Monday, June 27, 2011

Dakota Highway Flooding Continues.

The camera mounted on my little radio-controlled boat seems to be working well.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sad End of Flying Eagle Flagship : Truck # 03.

____Day 1: Over the years I have been involved in several recovery jobs at various companies. One thing is always certain; it will not go smoothly and as the boss has just incurred enormous costs, pay for all the work done will be minimal. Instructions: take empty trailer to Osseo, Wisconsin, load damaged cargo from wrecked trailer and return it to the shipper in Indiana. Reload a replacement shipment and get it to Winnipeg, asap, undamaged. As I am empty, I get to choose the border crossing point; across country to Warroad, giving Interstate 29 a break on my way to Osseo via Duluth.
____Day 2: Flying Eagle #03 has gone off Interstate 94 into the trees; a sorry end to a heavily customised Peterbilt 379. A brand new Great Dane dry freight van, coming home from the factory, was carrying it's first cargo and now has the whole front torn off. But the cargo will not be released to me; so I leave the trailer at Osseo and new instructions send me bobtailing down to Terre Haute, Indiana, to collect another Great Dane for the Flying Eagle fleet.

The driver escaped uninjured; except for his pride.

____Day 3: Another early morning change of plans: the construction of Flying Eagle's new trailer hasn't been finished. But there is  another trailer waiting to go to Canada at nearby Brazil. So new, that the paint on the chassis is still soft. Loaded with plastic film, I'm setting off back to Canada, nervously wondering if this load is not jinxed. Crazy, but I do think that some jobs work out like that. Back to Osseo, for no particular reason except that it's a quiet truckstop where a late arrival can always find a parking spot.

A Great Dane outside the factory gates. It will never look that clean again.

____Day 4: This time, I come back into Canada at Emerson. The trailer has to clear customs as an imported item, the same as the cargo. The trailer is going to the Great Dane dealer for the Canadian Prairies. It's set up for "Turnpiking", double-53 foot trailers on four-lane highways. A nice piece of kit with disc brakes, super-single tyres and a device that makes the rear suspension into a rigid unit; for when a fork-lift truck needs to run into the back. Just a four day trip, I leave the new Great Dane in the yard at Niverville and take a log hours reset, ready to leave again on Saturday morning.
____Overall Distance: 3470 km.

#03, at it's best with it's old matching trailer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Laredo, Texas.

____Day of the Wedding: Kevin and Melissa`s big day went very well. A first ever open-air ceremony for me in the grounds of Steinbach`s Mennonite Heritage Village. Surreal; in that the preacher wore shades and also that the man in the tinted eye-wear was Jim Penner, the driver-training guy at Big Freight Systems. I spent the whole of the service thinking of how Big Jim could integrate some marriage vows into orientation.
   ``Repeat after me:  I  : the gullible new driver......to have and to hold secure, causing no damage.....for better or for worse depending on miles.......for richer or for poorer depending on miles....to love, honour and obey my despatcher........till death does us part...... not!``

____Day 1: The peat-moss was loaded by a day-cab truck and needed the trailer axles sliding forward to get the excess weight off the drives. With the gross weight near to the american maximum of 80,000 lbs; not an easy task. Eventually underway and down to the Flying`J at Sioux Falls.
____Day 2: The second day into a headwind, but it`s all four-lane with not many hills. A thousand kilometres through Iowa, Missouri and into Oklahoma. Another night-out at another Flying`J: Checotah on Highway 69.
____Day 3: Into Texas, through Dallas, Austin and San Antone. To the twin truckstops of Laredo; a Flying`J and a TA, opposite each other. Full to over-flowing with taco stands doing good business at the roadside. The CB is full of offers, cheap DVDs and shuttle rides across the border for a good time. Been there, done that and came back with my tail between my legs.
____Day 4: Almost all the truck traffic coming down to Laredo has stuff for Mexico. But because of restrictions by the insurance companies, no Canadian or American trucks cross the border. All loads are transhipped onto Mexican trailers at warehouses along the banks of the Rio Grande. My peat-moss was off-loaded at one such place. The reload was four miles upstream; thirty-nine cement mixers, waiting on a Mexican trailer. Transhipped by six-thirty and I`m northbound upto New Braunfels for the night.


