Monday, December 12, 2011

The "When" has occurred!

The question is never "If" but "When" and so I announce with great disgust that the "When" has occurred! Finally after three and a half years of driving, averaging out to about 756,000 kilometers that the "when" has happened. I'll get to the "when" in a bit but first some background details...

The whole week was a bit strange to begin with. Monday, December 5th, my first assignment was to hop in with another driver as a passenger and ride down the New Milford, PA., about 7 hours south-west from the terminal. There, I was to pick up someone elses' truck tractor. That driver had had a heart attack while out on the road and landed in the hospital in Binghamton, NY (no he wasn't driving at the time, so you're all safe) He had left his truck and trailer at the truck stop. Someone had already collected the trailer to continue the scheduled deliveries. We got there near midnight and I took possession of the truck.

Now you've got to know that I hate with a passion using someone elses truck, and with several good reasons. First, there is the difference of machine that one has to re-adapt to even if the trucks are the same model, they are rarely the same year so there are important differences. The second and most significant is how the drivers care for their personal space. Some, like me, keep the interior living space clean and tidy. Others, you would consider a "Biohazard" and would wear a bio-suit with blue latex gloves and a face mask just to drive.

The truck I was collecting was dirty, grimy and jam packed with the drivers personal effects... tons of personal effects. To the point where moving freely and sleeping arrangements were seriously compromised. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper when I got in. Once you're in it there is little you can do except try and work around the mess.

The next morning, Tuesday, I went to Tobyhanna, PA to pick up and empty van and make a pickup in Montgomery, PA. and return to the terminal. So far, so good.

My dispatcher had proposed a second run to Louisville, KY which I accepted. However, upon my return, the driver that was bringing the load back to the terminal mistakenly departed to Louisville with the load. The office is not amused but by then the driver is too far away to have him return. So this is Wednesday, and I have no run for the moment. The Louisville run is replaced with a Garner, NC run but it's not ready until late in the afternoon so I help out with some local pickups. By the end of the afternoon, the Garner run is ready so off I go with the delivery scheduled for Friday 07h00. All is good. I'm in my own truck. Happy at last.

You may have heard about the Virginia Tech shooting. What you didn't hear much about was that there was a second shooting between a motorist and a trooper just south of Thornburg, VA. This occurred around 13h00 on Thursday on the I-95 in the south bound lane. This effectively shut down the south bound I-95 or most of it; two of three lanes closed, with the third open lane closing periodically. Add to this: it's Thursday, it's rush hour, I'm just south of Washington, DC. It took me seven hours to negotiate 60 miles. There are few options when driving a truck due to road restrictions so you more or less have to stick it out and crawl forward. Needless to say that this event seriously put my delivery in question. I will spare you the incriminating details of how I managed to deliver on time, suffice to say, I was on time for Friday, 07h00.

So that done, I did another return pickup in Dublin, VA at 15h00. Success! Head north. Stop in Tom's Brook, VA for a sleep and a meal. Next morning, Saturday, off we go, destination Ste-Therese, QC to deliver my load for 18h00 and then to go home for a candle light dinner with the better half.

That wasn't in the cards I guess. On the I-87, near Chester, NY., I was in the right lane, traveling north, when I spotted in my left mirror a small car in the left passing lane coming up fast but heading for my back trailer bumper! I'm thinking, "WTF!" So I move a bit closer to the shoulder to avoid a collision. At that point (and it happens so quickly) the car driver sees the truck, jerks the car to the left back into her lane, looses control, starts to fish-tail in her lane. I brake hoping that she can get ahead of me, she returns to my lane, hits the back trailer wheels, bounces back into her lane, passes me, then hits me again but this time in the front left wheel of my tractor. I'm already on the shoulder but the momentum of the impact kicks me into the grade of the ditch. This pulls me completely off the shoulder and into the ditch. I managed to keep the shiny side up but was leaning into the hillside. Fortunately, no one is hurt.

It took four hours to winch me out of the ditch. Tractor is seriously damaged in the steering linkages and wheels, the fairing on the right side is scraped to hell. All of my personal effects went flying. I guess I got lucky because if I had gone fifty feet more forward, I would have ended up in a deep drop off and on my side.

So to those who hate trucks and say that trucks are dangerous, I say, Bullshit! Cars and car drivers are more so due to their numbers and carelessness on the road. They call us Professional Drivers and that's not for nothing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wow trip

After escaping hurricane Irene by mere hours, (leaving at 04h00 on Saturday) I returned the following week to the very same area to see first hand the damage. From Richmond VA., on the I-95, there were trees down all along the highway. Not just little one's either. Some completely uprooted, others snapped like twigs. Lots of work was still in progress but the roadway was cleared, with logs and branches stacked on the outer right sides. Weather was overcast all the way down with intermittent rain.

