Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trip X.

____DAY 1: After a couple of mild weeks, the temperature snapped down to minus 19 degrees and C596 only just started . Thursday is a tricky day to leave on a tour, it's either a two thousand miler delivering on the following Monday or a local multi-drop load. I land 200 miles , five drops finishing with 2 in Brandon. Ride-on lawn mowers and ATV's calling at Headingley, Portage la Prairie and the only town ever named after a floodlight failure on Tyneside. "Neepawa-Neepawa" chanted the Toon Army. All unloaded by 13.30 and as a reward: 340 miles, 5 drops, tarp load out of Brandon. What I've done to annoy the office; I don't know.
____DAY 2: It's not a good start when the forklift truck is an hour late showing-up at the Newdale site, but after that I just grind out the day, driving, untarping, retarping and driving on. Miniota to Roblin to Gilbert Plains to Laurier. Then it's back to Brandon for a preloaded trailer going to Nebraska and a Monday morning delivery. Another tarp load and my fingers are aching but if I do it Friday evening I can have two days of "No touch freight." Exhaustion arrives with the darkness, I shower then sleep.
____DAY 3: From Brandon, I head eastwards to Winnipeg and then south to the border at Pembina. Busier than usual, with just about every truck having a Monday 0800am delivery somewhere in the Midwest within 1200 miles. Typical Saturday afternoon traffic. My day finishes at Fargo,ND. When fueling, I spot a flat tyre on a drive axle; by the time it's fixed, three hours have been lost. I'm back in the same truckstop as exactly one week before.
____DAY 4: They're back! The stroppy Red-shouldered Blackbirds who live in the long-grassed marshy ditches at the side of the Interstates. There are two types of animal, ones that run away from you and ones that run after you; instinctively everyone knows their place. But not the Red-shoulder; if not bickering amongest themselves, they are fighting with crows, hawks and even mighty eagles. You have to admire their courage; if they were human, they would be truck-drivers.
____DAy 5: It's a half-hour run from my overnight halt at Gretna to the farm at Waverly, Ne. One guy turns up to unload the grain bins; he is so out of condition that I fear his gasping is not going to see the job through and he is only driving the forklift! I leave asap when empty and wait for a reload at the end of the dirt road. BEEP. Preloaded trailer from Valley, Ne. going back to the Steinbach Yard. A pivot irrigation machine in kit form, a regular return load to Canada and one that looks more difficult to secure than it is. I make it as far north as Watertown in South Dakota and a night at Stone's Truckstop.
____DAY 6: The Red River is still determined to become the World's Widest River and as I pass through the flooded landscape of North Dakota, I cannot resist stopping and taking photographs of a truck loaded with irrigation equipment. Love the irony. The crest of the floodwaters is slowly moving north, next week it will be the turn of Manitoba and the town of Morris is preparing itself as I come through on my way to Steinbach.
____Overall distance: 3318 kms.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Red River floods onto Interstate 29, North Dakota.

Trip IX.

____DAY 1: C 596 needed new brake-shoes and never came out the workshops till noon on Wednesday so the lumber load from Kenora was given to another truck. My new load was already in the Steinbach yard; a trailer of OSB, loaded in Meadow Lake and going to Elkhart, In. More RV flooring but for a different address from last week. Tarped and away by 2 o'clock, I get as far as Hasty,Mn. A small but adequate truck-stop with a large parking that never fills up completely which can be a problem when finishing late.
____DAY 2: Why did the chicken cross the road? To show the raccoon it could be done. What's a matter with these critters? Sleep all winter, then given a few warm days and they're up; wandering about on the nearest four lane highway. Don't they know a fast moving Chevy is gonna make a mess of 'em? I lost count. But the skies are alive again, the geese are on the way back north.
____DAY 3: Flooring delivered and I'm back at the parking by the toll-road exit waiting for a reload. A plan arrived yesterday but soon got cancelled with a promise of something "More important." BEEP. For "Important" read "Difficult." Three pick-ups in the Chicago area and it's already 10 o'clock on a Friday. First is an empty 20 foot container going to East Grand Forks, Minnesota ,that's not right, pick-up and drop in the US; so I enquire about the legallity and am assured that because it is empty equipment that it is alright to move it. I'm not so sure as it is a job that a US company could easily do and is called cabotage or interstating. Do I write a Bill of Lading for a canadian address, then write another when I get to East Grand Forks or do I ask for a letter from BFS giving the job details and saying it is all legal? A fax is waiting for me at the Flying J in Gary, In; I pick it up on my way to get the container. The other two pick-ups are for Castle Metals in Selkirk,Mb; one from Woodstock, Il, the other from Pleasent Prairie in Wisconsin. At the last, I'm told I have to supply my own dunnage and it's nearly 5 o'clock, I'm relieved to find they don't close until ten. Time for a trip to Menards. All loaded just before dark, then it starts to snow, busy Friday night traffic makes for difficult end to a busy day.
____DAY 4: From Portage, Wi. to Fargo, ND. and plenty of time to call in to Cabela's at Rogers, Mn. One of my favorite places to spend a few hours looking for a bargain. I take the camera, maybe I can get some shots of the stuffed animals, upload them on Facebook and everyone will think I'm a brilliant wildlife photographer. But there are all these little wooden signs saying things like "Elk", "Polar Bear" or "Mountain Lion"; someone might spot them. I buy some new trainers.
____DAY 5: The crossroads of two Interstates is a logical place for a truckstop; 94 and 29 crossing at Fargo, ND has three pretty good ones. The Flying J has good showers, a bar and motel attached plus I carry their loyalty card. The Stamart has the best quality fuel, is next door to the Kenworth dealer and the cheapest laundry with an excellent all-important clothes-folding table. The Petro has the best menu, does "Idle-aire", the shore based A/C and heating service and BFS has an account at the workshops. It is also within walking distance of other attractions and it is here I spend my Sunday. Ending up in the nearby Home Depot, winding them up with "Fork handles.....No.....Four candles"; when will they learn to leave me alone?
____DAY 6: On the way to Grand Forks, the Red River is flooded up onto the Interstate 29 carriageway, an annual event but not as bad as last year. The Red is one of the few north flowing rivers in the world and it is the colder northern weather causing thick ice north of Winnipeg that stops the earlier thawing southern snow from escaping downstream. Container delivered and onto Selkirk, which by coincidence is also on the banks of the Red River. Back to Steinbach empty.
____Overall distance: 2950 kms.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Trip VIII.

