Sunday, January 24, 2016

No Messing About On The 502.

2853 km - 3 days.
____ The regular route with an empty trailer, east to Dryden and a switch for a heavily loaded dry-freight van destined for Green Bay, Wisconsin. A note with the paperwork warned that some Penner International trucks had been reported for driving aggressively on Highway 502; the link between Dryden and the US border at International Falls. I wondered who could have complained; not any residents of this narrow two-lane road as there aren't any houses on this 118 mile stretch. The road bobs and weaves through the desolate Canadian Shield, it is poorly maintained in Winter and traffic is sparse. Hard;y the sort of road that would be used by a timid, insecure licence holder who phones-in to complain every time they are overtaken by a big truck.

____ Sitting at the exit of the Dryden paper factory; I do wonder what the condition of the 502 will be like. There have been snow-flurries all morning and not a patch of blue sky any where. But if you can't run with the big dogs then you should stay on the porch. Running on virgin snow is better than hard-packed snow that has been buffed-up to shine. It took half-an-hour longer than usual; I didn't catch up any thing and nothing over-took me. A couple of logging trucks came the other way, along with some pick-ups carrying snowmobiles. A no-phone-signal wilderness of stunning beauty but not the place to break-down or drop a wheel off the edge.

118 miles of rocks, lakes and trees.

____ It was a long first day that finished at Trego. The reload information came through early and as it was a load back to Winnipeg; I thought I would try and get the whole trip done in three days. The factory at Green Bay cooperated fully with a quick tip and I was on my way to Milwaukee by 11 o'clock. Funny how warehouses seem to load trailers quicker on a Friday afternoon when the end of their working week is in sight. In and out in less than an hour with customs papers faxed to the broker. Up to Osseo on the Interstate 94 for the night where it was a whole lot warmer than when I stopped there on Monday, only minus 7C.

____ Two long days and a third one to follow. Clear and bright for Minnesota. Blowing snow for North Dakota but by the US/Canada border it was raining. Totally unexpected but with the rain-drops falling onto a frozen road surface; the results were predictable. Sheet-ice and a lot of vehicles going into the ditches. Slow progress on the hard-shoulder seemed to be the only option but as darkness fell and the temperature dropped; then the rain turned to snow and a near white-out. I eventually dropped the loaded trailer at Penner's Winnipeg terminal and got the order to bobtail home to Steinbach. Easier said than done with un-ploughed new snow and no weight on the drive-axles. A quick phone call to the girl friend and the 60 kilometre run across Manitoba turned into five kilometres of cross-town slipping and sliding.

Snow always sticks to the back of a trailer and rear lights need regular cleaning.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Aurora Lebanon

4667 km - 7 days
____ A seven day trip that could have easily been completed in five. A lot of time to do every thing and then, when I had a chance to push on and make up time, delay after delay. Out of Steinbach, down into the States through Roseau with two days of easy driving  to Belvidere in Illinois. A Friday morning trailer switch before an afternoon pick-up in nearby Aurora. Up to Mississauga for Saturday afternoon with another switch that led to a load out of Hamilton on Sunday morning.

Frozen Orr Bay on Pelican Lake.

____ Everything was pre-planned from then on in; but missing paperwork, a three hour delay at US Customs at Detroit and some bitterly cold weather, all conspired against a smooth flowing trip. A trailer change at Lebanon, Indiana, had me heading up to De Kalb for yet another swap. Re-tracing my wheel-tracks back past Aurora in search of a load for Saskatoon. Osseo proved to be the coldest night-out of the week; minus 24 and the truck only just started. It would hardly idle at 500 rpm but a quick trip to the all-night fuel desk for some 911 Emergency Fuel Treatment brought the fuel filter back to normal. I should have kept the engine running over-night but when I turned in at 9 o'clock,  it was only minus 14 and a warm cab didn't set the alarm bells ringing. The load went back to Steinbach for onward delivery by some other truck; I went home thinking that if I am going to be away in freezing cold temperatures then I would rather keep moving and not sit so long.

The Ambassador Bridge that links the cities of Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario.

Drinking Juice And Cutting-Out The Crap.

Two examples of the green mush that is available.

____ Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is a film I recently watched with my good buddy, Ross Duthie. It is the story of an Australian called Joe Cross who is overweight and suffering from a buggered-up immune system due to eating too much of all the wrong foods. His answer to this crisis is to go on a sixty day US roadtrip where he only eats fresh fruit and vegetables after they have been put through a juicer that he carries around in the back of his car. A radical answer that gets the right results. He looses 100 lbs and gets his health and fitness back. Along the way, he meets a 420 pound American truck-driver called Phil who joins Joe on the juicing crusade and looses an incredible 200 lbs. A lot of the film is about the benefits of fresh juice but it also tells the viewer what foods they should steer clear.

