Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dakota Snow.

____Day 1: Cancelled. " If you can't run with the big dogs, then stay on the porch." But I'm not even going out on the porch; there's a raging blizzard and anyway, the Interstate 29 is closed in North Dakota. The peat-moss for Texas will have to wait an extra 24; snow-ploughs have been ordered back to base due to white-out conditions.

Interstate 29, Tuesday morning.

____Day 2: It's 9 o'clock before the road conditions website of North Dakota's Department of Transport shows that the Interstate, south to Fargo, has reopened. A long day follows; with a busy border as everyone sets off at the same time. A late finish at Percival where there is talk of another Winter-storm coming across from Colorado.


____Day 3: I'm away before any snow fall and take the new Interstate 49 down to Joplin. The snow plastered northbound trucks warn of forth-coming bad weather and just after the Bobby Hopper Tunnel on Interstate 540,  I encounter the biggest, wettest snowflakes in the World. There are over fifty types of snow; winter driving across North America will bring you into contact with most of them.

D16 Volvo with big kennel.

____Day 4: A late start due to a late finish but the peat-moss is unloaded by 10 o'clock and there is no hurry for the rest of the day. Just a one hundred mile run across the Oklahoma border to Grant; the Choctaw Travel Plaza, next door to the Choctaw Casino and Resort. A short hop to tomorrow's reload at Boswell.

389 Peterbilt at Sapp Bros. Percival, Iowa.

____Day 5: "Coffee black; cigarette. Start the day like all the rest." The lyrics of the legendary Don Williams and as I pull out at 7 o'clock in the morning; twelve hours later, the Country and Western old'timer will come on stage at the casino's event centre. Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time, sometimes not. Wood chips to Canada; and I can hear echoes of  "Doesn't Canada have enough wood chips already, eh?" But these are "Smoking" wood chips; adding such flavours to meat as Hickory, Apple, Cherry and Mesquite. An old-style open-air wood yard drying-out from a down-pour; it takes all morning to load the big bags to the 80,000lbs max.

Old Wood Yard at Boswell, Oklahoma.

____Day 6: A full day's driving on the Friday took me to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Close enough to get home, late on Saturday night. Temperatures high enough to give a trouble-free run.
____Overall Distance: 4336 km.

362 Peterbilt Cabover with Super Single Tyres on the Drives.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Amarillo Snow.

____Day 1: Peat-moss to Texas; New Summerfield, just a couple of miles south of the regular Troup delivery. Not quite so cold as in previous weeks but that means there is a greater risk of snow; and Winter-storm Orko is on its way towards North Dakota. But I am ahead of the game and reach Percival, Iowa, after a trouble free run down the Interstate 29.
____Day 2: Orko traps one Flying Eagle in Grand Forks and one in Fargo but I get my early morning pictures of eagles flying before I continue down to Henderson, Texas. Stopping at Joplin for fuel and a shower on the Sunday afternoon.

The eagles beside Interstate 29

____Day 3: Off-loaded and off the two-hundred miles across Texas to Temple for the reload. Four pieces of machinery that make a  battery-changer; a device for swapping the power-packs of fork-lift trucks so that they don't have to stand around while they are being recharged. This one is for a RDC in Calgary and I am instructed to take it direct to Alberta. Just the sort of job that I did with a flat-deck for Big Freight; but so much simpler with a van. I'm reminded of the nightmare attempt to tarp a lip-stick packaging machine but I am northbound just after lunch; making good progress in heavy rain before it turns to snow near Amarillo.
____Day 4: Snow covered roads slow the Texan traffic more than it would drivers in Canada; so I have to be content with slow progress until Colorado, where the roads are dry and bare. A night out at Johnson's Corner keeps me on track for a Thursday afternoon delivery; weather permitting.

Jesus Christ is not a truckstop, Amarillo, Texas.

____Day 5: Johnson's Corner to Eddies Corner, independent truckstop to independent truckstop and a day's work that I have done several times before. A Level 3, DoT paperwork inspection at the Wyoming/Montana State border delays me by 30 minutes and from then on snow flurries sweep across the wild open countryside with increasing severity. The last ten miles, on a shoulder-less two-lane highway, are in white-out conditions. The windshield wipers are overwhelmed, the headlights are dimmed by a build-up of snow, there are no tracks to follow and none of my long line of followers wants to come past and show me the way. The neon oasis of the isolated truckstop cannot come soon enough.

Gobbler's Knob Rest Area: that's what the sign says.

____Day 6: The snowploughs have been through during the night and the snowfall has stopped. The road is hard packed snow and some trucks are running chains; but the hills between Eddies and the interstate at Great Falls have all been sanded. I can relax and leave my chains safely stowed away in the equipment store back at the yard. It's two-thirty by the time I reach the RDC on the north side of Calgary. The arrival of the battery-changer causes confusion at the security checkpoint where no-one has English as a first language.
"Battery-changer. Yes. But is it fresh or frozen?"
Eventually the maintenance department come to my rescue and their speed of unloading puts the regular receiving-dock workers to shame. Down to the south side of Calgary for a night at the Flying'J when empty.
____Day 7: From my working-hour allowance of 70 hours in seven days; I have seven and a half hours left for Friday. Enough to drive down to Lethbridge and load some sofa-beds; which then leaves me just enough to get to Swift Current in Saskatchewan. The rolling week then gives me back the hours that I worked on the first day of this trip. Eleven and three-quarters; which will get me back to base on the eighth day.
____Day 8: After a fuel stop at Moose Jaw, freezing fog closes in on either side of Regina. But as dawn breaks, the fog lifts. The light load of furniture helps for an easy final leg to the triangle. I'm home by mid-afternoon and ready for Dave Caldwell's 50th birthday party. Dave has always been a strong supporter of the blog; I'll take him a book as a present.
____Overall Distance: 7575 km.

