Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eagle fighting Crow over Roadkill.

Lucky Hood-shot at 60 mph.

Calgary, Alberta.

Five drops in the City of Calgary, Ab.

The Great Wall of Canada.
 ____Day 1: Niverville to Calgary, at just over 1300 kilometres, is just over a legal days work for me and although there are many who have done it in one hit; I am not about to join their ranks. A midday departure and an early evening finish in Regina completes my Saturday shift.
____Day 2: Several times at a new employer, I have tried to prove how good I am by doing big mileages in short times. But if you do it once then it becomes expected and you have made a rod for your own back; burn-out soon follows. This time I am starting as I mean to go on: so Sunday is an other easy drive of less than eight hours. Through to Calgary's Flying'J truckstop.
____Day 3: With five drops, it's good that I am refreshed and ready to go with all the addresses tapped into the Sat-Nav. Rarely has it been so easy; each place starts on me as soon as I arrive and without hurrying: I am back at the Flying Hook before noon. Others, however, are having a nightmare! Flying Eagle #28, with a new driver doing his first week as a truck-driver in Canada, has lost his wallet. I wait for him to arrive before filling his diesel tanks and loaning him a fuel card. It's a delay, but not costly, the reload is insulation from High River. Only 30 miles south and I beat the 15.00 hours loading deadline by more than two minutes. It's a place where I have loaded before, which helped.
____Day 4: Loaded with just 6000 lbs, the trailer is brim full. A strong side wind doesn't make for the best of journeys as I drive the 1000 km from Redcliff to Niverville, back to the yard. The Peterbilt is now up to 50,000 kilometres and due a service, so the city truck can deliver the load. A short trip, but already time for another log hours reset.
____Overall Distance: 2814km.

Remembering the last time I loaded at High River: Brrrrrrr.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Atlanta Groupage To Alberta.

Searcy Volvo 202 with bits of Caterpillar bound for Red Deer, Ab.

Gateway Arch at St. Louis; why did I think it went over the river?
 ____Day 1: Weekend work is a normal part of a long-haul truckers life and as I leave on a Friday; for a Monday morning delivery in Atlanta, Georgia, I can console myself with the knowledge that I won't be wasting all my money on fast women and slow horses. Again. At Rothsay, I meet-up with Mr. Ramsden for lunch; before heading down to Iowa.
____Day 2: With all the miles that I drive; it is inevitable that there will be occasions when I unintentionally hinder the progress of a fellow traveller. I instinctively know when someone is going to "flip me the bird". To counter this; I slip on my reading glasses, pull down my cap, stick out my chin and lean right forward while white-knuckling the steering-wheel at ten-to-two; eyes front. A black Dodge Charger with all-round privacy glass and 22 inch chrome rims comes alongside with the passenger window descending. But when the irrate driver looks up and sees such a gormless pratt; he knows that any gesticulation would be completly wasted and speeds on: thankful to have escaped without any panel damage. It works well for the old and unshaven.  Otherwise, it was a easy days drive down through St. Louis and onto Mount Vernon.
____Day 3: South, through Nashville and Chattenooga; where I avoid the worst of a traffic jam by listening to advice on the CB radio. I don't often have the radio switched on, but with traffic tail-backs, it is the best thing for on the spot information. Through Atlanta at dusk; parking on the unloading bay at the customer, ready for the morning.
____Day 4: Unloaded and breakfast at the Petro Iron Skillet; before loading two roller shutter doors at Lawrenceville. Then an hours drive down to Grffin, to load a 32 litre diesel engine from the Caterpillar parts distribution warehouse. A quick glimpse at the invoice shows that the price is more than the whole cost of my 386 Peterbilt when it was new. The astronomical price of todays earth-moving plant makes me shudder.
____Day 5: Still plenty of room on the trailer and the office is looking for goods going to Alberta; the destination of the doors and the engine. They find nine pallets of aquarium equipment; waiting at Edwardsville, Il. Nearly a days drive, but the shipper is open 24 hours and I get loaded. Northbound out of St. Louis on Highway 61 at the end of the day.
____Day 6: Space for two more pallets; one from Elkhart, Iowa, and one from the nearby town of Nevada. In my quest to drive new roads everyday, I often waste a lot of time on fractured cross-country routes. But this time the Iowa State Highway 163; from Mt. Pleasant, north-west, to Des Moines, stumble across a hidden gem. It looks nothing special on the map but is a well-surfaced four-lane route with no traffic lights or stop signs. Finally fully loaded; as far as Hasty, back in Minnesota.
____Day 7: Although all the consignments are for Alberta; I'm told to bring it back to Niverville. Resetting my log book hours before continuing with the load. A visit to the Northstar Truck Wash at Fargo clears the bugs from the bumper and the new bug deflector on the hood. Also the twenty-four new LED marker lights on the cab get their first taste of a high pressure hose-down.
____Overall Distance: 5446 km.

