Saturday, January 28, 2017

Badly Misled.

Underwater shot from the glass tunnel under the Polar Bear pool.
Four Days.

____The US has always had a thing about vehicle weights. Scales are everywhere and  every driver watches his weight; mainly with the help of in-cab guages and the CAT scales at truckstops. I have a rule: if the cargo weighs more than 30,000 lbs; check the axle weights on a scale. But when I picked up a load of wood-shavings from the Steinbach yard, the bill of lading said 30,000 lbs and the  weight gauge in the cab seemed to confirm it. However the scale house at Moorhead in Minnesota indicated the gross weight was 78,650 lbs and the tandem axles of the trailer were registering 35,500 lbs. The shavings weighed at least 43,000 lbs.; badly misleading the driver. I was called into the office with all my paperwork and given an a thorough inspection. No violations were found and I was able to move the trailer axles and make the weights legal at less than 34,000 lbs per drives and trailer. Luckily escaping a $185 fine but fuming at the inaccuracy of the BoL

____ A bad interlude in an otherwise good day as I reached the Abbyland Truckstop for the night; just five miles from the farm at Colby, Wisconsin. The pallet-jack at the farm was the most bent and buckled that I have ever worked with but did the job in under an hour before I head to Webster City in a snow storm. The last twenty miles were treacherous as strong side-winds threatened to jack-knife the empty trailer across the ice covered carriageway. A full load of herbicide settles the chance of sliding but it is slow-going for the rest of the day. At Albert Lea; the Petro Truckstop is full to bursting as every trucker sees all the machinery in among the scenery beside Interstate 35 and decides to see what the morning brings.

____ A long day from Albert Lea to Brandon but the weather is better, customs clearance is done without a hitch, two snowy owls put in an appearance on the road to Winkler and there is plenty of room at the Husky Truckstop. It is an empty run back to Steinbach in the morning. Paperwork is already in my pigeon-hole for the next run; Texas leaving Sunday. Leaving Saturday free for a visit to Winnipeg Zoo; polar bears, wolves, musk-ox and caribou. Oh,and an albino buffalo.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

San Antonio Triangle.

11 day - 12 State - 4 Province.
____ Forty degrees below is the magic number when Centigrade equals Fahrenheit and  for two bitterly cold nights; number 94 has stood out in the open. Both my former employers, Flying Eagle and JTI, kept the trucks inside on Winter nights. The freezing temperatures have caused gelling in the fuel filter; so a quick trip into the workshop is called for. A new filter, two bottles of fuel treatment and I'm off to Texas. Just two and a half days to get the peat-moss delivered before Friday lunchtime; so down to Percival, encountering slippery sections of Interstate on the high ground of South Dakota.

____ Winter storm warnings are being broadcast for the lower Mid-West; in Kansas, anti-icing fluid is being spread on the turnpikes. As I approach Fort Worth; convoys of electricity company repair vehicles are making their way north into Oklahoma. Good to see pro-active thinking from the utilities as the Wichita Lineman's prophecy seems about to come true. "...and if it snows, that stretch down South won't ever take the strain."

Car museum at Russell's Truckstop.

____ From Hillsboro, it is five hours down to the plant nursery on the south-west outskirts of San Antonio. A place I had been before and the first time to relax in three days, warm, sunny, as i waited for the reload instructions. East to Waller for a trailer change; then to British Columbia for two drops around Vancouver. Just a winter storm, the Rocky Mountains and 2376 miles to tackle before the Canadian border and 40 hours of driving time to do it before I will need a log-hours reset. On the positive side is the fact that the load only weighs 16000 lbs and cutting across into New Mexico helps avoid worst of the freezing rain in the Ice Storm.

____ Saturday night is spent at Russell's Truckstop on the Texas- New Mexico stateline. Interstate 40 that is also Route 66 from Amarillo to Albuquerque. The west bound trucks are coming-in with an inch-thick layer of cling-film plastered on their front-ends. I spend an hour in Russell's in-house car museum; a welcome break from thoughts of the weather conditions and my new obsession of "Weather App" checking. A variety of cars from the Fifties surrounded by displays of automobile memorabilia together with loads of stuff about Marilyn, Elvis, the Coca Cola Company and the Mother Road.

Bare and dry roads but snow-covered hills.

____ Heavy snowfall on the high ground between Tucumcari and Alberquerque looks like it would slow progress but the New Mexico snow plough drivers don't often get a chance of a long double-time Sunday shift and are out in force. Lashings of course red sandstone every where. Spreading more grit in a morning than a Saskatchewan snow-plough pilot would spread in a month. The constant worry of more bad weather is big in my thoughts as I start to tackle the rising ground towards the Four Corners of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona; but I reach Greeen River, Utah, with little trouble.

____ Another day, another thousand kay. Utah, Idaho and Oregon before day-light fades at La Grande's Flying J. The parking lot is a sheet of thick rutted ice with no visible snow-clearing; strong winds blow in more snow overnight and I wake up with a three foot drift across the front of the truck. But the roads are passable; the long drag down Interstate 90 to the coast is tricky. Some chain-up, some slide down lightly feathering brakes, like me, and some park-up; like those over-flowing out of the TA Truckstop at North Bend. I had promised myself some Popeyes chicken tenders, my last chance of the trip. I have them too; even though it is a long walk to the restaurant from the on-ramp shoulder in the falling sleet

Rocky outcrop in Utah; destined to be carved into a bust of Donald Trump.

