Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rapid Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.

____Day 1: One thousand kilometres on a Thursday to put the truck on the doorstep of a Wisconsin papermill. Interstates 29 and 94 to Osseo; followed by an hour drive on a two-lane in the dark. Waste paper going for re-cycling.
____Day 2: The name,Wisconsin, comes from the Algonquain language; meaning "Land of edible candle-wax." Besides tasteless cheese, paper products are a major state industry with paper-making mills straddling all the area's rivers at fast-flowing points such as Wisconsin Rapids. Un-surprisingly; my reload is reels of paper going to Winnipeg from the nearby town of Mosinee.

Early morning sun-light at the papermill.

____Day 3: Although the drop was reachable in one day; I only got back to Grand Forks by the end of the second shift. Tipping, loading and getting Dirty Eagle #31 washed at Fargo left me with too much to do. But it was good to get a clean truck back to the yard on dry and bare roads. Just working the Saturday morning; just like it always used to be.
____Overall Distance: 2092 km.

Old cabover ending it's days as a billboard.

Flying Eagle #31 at Niverville, Manitoba.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Anthony Henday : the Man and the Drive.

____Day 1: A continuation of the trip with the rubber tubing and the skid steer; delayed due to a snow-storm in Indiana. The groupage truck from Georgia with two consignments for the Edmonton area arrives late on Sunday morning. So it's a mid-day to mid-night run through to Redcliff with snow-flurries and a head-wind.
____Day 2: After an eight-hour break, the job gets back on track with the quick off-loading of the skid steer at Rimbey. It's 90 miles to Edmonton but with just single pallets for the next two drops; I am at the last delivery warehouse just before they close. A hard days work that finishes at the Acheson Husky Truckstop and an early night.

Peterbilt cabover : an ideal shunter inside a narrow tyre warehouse.

____Day 3: Anthony Henday was born on the Isle of Wight and worked for the Hudson Bay Company. In the 1750's he lead an expedition from York Factory, along the Nelson and North Saskatchewan Rivers, to the area that is now Edmonton. Highway 216, the in-complete Edmonton ring-road, is named Anthony Henday Drive. The latest section to open is the West to North-east segment; which I use for the first time, going from Acheson to Fort Saskatchewan for the collection of some herbicide. Then it's a full days drive to Broadview, Saskatchewan.

Typical Albertan Oil-field Oversize Load.

____Day 4: Still dark and minus 4 degrees C, I am combining the pre-trip vehicle check with an early morning pee when splashes hit my face. Not that I'm waving it about while trying to write my name in the snow: it's starting to rain. Freezing rain that covers the truck, the trailer and the road in a covering of ice, in minutes. Being on the customer's doorstep gets the load delivered on time; then the order comes to return empty to the yard. I'll back my driving skills against any thing that Mother Nature has to offer; the speed just has to match the conditions. My speed for the condition called "Freezing Rain"- a big fat Zero. But by 10 o'clock, the gritters have made a pass and some brave souls have ground in the salt and sand with their 18 wheels. Back in Manitoba, the roads are bare and dry when the wind whips up, blowing snow into blizzard conditions under a clear sky to finish the trip.
____Overall Distance: 3140 km.

The Route of Anthony Henday : still a mighty journey after 250 years.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Arkansas : The River and the State.

Russellville, Arkansas, is the red dot between Seminole and Lonoke.

____Day 1: Flying Eagle's practice of having pre-loaded trailers, ready to go South of the Border, lets a driver hit the ground running on every trip. But this Monday morning; I have to empty-out a trailer, full of plastic granules, in Winnipeg before I go to Elma and load peat-moss. Over 350 kilometres and half a day's work before I am in the US; heading down Interstate 29 to Stone's Truckstop at Watertown, South Dakota. A smart independent travel plaza with an upstairs bar and lounge; serving Michelob Ultra, a refreshing lite beer not found everywhere.
____Day 2: Overnight snow and a dash-board temperature read-out of minus 16. The complete length of Interstate 29 down to Kansas City before three hours of Highway 71; watching the temperature slowly rise to Zero by the time I get to Joplin, Missouri.

Plant Farm at Lonoke, Arkansas.

