Monday, October 27, 2014

Dislocation, Dislocation, Dislocation Trip.

Winnipeg to Fort St. John and back to Edmonton - 2697km.
 ____A Monday morning departure with six drops of furniture and four of them are in Grande Prairie, Alberta. They'll be for Wednesday followed by Fort St. John and a tiny bit of Alaska Highway. the re-load is a trailer swap in Edmonton; straight back to the 'Peg. E-Z-P-Z-lemon-squeezy.

Heavy-haul CAT with small sleeper.
 ____I thought I had better retrieve my load-straps before the swap; so did it when killing time in the Flying'J at Sherwood Park. I was just climbing down when WHOOSH; the trailer door whipped round and smacked me on the elbow as I held up my arm to protect myself

At the roundabout; Dawson Creek, British Columbia.
____ I phoned my despatcher; who put my through to the Fort Saskatchewan depot and they sent round Kevin in his pick-up truck. Within an hour, I was at the brand new, state of the art, Strathcona Hospital. Only problem; the place wasn't kitted out with a doctor who knew how to fix dislocated shoulders! After three enthusiastic attempts; they gave it up as a bad job and left me laying in an examination bay for 24 hours. I got given something for pain; but no sleep. I was strapped to an automatic blood pressure testing machine that kicked in every hour with a violent squeeze of my right arm.

Open-sided hoods and three drive axles; all the rage in the oil industry transport sector.
____Eventually an ambulance arrived on Friday night; to take me to the University of Alberta Hospital in down-town Edmonton. I felt bad about throwing-up in the ambulance; but I did tell them that I got car-sick and still they wouldn't let me sit in the front. Since the injury happened; I had been given nothing to eat or drink as they wanted to anaesthetise me as soon as they got a chance. At this time; I felt about twice as bad as when it first happened. It did cheer me up when half a dozen ambulance crews sang "Happy Birthday" when the check-in nurse announced  that I had done it on my birthday.

The Everything Truck
____Finally I was admitted to hospital for the first time in fifty years. An I-V drip, the humiliating gown and the snoring of the other guys on the ward. Still no food or sleep; but plenty of morphine. Still nobody to say when my ball and socket joint would be re-united; but plenty of circulating hospital staff to ask the same questions. Again and again. Any allergies? Any heart problems? Any previous dislocations? Drug-user? Diabetic? Alcoholic? But looking at the state of some of my fellow patients; my troubles were minor. I thought I had a good chance of being last-in and first-out.

Cab-over at the Acheson Husky, Alberta.
____Six o'clock on a Saturday afternoon and I had given up any hope of my number being called. Death looked like the only possible release from the pain. Don't believe anything you see in the movies concerning dislocated shoulders. Clint Eastwood in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot: you can't reset bones by tying your arm to a car and slamming the door. Lethal Weapon; the one where Patsy Kensit gets her tits out: Mel Gibson dislocating his shoulder and resetting it just for fun: bull-shit. The pain is horrendous!

____But just before the theatre staff went down the pub; they managed to fit me in. I don't know what the fuck was on the bits of paper I signed. All I know is that when I came round; they had all gone and so had the pain. The cleaners were in charge; with just a porter to push me back to the ward. I spent most of Sunday trying to escape. Getting yourself dressed and walking out is not an option. Eventually I persuaded them that me, going back to my truck in a taxi, by myself was better for them than having me in their hospital. You're supposed to have some one to look after you; that'll be a first.

____So that is the story so far. I'm back at the J with "something for pain." There is a double-manned truck coming up from Winnipeg; I should be on my way home as a passenger in this truck on Thursday; a week later than I thought.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Protection Against Ebola.

5737 km - 7 days
____ Early Sunday morning on the Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada; I was headed East on the Trans Canadian Highway. Listening to the radio news and the story that told of the nurse in Dallas who had caught Ebola from the guy who flew in from Liberia, West Africa. A long way from Manitoba, yet I was carrying 12 pallets of medical equipment destined for the fight against the killer disease. Gowns, gloves and masks donated by Payne Transportation. I was giving thanks that I was only taking the stuff as far as Toronto International Airport.

____ As far as Hearst on the first day; at the end day two and I was parked on the unloading dock of CS World Cargo. Listening to the jets take-off and land just over the fence. GlobalMedic is the Canadian charity that was organising the transfer of the equipment to West Africa and by the look of things; this could become a regular shipment. The rest of the trailer was loaded with furniture and after trouble-free drops at Brantford and St.Catharines; I got a message that Baltimore would be unable to unload me until Wednesday. So, out with the bike and a ride around the lanes of Port Hope and Port Granby, alongside the north shore of Lake Ontario. Then the heavens opened and it rained for the rest trip.

____ Baltimore, then Ottawa and I was empty. A reload from Trois Rivieres in Quebec Province, booked in to load on Thursday afternoon and the trip looked like it would be at least over-running by a day. Empty oil-drums to Winnipeg; bringing back memories of the last empty oil-drum load that turned out to be full of jet fuel. Another story; with it's repercussions. Still the rain came down, Highway 117 through the park to Louvicourt. Running in the rain, running in the dark and running the gauntlet thrown down by the hunters.

