Monday, March 26, 2012


____Day 1: After a 10 day break; I'm back to work with all the snow gone. The hottest March days ever recorded in South-east Manitoba; since records began. A hot load too, 1650 miles to be delivered within three days. Only enough time to dump all my stuff back in the truck before 11 hours driving down to Portage, near Madison, Wisconsin.
____Day 2: A body lying on the Interstate 39 and my first reaction is to look for the motorbike. But it's in a road-works area and is a highway worker. No ambulance or police are yet in attendance; it looks fatal, as everyone is standing well back in a state of shock. Illinois has a 14 year prison sentence for drivers who hit highway workers. I'm in a sombre mood for the rest of the day as I head to London in Kentucky; thinking of two families that have had their lives ruined by the incident.

Long and low Peterbilt 359 with rear window in sleeper.
____Day 3: For me, in real-life, the spectre of death rarely rears it's head and never before on consecutive days. But, just outside of Knoxville, there is an SUV hard up against the concrete wall of the Interstate median. The driver is slumped sideways and motionless: "heart-attack" is the general consensus on the CB. Again, the emergency services have yet to arrive and would-be rescuers find themselves locked out of the vehicle by the automatic central locking system. I bet modern car designers never considered "Death at the Wheel" when they invented that little gadget. Onto Charlotte, North Carolina, for the delivery of the flour; again reflecting on events as I drive Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River valley. Budding leaves and the blossom of Spring in the Smoky Mountains that form the border between Tennessee and the Carolinas.

Unloading loose potatoes from a box van.
____Day 4: It's called "Touch Screen" for a reason; otherwise it would be known as "Thump me until I shatter Screen." Flying Eagle #31 did 5,500 kilometres in the hands of another driver whilst I was away. But the guy badly mis-judged his tender touch of the GPS screen; disabling the sat-nav, the radio and a host of other electronic devices. Most annoying when I come to plot my course to the reload, in Ochlocknee, Georgia. I have come to rely on the GPS to give me an arrival time and the distance to the customer. The four hundred mile dead-head seems to take forever as I cross South Carolina  to the South-west corner of Georgia. Kitty-litter loaded and homeward bound, but only to the top-side of Atlanta before the day's driving hours run out.

Loading cat-litter at a dusty plant in southern Georgia.
____Day 5: A day of heavy thunder showers, as the warm Spring weather piles the clouds high into the sky; but it saves on screenwash as the first bugs of the year appear. The average kilometre count for the trip goes up over a thousand as a full 11 hours at the wheel clocks up over 1100km. But at Wayland, Iowa, I am still more than one day away from home.

Dredging for sand on the Ohio River.
____Day 6: It must be tempting for a family man to put in a big day and get home to their loved-ones and not have to spend another night in the truck, just a couple of hours from home. But, with the border crossing from the US into Canada, it can be risky to break the 11 hour driving rule. Having no reason to get back, I set my sights on Fargo and the Northstar Truck Wash; which is a good move as nobody else is sad enough to want their truck washed at eight o'clock on a Saturday evening. Straight in and out in 20 minutes.
____Day 7: Sub-zero temperatures back in Canada, but the roads are bare and dry. It's nice to get the rig back to the yard looking clean and tidy. All parked-up and finished by 10.30, Sunday morning.
____Overall Distance: 6313 km.

Trailer-load of mature trees going somewhere for re-planting.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Annie Oakley Memorial Highway.

____Day 1: Heavy snow on the Friday still hadn't been cleared by the time I gingerly crept out of the yard and pointed the truck towards the border on Saturday morning. With just 9000 lbs of steel cabinets to help give me traction, it was tricky road conditions all the way to Fargo, North Dakota. Snow flurries in Minnesota and Wisconsin accompanied me to Black River Falls as I headed east on Interstate 94; for a change.

Heading West on Highway 23 towards Morris, Manitoba.

____Day 2: A very noisy fridge motor, parked inches from my sleeper window, woke me up at three o'clock in the morning. I got up, got dressed and got out to ask the driver to move. If I had known that he had two pitbull terriers in the cab, I wouldn't have bothered. You cannot reason with that sort of moron. But I did have the satisfaction of seeing the dogs go berserk in the cab, everytime I knocked on his door. Which I did at regular intervals until the police arrived and asked me to stop annoying the animals. But I had the last laugh when the cops told him to move; after I said he threatened to set the dogs on me. I spent the whole day driving to Solon, Ohio, thinking about the encounter and what sort of driver calls the police for back-up when he has two pitbulls.
____Day 3: Heavy lake-effect snow on Sunday evening had prompted me to park overnight at the customers premises and avoid the chaotic morning rush hour. Unloaded and away by nine o'clock; heading to nearby Tallmadge for the first pick-up of an LTL [Less than Truck Load]. A second-hand John Deere tractor, from London, was next; followed by two fork-lifts from Fort Recovery. All was going well until I found a puncture in a trailer tyre. When is this run of tyre problems going to end?
____Day 4: The Travelcentre of America at Eaton couldn't repair the tyre so I had to buy a part-used replacement; before doing the fourth pick-up at Greenville and heading north on Highway 127 for the fifth at South Bend, Indiana. Driving on the Annie Oakley Memorial Highway through the hunting territory of a young fatherless girl who fed her family with game brought down by her skillful shooting. A once in a lifetime chance to visit the grave of my mother's biggest hero. To pay my respects to the champion marks-woman, the adopted daughter of Chief Sitting Bull and the star of the World-wide touring: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Annie Oakley Gravesite, just South of the Village of North Star in Ohio.

