Friday, May 29, 2015

Drive-By Photography.

Right or wrong?
____ Everybody carries a camera nowadays, it's part of every mobile phone. More and more photographs and videos are being taken of any interesting situations. Social media is a perfect out-let for a snapper's handy-work and the digital camera has changed the whole shooting match. Now it seems that the police are prosecuting drivers for using their camera-phones whilst driving. Drivers were taking pictures of a truck accident as they drove by on the opposite carriageway.

____ I must admit that I drive along with a camera on the passenger seat; half the pictures on this blog are taken when the truck is rolling. Look at the evidence; they got me bang to rights. But just how different is it from a police officer using a radar gun to check vehicle speeds when they are driving. I hate rubbernecking and have seen it cause numerous accidents but will the police now start prosecuting drivers for slowing down just to look at an accident.

____I think police are now becoming afraid of the power of the camera. Every picture tells a story. If you are a white police officer with the bad habit of shooting un-armed black men; the last thing that you need is some by-stander recording it on his cell-phone. The camera can be a powerful weapon. A driver gave me the finger when I was pulling slowly out of a truckstop as he was arriving in his SUV. I did a U-turn and chased him round the parking lot; he got out of his vehicle holding a 12 inch monkey wrench. I got out my camera and he was gone in a cloud of dust.

The power of the lens.

____Photography is not a crime; as every paparazzi stalker will tell you. If you are not doing anything wrong then a photo is hardly worth the effort. When some joker wants to play games by tapping his brakes; holding up a camera so that they can clearly see it in their rear-view mirror soon makes them think twice. Dashcams have become so popular that US Customs have become resigned to the fact that they can no longer prohibit all photography at border crossings.

Slightly out of focus, as always.

____I am not going to stop taking pictures whilst driving and think I have enough good judgement of when to pick the camera up and when to leave it alone; both for moral and safety reasons. The success rate for my handiwork is about 5%. Many are blurred, badly framed, out of range and plenty where I've missed the object completely. Bad weather and dirty windows also rule out a lot of stuff that I would like to put on the blog. However there is one subject that seems to have a curious screen of un-photographability surrounding it: Amish horses and buggies. I have taken scores of photos of these but they are never in sharp focus or close up and sometimes not even in the picture. It is as if there is a weird force-field protecting them from losing their soul to the camera.

____Now for this weeks trip: four days at 900+ kilometres a day. Peat-moss down to the Menards RDC at Plano, Illinois. Typical RDC, with a four hour wait to be unloaded. That made the reload of cement at Bryan, Ohio, a struggle to get loaded on the same day. I just made it in time, but the fork-lift driver put too much up the front. There was 35,180 pounds on the drive-axles after I had slid the trailer wheels as far forward as they would go. Luckily, the load was only ten pallets and they were lined-up down the middle of the trailer; that made it easier to carry forty 55lb bags from the front pallet and stack them at the back. Although I had to carry them back and re-stack the front pallet before they would accept delivery.

____Meanwhile; the mud-flaps on the trailer fell off, complete with supporting metal-work. I blame the incessant rain that lasted for the whole trip, they were just over-worked. Things normally happen in threes, and sure enough; BANG. A driver tyre exploded on Interstate 39 on the way home. It was the one that I bought with my own money just a month earlier [since reimbursed]. Somehow I knew it was crap. Into the Petro at Rochelle for another expensive used retread that I don't think is much better. Unloaded at Selkirk on Thursday afternoon after leaving Monday morning. Back out Saturday with hopefully something a little longer.

Shot to pieces
The Winnipeg version of the M25; the Perimeter Highway with traffic lights, railway crossings and bloody long trains.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Michigan : There and Back.

____Day 1: After three days off; I was eager to get out and get earning on the Tuesday after the rainy Bank Holiday weekend. The peat-moss was being loaded by the new city-driver who had  the opposite idea to my urgency. It was 5 o'clock before I pulled out of the yard, heading for a Thursday morning delivery at Otsego in Michigan. Mid-night loomed in the Minnesota darkness as I pulled into Sauk Centre and hit the sack.

____Day 2: The late finish meant a late start and that had the knock-on effect of traversing Chicago during the evening rush-hour. No fun in that but at least I knew there would be ample parking spots at Lake Station TA and Popeyes would still be serving chicken tenders with sweet-heat dipping sauce.

#26 at the Garden centre at Otsego, Michigan.

____Day 3: North of Kalamazoo and I couldn't fault the guys at the garden centre in Otsego. Quick and no fuss; twenty pallets off and put away before I had swept-out the trailer. Then eastbound and down below Detroit; to the town of Rockwood. Another bunch of good guys; this time 18 pallets of grouting powder, heavy but neatly wrapped. Westbound, the load is for Winnipeg, back to Lake Station and the driving hours are exhausted and so am I. Chicago to Detroit and back is a fair days work.

