Friday, January 29, 2010

Trip IV

____DAY 1: For the fourth time in a row, the job never hit the ground running. Blizzard conditions closed the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg and Highway 12 out of Steinbach was close to white-out. At least I could fit in a 36 hour log reset which might be an advantage later in the week.
____DAY 2: The truck needed digging out of a drift, as did the trailer. The road to Regina was open with ice in places and plenty of blowing snow. It was 4 o'clock when I got to Regina but it was still bright and sunny, the young guy delegated to unload the jetskis popped next door and borrowed a zoom-boom and did a good job of unloading, only tipping over one crate. It was then on to Saskatoon for the evening which cooled down to --27 degrees, so the Cat purred.
____DAY 3: A reload came through with pick-ups at St.Paul and Bonnyville in Alberta plus a pick-up truck from a salvage yard in North Battleford but that was for after the delivery at Lloydminster. Only, it would be too late to get the pick-up truck pick-up and the others done all in one day. The time difference between the two provinces would also count against me. So it was to my advantage to get the salvage vehicle before delivering the last of the jetskis. The plan came together with the pick-ups all being done by 3 o'clock; then BEEP: could I pick-up a driver at Humboldt, Sk and bring him back to Steinbach? Of course I could, you don't leave another driver stranded, you never when you might need someone returning the favour.
____DAY 4: I left Saskatoon just before seven, collecting Jamie at Humboldt at eight o'clock, he had so much stuff it was handy to have the dented pick-up truck to store it all. I don't think I have talked so much for years, such was the rarity of having a passenger. Jamie was good company and the trip passed quickly with all three collections going back to the Steinbach yard. I left the unloading until the morning.
____DAY 5: To those of you who know me as a mild-mannered, easy going individual, you might find todays account very disturbing, but I will always fight injustice, especially if it I am the one who is being wrongly accused. It all started well enough with the unloading, I was in Winnipeg to load grain bins one hour ahead of schedule. The load wasn't all ready, but they started loading and I started strapping it down. At lunch time, I was just waiting for one pack of steel sheets, the loaders had left a gap, halfway down the trailer to take it. Then it arrived, direct from the production line on the production line forklift. The forklift driver struggled to fit the steel into it's alloted space which was too small. He then swore at me for not leaving him enough space. I asked him to position the steel as close as possible to the pack of steel on the other side of the trailer, but he refused and said it was okay where it was. As it was, it was impossible to secure the steel but refused to do any more. I told him he was useless and to go away as I would get someone else to do it properly. Verbal abused followed from both sides until he became enraged, jumped off his forklift truck and asked,"Do you want a piece of me?" To which I replied, "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough". He then noticed I had my snipe-bar in my hand and remounted his forklift. There then followed some long range verbals and the loading chargehand became involved. He demanded I leave the premises, adding that I was banned and that he would have me fired from BFS. I finished securing the load ,then started towards the shipping office only to have my path blocked by the chargehand who pushed me firmly in the chest and told me to tarp the load outside the gates before getting my papers. Well that did it! I told him that to touch me was "assault" and now the RCMP would be involved. I then messaged BFS asking them to contact the police for me. If I was going to lose my job, the chargehand was going to lose his too.
To be continued.
____Overall trip distance: 2408 kms.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trip III

