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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Big Texan : 17 Days - 12585 kilometres.

Load 1 and Load 2.
Load 3 and Load 4.
____ A bitterly cold Super-Bowl Sunday with snow flurries and blowing snow making things difficult on the cross country haul to Saskatoon. Arriving at the Husky Truckstop with just enough time to catch the final quarter and overtime on the flat-screen in the drivers lounge before running the Detroit Diesel all night. Saskatchewan at it's coldest as I deliver the stuff from the last trip and head to North Battleford for the red lentil reload. I once lived with a health food/vegetarian woman and lentils made an all too often appearance on the dinner table. It wasn't the main reason that we split-up; but it was in the top ten. I like these lentils, they come with good miles; delivery is in the warmth of Texas.

____ Heavy snow came to southern Saskatchewan forcing an early finish for a Moose Jaw Monday night. Followed by a full day that got no further than Fargo. Things did improve from there-on and the load for Hutchins, south-east of Dallas, was delivered on time. Onto Load 3; a trailer exchange at Waller with two drops, Edmonton and Burnaby in that order. The trip was going to be a long one; time to decide if was going to take a log-hours reset on the road or if I could keep the driving down to 8 hours a day and roll-over the 70 hours in eight days. Complicated mathamatics when appointment times, the weather conditions and driver preferences are all factored into the equation. I settle a plan that keeps me moving every day at the magic average of eight and three-quarter hours. [ 8 x 8 3/4 = 70 ] Boring.

____ There is no need to ask; you know you are on your way to Amarillo when you come across a never-ending succession of billboards advertising "Free 72 ounce steak." All along US Highway 287, from Dallas and across North-west Texas to the Big Texan Steak Ranch on the north side of Interstate 40, opposite the TA Truckstop. It seems like a Route 66 tourist-trap; eat a 72 oz steak with baked potato, salad and shrimp cocktail plus buttered roll in less than an hour and it is free. Otherwise it costs $72. It is the sort of thing that my brother could do; but I think I'd struggle. But I was put right-off the challenge once I had watched the Youtube video of a young woman eating three 72 oz steaks in less than twenty minutes. What a disgusting waste of good meat; eating with her hands and not chewing a single bite. I settled for Popeyes chicken tenders at the truckstop.

____ I did go over to the Big Texan for the Sunday morning breakfast buffet and the food and service was very good; the fluffiest and lightest biscuits I have had in a long time. Then it was a series of over-night stays based on culinary offerings, all the way to Edmonton, Alberta, on Wednesday morning. Johnson's Corner, just north of Denver. The Town Pump at Billings and Blackjacks at Nisku. The ginger beef at Blackjacks was tough; lets hope it was just a one-off fail, I like place.

____ First drop done in Edmonton with just 8000 lbs left for the second at Burnaby, near Vancouver, and a Friday morning appointment. An easy run across the Rockies with rain most of the way, including another wet and trouble free crossing of the Coquihalla. My only worry was what was going to be the late Friday reload out of southern British Columbia? Answer: Nothing. Run seven hundred kilometres, empty, to Lewiston in Idaho for a load of paper going to Winnipeg. It wasn't ready until Sunday morning so I had most of Saturday at leisure in the twin towns of Lewiston and Clarkston on the border of Idaho and Washington states.

____ At the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers. Towns named after the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition which camped in the area when they searched for the best overland route that linked the east-flowing Missouri River with the Pacific-bound waters of the Columbia River. A trip of over two years in length; and I was thinking that I was on a long one, at two weeks and counting. When loaded, I elect to run back through the States and get in some good miles; instead of waiting at the nearby border for customs clearance on Monday. A wise move as I'm still waiting for customs to clear the load at Pembina, North Dakota, at Noon on Tuesday when I am only an hour from home.

