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.

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