Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trip V

____DAY 1: A trailer of grain bins in kit form is always an ugly load; with many pieces of different lengths, widths and heights. An ever present problem is when a pallet of cardboard boxes is loaded next to a stack of metal sheets; the tension needed in a strap that will hold the metal securely invaribly crushes the cardboard. What will hold down cardboard boxes doesn't do much for the steel. I do what I can and set off at noon, Sunday. At Oak Bluff, I turn off Winnipeg ring road and take Highway 2, westbound; a route commonly used by trucks wishing to avoid the DoT scales at Headingley and Moosomin. But it is the legitimate way to Assiniboia, 400 miles west in Saskatchewan. A road through pure prairie landscape, straight and level. It seems you will eventually come to a downslope but it is just the surface of the planet curving around the world.
____DAY 2: I'm awoken by the bitter cold, earlier than I would have wanted. --21 degrees centigrade. I cruise around the town in the truck, in the dark, looking for a bunch of pick-up trucks idling outside a restaurant, diner or cafe. Inside I know the "Good Ol' Boys" will be drinking the best and cheapest coffee in town, I'll get a good breakfast and the names of every farmer waiting for a grain bin. Just after first light, I'm unloaded and instructed to head for Regina, Sk. North of Asssiniboia, two jet airplanes are performing aerobatics and formation flying in the skies above the prairies. Snowbirds, part of the Canadian Air Force Display Team stationed at 15 Wing Moose Jaw. Unexpected entertainment.
Worse than sitting, empty, in Regina, is getting the dreaded "Fleury Street" in a pick-up address; building supplies deliveries with more drops than a bottle of Optrex. Only 3, Moosomin, Russell and Ste. Rose. But it's the usual ugly load; various packs of lumber with packs of fibre glass insulation stacked on top. I'm parked up at Moosomin at the end of a long day without a lot of mileage.
____DAY 3: Back in the UK, the 6 pallets of tongue and groove laminate would have surely been pinched overnight. Somewhere, deep in the British countryside, deep in a rubbish strewn field, a group of double axle, chrome-trimmed travel trailers would be treated to new flooring. But in Canada, they stood on the back of the trailer, untarped and untouched. I love this country. All the deliveries are to Co-op Home Building Depots, a thriving part of the Co-op Societies that are a major part of the rural canadian economy. Gas stations, commercial fuel depots, convienence stores, farm supplies and the building supplies are all well patronised enterprises; such a contrast to the dwindling influence of the Co-op back in the UK.
By 1 o'clock I'm unloaded and headed towards Brandon, Mb; a pre-loaded trailer is waiting with a load of steel building parts, destined to Fort McMurray in northern Alberta. At over 900 miles, this trip is three times the length of the last, things are looking up. This could have been the third ugly load in a row, but at 4800 lbs, there is not much strap and tarp; truck should go well too.
____DAY 4: The delivery is booked in for Friday morning, so I have two days to get there. Fort McMurray is in the area known as the "Oilsands", it is the boom town of Canada. Diesel fuel was produced from oilsand during the Second World War but it is only in the last decade that oil companies have really concentrated on production in this region. "Syncrude" sounds like it should be a pornographic website but is the oldest of the enterprises at Fort McMurray, being the first to produce a billion barrels and having just sent the 2 billionth down the pipeline. They are waiting for my little load, probably to repair or alter a building previously supplied by Brandon. I reach Lloydminster at the Albertan border at the end of an easy day.
____DAY 5: The reload question plays on my mind as I make my way diagonally north towards Fort McMurray. There are very few flatdeck reloads from the area and very many unloaded trucks chasing what loads there are. Before, I have had to run down to Edmonton for a reload; but it`s four and a half hours away and on a Friday it could be difficult to get loaded and keep running over the weekend. An hours reset in an Edmonton truckstop looks on the cards, there is, of course, the West Edmonton Mall, the largest indoor shopping centre in the worBEEP. What`s this. Someone in the office has done well; a reload of lumber from Fort McMurray and it`s going to Winnipeg! Time to relax as I reach Fort Mack before dark and squeeze in at the Petro-Canada truckpark; amongst a whole fleet of snow covered tippers that don`t look like they have worked since Christmas.
____DAY 6: At 8 o`clock I am at the Syncrude north gate waiting for my escort into the plant; as arranged. An hour and a half later they come for me, I make up for lost time when 5 guys help untarp and fold`em. Then they go and spoil it all by going for there mid-morning break before they unload me. As the sawmill is on the way back south into town, it is not crucial. The packs of lumber proudly proclaim:- Albertas Sustainable Resource. Fourteen packs of 10 x 2 inch in various lengths, 50,000 lbs, ten times the weight I was carrying when I arrived. If I want to be home for a Steinbach Saturday night I will need to reach Saskatoon by the end of the day. Eight and a half hours later, late in the evening with snow flurries all the way, I pull into the Husky truckstop on the northern edge of town.
____DAY 7: The mpg for the 4,800 lbs was a very good 7.4, now for 50,000 lbs it sips down to 5.4. But it could be worse, the flat landscape helps. Saskatchewan is so flat that it is said when a farmers dog runs away from home; he can sit on his front porch and watch it for two days; such is the level terrain. From Yorkton back to Steinbach there is a steady snowfall with the radio predicting up to 5 centimetres on Saturday and another 5 on Sunday. I am back in the yard just after dark and am invited to dine with a driver returning from across the Atlantic. Welcome back Ross.
____Overall Distance:-4668 kms.

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