Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fucking Well Stop Frac-ing.

Minot: The red dot above Bismarck.

____Day 1: Generally, I don’t get on well with the workshop staff at companies where I drive. The arrogant know-alls with grubby paws never believe I know what’s wrong with my truck, never fix it straight away and blame every fault on driver abuse. But the lads at Flying Eagle are different; friendly and ready to do what you ask, when you ask. So when #31 is due a service; it’s done first thing Monday morning and I’m away from the yard by 11 o’clock. Getting in a full day of driving; south to Columbus, Nebraska, with a load of peat-moss.
____Day 2: Weatherford, Texas, is the destination; just west of Fort Worth. Another eleven hours at the wheel before I park over-night at the plant nursery, 200 yards from the busy Interstate 20. The droning of passing trucks competes with the whirring of the giant fans that circulate the air in the poly-tunnels.
Unloading between the poly-tunnels and the flower-pots.

____Day 3: Away to Tulsa, Oklahoma, after unloading and breakfast. An easy day of 550 kilometres as the reload is not scheduled until the Thursday, 8 am. Arriving at Tulsa’s Flying’J at three in the afternoon; the place is it’s usual crowded chaotic mess. I forsake the chance of some diesel when I spot a vacant parking spot. There are said to be a quarter of a million trucks looking for overnight parking, every night, in the US. There are over 300,000 parking spots available nationwide but not all the trucks are in the right place at the right time. It may seem a bit extreme; diving into a parking stall as if it was last one on earth, but I know Tulsa and I had the satisfaction of soon watching the endless circulating of an endless stream of un-accommodated trucks.
Strange paint on Kenworth mixer.

____Day 4: The Arrow Engine Company is a manufacturer and doesn’t have the same urgency as distribution warehouses when it comes to loading trailers. As I had four days in which to cover the 2000 miles to Edmonton, Alberta; I had no urgency either and was content to wander around the factory. Marvelling at the old-fashioned engineering that makes the everlasting donkey engines with their huge fly-wheels. Away just after noon, north to Vermillion, South Dakota.
Every oil well needs an on-site storage tank.

____Day 5: A day in the Dakotas; finishing at Minot. My first time in a year, after the devastating flood of 2011. The place is now at the heart of North Dakota’s oil and gas exploration. The Schatz Crossroads Truckstop is now inundated with pneumatic discharge bulk powder tankers on out-of-state plates. Frac-Sand carriers. The sand is used in an oil extracting process where a sand and water mixture is pumped at very high pressure into a very deep oil well. The highly pressurised mix eventually fractures the rock deep in the earth’s crust; releasing oil and gas that can be pumped to the surface. Little is known as to whether widespread “frac-ing” will pollute water supplies, cause earthquakes or trigger volcanic eruptions. The economy is happy to create jobs, the Government is happy with the supply non-Arab oil, the oil companies are happy to generate wealth for their share-holders. Little concern is being shown for the disintegration of the planet.
____Day 6: Back into Canada, through the border at North Portal, Saskatchewan, and more oil and gas exploration based at Estavan. Onto North Battleford for the night, with the skies full of geese; ever changing flying formations battling the strong north wind.
Tough old steel hauling International cabover.

____Day 7: The short run to the Flying’J on the east side of Edmonton. The trip started with two days of over 1000 kilometres; the following five have only racked up another 3000, that’s the way it goes.
____Day 8: Breakfast at Tim Horton’s with Mr. Ramsden; who I hadn’t seen since breakfast in Steinbach on the previous Monday. Then to the delivery address and the quaintly named company called “Above and Beyond.” Reload is from the other side of Edmonton; bagged cement for Winnipeg. Homeward  bound as far as Chamberlain.
Tough 6 x 8 Mack Mixer.

____Day 9: Stopping at the newly re-developed Esso service station at White City; I find the 3 foot x 10 foot “Truckstop” sign has now been replaced with a “No Truck Parking” sign and the threat of a $2,000 fine. The site, just east of Regina, now has a Tim Horton’s franchise but won’t be getting my patronage again. Cement delivered in Winnipeg; I’m back in the yard and on my way home by 4 o’clock.
____Overall Distance: 7177km.

Purple Peterbilt.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Roads.