Waterway traffic on the Tennessee River.

Brand new Freightliner in British Racing Green; just arrived at Niverville.

Flying Eagle # 31 dripping wet, outside Northstar Truck Wash.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Minnesota Rest Area Closures.

Closed Rest Areas now mean Minnesota's queers will have to drive out of state for a pee.

____Day 1: A load of oat animal feed, presumably for horses, going to Grinnell in Iowa; booked in for 08.00 monday morning. The familiar route of Interstate 29 through North Dakota; then Interstate 94 in Minnesota. The rest areas in Minnesota are now all closed for the second week; as the state government tries to cut costs. A big safety issue in my mind, as tired drivers now have to push on through. Also they are a handy and economical piss-stop that saves precious diesel with an easy-off, easy-on short detour. I stop the night at the Iowa Rest Area at Ames; which is, not only, open but has free WiFi Internet.

Mid-west's year of severe weather continues.

Loading at old style warehouse in Mason City, Iowa.
 ____Day 2: Woken and shaken, by a violent thunderstorm, during the night; I don't realise the severity of it until driving the one hour across country to Grinnell in the morning. Trees and power lines down and structural damage to farm buildings and homes. My delivery point is intact and I am soon unloaded; then up to Mason City for animal feed going to Manitoba. This time, 18 big bags of whey powder. Straight back to Canada, with a  night at Sauk Centre's Trucker's Inn. It's vast parking lot fuller than I have ever seen it before; due to the lost spaces at the Rest Areas.
____Day 3: With the hope of getting home for the night, I am up and away early. Back through Canadian Customs by midday and over to the New Rosendale Feed Mill, west of Portage Le Prairie, south of Highway 1. A Hutterite Colony enterprise; whose good work ethic always makes for a quick turn-round. They insist that I am Australian and only stop going on about it when I admit that I arrived from New Zealand at the end of Febuary. Which is true. Then, empty, back to the yard to complete a short trip.
____Overall Distance: 2876 km.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Troup, Texas.

____Day 1: Independence Day in the USA, no reason for them to celebrate as the unemployment rate is about to soar when 100,000 firework-selling outlets close down overnight. Not many  trucks on the road as I head south to York in Nebraska; finishing at dusk, just as the pyrotechnics begin.
____Day 2: A second day of 1100 kay with the peat moss, parking overnight at the pot-plant nursery, just south of Troup. Three things are needed to grow good plants: sunshine, water and fertile soil. Texas has plenty of sunshine and irrigation takes the place of regular rainfall. Fertile soil is trucked in from Canada. The US does have it's own unlimited supply of peat moss; but it is in Alaska. Therefore Canada is the number one supplier and Manitoba, the main source for Texas.
____Day 3: After unloading; I set off for a reload of abrasive powder destined for Blackfalds in Alberta. Only one hours drive away; at Lufkin. Given the vast expanse of Texas; 57 miles is just next door. I'm heading homeward by noon, but not an easy afternoon's drive with the urban sprawl of Dallas/ Fort Worth and thunderstorms. Fuel from Oklahoma City; splash and dash. Crack-on to the Cimarron, a truckstop in the AmBest Group.
____Day 4: A round-trip in the truck can be compared to a frame of snooker, with some drivers happy just to sink a red: which equates to the next cup of coffee. I am always planning to be in position to sink the next six reds and six blacks; at least. After three difficult, long reds; I'm in a frame-winning position, left with just the colours on their spots. Avoiding self-inflicted snookers, such as speeding into sleepy townships on Highway 81; I reach Watertown, South Dakota. Keeping the daily kilometre average at over a thousand.

