Monday, February 29, 2016

Cincinnati Locks.

____ Load 1: Flying Eagle Transport used to despatch a truck to do 600 miles a day; where as Penner International reckon on a driver to do 500 miles a day. So every time I leave the yard, I seem to have plenty of time to get to my destination. When the load is going to Nashville; it puts me in a good mood. It is well over a year since I had a night-out in Music City and even though it's going to be a Monday, the place will be buzzing. An easy run down with stops at Duluth and Bloomington before getting stuck into a full rack of ribs at Rippy's. Two acoustic guitarists  are taking requests boasting that they know the words and chords to 10,000 country songs; I couldn't name the titles of 1000 country songs. The load is booked in for 7 o'clock in the morning, so I don't stay late.

Custom Peterbilt at Nashville TA.

____ Load 2: Eastbound on Interstate 40, Nashville to Knoxville for a trailer switch in Tennessee. A load for Waterloo, Ontario, using Interstate 75 all the way to the Ambassador Bridge at Detroit. But first; a chance to pick up some stuff for the Mack. Fire trucks are not built with with locking equipment cabinets. It makes sense really; you don't want to be fumbling for keys in an emergency situation. But motorhomes are prime targets for thieves and I need everything to be secure. It took a lot of searching on the Internet but eventually I found that I could change the current cabinet handles for lockable ones. Moore Industrial Hardware of Cincinnati is one of the few places that stock these D-ring locks and I am passing within three miles. They aren't cheap but no-one ever regrets buying quality. I come away with 10 keyed-alike locks and a thick catalogue of all Moores stuff. There is still enough time in the day to get back into Canada and a night at London, before turning-up at the customer and finding they can't take delivery. So it's into the Mississauga terminal for a switch for an empty trailer.

TA, Monroe, Michigan. Popeyes next Timmies, truckstops don't get any better than that.

____ Load 3: Blowing snow whipped-up by a strong northerly wind makes for a hazardous run to Corunna. There are enough vehicles in the ditch to slow everything down. I am an hour late for the pick-up but a phone call lets them know and it's not a problem. The weather gets better once I cross the Bluewater Bridge at Sarnia. Back into the States for a short trip down to Delaware in Ohio and a Friday morning delivery as soon as possible. Crossing Detroit, north to south, is not a problem in the evening rush-hour. It is now a city of only 700,000 people; shrinking dramatically from 1.8 million in the last sixty years.
Johnny Cash Museum, just off Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee.

____ Load 4: The Bowling Green, Ohio, warehouse doesn't stay open late on Fridays but I'm in and out by midday; loaded for Winnipeg. Heading home and as quick as legally possible. Enough hours to get back on Sunday morning after nights at Lake Station, Indiana, and Alexandria, Minnesota. I run short of US dollars after my shopping expedition but with plenty of points on my Flying'J loyalty card, I survive on offerings from their hot deli.  Nine days with an average of only 700 kilometres is not good but I did get my locks and that's an unexpected result.

B B King's Blues Club, just off Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Indianola Rejection.

Five days away.
____ A job that could have been done in three days with hindsight; but it took five to do the three thousand kilometres. The threat of Winter weather played its part; an ice storm beat the windshield hot-air fans into submission on Sunday evening. The last twenty miles into Sauk Centre were navigated through small half-moon semi-circles of clear glass at the bottom of the screen near the heater out-lets. Dumping the air from the seat-base lowered me to that weird driving position that flat-top Petes use all the time. There was enough salt on the road to make progress possible but I chose to park it.

____ With the delivery booked for Tuesday; I still had plenty of time to get to Indianola. Choosing the Flying'J at Altoona, near Des Moines, for my second night-out. Another short-distance day; but not as short as the disastrous delivery day. The seed merchant found some bird shit on the outside of three of the big-bags of red lentils. They calmly signed for sixteen bags and left the other three on the trailer. I already had my re-load instructions but it took until 4 o'clock in the afternoon before I got instuctions on what to do with the three tons of crapped-on lentils. Eventually the seed merchant agreed to unload the bags and dispose of them; the transport costs of an onward delivery meant that they just dumped them. In all that time I sat waiting; I'm sure I could have got in touch with a local pig farmer and he would have welcomed a bit of free scran for his hogs.

