____Day One: Good Friday and the start of a 3650 kilometre trip to Florida. Four days to do it; so plenty of time, but with such a long trip it will require careful watching of the driving hours. First stint behind the wheel takes me to Albert Lea on the southern edge of Minnesota.
____Day Two: To Mount Vernon and the first chance to use the new stuck-on-the-windscreen gadget: PrePass. A tracking device that allows the truck to by-pass scales; electronic data is fed to an overhead monitor just before the scale and a green flashing light tells me it is okay to carry on. A red light means that I have stop and weigh, as per usual.
|Peterbilt Cabover, on for Mullens, Paynes parent company.|
____Day Three: Easter Sunday and the truckstops have their usual number of trucks parked for the weekend. Some companies try get drivers home for the Holidays but there are plenty who make very little effort. There are family men on the phone to wives and young kiddies, explaining how they will have the chocolate eggs and bunnies again when they get home. But there plenty who don't make those calls. Drivers with marriages on the rocks and children off the rails. To them, Easter alone in the truck is a welcome release to the pressures they would endure at home. A million and one things to do around the house; then the inevitable rows about the job, money and the kids. The sleeper attached to the truck is their man-cave until despatch comes up with the next assignment. For these drivers, weekends in truckstops are a way of life. They earn nothing, they spend nothing, they do nothing and they say nothing. Time is spent lounging in the sleeper, snacking on supplies bought at Wal-mart and peeing in a bottle. A trip to the truckstop for a shower is their only outing, even then they avoid eye-contact. These are not the heroes who keep the supermarket shelves full; not heroes battling adverse weather on dangerous roads; these are the huge grey area of drivers, all but invisible. Down to Macon, Georgia, a quiet Rest Area and warm night.
____Day Four: Georgia into Florida and soon onto Florida's Turnpike; the toll road that cuts across from Ocala south-east towards Miami. The PrePass on the screen also doubles as an EasyPass, automatic toll paying device. West Palm Beach for night.
|A place for those who don't want the weekend to end. Kinmundy.|
____Day Five: Unloading is all hand-ball so it takes awhile. Then reload instructions come; make your way to Grovetown, Georgia. A fuel stop at Saint Augustine before making my way to Waycross with just a few minutes to spare on a fourteen hour day.
____Day Six: Still three hours to Grovetown but at least this lets me avoid the early morning loading rush. Loaded in less than an hour, only 18,000lbs, so its an easy run back around Atlanta, over Monteagle and onto Murfreesboro in Tennessee.
|2616 kilometres before the next junction. Anybody seen a bigger number than that?|
____Day Seven: Now the driving hours in the logbook are mounting-up. Eight and three-quarters hours per day is the magic number where a driver can drive everyday and not break the rules. I'm not far off that figure, so a short day up to Mount Vernon will then give me enough to get home on days eight and nine. A rainy night in Illinois.
|New stripes, an old trailer and the same old muddy yard.|
____Day Eight and Day Nine: Payne have a slightly different procedure when it comes to customs clearance. They use TransFlo, a system that scans and e-mails paperwork at truckstops. This is a great advance on faxing and has got my instant approval. The load clears customs on Friday and I'm back in Canada early on Saturday afternoon. Back to the yard; two drops in Winnipeg on Monday morning.
____Overall Distance: 7430 km.