Sunday, August 20, 2017

British Car Night At The Pony Corral On Grant.

____Plenty of old British cars in amazingly good condition plus all the American marques and Japanese tuning machinery on another sunny Sunday evening in Winnipeg.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


10 Day Trip.

____ Out of the yard at midday on Tuesday with one objective in mind: free food. Having a regular run down to Laredo with the peat-moss has let me fine tune the journey to include a free breakfast buffet on Thursday morning. Tuesday night at Vermillion, Wednesday at the Oklahoma City Petro Stopping Centre and down to the Winstar Casino by 8 o'clock in the morning. It's not for everybody; you have to be over 55 and a member of the casino's Players Club but it is a massive free buffet and even coffee and fruit juice are included. I reckon everybody over 55 who lives within twenty miles car-pools to the Winstar for free grub. It's a half mile walk from the truck-park to the restaurant through a maze of a thousand slot machines but I avoid the temptation by leaving my wallet in the cab and just take a couple of dollars to tip the waitress.

____ Unloaded on Friday morning and as usual, there is a pre-loaded trailer that has come over the Rio Grande and is waiting to go to Mississauga, Ontario. It is a struggle to get to Hillsboro, just south of Dallas, as traffic on Interstate 35 is stop and go all the way. But the delivery is not booked-in until Tuesday afternoon, a whole day on the trip longer than necessary. I do need a few bits and pieces from the truck-superstore at the Joplin 44 Petro; so that's the way to go. From Joplin, it is the old Route 66 to St. Louis and then all the way to Chicago. Now Interstates 44 and 55 with every truckstop selling 66 memorabilia.

____ I am in the Flying J at London, Ontario, just after lunch on Monday and have time to checkout the new Blue Beacon Truck Wash that is now on site. The Kenworth always looks good after a wash and I have a whole day to admire it. There is another Ruby Truck Line waiting with the same load as me; he reached London before me and has an appointment for a Wednesday afternoon delivery. I'm sympathetic but glad I'm not him. Eventually, I poodle up to Mississauga and get unloaded at the RDC. Good news is that there is a reload from Sudbury, Ontario, loading at 8 o'clock in the morning and going to Winnipeg.

____ A charity load of clothes for the National Diabetes Trust and the second charity load of clothes in my career. Sudbury figured in the first load too; I was living at Sudbury, Suffolk, England at the time. The load was ex-military nurses' uniforms from a government store in Hertfordshire and they went to Warsaw, Poland. The only difference between the loads was that the clothes in the first load came in brown paper parcels tied-up with string and the second lot were in black bin-bags. Both trailers were packed to the roof, front to back and took all the morning to be loaded by hand.

____ From Sudbury, it was west on Highway 17; slow going to Sault Ste. Marie with more roadworks than ever. From the Soo, traffic thinned and at last I got moving. Early evening on the ups and downs of the Seventeen where the Shield slips under Superior. The roar of the Detroit alternating with the bark of the Jake. The lake, a mirror of calm. Window open, stereo blasting with the Jam's Entertainment; thinkin' bout me holidays. Through Wawa; pushing on to White River while avoiding the night danger; knowing that if I made it, then home would be only one day away and the start of a week off work.

Hillsboro TA; where the heavy-haul rigs have their own over-size parking spots.

The new Blue Beacon Truck Wash in the grounds of the Flying J at London, Ontario.

Bit of a Puzzle : a long-sleeper Peterbilt being used as a wrecker.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Eighty-Three : Quatre-Vingt-Trois.

Ten Day Trip.
____ It seems every trip, just lately, has been at least one day longer than it should have been; so I leave in a frame of mind that makes me think that this will be no different. Away at mid-day on a Tuesday with rolls of paper that need to be in Laredo on Friday morning. First night at the Coffee Cup Travel Plaza, where extensive building work is turning the place into a major truckstop. I don't know how much longer there will be parking space for late-comers, as there always has been. They will be looking for increased business; the newly concreted parking area will have cost a fortune.

____ Day two takes me from Vermillion, South Dakota, to Oklahoma City via the Kansas Turnpike toll road; the fastest route. Since the implementation of electronic logs; I have taken to clock-watching in a big way. Red traffic lights, four-way stops and anything else that stops the wheels turning while the clock is ticking needs to be avoided. Over the years, I have tried all the different routes to Texas. I know all the rat-runs, the back-doubles and all the short cuts; I'm sure that if I used them all on one single trip then the whole truck and myself include could quite easily disappear up my own back-side. But the best way to keep moving is to use the Interstates and keep away from as many big cities as possible.

____ It is not always possible to drive traffic-free toll roads and Thursday sees my fare share of delays through the road-works of Fort Worth and Temple plus the stop-and-go on Interstate 35 caused by the sheer volume of vehicles. But I make it to Encinal, just an hour north of Laredo. The paper is unloaded by noon and I head off to swap the empty trailer for a pre-loaded one that has just come across from Mexico. A Tuesday morning delivery in Calgary, Alberta, with instructions to cross into Canada at Portal, North Dakota. The office reckons that I will not have enough driving time on the electronic logs if I go the usual way via Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. It is quicker to get back to Canada via Portal and then the more lenient driving hours of Canada would let me keep moving without a 36 hour reset. But I have never failed to get out of the US when I have gone the normal way. I would love to prove them wrong but somebody must have run out of hours and now they don't want to have another late delivery. Anyway, it is an extra 200 miles via Portal, so I say nothing.