A big favorite at the truck-wash.

____ The third night-out was at Iowa 80, Walcott, the World's Biggest Truckstop. I could have done more but on exasperating days like that; I couldn't be bothered and Iowa 80 is a treat. An early start and a quick trailer switch at De Kalb made for a better day. A 30,000 lbs load, bare and dry roads, chicken and biscuits at De Forest; it was exactly 1000 kilometres to Alexandria in Minnesota.

____ Freezing rain had caused chaos on the roads of Manitoba; but by the time I arrived it had warmed-up and was just wet. Maybe if I had not been delayed then I would have arrived on a skating rink. All things happen for a reason. I dropped the trailer in Penner's Winnipeg yard and pulled another down to the workshops in Steinbach for repair. An early afternoon finish and the days are getting longer.

Three Steps To Heaven.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Subterranean Independence.

Six days on the road.
____ Day 1: Getting out of a warm bed to go home on a freezing Sunday morning in mid-February is not the best way to start a trip. Winter-storm warnings howl from the radio as I go to check the budgerigars before rolling into Penner's Steinbach terminal and hooking-up to trailer, loaded for Kansas City. But by Highway 23, heavy snow; no chance of seeing snowy owls on the power-line poles, I can't even see the poles in white-out conditions. Slow-going comes to a standstill at Morris, where the gates on Highway 75 are closed. I swing into the Husky Truckstop and take the last parking spot that doesn't block any truck's route to an exit. Snowed in on Super Bowl Sunday.

Crowded Husky at Morris, Manitoba.

____ Day 2: An early start gets me through the border before the inevitable deluge of US-bound freight causes delays. Blowing snow all day on Interstate 29 mixed with a few flurries. At the overnight stop at Percival; news comes from the Internet that the 29 is closed. Twelve vehicles involved with the pictures showing a Penner truck and a badly damaged Highway Patrol 4x4.

____ Day 3: The delivery is made just in time; Kansas City, Kansas, just across the river from Kansas City , Missouri, and the reload at the adjoining town of Independence. Google maps' satellite images show the Carefree Industrial Estate as nothing but a concrete pad with trailers parked in the centre. On arrival I find that all the warehousing is in underground tunnels. A vast labyrinth, a left-over installation from the Cold War between the US and Russia. A surreal experience of driving in to a hillside, looking for loading bay 22. The sort of place were they would shoot the chase scene from the start of a Bond movie. They come flying round a corner to find a 18 wheel semi-driver struggling to put his rig on a bay for twenty minutes.

Entrance to the Green Tunnel.

____ Day 4: The load is for delivery on Friday at Regina. Plenty of time after I leave Sioux City, but because of the changeable weather, I decide to push on as far as possible. To Minot for the night with an unusually large amount of drivers waving and giving the thumbs-up. Maybe it was the Penner International truck that snookered the cop-car in Monday's pile-up in northern North Dakota.

Well lit and white tunnels.

____ Day 5: Just a short run, up through  the border at North Portal and onto Regina; fuel up the tanks and wait for morning while enduring minus 24C. The Cummins keeps humming.

Not a lot of space for a full size truck.

____ Day 6: Unload and reload within the city limits of Regina; but it is still 3 o;clock in the afternoon before I can scale the truck and set sail for Steinbach. A shipment for Ontario but back to the yard for an hours reset. An even colder night but the truck goes in the workshop and I go home.

RD's tipper.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ice Houses.

Four Days Work.
____ Tuesday morning departure for Wisconsin once again. This time to the state border town of La Crosse. A full days drive but once the snow starts to fall on the outskirts of Minneapolis; darkness falls and so does my chance of being on the customer's doorstep at day break. South of the Twin Cites, on Interstate 35, near white-out conditions and the wipers cannot cope. I can't see where I am going and can't stop when I get there as the home-going commuters of Minnesota have polished the hard-packed snow until it shines. The Kwik Trip at Owatonna still has one available parking stall as most of the other drivers have parked-up early.

