Friday, April 30, 2010

Rocky Mountain Pictures.

Rocky Mountain Pictures.

Top:----- Looking west from the Frank Slide at the Crowsnest Pass.

Second:-- Waiting for C556 at the Kootenay Summit.

Third:--- Finally C556 comes into view.

Fourth:- Waiting to unload at Castlegar.

Trip XIII.

____DAY 1: Saturday morning in the yard; I find myself with two others, tarping loads of steel duct-work going to Castlegar,BC for a paper mill refurbishment. C535, whose new driver's favorite colour appears to be bright pink and C598, driven by Dwayne and his border collie. I would get on a lot quicker if he would stop humping my leg while I'm throwing straps. The dog, not Dwayne. Ugly loads that came in from Hamilton, Ontario; I'm given vague instructions about some of the pieces going onward to Grand Forks, BC. I leave after lunch and get to Regina, Sk but not until I have repeatedly stopped to swear at one piece of misbehaving steelwork that keeps twisting sideways and out over the edge of the trailer.
____DAY 2: Freezing temperatures and snow flurries greet me as I head west on the Transcanada Highway into Alberta. At Medicine Hat, I turn onto Highway 3: through Lethbridge and with glimpses of snow-covered peaks, I start climbing upwards on the Crowsnest Pass. The weather is at it's day-time high of 8 degrees as I reach Cranbrook for the night and park beside Matthew Newcombe in BFS Volvo C556.
____DAY 3: Matthew has a firm 1 o'clock unloading appointment so I tag along to see if they can fit me in afterwards although my load is not due until Tuesday. It is all mountains now, the Kootenay Pass being the longest and highest climb. At Castlegar, we enter the region populated by the Doukhobor religious sect, Russian immigrants with great agricultural expertise that is reflected in the farms, orchards and market gardens of the area. At the paper-mill, C598 and C535, along with two other trucks are waiting to unload. Two more loads arrive after Matthew and I, making eight. We are told that due to the late arrival of their equipment that the contractors cannot start unloading until Tuesday morning. After the two of us bobtail into town, Matthew tells me that he is finding it hard to come to terms with the extreme sexual orientation of C535's driver. I have to admit that I have concerns about the matter. Eventually we agree that we have to be professional and treat our new work colleague the same as we would any other driver, regardless of how they look or act. Booked into the Sandman Hotel for the night, we dine at the Black Rooster, Classic Bar and Grill; which we are assured is the best scene that Castlegar has to offer on a Monday night. The Bar on Mars: no atmosphere.
____DAY 4: There's trouble at mill int' morning; the contractors now say that no trucks were scheduled to arrive until Wednesday; when they will be unloaded. The sunshine of Monday has given way to steady rain on Tuesday and the mood of the drivers has also darkened. Eight trucks just don't all arrive two days early without someone giving them the go-ahead. The contractor's manager is pointedly given the drivers views on the situation. He has a rethink and says unloading will begin after lunch; eight pieces of duct-work are unloaded and I'm on my way to Grand Forks by 14.30. It's not an easy drive over the Bonanza Pass but with only 4000 lbs, I am at the factory that is to modify my steelwork by 4 o'clock. The trailer is empty before I have finished rolling up my straps. My reload is from Nakusp, BC, where I dine that evening in the "Three Lions", a sports bar themed on the England national soccer team. An excellent fish supper only spoilt by a large Union Jack hanging on the wall. Every true fan knows that it should be the Cross of St. George. "Three Lions on my shirt, Jules Rimet still gleaming, Forty years of hurt, Hasn't stopped me dreaming."
____DAY 5: Bales of Red Cedar Bark Mulch is my load from the Box Lake Lumber Products company, who operate from an old style sawmill perched on a steep hillside south of Nakusp. Not an ideal load for a stepdeck; right up to the maximum legal weight and to be tarped but at least it smells nice. A high and heavy load in the mountains is not something you can hurry; it's a slow struggle: up hill, slow crawl: down hill. Three significant climbs and the mpg falls to 4.3. Full tanks at Nakusp need a re-fill at Cranbrook and I still have the Crowsnest Pass before I am out of the mountains.
____DAY 6: I wake-up in Lethbridge to blizzard conditions, as bad as any I have witnessed all winter. The north wind lays the snow onto the side of the rig as I head east; back to Steinbach for someone else to take the load onto it's final destination in South Dakota. As I reach Saskatchewan, the snow turns to rain but the radio talks of 30 centimetres forecast for Calgary in Alberta. My thoughts turn to the others who unloaded after me at Castlegar; four of them were also due to reload at Nakusp.
____DAY 7: Regina to Steinbach and the wind has dropped, the rain now no more than a misty drizzle. A message comes through saying that I might as well continue with this load and deliver it in Harrisburg,SD on Monday morning. It acknowledges that I will return to base for a 36 hour log reset, bit of a long way round but I mustn't grumble.
____Overall Distance: 4022 kms.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trip XII.

