Saturday, March 31, 2018

Four Of A Kind.

The Way Down.
The Way Back Up.

____ For the fourth time in a row: the load back to Canada is destined for Calgary in Alberta. But it is a change from peat-moss and paper for the  south-bound cargo. Four drops of double-glazed windows, the same job that I have done previously for Flying Eagle and Payne Transportation. A lighter load that gives me a chance to run the back roads south of Watertown, South Dakota. Down to Hutchinson in Kansas for a Monday delivery, before exhausting the rest of the day, heading for drop Number 2 at Marshall, Texas.

____ Spread-out multi-drop work leads to shorter days but I do get rid of the third consignment at Austin. There is a bomber causing fear and panic in the Texas capital city; I'm keen to get out of town and down towards the last  delivery at Rockport. By the time I have an empty trailer the bomber has blown-up himself. My instructions are for re-loading at 2 o'clock in Laredo. More shop-fittings for the same new Asian supermarket in Calgary. The familiar run North, Highway 83, Highway 287, Interstates 70, 25, 90. A dust-storm on 70 before Denver and the usual Mistral on 25 between Cheyenne and Douglas.

____ Into Canada on Sunday afternoon and as I know the delivery site has ample parking, I put the trailer on an unloading bay ready for the morning. A good thing I did as two more Ruby trucks arrive at 8 o'clock. Then it's off to Saskatchewan for a cargo of salt; to be loaded on Tuesday, delivered on Wednesday at a hardware store in Arborg; one hour north of Winnipeg. Most of the daytime temperatures have been above freezing but the trip has a sting in the tail. I wake-up to a blizzard in Arborg. It is only two hundred yards from my parking spot at the hardware store to the Co-op fuel station but I am the coldest I have been all Winter by the time I get back to the truck with my morning coffee. Then by the time I have dragged 24 tonnes of salt to the back of the trailer, I'm soaked in sweat. Now I'm writing this with a runny nose after breaking out the shorts and sandals in Texas one week earlier.
Blue Beacon Truck Wash at York, Nebraska.

Bling Over-Load on  old Volvo.

Dust Storm on Interstate 70 in Colorado.

Peruvian Roast Chicken and Mexican Beer at Calgary, Alberta.

Icy Manitoba Highway 7 on the way back from Arborg.

Seeing Double with Sapphire Number 02.

12 Day Trip; the longest of the four of a kind.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The New Truckstops Trip.

11 Day Trip.
____ Day time temperatures are warmer but it is still pretty cold at night. This leads to early Sunday morning trouble when I find the trailer is frozen to the ground and the drive tyres are spinning on a sheet of ice. With a little fore-thought, I should have put on a couple of snow-chains before backing under the trailer. Luckily another Ruby driver is also leaving at the same time; he pulls the Kenworth out of the puddle of frozen snow-melt. A snow storm is forecast for later in the day but I manage to stay ahead of any bad weather; even with the bad luck of being selected for a DoT vehicle inspection at the Sisseton scale in South Dakota.

____ From the Coffee Cup Travel Plaza at Vermillion to the Choctaw Travel Stop at Thackerville is an uneventful second day; followed by more of the same as I reach Hidalgo on Wednesday morning. A quick cross-docking of the peat-moss onto a Mexican Dub'ya Nine and I am away to Laredo for a trailer switch at the new yard. Stopping for fuel at the new Pilot Truckstop at Falfurrias; mid way between Hidalgo and Laredo. After a few years of stagnation, there seems to be an explosion of new travel plazas at the moment. Love's open a new site every month and Pilot/Flying'J are expanding too. Big investments in what must be considered secondary positions as all the prime Interstate locations have long gone. But good news for truck-drivers as more parking spots and facilities help ease the burden of ELDs.

____ For the third time on the trot, the destination of the triangle's second leg is Calgary, Alberta. Shop fittings of only three and a half tons which helps enormously with the journey; as I am expected to make a Monday morning delivery and get back into Canada in less than 70 hours of driving time. Another brand new Pilot Truckstop is the over-night halt at Lamar in Colorado but not before I have re-fueled at the Rip Griffin Travel Centre, Tulia. Rip Griffin started building truckstops in 1962, sold eleven sites to TA in 2004 but kept nine in the Lubbock area of West Texas. Mr. Griffin died in 2017, aged 87. Old style service and new only a few hours apart.

____ Northbound and onto higher ground, the wind picks-up and leans on the lightly loaded trailer. Interstate 25 in Wyoming is notorious for the gales from the West but I make it through to Sheridan; just keeping out of cruise-control and easing back on the exposed bridge-decks. At the third brand new truckstop of the trip, I wake up to heavy snow on a Saturday morning. Common Cents is the name of the truckstop and common-sense tells me to sit-tight until the weather front blows through. I'm away just after Noon; five hundred miles to the Canadian border and on to Lethbridge, Alberta, with a couple of hours left of my weekly 70 allowance.

