. From St. Paul to St. Louis; along the Avenue of the Saints and then Interstate 55 to where the Saints Go Marching In: New Orleans.

____ Baton Rouge on a Friday morning, just a few miles from the plant nursery beside the Big River. Within a mile of the truckstop; I get caught on a 25 ton limit bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. I tell the police officer that I didn't see the signs until it was too late. Luckily for me, the signs only went up overnight as the bridge had been inspected and restricted just that week; first day was a warning day and no tickets were being issued. Half an hour later, I was stuck in the mud while trying to turn round at the nursery. Four inches of rain had fell in the previous 48 hours. Snow-chains for the first time in 2017 and first time in Louisiana. These things happen in threes; bang. I slip on the muddy step of the truck and gash my knee. The gripping tread on the truck steps has worn smooth after eighteen years of climbing in and out.

____ Out of Louisiana, westbound on Interstate 10, through rice fields and swamps with Popeyes Chicken at every other exit. To Waller, Texas, for a trailer change. Back to Canada with deliveries at Wetaskiwin in Alberta and Vancouver city-centre. North from the new green spring to the brown grasslands, still thawing from the Winter. Early-morning snow at Casper but other-wise easy-going with just 12,000 lbs of cargo. To the first drop by Tuesday afternoon. Then the bad news.

____ Vancouver cannot take delivery until Monday morning. No chance of dropping off the goods anywhere else; so a slow trip over the Rockies after the first eight days of the trip yielded 6400 kilometres. A weekend at Delta, which has a Tim Hortons, the Petro-Pass Fuel card-lock and the Tidewaters pub. Sunday is a day of public transport: bus, tram and Skytrain. I go into town to check-out the delivery address; a church, a few blocks from Stanley Park in a high-class residential area with a Starbucks on every corner. My first "Church" delivery in over forty years of transport industry involvement.

____ But the old Presbyterian church has gone and in it's place a modern complex is being erected. Underground parking, church and community hall on the ground floor, affordable apartments above and rising high into the city skyline. Original thinking for an over-crowded, high-priced metropolis but not much thought given to the delivery of building products. Best plan is to get into the city at daybreak, jack-knife into the back-alley beside the church and hope no truck wants to deliver to the nearby strip-mall. Ten pallets later and back to Delta for the reload. Out of town by noon, loaded for Winnipeg and time to make up for the lost time.

Ruby Truck Line 94 parked by the levy in front of the plant nursery at Modeste, Louisiana.

New style church for the community in Vancouver.

Heavy-haul Western Star.

Flying the flag with a big sleeper Peterbilt.

Red cedar floating beside a sawmill at Delta BC.

View from the Alex Fraser Bridge, Delta, BC.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Liverpool Texas

Six Days On The Road.
____ Break-up time of year, when ice on the river starts to flow downstream. The warmth in the sun melts the snow and the frozen ground turns to mud. The Ruby Truck Line yard is about 50/fifty; liquid mire and sheet-ice covered by a film of water. About the same state as the peat moss packers at Vassar; where I go load for Texas. It takes five hours to get 17 sendable pallets out of the frozen puddles of snow-melt that surround every stack of peat moss. Low-quality one-way pallets break-up as soon as the forklift tries to lift them leaving the bottom part frozen in the ice. Then there is a two hour wait for customs clearance before crossing the nearby Roseau border and getting down to Fargo for the night. Eleven hours to get to a truckstop that would be just four hours away if the trailer had been pre-loaded.

____ Two more eleven hour days needed to get to Liverpool, Texas, for a Thursday morning delivery. After a night at Iola in Kansas; I phone the plant nursery to tell them of my arrival and to ask about truck parking availability in Liverpool. "Not if you want any diesel left in the morning," is the answer I half-expect but the manager says I am welcome to park on-site among the glass-houses. An excellent offer as the town is south of Houston and in a very rural area close to the Gulf Coast. A local scouser comes out from his mobile home when I arrive. He lives and works on the property like so many others in the horticulture industry. "Manana," he sighs. Which is Liverpudlian for tomorrow.

____ After unloading; the re-load instructions send me twenty-two miles to Pasadena for a consignment of plastic granules; destined for Winnipeg. En-route, I find myself on the NASA bypass; skirting round the vast space centre. I find it puzzling that the rockets launch from Cape Canaveral and the command centre is a Houston; a thousand miles away. A quick load and up to Thackerville for night-out number four. Number 5 at Cubby Bear's at Norfolk, Nebraska, then home. Only a six day trip but a good mileage per day and in some ways a better earner than some of the longer trips that need careful management of logbook hours.

Lonestar Class 8 Motorhome.

