Saturday, September 25, 2010

SLIDESHOW: Cabovers, Conventionals and Other Different Stuff from The Summer of 2010.


____DAY 1: Sometimes I wonder if it's worth the effort when I telephone a customer to tell them about their delivery. Many are not bothered about when you get there or what you are bringing, but there are times when it is helpful to the driver. A 4-drop, 1100 mile trip to Alberta with sleds and quads, the first dealer says he will take delivery on Sunday; great, the third dealer is closed all day Monday; not so good. So Saturday is a false start but I'd rather sit at home than outside a closed-up showroom.
____DAY 2: From Steinbach, Manitoba to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Land of the Living Skies, and today they are alive and well. Full of  geese, as they make their way slowly southwards, stopping at stubble field after stubble field. A driver asks me if I know the reason why the flying Vee formations are never symmetrical. Then he enjoys telling me that it is because there are more birds along the longer side. Who says Canadians don't have a sense of humour? But that's probably as good as it gets.
____DAY 3: The first dealer is two miles off the black-top, down a wet and sticky dirt road. The truck is now beige, fading into green. The second dealer  also sells John Deere machinery and it looks like someone has dragged a harrow around the yard; now the truck is muddy inside and out. Onto Red Deer and a night at Gasoline Alley, a stretch of the main Highway 2 that connects Calgary to Edmonton. South of the town, two service roads have a multitude of gas stations, hotels and restaurants plus RV showrooms and my ATV and snowmobile dealer.
____DAY 4: The first snowfall of Fall, early, too early for the farmers who are halfway through harvest. Two inches lies on the swathed Canola [oil seed rape]. The roads are clear which is a shame, as running through a snowfall cleans up the paint work better than anything. Cochrane delivered and the reload is from Calgary, an old favorite, small bags of sand and cement for a DIY superstore in Winnipeg. Then, as so often happens nowadays, BEEP, something else to put on the back and drop off on the way. A mobile cattle chute, used for loading the animals into the livestock trailers.
____DAY 5: The 12 pallets are for delivery at 22.00 hours, after the store has closed, so to keep the log book legal I have to start late in order to get unloaded before my 14 hours daily allowance has elapsed. Starting at ten in the morning lets me go through to mid-night. The cattle chute is for Broadview, Sk which gets dropped off at just after three. It's a wet and windy day but the sand and cement are unloaded in a dry window, thankfully, I'm in bed by midnight.
____DAY 6: I stayed in the 'Peg overnight, for a reload of grain bins to Westby, Montana. My first trip to Montana this year; although Westby is only a couple of hundred yards over the stateline from North Dakota. Tarped and away by 1 o'clock, I ring the customer; Montana has had 4 inches of rain in the last week and he's not sure where he can unload his bins. Not my problem, I'm on my way; he says he'll sort something out. He does; he cancels the load with the salesman and I am diverted to Fargo, ND.
____DAY 7: The grain bin manufacturer's US parts warehouse  gets me unloaded a lot faster than on any farm site and the BFS office are quick off the mark, finding me a reload  of cement; back to Winnipeg. It had rained non-stop, all-night, and the only dry tarps are my huge lumber tarps. They'll keep it dry; practically double tarped: of course it doesn't rain at all. Reloaded on a Friday, every drivers joy; but now with only 210 miles, I want to deliver this one on a Friday too. I'm in the gate at the builders merchant's before they close and they soon understand I'll only be leaving with an empty trailer. They put four forklifts on the job and I'm still folding the lumber tarps when they have long gone. Next job; 1442 miles, Brandon to Ontario for delivery on Tuesday. A pre-loaded trailer that I have just enough time to fetch back to Steinbach. That's tarped two, un-tarped two, all in one day; I hope my fingers are still good for ttyppinng.
____Overall Distance:- 4191 kms.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SLIDESHOW:- Ford Mustangs At The Beausejour Car Show.

Click on the bottom right corner of the slideshow screen for a soft focus big blurred picture.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ten Thousand Hours.