____ I have never been on a diet in my life; preferring to keep fit by exercise and an active lifestyle. When I came back from a three month cycle-tour of New Zealand, I weighed 190 lb [ 13 stones 8 pounds ]; about as light as I have ever been. But as a truck-driver, it is easy to pile on the pounds when working, especially on  van work. I can quickly go up to 225 lbs, if I don't make an effort to go to the gym and do some cycling. I also eat all the wrong stuff; two slices of pizza for $5 is good value and fills me up but is all the wrong processed, fatty crap that does me no good at all.

____ The Food Pyramid is another thing from the film that also struck a chord with me. It shows that I should eat a lot of stuff from the base of the pyramid such as fruit and vegetables. Plenty of seeds, nuts and grains from the next ascending layer but less from the top layers such as fatty meats, sugary sweets and alcohol. As I was coming up to my medical for the three-year driving-test examination; I decided to give "Juicing" a try. I couldn't do the "Boot-Camp" type of detox fasting that Joe and Phil did but could try to cut out the crap and drink the juices that are available from the truck-stops and convenience stores.

____ Morning coffee and a danish pastry have been replaced by an ice-cold bottle of "Mean-Green." Mars bars and Bounties have been replaced by bags of Trail Mix; nuts and seeds and all good. The two-slice pizza deal from the hot deli has been replaced by a chopped salad with turkey from Subway. It is not a rigid regime and sometimes I have a proper sit-down meal but keep well away from the buffets. The results have surprised me; as I have always thought that people got fat because they did not exercise enough. I have gone from 225 lbs to 203 lbs in two months. My belt-hole is two holes smaller and my blood-pressure at the medical was only just on the high side of normal; not as high as it has been in recent years.

____ The most surprising thing has been how easy it has all been. I have not felt hungry or craved for any thing special. The Mean Green juice doesn't look very appealing but it tastes good and is satisfying. The bottled juice and trail-mix aren't cheap but when you consider that you can pay $15 for a sit-down breakfast; $10 for the good stuff is not going to bankrupt you. There is plenty of stuff about Juice Diets on the Internet and juices seem to be  more and more available on the road. The film is well worth watching; if just to see how a bloody great over-weight truck-driver gets his life back on track from a seemingly hopeless situation. Phil is a real hero and an example to all the thousands of over-weight drivers, like me, who eat the wrong stuff and too much of it. But the most telling piece of information comes at the end of the credits when it states: "Phil gave up driving trucks."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rolling into 2016.

____ Day 1: Out of Steinbach on New Years Day, east-bound and empty on the Trans-Canada Highway but straight through Dryden and on to Thunder Bay. The pre-loaded trailer was ready to go but I chose to have the night at Santorelli's truck-stop before venturing into the paper mill.  a cold crisp night, alone among tractor-less logging trailers.

____ Day 2: First-light and my first-time running down to cross the US border at Grand Portage. Into Minnesota with a picturesque lake-side drive. The highway running right beside Lake Superior as fresh-water breakers showered rocks and fir trees with spray that instantly turned to ice. From Duluth, it is Interstate 35, south to Albert Lea and into Iowa for a night at the Williams Flying'J.

____ Day 3: Destination Tulsa and from experience I know there is not going to be any parking at the misshapen Flying'J when I get there. So it is Oologah for the night, just thirty minutes north of Downtown.

____ Day 4: Newsprint to the old-style city-centre Tulsa World newspaper; at 8 o'clock on a Monday morning. I knew it would not be easy and when three other Canadian trucks all arrived at the same time; things got chaotic as we all tried to squeeze into a yard built for horse drawn carts. Thankfully the two clamp-truck drivers shuttled in and out the trailers with commendable speed. A reload instruction soon appeared on the satellite and a good one it was to. Wichita, Kansas, to Port Coquitlam in British Columbia with just 18,000 pounds, Delivery was scheduled for Friday, so it needed a quick loading and a sprint up to Salina for fuel; then to Mittens at Oakley.

Big buffalo silhouette in Wyoming.