____Day 1: The mildest winter of my years in Canada has given way to Spring and the phenomenon of Spring Roads. Restrictions on the allowable axle weights of heavy trucks using secondary highways during the time of annual thaw. A time when heavy damage can occur when the ground under the roads changes from frozen to soft sponge. Manitoba has a lot of these roads, but also Minnesota and my route to Duluth has to be changed to go by via Grand Forks because of the restrictions on roads south of Rainy River.
____Day 2: First drop of eight is five crates of an exhibition stand delivered to a warehouse under the bridge that joins Minnesota to Wisconsin. Second drop, two crates to La Crosse; third, one crate to Cottage Grove; before heading to Milwaukee.
____Day 3: A delivery in the suburb of West Allis and then off to the suburban sprawl of Chicago for three drops. Seven of the 8 done but not enough time to get to the last; near St. Louis. A night at the TA, Troy, Illinois.

Essential jack-knife to get unloaded in limited space.

____Day 4: The tightest of delivery spots at Webster Groves, where the customer thinks that just because he is having a small consignment; then it will be delivered on a small truck. Having done the drops without any problem, it creates the problem that the reload hasn't been scheduled until Thursday afternoon. Twenty-seven hours to be filled and Mount Vernon selected to occupy my time.

Long wheel-based Kenworth T660 with driver's toy-box.

____Day 5: An endless selection of fast-food restaurants compete for my taste-bud attention, but I stay loyal to Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen; chicken and biscuits. Before heading east for 60 miles and a load of oil filters from the town of Albion. Then driving late into the evening; to Taylor, Missouri. Five days into the trip and the kilometre is still under 3,000.

Kenworth badged four-wheeler with European heritage.

____Day 6: From Taylor to Fargo, North Dakota; first day with over a thousand kays. Meeting up with Neal Trickett and Flying Eagle #39 for a meal together at the Petro Stopping Center. Discussing the merits of a very pretty waitress with a very squeaky and very irritating voice.
____Day 7: Back to the yard, just creeping up to an average of 600 km a day for the weeks work. Not the best paying trip of the year; but the $35 for each of the drops does help make it up.
____Overall Distance: 4175 Km.

Car-Transporter of the Week.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hang Up and Drive.

____World's Best-Ever bumper sticker: Hang Up and Drive. There are now laws forbidding the use of hand-held cellphones whilst driving but this has not curtailed their use. Rush-hour on a Kansas City Interstate and a red pick-up truck comes steaming down the on-ramp with the drivers right hand slapped against the side of his face. He has no idea of the havoc that the next ten seconds of his conversation will cause. Luckily. my load of flax-seed was so tightly packed that it had no-where to go under extreme braking. It was also fortunate that all the other road-users had some where to go and could avoid the red menace.
____Something has to be done! And I believe it has to be the cellphone service providers that bring a stop to the chaos that their product is causing on our roads. Technology is available that could render a cellphone in-operable if it was travelling at more than 20 mph and not connected to a hands-free headset. I'm sure that electronic circuitry could be added to a SIM card that would link a GPS application to the off/on switch. The law is not working and something needs to be done; the cellphone companies are prosperous money-making enterprises and need to be held responsible for the situation.
____I'm not a great fan of texting; but I'm not anti-cellphone. It has brought about the biggest change to the road transport industry that I have seen during my career. Communication is everything and talking on a hands-free headset is no different from talking to a passenger in the vehicle. Long conversations with fellow drivers has become part of a driver's day and helps pass the time on long tedious sections road. The free service offered by most networks when calling a same-network number makes endless gossiping very popular. I confess to using the numbers on my speed-dial just because I'm bored; but all to often they are already all talking to each other.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chrome Shop Mafia and the Son of Iowa 80.

____Day 1: " What have I done now?" is my normal reaction when I get an incoming call from a stranger who knows my name. Just south of the border; but no need to worry. It's Ann, a nice lady from the Pilot/Flying'J Challenge Magazine, phoning to say that I have won a Garmin Sat-Nav. Winning the quarterly prize in the Garmin Gallery Photograph Competition. It puts me in a much better mood, after I had spent an awful long time trying to get the trailer axles slid into a legal position. A load of flax seed, as far as Sapp Bros at Percival on the Iowa/Missouri border.

