Friday, April 30, 2010

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.

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