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

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