  By the time I reached my final destination, Garner, NC. it was very dark, though it was early afternoon. I had a portable weather radio that tunes in of NOAA and the built-in alarm continuously went off announcing 5 actual tornadoes along with numerous flood warnings and severe thunderstorms.  All of this was happening around me but fortunately not over me.

The flash flood warnings spoke of 1.5 inches of rain in a 15 minute period. That's a lot of water!
This was due to hurricane Katia that was just off the coast.

Another event was on Tuesday morning, at 00h50, where I was awakened by the truck moving violently side to side. My first thought, still groggy, was, "Shit! Some asshole has hit me!" (There are a lot of those out there.) I got out, half dressed, with flashlight in hand, to find no one around or moving in the lot. No damage anywhere to the truck. Confused a bit I was! (thinking in Yoda speak). Turns out that it was an after shock (mag 3.4) from the earthquake that happened in Virginia a week before that was felt all the way up to Ottawa.

On the way back, I had pick-ups in Rural Retreat, Va., and Beaver, WV. It had been raining steadily the previous day and was more forecast  for the following day. I-81 in Pennsylvania was closed at exit 90 due to flooding. The Susquehanna river had overflowed its' banks in numerous places. 100K people had mandatory evacuation notices in PA. Numerous exits on I-90 were closed between Albany and Syracuse.

Fortunately, I managed to avoid all of this mess and get home safely.

Now I'm going on vacation for 2 weeks. The first week, believe it or not is in North Carolina on the outer banks. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Beat the storm, part II

Well, I got away again. Second time in several weeks

I had a delivery in Garner, next to Raleigh, NC., on Friday at 11h00. The category 3 hurricane was bearing down on the coast. People and cars were fleeing in the opposite direction. Not for me, I was driving into the heart of darkness and time was running out. So was daylight. Would I make it out in time to save....

(Tearing sound of a needle on a record) Wait a minute, that sounds like some cheap drugstore novelette.

However it's not far from reality. My pick up was delayed on Friday afternoon. I did make it out on Saturday and by the time I got to Richmond, VA,. the rain had stopped. But I was just ahead of it, all the way back.

Whoof, that was close!

Driving back home from Raleigh NC through Wilmington, Delaware, August 10th... a couple of weeks ago.
Sky as black as night in mid afternoon. Street lights are on.

High winds, driving rain, hail. Big trees down and high water on the I-95 north bound.
Followed me all the way through to Lower New York state.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


It has been awhile since my last entry, over 3 months. (almost sounds like confession) Gotta find a way to do this blog from out there. I haven't had much personal time between runs, in most cases, less than 36 hours. And when I do get back, much of the time is spent just getting ready to go back out: laundry, groceries and maybe the odd job around the house. So I only offer a small update.

So where have I been?
Two runs ending in southern Colorado were interesting. Drops starting in Omaha and Lincoln Nebraska, and multiple stops between Fort Collins, Co and Pueblo Co with Denver and Colorado Springs in between.  Links replace pictures I didn't take; who's got the time?

Later, in the month June, there were runs in Garner, NC. Ordinary. I do this run too often to be interesting any more.

Several runs to Ohio, north of I-70 and west i-77 where you'll find a large population of  Amish (horse and buggy, beautiful rolling hills, and small unincorporated villages which are next to impossible to find with a GPS.

Then Indiana, Western New York state, Chicago and burbs in Illinois, Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

More later, gotta run.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Week of April 24

Off to Garner NC very early Sunday departure.
This run is quite particular in that the company has a fixed path that drivers have to use, otherwise sanctions are possible.

So down the I-87, I-287, US-202, NJ-31, I-95, DE-896, US-301/50, I-95, US-64, I-440, US-70
Map that if you can. Use the mileage in your plots, find the appropriate exits to use. Report back for analysis. Winners will be announced May 2, depending on the outcome of the current elections.

And for Paul, who seems to crave content of any kind or wants a refund:

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Ah! This'll rot your socks. week of April 18th

Last week, down in Garner, North Carolina, the temperature was 30ยบ C. The trees are fully leafed. The grass is new and green. Meanwhile back home it's +1, ice pellets with gusty winds and wet snow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Milk Run March 28th

Riviere du Loup, Rimouski, Matane, Amqui, Maria, Campbellton, Bathurst, Miramichi, Moncton, Charlottetown, Amherst, Truro, Hammonds Plains, Bridgewater, Yarmouth, Berwick and Kentville.

All this in three days. Round trip: ~3900 kms.

Sorry, no time for no pictures. Not even time to bring the co-pilot on this trip.

"You drive!"