____DAY 1: Three o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon and I'm leaving for Ontario; six drops and 1592 miles with a load of snowmobiles and ATVs. I'm not in the best frame of mind, as all the out-based drivers that were stuck in the Steinbach yard over the long weekend have been given priority over the local drivers. Now it's going to be a  long, hard slog to make sure I am available to be reloaded on Friday morning. Pass Lake is as far as I get before calling it a day.
____DAY 2: Twice in four years, I have not been reloaded on a Friday; which is not bad. Once, stuck for a boring un-needed hours reset at the Flying'J, London,On. The other occasion, on the lash with Big George and Jason. At Niagara Falls, where we pretended to be the Great Britain Chuck Wagon Racing Team; team manager, driver and farrier on a horse buying expedition across North America.
"Gee Honey, you can shoo a horse?"
"Nope, but I once told two dogs to fuck-off."
One ATV is all I get delivered; at Sault Ste. Marie. The Sudbury dealer has gone home by the time I get there.
____DAY 3: After the five units for Sudbury are delivered, I decide to change the running order; taking the faster 4-lane 400 series Highways to Trenton instead of hacking across country to Kingston on a 2-lane road. It pays off, I'm at Trenton before five. Belleville next and my favorite type of dealer; a farm machinery dealer with big drive in, drive out premises; competent fork-lift driver and they are open longer and later than the marine dealers and the motorcycle showrooms that also sell sleds and quads. Four down, 2 to go: better than expected.
____DAY 4: One ATV at Kingston, unloaded as soon as they arrive for work and onto the last drop at the fine town of Marmora. Where it is the weekend of the 9th Annual Music Jamboree; what a great time and place to be stranded. Three days of both my favorite kinds of music: Country and WesBEEP: A reload message arrives. Preloaded trailer is waiting at Oakville, On. going the 2107 miles to Edmonton, Ab. for Tuesday delivery. Marmora to Oakville, across Toronto, as the Friday getaway rush begins to build: strap and tarp steel roof panels, then back into the traffic.  A stop and go crawl northwards to Barrie; finally getting
into top gear as it thins out after I split for Sudbury.
____DAY 5: With only 17,000 lbs of steel, the truck cruises well; taking most hills with just a touch of the button. I stop for coffee at White River: Where It All Began. Birthplace of a black bear cub that was taken  by a Winnipeg soldier to England when he went to fight in the First World War. The bear finished up in London Zoo, where it was a favorite of Alan Alexander Milne who wrote the Winnie the Pooh stories. Sadly, twice within the next 100 miles, I see young black bears dead at the side of the road; victims of road kill. Yet earlier in the day, I had anchored up for a fine mature bear; who, on hearing the automatic transmission rev the engine down through the gears, had scampered away as if it knew of the threat that a vehicle posed. Back to Pass Lake for the night and Wi-fi at the reasonable price of $1.00 per hour.
____DAY 6: Trans Canada Highway all the way, straight past the turn-off to Steinbach,; which is something I don't normally do but it will leave too much to do for the next couple of days if I go home. The truck passes the 750,000 kilometre mark, in the same week that 10,000 hours ticked up on the other dial. It is a 2007 model that came on the road in September '06. About 187,00kms/ year at 75 km per hour = 2,500 hours.
____DAY 7: Pure Prairie day on a four-lane highway, pushing on to the Husky truckstop in Lloydminster on the Saskatchewan- Alberta border. Where once again I find myself speaking Russian; a ploy I use to ward off down-and-outs seeking a handout of small change and to deter super chatty truckers from telling me every single detail about their last months work. However, it is not a complete success with complete know-it-alls who insist on telling you what a crap outfit you are working for. Repeatedly; getting slower, getting louder.
"Big-Freight-Rub-Bish: No-Good-Company."
"Da, lev yashin brezhnev rebrov schevchenko." I reply, which roughly translates to," Yes, old goalkeeper big eye-browed leader half-decent strike partnership."
He turns away muttering that he is wasting his breath; under my breath, I mutter, " Pratt."
I have always thought that "Trappers" was a strange name for a trucking company, but wouldn't dream of telling anyone.
____DAY 8: The roofing panels don't take long to unload, even though they are 50 foot long and the reload  details turn up on cue. Problem is....... It's a load of lumber into the States and any driver who has had a busy week, driving in Canada, can't legally go south without a log hours reset. The US regulations cut 10 hours out of a Canadian drivers week. I have to refuse the job, but I do add that I can bring the load back to Steinbach for re-powering. This is accepted, so it's off to Drayton Valley for ten packs of 18 foot long 6"x2" I'm heading for home when BEEP: Pick-up 1 pallet of concrete blocks from Acheson, deliver to Lloydminster. My route takes me past the front door of both places, so it difficult to refuse the job although there is nothing in it for me. It is the little pure profit jobs like this that make or break a company in this day and age. But I must be more mature and not tease the office about whether I can be bothered to do their irritating little jobs. The Totem Building Supplies superstore is still open when I reach Lloydminster; they respond well to my charms. I'm unloaded and away in less than 10 minutes.
____DAY 9: Still a long way to go and it's just too far for the amount of hours I have left on the logs. If you average 10 hours a day in Canada or 8 hours 45 minutes in the US, in theory you can run about for two weeks without having to worry about driving time. But it is never that simple and I'm left with just enough time to get to Brandon.
____DAY 10: I get the last three hours done as soon as possible. Another truck is waiting for the load and C596 is booked in at the workshop for a service and it's 6 month safety test, also the air-conditioning unit still needs repairing. Remarkably the days have recently been quite cool and the night temperatures down into single figures but if I had landed a trip to Texas then I would have had the truck into the nearest Kenworth dealer faster than a Ferrari.
____Overall Distance:-7732 kms.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Maid in Mexico : 1980 Roadtrip to Juarez.