Racoon in a trap. Poor thing was very frightened. Especially when I mentioned that its coat and tail would make a nice hat.

____Day 4: Not enough time to get home; the late start on day 1 puts paid to a four day finish. Up as far as Fargo on a Friday before a Bank Holiday Monday in the US. Out of state plates on many of the light vehicles on Interstate 94; congestion around Minneapolis/St. Paul. "94" all the way to the Flying'J.

Searcy #250 with electrode load.

____Day 5: Just the 10 hour break and I'm away again. Just 3 and a half hours back to the yard. Not much traffic at the border and I've dropped the trailer put in the trip envelopes and gone.

Oldtimer in the inside lane.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Oregon Upset : Round The Clock.

Load 1 - Peat Moss

____ Load 1: An early Sunday morning departure from the Flying Eagle yard with peat-moss; destined for the Knoxville town of Illinois. A full eleven hours at the wheel; getting down to Center Point in Iowa just as the sun is setting on a dry day of 1100 kilometres. Ten hours later and the Cummins fires again. Interstates 380, 80 and 74 to a small family run plant nursery with a newly installed unloading ramp. Bill of lading signed and off for a reload; just 50 miles west. Across the Mississippi, back into Iowa and the city of Burlington. The Burlington from BNSF.

Load 2 - Balsa Wood

____ Load 2: Balsa wood wasn't a big part of my childhood but I can remember making model airplanes with the light-weight sheets of the easily carved wood. I cant remember having carried any balsa in the truck before. The lightest lumber load ever; four pallets of shaped pieces, carefully packed in card board boxes. A dedicated trailer load; no other freight allowed and the shipper pays the full rate for the job. Going to Tillsonburg, Ontario, Siemens Blades Division. But is that razor blades or circular-saw blades? On to Sawyer in Michigan for a night at the Travel-centre of America, better known as the TA.

Crossing back into Canada at the Bluewater Bridge that joins Port Huron with Sarnia. Then on to the delivery for a 2 pm appointment. The shaped balsa wood is used in the manufacture of wind turbine blades, the biggest blades of all; not sure where, why or how. No re-load instructions after unloading, so back to the Flying 'J at London.

Load 3 - Coffee

____Load 3: Brampton, Ontario, to Portland, Oregon. But the 2659 mile trek doesn't start off too well. Most shippers of high-value cargo require a driver to give them some sort of coded number; to identify themselves as the genuine carrier of that load. This is known as the pick-up number and my number for the load of one-serving coffee pods means nothing to the warehouse clerks. Ninety minutes later, I get the right number. Then the faxed customs papers go astray and I have to stop and re-fax. Then when I get the all-clear to cross the border; some-one cancels my customs entry. Three hour delay and all the blame goes to the broker: Livingston.

Things can only get better and they do as I reach the TA at Lake Station; minutes before closing time at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Chicken and biscuits. Tuesday night and I am loaded for a Monday morning delivery, but a long way to go and careful planning is needed. Wednesday morning plans include a two hour visit to the Iowa 80 trucking Museum; then push-on for the rest of the day. Thursday: get a stamp-on. Friday: more of the same. Interstate 80 all the way. All the States that begin with the letter "I" are on this route. East to West: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Idaho, But I finish on Friday night in Utah. Ogden, home of the original Flying'J and my home for 36 hours as I take a log-hours reset. A bit scruffy and run-down, but with the Big Z Restaurant and Tavern just across the road.

Eleven hours driving on the Sunday, at 65 miles per hour, cruise control on Interstate 84, should put me on the doorstep of the coffee supply company; 8 o'clock Monday morning. But that was before I came to the scale-house at Farewell Bend. Oregon, along with New Mexico and Alaska, are the only States that require independant licencing of all trucks that come into their territory. A blanket permit covers all the other 46 States except Hawaii. I knew this fact but didn't know Flying Eagle had not bought a yearly permit for #26 to run in Oregon. It was the first time I had been to Oregon with Flying Eagle and I pleaded ignorance and English. The scale lady let me off with a warning and no fine.

However, Flying Eagle still had to buy a one-trip permit. The State has a 24/7 phone line or it can be done on-line, but the offending truck cannot leave the scale until the permit has been bought and faxed to the scale-house from the DoT Oregon head-office. Flying Eagle wanted to leave it until Monday morning but a short sharp text made it quite plain that I wasn't prepared to sit at an isolated scale-site for 16 hours. Especially as it wasn't my mistake that had brought the job to a halt. Three and three-quarter hours later, I was under way again.