____ Sunday is a day of rest and round to the new Calgary supermarket on Monday morning. Unloaded and the re-load is something I have done before; Acheson, near Edmonton, to Niverville, near Steinbach. But it might of helped if I had read the message correctly! I get up to Acheson only to find that I should have been loading at the company's other packing plant at Prince Albert in Saskatchewan. My mistake adds about a hundred miles to the empty dead-head but the wood-chip people give me a load from Acheson to help me on my way. The punishment load is to Fort Saskatchewan; which would have been nice if it was in Saskatchewan but it is only the other side of Edmonton.

____ It is frightening that I can still make such stupid mistakes after being a truck-driver for over forty years. Crack-on; I'm sure the office will have noticed but as they never say anything when I do a good job then I don't think they will much about a faut-pas. Eventually loaded in PA and on to Niverville for a quick unloading before running back to the yard. Eleven days for the trip; the longest of the trio after an 8 and a ten.

Brand new Pilot at Falfurrias, Texas, where the manager said I was the Canadian customer.

The peat-moss went from one Kenworth W900 to another at Hidalgo.

The Rip Griffin name still lives on at West Texas truckstops.

76 different barbed wires on display at Coopers BBQ, Junction, Texas.

Oil-field heavy-haul did well to find a big enough parking spot at the Calgary Flying'J.

List of new Pilot/Flying'J Truckstops with a new one, quite close, at Ste Agathe in Manitoba. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Elrose Rounder

10 Day Trip.
4881 Miles.
____ After the Bank Holiday Monday, the truck was in the workshop on Tuesday morning for an oil change and service. Away just after Midday with peat-moss for Laredo; getting down to Vermillion, where the weather wasn't any warmer than Manitoba. Winter still gripping the Prairies with cold winds across Kansas and freezing rain in Oklahoma. The big TV screens in the restaurant at the Cowboy Travel Plaza show chaos on Interstate 35 as I eat my brisket sandwich. The weather is the news and I decide to stay-put even though I have driving hours and day-light hours left.

____ The ice rain has stopped by early morning but every surface that has not been sanded is covered with sheet ice. A couple of gritters swing by the travel plaza for coffee and two bull-haulers take advantage of the sanding to pull-out. I follow. The Interstate is driveable but the shoulder is littered with big-rigs, all the way to the Texas stateline. The shut-down of the previous evening left many truck-drivers with no driving hours to move on when things got better. One of the consequences of the new electronic logs that would never have been seen before.

____ San Antonio is as far as I get on Day Three and again an item from the Severe Weather Menu has something in store for me. A thunderstorm at 03.00 hours is still circling at six o'clock; drenching drivers as they go for coffee and aqua-planing muscle-cars into water-filled ditches before dawn. By Laredo, the roads are dry. Into Ruby Truck Line's new trailer yard for a quick switch; a load of fruit drinks for Calgary. Highway 83 to Sweetwater, 84 to Amarillo, 87 to Raton, New Mexico. The same trip as the week before, so to change the scenery, I choose the volcanic black-rock Grande Sierra. But this gives problems at the end of the day; not many truck-stops on the Interstate 25, south of Denver. I reject the tatty Tomahawk; the Love's destination turns out to be "Cars and RV's only." The only Rest Area is closed and I am left with the prospect of a night on an on-ramp. Luckily, the Castle Rock Park and Ride is at my last exit as the clock ticks down to less than 10 minutes.

____ A quiet night with four other trucks and a few visitors for which Park and Ride has a completely different meaning on a Saturday night. North and into colder weather; the liquid cargo is liable to freeze and break the glass bottles. An icy blast greets me in Wyoming and reminds me to start the "Hot Box," a diesel-engined heater that sits at the front of the trailer. Set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it cuts in and out for the rest of the journey to Calgary.

____ Drinks delivered and unlike the last trip, there is a reload to go back to Winnipeg. Lentils from a farm, deep in the heart of Saskatchewan. An early morning appointment, seven miles East of Elrose, where the the lentils are augered from a grain bin, into the bagging shed, along the conveyor belt and into the trailer. All 680 of them and it takes all morning. A heavy load with not enough time to deliver into Winnipeg before morning. Luckily, it's a trailer-drop and I can bob-tail back to the yard.

Ruby trailer line-up in the new yard at Laredo, Texas.

Thermo-King Hot Box and control box on the front of a dry-freight box-van.

The bob-tail Western Star seemed to have been abandoned.

Lentil loading system at a farm near Elrose in Saskatchewan.