Rescue Helicopter at accident on Interstate 35 in Oklahoma.

North-bound Geese.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chalk and Cheese.

Eleven Day Trip.
____ The problem with the Eaton-Fuller gearbox on Ruby Truck Line #94 was terminal. It needed a re-manufactured transmission and would be off the road for a week. I was quite looking forward to a rest but the office came up with the offer of a 2015 Kenworth T680 and a load of paper to Laredo. Moving my stuff from #94 to #116 in a blizzard was no fun; I took the bare minimum, knowing I would forget something. Which turned out to be the charger for my Bluetooth hands-free headset.

____ The two Kenworths could not have been more different, in fact the only thing they had in common was the same constant-mesh 13 speed gearbox. If one word describes the W900, it is "Raw." Loud, draughty, harsh and no consideration to any aero-dynamics, emission control or speed limitation. "Chamfered" is the word for the T680; every angle designed to cut through the air with maximum efficiency. No sun-visor but it does have a DEF tank and all the latest technology to cut emissions; the first North American truck that I have driven with no stack up the back.

____ The low-line exhaust comes from a Paccar diesel engine that had it's design roots in Holland at the DAF Eindhoven factory. The interior is very similar to the big roomy Volvo cab; full width, full height and a pleasing lack of squeaks and creaks among the multitude of grey plastic storage cabinets and drawers. I feel that the build quality of a vehicle can be determined by a good slam of the drivers door. The Kenworth's closed with a smooth, precise and impressive clunk that reminded me of something German from the 1970s. I instantly thought I was going to like the smoothness and the  quiet of the T680, but would have preferred the rock-solid W900 as I left the yard in near white-out conditions with the wind madly rocking the softly sprung cab.

____ Just 16 months old with 340,000 kilometres on the clock; but the 425 bhp Paccar engine found it hard work with a load of paper that was so heavy that I needed to run with half-empty fuel tanks. Three days down to Laredo, delivering to a warehouse in the old industrial area; near the cotton transfer sheds, not far from Downtown and a stones throw from the Rio Grande. The guy who unloaded me came from Mexico, everyday crossing the river and going through US Customs before catching a bus to his workplace. He didn't arrive until 10.30; saying the lines were long, but he got stuck-in and had the reels off the trailer in twenty minutes.

____ A pre-loaded trailer was waiting at the newer industrial sector at Junction 13; a straight swap, furniture for Calgary. Just mental Friday traffic on Interstate 35 all the way to Salado; where I lost interest in the fight. The Tuesday afternoon delivery appointment gave me plenty of time. An Amarillo Saturday night with Sunday evening at Casper, Wyoming. Forty-seven states will look at the IFTA sticker on the side of a truck and know that the company has paid their fuel-tax bills. But Wyoming is the only one that wants to look at the IFTA permit in very truck's licence book. Every heavy vehicle has to come off the highway and pull into a Wyoming Port of Entry when ever they enter or leave the state. The operatives work 24/7 in checking paperwork that no-one else is interested in. They might think they are doing valuable  work but the waste of time and fuel caused be Wyoming Highway Patrol is astronomical when the total of all the trucks in one year is added together.

____ Bitter and twisted? You bet. Ruby Truck Line #116 has 2017 IFTA stickers but no valid permit in the licence book. Not the sort of thing that is high on your check-list when you are changing trucks in seriously sub-zero temperatures. Fifteen dollars for a 96 hour temporary permit and an hours wait behind the over-size load guys while they fork out for their trips. Out of Wyoming and it's pronghorns, into Montana where the herds of Black Angus are calving a-plenty. No barn, no cowboy, no veterinarian; just wide-open snow-swept grassland. A tough start to a tough life that yields tender beef.

 ____ Calgary is not a quick tip, as the sight of a hand-ball load is off-putting to the RDC operatives. But it is rapid when compared to the reload at Acheson, near Edmonton. Seven hours waiting, while wood-chips are bagged and palletised. An extra day on the trip, which finishes with a delivery at Niverville and the weather is not much different from when I left; snow flurries and ice on all untreated surfaces. Number 94 is out of the workshop and waiting for my next trip; so goodbye to #116 which never showed a check-engine light the whole time I had it.

Ruby Truck Line #116 : 2015 Kenworth T680

Lining up in the rain at the inland border patrol check-point north of Laredo, Texas.

Big sleeper trucks x 2

Coal train : I like trains.

Big Sky Country Montana

Monday, March 6, 2017

Four Bridges And a Tornado.