____Day 3: An early start, with 280 miles to go. Into Arkansas and through Bentonville, home of the state's biggest employer: Walmart. Through Little Rock, the state capital, and on to the plant nursery at Lonoke; next door to the Remington Sporting Ammunition factory. Unloaded and back-tracking for a reload of rubber tubing from Russellville, one hundred miles up-stream along the Arkansas River. Pick-up number 2 is from Wichita, Kansas; but the rest of the day's driving allowance only gets me to Seminole, Oklahoma.
____Day 4: The 1460 mile Arkansas River flows from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to join the Mississippi at the eastern border of Arkansas state. The 6th longest river in the USA gets it's name from the State: "Land of the down-river people." A lot of States are named after rivers: Colorado, Delaware, Ohio, Missouri, etc. but Arkansas is the other way round. The river also flows through Wichita; where I load a skid-steer at a plant next-door to the Cessna aircraft factory. Both consignments are for Alberta, but I get orders to head back to base.

Military order of skid-steers ready for deployment to desert terrain.

____Day 5: Overnight snow in South Dakota greets me for the second time in a week. Breakfast at the Coffee Stop Travel Centre, Vermillion, is spent watching the early-morning news from local TV. Details of delayed school buses and pictures of snow-bound town centres tell a grim story. But my truck is on Manitoba license plates, Canadian trucks don't sit about in US truckstops just because of a bit of white stuff. They get out there and go past everything in sight. By Fargo the roads are bare and dry; back in the yard by 4 o'clock in the afternoon and I do believe the nights are slowly drawing out.
____Overall Distance: 4686 km.

Bull-racks : aka. Livestock Haulers : usually only found in pairs.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Texas Triangle

____Day 1: No Customs and Border Protection Officer wants to be responsible for letting the next murdering terrorist into the USA and that justifies their intimidating, no-nonsense approach to the job. But also in their code of conduct; they are required to be helpful and give assistance when asked. I have a load of fabric that has to be bonded for transit through the US, from Canada to Mexico. I know that I need three copies of the manifest; signed and dated, but it hasn’t happened. It takes a series of polite questions from me to ascertain that I need to sign the papers first! Then they will sign and I good to go; dodging the inevitable bullet that would have come my way if I had arrived at Eagle Pass with useless customs clearance papers.

____Day 2: It was nearly mid-night when I reached Sioux Falls due to some trailer repairs causing a late start on the Friday. But this whole trip has been pre-planned and needs to get back on track with a full days driving; south to Oklahoma City’s Flying’J along the familiar Highway 81 and Interstates 135 and 35.

____Day 3: Sunday morning breakfast at McDonald’s and some guy is hitting on me for a hand-out. He is through my defences; which makes me think that he could be genuine. He has to get back to Wichita and needs money for gas [petrol]; he has slept in the car with his wife and child. The car is on Kansas plates and he is not the normal type to be begging; otherwise I would have seen him coming. I give him $20 and he gives me a place in his prayers. I can afford it and I owe it to all the people who have shown me kindness, over the years; but I do hate being conned. Back to work; all Interstate 35, until Exit 111 and the two-lane highway, westwards, to Eagle Pass on the banks of the Rio Grande.

Transhipping at the border.
What's Spanish for "Don't forget the legs."..?????

____Day 4: Backed onto an unloading bay overnight, it’s lunchtime before I am empty and heading for a reload at Alpine, Texas. Running alongside the border and past the Amistad Dam, where the Rio Grande becomes Lake Amistad. Through endless scrubland with occasional groves of pecan trees. Then, despite the near-desert landscape, it starts to snow; which is probably why it’s called Alpine. The pick-up is 60 miles south of the town, so with supplies for an evening meal and breakfast, I push on down to the Cowboy Mining Company.

At the Cowboy Mining Company, Texas.
____Day 5: It was here that Pete Young loaded Bentonite in May 2009, hours before being arrested as an illegal alien at a border checkpoint as he headed back to Canada. I have no such problems, but do have trouble with the weight of the load. After sliding the axles as far forward as possible; it takes a borrowed pallet-truck, from the TA workshop at Santa Rosa, and a lot of effort to move 3 one-ton bags to the back of the trailer. Not much weight allowance left for diesel and no chance of dodging the scales as I head for Calgary, Alberta. So far, so good at the day’s end; Thaxton Rest Area on Interstate 25.