____ Wednesday dawns clear and bright, as so often, after 8 inches of snow have fell and the clouds have disappeared. A quick tip at La Crosse is followed by a trailer switch at nearby Arcadia. Destination is now Saskatoon and a bonus is the lightness of the 12,000 pound load. A tail-wind blows the rig to Fargo after a tankful of number 1 diesel. Saskatchewan will be cold. Gelling fuel is the last thing I need.

____ Thursday had me running roads that I have not run for five years. Fargo to North Portal, via the town of Minot. I remember the town truckstops full of gas and oil exploration rigs as North Dakota experienced a boom. Now that the price of gasoline has plummeted due to Arab over-production; the Flying'J and Schatz Crossroads have plenty of space on their parking lots. Another change on the route comes after a customs examination at North Portal; the town of Estevan now has a by-pass. A two-lane ring-road that saves the run-around of the town-centre back-streets. After an evening meal at Weyburn's Main-Track Greek Restaurant; I push on up to Saskatoon.

____ Friday starts with a trailer swap and instructions to head to Yorkton and another rear-end switch. A loaded trailer going to Massachusetts but as so often; I only get to take it as far as Steinbach. Four days work has already logged-up more than 45 hours so I would never have delivered it without a log-hours reset. It gets me back to the house and feed the birds; take my 36 hour break at home and set of for Kansas on Sunday Morning.

Ice Fishing: what's that all about? Keen angler or unhappily married man?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Truckers And Their Birds.

Left to right: Blue Peterbilt and Green Kenworth.
____ "A dog is not just for Christmas." is often quoted when trying to discourage people from taking on a pet when they can't look after it properly. "A budgerigar is not just for Christmas." is not heard so much. Probably because even an aviary full of our feathered friends from Australia isn't going to feed a family of four. Here at the House of Drivers, there are two budgies that belong to  different drivers, both of whom have now flown the nest; leaving their birds behind. As I am now the sole resident; it has been left up to me to look after them.

____ Their cage door is never closed so Pete and Kenny have the freedom to fly and shit anywhere in the open-plan lounge-diner-kitchen area. When the house was fully, or even partially occupied, the birds always had someone to give them seeds and fresh water. Now it is up to me and a long ten day trip might result in them going without enough food and drink. Luckily, this week I did two shortish trips and managed to get back home between them. But who knows what is next and I can't really refuse to work just because of a couple of birds that aren't mine.

Trip 1

____ "Nothing yet-phone back in an hour." is not the normal style of Penner despatch but I heard it three times on Monday morning before I got instructions to pick up a preloaded trailer from the Winnipeg yard. By the look of the snow in front of the trailer, it had stood there for the whole weekend. Obviously somebody did not show up to take it to Sioux Falls and then on to Eagan, near Minneapolis. Now I have to fly. The best chance of keeping the customer satisfied is to be on his doorstep at 8am Tuesday morning.

Not much room to spare on this loading dock.

_____ From Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it is Interstate 90, east and Interstate 35, north to Eagan. Then a trailer switch at Fridley followed by Interstate 94 to Fargo. Heading for Winnipeg; where I leave the loaded trailer for the customer to unload at his leisure. Back home by mid-day with not enough done to warrant a log-hours reset; so back to the phone-in routine and hope for something that's not so rushed.

Trip 2
____ It looked like it was going to be the familiar routine of running over to Dryden with an empty trailer but at the last minute it all changed. Another no-show, I don't know if the problem was mechanical or physical. This time my rescue mission was a loaded trailer to Portage La Prairie followed by a switch in the same town and a trailer destined for Manawa, Wisconsin. An unloading time booked for 18.00 on a Friday evening would normally mean that I could be sitting for the weekend but not at Penners. After a night at the smart new Loves Truckstop at Fond du Lac; into the heart of Milwaukee for a load back to Winnipeg. I push on, maxxing-out the driving hours at Fargo; where the Petro Stopping Centre now has a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen: Chicken and Biscuits. Back at the house by early afternoon; after dropping the load at the Winnipeg yard.

Drive-by shot of my favorite bird: the Snowy Owl. OK, it is a long way away but when you have to reach for the camera, switch it on, open the passenger window and keep the rig out of the ditch all at the same time. I don't think it is too bad.