____ It was a six week holiday, working as an unpaid car delivery drivers for various "Drive Away" agencies. First job, after flying into Washington, DC. was down to Miami, Fl. Next a big one; Fort Lauderdale to Santa Barbara, California. A day off in New Orleans and Bourbon Street, checking out the jazz scene. Then across Texas to El Paso; where my mate Tim suggested that we had a once in a lifetime chance to pop across the border and have a Mexican cutie.
____ We left the car at our seedy motel and crossed a bridge over the Rio Grande, on foot, to the town of Juarez. After a  few beers in a few bars; we wound up in a house where all the girls were scantily clad in ragged chamois leather wash cloths. Twenty dollars upfront and I wound up in bed with a young, olive skinned, raven haired beauty with the biggest doe deer eyes and slenderest hips; ever. Tim was in the bedroom next door; where, unbeknown to me, he had a pee out of the window. Sprinkling onto a Mexican policeman who was relieving himself down in the alley. The irate cop stormed upstairs and kicked in the wrong bedroom door, my bedroom door.
____For a minute I thought I was dead; but my little darling was brilliant in stopping him giving me a beating. Unselfishly, she put her naked body between the fuming officer and my naked body; presumably insisting, in Spanish, that I could not have possibly been responsible as she had been  sitting on my face, giving me head, for the previous ten minutes. Then the house security piled into the room, chaos and confusion reigned while Tim quietly slipped away without being noticed. Sadly I didn't get to finish business with the sweet senorita, for which she looked as genuinely disappointed as I was. I was thrown out, but not before I was forced to cough up $100 to pay for the repair of the bedroom door.
Not the girl in the story; just a nice piece of chamois leather
____Ps. When doing "Drive Away" in pairs, always pick up your next car before dropping off the last one. That way you won't get stranded without wheels and have to rely on public transport or hitch-hiking.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Classic Cars From The Beausejour Show.

Click the bottom right corner of slideshow screen for the big picture.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Down On The Farm.

Trip XXV.

____DAY 1: 170 miles empty to Brandon; strap and tarp a load of steel beams for a lumber mill extension in Fort St. John in British Columbia. Onto North Battleford, Sk. for a full days driving; parking at the Gold Eagle Casino. Do I feel lucky? No, I feel tired.
____DAY 2: Another 1000 kilometre plus day to the north-western extremity of the Prairies. Where the wheat and barley still stand waiting to be harvested. Mile zero of the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek but only northbound for 45 miles to FSJ. Two other BFS trucks are already at the Petro-Canada truckstop; the 10 o'clock and twelve o'clock deliveries waiting for the 8 o'clock to join them. There is then a long debate about time-zones and eventually we all agree that the little piece of BC. that contains Dawson Creek and FSJ is one of the only two places in Canada where the clocks do not change. In summer it aligns with the rest of BC. and in winter it goes with Alberta on Mountain Time. Saskatchewan is the other place that does not "spring forward" or "fall back."
____DAY 3: You would think that delivering to a lumber mill, you would automatically get a reload of lumber. But the loads out of lumber mills are in the hands of brokers and the sawmills have no say who hauls their product. Canfor also sends a lot by rail; so when unloaded, the reload is from High Prairie, 346 Kilometres to the east. Lumber to Regina, Sk. quickly loaded from Buchanan Forest Products. South, back through Edmonton in the early evening and east to Vegreville for the night.
____DAY 4: Three hard days, but now an easy one. Lloydminster for fuel, food and shower. Isn't it annoying when they fit motion activated spray taps on a wash basin where you need to rinse a razor? If they think they are saving water- they are not. The shower is now running twice as long, just to get all the gunk from between those multi-blade heads. A siesta at Saskatoon and onto Regina's Husky Truckstop for an evening of free Wi-fi.
____DAY 5: Lumber delivered, no problem; reload from Chamberlain, an hours drive northwest, to Selkirk, Mb. Bales of scrap metal, ring for directions to the load site. At Chamberlain, I am joined by Stuart Anderson in C 602, also loading scrap. Eventually a guy in a pick-up truck comes to lead us to our loads, 20 miles down a dirt road, to a farm. The place resembles an over grown museum full of rusting automobiles and redundant agricultural machinery. A car-crusher has been set up to clear the site but it doesn't do the job as quick as the one in the Bond movie " Goldfinger." I go for a wander around and find a rarebird amongst the junk; a 1950's Nash Statesman 4-door saloon, complete, with all glass intact. I chat with the farm-owner, a thin gaunt man in his fifties, living proof that you will stay slim if you work each and every day light hour. He is selling up, tired of supplying the world with cheap food. He tells of the fire that burned down the farmhouse, workshop and barn. Nothing was insured. The place has an aura of sadness, like at a funeral. Instead of coffins going into a crematorium's furnace; ancient vehicles are going into the crusher. It is gone 6 o'clock before I have my 16 steel lumps netted and secured with a mixture of chains and straps. I leave Stuart still waiting to load; with not much hope of getting away before nightfall. At Regina, I scale the load and it's 490 kgs overweight on the trailer axles. Do I make the 200 kilometre round trip back to the farm and have the load shifted to a legal position? Do I make a super-human effort to slide the siezed-up axle bogie to a legal position? Or do I drive the back roads so that I dont get weighed?
____DAY 6: From Brandon to the BFS yard in Winnipeg via Oakville. Unchain, unstrap and leave the load for a day-cab city truck to take up to Selkirk. This gets me out of the worst part of the scrap car carrying job; cleaning the trailer once empty: crushed glass, old engine oil all ground into the wooden deck. Bobtail back to Steinbach for the whats left of the long Labour Day weekend.
____Overall Distance:- 4379 kms.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Hill They Call "Bolu" from the book: Roadtrip Ramatuelle.

