Thursday, December 27, 2012

Statistics for 2012: Flying Eagle #31

  • Total for 2012:            264567 km.          164619 miles.
  • Average month:             22047 km.            13718 miles.
  • Average trip:                   5671 km.               3529 miles.               47 trips.           
  • January                           22396 km.
  • February                         23504 km.
  • March                             22202 km.
  • April                               18374 km.
  • May                                22796 km.
  • June                                20922 km.
  • July                                 24045 km.
  • August                            25515 km.
  • September                       23665 km.
  • October                           23254 km.
  • November                       22044 km.
  • December                        15850 km.
  • The stats are for the truck; it went out to work when I had a week off in April and also did some other trips while I had log-hour resets. I could go through every log sheet and get my exact year distance but can't be arsed. I reckon it's about 8000 km from the total; so it's nice to crack the quarter of a million kilometres for the year.                          

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Last Laredo 2012.

Sunset : 21st December 2012. When the World would end but didn't.

 ____Prologue: The poor write-up of the last trip was entirely due to self inflicted stress and an over-active brain thinking-up "Good Ideas." Living in a house with two kitchens for the first time, I thought how easy it would be to cook Christmas Dinner when you have two cookers. So I asked a whole lot of people to come round on the 25th and to my amazement they all accepted the invitation. Now I'm worried if I can cook for double-figures and do it right. The last time I attempted to feed fourteen on Christmas Day, at  an isolated French farmhouse, the propane gas  ran out half way through the morning. A large jam-making copper pot and the wood-burning stove rescued the situation; making the World's biggest camion-stew. A nice little four-day trip to finish the year would be nice; but five drops to Laredo have dropped in my lap. Will concentrating on the trip take my mind off of the forth-coming culinary adventure or will I have a nervous breakdown as it all blows my mind?

____Day 1: Eight o'clock on a Sunday morning and the Flying Eagle yard is busier than usual as half-a-dozen drivers try to get their last trips before Christmas off to the best possible start. I leave in convoy with Neal Trickett; who is working the Texas-Alberta-Manitoba triangle with peat-moss on the first leg down to Walnut Springs. Breakfast together at the Big Sioux Restaurant at Grand Forks before the Freightliner Glider-Kit pulls away with it's 3 mph top-speed advantage. The full eleven hour driving allowance gets me down to Percival, Iowa, for the first night.

____Day 2: Most of Kansas City is in the State of Missouri; but there is a Kansas City, Kansas, and that is the destination of my first window consignment. At a builders merchant occupying part of the old McCormick-International tractor-making plant. Then it's another day of maximising the driving hours. South to Joplin for fuel; then timing my run through Dallas to avoid the worst of the evening traffic. Parking for the night at the customer's Lancaster premises; a much safer option than the close-by Flying'J and TA Truckstops.
____Day 3: Snow was falling as I left Canada and a snow-storm warning is being broadcast for much of the Mid-West; but Texas is sunny. After the drop at Lancaster, Houston is next and by three o'clock in the afternoon the temperature has risen to a very pleasent 30 degrees C. Time to relax in an Interstate 10 Rest Area before an early finish at the San Antonio TA Truckstop.

____Day 4: A day on Interstate 35; south to Laredo, north to Austin and I'm empty. The reload is booked for Thursday morning at Nolanville; half an hour north of Austin, so another early finish and another day-time high of 30 degrees C. Only bad thing about the day: one piece short at the Laredo delivery. The one major drawback of having preloaded trailers: you never know what's on there. The shipper says that the missing piece was loaded and I must have delivered it to the wrong place. The Flying Eagle office checks with all the customers and they don't have it. I checked every delivery and feel sure it was never on the trailer. I always like to do a good job and hate situations like that.
____Day 5: My information tells me that the shipper loads trucks between 08.00 am and noon; which is not a long day for the loaders. However, on arrival, I'm told that it will take from 08.00 to 12.00 to load my trailer with 1296 bales of rock-wool insulation. The loader suggests I drop the trailer and go for breakfast; after which it warms up to another fine sunny day. Homeward bound; the good weather lasts until the snow at Wichita. I'm concerned that a stretch down south won't ever stand the strain.

____Day 6: Icy stretches of Highway 81 slow down the drivers of Nebraska a lot more than they would slow down Canadian traffic. At York, the Petro Truckstop is closed; due to it being jam-packed with trucks escaping from the snow covered highways. I elect to go east on Interstate 80, thinking that it wound get clearance priority, but it's a 15mph crawl in both lanes as cautious drivers with little or no winter driving experience plod along on the snow packed carriageway. At Lincoln, things improve; letting me push on to Fargo and a wash for #31 at the Northstar.

____Day 7: Down to minus 17 degrees C and it's "Welcome back to the Freezer." Back across the border and into the yard before noon. Last trip of the year completed as I take all the bedding home to be washed and take a few days off after Christmas.
____Overall Distance: 6039 km.



Saturday, December 15, 2012


____Day 1: The truck went into the Peterbilt dealer to have the regeneration particle filter de-coked and didn't come back until two in the afternoon. But one of the advantages of this job is that it is nearly always a pre-loaded trailer leaving from the yard with all the customs clearance in place for a  swift border crossing. So Sauk Centre in Minnesota is possible by early evening; before the snow comes down.
____Day 2: Indianapolis by the end of day two, only 7000 lbs of cardboard on the trailer, good fuel consumption as the weather warms up and the rain set in.
Patched-up RV heading south for the winter.

