Monday, February 19, 2018

Broken Spoke.

Eight Days - 4728 Miles.
Average of just under 600 miles a day in 9 hours 45 minutes.
____ Leaving on a Saturday has the advantage that the trailer is loaded and the paperwork is all prepared on Friday afternoon. I get to choose at what time I leave on the 1720 mile run to Laredo in Texas; aiming for a Tuesday morning delivery. I get going early; maximizing all available daylight and hoping to get far enough South to enjoy warmer temperatures. It's disappointing to reach Percival, Iowa, in a snow-storm and minus 16 C. After a hard days work of cruise control at 66 mph on the Interstate 29; the Detroit Diesel idles all night at 800 rpm. It is another full driving shift before the motor gets switched off for the night at Hillsboro, Texas, where it is finally warmer than zero.

____ A short third day gives me time to relax in the warm afternoon sunshine of Laredo before unloading the next day. Then, after a quick trailer switch, pedal to the metal once again with a load that has come out of Mexico and needs to be in Calgary on Friday morning. The up and coming Holiday Weekend makes me think the sooner I am in Alberta the better. Amarillo is the first night's stop on the north-bound leg; a with a late arrival at the Travelcenter of America. The second night's destination is Casper, Wyoming, but strong winds from the West start buffeting the trailer before I have reached Denver. By the Colorado/Wyoming border at Cheyenne, the overhead signs are warning of 60 mph gusts and restrictions for lightly-loaded high-sided vehicles.

____ 25,000 lbs is not a light load but not as heavy as I would have liked. The truckstops are jammed with parked-up trucks not willing to tackle the exposed high-ground that Interstate 25 crosses as it heads North to Wheatland. High winds are a regular problem in this area; I've run this road in a blow before and decide to give it a go. I keep it below 50 mph and the back of the trailer sits out of line by about a foot. The tricky places are where the high bluffs on west side of the highway shelter the rig before the wind blasts the trailer when rocky outcrops end. Slow down when the wind drops because it is going to come back stronger. But does a faster truck get blown over easier than a slow one? I don't know. Maybe the five drivers of the blown-over vehicles that I passed could have given me the answer but they were all abandoned and awaiting recovery when the winds abated.

____ As darkness fell, so did the wind-speed. Driving-hours didn't allow me to reach Casper as planned. The Broken Spoke Truckstop at Douglas was an adequate substitute with it's popular restaurant but with a parking area that resembled a nearly dried-up riverbed. Broken Spoke could have easily been Broken Wheel, Broken Axle or Broken Chassis-rail. Day Three and the trip resumed in windy conditions, this time with enough snowfall to make it a blizzard. At Buffalo, Interstate 90 was closed for the section to Sheridan. Everyone descended on to the streets of Buffalo for two hours before blue skies and sunshine appeared as the weather front blew through.

____ Then it was Wacky Races as we all hit the road again. The heavy and the light, the high-powered and the slow, the timid and the brave, all jockeying for position on the rolling hills. All on a surface of hard-packed snow with drifting and dusting cutting the visibility. By Sheridan, an evenly spaced order had been established but the scale at the Port of Entry concertina-ed the convoy back into chaos. The flat land around the Little Bighorn Battle site in Montana eased the congestion before the snow-covered streets of Billings ground everything to a halt. The two-lane cross-country short-cut to Great Falls was a daunting prospect but the wind had dropped, along with the temperature. It was turning into a long day of high-concentration driving with speed and distance of minor importance. The day's final destination of Shelby had been quickly amended to Great Falls.

____ The Pilot Truckstop sits on the high ground up by the airport, overlooking the town of Great Falls in the Missouri Valley. Exposed to the bitter cold northerly wind, I had idled the engine all night to keep the cab warm and avoid problems with gelling in the diesel filters. Surprisingly, the temperatures rose during the night to only minus 4. By the time I had crossed the border and done the final 300 miles into Calgary, it was +1 and thawing. Trailers swapped at a home improvement RDC by 10 o'clock local time; but a puncture in one of the drive tyres needs repairing. The re-load for the final leg of the triangle had always been the weak link of the trip. No news after the tyre is repaired, nothing after I've showered at the Flying'J. A long weekend is imminent; at 3 o'clock I get the instructions to return home empty.

____There is enough time to get to Redcliff, Alberta, on the 870 mile un-freighted un-profitable run. Nice of the company to get me back for the Bank Holiday without me asking but I can't help thinking that this sort of empty running will further delay a much needed pay rise. An early start from Redcliff with a tail-wind helping the fuel consumption. Bare and dry roads for the nearly seven hundred miles that has to be done in just over 11 hours. A big stamp done with 12 minutes to spare. The finish of an eight day trip with the driving-hours rolled-over to maximum effect, just the failure of the office to find that final piece of the jigsaw that spoiled a good trip.

Satellite view of the section of Interstate 90 that was closed between Buffalo and Sheridan in Wyoming.

$250 fine for doing a U-turn in the delivery yard at Laredo. Too small for me to even contemplate it.

Coopers B-B-Q. Junction, Texas. Yet another Brisket sandwich for lunch. 

Metal spike in a drive tyre. Luckily noticed before it became un-repairable.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Today In The Mountains, Tomorrow, The World.

18 Days For The Whole Trip.

3 Day Run From The West Coast.
____ A rainy weekend spread into a wet Monday as I loaded on Annacis Island for Winnipeg. Fourteen tonne in the trailer as I set out East; tackling a slushy Coquihalla with more confidence than the west-bound crossing. Trying to get as much done in daylight as dirt sprayed the truck and turned to ice on impact. From Revelstoke, over the Rogers Pass and onto Golden, the headlights became dimmer, the mirrors and windows filthier despite frequent stops for cleaning. The Husky at Golden seemed an attractive overnight stop even though I still had driving hours available.