____Day 5: Getting to the Petro Truckstop at Portage gave me a good chance of getting the load back to the yard. 1100 kilometres is a long day at the wheel but I knew that it would be longer because of the second-hand JD tractor. All exported, used vehicles with an internal combustion engine have to be presented to both US and Canadian Customs for inspection. The serial number is then checked against a database of stolen equipment; my green-machine had been bought on E-Bay but, thankfully, checked out OK.
____Overall Distance: 4251 km.

Something Special, fine old Areodyne out in all weathers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Glider Kits : Resources Versus Emissions.

____ The "Glider Kit" is a small niche market in the North American transport industry that supplies new trucks without an engine, a transmission and sometimes, drive axles. The latest additions to the Flying Eagle fleet are two such beasts; Freightliner Coronados from Fitzgerald Glider Kits of Crossville, Tennessee. New trucks but with reconditioned 1998 Detroit Diesel 12.7 litre engines and rebuilt Eaton 13-speed gearboxes.

____ The big advantage of such vehicles is that they do not need to comply with the high-tech and complicated emission regulations that burden all new trucks. Exhaust-gas- regeneration and Diesel-exhaust- fluid-treatment, the technically flawed solutions to curbing exhaust pollution, are not required. The trucks have the reliable, economical Series 60 engine from Detroit, producing a very adequate 500 horse-power.

____Everything on the engine is either new or rebuilt, starter, alternator, compresser, fuel pump, ecm, etc. Environmentalists might say that the trucks are driving through a loop-hole to avoid costly breakdowns with no concern to the pollution they cause.  However, recycling of an old engine is saving the planet from the pollution given out at a steel-making plant.
____There are two sides to every story when it comes to enviromental matters. At $115,000 each, you get a lot of truck for your money and there are two Welsh blokes driving around with big smiles on their faces. The Coronado is the luxury, top of the range truck from Freightliner and comes with two beds in the "Condo" sleeper. Check-out the Fitzgerald Glider Kit website for more information.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Up In Smoke.

____Day 1: "I don't do drugs; so why are they wasting my time by sending me for a pee-test?" Is my and most other drivers reaction when ordered to take a random drugs test. The US government insists that all Canadian cross-border carriers carry out tests on their drivers and it's something that all companies insist that their drivers sign-up to. I signed the paper, so at midday on Friday; I have to grab a coffee and go hacking off into Winnipeg to give a urine sample. Annoying because I had been in the city all morning; waiting for my trailer to be loaded with material destined for Mexico. Eventually away from the yard at two o'clock and down to Vermillion for the night.

Stretched Studio-Sleeper on Long Wheelbase Kenworth.

____Day 2: Eagle Pass, Texas, on Monday morning is the aim and to vary the route, this week, I run Highway 75 through the state of Kansas. Not as good as the nearby and parallel 169 but with a good TA at Beto Junction. A truckstop in the middle of no-where but worth stopping because of the first-rate service. In rural areas, staff tend to stay longer at the same job because of limited choice; but experienced staff do a better job and this shows at Beto Junction. Highway 75 through Tulsa and south to Stringtown's Choctaw Nation Casino with their big parking lot.

Fixins and Texas Trash ?????     No idea.  Next time I'll ask.

____Day 3: It's great to drive new roads; but using the same roads every week also has advantages. You can memorize details of places that might be worth stopping at. Such as the Up In Smoke BBQ, just south of Hillsboro on Interstate 35. Bar-B-Que restaurants are the Texas equivalent to the British Fish and Chip Shop; food for the common man, and like the Chippie, if it's a good'un there will be a queue but it will be worth the wait. Up In Smoke is cafeteria style, tray-self-service with paper plates and plastic knifes and forks, but the food is good and portions are generous. A Sunday lunch of ribs, potato salad and coleslaw set me up for the long haul across to the Mexican border at Eagle Pass.

Typical Cross-Border Mexican Shunter.

____Day 4: Backed onto an unloading bay overnight; it was 10 o'clock before they started transshipping my stuff onto a nearby Mexican trailer. Dropping a half-full mug of coffee prompted some much needed cab cleaning. But mostly I sat in the warm sunshine, watching two enormous Mexican flags billowing in the breeze and listening to the drone of old Mexican trucks as they came across the Rio Grande. There were no reload instructions ready for me when I was finally empty at two o'clock; but eventually came the order to run to Denton.

A Marmon.

____Day 5: Denton, Texas, birthplace of #31 at the vast Peterbilt Assembly Plant; but I'm loading at a nearby industrial park so only get to look over the fence. Replacement teeth for digger buckets; heavy little pallet-boxes that I am very grateful to have loaded when gale-force winds and lashing rain buffet the rig as I head through Kansas in the evening.

Legendary Kansas Thunderstorm.

____Day 6: From Salina across country to Murdock, Nebraska, and another collection of organic pet food destined for Alberta. Organic food for pets; although I suppose all pets are organic. Finally, to fill the trailer, six pallets of roller-shutters from nearby Omaha. Then just as it's getting dark, southbound trucks on Interstate 29 are coming along covered in snow. From Sioux Falls, the road is hard-packed snow and ice; the winter-storm has passed but driving is not easy. By Watertown, I have had enough for the day and the lure of a Michelob Ultra is too hard to resist.

Early Morning Scene at Stone's Truckstop, Watertown, SD.

____Day 7: Breakfast-time is busy at Stone's truckstop, a full parking lot holds many oversize loads that were forced off the interstate at 4 o'clock the previous afternoon during white-out conditions. Wind-turbine blades heading south, farm and construction equipment Canada-bound; all with permits that forbid travel in adverse weather conditions. They are still sitting it out when I decide to leave; it's still tricky with not much sign of tarmac. But I'm going home and even slow and steady will get my there tonight.
____Overall Distance: 5768 km.

Old White plugged-in at Murdock, Nebraska.