____East of Izmit was all new territory for me. The main part of Turkey was not even on any of my maps as they all finished at Istanbul. To help myself, I had spent a lot of the weekend, casually picking the brains of other British drivers at the Londra Camp. They reckoned that I did not need a map as Ankara was on all the signposts; I was told of the whereabouts of all the police checkpoints; where I would have to stop, in order to have my TIR transit card stamped. Most of my helpful colleagues’ advice also came with cautionary tales of a hill they called “Bolu” which proceeded the ominously sounding descent named “Death Valley”. I was encouraged to learn that with only a part-load left on the trailer, weighing four tonnes, I should not have any problems going up or coming down.

____It was a full day’s drive across to Ankara, after I left Istanbul. The speed limit was 70 kilometres per hour, with plenty of slow and over-loaded local trucks to pass. These Turkish made six wheel rigids were nicknamed “Tonkas” by the Brits; they were built to carry 15 tonnes, but frequently carried more than 20, with their eight metre long loads piled as high as possible, with every cargo imaginable. The brightly painted cabs were decorated with an abundance of second-rate sign writing which contrasted greatly with the plumes of black smoke coming from the unsilenced exhausts. The Tonkas’ incessant droning was only interrupted when an over-loaded tyre would explode with an almighty bang.

____Just after the police checkpoint at the lorry park, owned by SOMAT, the Bulgarian state transport company, I came to the hill they called “Bolu”. The road snaked back and forth across the rising ground with a succession of blind summits that made me think I would never reach the top. Several Tonkas expired in their attempt at the long climb; some had overheated, while two others seems to have broken the half-shafts in their back axles as weight and gravity won the battle against the internal combustion engine. Not that coming down was any easier. A runaway Tonka had flipped over on the last bend of its descent, broadcasting sacks of corn into an adjacent field; while two others that I passed when I was close to the top seemed to be going downhill much too fast for the conditions. The worried look on the drivers’ faces appeared to confirm it.

____On the brief flat area at the summit, most of the Tonkas pulled over to let their engines idle, so that some of the excess heat could be dissipated, before they dropped down into “Death Valley”. The road that descended into the valley was totally different from that of the climb as it was cut into the side of a steep gorge, with a rock face on one side and the drop into a dried up riverbed on the other. The hill they called “Bolu” was on relatively open terrain, with spectacular views across open countryside. The gorge road never let you see more than 200 metres ahead before it disappeared around another blind bend. Also, it was difficult to concentrate on the driving when your eyes were continually drawn to the shattered wrecks of cars and trucks that littered the arid canyon floor, in various stages of rusted deterioration. “Whatever gear you go up a hill, is the gear to come down that hill” is an old transport industry saying that certainly rang true concerning the descent of “Death Valley”. The vee-eight Mercedes hardly needed more than a dab on the foot brake to slow it into the bends. The braking effect of the 15 litre engine, plus the closed exhaust manifold valve, held the rig adequately in check as I anticipated the gradient to flatten out long before it did.

____It was nearly dawn when I arrived at the Teleks Motel on the outskirts of Ankara. After a few hours’ sleep, I was awoken by the Customs clearing agent banging on the side of the cab. The shipping agency man in Istanbul had said he would telephone the Ankara office - true to his word, he had advised his colleagues of my arrival and saved me the cost of a taxi. This also meant that I did not get the chance to see the sites of Turkey’s capital city as my delivery address was sited just next door to the motel parking area. By midday, I was empty and back on the road to Istanbul. The sun was coming up behind me, as I turned into Londra Camp, 18 hours later.

SLIDESHOW: Pick-up Trucks at Beausejour Car Show.