____Day 5: It`s a much lighter load and to vary the route; I follow the old Chisholm Trail, Interstate 35. Named after Jesse Chisholm, Indian guide and speaker of nine languages, a man renowned for his honesty and fairness who actually never drove any cattle along the trail that bears his name. Taking a westerly route through Kansas up to Salina for food and fuel.
____Day 6: A lot of the day on Highway 81, straight north until it cuts across the Interstate 29 at Watertown, South Dakota. Through flood water stretching for two miles; showing how severe the weather can be on the plains. Finishing at the Stamart Truckstop, Fargo and the Northstar Truck Wash; number 31 having a high-pressure hose-down for the first time.
____Day 7: Not much left to do, three hours back to the yard with the cement-mixers going on to Winnipeg on Monday.
____Overall Distance: 5500 km.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Northern Alberta.

____Day 1: A trailer is coming up from Georgia, loaded with geo-textile lining fabric for a landfill site near Fort McMurray in Alberta. I get going with it after having a couple of tyres changed; they might have done the trip but it's that time of year again: the DoT 3-day Safety Blitz. Along the Yellowhead Trail to Dafoe for a night at the 247 Truckstop in Saskatchewan.
____Day 2: The only address I have been given is: Km 226 on Hwy 881, Janvier. The contact phone numbers go straight to voicemail; so I reach Lac La Biche anticipating four hundred and fifty kilometres of dirt road. But I'm in Alberta's Oil-Patch and a lot of money has upgraded the local infrastructure in recent years; this dirt road has been asphalted. The new truck was saved from the stones.

Janvier Landfill: the big stuff is called in to make unloading easy.
 ____Day 3: The landfill serves the oil industry based at Fort McMurray which is 70 kilometres further north. A tracked excavator soon pulls the big 15 foot rolls out of the trailer and I'm away across northern Alberta to High Prairie for a load of wood shavings; going to Saskatchewan. Loaded and back down to Edmonton; passing the town of Slave Lake, still charred and smelling of woodsmoke from when a forest fire destroyed 40% of the place, just two weeks ago.

The old sawdust truck at Buchanan Lumber, High Prairie. Looks like a Hayes. 
 ____Day 4: At Macklin; the first open scale that I have seen all week, pulls me over for a full examination. As soon as the officer pulls open the hood, he sees that he is dealing with a brand new truck and asks how many kilometres it has done. He goes through the motions and I get a sticker on the wind-shield; telling that all was good and that I needn't be examined again for a month. The wood shavings are going to a Hutterite Colony, near Rush Lake, again no proper address for my new GPS; just directions from a cellphone leading me to a farmyard somewhere behind the middle of no-where. The Hutterites are a radical religious group aligned with the Amish, Mennonites and Mormons. They do use mechanical equipment, unlike the Amish, but don't possess a pallet truck. So the shavings are dragged to the back of the trailer before being lifted off by the skid-steer.

Dragging the pallets back with chains at a Hutterite Colony in Saskatchewan.
 ____Day 5: Eston is quite near the Hutterites place and it doesn't take long to load 800 sacks of coriander that are going to Baltimore, on the US east coast. It's ten days before the load is due to be delivered, so I take it back to the yard at Niverville. Completing the trip with a 1000 kay-day and back in time for the wedding of ex-BFS/now Flying Eagle driver, Kevin, and Melissa, on Saturday afternoon.

At Slave Lake, Some places had lucky escapes.
 ____Overall Distance: 4433 km.