____Day 3: Springfield is a town name from every state; so it's difficult say where exactly Homer Simpson lives. Maybe it's Springfield, Virginia. The loads destination is just south of Washington, DC; a mile from the beltway.
____Day 4: When unloaded; the first of four pick-ups is just a few miles away at Dulles, the airport of Washington the capital city. The second is in Newark, Delaware, but not ready until the next afternoon.

____Day 5: Short day-light hours means that the run across from Newark to Huntington, West Virginia, is driven in the dark. 478 miles between pick-ups but it is west-bound and in the general direction of home.
____Day 6: Huntington to Celina, Ohio, for the last collection. Then to Rochelle and a night at the Petro Stopping Centre.
Spread-axle fridge, colour-coded to match the cabover.

____Day 7: Not enough time to get home, just enough for Fargo.
____Day 8: Back to the yard with another time for the city truck to go to town and see what he could deliver.
____Overall Distance: 6123km.

Needle-nose Pete with late model air-cleaner and sleeper.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shortest Trip of the Year

____Day 1: First drop is just 6 hours away; so no need to leave early and when I do set off it is with Flying Eagle 31 and 32 in convoy. We both have three deliveries of cardboard and both of us start with the same place at St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Big Sleeper Kenworth sporting stainless wrapped DEF tank.

____Day 2: Paul is unloaded first but stays to help me handball-off my third of a trailer. He then sets off for Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Manassas Park, Maryland. A lot more miles than my deliveries at Columbia and St. Louis in Missouri. But the second drop is 545 miles away and will be closed before I get there. So it's fuel and a shower at Altoona, followed by a cross country run on Highways 163 and 63.

Icy Road Ahead! Yeah, because of snow-making machines right next to Interstate 35.

____Day 3: Despatching trucks with the benefit of hind-sight is so easy for a driver and annoys the hell out of the office. After delivering to Columbia and then St. Louis; I have to back-track to Jefferson City for the reload. Why didn't they send me to St. Louis first and I would have saved two hours driving and gallons of diesel? Quickly loaded with electric transformers; I retrace my wheel tracks to Ames, for a night on an Interstate 35 Rest Area.

Possibly the oldest truck on a stick in existance.

____Day 4: Over a thousand kilometres from home but with only 24,000 lbs and a tail-wind; it's an easy day. Running the last stretch of Interstate 29 with old Big Freight colleague, Terry Fennell, who after five years with the big green machines is starting as a truck-driving instructor in the New Year. Good luck with your new career, Terry.

____Overall Distance: 3523 km.

Trucks in the auction at Richie Brothers : of course the orange one gets the podium spot.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Carhenge, Nebraska.

Carhenge, just outside the railroad town of Alliance in nort-west Nebraska.

____Day 1: The last trip of November and already Winter has been here for a month. Peat-moss load to Colorado; south on the Texas route to start the trip, for a night at Cubby Bear's truckstop in Norfolk, Nebraska.

____Day 2: Overnight snow and westbound on Interstate 80. Into Colorado on Interstate 76 before going across  country to Limon for fuel at the Interstate 70 junction. Finishing the day at the compost bagging plant, Fountain in Colorado.

Iowa, Chicago and Eastern Railroad.

____Day 3: The highlights of a driving career, that has spanned five decades, are always the visits to unique, out of the way places far from the tourist trail. Travelling in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Iron Curtain gave me the privilege of experiencing the lifestyle of the ordinary communist citizen. My reload location at an organic seed packing farm in north-west Nebraska would not have been out of place on the plains of north-east Romania in the nineteen-eighties. An aura of dilapidation and disorganisation, buildings that have not seen a lick of paint for fifty years and every piece of farm equipment that every generation had ever purchased. All covered with four inches of snow. It also reminded me of my despairing farm days in the Dordogne; where every task commenced with the bodged repair of some inadequate tool. Before the sunflower seeds are loaded; the aging Datsun fork-lift needs snow chains and the pallet truck needs hydraulic oil. Loading finishes in the reflected light of a full moon on the drifted snow. Fully-locked differentials help me negotiate the six miles of dirt road; back to the highway.

Loading point is the second farm on the left.

Backed-in, waiting to load at isolated farm near Rushville, Nebraska.

____Day 4: The Pilot/Flying'J truckstop group seem to be on a spending spree; all across North America. Independant travel plazas are being transformed overnight and the old Double H Truckstop at Murdo surprises me with it's new red and yellow livery. It puts more points on my loyalty card but a tank full of cheap "southern" diesel is not the best thing for a trip to north Saskatchewan. As I head north across the border, the temperature plummets and a top-up of good quality Winter diesel is needed from Moose Jaw. At -23 degrees C; I keep the big Cummins running all night, using the engines high-capacity fuel pump to circulate and warm the fuel in the twin tanks.

Rocky Mountain Double with long-drawbar pup hauling Frac-sand.

____Day 5: It's mid-morning by the time I unload the sunflower seeds at Parkside. Then it's more seeds; this time flax. A trailer to be loaded for Evansville, Indiana, but not available until tomorrow from Churchbridge, Saskatchewan. Down to Yorkton for another night with the 15 litre night-heater rumbling away as the snow came down again.

Churchbridge Seed Packing Enterprise in Saskatchewan.

____Day 6: A state of the art seed packing plant; compared to Rushville, Nebraska, has the trailer loaded just after sunrise. Then it's back to the yard with the flax-seed. A load to be re-powered as I take a log-hours reset.

____Overall Distance: 5191 km.

Snow-covered heap of Buffalo skulls.

On the hoof; waiting to go to the table.