I finished the day at the Arrowhead Truckstop, just outside Pendleton. It was an early morning run along the south bank of the Columbia River but I was never going to make Portland by 8 o'clock. An over-whelming sense of disappointment; after I put so much effort into getting it right. but plenty of free coffee to drink whist I was being unloaded.

Load 4 - Seeds

____ Load 4: The Oregon permit system stated that I needed to buy another one-trip permit before I could go off to get my reload. Another delay which cut down the time I needed to race round to a couple of seed-merchants at Silverton and Tangent. I was loaded with minutes to spare before I ran out of time at the Pilot Truckstop at Biggs. Overnight over-looking the mighty Columbia.

Tuesday and a big driving day; Washington State and Idaho with the newly by-passed Sandpoint. Into British Columbia at Eastgate, then the Crowsnest Pass into Alberta with all the scales open. Finishing at Nanton; just a couple of hours short of Crossfield on the top side of Calgary. Next morning it doesn't take long to unload the various grass-seeds as I wield the pallet jack in the trailer as an Australian fork-lift driver puts them away.

Load 5 - Guar Gum

____Load 5: Tell any truck-driver that he will be delivering a dry-freight van load to Montana and the first thing he will say is,

"What are you going to get as a re-load?"


Was the reply by my despatcher, the first time I had ever heard her use the F-word. The place is a notorious black-hole for van-loads going to Canada. But the load-planner had taken on the job and I had to load 20 ton of guar gum in Calgary and take it to Miles City. Big ton bags of an organic powder used in the oil industry to make a slippery paste when mixed with water. They had eleven loads going to Midland, Texas, but I had one of the two going to Montana. So back south of the border in the late afternoon, through Sweetgrass and down to Great Falls on the Missouri River for the night. Across Montana on deserted two-lane highways surrounded by wide-open grassland and even some hill-tops with-out wind-turbines. Quick and easy un-load before holding my breath for the reload.

Load 6 - Bentonite

____Load 6: Drivers have been known to sit and wait for days as their office staff frantically search for a load out of Montana; usually they have  to bite the bullet and run an empty truck hundreds of miles. But the Flying Eagle office does come up with a load; quickly and with a reasonable dead-head. Good miles for me too; Lovell in Wyoming to Burlington, the one in Ontario. On to Billings for the night before going up to the Bentonite mine in the foot-hills on the Bighorn Mountains.

There are plenty of trucks waiting to load; which gives me chance to plan a route eastwards. Three choices, Interstates 94, 90 or 80. But before I get to the four-lane highways, there are the mountains and three choices of mountain pass: Bald Mountain, 10,042 feet, Granite Pass, 9033 feet or Powder River Pass, 9,666 feet. Sod that! It's 5 degees C and raining at the mine; it will be snowing on the mountain tops. I opt for the slightly longer southerly route that follows the Bighorn River and am rewarded with the stunning scenery of the gorge between Thermopolis and Shoshoni. It takes the rest of the day just to get out of Wyoming, picking up Intertsate 25 at Casper before turning east along the 80 at Cheyenne.

There might just be a slight difference between their driving hours regulations; but the US regs force me to have another re-set before I can get back into Canada. This time I aim for the Worlds Largest Truckstop at Walcott, Iowa, and another look-round the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. It's Mothering Sunday or Mother's Day or as it's known in Iowa: "Take Your Mother To A Truckstop Day." I give the restaurant a swerve, do some laundry and wander about amongst the old trucks; something that didn't appear to be on any mum's bucket list.

Away early Monday morning but with still more than a day's driving to do. The wet weather that started in the mountains has followed, everthing from downpours to drizzle. Across the border at Bluewater again and to Cambridge, Ontario, where I know if I get out the cab I will get soaked to the skin just going for a shower. Burlington, Tuesday morning discharge with the Bentonite, the same stuff that comes out of Cowboy Mining Company pit down in Texas.

Load 7 - Wire and Plastic Bags
____Load 7: Instructions for the first part of a LTL run-round; eight pallets from a Brampton card-board box maker who has only 2 pallets ready for shipment. Loaded-up and away to Simcoe for part two when the phone goes; take those two pallets back and we will collect the full order when it is ready next week. U-turn and a lot of lost time in the heavy traffic of the Golden Horseshoe. Eventually down to Simcoe, only to find that I have goods to collect from both their warehouses in the town. One of those days; the last consignment at Woodbridge close at 4 o'clock and congestion only gets worse. Load Wednesday morning and make tracks for home; to Hearst before the driving hours and daylight run out together. Another full day at the wheel follows and five moose are sighted; a record.[1 pair and 3 singles] It takes just a couple of hours to get off the two deliveries in Winnipeg; then back to the yard. Twenty days, seven loads, four time-zones, two resets and 15,973 kilometres after I left.