____ Eventually, I roll through, back into Canada. Noticing a lot of camera crews from television news at the crossing station. Asylum seekers are fleeing the USA and coming into Canada to escape the new directives of the Trump regime. Not again! One of my reasons for coming to Canada was to get away from the nightmare scenario that every cross channel truck-driver has when he comes back through northern France, heading for the ferry or tunnel to England. Now the same situation of illegal immigrants climbing into trailers seems a big threat here in North America.
Big Texan Steak Ranch, good breakfast buffet.
Pump Jacks in North Dakota oil-boom area.
Lookout Pass at the state line between Idaho and Montana on Interstate90
The Clearwater Paper Mill in the valley of the Clearwater River in Idaho.
All the way to Amarillo.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Eighteen-Wheelers Can't Stop On A Dime.

Six Days.
____ "Eighteen-wheelers can't stop on a dime" is an often heard phrase that is perfectly illustrated in a scene at the start of the film "Convoy." The Duck comes over the brow of a hill and straight into the sheriff's speed-trap. He pulls onto the shoulder and anchors-up; the expression on Dirty Lyle's face says it all. "Well. Is that thing going to stop or not?" Many a British lorry-driver, that now drives in North America, remembers the first time he hit the brakes and was surprised by the poor retardation of US built trucks. A disc-braked European six-axle rig an stop on a six-pence. My driving technique changed dramatically when it became clear that the old-fashioned drum brakes needed more time and space to do their job.

____ I rarely get into emergency braking situations and rely a lot on engine-braking. I could have two out of the ten brakes completely inoperable  and not know about it. This is just what happened on the latest trip and it was left up to a couple of Texas State troopers to point it out at a roadside inspection just south of the Texas/Oklahoma state line. Luckily, everything else was in order and I didn't get a fine but I did get an Out Of Service order. It was the fault of the ABS valve operating on the left-side drive axles. A local truck-service company came out and fitted a new valve but only after a five hour delay.

____ This was after another five hour delay at the border on Sunday morning; the load was entered as "paper" when it should have read "peat-moss." All this meant that Tuesday's delivery at Huntsville, Texas, didn't arrive until Wednesday morning. After that, it was over to Waller for a trailer exchange and back North. A load destined for Saskatoon on Monday; but with enough time for me to go home for a log-hours reset. A cold night in Sioux Falls, but I bet it will be colder in Saskatoon.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Badly Misled.

Underwater shot from the glass tunnel under the Polar Bear pool.
Four Days.

____The US has always had a thing about vehicle weights. Scales are everywhere and  every driver watches his weight; mainly with the help of in-cab guages and the CAT scales at truckstops. I have a rule: if the cargo weighs more than 30,000 lbs; check the axle weights on a scale. But when I picked up a load of wood-shavings from the Steinbach yard, the bill of lading said 30,000 lbs and the  weight gauge in the cab seemed to confirm it. However the scale house at Moorhead in Minnesota indicated the gross weight was 78,650 lbs and the tandem axles of the trailer were registering 35,500 lbs. The shavings weighed at least 43,000 lbs.; badly misleading the driver. I was called into the office with all my paperwork and given an a thorough inspection. No violations were found and I was able to move the trailer axles and make the weights legal at less than 34,000 lbs per drives and trailer. Luckily escaping a $185 fine but fuming at the inaccuracy of the BoL

____ A bad interlude in an otherwise good day as I reached the Abbyland Truckstop for the night; just five miles from the farm at Colby, Wisconsin. The pallet-jack at the farm was the most bent and buckled that I have ever worked with but did the job in under an hour before I head to Webster City in a snow storm. The last twenty miles were treacherous as strong side-winds threatened to jack-knife the empty trailer across the ice covered carriageway. A full load of herbicide settles the chance of sliding but it is slow-going for the rest of the day. At Albert Lea; the Petro Truckstop is full to bursting as every trucker sees all the machinery in among the scenery beside Interstate 35 and decides to see what the morning brings.

