Thursday, April 27, 2017

Texas Tag For Tyler

10 Day Trip
____ It's a bad state of affairs when he truck-driver is subjected to more scrutiny and control than a kiddy-fiddler on parole. Rules and regulations are about to be more strictly enforced when electronic logbooks become law in December 2017. Although I drive a truck built before the year 2000 which is exempt from the new mandate; Ruby Truck Line has decided everyone will go onto e-logs. So I'm in the office with two other drivers for an early afternoon training session. A badly presented flat-screen slide-show that went in one ear and out the other. Two of us kept quiet but the other driver wouldn't shut-up. An endless stream of irrelevant, un-interesting stories that doubled the meeting time. I left without my log-in password; so haven't done anything with the new box of tricks. I suppose I'll muddle through when the time comes.

____ Away later than expected, down to Watertown and then Big Cabin; heading for Troup, an old regular from the Flying Eagle days. Swinging by the Soulman Bar-B-Q at Van and getting a chance to to use the Tyler by-pass for the first time with my Texas Tag toll paying transponder. Avoiding the annoying traffic light saturated town before parking at the plant nursery with the peat-moss for the first time in nearly five years.. Shorty: the same fork-lift driver did the unloading before I set-off for Laredo. Over 400 kilometres and seven hours driving before swapping trailers. A load for Ontario; crossing at Sarnia. US Highway 59 to Houston and into Arkansas at Texarkana; proudly proclaiming that it is the future Interstate 69 corridor. The same Interstate 69 that takes me north out of Indianapolis and all the way to the Canadian border.

____ Unloaded at an industrial estate at Bolton, just north of Mississauga, on Tuesday morning before running down to Hamilton for a reload which will always be known as the "Mud-flap Disaster Load." I've ripped-off a few mud-flaps over the years; but never three in one single manoeuvre. A shallow looking muddy puddle had hidden depths and reversing through it ruined my day. I thought I might get a chance to re-attach them but it never stopped raining, all the way to North Bay.

____ Every year has it's "Last Snows of Spring" and I caught the 2017 version on Highway 11 through the Canadian Shield. It started with freezing rain, then ice pellets, a bit of sleet and finally, a full-blooded snow-storm. Everything that can slip down the back of your neck and make your life cold, wet and miserable. Drive it like a Yorkie Bar, one chunk at a time. Cochrane for breakfast, Kapuskasing for a shower, Hearst for coffee before tackling the barren two hundred kilometres to Longlac. Then another 200 kay to Nipigon. Running on hard-packed snow and giving full respect to the swooping curves at the Pijitawabik Palisades.

____ The only positives from a long day are the heavy load, which gives excellent traction, and the long day-light hours. The busy two-lane highway, snow-covered and at night would have been treacherous. A cold night at Nipigon where  I put the winter-front on the Kenworth's grill, hopefully for the last time. For the last six months, it has been on and off more times than a pair of whore's drawers. Snow for most of the way back to Manitoba as I take the trailer back to the yard and leave the mud-flaps with the guys in the workshop.

The e-log and messaging tablet with handy hook for a rubbish bag.

Dickey's is good, but given a choice, I would go to Soulman's every time.

A snowy Highway 11 beside Lake Helen in Northern Ontario.

Ruby Truck Line Number 4

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Avenue of the Saints

Sixteen Day Trip
____ There is something about an old truck driver that becomes a fork-lift driver. Things are effortless whenever I have had the good fortune to have one of these guys load my trailer. In and out of the Vassar peat-moss packing plant before my allotted appointment time. Into Minnesota at Roseau and down to Bemidji where I cross the Mississippi River for the first time. I will be running along-side America's major waterway right to the delivery address at Modeste in Louisiana. From St. Paul to St. Louis; along the Avenue of the Saints and then Interstate 55 to where the Saints Go Marching In: New Orleans.

____ Baton Rouge on a Friday morning, just a few miles from the plant nursery beside the Big River. Within a mile of the truckstop; I get caught on a 25 ton limit bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. I tell the police officer that I didn't see the signs until it was too late. Luckily for me, the signs only went up overnight as the bridge had been inspected and restricted just that week; first day was a warning day and no tickets were being issued. Half an hour later, I was stuck in the mud while trying to turn round at the nursery. Four inches of rain had fell in the previous 48 hours. Snow-chains for the first time in 2017 and first time in Louisiana. These things happen in threes; bang. I slip on the muddy step of the truck and gash my knee. The gripping tread on the truck steps has worn smooth after eighteen years of climbing in and out.

____ Out of Louisiana, westbound on Interstate 10, through rice fields and swamps with Popeyes Chicken at every other exit. To Waller, Texas, for a trailer change. Back to Canada with deliveries at Wetaskiwin in Alberta and Vancouver city-centre. North from the new green spring to the brown grasslands, still thawing from the Winter. Early-morning snow at Casper but other-wise easy-going with just 12,000 lbs of cargo. To the first drop by Tuesday afternoon. Then the bad news.

____ Vancouver cannot take delivery until Monday morning. No chance of dropping off the goods anywhere else; so a slow trip over the Rockies after the first eight days of the trip yielded 6400 kilometres. A weekend at Delta, which has a Tim Hortons, the Petro-Pass Fuel card-lock and the Tidewaters pub. Sunday is a day of public transport: bus, tram and Skytrain. I go into town to check-out the delivery address; a church, a few blocks from Stanley Park in a high-class residential area with a Starbucks on every corner. My first "Church" delivery in over forty years of transport industry involvement.

____ But the old Presbyterian church has gone and in it's place a modern complex is being erected. Underground parking, church and community hall on the ground floor, affordable apartments above and rising high into the city skyline. Original thinking for an over-crowded, high-priced metropolis but not much thought given to the delivery of building products. Best plan is to get into the city at daybreak, jack-knife into the back-alley beside the church and hope no truck wants to deliver to the nearby strip-mall. Ten pallets later and back to Delta for the reload. Out of town by noon, loaded for Winnipeg and time to make up for the lost time.

Ruby Truck Line 94 parked by the levy in front of the plant nursery at Modeste, Louisiana.

New style church for the community in Vancouver.

Heavy-haul Western Star.

Flying the flag with a big sleeper Peterbilt.

Red cedar floating beside a sawmill at Delta BC.

View from the Alex Fraser Bridge, Delta, BC.