The whole trip. Click on any map or picture for a wide-screen enlargement.
Amish in Ontario; five horse power.

New Argosy looks better with a painted grill and less chrome.

Mostly flat -beds loading Bentonite at Lovell in Wyoming.
Smart big-sleeper Kenworth; typical of the custom trucks that frequent Iowa 80 Truckstop.
Interstate 84 East-bound beside the Columbia River in the evening.
Cowboy and the Cross; Montana.
Oregon troubles started here, by the Snake River.
Michigan grain hauler; I bet he gets a Christmas card from the Michelin Man.
Thermopolis, Wyoming.
US Highway 20; the Bighorn River Gorge.
The scenic Highway 20 between Thermopolis and Shoshoni in Wyoming.
Statue beside Interstate 80 in Wyoming; Abe Lincoln.
Longlac Church survives another winter, good to see it hanging-on.
13th May 2015; Flying Eagle #26 went round the clock; 24 kilometres before Hearst on Hwy 11, eastbound, in Ontario.

Brampton, Ontario, to Portland, Oregon, with a load of coffee and didn't change down for a single hill.
First re-set of the trip at the first-ever Flying'J at Ogden, Utah.
Red loco-yellow loco-red loco-yellow loco.
Random red tanker.
Still dazzling - the trucking super-store at Iowa 80.

Spot the moose?
Stern-wheeler on the Columbia in the early morning light.
System of Spokane pole hauling : What no over-hang?
Good looking Western Star at the World's Largest Truckstop.

Off to sow: air-seeder going down an Interstate.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum.

The Trucking Museum is part of Iowa 80, the World's Biggest Truckstop, at Walcott in Iowa.

The Museum is about 3 hours West of Chicago and 3 hours East of Des Moines.

Free entry and open from 9am to 9pm in the Summer. [9 to 5 in Winter.]

An old AC Mack, similar to some that are still in use in Cuba.

B87 Mack, the most powerful of the B-Series and used in Heavy-Haul Operations.

Solid-Tyred Packard Tipper from the company that also made the luxury Straight-8 Saloon.

Nicely restored BM Mack with flat-bed and fifth-wheel.

 Solid-tyred Mack Truck and Trailer, made long before the Bulldog hood emblem.

5 ton International Flatbed, looking as good as it did when it was built.

Brockway Tractor Unit, formally used on the Eastern Sea-Board.

Recovery-Crane-Truck by White, with serious tread on the drive axle tyres.

Sleeper-cab Kenworth from 1954; with matching trailer.

Superb Diamond T Tractor Unit in two-tone blue with gold.

White Super-Mustang Tractor Unit; the same model as used by the Nairn Brothers in the Middle-East in the 1950s.

Autocar Tipper with the luxury of a fully-enclosed cab.

Most of the trucks were fully restored but some were on display in their barn-find condition.

Some trucks were restored after years of neglect; some like this International came straight from service and just needed a bit of tidying-up.

The Kenworth Cab-Over of Highway hank Good. He replaced it with a Kenworth Conventional.

A one-owner driver, five-million mile rig donated to the museum after 35 years of service.

1954 Diamond-T Tractor Unit; my favorite truck in the whole museum. Gorgeous!

Most of the trucks looked like they could still go out and do a day's work.

Studebaker Tractor Unit. The only one I have ever seen.

B-Series Double-drive Mack; very similar to the old one in the Flying Eagle yard.

I would happily go off and do a weeks work in this Integral-Sleeper B61 Mack.

Mack Pump Truck; low-mileage, specialised equipment always survives better than over-the-road stuff.

Saurer truck from the Swiss town of Arbon; of course, one of my favorite makes.

Mack Winch Truck that was working on the Iowa 80 Recovery Fleet before coming to rest in the museum.

Kenworth Flatbed with solid rear tyres; it wouldn't need the axle-stand if it had them on the front.

Fageol Flat-bed Truck from the factory that went on to produce the first Peterbilts some years later.

Looking better than new and a whole lot better than the many others like it that are still working hard in Central America.

____West-bound on Interstate 80; running from Toronto to Portland, Oregon, I had a couple of hours to spare. So, what better place to spend it than in a trucking museum. Free entry and I saved even more money by avoiding all the chrome goodies in the truckstop store. There was only about half-a-dozen people in there, so they didn't get in the way of my photographic activity. But the little chain fences and all the other trucks did make things difficult. It is a bit over-crowded with exhibits and not enough room to stand-back and admire the splendid restoration work. But I am being picky; the place is well worth visiting and has to be commended for saving some of this one-of-a-kind machinery.