____ US Highway 83 goes north out of Laredo and is still going at Minot, just 90 miles from Portal. It is a good option to the busy Interstate 35 on a Friday afternoon; avoiding San Antonio and Austin. Long straights and a few small towns before I enter the area known as the Texas Hill Country. There, Highway 83 takes me down memory lane; back to 1983 and the French Department 83. Var, in the South of France. The same terrain, limestone hills and escarpments. Dry stoney soil that is good for grape growing and not much else. The same temperature, hot and still, as the road twists and turns, rises and falls. River beds dried out to a trickle. So many similarities to Var, where in the Summer of 83, I had the time of my life with windsurfing, women and wine.

____ I am on Lac de Ste. Croix at the mouth of the Gorge du Verdon when I sail past a broken-down truck on the shoulder at the brow of a hill. Bugger! Was that a Ruby Truck Line motor? It is five miles before I can safely turn round and go back. They have been sitting there for two hours with a brake problem. It might be an easy fix but they assure me that help will soon be there. Great; I didn't fancy scrabbling around under trailer in the dust and one hundred degree heat. I check they have food, water and a phone signal before throwing in another u-turn and cracking-on for a night at the Conoco Four Corners, just south of Ballinger.

____ After singing the praises of fast-moving interstates, I continue to take Highway 83 for the next two and a half days. Up out of Texas, after the Hill Country gives way to the cotton fields. Through the pan-handle of Oklahoma, into Kansas where feed-lots beside the 83 fatten the cattle before nearly all of it goes to National Beef Packing Company at Liberal. A night at Mittens Truckstop at Oakley where the night time temperature falls enough for me to sleep without the engine running and the a/c blowing. Then to Bismarck, before getting back into Canada with six hours of driving time to spare; enough to get to Redcliff on Monday night and just leave a couple of hours in the morning.

____ A trailer switch at a Calgary RDC and I'm off to Edmonton with an empty; Loading in the afternoon with paper for Laredo. The office instructs me to take it back to Steinbach; I won't argue with that either. Rolling-over the driving hours, I keep below the seventy hours in seven days and roll back into the yard at lunch-time on Thursday. At last, good miles and a trip that didn't have any delays.
Green dinosaur.

Kenworth Icon 900, Limited Edition.

Concrete beam heading for the Regina By-pass.

The broken-down Ruby Truck Line Kenworth T800.

Grain-Bin delivery on special made-to-measure trailers.

70 hours in 7 days and about the maximum amount I could have expected to earn. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Eleven Days - 9402 kilometres.
____ Four days off as I move house from Mitchell to Winnipeg. Only an hours drive but it felt like I had walked more miles carrying cardboard boxes than I had driven. I could never be a removals man; not for all the tea in broken china. I am going back to work for a rest; leaving on a Friday afternoon for a Monday morning delivery in Laredo, Texas. To Watertown, then to Tonkawa and finally to Pearsall, just south of San Antonio. Just the minimum 10 hour breaks between shifts and I roll up to the customs warehouse with my bonded load of peat-moss with just an hour to spare.

____ Unloaded in a couple of hours and a couple of hours later, I am northbound on Interstate 35 with a pre-loaded trailer destined for Quebec City; 2400 miles to the north-east. I gave  an ETA of 12 noon on Friday and maxxed-out the driving hours for the next three days; aiming to cross the border at the Port Huron/Sarnia Bluewater bridge. Late on Wednesday afternoon, the office messages that they have booked the delivery to be unloaded on Monday morning. I now have four days to cover the final six hundred miles. Disappointing to have so much wasted time on yet another trip.

____ A log hours reset of 36 hours at Lancaster is spent wandering down to the St Laurence River and up to the bar at the other end of town. On Sunday. I move on into Quebec Province; parking at Levis on south bank of the St Laurence. I'm back in the same little truckstop on Monday morning after tipping and being told to wait for reload instructions. Eventually, I head back into Ontario; going to Oshawa, 400 miles empty. Loaded for Winnipeg, serviettes, paper towels and toilet rolls; a light load. Up to Cochrane before a long day gets me to Dryden, just three and a half hours from home. Duly completed on the Thursday morning.
Eight axle Peterbilt Heavy-Haul Rig.

Old Ford "Big Lips" Cabover.

Smart Seminole Paint on Kenworth W900.

Kenworth W900 gets plenty of TLC.

Love's Travel Stop Location Book. Fifty new truckstops is one almighty expansion for one year. They do seem to be popping-up all over the place and with a lot more parking spots than their older sites.

Monday, July 3, 2017

One Hundred And Fifty Years Old.

