Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Route 66 Museum Of Oklahoma, Clinton, OK.

Route 66 from Chicago to LA, 2000 miles all the way.

I'm not a Museum person but when it's dedicated to the encouragement of Roadtrips, then I'll pay $4.00 for a look-round.

The Chevrolet Bel-Air in the foyer is the best car on show.

Cab-less old International truck is the most interesting vehicle on show.

Clinton, a small town halfway across Oklahoma and about halfway between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Right Around Lake Michigan.

____Day 1: Pete Moss is my co-driver yet again as I go and load the posh dirt at Seddon's Corner; fourteenth truck of 15 going to Quincy in Michigan. Away at midday; heading into Ontario before crossing the border at International Falls. A host of different hauliers that all have several hours start; most of them going via Pembina and the Interstate 29/94 route. But I welcome the change of scenery; finishing the day at Nemadji in Wisconsin.

US Port of Entry at International Falls, Mn. First time crossing with Flying Eagle.
 ____Day 2: Once upon a time; a sleeper cab was just a day-cab with curtains and pieces of foam-rubber making a bed across the seats. After that; I had far too many nights with my arse against the glass; on the shelf behind the seats of a Volvo F86. Now I have fitted sheets on a 80x40 inch mattress and two queen-sized blankets. To celebrate: I have an extra hour in bed; listening to the rain beating down on the 63 inch sleeper and thinking about the " Good Old Days." I'm not going to get ahead of the other loads, so take it easy. Across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, from the south shore of Lake Superior to the north shore of Lake Michigan, before crossing the Mackinaw Bridge and down to Lansing.

Mackinaw Bridge; Where the water from Lake Michigan flows into Lake Huron.
 ____Day 3: As I thought; there is a wait to get unloaded. But no-one has a reload closer than me; Hillsdale, only 10 miles away. Unfortunately, only one pallet; I'm on LTL again. Other pick-up addresses follow, but I only get as far as Marion, Indiana; coils of wire that don't get loaded until after dark.
____Day 4: A frustrating day as only one more of the potential pick-ups gets through the back doors and onto the Alberta-bound trailer. The fruitless waiting in the heart of Chicago on a Friday afternoon is the last thing I need and the office senses this. It's a long hard slog in heavy traffic; as far as Wilson, the Kwik-Trip Truckstop with the popular Friday night seafood buffet.

Suspension Bridge: 20mph speed limit-500 foot space between trucks-Only one lane open-Exorbitant toll. Reminds me of the First Severn Crossing from England into Wales.
 ____Day 5: Still plenty to do; with the Twin-Cities, the 94 across Minnesota and the 29 North from Fargo to the border. Cruise-control all the way at 65mph; only three-quarters of a load and light traffic. Breakfast at Sauk Centre's Trucker's Inn and interesting conversation at the counter. What is a good driver? Is it someone who never gets a fine because he never breaks the rules? Or is it the one who breaks all the rules and regulations, but is clever enough that he never gets caught? Lots of different views on that one until a driver comes out with; " The only good driver to a company boss is one who makes him lots of money." We all agree on that; with several having the opinion that some drivers don't realise that making money for the boss has anything to do with trucking.
____Overall Distance: 3838 km.

US Highway 2, along the north shore of Lake Michigan. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Counting the Cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.

____Day 1: A light load of cardboard packaging with five drops in the eastern US; leaving Saturday morning for the first delivery at Ogdensburg, NY, on Monday. East on the Trans-Canada Highway into Ontario for the first time since I joined Flying Eagle. A long day on the two-lane highway with the 90 kph speed limit; to Hearst on Highway 11.
____Day 2: Another day of over a thousand kay; with Flying Eagles #31 and #32 running together. Coffee at North Bay, before Keith McLaughlin splits, south, towards a first drop at London. It's the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers; so not the best time to cross into the States with heightened security and long tailbacks being reported on the radio. I park at Prescott; just across the St. Lawrence river from Ogdensburg. Everyone remembers where they were on 11 September 2001; I was re-roofing a barn in the Dordogne, France, and I'm still waiting to be paid for it.