Re-weigh ticket : not what I  wanted to see.
____Day 6: “Port of Entry” is another name for a glorified scale-house and is found at the border of all the states I cross on my way north. It will be a cold day in Hell when these places are closed and don’t call a Canadian truck into the office for a document inspection. I plan my fuel-stops after the scales in Colorado and Wyoming, but running through a blizzard, south of Denver, plasters the rig with ice, snow and more weight. I get a “Watch your weight” warning at the Cheyenne scale but no ticket. Wyoming’s Interstate 25 is a mixture of shiny hard-packed snow and sheets of ice; four and a half hours of ups and downs which leaves me with severe aching in my neck and shoulder muscles. Caused by the tension of letting 80,000 lbs of machinery roll down-hill at 75 mph on a thin white sheet of glass.

Wyoming Winter.
____Day 7: Out of Buffalo and into Montana at dawn where the roads are bare and dry. Fuel at Billings and the final push for the border at Sweetgrass; taking the two-lane short-cut across to Grand Falls. With an early Thursday morning appointment booked; I need another 1000Km day which gets me to the Petro-Canada truckstop at Okotoks.

____Day 8: Bentonite gives flexibility to plastics and a north Calgary plastics factory soon has me unloaded. Then it’s part three of my planned tour: south to Lethbridge for a load of flour; destined for Winnipeg. Another heavy load, but with Canada’s liberal axle weights, the extra 6000 lbs is legal. The country’s liberal driving-hours laws also work in my favour; in the US, I would need a re-set but in Canada I can push on to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and within reach of home.

The mill at Lethbridge.
____Day 9: Snow flurries greet my return to Manitoba, but the mildest Winter in decades has continued while I was away. Back to the yard at Niverville by mid-afternoon; completing the triangle.

____Overall Distance: 7878 km.

Rocky Mountain Sunset.
Longline Coronado.

Challenge Magazine

Challenge Magazine, the monthly publication from Pilot and Flying'J with articles on sport, music and trucking. A full directory of all the Pilot and Flying'J sites in Canada and the US, quizzes and competitions, plus money-saving vouchers. And in the January edition: a photograph of Flying Eagle #31.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Short Trip to Start 2012.

____Day 1: After a New Years Day that proved to be the warmest in South-east Manitoba since records began; I continue with the trailer load of plastic matting that I brought up from Georgia. Eleven hundred kilometres to Lloydminster, after coffee at Russell and tea at Saskatoon. Flying Eagle #31has been remarkably trouble free but has suddenly developed a big problem with the electronics. It's only the Sat-nav, radio, Cd player combined unit constantly switching off and on by itself; so it will not stop the truck. But the chances of finding somewhere that can fix it quickly seem remote. Also there  could be a safety issue: I might cut my knuckles when my fist goes through the display screen. Which will be pretty soon if the damn thing doesn't stop squealing a warning at every bend in the road.
____Day 2: The delivery address at Edmonton nonchalantly tells me that I am at the wrong place; giving me the details of a contractor in Nisku. The job has turned into a direct delivery; saving them time and money, while they want me to meekly go off and believe there is a mistake with the paperwork. I've seen that one too many times before: straight on the phone to the office. Asking for more money for the extra miles; letting everyone know what their game is. At Nisku, it's hand-ball unloading of the long rolls and the two Croatian guys in the trailer aren't too pleased to find that I'm the first of eight loads.
Waiting for pallets to be loaded at Regina, Sk.
____Day 3: The load of 500 blue pallets from Edmonton are at the Regina bakery early in the morning. Unloaded, and the reload to Winnipeg is from a food-service transport company; just round the corner. Blue pallets again; this time two-way instead of four-way. Back to the yard with them and a reset after only three days on the road. Combining the trip to Georgia and the run up to Alberta; probably my longest ever run with the shortest dead mileage between the four loads. Less than 2 miles at Morrow, ten miles from Nisku to Edmonton and half-a-mile in Regina.
____Overall Distance: 2835 km.
Sunset at the Husky refinery, Lloydminster

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Statistic Summary of 2011.