10 Day Trip.
____ There are no weekends for long-haul truck-drivers; just a couple of days-off at the end of each trip. Leaving home on a Friday is normal and usually means good miles before a Monday morning delivery. A trailer will be loaded and ready for departure from Winnipeg at 3 o'clock. I am certain that the shipping department finishes at three and will time their day so that my trailer is the last bit of work they do before going home to put feet-up for a couple of days. I join the workforce in a battle to get out of the factory gate at knocking-off time with none of them giving a second thought to the truck-load of their product that will be at the Mexican border before they clock-on again.

____ Watertown is the first night-out; followed by a long day in the saddle. On to the Cowboy Travel Plaza, situated to the east of Interstate 35 in rural Oklahoma. The prospect of a brisket sandwich has kept me going throughout the thousand kay day. The Smokey Pokey restaurant used to be buzzing at the travel plaza but with the down-turn in gas and oil exploration, the truck-park is now rarely full. Just a dozen enjoying the offerings of a great pit barbeque; drivers out-numbered by locals.

____ After a big day, it is disappointing to get up and find you have to do it all again. Another thousand kilometres get me through Fort Worth and down the busy-busy Interstate 35. Waco, Temple, Austin and San Antonio to mile-marker 39 and the small town of Encinal. It is not worth going into Laredo as my destination is a customs bonded compound near the Colombia Solidarity Bridge; twenty-four miles upstream over the Rio Grande. My trailer will be taken into Mexico by a local haulier; there is a loaded Ruby box-van waiting for collection just a couple of miles away in another secure drop-yard.

____ Destination Brampton, Ontario, delivery Thursday pm. A diagonal route with many options, but first night at Hillsboro, just south of Dallas, and a time to plan. Most of the second shift on Interstate 40; across Arkansas under hot, humid and cloudy skies with the threat of thunderstorms. The rain starts as I finish; parked a couple of miles east of the Mississippi River at the small town of Hayti in the Road Ranger Truckstop.

____ The alarm on my I-phone sounded at 04.15; which was puzzling, as I had set it for 06.00. But it was a tornado warning alarm and within thirty seconds; the cab was rocking, rain was pelting down and somebody's shed roof came flying out of no-where at 32 feet per second per second and landed on the hood of the truck with an almighty bang. The wind died away as quickly as it came but torrential rainfall continued for over an hour. When I did venture out of the cab; the parking lot was flooded with a mass of floating debris and dawn was breaking.

____ The tornado hadn't touched down in the truckstop but it was a near-miss. Fall-out from the twister was every where. Most trucks suffered dings and dents with one from the Melton flat-deck operation being hit the hardest. The local fire department was busy else where so no more damage was caused when the drivers rallied round and lifted all the mangled steel and splintered timber off of the trucks. I thought I was lucky to get a way with just some scrapes on the hood. I was out of there by 8 o'clock and up to Napoleon, Ohio, for quiet night after a strong tailwind helped me across Illinois and Indiana.

____ Across the toll-free Ambassador Bridge at Detroit and up to Brampton for a trailer switch. Loaded trailer exchanged for an empty one inside 30 minutes before heading back down Highway 401 to London. The next load is from Bay City, Michigan, booked in for Friday morning and going to Winnipeg. Only problem: running back into the US after doing a week's work with out a log-hours reset. Canada's regulations give an average of an extra 10 hours driving time over the US. But I have just enough time to get loaded and back into Canada, via the International Bridge at Sault Ste Marie; any other route would have me sitting-about.

____ This route does have it's disadvantages, slightly longer, three expensive toll bridges [ Blue Water, Mackinac and the Soo ] plus the undulating terrain of the Canadian Shield. But all the loads of this trip have been light weight [ 22,000 lbs, 25,000 lbs and 18,000 lbs]; the card board packaging doesn't slow the Detroit and it's five hundred horses. Trouble only arrives at the very end of the trip when changing into top gear ratio produces a horrendous grinding noise. A quick inspection reveals nothing wrong so I assume that it is an internal problem. Just fourth and eighth gears are affected; I finish the job running along at 45 mph with a high revving motor. Bobtailing back to Steinbach after dropping the trailer in Winnipeg; doing about the same speed as all the other Sunday drivers.

Mack 11 axle rig at TA Hillsboro, Tx.

Trucking for a Cure Kenworth W900, London, Ontario.

Cowboy Travel Plaza just off Interstate 35 in Oklahoma.

Ambassador Bridge links the cities of Detroit and Windsor.

Four Bridges over Great Lakes waterways. One free and three tolled.

Blown-over rig near Hayti, Missouri.

Tornado damage at Hayti, Missouri.

Ruby Truck Line #94 with a shed draped over the hood.

Colombia Solidarity Bridge over the Rio Grande, north of Laredo