Junction 4, Interstate 44, Joplin, Missouri.
____Day 2: An early start that gets me down to the animal food plant at Neosho before Midday. Unloaded and despatched to Topeka for a ten o'clock loading appointment, the next day. Plenty of time to go along to Junction 4 on Interstate 44 and visit the Chrome Shop Mafia. The place to go if you have a truck customising project, a long shopping list and plenty of cash. Not a place with much for the average trucker looking to add a couple of shiny bits to a company truck. But just a short walk to somewhere with plenty of bling; Joplin's Petro Truckstop and the new Supertruck Showroom. Similar in style to the Worlds Greatest Truckstop, Iowa 80. Two hours of wandering about before heading north to the TA at Beko Junction; where it rained all night.

Inside Supertuck Showroom at Petro Truckstop, Joplin.
____Day 3: Coffee cup lids, from back to front and from floor to ceiling, all going to Winnipeg. US Highway 75, north to Interstate 29 and as far as Watertown for a night at Stone's. A night of free beer; as a short wiry guy from Arizona, with long beard and longer hair, insists on buying all the rounds, all the time, for everybody. Straight out of ZZ Top; he holds court, plays the harmonica and has us all in stitches with his endless story telling. At $2.25 a bottle and only four in the audience; it didn't cost him a fortune. The others called him "Zee-Zee." I resisted the temptation to call him "Zed-Zed."

Strange abandoned state of the art truckstop on US Highway 75, Kansas.
____Day 4: Up and away, later than intended, it doesn't matter as I'm only returning for a 36 hour log re-set and doing nothing in particular. The new girl friend is out of town; spending the Easter weekend at her mother's. Mustn't grumble; at my age, I'm lucky to pull something that's young enough to still have living parents. I pop into the Flying'J at Fargo to pick-up the sat-nav prize; getting back to the yard at two in the afternoon.
____Overall Distance: 3310 km.

Car Transporter of the Week.

Monday, April 2, 2012


____Day 1: A heavy load of flour to go 2700 kilometres and be delivered by the third afternoon. So, to Portage in Wisconsin and 1100 kays out of the way by the end of the first day.
____Day 2: Another four figure addition to the speedo, to the TA at Hebron in Ohio. Making the most of a strong tailwind and the flat terrain of the Mid-West. Compacting the working-day, to give an early start after the 10 hour daily rest.

Cab-over Peterbilt on flatdeck work, pictured at Portage, Wisconsin.

____Day 3: A day short on mileage but big on hills. The Rocky Mountains may have spectacular scenery and greater altitudes, but the Appalachians are more demanding to drive. An endless multitude of short sharp climbs and descents; with the National Freeway, Interstate 68, being a true test of a drivers ability with the Eaton Fuller 13 speed, constant-mesh transmission. Lightening-fast, clutch-less gear changes are needed to keep the Cummins humming on the undulating highway that starts at the eastern edge of Ohio and stretches to the Atlantic coastal plain at Baltimore. Busy traffic on the Interstate 95 also slows the last leg of the trip, but it's a good quick delivery at the bakery in Aberdeen; which gives me enough time to do the 200 kilometres towards the re-load.

Rail King, shunting rail-cars at Aberdeen, Maryland. Can I have a go?

____Day 4: "Winchester" can bring to mind the English cathedral city or the repeating rifle; but to me "Winchester" is always the private drinking club where Arthur Daley and Terry used to drink, in the programme: "Minder." Drink is the reload from Winchester, but fruit drink; the tiny cartons with the bendy straw stuck to the side that kids get in their lunch boxes. Like the flour millers of Manitoba, the fruit drink manufacturers of Virginia, know just how much product they can put on a truck and still stay legal. The rig is loaded to just below the 80,000 lbs limit. Another slog through the Appalachian Mountain chain, before I make the bad choice of Highway 250. North-west out of Wheeling, West Virginia, along a steep, narrow and twisting two-lane camel track before coming out at Amish farmland in Ohio. A photo opportunity to add more pictures to the folder named: " Blurred Black Buggies."

Mount Eaton, Ohio, home to many Amish.

____Day 5: Valparaiso, Indiana, was a good resulting destination and  another four-figure kilometre count took me through to the small Minnesota Truckstop at Rothsay. The trip continued it's pattern of eat-sleep-drive and not much else.

Two heavy loads but all the scales were closed on this trip.

____Day 6: Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight. The last five-hundred kilometres in less than 5 hours, getting back to the yard  just before Midday on Sunday. A non-stop trip and not my preferred way of doing things; but good mileage and good pay should not be moaned about.
____Overall Distance: 5557 km.

Car Transporter.