____DAY 1: You would think that after 30 years, hundreds of crossings at scores of different border posts in more than two dozen countries, that I would be expert at getting a truck from one country into another but the best I ever seem to do is "muddle through". On a freezing cold january morning, I couldn't even do that. At the Warroad border crossing, the subtle difference between hay and straw left me needing an advice note for the US Food and Drug Agency which I did not have. I was turned away. I considered rewriting the manifest and bill of lading to read "straw" and then trying another crossing point; the load was tarped so who was to know. But no-one tarps straw and any old-time customs officer would had instinctively spotted it. In these days of internationally linked data bases it was too risky, so i went home.
____DAY 2: This time I went to Pembina, ND and with the correct paperwork, I was allowed in the USA. It was the familiar route down the Interstate 29, then east on the 94 through into Wisconsin. The Golden Rule Truckstop at Junction 88 was only seven miles from the dairy farm wanting the hay so was the ideal stop.
____DAY 3: Thick freezing fog covered everything with a white frosting and would have been a nightmare scenario without "sat-nav". As it was, it only took ten minutes to arrive outside the farm, where the hay was unloaded out on the road by the farmers son on the Bobcat. I was back at the truckstop at Osseo soon afterwards with just the problem of frozen hay stuck to the trailer deck. The only thing that seemed to shift it was the sharp end of my nail pry-bar. Meanwhile back in the cab: BEEP, a job, lumber from Mellen, Wi to Laval, QC, to be loaded that day before 1500. The job must have been there an hour before I gave up on the cleaning and went to get warm. The lost time looked to be critical, if I couldn't find the lumber yard straight away, wasted day! It was 18 minutes to three when I pulled in. Two forklifts, twelve packs of lumber, the paperwork done, all by 1500 hours. At five past three the place was completly deserted and I was left to strap and tarp in quiet isolation. It was top quality red oak planks so needed the tarps. From Mellen it was east to the Michigan line in the area known as UP, upper peninsula, logically it should be Wisconsin. East along the south shore of Lake Superior to cross back into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie.
____DAY 4: The water from Lake Superior flows into Lake Huron at Sault Ste. Marie, the town name both north and south of the border. A toll bridge crosses two canal locks and rock strewn set of rapids that looks as if they should carry a lot more water. Now it's the north shore of Lake Huron to Sudbury and on to North Bay, Ontario. Through the nation's capital, Ottawa and into the Province of Quebec. I reach Vaudreuil on the east side of Montreal for the night.
____DAY 5: The red oak is safely delivered but no reload appears so I head back to the Flying J at Vaudreuil for a shower. A load assignment arrives while I'm cleaning up, Valcourt, Qc , 2 drops to Lloydminster, Ab, only thing, not booked in to load until 0930 the next morning. Time for a siesta. Four hours later I wake to the prospect of getting across Montreal in the evening rushhour, I'll wait another two hours before I go. I stop the night at "Ange Gardien", french for "Guardian Angel" an apt name for a really good truckstop.
____DAY 6: Jet-skis for delivery in january, I bet the dealers will be keen to unload these little beauties: not. But it's a light load and good mileage, a bonus is that the dealer at Regina is closed on monday so I'll fit in a decent stop-over at home. I push on for a +1000 kilometre day, back to North Bay before choosing between the highways 17 and "Eleven". I choose the Eleven, the notorious playground of those night truckers who drive with the off-side steer tyre riding on the centre -line. Not the road for those who are tired or in a hurry in the dark. Dubious driving styles and the high risk of an animal strike make it a less than perfect end to the day but I push on to Cochrane.
____DAY 7: Sign-posted from over 500 kilometres in both directions, you expect Cochrane to be more than : Population 5500. The Eleven loops north into the Canadian Shield from North Bay to Nipigon, a vast expanse of woodland, rocky outcrops and small lakes, unremarkable until the Palisades on the shore of Lake Nipigon, 200 foot high cliffs with frozen cascades. Another +1000 kilometre day seems on the cards, darkness falls towards Thunder Bay and so does rain as the temperature hovers just above freezing. Then it turns to snow, laying and soon covering the road, with no tracks to follow, its a slow end to the day, reaching Dryden with an hour's driving still available, I squeeze into the Husky truckstop just before everyone else has the same idea and the place becomes a jammed park of chaos.
____DAY 8: After breakfast, the park clears and the ploughs have cleared the road. Either side of the West Hawk scale at the Ontario/Manitoba, two 18-wheelers have thrown themselves into the scenery during the night, so the Husky was the best option. Their cabs seemed intact so lets hope the drivers suffered no more than a shaking. I'm back in the yard by midday.
____Overall Distance: 5251 kms