____DAY 1: It's a month since I was south of the border and I need a new I94. Not a visa but a visa waiver, a green card that lasts 90 days, costs $6 and needs all my personal details plus photograph and fingerprints. Everything, in fact, that you give to get a visa. It doesn't take long at Pembina N.D. and I'm soon on familiar roads down to Junction 88 on the Interstate 94 for a night at Moe's Almost World Famous Diner, Osseo, Wi.
____DAY 2: Light Sunday traffic through the vast Chicago sprawl and onto Ohio, destination: Holiday City, first exit off the Ohio Turnpike tollroad. Google maps was still showing Menards new distribution centre as a ploughed field but it had its own access road and truck park, where plenty of Mondays deliveries were already lined up waiting to go in. Le Mans style starting grid.
____DAY 3: Once in the vast compound, I found I was the only truck with trellis to unload, by the time I had untarped a forklift was ready to unload into the Lattice Shed. Reload was 500 kilometres due south at Nicholasville, Kentucky, 8 o'clock Tuesday morning. An easy days drive with a siesta at Dayton and a completely unnecessary shower south of Cinncinnati, the third in three days. Towards Lexington, Ky, barbed wire gives way to post and rail fences, Thorough Bred mares and foals out in the paddocks, Kentucky's Bloodstock Industry.
____DAY 4: Ten flimsy crates containing wire-mesh filters are quickly loaded but take 11 straps to stop them wobbling. More than enough for only 7800 lbs. Westwards to Louisville, I come across signs for distilleries, Four Roses and Wild Turkey. Bourbon Whiskey, another industry of the Kentucky state and such a superior tipple to those bland blended brands of scotch whisky. Avoiding the evening traffic rush and the toll roads of Chicago, I stay to the south and take the Interstate 80 to Walcott, Ia, home to the Worlds Largest Truckstop, Iowa 80.
____DAY 5: The truckstop is a magnet to many, the young cab-happy trucker stopping to pick-up the latest must-have accessory or some sad old soul having a book-title embroidered on a sweatshirt. Eat at the horseshoe shaped bar in the restaurant and you will be seated amongest some of the most loquacious characters working in the road transport industry, multi-million milers with show-trucks in the barn, high on caffeine and chrome. Listen to the bullshit! But I cannot linger, it's a 1000 kilometres to Fargo, ND.
____DAY 6: From Fargo to Esterhazy in Saskatchewan with my parts of a new machine due to be installed in the Mosaic Potash Plant. Potash, an ingredient in fertilizer, a major export of Saskatchewan and one well suited to rail road transportation. Vast quantities going to a limited number of destinations, CanPotEx trains are a familiar sight across the prairies and often seen crossing the Rocky Mountains.
____DAY 7: Unloaded in the morning and a reload arrives: an over-height load from Regina to Winnipeg; but I no-longer do over-dimensional loads so I decline to do it. There then follows a short exchange of messages via the satellite. Culminating with; "What part of the statement ' I don't do O/D loads' do you not understand?" Some time later another reload arrives, a load from Meadow Lake to Elkhart, Indiana, 1609 miles. It's four hundred miles across Saskatchewan but I have just enough time to get there, put in a 36 hour log reset and load on Sunday morning.
____DAY 8: Meadow Lake is an uninspiring place at the northern edge of the Prairies. Straddled around the junction of highways 55 and 8. If I had to live here it would only be because of a very beautiful woman who was very good in bed; even then she would need a father who owned a brewery.
____DAY 9: It's a sad state of affairs when the road sign "Watch for Pedestrians" only brings to mind my arrival at a First Nation settlement. Just east of Meadow Lake, on my way to my pick-up, I pass through`` Flying Dust First Nation``. At Tolko, I load ten packs of OSB, 24x8 foot sheets of Oriented Strand Board. I take a left turn out of the OSB plant in a bid to cut a straight route south but after a few miles the blacktop gives way to dirt road. It`s bare and dry, and thankfully well groomed. Soon I`m in top gear, on the limit, and enjoying the scenery of the Northern Provincial Forest, all 150 kilometres of it.
