Friday, November 20, 2015

California in Missouri.

3412 km in 4 days.
____Day 1: Peat moss is a poor man's load; the worst rate in the industry. A company only pulls a load of dirt in a van if they haven't got good customers. All the premier hauliers of Manitoba deny that they carry the stuff; yet when you go to load at a peat moss plant, they are all there. Bison lining-up to load alongside Flying Eagle, and Penner too. But if you have a loaded trailer waiting for collection in Missouri; then any load going south is better than sending an empty trailer. The line is long and the loading slow. At the end of a fourteen hour day; I have only reached Fargo in North Dakota.

____Day 2: Interstate 29, all the way to Kansas City. Final destination is California, not the West Coast state but the small town in the middle of Missouri; not the river but the state. I am always fascinated by how places get their names. Apparently unscrupulous guides who led the wagon trains across America set up a California in Missouri in order to hood-wink immigrant settlers. A few weeks travel from the East Coast and there was a big sign saying "Welcome to California." The happy wagoners paid-off their guides thinking they had reached the promised land: job done.

____Day 3: Just two hours of driving across Missouri before I reach the plant nursery and am quickly unloaded. Another couple of hours and I am swapping trailers in Lebanon, the town not the country, just alongside Interstate 44. But no interstate driving until I reach Des Moines, as I cut across the state highways, due north into Iowa. The full eleven hours of allowed driving gets me to the Flying'J at Williams, just close enough to strike-out for home in the morning.

____Day 4: Snow is in the forecast but I am around the Minneapolis ring-road and away north-west along the Interstate 94 before the storm blows. From there-on a strong wind, snow and blowing snow make driving difficult. Not everybody has revived their winter-driving skills. After dark the ditches of Manitoba are littered with headlights shining-out at various bizarre angles. Blowing snow is packed down hard by vehicle tyres giving a sheet of ice to drive on. I creep back into the yard and drop the trailer; somebody else can have the pleasure of taking it to Gimli in the morning.
Wind and snow can soon put a rig in the ditch.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Coquihalla Chains

5040 km - 6 days.
____ Day 1: Away from Steinbach bright and early on a Sunday morning; thankful that the roadwork season is winding down. Good progress with the light load and a near maximum driving-hours day as I reach Lloydminster and the Husky Truckstop.

All the harvest is now safely gathered.

____ Day 2: Just an eight hour break before pushing on to Edmonton and an 8 o'clock delivery appointment. Penners do have a depot in Edmonton but my instructions tell me to take the empty trailer to the Calgary yard. Waiting there is a loaded trailer for Surrey, British Columbia. All goes well until some roadworks in the mountains at Field; a long line of traffic in the dark as signs say the work is 24/7. To Golden for the night with the chance of a good nights rest as I take a 12 hour break to compensate for the previous short 8 hour rest.

The first snows of Winter at the Calgary Olympic Ski Jumps.

____ Day 3: The weather is mild and sunny as I tackle the Rocky Mountain section of the Trans-Canada Highway. Dry roads in day-light hours is the preferable way to cross any mountain range. It is just getting dark when I reach Surrey on the outskirts of Vancouver. The trailer goes Penner's Surrey yard and there should be another trailer, loaded and waiting to go to Regina. But it has not arrived and does not show-up until nine o'clock.

Trans Canada Highway through the Rocky Mountains.

____ Day 4: On holiday; in August, it was a bicycle chain when I came down the from Coquihalla Summit on my bike; following the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Today it is snow chains. A storm has blown in from the northern Pacific Ocean, rain in the Fraser Valley means snow on the higher ground. Signs warn: "Heavy Snowfall - Trucks Chain-up." From Box Canyon, the snow is heavy. I chain-up in the dark and chomp-chomp-chomp to the summit. The snow doesn't ease-up for a couple of hours as I pray the chains are going to hold together; creeping along at 25 kilometres an hour. At Merritt, things get better and the chains go back in their tray between the chassis rails. By Kamloops the sun is out, causing a fine film of water to form on the hard-packed snow. Tricky driving conditions and the rear-end starts twitching. Revelstoke and the snow is back, big wet flakes, all the way to the summit of the Rogers Pass, where another set of 24/7 roadworks shut the highway for thirty minutes whilst they do some rock-blasting. Eventually I reach Golden and I am tempted to stop for the night. But with the first bare and dry road surface of the day; I push on for Calgary. For over an hour; nothing comes in the opposite direction; a sure sign of trouble ahead. An accident has closed the road and I am soon at the back of a long queue; crawling for mile after mile, back across the Continental Divide and into Alberta. The maximum-allowed 16 hour spread-over comes before I reach Calgary and I forced to spend a wind-battered night in a lay-by.