Wisconsin, March 23rd

Destination: Green Bay for a drop and Eau Claire for a drop and hook. D/H is to drop an empty trailer and switch for a already loaded one.

Big rush! Testing a new GPS unit. Garbage! Algorithms all wrong. Streets & Trips from Microsoft does a more intelligent job. No time for pictures nor playing with GPS.
Besides there's nothing really interesting to write about, probably because I've done this run before.

Whats' in Wisconsin? Cheese. Great sausage.

April 24th; Eau Claire. Damn! Hook trailers' brakes are full of ice. Frozen. Can't move. Pound on brake drums for a while to limited success. Got 3 of 4 axles free but the last one won't give. Besides, have dug a bit of a rut under my drive wheels and can't get out. Call for a pull-out to the cost of 200$. That takes 2 minutes. I'm in the wrong business here!

Next stop Marshfield, WI, for a live load. Load's not ready when I arrive. More delays. Typical day. You have to be patient. Three hours of waiting, off we go. Home, James.
So Monday, my dispatcher gives me the orders to enter the US, destination, Everett, Washington. 171 kms. Once there, she says, "There's nothing at this time. Please standby." Gee, I wish I'd have known that in advance, 'cause there are no truck stops in Everett. Back 8 miles to Marysville. Spent the rest of the day at the truck stop. Have lunch, walk the dog, do a bit of window shopping.

Next day, new marching orders. Ripon, CA. Nice mountain peak in the distance. Too bad I can't stop and take a picture. It's either Mt. Rainer or Mt. St. Helen's or Mt. Hood, probably the latter. Speeds for commercial vehicles in California is 55 mph. Meanwhile the rest of the traffic can roll at 65. Can't compete with that. Try changing lanes against these speeds. Apparently, it's been like that for 20 odd years. Ohio figured that out last years, changing all the Interstate speeds from 55 to 65 to match car traffic. Seems that it reduced the accident rate by more than 20 percent. but I digress.

Off to Fowler Ca to pick up (finally) oranges for Loblaws. Just one problem... pick up isn't until next day at 21h30. So again, sit and wait.

At 21h30, oops, appointment mix up, load isn't ready. come back tomorrow. Typical.
Next day, I finally get loaded by 14h00. It's Friday, a whole week wasted. That's the transportation business.
So I finally get going... here's the hill east of Bakersfield.

Notice the orange trees in the foreground? They all have a buzz gut.
Gee, that hill isn't so small after all.
Just another highway

More blacktop

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Here we go.

February 19th.

Got my assignment: 16 drops from Coquitlam to Victoria to Comox and places in between. Not bad since the week before was Winnipeg, Brandon, Regina, Calgary and Lethbridge.

It takes two days just to cross Ontario, the most boring leg of the journey. Black spruce and lakes. From west of Ottawa, Hwy 17, it's a single lane highway, 90 kilometers an hour, up and down hills. Yuk. Once I get into Manitoba, it'll get better. Sometime I get stuck behind a car or two that are doing 80kms. Gotta wait until there's a passing lane.

In the early morning I meet up with a colleague going to Saskatoon. News from other truckers and CB chatter: A 24" gas line north of Nipigon has blown,  closing Hwy 11 to Hwy 17. Nearby population has been evacuated. So Hwy 17 is supposed to be open.  By mid-afternoon, we reach White River where we discover that Hwy17 is now closed at that point. Possible five to eight hour wait before anything is reopened. Looking for options... decide to take 631 north to Hwy 11, a 237 km detour. It's that or sit and wait for an uncertain reopening. Also, have to consider delays that this could cause. Choose lesser of two evils. Boss approves, too.

Hum... there is something wrong developing with my signal lights by the time I get to Nipigon. Left flasher is having trouble. There's been a lot of wet weather, lots of salt on the road. There's a short somewhere. Will have to have that looked into. Just a question of when.

Finally! Manitoba. Two lanes in each direction, things flatten out.
Saskatchewan, same thing. Progress. Medicine Hat on day three.
Down thru Lethbridge, AB. Cranbrook, Trail, Grand Forks, Chilliwack, Richmond, Delta. Jump on the Ferry to Victoria. Sit back for an hour and a half and watch the mainland shore recede.

Asphalt for breakfast

It's not for everyone; driving a semi. As you stand beside one of these, they're huge; 71 feet long, 13-1/2 feet high, 102 inches wide. When fully loaded, they can weight up to 80,000 pounds.

For some men I have met, driving a truck is a dream, a new toy, the idea that this would be fun. For women, I really don't know. I suppose that it might be regarded as fun if it wasn't work, a job. It's more than a 9 to 5, that's for sure.  While it is work, there are fringe benefits. You get to see a lot of things. There is some independence, a great deal of responsibility. These will be the chronicles of my travels. Enjoy.