____ As long as there is meat in the butcher's shop and meat on the shelves of the supermarkets; I wont be going off into the woods looking for animals that I can shoot. I hope that all the animals get this message and don't come onto the highways looking for me. Stirring-up harmless creatures causes thousands of road-kill and the strike-rate running through Northern Quebec and Ontario is a bad as it gets. A driver needs to concentrate 100%; looking well ahead for any movement. Focussing on the delineators, to see if anything crosses their reflectors. Keeping out of cruise-control. I do see two moose, just before the last of the daylight. Both are standing on the wide margin at the side of the road; watching traffic and hanging around. The most dangerous of all animals in a potential road-kill situation.

____ There are two sorts of animal; those that run away from you and those that run after you. There are two types that run after you; those that want to eat you and those who think that defence is the best form of attack. This last lot are usually big; elephants, rhinos and moose. Moose don't fear much. They don't fear cars or trucks and often they will just hang around at the side of the road watching and eating. Of course, sooner or later, they wander across the road and bang. I saw one victim on the Saturday morning; a heap of fur and flesh with fifty yards of blood-stained highway.

____ Highlight of the trip was the Pipeline Truckstop at Louvicourt. If one restaurant can serve up a ham and cheese omelette with hash-browns, toast and coffee for $6.72 including tax; why can't they all do it. Most places are double that price and not as good.

Moose on the loose.

Friday, October 10, 2014

21 Days - 15947 Kilometres - 5 Loads - 4 Time Zones.

Load 1

____ Nine drops spread across a route spanning 2000 miles might be a daunting task if it wasn't for cell-phones, Gps and good old Google maps. But I had done seven of the 9 before and could picture the whole trip in my head. It went very much as planned with the tactic of parking overnight at the next day's first delivery paying good dividends. Sunday night at Milwaukee, Monday at Nashville, Tuesday at Charlotte's place. Empty, Wednesday mid-afternoon at Savannah with only one mishap. Charlotte was one piece short and it didn't turn up until the last drop was off.

Load 2

____ There was not enough time to get across from Savannah to Augusta, so I loaded in the morning before swinging by to see Charlotte and deliver their missing item. Also not enough time to get back into Canada and do some deliveries by Friday night. But it's harvest-time in Quebec and all the farm machinery dealers are open for business on Saturdays. Sherbrooke and Victoriaville get unloaded but not enough time to get to Halifax. I make it to the Blue Canoe Truckstop in Fredericton before the driving hours run out; not a bad place to spend a 36 hour reset. The last pieces get delivered on Monday but when the reload arrives there is not enough time to get it. How many "Not Enoughs" can one trip have?

Load 3

____ Peat-moss out of Inkerman in New Brunswick makes me shudder with the thought of the last load that I hauled out of this place for Big Freight. A freezing cold February night when they loaded icy pallets onto an ice-covered flat-deck. By the time I got to Fredericton; the whole load had slid across the trailer and was hanging 12 inches over the side. I still remember the frantic two hours when I threaded straps through the bottom of the pallets and winched them back into place. I'm grateful to going back with a box-van trailer.

____ When the job came through, I thought I would be able to move the Saturday delivery time to Friday. But its not peat-moss for a plant nursery; its for Lowes, the home improvement chain, and I'm stuck with the appointment at a RDC. This trip has too much time on it but gives me the chance to go into New York City and spend too much money. Then; at 06.30 Saturday morning I arrive at the brand new Regional Distribution Centre at Adairsville, Georgia. Here, I put my Bills of Lading in a plastic container and send it up a plastic pipe. The container comes back with a set of instructions: drop trailer in Bay 4001, park in the bob-tail parking area, wait for phone call to say empty trailer is ready for collection, leave premises. Three hours later, the phone rings and I leave. Obviously the idiots who thought up this system have no regard for the amount of truck-drivers time that they are wasting. I hate RDCs and at this one there isn't even an opportunity to grab some lazy twat by the throat and pull them through a small hole in a re-enforced glass screen.

Load 4 and Load 5.

____ When the reload instructions came, they told of a waiting, loaded trailer at Janesville, Wisconsin, 750 miles north. It may seem strange to load a truck from New Brunswick to Georgia and then run it empty back north. But Payne has a big contract, direct with the manufacturer, to shift a lot of farm machinery to Canada. Empty trucks are always needed to cover whatever loads there are; however sometimes they get it wrong. I'm paid the same, empty and loaded, so after a Sunday morning trailer switch; I'm en route to Edmonton, Alberta. Straight past Winnipeg for a Wednesday morning unloading appointment.

