Sunday, July 25, 2010
____DAY 2: Union Oil, or North Dakota Farmers Union Oil to give them their full name are selling plenty of bins to their members. Another truck load rolls up, just as I leave; heading back into Canada, empty, through the Dunseith / Boissevain customs post. At Brandon, a preloaded trailer of steel siding and roofing is ready to be tarped; four drops, finishing up at Swan River, Mb. Whitewood is the nearest truckstop to the first drop and one of the few places left on the Trans-Canada Highway where you still get a meal and change from a $10 note.
____DAY 3: The first drop at Kipling is the only one of the four where I don’t get drenched. Amazingly it is 123 kilometres between each drop; Kipling- Melville- Preeceville- Swan River. Not far enough to dry out my coveralls and not worth changing just to get more togs wet. There is a reload of lumber out of SPL, Swan River, going to Oak Bluff, so I leave it until after I have it all strapped down, then dry myself completely. Enough time to get to Headingley and wet again; this time in the shower.
____DAY 4: A day to get a “Stamp-On”, a plan has been laid out by the office that sees me unloading in Shelby, Michigan, on Monday morning; push on well today, Thursday, and everything else will fall nicely into place. The lumber is unloaded quickly and a preloaded trailer of grain bins for North Dakota is next; it’s also pre-tarped with the worst tarp job I’ve seen in ages. Maybe it was windy, raining heavy, the driver had conjunctivitis in both eyes or had to rush off to collect someone from the airport; but that is no excuse for jamming the winches with excess strapping; not when you can just tuck it under the tarp. Time is tight, so I go with it flapping wildly; the first delivery is a must-do-today. In the words of the late great Bill MacLaren:
“There will be weeping in the streets of Willow City tonight if he cannah make the drop.”
Union Oil are still open; so onto Grand Forks and I’ve cracked it.
____DAY 5: The Dofner Farm at Buxton, on the North Dakota side of the Red River valley, must be one of the tidiest on the Prairies; no rusting machinery or lines of wrecked vehicles here. Well-trimmed lawns and two huge barns, the size of aircraft hangers, with everything parked under-cover. The farmer’s son is pretty handy on the Bobcat skid-steer; unloaded and I’m soon heading north, back to Steinbach; empty. The Michigan load is waiting, surprisingly, two crates weighing only 505 lbs; taking up less than a quarter of the 48 foot deck. Easiest tarp job I’ve had in ages.
____DAY 6: Former BFS driver Pete Young follows me through the border in his Bison Freightliner, we go into the Gas-Trak, Pembina, for coffee. C598 and Dwayne are already there with a load of bricks and no customs agent. We try and talk him into a positive frame of mind but Dwayne seems resigned to sitting at the border all weekend long. South on Interstate 29, east on Interstate 94 into Minnesota; then,
“See the lightening, hear the thunder; how far off is that I wonder?”
Flash-Bang; right overhead. For the next 5 hours I go along muttering,
“ Push on, we’ll be through this soon.”
All the way to Osseo, Wi, the sky behaves like an out of control speed camera.
____DAY 8: Crates unloaded and the reload details arrive; 1850 miles to Edmonton, Ab. from Muskegon, just south of the other Shelby. Two hundred miles across Michigan to the pick-up and when I’m fuelling up at Lansing, half way there, a snotty message arrives on the satellite.
“Where are you? Shipper is looking for you. You went passed Muskegon hours ago. What’s going on?"
The office got there Shelbys in a twist! Now someone has got to phone the shipper explain how they have dropped a bollock. But now the pressure is on me; I’m told the load has to be delivered at 08.00 am. Thursday. 1850 miles and just Tuesday and Wednesday to do it; not possible. Only one thing to do; book off as soon as I’m loaded [14.00], take a 10 hour break and start again at mid-night. By going to night driving I can get in 3 shifts, arriving in Edmonton at the end of the third with a couple of hours left to unload.
____DAY 9: The early hours of Tuesday are certainly a much better time to tackle Chicago than late Monday afternoon. I make good time, getting up to Hasty, Mn at about midday. Only problem; it’s now the hottest time of the day, in the high 80’s. I need my rest; the truck has to idle, that air-conditioning is essential.
____DAY 10: Second night-shift; this time on mostly two-lane highways in North Dakota and Saskatchewan. What I wouldn’t give for 4 big Hella spotlights on the roof of the cab to show me the way? If the Amish farmers are going to get up and go to work when I come past then that’s just too bad. Onto Moose Jaw and the big Cat has to purr for another afternoon.
____DAY 11: The Yellowhead Route to Edmonton and I arrive with 30 minutes to spare after circling the West Edmonton Mall and finding a height barrier free way onto the roof of a multi-storey car-park. So what was this important load that just had to be there by eight o’clock Thursday? A Ten-Pin Bowling Alley, in kit form; everything, the lanes, the pins, the balls, even the rental shoes, plus the big score screens that show everyone just how useless you are. Twenty guys had been hired from an agency to do the unloading and carry the stuff up two flights of stairs; so that’s why it had to be there on time. I hoped I might get a chance to pop round the shops while I was there but the car park started filling up and I feared I might soon get trapped so I go to Acheson for some sleep.
____DAY 12: A quick trailer change and off to Whitecourt for a load of lumber; Millar Western, one of the biggest and busiest sawmills that seem to be riding out the recession better than most. Eleven packs of 6"x 2", fourteen feet long, the maximum weight for Canada and over 50,000 lbs. It needs inch perfect placement on the trailer for legality; too much on the drive axles means I have to return and wait for the forklift to adjust the packs, not one of my favorite pastimes and something that usually precedes the closing of every scale en route. Running back to Saskatoon sets me up for a Steinbach Saturday night.
____DAY 13: Large chunks of tyre tread scattered along Highway 16 reminds me of what problems I may encounter on a hot cloudless day. My trailer is shod with probably the worlds cheapest retreads; I give them a chance to recover with extended breaks at Yorkton and Gladstone. The sun is setting and a full moon rising when I reach Steinbach: in time to say goodbye to Mal and Bev who are forsaking Manitoba for a new start in Nova Scotia. All the best to you both; the ex-pat community is going to miss you enormously.
____Footnote: The lumber will get delivered to South Junction, Mb. on Monday morning then I'm taking a few days off. During which time I will try to prepare the drivers of North America for the return of Mr. Neil Ramsden.
____Overall Distance: 9909 Kms.