RHYMES WITH TRUCK

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.
  

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