____ With the trip running into its third week, I was looking forward to a quick turn-round, back to Manitoba. But Payne's Fort Saskatchewan depot had other ideas. I spent the rest of the day shunting trailers across Edmonton; making six complete crossings before getting back my original trailer which was now loaded for Peoria, Illinois. Finishing back at the Sherwood Park Flying'J for a second night. Finally getting back to base on Friday.

Kenworth Wrecker.

Inkerman Peat-Moss Packing Plant.

New York Traffic.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Montague Boston Single Speed.

____I’m coming across the border at Houlton, Maine, at two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon with a load of peat-moss that is to be delivered in Georgia on Saturday morning. Not far to go and a long time to do it. Normally I would be fuming at this waste of my time but I am excited. This is a heaven-sent chance to visit NYCeWheels; the only shop I know that specialises in the sale of folding bicycles.

____It’s situated on the upper eastside of Manhattan; so there is not much chance of rocking-up in an eighteen wheel semi and parking it outside. But there is the Vince Lombardi Service Area at the north end of the New Jersey Turnpike; one of the few redeeming features of the Interstate 95 that runs along the east coast of the US. Maine to Florida. Plenty of truck parking and a park-and-ride bus service across the Hudson River. Shopping and big cities aren’t really my thing but as it is something specific that I am after; then shopping in New York City it is.

____Heavy rain on Wednesday afternoon made me postpone the trip until Thursday. When I was on an early bus full of commuters; $7.50 return. Twenty-five minutes later, I was coming out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal; within a stone’s throw of Times Square. I thought the walk up to 84th and York would do me good but first; breakfast. Straight past Tiffany’s and into the nearest New York deli-diner. It didn’t have the lively atmosphere portrayed in films and TV shows but you couldn’t fault the frittata.

____NYCeWheels didn’t open until 11o’clock so I killed some time in a Starbucks with a skinny latte. There is a Starbucks on every corner in Manhattan, a Starbucks in every big store and even some of the larger Starbucks have smaller Starbucks inside them. In contrast; NYCeWheels is one very tiny store; they only sell folding bikes because the place is so small that you need to fold a bike in half if you want to turn it round. But what they lack in square feet; they make up for in customer service.

____There are a million folding bikes of all shapes and sizes for sale on the Internet. But for a big guy like myself; I really need to try before I buy and NYCeWheels is about the only place where you can have test rides on a variety of folders all at the same time. I made a mistake when I bought my 12 inch wheel Strida without knowing if it was the right size. It is a well-engineered, innovative machine; but every time I ride it; I am thinking that the circus is in town and I am the clown on the funny bike.

____I have ridden the 20 inch Dahon/Tern/Giant lookalikes but feel too cramped by the short distance between the handlebars and the seat. I came to try the larger 26 and 28 inch wheel folders but first I went round the block on a Brompton. I was impressed; it was by far the best of the small wheelers that I have ridden. Very nimble, yet felt sturdy. If I was buying a folding bike that needed to be folded very small then, without hesitation, I would go for the Brompton. But I just need something that will go in the back of the car and in the truck; so big wheels will do.

____The Dahon and Tern 26 inch wheelers were well equipped and I would have bought one or the other if I hadn’t gone for a spin on the Montague Boston Single Speed. I instantly liked the old-fashioned minimalist monochrome appearance and when I rode it, well, it just felt right. Comfortable, leaning-forward riding position, very responsive steering and geared at about number 6 on a ten-speed. I usually know within a few pedal-turns if a bike fits me properly and this one ticked all the boxes.

____The shop offered to box and ship the bike to my home address but I decided to pay and ride away. Right out into the lunch-time traffic chaos of New York City; the cycling equivalent of running with the bulls in Pamplona. But the bike was magnificent as we weaved in and out of busses, limos and taxis; zig-zagging across Manhattan. Madison
Avenue, Park Avenue, 5th Avenue, Broadway and back to Times Square. For twenty-minutes, living life dangerously in the style of a city-centre cycle-courier. And a cycle-courier’s weapon of choice is often a light-weight, flat-barred, skinny-tyred single-speed.

____Did I upset any fellow road-users during my journey? Difficult to say; so many New York drivers sound their horns so much, so often and for no apparent reason. Back at the multi-storey bus terminal; I slipped out the front wheel, folded the frame, slipped it all into its carrying bag and got on the bus back to Vince Lombardi. Mission accomplished. I was worried about being allowed on the bus with the bike, it folds down to about 3 foot by 3 foot and 12 inches wide; which is big enough to take up two seats on its own. But the driver never said anything although I think I would have been turned away if it wasn’t in a bag.

____At over $700, the Montague Boston Single Speed isn't cheap. But nobody regrets buying quality and a hundred dollar bike from Wal-Mart's wouldn’t have run that gauntlet the way the Boston did. Still, it is half the price of a British Made Brompton and there are plenty of folding exotica that will set you back over two grand. I’ve just been for ride along some country lanes in Illinois; very windy conditions and the single-speed gearing gives the rider a good cardio-vascular work-out. Great fun and I hope the first of many fitness sessions out on the road.