____ A long day from Albert Lea to Brandon but the weather is better, customs clearance is done without a hitch, two snowy owls put in an appearance on the road to Winkler and there is plenty of room at the Husky Truckstop. It is an empty run back to Steinbach in the morning. Paperwork is already in my pigeon-hole for the next run; Texas leaving Sunday. Leaving Saturday free for a visit to Winnipeg Zoo; polar bears, wolves, musk-ox and caribou. Oh,and an albino buffalo.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

San Antonio Triangle.

11 day - 12 State - 4 Province.
____ Forty degrees below is the magic number when Centigrade equals Fahrenheit and  for two bitterly cold nights; number 94 has stood out in the open. Both my former employers, Flying Eagle and JTI, kept the trucks inside on Winter nights. The freezing temperatures have caused gelling in the fuel filter; so a quick trip into the workshop is called for. A new filter, two bottles of fuel treatment and I'm off to Texas. Just two and a half days to get the peat-moss delivered before Friday lunchtime; so down to Percival, encountering slippery sections of Interstate on the high ground of South Dakota.

____ Winter storm warnings are being broadcast for the lower Mid-West; in Kansas, anti-icing fluid is being spread on the turnpikes. As I approach Fort Worth; convoys of electricity company repair vehicles are making their way north into Oklahoma. Good to see pro-active thinking from the utilities as the Wichita Lineman's prophecy seems about to come true. "...and if it snows, that stretch down South won't ever take the strain."

Car museum at Russell's Truckstop.

____ From Hillsboro, it is five hours down to the plant nursery on the south-west outskirts of San Antonio. A place I had been before and the first time to relax in three days, warm, sunny, as i waited for the reload instructions. East to Waller for a trailer change; then to British Columbia for two drops around Vancouver. Just a winter storm, the Rocky Mountains and 2376 miles to tackle before the Canadian border and 40 hours of driving time to do it before I will need a log-hours reset. On the positive side is the fact that the load only weighs 16000 lbs and cutting across into New Mexico helps avoid worst of the freezing rain in the Ice Storm.

____ Saturday night is spent at Russell's Truckstop on the Texas- New Mexico stateline. Interstate 40 that is also Route 66 from Amarillo to Albuquerque. The west bound trucks are coming-in with an inch-thick layer of cling-film plastered on their front-ends. I spend an hour in Russell's in-house car museum; a welcome break from thoughts of the weather conditions and my new obsession of "Weather App" checking. A variety of cars from the Fifties surrounded by displays of automobile memorabilia together with loads of stuff about Marilyn, Elvis, the Coca Cola Company and the Mother Road.

Bare and dry roads but snow-covered hills.

____ Heavy snowfall on the high ground between Tucumcari and Alberquerque looks like it would slow progress but the New Mexico snow plough drivers don't often get a chance of a long double-time Sunday shift and are out in force. Lashings of course red sandstone every where. Spreading more grit in a morning than a Saskatchewan snow-plough pilot would spread in a month. The constant worry of more bad weather is big in my thoughts as I start to tackle the rising ground towards the Four Corners of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona; but I reach Greeen River, Utah, with little trouble.

____ Another day, another thousand kay. Utah, Idaho and Oregon before day-light fades at La Grande's Flying J. The parking lot is a sheet of thick rutted ice with no visible snow-clearing; strong winds blow in more snow overnight and I wake up with a three foot drift across the front of the truck. But the roads are passable; the long drag down Interstate 90 to the coast is tricky. Some chain-up, some slide down lightly feathering brakes, like me, and some park-up; like those over-flowing out of the TA Truckstop at North Bend. I had promised myself some Popeyes chicken tenders, my last chance of the trip. I have them too; even though it is a long walk to the restaurant from the on-ramp shoulder in the falling sleet

Rocky outcrop in Utah; destined to be carved into a bust of Donald Trump.