Coquihalla Pass Summit.

____ Day 5: Clear and bright; not a lot of driving compared to the previous day. Into the Calgary Flying'J for fuel, food and a shower; then Moose Jaw for the night, leaving an hour's drive to the customer in the morning.

Double-width snow-plough on the Coquihalla Pass.

____ Day 6: The stuff is unloaded quickly but for once the office doesn't have a reload. It is noon on Friday the Thirteenth before they give up looking and tell me to run back; empty to Steinbach. Six days on the road and 65 hours worked so a reset is needed before I go again.

Rusty and so was the driver who put them on.

Friday, November 6, 2015

New York-New York.

5410 km - 6 days.
____ Day 1: Back to New York state for the second time at Penner International. But not before a big mistake and my first for the new employer. Usually I fix my own faux pas or blame someone else but when I turned up at the wrong border crossing; it was all down to me. Two times it was written "Roseau" on my paperwork but I blindly went to "Pembina" as I always do. It took three hours for the customs broker to come home from church, eat his Sunday lunch and change the entry for my load of animal foodstuff. Luckily the US Customs were as surprised as I was about the load going through Roseau and didn't blame me; but everybody else did. There was still time to get down to Nelson's Petro at Clearwater; feeling deflated.

Cabover Pete on Manitoba plates.

____ Day 2: Penners' trucks have the EZ Pass tags for easy toll payments so cutting through Chicago is a lot easier. I choose Interstate 88 East and Interstate 355 South, just before rush-hour, pushing on to the rest-area at Rolling Prairie on the Indiana Toll Road.

Once seen never forgotten, custom hooded Kenworth.

____ Day 3: Flat toll-roads across Indiana and Ohio eat up the miles. A phone call to the customer and he wants the delivery at 5 o'clock on Wednesday morning. That's 4 o'clock Manitoba time but the man does say that I can park on the farm. The last part of the journey is across the Finger Lake area of New York; valleys with vineyards on the slopes. Narrow country lanes but the sat-nav leads me straight to the place. The owner appears, we open the trailer and I back-up to the unloading door.

Every van drivers worst nightmare. A folding trailer.

____ Day 4: The cab rocks as the fork-lift enters and exits the trailer, sixty-six times. I have to get-up. Luckily I have my reload information and I'm away from the village of Dundee by six. A trailer swap at the big RDC in Hazleton, Pennsylvania; 300 kilometres south. Switched in half-an-hour and en-route for the Penner yard in Mississauga. The trailer is loaded with four drops for superstores in the Toronto area; deliveries start at 1 o'clock in the morning. So it has to be there before the end of my shift. The early start on the farm is now a blessing. Customs at Fort Erie is a breeze which makes it a fruitful but long day.

____ Day 5: The job flow continues. A loaded trailer is ready to go to Edmonton, Alberta. So after battling through the busy GTA traffic; I get out into the countryside and make good time with a light load of only 7500 pounds. It's 22 degrees Centigrade at Sault Ste. Marie as the sun goes down on a very warm November afternoon. When I park at White River it is still a barmy 17 at 8 o'clock.

Marmon wrecker at Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

____ Day 6: Strong winds rocked the cab during the night; the jet-stream moving south across the Canadian Shield. Two degrees above freezing as I pull out at day-break; within five miles it is snowing. The weather stays the same all the way to Steinbach, 1000 kilometres away. The third day of  eleven hours at the wheel. A 36 hour re-set while the truck gets a service and attention to a coolant leak; then continue on to Edmonton.