Thursday, October 27, 2016

Esterhazy Flax.

3123 kilometres - Five days.
____ I have been at Penner International for just over a year now and with a kilometre count of 207,207; you would think I might have good idea of how things worked. But the office never ceases to surprise me with new illogical ways of working. Last weeks job finished with me dropping a trailer in Winnipeg and bob-tailing home. This week, I get to finish the job; although from the instructions I receive; it seems the office doesn't know it's arse from it's elbow. So after a two and a half day break, I leave Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon for a Monday morning tip in Regina and the Calgary drop on Tuesday.

____ When empty; there is a trailer swap in the Calgary terminal and I'm off to Saskatoon with some Christmas decorations. Thick fog across the Prairies and thick fog again on Wednesday morning as I get up early to meet a 5 o'clock unloading appointment. I have serious doubts if any one is going to arrive in the middle of the night to unload paper chains and baubles; but seven shop workers do turn-up on time to hand-ball half a trailer. Then to Prince Albert; to another store in the Arts and Craft chain and another couple of hours waiting for the gang to do their stuff.

____ The next link in my chain; a five hour run across country to Esterhazy where the nice lady in the office says that they work until mid-night and I will loaded as soon as I arrive. I get to the remote seed-farm just before dark after following directions to a remote weigh-bridge to scale the truck. It is only when I arrive, I realize that I have been there before; about five years ago with Flying Eagle. Then it was with snow on the ground; this time the place is knee-deep in mud. I make a return visit to the scale when loaded. With little time left in a sixteen hour day; I stay at  weigh-bridge and am treated to a show from the Northern Lights. Very little light pollution in the Rural Municipality of Spy Hill.

____ Eight hours after park-up; fire-up the engine and back on the road. Back to Steinbach in six hours and drop the trailer in the yard. The load of flax seed is destined for Ohio and is something I could have carried on with; if asked. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. You never can tell.

29 kilometres from scale to farm then another 29 kilometres back to the scale. All done for no extra pay. Taking the piss.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Strait Detroit and Wedding Steak.

Five Days On The Road.
____ The first morning where the ice-scraper had to come out of the trunk since the early months of the year. But by sundown on Sunday the temperature is up to 17 degrees C and a comfortable night at the Kwik Trip on Interstate 94 in Mauston, Wisconsin. The second night at Dexter is even warmer at +20. The delivery is for 6 a.m. and to park on the doorstep would be nice but Downtown Detroit has a reputation. It might have been OK but if anything had happened; I could imagine the verbal flak. "How could you be so stupid as to park overnight in a Detroit side-street with a high value load?" The TA Truck-stop at Dexter was the best option at just one hour away.

____ After unloading; I would have put big money on a reload in Canada; it was only yards away. But instructions came for a load out of Mount Hope in Ohio; four hours away. I arrived at Midday and was told it would take three hours to load. Time to wander into town for in search of lunch in the heartland of Ohio's Amish Country. Mrs Yoder's Family Restaurant looks favorite but there is a twenty minute wait for a table. A party of one taking a table for four is not what they need so I'm offered a seat at the community table. I opt for the buffet and immediately dis-grace myself my not saying a short prayer before I tuck-in.
Mid-week lunch-time transport for October.

____ The place is not a tourist-trap but is a destination. Somewhere to go for lunch in a classic car. It is good food, nothing fancy except for the strangely named "Wedding Steak." It gets the conversation started at the community table and once they notice my English accent then there is no stopping them. They guess correctly that I'm a truck-driver loading at the garage-door factory and we all try the wedding steak; which turns out to be a rather good meat-loaf with a white savoury glaze or icing. The place is very busy for a mid-October Tuesday lunchtime and the place to eat in Mount Hope. They do play the Amish card but no more than a British Fish and Chip Shop, an Irish Pub or a Chinese Restaurant. Fascinating old photographs of barns with an outstanding picture of fifty straw-hatted, hammer-wielding carpenters clambering all over a recently-raised timber frame. A memorable meal with no-one in the whole place playing with there phone.

____ Before the loading is finished; there is time to take some photos of the numerous horse-drawn buggies trotting up and down the road beside the truck. Various styles but all black and going briskly about there business. Then I get the call that the trailer is loaded and I'm soon away from quaint life-style of the Amish. Their religious beliefs are similar to the those of the Mennonites, the Hutterites and Mormons. I have worked for three \Mennonite transport companies and there seems to be an alliance between them because Big Freight, Flying Eagle and Penners have all done a lot of their work.

____ From Lake Station, it is an easy two-day run back to Winnipeg with the first of three deliveries on the trailer. The other drops are in Regina and Calgary but I leave the trailer in Winnipeg and bob-tail home to finish the trip inside of five days. An average of 500 miles a day; as they say in Canada, "Could be better, could be worse."

Classic Amish buggy at speed.

Light-weight sports model.
Open top.
Open top with box.