____ The 70 hour weekly working limit is getting very close as I run up to the border from Donna's truckstop in Washington State. A quick tip in Abbotsford, followed by more of the same in Burnaby. The next leg of the journey is a load from nearby Richmond, back to Winnipeg; but not ready until the next day. The Greater Vancouver district has a distinct lack of truckstops; running out to Chilliwack is an option but I settle for one of the six spots at the Delta Petro-Pass Cardlock. Virtually non-stop rain since coming down to the lowlands. Loaded and away, east on the Trans-Canada Highway, to Hope and when it is raining in Hope in January; then it is probably snowing on the Coquihalla.

____ But I'm in luck; just more rain, and more of same to the night-halt at Sicamous. The first time with Number 94 in the mountains with a heavy load, but the Detroit Diesel pulls well if you keep it revving. Dirty roads of slush and sand, the perfect conditions that screen-wash manufacturers pray for. Then after the Great Divide; Alberta is clear skies with bare and dry roads. Cruise control for the first time in several days and relaxation for the right foot. The last day is a run from Swift Current to Winnipeg; drop trailer and bob-tail to Steinbach. Temperatures are hovering around zero but still the weather influences the driving, as on nearly every day this trip. This time it is thick fog but enough day-light hours to get home.
Rain on the Coquihalla in January gives Jamie enough to send out to Subway for lunch.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dirt : Both Ways.

Seven Days,
____ Another week; another Winter storm. Highways closed after overnight snow but with a forecast better weather in the afternoon. I plan to leave at mid-day and take the old scale-dodgers' back-road route to the border. This should bring me out at Highway 75; twenty truck lengths from the 49th parallel and save a repeat of last weeks delay. With a full load of peat-moss; I am confident that the W 900 will woof-through the powdered snow that has drifted across the side-roads to the village of Emerson. I am surprised to find that Highway 75 is still closed when I get there; but not as surprised as the US Customs officer at a completely deserted border post. Instead of the usual, "Where are you going?" she asks "Where did you come from?"

____ The North Dakota roads are a lot better than those in Manitoba. The ND DoT website map has "No Travel Advised" all over it but I make good headway. South and the temperature should rise but all the way to Norfolk in Nebraska it is bitterly cold with a strong North wind. The Detroit runs all night. A full days driving gets me to Thackerville at the Oklahoma/Texas state line; still freezing but warm enough to sleep with the engine switched off. Only at Encinal, at the end of the third day does the warmth of the Sun make it pleasant to be outside.

____ Unloaded in Laredo on the Friday morning; the reload is in Gonzales, four hours away. A load of clay for Winnipeg; an ingredient for chicken food that helps make strong egg-shells. Loaded by 3 o'clock; the only problem is customs clearance. It is one of those blind loads where the shipper does not know the customer; only the importer. There are no customs invoices and the importer is in Quebec. The 1 hour Time-Zone difference makes it impossible to get all the paperwork to the customs broker before Monday morning so a six day trip becomes 7 and after flying out of the starting blocks; the trip stalls at the last hurdle.

Snow covered back road into Emerson, Manitoba.

Sun dogs and blowing snow in North Dakota

Light dusting of snow on the hills of Oklahoma.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year Laredo.

Six days at an average of over 900 kilometres per day.
____ After a foot of snow on Christmas Night; Boxing Day was spent shoveling and working-off the excesses of the previous days. So when the  US border re-opened on the Tuesday, there were enormous queues of trucks and cars. All heading South when US Customs didn't think they were going to be busy and were not fully staffed. To make matters worse; I needed a new I94 visa Waiver which added another hour onto the crossing time. It was dark by the time I came to an icy stretch of the Interstate 29 between Grand Forks and Fargo. Three delays within half a day makes me think I'm wasting my time; so I gave up and put into the Petro Truckstop at Fargo for some of Popeye's chicken tenders.

Waiting in line at a snowy 49th Parallel.

____Turned out to be the best thing that I could have done as freezing rain hit the Interstate in South Dakota during the evening. Heavy ice coated everything as it glistened in the low morning sun but the road had been treated wasn't too bad for driving. By Watertown, it was all bare and dry down Salina for the second night-out, although not yet above freezing point. Plus temps came in Oklahoma on Day Three as a busy Interstate 35 rolled into Texas. Saturated traffic through Fort Worth, Waco, Temple, Austin and the over-night halt at San Antonio.