____ Dawn on a new day and I'm away; Ten Mile Hill and the Kicking Horse Pass climbing into the clouds. Then the Continental Divide; from British Columbia into Alberta and bright sunshine. Downhill to Calgary with the weather influence from the Arctic; to Redcliff for fuel and the fitting of the Winter front. Minus twenties with ice on the inside of the north-facing drivers-side window. A late finish at Whitewood, Saskatchewan, 747 miles for the day. An eight hour break before cracking-on; getting the trip finished on the eighteenth day when it should have been done inside a fortnight.

Heading for the brightness of Alberta on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Colder Temperatures on the eastern side of the Continental Divide.

Grain silo on made to measure trailer.

Ice on the inside.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Flin Flon And On and On.

The first part of the trip; up to the first log-hours reset at Oakley, Kansas.

From Oakley, Kansas, to Delta, BC, via Victoria and the second reset of the trip.
____ From Steinbach, early on a Sunday morning; around the Winnipeg ring-road before heading North on Highway 6. Bitterly cold with snow forecast; it arrives at Devil's Lake and the Highway 60, across to The Pas, is on a carpet of un-ploughed and drifting snow. North of The Pas, the road is better but the day-light is finished well before I finish the five hundred miles to Flin Flon. I have a vague address of Hwy 10A and hope to park in the car-park of an un-finished supermarket; which is easily found beside the Walmart Superstore. However, after consulting with a friendly snow-plough driver about overnight parking at Walmart; he informs me that I have the wrong supermarket. Walmart's neighbour with the papered-over windows is the recently closed IGA super-store and the new Co-op is 200 yards down the road. We discuss the absurdity of one super-store closing while another is being built before the absurdity of discussing such things in temperatures of -30C sends us back to our vehicles.

____ Flin Flon was named after Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin who was a character in a book called "The Sunless City." It is a hard-rock mining town that started in the 1920's, but I don't get a chance to explore before I am quickly unloaded and despatched to The Pas. The paper mill has a load going to Laredo; a good find by the office from the load-data boards on the Web. A heavy load with a long way to go, but good traction on the hard-packed snow that extends south of the border and through the Dakotas. Still freezing at Percival, Iowa, the third night-out; but by Oklahoma and into Texas, things are looking up for the Friday morning drop in Laredo.

____ From Laredo, across to Waller for a trailer switch; buoyed by the prospect of a visit to Vancouver Island. Two drops, Calgary, Alberta, and Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. The two extra days at the start of the trip mean that a 36 hour driving-hours break is inevitable. After a lot of checking of maps, temperatures and truckstops; I select Mittens. The Oakley, Kansas, truckstop in the TA Truckstop group; clean, friendly, comfortable and wonderful showers. All these things and now calling itself "The Western Kansas Wildlife Travel Center." The word "Life" is a bit misleading because all the wild animals are dead and stuffed.

____ Out of Oakley northwards, across country with just 20,000 lbs of cargo; up to Ogallala, then US Highway 26, north-west into Wyoming. On to Sheridan, for the night; setting up the long haul into Calgary. But even a Level 2 DoT inspection at Interstate 15 scale doesn't stop me getting to the Calgary Flying'J before dark. The positive temperatures of the evening plummet to -15C by dawn. Half the trailer delivered and into the mountains with snow-flurries and trepidation; a little more weight and a little more tread on the drive tyres would ease the tension in my neck muscles. But after the Continental Divide at the BC/Alberta border, the wind drops, the temperature rises and the filth from the road sprays the truck relentlessly. About 50 mpg for screenwash. By Revelstoke to Kamloops, the road is bare and dry. I push on in the darkness and hope it is the same for the Coquihalla Pass. The summit is down to one lane of ice and slush, grip is not good, I tuck in behind a slow-coach letting the brave fly by. Coming down is no better, but when the flurries turn to rain then my worries turn to finding a parking spot in the Flying'J at Hope. Another long day.

____ Out of Hope with the number 17 on my mind. Turn-off the Trans-Canada Highway onto 17 and it takes you straight to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen. From Schwartz Bay on Vancouver Island, Highway 17 to the Trans-Canada Highway and the delivery is at the junction of the two. Just a half hour wait before departure on the half-full Coastal Renaissance at 9 o'clock. Ninety minutes of calm water and a bit of jinking about through the Gulf Islands and I'm pulling off the boat after my first ferry crossing in a truck for about eight years. Thirty minutes down to the northern outskirts of Victoria for a quick tip and back at the ferry terminal to line up for the 1 o'clock crossing back to the mainland.

____ Reload is for Regina, Saskatchewan, from Port Coquitlam; load Friday, tip Monday. But after I get there, they discover it is a hazardous load and Ruby Truck Line doesn't have insurance for it. Eventually, I get told what I was fearing; no reload until Monday. By that time, I'm in Chilliwack, consoling myself with all-you-can-eat fish and chips at C-Lovers Seafood Restaurant. On Sunday morning, I run back to Delta, ready for the reload from Annacis Island and with the Super Bowl on the big-screen at the Tidewater Pub.

At Devil's Lake, Manitoba.

Snowed over rear lights again and again.

Tribute Wrap.

First seven days of the trip.

Chimney Rock in Western Nebraska.

Slippery conditions through out the trip.

Double trailer load of round bales in Montana.

Threatening skies above the Banff National Park.

Well-sanded section of the Trans-Canada Highway in the Rocky Mountains.

Waiting at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal.

Passing another of BC Ferries Push-Me-Pull-You boats among the Gulf Islands.

Five pieces of cod to start with at C-Lovers All You Can Eat Plaice at Chilliwack, BC.