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Trip II

____DAY 1: A load of lumber from Winnipeg to Kansas City, load friday, deliver monday, 829 miles. I'll just do the loading on friday then go back home. It's short lengths of lumber, used for making pallets, so could be big problems and sure enough; pieces of the pack are creeping out even as it's coming down the yard on the forklift truck. My last lumber load had packs 40 feet long and were no trouble, the shorter the pack, the bigger the problem. I decide, there and then, to tarp the ends of the load; 30 minutes now will save the embarassment of playing "pick up sticks" on the Interstate 29 sometime during the weekend.
____DAY 2: Driving due south 500 miles in one day, I expect the temperature to rise considerably. But Steinbach, Mb to Sioux City, Ia takes me from --23 to --18 degrees, most disappointing. A dip in the Jetstream has given Arctic conditions to all of the Midwest.
____DAY 3: A half days driving on Interstate 29 takes me into Kansas City where I grab the last parking spot in the pint-sized Flying J, it's a tight fit which a 53 foot van would want to avoid. But with a 48 foot flat-deck I manage it with a few shunts. As my delivery point is only a mile away, this is the best place to be.
____DAY 4: The pallet lumber is soon unloaded, intact, and I'm straight off to get my reload from Sapulpa, Oklahoma. South on US Highway 71 to Joplin, Mo, then southwest towards Tulsa, Ok. Now I'm driving on the legendary Route 66, probably the most famous Roadtrip in the world. 2000 miles all the way, Chicago to LA. The Roadtrip to do on a Harley, in summer, with a bird on the back. Not that you see any roadsigns indicating "Route 66", its the Interstate 44, but the many roadside advertising hoardings leave you in no doubt. West of Tulsa, I load pipes for Estevan, Sk. At Sapulpa, the loaders charge $50 for pipestakes and $10 a piece for lumber, luckily I had the reload information before I left Canada so I have brought my own equipment. It's getting dark when I have finished loading but it is +7 degrees which is a pleasant change. But it's north to Wichita, Ks and another frosty night.
____DAY 5: After some interstate it's all US highway 81, mostly four-lane and flat, so I make good time in vitually traffic free conditions. Kansas into Nebraska and on into South Dakota as night falls. I park overnight at the Pilot truck-stop in Mitchell, SD, an expansive truck park that can always squeeze in one more.
____DAY 6: Still northbound but now on the US highway 281, its another long day on the Prairies. I cross back into Canada at North Portal, Sk, only half an hour from Estevan. Meanwhile the next assignment has arrived, a loaded trailer awaits at Brandon, Mb, four drops of steel in Manitoba. I will need to maximise my time if I'm going to deliver 4 drops on a friday, getting the first drop done on thursday afternoon seems to be the best plan.
____DAY 7: I have a full breakfast at the Estevan Husky and am at the delivery address at 07.00 am ready for a flying start to a busy day. But the pipe company wants to load all the outgoing pipe before they start unloading, ten trucks and 4 hours later, I leave for Brandon. Towards the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border I encounter freezing fog and at the little scale on Highway 2, south of Brandon, I'm stopped for a Department of Transportation truck inspection. These things come in threes. Undetered, I strap down and tarp the steel, the kind lady in the office phones the first customer and they say if I'm there by five-thirty, they will unload me. And they do. So it's on to Winnipeg for the night and friday now looks a lot easier.
____DAY 8: By 11.30 I am up at Fisher Branch in northern Manitoba, the last drop and a new destination for me. It's nice to drive new roads everyday. Unloaded and back south to Gimli for a reload of empty snowmobile crates in the Icelandic area of Manitoba. The dinosaur machine that masquerades as a forklift truck makes hard work of putting on a few crates. The pipestakes come to the rescue by stopping the crates being pushed off one side as they are loaded on the other. Handy things to carry with you, pipestakes. Back at Steinbach, the place looks like a farmyard with green John Deere tractors being replaced by green Kenworths and haystacks on every other trailer. I have a load of hay leaving sunday for Wisconsin, there is still time to strap and tarp it before going home for a 36 hour log reset.
____Overall distance: 4509 kms.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Trip I