5038 Kilometres - 7 Days

____ Just a few months ago, I was heading South, hoping to get the warm rays of the sun on my back as I escaped from a frozen Manitoba. Now at the end of June, I am dreading the triple digit Fahrenheit temperatures of Texas. My tactic for avoiding a sweltering truck-cab, is to run late into the night; having a a/c chilled cab ready for bed in slightly cooler conditions. There is the problem of finding somewhere to park at that time. Most of the big chain truckstops would be full but having a regular route, I have found the places where a late-comer can usually find a spot.

____ I am leaving the yard at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, so it's a good job that my first night's stop at Watertown is one such truckstop. Iola, Kansas, the second night-out is also a good bet for a spot at any-time. Third night-out is at Lucky J's, just up the road from the Madisonville mushroom farm. Peat-moss delivered and my chances of completing an idle-free trip go down the pan when the office has me reloading at Pasadena on Friday; 13.00 hours. Twenty-seven hours of waiting with the engine running at the Houston Flying J. I refuse to suffer any discomfort while at work; the mercury is reading over 100 degree, too hot and humid to go walkabout. I stay in the sleeper and let the a/c do it's stuff.

____ Eventually loaded and out into the Friday afternoon getaway; swollen by the up-coming Fourth of  July Holiday.Slow going on Interstate 45; but at least the Dallas rush-hour has subsided by the time I go through. Into Oklahoma, just before night-fall and just before the driving hours run out. Into the dust bowl parking of the Chocktaw Travel Plaza at Calera, just before a thunderstorm dampens things down, takes the heat out of the air and let's me get a good night's rest.

____ Saturday is July 1st, the 150th Canada Day, and I would have been back home enjoying beer and fireworks if the office had got it's act together. Instead, it is a full day's driving to Sioux City; followed by another long day back to the yard. Interstate 29 with the cruise control clicked up to 109kph; trusting the trailer tyres will hold out with a full load of plastic granules and another red-hot day warming them up. Into to a strong headwind and the fuel consumption sky-rockets but after all that wasted time, someone has to pay for my bad mood.

A truck from simpler times.

Well loaded pick-up with just the one strap on the back.

Back home just in time for Cruise Night at the Pony Corral on Grant.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Summer: Not For The First Time.

It was a hot afternoon, 
The last day of June
And the Sun was a demon.
One-ten in the shade,
 The clouds were afraid.
I was really steaming.
Been backed on the bay,
For most of the day
 With that red light still blinking.
Thought I'd be gone,
Never been here so long.
So much for thinking
I'd be well on my way
And Canada Day
Would be fireworks and drinking.

Inspired by Bobby Goldsboro.

See the tree, how big it's grown,
It was just a twig when I left home.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Longest Of Days.

Ten Day Trip.
____ Accidents caused by texting now out-number accidents caused by drink-driving by 4 to 3. Trucking companies all have a no-alcohol policy and do random drugs and alcohol testing but they still send texts to drivers when they know they are driving. It is pretty much the same as the company buying a driver "One for the road" when they know he has to drive home from the bar. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for buying someone their last drink before an accident or for sending the text before they crashed; but it takes two to tango.

____ A drinking culture at a transport company can cause problems but so can a low alcohol threshold brought on by zero-tolerance of drivers having a beer of an evening. Alcohol has always been part of my life. I was brought-up in a pub where my brother and I shared a bottle of Mackeson stout every night before bed-time while still at primary school. I lived in Bavaria where "Beer is Food" and many work-places have vending machines selling alcohol. In France. I have spent many lunch-times, dining in Les Routiers with fine food accompanied by a glass of vin rouge. To my mind, there is nothing better than knocking the froth off a cold one at the end of a hot day behind the wheel.

____ I also know that excess can cause cancellation; the free-pour Cuba-Libre of Spain and the Ef-Es Controls of Turkey. But a couple of Bud-Lights with a chopped brisket sandwich at the Cowboy Travel Plaza in rural Oklahoma is what long distance truck-driving is all about. The second night-out on a trip to San Antonio with another load of peat-moss. Delivered on a Friday morning before running empty to switch trailers in Laredo. A bonded-load for Bolton, Ontario, a familiar job but without a Louisiana detour. Crossing over into Canada by way of the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia on the seventh day of the trip.

____ About the worst thing that can happen to a driver who has just done a long trip into the US? To be asked to go "South" again without a log-hours reset. But this is what the office expects me to do after I am unloaded. There is a load  for Winnipeg waiting at Clawson, a northern suburb of Detroit; it has to wait another day before I can legally go and get it. When loaded, I have 5 hours 30 minutes to do the 528 kilometres to the Canadian border at Sault Ste.Marie. A thrash north-bound on Interstate 75, crossing with 2 minutes to spare; slowed only by the 20 mph limit on the Mackinac toll bridge. Once through customs, the more liberal driving hours of Canada allow me to get to White River in a sixteen hour spread-over; all in day-light on the longest day of the year. But I am within a days drive of Steinbach and a city-driver will deliver it on Friday morning.

Stormy night in South Dakota

Tornado warnings from the cell-phone.

Made-to-measure tarp on oversize load.

Another day, another unloading bay.

Useful hours information on tablet.

The locks at Sault Ste.Marie.

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.