____ Day 5: Mittens is a classic truck-stop in the style that is everything good in the American transport industry. On the edge of a small town in the middle of Kansas on Interstate 70, part of the TA group. Clean, friendly with all the services a driver could need, fuel, food, fax the customs papers and push on towards Denver. Pressing-on to Buffalo, where Interstates 25 and 90 become one.

____ Day 6: Two thousand miles is a good distance for a load and the diagonal north-west route needs some driving. Montana takes all day as the first mile-marker reads 554 and counts down. The weather is cold but the roads are dry and bare. It saves on the screen-wash and the light load saves on the fuel as I tackle the hilly terrain that culminates with Lookout Pass and the drop down into Idaho.

Sea-Cans on a Wharf in Vancouver.

____ Day 7: A day of priorities; first, try the new Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits at the TA truckstop at North Bend in Washington State. Petro and TA are installing the Louisiana Kitchens in more and more of their truckstops; chicken tenders all the way to the northern border. Next, the Seattle ring-road; busy but not slow. Then the border called Pacific Highway [ aka Blaine ]; not busy and not slow. Finally the run across the Vancouver sprawl, dodging in and out of early evening traffic to the north-east suburb of Port Coquitlam. The clock on the dash says 6, but I have gained two hours in the time zones; it is 4 o'clock Pacific, the warehouse is still open and they unload me quickly.

British Empire Foods Shop and Cafe.

____ Day 8: Of course, the office did not expect me to be empty so soon and the next job doesn't come until the morning. A trailer switch at Richmond, a complete crossing of the Vancouver area and then back east on the Trans-Canada Highway, heading for Edmonton, Alberta. Fuel and food at Chilliwack; where I face the most daunting decision of the trip. Eleven o'clock on a Friday morning at the British Empire Foods Cafe; do I go for the Full English Breakfast or the cooked-to-order Fish and Chips. Cod and taters, pot of tea, then back round to the adjacent Husky Truckstop for an afternoon of  Highway 5. The Coquihalla, Kamloops and up to Clearwater as I decided to go the Jasper way.

Mount Robson and the Yellowhead Highway.

____ Day 9: The Yellowhead makes a change from the Rogers; an easier drive, if a little longer. A lot less traffic, cleaner road surface and milder terrain. Canada's highest peak, Mount Robson, is in splendid sunshine as is the National Park at Jasper. The really-rocky Rocky Mountains rock. I full days driving and a trailer switch in Edmonton. My light load of furniture swapped for an even lighter load at the Penner Edmonton terminal before I park for the night at the Flying'J; strangely deserted due to extensive roadworks in the Sherwood Park area and an important missing bridge.

Bighorn Sheep on the road through the park at Jasper.

____ Day 10: At last, a chance of a lie-in on a Sunday morning. First drop is only in Regina; an easy day. Bitterly cold now that I am on the eastern side of the Continental Divide and the weather comes straight down from the North Pole. The Volvo has tanks full of good Canadian Winter  diesel but I don't take chances and keep the Cummins humming all night long. You don't need a thermometer when the truck stacks are leaving vapour trails and it hurts to breathe.

Jasper National Park

____ Day 11: First drop is booked in for 8 o'clock, by ten-past, I am on my way to number two in Brandon. I ignore the fact that I am not booked-in until Tuesday morning. There is only slight dissent at my early arrival but as everybody there was sitting around, doing nothing; they didn't have a valid excuse not to empty my trailer so I could go home. Back in the yard by six and the car started at minus 25 after not having the block-heater plugged in for eleven days.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

If Rudyard Kipling Drove A Truck.

If you can keep you head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you
If you know all there is about an air brake
And can pass the test that you must take
If you can endure days of desperation
Brought on by a week of orientation
If you just need a map to find your way
To drive a thousand kays a day.

If you can handle any rig that anyone's made
And run the back roads so you don't get weighed
If you can sidestep every speeding fine
And still make deliveries just in time
If you can sit overnight at a lonely border
While customs gets its house in order
If you can drive all night and have no fear
Of the eventual strike of a moose or deer.

If you have the patience not to explode
When it takes all day just to load
If you know the way to say it with flowers
When you go again in thirty-six hours
If you can throw on chains when needs be
Or drive across a desert with no a/c

If you can make a log look correct
To fool all of those who need to check
If you can change a filter at minus thirty
With no second thought of getting dirty
If you can ignore despatchers' games
And smile at the arseholes just the same

If you can survive the stabs in the back
And con yourself "it's just for the craic"
If you can take all this in and think for a minute
Yours is Canada and everything that's in it
Fly on over and join in the fun
And - which is more - you'll be a trucker my son.