Saturday, October 9, 2010

Trip XXIX.

____DAY 1: An early start on a frosty Saturday morning; 1800 miles lie ahead with 50,000 lbs of steel building to be carted across the Canadian Shield. Three shifts at the wheel and all two-lane highway after the first  two hours. As Mary Chapin Carpenter would say,
"We'll drink our coffee on the run, climb that ladder rung by rung."
Highway 11 to Hearst for the first night halt.
____DAY 2: Turn left at Matheson, out of Ontario and into Quebec. More Shield, rocky outcrops amongst mixed woodland, criss-crossed with streams running from beaver-dammed lakes; the road twisting and turning, rising and falling, like a roller-coaster. Diesel from Val d'Or, then looping north on the isolated Highway 113 towards Chibourgamau. Another tank re-fill needed at the end of the day at the Chambord Petro Truckstop.

 ____DAY 3: Darkness and mist as I run down to the shores of the St. Lawrence, along the cliff-tops rising out of the Saguenay Fiord. The coastal road is no better, with short sharp climbs and swooping descents into sharp corners. I arrive at Sept-Iles' Pointe Noir docks 30 minutes ahead of my 1500 hours booking time. As I'm the fourth truck to be unloaded that day; the workers have a system worked out. In and out in less than an hour. A reload arrives quickly too; peat moss from just down the road at Port Cartier to 150 miles further down the road at Columbier. Booked to load that evening at 1800 hours at the Sungro packing plant.
Three kilometres along Shelter Bay Road, I come to the Nirom peat moss yard, maybe they pack for Sungro or can tell me where to go. But the place is deserted, closed for the night, obviously not my shipper as I'm booked to load at six and it's only just gone five. I'll drive farther along the road until I find Sungro. Soon I'm out of peat moss territory, into the Shield on a narrow logging track. After 25 kilometres, I have still not found a place to turn around a 75 foot rig and it's getting dark! At 28 kilometres, there is a narrow snowmobile trail joining on the left, it maybe my only chance. I jack-knife the 53 foot flat-deck back into the undergrowth as far as possible; drop the trailer. Turning the tractor-unit around on the widest bit of track that I can find; I then squeeze past the front of the trailer and hook up to it from the other side. Slowly and gently, I then drag the rig out of the scenery and head back to civilisation. Halfway along there is a fantastic waterfall beside the road; a classic cascade, 20 feet wide, thirty feet high and in full flow. But I'm too stressed to stop and take a picture.
____DAY 4: An early morning phone call tells me the shipper is the Nirom outfit that I first visited. Loaded with 22 of the big 135 cubic foot peat moss packs, I am then told the destination is not three hours away at Columbier but at St. Mathieu, southwest of Montreal. Not one single detail of the load information I was given was correct! A short sharp satellite message is sent to the office pointing out my displeasure. I now have a full days slog with a high and swaying load along a torturous route; the only relief being the ferry trip across the Saguenay Fiord at Tadoussac. I finish the day at the Irving Big Stop, St. Liboire, a favorite feeding trough of many Brit truckers, driving for companies based in the Maritimes.

 ____DAY 5: Peat moss delivered and off to Valcourt for a load of snowmobiles, destined for Winnipeg. Thirty machines, another high load but only a third of the weight of the peat moss. I just clear the Pont de Champlain at Montreal before the southbound buses start using a northbound lane to cross the St. Lawrence. This screws up the whole of the rush hour for the whole city; giving proirity to buses and delaying cars must be someone's idea of persuading drivers to use the bus. But it will never have an effect and does nothing for trucks. As darkness falls, so does the rain, but tonight I'm on ashphalt and onto the Irving at Pembroke, Ontario.
____DAY 6: The long driving hours earlier in the week have now caught up with me. Only 15 hours available for the next two days. I decide to start late, take a long lunch, an afternoon nap and finish early. Amazing how a day can pass so quickly. Pembroke to the baby Flying'J at Kapuskasing. If it had been summertime, I would have bought a ticket for the Polar Bear Express; a train that runs out of Cochrane north to the shores of Hudson Bay and the town of Moosonee. A brilliant day trip, but only available in July and August.
____DAY 7: Highway 11 is at it's busiest this time of the year. Thanksgiving Long Weekend and the start of the hunting season mean that thousands of heavily laden pick-up trucks pulling trailer loads of quad-bikes swarm onto the northern Ontario wilderness. An annual mission to seek out and destroy poor helpless creatures whilst drinking lots of beer. "Hunters Welcome" say the signs at motels, filling stations and bottle shops; it should say, "Hunters Money Welcome." Another short mileage day: Kapuskasing to another long "K" named place. Kaministiquia, just west of Thunder Bay.
____DAY 8: As day breaks, betweeen Ignace and Dryden, I spot a big bull moose, knee deep in a lake, eating the underwater vegetation. I stop and shoot it. More pictures for the folder marked: " Blurred Animals Disappearing Into Bushes." Back in the Steinbach yard at noon, I unstrap the snowmobiles and leave them for a city truck to deliver on Tuesday; I'm out again on Monday, going to Alberta.
____Overall Distance:- 6511 kms.



  1. Day trip to Moosonee is possible five days a week all year round and six days a week in summer since service expanded in 2007