Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trip XXXV.

____Day 1: Friday morning in Selkirk, just north of Winnipeg, the temperature is above freezing as I load two consignments of steel grader blades for Iowa and Mississippi. Tarped, scaled and back to Steinbach by midday; where Eric, the training guy, says Manitoba is under a blizzard warning. Hard to believe when it’s plus 6 and sunny. But just after dark, it starts blowing and snowing; dropping down to minus 18.

 ____Day 2: A wind chill of minus 30, as I bundle up and go for breakfast. The roads are hard-packed snow, beginning to shine as more and more vehicles buff-up the surface with spinning tyres. The DoT internet sites for Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota, all show road closures and it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon before the border reopens. There’s a long line of trucks waiting to go south at Pembina and it’s late in the evening by the time I reach Sauk Centre.
____Day 3: An hour lost due to the changing of the clocks but it’s not a hard day’s driving down to Delhi in Iowa. Interstate and four-lane highway all the way. Big surprise is that the locals pronounce it: Dell-High.
____Day 4: Unloaded and away by eight-thirty, south to St. Louis and onto Interstate 55, which will lead me to within a couple of miles of my other drop. At Sikeston, Missouri, I look over the fence at Shelby Elliott’s place; east side of the highway. The biggest selection of used trucks with the biggest sleepers in the world. One day I’ll stop; but I push on to Matthews for the night.
____Day 5: Missouri, into Arkansas, a few miles of Tennessee at Memphis, then three hours south on the Double-Nickel to Jackson, Mississippi. The customer at Pearl is not expecting me until Wednesday morning but I’m unloaded and away by half- three. Back north to Memphis, to end the day an hour south of my reload at Blytheville, Arkansas. Steel pipes going to Lac La Biche, Alberta. Two thousand miles plus.
____Day 6: The new truck isn’t carrying any pipestakes and I need four. The office gives me the phone number of Gerry in Blytheville. I call and we arrange to meet in an abandoned truck-stop on the edge of town. A battered pick-up truck rolls up, driven by a seventy year-old guy with a dog on his lap. Four pipestakes for $150 from the world’s slowest speaking person; there’s southern boy drawl and then there’s good’ol Gerry-boy drawl. He makes me sound like an auctioneer. I need a receipt; Gerry is also the world’s slowest writer plus he can’t speak and write both at the same time. At the pipe yard, I have just completed my safety induction course when I return to the truck: satellite message. Job cancelled!
____Day 7: The new reload is from Jackson, Missouri, two hours north; wire-mesh shelving going to Kelowna, British Columbia. 2260 miles. It’s one off them loads where the straps have to go over the wooden frames that hold the bundles of shelving together; otherwise the product would get damaged. Also, I’m not allowed to walk on the load and have to unroll the tarps whilst balancing on the rubbing rail at the side of the trailer. It makes for an untidy tarp job. Away just after 9 o’clock; I get in a full days driving, reaching the Missouri/Iowa border on the Interstate 29.

 ____Day 8: After a faultless DoT inspection at Jefferson, South Dakota, north to Sioux Falls, then west onto Interstate 90; counting down the mile markers from 397 towards 61 and a night at Rapid City, in the Badlands. On the outbound load, for a long way, I tracked the Mississippi River; downstream. For the return load, I am heading upstream alongside the Missouri River; towards it’s headwaters in Montana.
____Day 9: This trip has over 1000 miles of Interstate 90, but I break up to monotony by taking the Highway 212 shortcut through Broadus. This cuts out Wyoming and it’s Port of Entry paperwork inspection; bringing me back on the 90 at the Little Bighorn Battlefield. I fuel up at Belgrade; then the big CAT climbs well into the Rocky Mountains. With only 16000 lbs. of cargo, I fly over the Continental Dividing Line; straight into a snow-storm. Five-hundred and fifty miles to Kelowna and all of it on high-country roads; at the mercy of the Jet-stream and the weather blowing in from the north Pacific Ocean. What falls as rain at the coast; falls as snow at high altitude.
____Day 10: An early morning log-book hours check at Missoula tells me I have only 5 hours driving for today. Not a worry as the load is not due for delivery until Tuesday. So Sunday is a late start, early finish, 200 miles through to Spokane.
____Day 11: Now I’m tracking the third great river of this trip; the Columbia, crossing at the Great Coulee Dam. Canadian regulations give me an extra 10 hours driving as soon as I cross the border at Osoyoos, British Columbia. With a two hour gain from crossing two time zones, I decide to go for it and try and get the load off a day early. At Kelowna, the builders merchants are very helpful; even help folding the tarps. In and out in an hour. The office is on the ball too; a reload from BC to Wisconsin and they say it’s up to me if I can reload early. Crossing the Columbia again, this time by ferry, on my way to Nakusp.

____Day 12: Stan Alto in C623 is already at the Box Lake Lumber Company when I arrive. He’s also loading for Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a Monday morning delivery as well. Two loads of Red Cedar post and rail fencing; high and heavy but smelling nice. An old style lumber yard clinging to a hill-side as snow melts and rain falls; we load, scale and tarp. North out of Nakusp and an hours wait for the Galena Bay ferry to Revelstoke. Then another delay as an avalanche is cleared from the Trans-Canada Highway at the Rogers Pass. Finally out of the mountains and it starts to snow; a hard days work to get to Strathmore for fuel and the bunk.

____Day 13: Snow is still falling as I pull out onto the TCH; heading east across the Prairies. There are a few trucks and cars that have gone off the road; some places are treacherous. Then I notice that nothing is coming in the opposite direction, a sure sign of trouble ahead. One 18 wheeler on it’s side and another jack-knifed; west bound lanes are blocked but east bound is clear. I push onto Brandon with 101fm, The Farm, saying it’s going down to minus 20 overnight. Welcome back to Manitoba!
____Day 14: Back in the yard by midday for a log hour reset. A big triangle of a trip. Two days off and I’ll leave with it, early on Sunday.
____Overall Distance: 8921 km.

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