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.

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