Stupid is as stupid does

The plan was to turn up at the yard at noon, collect a preloaded trailer of empty bins and take them to Cincinnati. This was going to be a nice run. Not only starting in daylight but a preload. That meant the border paperwork would be all ready, I could get moving road right away. Cincinnati was about an 8 hour drive. If I hit the road smartish I could be at the region’s only truckstop in daylight. I was beginning to enjoy having been somewhere before, knowing where to sleep really cheered the day along.

I arrived a few minutes before noon, I wanted to get all my checks completed and leave as soon as the load was ready. ‘We have an extra stop for you.’ The dispatcher displayed body language which implied that he knew I’d be pissed off. That is to say, he kept his eyes on his computer screen and threw the information over his shoulder.… Read on...

The Little Black Book

No not that sort. I’m a little old for reams of phone numbers of eligible bachelors. Although come to think of it, being young didn’t require a book for them either. It’s a little notebook that made itself useful while I was so generally freaked out and terrified that nothing stuck in my memory at all. Dispatch would say “you went there last week” and I would stand there looking gormless, searching the synapses for any kind of recognition.

Sometimes the book makes sense. It says things like ‘Textron, Muskegon. Lenny the scale guy, fierce rules; under rlwy bridge, Michigan turnaround; scale on rt, must weigh in and out; metal bins 2nd dock, plastic and loading 1st dock’. This was all useful information the second time I went there, bogie-sliding incidents notwithstanding.

Sometimes it is of limited use. ‘Muhashi, Battle Creek. Brown bldn to L of ball diamond, use intercom, mad car park.’ Once I found the ball diamond the memory kicked in but I’d not noted quite how much it looks like the road has stopped before you get to it.

Read on...

Twiglet moment

I said nothing went wrong so there was nothing to write about didn’t I? But something bizarre did happen. How could I forget? Nothing to do with driving, more a twiglet moment with regard to the passage of time and the smallness of the world.

I didn’t have time to dash to the library for more audio books and, as I think I’ve mentioned before, the wilds of North America between cities can throw up a dire lack of decent radio stations. I was fine through the extended urban sprawl that merges east from Toronto, plenty of news and talk, but as the night wore on the options became rather thin. I took to setting the radio to scan and checking each offering that wasn’t actually rapping at me for sources of interest.

And this is how I found, at about 1.30 in the morning, a programme called Coast to Coast, hosted by some weird bloke in Nevada.… Read on...

More changes

Well I was mulling over whether the less-than-load, auto parts delivery life was for me when the phone rang. It was ex-employer and much-beloved, adopted extended family member Bert. The same Bert whose limousine company kept us afloat in leaner times when we first moved to Canada. Some pals of his were short of an AZ driver for a run to Montreal, would I like to bobtail the 10th tractor? Of course I would. This appeared to be a foot in the door with a company who used drivers on an ad-hoc basis. They’d have to like me of course, and I’d have to not screw up and break anything on my first run, presumably, but it still represented a way out of the 70 hour week. Much though I like the work, the exhaustion was killing me, not to mention the alarming weight loss.

I decided to take the chance.… Read on...

Whoops.

Without wishing to launch into a tedious lecture, that would never do in  a blog devoted to whimsy, there are several ways that airbrakes can fail. The most spectacular shouldn’t ever happen. Overheated brakes leading to runaway trucks are down to bad driving, no more, no less. But a leak in the air line can happen to anyone and it depends a little where you are, and how catastrophic the leak is, what happens next. The normal brake-pedal brakes work by compressed air being pumped into the brake chambers, but the emergency/parking/handbrake thingy works when air is taken out. That one’s called a spring brake, because, well, it’s got a spring in it for leaping into action when required. Trouble is, when things are faulty and the air pressure drops, the spring brake can pop on anyway. It’s a safety feature, but you don’t want it happening all of a sudden on the highway.… Read on...

Be careful what you wish for.

The next pickup came through just as I pulled in to the ‘J’ for fuel. Saint Mary’s, Pennsylvania. I looked it up. It was on the way home all right but not via any main roads. On the edge of the Allegheny Forest in Elk County, it was smack in the middle of the mountains. I would be driving across the Appalachians and through the Alleghenies to get there and I had to be there by 8 in the morning. It was lunchtime. Forgoing the shower (thank goodness for baby wipes, they make a tolerable strip-wash at a pinch) I headed off, determined to get as far as I could in daylight. 

Then I thought better of this plan. Once off the 81, I would have very limited access to places to sleep. There would be nowhere safe to pull off the road once I was in the mountains proper. The route Betsy planned out for me included two short stretches of Interstate, a bit of the Turnpike and then a smaller bit of Highway 80 further north.… Read on...

More friends

Oors’la had predicted that the 29 would be busy as well as full of mad speed limit changes; and that Interstate 81 would be nose-to tail-trucks. She was right on all counts, and I began to lose interest in trying to get to Roanoke by midnight. The nose-to-tail truck thing set me wondering how easy it would be to find a place to sleep. There didn’t appear to be an abundance of truck stops in and around Roanoke itself or on the way, that meant the rest areas would fill up early.

I opted to stop early, about 9ish, and find a place to sleep in daylight before the mass truck-parking binge began. Stopping about an hour from the morning’s destination would mean that I could take a legal 10 hour rest, start at 7 and be delivering by 8 in the morning. Perfectly acceptable. I found a rest area, parked relatively untroubled, sent my eta to dispatch by satellite, and settled down for some serious rest.… Read on...

New friends

After 20 minutes or so the news on the CB changed. It meandered from “the chopper’s landed” via “someone must be still alive” through “chopper’s leaving” to “both southbound lanes are open now, northbound still closed, you’re not going anywhere just yet, driver.” Amid thanks for the updates – well not from me, I just thought them – we gradually started to move. It was 6 o’clock when Betsy informed me I had arrived at my destination, a huge plant on a vast quantity of open land with a clearly marked driveway for shipping and receiving. I risked driving down it a short way. Big places with signs for trucks usually mean you’ll be able to turn around.

Little places in city centres with no apparent entrance apart from a car park, on the other hand, are lairs of impossibility waiting to trap the unwary rookie. I learned this the hard way at a tiny foundry in Windsor, Ontario.… Read on...

The Pennsylvania Turnpike

 Up a little before legal driving time for a flurry of wet-wipes by way of a wash. All this stopping late at night nowhere near a truckstop means that the chances of a proper shower are minimal. Once I’m off and running through the day, even if I swing into a truckstop for coffee, fuel or a wee, the pressure to cover enough miles before my 14 hours is up means that making time for a shower is out of the question. That’s what your 10 hour break is for, if you are actually taking it for real. I am getting quite adept at the wetwipe flurry though, and toothcleaning with a tiny mug of water. I have some nifty toileting arrangements too but I’ll spare you the details. A breakfast of trail mix and half an apple and I was ready for anything.

Erie passed by and I turned south, making good time.Read on...

Pick a mountain…

It sounded like it was going to be a nice trip, heading down to Virginia and starting early enough in the day to get a good distance covered in daylight. Virginia is pretty, I’ve been there in the car. There isn’t an obvious way to get there though, what with the mountains and stuff, so I spent a bit of time mulling over the best possible route while I waited to be loaded.

There was time for plenty of mulling. I’d had to drive an hour west to London with a trailer full of empty bins, the company was going to unload those and then put more stuff on before I could head for the border. Since the best crossing for Virginia is at Buffalo, I would be redriving the hour back to Guelph before making any real progress.

My appointment for unloading was 3.30 in the afternoon. I got there 15 minutes late, owing to some shenanigans around load bars.… Read on...