____Day 1: Late on a Friday and I'm headed for the border with four drops that only weigh 16,000 lbs. First drop is Russellville, Kentucky; two days hard driving or the three easy shifts that I have chosen. To Fergus Falls for the night and a bison burger for supper.
|Old Diamond T at the TA Truckstop, De Forest, Wisconsin.|
____Day 2: Most truck-drivers know that the first sign of bankruptcy is when the fuel cards don't work. Saturday afternoon in Wisconsin and I have a dilemma; do I park-up and wait and see what the problem is on Monday morning or do I take the risk of filling the tank with my own money? I put in enough diesel to get me to the first drop and keep the job moving. Second night-out is at Rochelle in Illinois after a day of busy interstates; the holiday season is up and running.
|Very clean, very red, very shiny, very long: the World's Longest Semi-Tractor now works at advertising stuff.|
____Day 3: Rainfall for most of the day; the wettest period I have known in my nine years in North America. Afternoon tea and a shower in Mount Vernon; then on to Kuttawa, just a few miles from Russellville.
____Day 4: Just one piece of machinery is unloaded in minutes before I find out what put a stop to the flow of fuel into the Peterbilt tanks. Simple answer: the increased size of the fleet had used up the company's monthly limit in three weeks. The limit is soon raised and I'm topped-up and off to Conover in North Carolina. Nashville, Knoxville and through the Smoky Mountains; running alongside the Pigeon River which looks just right for some extreme white water rafting.
|River freight on the Tennessee River.|
____Day 5: The small but friendly Wilco-Hess Truckstop is buzzing in the early morning light as I leave to trundle down to the second drop. In the same street that I made a furniture collection, four years ago. Another industrial machine for the American furniture industry that is concentrated in the Carolinas. It needs the best part of the remaining day to get up to drop three. The small town of Lititz; nearest truckstop: the Flying'J at Frystown. That will do nicely after another torrent from the skies at Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania.
|Deep floods in Missouri. If there had been people waving from the roof-tops; I would have waved back.|
____Day 6: Third drop done and I'm less than an hour away from the Mack Trucks Historical Collection at Allentown and it is Wednesday so they will be open at 10 o'clock. The final drop at Norwood is booked in to unload on Thursday at 08.00 hours and is only three hours away; so plenty of time. After the museum, I run up to the Vince Lombardi Service Area at the northern end of the New Jersey Turnpike. An early finish and time to take the bus through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan. John Cooper recommended the Circle Line Boat Tour, leaving from Pier 54, and very good it was too. A perfect evening to be on the water with a good commentary from an old guy who was your typical New Yorker. Memorable day; Mack Trucks Museum and the Statue of Liberty: two ticks on the bucket list within a few hours.
|Why are my reloads never in Quick Loading Zones?|
____Day 7: A white van moving slowly across a junior school playground at 8 o'clock in the morning would normally set alarm bells ringing but all I see is smiling faces. Especially when I get the back doors of the trailer to within six foot of the school's gymnasium emergency exit doors. The movable tiers of seating for the gym have arrived, a motley crew of parents, staff and contractors are there to help with unloading. Many hands make light work and I'm humming a 1977 song from the Stranglers. For Peaches and Beaches read Teachers and Bleachers. But happiness doesn't last; by the time I have wriggled my way out of the residential backwater of Norwood; news comes through from the office that my nearby reload has been cancelled by the shipper. Back to Vince Lombardi and wait.
|Mr. Cooper on his torturous way to Vancouver Airport.|
____Day 8: Reload instructions finally arrive. Load Monday afternoon in Georgia; 1300 kilometres away to the south-west. So at least there will be some earnings from the dead-head and a couple of days of driving. Back along the very busy Interstate 81; the interstate that takes so many university students to their colleges; but in Summer, super crowded with families going south-west on their annual vacations.
____Day 9: Across the mountains again, through the Carolinas, into Georgia and I select Carnesville for my weekend break. Hot and sticky as Georgia so often is; then rain, big spots that hurt the head and shoulders as they send you dashing for cover.
____Day 10: Sunday with a choice of Petro Stopping Centre or Flying'J. The Petro wins, hands down, on hygiene. In fact, I am wary of putting my hands down anywhere at the Flying'J; such is the grime.
|The secret to good fuel consumption: a light load, a strong tail-wind and make the driver pay for the diesel.|
____Day 11: A call from the shipper tells me that the load is ready a couple of hours earlier than expected; the first good news for days. Not a complete trailer load; so the office gets to work scouring the data-boards for goods destined for Manitoba while I work my way northwards. Eighteen thousand pounds of lumber from Bradleyville, Missouri, is part two of the return trip. New roads after taking US Highway 60 west from Paducah; out of Kentucky, into Missouri and an excellent 4-lane highway. There is no Interstate 60 but this section of US 60 could easily be re-labelled.
____Day 12: Into the area known as the Ozarks; northern Arkansas, southern Missouri. Black-powder, bluegrass, white oak and endless hillsides of green forested colour. If it is lumber going to Canada then it is hardwood. Quality flooring, eight packs from a isolated saw-mill, along winding roads through small villages. Once back on the main highway to Springfield, I'm into top gear and headed for home. After unloading on the banks of the Hudson River, it seems strange to be going north on Interstate 29 out of Kansas City. Sioux City for the night as it rains heavily yet again.
____Day 13: One final big push for the border to bring the strangest of trips to an end. Catching up with Cooperman and his 70 ton, 9 axle, over-size load. He lists his problems as we chat on the CB; it seems in comparison that my trip has been pretty straight forward, if a little slow.