Not my favorite style of customising: but you have to admire the dedication needed to keep it clean.
 ____Day 5: As I bring the load back to Niverville, in the early afternoon, for onward delivery by another truck; it proves to be the least economical of the Peterbilt's trips. Over 40,000 lbs in each direction and very little empty running. But as the truck only ever earns money when it is carrying a cargo; the very short dead-head makes this a profitable run for the company. The high daily-average mileage makes it a nice little earner for the driver.
____Overall Distance: 4762 km.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cruisin' the 'Peg.

Sunday Evenings in Summer

Cars and Bikes, Old and New.

The parking lot at the Pony Corral on Grant Street.

A blue car looking a little blue.

Thelma and Louise Thunderbird.

Fastback Mustang looked like it had been pulled from a barn and fired up for the first time in 25 years.

Some did look very good for their age.

Mercury Cougar, an underrated classic.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Flying Eagle to Eagle Pass.

The crest of the flood moved from the Dakotas to Missouri State during the trip.
  ____Day 1: El Paso and Laredo are the best known of the Texan border towns leading into Mexico; but there are others and this trip takes me to Eagle Pass, one hundred miles upstream of Laredo on the Rio Grande. As there are only 15,000 lbs of quilted fabric in the trailer; I opt for the direct, two-lane route that takes me to a first night halt at Yankton. Where the state line between South Dakota and Nebraska runs down the centre of the Missouri River.

Old Freightliner on Mexican plates; smarter than most.
 ____Day 2: South on US Highway 81 and the temperature increases throughout the day. Just south of Oklahoma City, I stop at dusk with the thermometer showing 40 degrees C and am thankful for the air-conditioning from the trucks Tri-Pac. Normally I would be in the truckstop, buying a 12 volt, plug-in, electric fan to keep me cool at night. These cheap Chinese-made fans never last more than a couple of nights; so I always made sure I kept the receipt and the packaging: taking it back, first thing in the morning, for a full cash refund.

Directions to the packhouse: Dirt road 234 and look for the big stack of blue pallets.
 ____Day 3: Part three of the 1675 mile crossing of the USA, border to border. The last hundred miles; west from Interstate 35, across a flat landscape of endless head-high bushes, dry and dusty. To the small town of Eagle Pass, that relies on the business created by the transhipping of freight and the customers of a giant casino. Like border towns all over the world, the place puts me on edge.
____Day 4: The 185 rolls of quilting look like they are for making mattresses and it takes three hours to unload the trailer as they are loaded into the mexican trailer on the next dock. The reload is for Winnipeg; from near the town of Floresville, three hours drive to the east. Watermelons and it is no surprise to learn that they will not be ready until tomorrow.
____Day 5: Waiting for hours at a hot and dusty pack-house in Texas reminds me of the umpteen wasted days spent in southern Spain waiting for caps, cues, toms and iceberg. The language is even the same: Spanish.
    ``Carga, aqui, ahorra``---``Load-me, here, now``
    ``Lo seinto, manana.``----``Sorry, Tomorrow``
I hate hauling perishables, especially when I it`s not in a fridge. I open the fresh-air vents and at 5 o`clock in the afternoon, I am  ready to leave with 56 pallet bins of watermelons. Pushing on, north, out of Texas and into the late evening; as far as Calera in Oklahoma. To the Chocktaw Nation Casino, not the biggest casino in the world but the place with the biggest truck-parking of any casino anywhere.
____Day 6: The air-conditioning breaks down soon after I set off; now running a midday to midnight shift, with the windows open. Taking the four-lane route via Joplin and Kansas City. Then due to flooding of the Missouri River; detoured onto two-lane highways via Maryville, Clarinda and Avoca; up into the heart of Iowa.
____Day 7: The start of the big July Holiday week-end and a lot of people on the move. Armed with GPS equipment, many Americans who have never enhanced their driving skills since they passed their test, now venture out on ambitious trips. They have no lane disipline, driving etiquette and never use advanced driving techniques such as turn signals. In fact, many drivers are reluctant to indicate their intentions as they see it as an invasion of their privacy. But I`m the last person to deny someone the chance of a roadtrip. My solution: Integrate the GPS with the direction indicators of the vehicle; have the Sat-Nav work the winkers. It has to be better than nothing! Back into Canada by the end of the day.
____Day 8: The watermelons get dropped off. Not one of my favorite fruit. If I had to eat one; I would make sure I was sitting down in the bathroom. They go through me that fast. Then onto the Peterbilt dealer in Winnipeg for repairs to the air conditioning. Next week; it`s Texas again so it needs to be fixed.
____Overall Distance: 5569 km.