The Pick-Up with tonneau cover.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

So Much Wasted Time

10 Days Away.
____ This trip's first destination is just one page away from the last trip. With a British type atlas, that would be sending me somewhere near North Carolina; but North American atlases are alphabetical and following N.C is North Dakota. A whole lot less miles as N.D is adjacent to Manitoba. This, however, keeps me out of the path of Hurricane Matthew; God's greatest gifts are un-answered prayers. Just four hours of cross-prairie driving to Valley City with a heavy load of flax seed. Then back into Canada; not home but to Winkler for an early morning loading appointment.

____ Better miles this time; Burlington, Iowa, with a light load of strangely shaped plastic diesel tanks. My bet is they are for combine harvesters. A quick tip at a "Just-in-time" warehouse before running north to Muscatine for a load of tomato ketchup. This time, not the quickest, waiting for a pallet to go on the trailer was like waiting for a drop of sauce to drop from the bottle. They needed a good shake-up. Eventually, up to Iowa 80 at Walcott for the night; where the World's Biggest Truckstop had taken delivery of a large selection of truck fridges. I bought the one I wanted for the Mack; then struggled to get the massive box in the cab and realized I was going to be living with it in the truck for nearly a week.

____ The ketchup went to a distribution centre in Leamington, Ontario, with an unloading time of 6 o'clock on a Friday evening. Promptly unloaded but with little chance of a reload. The Penner terminal at Mississauga also failed to come up with a pre-loaded trailer. I was stuck for the Weekend and stuck with a load of cardboard from Scarborough that could be loaded on Monday morning at 10 o'clock. Two waste days, but it could have been worse as the Monday was Thanksgiving Day and not many places were working. I split my time between the Flying'Js of London and Pickering. The highlight was a Sunday afternoon stroll along the shore of Lake Ontario and a pint in the Black Bear pub.

____ After loading, the run on the Highway 401 across the Greater Toronto Area was the easiest I have ever experienced due to the Bank Holiday. Truck traffic at the Ambassador Bridge was also light and from Detroit, I made it to Lake Station for a night in Indiana. This was the third time I had delivered to the Chicago suburb of Carol Stream and the reload was in nearby West Chicago. Only problem: yet another brake chamber decided to start letting the air show through. Clamp the pipe, cage the brake and poodle over to the Petro Stopping Centre at Rochelle; once I had got the reload.

____ The day was finished by the time the truck was fit to roll, effectively putting another day on the trip. Kieth Urban's Wasted Time playing in my head and a fridge getting in my way; I made it as far as Fargo and finished off the trip on Thursday morning. That is six brake chamber in just over a year. Four on trailers and two on the unit. I suggested to the boss that the others on the tractor unit might soon be going the same way. At $150, it is not an expensive repair but it is a lot of wasted time.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Passport to Carolina.

Six days on the road.
____ A horror story about a Canadian-based British truck-driver waiting three months for a new passport to arrive from Ottawa had me flying across the Atlantic when my ten years expired. A midday appointment at the Peterborough Passport Office and I was walking out with a new one; three hours later. A three day stay-over would have been enough but I went for three weeks; caught up with old friends and did some touristy stuff. Westjet's direct flight from Winnipeg to London Gatwick made it all possible with no hassle and little expense: $700 return.

____ First trip back was a heavy load to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Out of Canada at Roseau, Minnesota, and straight into the arms of an awaiting DoT officer; parked inside the customs post. A delay, but nothing to worry about as the truck had been given it's yearly safety test while I was away. Over 2,700 kilometres to go; so three big days of driving with Thursday's crossing of the Appalachian Mountains slowing the progress. A night at Maxton before the run into Fayetteville for a 6o'clock delivery. I was there at half-five and out by six; heading for the reload.

____ Three and a half hours of empty running to the quaintly named town of Rural Retreat gave the motor an easy time. But soon I had 20 tonnes of plastic film in the trailer and was once again in among the valleys and ridges of  the Virginias. One long drag had the engine oil boiling; forcing me to pull over. The fluid levels were good and no leaks; just a 10 year old truck with cooling arteries restricted after over a million miles. So, on with the cab heater and the sleeper heater, full pelt; down with the windows and on with the job. The extra heat dispensation was enough to get the temperature down with the help of a permanently engaged radiator fan. It was a hot and humid day in the mountains, late September and still 30 degrees C in the mid-afternoon. The out-bound trip on the same gradients and with the same weight had been done in a rain-storm; so it shows just how easily the Cummins can feel the difference.

____ The rest of the trip was pretty plain sailing, early starts and max-ing out the driving hours. Back into Canada on Sunday afternoon; dropping the trailer in Winnipeg and bob-tailing home to Steinbach with just an hour and a half to spare of my 70 hour weekly working allowance. A daily average of over 900 kilometres and just the sort of trip to give the pay-packet a boost after three weeks of spending. The next three months, up until Christmas, are usually a good time to knuckle down and get some good miles. Road conditions are good, work is plentiful, tourist season finished, roadworks winding down, no bugs on the bumper and a new passport just raring to go. It runs out in November 2026, when I will be 73. Maybe the last passport I will ever need!