____ The 70 hour weekly working limit is getting very close as I run up to the border from Donna's truckstop in Washington State. A quick tip in Abbotsford, followed by more of the same in Burnaby. The next leg of the journey is a load from nearby Richmond, back to Winnipeg; but not ready until the next day. The Greater Vancouver district has a distinct lack of truckstops; running out to Chilliwack is an option but I settle for one of the six spots at the Delta Petro-Pass Cardlock. Virtually non-stop rain since coming down to the lowlands. Loaded and away, east on the Trans-Canada Highway, to Hope and when it is raining in Hope in January; then it is probably snowing on the Coquihalla.

____ But I'm in luck; just more rain, and more of same to the night-halt at Sicamous. The first time with Number 94 in the mountains with a heavy load, but the Detroit Diesel pulls well if you keep it revving. Dirty roads of slush and sand, the perfect conditions that screen-wash manufacturers pray for. Then after the Great Divide; Alberta is clear skies with bare and dry roads. Cruise control for the first time in several days and relaxation for the right foot. The last day is a run from Swift Current to Winnipeg; drop trailer and bob-tail to Steinbach. Temperatures are hovering around zero but still the weather influences the driving, as on nearly every day this trip. This time it is thick fog but enough day-light hours to get home.
Rain on the Coquihalla in January gives Jamie enough to send out to Subway for lunch.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dirt : Both Ways.

Seven Days,
____ Another week; another Winter storm. Highways closed after overnight snow but with a forecast better weather in the afternoon. I plan to leave at mid-day and take the old scale-dodgers' back-road route to the border. This should bring me out at Highway 75; twenty truck lengths from the 49th parallel and save a repeat of last weeks delay. With a full load of peat-moss; I am confident that the W 900 will woof-through the powdered snow that has drifted across the side-roads to the village of Emerson. I am surprised to find that Highway 75 is still closed when I get there; but not as surprised as the US Customs officer at a completely deserted border post. Instead of the usual, "Where are you going?" she asks "Where did you come from?"

____ The North Dakota roads are a lot better than those in Manitoba. The ND DoT website map has "No Travel Advised" all over it but I make good headway. South and the temperature should rise but all the way to Norfolk in Nebraska it is bitterly cold with a strong North wind. The Detroit runs all night. A full days driving gets me to Thackerville at the Oklahoma/Texas state line; still freezing but warm enough to sleep with the engine switched off. Only at Encinal, at the end of the third day does the warmth of the Sun make it pleasant to be outside.

____ Unloaded in Laredo on the Friday morning; the reload is in Gonzales, four hours away. A load of clay for Winnipeg; an ingredient for chicken food that helps make strong egg-shells. Loaded by 3 o'clock; the only problem is customs clearance. It is one of those blind loads where the shipper does not know the customer; only the importer. There are no customs invoices and the importer is in Quebec. The 1 hour Time-Zone difference makes it impossible to get all the paperwork to the customs broker before Monday morning so a six day trip becomes 7 and after flying out of the starting blocks; the trip stalls at the last hurdle.

Snow covered back road into Emerson, Manitoba.

Sun dogs and blowing snow in North Dakota

Light dusting of snow on the hills of Oklahoma.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year Laredo.

Six days at an average of over 900 kilometres per day.
____ After a foot of snow on Christmas Night; Boxing Day was spent shoveling and working-off the excesses of the previous days. So when the  US border re-opened on the Tuesday, there were enormous queues of trucks and cars. All heading South when US Customs didn't think they were going to be busy and were not fully staffed. To make matters worse; I needed a new I94 visa Waiver which added another hour onto the crossing time. It was dark by the time I came to an icy stretch of the Interstate 29 between Grand Forks and Fargo. Three delays within half a day makes me think I'm wasting my time; so I gave up and put into the Petro Truckstop at Fargo for some of Popeye's chicken tenders.

Waiting in line at a snowy 49th Parallel.

____Turned out to be the best thing that I could have done as freezing rain hit the Interstate in South Dakota during the evening. Heavy ice coated everything as it glistened in the low morning sun but the road had been treated wasn't too bad for driving. By Watertown, it was all bare and dry down Salina for the second night-out, although not yet above freezing point. Plus temps came in Oklahoma on Day Three as a busy Interstate 35 rolled into Texas. Saturated traffic through Fort Worth, Waco, Temple, Austin and the over-night halt at San Antonio.

Palm trees of Southern Texas.

____ A couple of hours to do before dropping the bonded load of furniture frames at a customs broker's yard from where it would be taken into Mexico. Five miles along the road in another yard was a trailer loaded with upholstered furniture frames waiting to go back to Winnipeg. Another bonded load with the paperwork already processed; so within an hour, I was northbound, heading for for the Winstar Casino on the Texas/Oklahoma state line. I thought I might be there on New Years Eve but arrived a full day a head of schedule, such was the quick turn-round. Good fish and chips from the restaurant in the "London" section of the city-themed casino calling itself the World's Largest.

Old School-New age : Ruby #94 and Ruby #101

____ From the bottom of Oklahoma, it is two long days' driving back to Steinbach. Not always possible with the Winter weather of the Prairies but I gave myself every chance by getting up to York in Nebraska. On the way, by pure chance, I found myself fueling-up next to Ruby 101 at Tonkawa. Driven by Bob, fellow Brit and ex-Big Freight, and while we chatted, in came Ruby 113; piloted by Neil, also British and an ex-Big Freight driver. They were both headed to Hidalgo, Texas. The last day was a long one but the light load, dry roads and the W900 wound up to 109 on cruise made it easy. Mostly deserted roads and at the border before dark; back to the yard with time to spare.

Dawn : New Year's Day 2017.