Soot on trailer was not from #31
 ____Day 3: My first time, crossing on the steel-grating road bridge. Only ideal because of the proximity of my first drop. Then from Ogdensburg, west to Rochester for the second before east and a night at Albany. Multi-drop work needs careful consideration in North America; small distances on the map can be huge in the real world; two drops a day is the best I can hope for.
____Day 4: Easthampton and West Springfield are close together in Massachusetts but then the last drop is on Long Island. Mattituck, a town at the rural eastern end of what was once the last British stronghold in what is now the USA. The bridges are all at the western, New York City end of the Island; for $35 I cross into Queens, which along with Brooklyn, make up the two heavily populated counties. Interstate 495 runs the length of Long Island to Mattituck; more like Rhode Island with it's weather-boarded houses in tree lined streets.

Long Island, NY.
 ____Day 5: The Long Island Rail-Road carries more passengers than any other network in North America. It also supplies early morning wake-up calls to sleeping truckers, parked between the tracks and the back gate to my delivery address. But it would be my preferred route into town if I had to commute everyday. Once unloaded; it is nose to tail traffic back towards the Throgs Neck Bridge. The reload is LTL, that is Less Than a Truckload, and the first pick is on Long Island. One pallet from Bohemia, a town in the heart of the aviation industry area that is an important employment sector on the Island. Next two picks are in New Jersey, but not ready until tomorrow. I decide to park at the Vince Lombardi Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike; an early finish at two in the afternoon. Just as well; the truckpark is full by five.
____Day 6: Vince Lombardi is a handy place to sit and wait; a lot more secure than on the street. It has my favorite Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits; also a nearby park and ride that can easily get you into NYC. Another plus point: it is situated before the toll booths and has both north and south exits from the truck park. In theory; you can come in from the southbound Interstate 95, stay the night and then head back north without paying a toll. With the Elizabeth and Keasbey pick-ups done, I head west hoping to get through Pennsylvania and into Ohio for the last two collections on Friday morning.

Amish taxi.
 ____Day 7: The Amish have a good reputation for manufacturing high quality furniture and both my Ohio pick-ups are at Amish wood-working enterprises. First: flooring from Middlefield at a state of the art factory where they use all the latest electric machinery. Then to Millersburg in Holmes County, the heartland of Amish furniture production; where every farm seems to have a cabinet-making workshop. A busy area of twisting, turning roads; crowded with tourists, seventy-five foot rigs looking for furniture factories and hundreds of horse drawn buggies.

450 Horses overtaking Four.
 ____Day 8: From Fort Wayne in Indiana; now fully loaded, back towards Manitoba. Completing a full circle of the Great Lakes. No need for an hours reset; as the short day in the middle of the week lets me keep running. Not as many hours as I would like; but a trip into Cabelas always passes the time and the price of clothes is so much cheaper in the States.

One that was loaded earlier.
 ____Day 9: From Hasty, back to the yard. The office wants a phone call as soon as I come through the border. It's Sunday but the trailer is going to be de-vanned and my stuff sent on it's way. So an early start to make things easier for everyone. Back on Canadian soil by noon.
____Overall Distance: 6767 km.

Two days driving with a light load and the wind from behind.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Soulman Fan at Van, Tx.

____Day 1: Decision of the day; go to work on Saturday evening or leave it until early Sunday morning? It's an eight a.m. appointment to load at Portage Le Prairie; flour going to Texas for Tuesday morning. Lots to consider; but after a very late Friday night-out, I go for an early night in the cab on the customer's doorstep.
____Day 2: Loaded and away; on the Labour Day long-weekend. Very few trucks on the road and most of the truckstops are empty as companies get their drivers home. A full 11 hours driving needed with the rig right up to the 80,000 lbs legal US weight. Interstate 29, then Highway 81 south to Norfolk, Nebraska, and Cubby Bear's truckstop. Where even the good ol' boys, who pass comment on every vehicle at the pumps, are taking a break from their regular table.

A dry Highway 81 for the first time this year.
 ____Day 3: A combination of parking on muddy ground and stopping with the slick section at the bottom; lets me get to the Kansas/Oklahoma border before I spot a trailer tyre with the wire showing. Love's Truckstop at Tonkawa is a convenient 20 miles away on Interstate 35; the tyre shop has used trailer tyres for $150 + $57 for fitting and tax. A good result considering it's a Holiday Monday; a blowout with the inevitable call-out would have been five times that: about the same as a DOT fine for a rusty tyre. But the three hour delay only lets me get to Ardmore; still 105 miles from the delivery point at Irving.
Trailer tyre was changed in the shadow of the upright cabover at Tonkawa, Ok.
____Day 4: Flour delivered and 90 barrels of hydraulic oil loaded at Tyler; two hours east of Irving on Interstate 20. I'd seen the billboards advertising Soulman's BBQ, but never thought about stopping until I read Plumtrucker's blog write-up. At Van, I scale the load of oil and there is a Soulman restaurant right next door to the Love's Truckstop. Nearly 3 o'clock in the afternoon, but they are still busy serving lunches and what good food it is. The meat is slowed-cooked with all the fat still attached, then trimmed-off before it is served; making it moist and tasty. The baked potato is huge and of a proper baking variety, soft and fluffy; not just some big spud that's been cooked in an oven, hard, waxy and better-off chipped. The place is nothing fancy, with a self-service counter, but my beef sandwich and tater could not have been bettered. I drive back to the Flying'J at Ardmore; thinking how wonderful it would be if all fast-food was that good.