  • Overall Distance in Canada: Jun 06 - Dec 11 :1,093,901 km.
  • Total for 2011                                               :   197,920 km.
  • Total at Big Freight: Mar 11 - May 11           :    41,464 km.
  • Total at Flying Eagle: May 11 - Dec 11         :  156,456 km.
  • Average for 2011                                          :    16,493 km.
  • Jan 2011   [Touring NZ]                                :              0 km.
  • Feb 2011   [Touring NZ]                               :              0 km.
  • Mar 2011   [11th to 31st]                              :    12,159 km.
  • Apr 2011                                                      :     20262 km.
  • May 2011 [1-14 at BF/20-31 at FE]             :    14,551 km.
  • Jun 2011                                                       :     20,984 km.
  • Jul 2011                                                        :     20,274 km.
  • Aug 2011                                                      :     23,999 km.
  • Sep 2011                                                      :     20,086 km.
  • Oct 2011                                                      :     20,579 km.
  • Nov 2011                                                     :     20,115 km.
  • Dec 2011                                                     :     21,910 km.

Last Trip of 2011 : Happy New Year.

____Day 1: One link between Atlanta, Georgia, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, is the constant stream of Flying Eagle trucks taking used vehicle parts for recycling. Another link is Ice Hockey. In the Summer of 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers moved north to become the Winnipeg Jets and after a 15 year break; Manitoba had a team again in the NHL [National Hockey League]. The team has instantly built a huge fanatical fan-base and done well on the ice too; making the whole Province proud. Go Jets Go.
____Day 2: After Boxing Day's 11 hour haul down to Center Point, Iowa; another early start and full day in order to reach the TA, Nashville. Driving two thousand kilometres for a night-out in Music City. Half-rack of ribs and half-a-dozen Coors Light at Rippy's Barbecue Restaurant on Broadway. Music from two guys on acoustic guitars who boast a repertoire of 10,000 songs; just lay your money down and make your request.

#31 following #35 up Mont Eagle; the only gear-changing climb between Manitoba and Georgia.
____Day 3: Breakfast in the TA diner and a seat at the counter next to 85 year-old Mr. Brown. A man with an endless repertoire of stories; everyone starting with, " There was a driver in here the other day........." At the Brake-check Area at the top of Mont Eagle, I meet Flying Eagle #35 and we run together down to the Choo Choo Truck Wash at Chattanooga. Then, on to Morrow, via the Petro Stopping Centre on the west side of Atlanta.

Flying Eagle #35 waiting for the soap at the Choo Choo Truck and Tank Wash.
____Day 4: The fork-lift truck, rumbling about in the back of my trailer, is my early morning call; having spent the night with the open-doored trailer backed onto the unloading dock. Empty and only 1.8 miles to the reload of plastic matting going to Edmonton, Alberta. Three tiers of 15 foot rolls leaves eight foot of space on the back; the company always wants to fill all the available space, if axle-weights will allow. The driver always wants to get going. I go for breakfast whilst the Internet Data Load Boards are checked. An 8 foot/3000lb consignment of exercise equipment from O'Fallon, Missouri, to Saskatoon and I'm on my way.
____Day 5: Topping-off a trailer can be an irritation, but the pick-up is only one mile from my preferred route and by the time I have walked into the warehouse after backing onto  the loading-bay, the stuff is on the trailer. Time to crack-on and max-out the driving hours; reaching Olson's Truckstop at Hasty for the night.
Cross-over and flip by Western Star that still has it's lights on.

____Day 6: Freezing-fog is one of my least preferred driving conditions and I wait until day-light before setting-off; having at least one thing in my favour. At Fargo, I encounter a snow-storm sweeping south; giving near white-out conditions for a hundred miles. The stainless-steel bug deflector on the hood of #31 did little to keep insects off of the windshield during the summer; but  does a good job in the falling snow. Sending the majority of the flakes over the cab and avoiding the annoying build-up of ice on the wipers. Conditions have me back in the yard, a few hours later than expected, on a snowy but mild New Years Eve. But plenty of time to see-in 2012 with a load of Welsh blokes.
____Overall Distance: 5137 km.

Cab-over Pete hauling CAT parts to Alberta.