Dave's present; he's mentioned in the book so he should be pleased.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Drive-By Shooting.

____ The third load of peat-moss to Tyler, Texas, this year already. Another weeks work and another 4500 kilometres; so not to be sniffed at. But it doesn't do me any favours when I'm trying to think of interesting stuff for the blog. Infact the most notable event was seeing the eagles alongside Interstate 29. They seem to be in the Percival area of south-west Iowa every year; there must be a food source from the  ponds as they can often be seen on the ice. Driving by and aiming the camera out of the open side window brought limited results; next time I'll stop on the shoulder.
____ The reload was Longview, Texas, forty miles east on Interstate 20. Tall thin gas bottles for the welding industry of Alberta. Empty bottles but heavy, fifteen pallets took the rig upto the legal American five-axle maximum of 80,000 lbs. Back to the yard in Niverville without any freezing fuel problems this week, although the temperatures have stayed at around minus 20 C. Next trip; another load of peat-moss to Texas.

Flying Eagles of the feathered variety.

One on the ice; one in the air.

The Borderline.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Eagles and Vultures.

____Prologue: Remember “Kelly’s Heroes?” Where the tiger tanks, guarding the gold in the town square, have to be started and ran for twenty minutes every four hours? Having a car during a bitter Canadian cold snap is a bit like that. Minus thirty-something silly and my day-off is littered with trips to the front window; pointing the remote starter at the Mustang and watching for a cloud of smoke from the exhaust pipe. Burning money; but Canada in the Winter-time is a money-hungry place to live. Everyone has massive carbon footprint or, come summertime, they’ll have no footprints at all. The extreme cold is that deadly. How the first pioneers survived their first winter; I shudder to think.

____Day 1: Heavy overnight snowfall delays departure while shovel the white stuff from the drive. This gives the snow-ploughs time to clear the roads; so when I do leave the yard conditions are good. Rolls of fabric destined for Mexico is the 17,000lbs load and leaving Friday morning will give me three days to get to Eagle Pass in Texas. After the border, North Dakota gradually warms as I head south on a bare and dry Interstate 29. A flurry of homeward bound Flying Eagles radio of positive temperatures for my tomorrow. But Cubby Bear’s truckstop at Norfolk, Nebraska, can only offer minus 8 degrees C for a night-time high.

____Day 2: The Petro Stopping Centre, York, is the first fuel stop of the trip and the light load of fabric shows a vast mpg improvement over the usual 46,000lbs of peat-moss. I’m driving into a headwind but that is a small price to pay for the warm weather that it bringing from the south. A break for a shower at Oklahoma City sees the thermometer reading a pleasant +14 C. Then to Thackerville on the Ok/Texas border; home of the World’s second largest casino: the Win Star. Enough parking for 200 trucks in their own section, ten food outlets and ten thousand slot machines. I break my exhausting tour of the vast interior with a beer and steak at the Toby Keith Bar and Grill. While I may not always agree with the country singer’s political views; I have to concede that he has picked a damn good chef for his kitchen.

____Day 3: A damp, misty morning stops me getting some photographs of the Win Star’s unique exterior architecture; which reflects the “International City” theme from the inside. London, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Vienna, New York, etc. The sun doesn’t break through until south of Waco and the Interstate 35 is busy all the way until I turn off at mile-marker 111. The last hundred miles is west-bound into the setting sun through the arid scrub land that leads to the Rio Grande.

Popular cabover model in Mexico with set back steer axle.

____Day 4: “Fabric to Eagle Pass” is a job that I’ve done several times before; I have come to accept that they won’t start unloading until 9 o’clock and that it will three hours before I am empty. However, this time no body turns up for work; management fail to arrange for temporary agency staff and I don’t get unloaded. I’m left to wander around the shops of Eagle Pass; to sit looking across the Rio Grande at the Mexican town of Piedras Negras, five times the size of its American neighbour.
Trans-shipping at Eagle Pass, Texas.

____Day 5: Unloading is underway when something catches my eye; something is flapping about on the rocky outcrop that faces the Mexican border. I take my camera and climb up to investigate. It's a sick vulture, too weak to fly but lively enough to swipe at me with it's hooked beak when I get too close. It could have been poisoned from eating a poisoned rat. If it had been an eagle then maybe I would have considered taking it to the local raptor rescue centre; but it's an big ugly bugger and I leave it alone. It's four hundred miles to the reload at Lufkin; so the rest of the day is spent on a cross-country Texas drive.

Vulture on the rocks.

____Day 6: A heavy load of bagged bitumen; going to Alberta but in my custody only to Niverville.The route home is a very familiar one and Cat scale at Van tempts me to once more dine at Soulmans Bar-B-Q. Then its north to Joplin for the night.

Trailer wheels right at the back for loading.

____Day 7: The trip is starting to get long on days and short on miles; but with temperatures at the US/Mexican border of +28 degrees C and -28 degrees C at the US/Canadian border, I'm not complaining. The Jetstream is bringing Arctic weather to South Dakota too; I park for the night at Summit and keep the truck running all night.

Roadside Round-up.

____Day 8: An early start as I head for home and an early finish. The first coffee of hasn't kicked-in and I make an early mistake. Rolling down the long Interstate 29 hill from Summit to Sisseton at 75mph in a temperature of -26.5 degrees C. At that speed the wind-chill is -70 degrees C and the fuel filter promptly gels. The truck still runs but its a hundred spluttering miles to Fargo; where I rescue the situation with some additive and some Yukon diesel. More trouble descends as the DEF supply freezes, derating the engine, just south of the border. But I limb back to the yard to complete a 12 hour/567 kilometre day.

____Overall Distance: 5885 km.