____PROLOGUE: Several people have commented on how my last trip was similar to one done be my good freind Peter Schneider. We both loaded lumber in Kenora for the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. Then reloaded out of Ritchie Brothers' auction sites for destinations in Ontario. Both had load securement problems and took blows to head from our own snipe bars. Peter knocked himself out, went to hospital and had stitches. But a bizzarre coincidence of two very good looking men being scared for life by malfunctioning chain binders.
____DAY 1: For my next trip I get the same delivery address as Peter had on his fateful trip: Baltimore. But from then on the chain will be broken as I already have my reload, resin rods from West Virginia to Winnipeg. It's a tight 3 day run, so after crossing at International Falls, I push on as far as possible; finishing at Bloomer in Wisconsin.
____DAY 2: The leaves are coming out onto the trees, the Harley-Davidsons are coming out of there heated storage and the cone-zones are back on the Interstates. The US Recovery and Reinvestment Programme is throwing billions of dollars at the Interstate System. Anybody who has taken the southbound ramp from Interstate 290 onto Interstate 294 will say,"About time too". 290 is now all torn up and that's the only excuse I need to stay on Interstate 39 at Rockford and loop through Bloomington Il. cutting out all of Chicago. I finish the day at Spiceland, east of Indianapolis.
____DAY 3: Interstate 70 starts at Cove Fort, Utah and goes eastwards through Denver, Kansas and Indianapolis, 3500 kilometres, all the way to Baltimore in Maryland; it should be the only road I drive today. But at Breezewood Pa. the Interstate disappears, hi-jacked by local entrepreneurs. With the help of two sharp bends and some traffic-lights, all vehicles are channelled down a half mile strip of neon, saturated with every fast food franchise and brand of fuel station along with enough hotel beds to cope with an airport full of stranded passengers.
The Baltimore Travel Plaza is only a mile from my delivery point and a handy place to stop; but it has an edge. Downtown, near the docks; I don't see truck-drivers or truck-stop workers standing outside, having a smoke, I see opportunists. Stuart Anderson in C603 is already there with the eight o'clock load, I park next to him, safety in numbers; it's time to sharpen-up security, sharpen the senses and the body language. It's a"TA" truckstop with the "All you can eat-everything-all the time" menu .The very nice waitress insists I have two Southern Chicken dinners. Then she tells the five drivers seated at her counter that her boy freind is a trucker and that he cheats on her; adding that she enjoys cheating on him too. Later she shows us all some glamour shots taken on her camera phone. I'm the first to leave so I don't know who got lucky.
____DAY4: My 7 o'clock delivery is unloaded by half past and I'm soon on my way to Falling Waters WV, a few miles south of Interstate 70 on the famous Potomac River. Arriving at 11 for a 12 noon loading appointment, I'm told that there has been a machinery break-down and my load won't be ready until 6 o'clock that evening. Time to rest up for the long drive back. The load is resin, the same stuff that glues fibre-glass together, the smell is strong and effects the senses. It gets to me a bit while I'm tarping, if you was in a van with this stuff it would knock you out. My 14 hour time limit is up at Breezewood, not a high mileage day.
____DAY 5: A day of a thousand K, a day of Interstates 70 and 74 from Breezewood TA to Bloomington TA. A day of cruise control, scanning the airwaves for "Classic Rock" and scanning the fast lane for "Leg"; damn privacy glass shouldn't be allowed!
____DAY 6: Interstates 39 and 94; soon former BFS driver, Tony Winning comes past in his smart blue and white Volvo. We stop for coffee at South Beloit,Il and then again at Back River Falls Wi. I'm finding it difficult to keep up so we arrange to met at the Truckers Inn at Sauk Center Mn. Wednesday night, there is "All you can eat-Taco Bar"; tasty but messy.
____DAY 7: I first ran with Tony over 3 years ago when we did the "Duffey". Where I led us, fully laden and totally unnecessarily, over the now known to be notorious mountain pass; north of Whistler in British Columbia. He always mentions it. We run back to Canada and I have just enough time to get my load off in Winnipeg before they go home.
____Overall distance: 5454 kms.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trip XI.