The Amish Question: Where's the fork-lift?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Virginia Plain

____Day 1: I leave the yard with Christer Gustafasson right behind me; after the border, he comes past in the old-school flat-top long-hood flat-deck pulling multi-hyphenated Peterbilt and disappears on his unlimited way to Florida. Eagle 31 is limited to 104 kph, but with the flat terrain and only 13,000 lbs of cardboard tubes in the trailer; it's an easy cruise down to Osseo, Wisconsin.
____Day 2: The Sunday before the US Memorial Day holiday; a distinct lack of trucks on the road and in the truckstops. This trip is two drops, 1700 miles, so another nine hours at the wheel cuts the journey neatly in three: to the TA Travel Centre just south of Cincinnati.

The truck is available for wedding hire: you can hold a reception for 200 guests in the sleeper.

____Day 3: Across Kentucky on the strangely named, AA Highway, which my Garmin GPS trys to tell me is not a truck-route. It has truck-lanes on all the hills; so I know different. The Garmin is good, but not perfect. Most of the truck-specific information is spot-on; having the road's speed limit on the screen is handy, so are the warnings of sharp curves and steep hills. It's just that the loud klaxon, blasting out of the speakers, as the truck comes to a long steep descent; is very disconcerting. Harrrisonburg, Virginia, is my first drop; I arrive at dusk.
____Day 4: A quarter of the load for Harrisonburg and I'm away north to Hyattsville in Maryland. Cutting through Washington, DC, for the first time; delivering to a sprawling service town on the edge of the capital. It's hot work unloading the big cardboard tubes which are used as an easy way of shuttering a hole that is going to be filled with concrete. Wet with sweat, on a record-breaking hottest last day of May, I'm grateful to learn that my reload is not until the morning. So it's south on the busy Interstate 95 to Richmond's TA Truckstop, a shower and a chance to try out the "Tri-Pac."
____Day 5: Thermo King's Tri-Pac auxiliary power unit gives a driver the comfort of air conditioning [or heating] independent of the trucks big diesel engine. The little diesel engine can run all night on very little fuel to keep the sleeper-cab at a comfortable 20 degrees C. Only problem: the DUB-DUB-DUB noise from exhaust; louder than the big Cummins and irritating to the neighbours. Two wooden cases of refrigeration equipment from Richmond; then 10 miles south, to Petersburg, for 22 pallets of oil seals. Homeward bound; to the crowded West Virginia Turnpike services at Beckley for the night.
____Day 6: After so many years in this business; I have developed a sixth sense for knowing when I am being fed bullshit. I have room on the trailer for two more pallets. The office has found two pallets from Lafayette, in Indiana, going to Winnipeg; only problem is that I will be going past the pick-up at three in the afternoon and the load won't be ready until 10 o'clock in the morning. Does the office explain all this to me and ask me to park-up and wait? No, they give me a load of crap about not getting confirmation of the loading address until the morning. Instinctively, I know I'm being taken for a fool. First thing, Monday morning, I will be in the office; asking what is wrong in telling the truth. But an early finish does give me time to get out on my new folding bicycle for some exercise.

Bike folds small enough to fit into the Peterbilt's wardrobe: folding pedals and greaseless Kevlar drive belt.

____Day 7: The final part of the load brings my gross weight up to only 70,000 lbs, so the rig can fly home. Except that it is Friday and the urban sprawl of Chicago has to be crossed, south-east to north-west. There are plenty of driving-hours available on the log, as I've had a couple of shortish days. A long final stint at the wheel gets me to Olson's truckstop at Hasty, Minnesota.
____Day 8: The electronic read-outs on the truck show the fuel consumption to be 7.2 mpg; up from 6.4, on the previous trip. Conclusive proof that the weight of the load is the biggest variable factor on how much diesel is used. Last time, it was 40,000 lbs, both there and back: this time; only 40,000 all told. I got back to Niverville and the low-fluid level warning light still hadn't come on. Showing that DEF usage is dependant on the fuel used and not the distance traveled. Second trip finished and again the truck never missed a beat.
____Overall Distance: 5667 km.

Hi-tech A-frame design with disc brakes weighs just 20 lbs: Only problem - You look like a prat when riding it!