Palm trees of Southern Texas.

____ A couple of hours to do before dropping the bonded load of furniture frames at a customs broker's yard from where it would be taken into Mexico. Five miles along the road in another yard was a trailer loaded with upholstered furniture frames waiting to go back to Winnipeg. Another bonded load with the paperwork already processed; so within an hour, I was northbound, heading for for the Winstar Casino on the Texas/Oklahoma state line. I thought I might be there on New Years Eve but arrived a full day a head of schedule, such was the quick turn-round. Good fish and chips from the restaurant in the "London" section of the city-themed casino calling itself the World's Largest.

Old School-New age : Ruby #94 and Ruby #101

____ From the bottom of Oklahoma, it is two long days' driving back to Steinbach. Not always possible with the Winter weather of the Prairies but I gave myself every chance by getting up to York in Nebraska. On the way, by pure chance, I found myself fueling-up next to Ruby 101 at Tonkawa. Driven by Bob, fellow Brit and ex-Big Freight, and while we chatted, in came Ruby 113; piloted by Neil, also British and an ex-Big Freight driver. They were both headed to Hidalgo, Texas. The last day was a long one but the light load, dry roads and the W900 wound up to 109 on cruise made it easy. Mostly deserted roads and at the border before dark; back to the yard with time to spare.

Dawn : New Year's Day 2017.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hidalgo and US Highway 281.

6908 kilometres in 8 days.
____ A Winter storm called Decima is scheduled to cross my path somewhere between the Canadian border and the Mexican border as I head south from Steinbach to Hidalgo in Texas. The Friday run down to Vermillion is under clear skies but with a bitterly cold north wind chilling temperatures down to minus 27 C. Only when I park does the snow start; drifting across the front of the idling trucks as they huddle together for warmth. Daylight hours are short as I leave at the crack of dawn; taking the Interstate 35 option where I hope the snowploughs have done their job. Blowing snow mixed with a few flurries; through Omaha, Kansas City and down to Joplin where freezing rain brings everything to a standstill. The Petro Truckstop at Junction 4 on the 44 is an hours crawl from Junction 10. The parking area fills to bursting point as drivers give up on the job and  go to work on the BBQ Buffet in the Iron Skillet restaurant.
Nice new quilted Winter front gets tested by Winter Storm Decima.

____ I wake to find Interstate 44 is moving again and Sunday is an easier day with the strong north winds helping with fuel consumption. It is still freezing but by the time I get to the Flying J at George West; it is only -3. Into the border town of Hidalgo bright and early with the peat-moss, ready for transshipment onto a Mexican trailer pulled by a fellow member of the W900 club. A Kenworth of similar age to #94 but with an overdose of tacky religious bling. I'm just a few hundred yards away from the Rio Grande in an area specializing in the transfer of cross-border goods; my fourth visit to such a town. after El Paso, Eagle Pass and Laredo.
Petro 44 Truckstop, Joplin, in the snow.

____ The reload is from Mansfield, a suburb of Fort Worth, nearly a days run from the southernmost tip of Texas, along Highway 281 and Interstate 35. Synthetic oil and grease for a distribution centre in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. A three day run that sees me on the Highway 281 again in North Dakota. Very windy from the West but an easier run. I am back in Canada by lunchtime on Thursday. A phonecall to the customer assures me that they will take delivery that afternoon. The depot manager stays on the line to talk me into the delivery point; very useful in avoiding weight restrictions and finding an old brewery tucked away behind the vast Moose Jaw goods yard. By the time I go to re-fuel, 70 hours in seven days have elapsed since I set off. An enforced early finish but that enables an early start that sees me running empty back to Steinbach and a reasonable finish on the day before Christmas Eve.

Straight from the Blue Beacon Truckwash at York, Nebraska.