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.

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