Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trip: XXXIV.

____DAY 1: A long time ago, I stopped trying to work out the economic viability of loads given to me to transport. This trip starts with a 800 mile empty run down to Quincy in Illinois; a day and a half drive to pick up some pallet racking for Suncor in Fort McMurray, Alberta. There is six inches of snow on the trailer as I head out on Sunday morning; I wish it was 40,000 lbs of lumber, the roads are ice and hard-packed snow. I could do with some weight, to help give some traction. Snow flurries continue all day as I make it as far as Sauk Centre, Mn. for the night.
____DAY 2: Snowing continues as I take the Minneapolis By-pass south towards Albert Lea. Then a satellite message arrives: I am required to take two photographs of the load when I have tarped it, at the shipper's premises, to prove to the customer that the load will be tarped for all it's journey. Well; there is nothing that makes me rear-up quicker than when someone insinuates that I do not do my job properly.If they don't trust me to tarp this load as soon as it is loaded then they can get another driver to do the job. Parked at Albert Lea, waiting for my next assignment; there is a flurry of satellite messages until the office agree I don't have to take pictures. The fact that I take lots of photos of all my loads is beside the point. I continue south, down to the Flying'J at Wayland, Missouri, about half an hour from Quincy on the other side of the Mississippi River.
____DAY 3: I'm loaded by 10 o'clock, when Rob Jackson turns up for a similar load of steel frames, he too has run down empty and with the same delivery date, for the following Monday, we decide that with so much time on our hands; we can go home for 2 days. The first snow free day for ten days and a high of + 4C; good progress up to Hasty, Mn. after checking the weights at Wayland.
____DAY 4: The snow returns soon after I start out and from Fargo, ND. all along Interstate 29 to the Canadian border it gets heavier. The roads across Manitoba, from Emerson to Steinbach, are an unploughed six inch carpet of loose snow. The wind is strong and conditions are close to "white-out." If I wasn't so close to home I would park-up, but press on reaching the yard just before dark.
____DAY 5: It is Thanksgiving Day in the US and probably the reason this job is shaping up the way it is. It's a big holiday in the states and everything except retail outlets will be closed until the following Monday; meaning that my load had to be up and running earlier than usual. But I'll take the two days at home; as there is more snow and temperatures down to -17C.
____DAY 6: Another reason for the different work pattern could be the fact that BFS now has 25 more trucks on the road than it did two months ago. The result of a new recruiting office in Winnipeg and an attractive looking pay package for new drivers. These new drivers will be expecting good miles and BFS's promises to be delivered; so the spread of the work is likely to be different than it was when there was plenty of spare trucks in the yard. How many new guys will still be on the payroll at the end of the winter is anybodies guess; tarping steel beams in -40 conditions tends to sort the men from the boys.
____DAY 7: Saturday and the day of the BFS Christmas Party; the Steinbach yard is crammed with all the trucks of the out-based drivers, in town for the free food and drink. I won't be going, again. I can't bring myself to socially interact with office workers who keep me behind locked doors and talk to me through sliding glass windows. People whose silly mistakes of the past year have cost me so much time and money. I would rather spend the evening face down in a ditch of muddy water; where I ended up, the last time I attended such a function many years ago. The trailer brakes are frozen on; but after hammering them with the snipe bar, I have a trouble free run up to Saskatoon. It's now down to -23 and the engine runs all night to keep me warm.

 ____DAY 8: Into Alberta and the cross-country run to the bottom of Highway 63 at Grasswood. Then the long haul to Fort McMurray on the very busy 2 lane. They are making it 4 lane but I'm surprised to see earth-moving equipment working under floodlights, on a Sunday evening in November, a hundred miles from anywhere. With limited parking options in Fort Makemoney, I elect to stop at the abnormal load staging area, 10 miles south of town. Again there have been snow flurries and it is bitterly cold; again the Cat purrs.

 ____DAY 9: A good, if over priced, breakfast to start the day; where I meet up with Rob Jackson. We head off together northwards to Tar Island and the Suncor Oilsands refining plant. Still dark, an endless stream of buses and pick-up trucks, plus tippers, tankers and a couple of green Kenworths line up for entry to Suncor. Oil platforms at sea may only have a dozen workers to produce their product but in the tar sand pits of Canada, oil production is very labour intensive. Due to the weekend snow fall; there is a wait before we can be unloaded. A lay-down area has to be cleared and our pallet racking has low priority on the snow clearers list. It's gone three o'clock by the time I'm pullin out, but the reload is lumber from the Northland Forest Products sawmill, 7 kilometres back towards town. A load to Oak Bluff, near Winnipeg. The lady at the lumber mill says I am the first truck to come in for a load that day; it seems the construction industry has already gone into hibernation. By the time I have refueled and set off south, it is dark. Then freezing fog forms, not a good finish to the day. Back down to Grasswood and the baby Flying'J.
____DAY 10: A heavy load of lumber; more snow in the air, falling and blowing. Alberta into Saskatchewan and I chose the 4 lane option down to Regina, as opposed to the more direct two-lane across to Yorkton. The radio speaks of -25 in northern Sask against a balmy -10 in the south, such is the effect of the Jetstream on the Prairie climate. Regina's Husky Truckstop, free wi-fi and the internet is buzzing with stories of a firing at BFS. The Trucknet Forum has never known such a thread!
____DAY 11: Snow to start but then a bright clear day. Oak Bluff is a regular delivery and one of the quickest. Thirteen packs of lumber, two at a time, and I'm in and out in 30 minutes. Parked up , trailer dropped, oil heater plugged into the electric, truck booked in for its 800,000 kilometre service and thats me finished for this year. Holidays are here!
____Overall Distance: 6153 kms.

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