____DAY 1: A big thank-you to Russell Coombes for the phonecall from the border, saying that the snow storm sweeping up from Texas had closed the interstate route into North Dakota. Time to sit back and relax with a relaxing rye and coke, after all it was Christmas Day.
____DAY 2: I dig out the Mustang and drive into work, sideways. I dig out the truck and hook-up the trailer ready to go. But on checking the road conditions south of the border on the internet; all the roads are marked as closed or travel not advised. Mal Rubery's 50th birthday party has an extra guest that night.
____DAY 3: Finally under way. The border crossing at Pembina,ND is busy after being closed for two days, but it's mostly cars and the truck lanes are as quick as they usually are. South of Grand Forks, towards Fargo, the snow is piled up a lot higher and the road still has icy patches but once heading east into Minnesota along the Interstate 94, conditions ease. Skirting round the Twin Cities, I push on into Wisconsin and park for the night at Black River Falls, the normal "one day away" halt from Steinbach.
____DAY 4: Supposedly, delivery day. I call the customer and rebook for wednesday morning. It's only lumber so it's not like it's going to go "off". Chicago's traffic is much lighter than normal but there are far more drivers unfamiliar with there surroundings, going on shopping trips, visiting freinds, dithering about in the wrong lane; most unlike the normal get up and go commuting driver. I stop for the night at Toledo, Ohio, neatly cutting the trip into three equal sections.
____DAY 5: The flat landscape that has been with me since Manitoba finishes as I reach Pennsylvania, endless leafless tree covered hills, together with the snow and an overcast sky make for a landscape devoid of any colour. Three hundred miles with only the neon truckstop signs brightening the day and Lamar, the brightest of them all. At Easton,I leave the four lane to find a small truckstop at my exit, there's an empty BFS truck parked there. The driver delivered his load to the same place I am going to. He has sat all day waiting for a reload with no luck.
____DAY 6: The tarps have been on this load for seven days, you don't mind tarping if it's going to stay on that long. With only 7 packs of lumber, it's a quick tip and I'm soon back at the little truckstop; parked next to the other green Kenworth. Chances of a reload seem grim as we go for breakfast, but on returning to his cab, Frank,the other driver finds a message on his satellite receiver. A reload in Lewistown,Pa going to Winnipeg,Mb. Shame Frank lives in Ontario, he'll be away for New Years and bit more. I contemplate what to do for New Years Eve, catch the train up to New York City and celebrate in Times Square or drop the trailer and bobtail down to Atlantic City and its casinos. Then BEEP, a job, profile racks to Calgary,Ab from Ambridge, no not the everyday story of country folk Ambridge, the one near Pittsburg,Pa. Two thousand miles, 6 inches, nice. I park on the doorstep,ready to be loaded first thing New Years Eve.
____DAY 7: Four inches of snow silently alighted on the cab roof during the night, so parking in the shippers yard was a cool move. The load is freshly painted racks and in a cold, open sided shed next to the Ohio river I'm worried the paint might not be dry, but I'm loaded quickly and put carpet under the straps to show i care, even if they don't. There's still time for a full days driving, so I push on back through Chicago and up to the Illinois/ Wisconsin border at South Beloit; meeting Frank and his load of railcar axles on the way. Start of a new decade: Flying J, South Beliot, Illinois, USA.
____DAY 8: A day of good progress on bare and dry roads, clear skys and light winds. But as darkness falls so does the temperature. By the time I reach Fargo,ND it is --32 degrees C. I put in a double dose of fuel conditioner, fill up with #1 diesel and keep the CAT purring all night long. Sure, I know I have a huge carbon footprint, and it does concern me. But i'm no green hero who wants to freeze to death in the dark.

____DAY 9: At --25, the exhaust stacks of diesel engined trucks leave vapour trails in the air, a sure sign that it's best to keep 'em running. I trailled vapour all the way to the canadian border, only then did it warm up briefly before the mercury fell back down at dusk. I parked at the Main Track, Weyburn,Sk, an unusual little restaurant and bar with a unique greek influenced menu. If you order the sovlaki make sure you're hungry enough, it's massive.
____DAY 10: Weyburn to Calgary,Ab, a day of endless prairie, flat, snow covered and the only remarkable event was C596 clocking up it's 600,000th kilometer. At Calgary's Flying J , I wandered over to the Deerfoot Casino, there is a nice bar called the Wildhorse , the statue at the entrance is spectacular.
____DAY 11: The racks were soon unloaded and soon after breakfast I was on the way to High River,Ab to collect insulation for a jobsite in Regina,Sk. 469 miles and booked in for 7o'clock tuesday morning. C526 was there too. Loaded and tarped inside, showered and nourished at Okotoks, we made it to Moose Jaw,Sk before time ran out.
____DAY 12: Why we were booked in for 07.00am I do not know, nobody arrived before eight and it didn't get light until eight-thirty. It was snowing and blowing, it's at such times you are glad there are two of you, even so it was still a struggle to fold and roll the tarps. We went off to fill up with diesel, not really worried if there was a reload or not. When the reload came through at two-thirty i had recovered enough to deal with it, empty to Saskatoon, then scrap metal bales to Selkirk, just north of Winnipeg. Then one hour up the road, BEEP, load cancelled, very strange, because I had phoned the customer earlier and booked the truck in for eight o'clock, no problem. Finally I was told to return empty to Steinbach, but it was still snowing and snowing the snow that Kenworth wiper blades cannot cope with. I crawled back to Regina with blocks of ice swishing across the windscreen and called it a day.
____DAY 13: Plenty of blowing snow on the TransCanada Highway, but apart from getting dusted by the overtaking trucks in the fast lane, an easy day to finish the trip.
____Overall distance covered:- 8004 kms

Tuesday, January 5, 2010