Friday, February 19, 2010

Trip VI.

____DAY 1: 1725 miles, 15 drops and a long weekend looming equals a job that must be done by Friday. That will only happen if he can persuade Robinson Crusoe to drive "team". With my lumber delivered, I returned to the yard to find a step-deck trailer loaded with 24 ATVs waiting for me to check, strap and smoke-tarp. The first drop was 500 kilometers away, so with no-hope of getting anything delivered on the Monday; I looked up the addresses on electronic maps, phoned the customers and made a plan of where everything was on the trailer. Good preparation before setting off for Red Lake in northwest Ontario.
____DAY 2: I rolled into Red Lake just before dawn and straight past the group of ramshackle buildings on the lakeside that I did not reconize as my first delivery point. When it came to turning around, I found myself trying to steer on a sheet of ice and the truck sliding downhill into a snowbank. At the last second I decided to gun-it; hoping to bulldoze through and turn in a wider arc. But this was no light and fluffy snowdrift, it was compacted and frozen solid. I was proper stuck with snow half way up the hood. Twice as stuck as any normal, sane preson would be stuck. The only thing I had with which to dig myself out was a orange plastic corner protector. After five minutes of scrapping about on my knees, a John Deere loading shovel appeared, probably the same big tool that built my heap of snow. The driver obviously felt guilty about putting his scrapings just where 75 foot vehicles want to turn around because, without a word being said, he came in from the side, his shovel slicing into the mound one inch away from my bumper. Another two scoops and I was free to go.Delivery done, I left for Thunder Bay wondering how many thousands of dollars worth of damage I would have done to a flimsy fronted Volvo. The next two drops were in adjacent streets but that was all I was going to deliver on Tuesday; next was Sault Ste. Marie, over 7 hours drive away. All I could do was get as close as possible in the driving time I had left. I like to be positive about my work; now I was positive I would be spending the long weekend at the Flying J at Vaudreuil, Qc. I got as far as Wawa with two fingertips still numb from playing in the snow.
____DAY 3: Gitche Gumee was still shrouded in darkness when I continued along Superior's north shore towards The Soo [Sault Ste. Marie]. I don't often take the once a week option of an 8 hour overnight break but with losing an hour to the time zone and the threat of not getting a reload plus customers working shortened winter hours, I felt I had to. From The Soo, it was onto Sudbury and a clump of four deliveries, two in Sturgeon Falls and North Bay. With these done, it was then on to Petawawa, some 200 kilometers away, ready for the next morning. Eight down, 7 to go.
____DAY4: The Petawawa dealer didn't open until nine but I was driving away, ATV delivered at five past. Then across one of the few bridges crossing the Ottawa river and into the Province of Quebec for deux drops. Chapeau and Davidson done with out any fuss and onto Arnproir where the forklift driver is waiting behind me before the straps are off his machine. 12 down, three to go. As a reward, I pop into the nearby Antrim Truckstop with it's excellent in-house bakery. I'm on a roll, ham and swiss cheese plus cookies and a coffee. Next, Merrickville, a town centered around a lock on the Rideau Canal, finished in 1832, linking Kingston to Ottawa, one of the few navigation canals in Canada. It's here I have my first delay of the day, the forklift truck is frozen to the ground; the dealer goes to fetch salt, I go and drag two snowchains off the truck, together we get it moving. The ATV is off the trailer before I have rehung the chains on their rack. Metcalfe provides no problems and so to Cornwall; which closes at 5 o'clock. It is ten-to when I pull up but the dealer is quite willing to unload me. He probably knows what sort of mood I would be in if he made me come back in the morning. All off and still time to run to Napanee for the night. In the words of the late, great Sir Edmund Hillary, " We knocked the bastard off."
____DAY 5: A reload had come through the previous afternoon, preloaded trailer at Oakville to Alberta; so there was never any danger of me "sitting" the weekend. With hindsight, I don't think I would have done anything different, except I would have been more relaxed. A load of steel floor channel for Rockyview, Calgary and six packs of siding for Edmonton; an innocent looking load not three foot high. But steel can slide and needs straps between each layer before tarping. On a busy Friday afternoon, I make it to North Bay for the night.
____DAY 6: A lot of the westbound trucks that were with me at the Bay Truckstop, North Bay on Friday night are parked with me at Nipigon Husky on Saturday night. The same trucks that stopped for coffee at New Liskeard, Cochrane, Kapuskasing, Hearst and Longlac. Permutate any three from five.
____DAY 7: It's four-thirty on a Sunday morning at the coffee machine in Nipigon's Husky Truckstop; an old white truckdriver is arguing with a young asian truckdriver about rear axle differential ratios. 3.73 versus 3.90; they look to me for input. I mumble something in a made-up Russian sounding language; grab a 20 ounce coffee and go. It is early but I'm going to be home for a night and early afternoon is better than early evening.
____DAY 8: Holiday Monday, but you wouldn't know it from the traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway, as light as ever on the four-lane across Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In Ontario it is called "Family Day", in Manitoba they call it: "Louis Riel Day. The man was executed in 1885 and to sum him up in one word: "Troublecauser". If Britain had an equivalent day; "Arthur Scargill Day."
____DAY 9: From Swift Current to Rockyview and a chance to use part of the new Calgary by-pass, the Stoney Trail. Then on to Edmonton for the delivery of the rest of the load. Reload is sent shortly afterwards; lumber to Winnipeg from Lodgepole, Alberta. Not many people get the chance to visit Lodgepole but I'll leave it until the morning and settle for Acheson's Husky.
____DAY 10: The Tallpine Timber company is very much an old-style sawmill with open-sided sheds showing well worn machinery. The drying kiln is the most modern piece of equipment there and gives a smoky atmosphere to the snow falling out of a windless sky. But the quality of the lumber in my load leaves a lot to be desired. It looks like it has been standing in the wood yard longer than it stood in the forest. Down the road, suspicions are confirmed, the staples holding the wrapping are so rusty that they soon give way and the flapping starts. Saskatoon, to end the day.
____DAY 11: I "Yellowhead It" all the way from Saskatoon to Winnipeg. Highway 16 called the Yellowhead Route after a fair-haired Iroquois guide. There was no Iroquois word for "blonde" but yellowhead has to be better than whitehead.
____DAY 12: Unloaded and back in the yard by ten o'clock. I wash the salt off C596 and a load of grain bins for Carrot River is next.
____Overall distance: 8664 kms.

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