____DAY 1: Half -way to Kenora, a message came in changing the delivery to Assonet, Massachusetts from Monday to Tuesday. The 1800 mile trip now had five days in which to be completed. A load of lumber, 200 lbs below the allowed maximum of 80,000 lbs, it took a bit of shuffling of the packs to get the axle weights legal. Then it was off to the border, crossing into the US at International Falls, Mn. Probably one of the strangest border crossings anywhere; trucks cross by using a single track rail-road bridge over the Rainy River with steel plates leveling out between the rails. First night out is at the Nemadji Truckstop at Superior, Wi.
____DAY 2: After a late start, I refuel at the Flying J at Black River Falls where I decide to use my fuel vouchers. I come out of the restaurant paying only $1.53 for a vast ammount of the buffet. Half-way across the parking, I know I have overdone it: again. But I am learning from my mistakes and move the truck to a parking spot closer to the washrooms. Eventually, I think it is safe enough to continue and make it as far as South Bend, In.
____DAY 3: Westwards out of Indiana and into Ohio, Interstates 80 and 90 are the same road, when they split, I have to choose: loop northwards on the 90 or take the more direct 80 route. I take the 80 which is toll-free but does go through New York City. The afternoon temperature rises to 29 degrees C, strangely warm when there are no leaves on the trees and an overcast sky. But a strong wind is blowing from the south, like a hairdryer.
____DAY 4: From Lamar, Pa. the Interstate 80 passes into New Jersey at the Delaware Water Gap and down towards New York, joining the New Jersey Turnpike just before going over the Hudson River on the George Washington Bridge. There is congestion at the toll booth for the bridge but as it is Easter Sunday, traffic is generally light. Across Manhattan, through the Bronx and taking Interstate 95 along the shore into Connecticut. I finish the day at the TA at Brenford, one of the few truckstops on the Eastern Seaboard that doesn't charge for parking.
____DAY 5: It's only two hours drive to Assonet, and although I'm not booked in until Tuesday, I have delivered here before and was unloaded without an appointment. I wait for the early morning rush to subside then cut across Rhode Island and onto Assonet. The guys say they will get to me when they can, I'm unloaded after the shift change.
____DAY 6: A reload comes through mid -morning, from Stafford Springs, Connecticut to Caledon in Ontario; 530 miles. I cut across the wooded hillsides of Rhode Island and Connecticut, a pleasent drive amongest sprawling villages of weather-boarded houses in the classic New England style. The load is 4 excavator buckets from a Ritchie Bros. auction site; easily found due to the bold orange and white flags that always avertise Ritchie Bros. The buckets are going to another auction site in Canada. Can people make a living by buying goods on the internet, shipping them across borders and then selling them again at another auction?
____DAY 7: The route into Canada takes me back west along the Interstate 90 to Buffalo, NY. It's only 2 hours north to Caledon and I arrive mid-afternoon; I'm taking off the chains when: BANG- OUCH, that hurt. My head has been hit harder, but I can't remember when. A big thank-you to the folks at LVG Auctions who searched several First Aid kits to find a sticking plaster big enough to cover the cut. When unloaded, I trundle down to the Husky Truckstop at Mississauga feeling distinctly detuned. Luckily nosing into the last available parking space, I go in search of a nice cup of tea.
____DAY 8: No reload information comes until the afternoon and I'm grateful for a quiet day. It's a load out of Buffalo, just over the border in New York state, going to Saskatoon,; loading Friday. The only place to stop that I can think of is the Bordertown Truckstop at Fort Erie; it will mean crossing at a busy time in the morning but gives me a welcome rest.
____DAY9: The tanks going to Saskatoon take the load height right up to the 13ft 6inch legal maximum. I'm glad to be able to tarp them inside as a strong cold wind blows straight off Lake Erie; by the time I am ready to leave, it has started to snow. Toledo, Ohio was not as far as I thought I would get, It will leave a lot to do if I am to deliver Monday morning.
____DAY 10: The daily average kilometre count for the last few days had not been high. But Saturday needed 1000 kays, the weather had changed to clear and bright, weekend traffic was light and Rogers ,Minnesota was a good place to get to.
____DAY 11: Sunday needed the same effort as Saturday, another thousand kilometres, Minnesota, North Dakota and up into Saskatchewan. Weyburn would leave me with just a couple of hours driving in the morning.
____DAY 12: The tanks were going to a chemical plant being built at Key Lake in northern Saskatchewan, I arrived at the equipment holding yard in Saskatoon at 11.00am. The unloading crane was booked for 13.30, which gave me time to untarp, but the crane didn't show up until gone three o'clock. It didn't take long to lift them off ,but it meant I had missed my afternoon reload pick-up in Prince Albert; one and a half hours drive north.
____DAY 13: The load from PA was empty snowmobile and ATV crates; going back to Steinbach and eventually to Roseau,Mn, home of Polaris. Forty-five, not a full load, and I had them put on 6 high; it was into the wind all the way home to Steinbach.
____Overall distance:-8430 kms.