____DAY 10: From Weyburn, across the border and onto Sauk Centre in Minnesota with a DoT check at Carpio on Highway 52. Just the Level 3 paperwork check by two old guys who see the log reset and print-out a violation-free report worth $25 when I hand it in to BFS.
____DAY 11: A long day of 1000 kilometres through to Elkhart. I should have done more yesterday. But I`m on the doorstep ready for morning.
____DAY 12: Now I know what the large size boards are for: the floors of travel-trailers and RVs. Elkhart is a major manufacturing area for RVs, it is even home to the RV Hall of Fame. The only famous RV I can think of is the pink Winnebago from the film `Smokey and the Bandit``. I don`t know if it`s in there but I wouldn`t mind a ride in it if it was still working. My reload is from Groveport, Oh, train-wheels back to Winnipeg, but then it changes. Take the wheels to the BFS yard in Mississauga, On. and bring an empty trailer back to Groveport for another load, this time to go to Winnipeg. I load and make it up to Cleveland for the night.
____DAY 13: It`s a 1400 kilometre round trip to get back for the second load and means I won`t have enough log hours to get back to Steinbach for the weekend. I cross into Canada at Buffalo,NY, over water soon destined to go over Niagara Falls. I`m back over the same bridge less than 5 hours later, retracing my wheel tracks back to Sunbury, just north of Columbus,Oh.
____DAY 14: I`d never done a load of train wheels before, now I do two in 2 days. There is a special way of securing them, you don`t leave the foundry without doing it there way. I was glad to be shown but I had to take my chains off at Mississauga, I hope the driver picking up that trailer knows what to do. Second load on and I set off in the hope of getting to Portage in Wisconsin, I will take an hours reset there and be just a days drive from home. But at a load check, 1 hour south of Rockford, Il. in an Interstate 39 Rest Area, I hear a bad air leak on the trailer. Back in the cab, the air pressure has dropped so much I cannot release the brakes, which is not good because today has been the first day this year I have seen rain and I`ve parked the trailer over a puddle. I crawl under with a flashlight and find a brake-chamber leaking badly, the rubber diaphram has split. Out of my toolbox, I take a pair molegrips and clamp the rubber pipe leading to the brake-chamber stopping the airflow. The brake on that one wheel is now useless but I`m able to get going again. I could probably get back to Canada with the clamp on the pipe but that would be a bit naughty. I decide to go the 30 miles up the road to the Petro Truckstop at Rochelle, it has workshops and they can have all tomorrow to fit a new brake-chamber. I should call the police and get an escort with flashing lights along the shoulder at 10 mph. But at 80000 lbs on six axles, I still have 11 good brakes which is one more than the normal five axle rig would have at the same weight. I go it alone.
____DAY 15: After a lie-in and a leisurely buffet breakfast, I take the truck round to the workshop. They have the part in stock and it takes an hour to fit. The rest of the day is spent on the internet, in the cab with no bunker heater needed in warm spring sunshine.
____DAY 16: Interstates 39 and 94 take up the whole day from Rochelle to Fargo. The only notable event is when I check the chains at a Rest Area near Alexandria, Mn. A driver working for Swifts from Pheonix, Az comes over to chat about train wheels; it turns out he was in the USAF stationed for five years at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire. Considering we are standing in the middle of Minnesota, there then followed a bizarre conversation about the A43 and the M40. He seemed like a good guy who does on the road training while driving team. Not many Americans know that Bicester rhymes with Sister.
____DAY 17: Back into Canada and unloaded at the Canadian Pacific workshops in Winnipeg. Then back to Steinbach and C596`s turn for the workshop; six monthly safety check and service. Another hours reset for me and out again on Wednesday, loading in Kenora, On.
____Overall Distance:--11663 kilometres.

Wheels of Steel

Friday, March 5, 2010