Nothing special to look at, inside or out. Just tasty well-cooked food at reasonable prices.
 ____Day 5: The load is going to Edmonton, but I'm just taking it back to Niverville. It will be in Alberta on Monday, so no hurry. All the same, it's two full days driving back north. Temperatures are still in the 90's during the day, but  the night's are now much cooler as we get into September. Ideal for sleeping, which is just as well, the Tri-Pac, independent air-conditioning unit refuses to start. It's still under warranty but I've never had much faith in the reliability of small diesel engines.

Massive bank of grain silos at Salina, Kansas.
 ____Day 6: After 1100 kilometres, I'm left with just eight-hundred to finish the trip. A stop at the Northstar Truck Wash in Fargo puts two hours on the day but takes off a hundred-thousand bugs and butterflies. There is not another single truck at the Emerson border crossing so I'm back in the yard by 6; another Texas: done.
____Overall Distance: 4633 km.

Have you ever seen so much rubbish in a vehicle?......  Not counting your average long-haul trucker's cab.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

B-Type Macks from the 1960's.

6 x 4 Wrecker still working in Oklahoma

6 x 4 Tractor Unit in amongst the junk behind the Flying Eagle warehouse.

Wears the Tread?

A perfectly good tyre with 5mm of tread across the width on one section.

On the other side; completely bald with the steel cords showing through.
 How can  a tyre wear like this when it has not been flat-spotted by being dragged along?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Alone Again.

____Day 1: No Cougar on this trip; so it's back to my sad, boring lifestyle. Breakfasting in different diners every morning; driving different roads every day; drinking in different bars every evening; sleeping with diffferent women every night. But that's not quite true: I have a load of peat moss for Troup, Texas and a reload from Lufkin to Winnipeg. Same run as six weeks ago; same roads and probably the same hookers knocking on the cab door. An early Sunday start; aiming for Cubby Bear's truckstop at Norfolk, Nebraska but then pushing on to York, to make things easier.

Another one of those returned alien abduction trucks.
 ____Day 2: Athabasca, Shipshewana, Apalachicola; fine examples of the Place-Name Fairy's poetic inspiration, but how did she come up with Troup? Two full days driving from the yard, with a full payload. Another early start, in order to finish early so I can start early and all to get a load of dirt delivered on time. An early evening run across the Dallas/Fort Worth sprawl to finish the day just up the road from the nursery.

On the dock at Troup, next to a Colorspot Paystar.
 ____Day 3: It does help when you know just what to do at drops and pick-ups; saves time. Peat moss unloaded, abrasive powder loaded then into the nearest truckstop. Scale and slide the axles; diesel for the truck and de-bug the windshield; shit, shave, shower; fax, phone and food. In and out in 90 minutes with a quart of iced-tea to go. All that puts me on a collision course with the D/FW evening rush; so north on Highway 59 to Texarkana and the picturesque Highway 71 through Arkansas.

"Y" City, Arkansas. Where the Place-Name Fairy was lost for words.
 ____Day 4: The powder is booked in for unloading at 1700 hours on Thursday; so the job now has plenty of time on it. And as so often happens; nothing gets done. Fart-arsing about on the Internet for far too long, twice. Getting detoured off Interstate 29, twice. The flooding Missouri has still not gone back in it's banks.
Finally into the Flying'J at Sioux Falls.

"But Boss, I did tell them to spread it about a bit."
 ____Day 5: Two days south has turned into three days north; still over 800 km to do. But at a daily average of over 900; it's a good earner for the week. Back over the border and into Bison Transport's warehouse, along side Winnipeg's airport. The truck is now due another service; it needs a wash too. Too many bugs on the bumper.
____Overall Distance: 4752 km.